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The everyday hate crime: Cat-Calling

Cat-calling is a feature of every woman’s life. An unwanted feature. From a man telling us to ‘have a good morning darling’, to a group of men telling us exactly how they’d like to fuck us, from as young as nine years old women learn that the act of walking can be enough to justify sexual harassment.

I do understand why men find it confusing why women say they don’t like being told to smile; why women don’t appreciate compliments from strangers or comments that sound, without context, sweet. ‘Have a nice day’ or ‘you’re a beautiful girl’ could be nice things to hear from a friend, a partner, or even a stranger – but the context is the crucial element.

When a woman walks on the street and a strange man approaches her and talks to her specifically to say she’s beautiful, or hot, or sexy, or any of the supposed “compliments” women receive, it feels intimidating for a variety of reasons. What do you want? Are you going to attack me if I try and get away? Are you going to try and assault me? Touch me up? What happens if I tell you get lost? How will you react to rejection?

‘Have a nice day’ or ‘you’re a beautiful girl’ could be nice things to hear from a friend, a partner, or even a stranger – but the context is the crucial element

So we smile and thank you politely and walk away quickly texting our friends about the latest creep who thought it was appropriate to approach a random woman just to tell her she looked fit. Fear, anxiety and intimidation are the three key emotions women feel after a group of men jeer at them from their car screaming obscenities and slurs.

Other emotions are guilt and shame though, and for young girls it’s often confusion. Imagine being 13 years old and being told to take your top off by three old men in a van. It is not a pleasant situation. When studies suggest 84% of women are catcalled before they age of 17, this represents a harsh reality for girls.

We smile and thank you politely and walk away quickly texting our friends about the latest creep who thought it was appropriate to approach a random woman just to tell her she looked fit

Yet crucially the reason cat calling should be classed as a hate crime is not because of its effects but its intentions. A hate crime is defined as a crime that is based on a person’s race, ethnicity, religious belief, disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

For example, if someone were to yell a slur at two gay men on the street that would be classed as a hate crime. Yet everywhere around Great Britain (except Nottinghamshire) yelling ‘I’d fuck your brains out’ is not.  That seems fundamentally flawed to me.

The reason cat calling should be classed as a hate crime is not because of its effects but its intentions

Moreover, catcalling frequently has connotations of not only misogyny but also of racism, homophobia and transphobia. Women of colour are often catcalled specifically because of their race; racist slurs accompany the calls or men will say exactly what they’d like to do to that Black, Asian, Latino etc. body part.

Thus catcalling can be an act of racist oppression, and when homophobic slurs and transphobic abuse are so often a part of the repertoire of catcallers it becomes clear that misogyny doesn’t act upon all women equally.

Catcalling frequently has connotations of not only misogyny but also of racism, homophobia and transphobia

Catcalling must be classed as a hate crime because when a man catcalls they don’t expect the woman to turn around, fall to their feet and adore their assaulter. The victims rush off clearly scared or angry.

Thus the assaulter gains satisfaction from their reaction; they feel pleasure at this display of power and masculinity. Just their words can create such fear in women. They want to create the feeling that women walking alone at night so fear.

Catcalling must be classed as a hate crime because when a man catcalls they don’t expect the woman to turn around, fall to their feet and adore their assaulter

When an act is deliberately filled with hate, so deliberate done to cause fear and upset it must be classed as a hate crime. A hate crime that the vast majority of women will experience frequently from as young as 9. A hate crime that targets all women, any women, every woman.

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Comments (5)

  • So what do you suggest is done? What new criminal Act should be created to create an actual offence here? How should it be worded?

    (Nottinghamshire Police’s definition of certain non-criminal behaviours being classified hate crime is nothing but absurd, call them sexually motivated incidents if you please; but if the behaviour does not amount to any crime, don’t call it a crime.)

  • When death is brought to the heinous perpetrators, only then we can end the crisis of occasional well-meant name calling.

  • I’m sorry. Well meant? Did you not read the article?

  • I couldn’t agree more with this article. I think what is disturbing the most is the ‘animalistic’ nature of the cat-callers, in their attempt to assert dominance over the woman. Hence where the name comes from. It just shows how some people aren’t able to rise above their uncivilised reflexes.

  • Josh Hatcher

    It didn’t seem to me like this article was calling for new laws to brought into effect, or for those who do catcall women to be put to death.

    Seems to me that the course of action suggested is very simple – men, don’t intimidate or harass women in the streets, or indeed anywhere.

    Surely, that’s not too difficult a thing to ask?

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