The revolt against the wolf whistle.
It was 9 am on a Saturday. The warmth was in the air. I had my running gear on – shorts and a vest. My hair slicked back. Remnants of the previous day's mascara set around my eyes and at least one week’s growth of hair on my legs.
I began running along the main road when a white car zoomed past and the driver (or passenger) wolf-whistled at me.
Feelings and thoughts ran through my head:
Laughter, shock, confusion, anger.
Why on earth is someone wolf-whistling at me in this state, at this time in the morning?
Are they mocking me?
How dare they, it’s degrading.
Why is it degrading when I was 18 it wasn’t and I felt flattered to be the recipient. Why don’t I feel that way now?
Is it the media telling me I shouldn’t put up with it?
Am I a Radical feminist?
Or is it simply an age thing now I’m 40?
I had a look online and it’s something that's been debated heavily over the last five years.
One thing for certain is people’s perceptions have changed. From what used to be considered by some as a bit of fun or a compliment, is now considered as sexual harassment, embarrassing and intimidating. There have even been calls to make it a hate crime here in the UK.
Can it be made illegal?
Yes! Several Countries have taken the step to make wolf-whistling or catcalling illegal. In 2014 Belgium made ‘catcalling and sexual harassment in the streets’ illegal. A year later Portugal followed suit. In 2018 France introduced a ban on wolf whistling and making sexual or sexist comments to a Woman. Persistent offenders can be fined up to 750 euros on the spot. The Philippines declared in 2019 penalties against “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks” which included wolf-whistling.
Here in the UK, it’s been discussed on Loose Women, This Morning, BBC News and Good Morning Britain. Anne Robinson recorded a short documentary for Naked Stories on YouTube called, “Are you Offended By a Wolf Whistle?” It’s a really interesting watch if you have five minutes spare you should check it out. Watching the documentary it seems to be generational as to whether you are offended.
Just a load of Carry On?
I’m 40, I was raised on the Carry On films. When I was younger, all the innuendo went over my head but the whistling and bum pinching didn’t. I wasn't offended. And now? I get the innuendo and I'm still not offended. I feel like I have landed slap bang in the middle of a revolution from a wolf whistle being viewed as a bit of fun to harassment. Which is why I still don’t know whether to take it as a compliment or not. I wonder what Barbara Windsor would think?
If you walked past the same group of men or man every day on your way home and every day they wolf whistle, how would that make you feel?
I think it would become embarrassing, tiresome and uncomfortable. And I would probably say something or change my walk home.
Now, if the same men whistle AND shout lewd remarks, how do you feel?
I would feel uncomfortable and too afraid to say something for fear of retribution. I would simply change my walk home.
On both occasions, someone's actions have invoked negative feelings. And I have had to change because of their behaviour.
How about a single wolf whistle on a Saturday morning?
If there are any men reading this, don't worry I know women have been known to wolf whistle at men. Think Magic Mike....but it's just a bit of fun right? Can men claim this too? Do men feel they are being harassed?
The variables surrounding the event, the situation, the frequency and the feelings it invokes seem to be the deciding factor as to whether I would deem it harassment or a compliment.
Did I feel uncomfortable that Saturday morning?
Did I change my route?
No, I didn't need to as the car was going in the opposite direction.
Do I now see it as a compliment?
I really don't know.