November 10, 2014

How to Defuse a Catcaller & Reclaim our Feminine Power. Two Words.

tattooed girl

Editor’s note: Dear friends, while we may disagree with this author, even violently or vehemently, as some of you have expressed, that’s great. We’re a community that allows space for dialogue—even for some of us to be “wrong.” That’s how we all learn. If we want to all agree with one another 100% of the time, there’s MSNBC or Fox News. elephant is not a yes-men club. Please be kind to one another in our speech, even in our disagreeing, which is welcome here. That’s what elephant is for. ~ Ed.

A hidden camera on her cohort’s backpack focuses on her walking through the streets of New York City and the “catcalls” she gets from men along the way.

(To read our editor’s very different take, click here.).

It outrages many. For different reasons.

Feminists feel the flung foul verbiage is a sex crime against women.

Human Rights supporters say the video is unfairly and unfavourably slanted against minority races. Men throw up their hands in self defence saying, “Don’t broad brush stroke the issue. We’re not all like that.”

I say, lighten up ladies!

There’s a difference between a harmless compliment on a busy street and being raped in a dark alley. (Or dorm room. Or our own home. Or wherever.)

I’ve had my share of “catcalls” and I have chosen an attitude of gratitude. Instead of feeling offended, I feel complimented—what I perceive is the intention of the men making the comments. Men may be indiscriminate in their catcalling, but I choose to feel strong.

When a man catcalls me, I return the acknowledgment with a “thank you” or a genuine smile or a friendly wave or sometimes even a funny quip.

Kind acknowledgment immediately (almost always) defuses these catcalling situations because by accepting their confusion, their comments, the men are acknowledged as human beings which also automatically reminds them that I am a fellow human being—not a sexual object.

Several times my acknowledgement of men’s comments—therefore of them—is rewarded with a sincere, and softer, “thank you” from them.

If we lead with love, love follows. Or at least something less offending than if we chose a negative perception of intention. Most of the time, men aren’t trying to piss us off, they’re trying to acknowledge us while letting us know they exist.

This does not apply to crass, NC-17 insults but to the “Hey, baby,” “Wow,” “Hot,” “Hello, Beautiful” comments and whistles we may receive. This does not apply to being followed, touched without permission, or harassed which to me are additional unwelcome comments or behaviours by men.

Not every guy knows how to be our personal Casanova. And not every gal is offended by a catcall.

Women are afraid of losing power and safety but are perpetuating gender inequality by acting like scaredy-chickens or plain old, cold cows.

We need to start including men on our team. And we hold the power to do this.

But where do we draw the line?

Wherever our comfort zone is, sure. But let’s not create a uncomfortable zone by fabricating stories about men that are baseless. Not all men catcall. And not all men who catcall are rapists.

A woman got killed in Detroit for standing up for herself by expressing her displeasure of getting catcalled. That this is big news shows how often that happens. I don’t know the situation or circumstance, but of course, murder is not the right answer.

Saying “thank you” isn’t going to get us raped or killed.

I’d venture to suggest that saying “thank you” may do just the oppose—re-build the innate nature of men to protect us women from all dangers—including ill-intendioned men.

Not that we need protection…But we sure act like we do.

But don’t take my word for it. If you’re a lady, next time you’re cat-called, try rethinking of it: as a challenging gift, then give a sincere smile and/or thank you and see what happens.

If you’re a man, know when to draw the line on your comments. If a woman doesn’t acknowledge your comment and keeps walking, let her go. Or, unless you’re invited, even if she says thank you.

And catcall me anytime, I’m a liberal feminist!

But don’t call me “baby.” Please.

And, thank you!

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Author: Anna Jorgensen

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Chuck Coker/Flickr

Read 36 Comments and Reply

Read 36 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Anna Jorgensen  |  Contribution: 7,160