On average, dosage nurse 84% of women over the extent of 22 countries are harassed on the street before the age of 17, view according to an extensive study conducted with the aid of Cornell University. In the UK, this reaches to as high as 90% of women reporting having experienced street harassment for the first time during puberty ALONE.
The truth of the matter is, most women will have encountered cat-calling or sexual harassment at some point in their lives. When we step outside of the house, be that in shorts, in jeans, in the summer or winter, many of us find ourselves targeted or even left feeling intimidated by cat-callers.
It’s incredibly difficult to punctuate just how awful (or even dirty) you feel having a grown man wolf-whistle at you as he leers out of his car window. Your pace speeds up, your heart rate escalates and you can do nothing but move on with your day because even if you were to speak up, what would happen then? Would he laugh? Become verbally abusive? Get out of the car and become violent? Confrontation in these situations is far too risky and this is EXACTLY why cat-calling can never be a compliment.
When Johanna Lumley brazenly asked The Mirror how wolf-whistling could ever be offensive, she quickly followed up by stating that “it’s a compliment”.
It is out-dated (and perhaps even ignorant) comments like this that perpetuate a culture of victim blaming. You see Johanna, when you tell young girls (myself being as young as 16 years old and having experienced cat-calling whilst walking home in my school uniform) that we’re “very offended by everything”, what you’re actually telling us is that street harassment is ok. You’re telling us that grown men objectifying an adolescent’s body is ok. You’re telling us that when we get home, feeling shaken up and repulsed by the experience, we’re to believe that a 40-year-old man sexualising us in our school uniform is ok. You’re telling us that the ever-growing hyper-sexualisation of innocence and virginity is ok. Not only this, but you’re telling the men who choose to cat-call that what they’re doing is excusable because they are, in fact, being “complimentary”.
So tell me, Johanna Lumley, the white van driver who so eloquently made disgusting gestures at my friends as they walked down a busy street, the people who tell us to “get over it”, the unforthcoming passersby who don’t ask if we’re ok: if cat-calls are such compliments, why can’t I help but feel tarnished and exploited when you spit them at me?
Written by Ella nevill