Transition Year students in Dublin are calling for people to be fined for catcalling women.
Students at Maryfield College in Drumcondra say it is time for a wider conversation after discovering how many of them experience catcalling on any given week.
With the help of Amárach Research, they commissioned a survey which found that 60% of women under the age of 20 had experienced catcalling within the previous week.
Around half of those who had dealt with it said it happened on multiple occasions throughout the week – with one-quarter experiencing it between two and five times.
On Lunchtime Live this morning, students Sophie, Jodie and Elene and their teacher Margaret McLoughlin said it all came from a class discussion during the Young Social Innovators (TSI) module.
“When we discussed equality there was just an amazing outpouring of annoyance and rage that men can walk the streets and be much safer than women,” said Ms McLoughlin.
“So, from that, we discussed catcalling. We did a little mini-class survey and 50% of the girls had been catcalled that week, which I found shocking. In that week alone, half the girls had been cat-called.
“In the previous three months, they reckoned about ten times was the average so it was very shocking.”
Sophie, one of the students involved in the project, said it can be “really uncomfortable” when people catcall.
“You can get scared if there is a big group of boys and you are by yourself,” she said.
“It makes you feel annoyed and powerless that it happens so much. Like, it can just happen anytime.
“We want the boys to just realise that, when they say it, it is not a compliment.
“Sometimes they’ll say, ‘aw give us a smile’ but we’re not going to smile. It just makes you feel annoyed and just kind of, disgusted.”
Ms McLoughlin said the girls were, “very clear that while most men don’t catcall, the boys and men that do probably don’t realise how upsetting it is”
As a result, they developed a powerpoint for presentation in other schools to outline their feelings; however, lockdown got in the way and instead they approached Amárach.
“They gave their help for free which was fantastic and we ran the survey,” she said. “The same statistics came out and in a general survey, the numbers were the same.
“We were just really shocked and now we just wanted to bring the issue to a bigger audience.”
She said the girls want a political discussion about whether there should be laws catcalling.
“Is it acceptable that there is no legislation against it?” she asked. “A man can say anything offensive to a girl walking in the park, on the street, on the bus and there is no legislation against it so, they want a discussion about that.”
She said the class discovered that in France there are fines for catcalling – with potential imprisonment after a certain number of offences.
“They really want the discussion to happen at every level so they feel they can go for a walk without that worry that someone is going to make a comment and just make them feel self-conscious and make them feel objectified," she said.