Catcalling and the sexual harassment Bill


Catcalling and the sexual harassment Bill

BY Carolyn Graham

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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Her screams, shrill and discordant, pierced the woodland over the sounds of the storm like the cries of a crazed bird…

“What are they doing to her?” the boy Pedro asked in a frightened voice.

“What men do to women,” old Hernandez said gruffly.

“What is that? And why do you not do it also, señor?”

“Because I'm too old for such things.”

“Will I do it also when I become a man?”

“Not if you grow into a good man.”

...Later that day, as the twilight thickened around them, the men slogged wearily for the settlement where most of them would sleep outdoors.

One of them who had participated in the rape suddenly said, “What will we do if she makes a complaint against us?”

“We should have finished her off,” muttered a second. “Now the authorities may send soldiers to find us.”

“It's her fault for going around naked as a baby,” a third complained. “What else can they expect? We are men.”

…“We cannot help it if we are men. God made us this way. He gave us our nature.”

(From God Carlos by Anthony C Winkler, 2012, pages 148, 149 & 150)


Of course, catcalling is not rape, as the guilty will be quick to point out. However, the familiarity of the claims of men regarding the nature of men gives much to contemplate as the nation discusses the sexual harassment Bill. Putting laws in place to protect people from predators has never gone smoothly. As such, the proposal to make catcalling illegal has stirred feelings among some men, earning their ire against what they believe is as an attempt to blight their, or others' prospects for finding their mates or enjoying the fairer sex.


Men-hating feminists and gay men

I make reference to news items regarding the proposal to make catcalling illegal in the sexual harassment Bill now before Parliament. The responses to the stories, for the most part, have highlighted, yet again, some men's insensitivity and ignorance to issues that plague women and girls.

A general theme that emerged among the commentaries below these two news stories online is that men-hating feminists and gay men are attempting to police their right to be men — men whose power and sense of self seem to reside in objectifying women and demonising this attempt at civilising our society.

Fortunately, there were a few comments from men who get it, who pointed out that catcalling is not the innocent words of men showing admiration for women, but is barbaric and abusive.

Catcallers have no limits, young girls and adult women alike are harassed. The psychological trauma this causes for some of us is not to be treated lightly. Catcalling is not unique to Jamaica, so our men should not think themselves special. It appears that, internationally, some men who consider themselves heterosexuals feel threatened by any law that they view as an attempt to rein in their primal instincts.


The nature of men

I lay no claim to understanding the nature of men. I also lay no claim to understanding catcalling as the mating ritual some men claim it to be. I have nothing in my underwear that throbs at the sight of a woman that some men claim to compel them to say whatever comes to their minds:

“My girl, yuh fat een, I woulda xxxxxx yuh.”

“Heh, yuh breas dem tan up stiff doh, a waan xxxxx.”

“Hey, trang baddy…gweh gyal, yuh ugly like, a gwaan like yuh no hear man a call yuh.”

Still, there are more sophisticated ones who might not shout out on the streets, but whose words and body language crawl like a virus under your skin that no amount of showering can remove.

All this describes the kind of abuse that needs to be outlawed. Again, there is the implication that women are irrational and foolish, and if a man respectfully greets a woman then they are going to be dragged through an already burdened court system for sexual harassment.

Perhaps Jamaican novelist, and a man, Anthony Winkler — God rest his soul — had a better grasp of the nature of men, or maybe the guilty will brand him as something less than complimentary, but remember he is the same man who wrote The Lunatic and The Duppy.

In this 2012 novel God Carlos, Winkler weaved a tale of Spanish seamen seeking their fortunes in the New World, as was the trend in the centuries back then. The novel, set in the earls 1500s, told of men journeying to Jamaica before the demise of the Indians to have their share of the bounty that supposedly laid around for the taking — as it belonged to no one. There was gold to make one rich; geographical features to bear one's name and so immortalise the dead; and, of course, women for the taking.

Strangely familiar? The narratives of entitlement, objectification, and victim-blaming.

A partially made-up story set in the 16th century recounting stories of white men in a world new to them, and yet not dissimilar to arguments made in the 21st century in a world no longer new to anybody.


Carolyn A E Graham, PhD, AFHEA, lectures business research methods. The views expressed are her own.

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