As an old millennial growing up in the height of the FHM era, catcalling wasn’t just expected, it was a rite of passage.
I’ve never minded the occasional jeer from a lairy stranger, but in recent years I’ve realised my acceptance is part of the problem.
Under Priti Patel’s proposed strategy to make the streets safer for women, both wolf-whistling and catcalling could soon be made illegal.
Initially I had my doubts, but now I’m hopeful this law could be a much-needed tool to educate young men and encourage respectful behaviour towards women.
How do you feel about being wolf-whistled or catcalled in the street? Let us know in the comments below
I was in my late teens the first time a man shouted after me in the street, and I’ll admit it was exciting. After spending my school years being mocked for my scrawny chicken legs and a halo of frizz that no BaByliss straightener could touch, I was finally being noticed.
Whenever a man yelled “nice t**s” from the back of his white van I’d give him a reproachful look, silently delighted that my boobs met society’s beauty standards.
But as we move away from a period where women were hyper-sexualised, it’s started to feel crass and outdated.
When the #MeToo movement shot to the front pages in 2017, it shone an uncomfortable light on the past two decades.
The noughties were a notoriously bad time for feminism. Magazines gorged on celebrity drama, especially when it belittled and humiliated women. Political activism was passé, with pouting more popular than protesting.
Wet t-shirt competitions weren’t reserved for dingy bars in Ayia Napa selling five-for-one shots, they were a standard Friday night event at leading universities.
Should wolf-whistling be made a crime?
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Fashions leaned in favour of ‘tight and short’, and my belt would cover a larger surface area of my body than any other item of clothing. In a world obsessed with reducing women to their appearance, it’s no surprise I welcomed catcalling as the norm.
In the months following the Harvey Weinstein story, tales of sexual harassment went viral across the world, highlighting the challenges that women face every day.
This spring the murder of Sarah Everard sparked a new wave of anger about male violence and street safety, with many women expressing their fears about walking alone at night.
At first, I worried that equating catcalling with sexual assault might diminish the experiences of survivors and take the focus away from a horrific tragedy.
But amid the social media hubbub, women were raising important concerns about street harassment, making me reconsider where we should be drawing the line.
Catcalling and sexual violence shouldn’t be conflated, but I do believe we need to see a cultural change in men’s attitudes towards women.
What was normal for my generation shouldn’t be accepted by younger women, or we’ll never see progress.
Rather than being objectified, I’d like men to appreciate us for our personal and professional attributes, treating us as equals not toys for their own amusement.
If this means putting in laws to teach respect towards women then it’s the right way forward.
It could become an important step in the fight against misogyny, helping us to build a more inclusive culture in future.