Rejoice! Even Playboy hates catcalling now
Society is changing for the better, one flow-chart at a time
by Helena Baron
When you think Playboy you probably don’t think of the debunking of institutionalised sexism and victimisation of women. In fact, the exact opposite is probably closer to what springs to mind. Not a famously feminist magazine, Playboy has been controversial ever since its first publication dropped onto the newsstands, being decidedly unpopular with mostly, and not surprisingly, the female population.
With such a reputation it was all the more startling to me when I gained a new respect for the magazine when I came across a flow-chart published way back in 2014, supposedly meant to answer the question ‘Should You Catcall her?’ The flowchart, created by illustrator Shea Strauss, recently resurfaced on Reddit and has been shared thousands of times.
Once you’ve read all the way to the end of the chart, you realise that the contrast between the grounded, clever ending and the crude questions and answers preceding it carry a message just as powerful as their conclusion. The contrast makes them pathetic, stupid jokes, thus making anyone who identified with them equally laughable. Finally the men who commit catcalling are presented as the joke, not the woman who is the victim of it.
But what struck me here more than anything is that in what could be a trivial little flowchart, Playboy has managed to highlight something that isn’t always pointed out in the Catcalling controversy: context has a huge role to play in all situations. Consent is the difference between “nice ass” becoming a compliment or a form of verbal abuse.
We are constantly hearing from women who love being catcalled, those who hate it and even those who love it from some, hate it from others. The issue is that you have absolutely no way of telling the preferences of a stranger walking down a street, so why would you act on it?
In my opinion catcalling is essentially the same issue as that of groping in a nightclub: it’s called groping and therefore assault because it isn’t consensual. Finally a magazine that has notoriously promoted overtly sexual attitudes towards women has clearly and unequivocally pointed out that unless both parties involved have “consensually agreed” to what is happening, it is wrong.
You might see the fact that this flowchart was published in Playboy makes the message a joke, or undermines it in some way. But to me this message is in so many ways more effective because of the publication in which you find it. Women have been for years talking about how catcalling victimised, intimidated and even violated for years, and in spite of it magazines such as Playboy have continued to portray women as being first and foremost sexual objects.
So it’s precisely the fact that a such a magazine can finally show everything that’s wrong with catcalling with such clarity, that surely indicates a shift for the better in society. Ultimately, the fact that such an equality-promoting message has made it to a magazine like Playboy must shows that things are changing, even if it is only one flow-chart at a time.