Life&Style Writer Hannah Robinson breaks down the myths surrounding catcalling
Catcalling is viewed as a sexual offence and an appalling 90% of British women have reported being sexually harassed on the street during puberty. In so many cases of sexual harassment, the conversation will usually turn to how the victim was dressed. However, this is irrelevant. I find it extremely hard to believe that all these young girls were ‘asking for it’ due to the way they were dressing. This belief that a woman’s choice of clothing can increase her risk of experiencing sexual harassment has been ingrained into our society, placing some of the blame onto the woman. Consequently, this undermines and belittles the offensiveness of the act itself. It should be the choice and right of every woman to dress freely and in no way should this be interpreted as an invitation for unwanted male attention.
School dress codes, which often emphasise the need for girls to dress modestly so as not to ‘distract’ the boys, is a prime example of how society continuously expects women to censor themselves through the way they dress. A friend of mine was told she had to change her top during her time at school as her midriff was showing. The teacher’s reasoning behind this was that this was ‘distracting for the hormone-filled teenage boys.’ However, the only result of this is to set up the idea that males cannot help but be distracted by what females wear as it’s in their biology, placing the responsibility of men’s sexual behaviour onto women. As a result, it gives males entitlement to act on their desires, even if this attention is unwanted, as they are unable to resist the temptation.
Despite these beliefs that women’s provocative dress is a temptation for men, the irony is that it doesn’t matter what clothing women wear, they can still be sexually harassed. Recently, a woman posted on Twitter that she had been catcalled three times whilst wearing a soaking-wet raincoat. Yes, a rain coat. Now, this doesn’t seem to fit the ‘provocative’ dress image which often attracts catcalling. So, does this mean the woman in this instance wasn’t asking for it? Is it only then that catcalling is viewed as offensive and unacceptable? The post attracted many comments from women who had suffered from similar experiences, showing how common an issue this is, and one which is often overlooked. This disproves the theory that women are ‘asking for it,’ by the way they dress, as sexual harassment can occur whatever women choose to wear.
The real issue lies not with the clothing choices of the woman, but with the psychology of the perpetrator. Despite some people viewing catcalling as a compliment to their attractiveness, it is never done with the intention to compliment them or make their day better, and is by no means respectful. The driving force behind sexual harassment comes from a desire to gain power and control over one’s victim by making them emotionally vulnerable, as well as trying to encourage the woman to have sex with them. Instead of fixating on the idea that it is the woman’s provocative clothing which is to blame, as a society we should be recognising how to prevent and educate the harasser from acting on their impulses. So, to answer the question, ‘are women asking for it?’. No, they most certainly are not.