Catcalling offensive and demeaning, not a compliment

Let me ask you something: have you ever been catcalled? Whether you’re a guy or a girl, the answer is most likely yes. And if I ask if you have ever been catcalled on campus, meaning in buildings, on the sidewalk, on the campus bus, etc., the answer again is most likely a yes.

This semester I am taking a gender violence class and there’s about forty to fifty of us in the class. Only about twelve people in the class are boys, but on the first day when my professor asked about this sort of street harassment, every single one of us said that we had been catcalled at least once. And most of us had received it while being on campus.

Now, I know that’s a pretty small number compared to the rest of us here at MNSU. But it is still far too many of us being harassed on campus. And if forty to fifty girls and guys are getting catcalled, there’s got to be more.

Catcalling is a form of street harassment, disguised as a compliment. You’ve all seen it before in movies: a woman is walking down the street alone or with a few girlfriends and a pack of guys starts spewing obscenities at them. But this doesn’t just happen in the movies. It happens everywhere and we should be standing up to the men and women who think it’s okay to comment on someone else’s body without their permission.

Most people who catcall will say it’s a joke or it’s a compliment. But the victims of this harassment do not think it’s funny. And it most certainly isn’t a compliment when someone, especially someone who is physically imposing, says something demeaning about your body. It’s scary, and, frankly, it’s disgusting.

No woman or man wants you to smirk at them on the street and tell them “to smile” or that they “look good.” These people are minding their own business and trying to go about their day and someone who catcalls them is disrupting it. And those are mild catcalls. Me and hundreds of other people have experienced much worse. Even on this campus.

Last semester I lived in the dorms and I would never walk to my car alone because I knew random guys in cars would pull up and shout at me. It felt safer to be with multiple people, even if they did still catcall us. And it also still happens when I walk around with my boyfriend, as well, so sometimes not even the presence of another person can make them back off.

This is a serious issue, even if it seems silly. When someone does this to us, we feel threatened, afraid, and disgusted. It’s one thing for it to happen on a random sidewalk, but when it’s happening on our campus, we need to do something about it. Everyone deserves to feel safe, even when they are alone.

If you have ever catcalled someone because it’s “funny” or you “thought they were hot,” you need to put that person’s feelings into perspective. Do you really think that they’re going to appreciate the comments of a stranger when they’re just trying to get to class or go to a meeting? Because trust me, they are not going to turn around, smile and say thank you.

If you have ever been catcalled, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself; however, know when it is safe to and when it is not. If you’re a girl alone and a group of guys are yelling things to you, the best thing to do is walk away and go somewhere safe. But if you’re out with people and someone says something to you, just tell them to stop and make sure you mean it. Let them know the things they’re saying to you are not welcome. I can’t guarantee that this will help every time, but it has helped a few times for me. Also, don’t just be a bystander. If you see a girl or a guy being victimized by someone, step in. Either tell the person to stop, or even acting like you know the victim can make the antagonist back down.

You can also report street harassment to either the police or campus security. Again, this option might not work the best because the catcallers are technically not infringing on your rights or physically abusing you. But it could help. And if you don’t try, then nothing will change. You can also stop in at the Women’s Center and talk with them. They’re a great resource for stuff like this.Or, they can just be there to talk. The Women’s Center is located in CSU 218.

We cannot fully stop people from catcalling but we can definitely do something about it. Especially if it is on our campus. There should be no toleration for harassment and we need to feel safe while getting our education.

One thought on “Catcalling offensive and demeaning, not a compliment

  • Joy W.

    When I was younger, I used to get cat calls. But once you’re over 50, it’s unlikely to happen. And now that I’m older, I’d be more likely to speak up against this practice. But it was offensive, disrespectful, and threatening. Like the author stated, it’s best to walk away because nowadays one never knows whether someone has a gun or will attack, so it is scary.

    I do want to know if the author purposely used the word “boys” in her class in reference to male adults on purpose? Or was it an example of reverse sexism? Just something to think about. When I think of boys, I think of males under age 18.


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