lifestyle

OPINION: "We wish this social media campaign didn't have to exist."

By ALEXIS CAREY

Is it just us or is the most common reaction to stories of women being harassed on the street, this one:

“Yes, but what was she wearing?”

It seems that there’s an implication that women only get harassed when they wear revealing clothing, and that therefore, women must deserve this kind of harassment.

Katy Heng was sick of this reaction. So sick of it, in fact, that she created the ‘But What Was She Wearing: Stop the Cat Call’ Tumblr page, which is dedicated to “documenting what street harassment actually looks like”.

Here are some examples from  the ‘But What Was She Wearing: Stop the Cat Call’ Tumblr page.

The page invites women who have been victims of harassment to upload photos of what they were wearing at the time. And it has destroyed the myth that these women are harassed for wearing “revealing” clothing such as miniskirts and stilettos. Instead, it has clearly shown that women are routinely catcalled regardless of their outfits.

The page has attracted countless submissions, ranging from schoolgirls in uniform to women in dress-up clothing, baggy gym clothes and everyday street wear.

There are even photos of a doctor dressed in scrubs and a woman dressed in a prairie-girl outfit – which shows that pretty much any female, regardless of their appearance, is considered “fair game” by catcalling cretins.

This women was catcalled in her work scrubs. 

It is so sad that this Tumblr page has to exist. But it’s also so important that it does. Because victim-blaming and slut-shaming (which is exactly what is happening every time we question a victim’s clothing and behaviour, rather than criticising the perpetrator) has to end.

Over the years I have been catcalled in my school uniform as a (very young, decidedly unsexy) teenager. I have been catcalled in sweaty gym clothes. And I’ve been catcalled in pretty ordinary, run-of-the-mill jeans-and-top combos. It’s not a pleasant experience. In fact, it is awkward, embarrassing and sometimes, downright scary.

Because here’s the thing: catcalling is not always about complimenting a woman and showing appreciation for her body and appearance, as so many claim. In many cases, it is more about humiliating a victim and exerting power over them. And that is definitely not ok.

So was this woman, in her theme park work uniform.

Women don’t deserve to have obscenities yelled at them as they are walking down the street, going about their business. And they certainly don’t deserve the implication that they somehow brought the abuse on themselves because of their clothing choices.

ADVERTISEMENT

That’s why pages like these are so, so important. Because it’s high time the blame shifted away from the victims and on to the people who really deserve it – the culprits.

Have you ever been catcalled or harassed in the street?

Here are some more examples from the ‘But What Was She Wearing: Stop the Cat Call’ Tumblr page.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
00:00 / ???