Every day, women deal with the constant fear of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment involves making unwanted sexual advances that could happen in a professional setting or any other social environment. This type of harassment could be as obvious as sexual assault through inappropriate touching or sharing of sexual messages. But oftentimes, sexual harassment can happen in subtler ways like unwelcome messages or lewd comments. All of these are considered acts of sexual harassment.
But when people talk about sexual harassment, people usually think of it as something that only happens in the workplace. But the truth is, sexual harassment can happen anywhere. It could happen even when you’re on the bus or at the library.
So when you get experience harassment on the streets—otherwise called catcalling—can you still file sexual harassment case against the offender?
What is Catcalling?
Catcalling is a form of harassment. Harassment comes in many forms—homophobia, ableism, racism, and the list goes on. But what all these forms of harassment have a single thing in common: the dynamic about power and control. Harassment is an imposition of power, whether the perpetrator is aware of it or not. And this is what makes catcalling a form of sexual harassment.
Catcalling is an informal term that describes the rude sexual remarks or raucous cries made by predators directed at a person in a public space. Cat calls consist of whistles, yells, or makes any kind of inappropriate comment towards another individual. Most of the time, it happens to women in streets, shopping malls, or modes of public transportation.
Some even get catcalled when they weren’t wearing revealing clothes. This makes them feel uncomfortable and unsafe in public spaces.
Catcalling and Sexual Objectification
It may seem an absurd thing to consider catcalling as nothing more than “playful banter” or a “harmless compliment.” Surprisingly, a lot of the people who catcall victims on the street say this to justify their behavior. But the unsolicited sexual attention is unacceptable, and no person should have to feel uncomfortable or unsafe when they’re on the street.
What makes sexual harassment so harmful and dangerous is the intention behind the words. Throwing unwelcome comments about a woman’s body to compliment her is wrong. Because wolf whistles and catcalls are a form of sexual objectification. When objectification occurs, people are reduced to their body parts. In turn, people tend to value a person for how they look rather than who they are or their performance at the workplace.
And catcalling doesn’t just damage a woman’s psyche; it also impinges on her rights. After all, catcalling makes a person feel unsafe in public. A study by the University of Melbourne in Australia demonstrates that catcalling is so common that women are likely to experience it at least once every two days.
Why Catcalling is Wrong
Objectification is so common and its effects are damaging. Research demonstrates that frequent objectification can lead to greater body shame, depression, and even more complex behavior such as self-silencing in social interactions.
This is why catcalling is never a compliment. Commenting on a person’s breasts or legs in public is not flattery—it’s abuse. And people who aren’t aware of the distinction between a compliment and harassment should reconsider their position. Catcalling is not flirting. Flirting is about playfulness, while catcalling intends to demean. Flirting assumes equality between the two parties but catcalling involves dominance and the manipulative power dynamics of the patriarchy. Most importantly, flirting is fun and respectful but catcalling is rude.
Why Outfits are Never an Excuse
Some catcallers try to justify their behavior by saying that women “ask for it” by wearing provocative clothes. But these arguments involve the exercise of control and power of the perpetrator. And this victim-blaming attitude only allows the abuser to perpetrate sexual harassment. A women’s wardrobe is in no way an excuse for sexual harassment. After all, there are countless women who get catcalled with outfits ranging from shorts to snowsuits. And no woman, regardless of what she wears, deserves the unwanted attention.
At the end of the day, there must be a conscious effort to challenge objectification. One strategy is to confront objectification when it’s taking place. This can help recognize women as “somebody’s” rather than “somethings.”
Contact a Sexual Harassment Attorney in California
Everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. It is a basic human right to feel comfortable in public without worrying about your safety. In California, it is against the law to engage in “lewd or dissolute conduct,” including explicit sexual comments or gestures. Violators are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail.
If you are in need of aggressive legal representation in your sexual harassment case, don’t hesitate to call Mesriani Law Group. Our team is made up of the best attorneys and provides legal assistance for those in the Los Angeles area. Our firm also assists victims of personal injury and employment and labor law violations. For over two decades, we have recovered over $100 million for our clients, which we represent on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. Schedule a free consultation today at (310) 826-6300!