Emily Atack says it’s important to make catcalling a “public health issue”.
The comedian and intermediaries star made the statement in her new BBC Two documentary Emily Atack: Asked about it? about their experiences of sexual harassment.
Atack said that shouting sexual comments in public can be “very harmful” to people’s lives.
“Minor and normalized” behavior can “develop into something much more sinister and malicious,” she said. “I think it’s important to bring in things like making catcalling a public health issue.
“People can roll their eyes when they hear things like this, but I can now understand how important this is.”
She continued, “Catcalling isn’t just catcalling, that’s what it means – it means someone has access to you so easily but can get out of it by driving or running away, and you feel like that. This can be very damaging over a longer period of time.”
In the documentary, Atack talks about online harassment and a series of social media messages she’s received in the past.
The 33-year-old also talks to her parents about her experiences, including attracting unwanted sexual attention at a young age.
“When you grow up with this type of behavior in your life, your family and the people who care for you do everything they can to stop it,” she said, adding that this would include people trying to “changing” their behavior, including taking away “privileges” like wearing makeup or a skirt to school.
“As bumpy and difficult as it was going through this process, I feel really empowered and proud of the film that we made,” she said.
“If it stops a guy from sending an explicit picture to a girl that day, then he did something right.”
Atack has previously campaigned against cyber-flashing, where individuals send unsolicited explicit images online, and spoke on the issue in Parliament in 2022.
Emily Atack: Asked about it? will be broadcast on BBC Two on January 31st at 9pm.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organization for specialized, independent and confidential support. Visit their website for more information here.
Additional reporting from agencies