Catcalling affects women on campus

By Tierra Carpenter, @TierraMC_

The issue of catcalling is being discussed this April as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Catcalling is “a loud whistle or a comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman,” according to the Oxford Dictionary’s website, but it can happen to men as well.

Of 2,000 American women surveyed, 65 percent have experienced street harassment, according to the 2014 National Street Harassment report on the website of the nonprofit organization, Stop Street Harassment.


Twenty-three percent of these women had been sexually touched, 20 percent had been followed and 9 percent had been forced to do something sexual, according to the report.

Diana Tigerlily, an SIU communications and lecturer in women, gender and sexuality studies, said the difference between catcalling and complimenting is that catcalling degrades women.

“Yelling at people as though they are sexual objects is disrespectful and ignores that person’s humanity,” she said. “Compliments should be reserved for moments when both people are part of the conversation in a mutually shared context.”

She said an example of an acceptable moment to compliment a woman on the street may be at a crosswalk where one can say, “Hey, that’s a really nice dress,” or “I like your hair.”

“There is a fine line between sexualizing somebody and talking to them like they’re human,” she said.

There are also students on campus who have experienced being catcalled.

Madison Deagan, a freshman from Bourbonnais studying aviation flight, said she thinks men catcall women because they find it funny.


“They don’t think that you could ever take offense to it,” Deagan said. “If they’re catcalling, they aren’t trying to pursue anything with you, otherwise they’d treat you with much more respect.”

She said men usually catcall in groups and approach women differently when they are by themselves.

“Typically if it’s just one guy walking around, they’re going to be really respectful,” Deagan said.

Cecelia Bloome, a freshman from Litchfield studying public relations, said men usually catcall in groups to show how masculine they are. Bloome, who was catcalled while walking down the Strip in Carbondale, said she was with a group of friends in February, when men who were standing outside of a bar started yelling sexual phrases at them.

“I’m being judged solely on my body, and they don’t even know who I am as a human being,” she said.

Lloyd Coakley, a sophomore from Bellville studying anthropology, also said men catcalling stems from the desire to show masculinity.

“There’s an issue inherent to living in a society that is hyper masculine, and that is, we teach boys and young men from a very young age that whatever it is they want, they are entitled to,” he said. “This is a direct result from that.”

In March, Amanda Seales, a comedian and actress, hosted “Sideye Seminar: Identifying, Challenging, and Ending Everyday Sexism.”

She is known for a CNN appearance last November that turned into a debate about street harassment with New York Times bestselling author, Steve Santagati.

She spoke about how men catcall in her neighborhood and how they think they are doing women a favor.

“They’re like, ‘Yo, I just made her day, dog.’ That’s a compliment in their mind,” Seales said.

Seales said before guys compliment a woman, they should think about where they are and if that is a comfortable space for the woman to accept the compliment.

Tigerlily said men she knew catcalled her, for example, while on a run, while they drove beside her and yelled from their car. 

“I was being intruded upon on my run, on my private time, I felt threatened,” she said. “I was at their mercy until they decided to drive away. There was nothing I could do.”

While the same friends said they were just joking when she brought up the incident, Tigerlily said she wishes the men would have apologized.

“Their assumption was because they were having fun, their actions were harmless,” she said. “Their ‘fun’ at my expense was unwelcome.”

Tyler Marvin, a freshman from Bradenton, Fla., studying aviation technologies, said men should not see their comments as jokes.

“You can’t take words back,” he said. “You should mean anything you say, because even if it is a joke to you, the person on the receiving end cannot tell.”

Tigerlily said men can help stop catcalling.

“It’s important for men to call out men and say, ‘Hey dude, that’s not cool. You don’t really have the right to violate that person’s space and autonomy through verbal harassment,’” she said. “Women can say those things, too. Women and men can educate each other in this arena.”

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected]