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The Elephant in the Room: Catcalling

Sometimes I walk down the street and my body is a chapel, the men who think they have holy water for saliva spit blessings my way. I guess I dress like a sin today.

               – Excerpt from “Elephant” by Elisabet Velazques

For women, a sidewalk can sometimes be like walking through a battleground of catcalling and street harassment. One inappropriate comment can make you feel like a piece of meat walking to the butcher. Almost every woman has experienced some type of sexual harassment on the street, or has felt uncomfortable when being catcalled.

Unfortunately, catcalling has become something that society has normalized simply because “boys will be boys.” A group of five African American and Latina visual and creative artists have come together to fight against this view.

In order to do this, they created a powerful and stunning choreo-film entitled, “Elephant.”

The film takes you on a woman’s journey walking through the streets, and it demonstrates exactly what it feels like to be catcalled. Elephant also calls attention to the harm and damage that men’s words can have on women. Not only does it highlight this important issue, but it also gives a powerful reminder that we need to empower women.

Wendy Angulo, the film’s producer, said, “I hope this project creates awareness on how damaging objectifying women through their bodies is. Unfortunately, society has normalized this behavior and it’s time that we, as women, are not scared to navigate the streets because of catcalling and various forms of street harassment.”

Elephant” features poetry by Elisabet Velazques, dance moves by dancer Keomi Tarver, and art by artist Alicia Cobb. Velazques shared, “When I began to write ‘Elephant,’ I was tired of explaining to men why it wasn’t okay to follow me down the street, or that I didn’t owe them a smile, or a hello. I did not want to educate men. I wanted to empower women.”

Dancer Keomi Tarver, whose body was painted with images of a lioness, shared with NBC News that she was nervous about dancing topless in the film. However, she was ready to own her body unapologetically and, as she put it, “give other women permission to be fearless and fierce.”

It is hard to explain to a man exactly what it feels like to be catcalled and harassed on the street. However, this film does a beautiful job of showing everyone what women have been unable to explain in just words.

Cobb, the artist responsible for the paintings on Tarver’s body, shared, “I’ve experienced street harassment since the tender age of ten. I actually used to go out of my way to hide my curves with baggy clothes to avoid the catcalls. It always made me feel dirty and insecure. This poem feels like my voice, all of the things I wanted to say to defend myself. Art has always been a form a therapy for me and my defense against anything that might hurt me.”

More importantly, we hope that men of all ages will take some time to watch this video.

As Cobb says, “I hope it will shed some light on what it feels like to simply walk down the streets as a woman. How we are made to feel as if our bodies are property or entertainment. Maybe the men who see it will think twice before they whistle, catcall, stare, grab, or demean a woman again.”

Featured Image by Giuseppe Milo on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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