Cat Call: The "Compliment" That Leaves You Feeling Icky

As a clinical psychologist in training I've seen many of my female clients struggle to balance the pressures to represent both innocence and sex.  As a result, these women feel obligated to objectify their bodies but then shamed for doing so. Such a cycle leaves women to vacillate between feelings of guilt and shame, which as we know, is a recipe for depression and anxiety.  Everywhere we look women are bombarded with images boasting what society tells us we should value most, our bodies.  Advertisements break us down to our most valued body parts, or depict us as animals or objects existing solely for a man's pleasure. Internalizing societal views cause many women to sexualize themselves, measuring their worth based on the amount of "attention" aka harassment they experience. Hollaback, a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activist around the world, recently released a video of a woman experiencing 100 instances of street harassment in one day. As I watched the video I unfortunately was not surprised.  What was even more disturbing- I feel I have become numb to it.  As a woman I should NOT expect to be harassed when I walk out my front door, but I do.  To understand why we must first reflect on the fact that in our society, it is perfectly acceptable for a man to objectify me, telling me my "ass looks fat." In fact, such a statement may be viewed as a compliment, meant to boost my self-esteem and express my local gas station attendant's approval of my body. (Gee Thanks, consider me fulfilled).  It is beliefs such as these that must be changed.  Men in our culture are not all heartless chauvinists, rather they are our brothers, fathers, and partners who have been conditioned from the time they were born to believe they have the right to a woman's body.  Like myself, many women may also have become numb to our harassment, leading to suffering in silence and accepting this as "just the way it is." Hollaback hopes to change this point of view and invites women around the world to join the conversation.  Just talk about it.  Talk about it with your friends, sisters, and mothers, but more importantly, talk about your experiences with your brothers, fathers, and partners.  

- Written by Samantha Brustad

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