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Catcalling is not a black-and-white issue


Reported by Nich Johanssen

Johansen_Nicholas_A1The issue of catcalling has recently been brought to the forefront of public discourse by way of viral video. The video, with over 36 million views, shows the depraved behaviour a woman walking around New York City has to deal with. Greetings. sick, twisted greetings like, “Hello, good morning” and “Have a good day.”

Now a quick double check confirms that I am not a female and I don’t begin to know what it might be like to walk down a sidewalk as one. But condemning all stranger-to-stranger discourse as harassment is a step in the wrong direction and makes for a pretty cold city.

But let’s call a spade a spade here. The majority of the comments in the video are made because the speaker finds the woman attractive. Catcalling is, in most cases, a form of sexual advance.

But since when are sexual advances a bad thing? Sex is one of the few things that is universally agreed upon to be a pretty positive thing, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or species for that matter.

Unwanted sexual advances on the other hand are no fun, and there is clearly a line that can be crossed. This line is hurdled across by some of the gentlemen in the video.

Following a woman down the street for blocks after she has made it clear she is not interested is harassment. A simple, “Hi, how are you doing this morning” is not, and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise.

This grey area of appropriateness is subjective. While there are obvious clear-cut extremes, appropriate behaviour is dependent on the setting and the person. What is offensive harassment to some may be a flattering conversation starter to others.

How to not be a creep

Without drawing any hard lines on what is and what isn’t harassment, one can avoid being a creep quite simply. Don’t be a jerk. A person with any shred of social awareness can understand when your advance is wanted or not.

If your new friend is unreceptive to the stellar lines you’ve memorized from pick-up artist YouTube videos, then move on. Don’t take your bruised ego out on others.

Men and women alike should obviously have the freedom to walk down a public street without fear of harassment or fear for their safety.

Vancouver is poisoned with a mind-your-own-business attitude. Eye contact is avoided on public transit for fear of engaging in conversation with a stranger. Putting yourself out there and engaging with someone might not be the worst thing. Human interaction can go beyond a right-swipe on Tinder.

The NYC catcall video was posted in October in support of Hollaback, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending street harassment. 

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