A couple of days ago, Cosmo published a short article on weight loss entitled ‘Wolf Whistles Motivate Us to Exercise‘. It cited findings which (apparently, though I can’t seem to find the original data) show that over half of women love street harassment:
Time to come clean: One of my New Year’s resolutions is to drops some weight. I’m doing it for my health, but I also have another reason for doing it: I just want to look good. And I’m not alone. A new study from XLS-Medical Fat Binder found that 26 percent of dieters lose motivation to continue with their healthy lifestyles if no one notices. What does inspire us to continue? Wolf whistles. Call it sexist, but 54 percent of women surveyed revealed that they love that type of random comments.
The writer admits outright that she knows “random comments” are a type of sexist behaviour – but rather than ask why, she merely glosses over it. There’s no attempt to analyse the findings or think about the reasons behind women’s attitudes to their bodies and the attention they receive. By failing to challenge this idea, she blithely gives the impression that she feels the same way. Not only is this lazy from a journalistic point of view, it’s poor form for a women’s magazine to promote this kind of ‘motivation’. It says to its readers: being objectified by strangers is a good form of motivation. It’s good to use unsolicited sexual harassment as a measure of your worth, level of physical attractiveness or achievements if it helps you lose weight. Which you should, fatty.
Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
#ShoutingBack to sexual harassment: The Everyday Sexism Project
What makes the timing of this piece all the more unfortunate is that it’s coincided neatly with a Twitter campaign from The Everyday Sexism Project against street harassment. @EverydaySexism invited their Twitter followers to tweet about their experiences of sexual harassment using the hashtag #ShoutingBack. The response was shocking in more ways than one – both because of the number of replies and the extremity of the incidents described. Trigger warnings all round if you’re going to take a look. It’s certainly worth doing, but brace yourself – some are pretty harrowing. For many women, being harassed verbally can be extremely frightening. This tweet struck a chord with me as it summed up well the feelings of intimidation and powerlessness such an encounter can provoke:
Everyday Sexism’s Twitter followers report being cat-called, followed and even physically abused in extraordinary numbers. Some have recalled incidents from when they were as young as 11 or 12. Several have said that they have changed a route to work or opted to take public transport rather than walk home because of people who have abused them on a regular basis. The threat of physical violence in some instances – whether real or imagined – only makes it worse. After all, there’s no way to tell the difference between the men who will carry out their threats of gang-rape, and those who are just ‘having a laugh’.
So no, Cosmo, sexual harassment isn’t a compliment. It’s not ‘great motivation’ – and the longer you keep saying that it is, the longer we will see things like this:
… and the longer the small but vocal minority of men will think they are justified in doing it.
But then again, that’s what you want, isn’t it?