This post is about verbal sexual harassment. Help center: 08000 116 016 – nationwide helpline 'Violence against women'
In this post I am primarily writing about my experiences with catcalling as a cis woman. Non-binary people and men can also experience verbal sexual harassment.
Summer, sun, catcallers
It's June, it's summer. I like summer because Summer for me means being outside in the park with friends, drinking beer and being carefree. Enjoying the heat in short clothes and enjoy the sunshine until autumn.
However, for me, short clothes also mean fear of being seen. Fear of one of the countless situations that happen to many women every day. I am afraid of being exposed by men with catcalling.
Catcalling is verbal sexual harassment. Whistling, "Hey Sugar", "Beautiful ass" – catcalling often consists of 'compliments' that are supposed to be interpreted positively.
It's the first warm day. I'm strolling through St. Pauli with my boyfriend. I notice to being looked at. Guys whistle at me and I look down at myself. Long-sleeved, tight-fitting shirt without a bra.
At first I don't care, but after five men I count and after ten I get mad. I am ashamed. A whistle, a comment and a long, uncomfortable look are small things that add up and leave their mark.
The goal of catcalls is to humiliate another person. Because these men don't try to compliment us women on an equal footing, but deliberately degrade us. Thus, Catcallers try to triumph through intimidation with dominance in order to compensate for their personal deficits.
Catcalling is usually not a criminal offense, because if it cannot be classified as sexual harassment and/or insult. For this reason it is difficult to collect numbers. According to a study by the Merseburg University of Applied Sciences, 97 percent of all women questioned and 95 percent of all people of different sexes were victims of sexual harassment. For men it is 55 percent.
Let's agree on something: Catcalling is a problem.
But I always have the feeling that many men lack a certain level of awareness because they do not understand the scope of the consequences. Most men simply can't understand the trauma that these many situations of psychological and physical abuse leave behind, because they are not confronted with it every day.
When a man sits down next to me on the train, I have mixed feelings. I feel an uncomfortable feeling of unwanted intimacy. It feels like he's crossing a line, even if it's unconscious. I have a lump in my throat. When I discussed this feeling with my friends, it became clear that I am not alone with it and that feels good at first. But when I think about it, it also makes me sad how traumatic experiences connect us, because I don't want anyone to feel that way. And that makes me really mad.
The many small daily experiences mix up to a form of a vicious circle that man, woman or non-binary person must break with mutual understanding and empathy. By that I mean: As a man, you sometimes can't understand why a woman reacts quickly and emotionally to topics like catcalling. As a man, you sometimes cannot understand how much catcalling is already normalized for a woman. Nevertheless, one can ask questions and try to understand those affected and thus empathize with their feelings.
We women especially should join hands and stand up for one another instead of blaming each other. Often other women say things like "With the top you don't have to be surprised that you get those looks", "Don't dress so slutty" and thus take responsibility from the perpetrators.
The perpetrator becomes a victim, because "he couldn't help it".
In this line of argument, a problem that affects society as a whole is greatly simplified. For many women it becomes too difficult to denounce men. The conflict could simply be resolved by less freedom of movement for women instead of reprimanding the perpetrators. We must remember (although it is sometimes easier) that freedom of movement never legitimizes catcalling or any other form of sexual harassment.
How do we best deal with it? – Ignore or confront:
Ignoring the comments is often the easiest solution. So the Catcaller is not confirmed in his behavior, but will probably not question his act either.
The most important thing is still to isolate yourself emotionally and not let yourself be pulled down.
When you feel confident and secure, confront the men.
With statements like "Leave me alone". Show your limits and make it clear that this person is getting too close to you.
Call the Catcallers out!