Calling all Cats!

From the daily proclamations of love by dozens of prepubescent boys that gather around the classroom window as I walk down the street, to the bi-weekly marriage proposals and the man who breathed in my ear “I want to be your ice cream” as I tried to enjoy my cone of gelato, it is apparent that the notorious catcall has become a part of my everyday life here in Nicaragua. Growing up in a rural town of 3,500 people, I was somewhat sheltered from the reality of catcalling which, unbeknownst to me, has dishearteningly permeated the social culture of cities all over the world. As I read up on the subject, I stumbled across a post entitled “Guys Explain the Common Catcall,” and was left feeling quite perturbed; for some men, catcalling is simply a form of entertainment, a way to, and I quote, “relieve boredom during a dull work day and establish ‘hey we are all straight!’ amongst guys working together.” So, in light of the men who think catcalling is “all in good fun,” or something that women should take as a compliment, I have a few words to say on the matter:

To the men who think that vocally, and publicly, degrading women is simply entertainment, you are wrong and to the men who think that whistling or spewing vulgarities at women is a form of flattery, you are also wrong. Catcalling is a form of both verbal and sexual harassment that further asserts male dominance and perpetuates the equality gap between men and women; in other words, it’s a power struggle in which women are objectified, sexualized, and exploited at the hands of a man. In an article from the New York Times, professor of sociology Laura Beth Nielson states that about 2/3 of women in her research reported that they have been at the receiving end of verbal harassment, and all of them have “changed their routes, behavior, transportation, or dress to avoid street harassment.” But it’s all in good fun, right? Well, let me tell you, being on the receiving end of a catcall is anything but fun. I would like to be able to wear clothing that I like without being objectified, without feeling like a maxi dress is inappropriate or a tank top is scandalous. I would like to be able to walk down the street without almost being run over by a taxi driver who leaned so far out the window, to lick his lips at me, that he lost sight of the road. And lastly, I would like to be respected. Is that too much to ask?

Emily Brown ’18