Cat-calling: It’s NOT a compliment

"20140404-123815"Paul Weaver. Flickr Creative Commons
“20140404-123815″Paul Weaver. Flickr Creative Commons

Ever spent countless hours going from store to store in search of that perfect piece to complete your vision for tonight’s special event? For me, there’s no better feeling than getting all dressed up and seeing the masterpiece in the mirror you’ve hunted high and low for. However, getting all dressed up can be a double-edged sword: the end goal is to feel good about yourself in your attire, however it can also come with seeking validation from others. We typically want someone to notice all of the effort we put into our ensemble, like a simple “You look nice.” We don’t, however, wish to hear something crass, like the sexualized comments we might hear from passersby on the street, otherwise known as cat-calling, or unwanted provocative verbal comments, whistles or gestures usually from men directed towards women.

Oftentimes, beauty ads for products that are meant for women, such as handbags and makeup, are not actually geared towards women. Instead, they are geared towards what heterosexual men find attractive with the assumption that heterosexual women will want to buy these items to attract men. We all subconsciously gain our social cues from ads like these, including men, who may take cues on how men relate to women. Unfortunately, mass media often portrays women as sexualized objects for viewing pleasure, negatively affecting how men may choose to communicate with women in their daily lives. Ironically the term “cat-calling” is blatantly reflective of women being viewed as sex objects; a kitten or cat in this case. Using this perspective, it becomes possible to see how cat-calls can become a part of our social interactions. Not only do unwanted comments about one’s body have an impact on how you view others, it also can shape how you view yourself. These types of comments can impact your emotional wellbeing in terms of developing a negative sense of self or deflated body-image.

So what can we do?

  • Become a critical consumer of media. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the viral video of a woman’s perspective on being cat-called, and even more responses to this video. It is so important to actively engage in analyzing how media affects us emotionally and socially to start a dialogue and raise awareness. Click here for more info on becoming a critical media consumer.
  • “KIC and KIM”: “Keep it Cordial and Keep it Moving.” Like the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” And if you feel like what you have to say may make someone feel threatened or unsafe—or if you wouldn’t want someone saying that thing to your friend/partner/relative—don’t say it either.
  • Sometimes cat-calling can lead to seriously unwanted attention that can become dangerous—for example, stalking, harassment and/or sexual violence. If you or someone you know has experienced this, the Women’s Center and CAPS can offer support.

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