Wednesday, Dec 15 2021

Women around the world do not experience street harassment in the same way

Original posted by Paula Gonzalez-Naranjo

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Scientific Articles

  • Bailey, B. (2016). Street remarks to women in five countries and four languages: Impositions of engagement an intimacy. Sociolinguistic Studies, 10.4, 589–609

  • Fisher, S., Lindner, D., & Ferguson, C. (2019). The Effects of Exposure to Catcalling on Women’s State Self-Objectification and Body image. Current Psychology, 38, 1495–1502,

  • Lahsaeizadeh, A., Yousefinejad, E. (2012). Social Aspects of Women’s Experiences of Sexual Harassment in Public Places in Iran. Sexuality & culture 16, 17–37

  • Walton, K., & Pedersen, C. (2021). Motivations Behind Catcalling: Exploring Men’s Engagement in Street Harassment Behavior. Psychology and Sexuality,

Explanation of the Post

Many people might think that catcalling is something positive and, in fact, it is. However, it is important to know the different contexts in which catcalling is experienced.
Assume that a woman is walking in the street and someone screams an obscenity about her body. Then, catcalling is not something positive.
Usually, street harassment is committed by men towards women and, in the vast majority of cases, women opt for silence (Bailey, 2016). This silence shows how uncomfortable women feel and also the rejection felt by women because of a stranger shouting at them in the street. This reaction proves that men control the public area, but the private area belongs to women because it is the place where they can feel safe and comfortable (Lahsaeizadeh & Yousefinejad, 2012). This experience is one of the multiple manifestations of male domination over women and it is therefore called “machismo”/ sexism (Bailey, 2016).

It is normally thought that street harassment is an individual problem of the abuser. However, if harassed women exist these days it is because today’s society does not severely punish harassers and it tolerates “machismo”/sexist behaviours. Nevertheless, we as women are punished and questioned by the public opinion if a man abuses us. Here are some examples of catcalling: “she was drunk”, “her skirt was too short”, and “she was asking for it”. The focus is put on the victim but not on the abuser, due to the existence of the patriarchal system. A system that does not educate men on how to not harass/rape/assault and it does educate women on experiencing the fear of being harassed/raped/assaulted.

This kind of harassment affects women in a physical and psychological way (Walton & Pedersen, 2021). Among the negative consequences of catcalling it can be found: anxiety, depression, body image disturbance, self-esteem issues, fear of walking down the street, changing the usual itinerary, behavioural changes, etc. (Ficher et al., 2019).

It may be thought that belonging to a certain culture is a sign of tolerating “machismo”/sexist behaviour because of its more affectionate attitudes, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to Bailey ‘s article (2016), in which he studied catcalling aimed towards women in Lima, Barranquilla, New York, Italy and El Cairo; he reached the conclusion that women may not consider what is said to them as a bad thing. But, if it is a stranger the one who is enunciating these statements, it is threatening. Similarly, in the Walton & Pedersen (2021) article, it is stated that even if women consider certain catcalling as flattering, it does not mean that catcalling does not bear negative consequences for women and they should not tolerate this behaviour.
On the other hand, according to Lahsaeizadeh & Yousefinejad (2012), after a few situations experienced by women in Iran, it could be seen that numerous negative aspects of catcalling evidence the link between sexual harassment and gender role acceptance, education, women’s clothing and makeup. In relation to this, the article by Fisher, Linder & Feerguson (2019) argues that female socialization is key in the process of believing that men are entitled to have an opinion about women. Therefore, being a witness of other women being harassed does not produce the same negative effects as suffering street harassment firsthand does.
After reading the articles that I have previously mentioned, I have came to the conclusion that street harassment is not a question that depends on nationality. All women are affected by street harassment, in the same way that men harass without regard to their nationality.

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