Cat Calling in Rome

BY MAGGIE VLAJ

For those of us women studying abroad at JCU, an increase in catcalls isn’t particularly uncommon in our first months at school, especially if we’re studying abroad from places that are more liberal with gender roles. While we cannot immediately change cultures of misogyny, there are ways to avoid it, deal with it, and positively channel the feelings we experience.

Dress like a local
No one should ever be sexually assaulted based on their clothing (or lack thereof), but it’s always good to assimilate to the local fashion rules. What goes in Miami probably does not “go” here. This isn’t to say that dressing to Italian standards will stop all of the catcalls, nor is it to say that you have to stop dressing the way you want – but it might help.

Safety first, insult second
Serving those nasty catcallers a good comeback is always so tempting, but you have to remember your own personal safety. Sure, comebacks are almost always good for use in broad daylight and with people you know, but it doesn’t work the same at night in a Trastevere bar. As a matter of fact, insulting them back in this situation can actually put you in a worse position.

So no, you cannot change a culture overnight. But yes, if you’re in a safe situation (in a well-lit, familiar area with friends) and insulting the cat-caller back will help you preserve your sanity and emotional well-being, give ‘em hell.

Block out the haters (literally)
Want to walk to campus without getting catcalled by a greasy, old man? Pro tip: put on some headphones. Not only will you be able to ignore them, but you’ll have a very enjoyable commute to class. Plus, we all know that music is one of the greatest coping mechanisms.

Be fair to Italy
Yes, the international treatment of women is cringey at best, but it’s not fair to return home from your time abroad in Rome and say “all Italian guys suck, all they do is catcall.” I’m calling you out, American study abroad girls: sure, Italian society sometimes encourages this culture of catcalling and misogyny, but we have an obligation as (very privileged) travelers to remember that these things don’t define our experiences in Italy!

Even if you do experience a lot of catcalling while in Rome, remember to have fun while you’re at it. This isn’t to scare you from going out with friends at night or from traveling to other countries, but it serves as a friendly reminder of a few things you should watch out for!

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