Articles

The Cost of Catcalling

I gave this one a long thoughtful consideration. To go about it or not. To share the reality or allow it to be dismissed as feeling mo lang or OA ka naman. But after CatcalledPH posted my own experience of street harassment and reading through other victims’ statements, I felt that this one – catcalling/rape culture itself – should really put into a halt. No better time than this, where articles reach as far as the other side of the world, to put perpetrators to their places and allow victims to speak up and be heard, be recognized and acknowledged. I’ll tell you why us victims are fighting for this: because we did not, do not and will not ask for this. Victims of sexual harassment (verbal or otherwise) did not want to be done whatever it was done unto them. At anywhere, at anytime.

It is preposterous to think anyone wanted it.

I have one too many instances of harassment on the streets. Be it because I wear my clothes differently or I’m a woman, I get these on daily basis: at the market, on my way to work/mall or simply cleaning my front yard wearing just my home clothes.

I ward off annoying remarks by listening to my music on max volume or sport a masungit look just to fend off strangers. Apparently, even a curt No or the fact I have earplugs on doesn’t warrant anything. I feel how my skin crawls at the inappropriate stares of men sitting across the other side of the street. I dislike standing near the road where truck drivers/motorists zoom by without first yelling, “Hi, ate ganda!”

And when these UNSOLICITED remarks aren’t returned, in their (the perpetrator’s/public’s) eyes you are an ungrateful, conceited bitch who couldn’t and doesn’t know how to take a compliment. Buti nga sinasabihan ka ng maganda eh. Buti nga hanggang salita lang sila. Huwag mo na lang sila pansinin.

How I snort at that. That is clearly why this kind of culture is prevalent.

I sometimes wonder this: where and when in History did it ever happen that when catcallers say the dirtiest things, the receivers would actually throw themselves at the former? How did it ever happen that strangers verbally remarking how hot her legs are or how cute his little ass is feels empowering/encouraging to the one who hears it? Whatever happened to, oh I don’t know, personal space?

Validation is a need for humans, sure. We want our existences, emotions, accomplishment, etc to be affirmed and recognized. But doesn’t validation weighs greater from people who matter to us? From people we actually know?

So coming from an outsider of our circle, an identity we obviously do not know of until that moment gives their own form of validation towards us without permission and/or approval only summons the negative effect of it.

Instead of feeling even more confident about myself, I cower at the presence of men. I avoid walking where they are standing. I’ll take the roundabout just so I wouldn’t be anywhere near folks with liquors on their table, drinking outside. I scurry to my feet when I feel like I’m the only woman walking on a dark street. I do not ride the public transportation if I deem the ratio of the passengers are full of men than women. And yes, even negative remarks from women I get them (bakit ganyan suot mo? Flirt ka ba?). How I wish I didn’t feel unsafe from dirty cracks here and there.

And this, my readers, is the cost of catcalling: Anxiety. That everywhere you go in the streets of Manila, you have to be on-guard — on top of getting mugged and finding yourself stressed with the traffic, catcalling brings out anxiety. On the streets, on your own, you feel nervous, troubled and dreadful.

One would think how easy it is to ward-off offenders. Shout and thrash and get their attention by calling them out (and if by good chance, give the offender the pleasure of your knuckles and fists and profanities). But, alas, in a society when a man nonchalantly denies his offenses, the victim is seen more as the one lying or making a scene without a concrete proof. His words against the victim’s. How can groping be further proven then? How can malicious touching be verified? A victim has to constantly record their actions and the people who interacts with them? ALL. THE. FREAKING.TIME?

This further shames and embarrasses the victims. Making them small, powerless and insignificant. How they felt at the moment of harassment and after is unimportant. Because, apparently, strangers’ validations and coming-onto is a good thing. Make a scene and be deemed OA mo naman, ate/kuya, or Feeling mo naman.

If you aren’t worth it, you wouldn’t even experience it. Or better yet, stop doing what you do and make yourself invisible if you don’t want to be catcalled anymore. Stop wearing this, stop wearing that. Stop beautifying yourself because offenders cannot stop themselves.

What BS. How one-sided.

The inequality of this culture frustrates me. Because ever since I could remember I have to pay attention to what I wear and be on guard on a scorching, humid country while some of these ignorant offenders/bandwagoners go around catcalling victims, wearing nothing but their boxers/sandos on. (because, hey, mainit po!).

And society will tell me the way to earn respect/avoid being catcalled is by choosing and wearing appropriate clothes? What double BS. How about teaching or instilling principles on this perpetrators which are supposedly taught at home and school in the first place?

Because, you know, respect begins at home and not on anyone’s clothes.

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