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Wolf-whistling and catcalling is 'degrading and disgusting'

'Why anybody feels the need to comment on my body is beyond me and I will never take it as a complement'

Glenda had said wolf whistling shouldn't be taken too seriously

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Irish journalist Niamh Maher has said street harassment like wolf-whistling and catcalling is “degrading and disgusting” and makes many women feel deeply unsafe.

Ms Maher, the Head of Content at was speaking after model and presenter Glenda Gilson said people should take it as a compliment.

“I don't think it's a bad thing. You could take it as a compliment,” Glenda told Andrea Gilligan on Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live today.

“This is coming from a woman who hasn’t had a wolf whistle now in many a year.

“It was something I suppose happened when I was younger, when you were around town and probably dolled up more than I would be these days.

“I know it's a real Irish thing and a lot of women don't like taking compliments, and they don't take them too easily.

“And it can be mortifying walking by a load of builders hanging out the side of a building, they give you a wolf whistle and you're just afraid that your heel might break or your skirt might blow up, it's kind of a mortifying thing, but it's not such a bad thing.

“Certainly not in a big, auld bad world that we live in right now. I also don't think it should be taken too seriously.”

But on The Hard Shoulder, Ms Maher said: “You should never be made to feel unsafe by anybody in the street,” she said. “I can only speak from my own experience, but I have experienced street harassment in a way that made me feel deeply unsafe on numerous occasions.

“It makes me feel degraded; it is disgusting. Why anybody feels the need to comment on my body is beyond me and I will never take it as a complement.”

The journalist recalled one incident where she was approached by a man near Pearse Street station in Dublin.

“It was summertime so I was wearing a tank top and he came within an inch of my face and said, ‘Nice Tits’ directly into my face and kept walking.”

“When I say I was shocked … I was stopped in the middle of the street, completely not expecting somebody to come into my personal space firstly and then secondly, to make a comment about my body like that.

“The person who was walking behind me also stopped and looked at this man because as I turned to look at him, he looked back and nodded at me as if to say, yes, I reinforce what I just said to you.”

She said a woman would never get away with acting like that if the roles were reversed.

“If I was to do direct comparison of what happened to me, I would be walking down the street and I would whisper into a man’s face, ‘Nice Penis’ and keep walking,” she said.

“In what world would that be acceptable?

“Is it because I have breasts it’s OK for this compete stranger to say nice tits and I should take it as a complement?

“I’ve responded to people who have wolf whistled at me before and it’s only asking for trouble because then you get heckled in a more aggressive way and you don’t feel safe,” she said.

“There’s no good way to deal with this. The way we’re being taught to deal with it is either just take the complement and keep walking or keep your mouth shut so you can be safe.

“Why are we in a position that we have to deal with this in any way? We shouldn’t have to deal with this in any manner or form. It shouldn’t be happening at all.”

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