2. Cat Calling/ Street Harassment:
Cat calling is one of the more common, daily manifestations of the prevalent permeation of male privilege within our society. The lack of acknowledgement of the existence of male privilege highlights the limited conversation about the correlation between cat calling and male privilege. This lack of acknowledgement is further illustrated in the very fact that there is a debate amongst people in our society, on whether or not cat calling should justifiably be labeled as sexual harassment.
While taking a Dominican Identity course, I had a professor who was a major advocate of all things masculine, machismo, and gendered. Everything in life, according to his lectures, was in some way or another divided by what men did and what women did. Under this mindset, he one day presented to the class, a correlation between the lack of what he called, “flirtation” in U.S. society (in the west, it is commonly known as cat calling) and the prevalence of rape on U.S. college campuses.
In essence, he was posing that the possibility of the U.S. being too uptight of a society, symbolic in the fact that “flirting”/ cat calling is so taboo, potentially explains the higher numbers of people enjoying their privilege to have sex with whoever they’re attracted to, with or without permission.
My disbelief, believe it or not, was not with what he said, but instead, my shock came from the reaction of the class, to my outrage with what he said. After going on a rant about the fact that what he called “flirtation” was in fact, sexual harassment and also, not okay, the class, collectively worked together to attempt to discredit my arguments. They chimed in together to highlight the “complimentary” aspects of street harassment and how I was taking it too serious, by calling it sexual harassment.
Because, obviously the highest point of any person’s day is when another person possessing privilege, stops them to tell them all the reasons they are what that person wants, needs or could use temporarily. Yep, that’s exactly what I need in my day, right after, per se, I lose my job and right before I find out my umbrella broke right before it started pouring. SAID NO ONE EVER!
“The basic concept of street harassment is the simple manifestation of the thought “I see someone I like, that I find attractive for very physical and existential reasons, and thus, I am compelled and entitled to share this feeling with that person.'”
There’s no need to point out the silence that followed from the class, after I pointed out the discomfort that undoubtedly “welcomes” every person ever presented with these so-called “compliments”. Nor did anyone make great effort to explain how something like “flirting” could be so minor and yet, cause people who experience it on a daily basis to literally reroute their entire destination, so as to avoid the very unwanted and non-consensual sexual attention associated with this form of “flirtation”.
And, I don’t have enough time right now to capture your attention in attempt to explain our society’s rape culture epidemic or the fact that it is true that people who don’t identify as women, are also commonly raped though, it’s rarely acknowledged.
Anyway, I realized, through my discovery of the severe impact of male privilege on our society, that the inability of my classmates to recognize or admittedly acknowledge the imbalance with calling street harassment, “flirtation”, was due to the fact that no one even acknowledges the male privilege so deeply tied into the very existence of street harassment.
The basic concept of street harassment is the simple manifestation of the thought “I see someone I like, that I find attractive for very physical and existential reasons, and thus, I am compelled and entitled to share this feeling with that person”.
By definition, privilege is the concept that a person is entitled to something, by means of simply being privileged to have it. I am entitled to free speech just because I have the privilege of being an American. I am entitled to beating up people who I don’t like because I am privileged to be bigger or tougher than other people.
Commonly “checked” privilege, so to speak, is White privilege and First World privilege, while male privilege, though heavily saturating common knowledge and socio- political agendas, is rarely “checked” in a meaningful or challenging way. The main reason for this, I would argue, is that male privilege, similar to class privilege, is the most highly ignored, dismissed and invalidated form of privilege, when actually demonstrated in person.
In all, if the very existence of male privilege is debated, while the most fundamental problem with cat calling, which is also the thing that inherently deems it to be sexual harassment, is tied into the conceptual existence of male privilege, there can be no such thing as sexual harassment, and thus no correlation. Or so, it seems. If that makes any sense.