Trigger Warning: sexual harassment

Compliments: kind, pleasurable passing comments that set our day in the right direction, put an extra spring in our step, put us on cloud nine. So if catcalling is a compliment, why do I feel sick when it happens?

No, my mistake, it makes us confident, it’s flattery, it’s just a form of flirting, right boys?

Compliments do not make our stomachs churn. Compliments do not make our hearts race with terror. Compliments do not stick as violently in our minds.

The hollering and whistles that you claim are simply appraisal or admiration are not that.

Listen, I know it’s not just boys who catcall and sexually harass; some girls do the same, and I do not in any way condone this – girls, to abolish catcalling towards us, we cannot justify doing the same. However, although it’s not just men and not all men, it’s enough of them to make many women feel unsafe doing what most men can do carelessly.

So why is catcalling so bad?

For those who claim it’s a compliment: compliments should never make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable. In a short survey I conducted, 66% of participants claimed that catcalling and sexual harassment, or fear of these, determine their daily routine (this could be anything from the route they take to the time of the day that they go outdoors alone). Similarly, 74% stated it impacts their mental wellbeing and/or feelings of safety. The fact that so many people, teenagers, cannot simply live their lives as normal due to a few impulsive, erratic idiots is disgusting.

Secondly, it’s dehumanising. Have you ever asked a man “how would you feel if this happened to you?”. Wait, let me guess, they said they would be flattered and happy with the compliment. When we complain or become upset by these events, boys seem to assume that it’s not a big deal. Boys: you don’t realise how tiring and scary it is to have a stranger shout abuse at you from across the street about how they find your body nice to look at. We’re not here to look at. We’re not here for your pleasure.

Also, most victims are first catcalled when they are underage. In my survey, 73% of participants reported that the first time they experienced any form of sexual harassment including catcalling was when they were under 15. Children. The fact that so many grown men find a young teenager, a child, anyone underage, ‘sexy’ shows how truly messed up our patriarchal society is.

Educate yourself. Educate your friends. Educate your family.

This continuous cycle of putting down women through sexualisation and dehumanisation whilst simultaneously reinforcing patriarchy has to stop. Stop.