Dear Catcallers

By Elaine Zhang

Recently, Noa Jansma’s instagram account, @dearcatcallers, has become famous for shedding light on catcalling and “the objectification of women in daily life”. She posted selfies with her catcallers for one month, amassing a total of 24 pictures. Jansma explained that many of the men she talked to said they didn’t think catcalling still existed while many of the women knew firsthand that it is still far too common. Although Jansma took the pictures in the Netherlands, this ideology can be applied transnationally.

It is appalling that it takes a woman literally taking pictures with her catcallers to prove to men that catcalling still happens. Catcalling disproportionately affects women, allowing them to view catcalling as a weapon that men use to prove their entitlement to a woman’s body. Yet many men who have never been catcalled, view it as a way of “complimenting” women. In Jansma’s photos, you can see the proud look on many of her assailants’ faces. Their smiles prove that they have no idea that what they are doing is unacceptable.

Why do men even feel the need to catcall? Do they reasonably expect someone to give them the time of day after an unsolicited comment on their body? The objectification of women’s bodies by catcalling is not only a result of rape culture, but also one of the many activities that perpetuate it. It is important to note that men do not catcall other men, there is a misogynistic power dynamic in catcalling. When women try to disrupt that dynamic by ignoring catcallers, the “compliments” quickly turn into angry insults like, “Bitch! You’re ugly anyway.”

Catcalling is not harmless. Catcalling is used to make women feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and inhuman. Instead of telling women to be more aware of their surroundings, let’s tell men to be more aware of their actions.