Catcalling is a problem for everyone

Kalyn Johnson is a columnist for the College Heights Herald. 

Kalyn Johnson

When grappling with the idea of the rights to one’s body, we come to the subject of someone’s impressions of the body and if their comments are valid, or even needed.

There are nights where sitting and chatting with friends turns into being hyper aware of your surroundings. It turns into a person driving a white Chevy pickup riding past you and your friend and revving their engine. You may think nothing of it and continue your conversation, but it comes around again and again, and pretty soon you realize what’s happening.

Catcalling doesn’t always exist in the form of a man whistling at a girl, or telling her to sit on his lap. It isn’t something that can’t be immediately recognized every time it happens, and it is often ingrained into a culture.

But calling it “a part of their culture” or saying “it’s what men do” is unacceptable. When we look at the subject of the rights to one’s body, we can only wonder what it means to have someone force their opinions onto our bodies, or calling at us like we’re horses at auction.

In 2014, Hollaback! and the IRL School at Cornell University conducted a large-scale research survey on street harassment, which encompassed 42 cities around the world. More than 16,600 people were surveyed. According to the study, 84 percent of the women around the world had experienced street harassment for the first time before the age of 17. In the United States, 72 percent of U.S. women reported taking different transportation due to harassment.

However, the notion that only men catcall is a close-minded way of thinking. A 2014 study from Stop Street Harassment found that 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men had experienced street harassment.

Just because women experience this style of harassment more than men, doesn’t mean men should be taken out of the conversation of catcalling. While we are rightly preoccupied by looking at the 20 percent of women that are followed without permission, 7 percent of men are as well.

Catcalling isn’t an issue separated by the sexes, but one brought together by experiences. Additionally, it is also defined by sexual orientation as more men who identify as LGBT experience harassment at a higher rate than heterosexual men.

While the statistics of women being street harassed outweigh men, we must not forget that it’s an issue faced by both sexes and those who fall in between and outside of those binaries. The Stop Street Harassment report also found that people of color, lower-income persons and transgender people were “disproportionately affected by street harassment overall.”

We are born with the rights to our bodies to dress them, touch them and make note of the flaws or strengths of our bodies how we see fit. However, this right does not extend to other people’s bodies.

None of us reserve the right to yell out of car windows, rev engines or pinch someone’s butt because we like what we see.

To the people who feel the need to rev engines, yell out of car windows and follow people around town, evaluate yourself before commenting on another person.