A Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling

Katie Baker is sick of the whistles. Guys, if you really want to get a pretty girl’s attention, here’s what you should say.

Hey, sexy mama! How’d you get so fine?

Jesus, look at those legs.

I’m used to ignoring the terms of endearment yelled at me by strange men on the street. Like most women I know, I treat street harassment like unpleasant weather—a common occurrence I silently endure by drawing my coat tighter around my body and walking briskly ahead with a stiff neck. But, thanks to this piece, I’d been promising myself I’d take the plunge for weeks, and on this particular day I finally snapped.

“I want to know why you think it’s OK to talk to me like that,” I heard my five-foot-two, small-boned self saying in a voice I wished was less shaky.

“I just appreciate a beautiful woman,” the man said back with a smile.

“OK,” I said, “if you appreciate me, you can tell me I’m beautiful in a respectful way. But you’re treating me like I’m not a human being. No woman likes that, and it doesn’t make me feel beautiful.”

The man looked confused. “I’m really, really sorry,” he said. “I have sisters, and I understand where you’re coming from.”

After a few more seemingly genuine apologies I walked away. I was pleased, slightly cynical (could I really have gotten through to this man in less than 30 seconds?), but most of all shocked that this was my first time talking back to a street harasser. I consider myself a feminist, and am widely known as someone who’s never afraid to speak her mind. Why, then, am I inherently hard-wired to ignore every whistle, lip smack, or holler?

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Some men may wonder why I care so much, why I let street harassment get to me. Maybe you think I’m overreacting by lecturing strangers who only want to compliment me, after all. “I’d be thrilled if a woman on the street told me I was sexy,” a male friend once said to me after I expressed my frustration.

I’m happy to address those questions (and will, later on)—and I understand that it can be difficult to understand how threatening a seemingly harmless “Smile, beautiful!” can feel—but let’s get one thing straight. Go ask any woman in your life whom you respect—mother, sister, cousin, lover, or friend—how it makes her feel when she’s loudly and publicly objectified, the recipient of obscene comments like “suck my cock,” or followed down the street. I promise you that it doesn’t make her feel good or beautiful or respected.

Street harassment has a negative effect on us all. No single man wants the actions of a few to be attributed to his entire gender, but studies show that male harassers impact victims’ perception and reaction to men in general. Still, most street harassers aren’t “bad men”—they don’t fully realize why their actions are hurtful or disrespectful to the female population. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are harassing women at all.

That’s why it won’t end until both men and women start engaging with harassers.

♦◊♦

New York City lawmakers are considering an official catcalling ban, but I’m not sure how successful that could be. Is it really possible to prevent people from talking or calling out to others on the street? More importantly, do we want it to be? While passive objectification can be just as hurtful as the aggressive kind, monitoring it can be much more complicated.

Hollaback!, a group “dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology,” encourages women to, well, “holla back” by sharing stories and photos using social media. Hollaback! is a wonderful movement, and definitely a step in the right direction in terms of drawing attention to the cause. But it can only be so effective when the harasser has no idea he’s being “hollered back” at.

I believe reacting online is an approach too detached to make a significant impact. The more I safely challenge my harassers—and see how they almost always step down—the more I realize that we can’t depend on lawmakers or our cell phones to do all of the work for us. So I have a radical idea: Instead of thinking of all street harassers solely as criminals who deserve penalization and public ridicule, we need to communicate with them about how it feels to be the target of their actions.

I know some will be angry with me (hi, Mom) for proposing what may seem like a dangerous idea. Confronting street harassers is not always possible in every situation or for everyone. To be sure, it’s a very bad idea to engage with those who have truly harmful intentions, and if even a small part of you feels threatened, you should walk away.

But (according to Hollaback!, interestingly enough) studies show that those who “respond assertively” to harassment are less vulnerable. It’s possible—if your harasser or leerer seems more ignorant than dangerous, and you’re in a well-lit area with people nearby—to succinctly and calmly explain why certain actions are disrespectful.

I want to challenge all good men to step up. Men, please say something when you witness street harassment, even if the harassers are your coworkers or friends. I’m not saying all men are responsible for their street harassing ilk, but they owe it to the women they respect to set an example and encourage others to do the same.

♦◊♦

In Platus’ Mercator, written around 200 B.C., Demipho turns away the beautiful slave girl bought for his mother by his son Charinus. “She is hardly the proper sort of person,” says Demipho. “Why not?” asks Charinus (who is secretly in love with the girl, as is—naturally—his father). “Because it would cause scandal if such a beauty were the attendant of a wife and mother,” Demipho replies. “When she passes through the streets all the men would look at her, leer, nod and wink and whistle.”

This is the first known recording of a form of bullying that, thousands of years later, the vast majority of women experience on a regular basis. Today it has evolved into a variety of behaviors, often arranged by severity from physical contact and verbal abuse to stares and whistles. Other forms include exposing, picture-taking, groping, masturbating, threatening, intimidating, stalking, and attention-seeking behavior like flattering and honking.

As a woman, I’ve experienced almost all of these variations more than once. There’s no doubt that some street harassers are more dangerous than others; gropers, for example, trump picture-takers any day. But I’m not as interested in discussing why rapists, stalkers, or “dick-flashers” do what they do. I’m more intrigued by the watchers and callers.

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In Beth A. Quinn’s workplace-focused study, “Sexual Harassment and Masculinity: The Power and Meaning of ‘Girl Watching,’” she notes that “no man discussed girl watching in initial accounts of his workplace”:

I suspect that they did not consider it to be relevant to a discussion of their average workday, even though it became apparent that it was an integral daily activity for some groups of men.

It not only shows how second-nature street harassment is to some men—hello, it’s been going on since at least 200 B.C.—but how it often isn’t about the interchangeable female targets as much as it is about male bonding, defining one’s own masculinity, or collectively—even if subconsciously—asserting men’s inherent physical power over women.

“As embarrassing as this is to admit, I feel like the main reason my friends and I objectify women is to let each other know that we’re straight,” a male friend of mine told me. Later, a man I confronted on the street told me I was his “dream girl” and asked me to let him prove himself to me in more obscene terms. “This is just what guys do,” he said. “We’re just joking around. No offense!”

♦◊♦

Let’s take a look at the etymological origins of the most common slang terms for street harassment. While “wolf-whistle” does have a predatory connotation—wolves have been symbols of male lust since the Elizabethan era, and the specific use of wolf for “sexually aggressive male” was first recorded in the mid-1800s—most other terms are more similar to “girl watching” in the sense that they are not as much aggressive as they are critical or male-exclusive.

For example, the first documented “catcallers” were theatergoers in the 1700s who whistled and jeered to express disapproval for actors or actions onstage. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the word took on a sexual meaning, but the basic idea is the same: the catcaller’s right to vocally judge the catcallee. He’s an audience member expected to give feedback to a performance.

“Hubba hubba” caught on during World War II when Marine Harry H. Miller used the phrase—commonly used at his military camp to mean “double time” or “hurry up”—to draw his friend’s attention to a group of beautiful women, using a term “he knew only his buddy would understand.”

Catcallers and hubba-hubba-ers aren’t, for the most part, women-haters. They catcall because they’re taught by their elders, peers, and effectively by the women that ignore them that street harassment is a fun, inoffensive social activity. For centuries, more or less well meaning men have gleaned that it’s acceptable, even funny.

♦◊♦

Am I saying men should never talk to women in public? No, not at all.

There’s a huge difference between harassing a woman and trying to start a conversation. Here are some tips: talk to her, not at her. Treat her with respect: be aware of her personal space, ask her how she’s doing or what she’s reading instead of commenting on her body parts, look at her face instead of her chest. If she ignores you, drops eye contact, or walks away, back off. It wasn’t rude of you to approach her, but she’s not being rude if she doesn’t want to keep talking to you, especially if you initiated conversation while she was running an errand, waiting for the bus, or on her computer at a coffee shop.

Let’s say you’re not interested in having an actual conversation, but just want to let a woman know she’s beautiful. Go ahead, it’s a free country; just do it respectfully. Don’t be threatening, don’t make animal sounds, don’t follow her. Most women I know wouldn’t be offended if someone told her she was looking great or had gorgeous hair or a beautiful smile. But don’t expect the woman in question to feel the same way, and don’t act aggressive if she rejects your advances.

Studies suggest that 80 to 100 percent of all women face at least occasional unwanted, harassing attention in public places from men they do not know.

Many men (like my friend, quoted above) insist they’d be “thrilled” to be shouted at on the street. So why don’t women feel flattered? Because we live with the threat of rape—the knowledge that one in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Even if a man has “innocent” intentions when he yells “Hey sexy!” at a woman, he has a good chance of making her feel uncomfortable, angry, or frightened. She’s likely to automatically connect the moment with other negative street harassment experiences she’s had—or, worse, with memories of more serious assault.

When a woman catcalls a man, it’s far more likely to be considered “charming” or “flattering” because there’s usually no chance that the woman could force the man into a dangerous situation by sheer physical force or intimidation.

Men: would you find it complimentary if it were commonplace for other men to yell out “I’d like to take that home with me” or “Why the sad face? I’ll give you something to smile about” while following you down the street? Men who could, hypothetically, force you to go home with them if they wanted? Think about it. I suspect most of you would feel uncomfortable, threatened, even scared.

♦◊♦

What about the most passive of street harassers, the ones who don’t say anything outwardly insulting or objectifying—or maybe don’t say anything at all? They’re harder to confront without feeling like an asshole. I had a cold last week, and one morning stumbled and sneezed my way to the supermarket in pajamas and a messy bun to get some soup. I was reaching for the Campbells when I turned around and nearly bumped into a man who was standing less than an inch away from me, staring at me intently. “You are so beautiful,” he said, feet firmly planted in my personal space. “Why aren’t you smiling?” I had to literally step around him and make my way down another aisle before he stopped leering at me.

Afterward, I was furious—not just because of the way that man made me feel, but because I’m honestly unsure if it’s OK to feel such anger in similar situations. The man didn’t say anything objectifying, make any animal sounds, or gesture at me inappropriately. But even if he didn’t catcall me, so to speak, he made me feel like I was on stage—and, especially in my sniffling state (and trust me, although this is somewhat irrelevant, I did not look my best), I was resentful that I was made to feel intimidated when all I wanted was a can of soup.

Plus, why should I have to smile? In a post expressing her own frustration with being hit on while running errands, blogger Almie Rose laments that “as women, we’re subliminally taught to be polite under duress. Because if we say no, or reject any sort of advance even if we do it kindly, we’re labeled a bitch.” It’s true: many women I know say a “smile, beautiful!” frustrates them more than an obscene come-on. It all comes back to the same point: woman aren’t performing for you.

What about the women, like “Subway Badass” Nicola Briggs, who respond creatively to street harassers? Briggs became a folk hero for frustrated women everywhere when a video of her yelling at a guy for “dickflashing” her on the subway recently went viral. In 2008, an Israeli tourist became so fed up with construction-worker catcallers while visiting New Zealand that she actually stripped in front of them in exasperation.

Frustratingly, society tends to punish, not congratulate, those who speak up. Briggs hated the fact that TV stations blurred her face when airing her video—it gave “the wrong message to women” by making her into a victim instead of a victor. The Israeli woman was similarly victim-shamed when told by police that her behavior was “inappropriate”—”She’s not an unattractive looking lady,” one policeman told the press—while her catcallers probably enjoyed the best workday of their lives.

♦◊♦

The bottom line is to treat others with respect. If you approach a woman, be aware of her personal boundaries and talk to her as if she is a person, not a sex object. If she’s clearly disinterested, know when to back away. And, for God’s sake, don’t whistle. She is not a farm animal.

I’m loath to say that respect works both ways in these situations—it’s hard to treat street harassers kindly. (If I were confronted by someone who clearly has serious issues—like Briggs’ flasher—I’d go ahead and yell my head off.) But I’ve personally found that speaking calmly and clearly is more constructive than yelling (which, trust me, I’ve also done).

These days, when I’m harassed and feel that I’m in a safe enough situation to communicate with my harasser, I think about Platus’ slave girl. I remember that I have just as much a right to go about my day without being harassed as does anyone else. And I remember that unless I do engage, nothing will change. Should we have to explain why “I’d like a piece of that” is demeaning? No—but if we make a habit of it, fewer will need the lesson.

—Photo Ed Yourdon/Flickr

About Katie J.M. Baker

Katie J.M. Baker is a writer living in San Francisco. You can learn more about her on her website.

Comments

  1. I have always found interesting the “I would love it if done to me” arguement from most men, specially how they react when a gay man or an ugly woman does it to them. They asume that such comments would come from beautiful women begging for their attention. For a moment look at the men who do this behavior, and now place them in drag. Yeah, that’s the female counterpart.

    I am a man, and I have delt with this in my younger days. It is not amusing.

    In my teen years, I went to an All-Girl school for an academic competition. Walking down the hallways, at first I felt all proud and cocky with all that atention. 10 minutes later, I felt like a piece of meat, and it was actually creepy.

    I have always prided myself in dressing up and looking proper. I have had that weird looking lady get just a little to close in the crowded metro, or that really loud and crass woman say the strangest things as if that would automatically smiten me to her.

    It’s creepy, it’s annoying, and most of all it’s degrading.

    You want to tell a woman how beautiful, or atractive, or good she looks? There are hundreds of ways that do not involve “Baby”, “Sweet-thang” or whatever other term that robs of her identity.

  2. Charles Wendell Apley says:

    What are you talking about?; “The vast majority of women” do not experience catcalling “on a regular basis.”

  3. I wish I was “catcalled” but men are not seen as such nor are they seen worth the effort.

  4. Personally, I have a bigger problem with men who either get into my personal space or follow me than those who catcall from a safe distance. I’m not fond of catcalling for the simple reason that I don’t like loud noises or people (of any gender) involving me in any capacity while making an ass of themselves. However, I don’t usually find the behavior threatening so long as it’s from a reasonable distance. I think most everyone, regardless of gender, would feel somewhat threatened if a stranger who is much stronger than them get into their personal space.

  5. “Guys, if you really want to get a pretty girl’s attention, here’s what you should say.”

    So I read this through, only it doesn’t say.

  6. One of the most empowering things I ever did was drop the finger to a bloke cat calling me as he drove past. I used to freeze, or smile nervously, or ignore it. But by letting the guy know he was being inappropriate and I wasn’t happy with him, the cat calling wasn’t so scary any more. Communicating displeasure when it’s inappropriate makes me feel much less vulnerable, and more able to respond to positive attention. A guy saying ‘I like your smile’ or complimenting an outfit, in a respectful way, especially if they’re not doing the ogle, and if they just walk on without demanding anything, can be flattering and make my day. I don’t find that offensive, just as I’m sure me telling a co-worker like his new haircut or how well that shirt suits him is appreciated also. Respect is the ticket!

  7. ”Let’s say you’re not interested in having an actual conversation, but just want to let a woman know she’s beautiful. Go ahead, it’s a free country; just do it respectfully. Don’t be threatening, don’t make animal sounds.”

    Or, here’s another idea: keep your thoughts to YOURSELF! I really, really, don’t need a guy to come up to me and disrupt my day, even if just for a few seconds, just to tell me what he thinks of my appearance. I’m not interested. One of the causes behind street harassment is the lack of respect we have for women’s personal space. You don’t see ppl just walking up to men on the street to voice their thoughts abt them, do you? Then why is it okay to do it to women? Just because it’s a ”compliment”? Yeah, cause hearing a stranger say we’re pretty is just such a wonderful experience that it overrides our right to personal space.

  8. van Rooinek says:

    A good man’s guide to catcalling: THOU SHALT NOT.

    Once upon a time I was transporting a mildy troubled younger man (I was mid-20s, he was very early 20s) to whom I and my church group had been ministering. (That’s evangelicalese for lending a helping hand with a dose of gospel mixed in.) This guy had terrible attitudes toward women, far beyond what can be ascribed to his troubled state, much of which was self reinforced if not actually self created. Neither my feminist aquaintances, nor my good old fashioned conservative self, could deal with it. I tried to get him to see a better way to relate to women, but failed.

    The situation came to a head when I was driving him home late one night, and as we crossed a bridge, an attractive girl was walking alone on the sidewalk. He rolled down the passenger side window and catcalled at her very loudly as we drove by. I was horrified, instantly both very sorry for her — she must have been incredibly humiliated and scared — and also, totally embarassed to be seen with him; I somehow felt tainted (and 20+ years later, still feel tainted) that my own vehicle (rather recognizable) would be soiled by association with a rude, crude catcaller. Really, I can’t overstate the instant and total horror I felt. Her feeling of horror was probably a lot worse….

    The only thing I could think of to do, in that terrible moment…. and i truly count this a brilliant flash of insight… .was to GRAB HIM BY THE HAIR AND VERY AGGRESSIVELY YANK HIS HEAD BACK INTO THE CAR. Which is probably exactly the same thing that my good old fashioned right wing chivalrous Dad would have done, if I had ever pulled such a wicked stunt.

    My next impulse, was to pull over, yank him out of the car, and make him apologize on his knees. If it had been daylight, with other people around, I would have. But since it was dark and she was walking alone, I figured that a vehicle pulling over, with 2 men getting out — right after one of them had catcalled her — would scare her half to death and cause her to run away screaming (or perhaps open fire on us.) I therefore decided that it was better to just drive on, although rest assured he and I had a rather intense conversation about it (which fell on deaf ears.)

    It still bothers me, though, that she never got any kind of “amends” for that verbal assault. Pulling over or turning around would have scared her, not healed her. So what else could I do for her? Probably nothing. Anything I can think of, would have made the situation worse, not better.

    But I hope with every fiber of my being, that she ***saw me*** yank the bastard by the hair. Please God (yes, I know, retroactive prayers are irrational and logically unanswerable), but… Please God, I hope she saw that….. Please….

  9. HAHAHAHA. I want you to take a trip to Latin America. Then we’ll talk. This article has made me realize the difference in points of view of women in America vs. in Latin America.

    • I will admit though that there are times when you’re just not in the mood for a comment. The article has some credibility. I think we women should “fight back” (whatever that means) by hitting on men.

    • I’m Brazilian and I have the same pov as the article. What did you mean by your comment? That we Latian American women would enjoy this horrible behaviour? Most men I know also hate other men that act like this.

  10. I’ve been catcalled on a couple of occasions. The first, I was honked at as I was walking to a bus stop, and then the guy yelled out something like “Nice ass”. It scared me more than anything – I, like many women, have been told of the dangers of being raped or assaulted, and then having a strange man comment in a very forward and sexual way about me immediately makes me assume he is a potential rapist. And I don’t like this because it taints my view of men. I like men and I want to like men. I think men are generally wonderful creatures and I enjoy their company. I don’t want to be frightened by them, but sometimes I am.

    There was a second instance where a couple of guys made a comment about me when I was walking through the parking lot at the mall. I was taking my 10 year old little brother to see a movie, and after they made their creepy little comment my brother sort of glanced at me with a embarrassed and puzzled expression, I didn’t really know what to do, so I just pretended that nothing happened. But geez! I was with my fucking brother! He didn’t need to hear people saying that stuff about me! I sort of wished I had turned around and given them a piece of my mind, but then I wonder what if they had gotten angry with me and hurt me or my little brother? The parking lot wasn’t busy – it wasn’t deserted, but there weren’t a whole lot of people within earshot.

    All of that being said, there have been more instances of polite guys paying me completely appropriate and flattering compliments then there have been of catcalls. It’s just the the catcalling has more of a jarring effect and stands out more in my memory unfortunately. But I don’t think guys are pigs. I just think that some – not all, just some – of them may not understand how vulnerable a woman can feel in this world, and a man can either exacerbate that vulnerability, or he can make her feel like she is protected, safe, and respected.

  11. There’s this man who stand on a street corner that I often pass by, selling newspapers for the local homeless community. Every time I go by, he asks if I’d like to buy a newspaper and then tells me that I either have a beautiful smile or that he likes my outfit or something. When he does this, it is non-threatening and makes my day. He first addresses me as a regular human being, and then pays me a compliment. He makes eye contact with me the entire time, such that when he does toss out the compliments about my outfit, I’m not sure he’s even looked at what I’m wearing. There is no threat of him following me or making any gestures to come closer into my personal space. He makes no effort to even ask for any personal information.

    I with all my interactions with men on the street were like this.

  12. Without trying to judge what other people should or shouldn’t find offensive, I can say that some types of out-of-the-blue comments don’t bother me. Basically, don’t be crude (you don’t know me well enough to have that right), make sure it sounds like an observation and not a proposition, and don’t ask/tell me to do something non-sexual like smiling either – it may seem more innocuous, but it’s really annoying. If you blurted out something like “You’re beautiful” or “Nice hair” and left it at that, I’d be flattered.

    • I’m glad you said that D. I like to give compliments and I will sometimes say “That’s a pretty dress” or “You have a nice smile” as I pass a pretty girl on the street who catches my eye. It makes me feel good to give a compliment and I hope that the lady feels the same way to receive it. I often say this as I pass by with no expectation other than that the compliment is heard and hopefully brightens someone’s day. Sometimes they smile back or say thank you, and sometimes I am ignored. Sometimes they might scowl or avoid me, I am not unattractive or old, but am very tall and understand I might seem intimidating to strangers. I have noticed that some seem to react on instinct, as it appears they have not had pleasant interactions with strangers on the street. But I will still give compliments to strangers, I can’t help it.

  13. mendicant caligula says:

    The most troubling part of this article is the aside that “(although this is somewhat irrelevant, I did not look my best)” upon being harassed by the man in the supermarket. You were especially put off by this man judging your attractiveness at a time when you did not feel you should have to bear his scrutiny. But this itself evidences a deeper problem: there is no time when such scrutiny (and the attendant catcalls) is ever appropriate. Yet your statement implicitly acknowledges a performative aspect to your everyday appearance. Normally, you do expect to be judged and catcalled-at, and it is at least marginally more acceptable than it is when you are sick! You participate in essentially the same mind-set for which you excoriate males. The fundamental problem is much more insidious, and much more difficult to eradicate than you suggest. It is something for which both sexes are fundamentally responsible.

  14. I for one play it safe and just don’t approach women. Too easy to offend or get yourself into trouble, if you ask me.

    On a somewhat related note, I was catcalled for the first time in my life the other day. I’ll spare the details about what I was doing at work, but it involved me in a cage on a forklift, in a position that emphasized my ass. Several of my female associates, watching me, started shouting about how nice my ass looked, etc. To say the least, it was pleasant.

  15. Is “The Good Men Project” designed by women to tell men how to act? It certainly seems so.

  16. Comment sections make a fun juxtaposition to the issue of flirting vs. harassment. Just as harassers will claim they were just flirting, trolls will claim they were just looking for a respectful debate. An issue like this is going to attract them because all men are brutes the same way all women are sneaks.

    Compliment something she has done, not something she has. Try to imagine a girl complimenting your father’s wealth. Doesn’t make you feel like a Man, does it?

    That said, I can empathize with fear of being raped by any of these men. Can women empathize with rage at being rejected by all of these women?

    • “Compliment something she has done, not something she has. Try to imagine a girl complimenting your father’s wealth. Doesn’t make you feel like a Man, does it?”

      I regularly hear “nice car” used as an opening line from woman. As to complimenting your fathers wealth, that would be like approaching a girl and telling her how beautiful her mother is…

    • No. Women are never rejected by anyone. Sounds like you are rationalizing male violence against women here.

    • Rage? No, I don’t know of many women who feel rage at being rejected. But I do know of many women who feel frustration, who have low self esteem, who believe they will end up alone, and that they aren’t good looking enough.

      I’m not sure I understand why rage is the appropriate response to repeated rejection.

    • What women fail to accept and realize is that catcalls, whistles, and sexual comments from strangers on the streets are just free speech. All that should be socially and legally acceptable in a free society unless you start by banning sexy clothing on women. Yes, most women are quick to stand up against “sexual harassment” but no woman ever says anything about the sexual harassment women do to men when going out dressing sexy. Why doesn’t anyone say anything about this? Why do women have the right to dress anyway they like while men have no right to say anything they want? I think women should be more responsible and stop taking away our liberties just because they feel superior to men. We’re all equal and we all have the right to dress anyway we want and say anything we want. That’s what a free society is about.

      • BritterSweet says:

        It also means women shouldn’t have to grin and bear it. If you have the right to be a jackass, they have the right to call you a jackass.

      • I see men going out shirtless (more scandalous than just “sexy”) all the time and I never harassed them because of their choice. It’s about them, not me. Women and men have the right to dress anyway they like and be respected for this.
        A free society teaches it’s members to be educated and show respect for each of it’s members. Not all free speech is a good coice, it’s about good sense and empathy. I don’t think catcalling females or males would be a good choice, more like invasion. But if you still choose to do this and they say stop, please do! Show some manners, please. Unless you are just a sociopath with no respect for anyone.
        Well, I guess you are just an ignorant, sexist male.

  17. Astrophysicist says:

    “Weak chumps” is just a metaphor for “beta” right?

    Noticing someone attractive and admitting to them that that is what drew you = treating them like a person. Defining them by their attractiveness (i.e. “Hey Beautiful!”) = crap. Sometimes you will approach someone who just found out their dentist is charging them $500 for a root canal and doesn’t really want to talk. That person might treat you poorly that one time, and it sucks for you, but life happens.

    Since I highly doubt that your experience is some massive statistical anomaly and you just happen to always approach people who just found out their dog died, I am going to make a bold assumption about you. It seems you have already made up your mind about all this and about “women” as a group. I sincerely hope that something changes in your life so you can feel happier, as people can taste your bitterness through the series of tubes.

    • “Noticing someone attractive and admitting to them that that is what drew you = treating them like a person. Defining them by their attractiveness (i.e. “Hey Beautiful!”) = crap.”

      Katie baker disagrees with you:

      “I hate when a man “starts a conversation” with me by telling me I’m beautiful, because it makes me feel like I’m being judged solely on my appearance.”

      She doesn’t care how respectfully it is done, simply doing it is unacceptable to her. notice she say’s “telling me I’m beautiful”… not “Hey beautiful”

      This is what several of us have been trying to say, each woman is different, what they find acceptable changes from woman to woman (at the very least), and sometimes a man is going to say something to a woman she doesn’t like, but that another woman would find acceptable, even pleasing… TOO BAD. If you don’t like what he said, then you don’t have the kind of personality the man was looking for. Men have the responsibility of approaching women they don’t know to try and establish contact, they need to present themselves in a fashion that is appealing, but also needs to ensure the woman will appeal to him more then just physically. How a woman responds to his advances says a lot, just as much as the advance itself tells a woman. It isn’t harassment just because you don’t like it (touching you or continuing to speak with you after you reject him, that’s harassment), but some women want to insist it is, just because they don’t like it. They seem to think a man should respond precisely the way they want, as if men should be able to read their minds and be damned what the other 3.5 billion women on the planet may want. Some women seriously need to get over themselves and simply accept that a man who approaches them with an advance they don’t like simple picked the wrong girl to approach, and not take it as some kind of personal affront to their dignity… cause the alternative is believing you are the perfect woman for every man, and that it is entirely in your hands to pick which man suits your fancy… you know, delusional arrogance.

    • and weak chump is a metaphor for omega male. the bottom rung… the nerd male among high-school cheerleaders.

  18. Astrophysicist says:

    This was a great article. Thanks for it!

    It seems that street harassment is somewhat regional. We don’t get much in the Bay Area, thankfully.

    For the “guide for guys who want to talk to the ladies”: simple. Treat women like people! We get that you possibly find us attractive (trust me, we find you attractive too!) and might want to see if you have a chance at something. It’s easy, walk up and say “Hi my name is Joe, I saw you and thought you’re cute/pretty and just wanted to take a chance and ask if you might be interested in this awesome concert / coffee/ whatever…” It’s respectful and treats her as a person. If I have my headphones in, that is sort of my way of saying “not in the mood to chat.” Sometimes we’re in a hurry, etc… and are curt. It happens, but most people approached respectfully, even if they are not interested, would show reciprocal respect for the guy approaching. This is not always the case, but are you saying you have never had a bad day? The amount of middle fingers I see blasted at people in vehicles makes me think we all have iPod headphone days. If this is happening to you ALL THE TIME, it is probably more a function of something you are doing than all women. Trust me, even if I have no interest in the guy, if he’s kind and respectful to me, I am with him.

    Catcalling is not respectful. If you think it is and thus use it to attract women, I can say that is likely why they are abrupt with you. Try the “Hi my name is…” approach and see what happens. Respect usually begets respect, and people are people, even women.

    • “Hi my name is Joe, I saw you and thought you’re cute/pretty and just wanted to take a chance and ask if you might be interested in this awesome concert / coffee/ whatever…”

      There have already been some women on this thread who have said the “I think you’re cute/pretty” part is insulting. So the questions is, just how respectful do we have to be before we’re going too far and just looking like weak chumps?

  19. As another commenter mentioned, there are two issues here. One is of street bullying. Usually it’s groups of men making inappropriate comments as women pass by. The other version is undesirable flirtation, when guys who don’t appeal to you hit on you, especially when they aren’t very good at it. First I’ll discuss the street bullying… (my response to the second issue can be found above, as a response to the first comment made by daddy files

    “It not only shows how second-nature street harassment is to some men—hello, it’s been going on since at least 200 B.C.—but how it often isn’t about the interchangeable female targets as much as it is about male bonding, defining one’s own masculinity, or collectively—even if subconsciously—asserting men’s inherent physical power over women.”

    I think you’re close, but you’ve injected the typical misandy into it by claiming it is about power. I suspect it is more about attempting to bolster ones confidence. Men are the ones required to initiate verbal communication, and many men have a very hard time of this, particularly the men lower on the social rungs… such as construction workers. As such, getting practice, with the help of your fellow buddies, by making lewd, inappropriate comments to get used to saying things you normally wouldn’t be comfortable with, with your fellow men there with you, can help build confidence. It isn’t an appropriate way of doing it, it is nothing more then schoolyard bullying in order to make yourself feel better, but it is less about asserting power over women and more about building self confidence. Again, I am not intending to excuse the behaviour, only explain it in a far less misandric manner.

    “Catcallers and hubba-hubba-ers aren’t, for the most part, women-haters. They catcall because they’re taught by their elders, peers, and effectively by the women that ignore them that street harassment is a fun, inoffensive social activity. For centuries, more or less well meaning men have gleaned that it’s acceptable, even funny.”

    Your own words, and none of this sounds like an attempt to exert physical power over women.

    Think about it, when have you ever heard a group of men catcalling with a comment that you actually felt might have worked or appealed to you? It is always something lewd, inappropriate and often offensive. Things you would need a lot of confidence to say, especially if you were to say them alone, without the presence of other people doing the same. Things that, if you can actually say to a women, then it would be no problem whatsoever to get something actually complimentary out… (IE, if I can say “hey hot mamma, that is one fine ass you got there”, then asking a women if she’d care to dance is going to be a breeze) Again, not condoning the behaviour, but it’s not about exerting power over women, it is about building confidence to engage women in ways outside their traditional comfort zone… IE, confidence, the trait that can be built by men that women find appealing. Unattractive men can’t make themselves look more attractive beyond their attire and grooming, but they can make themselves more confident, and this does appeal to women. It is what women want (even demand, based on my conversations with my little sister, who refuses to ask the guy she likes out, because “it’s a man’s job to do the asking out, and he’s being a wuss”)… Yes, what I am saying is, men catcall and “street harass” some women, so that they can become comfortable enough to hit on other women, as those other women require of them.

    Truth told, I find this kind of activity far less harmful then the female version (though I will admit, the female version is far less (noticeably) common), which I have personally experienced twice, so am unwilling to chalk it up to an isolated incident. On multiple occasions now, I have encountered a group of women who would break out into subtle, or not so subtle, and tantalizing catcalls of their own “Hey cuttie”’s, “how’s it going handsome” and other similar, inviting comments. These were not comments like the male versions that clearly aren’t intended to attract, but actual appeals intended to draw me in… and once I approached (on two occasions. I an no longer willing to approach women in groups that are appearing to be nice to me), looking to strike up a friendly conversation with these women who seemed all friendly and interested, they broke out into a humiliating cackle, clearly intended to publicly humiliate me. There is no explanation for this other then pure hostility and vindictiveness.

    “Am I saying men should never talk to women in public? No, not at all.”

    With laws criminalizing catcalling, and catcalling being in the eyes of the beholder, and women, as fickle as they are (see your first comment (by daddy files) and my reply) being the beholders…. That is exactly the result you’ll get. Most men are already afraid to function around women for fear of false or exaggerated rape, harassment, etc allegations. But it’s the men that don’t actually do these things that are being held down. The men that do do these things don’t generally care about the consequences. If a law passes that criminalizes catcalling, the only male interaction you women will get in public is the lewd and inappropriate comments from the guys who don’t give a damn about getting a ticket, because they’re having fun attacking the gender that made it illegal to communicate in public.

    “Studies suggest that 80 to 100 percent of all women face at least occasional unwanted, harassing attention in public places from men they do not know.”

    Yes, is this really a surprise? Men are required to ask the women out, it is the expected social order that even my 17 year old sister enforces (in a day and age when equality is supposed to rein, the “hard and/or scary” stuff is still left up to the man to do.) and they can not be certain if a woman is interested until they ask. And if the woman isn’t interested, and worst, finds the man to be unappealing/unattractive, it has just become an example of “an unwanted, harassing attention in public places from men they do not know.”. and don’t try to pretend a woman won’t find flirtation and an advancement from a man they find unattractive as harassment, because I personally know otherwise. The exact same pickup line can range from a “cute and bold compliment” to a “sick, disgusting attack by a disturbed fat pervert”, based solely on the appeal (or lack thereof) of the man delivering it.

    “Frustratingly, society tends to punish…”

    Seems to me quite the opposite. The TV station blurred the ladies face to protect her, and yet, she chooses to see it as victimizing her. Had her face been shown, you can be certain women’s groups (with far more power to do damage to the TV station) would have claimed the TV station was trying to shame her into silence (such as in your next example). As for the woman who stripped… Had a man done such a thing, he would have been arrested, charged and jailed. She got off with a compliment and a “that was inappropriate” and thinks that this was punishing treatment? Seriously? Are you suggesting that getting nekid is appropriate behaviour for public streets? Cause that is the only explanation for thinking that being told “stripping nekid in public is “inappropriate”” could be construed as “victim shaming”.

  20. Typical arrogant woman complaining about being complimented at every turn by people who don’t get to spend their lives in those amazing bodies. Stop treating men like shit, try complimenting them instead.

  21. More misandrist drivel from the feminist “good men project.” Vomit.

  22. Perfectly done Sarah!

  23. I’m sorry, it’s not just a “small group of men”; it may not be all men, but I bet that many, many men have done something similar to this at some point. And if they haven’t, they’ve certainly walked by it happening to a woman and done nothing. When I lived in NYC I took to confronting my harassers (and it is harassment). I would sometimes double-back and follow men back down the street asking them how they would feel if someone did that to their mother or their sister. What I found was that there was something about speaking up, about making these men view me as a person and not an object that really stopped them in their tracks, and I did get a lot of apologies, or at least some very sheepish looks.

    Even when I didn’t get the response I wanted from the man/men, I felt better for saying something. I didn’t feel like I had allowed myself to be victimized, that I had stood up for myself.

    Men, if you don’t want to be lumped into this group, then I have some advice for you:1) raise your sons not to objectify women; and 2) when you see something, say something!

    • “Men, if you don’t want to be lumped into this group, then I have some advice for you:1) raise your sons not to objectify women; and 2) when you see something, say something!”

      1: Family courts are making that progressively more and more difficult to accomplish. Women themselves also make that difficult, as the behaviour is effective often enough to make it continually a viable options. The phrase, nice guys finish last, and the cliché “women like a bad boy” don’t exist for no reason.
      2: Even if the women being spoken to finds it appealing? as my own anecdot, I can say I have seen a man make some pretty vulgor comments to a cute girl, watch as she spins around to tear him a new one, only to break out into a big smile, tossing her hair and blinking excessively at the handsome man with the brutish voice. Should I have told him he was being inappropriate? Would the girl have been appreciative of my involvement? I suspect I would have been more likely to get a “fuck off” from the girl then a “thank you” (as she was clearly into the guy).

  24. apparently I come from a different planet than Demos and Savfire. They pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about. I can tell you I knew exactly what you are talking about since I was six years old. Any men who wants a woman to provide him with the always sure winner pick-up line is a cripple you should run away from with all deliberate speed. Also any woman who would marry a man who walks up cold and offers a fuck in so many words is settling for a pretty poor choice. I am and have always been ready willing and able to point out to my fellow men how much of an asshole and loser they are by leering at women and undressing them with their eyes in work situations where they are literally captive. For you cripples out there try this one, Excuse me. Do you have a lover?

    • Jim…as I said, there is nothing wrong with taking specific people to task for their behavior. I know that there are men and women who engage in unsociable and rude behavior. And it is up to us as individuals to check that behavior and present by example the behavior we want to see in others.

      But that’s not what is going on here.

      If the article author called upon us as individuals to stand up and demonstrate proper courtesy, then I would be all over this article and would be screaming its praises from the rooftops. I live my life by the the quote by Mahatmas Gandhi; “Become the change you want to see in the world.” I live my life by my principles and demonstrate the things I profess with my words by my deeds. If this was an article that expressed a call of each of us as individuals to just take a stand and be the men that we are, then I would celebrate this article.

      But that is not what is going on here.

      This article is more about the devaluation of all men by the actions of a few. This is more about a passive/aggressive attempt to blame all men for the lack of home training of a few.

      Jim, you clearly state that you have no problem calling a guy on the carpet for demonstrating boorish behavior. That’s awesome, and I do the same. There are many women who feel threatened by that kind of “attention (and I use the term loosely).” No woman should ever have to put up with unwanted attention and if you as a human being feel the tug of social responsibility to act in defense of somebody who is being made uncomfortable to the point of fear, then you sir, are a paragon of society.

      But that is not what is going on here.

      There are people who thrive on conflict and then there are people who can’t stand up to their pet Chihuahua. If some guy gets out of pocket with an inappropriate remark to a woman and that woman takes offense at it, then it is up to her as to how she should respond. Some women accept it as a poorly-phrased compliment and move on, some women are threatened by it and try to quickly get away to avoid the situation, and some women turn tiger and give the dumb S.O.B. the hell he rightly deserves.

      Now, what do these three responses have in common; they are all individual responses to an individual problem. Why is it our collective fault because some guy talks to a woman’s breasts or a bunch of construction workers yell at women on the street. I’m not saying that it should be ignored, nor I am I trying to dismiss this as a problem. What I am saying is that this should be handled on a individual level, not something that men should be guilt-tripped into addressing or should be legislated as a crime.

      In fact, if we start legislating social decorum, then we are officially screwed as a country. Social behavior has always been enforced by social interaction or the lack thereof. My wife (and in fact, all of my ex-girlfriends) dated me because I treated them like people first and ladies second. The prime tenet of treating a romantic interest like a person is simply asking about and noticing what types of behavior they condone or condemn. Women who don’t like rude behavior don’t respond to guys who engage in it. Or to paraphrase the late Richard Pryor; “If chicks didn’t dig that shit, dudes wouldn’t do it.”

      Again, my issue here is simply that men should not collectively be held to task for the behavior of a pitiful few. My parents and teachers taught me proper behavior in public and in society as they taught my two older sisters.

      Jim…I live in a place where individuals are expected to be held to the consequences of their behavior. Men who catcall only get positive attention from women who are stimulated by catcalling. There are two types of men who engage in this kind of behavior; men who have no “home training” and men who have no fear of reprisal from women for their rude behavior.

      Question: how you or I as men are responsible for either group of men?

      Answer: We are not unless we choose to be.

      But what is going on here is that this article is trying to force men to accept the burden for being responsible for socially reprehensible people by law or by guilt rather than allowing individuals to accept an individual choice of social responsibility.

      That is what I am objecting to, Jim…do you get me now?

      • Demo,
        Did you even read the article? My main point is that PEOPLE need to speak back to harassers, not solely men. I focus on women, if anything: the piece is mainly about my experience speaking back to men and how I believe all woman should try to do so when they feel they safely can. I also say I don’t think legislation is the way to go, so I have no idea what you’re going on about. Try reading the piece before getting defensive about a point that no one is arguing.

        • Katie, I’m responding not just to you, but also to the movement that your article supports.

          We obviously agree that catcalling is rude and inconsiderate behavior. But then, I have to ask why is this “A Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling?” The title of your article alone, places the onus of this behavior on so-called “good men.”

          I insist that this is an individual problem and should be dealt with by individuals. You word this otherwise:

          “I want to challenge all good men to step up. Men, please say something when you witness street harassment, even if the harassers are your coworkers or friends. I’m not saying all men are responsible for their street harassing ilk, but they owe it to the women they respect to set an example and encourage others to do the same.”

          I repeat that this is a passive/aggressive attempt to get all men to accept the responsibility for our ill-mannered fellows. You say that you’re “not saying that all men are responsible for their street harassing ilk,” but your words above clearly indicate that you want us to accept that responsibility.

          And I say that it is an individual issue. You cite Nicola Briggs case where she’s flashed by that guy. That is not “catcalling;” that is sexual harassment and the law clearly states that such behavior is illegal.

          You will have to forgive my apparent dismay here, but this is easily becoming another “Schrodinger’s Rapist” post. Phaedra Starling wanted all men to accept the fact that most women do not know whether a man who approaches them is a potential rapist or not and we should approach all women as if they think that we are and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with approaching women with courtesy and decorum, but according to you here, even that is a problem. How are men supposed to approach you Katie, or are we supposed to just wait for you to give us the “hi-sign?” And more importantly, what form does the “hi-sign” take?

          Is this really about “catcalling” or about “unwanted attention?” As many men and women will admit, “unwanted attention” is a euphemism for expressing sexual preference in the form of disqualifying “unsuitable” suitors (of either gender). I have to ask you Katie; if the guy who told you that you were beautiful while you were in the supermarket was George Clooney (or looked a lot like him), would you have been as angered at him asking you to smile?

          Your article is an exercise in contradictions and yet, you frame it as a call to action for “good men.” You start off talking about rude men who hoot and holler lewd and rude comments at women on the street, and end with a woman who confronted a man who flashed her on the subway, with a stop on the way with relating your experience with a polite man who complimented you when you felt at your worst.

          But you have clearly stated that you are uncomfortable with compliments. I believe that there is more to this issue than just your problems with street catcalls. I could be wrong here, but I’m thinking that you are probably one of those women who just want to be left alone until you don’t want to be left alone anymore.

          But guess what? You live in the world and we interact with each other. Until there is a paradigm-shifting change in human psychology, women and men are going to interact with each other with the context of sexual politics in mind. Men and women look at each other all the time and think to themselves; “Wow! Look at her eyes…” or “Ooo-whee! That man has a smile to die for!”

          I’ll repeat my closing remark from my initial comment:

          By all means, stand up for yourselves if you feel that some man has gotten out of pocket with you (but please be street-savvy enough to know how to pick your battles). But to come here and place the burden for “defending your honor,” on us collectively does not sit well with me or many other men and being a liberated woman, shouldn’t you be able to stand up for yourself?

          • Couldn’t have said it better… not even close. But to add to your assertion that this article is about unwanted attention, each of Ms bakers personal anecdote’s are exactly that, instances of a man displaying unwanted attention towards her, once in a subway (she felt safe enough to stand up to him, so clearly not an empty one), and once in a supermarket. In both cases, the “perpetrator” may have been socially awkward or inept, or perhaps just a lower class of person from ms baker, but none of them were even cat-callers, and certainly not harmful men.

  25. As another note, the title of this article seems as though it’s content would at some point provide constructive tips on the immensely difficult task of approaching a woman you’d like to meet. Imagine the surprise when readers find that, as Demosthenes XXI correctly notes, they’re being taken to task for the actions of a small group of men. I’m honestly a little surprised you have as much of a problem with catcalling as you allege, considering your apparently hostile attitude, sour disposition, and the ease with which you collectively blame ‘Men’ for both the problem and for not being a solution.

    • Thank you. That was my initial thought, but got lost in addressing the article that was there (rather then the article implied)

    • Sour disposition with street harassment and being hostile with rude catcallers? How could one be different?
      She said men could also help, didn’t blame “MEN” for anything. Women can also help, themselves and other women.

  26. Some personal reflections on a great topic…
    ………
    Harvard is the Benefit of the World and You are Too:
    There is a plaque on a Harvard Bridge that says “The knowledge of the few is the benefit of the many” or something close to that.
    It should read… “The beauty of the few is benefit of the many.” Nothing quite pleases a man more than a pretty woman, especially if he can find a way to brighten her day somehow.
    There was a lascivious, older gay character in a comedy who one night charged into the bedroom of a most unwilling straight young man boarding at his country home ineffectually declaring “I mean to have you, even if it must mean burglary”. This accurately describes my feelings towards a great number of women I see. I do however possess myself such that I don’t act on it other than a glance that may linger a moment too long.
    Wait for a moment where some polite interaction where the question of appropriate is at least in some doubt. I dated a girl I shared a cab with for a year.
    …………
    The Ferrari is Witty, the Camaro is Not:
    Sitting on Newbury Street, Boston (our version of Rodeo Drive) waiting for the next car to pull up as a valet at a high-end restaurant in college, a Ferrari pulled up. The driver handed me the keys. Starting away I came to stop at a crosswalk. Two young, pretty, well dressed girls passed across the well Italian blood red hood. With the car out of gear I blipped the throttle. Palpable was the feel from my foot, to the pedal, through the beautiful machine and straight up their pretty skirts. Both heads snapped and four eyes locked into mine with two of the broadest smiles I have ever seen.
    A 12 year old Camaro and the girls would have had much different thoughts of machines, feet and genitals. I learned a bit of what context meant that day.
    ………….
    The Only Man in the Board Room is Naked:
    Walking late into a meeting one afternoon as an intern in a female filled firm, I must have been well turned out as the room of a dozen or so women reviewed my entrance with such intensity that although as you note that a man need not fear, they clearly had in mind that I should. For a moment I felt very much burgled, but not at all robbed.
    …………
    The Gas Attendant is a Hottie:
    Working with a gorgeous girl one summer on the Vineyard, she pumped gas and I rented cars to the various island visitors and locals. We sat all day in the sun helping customers while she endured repeated, unoriginal, uninspired approaches by all manner of men young and old. It grew tiring for a day, and incredulous after a summer. She had no particular comments/thoughts when asked, as if it was just part of life. No victim, she was polite with high walls for such things. That kind of lame attention I would not want and was glad the summer was over.

  27. One problem I’m having with this is that once again, we have someone passively placing blame on men for a problem with women and insisting that all men take responsibility for a small number of men who are doing something wrong. And that is exactly what this is; a passive/aggressive attempt to blame men for this problem. Let’s tell it like it is; there are a number of men who have a problem with polite behavior around women. We all know it’s true. And conversely, there are a number of women who have a similar problem around men. But the only difference is that men are socialized not to be affected by this problem and women are.

    But I am not saying that this is something that women bring upon themselves; nothing could be further from the truth. But let’s be honest and place the blame where it lies; upon the people who commit unsociable acts. What this does is simply create a blanket issue that can be thrown off on an entire group. There is no way that men as an entire group can solve this problem because there is only so much that can be done to police the behavior of other people. But by dumping the responsibility for solving this problem in the laps of a given group, the group doing the dumping can simply sit back and say; “Well, it’s not our fault that this happens. If they can’t do something about it, then it’s their fault that it exists.” That is flawed logic to say the least and the reason that it is flawed can be proven by substituting “men” with an ethnic group and then voicing the problem again.

    It is one thing to have teachers and parents take a part in teaching their kids better social behaviors (and that is all that is called for in this issue…you won’t get the benefit of it, but your daughters will). But to try to create a legal statute for the purpose of enforcing social courtesy verges upon tyranny.

    Some people are rude and inconsiderate assholes. That’s the way of the world. Not all women are going to be “so lucky” to have Michael Jackson come up to them on the street and hit on them in song (Imagery from his video for “The Way You Make Me Feel”); especially since he’s dead. But with that being said, I have no issue with women taking up the reins of “confrontation” in response to rude behavior. My wife has a favorite saying about that and it’s simply put by saying to a guy who makes a rude, sexual comment toward a woman:

    “You can’t ask for it any better than that? Women like me don’t go for rude men like you. Good (morning/day/evening), (sir/gentlemen).”

    By all means, stand up for yourselves if you feel that some man has gotten out of pocket with you (but please be street-savvy enough to know how to pick your battles). But to come here and place the burden for “defending your honor,” on us collectively does not sit well with me or many other men and being a liberated woman, shouldn’t you be able to stand up for yourself?

    • Yeah, no... says:

      Racism much like sexism does put a moral obligation for those so-called liberated people to do what they will to eradicate it.

      Throughout the twentieth century, white people’s racism was seen as a problem… and black people and mentally ‘liberated’ white people put pressure on ignorant, racist white people to change their views. There was a moral imperative.

      This is not about ‘defending’ honor or chivalry, or your NiceGuy(tm) woes, or your spurned advances. This is about women getting treated like human beings for a change… not like sexual objects.

  28. I think this article nails the dilemma. Studies show that men are visual creatures, but that doesn’t give us the right to verbally accost women we don’t know, about their looks or anything else.

    I use Matt Dillon of the TV western “Gunsmoke” as my guide here. If a beautiful woman pulled into Dodge on the stage, the most Matt would do is smile and tip his hat. If you don’t have a hat, just nod.

    Women get that, and can respond or not without feeling threatened. That’s the way a gentlemen acknowledges female beauty, in my view.

    • “I use Matt Dillon of the TV western “Gunsmoke” as my guide here. If a beautiful woman pulled into Dodge on the stage, the most Matt would do is smile and tip his hat. If you don’t have a hat, just nod.”

      Some women who found him unappealing could (and would) claim he was leering at them. A rare few victimization prone women may even claim his head nod was an attempt to enforce his will on her (perhaps by dictating what directing she should go) or that the tip of his hat was some kind of phallic gesture.

      it’s all perception, and how willing women are to believe they are a victim (IE, feminist doctrine)

      • Mark Ellis says:

        I take your point, Kratch, that for some women there is no way for a man they do not know to approach them or acknowledge them in any way. So be it. There are radical feminists who would eliminate men altogether if they could find a way to breed without us. I assume the perimeter of the discussion here falls into a reasonable scope.

        I’m sticking with Marshall Dillion, who was much loved by closest thing to a feminist Dodge City had: Kitty.

        • Not quite what I meant. I’m not saying that some women will never be accepting of a stranger approaching them (though a few are like that), I’m saying an increasingly large number of women will only accept a man showing them any attention whatsoever (including a smile and nod or tip of the hat), if that male appeals to them, and the less that man appeals to them, the more unacceptable, even offensive, the exact same behaviour becomes.

          Since I’m currently watching Austin power’s Goldmember, I’ll use a few scenes from it as an example. When Foxy and Austin infiltrate the sumo locker-room. The first attention Fat bastard displays to Foxy, after a little dialog with Austin is “Who’s your friend” in an obviously interested fashion. I’d hardly call this offensive, and yet the look of disgust on her face is obvious (and gets even worst as he starts making actual dirty comments). Alternatively, when they get to Austin’s Father, he looks at Foxy and say’s “Hello, Hello” in much the same tone Fat bastard used, followed by “aren’t you going to introduce us?” (AKA who’s your friend)… and Foxy practically swoon’s. The offense she takes at Fat Bastard’s “who’s your friend” is actually worst then offense she takes when mini me ask her if “she’d like a little clone in her”… Yes. “Who’s your friend?” was actually more offensive to her then “would you like a little clone in you?”. The offense she takes is more related to her perceptions of the person speaking to her then to what is actually being said.

          Now, I realize Austin Powers is just a movie, and so is an exaggeration… but an exaggeration is based off something, and that something is a norm, with can and often does fluctuate. In otherwords, it may be an exaggeration, but it does happen, and some people actually take it to that level (by themselves exaggerating the norm)

          • Mark Ellis says:

            Yeah, you’ve got an advantage if the member of the opposite sex you’d like to approach finds you attractive. Mike Meyers also had a Saturday Night Live skit called, “the Handsome Man.” That guy got away with stuff just because he was handsome. I’ve heard this called “Looks-ism.” In other words, better looking people get a lot more breaks in life. Hey, life is not always fair.

  29. Can I just say that while catcalling is indeed disrespectful and intrusive and uncomfortable, to be brief, that STARING sucks about as much. I’m talking the type of staring that resembles a starving animal when it finally gets to eat: it’s long and frantic and there’s a selfish glint in their eye. I just had this happen while pumping gas the other night, some guy was just STARING at me while I pumped my gas. I didn’t look at him directly though I felt very much like screaming (like the girl in the video) at him. How rude. My body is not yours to consume. It makes me uncomfortable because you’re not admiring me based on anything more than genetics, which is totally out of my control. I KNOW what is going on in their head and I don’t need to think about it with you.
    I think this topic is fascinating, because it’s not like touching which can be so obviously intrusive…this is different. It would be worth thinking more about.
    I get the people check people out, but do you need to STARE? NO. So cut it out!

  30. As usual Lisa, great comment. And I see your point, but just never really thought about it like that.

    Further proof this issue is one that will differ depending on the individual.

  31. Lisa Hickey says:

    I have a somewhat different (and possibly un-PC) POV. I actually used to find it much less threatening when groups of guys “cat-called” me than when a single guy walked up and told me I was beautiful. The reason? Cat-calling was obviously a social activity, it was usually in a public place, there was usually laughter, the fact that it was a group of guys doing it meant there were witnesses (ie., if a guy working on a construction site was going to follow through with an unwanted sexual advance, he’d probably be caught). It was a little embarrassing and a little flattering and a little awkward, and that combination got me to laugh and have a momentary shared social experience.

    But a solitary guy that I had never met telling me I was beautiful almost always freaked me out. That said to me: “Beauty is the most important thing about you. It’s all that really matters.” Not only did my mind often jump to translating that into “I want to have sex with you right now.” – but hearing that over and over, I grew to believe it – beauty is what is important to guys, and if I could only be beautiful enough, all would be right with the world.

    It wasn’t the catcalling that bothered me, it was the society that place a value on beauty above all else. And believe it or not, the world became a much better place when *I* stopped placing such a high value on beauty.

    • Lisa,
      I completely agree. I hate when a man “starts a conversation” with me by telling me I’m beautiful, because it makes me feel like I’m being judged solely on my appearance. But I think catcalling stems from that because there’s not even a pretense of it being a conversation starter – it’s a social activity based on judging women on how attractive or sexy they are.

      • So I ask you; how is a guy supposed to initiate a “cold contact” with a woman like you? He can’t compliment you, if he asks about the time or the weather, that’s probably too cliche…so what is a guy supposed to do?

        If he’s never seen you before then what is supposed to do? Visual indicators are the first thing in initiating a relationship. Have you ever thought that because a man finds you attractive that it makes him want to find out more about you?

        Here’s a biological fact; bees and other pollinating insects go to the flowers that have the brightest colors.

        Lisa, Katie; let’s hear a suggestion…help us poor ignorant fellows out, will ya?

        • Yeah, no... says:

          Speaking situationally is not cliche. If you two are at a bookstore… talk about a book…

          If it is a blizzard… talk about the blizzard as an icebreaker…

          For christssakes, it’s not hard to refrain from being disrespectful or objectifying.

    • Yeah, I think the social aspect gets overlooked sometimes. I don’t usually catcall or anything, but ‘hey, 3-o’clock in the black dress’ or ‘check out the legs on that one!’ is fairly common conversation when I’m in town with the guys. Extending that to catcalling is pretty easy; but even then it’s more a conversation than anything else.

  32. Great piece. I think another main part of the problem is that men don’t realize the extent to which women have to deal with this. It might be funny to a few guys who occasionally make jokes, but they don’t realize women hear it ad nauseum—like how someone with an unusual name hears the same pun every time they meet someone new.

    It’s also, sadly, hard for men to relate to this, because none of us have any experience being on the receiving end. I think it’s great to confront harassers. Most men aren’t bad, we are just clueless.

  33. Katie, great post. Something like this would be exahausting for me to write from an emotional perspective. Some men will continue to want to pick apart what you are trying to share with them. Many more will listen and learn. Thank you for your effort here.

  34. Curious why this is called a Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling…? I don’t disagree with points in this article, but it’s written by a woman. Ought to have been called A Woman’s Perspective on Catcalling.

  35. Thank you for this well-written piece, Katie. Too often women talk amongst themselves about this pervasive problem so I am very glad to see a piece about street harassment on the Good Men Project website.

    @Daddy Files, a few questions for you. Why do you feel the need to tell a woman you don’t know she is beautiful? There are more to women than our looks, despite what society would like everyone to believe. What if she doesn’t care what you think? Also, would you feel the need to tell her that when she is with a man? And do you have a daughter, sister, mother, female significant other? How would you feel if men they didn’t know where constantly coming up to them and commenting on the way they look?

    For many women, too often the men who start off saying something like “you’re beautiful” then end up following you onto the subway or from store to store or around the corner and won’t leave you alone. How do we know that’s not what you or other “good guys” are going to do?

    What about for a rape survivor – which in our society is a huge percentage of the female population? Any man a rape survivor doesn’t know who imposes his belief that it’s his RIGHT to comment on her body to her face can feel like a re-victimization.

    As to your example of the friends at the bar, a bar is a much different situation than a bus stop or city street. While people should still not touch others inappropriately and should always be respectful in a bar, “hitting on” someone is more appropriate there. Also, there are bar tenders and others around who can help if the situation turns bad so women tend to feel safer in that situation. Starting off with sexually explicit language when talking to a stranger on the street is going to feel pretty threatening to most women, especially if they are alone and it’s dark or an unfamiliar area. In my research, most men who harass do so when the woman is alone.

    I know it’s hard for guys to “get” why we don’t like street harassment because of a privileged position in our society as men. But please don’t dismiss our complaints and consider us asking to be respected as being too “PC”. Street harassment is a real problem that causes some women to change jobs, move neighborhoods, take longer routes to their destinations, avoid going place alone at night, forgo exercising outside for the gym, and generally feel less safe in public places.

    For men interested in learning more about street harassment & what you can do, please see: http://streetharassment.wordpress.com/what-men-can-do-to-stop-street-harassment/ and chapter 7 of my book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women.

    Also, starting in January, I’m launching a weekly guest series from male allies on my blog Stop Street Harassment so look for that on Wednesdays to hear about this topic from men who do “get” it. http://streetharassment.wordpress.com/

    • HKearl: I’d be happy to answer your questions.

      Whether you like it or not, looks are what first attract men AND women to each other. Not always, but usually. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course you get to know someone and they either become more or less attractive, but more often than not it starts with looks.

      If I tell a woman she’s beautiful she doesn’t have to care what I think. She can take it or leave it. A simple compliment is just that. Now if I were to invade her personal space, leer at her or follow her around that is a TOTALLY different situation.

      Oh, and I have a wife. A wife who is a rape survivor. She manages a bank and deals with the public on a regular basis. And at least once a week — sometimes more — she is told by men (and sometimes women) that she is beautiful. Some of them even ask her out. It doesn’t irk her and it doesn’t bother me. She tells me it’s flattering. Granted, my wife does not speak for all rape survivors, but you asked the question so there’s my answer.

      But I’m sure it won’t stop you from crusading against innocent compliments.

      • She deals with the public – inside the bank. They tell her this educately in a safe environment.
        Does your wife really feel okay about you telling everyone about her being a rape survivor? She is really strong and confident.

    • “Why do you feel the need to tell a woman you don’t know she is beautiful? “

      Because, often enough, it works. Men are required by social construct to be the initiators. We rarely have much information to go on beyond your looks, and flattery is tremendously effective. If you don’t like it, then get your ass out there and you do the advancements. You be the aggressive one, hitting on men (and remember, don’t objectify them based on their looks or you’ll just be a hypocrite). But I’m willing to bet you won’t do that, it’s easier sitting back, getting free drinks and politely turning unappealing prospects away then it is being the aggressor (or so my buddy tells me, he’ll often go out to a gay bar with one of his friends, when he’s feeling down, and play the lady for the night, getting free drinks and a constant stream of compliments (even if some unappealing suggestions are mixed in)).

      “There are more to women than our looks, despite what society would like everyone to believe. What if she doesn’t care what you think? “

      Then she is one of the many failed attempts men are required, by society, to make before finding his success. You make it sound like men can read minds and know beforehand which women will find him appealing. That’s insane… you do realize that? That believing a man can know what more (then your looks) you have to offer before he’s even spoken to you, or that a man should know ahead of time if you’ll care… these are not things that are actually possible to do (without stalking, which is criminal and I suspect you find just as appalling)?

      “Also, would you feel the need to tell her that when she is with a man? “

      Ask a gay man that question, his answer will be yes. Flirtations and flattery (what you are talking about) is a common method of initiating a dialog. I suspect you are more then happy to receive it from men you find attractive. So then, I’ll ask you a question, why is it unacceptable, given so many women respond positively to it?

      “And do you have a daughter, sister, mother, female significant other? How would you feel if men they didn’t know where constantly coming up to them and commenting on the way they look?”

      I’ve already told my sister, whom insists “it’s a man’s job to make the first move”, that if I ever hear her bitching and moaning about getting hit on all the time, I’m going to LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH. You get what you ask for. You want men to make the first move, don’t bitch and moan when men make a first move, just because it isn’t the man you were hoping for. Suck it up or change yourself. Trust me, when a girl is moving around a room, hitting on guys, she doesn’t generally get hit on herself very much (cause she’s busy talking to other guys already… IE, Occupied) (so says my Aunt). You would know this already though if you weren’t like my sister, leaving the approach in the man’s hands.

      As for the rest of your comments, you’re falling into the bullying category. Based on all of Ms Baker’s personal anecdote’s, and Daddy Files comments, the issue being discussed by daddyfiles isn’t about guys stripping nekid, or following you around an empty alleyway (bullying), it is about men being bad at hitting on women.

      • “Also, would you feel the need to tell her that when she is with a man? “

        Ask a gay man that question, his answer will be yes. Flirtations and flattery (what you are talking about) is a common method of initiating a dialog. I suspect you are more then happy to receive it from men you find attractive. So then, I’ll ask you a question, why is it unacceptable, given so many women respond positively to it?

        Oops. misread the question… because the actual questions was just so …

        Of course a man interested in striking up a sexual relationship with a woman (the whole purpose of hitting on a woman) would not feel the need to do so with a woman who is clearly already attached, and in the presence of that attached man no less. Does this answer really surprise you? well, reasoning is, the chances of success are drastically reduced and often are lower then the chances of initiating a physical altercation.

  36. I think we’re talking about two different groups of people. There are those whose actions cross a line and become threatening, and then there’s just innocent compliments.

    The problem is that line is different for every woman. While you seem to be OK with a man respectfully telling you you’re beautiful, I’m sure other women would consider that threatening or inappropriate. The line isn’t just blurred, it’s non-existent.

    I have a friend who met her husband after he came up to her at a bar and said “Are you gonna finish that drink or fuck me in the bathroom?” While that would earn him a lecture or a slap by your standards, she thought it was hilarious and now they’re happily married and expecting a child.

    To answer your question, if men were cat-calling me and being threatening then we’d have a problem. But if another guy tells me I have a nice ass in passing, I’m OK with it.

    It’s a tough call because I would never want a woman to feel threatened which is why I agree cat-calls and obviously disrespectful things like that should not be tolerated. But at the same time, we’re so politically correct about everything you can barely strike up conversation with a stranger. If I walked up to a woman on the subway just to tell her she’s beautiful, and then received an embarrassing lecture on how I’m a horrible, ignorant person, then thinking she’s a bitch is exactly what I’d do, and with good reason.

    • That’s definitely a good point – that one woman might be offended by something another woman wouldn’t care about, or that’d she’d find complimentary. There’s no ultimate answer that will make everyone feel safe, which is why I think the bottom line is to treat everybody with respect. However, “striking up conversation” is not the same thing as talking AT someone, commenting on someone, etc. I do think most women are fine with men starting conversations with them in a respectful way (and while I don’t think most women would yell at you for calling them beautiful, perhaps that’s not the best way to “strike up conversation?”). “Fine” does not mean they have to be interested in engaging, though!

      • “I do think most women are fine with men starting conversations with them in a respectful way”

        you’d be surprised how wrong you are. most women are fine with a man that appeals to them starting conversations with them in a respectful (or even not) way… but the less appealing the man is to them, the more “respectful” they need to be, and eventually, it reach’s a point where a man can not be respectful enough to surpass his lack of appeal. I’ll ask you a simple question, answer it (to yourself) honestly… When was the last time you didn’t feel bothered by a homeless man trying to ask you politely, even respectfully, for a little change? does your discomfort really stem from the fact he is asking for a trivial amount of change, whatever you can spare? or is it because he is repulsive to you? now remember, when an unfamiliar man strikes up a conversation with you, he is looking to get more from you then a small handful of change.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly, but need to add an addition… Not only does the line between what’s acceptable flirting and what’s inappropriate harassment change from woman to woman (though some things like flashing will always be inappropriate, that has to do with street bullying, see my other comment bellow)…but that line also shift’s for each individual woman based entirely on her current situation and the appeal of the guy whom she’s confronted with. IE, a comment made by an unappealing guy in a supermarket that appears to be extremely offensive, may seem complimentary if made by a very attractive man in that same supermarket, or may seem like just a bad pick-up line by a loser if made by the same guy in a club.

      Trust me, I’ve done tests on this. I am not an attractive guy, but my brother is. On several occasions, when going out with female friends who feel much the same way Ms Baker does, my brother and I proved to these women that they’re anger at being hit on was their own fault, not because they were being hit on, but because they were choosing to get angrey based on who was hitting on them… IE, they were angry because the guys they wanted to be hit on weren’t the guys that were doing the hitting on and that the angry had nothing to do with the quantity of advancements being made. We demonstrated their perception of pick-up lines was based less on the actual pick-up line, and more based on their appeal for the guy giving the line, and so, if they were going to get offended it really didn’t matter what a guy said. We proved this by first me, and then my more attractive brother, both using the exact same line on the exact same woman, usually within an hour of each other. I would regularly get rejected, often with offended faces… my brother, despite using the exact same pick up line that that very woman had rejected within the last hour, would often return with a phone number. Remember, exact same line, exact same woman. The only difference, was the appeal of the man delivering the line.

      “There’s a huge difference between harassing a woman and trying to start a conversation…”

      What you’re telling us here is what you will admit appeals to you (I suspect you, like most women, would really rather a more aggressive, confidant man. The approach you describe is more befitting a passive man that would make a good “friend and surrogate/fall back”)… but that does not apply to all women, and not all men want a woman who is so conservative.

      And what if I want to find out something about the women I’m attracted to. I have no desire to date someone who is uptight, who will take offence to every little stupid thing I say (because I say a lot of stupid stuff). What if I want to meet a woman with a sense of humor… should I cowtoe around all the women who don’t have one, appear like a weak, feminised manservant, so as not to offend women I will have no interest in anyways, in hopes that my apparent lack of confidence, but clear respect for women (and willingness to be walked over) will garner me enough attention to strike up a conversation where we can both learn more about each other and discover, she doesn’t like my sense of humor and I think she’s an uptight bitch… all of which could have been learned with a less capitulating opening line.

      Remember, women leave the advancement in the hands of men because they don’t want to do it (as my little sister says “it’s the man’s job to ask the woman out, and I’m not going to change that because it’s too scary”), so you’re going to have to deal with the fact that men aren’t mind readers, and some men really are just bad at picking-up women. If you want us to do the job, then you need to expect that we are going to do the job, even when you’re not in the mood for it after all, if a man runs into someone they find appealing in the supermarket, they can’t be certain they’ll ever see her again. So he only has this one chance to make his move and he doesn’t exactly have a lot of time to assess if you’re likewise interested in him unless he follows you around (which you deem unacceptable), so he needs to hit on you in a manner that will both demonstrate his own confidence and personality (rather then the fembot you’ve asked for) while invoking a response from you that will demonstrate some of your personality (IE, did you find him humorous, charming, etc?)… but you’ve also deemed this as unacceptable. So, the only course of action he has is to somehow know that you aren’t interested without actually talking to you or observing you, or to prentend to be humble and polite, attributes women claim they want, but rarely actually seek (IE, how common is the “I wish I could find a guy just like you, you’re a good friend” cliché?

      • candidcutie says:

        That’s so funny! I’ve had this conversation with many of my friends. The attractiveness factor is a reality, but it works both way. I’ve tried to hit on guys, who have reject me probably because I’m not their type.

        Which brings me to…who said it’s a man’s “job” to pick up the ladies? I certainly don’t believe that. I like hitting on guys, making the first move, picking them up or whatever because many times they are pleasantly surprised. Plus what’s the best way to get what you want. I’m surprised that there isn’t more discussion about encouraging women to pick up men.

        Here’s some things to consider – this woman a man may see is a stranger, she could be married, engaged attached, lesbian or underage all very legitimate reasons not to engage a stranger trying to pick you up. I can’t see my boyfriend being too mad at me blowing off some random dude, calling me beautiful. Sometimes you’re sick, or there’s death in the family, you go a parking ticket, been fired or a multitude of reasons why someone shouting at you “hey sexy” may not be good timing.

        One of my “techniques” in bars/clubs/parties and I’m no PUA LOL is eye contact. If work my darnedest to get it. If I can get the guy to engage, smile send some body signals and then I move in to chat him up. Sometimes I win, sometimes I loose but I live to play the game again

Trackbacks

  1. […] After The Violence In My City, I Can’t Laugh Off Catcallers Anymore February 11, 2013 | by Kate Conway Originally posted on xoJane and cross-posted here with their permission. Credit: Good Men Project […]

  2. […] -A Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling, Katie J.M. Baker […]

  3. […] well to think about some of the other reasons why women are drawn to the fashions Medine promotes. Street harassment is still a worldwide problem, and while it can happen to women of any age no matter what they’re […]

  4. […] week over at the magazine we featured “A Good Man’s Guide to Catcalling” by Katie Baker. She breaks down the problems with […]

  5. […] advances from men. Some of those advances are not made with good intent, like the guys who shout gross comments at me in the street. Yet at the same time as that kind of deliberately invasive behavior is going […]

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