Catcalling on College Avenue

In Andrew Commons last week, my friends and I were discussing which dorms we wanted to live in next year. Sage was a popular choice, given its close proximity to Warch. Personally, I was rooting for Ormsby. Having lived in Plantz this year, I was sick of crossing the street multiple times a day to eat or get to class.

Did that come off as lazy? Let me explain. True, having to walk an extra few hundred feet in the winter can be brutal, but it is not the walk that bothers me; it is College Avenue. During the daytime, crossing the street is not too bad. The cars generally stop for you at the crosswalk, and the drivers tend to be middle-aged adults on their way to or from work. At night and on weekends, however, this changes drastically.

The demographic of drivers on College Avenue shifts from tired parents to reckless teenagers and young adults. Some of these young adults think that catcalling is a cool, fun thing to do. Given that Lawrence is a place full of well-educated people, I will assume for the sake of this article that anyone reading this understands the harmful implications of catcalling. If you do not understand that, please educate yourself.

I cannot speak for anyone else’s experiences, so I will speak for my own. The people who have yelled lewd, obscene and disrespectful things at me have been exclusively male. It almost always occurs at night, or at least in the late afternoon. Typically, a moving car with a predominantly male group inside will pass, and a comment is yelled at me. The comment is followed by raucous laughter by the others in the car. The car is always moving. Every time I have been catcalled on College Avenue, I have been wearing regular clothes.

Baggy jeans, long-sleeved shirts, a winter jacket, even sweaty workout clothes. It does not make a difference. The harassment continues regardless.

I have talked to my female friends and the majority of them have also shared in this humiliating, uncomfortable and powerless experience. So why has little been done about? I feel confident in saying that the majority of catcalling that my peers and I have experienced have come from members of the Appleton community, not from Lawrence students. Lawrence is a bubble in some regards, but College Avenue slices right through campus—and anyone can drive through and yell whatever they want.

I do not have a perfect solution to this problem, but I bring up this issue to start a conversation about it. I hope that this article can call attention to the issue of catcalling on campus and eventually create a solution. I am at Lawrence to learn and grow, not to hear “Nice ass!” every time I walk back to my dorm.