The debate goes on as to whether or not catcalling is considered harassment or a compliment. Whatever your stance may be, let me enlighten you with one reason women don’t appreciate a catcall: It’s terrifying.
As a woman who has been catcalled, let me explain why it makes us defensive.
It’s uncommon for people to say hello on the streets today.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where someone saying hello on the street is an unusual gesture.
All of the horror stories about women being grabbed off the streets and being mugged, raped or murdered make it nearly impossible for us to not immediately resort to a defense mechanism in wanting to protect ourselves.
Deciding to respond or not is a lose-lose situation.
This seems to be the biggest point of the argument: Women don’t show their gratitude to cat callers. When we think to protect ourselves as women, we have to decide whether or not to respond to a catcall in a split second.
A woman responding conveys that it would be appropriate to continue conversation, which could lead to a dangerous situation. The person confronting said woman could continue to follow her and repetitively try to lure her somewhere.
In contrast, if the same woman says nothing and ignores the cat caller, there’s a possibility he will become angry or aggressive with her. Both situations are terrifying, and shockingly, not something that boosts our confidence.
We don’t want to hear we’re pretty from a creepy stranger.
Sure, a girl likes to hear she is pretty every now and then, but we prefer to hear it from a family member, friend or significant other — not some person on the street hoping to jump our bones.
Even if the catcall is something along the lines of “beautiful,” not all women like the spotlight of a stranger on the street. It makes some of us nervous, embarrassed or flustered.
This is a key point: Not all women like to be complimented on the street and put in the spotlight. What people can’t seem to get through their thick, closed-minded skulls is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a compliment or harassment; the woman simply does not like it.
So, why, if a woman doesn’t appreciate the mannerism, is she forced to suffer through it because someone is “being nice”?
It’s all in the tone.
The way a catcall is interpreted is all in the tone in which it’s projected.
No woman considers a sweet smile accompanied with a short hello passing someone on the street a catcall. If you do, I’ve been catcalling every person who has walked his or her dog past my house while I was taking out the trash, and need to immediately reevaluate my entire life.
The “I’m undressing you with my eyes” tone cat callers give off is the signal we receive, which isn’t entirely welcomed.
Additionally, “Damn, mami,” is not a compliment; it’s degrading. In fact, most catcalls are degrading. I’d safely assume a man would not compliment his girlfriend’s mother by telling her about “them fine legs” she’s got.
Let’s be clear: It would be absurd to define all catcallers as brutal muggers and rapists. It’s just that their unusual shouting at women down the street leaves a million different situations playing in our heads because you can never be too safe on the streets.
And, also on record, of course, catcalling is not gender specific, but I can only speak as a woman who has experienced being catcalled, and none of my experiences have ever made me feel safe.
In short, we aren’t interested in taking a chance and don’t owe anyone our undying gratitude for the “compliment” they’ve thrown in our faces.