I occasionally get a dirty look or verbal rebuff for riding my bike too fast on Slovenska Cesta, but not once since moving to Ljubljana have I been catcalled. By definition, to “catcall” is to make a whistle, shout, or comment of sexual nature to a person, usually female, passing by. As most people have gathered by watching American television or, most recently, Hollaback’s viral “10 Hours Walking Through NYC” video in which a woman is catcalled over 100 times in 10 hours, this type of verbal rebuke is essentially a daily occurrence for American women.
My experience is like that of most women in the U.S.A., and I have been the recipient of everything from seemingly mundane remarks like “hey beautiful” to the particularly repulsive “I would like to taste that all night long” one afternoon at a beach in Florida. Even in the small, very conservative town where I attended university, women did not have a right to peace in public space. Men, not only in the U.S. but also in European cities like Vienna and Brussels where women in Ljubljana note, “(catcalling) happens all the time”, act entitled to public space by verbally making that space theirs. “Hey beautiful”, regardless of the intention behind it, turns public space into a space of discomfort at best and objectification at worst. Sadly, catcalling is so much a part of everyday life in the U.S.A. that I did not realize that I had come to expect it.
Within a week of being in Ljubljana, it was already evident that something was different here. When I walk down the street and make eye contact with a random man, he politely ducks his head, as is the common reaction to coincidentally meeting the eyes of a stranger. I have now been in Ljubljana for just over three months and have not once been the recipient of a public objectification. It could have been the case that my experience was unique, but when I asked women in Slovenia about catcalling, their resounding response was “that doesn’t really happen here”. A few of the young women acknowledged that men might make a remark if you are wearing a short skirt in the evening, but it’s fair to say that catcalling is the exception rather than the rule in Ljubljana. But why?
Full article available HERE.
Author: Jenny Tumas, an American student completing Master’s studies in political theory at University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV). For more, visit her blog.