It’s difficult to say which question is more important on the topic of “catcalling”. For some reason this newfound or newly spoken about form of public harrasment has drawn up two opposing questions. Are women too sensitive (per usual), or are men really that threatening? This video experiment might help you do some deciding for yourself. Catcall Experiment.

For some, it might be hard to say. What is it that so offends women about being “complimented” or openly and publically deemed as sexually desirable? Isn’t that what they all deeply and secretly want anyway? To be wanted?
But really, what is it that drives men to call out to women? What makes them think that it is okay for them, as strangers, to touch and talk to women they don’t know? Why do they seem to enjoy the fruitless action of it all so very much?
Men can’t possibly believe that we, as self respecting women, that we, as women loving women, would ever let ourselves be caught up in their pitiful excuses for seduction. Or can they?  Can decency be regulated?

Between sips of my $3 sangria and bites out of my $1 fish taco special, I argued with my heterosexual girl friend. “Men are just genetically and biologically stupid. They can hardly help it. Everyone knows that boys and men just mature like 3,000 years behind women. It’s a fact.”
It’s not that I despise men. In fact, sometimes I feel genuinely bad for them. It must suck being so low on the emotional scale. Shoulder shrug. Sure, they make more money than us women, they have more opportunities, and they are often viewed as the “stronger” sex in nearly every aspect of life, but with empathy, intellect, and understanding, us women have got all men beat. Right?
“Now, stop it, that’s not true”, my friend protested. “Men are only educated and encouraged to act the way they do. The same way women are conditioned to believe that they should be sensitive, nurturing, and feminine, men are taught to be something like the opposite. It has nothing to do with genetics.”

So maybe men act so ridiculous in their bafflingly offensive attempts at flirtation and masculinity because society allows them to act this certain way. Maybe society does even more than allow men to behave this way. Maybe society expects this behavior from them. The same question still remains though. Does that make it okay? Does society’s expectations of men make it okay for women to walk the streets of their own city in fear of embarrassment or abuse?

As a feminist, I’m all for theories like “doing gender” and cultural imposition and expectation. But I had never previously pondered abusive men through this sympathetic lens before. Or maybe I had, but somehow just still can’t seem to save an individual the blame when they stick their heads and necks out of trucks with horns blaring. I can’t take the aspect of individual morality out of a stranger on the street reaching out across a sidewalk to pull my arm as I walk by. It’s difficult to stop and curse culture when men are circling you in groups to grab at you as you wait at bus stops and train stations. I don’t speculate on society then.

I can feel the power they plan to impose on me. I can sense the way they want their hands to leave imprints on my limbs, forcing me to remember them. They shout out at me in the hopes that their words will pierce me to the point where I can’t forget. They want to touch me, to reach me, to hurt me in a way that will allow them to take something from me in return for the abuse they’ve given. Am I sensitive? Maybe. Am I threatened? Definitely.