catcalls for what?! screenshot

More cats, less catcalls: Teens create anti-street harassment music video

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

Street harassment disproportionately impacts young women, women of color, and LGBTQ individuals. In this newly released music video “Catcall for What?!,” a group of teen girls make a call to action to change the culture of catcalling with bravado and humor. 

Through the Los Angeles-based grassroots educational organization ImMEDIAte Justice, the young women first explored personal stories of their experiences with street harassment, racial profiling, and homophobia. A representative from Hollaback! LA facilitated the discussion.

“Guys whistle and should know it’s not polite. It’s disrespectful. Sometimes it feels like women aren’t equal to men. It happens to my aunt too…” said Liz, age 15.

The girls learned that their experiences were not unique but social as everyone had an experience to contribute. Under the leadership of Tani Ikeda, ImMEDIAte Justice’s founder, the girls collaborated on a story that would be inspiring and hopeful. “It was incredible to see how the process of making the ‘Catcall for What?!’ music video transformed a painful experience we’ve all faced into something that gave us agency,” Ikeda said.

Displeased with the few existing films on harassment, most significantly the girls wanted their video to address street harassment in an unusual way. Ikeda brought in numerous professionals: the directors, The Daniels, of Lil Jon and DJ Snake’s hit “Turn Down for What?” were excited and supportive of the girls’ efforts; Hollis, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter best known for her collaboration on Macklemore’s “White Walls” song, heard about the music video and contributed vocals to the project; and the artist Yazmin Monet Watkins rehearsed the girls to get loud and expressive in front of the camera. Ikeda brought one hundred stuffed animal cats to make the girls’ vision come alive.

Shots of the production posted on Facebook made me chuckle. The imaginative and feisty one-minute music video confronts, in a very positive framing, the catcall culture. The use of a hundred stuffed black and white cats is an amusing nod to girl culture. Through a lively dance and powerful singing with a colorful school hallway as backdrop the girls definitely claim their territory in the discussion on catcalling. The video effectively opens up eyes, ears, and minds about girl’s perspective on a pervasive form of harassment. Especially in light of all the controversy around the “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” video, “Catcall for What?!” is a refreshing, affirming tool to make some headway on this persistent social problem.

Absolutely, more cats and less catcalls.

Ariel Dougherty, long time feminist media teacher and advocate, writes about the intersections of gender justice, economic justice and cultural justice.

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