November 13, 2014

Saying, “Thank You,” is not an Appropriate Response to Catcalling.

NYC Catcalling

This article is in response to “How to Defuse a Catcaller & Reclaim our Feminine Power in 2 Words.”

The message in the previous article is right there in the title: Ladies, if you want to “defuse” a situation of an unwanted comment about your body, say “thank you” to the man who gave you said “compliment.”

The problem is, this will not actually allow you to reclaim your feminine power.

“Hey, beautiful.”

“Nice ass.”

“Smile, girl!”

“Nice tits!”


Call me crazy, or just call me a woman, but hearing these things doesn’t make me want to smile or say thank you. What I believe this article misrepresented is what catcalling actually is in opposition to comments that could actually warrant a “thank you” or a friendly human-to-human smile. The two are not the same.

Catcalling has nothing to do with the feelings of women, but everything to do with the man displaying dominance in a public space. Find me a man who has catcalled with the intention of genuinely making the woman feel comfortable, and I will find you countless women who will never feel fully comfortable walking in public because of a catcalling incident.

“There’s a difference between a harmless compliment on a busy street and being raped in a dark alley.” I’m not sure who exactly is saying the two are the same. But just because catcalling is tolerated and rape is criminal, does not mean that they are completely unrelated.

Catcalling is unacceptable because it reinforces dangerous notions that a man has authority over a woman’s body in a public space, i.e., the authority to call out and comment on her body. No matter what you are wearing, you as a woman, must be subject to what a man thinks about you. This is dangerous because these ideals in the patriarchal society are what leads to crimes like rape, violence and abuse. This is not the same as saying “all cat callers are rapists,” it’s saying the subconscious attitudes about women’s bodies that lead to catcalling—taking it up a level—also lead to physical violence against women.

Sure, #notallmen catcall. Obviously, #notallmen rape. But this is besides the point. The point is that these two things are still global issues. Just because #notallmen do these things, does not mean we can dismiss them with a smile. Telling women to “smile” and get over it is actually disempowering because it reinforces sexist attitudes that women should just accept this treatment. Telling women you can defuse the situation by smiling is dangerously similar to telling women they can avoid being raped by dressing differently or acting a certain way. It’s like telling a rich person who is robbed, “Well…what did you expect, dressing all wealthy like that?”

But wait. Here is what I liked in the blog post: finding each other’s humanity. I do believe as human beings, we should connect more. Be gracious. Be kind and helpful to one another. Human to human. But in the case of catcalling, the onus should not be on the subject (whether it is a woman, transgendered person, or anyone for that matter), who is being objectified. The responsibility is on the men who catcall and objectify others. Until we can get that point across, sure, I will forgive and I’ll even wish them well, but no, I will not be smiling or saying “thank you.”

Being anti-catcalling is in no way anti-man. Just remember. Sometimes, being a woman hurts. Let’s all, together, stop the hurt for all beings, everywhere.



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Author: Ari Weaver

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Video Still

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