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Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment

Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment

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Last Christmas I was out for a short jog along a fairly busy road and in that time I had 4 separate carloads of men shout at me as they sped past. They called out and beeped at me; which is extremely startling when you’re wearing headphones and immersed in exercising.

I got back to my in laws house, where we were staying, flustered and furious, and I vented my frustration at my partner, saying it’s not fair that I can’t go for a jog by myself without being harassed.

His response; but it’s a compliment. I should be flattered. 

That was a year ago and I’m still a little shocked that he – who is a good man – didn’t get it. Couldn’t get it. In his mind it’s something that men just do – and that women actually like.

Okay, some women do appreciate being catcalled. They don’t mind having sexual demands or remarks shouted at them from moving vehicles.

And while I’m at it I’ll also acknowledge that this does happen to men as well. I’ve seen women react to firefighters in such a way that made me wonder if they realised that a man wearing a full heat resistant jumpsuit isn’t automatically a stripper.

But it’s still not okay.

It’s not okay to shout at, call to, or proposition a stranger on the street. EVEN if you think they should take it as a compliment. EVEN if it’s happened to you by someone of any gender. It’s still not okay.

Because unless you KNOW they want you to do it (that magical thing called consent); it’s harassment.

 

As a teenager I thought it was a compliment.

Until the day I had a middle aged man follow me with his truck, calling out to me, propositioning me, telling me to get in his vehicle. He was shamelessly holding up traffic, in broad daylight, on a busy Melbourne Street, harassing me.

I felt so utterly ashamed and helpless. I ran back to my mum’s car and locked myself in it until she came back.

And the frightening thing was – nobody cared. I was surrounded by people, but completely alone.

If anything, they looked at me as if it was my fault – rather than standing beside me saying “Hey, buddy, she said no. Back off!” They looked at me, practically a child, as if I’d invited the attention.

What is chilling about this kind of experience is that it is so very common and most disturbing is when you ask women when was the earliest time they were harassed or made uncomfortable by male attention; how young were they when it started?

I was 11.

So people say; It’s a compliment. It’s nice. Don’t take it so seriously! Don’t be so sensitive!

Catcalling is an entitlement to treat you like an object, because you dared to be a woman in public.

There is nothing flattering about that.

What do you think? Is catcalling a compliment or harassment?

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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4 comments

  1. It is NOT a compliment! If I get the opportunity I always ask them if their strategy is ever effective – “does anyone run over and beg to suck your dick after you yell at them out your car window?”
    Losers.

  2. It is NOT a compliment! If I get the opportunity I always ask them if their strategy is ever effective – “does anyone run over and beg to suck your dick after you yell at them out your car window?”
    Losers.

  3. EXACTLY! Oh my goodness, nobody is going to be running after their car shouting “Take me I’m yours!” So what is the point?

  4. EXACTLY! Oh my goodness, nobody is going to be running after their car shouting “Take me I’m yours!” So what is the point?

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