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Cat-Calling Is Not A Game

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It’s not fair. Double standards are not fair. Being told as a young girl to never be alone is not fair. Media regarding women is not fair. Wearing skirtsdown to your knees and shirts that cover your shoulders in school is not fair. Sexual objectification of women is not fair. My “it’s not fair” of the week is: It’s not fair that when I wake up before my summer classes in NYC, I have to TRY to look a certain way in hopes I don’t get stared at by men on the train and hollered at by men walking to my class.

Catcalling. It disgusts me. What goes through a man’s head while catcalling? Maybe men try to impress their friends by catcalling women. Maybe men believe they will find their true love if they whistle at them. But do men actually think they will attract a woman’s interest and attention by sexually harassing them? Probably not, but based on their behaviors it certainly appears that way. To me, catcalling is a man’s fight for dominance. It’s a man playing a game- a pretty nasty game if I must say so myself.

In this game, they have to find a woman- or should I say object of their attention. They can start simple, with just a whistle. If the woman is only slightly offended, he may feel he can escalate things and get more aggressive. Next he can grade her, tell her she is an 8 out of 10. Maybe he truly believes that women love it when you sexually objectify them, so he wants to tell her she’s sexy and tell her he wants to be with her. Finally, if she just walks away he’ll call her a b***ch.

Maybe men would get a more positive result by playing a different game, one that doesn't involve demeaning women…

It was the degrading of women that sparked my project. It is the understanding that, when I wake up before a day in the city, I have to tailor the way I dress and the makeup I wear to avoid attracting the wrong attention. It is the understanding that, when I am around a group of men whom I sense are ogling, I’ll feel the need to give them the same disgusting look back, so they will feel uninterested in looking at me. Women (and all genders and identities who are exploited) should be able to wear what they want and do what they want, without the fear that they will get catcalled, harassed, or dare I say, raped. Sure, studies shows that, in most rape cases, the rapist does not think about how the victim is dressed, but that has never stopped the powers that be from asserting—well, maybe she was asking for it.

I began taking portraits of myself dressed up as the most common cat calls. For me, being catcalled makes me want to go home and take a shower. I know other women have felt the same way, but they don’t know where to go or what to do. I wanted an artistic outlet to shout at the men who catcall that,  "I am not your child, so don't call me your baby!". I also wanted an artistic outlet to give to women to show them that they are not alone in the fight against the degradation of women.

I dressed up and photographed all of my portraits at school. After my photos were done, I left my makeup on and walked the halls between classes, to see what kind of attention I would draw. I received very positive feedback from both students and faculty alike- they wanted to know more about my project. Except for one encounter, when an older boy asked "when are we going to role play in bed?" in front of all of his friends. His response didn’t discourage me, but rather it made me feel sorry for him. This boy was not taught that making racy comments is not how to win a women, this boy was not taught that cracking sexual jokes for egoistic purposes can rub people the wrong way, and this boy was definitely not taught how to respect the opposite sex. Aside from this encounter, all the other feedback was nothing but positive, with teachers even asking me if they could get a print of my poster to hang in their classroom. This was the feedback I was hoping for, and through this project I discovered that I am not alone in the race to end gender inequalities. 


  1. Casey Reed September 28, 2015

    Great article, and fantastic project, Chelsea! Glad you've been able to bring some of your wisdom into the psychology classroom (especially when we discussed victim blaming!). Keep on keeping on!

  2. Carol Van Auken September 29, 2015


    Very well put!  I want a poster too!

    Ms. V

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