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The Difference Between Catcalls and Compliments


                                                                                                                          Image by Unsplash

The Difference Between Catcalls and Compliments

By Gina Nguyen


“Hey, sexy!” “Damn, baby!” “What’s your number?” Do these phrases sound familiar?


Those phrases can be identified as catcalls, which is an action by someone who makes obscene gestures or comments in a sexual manner to an individual passing by. Catcalls may also consist of whistling, honking, and leering.


Some may argue that catcalling is a harmless action and a mere compliment; however, it is undeniably a form of sexual harassment.


Catcalling is not a compliment. It is not nice. It is not flattering. Instead, it is quite the opposite.

Catcalling is creepy, annoying, and dare I say, rude. No one wants to be objectified that way.


And if you’ve ever stood up to a catcaller, you’ve probably received a distasteful nickname in return.


According to Hollaback!, a global nonprofit organization that focuses on the anti-harassment movement, 85% of U.S. women have experienced catcalling before the age of 17.


Catcalling can be frightening and affects one’s well-being. It isn’t appreciated and I can assure you that no one’s “asking for it” either. Women feel self-conscious about their appearances; fearing it may cause unwanted attention. They could wear a trash bag, yet some people still feel the insistent need to holler at them.


Catcalling is a prevalent issue that happens all too often for women and men alike. In 2014, Stop Street Harassment—a nonprofit organization devoted to ending gender-based street harassment worldwide—conducted a national survey revealing “65% of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual. Among men, 25% had been street harassed.”


Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes to receive compliments, but there’s a better way to do it. For instance, try approaching the person and say something like: “Excuse me, I think you’re very good looking. Thank you for your time. Have a nice day.” Sure, this sounds a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.


Yet, if you oppose a catcaller, he or she may become more aggravated and persistent. On the other hand, if you ignore them, you’re sending a message that suggests you’re okay with it.


Being catcalled can be scary, especially when you have to face it alone. So how do you approach the situation and stand against catcalling? It’s a sensitive matter, but talking about it helps. SSH provides a 24/7 National Street Harassment Hotline for help and advice to address catcalling before or after it happens.


And as for you catcallers out there, you’re not doing anyone a favor by shouting or whistling at him or her like some kind of barnyard animal. You’ll probably receive an unpleasant comment in return, but hey, you’re asking for it!


For more information about catcalling, visit Stop Street Harassment and Hollaback!.

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