Young women address the issue of ‘cat-calling’ locally and in the region

A’Shante’ O’Keiffe (file photo), Chaneil Imhoff (file photo) and Renuka Anandjit (photo courtesy Youtube)
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As Antigua and Barbuda and other islands in the Caribbean continue to deal with the plague of gender-based violence, pundits are calling for people, especially men, to reconsider the negative impacts of street harassment and its effects on women.

The issue has been a source for much debate with many questioning the harm in practices such as ‘cat calling’.

Cat calling is the act of shouting, harassing and often making sexually suggestive, threatening, or derisive comments at someone publicly.

Many women in Antigua and Barbuda expressed how constant and burdensome it can be for them, especially when the words used are crude, violent, or degrading.

During Sunday’s edition of Observer’s Big Issues radio show, three female guests on the show weighed in on the subject matter with their personal point of view.

For entrepreneur and scholar, A’Shante’ O’Keiffe, the matter comes down to the approach and what is being said. “I think you have to do it in a respectful way and approach the person like they are a human being and not a piece of meat,” she further explained.

She said men should never escalate rejection from women by telling them about their bodies or body parts. O’Keiffe pointed out that reading the body language of the person one is approaching is important and if a person is not interested or does not answer, then they should be left alone.

She further shared that there are reported facts of situations like these escalating physically when the men in question become aggressive.

“The point is that street harassment can still lead to other points of violence, whether it be they start to follow you, whether it be they try to harm you, whether they actually kill you. Of course, that has happened many times,” she added.

Businesswoman and Public Relations Officer for the non-government organisation Caribbean Women in Leadership – Chaneil Imhoff — also weighed in on the issue of how far is too far when making an advance towards a woman. She said if a male makes a comment or a pass at a female that they cannot say to their mother, sister, or daughter, then they have crossed the line.

“If that woman does not answer you, which she is not obligated to, it’s not an opening to tell her about her parts,” Imhoff said.

Meanwhile, Renuka Anandjit, who is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, said men need to be taught how to deal with rejection.

“If we look at the statistics around gender-based violence, men don’t necessarily deal with rejection very well because we don’t always teach them the right skills in which to kind of handle conflicts and to negotiate those emotions,” Anandjit said.

She added that it is time for society to teach men more emotional intelligence in terms of how to deal with rejection, and why rejection is not such a bad thing.

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