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March 17, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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Rooftop Objectification

Harmless fun or sexual harassment?

It’s a phenomenon that every woman experiences at some point in her life. You’re walking down the street, you hear a whistle, or a truck driver makes a drive-by comment. Maybe you ignore it and go on walking. Maybe you feel diminished and embarrassed. Maybe you turn around and say “in your dreams, arsehole.”

There are feminist arguments to be made for and against the male practice of catcalling. Some women might say that they feel sexually liberated or empowered by being on the receiving end of male attention. Knowing that you’re desirable and desired is good for the ego. But there is a fine, fine line. If a women dresses in a way that is deemed ‘promiscuous’, some might argue that she’s asking for it. Where do we draw the line between ‘asking for appreciative whistles’ and ‘asking to be raped’? Are we going to reach the stage where a miniskirt and a push-up bra will get a man off in more ways than one?

The worst thing about the situation is that women are just as bad. We judge, we critique, we call her a ‘slapper’ for wearing a top that invites her boobs to escape their lacy confines, or her ‘trashy’ for squeezing herself into pants that cause flesh to jump ship over the sides of her waistband. We’re bitchy about the way other women dress, about the way other women behave around men. Maybe it’s jealousy-driven, maybe it’s because we feel threatened. But we’re divided and we’re insecure. Where’s the sisterhood?

The undeniable factor that tips the scale in favour of catcalling being nothing more than a sexist, misogynistic crap routine that women feel they have to put up with is that there is no immediate rationale to the act. Have you ever seen a woman who has been whistled at turn around, look the man in the eye and scream “Christ, take me now!” so overcome with desire is she? No. Catcalling, therefore, is a way of male society tightening its grip on its stranglehold of women’s sexuality by objectifying and embarrassing them in a public place. You may call it vocal appreciation of the female anatomy. I call it harassment.

The bottom line is this: men, when you whistle at a woman, when you make any overt public gesture that you like what you see and that you want to get you some of that, you are reducing that woman and her sexuality to nothing more than an object framed in terms of your sexual appraisal and enjoyment. We all make assessments of other people based on their looks. The difference is, women don’t grab their balls and shout, “Hey you. Yeah, you. I got what you want, sexy.”

We just talk about how small your penis must be behind your back.

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