Me-ow! Raising the Voice Against Catcalling

stop-telling-women-to-smile

By Jacqlyn Mori

You’re a woman walking down the street.  You are dressed for work, or the gym, or a lazy Tuesday night catching up on episodes of Homeland on the couch. Maybe it’s your daily route to wherever you’re going, or maybe you’re taking a new route near a construction site, a bus stop, or—why not—a mailbox. And then…

“Hey, Baby, where you headed? Lemme see a smile, Ma.”

“Mmmmm, damn girl. Look at that ass!”

“Wooo! Can I get some of that?”

Or, perhaps, a simple yet effective whistle, car horn, or a piercing I-just-touched-something-really-hot-but-I-liked-it“Ow!”

Like many women, you may have been in this situation before. Catcalling is nothing new, and there never seems to be a shortage of fellas ready to verbally pounce on the next thing with two legs and a little T&A to walk by. Though a small percentage appreciate the superficial feedback (according to this here CNN.com article), most women feel the pang of being objectified by a total stranger.

So what’s a girl to do?

Yale photography student Hannah Price has caused a buzz recently by turning the lens on her catcallers and making them the point of focus. Her project “City of Brotherly Love” features portraits of several men who’ve whistled, hooted, or made other unwanted advances during her time in Philadelphia.

In an interview with NPR, Price explained that her project is not a combative attack against her harassers, but rather an alternative way to deal with them. Instead of putting her head down and walking away or shouting back at catcallers, she humanizes them—and herself—by creating a dialogue about who she is, what her project is about, and offering them opportunity to take part by being photographed.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, an NYC-based artist, takes a different approach by reminding men that women on the street do not exist for their personal enjoyment. She’s created a series of illustrations to be posted in public spaces that directly address catcallers with captions such as, “Women do not owe you their time or conversation,” and “My name is not Baby.”

The messages may be simple, but in a culture that normalizes and even encourages objectification of women (like this recent fumble by güd, a Burt’s Bees sub-brand), it seems that many people may need the reminder that catcalling is in fact harassment.

Thanks to the creative efforts of women like Fazlalizadeh and Price, the conversation on catcalling is being elevated and the opportunity for victims to be heard is growing. Sites like STFU Catcallers offer space to vent online about street harrassment, and the organization Hollaback!,  a nonprofit since 2010, empowers women and the LGBTQ community to take back their space and reject catcalling as the status quo.

Whether in a small town or big city, public spaces do not belong to a single gender, and no one deserves to be minimized or intimidated for walking through them alone. We may be a long way off from silencing catcallers, but together we can build the momentum that’s needed to raise awareness and inspire others to stand up against street harassment.

image via: http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com

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Jacqlyn Mori is a vagabond who hails from the great state of New Jersey. She is a writer, yoga instructor, and the owner of a small apparel business called Karma Warrior Clothes. She is also a big eater, drinker, and traveler. Her best days are when all three of those activities coincide. You can see what she’s up to by checking on the blog she doesn’t post to often enough. Feel free to bug her if you’d like to read more. 

 

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