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  • Writer's pictureSarah M.

Catcalling: Never OK and Never a Compliment

Let's start out by the definition of "catcalling" - sexually suggestive remarks to anyone from anyone. Often referring to ones body.

We need to understand that catcalling is not cute, funny, or complimenting. It’s degrading, demeaning, and disgusting.

He whistled and yelled out “Hey there, cutie. Where do ya think you’re going?”

I can't even remember the first such incident but as a relatively young girl and now as a grown ass woman I've experienced catcalling for as long as I can remember.

When you are younger you might even live in this illusion that it's a compliment, I get it. Someone says you look good or wants you to stay and chat might even feel nice. Who doesn't like attention?!

And even though many people associate the gestures that fall into catcalling with expressions of appreciation as if they were a compliment, it's an act of psychological violence.

Catcalling isn't a compliment, it's sexual harassment that has been ‘normalized’.

Street harassment has been around since the beginning of time, yet there are still many people who don’t see it as a problem.

It's part of an overall pattern of aggressive and abusive behavior based on the sexual objectification of others. Catcalling can even get to the point of being dangerous. A recent study shows that the sexual objectification is directly related to a greater tendency to commit sexual violence, including rape.

Harassment is aggressive and intimidating; compliments are supposed to make someone feel good.

Ok, ok, you might be thinking that "can't I flirt and talk to people anymore"?

Catcalling is not flirting, or a way to show appreciation or admiration. And of course there is a way to compliment another person — but it's not by shouting lewd remarks at them as they walk down the street. Flirting assumes equality and has an element of playfulness, while catcalling or harassment is intended to demean and dominate the other person. Flirting happens one-on-one, while catcalling often involves a group of people vs. a single person.

So let's now define a compliment; a polite expression of praise or admiration. And "polite" is really the key word there. When you compliment someone, you are treating them with dignity.

To determine if your "compliment" is really a compliment, decide if this statement is true, would you say it in front of a friend, parent or your grandmother? Or are you coming off as a total creep?

Complimenting someone establishes a relationship with them and makes them feel safe with you. Harassment, on the other hand, can lead people to feel unsafe. A true compliment will help people open up to you, while harassment will make them want to avoid you.

There are so many people who still don’t recognize how big of a deal street harassment and catcalling is. Those who do catcall don't think that they are harassing anyone; they don't realize that they have threatened someone, they will think that they are just being nice, while the recipient can't help but feel attacked, disgusted or ashamed.

Though disagreement on how to interpret catcalls is still a debate and determine on one's own experiences in society, we need to teach and talk to both our girls and boys and not accept nor exercise this behavior. Together, we can build a safe environment that understands that catcalling and other forms of assault are not okay, a world where one is free of these dangers.


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