The loud, long-drawn out “wolf whistle” seems to come up the most when there are discussions about “street harassment” or “catcalling.” Maybe this is because it seems to be the form of street harassment most often used in commercials or cartoons (Tom & Jerry, Anamaniacs, for example) and it seems to be forever tied to construction workers standing around not doing their job but instead whistling at women walking by.
Whether because it’s seen so much in popular culture or because it’s so easy to do, I’ve also found it to be the most common street harassment experience of women. Last fall, when I conducted my informal, anonymous online survey, nearly 94 percent of the more than 800 female respondents said they had been the target of whistling at least once and nearly 38 percent said it occurred to them on a monthly to daily basis. And my respondents came from all over the world! I conclude that getting whistled at by men is a near universal experience for women.
While whistling isn’t usually as scary or degrading or invasive as more severe forms of street harassment – like sexually explicit comments, groping, masturbating, and stalking – many women still find it degrading, annoying, and infuriating. People whistle for dogs to come to them and, while I love dogs, I think it’s demeaning for women to be called to or called for in the same way. And besides, what gives men the right to think they can just whistle at whatever woman they want whenever they want? Oh yeah, sexism and patriarchy.
So now that my stance on wolf whistling is clear, check out this article, via BBC News, and you can guess my feelings about it:
“On Wednesday Irvinestown played host to Ireland’s first ever wolf-whistling championships, complete with scaffolding, hard hats, and plenty of women.
The men of the town were more than eager to show their appreciation of the fairer sex, eagerly donning hard hats and lining up along the pavement to demonstrate their whistling skills.
“We’re all here for the good-looking women,” joked Jimmy McKenna. “It just comes naturally.” …
The politically incorrect competition was the work of festival organiser, and whistling devotee, Joe Mahon.
“It was all good fun, and we didn’t get too many complaints at all – people just enjoyed the day.
“That’s how I met met my wife originally, I met Marie 23 years ago.
“I whistled at her and I’m stuck to her since, as they say.”
Joe’s years of experience stood him in good stead when asked to pick a winner out of the fine whistles in competition in Irvinestown.
“I’m a good judge of a whistle, because it got me the right woman in the end.
“Stephen did a great job, and he’s a worthy champion wolf-whistler.”
For local butcher Stephen Millar, it was years of practice that clinched the title.
“I’m 28 years old, and I’ve been whistling at any young thing since I was 16.”
Oh ha-ha, it’s all good and fun to dehumanize, sexualize, and whistle at “pretty” and “young” girls in a world with high rates of gender-based violence and assault. Chuckle chuckle laugh laugh. But really, I think it’s not.