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Students host discussion about catcalling

| Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two members of Notre Dames, a female empowerment club, senior Alison Leddy and senior Bri Prusakowski, led a discussion about street harassment as part of Saint Mary’s Safety Week on Tuesday.

Leddy posed the question of why men think they are invited to call out to women on the streets and why they are quick to defend themselves when they are called out on it.

“I think a lot of the issue is it’s not welcomed,” junior Michelle Casado said. “You’re a stranger usually. I feel like that’s a big part of it.

“ … If the woman isn’t welcoming it, you shouldn’t go for it. It’s regardless of the comment you’re making. If it’s not welcomed, there’s no consent.”

Junior Emily Beaudoin said she does not understand what men get out of catcalling women. She said that women are not going to respond to a catcall by dating the man, so she does not know why they do it in the first place.

Prusakowski responded by  y she thinks there isn’t an objective in street harassment, but rather a sense of entitlement.

“It’s ‘You’re there, and I can say something, so I’m going to.’ I feel it’s almost automatic. This idea of entitlement or this need to comment on someone else. They don’t really have a plan beyond what they’re saying,” Prusakowski said. 

Leddy said she believes the goal of catcalling and street harassment is to start a conversation.

“I feel like it’s framed in a way that there is a goal,” Leddy said. “That’s why I think people get away with it in a sense because they [think they’re] starting conversation. But conversations never start that way.”

Casado said it’s a problem that in many cases, men do not realize that there is anything wrong with catcalling.

“The idea that it’s normal to be able to objectify a woman like that is so bizarre,” she said. “Even if they personally don’t mean it, there’s still a huge issue in that they think it’s just normal and acceptable. Where is that coming from?”

Prusakowski said a lot of the perpetrators are younger men and teenagers.

“It’s so normalized and it’s so removed from analysis, that they don’t think about it,” she said. “They don’t see anything wrong with it because it’s just what everyone else does.”

Leddy posed the question of how catcalling became normalized.

Junior Lizzy Reid said she believes there is a group mentality behind catcalling.

“A lot of times it’s a group of teenage. One of them will say something, and then all of a sudden, they’ll all start,” Reid said. “They feed off each other’s energy, and it becomes worse and worse. They think it’s all right so they all contribute to it.”

Prusakowski said men see the women they harass as objects. She also noted that this is not a new phenomenon because older men do it, too, and other boys are going to grow up thinking this is the norm and will continue to perpetuate street harassment.

Leddy said catcalling is about power dynamics. She said there is a power dynamic between the groups of boys and the individual girls they are catcalling, and there is also a dynamic between women.

“We’re not only teaching guys to do that from a young age,” Leddy said. “ … We’re also teaching girls to accept it and live with it.”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole
  • Captain Murphy

    Female Empowerment club?
    Sorry, but people who really care about feminine issues don’t give a darn about something as stupid as catcalling.
    Go do something worthwhile. Go raise awareness about uneducated girls in other countries or how females are mistreated in societies that see them as subhuman.
    This is a joke.

    “ … We’re also teaching girls to accept it and live with it.”
    Also another horrible statement.
    If girls accept it, then that is THEIR right.
    You want to push feminism without giving consideration to the women who you feel are objectified.

    • RecentFemaleAlum

      Alright, I need to chime in for a second.

      I am a young woman in her 20s. I used to believe that cat-calling wasn’t a real issue and that it was dramatic and overblown by the feminists. Then I moved to a large city. I’m in a relatively safe neighborhood , but I still take precautions to make sure that I’m not attacked, mugged, pickpocketed, etc. After all, statistically speaking a male attacker is going to be bigger and stronger than me, and I don’t stand a chance trying to fight him off. So I stay in the safe areas of town, avoid walking alone or at night, carry mace, stay aware of my surroundings, and generally try to not draw attention to myself.

      The vast majority of people I pass day-to-day don’t catcall, but I still get catcalled 1-2 times per month. In my experience, every single catcalling incident shares two things. First, the catcaller is staring at me as I approach. Normal people would just look at someone briefly, but this is prolonged unbroken staring. As I said before, the LAST thing I want to do is draw attention to myself in the city, so if somebody seems off and is very focused on me, I am concerned. Are they planning to mug me? Are they trying to size me up or guess if I have anything of value on me? Second, catcallers just shout something as I’m leaving. Normal people would bring up a normal conversation-starting question as the other person is approaching, but the catcaller shouts too late for me to respond and is obviously just showing off. Also, often what they say is lewd and inappropriate for a stranger conversation.

      Humans are social beings. We are fine-tuned to analyze other people’s behavior. 93% of communication is nonverbal, so even though shouting “Hey baby how you doing?” is annoying, the creepy, suspicious behavior associated with catcalling is the real problem. Catcalling behavior is NOT normal social interaction, and it sets off all sorts of warnings in the human brain.

      The vast majority of men don’t catcall, so I don’t want to pin it on all men. But many women have been catcalled, and almost always the catcaller is a man, so it’s fair to call this a feminist issue. We want to be safe when we’re commuting; that’s a totally reasonable request.