Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment

Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment

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.

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?

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Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel has a passion for prams and all things baby. She worked for a big brand of baby carriers and now works in a baby store that specialises in prams, car seats and nursery furniture. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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.

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