Catcalling: The female experience

Catcalling: The female experience

WRITTEN BY: JENNI RICE

Catcalling, unfortunately, is something most women have experienced. For many women, catcalling can cause numerous emotions: fear of being stalked or assaulted, the uncomfortableness of being objectified and anger toward men who think catcalling is acceptable. 

Women at UT offered their experiences with being catcalled. 

Many female students at UT have experienced being catcalled. When asked if they have experienced catcalling and how it made them feel, Tanna Hensley, freshman special education major, spoke of the discomfort it brought her.

“Yes — too many times to count. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe,” Hensley said.

Emily Johnson, sophomore ecology and evolutionary biology major responded with similar sentiments.

“I have been catcalled before and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe,” Johnson said.

Freshman pre-law and forensic anthropology major Alexa Petre said that there were varying levels of discomfort she felt when dealing with catcalling. 

“Yes, I have experienced it. It depends on the extent of the catcall; it makes me feel super uncomfortable if it’s way too much or a much older guy,” Petre said.

Catcalling is quick to be associated with words like “uncomfortable” and “unsafe.” It’s extremely detrimental to women to have to constantly fear going out, especially alone, because they’re afraid of what men might say or do. 

“It never matters what I’m wearing, I could be dressed up or in a sweatshirt and shorts, doesn’t matter, they’ll do anything,” Hensley said.

Based on Hensley’s experience, there doesn’t seem to be anything specific women could be doing or wearing that causes men to feel the need to catcall them. A woman could be doing a very mundane task, not wearing anything men would consider “provocative” and still be at risk of unwelcome male input. 

Clearly, being catcalled is an unpleasant experience that all women are at risk of, so how do women respond?

It’s hard to know how exactly to react to catcalling. Do you bite back or confront the catcaller and risk retaliation? Should you just walk away? 

“Most of the men that catcall me are older, so I don’t respond. I’m terrified if I respond they will get angry and something will happen because, you know, they’re men. I just walk very fast away either to where I’m going or to my car,” Hensley said.

“I responded by walking faster or even running to get away from the situation,” Johnson said. 

Similarly, Petre said that she typically ignores it.

In the decision of “fight or flight,” “flight” seems to be the best option from most points of view. At the same time, it’s terrible that women have to fear standing up for themselves. 

Johnson elaborated that she thought a good option at this point would be to simply bark at the men who decided to catcall her. 

While this approach seems humorous, and is also definitely a valid option, it’s unfortunate that some women are made to feel as if the only way to get catcallers off their back is through making themselves seem crazy. 

Based on the experience of women at UT, catcalling can be terrifying, and this is just a small sample from the billions of women in the world. Why should women have to live their lives accepting that this is just something that happens, and that they just have to ignore it? Aren’t men aware that catcalling makes women uncomfortable?

Whether it be ignoring catcalling and quickly getting away, or making a spectacle of yourself by barking or screaming, these reactions are the result of fear, and with the amount of horror stories of women getting kidnapped or attacked by catcallers, it’s no surprise women feel this way. 

While catcalling might not seem like a big deal to some people — some might even think of it as a compliment — it’s no secret that catcalling is a fear tactic. With the constant disapproval women express at catcalling, it’s safe to say anyone who is catcalling is doing it because they want to make women uncomfortable, perhaps because it makes them feel superior or powerful. 

It’s hard to imagine that men aren’t aware that catcalling makes women uncomfortable, especially with the constant rise of feminism and women speaking out on issues where men have treated them inappropriately. And yet, they still do it. 

Johnson’s final thoughts on the issue were something most women can relate to. 

“I wish catcalling didn’t exist. I want to be able to exist in the world without men having to comment on my body.”

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