For women, a leisurely walk down the street doesn’t really exist anymore. Too often, it can turn into quick-paced avoidance of unsolicited comments from men.
Criticism of catcalling has recently become popularized on a national level. Women across the U.S. are beginning to speak out about the comments they receive.
One woman filmed a walk around New York City for 10 hours and received over 100 comments from men. The video, which was posted on YouTube by a company called Hollaback and marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative, received criticism for including mostly men of minorities.
Only one white man was represented but the companies said more instances had to be edited out due to poor film quality.
Regardless of the criticisms, it was still an effective representation of the types of harassment women receive on a daily basis — harassment that even happens at at a local college of less than 5,000.
Catcalling happens on campus at Colorado State University-Pueblo, both verbally and online. With apps such as Yik Yak, online confessions pages and a campus filled with young men, women are hard-pressed to avoid hearing some form of disrespect directed at someone of their gender.
Young people have access to so many online sharing resources that it is becoming increasingly prevalent to see facets of everyday life represented in an online format. This has evolved from yelling at or approaching women to posting about them online, anonymously.
While verbal catcalling is prevalent on campus, online catcalling is becoming more aggressive.
The relatively new app Yik Yak allows people to post anonymous updates at a 200-word limit. Other users can up-vote, down-vote and comment on posts.
The app uses geographic information to provide posts to users, so posts in one area might not show up in another.
According to the app’s information page, the intention of Yik Yak is to create “communities which allow anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them.”
Most posts on the app are fairly innocent musings about college life. For some, however, the opportunity to be anonymous has allowed them to produce toxic and unfiltered posts.
Yik Yak-related incidents got so bad at the high school level that Pueblo’s District 60 and District 70 had to take action to stop its students from using it. Both districts implemented software designed to block the use of the app within a little over a mile radius of schools.
The app also recommends, “No one under college age should be on Yik Yak.”
Since the districts took action, high school students have been virtually removed from the app.
While there is no way to know for sure, when someone is near the campus of CSU-Pueblo, the content seems to exclusively represent college students.
One Yik Yak post near the campus said, “Saw a girl bend over in yoga pants. Slightly see-through too. Oh yeah.”
It got seven up-votes and no one responded negatively. The only response the post did receive said, “Gotta love when being fashionable trumps being warm.”
Some posts on other platforms are more specific. It’s common to see an admirer identify a person he or she saw on campus by what that person was wearing or a physical characteristic on other online venues.
College confessions pages, much like Yik Yak, allow students to post anonymously on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Posts there have a variety of topics and most of them are centered on parties, school life and in some cases, political discourse.
Online catcalling is, by no means, the only subject matter prevalent on confessions pages and Yik Yak but some posts have tones of disrespect toward women.
In 2013, a CSU-Pueblo confessions page started to gain popularity among college students. At its peak, it had thousands of likes and several regular commenters.
In April, the page’s administrator shut it down under the threat of losing access to Facebook after users began reporting a high volume of posts.
A few confessions pages have popped back up since then, and one is beginning to regain traction.
Online catcalling on the page varies in terms of intentions. Some posts are genuine compliments while others are harmful. Very few posts, if any, are directed at men.
As is the case with all catcalling, the intentions of the comments are quite separate from how they are perceived. Not all comments are perceived as they were intended to be, and vice versa.
One post on the new confessions page said, “The girl at the gym in the red shorts and white hoodie is beautiful, so beautiful.” Posts like this are not harmful.
Some other posts, on the other hand, are blatantly disrespectful.
One post said, “If you want to get laid just talk to Katie,” and went on to identify where she works.
The aggressive anonymous posts, on Yik Yak and on confessions pages, are in the minority of the overall content but they still happen, and they’re harmful.
Aggressive verbal and online comments contribute to a larger theme of inequality women face.
According to a study released by the Center for Disease Control in September, one in five women in the United States has been raped.
Violence against women in Colorado jumped sharply in the state last year.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, there were 2,903 reports of rape in 2013 alone. This number contributed to a 41 percent increase in the number of rapes reported from the previous year.
While these cases are much more extreme and gruesome than online personal comments, they all display an ardent lack of respect for women. If it is OK to disrespect a woman online, where does it end? At what point does society draw the line? So far, no lines have been drawn.
If lines are going to be drawn, women need to be respected, period. Yelling at or writing about women disrespectfully needs to stop so that other forms of violence against women can end, too.
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