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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Cat-calling perpetuates rape culture

Cat calling on college campuses — and everywhere else, for that matter — needs to end. Cat calling is not only disrespectful and objectifying, but it also fuels an even more troubling issue: rape culture.

Cat calling subtly reinforces rape culture on college campuses, a culture that initiatives such as the “I Will” campaign at the UA tirelessly fight. Today, one in five women in the U.S. will be raped at some point in their lives. The consequences of rape culture, especially on college campuses, are not to be taken lightly. Even though cat calling may seem harmless to many, including those who do it, it is not to be taken lightly.

One of the more disturbing problems with cat calling is that it can quickly lead to sexual violence. In 2014, Cornell University started collecting data from women from 42 cities around the world about the effects of threatening behaviors such as cat calling. The study reported that in the United States, “street harassment of any kind seems to result in strong feelings of anger.”

The same study acknowledged that women develop lasting depression and low self esteem from repeated exposure to street harassment.

Cat calling could lead to sexual violence as well, because those who do choose to beckon at a human being as if he or she is an animal, expecting the other person owes them time, attention or at least an answer back. When they do not receive one, tension grows and it becomes clear that initial so-called compliment was not so innocent after all.

The Hollaback! campaign, which aims to bring light to the severity of street harassment, was founded after a video was made and released on YouTube. The video recorded the many forms of harassment an average woman was subjected to while walking down the busy streets of New York. When the woman did not respond to cat calls, many of the responses she received immediately turned intimidating.

One man, who became annoyed at her silence, said, “Someone’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say ‘thank you’ more!”

I’m not sure how he could acknowledge her for being beautiful when only her backside was facing him the whole time he was talking.

Another absurd defense of cat calling is that women “ask for it” based on the clothes they wear. The woman in the video was wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

One of the comments under the video said, “The description tries to pretend she is wearing some modest and anonymous combination . . . she also has no problem sticking her booty out there.”

I do not care if a woman is walking down the street in a brown paper bag or in nothing at all — she is not asking to be harassed or assaulted. The argument that justifies this disgusting behavior based on a woman’s wardrobe is just as concerning as the act of cat calling itself. This is another facet of harassment that encourages rape culture.

Cat callers may feel their objectification of women gives them a sense of entitlement to a woman’s reciprocated attention. In fact, they may even want women to feel gratitude for being harassed, as if it was an honor and a privilege to have caught their eye (even if it was in the most degrading way possible).

Cat calling is not flattering — it is uncomfortable. Cat calling is not innocent — it is dangerous. Speaking out against cat calling is not an overreaction. It is a call to action.

Follow Jessica Suriano on Twitter.

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