Friday, 25 May 2012

Wolf-whistling and cat-calling

An article in today's Independent under the heading 

Do you ignore him, and risk him getting angry, or smile, which might encourage him?

To men it may seem harmless. To women it is anything but

elides wolf-whistling and cat-calling women in the street with groping and other assaults.

The man who yells "give us a smile!" or "nice legs!" at a passing teenager often doesn't understand that what he might think is a harmless compliment is part of a total atmosphere of threat and invasion of privacy, where any man has the right to comment on your body if you choose to go outside with it. 

Groping and sexual assaults are very serious and wrong. Being wolf-whistled and catcalled in public are neither and for many girls they are flattering. I asked a very attractive blonde friend of mine, Sally, what was the best compliment of her life and she said she was once walking past a building site with her best friend when a building worker called out some uncouth compliment, her friend looked round and the man said, 'Not you, darling, the other one.' 

Sally expressed outrage - this was in the late 1980s - that Westminster Council (Tory, led by the egregious Lady Porter) was banning building workers from calling out to women. 

Another remark Sally treasured, when walking her dog past a building site was, 'Can I have your dog's phone number?"

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