Now, I don’t know about you, but I love being catcalled.
I was 16 the first time it happened to me. Until then, I’d been this tall, skinny, geeky teenager who had never interacted with a boy on a non-platonic basis. I was on a mission to gain weight so I could be what was then referred to as a “real woman” and therefore desirable, but not matter how many carbs I ate, the number on the scales just wouldn’t shift any higher. But one day as the summer was starting to emerge, I’d managed to gain a few pounds, and was feeling confident. I walked outside in a pair of skinny jeans and a vest top to post a letter. One the way down the road, a man wolf-whistled at me. Then, as I was coming up to the Post Office, a white van drove past me and beeped its horn. Immediately my spirits soared. Male attention… directed at me? I walked back home with a spring in my step, feeling attractive for the first time in my life.
Because let’s face it, we all want to be attractive. Yes, society has moved on since the 1900s. Yes, women in the west are no longer expected to be wives and mothers and nothing more, or play the submissive role. But we are still women. We like to dress up, feel feminine, and have people admire us. Gym memberships, clothes, haircuts, and beauty products cost an absolute fortune, so we want our hard work to be appreciated. Hearing a white van toot its horn as we walk down the street or a group of men wolf-whistle as we walk past a building site is just that; lighthearted banter gives us validation that yes, we have still got it. You know what would actually suck? If the girl walking behind you got catcalled and you didn’t.
But as is the case with many things these days, it seems that what was once at best a compliment and at worst a minor annoyance, is now sexual harassment. France has decided to make catcalling illegal and those who do so now risk getting fined up to 750 Euros, and there are calls for the UK to do the same. There’s no denying that there are some cases where people have overstepped the boundaries and that shouldn’t be excused, but for a harmless wolf-whistle- is all this commotion really necessary?
Don’t like being catcalled? Fine. I’m not here to dictate how you can or can’t feel. But I think there is a big difference between “I don’t like this and find this irritating”, and “This is sexual harassment and should be illegal”. Police services have been cut back. Whether that was neccessary and what else could have been scrapped instead is a debate for another time, so let’s focus on allocation of resources within the police service itself. There are 137,000 women and girls living with FGM in the UK, yet there have been no successful prosecutions since the ban was introduced. In some cases, the police won’t investigate burglaries anymore. So is rounding up guys who express their approval when a hot girl walks past really a productive use of police time?
There’s a big difference between catcalling, wolf-whistling and banter, and genuine sexual harrassment. Loathe catcalling? Fine, that’s your perogative. But should it be an arrestable or sackable offence? Definitely not.