By Nimer “Neem” Basha
The Catcalling “Controversy” — Settled
You’ve all seen the video. Or you’ve heard of it. It went viral in an instant, and it sparked quite the discussion on social media last month. I’m referring to the video of the woman walking down the street, while a number of men “catcall” her with comments ranging from “How are you doing today?” to berating her about not saying ‘thank you’ for the so-called compliments. One guy even followed her around for five minutes.
First thing’s first — there has been a great deal of controversy regarding the production of the video itself. We’ve all heard the accusations that those catcalls were staged; or that the producers of the video were purposely racist in their editing choices to keep all of the white catcallers out of the video; or that their soliciting for donations made the video more of a commercial and less of a social statement. I agree that the video does have its share of flaws, and I personally take videos like this with a grain of salt because they always show what the maker wants you to see, for better or for worse.
Now that we got that out of the way, I want to stress emphatically that I am NOT here to discuss the video (which is old news by now, anyway). I am here to discuss the larger point. Putting the video aside, catcalling is an issue that women deal with all the time — and have been dealing with long before this video was put out. So I want to talk about street harassment in general. And frankly, whereas I can see why there’s a controversy around some elements of the video’s production, I don’t see why or how there is any controversy surrounding the act of catcalling. I’ve seen so many discussions and disagreements between men and women on this issue, and I can’t understand why. Women are simply saying, ‘When I walk down the street, kindly leave me alone. I don’t want to be disrupted.’ It’s the most basic request. What’s the issue?
Seriously, what the hell is the issue? A lot of men are arguing that it’s “no big deal” and that “it’s been around forever,” but that doesn’t fly with me. That doesn’t make it right. I’m quite sure that when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and give a white guy her seat, the other passengers were thinking, “Things have been like this for years now. Why can’t she just get up? It’s just a seat on the bus. WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?” It was just a little inconvenient for her to stand up, right? Wrong. We all know that there was a much larger social issue in play there. And it’s the same thing with the catcalling issue. Every time my wife or my sister or my niece walks down the street, some jackass needs to say, “Hey hun, can I talk to you,” or “Hey you have nice eyes babe” or “Yo, God bless you, ma” … really, dudes, shut the hell up! It’s not okay. These are our women.
Some men agree that the disrespectful comments should stop, but they see no problem with a “Good morning” or a “Hello.” On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable argument. But let’s call it like it is. Most of those guys that are being ‘nice’ are not doing so just for the sake of being polite. They are being nice to elicit a reply from her, at which point they will pounce on her and bother her further. And this woman is stuck in this situation where if she doesn’t reply to “Good Morning” and “How are you,” she’s going to be judged as being a bitch … and if she DOES reply, she runs the risk of one of these men thinking “Yo, man, she wants the D!” or..