The Spectre of Cat-Calling
Men do not see catcalling because catcalling happens less when men are in the presence of their female friends. I live in a particularly busy part of town and when I go out for a 20 minute walk on my own, I get catcalled at least 4-7 times. But when I go out for the same walk with my boyfriend, I get catcalled 0 times, without fail. I’m not super attractive, I’m just lumpy person shaped, and that’s enough for a lot of catcallers. It doesn’t have to be with my boyfriend either. It can be when I’m walking with a guy friend, not holding their hand. It can be attractive guys, non-attractive guys. Old guys. Young guys. When there’s a guy beside me, it’s like the world goes silent. The nature of catcalling also changes throughout the day: in the afternoon period, catcalling might be unwelcome, but it just grazes the border between “compliment” and “sex offender”. At night, when fewer people are around to hear the comment, catcalling gets persistent, loud, and downright scary. It’s no longer an awkward grin paired with “You. Beautiful!” but a deep-toned shout asking how much money can they deposit into you until sex falls out, or how a pretty girl like you should get trapped in their car and wind up in a ditch by the side of the road come morning. If you stayed out all day, it would sort of be like watching American Psycho: charming… okay… not bad… and then suddenly, AXE MURDERER.
Men who don’t condone catcalling don’t see their friends catcall because catcalling men are either walking (or driving) alone, or in a group where everyone agrees on the same level of “social etiquette”. Or lack thereof. Guys, you don’t see it because it’s less likely to happen around you, or where you choose to be. Men get embarrassed or afraid to catcall when they think there will be a man around to judge them for it, but feel much less embarrassment or fear projecting it onto a woman.
And this makes it very, very hard to explain to male friends how pervasive and harmful catcalling really is. Because it’s like being that one person in a horror movie who has already seen the monster, and now you’re trying to convince all of the other dumb campers that yeah, murder ghosts / vampires / zombie Al Pacino with access to biogenic weaponry exists before they all get themselves killed in the lake or while having sex. The upside for dudes out there is that ignoring this monster has almost no negative consequences for you, because it primarily targets women.
And just like the protagonist in aforementioned horror movies, I and many other women are begging you to finally acknowledge that the monster exists before it kills us, either slowly or all at once - even though our social conventions are set in such a way that you will almost never be confronted with it yourself.