When running past the million-dollar homes of Newton Centre or Chestnut Hill, the last thing one might expect is a derogatory call from a car on the road. Catcallers can, however, be found on the streets surrounding Boston College, primarily targeting their shrieks and yells at female students. A college campus that prides itself on “maintaining a safe environment free from exploitation and intimidation” has students feeling unsafe as soon as they exit the BC gates.
Growing up in a small town in Connecticut, catcalls were not once part of my daily runs, and I was appalled the first time I heard one. Running from campus to Newton Centre to grab a coffee each morning, the constant shouts have transitioned from shocking to normal. Typically receiving calls of "what's up" or a whistle and honk, catcalling is a frequent occurrence of around three to four times per week.
Another female student, MCAS '24, The Gavel spoke to is catcalled on her runs as well. There have been numerous instances when a particular call has made her run faster, in fear. "When I was running past CVS in Newton Center, an older man started yelling 'Wow, wow, wow,' in my direction. Then he started waving one dollar bills at me, and I sprinted back to campus," this student states.
Never worried while running at home, this student now feels anxious when jogging in one of the "safest towns in the United States."
Unfortunately, catcalling is not just a problem in Newton Centre, but on the streets surrounding BC’s campus as well. Sarah Keffer, LSOE '21, is catcalled on Beacon Ave and Chestnut Hill Ave, typically by men ages 30 to 40. Sarah ignores calls of "looking good" or "How you doing?" stating, "I sometimes look back to see who's calling me, wondering if they were talking to me. I think my face reflects my feelings about the situation."
The feelings Sarah is referring to are fear and disgust. Sarah quickens her pace after receiving catcalls, especially in one instance, where she was wearing a T-shirt with her last name on the back. "This freaked me out,” She says, “Typically, I brush catcalls aside because it is so normal at this point, but since the person yelling at me could now identify who I was, I was nervous."
Catcallers turn running from a stress-relieving exercise into one that requires extra caution; Sarah feels the need to choose what she wears on her runs to avoid situations like this one.
While many would argue that a honk or wave is a harmless act, it is crucial to acknowledge that catcalling is harassment. The substantial number of individuals on the Heights who are catcalled shows the extent of this issue. It is not just within highly populated areas like New York City or Boston where people are catcalled but right here, in a suburban campus environment. Legislation prohibiting catcalling could restore safety to daily routines such as running. While the state of Massachusetts currently does not have any laws prohibiting catcalling, hopefully, with more awareness, we can follow the footsteps of countries where this issue has been banned, such as France and Belgium. In the meantime, if you or a friend encounter catcalling, check out the work of young activist Sophia Sandberg, who founded the Chalk Back Movement as a way to oppose catcalls.