“Catcalling” is permissible and encouraged when there is a need to beckon to one’s cats. Dr Seuss’s Symphony of Catcalls is also the only instance of pleasing and maybe even melodic catcalling and, even so, it is debatable that his cats could carry a tune.
Is it ever acceptable to scream obscenities at women? To share your unsolicited opinions in as barbaric a manner as proximity will allow? Is it fine to yell at women on the road because you can?
Simply put, catcalling is harassment. Catcalling typically involves a sexual remark of some sort targeted at female road users. Sometimes it devolves into a flashing of genitals, outright grabbing, physical violence and additional extents of harassment, especially when the woman shows her disinterest or disgust. Nearly every woman has experienced catcalling at least once in their lives.
For me and countless other women, it starts when we’re children or teenagers. I was in secondary school when I first got catcalled. I attended a school that happens to be within a university community so, almost every day as my friends and I walked home from school, male students would camp at the windows or corridors in their hostels to yell at passing women and we were not spared. If anything, it seemed as though our school uniforms spurred them on. Their harassment ranged from the hurling of vile insults to lewd, inappropriate comments. We were just teenagers.
Any woman who’s ever been to Yaba Market in Lagos Nigeria knows firsthand how violent catcalling can be. In spaces like this where men gather in their numbers unchecked, catcalling is accompanied by misogynistic insults and sexual harassment. If you ignore them, they are affronted, if you respond in a manner that they deem unsatisfactory (and who knows what’ll pass as unsatisfactory on any given day?) they unite to tongue-lash you and maybe even worse. The Market March movement was targeted at the eradication of the characteristic harassment that plagues markets like Yaba. On the day of the March, the men were obstinate, fighting for their right to harass women.
Did you know that the popular song and its ultimate one-liner; “Who let the dogs out?” was in condemnation of catcalling, likening men who partake in the juvenile and vile act to dogs? How ironic that men often make barking sounds while catcalling women. Life imitates art, right?
In conclusion, catcalling is never okay; plain and simple. If as a man you ever feel the need to loudly or invasively announce your sexual desires, clever quips or misogynistic insults to an unsuspecting woman, don’t. It is not too much to expect civility from fellow members of society and that’s what is required; civility.
So when is it right to catcall a woman? Short answer – Never.
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