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Ashley is an urgent need for stricter

Ashley ReyesWIP 346AProfessor Kourvetaris                                     Catcalling: A Form of Sexual HarassmentStreet harassment commonly knows as catcalling creates power dynamics between men and women through both everyday communications and allows for violence that causes psychological damage among women. Women are vulnerable in almost all cities to this type of harassment. In many cases, sexual harassment may open the door to other more violent acts. It is seen that there is an urgent need for stricter sexual harassment laws and inclusiveness in law and order. Though there are quite a few legislations which punish catcalling, it is not regarded as a serious crime, it is framed more as a compliment than sexual harassment.When a woman is harassed in public places by strangers, this phenomenon is known as street harassment or catcalling. The word catcall derived from “mid 17th century: originally denoting a kind of whistle or squeaking instrument used to express disapproval at a theatre”. (Kehres: 2016) Which is ironic because today it is used to show approval of a woman’s looks. This can seriously affect the woman’s self-esteem and self-respect. Street harassment is also sexual harassment, usually done by complete strangers. This includes but is not limited to unwanted stares, compliments, touching or gestures to signify something sexual. (Roenius: 2016)When harassment is taken from a private setting such as school and work to a public setting the laws differ. Although there continues to be sexual harassment in schools and at workplaces, these institutions have certain protocols to follow when this happens. However, when it comes to public places including the streets, stores, and restaurants there are little to no laws that reprimand unwanted catcallers. “While 65% of women and 25% of men nationwide report being street harassment victims,  the legal system does not currently view this as an issue worthy of legal redress.” (Roenius: 2016) Street harassment is not considered to be such a serious social phenomenon requiring legal action and hence has generally gone out of the purview of lawyers and legal punishments. Laws against street harassment can be difficult because most street harassment occurs from strangers. Most women do not respond to catcalls, much rather stop and ask for the harassers identification so that they can file a report. The harasser could simply take this the wrong way and think the woman is accepting the catcalls. Men could use freedom of speech as a defense and say it was just a compliment if it were to come to legal action. This makes it difficult for women to move about their day comfortably. (O’Leary: 2016) Even though unwanted comments can seem harmful it can sometimes escalate violently. This is trivial as generally the male stalkers are either not noticed or there is no evidence of stalking. Due to catcalling being done mostly by strangers, women fear what these strangers could be capable of. Many studies show women are raped by someone they already know, which is already scary enough, but being raped by someone they do not know makes it even scarier because they do not know anything about that person. (MacMillan et al. 2000) Women have to take precautions just to avoid being harassed or harmed such as dressing differently or re-routing their way home to avoid sketchy areas, especially late at night. (Hickman and Muehlenhard 1997, in Fairchild and Rudman 2008, p. 343-344). Though there are certain important behaviors which attribute to street harassment, verbal and nonverbal cues like winking, staring, leering, grabs, catcalls are the most common forms of street calling and are sexual in nature and these throws upon the nature and physical appearance of the woman in a public place. The impact of street harassment invokes a kind of trepidation and fear among women. In the initial stages, they are annoyed but when the intensity increases or when there are repeated attempts it results in fear and an intrusion of the privacy of the women and a fear of bodily attack and rape. Women are seen to be generally weak and vulnerable, allowing an intrusion of privacy. Women who have been stalked see these events to be precursors to a rape and hence get intimidated. What concerns the women is the way the encounters happen in public.As mentioned, street harassment can easily become an opening door to more violent actions against women. Not only that, but it can have a psychological toll as well. Both society and women have been seriously affected by street calls. The most afflicted are the women who bear the direct brunt of the harassment, fear, emotional disturbances and distress disempowerment and loss of privacy. Street harassment is anti-ethical and can disturb the social fabric. Demeaning a woman and calling her names are not considered to be hallmarks of evolution and education and so must be dealt with firm punishments must be awarded to those who can be identified as stalkers. “In October of 2014, two women were violently attacked after responding to their harassers. A young woman was attacked in Queens, NYC on October 1st. After refusing to go on a date with her harasser, the man viciously slashed the victim’s throat leaving her in critical condition (Feis, 2014). Less than a week later, Mary Spears, a 27- year-old woman living in Detroit, was shot and killed after rejecting the romantic advances of her harasser.” (Lambertz, 2014). Living in fear that a stranger could escalate things so fast can take a toll on women’s comfort. Simply walking from the car to the home can be a scary task. Sexual harassers may turn the blame on women and dismiss harassment as just a compliment. (Eastwood: 2015) “They make sure that she is the guilty one for the awkward outcome of the situation, by for example saying “You shouldn’t have worn those skinny jeans if you did not want this kind of attention”. These techniques are used for her to feel guilty and self-blame.” (Eastwood: 2015) When women begin to believe it is their own fault for being catcalled they began to question their true selves. They begin losing touch with how they feel and how society wants them to feel. “A woman could start to compare themselves to the pictures, eventually objectifying herself as body parts, consequentially body-shaming herself. Fredrickson and Roberts hypothesize that women who are exposed to Stranger Harassment frequently will be more likely to self- objectify.” (Fairchild and Rudman 2008).      Gender is socially oriented rather than being biologically oriented. Gender is the most important cause of discrimination between man and woman’s standpoint in social and symbolic interactions. “Gender roles are the product of the interactions between individuals and their environments, and they give individuals cues about what sort of behavior is believed to be appropriate for what sex. Appropriate gender roles are defined according to a society’s beliefs about differences between the sexes.” (Blackstone: 2003) A woman can choose to go to any place she wants. The power of locomotion at the basics is the most important civil right and thus when the law cannot give protection to women in public places, that deprives them and curtails their basic right of movement.                           Both men and women want independence in their thinking and standpoint. The degree of autonomy each wants differs. The men want more freedom and the women want to be connected. The important measurement for this qualifier is communication. Men use communication and embrace others in building relationships while the women exhibit maternal instincts to remain connected. “Feminist standpoint theory is identified as a critical theory as it aims to bring about awareness of marginalized groups while challenging social hierarchies and the consequences of their established dominance in society. This theory is rooted in Marxist ideology, specifically the notion that the working class’s unique standpoints differ from that of the ruling class.” (O’Leary: 2016) There is ample evidence to prove the difference in men and women in the society which is a great reference tool for the female standpoint theorists. There are many instances which prove that in a society people are so hierarchically positioned that some are over-advantaged and some are underprivileged. The women come under the second category. Though the standpoint theory was to champion the cause of women view it was seen and felt that it was organized more towards the women.Economic conditions, race and sexual orientation play a very important role in determining the thoughts and views of people. The minority are looked down upon due to these cultural identities. The social position of people determines the definition of power that is manifested in the different groups of people. The social hierarchy always speaks about the power that emanates from the top of the hierarchy and women have absolutely no role to play in it. “Social markers such as racialization, class, and sexuality, situate women in hierarchal relation to each other. These hierarchies interact and intersect with each other and with gender inequality, meaning that street harassment manifests and is experienced by women in multiple ways, some of which are shared and some of which are not.” (Fileborn & Vera-Gray: 2017) This has made street calling have certain defining characteristics like most of the targets are women, the predators or harassers are generally male and the harassers are not acquainted with the victim. Generally, in public, the speeches involved are not meant to be in public discourse and are degrading, humiliating and are frequently threatening in nature. Societies benefit out of interest shown by strong groups because they wield great powers on the underprivileged. Communication is gender-centric therefore, this communication makes one believe that women are more receptive to these kinds of humiliating comments.      The feeling that communication shapes the status of women is not a valid argument and so it is not always necessary that the minority viewpoint should be the basis of corrective reforms in society. Communication has always existed between the powerful and the less powerful and this has been called as staying connected which is the exclusive role of the woman. Women’s concerns are important enough to attract the attention of all but they are not the only reasons for discrimination. The social perspective of being outcast within a society based on privileges and intellectual resources need not always be true in the sense that women have never been the object of any research. The efforts at recognizing the social hierarchy of women’s importance are slowly revolutionizing the society.From young age girls, are subject to sexual harassment and are in charge of pleasing men. This harassment is not taken into account and is dismissed. Girls are brought up in a society where men are the head of everything, thus enabling “male power and aggression”. (Fineran and Bennett 1999; Tolman et al. 2003). As boys grow up being enabled to have this power, girls grow up being used to not having power and feeling like they have no choice but to withstand it. (Stanko 1985) Society is gender biased and inclining more to the standpoint of men. Accordingly, culture has also shaped itself to suit the male viewpoint. “Young women overwhelmingly depicted boys and men as natural sexual aggressors, pointing to one of the main tenets of compulsory heterosexuality. Incorporating male sexual drive discourse (Phillips 2000), they described men as unable to control their sexual desires. Male power and privilege and female acquiescence were reified in descriptions of “routine” and “normal” sexualized interactions.” (Fineran and Bennett 1999; French 2003) It is no doubt true to say that women have been subjected to discrimination and have been silent sufferers for many generations, there are certain times when women have stood their ground and shown their power. Women who cannot stand on their own and look to support from men have always been subjugated to the power of men and have been exploited. This cannot in any sense justify the position of women. As generations have evolved perceptions of women have never changed, the fact is that perceptions about women have changed to a very great extent. It is now time to take cognizance of the fact that female power has come to occupy a great role in civil administration and laws have been passed to end the discrimination between the genders. Hence street calling, though not considered to be any kind of gender disposition can take a total toll on the woman’s self-esteem. Nonresponse to any kind of street stalking can lead to its own consequences and thus may lead ultimately to a psychological fear that could have long-lasting mental effects. Such mental stress could include depression, stresses, and anxiety. Such women may feel humiliated and degraded and may lose comfort with their own sexuality and gender. Women have always been looking for ways to express their viewpoint which had been ignored. New platforms for expressing their views and participation in debates and processions have caused societies to consider the matter of street stalking very seriously. “Street harassment has become an internet sensation as women have taken to the streets to videotape their experiences with harassment. Websites such as Holla Back! and Stop Street Harassment inform the public about instances of catcalling and harassment, which gives women the chance to discuss their own experiences as they are often silenced or deemed insignificant by legislators.” (O’Leary: 2016) Those viewpoints and societal norms which were earlier ignored has now become the icons for social rules and social thrust areas. Women organizations and women powered administration has proved to be much more contributory to the state than otherwise. The rise of active participation of women in redressing grievances related to woman abuse, however, it may have come to stay and help in cases related to such events. When there are addresses by women it generates a lot of interest. When women are subjugated and oppressed, they can persevere and change existing social systems. In my research, I conducted a survey within a group text of 169 women from Chicago. Their age ranged from 19-30 years old. In one text I asked, “please heart this if you feel objectified and/or angry when you get catcalled on the street”. The next one read “please heart this if you do not feel threatened and you think being catcalled is nothing but just a compliment.” Of these two questions, 163 women hearted the first one, leaving 3 women who thought being catcalled was a compliment. This, I expected. However, the next and final question is what made me think how girls experience sexual harassment at such a young age. The first question was “please heart this if you began to experience catcalling at age 10 and under” to which 153 women hearted. As all the women I interviewed were part of a sorority, they continue to experience sexual harassment, especially from fraternity members.     In conclusion, street harassment is a form of sexual harassment. Even though it may seem like a harmless compliment it can sometimes be greater than that and lead to touching, rape, psychological health or murder. The mere feeling of being unsafe in a public setting that should be enjoyed by everyone and is a basic civil right should be alarming enough. Sexual harassment derives from power dynamics and gender roles society has placed on women. It is definitely not something to dismiss and not have any legal address to it as it happens to many women from such a young age. Luckily with media outlets so readily available, more people are starting to realize the harm it causes and hopefully begin to shine a light on a problem that has long been dismissed.References:Blackstone, A. Gender Roles and Society. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/soc_facpub/1/Boswell, G. (1985). Reviews : Intimate Intrusions: Women’s Experience of Male Violence ELIZABETH A STANKO RKP, 1985, £5 95, pb, pp 211. Probation Journal, 32(4), 155-156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/026455058503200414Eastwood, E. (2015). What, can’t you take a Compliment? A Qualitative Study of Catcalling.Fairchild, K., & Rudman, L. (2008). Everyday Stranger Harassment and Women’s Objectification. Social Justice Research, 21(3), 338-357. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11211-008-0073-0Feis, A. (2014, October 8). Woman’s throat slashed after rejecting man’s advances. NYCPost.com. Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2014/10/08/womans-throat- slashed-after-rejecting-mans-advances/     Fileborn, B., & Vera-Gray, F. (2017). “I Want to be Able to Walk the Street Without Fear”: Transforming Justice for Street Harassment. Feminist Legal Studies, 25(2), 203-227. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10691-017-9350-3FINERAN, S., & BENNETT, L. (1999). Gender and Power Issues of Peer Sexual Harassment Among Teenagers. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 14(6), 626-641. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/088626099014006004Hlavka, H. (2014). Normalizing Sexual Violence. Gender & Society, 28(3), 337-358. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243214526468Kehres, L. (2016, January 5). Retrieved from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/thoughts-on-catcallingLambertz, K. A. (2014, October 7). Woman shot, killed after saying no to a man’s advances, Detroit police say. Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com /2014/10/07/mary-spears-killed- detroit_n_5945518.html MACMILLAN, R., NIEROBISZ, A., & WELSH, S. (2000). Experiencing the Streets: Harassment and Perceptions of Safety among Women. Journal Of Research In Crime And Delinquency, 37(3), 306-322. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022427800037003003O’Leary, C. (2016, March 11). Catcalling as a “Double Edged Sword”: Midwestern Women, eir Experiences, and the Implications of Men’s Catcalling Behaviors. Retrieved from http://ir.library.illinoisstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1534=etdPhillips, L. (2000). Flirting with danger: Young women’s reflections on sexu-ality and domination. New York University Press.Roenius, A. My Name Is Not “Beautiful,” and, No, I Do Not Want To Smile: Paving the Path for Street Harassment Legislation in Illinois. Retrieved from http://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3986&context=law-review

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