Why Men Catcall

For today’s Man Up Monday, Carlos Andrés Gómez challenges men to rise up against the street harassment so many of us have become desensitized to.

Before I say anything, let me say this – I have been both a willing and reluctant participant in the many heavy-handed male behaviors that define the gender performance of being a man. For example, I’ve puffed out my chest and used degrading words and tried, on numerous occasions, to be the alpha male in the room.  The aforementioned happens a lot less frequently than it did when I was younger, but now and again, I’ll catch myself acting like the machismo robot I have worked hard to unlearn.  All of that being said, I cannot help but ask myself – why do guys catcall women?

You know what I mean by catcalling, right? It can be vulgar gestures or comments about a woman’s body, perverse pickup lines, inappropriate grabbing, whistling or moaning, beeping your horn and stopping your car to ogle a stranger minding her own business. Being a guy, you would think I would have a more informed personal insight on this topic… but I don’t. The desire to catcall is one of those things that has forever perplexed me. I’m familiar with the different theories—it’s a competition-fueled performance of masculinity (which is why catcallers will often be in a group of men), a man wants to assert his power over a woman, a guy wants to get any kind of attention (whether positive or negative) from a woman he deems “out of his league” (or beyond his social status), or he is simply grossly misinformed about how to communicate with the opposite sex.

I’ve spent most of my life in U.S. cities, of which most of the last decade has been spent in New York, and I have never once seen a woman respond positively to being catcalled.  And, mind you, this is from a sample of literally thousands of occurrences, which makes me think that catcallers neither want nor care about a positive response from the victims of their harassment. Sure, countless times I’ve seen a woman flash that uncomfortable, forced smile that seems to clearly communicate, “Okay, asshole, please stay away from me,” but I’ve never seen a woman turn around and go, “Oh, you like my tits? Thank you so much. Here’s my number.”

I was talking with my partner a few months ago, who was in the midst of lamenting the arrival of warm weather. My immediate reaction: “Who hates spring?!”—which for me connotes sunshine, picnics, basketball, and outdoor concerts. And she responded, “I don’t hate spring, I just hate the harassing guys who are all outside now.

“Like guys on our street?” I asked.

“Well, yeah. There’s this old guy at the corner who always says gross stuff to me,” she said

“What?! Why haven’t you told me? Where does he live?” I was incensed. Of course, my immediate response was to go find this dude and confront him… after I had shamed my partner for not informing me of another (of countless) examples of street harassment.

“Baby, relax. It’s not a big deal. It happens all the time. It’s just the way it is,” and she got up to get a glass of water.

Guys – can we talk for a second?  How is this normal? This is a big deal. Over the summer, I was talking with my fifteen year-old little sister and she told me that thirty and forty-year old guys harass and catcall her constantly.

We have to do better than this. I have to do better than this. I can think of multiple examples of men harassing or catcalling women, but rarely have I intervened to say something. On a few occasions I have, but overwhelmingly, I’ve remained silent. Usually I’ll justify it as, Carlos, chill out. It’s 11:30pm on a random street corner in Brooklyn. Bigger picture.

And, sure, speaking up late at night on some dark street corner might be a bad move, but there’ve been plenty of other opportunities where I didn’t speak up and the risk to my life or safety was relatively low. What’s most infuriating is that I continue to hear endless stories from my partner and female friends about how they’ve been catcalled, but, of course, it always seems to happen while they are alone. No one is catcalling my partner while we’re walking down the street holding hands. But the minute she leaves the apartment by herself, it starts up again.

This conversation is not a new one, as women have been having it and already spearheaded movements to combat catcalling and street harassment (like Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment), but now I want to engage men. There are a lot of passionate responders here on The Good Men Project. I believe that to create meaningful, lasting change in this world the whole community must be actively involved in the process of brainstorming and then creating a solution to a problem.  I am tired of my partner and my little sister and my female friends and women in general being forced to walk around afraid and embarrassed and ashamed and uncomfortable. I am tired of harassing men creating an abusive dynamic that undermines basic social etiquette and human respect.

I think a lot of these guys might not even realize how damaging their catcalling can be. Or the bystanders, like me, have become so desensitized to the destructive effects of catcalling that they’ve fooled themselves into viewing it as an unchangeable and benign reality of city life. Or, like me, you’re a guy whose male privilege has insulated him from realizing how widespread and demeaning this harassment continues to be. I am making an oath, right now, to start speaking out and speaking up against catcalling and street harassment (assuming my life and well-being are not risked by that advocacy).

I am now appealing to this online community. I’d like this week’s piece to be a launching pad for a public forum on catcalling and street harassment. My questions for you, the reader, are:

Why do men catcall women?

What can we do to stop it?

Photo of harassment courtesy of Shutterstock

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About Carlos Andrés Gómez

Carlos Andrés Gómez is an award-winning poet, actor, and writer from New York City. A former social worker and public school teacher, he costarred in Spike Lee’s #1 movie “Inside Man” with Denzel Washington and appeared in the sixth season of HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.” His first book, the coming-of-age memoir “Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood,”is available now from Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin. For more on the book or to keep up with Carlos' blogging, please visit his website: http://www.CarlosLive.com/ or follow him on Twitter@CarlosAGlive.

Comments

  1. Reading these comments is disgusting. I cannot believe that there are accusations of women LYING about being catcalled. Never once did Carlos ask you to decide whether or not street harassment was prevalent. He asked you to discuss how men could react better when they see a woman being catcalled.

    I’ve seen comments calling women liars about specific instances mentioned. And then the same commenter discuss his own problems with bullying. How would you feel if someone accused you of lying about being bullied in high school?

    I saw a commenter request that women wear hidden cameras because he couldn’t possibly imagine what catcalling was actually like. This same commenter later rates the pain of child birth and kidney stones, and admits that he has experienced neither and is just going on word-of-mouth. How come you can’t take someone’s word for it when they tell stories about their harassment?

    I’ve seen countless comments about the fact that Carlos writes “why do men catcall women?” instead of “why do SOME men catcall SOME women?” Even though, immediately afterward, Carlos writes “What can we do to stop it?” In this second question, WE=the men who DO NOT catcall. He is a man who does not catcall writing to an audience of men who, he presumes, do not catcall.

    I’ve even seen women on this site decide that, because they have only been street harassed a handful of times in their lives, this isn’t as big of a problem as Carlos would have us believe. You know something? Only once in my entire life have I not had enough money for food and had to ask a friend for some help. You know something else? Hunger is a major problem in this world even if it does not directly effect me.

    I do not live in NYC and I get street harassed, grabbed at, groped at, honked at, etc on a regular basis. I am not confused. I know the difference between a stumble on a crowded bus and a man grabbing my hand and pulling it toward his crotch. I know the difference between someone giving me a compliment (“hey! nice shoes!”) and someone making a lewd remark at me. I know the difference between someone looking back at me and someone driving his car around the block multiple times, slowing down when he nears me, and then cussing me out when I refuse to get in his car. This has nothing to do with the time of day or the areas I frequent or my behavior or mood. This has been happening to me since I was in middle school, in the multiple cities/towns/suburbs.

    This article was referenced on another website that I frequent and I had never heard of it before. I do not understand why a website titled “the Good Men Project” has attracted so many commenters who distrust women to relay their own experiences.

    It is vile to discount any person’s experience as a lie or an exaggeration or a misunderstanding if you were not there to experience it also. In what existence does the inability to empathize make you a “Good Man”? Or a good person at all?

    • First, she said she was groped every single day. I called her out on that. I didn’t call her out on being catcalled. Work on your reading comprehension.

      • Why is it hard to believe that she experiences unwanted sexual touches on a daily basis? Why do you think that is a lie? She has no reason to be lying to you.

        Please don’t attempt to insult my reading comprehension. You are just embarrassing yourself. I’m not sure why you chose to be rude to me but que sera, sera. I would be highly surprised if you read past the first few sentences I wrote. And, if you did, the Reading Comprehension Fail is evident. But, what should I expect from a man who missed an average of 50 school days a year? Tell me, how did you continue to miss so much school after your parents were arrested and you were placed in foster care? An average of 50 days a year is appalling and CPS would have been notified quickly. I feel obligated to point out that when using ordinal numbers, you are presenting a list. “First” is not just some fun way to begin a sentence. It should be followed by a “second” and possibly even a “third.”

        You have proven yourself to be a liar. Yet you accuse others of lying? For shame.

        • “And, if you did, the Reading Comprehension Fail is evident. But, what should I expect from a man who missed an average of 50 school days a year?”
          Wow really? You’re coming into a site for men and insulting a male survivor, and insulting their intelligence to boot? Great job. And yes you can miss 50 school days a year and still have a decent education, how do you know he didn’t goto university and do a degree in English?

          Seriously, you’re ignorance is disturbing. Now you do raise a point or two with regard to believing survivors experiences, but considering you fail to understand my comments I am questioning how much of a point you really have. Maybe you don’t realize this up on your mighty horse but not everyone can relate to text alone, and that video evidence is much more in your face and shows body language, vocal tones and other things you can’t pickup from text alone which can really send the message home. But hey continue on your crusade and misunderstand us all.

          • I insulted this man’s intelligence. This is correct. It seemed to me that taking shots at other people’s intelligence was acceptable, seeing as how two people have done it to me.

            And the part about me “insulting a male survivor”: I was doing the same exact thing that he did to the woman who stated she was harassed on a daily basis. In reality, I do believe that he skipped school in an effort to avoid bullying. I just wanted to make the point about how gross it is to discount someone else’s experience.

            Do you only watch movies and never read books? What are you doing reading a blog and not watching a vlog?

            • I insulted this man’s intelligence. This is correct. It seemed to me that taking shots at other people’s intelligence was acceptable, seeing as how two people have done it to me.

              And the part about me “insulting a male survivor”: I was doing the same exact thing that he did to the woman who stated she was harassed on a daily basis. In reality, I do believe that he skipped school in an effort to avoid bullying. I just wanted to make the point about how gross it is to discount someone else’s experience.
              Yeah but sinking to the same level isn’t good. I don’t agree with him ignoring her experience, hence why you’ll see a comment saying I believe her up there. I do wonder though if most women go through it to that extreme, not saying that it’s impossible but it’s shocking to me and makes me wonder who exactly is doing it.

              Hence why the video is important to me, I want to be able to hear the vocal tones and body language, is it a group of guys with a leader, is it one guy alone, text can only explain so far but seeing it as it happens I think is very very powerful. It’s like the school bullying videos, people can say their experience and yeah it’s shocking but seeing the video on the news for example of a kid getting belted up really puts it on your face and shocks people. I personally think there is a lot of power in the recorded events like that, I hate that they happen, but I think when recorded it can really show people exactly what it looks like, and couple that with a vlog later about how that person feels I think it’d be easier for the viewer to put themselves in that position or try to understand better.

              I notice in the news when there is video and people see something like an assault, or other negative experience, people tend to react more. I’m not asking people to use video to prove that it happened, I know it happens, but I am a 6’6 large male who these days doesn’t get harassed and I don’t think I’ll be in a position to see it happen to a lone woman for example, it’s clear that these guys cower away when others are around so it’s gonna be hard for me to understand how they’re acting. It’s possible their vocal tone and actions are similar to what I have seen guys do, but the negative response by women detailing it makes me think there is a lot of other behaviour that I don’t see.

              Take for example my friends I’ve asked about it, they’ve said they’ve been cat called and had people say stuff to them which they took as a compliment, but other times they’ve had the same as it’s been scary. What is the difference? Is there a tone of voice, is there body language showing aggression? I have seen people call out stuff to women before, recently when on a photoshoot I had a group of guys in a car driving past yelling somehting like hello beautiful, and wow, their tone of voice was positive although it was rude but the model I believe took that as a compliment. I thought of it as harassing, but they seemed to just be guys trying to pay a compliment in a stupid manner, their voices were positive, they seemed happy, not really aggressive cept calling out, they didn’t slow down.

              So it makes me curious is there a major difference in the tone of voice, body language n actions of those that make women feel threatened with catcalls? By the way nothing here justifies it, the only time a catcall is ever acceptable is between good friends who know they both are complimenting each other (which is the majority of catcalls I’ve personally seen, since I am a guy and not the target of the negative ones).

              And if it answers your question, I get far more out of movies than I do books as I am very visually orientated. Books have never been able to trigger me seeing 2 lovers embrace for example and kiss, or the raw n sheer fear of war, there’s no body language or vocal tones to hear which to me is so lacking. Text requires too much guesswork and use of ones own history and experience of the world to try visualize a scene, for example I could see a scene one way which is threatening as hell yet others are comfy. I find movies/video makes it much easier to understand the person when you can see their body language.

              You can probably guess I hate the news in newspaper form, I prefer video to see it. I dunno if you have ever seen it but seeing any of the Iraq war videos where a missile hits a nearby building really sends the message home of how fucking scary it is, whereas someone saying “I was afraid and heard a loud explosion” doesn’t really do too much to portray the level of fear. In movies if there is a rape scene, I can’t watch it, because it’s disturbing as fuck to me, it REALLY impacts me hard, but reading it in text form makes me disturbed not to the same level. I guess seeing something happen for me impacts me far more than a recount of it later. I dunno if you are the same but I think that a recorded incident would be a great tool to educate people about it, even an accurate portrayal by actors would be good to send the message home. I’m not sure how else to explain it but simply seeing it has much more impact to me than hearing about it, text just can’t accurately portray the body language or tone, and whilst it’s important to hear a survivors experience and how they felt, it’s also important for others to accurately see what the harassers are doing, be able to detect that threat in their tone of voice, body language, and then have the survivor tell us what they found threatening if we don’t at first notice it.

              It may not be a great idea, I dunno, it’s just something I wish I could see firsthand in the sense of trying to understand it better and feel it’s a great way to educate people. Although quite frankly, I wish it never ever happened. It’s the same as I kinda wish the bullying, harassment, n assaults I had against me were recorded so I could show people what it’s like, though I suspect that one is easier to understand as it happens to both men n women, whereas this harassment in the article seems mostly against women so it’s no surprise why men in particular are in shock over it. You gotta realize that I don’t think women are often telling men, or anyone that this happens, I surely have never heard women talk about it until I started reading online blogs, etc. I see the same shock and even disbelief when people are told about the rape stats for men and how high they are, denial sets in for a bit but then they seem to realize “Holy fuck this shit is bad”. So yeah we need more people to speak up about it, just as the author seemed shocked to hear it happen and it seems many women brush it off as nothing, wouldn’t you feel shocked if you had heard about it the first time if you had never seen it happen, or experienced it? The denial, etc is bad but I think that’ll go away with time and more people opening up about it, it’s hard to believe something so common if there is a huge silence about it.

            • I would suggest you google “sexual harassment caught on tape/camera” because there are vids out there. ihollaback also has stories. Also, if you have friends ask them about the tone etc.

            • I didn’t even think to google for videos, hah. Brainfart moment.
              I found one but it’s in a different language which makes it a lil more difficult to understand. ht tp://media.smh.com.au/technology/digital-life/sex-harassment-caught-on-camera-3569205.html
              Need to find one for Australia or the U.S, something close to my society (English based). The vocal tone sounds mostly the same as people giving genuine compliments I hear randomly in life in that video though cept nearly all I hear are friends saying it to each other, not strangers. Sounds like a mix of people, some trying to give compliments, and some simply seeing the women as meat as the guy later describes in the video. Either way it’s aggravating that it happens.
              ht tp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESdZDwcA5iM Trailer for the film in Brussels, is that similar harassment to how women in Aus, the U.S experience or is there a culture difference?

            • Archy, I think you are falling ito a mistake of thinking that street harassment may be okay if it is a “compliment.” I do not like it when strange guys yell things at me about my appearance. It feels belittling and reduces me to a set of body parts. Yes, a compliment is better than if they say something crude, but I don’t want some stranger interrupting my day and startling me by yelling anything at me. It’s embarassing. It’s rude. It makes me feel a little vulnerable and upset. Maybe your friend really took it as a compliment or maybe she just frames it that way to herself so she can deal with it without getting upset.

            • I NEVER think it’s ok, even if I think it’s from a point of being a compliment. I think my friends mostly take it as compliments depending on the other actions, eg a whistle alone might be ok to them but if they start following etc then it’s crossing a big line. I can merely see that some are trying to compliment in a silly way, I don’t ever think it’s acceptable though.

              Reason I asked about the tone is curiosity of how many are trying to compliment in a dumb way, vs how many are trying to make the woman feel bad.

              If they say it politely, not yelling out, does it ruin your day or bug you? If so is it worse if they yell out from afar? Are there certain things that are ok, like saying Nice dress? I’m not gonna try any of these of course, just trying to get a better understanding of it all. Do they ever say something like hello beautiful n ask you out from it?

            • Thank you, Sarah…for your support…

              Archy: It’s not a compliment…some random guy said to me as I was in my usual rush to go to work: “I love you, Beautiful!” …it made me feel icky, NOT beautiful, because you some random comment from some random guy in the street is not a compliment….he probably says the same line to at least a dozen females on the street…the assumption is that females are idiots who would believe such nonsense from a stranger or that we are easy or that we are street walkers…..He looked like he was drunk or maybe high (or maybe out on the street all night long)….YUCK! Sometimes with these street people, if you say something back, they retaliate with cursing or get insanely angry….it’s scary sometimes because you don’t know what they are capable of…or if they just came out of a homeless shelter or out of a bar or out of some correctional facility….

            • Check out “Femme de la Rue” on ihollaback.com….it’s a documentary by a woman in Brussels who wears a hidden camera..she also does other videos with an open camera and, interestingly, interviews some of her harassers….some of it may be due to cultural/societal factors (some of her harassers are non-natives of Brussels = Arab? in origin; some of them are un-employed and perhaps feeling powerless in their adopted land)…it has English subtitles, but if you can understand Belgian French, then all the better!

            • Thank-you, Yeah I stumbled across that the other day, I am hoping there is an Australian or U.S.A version, something english with a very similar culture to here. Where I live I don’t think I’ve actually met an Arab sadly. But it is interesting and aggravating to see it happen even in different cultures. I hope more people see it so they can be more mindful of their behaviour and others.

        • If you want to insult my grammar, you should be certain your grammar is perfect. You should go back and read “The Elements of Style” to remind yourself that you cannot start a sentence with a conjunction.

          Why is it hard to believe? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Making the claim that you are the victim of sexual assault every single day is a truly extraordinary claim. Not just sexual assault, mind you, but sexual assault in a public place by a different stranger every single day. The notion that this is possible is preposterous and clearly a lie.

          You can complain about my use of colloquial English all you like; however, I know without any shred of doubt that my IQ is at least two standard deviations above yours and probably more than three.

          You greatly overestimate the systems designed to protect children if you believe a child will be taken away for missing a great deal of school.

          Thanks for playing and feel free to try again!

          • Yeah, you really can’t have a reasonable discussion about this stuff on the internet. It always turns into a show of one-upsmanship and Opression Olympics.

            First its “Men catcall sometimes”. Then a few women respond with “It’s happened to me a few times”. The next batch is “It happens to me a lot.” And then “I get harassed on a daily basis! Everywhere I go all the time!”

            Its been proven that people misremember things all the time. So when a whole group of people (in this case, women, specifically) start mining their memories for times they were ‘harassed’, as another female commenter mentioned, the memories are likely to be exagerated (a guy turning his head and smiling becomes a man threateningly leering and openly drooling while making suggestive faces).

            So “some men catcall sometimes – we can all agree it’s wrong, and maybe theres something we, as a collective, can do about it” becomes “men sexually assault every woman every day”. There’s no point in even considering the latter because it does not reflect reality.

            And then the blatant misandry: as I said before, every possible explanation HAS TO come down to “men are evil”. “Men think they’re entitled to women!” “Men slutshame and claim they cant help themselves!” “Men are scared little boys and need to oppress obviously superior women by making them afraid!”
            and my current favorite

            “Non-catcalling men who aren’t willing to be physically assaulted by a group of catcalling men are weak cowards and just as bad as the catcallers!”

        • Disturbed:
          Regarding Collin’s denying your experience and calling you a liar, I understand his sentiment but not what his tactics.

          When you say that you are groped, grabbed, insultingly slurred *daily* you do realize you are an extreme statistical outlier? From what I have surmised reading these forums women having this issue 2-4 times a year is about the norm.

          I understand your rage at Collin denying your experience, but I don’t think it’s exactly kosher of you to represent your highly abnormal situation as average either.

          I think what Collin is railing against is how articles like this seems to draw *many* women out of the woodwork who have highly unusual problems with aggressive men in their area.

          I feel bad for you, but from speaking with my female friends and family and reading comments here, your experience seems to be an aberration.

          The last time I saw somebody come on here and state that this was her experience she turned out to be a deeply disturbed person. When Eric M (who I believe works in health care or some kind of advocacy) said he knew 100’s of women who didn’t have this experience this poster (I think her name was “Oh No”) started vociferously attacking him, even wishing that somebody would murder him.

          Then when pressed, she would state things like “I’m tired of being attacked on this thread”. She was very passive aggressive.

          In my experience women who come on here and tell stories like this, the purpose isn’t to voice their concern about the issue, but to make it seem like *extreme daily* harassment is common among women.

          It’s not.

          • It was a different woman, and she didn’t say she got harassed every day which, while bordering on unbelievable, I would give the benefit of the doubt; she said she got GROPED every day. That is a lie.

          • I wasn’t the person who said I was groped daily. She didn’t seem to be presenting her situation as the norm. Many commenters were discussing how they NEVER see street harassment and she was just presnting her experience as the opposite of that. Some women never get catcalled, some women get catcalled dail. I agree that the majority of women arevictims of this a few times a year, at most. But if someone experiences it more often, that doesn’t make her a liar.

            I didn’t know that these pages had a history of people making false claims. I can see how that would make some readers take any statement with a grain of salt. It is really unfortunate that commenters here were made so jaded because of interactions with that woman you mentioned. I still think Collin is extremely rude and hypocritical but I really appreciate you (John D) for helping me understand this mindset.

            • I guess I had a misunderstanding about what was said and who was stating it.

            • Well, we can’t know they are false claims. I would say they were absurd claims. And a fair amount of the time these posters bringing these absurd claims are later revealed to be somewhat unhinged.

              I remember fairly well the poster “oh no” getting insanely angry and throwing all sorts of smears and insults at Eric M for simply stating that her experiences (with daily harassment) were not the experiences of the dozens/hundreds of women he dealt with for work.

              However, when Lisa and Julie stated this wasn’t their experience she was all unicorns and rainbows in her reaction.

              Additionally, she posted a link from a blog called ballbusters4ever (or something) that “proves” patriarchy is alive and well and harming women. When I looked a few other threads I found one that said essentially that manhating was a noble endeavor.

              These kinds of articles really seems to draw out people (mostly women, but not always) with an agenda to increase the idea of male perfidy.

              @ Collin: I wouldn’t have stated she was lying, but I would have stated that her case was beyond belief and that if true it was far far outside the statistical norm for the vast majority of women.

              Here is the thread if you’re interested in reading it. This thread is back before the mods were doing a good job of striking comments w/personal insults, so it’s very interesting.

              http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/bash-patriarchy-not-men/

            • This thread is back before the mods were doing a good job of striking comments w/personal insults, so it’s very interesting.
              ah yes, the wildwestian, gunslinging days of GMP.

    • “I saw a commenter request that women wear hidden cameras because he couldn’t possibly imagine what catcalling was actually like. This same commenter later rates the pain of child birth and kidney stones, and admits that he has experienced neither and is just going on word-of-mouth. How come you can’t take someone’s word for it when they tell stories about their harassment?”

      You’re reading comprehension is pitiful. I have experienced kidney stone pain, but hey misread it some more. I’ve also seen harassment happen, if you bothered to read my comment you might realize that I find it hard to truly grasp the exact nature of it as usually I can only read text. It’s hard to pickup on their vocal tone, body language from the survivors experience alone, I never once doubted that it happens. If you think asking for video as evidence FOR OTHERS TO SEE is somehow doubting the survivors story then you really are reading things in my comments that are not there. And by the way, I had a woman tell me in HER experience that a kidney stone was worth than childbirth, and I said that pain is also subjective and not everyone feels the same pain. Childbirth for some could be far worse, for others kidney stones can be the worst.

      I am disturbed by your sheer lack of understanding in these comments and major projecting. You seem to absolutely fail on reading comprehension.

      “It is vile to discount any person’s experience as a lie or an exaggeration or a misunderstanding if you were not there to experience it also. In what existence does the inability to empathize make you a “Good Man”? Or a good person at all?”
      It’s called shock, they are shocked to learn of that and yeah probably some denial as well. That specific commenter was questioning whether it was a daily occurrence, and from what I gather, didn’t think most women got it daily. It’s a far cry from simply denying it ever happens.

      • He specifically called HER a liar. Her experience doesn’t have to be average or typical. It is her own experience.

        Stop accusing me of poor reading comprehension and of projecting. It makes me laugh. See….it’s funny because you are the one who can’t understand something unless it is in video form. This is a serious issue. NOT A LAUGHING MATTER.

        But seriously. Keep the ad hominem out of this.

        • Who says I can’t understand it at all? I seek better understanding, text never ever can give the full understanding of a situation. I know full well it’s a serious matter, and yes you fail at reading comprehension if you think I can’t understand something unless it’s in video. I’ll make it very clear. Text offers one form of knowledge, doesn’t account for body language, vocal tone, it relies on the subjective experience of the person detailing the situation. I wanted to see additional info on what the harassers are doing, how they say it, what they look like when saying it, none of this you can get from text.

          “Stop accusing me of poor reading comprehension and of projecting. It makes me laugh. See….it’s funny because you are the one who can’t understand something unless it is in video form. This is a serious issue. NOT A LAUGHING MATTER.”
          “But seriously. Keep the ad hominem out of this.”
          Do you want them kept out, or do you want to continue making them? I still think you do have a point to some degree but you’re either your reading comprehension is lacking, or I completely suck at making my point known. Either is possible and I will admit I may be hard to understand and if so I apologize.

          I said pain was subjective and that one pain to one person, a kidney stone, could be far worse than their own childbirth, but others may not experience that much pain with that particular condition. I think kidney stones rank a bit higher on the pain scale, but of course that really depends on the stone itself, the time in pain, size of stone, how that person reacts to that form of pain in comparison to the labour experienced by someone, is it a quick or long labour, are their complications etc. If you google kidneystone vs labour worse pain well for me it shows a lot of women who’ve had both saying kidney stone was worse, hence I rank it 2 unless someone convinces me otherwise. It was a reply to a comment which was offtopic and I prob shouldn’t have even said it.

          I think part of the reason there is denial or people assuming it isn’t as bad as others do is their perception of it, their experience, how they handle the situation. Just as some get through labour quick and don’t feel too much pain, others can be flattened by it. Just like street harassment I believe, some seem to be bothered heaps by it, degraded, scared, others seem to brush it off. This is my guess as to why there is a lot of denial, or at least questioning of how prevalent and bad it is. I probably failed at explaining the pain analogy better.

          • In my experience, reading allows me a better understanding of a situation than watching. I guess we are just different in that aspect. I failed to realize that and I sincerely apologize. I value empathy and I’m disappointed in myself foor not realizing that different people respond to different mediums in different ways.

            I do understand your point about perception leading to denial. But that doesn’t mean tht the denial is warranted.

            • No problems, we all learn in different ways and I’m glad you realize it. I find hands on and video based learning better than textbook based, which is annoying for the schools we have here:P. Hence why I like recorded video vs text.

              There’s no justification for it, just giving my view of why I think there is denial.

    • Stinks to me of slutshaming and blaming women for being so damn irresistible that men can’t help but treat them like they’re objects. I agree; it’s disgusting and offensive, and it happens in all cities. I grew up in the southwest, have traveled to NYC, have been in cities in nine different countries, and now live in Boston. It happens everywhere.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Disturbed

      I’m sorry you had to experience that harassment. People look at Good Men Project and just see Good Men. People don’t get that men come here to discuss how to be a good man. I know that I’m still trying to figure it out. I even had one commenter criticize me for having the temerity and honesty to question my motivations. It’s not helpful to shame men who are making a good faith effort to become better people. Remember this is a project. It hasn’t been completed.

      I admitted that I feel good when I protect my female friends, but I think that because they know I got their back, they are more willing to open up to me. I don’t know that every man here has a relationship like that with the women they know. It makes it easier when a woman tells you 50 times over the course of a year that she’s being harassed rather than telling you at the end of the year that guys have been harassing her every week. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s just being human. People do need to get over their initial shock. You can only use it as an excuse so long.

      To the guys, I’ll say this. Let’s say that she is over reacting and only 10% of what she thinks is harassment was actually intended that way. If she’s saying that she being harassed almost every day, that’s at least once every two weeks. That’s a major problem. Being harassed was hard for me and I was only tormented for three days although it was a bit more constant as even our rooms and bathrooms weren’t safe. Still three days is a lot different than a lifetime and would I have been happier if one of the girls spoke up and retrieved our clothes. I think that’s what the women are saying. Think back to when you were harassed. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone spoke up for you?

  2. wellokaythen says:

    One day a few years ago I was on a university campus at a bus stop right across from a construction site. I happened to be there in between classes, when a lot of students, including many young women, were walking on the sidewalk in front of the construction site. I noticed two or three construction workers behaving somewhat oddly. They were taking a break, sitting side-by-side in chairs next to their trailer, facing the sidewalk. I’m guessing they had been warned about catcalling or being a nuisance to young women, because they sat absolutely still, their hands on their legs, with expressionless faces, never spoke to each other, and never turned their heads. They just sort of passively took in the sights without calling attention to themselves. (Well, except for the zombie-like stillness.) Once there were no more young women crossing in front of them, they got up and put their chairs away and went back inside. I thought the whole thing was really funny. Give human beings any rule and they’ll find some loopholes.

    Now, were these men to be chastised for what they were probably thinking? Were they gawking, or were they just sitting there?

    • I feel the same/similar way at times where it is so bad that for a long time I wouldn’t even talk to strangers. But now I’m like fuckit, as long as I remain respectful and friendly then it’s all good, people are in public, people should expect to be talked to. I usually find people are fine, there is that sense I get when people are ok with talking and when they aren’t. Don’t be a pest with it though, just be a friendly happy-go-lucky person, but maybe that’s my small town’ness coming back in to play.

      I find it sad that people are now so worried about harassment that they’re just shutting down, all that’s gonna do is make for a cold cold society. Looking away, delaying their own life (sitting when they were finished instead of going back to work or talking, whatever) is bad too, reminds me of abused people who don’t look some people in the eye and look away out of fear.

  3. I just published a post on this, because I was a little skeptical myself, coming from the UK, about the scale of the issue here. To all the guys above who think it’s not really a big problem, I’ve spent the last couple of months travelling the US and have experienced roughly 5 incidences of harassment a day. I know, because I started logging them on my phone.

    And yes, these cover everything from calls, to hisses, to whistles to hellos. Most have been disgusting and rude, some seemingly polite, but the point is, all assumed that they had some right to interrupt my day and most reacted unpleasantly if I had the audacity to, for instance, finish my run in peace.

    Please don’t derail a necessary conversation about the power play of SH and men’s attitudes about it with other ‘issues’, especially if the derailment takes the form of telling us all women are exaggerating and it’s not really a problem after all. It rather means you missed the point of the article entirely.

    • Did it happen as often in the UK or is it the U.S that has a much bigger problem? I think the exaggeration comments come more from thinking it happens everywhere at a high-rate, when it might be more common in the cities. The exaggeration comments I saw came from women though.

      • Much bigger in the US. If you want to read why it’s more of a problem than an irritation, click on my name here. It’s he most recent post. It’s long, so I can’t paraphrase accurately here.

        My point above was simply that we need to start this discussion where the OP does, with SH being actually in existence and damaging to women/equality, not by back tracking, apologising or questioning people’s experiences.

        • I read your piece, and I don’t think the experiences you described were imagined, and many of the specific examples you gave are unlikely to be regarded as anything but harassment by the commenters here. It’s possible to empathize with that and decry your harassers while still questioning some of the perceptions it led to, such as:

          Not one ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’ has been anything other than a phoney segueway to lecherousness, so why would I even bother now to respond?

          That sounds like an understandable reaction of someone subjected to a very negative or even traumatic experience, but it sort of defies belief that *every* “hello” or “excuse me” you encountered was nothing but a lecherous come-on, because it’s in such stark contrast to what so many men who say those things know they mean by them. Either you’ve had a terrible run of bad luck, or such exaggerations are just that – exaggerations – albeit unintentional ones.

          I don’t think you’re intentionally man-bashing at all, but it’s a little like some guy who’s been cheated on a couple times saying all women will cheat as soon as they find someone they like more. Understandable, yes, but still wrong despite his “confirming” experience.

          So yeah, maybe this discussion has to start with acknowledging the existence and damaging effects of harassment, but it won’t get very far by treating every “hello” or “excuse me” as a precursor to harassment, or asserting that any time a woman feels threatened, there’s a bona fide external threat, never just some distorted thinking happen based on prior experience.

          • Btw, Katy, I liked your harassment piece and the others I sampled. I didn’t like what you suffered through, of course, but you write with an engaging style and good flow, so I encourage others to go have a look, especially if you’re into travel and/or running. :)

          • Amen to that. It makes me not even want to be friendly for fear she will be uncomfy, can men even say hello anymore? I dunno about women but I feel more comfy on an elevator for example when people start talking about random stuff, I had a 30 second talk with someone in hospital about our illnesses and it made me feel safer. I went to an airshow n talked to a guy about the planes, he was a mechanic in the army in vietnam and had quite a lot of knowledge. I’d hope I could talk to a woman like that and ask about random shit, if she’s in a pilots outfit I’d ask about flying for instance.

            Luckily pretty much everyone I say hello to says Hi back and seems ok. But I guess I am also able to see when they are angry, nervous, etc and I don’t talk to them if they look like they wanna keep to themselves.

            • “can men even say hello anymore?”

              From what you’ve said, it seems you don’t live a large city, right? I live in a really large one now, and I grew up in a smaller city that likes to convince itself it’s a small town, but in my mind, it’s still never all that okay or necessary to say hi anyway. For one, I think that’s how many people validate their harassment (“I’m just being nice and saying hi and giving you a compliment!”). And for two, what is the point of saying hello to someone you don’t know, when you are not in a situation that prompts random, friendly conversations (i.e. standing in line together at the bank, at an airshow)? I guess I’m just confused about the “anymore,” since even though the place where I grew up had the kind of social norms when you always nodded to your neighbor even if you had no idea of their name, I’ve never found it anything but off-putting and weird for someone (especially a man, because as time goes on and catcalling and following increases, you tend to get wary and nervous) to go out of their way to say hello when courtesy doesn’t say you have to.

            • Maybe I live in a friendlier society? We’re humans, humans are social creatures, we say hello n talk to strangers at times. I was at the airshow and wanted to know what the aircraft’s identifying name was so I asked someone I figured would know, wearing what looked like attire the mechanics, pilots n others involved wore (had various emblems on it relating to flying). I had my big camera there too and had a random teenage boy ask me about cameras which I was happy to talk about. The mechanic I n had quite a long talk and as far as I can tell he was 100% happy with chatting, very friendly.

              Do you talk to the checkout workers when they are pricing off your groceries? They are strangers, and I constantly see people striking up conversations and even they themselves strike up convos.

              Why do I get this feeling that many women commenting here truly want to make a society that is very unfriendly, is it because you mostly get harassment? Can you see no benefit in random friendly talk (I don’t mean sexual, or catcalling, which I think is very bad). I’ve asked women and men where an item is in a shop before, the other day I had a woman ask me, should I be thinking OMG harassment?

              I think it’s sad that some women are harassed so much that they appear to be on edge, maybe I am wrong but I get this sense from you that random small talk is now very negative, I’ll guess that is because you mostly get sleezy bastards creeping on you? I could be wrong.

              I don’t like the current unfriendliness in society, it sometimes feels like people are too damn scared to talk to each other. I have quite a severe social anxiety disorder and part of my therapy is to also strike up random convos and I’ve found them all to be quite friendly and decent which is good, it’s making me far less afraid on the streets and I think that others could benefit from that too. Doesn’t have to be a 5 minute convo, but 10 seconds, 20 seconds is fine (eg asking where something is, complimenting their handbang, I’ve had plenty of women tell me how beautiful my puppy was when walking him, etc).

            • Archy, you are BOSS at selective reading. I said very clearly WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN A SITUATION THAT PROMPTS RANDOM, FRIENDLY CONVERSATIONS. What part of that was so difficult to understand that you had to come up with a bunch of examples that are SITUATIONS THAT PROMPT RANDOM, FRIENDLY CONVERSATIONS and tell me I was crazy? Of course talking to a cashier is fine. What is not normal is going out of your way to talk to someone when you have no cause to interact with them. PLEASE stop trying to prove everyone wrong by only reading parts of sentences that appeal to your need to be argumentative. And for the love of all that’s good, get thee to an Elements of Style and learn not to comma splice!

            • You suggested the airshow wasn’t a place for random convos, and I disagreed. Situations that prompt random convos to one person can be different person to person. Where did I say you were crazy? I dunno where I have implied it but it isn’t what I thought at all. I think we may have different ideas of what prompts random convos possibly but that’s about it. You’re not the only woman I am talking about here you know?

            • [MOD NOTE: Edited to remove personal insults that violate the comment policy. Cut it out.]

              I suggested that airshows ARE a place for random conversations.

            • [MOD NOTE: That goes for you, too.]

              Ah, the sentence reads both ways.

            • I also thought you intended standing in line and airshows as examples of places that are NOT appropriate for random conversations, coming as they did after “…not in a situation…”. Now that I understand, it’s nice to see you and Archy found some common ground. Maybe you can talk about it more some day in line for tickets to an airshow. :D

            • Sorry, yeah I live in a small town. Guess that could be why it seems different.

        • I had a read, good blog post you wrote. :)
          Maybe because I live in Australia in a rural town I haven’t seen it much or heard women talk about it much, never heard of it being once a week or daily, it’s making me think it’s far more common in the U.S or maybe just more in the cities?

    • Hear hear! derailing for dummies dot com, please.

  4. @Marcus Williams – thanks for the vote of confidence :) I’m a complete n00b at blogging, so all compliments are welcome!

    As for your point, yes I do understand how angry that sentence sounds, but as I go on to say in the post, I’m really sad about how defensive I feel. I’m a pretty easy going person, I’m travelling solo so random interactions are my lifeblood right now and my natural inclination is to be polite and friendly. Believe me no one was more disappointed than me to find that most of the innocuous hellos or requests for directions were actually bad come ons.

    Do you have those charity chuggers on the street who try to get you to give them money where you’re from? Imagine that whenever you go out one of them tries to stop you at least once a dayevery day. You’d probably be pretty irritated, right? Now imagine someone else approaches you who isn’t a chugger, but they do it in the same way. What’s your first reaction likely to be? I’d guess, leave me alone, I don’t want to give you my money etc. Lastly, to get where I feel I am now, imagine that person doesn’t seem like a chugger at all, in fact they seem fine, then suddenly the conversation turns and you realise they’ve just asked you for money. How would you feel? Betrayed? Annoyed at being duped?

    I’m tired of being disappointed, but *I* didn’t do this, *they* did and that’s what upsets me about the tenor of some of the above comments. @Archie when you think ‘can’t I even talk to girls anymore?’ your exasperation should be directed at all the other men who eroded our trust.

    Seth Godin did a recent blog post about this http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/09/the-people-who-came-before-you.html

    As for tone etc, I was at breakfast yesterday and the guy next to me at the bar gave me a suggestion for the diner’s best orders. He was polite, friendly and when I smiled and said thank you he didn’t push it. I took a deep breath and realised that my initial trepidation had nothing to do with him and asked him about his favourites. We had a nice breakfast and he got double points for not instantly exiting the conversation at mention of my boyfriend.

    Had he decided to shout about his favourite sandwich at me in the street, however, I might not have been so receptive.

  5. “@Archie when you think ‘can’t I even talk to girls anymore?’ your exasperation should be directed at all the other men who eroded our trust.”
    Be careful not to end up with a bigoted view towards men though, otherwise you’ll be similar to those guys that think all women are gold-diggers and just cheat due to their experience.

    To me it seems only a few women are being bothered so much by random small talk (not sexual harassment, etc) since I’m not finding women are getting angry at me or showing any negative signs when I talk to them. I am from a small town so maybe that is why it seems to be more rare with me and my friends. I’m also in Australia if that makes a big difference.

  6. An equally important question might be why don’t women catcall?

    Actually I’ve heard them do it a few times, but the circumstances do seem to be different……they tend to be a little more discreet, although to be honest I wish they weren’t. It’d be nice to know that someone out there finds me appealing physically but I guess no one does. Anyway, asking this question is a little like asking why do we yell ‘OW’ when we burn ourselves. It is part culture of course (maybe foreigners say something different?) but also largely human, I think to have sudden strong feelings, and to vocalize them. Whether or not the receiver finds that act rude or complimentary might be bedside the point, even if we’d rather not admit that to be the case.

    I find myself commenting on women’s appearances when I see them through a closed window, and I am ALONE in a room. On that note, if I am wise enough to think before I speak, I try to be considerate.

  7. A bully is a bully is a bully. Men harass women because they can get away with it. The woman is “easy prey.” And she’s not easy prey because she’s smaller—there’s ways around that. She’s easy prey because for a long time nobody has given a damn if a woman was harassed, just like people in my quaint Southern town didn’t really care if the “white trash” went around calling black people the n-word to their faces. Cause what else can you expect from lowlife rednecks? Blacks should know not to walk through those neighborhoods. Society says what it thinks about a group of people not just by what it does to a group of people, what what it ALLOWS others to do to them. A bully is a bully is a bully. The weak and the mean and the bitter will always pick on those that society doesn’t protect. The imbalance of power between men and women in society and especially in the public sphere has had everything to do with catcalling, sexual harassment being accepted as normal toward women. Men will always notice women. Men call women bitches and sluts when they know they can get away with it. And it’s not all men, it’s mainly the weak, insecure ones. But they do it because they can. Because we let them.

    It will take more than laws to change it. It will take a continuing shift in how men are taught to think about women and how society itself respects its female citizens.

  8. Definitely imagine that which you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to be mindful of. I say to you, I certainly get irked even as other people consider concerns that they just do not know about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as neatly as outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other people can take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

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