Comedian discusses sexism and catcalling for Sex Week event


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Comedian Amanda Seales discusses catcalling and everyday sexism at College Feminists’ Sex Week headliner event Tuesday. Seales, whose CNN appearance went viral after she challenged the notion that women should accept catcalling, approached the subject with humor.

Mariana Alfaro, Assistant Campus Editor

Comedian Amanda Seales, known for speaking out against catcalling and street harassment in a now-viral CNN appearance, discussed everyday sexism Tuesday night as the headliner of College Feminists’ Sex Week.

Seales, who injected humor throughout her talk, discussed the daily limitations and restrictions women face from sexual objectification in the media to catcalls and harassment when walking down the street.

“Women, as a gender and as a group of people in the world, are meticulously marginalized,” Seales said. “It is very much still a global issue women being marginalized, as well as being objectified, as well as being victimized for simply being women.”

When asked by CNN last November to give her opinion about the viral video that featured a woman being harassed and catcalled while walking down the streets of New York, Seales did not expect to debate the situation with author Steve Santagati, who argued women should be flattered by the catcalls.

“I was so shocked at what this man was saying,” she said. “I was also more so shocked by how many guys agreed with him and how many women did as well.”

Seales said her experience on CNN showed her the importance of discussing everyday examples of sexism.

The appearance went viral because of the “side eye” she gave in response to Santagati’s comments. She had the audience practice their side eyes and eye rolls at sexist comments she’d heard before, which she called ‘bulls–t.’

After showing a remixed version of her CNN clip, Seales said catcalling and street harassment aren’t ways to compliment women.

“I don’t take being sexually objectified as a compliment,” she said. “And there’s this thought process that says ‘Okay, you know, if you give a woman a compliment, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that,’” she said. “There shouldn’t be. What’s wrong is when you get angry if she doesn’t thank you. That’s the problem.”

She also challenged multiple stereotypes women face daily, including the idea that women are crazy during their periods or weaker than men.

“The same guy who is bench pressing 250 pounds, have you ever seen him get a cold? It’s a struggle,” Seales said. “There are thousands of women right now, pushing a watermelon sized person out of a quarter sized hole … That’s a level of physical strength that you can’t overlook.”

Equality, she said, is not about sameness but about accepting everyone’s uniqueness and differences. She argued women have been forced to be strong in ways that are different than physical prowess and that historically, patriarchal mentalities have forced women to do things they didn’t want to do just because other opportunities weren’t available to them.

“So there’s still this culture of faux progress that says ‘Oh, they can’t handle it. You know, they’re not strong enough to make their own decisions,’” she said. “And we see that in the reproductive decisions that are made for us by men who … or don’t even communicate with the people who the decisions are made of.”

Michelle Lega, co-director of Sex Week, said she first heard about Seales when she saw a Tumblr post of the CNN interview and thought she would be a perfect Sex Week headliner.

“She’s able to combine humor with such insightful commentary about things, and it really keeps people engaged,” the Weinberg senior said.

Alyse Slaughter, a Medill sophomore, said listening to Seales was empowering.

“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I felt really empowered to stand up for myself and know what to do in certain situations and kinda just combat sexism in my daily life.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Michelle Lega’s year at Northwestern. Lega is a Weinberg senior. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro