Catcalls and Unwanted Conversations

Hypatia (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Catcalls have been said to insult, intimidate, and silence their targets. The harms that catcalls inflict on individuals are reason enough to condemn them. This paper argues that they also inflict a type of structural harm by subordinating their targets. Catcalling initiates an unwanted conversation where none should exist. This brings the rules and norms governing conversations to bear in such a way that the catcall assigns their target a ‘subordinate discourse role’. This not only constrains the behaviour of the target here and now, but also influences the norms governing future conversations. Catcalls are then not only bad because of the effects on their target, but also because of their pernicious contribution to the wider normative landscape.

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Chris Cousens
University of Stirling

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