By Kelsey Mannix
Recently, a video of a woman walking around New York City for ten hours, receiving catcalls and comments from men the entire time, went viral. Created by Hollaback!, an organization that promotes the ending of street harassment, it had 15 million views within three days (www.ihollback.org). It has also opened the door for conversations about catcalling and whether or not it is harassment.
There are obviously two sides to this argument. On one hand, women, who are more often than not the victims of such comments, view catcalling as offensive, harassing, objectifying, and/or downright creepy. Some men, however, believe cat-calling is okay, arguing that the comments are compliments and women should be flattered to receive them.
Hollaback! defines “street harassment” as any “form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces,” such as “catcalling, or verbal harassment, stalking, groping, public masturbation, and assault” (www.ihollaback.org). Fortunately for the woman in their video, the street harassment did not go further than verbal harassment, although there was a particular man who followed the woman for about five minutes before giving up.
CNN reporter Fredricka Whitfield hosted a short segment on November 2, interviewing comedian Amanda Seales and “author and self-proclaimed dating expert” (Huffington Post) Steve Santagati about the video.
Seales expressed that she experiences street harassment on a daily basis. She says that guys think “letting [women] know that they would be interested in sleeping with [them]” is a compliment, but “actually, it’s really just objectifying [women]” (CNN).
The comments in the Hollaback! video ranged from “hey beautiful” to “God bless you mami,” and almost everything in between. Not once did a man say “Hello, you look lovely today” or something more chivalrous than what was captured.
Santagati’s bigoted response has triggered plenty of discussion on the internet. He said “The bottom line is this, ladies, you would not care if all these guys were hot. They would be bolstering your self-esteem, bolster your ego…there is nothing more than a woman wants to hear than how pretty she is.”
He argued that women should stand up for themselves and tell the harassers to “shut up.” The problem with that idea is…that’s what the harassers want. A reaction, or as Seales called it, an “invitation” to continue the comments in attempt to have their way with women. Regardless of if a man is attractive or not, if he makes objectifying comments towards a woman, he can forget about getting lucky.
The Huffington Post called Santagati’s rant “at best tone-deaf and uninformed and at worst unabashedly misogynistic.” (In case you’re wondering, that’s a more sophisticated way to call someone an a******.)
One Gentleman’s Perspective is a blog run by a man, and it offers a “gentleman’s perspective” on the whole issue of catcalling. He claimed that every woman interprets catcalling differently, while also saying that it gives catcallers mixed signals when one woman is repulsed and another is intrigued by comments.
He also said, “Gentlemen do not catcall. It is that simple,” implying that those who do engage in catcalling have no class. Women may see the truth in this statement simply because of the percentage of catcallers who appear unclean and unsophisticated. Overall, this blog post provided a more in-depth and respectful perspective on catcalling, addressing both sides of the issue and quietly condemning it in the end.
So guys, if you see a random woman on the street and feel the urge to say something to her, do so with caution. Don’t be creepy and say, “Hey sexy, I lost my number. Can I have yours?” or anything along those lines. Be a gentleman. Otherwise, keep it in your pants and keep your mouth shut.
For the full videos and blog post, check out these links: