Why This Research-Backed Excuse For Street Harassment Is Not Okay
All that women need to boost their confidence is a bit of street harassment, according to a recent article published in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. Writer Martha De Lacey cited “research” to argue women trying to lose weight feel encouraged by catcalls.
“We may tut and scowl and whisper obscenities under our breath when men wolf-whistle in our direction—but we secretly love it,” De Lacy wrote. “More than half of women say they would like to be on the receiving end of one, and almost a third of female dieters say being complimented in that most garish of ways is one of the single biggest motivators to losing more weight.”
This “research” comes from the producers of the weight loss supplement XLS-Medical Fat Binder. The company’s priority is profit, not safety, and its research arms perpetrators with an excuse for violence. De Lacey not only assures men that their wolf-whistles are welcomed, she also takes the normalization of street harassment further by implying that their commentary can serve as a catalyst for change—in weight, that is.
“Most women seem to take street harassment as a threat, as harassment, as intimidating, or as unwanted attention,” Britni Clark, co-founder of Hollaback! Boston, told Campus Progress. “I'm sure there are some women who take it as a compliment, but our experience shows that the overwhelming majority of women wish it would stop or go away.”
A Stop Street Harassment report showed 99 percent of responders had experienced street harassment more than once—ranging from wolf whistles to lewd gestures to outright assault. Women are the main subjects of street harassment, with people of color and LGBTQ people more frequently harassed, Clark said. Though women are unlikely to perceive harassment as compliments, as the Daily Mail suggests, the ways in which they experience and respond to catcalls are as varied as the women themselves, said Clark.
"There is no standard way that women react to street harassment," she said. "What works for one person and makes them feel empowered does not necessarily work for everyone."
Street harassment, noted Elizabeth Mendez Berry on Latino Nation, “is an everyday problem, but one that’s rarely acknowledged.” A growing, global movement seeks to empower women to safely react to street harassers and promotes awareness to illuminate a near-invisible threat. Public commentary may inspire the occasional dieter, but encouraging more street harassment is no way to help women.
Molly Savard is a reporter for Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @mollicules.