Am I complimenting someone or am I actually catcalling?

When six women sharing their thoughts about catcalling with such vitriol and nuance and personal insight can’t convince you that catcalling is bad nothing else would.

The mahaba-habang inuman live session, featuring panelists Wiji Lacsamana, Naomi Fontanos, Mich Dulce, Samantha Lee, Noelle Capili, and Adriana Griner,  aired recently and the and resulting conversation was a continuous high note of insights rooted in personal experiences. These women could probably talk about their experiences and their insights from it for a solid hour.

And they’re not the only ones who can talk about being verbally harassed. They’re not alone.

Based on the discussions of the mahaba-habang inuman live session, we give five questions we should ask ourselves before we try to “pay a compliment,” when really we’re actually catcalling.

From the perspective of the would-be catcaller, here are five questions we’d like everyone to ask themselves:

Have I thought about what the other person would feel?

Try it. What would I feel when someone approaches me and tells me something when all I wanted to do was mind my own business?

Imagine the scenario you’re trying to create with the roles reversed. Literally imagine yourself as anyone hearing something they didn’t ask for from someone they haven’t met in their life. Imagine how weird that is.

Have I ever been catcalled myself?

Well, have I? No? Let’s tone it down a bit; let’s not call it “catcalling” since it may be a foreign concept to me.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone made me feel uncomfortable or fear for my safety because of something they said? Something so seemingly innocent but regardless left a bad, bitter taste in your mouth and made your heart feel heavy? Something that made you look down and walk faster and ruin your whole day?

Do the words in my head actual give the other person any value whatsoever?

“Miss, ngiti ka naman diyan.”
“Hi, ganda!”
“Ate, pa-kiss.”

Read it slowly. Let it roll in your tongue. Let it swirl in your head.

Do you really think any of these “compliments” would make the other person’s day?

How hard is it to just be quiet?

Why do you have to say what’s in your mind at this very moment to this person? What makes you so important that you need to say it? What makes you so special that you have the right to invade someone’s personal space? Who gave you the right to violate?

Did you ever see myself as just plain rude?

Why?

Simply ask yourself “Why?” Dig deep and reflect on what you are trying to achieve. The truth is, you haven’t probably given it any thought and you had a vague sense of humor or entertainment that made you want to open your mouth and say something.

The real story is, if you did “give a compliment,” you weren’t really giving a compliment. You weren’t thinking about what the other person would feel. In the back of your head you thought the other person wouldn’t pay any mind. You’re probably chuckling about it a few minutes after with your buddies who saw the whole thing. Tonight you don’t even take the moment with you to bed. It’s harmless to you. And deep down, you know it.

Moving forward, here are some things to understand when it comes to catcalling.

  1. Catcalling is violence. Catcalling is injustice. When you catcall, you are putting the person in a position where they fear for their safety. Many people, mostly women, have more than a handful of stories where they felt that way means that it is not an isolated scenario but a systemic problem, which it makes it a case of injustice.
  2. Empathy goes a long way. All the questions we posed can be answered when empathy is put into consideration. Remember, empathy is imagining yourself in the person’s shoes, not just mere consolation.
  3. Men, acknowledge that this issue exists. Catcalling happens between two genders but the reality is that men catcall women more often than the other way around. It’s because men are in a position of privilege to the point that we are blind to the fact that women are having it much worse than them. Catcalling is everyone’s issue to deal with and although it’s not an individual man’s fault, it’s a system men should care about because we benefit from it.
  4. Women, if you are being catcalled, know that it isn’t your fault. Self-objectification is real and you shouldn’t fall for it. You did nothing wrong. You don’t deserve to be catcalled.
  5. Education is key. From the top-down perspective (Did you know that we still don’t have any laws that protect us from harassment in public spaces?) to family (Teaching against catcalling starts at home) education would greatly help bringing catcalling down to zero. The conversation should start somewhere, and then it should happen everywhere. Being quiet helps no one.

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Lex Celera
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