September 27, 2016

Catcalls aren’t compliments

Catcalling

Illustration by Victoria Courtney

Contributed by Kalani Seaver 

Recently a YouTube video of men catcalling a woman as she walked the streets of New York City went viral. A few days later, CNN posted a newscast featuring Steve Santagati and Amanda Seales discussing the video from a man and a woman’s perspective with Anchor Fredricka Whitfield.

Needless to say, there was plenty of arguing, but were the arguments valid? Santagati had some very interesting points. And by interesting, I mean convoluted, repulsive and down-right immature.

This video was a wonderful insider look at the battle everyday feminists face when they try to discuss the issues of catcalling.

Santagati argued the backlash against catcalling is, “just another example of ‘feminists’ who have an à la carte attitude towards it, meaning you can do this, but they take it too far. … Like where’s it going to go next? If I compliment you on the street, it’s some sort of abuse no matter how I choose to do it—that means that if you don’t compliment me when I walk by, that’s abuse. You didn’t bolster my self esteem, I want to fine you, I want to start a coalition against women who don’t compliment men.”

Personally, this is a horrible counter argument. In his mind, it is abusive for women not to adore him? Newsflash, buddy, the 1950s are long gone. Women aren’t going to subject themselves to you just because you’re a white male who deems himself entitled to objectify any woman he sees on the street.

Many men, including Santagati, enjoy using the argument, “It’s a compliment,” but let me pose a question: If the person being complimented doesn’t see it as a compliment, doesn’t want the compliment and/or sees it as abusive, is it really a compliment?

The answer is, and always will be: No.

Most women don’t enjoy catcalling, so men shouldn’t catcall in the name of complimenting them. We are not outside for your benefit. We do not look in the mirror every morning hoping this outfit will get a guy to silently follow us down the street for five minutes after saying, “God bless you mami… Damn.” (Which did in fact happen in the catcalling video.) We do not like it.

When Seales posed this concept, Santagati replied, “That’s never going to happen … a man of honor … should find a way to make [women] feel more comfortable.” He continued to flaunt his ‘supreme white male’ identity by commenting on the video’s racial and ethnic make up, saying it might be a part of their culture or how they were brought up. But then he followed his statement with, “We all look.”


We, as women, view what men see as complements as degrading, abusive, objectifying and rude commentary on our appearances that we did not ask for. We do not ask for it because we do not want it. It creates an environment that makes us feel uncomfortable and, more importantly, unsafe.


That’s the issue. We, as women, don’t want to be stared at. By anyone. We don’t want to be a figure men look at, and then start day-dreaming about how many different ways they could possibly have sex with us. When HollaBack!, an anti-street harassment organization, was brought into the conversation, Santagati called them pathetic and implied he believed HollaBack! intended a racial bias. Now Santagati is all of a sudden on the side of full representation?

Just because a video’s ethnic make up may be biased does not distract from the main point the video was trying to make: Catcalling is harassment. It is uncomfortable, it is abusive and it is downright degrading. It does not matter what the race, economic class, ethnicity or attraction level of the man is, it makes us uncomfortable.

But Santagati didn’t stop there. He then tried once more to put it on the women’s side of the court by telling them to be strong, independent women, to stand up for themselves and to tell the catcalling men to “shut up.” When Seales brought up that women do in fact die for standing up for themselves, his ‘clever’ response was to ask what the ratio between women who die versus women who stand up for themselves was.

But isn’t just one woman dying too much? It is. But Santagati believes carrying a gun around is the answer for all women who face harassment. Because guns are always the right answer for conflict.

Let me ease anyone’s confusion about this controversy about catcalling. We, as women, view what men see as complements as degrading, abusive, objectifying and rude commentary on our appearances that we did not ask for. We do not ask for it because we do not want it. It creates an environment that makes us feel uncomfortable and, more importantly, unsafe.

We, as a whole, are asking men to stop this behavior and respect us as human beings. And if men want to continue refusing us of the respect we deserve, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they get what they deserve.

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