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March 17, 2016

What Happens When You Catcall

When a man catcalls, he puts on a predatory lens, thanks to generations of bigoted masculinity that perceives girls as weak beings, in constant need of men's attention.

by Ella Pininta

"Cewek! Fweet!"
My first physical reaction is frowning. What was that? Who did that? Was I the target?
Reluctantly, I stop and turn my head. There I see them, looking at me, sniggering, thinking it’s all just in fun. Okay. I reach for my pocket where my wand is tucked in the most familiar way. With a deep breath I flick the modest-looking stick and whisper, "Reducto."
There is a loud sound of explosion. Several stunned bodies are sent flailing in the air before they hit the ground hard. The sniggering is quickly replaced by fearful stutters as the bipedal rubbles of masculinity try to worm their way out of the situation using any limbs they could feel touching the ground. Clearly they no longer think it’s funny. Good.
I turn my back and silently, yet victoriously, resum my journey.

At least that is how the scene would have been if I weren’t some (tragically) magic-deprived muggle. Instead of a satisfying reality-defying action, it usually goes down like this:
"Cewek! Fweet!"
My mental self-defense alarm goes off. What was that? Who did that? Was I the target?
“Keep walking,” chant about a thousand people in my head.
Because that is what they always teach us, girls, isn't it? When men catcall, keep walking. Stay low profile. Do not do anything that may provoke them, despite the fact that it is exactly what they are doing: provoke us.
Men, why do you do that? What gives you the idea that it is okay to rudely whistle and badger complete strangers who happen to be girls? What are the underlying thoughts behind this? Do you not say “excuse me” just to walk next to someone? Do you not ever think about that?
I take it as my privilege to assume that you never think about these things, so let me guide you through this.
Here's what your action says: you do not respect me. When a girl or a group of girls walk pass you, you feel a sense of entitlement. You subconsciously put on a predatory lens, because somewhere in the back of your mind, generations of bigoted ideas of masculinity have imprinted the perception that girls are weak, helpless beings whose existence revolves around men’s recognition. You want to exert that idea, and out of habit you do it through objectification. You throw rude oversexualized remarks to me because you wrongly believe that “it’s just what boys and men do.”
“Rude?” You may ask, “but it’s just a light-hearted compliment.”
Well, firstly: it is not. It is not even remotely close to one. The motivation behind it has nothing to do with making us feel good and all to do with entertaining yourselves with a fleeting sense of power over others, at the expense of our feelings. We do not feel complimented. We feel violated.
And, secondly, you are not stupid. You know it is not a compliment.
The thought process that leads to catcalling have all to do with seeing girls as mere objects, and not as people who have the basic right to feel safe. When men start to allow themselves to feel entitled to women, and actually dare to project it, it is the very beginning of something truly horrible: a rape culture.
I do not know how to make you understand this, other than the basic reminder that one should be a decent human being. You do not disrespect and harass others, no matter how “harmless” you think it is. Catcalling does not make you look cool, or manly. It just makes you, for a lack of better terms, a piece of outdated sexist trash.
Even muggles shouldn’t stoop so low.

Ella Pininta is a 22-year-old closeted hippie whose many joys in life include sarcasm, existential pondering and excessively assigning meanings to things. She still has not received her Hogwarts letter yet.