One afternoon, as I was making my way to a press event in BGC, I passed by a construction site. I decided to walk since it wasn't too sunny, and the venue was just a couple of blocks away. Little did I know that I'd be welcomed with nine catcalls by the construction workers I passed by. Around the fifth one, which I distinctly remember was a "Ba't mag-isa ka lang, miss?" I already wanted to hop into a cab, even if the venue was just about two minutes away. Hearing their words made my spine shudder. It filled me with fear and made me feel unsafe.
There is a difference between a greeting, a compliment, and a catcall. These days, however, some people mistake the latter for the former, and it ends up in a traumatizing experience for many girls.
A simple "hi, miss!" can quickly taunt one's personality and behavior. Catcalling is not a petty matter—it is something that should be confronted and resolved. However, quite often, women feel that they are on the lower end of the spectrum. Our society has dictated the superiority of men for the longest time, that when catcalled, most girls elicit fear, and no longer feel the need to stand up to their catcallers. It is important to know that no matter what the consequence, we have to address the situation and not end up in denial. Catcalling is harassment, and the fight against it should be given more credit. We sat down with a few Candy Girls who opened up about their experiences and shared how they dealt with their catcallers.
1. Ariana C. Herranz, 19, Ateneo De Manila University
My story: I was visiting one of my friends at their condo. My friend lived at the 37th floor so the elevator ride was quite long. Two guys got in the elevator with me and started announcing that they were going to make a trip to the 37th floor also. One of them even took out his phone and started taking pictures of me. The worst part? They weren't even being discreet about it. I was literally glued to the corner of the elevator hoping they'd just get off already. I felt so powerless and scared.
How this affected me and how I coped: One of the things that genuinely bothers me is that every time women share their experiences of harassment, we have to add at the end what we were wearing. We have to plainly state that we did not look attractive or desirable at that moment. Which really gets to me because I believe that everyone should dress in a way that makes them feel confident. People dress the way they do in order to empower themselves and help them gain confidence. It's not an invitation to get disrespected.
One way I coped with it is having to constantly tell myself that I am not the problem. No matter how hard media and even political figures press the issue of rape culture with a constant stream of "it's the victim's fault," it is not. The thing with catcalling is that you're not expected to respond positively. Catcallers know that you're not going to stop your tracks and be flattered. They know that it will get you scared, and make you feel powerless. Catcalling is a power move. Its subliminal message is that "I'm above you, and I can treat you this way because there's nothing you can do about it."
How we can stop catcalling: We have to promote equality. We have to change people's misconceptions of movements such as feminism, which just demands for equality. First, the media has to stop oversexualising girls and boys. We have to stop seeing the body as a sexual object, and see it for what it truly is—a living breathing body; a human being who has goals, aspirations, and dreams. The media also has to help people learn to love themselves and become independent. An action or a piece of clothing should never be done or worn to please somebody else.
Second, education. We were taught gender roles at a very young age—how girls should learn to sew and boys how to build. We have to stop this. Actions don't correspond to gender. Boys shouldn't be molded into thinking that the only way to assert manliness is to be dominant and outspoken, much like how girls shouldn't be taught that they should be passive and tolerant. It all goes down to love and respect.
2. Victoria D. Feliciano, 19, University of the Philippines Diliman
My story: I've been catcalled more than a couple of times already. The most memorable occurrence was when I was catcalled right in front of my house. A house was under construction across the street. Every time I'd go out, regardless of what I'd be wearing, one or two workers would say things like "hi, ganda!" or "Saan ka punta, beh?" I try to make a certain expression on my face so that they'd see that I wasn't comfortable with what they were doing. I'd often frown or roll my eyes at them, but it didn't change a thing. They would end up adding "Ba't ka nakasimangot?" or something like that.
How this affected me and how I coped: It's hard to understand why I would be catcalled in front of my house when my house is supposed to be the safest place I could ever be in. I didn't want to go out as much as possible. My dad asked me why, and I told him about the workers. He got really mad and alerted the security in our village. He told me that I shouldn't just let that happen and that I should tell him whenever it does. I can't really imagine what would've happened if my dad wasn't here.
How we can stop catcalling: The best solution would be to educate both men and women of all ages about how they should treat other people and how they should be treated themselves. Not only in schools, but also in different barangays and small communities. I also agree with the different sanctions for those who are caught doing such disrespectful treatment of peers.
3. Ericka R. De Jesus, 20, Polytechnic University of the Philippines
My story: There is one experience that I'll never forget. I was still in high school. It was past six in the evening, I was walking on my way home from school and was about to cross the street when a car stopped in front of me. For a few seconds I just stood there, waiting for them to leave, but then they didn't. I was beginning to get scared. It was very dark. What did they want from me? What if they're going to kidnap me? But then my thoughts were cut when the window from the front seat rolled down. A guy's head came in to view and said, "Hi, cute. Gusto mo sumabay?" That's when I took a step back. Who are these people? I said no, and fortunately, they left without another word. I ran to our house after that.
How this affected me and how I coped: That experience traumatized me for a while. Every time a car would stop in front of me, I would be jumpy. As I grew up, I learned to cope with it. I don't know how, I just did. Maybe the fact that it never happened again helped. But to this day, I still get catcalled, though nothing compares to that experience. I usually get, "Hi, miss beautiful!" or "I love you, baby girl!" which I just answer with a scowl, and that ought to shut them up.
How we can stop catcalling: Catcalling should be stopped because it is downright disrespectful and demeaning. It is never a compliment because a compliment isn't synonymous to derogatory. For the girls who get catcalled, don't be afraid to speak out. Give the catcaller a piece of your mind. If they attack, then scream for help. It's about time we prove that catcalling is wrong and that these caveman attitudes should be kept to themselves. The government should widely implement the ordinance Quezon City has against catcalling, as they identify it to be a form of sexual harassment.
4. AJ Yabut, 18, De La Salle University
My story: My friends and I made a spontaneous decision to go to out one night. It was unexpected, but if I could have changed one thing about my outfit, it's that I was wearing a tank top. We were having fun, just chilling, until this seemingly nice guy went beside me. His friends came not shortly after that, and they started glazing at me as if I were a piece of meat, giving me dirty looks and started calling me "miss," "ganda," etc. Even when we were already planning to leave, these guys continued giving us their disgusting looks and even attempted to follow us. We had to pace ourselves and walk briskly to lose them at sight.
How this affected me and how I coped: I felt so degraded. It made me think how boys see girls just like toys and how they think it's comforting to us whenever they call us "pretty" or "hot." I was worried; not for me but for other girls out there that have to be victims of this type of men. Me and my friends, we were fine. We were able to get out of trouble. But what if girls younger than me experience this and wouldn't know what to do? I feel very unsafe now whenever I'd go out.
How we can stop catcalling: Even if you show the slightest bit of skin, men will still look at you as if you were bait. We need to educate everyone to have respect for each other so as to learn not to harm anyone in the future.
5. Aya Fernandez, 18, University of the Philippines Diliman
My story: I was jogging at the academic oval one time. I suddenly heard a man say "hey, beautiful!" and when I looked, it was an old man who was staring at me as if he'd wanted to do something to me. At first, I decided not to mind it, giving in to the fact that he is old. But then I realized that regardless of age, catcalling is what it is, and it does not and should not exempt anyone.
How this affected me and how I coped: I usually jog to vent my stress and emotions, so you could see how distracted I was with the experience. I managed to nod disappointingly at the old man, and just went on. I didn't stop jogging after that encounter though.
How we can stop catcalling: I believe it all starts with the very person who catcalls. Stop catcalling. Regardless of age, whether you are a small boy, teenager, young adult or a senior citizen, catcalling is catcalling. I believe that the government has a crucial role in giving significant punishments and rational legal processes for this (e.g. Warning to violation to fine, and to imprisonment). For the girls, just shake it off. Nonetheless, taking care of yourself is still relevant.
6. Leo G. Francisco, 20, San Beda College Alabang
My story: I always suffer catcalling whenever I go for jogs in the morning. The worst one was when a truck slowed down to match my pace while I was jogging on the sidewalk. The two men inside rolled down the window and were calling for my attention. When I paid them no mind, they blasted the truck horn at me several times until I slowed down and gave them a stern look.
How this affected me and how I coped: It's very alarming that it's already become normal for me to be catcalled on a daily basis. I pay them no mind but sometimes, like when men really test my patience, I can't help but go down to their level. It was only until recently that I had the strength to do this when a guy actually tried to take a picture under my skirt. I went home crying and told myself the next time a guy tries to harass me, I would fight back.
How we can stop catcalling: I really like what the local government has done in Quezon City. There really is no excuse for that kind of behavior. Girls should not be afraid to wear what they want and be labeled as somebody who was "asking for it." This should be an issue for the national government, too. Adding a detailed catcalling section to the Violence against Women and Children Act and not limiting it to women who were wives or mothers would be a big help in stopping anyone from thinking that catcalling is as natural as admiring cars in shows.
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