Like millions of women, I’ve been catcalled. I can’t even remember how many times it has happened because it happened a lot during my high school and college years. Being young, I was afraid to fight back or even say anything because, back then, being materialized by men was not discussed as if we gave them the right to treat us that way. I remember watching TV and seeing women being cat-called all the time. Remember those sunog-baga or tambays in ‘Home Along Da Riles’?
One of the early cat-calls I got was when I was in high school. Our school uniform was a dress; it had a high neckline, sleeves and the skirt was below the knee. I went to a Catholic school and that uniform was presentable and proper. Whenever I walked to the jeepney, I got a couple of ‘Hi Miss’ and sometimes a whistle. Whenever I heard them, I walked faster because I was afraid they might approach me.
In college, the catcalling got worse. This is when I realized that it could happen wherever you are, no matter what you are wearing. I went to college in a university in Makati – a few blocks away from Ayala. As such, I would often walk in that area. I also commuted by jeep or bus in Ayala.
One afternoon, I was waiting for a jeep to go home when a guy said ‘Hi Miss’. I pretended not to hear anything and walked a few steps and tried looking at the road for any approaching jeepneys. He followed me and said ‘Hi Miss, hatid na kita pauwi‘. My heart started beating really fast. I immediately rode the next jeepney (even though it took a different route).
The ‘Hi Miss’ happened so often that it almost felt like I automatically unheard them. Even when I was just walking to catch a ride, I’d get a few cat-calls from guys I passed by or even from guys who were driving.
For a long time, I thought it was because of the way women dress. But then I realized that even we wear pants and a sweatshirt, we still get catcalled. Women have stopped dressing for their body shape in fear of men cat-calling them. Women are afraid of body-hugging dresses, skirts, sleeveless tops and even heels – clothes that are made to celebrate the woman body. More importantly, women are afraid of men who might catcall them.
Cat-calling hasn’t really changed through the years. From ‘Hi Miss’, it turned into several different terms of endearment, making it even more uncomfortable. One particularly one I heard was, ‘Baby, uwi na tayo‘ and that was the last straw. Though the guy was with a group of friends, I looked at him straight in the eyes and said ‘magkakilala ba tayo, ha?’ His friends laughed as I walked away.
Every time I get catcalled, I look at myself and consider if it is because of the way I look. But then I realised that it wasn’t my fault or the way I dress. It was how society had accepted it. So, every time I get catcalled, I stare at them with my brows together with hopes of making them feel uncomfortable.
Men, if you are reading this, please don’t make it feel as if it is our fault. Think about how you may be cat-calling your mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend or even your wife. If you think it’s a compliment to catcall a woman, it is not.