Drawing the Line

Giada walks down the street outside an elementary school on a Saturday afternoon to a friend’s house. The air is filled with children’s laughter. She notices a man with a dog standing, staring, willing her to make eye contact. She speeds up a little as she passes him. She keeps her head down, avoiding eye contact; she’s done this plenty of times before.

Her heart sinks when her usual tactics fail. He opens his mouth and utters a sentence which she’ll struggle to forget. “You’re really hot,” he yells at her, “maybe you could use that lovely mouth of yours to blow me.” She freezes.

This is catcalling.

Meet the women sharing their stories

What this man said to Giada falls under the umbrella of experiences termed ‘catcalling’—words yelled at women that cross into their personal space. But is what happened to Giada the same as being whistled at from a car?

Women around the world experience this problem on a daily basis. Everyday when Cat works out, should she have to change from her gym clothes into something more modest to walk home? Should Izzy have to deal with two men breathing down her neck as she leaves the movie theatre? Should Sophie have to wonder to herself when she wears something tight if she “could have done things differently?” Should Giada have to hear what she heard from that man while walking in front of an elementary school? The answer is clearly no; but even worse, this is something now normal to her.

Across the board from Cat to Giada, each woman’s story is unique yet ubiquitous. It begins as a disruption to their daily lives, but as time goes on and each call becomes background, the unusual becomes another expectation.

Giada wearing the outfit she was catcalled in: she was dressed the same as any other day.

Before going out, women have to prepare themselves to be catcalled. This happens so often that they have a go-to strategy. Some women cover themselves up with big jackets, while others carry pepper spray in their purse. However, most of the women we spoke to chose not to do anything at all.

“I’m more prepared for it,” Cat explained, “but I don’t change anything I’m doing because that’s ridiculous.” In doing so, Cat doesn’t allow catcallers to hold so much power over her that she has to take time out of her day to change her clothes. Giada, on the other hand, actively takes precautions to keep herself safe.

If I’m walking home, I don’t wear heels because I can’t run in heels… and I know I might have to.”

Giada Malugani

Looking at what Cat, Izzy, Giada and Sophie were wearing shows that outfit choice does not make a difference. Whether it’s gym clothing, heavy winter gear, or jeans and a sweater, catcalling occurs regardless.

This behaviour has become normalised. As Sophie pointed out, “every other girl I know has gone through it,” but it’s not until you stop to think about it that you realise it’s disgusting. This is stopping us from questioning where to draw the line between catcalling and sexual harassment.

I don’t really think about it anymore. It’s been happening since I was like 13.”

Izzy Bannenberg

Just because something is normal does not mean it is any less stressful, frightening, or problematic. What these four women go through speaks to similar narratives across the world. Under the umbrella of catcalling, things such as harassment, and possibly even worse, go by unnoticed on a day to day basis but get treated as dirt on the shoulder.

Women are forced to accept that they will be called out on the street by strangers, often regardless of what they do to prevent it. When ignoring it is no longer an option, stories like Giada’s are what end up lingering.

Giada was simply walking in a residential neighbourhood where children were nearby laughing and playing. Is her story still to be seen as something easily brushable; where do we draw the line?

Want to see our process? Check out our bloopers video!

Ellen Jennings

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