When a teenage boy, who regularly engages in cat-calling on the street, was asked if it would be okay for someone to treat his mother or sister that way, he was repulsed by the idea and was quick to give an emphatic “no.”
How is it that boys and men know it’s degrading and disrespectful to cat-call but are compelled to do it? Male power and male privilege is so ingrained in our culture and language it’s like a permafrost that keeps the seeds of gender equity from ever finding purchase.
Because as a gender, most men don’t grow up on a steady diet of being told that their worth is determined by how desirable they are, it is very difficult to understand how that erodes a persons ability to ever value themselves based on their actions and contributions. It certainly doesn’t help that once girls grow up, they can look forward to actually being valued less than their male colleagues by virtue of unequal pay. Men openly and publicly declare women as object every time they give a street “compliment.” The same “compliment” that they would punch their friends for hurling at a beloved female family member.
I don’t believe it is a Pollyanna utopian idea to imagine a world where boys and men treated female strangers with the same respect they would expect their male counterparts to extend to their sisters, mothers and daughters. It’s not rocket science, it’s empathy.