It’s a start as the cat callers cop it
IT probably seems like a small thing, at best. At worst, a waste of time and resources. It’s not though. It’s important. A tiny triumph. A baby step in the right direction.
Bradford 0olice have launched an undercover operation to combat cat calling – “targeting people who are shouting things from their vehicles at women/ girls. This will not be tolerated.”
Last week they stopped a van after the occupant yelled at some women who turned out to be plain-clothed police officers. Oh to have seen his face. He was reported for a breach of the Public Spaces Protection Order and is likely to be issued with a £100 fine or taken to court, which is another way of saying that he was left in no doubt that THIS IS NOT OK.
That’s apparently what men need to be told, reminded of, in no uncertain terms, so they’re one hundred per cent clear. No it’s not just a bit of harmless fun that we need to lighten up about. It’s horrendous. Scary. Humiliating.
Maybe this concept is confusing because we’re living in an age of sharing, honesty, and talking about everything.
Mostly that’s great, but somewhere within this, a simple truth has got lost. Sometimes, it’s good NOT to talk. Sometimes, you need to shut the hell up.
Perhaps we need a massive advertising campaign, public service announcement telly commercials and posters everywhere to clearly inform everyone once and for all: Stop telling women what you think of their bodies. Especially when they haven’t asked, which is pretty much always.
There are no Thought Police – anyone is free to think whatever
It’s not just a bit of harmless fun. It’s scary, horrendous, humiliating
they like. The opinions inside someone’s head can’t hurt anyone else. The problem comes when they’re broadcast out loud to the woman you’re thinking them about, be it on the street, online, or on a radio show, like that fool who talked about Strictly’s Tilly Ramsay.
What you think of the woman’s body is irrelevant, by the way. Even if you believe it’s a compliment, still keep it to yourself. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but most women do not feel flattered and delighted when a stranger gives them positive feedback about a body part. We feel embarrassed, and frightened. And we’re taught to ignore this behaviour – apart from in Bradford, it’s up to us to deal with it ourselves – to put our heads down, walk quicker, in case the situation escalates.
We’re lucky if we are only verbally harassed.
Even online, where the threat of physical violence is removed, these kind of comments are dangerous, and unacceptable.
They perpetuate the belief that women’s appearances are fair game for discussion and debate.
That our bodies are anyone’s business but our own.
They also ensure that the practice of speaking about women in this way seeps down to future generations, continuing the cycle. It has to stop.
As the fight to make our streets safer for women goes on, catcalling being taken seriously in one city in the UK is just a drop in the ocean. But at least it’s a start. Maybe those TV ads aren’t a bad idea – and it’s obvious what music they should be set to. Ronan Keating, You Say It Best, When You Say Nothing At All.