Catcalling: The hidden threat and prejudice

Frankie Concepcion

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Why are we against catcalling? Because we want to feel safe, comfortable, and secure everyday. No matter where we are and what we are wearing.

“Hello, Miss Beautiful. Smile naman diyan (Give me a smile), miss!”

How would you like it if unfamiliar men said this to your mom, sister, daughter, or girlfriend? asked Mica Cruz, whose infographic about street harassment has gone viral over the past couple of weeks. Since it was posted, the infographic has received thousands of Facebook shares and likes, two TV segments, and the attention of men and women all over the Philippines. 

Most women said they could relate very much to Cruz’s experience and frustration. Meanwhile, other netizens believed that “modesty” was the key to avoiding this kind of attention. (READ: I’m not pretty for your pleasure)

Others could hardly believe that catcalling was an issue at all. But it is.

CATCALLING. Infographic from Mica Cruz's Facebook account

To address why this infographic has received so much attention, perhaps it is important to first explore why street harassment is so threatening from a women’s perspective. When a man catcalls, he is asserting his dominance and sexual interest over the female target. 

Society has taught women that when they draw attention to themselves, whatever happens – whether unwanted or not – as a result of that attention is their responsibility. (READ: Beyond ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’)

That means when you catcall, you are alluding not just to the dangers that come with unwanted male attention, but also to the societal constructs that pardon this violence and marginalize sexual harassment victims. 

Catcalls, class 

A woman can wear short shorts or labor under jeans and sweatshirts in the hot sun, and in both instances they will still draw attention from some men. They may even be blamed for it. 

Instead of thinking of women as oversensitive, we might ask ourselves why women feel like they need to be defensive. Is it so hard to believe that women indeed have something to fear?

Other reactions to Cruz’s infographic have uncovered another prevalent issue in Philippine society: classism. 

If the man has a nice car or is good-looking, then a catcall is seen as compliment. But if he’s a kanto boy (bum) then it becomes an insult. This sentiment was shared by netizens.

A few have also implied that if a man is well-educated, then he has been brought up with proper morals and would not catcall in the first place. The truth, however, is perhaps a bit more nuanced than that. Using classism to associate negative behaviors to the less fortunate is simply an insulting and invalid justification for this behavior. 

Catcalling is a product of entitlement – a man feels he has the right to express himself to a woman, while the latter is obligated to listen to his comments and take them without insult. 

Whether or not you are wealthy enough to have a nice car, or receive an education from our country’s top schools, male entitlement transcends these class divides.

An unwanted advance is an unwanted advance, because women know how easy it is for a small compliment to become dangerous. 

The matriarchal culture passed down to us by our ancestors has created ample space for women to influence history and current affairs. Even though our country is one that does not shy away from strong, influential women, catcalling is still an issue in the Philippines. 

Why do we ask men not to catcall? For women to be able to feel safe, comfortable, and secure in our daily lives. No matter where we are and what we are wearing. –

Frankie Concepcion is a writer from the Philippines living in the US. Visit her site here. 

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