The In’s and Out’s of Catcalling

Catcalling– creepy or a compliment? You know I have yet to experience catcalling that felt the least bit complimentary. In fact I generally find myself wondering what possessed the guy to think the comments would net good results, or I get annoyed enough to tell the guy off for being disgusting. On occasion (like when they say this nasty shit while I’m walking with my kids) I contemplate violence as a response. I’m having a hard time buying the idea that these guys don’t know catcalling is a bad thing. They know it, they just don’t want to stop acting this way because they enjoy making women uncomfortable. I’m also a little perplexed by the women that feel the catcalls let them know they’re attractive. Is that low self-esteem, lack of functional men in their lives, or something I’m missing completely? Talk to me about catcalls and how they make you feel. How do you respond? If you’re a guy, do you catcall? Why?

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

114 Responses

  1. I’m a man and I don’t catcall. My parents taught me there was a way to behave in public and that wasn’t it.

    Oddly enough, I have seen successful pickups by others who did catcall. I guess if the success rate is high enough people will probably keep doing it. Completely anecdotal, from my observation it seems to work more on middle class women than on the poor.

  2. I wonder how long and hard they had to search to find a woman who’d give them a positive quote about catcalling.

  3. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but here goes. There was a time in my younger days when I felt complimented by catcalling. Or, rather, I felt grateful that men were noticing me at all and thought that if they should one day stop catcalling, it would mean that I was officially old and ugly. I was depressed and had self esteem problems, and I used men extensively as a coping mechanism. It was a low point. Maybe I am biased now, but whenever I hear a woman say she feels complimented by catcalling, I think she must be reacting to some negative and self-destructive things going on inside herself. I’m interested in seeing what others have to say on this point.

    Fast forward to today and I am with you, karnythia. I don’t like catcalling, but I vastly prefer it to the guy who keeps his yap shut but creepily looks me up and down as I walk by. Catcalling doesn’t freak me out as much because I think of it as more a show of bravado they put on for their buddies, coworkers, themselves, passersby, whomever. The creepy stare is much more personal (to me, anyway) and usually happens in closer quarters, and I just get far more disgusted and freaked out by it.

    I usually ignore all street harassment unless the guy actually makes me feel physically threatened, but I always resent the entire situation. I ignore because I usually go around in a fairly peaceful mood and I don’t want to have to get angry and ruin my mood just because some asshole has no manners. Now that I’m thinking about it, though, I might just start asking them why they’re doing it. I love the idea of taking their pictures… you know, turn the tables a bit and make them feel uncomfortable.

  4. I’m also a little perplexed by the women that feel the catcalls let them know they’re attractive. Is that low self-esteem, lack of functional men in their lives, or something I’m missing completely?

    I dislike talking about motives/feelings I don’t understand like this, as it seems almost oppressive to me. I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing here, as you left your questioning open to other reasons, but I’ve heard some feminists question the actions of women they don’t agree with in far more absolutist and negative terms. I just run with the assumption that everyone is different, and some women might enjoy being called out to in this way and not feel any danger in it.

    But I don’t understand it any better than you. I don’t even like being hit on at parties by strange people. I very rarely have such an immediate attraction to a person that I know I desire them, since so much of how I determine that is personality and charm, so it’s always an uncomfortable thing. Stick walking alone and the threat of some kind of molestation in there, and ‘uncomfortable’ goes up to ‘creepy and maybe dangerous’.

  5. I think there is a huge difference between catcalling (which in my personal history has gotten so scary that I _have_ once resorted to violence, and one made a man fall to his knees with the careful application of a particular phrase I use only in emergencies) and an appreciative grin or wink.

    However, when I was younger, I felt all of it was assaultive. The looks when I was younger were all by older men who looked predatory. An: “I know all about sex and you don’t and DAMN ruining your innocence would be hot” kind of look.

    As a middle-aged woman, I attract a different sort of guy, first of all (the ones who were ogling me when I was sixteen are off ogling sixteen year olds), and it feels somewhat (in the latter reference) like an in-joke. A silent grin, that is.

    That said, when/if I ignore them, it sometimes gets ugly. Coincidentally, I just posted about this. The most recent one surmised I was probably a lesbian. Not ugly, necessarily, just stupid.

  6. [...] Blogged by Angry Black Woman [...]

  7. Catcalling is not a compliment, period. “I like your haircut” is a compliment. “Nice outfit” is a compliment, although in some situations it can be creepy. Friendly observations can be complimentary.

    But catcalling is a summons. It’s a “Hey, you, I’m looking at you. Look at me!” It has very little to do with the woman being catcalled and everything to do with the ego of the catcaller. And as such, I usually find it either annoying or frightening.

    The usual test: If I don’t respond immediately and the catcaller repeats the call or changes tactics (“Hey! I’m talking to you!”), it’s a good sign that the intentions are not friendly or complimentary.

  8. Usually, it’s at minimum annoying. Sometimes it makes me feel unsafe, but usually not. Mostly I ignore it, once in a while I sling a highly unoriginal “fuck off” back at ‘em.

    One exception though: I was walking down Mission street in San Francisco one time and this mostly toothless older guy sitting on the street said “nice gams”. which was sort of sweet (“gams”!? so old-fashioned) and made me smile, so I thanked him for the compliment. I guess that’s not really catcalling, eh?

  9. Catcalling, what I think of as Street Harassment, is a pet peeve of mine. Being a young woman in a major city (Chicago) where I walk around alone a lot, I experience it frequently. Sometimes, it’s difficult to explain how a man can take a seemingly innocuous comment like “hey beautiful” and make it sound creepy (by licking his lips, looking you up and down, etc), but it has to do with this: I do not exist to provide scenery for you or so that you can judge my appearance and sexual attractiveness. I shouldn’t have to steel myself every time I leave my apartment in a dress because I know I’m going to be leered at (and I dress very modestly anyway). And then, of course, there are the guys who will say lewd things, proposition you for sex (hello, I’m a med student, not a prostitute! Can’t you tell the difference?) , touch you, flash you, or masturbate in front of you on the train. I’m so fed up with this kind of behavior that I’ve started yelling back at guys who do this. Of course, that just causes them to curse me out. But I’m not going to be a passive victim (assuming I’m in a situation where I feel safe enough to speak up). I started ranting to friends about how many times I’ve been catcalled, flashed, etc., and it’s almost become a joke to them now. But it’s not funny. It pisses me off. I’m a frequent contributor to the HollaBackChicago blog. It at least helps to rant about it.

    I wonder if there are racial implications to this as well. It seems that it is always black and latino men who bother me (not surprising, I guess, given my brown skin and curvier figure), but it also seems (anecdotally) that my white female friends don’t experience as much street harassment as I do. Any thought about that?

  10. When I was younger (and hotter) I used to get catcalls all the time. I can tell you that it was always a degrading, humiliating experience. There’s nothing like being a 15 year old and having dozens of construction workers stop what they’re doing and make loud, vulgar remarks in your direction.

    I just thank God I’m older and fatter now.

  11. Karnythia,

    I have actually had these conversations with my wife.

    My wife, who is Latin American (Guatemalan), calls this “ghetto behavior” or “red-neck behavior”. She couldn’t stand it when she lived in Guatemala and she cannot stand it here. Even more inappropriate when a woman is with children.

    It is one thing to shout out at a friend and compliment her/him, but another to do it to a complete stranger.

    I cannot say I ever did it to a woman . But, as a joke and to make things interesting, I would catcall other white (heterosexual) men (who are friends of mine) to make them feel extremely self-conscious and embarrassed in public. I think my poor wife and adolsecent daughter have been more embarrassed than anyone else though. ; )

  12. A few years ago, I had my first experience with a non-creepy version of something in the catcalling family. It was the middle of the afternoon on a nice summer day, and I was walking to the bus stop near my old apartment, and I walked past these two old men (probably in their late sixties or early seventies?) who were sitting on the stoop of their apartment building. One of them called out, in a very friendly voice, something like “You got a nice figure on you, girl!” When I started laughing, the other man said “And a nice smile, too!” And instead of being a distressing creepy incident, it just kind of made my day.

    I tried, afterwards, to figure out what made it non-creepy. A lot of it, I think, was that there didn’t seem to be anything predatory about it–there wasn’t any implication of “come over here and blah blah blah”, you know? It felt more like a straightforward compliment and less like a sexualized proposition. (Their age, fairly or unfairly, played into that, but I think their body language did too.)

  13. Whenever I can get away with it, they get the finger.

    Sometimes I wrinkle my nose, look them up and down, and make as disgusted of a face as I can manage. Sometimes with an “um, ew”.

    If I’m not in an area with other people though I’ll probably just ignore, as society thinks it is up to women to protect themselves from criminals, and these guys could fast become criminals.

  14. I particularly enjoy(sarcasm x 10) the “charmingly” “VULGAR catcalls which I ignore to only then be called “lesbian b*tch” to his buddies or anyone who will listen.

    Yeah, your approach was soooo compelling and appealing that the ONLY way I could possibly resist is if I were a lesbian. ptththththt!!

    Now if Dwayne Johnson otherwise known as “The Rock” were to catcall me, well, I’d just have to saunter on over and see what he wanted. :-)

  15. I checked out the article and the first three comments were about how women wearing tubetops were asking for it or something like that. Left a bit of a bad tase in my mouth.

    I never understood catcalls. It isn’t that impressive that you noticed that I have ‘junk in my trunk’ or that you can honk a horn. Impressive would be engaging me in a regular conversation as if I was a person. Even when its not done in a creepy or aggressive manner I can’t help rolling my eyes and walking away.

  16. Honestly, it makes me feel like I want to hit the catcaller in the face with a shovel.

    But maybe that’s just me.

  17. As a man, i am not guilty of catcalling, but definitely working on not having an oppressive male gaze thing. i almost listed the male gaze thing in my latest blog: What Is One Sexist Thing You Are Trying To Unlearn. , but instead wrote about the problematic nature of complaining when its been awhile since i dated a woman, since i’m all feminist and sensitive, why don’t they date me instead of misogynist neanderthals, blah blah blah.

    I have one male friend who attempts to catcall women in my presence, which always leads into an argument. He says he is just complimenting women. I ask why he feels entitled to comment on the appearance of a total stranger, and if he would appreciate it if someone said the same thing to his mom or daughter. He thinks I am nuts and have spent too much time in academic USA. One time I punched him on the shoulder saying “stop that!” much to the amusement of the woman being catcalled. Oh he didn’t appreciate that at all, being “humiliated” like that, we almost came to real blows.

    And that is with someone I know. Intervening with strange men, especially ones that assume i am gonna join them and bond with them in the harrassment (“hey, you check out the [insert body part] on her??”) Is more dangerous. Men seem to take it as a rejection of them, that i’m too uppity, better than them. Or of course, naturally, if women who don’t respond are lesbians, then i must be gay if i don’t want to harrass women with them. Whatever. But its all good, there is a risk of danger whenever ANYONE intervenes, wherever on the gender spectrum one is, and it is my brother thats acting up, so i figure i might as well say something.

    For now, if i see a woman that i find attractive, the most i will do is make eye contact, but not pull for it; and i don’t do the up and down scan. I swear it feels like i am gonna break something in my eyes and head by not doing the scan thing, but I manage and nothing breaks. If the woman’s eyes look away, then i also look away, turning my head visibly in another direction. If the woman smiles, i usually smile back, and say “hello” or “good morning” or something- and then keep walking.

    i’ve been on threads on this subject before, i always appreciate the diversity of responses women have to catcalls and the male gaze, what is acceptable and what is not.

  18. yeah. well, if i get catcalled- i chalk it up to ignorance. an appreciative look is one thing- i have been known to look appreciatively at folks of both sexes because they are attractive. it is degrading and it is misogynistic and it is one step below rape. imo. it has absolutely nothing to do with the woman being catcalled and everything to do with the perp’s ego and need to control. most of the catcalls these days- for me being middle aged and pleasantly plump- are of the drive by variety. group of younger guys in a car who see someone with boobs and want to be smart. i know that younger girls and women get the hard core stuff when they walk about in public places.

  19. For me it depends on the culture I’m in.

    In NOLA where people make eye contact, say, “good morning” employ other kind greetings, and mean it when they ask, “How are you?”
    I have been complimented by a stranger on my summer dress (that I would not wear n Detroit, NY or L.A.) or for my more graceful (there) stride, etc.

    I have not felt complimented in L.A., NY or Detroit by comments from strangers. just the opposite, I feel the are of a predatory nature and I am put on defense immediately.

    So, it depends on the culture I am walking or strutting mys stuff through.

  20. I get catcalled fairly often when I’m walking to and from work, it’s super annoying but it doesn’t creep me out. I just ignore them- and that’s when you know it’s not a compliment. Some time ago I was crossing the street and the dude hollering at me kept getting more and more specific about my appearance until he could be sure I was ignoring him instead of just assuming he was yelling at someone else at which point he said WELL FUCK YOU THEN (since I apparently hurt his feefees by minding my own damn busines). I turned around and gave him the finger but when I made it to the office I just completely broke down and started sobbing to my female coworkers. It actually surprised me just how disturbed I was by the whole thing. :|

    I go out with my cousin a lot and she is very pretty and loves to wear sexy clothing so she gets hollered at the split second she walks out the door. I’m a teeshirt and jeans girl so I end up being totally invisible next to her and I every time I get this crazy urge to defend her from the hordes of dirty older men, as it were. I seriously have my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket sometimes. It’s funny though because she is completely used to it and not bothered and tends to have snappy comebacks- ie. she can take care of herself :)

    The whole thing about catcalling that boggles my mind is how it simply seems to be a socially acceptable way to shout loudly at strangers. Socially acceptable bad manners. Certainly people who shriek “the end is near!” at you are at least looked at like they’re crazy.

  21. One time I punched him on the shoulder saying “stop that!” much to the amusement of the woman being catcalled. Oh he didn’t appreciate that at all, being “humiliated” like that,

    Your friend might not have appreciated it, but I bet the woman he was cat-calling did.

    I can’t stand cat-calling, but I’m sort of Aspie and have trouble coping with loud noises of any sort, so am probably not a good person to take as an example one way or another.

  22. I have always thought that catcalls were stupid & ignorant & that guys who did them were too. Usually, I was annoyed more than anything. I think that most men are showing off for each other. They could care less about how the women feels. What I find most interesting though is now that I am middle aged, I don’t get them anymore & I miss the attention a little, until I see them do it to a young women & then I remember how much I hated it. I think most women hate it unless they have low self esteem & figure any kind of attention is good.

  23. I hate catcalls. always hated them. never thought they were a good idea to “approach” anyone. what kind of “approach” is someone standing there feeling safe enough with 7 male friends licking their lips and staring?. I’ve lived in areas where every woman’s name was apparently “pssst”. The women didn’t seem to care and when I asked them about it, they all replied “that’s how the guys are”. It drove me nuts. I was constantly going through kickboxing routines in my head.
    I must say ‘though that I got ONE catcall I liked (vs. about 2000 I detested).
    I like the term “street abuse” in the article (although this could also refer to somebody digging holes in the tarmac), so I’d like to differentiate between those abusive catcalls and the one single not-annoying situation: we were three girls, one Black, one southern american, one white, dressed casually, walking down the street in Brooklyn, when an elderly guy who sat in a chair said (not shouted!) “god bless america” as we walked by. I’m not american, but I like to think the concept was sweet. I would also love to witness an ironic catcall once, but that has never happened to me so far. A guy turning the fact that catcalls are for jerks into something funny, like “HEY! I’m talking to you! I’m desperate and would like to get to know you but all my Daddy taught me was to holler across the street. HELP!” something of the likes. That’d get a smile on my face.

  24. I’m a guy, don’t catcall, and see it and other kinds of street harassment as appalling behavior. I agree that most guys who do it know better and simply aren’t willing to change; for the guys who don’t know how offensive this is, i really don’t think they have any excuse.

    hara made a great point about her different reactions to compliments in different environments. i frequently compliment people, friends and strangers, of all genders; i try very hard to be sensitive about cultural, geographic, environmental, mood and many other considerations, and if there’s any question in my mind i’ll stay quiet.

  25. I was just thinking about this today.

    I ride my bike to work in Philly and the comment I hear most often is “I can get a ride?” which is usually said with a laugh. It comes off most often like a joke–obviously they’re not going to get on my bike with me, and most of them don’t say anything else when I don’t respond.

    I think it’s a little presumptuous to assume that all women who feel complimented by catcalls have “low self-esteem.” There are a thousand different types of catcalls and some of them may not bother people or genuinely not be offensive. Like the women above, I have had comments from strangers that were actually kind of sweet, and I’ve had guys in groups or in cars that were absolutely threatening, and of course I’ve been called a lesbian when I don’t respond or respond negatively.

    I agree with the commenter above that it seems to be a cultural and age thing–older men seem to just be trying to tell you you’re pretty, while young guys actually think/expect to get somewhere with their comments.

  26. Catcalls don’t count as compliments or greetings for me– they’re People Yelling That I Can’t See. When I was younger, I’d get, “The seventies are over, you dumb bitch!” or, “Hey kung fu!” if I was wearing my favorite tie-dyed shirt or going to karate. A few months ago, I got some string of obscenity from a car. Catcalls tend to be vulgar and boring– “WHOO!”– and they fall into the same category of negativity.

    I once had a guy say, “You dropped something.” “What?” I looked frantically at the sidewalk. “Your smile.” I hope he knew that the hiss was not suppressed laughter. I felt grumpy about that all day.

  27. Hi thesciencegirl:

    You stated:

    “I wonder if there are racial implications to this as well. It seems that it is always black and latino men who bother me (not surprising, I guess, given my brown skin and curvier figure), but it also seems (anecdotally) that my white female friends don’t experience as much street harassment as I do. Any thought about that?”

    I have wondered that too. But the more I think about it, I am tempted to think it is more of a class issue. It seems to me that many poorer men (of all racial brands and stripes) have not acquired the “socialization” that we have grown accustomed to in both academia and the work place – not to mention the impact family and parents also have had on our lives. I have known many people who have traveled abroad and noted similar experiences – poorer men hanging out on the corners catcalling, yet those who are upwardly mobile tend to much more mellow in public.

    Then again, there plenty of seemingly “charming” and “mellow” men who are perverts, acquaintance-rapists, and numbskulls who flood our college campuses and graduate schools …so I could be off target too.

  28. I agree with the comments that draw a distinction between catcalls and compliments. Unfortunately, most of the comments I’ve gotten while out and about in public have absolutely fallen into the harrassing/threatening category.

    The worst was last summer, when I was walking to a show with my husband. He had gotten ahead of me, and some drunk young guy waiting at the bus stop (in broad daylight) took the opening to come lurching toward me, leering and slurring profane come-ons. I told him to fuck off, then gave my husband holy hell for not stopping to wait for me or otherwise discouraging the dirtbag catcaller. Yes, I’m a strong woman and I can take care of myself, but dude… a little backup would have been nice.

  29. I’ve never gotten a catcall that felt complimentary in any way. Most of them are just puzzling, like the guys who felt compelled to yell “Dyke!” out the window at me one afternoon while I (a high school student at the time) was walking with my mother.

    I have to say that the internet has given me a new gesture to field test on catcallers. Rather than giving them the finger, I’m testing out the limp-dick-pinky as a response to all arrogant/asshole male behaviors.

  30. something that maybe every boy and man should have to go through in order to gain a stitch of empathy around this issue:

    to have to walk alone through a long gauntlet of a huge crowd of very large(r) butch women all saying degrading, sexualizing, penetrative things to them.

    i am usually one to employ more compassionate methods, but some people definitely need tough love. i would be willing to be at the end of the gauntlet to give them a hug.

    wow. what an amazing beginning to a workshop that would be. it could be done in tandem with a women’s workshop getting rage out around these issues.

    hmmm.

  31. I’ve never liked the catcalls (or honks– here people honk at women a lot, which is a scary reinforcement males-in-power as well as cars in power over pedestrians) I’ve experienced and I think that’s largely because it started for me when I was around 12 or 13 walking to school or tennis practice. Since it started back then it always gives me a creepy feeling when people do it, since I know they might do it to middle school girls too.

  32. [...] read this very interesting article on CNN today about catcalling.  (I read about it on this awesome blog, which you should definitely check [...]

  33. I’ve never liked it. I -love- sexual/romantic attention and always have, and before I became Muslim I was very open about those things (I still am in some ways, but I have created more boundaries for myself now). But catcalling just is awful. I’m a rape survivor, and the absolute sense of violation from catcalling I have always felt reminds me in many ways, to a much lesser degree, the violation of rape. But in my experience, partly because of where I live and because I walk or take the bus everywhere (and usually not because of how I am dressed), it happens to me ALL THE TIME. And prolonged harassment like that has really upset me on a deep level; in my experience, it’s one of the most instrumental forms of women’s oppression, just because of the intense day-in-day-out psychological stress it causes. One of the blessings of my reversion was taking up hijab; I have struggled with finding a job and just in general, being one of very few covered women where I live, but alhamdulillah it helps me feel that I’m asserting my own boundaries and it seems to be more pointedly modest than my clothing used to be. I have pretty much always dressed modestly but because hijab marks me out as someone who is religious and asserts that boundary in ways that regular clothing that happens to be modest doesn’t, alhamdulillah I do not encounter harassment as often.

    On the other hand, before I explained really how much catcalls and “mild” forms of sexual harassment upset me, my partner thought that I found it complimentary for other people to do that. And he’s a fairly reasonable person in most respects, so that’s helped me to accept that maybe some people (specifically men) are just dense when it comes to assuming that we find it flattering? He doesn’t do it, and hasn’t for as long as I’ve known him and probably much longer, but I was surprised to find out how shocked HE was that I was so incredibly upset by it.

  34. “Catcalls don’t count as compliments or greetings for me– they’re People Yelling That I Can’t See. When I was younger, I’d get, “The seventies are over, you dumb bitch!” or, “Hey kung fu!” if I was wearing my favorite tie-dyed shirt or going to karate. A few months ago, I got some string of obscenity from a car. Catcalls tend to be vulgar and boring– “WHOO!”– and they fall into the same category of negativity.”

    Yes, that.

    I generlaly think of myself as never getting catcalled at, but that’s because I *do* interpret all yelling as negative in most city settings. I once had a female stranger yell “Nice dress!” to me out of a car window, and I completely felt attacked and tensed up for the minute or so it took me to figure out what had happened.

    “Whoo!” from a frat boy at 3 am doesn’t usually feel like a comment on my attractiveness or lack thereof so much as… a way of trying to intrude on me, or a potential attack.

    On the other hand, compliments from strangers in the casual beach town where I went to college almost never felt intrusive or inappropriate.

  35. I moved from Washington, DC, to a city outside the US where street harassment is almost nonexistent. Every day it’s like a damn miracle that I don’t get verbally assaulted on the way to work, on my bike, what have you. Just to go from a place where I was street-harassed EVERY DAY to not getting it at all is the most refreshing thing, I swear. And women here wear heels, short skirts, etc., so the tired excuse that what we wear invites the harassment is empirically disproven! Also, men’s gaze is much more respectful here – no/very little outright leering, etc.

    Street harassment makes me crazy – it restricts my right to public space by constantly making me feel on my guard, and up for public male consumption. There are streets I won’t walk down, in DC, because the harassment is so intense.

  36. The biggest factor for me in how I feel about street comments is how I think the speaker sees me. If I’m a tool to prop up his ego or bond with his buddies, I’m going to get pissed off. If I’m a punching bag for his control issues (“you’d look better if you’d smile – HATE!!!) or his general hostility to women, I’m going to get really pissed off. IF, on the other hand, he acts like he sees me as a fellow human being and is just trying to pass on a compliment (a REAL compliment – ie something he thinks I’d like to hear, rather than just something he wants to say), then it’s fine.

    Three rules that greatly increase a guy’s chances of talking at (cause let’s face it, that’s what it is) a strange woman without frightening her or pissing her off:

    1. use only language you wouldn’t be embarassed to have your mother or your daughter hear come out of your mouth

    2. use phrases that don’t show any expectation of a response (beyond maybe a smile) “Have a nice day, beautiful” is worlds away from “Hello beautiful” because one is used to start a conversation and one isn’t. If it’s coming from a total stranger, I’d rather hear the first; it shows he doesn’t expect anything of me.

    3. If you don’t get a response, SHUT UP.

  37. Adam,

    I’m more in tune with your closing thought than with what preceded it in your comment. Your suggestion that poorer men somehow are less “socialized” is, well, rather problematic. I’ve been harassed quite a few times by obviously well-off men who don’t hesitate to exhibit a sense of entitlement.

  38. It’s about sex, yes, but more about dominance.

    It’s about using sex to forcibly express dominance.

    Unless a man is saying “Good morning, sista” — in which case i will speak back — it’s about, as so many have said here — attempting to upset, harass, intimidate, and intrude upon a woman’s personal space.

    They “don’t know it bothers us”? Bump that.

    They’ve had at least 30 years to learn it, when women started to feel that they had the right to speak up about it.

    http://www.hollaback.org

    Katie, where do you live now? Can I move there and telecommute? :D

  39. And what harlemjd and ramineh said.

    Dominance/entitlement complexes don’t come with a specific class attached.

    Anyone who believes they do hasn’t seen the pack of rich drunken frat boys howling off their house porches, or fanning out on the streets like they own them — which, indeed, some of their families do — on a party night.

  40. Here they honk since I live in one of the city in the west where everyone drives cars. I throw them the finger, and if some guy hassles me on the street I cuss him out in order to get attention because he could be a rapist. You never know because some guy could pull you in his car. This way other men will ask me if he is bothering me and I say yes. Then the guy backs off. This is America and a woman has to be street smart and careful. Also walk like you will kick the shit out of someone if they mess with you when you are alone. I live near a university and the rape rate is the highest in my part of the city I live in. Weirdos seem to be attracted to colleges like flies.
    Once when I was a teenager some guys were catcalling my five sisters and me. My older sister went up to their car and she told them off then she made them apologize to all of us. My older sister is a skinny thing but you don’t piss her off. I guess that we get this from being raised by a West Point grad. My dad was an army officer and a feminist so he raised his girls to be tough women.

  41. Also when I’m with my twenty two year old son he gets pissed off when guys do this to his mom. He will tell the men that they are being a jerk if they do it to me or one of his female friends. My son was raised to respect women. Women find it easy to be friends with him because he grew up surrounded with women, so he knows how to talk to women without insulting them. My son was raised to be a gentlemen.

  42. I am a man who never catcalls (but I am into men more than women, so this may not be useful information). I have always seen cat-calls as a part of a power dynamic. Men cat-call not only as a sexual advance but a means to exert an amount of control over women. I agree with rahimeh that is not class issue. It is a part of male socialization in which men are taught about their dominance over women. While I am sure this is not always true, it seems that men cat-call to assert their power either over women who are either “too powerful” or the “sexual ideal.”

  43. Up till my 20’s I didn’t think about it. I shamefully admit that I didn’t do it when I was young only because I was rather shy. But then I read an article about Street Harassment and objectifying women and it crystallized the issue completely. After that I empathized with women dealing with this crap. Guys know it bothers most women but if you asked them I am sure they couldn’t tell you why. For them it’s all about controlling what they think is their environment and seeing women as part of that environment. I try to educate brothers but it’s such a bad problem. Somebody needs to teach the kids about it so they won’t grow up thinking it’s ok.

  44. I ignore or laugh AT them, depending on my mood.

  45. littlem – of course! Come on over! It’s Seoul, btw.

    Of course, I’m speaking only from my experience as a basically femme-presenting woman. Anyone who doesn’t fit gender norms or racial norms experiences more staring, and there is definitely queerbashing, but that specific kind of street harassment – men harassing women – is pretty nonexistent.

    Not to derail, but I realize I didn’t clarify, or rather, qualify.

  46. I’m a man. Have never catcalled and have always been baffled by this bizzare behavior. It’s clearly not an effective way to connect with women, so it’s got to be something else going on. May be different motivations/pathologies for different guys.

    I would fault no woman for heaping scorn and derision on a catcaller. That’s what I’d expect to get if I engaged in such assholery.

  47. Hi rahimeh,

    You stated; ” I’ve been harassed quite a few times by obviously well-off men who don’t hesitate to exhibit a sense of entitlement.”

    Yes, I neglected to mention the whole entitlement issue. I know exactly what you are saying. I used the word ” socialized” for lack of a better word. I usually try to throw my disclaimer that I might be off track or off target.

    Further, I have been out of this scene for more than 15 years now. To some…I am an old man.

  48. I hate cat calls. I always feel it like a slap.

    “Hey You! Get back inside your proscribed gender role! You look like you might be having an independent or powerful thought!”

    Oddly enough, what is yelled seems to vary between “ugly fat bitch” and “Ay mami!”

  49. This reminds me of an incident I witnessed my freshman year of college. I was walking to class on a crowded sidewalk with lots of other students. A guy in a nearby dorm called out a girl walking near me. He first described what she was wearing so she knew he was talking about her and then he described what he’d like to do to her. I was appalled as were other people in the crowd. She just kept a straight face and kept walking, although she was clearly pissed off. No one could tell who was saying it because it was coming from an upper floor and the screens in front of the windows make it tough to tell if someone’s standing there. In retrospect I wish I’d said something.

  50. The more I learn I learn about catcalls, the more I appreciate the term “street harassment”.

    A couple of my stories:

    The first time I took the bus into the city, I was actually having a pretty awesome day. I didn’t have to drive around for half an hour looking for a parking lot that wasn’t full or a garage that wouldn’t charge me an arm and a leg; I could read while I ride; and I got a little exercise. When I got off the bus on my return trip, I walked to a croner and waited until the light changed. A nice-looking older man pulled up and “Hi! How’re you doing’?” Where I live it isn’t uncommon to have conversations with complete strangers. At the time, I didn’t feel cautious or angry ot suspicious, so we exchanged a few pleasantries. Then he said, “What’s a fine young thing like you doing standing on that corner?”

    Ruined my whole day. Afterwards, I tried to ignore him – he started telling me to get into his car, among things – and when that light finally changed, I ran as fast my heels could carry me.

    Another story:

    I work at a residential facility for delinquent youth. I hate walking down a crowded hallway when the kids are changing classes or going to lunch or rec. I call it “The Gauntlet”; not a day goes by when I walk down the hall and one of the boys whistle or say someting rude. What bothers me the most is that the kids are under the supervision of the guards. The guards can right them up for being out of their assigned area, using profanity, not following instructions, etc. But not one guard will write up the boys for harassing the female staff. I’ve talked about this with my female coworkers – how we must take a Workplace Harassment course every fiscal year as part of our job duites, but nothing is said about the harassment we receive from the “students”. One could say that it’s a hazard that comes with the job, and I might believe them if we working in an adult prison. But we’re dealing with youth, youth that we’re supposed to be helping to return to the community. That kind of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated.

  51. I really see catcalling and street harassment as a minor form of stalking… Lucky me, I’m too homely to be worth catcalling after, but I’ve walked with friends and they’ve been catcalled and I’ve definitely been able to observe the behavior as more of a third party–it’s not uncommon for a woman who is being catcalled to have her “admirer” follow her for a few paces down the street, to add to the intimidation and feeling of being targeted.

    It would be nice if we could prosecute this. I’m not sure how we could do it legally, but it’s not just “random flattery” — it’s a very aggressive behavior that’s aimed at women with implications of sexual violence.

  52. I’ve had catcalls turn violent in seconds when the caller didn’t get his desired reaction.

    Somedays I can’t even go out into the streets because I have social anxiety and the catcalls invite everyone to look at me.

    Catcalls can be humiliating.

    But sometimes if I’m in a car full of my girls I will yell hey to a cutie or two and laugh. There’s something innocent and human in it, but this has disappeared and now we just have harassment.

  53. Oh god, the comments over at that CNN article are so disgusting. Why is there a need to open up discussion threads on news articles?

    As for myself, I thank the gods for my IPod. It completely tunes out any catcalls and I get to hold on to the small amount of sanity I have left.

  54. My sister used to respond to the kissing-sound version of catcalling by saying “I’m not a fucking dog!”

    I was never brave enough for that, I always just tried to ignore them and keep going. Of course, that wasn’t enough, because often it would escalate to “what’s the matter, you too good for me?”

    It’s definitely predatory, and it always made me feel threatened. If it was just complimentary (which has happened once or twice) I’d just smile and say thanks. Usually, though, my subconscious fight-or-flight mechanism would go on alert and I’d try to move on as quickly as I could.

    Incidentally, my cats take exception to the term “catcalling”.

    yliza

  55. I think it’s a power thing definitely. How I react depends on the circumstances. If someone pinches me, my face or pats my ass, usually they’ll get a stronger response.

    What’s discouraging is the number of younger men in early to mid teens that do it. Starting out young, but in their own way, those are the worst maybe b/c of that.

  56. It seems to me that many poorer men (of all racial brands and stripes) have not acquired the “socialization” that we have grown accustomed to in both academia and the work place – not to mention the impact family and parents also have had on our lives. I have known many people who have traveled abroad and noted similar experiences – poorer men hanging out on the corners catcalling, yet those who are upwardly mobile tend to much more mellow in public.

    no, that’s not it.

    most men, period, but especially most men of whatever group does the most harassing, don’t harass.

    most men don’t harass. seriously. look around you when you walk down most streets. most of the men on the street are minding their own business. that’s why you don’t notice them: because they’re not calling your attention to them.

    the men who DO harrass are always, ALWAYS the ones whose status in the world is endangered or in question. that’s why the commenter above thought it was lower-income men. in certain places at certain times, lower-income men might find their jobs, incomes, status in danger more than higher-income men. so yes, in certain places in certain times there might be more harassment from low-income men.

    but not always. i always give this example: i went to college in tucson arizona where there’s a huge chicano population of every class and generation (i mean distance from immigrant generation). there were tons of very low-income chicanos in tucson, whose positions were uncertain and unstable. whenever i got street harrassment it was ALWAYS from a chicano man. and i heard (white) women talking all the time about how it was “their culture.”

    then i spent a summer during college in chicago in bucktown (this was around 1990, before the area gentrified), which was at the time a predominantly latino neighborhood–mostly chicano. the neighborhood was solidly working class and stable. i NEVER got harassed there. NOT ONCE.

    note, these were not well-off people, and there were plenty of groups of men and adolescent boys hanging out here and there, but i didn’t hear them harassing anyone.

    everywhere i’ve lived in the world, where there’s harassment, it’s from men whose positions are embattled. and they’ll harass any women, but they’ll particularly harass women who seem to them to be vulnerable to harassment: women who look different, who are walking alone. the harassment is about gaining power, and they’re not interested in risking a further loss of power by being turned on.

    this more than anything is why white women and older women are often harassed less. because they have more power and/or are more likely to turn on and humiliate their harassers.

    a personal note: as i’ve gotten older, harassment of me has not abated. what HAS changed is that, as i’ve gotten fatter and less attractive, men have STOPPED telling me i’m ugly. back when i was young and hot, men would tell me i was ugly in a blatant attempt to make me feel bad about myself. why? you may not be able to get a job, or housing, or a girlfriend, but at any moment, you DO have the power to make an attractive woman feel bad.

    also, the pleasure in publicly humiliating a woman does not abate as she gets older and fatter. as long as she continues to appear vulnerable to attack, she will be attacked.

  57. I’m a guy and I don’t catcall but frankly I’m too shy to talk to women. I really don’t think catcalling is all about power. Or at least not the power that it can actually have over the target.

    I agree that catcalling is a predatory tactic due to its nature of picking out a target pursuing it. The lion doesn’t chase down the zebra to prove to the zebra that they’re weak, the lion did it becuase it hungry. Like the lion the catcaller wants to have their target respond positively in hopes to getting said target into bed. But if the person being catcalled (or the zebra) manage to escape or fight back the lion will just give up and look for another target.

    Now there is no doubt that being catcalled can lead to the person being called feel insecure but I don’t think that is the power the catcaller is after, or else the caller would actively pursue the target after they try to leave (which I understand does happen but as far as I can tell not in the majority of situations).

    But like any good predator that realizes the current tactic is not working, she/he will has to adopt a new tactic or starve.

    Catcallers want to get their targets into bed. Well many of the people on this board alone that have been the target of catcalling have said that such remarks don’t make them want to go to bed with the caller but instead makes them want to flee or react quite negatively. And for the most part once the target either leaves or takes a stand the caller will shout an insult and move on, in search of the next one.

  58. Danny, not meaning to bum you out in any way, but do you get that what you’re saying is, “I don’t do this, and I’ve never had it done to me, but I understand it better than those of you who have”? I think you probably mean well and want to be helpful, but I don’t think you really understand this phenomenon better than anyone else here, given that you have relatively little experience with it.

    The guy who yelled “Hey baby, you and me could do some POWER fuckin’!'” as I walked by him and his friends one evening knew perfectly well this would not attract me or any other woman. That being the case, no, he didn’t need to pursue me, as he’d achieved his end, which was to look like a badass to his friends. I just kept walking, although I was shaking with laughter, as come on, that’s hilarious.

    I have to say that I’ve also received, from both young and old men, what I would consider to be the benign form of — well, I don’t want to call it catcalling; public compliment, maybe. I do think it’s a cultural thing, and that it can be a true and not at all degrading expression of simple appreciation coming from the right person. But I also think that that’s the far less frequent type.

  59. Danny,
    I don’t know that I buy that getting someone into bed is the goal. You said:
    …I don’t think that is the power the catcaller is after, or else the caller would actively pursue the target after they try to leave

    but frankly, I kind of feel like that’s a point against your argument. As far as I know, sex requires- at some point- physical contact, meaning that you’d probably want someone to get *closer* to you. Men who are catcalling often *don’t* approach women- they call from across the street as we’re briskly walking past, or from their cars. While I’ve gotten *hit on* by guys in close range, everything I would categorize as “catcalling” has been when I’m seperated from them somehow. How is that conducive to getting someone into bed? Do they really think a woman will come over and say “Why, yes! I do have a nice ass, I’m so glad you noticed!” Has that ever worked? In the history of ever? (okay, knowing the universe, possibly it has. Once. Maybe.) Even when women say they take it as a compliment, I’ve never heard one say they then *approached* the guy.

    Up close flirting is one thing- it can be anywhere from flattering to frightening based on the situation, but there I’ll grant you the guy’s probably trying to get some. But from across the street? From a moving car? I don’t buy it. I just don’t.

  60. I have to be honest here, how I feel about catcalls depends on four things: The appearance and demeanor of the man doing the catcalling, the environment in which said catcalling takes place, precisely what is said and how, and most importantly, how I feel on any given day. I would hardly be offended if the man in question were attractive. In fact I might just give him a little wiggle as I keep on walking! But no matter how attractive the man I’m sure I’d be mightily insulted if he used vulgar speech and gestured suggestively and aggressively. I think many women can agree that a simple, “Hey there pretty lady” (Or something equally benign) said with a smile is nonthreatening and a bit of an ego boost. It’s being treated like a used blow up doll that drives many of us around the bend! I think there will always be men and women who simply don’t get it and they don’t get it for a variety of reasons which several people have already posted here but I truly believe that most men know better and would never intentionally make a woman feel uneasy.

    Yet I understand woman he just plain don’t want to hear any of it! I still bare a few psychological scars from my encounters with men when I was a young girl. One night I went to sleep a normal little girl but when I awoke the next morning I was a curvy young woman and everyone had an opinion on my body. Puberty was horrific enough by itself without all the unsolicited opinions from every Joe Shmo on the street! Even now when I power walk in the park in the evenings I will occasionally hear a horn toot or a yell from someone driving by. Does it piss me off? Yes! Do I hold it inside and let it fester? No! Do I try to push the passage of laws to get men to shut the hell up and let a Sista exercise in peace? No…but it has crossed my mind on several occasions. No, I just turn up the volume on my iPod and keep steppin’.

    I know there are situations where a woman can’t simply “turn up the volume” which is why I’m happy for spaces like this but at the same time it seems a little…self-indulgent…for women to get so completely worked up over this issue! Can more be done to educate men and women on this subject? Of course! But making the good guys feel like they can’t say anything to a woman or look at her too long is not the way to go about it. Let’s face it, a guy who thinks it’s okay to tell a woman exactly what he’d like to do to her in the most graphic of terms is probably a lost cause. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water ladies!

  61. hey Danny wassup. i don’t wanna “bum you out” either, but i really gotta disagree with you. I am with Susie, we are not in a position to define the female experience to other women. Also, I am not sure how you define power, but by your allegory of predator and prey dynamics, it seems that you might believe that power is only a valid expression when the outcome is favorable to the one in power.

    for me, its pretty simple.
    We live under patriarchy. Patriarchy grants men power, including the privilege to access and dominate spaces. Street harassment makes public spaces unsafe for women, and an arena for gross amusement and predatory behavior for men. Therefore, street harassment is male dominance of public spaces, which is an expression of male power under patriarchy.

    Does this resonate?

  62. Danny – the MOST common form of catcall I get is men walking past me, not making eye contact and saying hello as they are just past me. of course at that point it’s too late for me to respond without awkwardness, or even be sure they’re talking to me and not someone else.

    That is, until they start screaming about what a stuck-up fucking bitch I am for ignoring them. Sometimes they also tell me what they ought to do to a snotty bitch like me.

    Cat calls are not clumsy pick-ups. They are an excuse to insult and/or frighten women.

  63. right on Susie.

  64. richard

    Also, I am not sure how you define power, but by your allegory of predator and prey dynamics, it seems that you might believe that power is only a valid expression when the outcome is favorable to the one in power.

    That is where I was trying to come from but now that I’m rethinking what I posted and rolling it around in my head along with these replies its pretty obvious I need to do more thinking.

    Susie

    Danny, not meaning to bum you out in any way, but do you get that what you’re saying is, “I don’t do this, and I’ve never had it done to me, but I understand it better than those of you who have”?

    Sorry if that came off as arrogant. I really wasn’t trying to bust up your discussion acting as if I knew better than you all did. After reading this I was trying to think of this from the angle of the caller. Not to try to justify the caller’s actions but try to figure out why they do it.

    I had a thought on a subject. I posted it. It was busted to hell. That’s what getting educated is all about. And don’t worry about “bumming me out”. You disagreed with me and kept the conversation civil.

  65. Heh.

    Bug Girl, if you look at the Catcall Timeline in terms of men exerting their perceived entitlement to dominance, it makes perfect sense to me.

    Here’s how it goes:

    1) “Ay mami!”

    2) “You look like you might be having an independent or powerful thought ! Get back within your prescribed gender role!”

    3) “Ugly fat bitch!”

    See?

  66. Sorry –

    between 1 and 2, or 2 and 3, should include:

    [Catcalling Male perceives rejection or lack of acknowledgment from perceived Female Target Object]

  67. What bothers me the most is that the kids are under the supervision of the guards. The guards can right them up for being out of their assigned area, using profanity, not following instructions, etc. But not one guard will write up the boys for harassing the female staff. I’ve talked about this with my female coworkers – how we must take a Workplace Harassment course every fiscal year as part of our job duites, but nothing is said about the harassment we receive from the “students”.

    Angel, I’m sure I’m about to open up a can of worms here, but has anyone on female staff – ever – at any level – said anything to any of the guards, or their supervisors, at any level, about this?

    Or if someone at some level has been once approached and it “hasn’t done any good”, has there been — and it can be either group or anonymous; one individual doesn’t necessarily have to live in fear of losing her job – any outreach to the Governor (I’m assuming this is a state facility)? To the press?

  68. As for myself, I thank the gods for my IPod.

    L-K, you may want to be careful with the i-Pod in an open space. You want to have all the sense input available to try and anticipate possible assault so you can maximize your chances of getting away unhurt if it happens. (Yes, it sucks.)

    When you’re out walking, you may want to consider sunglasses and the iPod with the volume shut off, so you give off that “impenetrable” vibe but you’re not leaving yourself as vulnerable.

    Just a suggestion.

  69. the men who DO harrass are always, ALWAYS the ones whose status in the world is endangered or in question.

    *raises eyebrows*

    You aren’t acquainted with very many rich frat boys, are you, claire?

  70. Catcallers want to get their targets into bed. Well many of the people on this board alone that have been the target of catcalling have said that such remarks don’t make them want to go to bed with the caller but instead makes them want to flee or react quite negatively. And for the most part once the target either leaves or takes a stand the caller will shout an insult and move on, in search of the next one.

    Danny, this is a generalization. It can’t necessarily be extrapolated to situations you’ve neither witnessed or personally experienced.

    It’s one thing to say: “X is what I think, because I’ve seen Y, and Z is how I’ve reacted to it or what other of my acquaintance have told me they were thinking.”

    But if that’s what you were trying to say, then say that. It’s not necessarily helpful to make a declarative statement that sounds like your experience is what everyone has therefore experienced.

    And I think you’re right that, since catcalls are generally couched in sexual language (although, with the ladies who have described situations where all that was yelled at them was “ugly bitch”, not always), that sexual desire may be a component of the harassment. But it’s not the only component.

    I notice a lot of times when discussing things with men, you all have a tendency to classify incidents and reactions as caused by this OR that. A OR B. Sex OR violence.

    Humans are more complex than that. Sometimes it’s both.

  71. Oh shoot. ABW, would you fix that “blockquote” close for me, please?

    *hides face*

  72. GDiva, what I hear you doing is distinguishing between what Susie described as a catcall and what she described as a public compliment.

    Here’s how I see it. MOST men think of themselves as “good guys”. I’ve never met one that didn’t.

    If you point out something they did that you have a problem with, more frequently than not it causes cognitive dissonance for them to the point where their heads explode, and their tempers alongside, right behind the heads. :D

    With very rare exceptions once they perceive themselves as “grown”, men don’t listen when women rebuke them.

    What DOES work — I’ve seen it work, I’ve read about how it works; I’ve heard men say it worked on them — is when the “good guys” pull the catcallers aside, or shout at them across the street, or whatever’s appropriate for the situation, with a variant on “Hey, man. NOT COOL.” I think in social psychology it’s called something like “community self-policing”.

    But, given the dynamics of our society as it currently exists, any so-called “good guy” who, when faced with such a situation, makes a pattern of ignoring it with a shrug because it’s “not his problem”??

    Sorry. IMO ,not a “good guy”.

    Now I think I understand that you don’t want to give up the masculine attention you feel you’ve earned by virtue of your attention to feminine grooming and self care (or whatever). I think what you have to ask yourself is whether it’s worth it to you to ask the “good guys” in your life to keep a lookout to check “brothers” who are harassing sisters so we can ALL feel safe, and not just you? Is it worth it to relinquish your “right” to positive male attention for the interim time it would take for all “good guys” to learn to actively look out for all sisters so we can all feel safe?

    (I will also reiterate what another commenter upthread pointed out — a “catcall” can turn into “physical assault” faster than you can say “blink”.)

    Just as being biologically male doesn’t make a male a man, thinking one is a “good guy” doesn’t automatically make one a “good guy”.

    It’s about what you DO.

  73. The problem with saying that a catcall’s skeeziness or lack thereof depends on the man giving it is that it say that an attractive man can say worse things to women *because* he is attractive, and of course that gives him an out. Hot guys are no more virtuous than unhot guys.

    Besides, I can’t remember ever getting a good look at a catcaller. They are safely anonymous, while I am vulnerable and exposed.

  74. littlem:

    I’m not sure if anybody has ever really approached someone – a guard, supervisor, etc – on the problem. But, after posting here, I’m going to definitely bring it up at our next staff meeting.

    Mighty Ponygirl:

    Lucky me, I’m too homely to be worth catcalling after

    I mean this in general and not towards you personally, but I really think that one of the big issues as to why street harassment isn’t taken seriously by the mainstream is the idea of “She ought to be happy that somebody paid any attention to her.” I’m 300+ lbs. and not only do I get harassed at work (see above), but I’m also harassed by strangers on the street using rude, disgusting, and yes, sexual language. One thing that must be understood (again, I’m using the general “you”) is that catcalling/street harassment is more about power and less about sex and lust. Also:

    I really see catcalling and street harassment as a minor form of stalking…

    I love with that comment!

    L-K

    As for myself, I thank the gods for my IPod. It completely tunes out any catcalls and I get to hold on to the small amount of sanity I have left.

    I tried using my iPod, too. I’m glad it works for somebody. Unfortunately, my assholes usually see it as a challenge.

  75. Good question – I look at it this way:
    Someone walking past me and saying I look nice will be met with a polite ‘thank you’. I can’t get mad at someone for stating the facts :-)

    Facetiousness aside, someone shouting at me from across the street will be met with total silence. I don’t even look in their direction or acknowledge the guy’s presence. Sometimes I don’t have my mp3 or phone to fiddle with. I just blank them out totally.

    This actually happened a little while ago. For some reason, a minority of men seem to think that a woman being dressed up or simply wearing a skirt without pantyhose on a warm day is inviting them to chat. It isn’t. I was wearing a black dress that came down to the knee, and a pair of scruffy Ugg boots. A mechanic who works near the local garage I walked past started shouting, ‘Hey baby! You want a lift?’ and other things to get my attention. I kept walking. A couple of hours later, I went past again, and the mechanic simply sucked his teeth as I walked past. That same morning, a guy walking a few paces behind me was clearly trying to get my attention – ‘Hey. You… you in the black dress’. I turned, made sure to get a good look at him, so he knew I knew he was referring to me – and pointedly ignored him before crossing the road and upping the pace.

    The bottom line is, if a man wants to get a woman’s attention, he should be respectful. If he walks past me and comments on my ‘nice tits’ as one guy did, he’d better be prepared for a mouthful of abuse. Even outright staring is met with hostility; if you want to look I can’t stop you, but don’t be rude about it.

    These fools are banking on the woman being too frightened to say anything, but I find that somehow they’re not so full of witty remarks when you call them out. Of course, there are instances where you shut up and leg it, if you feel things will turn nasty.

    At the end of the day, it’s a form of bullying – picking on someone you don’t think will retaliate, because for various reasons – like, I don’t know, you have a penis? – you are stronger than them. Sorry, but it ain’t necessarily so.

  76. Yeah, for me what differentiates a compliment I’m insulted by and one I’m okay with isn’t the physical attractiveness of the person making it — if he’s a disrespectful asshole, he becomes unattractive to me immediately, no matter what he looks like. It’s my sense of the spirit in which the compliment’s intended. If I honestly think it’s innocent in intent and meant only to give me a smile — and every now and then, I do think that’s the case — then fine. But as I say, that’s relatively rare.

  77. littlem:
    But if that’s what you were trying to say, then say that. It’s not necessarily helpful to make a declarative statement that sounds like your experience is what everyone has therefore experienced.

    As I said it wasn’t my intent to act as if my own experiences with catcalling were the yard stick that everyone else show measure by.

  78. From about the ages of 10 (!!!!!!!!!) to 25 I got catcalled at, followed, stalked and in one case even assaulted by men on the street. A complement like “I love that smile!” or when I was living in New York, “Love those shoes!” might startle me because I’m hyper-vigilant, but they won’t upset me. Everything else has humiliated and terrified me, because I don’t know if it’s a prelude to an assault.

    I’m 27 now, and in the past three years I’ve gained about 15 pounds. I rarely get bothered anymore and I wonder if that’s the reason, too.

  79. From what I’ve read in here (coming to it a bit late!) there seems to be at least two different types of catcalling that get conflated. They’re probably related, but do different things.

    One seems to be a ‘simple’ (if that’s possible!) ‘assert dominance’ type catcall, which is aimed at any woman, regardless of how she looks. It’s general policing of male space. It can use sexual language, but is not necessarily about desire. It’s picking out someone, who for some reason, appears weak/socially different and asserting dominance.

    The second seems to be aimed a women who present ‘attractiveness/femininity’ in some way (clothing etc.). This is catcalling that may well be motivated by sexual desire, but is fuelled by resentment to it. You know how it is – ascribing too much power to the ones who can arouse you? They have the power to do this – but they’ve got to be put back in place for it?

  80. As I said before, I really think that by affirming any sexual desire on the part of the harassers, we are setting a very dangerous precedent (“If she didn’t want attention, she shouldn’t dress that way”…”She was asking for it”…”Just look at her! She should be thankful for the attention”…)

  81. catcalling is fucked up. but compliments are too sometimes. sometimes a woman just wants to walk without being in that terrible mindspace of self-consciousness and when I’m complimented it sometimes feels like a reminder- oh, yeah, beauty is all i’m supposed to be good for and people are looking at me and scrutinizing my looks at every minute.

    there is this old italian guy in neighborhood who sings songs in italian to me everytime he sees me and i like that. it makes me laugh everytime. it feels old country to me :)

  82. I am an African American woman…and I get a kick out of catcalls directed at me…when done right. I always have. And before anyone labels me as having low self esteem, please don’t. My self esteem is in tact. And I’m proud to say that, at age 46, the face is still pretty, the body is still bangin’ (and I work hard to keep it that way), and I attract younger and older men. A “DAMN you look GOOD, ma!” or a “Sista, you are WEARING that dress!” or smiles and looks of appreciation really make my day…I will smile and say thank you…and I’ve been known to compliment the man/men in question (if they look good)

    Last summer, as I exited my bus and walked toward my workplace, I looked across the street and saw two very FINE brothas who were sanitation workers…looked like they were taking a break. One caught me looking, tapped his partner, they both looked and smiled; one hollered that I look good, I hollered back that they BOTH looked good…and blew them both a kiss. Oh, they carried on over that air kiss…the first one said, “Baby you just made my day!!” I wished them both a good day, they wished me the same, blew them another kiss, and kept it moving. I honestly don’t ever remember a man being disrespectful in his catcalling…the “worst” comment I’ve gotten was that I “have a great future behind me…” to which I just rolled my eyes and kept going.

    As a woman, I have an appreciation of my inner self, but I also have an appreciation of my outer self. Men appreciate attractiveness/sexiness in a woman. And I appreciate men who see attractiveness/sexiness in me. So I say let the brothas keep hollerin’ (as long as they are not being disrespectful), and if the mood strikes me, I will definitely holla back!!

    I definitely understand that men can get really nasty and ugly with catcalling, and that is definitely disrespectful…but I’m wondering why so many of my sistas get annoyed at brothas who look at them, or even say hello to them? I’ve been close up on situations where a brotha simply greets a sista, and she barely says a word…

    Lastly…then I’m gonna duck and run because the women here might chase me down for saying this (LOL), but … you cannot leave your home looking hot and sexy, and not expect men to notice…to look/stare, or make a comment….the nasty comments are uncalled for, sure enough. But if you don’t want to be noticed, leave your house looking as drab and as house frow-ish as possible.

    …what would women who are sexy and attractive to men do or say if one day, men just totally ignored you, didn’t look at you, didn’t compliment you?

  83. Lastly…then I’m gonna duck and run because the women here might chase me down for saying this (LOL), but … you cannot leave your home looking hot and sexy, and not expect men to notice…to look/stare, or make a comment….the nasty comments are uncalled for, sure enough. But if you don’t want to be noticed, leave your house looking as drab and as house frow-ish as possible.

    The problem is that catcalling is not limited to women who do not look “drab.” I look drabbish all the time, pretty gender-neutral, even “masculine” at times. Am I void from catcalls? No. I’m pretty sure the majority of women who responded would say the same. Just yesterday alone, I was looking like crap, it was raining, standard jeans, hoodie, just walking minding my own business, a maintenance guy who was sweeping, tells me “hey mama,” all up in my ear and I automatically respond, “I’m not your mother” to which he responds “so what are you then, a bitch?” And just a minute before that, I received another earful (literally) of “holasss” from another man, so f**kin’ nasty. This is not a greet. This is getting up into people’s personal space. Who the hell greets people that they don’t know like this, particularly on the busy streets of NYC where people are in a hurry and have places to go?

    …what would women who are sexy and attractive to men do or say if one day, men just totally ignored you, didn’t look at you, didn’t compliment you?
    See, when I do dress “sexy” I do because I want to, I do it for myself, and I definitely don’t need validation from some random males on the street.

  84. Lastly…then I’m gonna duck and run because the women here might chase me down for saying this (LOL), but … you cannot leave your home looking hot and sexy, and not expect men to notice…to look/stare, or make a comment….the nasty comments are uncalled for, sure enough. But if you don’t want to be noticed, leave your house looking as drab and as house frow-ish as possible.

    The problem is that catcalling is not limited to women who do not look “drab.” I look drabbish all the time, pretty gender-neutral, even “masculine” at times. Am I void from catcalls? No. I’m pretty sure the majority of women who responded would say the same. Just yesterday alone, I was looking like crap, it was raining, standard jeans, hoodie, just walking minding my own business, a maintenance guy who was sweeping, tells me “hey mama,” all up in my ear and I automatically respond, “I’m not your mother” to which he responds “so what are you then, a bitch?” And just a minute before that, I received another earful (literally) of “holasss” from another man, so f**kin’ nasty. This is not a greet. This is getting up into people’s personal space. Who the hell greets people that they don’t know like this, particularly on the busy streets of NYC where people are in a hurry and have places to go?

    …what would women who are sexy and attractive to men do or say if one day, men just totally ignored you, didn’t look at you, didn’t compliment you?

    See, when I do dress “sexy” I do because I want to, I do it for myself, and I definitely don’t need validation from some random males on the street.

  85. Rhonda,
    I’m glad that you’ve had positive experiences with the compliments. However, not everyone enjoys the attention. I have anxiety issues, so ANYONE looking at me for longer than a glance starts to freak me out. I get increasingly self-conscious if I feel like I’m under constant scrutiny, so what a man thinks is an admiring look is actually yet another set of eyes inspecting me for flaws.

    “You cannot leave your home looking hot and sexy, and not expect men to notice…to look/stare, or make a comment.”

    Why not? Women are expected not to yell, “Nice ass!” at young men walking alone.

    “But if you don’t want to be noticed, leave your house looking as drab and as house frow-ish as possible.”

    OK, this is silly. Do I have to bring a change of clothes, shoes and makeup when I plan to meet my girlfriend, just so that some asshole won’t catcall? The only person to blame is the one who is yelling, not the person being yelled at.

    “…what would women who are sexy and attractive to men do or say if one day, men just totally ignored you, didn’t look at you, didn’t compliment you?”

    Women who are attractive to men may not be interested in attracting a man. Some may be married, or even -gasp!- lesbians. They might not want to date a man who thinks it’s fine to stare/leer or be vulgar to a woman they’ve never met.

  86. Rhonda,

    As stated earlier, many of us – myself included – don’t mind a well-placed compliment. But if the comment is rude, lewd, and just plain nasty, not only is it inappropriate, but it can also turn into a very scary situation. It’s great that you manage to find an upside with it, but I sincerely hope you realize that it’s not the case with all of us.

    I’ve been close up on situations where a brotha simply greets a sista, and she barely says a word…

    Why should she have to?

    … you cannot leave your home looking hot and sexy, and not expect men to notice…to look/stare, or make a comment….

    This happened around this time last year: I just bought a new dress (on clearance! 75% off, y’all!) and I couldn’t wait to wear it. My hair was done, I added a touch of jewelry, and I fetl – and looked! – damn good! After that day, it took me weeks to get the courage to wear that dress again…The “catcalling” did not stop. Mind you, all I wanted to do was to feel good and look good for me that day. I wanted a day to be girly. It wasn’t about “the menz”. (Shocker: Not everything is!) If they noticed, they noticed; if not, oh well. I couldn’t care less. As a matter of fact, what gave me such a great high that morning was that I found such an awesome dress at such a great deal! Whenever I was complimented by a friend or coworker, I would say, “Thank you! Regular $75, but I got it for $15!”

    My point is that just because a woman looks her best, it doesn’t mean that she’s doing it for a man. Of course since your “self esteem is in tact” you realize that a woman’s self-worth shouldn’t depend on the men around her.

    But if you don’t want to be noticed, leave your house looking as drab and as house frow-ish as possible.

    Sometimes, I get the most comments when I leave the house in an old, oversized sweater and slacks.

  87. Thank you Angel. I’ve been getting comments since I hit puberty ,and really I don’t go through my life with an eye to whether or not strangers like the way I look. The problem is not women dressing nicely, it’s society telling men that they have some right to our bodies.

  88. Angel, you asked “why should she have to” to my comment that some sistas barely acknowledge a brothas’ greeting.

    It isn’t about having to, it’s about two human beings exchanging a greeting. It is simply a polite thing to do. Sometimes it’s a simple greeting, sometimes it leads to a nice conversation. Sometimes the conversation leads to an offer of a date. How are brothas supposed to get to know us, if we won’t even acknowledge a “good morning, sista”?

    It seems like some of us have a huge chip on our shoulders as respects black men…as I said, I’ve seen some sistas freeze a brotha out, over a simple “hello”. I can understand ignoring the knucklehead who is being disrespectful, but what is the reason for ignoring a respectful, subdued “hello” from a brotha? I don’t get it.

    You also said that you were glad I could find an upside to lewd, rude comments. For me, there is no upside to rude, lewd comments. In the situation I described, neither of those men were rude or lewd. As I also said, except for a handful of men who’ve made stupid remarks, they are ignored. They don’t scare me, and they don’t phase me.

    Lastly, I realize a woman’s self worth doesn’t soley depend on the men around her; however, physical attraction is a huge part of what initially draws men and women together. Men don’t look at women and say, “Damn, that intelligence looks good on her!” or, “Wow, her kindness is driving me crazy”, and women don’t do the same with regard to men. The recognition of good inner qualities comes after two people get past the “he/she’s fine as hell” factor.

    Again, I do not condone rude or disrespectful catcalling…but if we’re gonna keep it real, some sistas have a huge chip on their shoulders when it comes to men (black men), so anything he says or does is liable to piss her off. If he’s looking at her, it’s an issue. If he speaks, it’s an issue.

    We cannot control what men say to us. We can control how we respond to it. There are great guys out here who are respectful, and there are assholes. We can beat our heads against the wall talking about what the assholes shouldn’t do or say…or we can simply ignore them.

  89. Thing is, the best outcome for the assholes is ignoring them. They get away with it if you ignore them. They assume you’re happy if you ignore them. They assume the people around them accept and support the behavior if you ignore them. I’d rather make it clear that they are behaving in an unacceptable way.

    We have had very different experiences, Rhonda; you’ve learned to treat catcalls as flirting from friends, while I’ve learned… well, like I said above, I cannot see a difference between good and bad yells. I’m not sure which of the several differences between us is responsible for this.

    As for greetings, I’m willing to nod and/or say hello without expectation of reciprocity. Eye contact and a nod is my default. I’m not willing to have a conversation with someone I’ve met on the street just because I’ve met her or him on the street. I’m extremely not willing to go on a date with someone who yelled, “Nice legs!” at me from a car, or blared the horn, or called me a cocksucking bitch, or told me to smile because I’d look prettier.

    A nod is my way of saying, “Yes, there is a person there, and I have said hello.” I don’t remember faces. I don’t remember who said hello back and who scowled off. Anyone presuming that the nod means something is wrong.

  90. Rhonda, I do agree that acknowledging a respectful greeting is a polite thing to do. However, no one is ever obligated to reply to anyone. From my own experience, many men believe that we women are obligated to acknowledge them.

    Also, you speak alot about physical attraction between men and women. Please remember that some of us may be more interested in being physically attractive to other women. ;-)

    Unfortunately, those situations can open up a whole other nasty can of worms (to put it lightly).

  91. [...] posts on catcalling caught my eye lately, but it wasn’t until this today that the things I’ve been thinking [...]

  92. Angel, I kept up with that case, and I was totally in support of the young women who defended themselves against that idiot. IMO they should not have served one minute of prison time for defending themselves; hell, they never should have been charged, period.

    Buckle tried to portray himself as a victim in this case, but I knew he was anything but a victim.

  93. ^^^ so true…so true…

  94. I am a bit late to the conversation, but, I do want to state a few things.

    @Science Girl.

    I do believe that there is a racial issue to catcalls. In this country, as well as in the rest of the world, women are devalued. But, in America, since there is a racial hierarchy, white women are valued more than all other women in America, and black women are devalued more than all other women in America, with all women of other races in-between, on the racist hierarchy scale.

    I am not stating that white women do not receive rude insults (they most certainly do), but black and Latina women are more likely to be degraded, than white women. (You know us black women, sooooo unrapeable, freaky, lascivious, and Latina women are soooooo hot and fiery). Native American women—-hell—they are invisible to many people (especially since they suffer from rape more than any other racial group of women in America). While Asian women are the supposed submissive doll-type. Arabic/Jewish women I am not sure where they would fall on the scale, but, I guess unless they are Iranian, Iraqi or any woman whose religion demands that she wear head-to-toe covering, how often would such a woman be catcalled? Especially if her Middle-Eastern husband/male relatives were nearby? Speaking of Islamic societies, to anyone’s knowledge, is there such a thing in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, U.A.E., of catcalling? If there is, do they cut out the man’s tongue if he is found guilty of catcalling OR do they instead condemn the woman for his lewd behaviour, and give HER 50 lashes?

    @Rhonda.

    I hear you on the “good” comments SOME men can say, but, all catcalling is wrong, never justifiable.

    I decided to do a little experiment with men. I would pleasantly say hello to men of all races, just to see what their response would be. Nothing ulterior motive about it, just “Hello, how are you?” This was said to men at grocery stores, at bus tops, etc. (NO nightclubs, dives or juke joints—I am not the clubbing type).

    Anyway, when I greeted men, MOST of them looked at me as if I had cursed them out. Some of the black men looked at me as if I was some aberration; white men as if i was something they stepped into. A few men actually spoke back to me, without giving me the grisly what-the-hell-are-you? looks.

    What I am saying, Rhonda, is that it cuts both ways. I have had black men look at me as if I had insulted them just by looking them in the eye and smiling a nod towards them.

    So, Rhonda, what do you say to those black men who walk around with a chip on THEIR shoulders? If a man pleasantly speaks to me, I acknowledge his greeting. Of course, I don’t plan on going down on him, and neither should he expect me to. I just simply acknowledge his humanity.

    I do realize that women are not considered human in this man-worshipping society. I also realize that black women are not valued by millions of white men, Latino men, Asian men, Arabic men—and even some black men. So, when a black woman does speak to ANY man, SHE, may be taking a big chance.

    @Angel H.

    I agree with your comments. (And many of some other commentors.) If a woman does not speak back to a man, then she just has to be a *gasp* lesbian!—as if all women live for the day a man can rudely invade her space and insult her. Not mention that a *good fucking* will set her (the woman) right.

    Catcalls are a cruel and sadistic power-trip that gutless, insipid, weak-willed, spineless men do to garner support from there low-brow buddies. Not to mention that the man in question is not much of a man if he has to hurl curses, and nasty pejorative terms at a woman to get her attention.

    And as for what many commentors stated on the infamous “Smile”.

    I asked one man have you ever told a MAN to smile?

    All he could do was stand there and look stupid, and say that he never tells a man to smile.

    Well, I told him, you should, so that he could bust you in the mouth for having the nerve to tell him how to go about his daily life.

    Sorry for the long essay comment :)

  95. Catcalling’s nothing more than simpish behavior from desperate losers who can’t get past “pretty pleeeeeeezzzzzze lemme just smell it.” On the OTHER hand, they didn’t pull the idea out of thin air that this could be an end-run into a woman’s panties, and this is the oft overlooked problem.

    As long as you have females sending mixed signals–forget about wtf they SAY about it, you gotta also check wtf they DO about it–this shit will continue women get offended and pass ordinances or not.

    As long as y’all play this game of “well, at first, I was flattered by the attention but then, WHEN I GOT OLDER, then I realized it was objectification” BUZZZ!!! WRONG ANSWER! You gotta check yer sistren and spread the word that THEY gotta quit cosigning this nonsense.

    Man’s gonna do whatever it takes to bed down a woman, it’s one of the top incentives in ambition (money, power, women) and they’re not gonna listen to words they’re gonna study actions (cuz women since time immemorial have demonstrated that you’ll say one thing while meaning the complete opposite). And on this issue, if you want to MINIMIZE, you’re gonna have to, for instance, quit using summertime as an excuse to publicly expose as much flesh as legally permissible, basking in the OBVIOUS attention you’re addicted to and YOU KNOW you’re gonna get and then using the lame excuse, “oh, I’m just being sexually liberated from the shackles of modesty.” Give me a break.

    Now you may think that it’s untoward to suggest that it’s YOUR problem to fix, but look at it this way: when you switched up your behavior in terms of men doing all those “allow me, Ma’am” things like opening doors and pulling out chairs–instead of expressing gratitude you blew up in our faces accusing us of patronization–that shit went down drastically. Or course, paradoxically, you have women complaining about chivalry being dead but we’re ignoring that because y’all made the point loud and clear, through word AND deed, that you didn’t like it so we “shaped up.” Y’all gotta do likewise with the wolfwhistlers; stop saying you hate the attention while simultaneously going over the top to attract it, bottom line.

  96. And some girls end up DEAD because they wouldn’t give some catcaller their cell number ..

    http://www.racialicious.com/2008/05/25/when-catcalling-isnt-just-an-annoyance/#comments

  97. A) I’ll indulge in a broad but true generality: Any time – ANY TIME – a man OF ANY RACE gives a woman-stranger OF ANY RACE a cheesy smile and deliberate ‘hello’ on the street he is flirting. ‘Flirting’ does not always mean ‘belligerently proposing sexual activity’, or ‘getting ready to ask for a date’, but it’s also never ‘just hello’. I mean, how often do you see a hetero dude give a big corny grin and a slow hello to another dude? I’m not talking about the cautious “What’s up” or head nod, mind you.

    B) Ann said “Arabic/Jewish women I am not sure where they would fall on the scale, but, I guess unless they are Iranian, Iraqi or any woman whose religion demands that she wear head-to-toe covering, how often would such a woman be catcalled? Especially if her Middle-Eastern husband/male relatives were nearby? Speaking of Islamic societies, to anyone’s knowledge, is there such a thing in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, U.A.E., of catcalling? If there is, do they cut out the man’s tongue if he is found guilty of catcalling”

    Bwahahaha! Ignorant much? Read a fucking book, please! And no, *Not Without My Daughter” doesn’t count….

  98. @Saladin: “Bwahahaha! Ignorant much? Read a fucking book, please! And no, *Not Without My Daughter” doesn’t count….”

    Calm down, no need to lose your sanity and commit a belligerent breakdown. I merely asked questions.

    I do not live in countries like Yemen, etc., so I would surmise that there would not be ‘catcalling’ there as it would be in America. And I stand by what I stated…America treats its women as less than human, which is why women are catcalled in the first place.

    No, I do not need to read the book you suggested (and if you read that book, I would question your sanity and reading comprehension. Surely you have read better books I hope.)

    ” I mean, how often do you see a hetero dude give a big corny grin and a slow hello to another dude? I’m not talking about the cautious “What’s up” or head nod, mind you.”

    Because men do not disrespect each other the way they will a woman. Men are given more validation in this country than women. Which is why you will see a man tell a woman (and a complete stranger at that) to smile, as opposed to his telling a man to smile. Either action imposes on the stranger to do something that pleases the man who has the audacity to compel another person to behave the way the catcaller wants. The catcaller does not have the last say-so over a woman’s response to his lame attempts at conversation. Nor does he have the right to command the woman to bow to his lamentable state of ignorance in how to approach and speak respectfully to a woman.

    Since women are harmed tremendously in this country, any woman who does not answer a man back is subject to being harmed by that man because he already has such low self-esteem.

    “how often do you see a hetero dude give a big corny grin and a slow hello to another dude? I’m not talking about the cautious “What’s up” or head nod, mind you.”

    Probably because they fear being accused of being homosexuals. Why do you think that reason exists, since you asked the question?

    If men are such strong strapping creatures secure in their manhood, nodding to, smiling at, or even a “slow hello” to each other, should not be a problem. But, then again, maybe many men are not as secure in their ‘masculinity’ as they make themselves out to be.

    But, since women are so denigrated in America, many men are fearful of approaching or speaking to a man in any way that may be misperceived, therefore, it is easy to catcall or verbally abuse a woman.

    The weak (cat-calling men—whether alone, or in a pack of men) will always band together to take down those whom they perceive as the easiest target for abuse—-verbally OR physically. And that group of people are women.

    Oh, may I suggest a book for YOU to read:

    “When And Where I Enter”, by Paula Giddings.

    It will broaden your mind.

    And it certainly won’t hurt.

  99. Long-time reader, first time commenter. This discussion makes me happier than ever to be a small-town girl, public harassment of women seems to be a lot less common here where I live than it sounds like it is in big cities (visiting big cities is my only frame of comparison), although it is definitely still a problem – we’ve got plenty of stupid rednecks in pickup trucks. Around here, a lot of harassment involves assholes driving by shouting nasty things, rather than pedestrian vs pedestrian (not a lot of folks do a lot of walking, and it is often lower-income women of color who have to walk places and are then subjected to that stupid crap from passing drivers. I find an asshole in a vehicle to be at least as threatening as an asshole on the sidewalk, because that vehicle gives him/them a lot of power – he can speed up, slow down, drive around the block, make threatening/aggressive movements with the car, etc.

    Anyway, this discussion reminds me of a situation with a college classmate who had just moved to a small southern town from NYC to go to school. When she got there, she felt EXTREMELY threatened by all the male attention she got – however it was expressed – because (as she explained) in big cities folks make eye contact on the street less, you don’t talk to strangers, you keep in your own bubble because there’s lots of crazies around. So when she moved down here, it seriously freaked her out to just have guys on campus taking any notice of her at all, even when it was obviously intended in a friendly way (a good morning, a nod, a smile, a hello) – cause friendly greetings to strangers is simply a polite thing folks here do, and it would be considered rude not to. But she perceived it all as threatening when she first moved down here (in addition to all the other forms of culture shock inherent in moving to a rural town in the Bible Belt). So it was an interesting experience for her to get used to cultural differences, she adjusted quickly and came to appreciate that part of southern culture, and she had a very easy time making the distinction between friendly civility and general assholery. Those rednecks had no idea who they were messing with! So my point is just that perceptions can be colored by geographical or cultural factors as well. The guys who approached her in a friendly, welcoming way were surprised to learn that what they considered basic politeness could be viewed as threatening to women (from their perspective, they were trying to make her feel welcome and comfortable, from her perspective, they were invading her personal comfort zone without any invitation or permission), and the resulting discussions helped both sides see where the other was coming from better – the guys learned that not all women were down with friendliness from strangers, my friend learned quickly to appreciate Southern charm, and everyone loved to watch her take down any ignorant jackass that wandered into her path.

    On a side note, we were also at a school that had a good track record for dealing with gender issues – there was major campus construction, so tons of construction workers were there to potentially hassle female students. It helped ENORMOUSLY to have the support of the institution in addressing that problem – the school set the tone with a zero-tolerance policy, where catcalls were treated as a serious problem and offenders were not allowed back on campus. Clear rules were set, everyone understood them, and there was an accessible, reliable forum for grievances. If harassment did happen, there was enough awareness among students that the harassed person had instant support. When an institution or power structure makes a real commitment to dealing with gender issues, it can do a lot to set a positive tone and curb negative/dangerous behaviors (and the reverse is equally true, of course).

  100. I actually found this page after googling the topic — of why are black women such psychos? I have run down lately and a black woman in the supermarket ran over my heels wtih her cart. When I asked her why she did that, she picked a fight and started screaming. I told her to have a nice day and continued on my way. Why are black women so nuts(Yes, I do have black female friends who are kind, gentle people), but more often than not black women have this nasty, evil streak.

    Anyway, thats a different matter. As for this discussion, I get the cat calls and always have. I appreciate feeling threatened as I used to have middle aged men drive past me when i was in high school and attempt to drag me into their cars.

    I also routinely get abused — ie, I am a good looking woman who lives alone. Men who have tried to accost me (including married men) get offensive and obsessive if you refuse to acknowledge them and think that their following you around with their car when you are jogging is cute and attractive — and just their way of being “friendly.” I have had men terrorize me — and try to degrade me.

    Am i jaded? No. i have acquired grace– and have love in my heart for all people. I still get approached, but more respectfully no. recently, for example, a man approached me and said he thought I was beautiful and that my man must be very lucky. His remark made my day.

    Yes, I still notice men looking at me, but I see it and give it no mind. I see such men as dogs. They don’t dare approach me.

    In fact, there is tremendous power in being feminine, kind, and ladylike — in fact, men are afraid to degrade or cat call such women. Imagine the startlets of golden age of Hollywood — who held themselves with dignity, class, and respect. Men wouldn’t dare.

    chip on your shoulder? That is felt as rejection. Men who have low self esteem and feel rejected will act out. Some men are hyper sexualized — and woudl you really want their company anyways? (ie, frat boys, drooling dogs, etc.) There is something about anger (and you can read the rage in a lot of these posts) which attracts the predator.

    Act unfazed..unbothered..don’t let their bad behavior affect you…and you will see they won’t even try anymore…They will notice your beauty but not try to oppress you with it…

    Hey, I have been there…The male/female relationship is so off kilter in the usa – but that is a subject for another day. My advice: find grace and find God. Be a woman of god and you will attract nobility in your men. The bad, sleazy guys wont’ dare approach ..and if they do, they will get no traction…they will feel pain as you smile and politely going on your way, neither rejecting or encouraging. They will feel ashamed for having acted to loathsome.

  101. sorry for all the typos in my post.

  102. I think this is bullshit and being hyped up way more than it needs to be by some. I mean I’ve walked out the door with a kid in one arm and in a sweat outfit and im still getting hollared at. Yes it gets annoying but it’s pretty much always going to happen so get over it- just ignore it like I do. And fyi some women are looking for that reaction- and its not SUCH A FREAKIN BAD THING to be checked out. It’s not when they’re looking thats the problem, it’s when they stop looking- thats when you can worry.

  103. Rhonda is speaking of a cultural charm. I miss it from the south. I miss eye contact when I walk down the street and I miss greetings.
    I miss people acknowledging the grace/god/light/spirit/humanity in me.

    Most males (& females & GLBTQ have been guilty of it too) know when they are being charming verses when they are being offensive.

    When making comments to a passerby, one presents as either a charming person or a predator. In some cultures it’s more natural and a lot more charm occurs. In others (like Detroit) it’s not common to speak to people you don’t know as you pass by them. You’re less likely to get or expect charm….

    Reactions vary from person (perception) to person.
    The elderly Italian man serenading is music to one persons ears and terror to another’s. In most cases the difference between harassment and sweetness is pretty obvious (to me anyways).

  104. Why are black women so nuts(Yes, I do have black female friends who are kind, gentle people), but more often than not black women have this nasty, evil streak.

    Yes it gets annoying but it’s pretty much always going to happen so get over it-

    Hello, Monday.

  105. In fact, there is tremendous power in being feminine, kind, and ladylike — in fact, men are afraid to degrade or cat call such women.

    So if men mistreat you, it’s your own fault for not being feminine and ladylike enough. Victim-blame much?

    Imagine the startlets of golden age of Hollywood — who held themselves with dignity, class, and respect. Men wouldn’t dare.

    You don’t know much about the golden age of Hollywood, do you?

  106. Imagine the startlets of golden age of Hollywood — who held themselves with dignity, class, and respect. Men wouldn’t dare.

    You don’t know much about the golden age of Hollywood, do you?

    Two Words: Fatty Arbuckle.

  107. I get mistaken for Indian all the time, and it confuses me how only black and hispanic men single me out for cat calling only the street. If there are scantily clad white women, black women or even latin, they target me.

    It would be an exercise in futility to say its my “lack of confidence” or “clothes” I’m convinced its my skin color, which is a light tan.

    One possibility is that they think I am latin and latin women are not as upset by it but it is really embarassing for me being singled out amidst all these half naked ladies, then they the women start to leer and- if there are females around they stare at me and not at him.

    Most of the time (greater than 50%) there is so much resentment and aggression in their voices and eyes. I wonder if its because I am a professional.

    I don’t know why its just these two races, the only exception is when its in a professional environment it shifts to Jews but then again my superiors are rarely black or hispanic and I rarely work with them and I am harassed by any doorman and security guard on my way up!

    -I am not racist or anti-jew, these are facts. If any one has had similar experiences please write them here, I would love to hear about it.

    These are my feelings I’m not trying to hurt anyone BUT I wish at least these men would respect a conservative woman who doesn’t have all her goods hanging out and call out the others who do – at least stay away from someone who is making an effort to avoid your eyes.

  108. Catcalling is interesting. First off, I never get cat-called (I live in Indiana) and I feel so unattractive. I lived in NYC and modeled, was an NFL cheerleader and I still look the same as when I did that (at least that’s what people say). Then I see other women getting attention and it makes me feel like, “what do they have that I don’t”? Do I not have any appeal? I now realize that it’s not about being attractive or pretty. I was walking down the street behind Nicole Aire Parker (the girl from Soul Food with light eyes married to Boris Kodjoe) and not ONE man said anything to her or so much even looked her way, and she is 10x more beautiful in person. I also saw a former Miss USA and the same situation. So I don’t feel so unattractive but it is embarrassing when the very women who try to put you down get the attention from men.

  109. Wow. I just spent a really long time reading this.

    Clearly, ignoring men doesn’t work. That’s what most of us do, and I think it only goes to create further barrier between positve male/female communication. A man whose feeling powerless and ignored will only step up his attempts to get power and attention, and That is not safe for anyone. So on the street, I figure, body language and nonverbal communication count, and if I’m dressed nicely, I expect and try to be mentally prepared for comments. If they are nice comments, I smile, maybe laugh, and say thank you; if they are borderline and make me feel on edge, I flash a peace sign. If they are dis-resectful, but not threatening(like he’s putting on a show for his buddies) I try to think of something quick to put him in his place(“I’m telling your mama” “Expect a sexual harassment lawsuit tomorrow” “I don’t swing ugly”. The vast majority of comments/catcalls that I receive fall under one of these categories, and I try to respond with something that doesn’t encourage him to keep up agressive or threatening behavior, so obviously my response varies with the situation.

    In rare occasions (and they definetely do happen) when I feel very threatened, I try to leave the scene as quickly as possible, or alert someone else that I’m being bothered.

    But in larger society? your bets as good as mine.

  110. I know it’s way after the fact, but I feel like the discussion here is one of the best I’ve found on the internet about the subject.
    Some interesting tidbits from my own experience:

    I am a very north-European young woman. I generally dress fairly conservatively but fashionably, simply out of my own preferences and because of my own comfort limits.

    That said, I often eat lunch and buy groceries in a lower middle-class black neighborhood near my office — things quite literally cost half as much there. Men of all ages give me a non-leering ‘I find you attractive’ look and a “How’s it goin’ miss?” I feel comfortable chatting with older african-american women at the lunch counter because everyone just seems to talk to each other more, and in general perceive the increased contact with strangers as positive and a sign of community. However, it perplexes me that the same young man who can oggle me politely feels compelled to shout “Hey, HO! nice jugs!” at the woman of color down the block who is dressed exactly the same way as me. Do I somehow deserve respect more than her? Is there some sort of fear that if you treat a white woman wrong, you’ll pay, but it’s OK to disrespect a young black woman because she’s ‘yours?’ I am very ignorant about this subject and honestly want to know, because it just doesn’t fit together for me. Why isn’t this hostility aimed at me?

    Note 2: I walk/ride my bike quite a lot, and I definitely experience what an earlier poster called ‘People Shouting at me That I can’t See.’ It happens MOST when I am dressed professionally (Read, dark jeans and buttoned-up shirt, pocketbook rather than backpack), and is generally angry and threatening from the get-go. I get ‘Slut’ a lot, and ‘Cocksucker,’ but more often repetitive honking. (I thought honking meant ‘You’re obstructing traffic’ or ‘Get out of my way.’ or ‘Danger!) The man in question is always speeding away as he does this. I’d like it if one of them slowed down so I could give him a piece of my mind.

    Another thing about demographics: I live halfway between some apartment complexes with a lot of poor people of all colors, and the ocean-front property with yacht yards. Most people in my neighborhood, however, are simply middle-class — and yet it is never the guy in the late-model sedan who does this.
    It is pretty much always a bunch of guys in a rustbucket, or a single male in a nicer car — mostly guys in their 30’s from what I’ve been able to tell, some with prepubescent daughters in the passenger seat.

    I honestly take a pretty lighthearted view about whistles and even a carload of teenagers saying ‘hey beautiful,’ but the fact that the VAST majority of these calls are either overt, undisguised insults or hostile-sounding shouts convinces me it is, in fact, some sort of power issue; that the goal of these men is to attack me or put me down in some way to reinforce their own floundering self-image.

    I’m still hoping for a fortuitous red light so I can put a brick through some asshole’s tinted windows, though. It would do wonders for my sense of personal security.

  111. but I’m wondering why so many of my sistas get annoyed at brothas who look at them, or even say hello to them? I’ve been close up on situations where a brotha simply greets a sista, and she barely says a word…

    Sometimes us “sistas” want to be able to go about our days without some random “brothas” getting in our space and imposing themselves on us. Personally, I know I look good and don’t need random men on the street telling me such. I don’t need their opinions of me. What I do need when I’m out and about is to be left alone.

    Catcalling is disgusting and vulgar. I don’t want nor do I need to know what’s going on in these men’s minds. They need to keep their nasty thoughts to themselves.

  112. However, it perplexes me that the same young man who can ogle me politely feels compelled to shout “Hey, HO! nice jugs!” at the woman of color down the block who is dressed exactly the same way as me. Do I somehow deserve respect more than her? Is there some sort of fear that if you treat a white woman wrong, you’ll pay, but it’s OK to disrespect a young black woman because she’s ‘yours?’

    I don’t know why this happens this way. I’m a Black woman and the bulk of my most aggressive harassers are Black men. I rarely get catcalled that badly by White men or men of other races. In the rare moment that a White man catcalls me on the street, all I need to do is give a scathing look and he gets nervous and intimidated. With my Black harassers, they don’t back down when I respond back…they get loud, violent and aggressive. I do sense that a lot of Black males who harass Black women think that we’re on par with the women in vulgar rap videos and that we’re not worthy of any form of respect. We’re the lowest rung on the totem pole to them.

  113. I just wanted to give a shout out to Katherine 6/17 in her thought provoking and deeply insightful post in what she noticed about the differences between herself and women of color. I too have witnessed this myself but not many people have. In fact I see it as sort of a reverse racism

    The men engaging in this behavior most likely see themselves as not deserving of respect, hence, they see colored women in much the same way as they view themselves. If they only knew it.

    Now if we could only get gay black males to harass heterosexual males and let them see how good it feels, oh and this includes the colored males “getting it” worse.

    Just a thought.

  114. WOW all this information was intensely interesting.

    I hope I’m not to late to add my two cents but I got a pretty good history with cat calling.

    As a young teen, I would go places where I knew I would receive this treatment because to me it told me if I looked attractive. Growing up boys didn’t write notes or or talk to you personally, The would holla from across to the street. If you where a bad ass you’d holla back ” meet me half way”, but if you didn’t respond you would get cussed at. I always equated it attractiveness because I would receive more of it when I would press my hair or wear a weave, but the same natural styles that got me called ugly in school didn’t get it as much.

    Also I have very curvy figure. So when most young girl where stuffing there training bra I had a solid c cup with the hips to match. All through my teens I received a lot of sexual attention that made me uncomfortable. While I wanted to be considered attractive, It would straight fucking scare me to have a guy all over me in that manor. I have never been abused but to this day I find it very threatening when men come on too strong even if they aren’t intending to harm me. Fortunately for me, my mother required me to dress conservative and that held a lot of it off, but I have often been followed by men in cars, and had to deal with men masturbating while watching me in publi( twice ) as well the cat calling.

    One crazy time I was 17 and feenin for a cheese stake at lunch. I was cheerleader and had to wear my uniform to school that day. I figured that I could hop on bus and walk back so I wouldn’t be late. After getting off the bus I stood next to an older gentleman waiting to cross the street and out of nowhere he screamed ” PUT YOUR EYES BACK IN YOUR HEAD!” I was terrified!! He quickly apologized and explained that he was talking to this truck driver that was staring at me like was gonna get out the van and come at me. The man told me that had to daughters my age and he hoped that someone would do that for them if necessary. That day I walked back to school on the backstreets and I never wore my cheer skirt to school again.

    I never thought of catcalling as abuse or harassment, just disrespect until I got older. It was like “aye we ain’t in middle school anymore. MAN UP!” When I lived in Miami it was much worse. There it was harassment. Often I would order food to not have to leave my apt because of it. for 4 months I was being followed by a young Cuban guy. I think he was on drugs and maybe homeless. The last time I saw him he kissed me while my head was down stepping on to the train. I felt totally violated. When I reported it to the police, they said because I didn’t know his name or where he lived I couldn’t file a report, and was told to call 911 if he bother me again. I was rattled. I didn’t go to work the next day and walked a back street to get to the bus to go to work or school for quite some time. One Latin woman said it was just how Latin men were, but this discussion makes me question if it’s just how they are allowed to behave?

    On a happier note I had good experience around 14. I was walking home from the grocery store when this group of boys sitting on the porch decided to start calling at me. As you usual I sucked my teeth and ignored them, but then out of nowhere a little boy popped out of the crow an started singing at the top of his lungs. I stopped and watched him dance and sing the song “I like” by Sammie. He was sooo cute! When he was done I blew him a kiss and he looked at the older boys like ” Now what bitches?!” and proudly walked back in the house. To add insult to injury I laughed hysterically at the older boys. It was hilarious!!

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