Ask Kikay Runner: Dealing with Catcalling

Mcsy Jugo asks: Hi I know this may sound odd but you see my daughter has taken running as well and she does her regular training and mileage run in our place in Cainta and she runs all the up to Sta. Lucia Mall and back.

Along the way she couldn’t help getting catcalled and whistled at every time she runs that route. Sometimes I run with her, well of course no one would dare do it when I’m around her running as well.

I would appreciate it very much if you can take it up in your blog on how to deal with those kinds of situations: the how to’s during, avoiding, and preventing.

I’m so disappointed right now since our would-be president seems to encourage it as well!

Some people say, “What’s the big deal? Take it as a compliment!”

Um, no. Being on the receiving end of catcalls is annoying at best, terrifying at worst. Some women feel validated and flattered, but those women are in the minority. The rest of us feel vulnerable, and when you’re out on the streets just on your own two feet there’s not a lot you can do.

Dispatch 11: Better Together

Avoiding catcalls by wearing shapeless, baggy, or concealing outfits only made me warm and uncomfortable and hampered my performance. I don’t feel safe running out from my doorstep because there are too many “tambays” in our area; I drive to Bonifacio Global City to do my runs. One of my guy friends said that if he had daughters he would just buy them treadmills to avoid getting catcalls.

This is not fair. Why can men run where they please and wear what they please and not be harassed by sexual comments, but women can’t? Why should women have to modify their behavior to feel safe? Why do catcallers feel they have the right to comment on a woman’s body?

It’s because even in this supposedly matriarchal society, people still see women as inferior. We are also permissive of the same attitudes and behaviors (a “rape culture”) that perpetuate catcalling and similar acts of sexual harassment.

Oh, yes. Catcalling is sexual harassment. Additionally, catcalling is part of the violence pyramid in rape culture. It all starts with the beliefs and attitudes that women are sexual objects and not people. It progresses to verbal expression (catcalling), then physical expression (rape and sexual assault).

Of course, women should do what they need to feel safe, and if that means taking a “safer” route or running in groups then I am all for it. However, just like rape, it is not a woman’s fault if she is catcalled. Nobody asks to be catcalled by virtue of what they are wearing, or what time of day they are running, or the location where they happen to be running. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are wrong, and the fault for that lies solely with the perpetrators.

At the same time, know that you can take action against catcallers.

Let me tell you a story. Once while I was at Pico de Loro for The Next Step Triathlon Camp, I ran alongside a construction site on a hillside. One of the workers called out to me: “Hi, sexy!” I was wearing shorts and a tank top — normal, functional wear for a runner, right? I ignored him.

I had to come back into the resort the same way. While I was huffing and puffing up the hill, I heard him again. Even worse, I think his pals were cheering him on. As I passed a crew of security guards making their rounds, I told them about the incident.

When I arrived at the resort grounds at the end of my run, the activities manager approached me. Because I had stood up for myself, the resort had rounded up the construction workers. I had made a point. YOU DO NOT TALK TO WOMEN THAT WAY.

In Quezon City, catcalling is a violation of an ordinance, punishable by fines and jail time. You can register your complaint with the Women’s Desk at the nearest police station.

The larger culture disrespecting women also must be addressed. We’re on the back foot these days with this incoming president. Here’s what he’s done just in the last four months:

  1. he made and repeated a rape joke on the campaign trail
  2. was dismissive of his own daughter for her rape admission
  3. forced his kisses on a photographer and journalist.

You may see this modeled by more men in society. It’s our duty to call them out on such things. These attitudes and behaviors have no place in a society that should see women as equals.

This is Nikka Melchor’s performance art. This is her protest. Read the signboard beside her. It’s overwhelming how…

Posted by Jay-em Cuntapay on Wednesday, 18 May 2016

So, long story short, here’s what you can do about catcalling:

  • Avoid running through unsavory places. Just like you wouldn’t walk through Tondo wearing jewelry in the open, I wouldn’t recommend running in places where there’s a high risk of being assaulted. But don’t let that scare you away from running in the streets; there are awesome places all over the metro where it’s safe for women to run. (Check this list of running routes I wrote for Sassy Manila.)
  • Join a running group and find strength in numbers. The Nike Run Club and Adidas We Run Manila are great initiatives for getting people hooked up with running groups around the metro.
  • Ignore the catcaller, but report them to the authorities. Whether it’s the police or their bosses, make sure someone who has power over them knows what they did and will make sure they pay for it.
  • Stand up to the catcaller. If you are in a public place with witnesses, don’t be afraid to call them out. (Unfortunately this may mean no longer taking the same route if the catcaller is resident to the area, so use your best judgment.)
  • Support initiatives that fight rape culture and violence against women. Check out this Facebook Page Catcalled in the Philippines. I believe that exposing the problem can lead to its eventual solution. In the end, catcalling is a symptom of a deeper illness in society. Cure the disease, and the symptom will cease. Here are some insidious ways we promote rape culture.

And now a little wish fulfillment:

About Noelle De Guzman

Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer and recreational athlete with over 12 years of experience in fitness and endurance sport. She believes sport and an active healthy lifestyle changes lives.

2 thoughts on “Ask Kikay Runner: Dealing with Catcalling

    1. I wonder how many people actually launch a complaint at the police station, and what percentage of complaints are acted upon. The problem with rape culture is that people would rather not go to the trouble of making noise about sexual harassment because victims end up being held responsible for the crime. (So unfair!)

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