Being harassed in the streets is something that a person might experience at least once in their lifetime. Sadly, it happens to most women at any given time even in places where one is supposed to feel safe from predatory behavior. For some, a shrill whistle or phrases like: “Hi Miss", “Psst gwapa!”, and "Musta na *insert name,” may come off as a compliment— but these exact words can definitely ruin one's life.

Viscans have their fair share of experiencing verbal abuse. As I talked to some of my colleagues, they admitted to receiving random whistling and vulgar remarks about their bodies, especially when walking alone to school. Coming from habal-habal drivers, local service men, bystanders, and even schoolmates, these words would be blurted out generously as if it was part of a daily routine. Eventually, the fear and discomfort associated with these comments are shrugged off in order to not make a big fuss about it. "Sagdi nalang na" would be the mental in response to this, because it was probably quipped out of malice anyway. In the end, what's the point of trying to fight back when it was all meant to be a "joke"?

Regardless if one ever tried to laugh along such obscene and ill-mannered anecdotes, inappropriate behavior like this shows how the safety of Viscans are still haphazardly placed in and outside of the university. Some may think that throwing these sexually explicit words would do no harm to its addressee. The intention of joking around to cause supposed 'flattery' is of awful taste, let alone is even acceptable in the first place.

More importantly, this ripples to the bigger issue of how women are respected in general. Commenting unsolicitedly on someone’s physique is a matter of blatant objectification that's rooted in complete disregard of respect towards women. In hindsight, these suggestive remarks may potentially cause serious psychological trauma to the victims. For the students who have experienced this, this may cause them to develop triggers that lead to feeling self-worthlessness, depression and poor academic performance. This also perpetuates a certain social anxiety that makes them feel that they are at risk of being raped on the streets whenever they walk alone or even with company.

In the Philippines, we have the RA No. 11313 as the Safe Spaces Act or colloquially known as the Bawal Bastos Law of 2019, that penalizes sexual harassment in public settings. It's passage represents a significant counter-offense to catcalling, and those in law enforcement must police it to ensure that every community is a safe place for anyone to avoid any violence, abuse, or anxiety, every time they leave their homes.

But a law won't make much of a difference if we do not call for a change in behavior. Just because one has an appreciation for one's beauty does not mean that they are given consent to make racy comments about it. A woman should never be conditioned to take any of this catcalling as a compliment since they deserve so much more than just our society's 'material' perception of their existence.

Catcalling and street harassment has never been about one's clothing, expression, or gender. No matter how someone holistically presents themselves, it is not an invitation for someone to sexualize nor objectify them. The root cause of this societal problem always boils down to the catcallers' behavior – their action being justified as part of the so-called “men’s culture” is unreasonable. This kind of profanity should never qualify as a norm for our society to adapt to, and for women to endure it.

If the tables have turned, and a man was to put themselves in the shoes of a woman, how long could they take the idea of being viewed as objects of lewd satisfaction? Ironically, they wouldn't be able to stand long enough to endure the heels. Strength and resistance can be alluded to as women have long bitten their tongue against inequality that occurs not just in the streets but also in the workplace and other social structures in general. Nonetheless, women's rights are human rights, and harassment should be dealt with much compassion and perspective.

Amaranth Online Newsletter

Be part of our awesome online community!