“Women have a right to their personal spaces and to be able to walk public roads without being objectified as creatures of pleasure”
THE #protectwomenlives movement marks a time for reflection and change in Trinidad and Tobago. A reckoning.
By now, everyone should have a sense of the constant fear, objectification, demoralising and dehumanising conduct we women face every day, in almost every aspect of our lives. It’s deeply entrenched in society. Perhaps the best way to seek change is to educate and illuminate what’s toxic behaviour. Call it out.
Today, I am calling out the microaggression known as catcalling.
I’m going to keep it really short and simple. Women do not like being catcalled!
It doesn’t make us feel special. It doesn’t make us smile and think we are appreciated as women.
It makes us feel like we are objects. Objects to be eyed, and assessed.
We don’t feel comfortable. We don’t feel human. We feel unsafe. We see this as step one. That your catcaller is watching how you respond, and step two could be assault.
We have to assess the situation and determine what is the safest course of action to get out without incident.
Do you understand? Or, are you thinking, “nah, dem ‘oman like dem thing, they does be giggling when I soot them.” Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Chances are you are seeing what you want to see. No self-respecting woman appreciates being objectified in a degrading manner.
Catcalling is exactly that. A form of degradation, an unspoken message to women to know their place. That men rule, that women can never be equals, that strange men can soot and “famalayyyy” and objectify women as much as they please, because it is their God-given right.
Microaggressions are not full-on aggressions. They are subtle and are usually caused by unconscious bias and unrealised insensitive actions.
Catcalling is a form of street harassment against women. It’s so common, people have come to believe it is normal and acceptable and nothing can be done about it. So, when faced with this microaggression, women sometimes wonder what, if anything they can do. Because confronting a catcaller can lead to actual aggression and violence.
There are some provisions in the Offences Against the Person Act, Chapter 11:08 that criminalises certain types of harassment and catcalling can, in some circumstances, fall within those provisions (see for example, section 30A). But as I said before, perhaps the best way to seek change is to educate and illuminate types of toxic behaviour.
It’s about time that our menfolk take a good hard look at their own personal behaviour and how they contribute to making women feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
Someone once suggested this as a good rule of thumb: don’t do to women what you wouldn’t do to a fellow inmate in prison.
Perhaps an easier thought process would be to imagine you were another man, and the woman you are catcalling, heckling or harassing was your own daughter. If the thought makes you cringe, you’ve just realised how negative your behaviour is and you should stop.
Women should be seen as equals. Women should be respected. Women have a right to their personal spaces and to be able to walk public roads without being objectified as creatures of pleasure.
As our local legend Calypso Rose said in her famous song: “Leave Me Alone!” Without introspection on how taken-for-granted but deep-seated actions contribute to making women feel unsafe, nothing will change.
Be safe Trinidad and Tobago.
Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
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