Is Reverse Catcalling the Best Way to End Street Harassment?

You’re walking down the street – hair up, no makeup, looking completely disheveled, not wanting to be bothered and you hear a, “Can I talk to you for a second?” or in other parts of the neighborhood, perhaps a “yo, ma!” You roll your eyes, keep walking and then you hear, “So, you think you’re too good to say hi back?” The intensity of the situation raises – you keep ignoring it, and now you’re being followed down a block at night. What may have originally been meant to be a compliment or a quick hello has somehow evolved into the lazy man’s way of seducing a woman. But when is enough, enough?

Catcalling is the age-old method of perhaps attempting to give a compliment, yet has it ever worked?

I called an open discussion on Facebook for men and women to state their arguments and all hell broke loose. Out of the 190 comments, one person did say that they met their now-husband through what some would refer to as ‘street harassment.’ Congratulations…I guess. I could never really understand the kind of girl who was flattered by a catcall. In fact, I tend to categorize them as that girl – the kind of girl who was desperate.

Now, let’s examine the evidence here: The kind of man who catcalls is typically one who barely remembers how to brush his teeth after a nightlong binge at a dive bar in a shady part of the hood, right? He often looks like he’s skipped a few baths over the course of a week and now he’s got the balls to “holler” at any woman who will pass him by? He’s just what every parent wants their daughter to bring home.

Stop Street Harrassment (SSH), a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to serve as a public outlet for victims to share their experiences and seek help to decrease the number of offenders. SSH took a survey showing approximately 80% of women were followed and about 65% had their path blocked when street-harassed; a ridiculous statistic of vulgar grabbing were reported by 55% of women and 30% of women were the target of public masturbation. Some rarer cases recorded even led to rape. Disgusted yet?

Say women began to catcall – would men begin organizations across the United States then deem it ‘inappropriate’ and a bill would be passed to finally end it? Doubtable! In fact, it’s possible men would find it sexy – and herein lies the issue: The misconception that approaching a stranger and only building the nerve to “compliment” her as she walks away is okay. Rarely do participants in catcalling ever harass the woman to her face, alluding to the thought that on some level, the act is more a personal dare of courage rather than the belief that someone will actually turn around, run into their arms, and be entirely ready to go on that inevitably creepy (and probably cheap!) first date.

But, seriously, how do we end catcalling?

My failed attempts of sticking up my middle finger and yelling obscenities back, while liberating, were of no use. The only method that has worked thus far has been ignoring them. With the Internet being the most open and public forum for actually making things happen, perhaps organizations like SSH will aid in the eventual death of one of the grossest pastimes of the human race or maybe it will take a louder cry of getting your state legislature to pass a bill and start ticketing men (and women alike) who engage in street harassment. Hey, it worked for sagging pants under your ass, right?

Contact Jenni Ruiza on Twitter: @ruizajenni

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