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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

Cat got your tongue?

CNN recently conducted a panel discussing the viral catcalling video made by the marketing group Hollaback. The discussion between panelists Amanda Seales and Steve Santagati was disappointingly, and yet not shockingly, sexist.

The video the panel discusses shows one woman walking on the streets of New York and documents the number of catcalls and aggressive behavior exhibited by men she passes. The female panelist, a large number of commenters on the original video and pretty much any woman you talk to can attest to this type of behavior being accurate in its representation of daily street harassment.

Santagati’s response to this video was an excellent representation of everything men do not understand about this issue.

He said women enjoy it, it is meant as a compliment and women who don’t like it should respond aggressively. He also managed to throw in some negative sexist stereotypes and described all men as leering and sexually aggressive with no desire or ability to change. So all in all, he went above and beyond in representing his ignorant and yet far too common view of catcalling.

Catcalling is not a cultural phenomenon of certain “classless” groups. Men from every group can be street harassers.

The common characteristic of street harassers is their view of women. It was racist and classist of him to suggest it was solely based on parenting and overpopulation of certain demographics. Here is the truth for anyone still sharing Santagati’s delusion: women don’t walk down the street with the purpose of being thought of as pretty.

Women actually have daily lives, in which they go to work, the grocery store and school, all without the purpose of being thought of as pretty.

Telling a woman she is pretty is not the biggest compliment you can give her. And to assume it is implies that pretty is the only thing a woman wishes to be or is capable of being.

This is not to say some women do not choose to put effort into their appearance, and it is not to shame those women who do desire to be pretty. But there is a difference between the desire to be thought of as attractive and the reality of ownership that street harassers assume of the women’s bodies in public.

If the purpose of these remarks were to make women feel good about themselves, there would be no purpose to continuing and defending these actions once a woman says that instead of making her feel good, it actually makes her feel incredibly unsafe in public spaces.

The truth is it is not meant as a compliment. The insistence of someone’s “right” to catcall actually tells me it is men defending an activity that secures public space as predominately male. This is clear when Santagati said if women don’t like it, they should leave New York.

Catcalling women is a subtle but effective way of letting women know they do not serve a purpose in the public space other than to be visually appealing to the one harassing them. It is an attempt to force unasked approval on women, implying they need male validation to exist in the public sphere.

The scariest part is when women fight back, as Santagati suggests, and reject the validation. It can get violent. As Seales pointed out, women have been killed for defending themselves against this verbal abuse. This is why most women stay silent and move quickly when strangers yell at them. And, predictably, Santagati’s response is to reply that not enough women have been killed for it to truly matter.

Women shouldn’t have to “get a gun” to walk down the street. They have every right to be in a public space as men do.

Women shouldn’t get killed when protecting that right. Men who see this as “crying wolf” are protecting dominance of an aggressive faction in public.

Not all men perpetuate this harmful structure, but all women experience the demeaning and sometimes life-threatening effects. Everyone with respect for human decency should recognize that street harassment goes too far, and it needs ?to stop.

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