Even in School Uniform

Feminist Blogs / Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Just take a look at how Google describe the word ‘catcall’:

“they were fired for catcalling at women”

Google uses the example of women being the gender who are on the receiving end of catcalling. I find it quite sad that catcalling is associated with women and not men, or that it’s a word in our vocabulary in the first place. It’s a word that can easily lead you to imagine a scenario of a woman walking down the road, men leaning out of a van, and as they drive past, tooting and shouting a derogatory phrase.

I mean it’s wrong in itself, but what’s even more wrong (and just concerning) is the age at which girls are being catcalled.

When somebody is in a school uniform, there’s a general consensus that they’re under the age of 16. So what angers me is when the catcalling still takes place in this scenario. When people look, see a girl or boy in school uniform, probably understand that they’re under 16 and still think that it is suitable to shout inappropriate jargon at them.

I remember when I was in year 6, I was probably 10 at the time, and my parents finally let me walk home from school on my own. ‘Excited’ was an understatement. My route home usually included walking back with some of my friends the majority of the way, but then having around a 7 minute walk on my own. I wasn’t in the slightest bit scared of walking this part alone, but I soon became aware of something which I wasn’t expecting. Every now and then, random men who I didn’t know, would lean out of car or van windows and shout, sound their horn or just stare at me. I was 10. Sometimes, I would get boys a good few years older than me, walk past and either shout something in my face or ask for my phone number, which they probably only did for a dare.

This happened more or less 3 times a week between the ages of 10 and 16, all whilst I was wearing my school uniform. Don’t get me wrong, this still happens now, but at least there is no indicator of my age (still not making this okay). The thing is, I wasn’t scared by catcalling, it didn’t make me uncomfortable or want me to change my route home. Unfortunately, this is the case for many women, but for me, it was normal. Not just because it happened so often, but because I saw it happen all around me. I would always witness other girls being catcalled, which just led me to presume this was a normal part of growing up. You reach a certain age, you grow a pair of boobs and you immediately qualify to be a target of catcalling, right? Definitely not.

Catcalling asserts some sense of power to males. Well, I believe so anyway. Especially if they shout something whilst in a moving vehicle, because what can we do about it? We can’t chase after them or shout much back, and most of the time, they’re driving so quickly, I can’t hear half of what they’re saying. Being shouted or stared at, not doing anything about it or pretending it hasn’t happened can make people feel very uncomfortable. This isn’t surprising, considering that 84% of women are harassed on the street before they turn 17 (Cornell University, 2015). What I tend to do now when someone stares at me in the street, is stare back at them until I make them feel just as uncomfortable as they think they’re making me feel. If someone shouts something at me or makes a snide remark, I don’t tend to shout  back, I usually take the route of staring them out (I’m very good at that!). But if you do feel like saying something, perhaps take some inspiration from these amazing women:

Catcalling is unfortunately something which predominantly young women and girls currently have to deal with. It’s just another example of misogyny, with the aim to make its victims feel as uncomfortable as possible. The difficulty is, that men aren’t constantly harassed on the street, so they have no idea how it feels. I’m not saying that women should start to catcall men, but I am saying that if men were able to sympathise with the feeling women felt, then (hopefully) they may think twice.


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