Stop the catcalls, sexualization, and degradation of women


Clarion photo Ashley Lytle

By Ashley Lytle, Reporter

When the sun comes out, so do our summer wardrobes. However, it comes at a price, especially for those who are female. Every single day, the weather has granted us a warm oasis here in the traditionally rainy city of Portland, and at least one of my friends has posted a recount of being sexualized for what she wore. My snapchat feed had one girl announcing that by a little after 8 a.m., she had already been cat-called. All she was trying to do was get to school.

“Cat-calling” is defined by Google as “to make a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by.”

A 2014 survey conducted by the organization Stop Street Harassment found that out of 2000 respondents, 65 percent of all women had experienced street harassment. Street harassment includes cat-calling.

Just to get this out of the way, cat-calling is NOT ok. It is creepy, humiliating, and degrading to the receiver of such calls. It also encourages the sexualization of a woman’s body, something that can be mentally scarring for many.

Now that that’s been cleared up, I’d like to talk about how you can avoid the degradation, sexualization, and shaming of your fellow humans.

First, don’t cat-call. People on the receiving end do not like it. It is not considered a compliment when someone yells phrases like “Nice legs!” and “Damn girl,” or comments on my butt. I am not just my body. My body is NOT there for your sexual pleasure. It is NOT just some sexual object.

Secondly, I swear, if one more car full of guys (I’m not kidding, it always has only guys in it) slows to deliver some compliment or to honk the horn at me because they think that should make me feel good, I am going to lose my mind. When I’m walking to work or school or anywhere, I do not want to feel creeped out. I do not want to feel like I am worthless, a common feeling when a body becomes sexualized, and I do not want to feel scared because someone decided to make me feel that way. Of course, it’s only a compliment, just like you said. But maybe you should listen to the person on the receiving end.

When I’m walking to the bus from school with my friend, I find it so validating when an old man slows down, honks at me with a little smile, and continues to watch me walk away while he waits for a stoplight. And that car with the three young guys that slowed down to honk at me when I was trying to get home from a Bernie Sanders rally? That made me feel so good about myself. I mean it wasn’t like it was 11 o’clock at night and I was literally fearing for my life as I frantically tried to call someone to stay on the phone with me. But you did no harm, right? Your simple act was just to acknowledge how good I looked because that’s what matters, right?

This brings me to my third point: recognize we are more than our bodies. I will repeat this over and over again. In fact, repeat that to yourself and your friends until everyone understands it 100 percent. I’m not really sure why it is so hard to understand. I appreciate a good compliment on how good I look or how “gorgeous” I look, but when you tell me that on the street and then proceed to think you just did something great, all you’ve done is add to the millions of other voices telling me that my worth, my value, is only in my looks.

Also, the whole thing with the smiles. Please, please, PLEASE do not tell people to “Give [you] a smile.” No. People who are cat-called are NOT here for your pleasure. We have minds full of ideas and opinions.

To sum all that up, we are not something for you to leer at whenever you feel like it. I have a brilliant suggestion instead: have a conversation with us and see how fantastic our personalities are. I’m telling you that that’s a much more pleasant interaction for me and if you compliment my personality, I promise you I’ll feel a lot more validated than if you had decided to give me a “compliment” on my body.

Another thing, my body is my body and no means no. You have NO right to touch me. If I am on an escalator with my friend, it is NOT ok to make a grab for our butts. It is NOT ok because we were wearing leggings. It is NOT some joke for you to snicker about behind us thinking we’ll just think it was an accident. That we are so unintelligent that we couldn’t hear you guys dare each other to touch our butts even though you were right behind us. Just keep your hands to yourself unless you have been given consent. Please and thank you.

All this has to stop. I’m tired of having to be so fearful for my safety. I’m tired of not feeling like I can tell anyone when I’ve been cat-called simply because society told me that only the “pretty girls” will get such a compliment. Don’t tell me that I don’t fit in with society’s ideal body specifications so I have no right to call myself one of the “pretty girls.”

I’m also just gonna throw this random idea out there for you to think about: Everyone is beautiful in their body. It’s attraction that confuses everyone. Just think about that.

I’m gonna leave you with one last crazy idea: Cat-calling is never ok, no matter what someone is wearing. As the summer wardrobes come out, stop and think about what you’re saying. People are worth more than their bodies. All you have accomplished with that cat-call is to make me feel fearful, uncomfortable, dirty, creeped out, and you have helped reinforce the idea that my body is nothing more than some sexual object and that’s all I am worth. I am more than my body. It’s time I’m treated as such.