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Calling out catcalling

18th June 2009

Calling out catcalling

Lara’s post on the Feministing Community Blog today asks how it is possible to be a woman and never have been catcalled.  I wonder, too.  One informal survey conducted by a graduate student last year found 98 percent of women to have experienced some form of street harassment.  Granted, catcalling may be a regional phenomenon — it seems to be more of a problem for city-dwellers –and may even be culturally innocent, but women from all walks of life have reported receiving unsolicited and degrading comments about their bodies from men, often from positions of power (a car, building), with the intent to objectify and/or intimidate.

I don’t remember exactly when I started getting catcalls, but I do very vividly remember an especially traumatic experience at the age of 14.  We lived at the end of our neighborhood, but the main road continued on, crossed over a highway and winded its way through rural farms.  It was evening and I decided to walk my decidedly non-ferocious black lab down to the farm of a family friend.  I was about halfway across the bridge when a rusty truck rumbled past, filled with about six guys in their late teens or early 20s.  They whistled as they drove by and yelled out comments, but drove on.  I felt uneasy nonetheless and hid out in a wooded cul-de-sac at the end of the bridge for a few minutes.  The nervousness didn’t subside so I decided to just go home and set off across the bridge again.  I had made it little more than halfway when the truck came roaring back and slowed down, keeping pace with my quickened step.  The guys, most of them shirtless and probably drunk and any and all of whom could easily overpower me, leered at me from the truck, yelling very sexually-degrading things about what they’d do to me.  There was no where I could turn — even if I wanted to plunge to certain death off the bridge, tall fencing prevented me from doing so.  I kept walking, head down, quicker and quicker until I reached my neighbor’s yards and then cut through them, my heart pounding so hard I thought it’d burst out of my chest.

This was, by far, the scariest catcalling experience I would ever have, but it wasn’t the last.  Lots of women I know have had catcalling experiences, but there seems to be a special nastiness reserved for catcalls directed at fat women.  Women’s bodies remain open game for public scrutiny, but fat bodies in particular are especially considered public property to be, as one writer put it, “invaded by comments, measured with hatred, pathologized with fear, and diagnosed with ignorance.”* As well, some people still believe that fat women should be grateful for any sexual attention they receive, even if it’s unsolicited and even, as Fatfu pointed out, when it’s rape.  When I first began The Diet, I was too afraid to join a gym for fear of the comments I was certain I would receive, so I instead walked around my neighborhood… at night and under the cover of darkness.  Paranoid?  Perhaps, but not without good reason.  Even after I had lost some 60 percent of my body weight via an eating disorder and my BMI fell on the lower end of average, I was still afraid for many years to walk past groups of guys on my college campus.  When we hear about catcalls, we often think them to be directed at sexy and attractive (read: thin) women, but the irony for me is that after I had lost the weight, the catcalls virtually vanished.  It’s only when I have been fat that I have received unsolicited and sexually-degrading comments about my body.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m now older or that I’ve been able to (healthily) sustain a still significant weight-loss the past few years, but I don’t encounter catcalls on the regular basis I used to.  The last such comment came a couple years ago.  I needed to run into a store and Brandon, hating crowds, opted to wait in the car.  On the way in, I saw two young guys walking towards me and I had a funny feeling they’d say something.  This is, despite the fact that it had been more than two years since I had received a catcall.  Sure enough, they called out some kind of sexual comment but only after I had passed them (they couldn’t even say it to my face and they certainly wouldn’t have said anything had Brandon been with me).  Without skipping a beat or even turning around, I loudly replied, “No thanks, I’m sure you have dicks the size of peanuts” (snappy comeback credit to Notting Hill).  I call people out for racist/homophobic/sizeist/sexist jokes and I try to stick up for others whenever I can, but for most of my life, I’ve rarely stuck up for myself.  It was such a new and liberating experience that I now half wish I could thank those meatheads.

In New York at least, a woman can report catcalling and the catcaller be charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor usually punishable by a fine, although many female Gothamites aren’t aware of this or don’t have time to report them.  For the great majority of us however, we have two possible recourses: Speak up or stay silent (with sometimes circumstance and personal safety leaving us with only the latter option).  Earlier this month Shannon Togawa Mercer, an American student attending the American University in Cairo, shared how students there are encouraged to react to street harassment — they’re taught to say in colloquial Egyptian, “Mind your own business,” Don’t touch me,” and “Act like a man.”  It’s this last comeback that most appeals to me — Act like a man — because “real men,” or at least the kinds of men I’ve been fortunate to know and love, are secure enough in themselves and their manhood that they don’t have to objectify and intimidate women to impress other men, assert their masculinity or make themselves feel more powerful.

Have you been on the receiving end of catcalls?  Have any snappy comebacks to share? Share your street harassment stories below.

* As quoted in Overcoming Fear of Fat, p. 47.

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  1. 1 On June 18th, 2009, Meryt Bast said:

    Four years ago, I was visiting NYC with my mother, and was wearing a pretty sundress and heels. Some guy at a hot dog cart (not the vendor, a customer) saw me coming and said, “Mmmmmmmm-MM! Oooh, honey, you make me think of this hot dog I got here.” I looked him full in the face, my eyes wide, and said loudly, “That’s great!” and kept walking. The vendor and the other men hanging around the cart all cracked up laughing.

    I have red hair, so I have been singled out for attention, both positive and negative, for as long as I can remember. Getting married and wearing a wedding band seems to have cut down on men sidling up to me with what they think are great lines, but I still get hooted at from cars sometimes.

  2. 2 On June 18th, 2009, Jill said:

    “Act like a man” nice! last summer I was catcalled probably the worst I’ve ever gotten… extremely explicit comments by a drunk guy following me down the street on my way to the train in Brooklyn and of course there was barely anyone around at the time. I was so so angry because I felt like I couldn’t do anything. In that neighborhood I got it a lot, another time more recently a guy followed me down the street in his car, saying he was a taxi service and wanted to give me a ride (LOL YEAH RIGHT DUDE!) at first it was amusing because he was being polite but then he actually did follow me all the way down the street (like 4 large blocks) and got more and more aggressive. Another time a guy said I looked very pretty, and when I didn’t respond and walked past he yelled at me saying I was ungrateful and a rude bitch. DID I ASK FOR YOUR UNSOLICITED COMMENT ON MY BODY? And I hate that everyone I talked to about it said I (all women) should just keep our heads down, not say anything back, etc etc. and that makes me so mad.

  3. 3 On June 18th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    When I hit puberty (later than most of my friends) I hit it HARD. Most people who didn’t know me thought I was in my 20′s, even though I was actually 14. So the catcalling started then.
    At age 18 I moved to New York City for college, and the harassment would go on, literally, from the moment I stepped outside until the moment I came home. It often came from doormen, security guards and, sad to say, even a few police officers.
    I lived in NY for 5 years, and the constant harassment made me literally hate men. (One time I had a screaming fight with a total stranger on the Upper East Side because he’d made a filthy comment and I’d lashed back, only to be told I shouldn’t dress “sexy” [a sweater and jeans] if I didn’t want men to comment.) I once even threw a guy into the side of a building; I was walking by, he was handing out fliers, and he stuck his arm right in front of my chest. it was either let him cop a feel or use some moves I’d learned in my self-defense class. I grabbed his arm, pulled him toward me, and hip-checked him into the concrete edifice, then kept walking.
    At that point I knew I had to get out of New York.
    It was only when I moved out of the city and to western Massachusetts that I finally, gradually, lost my hatred and anger. That I finally met REAL men who didn’t feel the need to intimidate me because I have large breasts.
    In my late 20′s I moved to L.A. In a way the harassment was worse there: while I didn’t get nearly as many comments (’cause, after all, no one walks in L.A!), the city is dominated by the entertainment industry, which declares that all women must be young, hot, and ready for sex with any man who wants it. Because, like you said, womens’ bodies are public property, and Hollywood is the main reason for that. At any given audition, I could be asked to “show a bit more.” Sure, I could and DID refuse, but I lost out on the job, and the other women there were only too willing. I must say, L.A. is the only place I’ve lived where I literally couldn’t tell the difference between the streetwalkers and the girls going on auditions. (One woman, who got a lot of acting jobs, told me, when I asked how she did it, that she “made every person in the room want to f**k [her].”)
    So I got angry again, but this time I hated myself and I hated my profession. So we left L.A. and now live near San Francisco. It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better.
    Sometimes I look back and I’m sad that I let L.A. destroy my love of acting. Because I worked hard at it, and I was good at it, but they didn’t give a crap about talent. it’s all about looks down there, and everyone is SO desperate to get in the door they’ll do anything. And, quite frankly, many people in that industry are insecure and NASTY. Just mean. And these are our role models.
    No thanks.

  4. 4 On June 18th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    And let me just add that, in NYC, a lot of the harassment was physical as well as verbal. And, yes, if you don’t respond, then you’re a “snooty bitch.”

  5. 5 On June 18th, 2009, Rachel said:

    I lived in NY for 5 years, and the constant harassment made me literally hate men.

    I read a story by one Latina woman who said that she was ashamed to admit that the constant catcalling she received from Latino men had made her prejudiced against them.

  6. 6 On June 18th, 2009, Abby said:

    For being a small-town girl I absolutely love the atmosphere in the city, all except for the catcalls.I was 16 the first time I went to NYC and received my first catcall. A guy on the street said “Hello Beautiful” Having never experienced that before I was mildly flattered. However, as the trip continued and the comments got increasingly derogatory, I realized these comments were not compliments.

    Last summer I spent the summer in Chicago for an internship. It was in Chicago that I really began to resent any male who would make inappropriate comments. It was also here that I made a shocking discovery. Every single man that made a comment to me or my friends on the sidewalk was African American!!! I’m not a racist I’ve even had biracial romantic relationships. But I was disgusted at my experience in Chicago and I found my self getting anxious every time I had to walk by a black man. Did anyone else notice this or any other trends?

  7. 7 On June 18th, 2009, Cute Bruiser said:

    I developed very early on. At 12 I already had DD breasts, but never had any real problems until I got to high school. Two of the worst experiences happened in the first week alone. While waiting at a crosswalk, a car full of older boys threw change at me and shouted that it was my “tip for last night”. A couple days after that, another car full of older boys at the same crosswalk sprayed me waterbottles while shouting various things — I was wearing a white shirt and had to walk the rest of the way home like that.

    Needless to say, I found another route home.

    There’s been a lot more catcalling than that in my life, but those were two of the worst, not counting the time someone threw a potato at me from a moving car but I’m not sure that counts since all they said was “bitch”.

  8. 8 On June 18th, 2009, Emily May said:

    Thanks for this great post. I would also recommend you check out HollabackNYC.com. We encourage folks to photograph their street harassers and post their stories. Too often, these stories get lost. Like with all forms of violence against women – women tend to hide these stories, find it best to “pretend like it didn’t happen.” So many women write us finding comfort in the blog because they “thought they were the only ones.” This is tragic – I think you are hard pressed to find a woman in this city who has never been street harassed. It’s time we spoke up!

    Hollaback is now on twitter too – tweet your street harassment with #hbnyc and @hollabacknyc will retweet it! Thanks again for raising this issue, and I hope you and your readers will Hollaback!

  9. 9 On June 18th, 2009, Suzanne said:

    Long time lurker here–I recently pledged to start commenting and I think this is the perfect time.

    This particular issue is especially…infuriating to me. A couple of years ago I was at college in Florida. I lived about a mile off campus. Late one night, out of boredom and restlessness, I decided to walk to campus to meet my boyfriend. My usual route was blocked off by construction, so I took a new path that I was only somewhat familiar with. As I trotted along, a car slowed down to drive by me. It disappeared. It reappeared, and slowly drove by me again. I became frightened and started to walk faster. Again it passes me and turns back around. This time, the windows rolled down and its occupants started catcalling-I couldn’t even hear exactly what they were saying, but I didn’t like it, and I flipped them off and kept walking.

    Now, I could most certainly hear what they were saying. They were saying that they were going to shoot me. Terrified, I started running towards the only house within view that had its porch light on. I pulled out my phone, and they disappeared. I should’ve called the police, but out of my panic wound up calling my boyfriend, who happened to ride up on his bike at that precise moment. When I frantically told him what happened, he told me I shouldn’t have been walking there alone at night.

    I don’t know what the moral of the story is here. I don’t even know what lesson I learned, other than call the goddamn police if someone says they’re going to shoot you. I guess I just felt like it wouldn’t have been taken seriously.

    On a side note, I absolutely love this site and it’s helped me in ways I can barely describe. My relationship with food now is exponentially better than it was when someone happened to refer me here.

    <3 <3
    Suzanne

  10. 10 On June 18th, 2009, spoonfork said:

    I was pig-called about ten years ago while I was taking a walk with my husband. We were in Lexington, Kentucky, just off the UNiversity campus (I got my graduate degree at UK).

    Being the target of a Pig-calling is infuriating. If you do nothing, they get away with it. If you acknowledge that you’ve heard them in any way, they’ve ‘proved their point.’

    I was in my middle ‘twenties when this happened, and I did nothing but seethe. Now? I think I’d march up to those two idiots and tell them to grow up—and I’d call the cops on them for harrassment. The cops might not respond well, but damn it, I have to start somewhere.

    Now I’m a couple states away, and when I walk, I take my cell phone, a scrap of paper, and a pencil stub. I got yelled at once when I was pushing my younger daughter in her stroller and I got the license plate. I didn’t do anything about it (I had no idea what they’d said and when they saw me writing, they fled fast), but just knowing my attackers weren’t anonymous anymore gave me some power back.

  11. 11 On June 18th, 2009, GeekGirlsRule said:

    Oh the catcalling. Just the other day, my friend Kate and I commented that since getting fatter and our hair starting to go grey, we don’t get catcalled near so often, and we don’t miss it at all. The worst “fat bitch” comments I ever got were mostly when I was just a little overweight, and usually after having just shot down whomever was responsible.

    It started for me when I was 12, that’s when the Breast Fairy hit. We lived on a construction site in rural Washington state (power plant) and when I went to meet my Dad one night at the gate, the catcalls started. I was only allowed to go meet my father again, if he called and said he was going to leave late, so that all the construction guys were gone before I got there.

    His co-workers started hitting on me at company picnics and such around that time too.

    So far, I think the most amazing comeback I’ve heard, was a friend of mine who has H-cups and I were at a concert, all corseted up (Goths are us), and this guy walked by and said something along the lines of “Nice rack!” My friend stopped him, and said, “Yes, I grew them myself.” He turned bright red and scampered off.

    I usually rely on, “Sorry, don’t date outside my species!” or “Call me when you evolve a thumb, ok?”

  12. 12 On June 18th, 2009, naomi said:

    I grew up in suburbia being catcalled from about age 12 onwards. Most of this was from boys who went to school with me. I was afraid to walk anywhere by myself, as the catcalls were often accompanied by pranks – not violent, but quite cruel. It was with the greatest sense of relief that I moved away to a college town, where I actually felt safe walking.

    Twenty years later, I still feel pretty safe walking, (except from the occasional adolescent boy), but now I mostly ride my bike. This involves a whole different level of harassment. Apparently, the sight of a fat woman on a bike is more than some men driving cars can countenance. The favorite trick is to drive up right behind me and then to beep the horn very loudly. And then shout something demeaning out the window, of course.

    Really, sometimes my faith in people is sorely tried. I should note, though, that when I was towing my children in a bike trailer, drivers were unfailingly courteous and careful towards me. So. Fat with kids, ok. Without – well, …

  13. 13 On June 18th, 2009, damnsle said:

    This is a great post and I love some of the comebacks that have been suggested, but you might want to consider putting a trigger warning up.

  14. 14 On June 18th, 2009, CAK said:

    Nothing makes me feel more powerless than being catcalled and harassed on the street and doing nothing about it. I attribute this to the fear of being called fat if I call out the disgusting men on the other end of this violation. I live in San Francisco, in a very urban and diverse neighborhood and this happens to me daily. I am working on abating this fear and powerlessness and look at every single passerby and catcaller right in the eye. I say, “you are disgusting” and “do NOT talk to me” and I keep moving. I try to never let my voice be silenced anymore. It is hard, also, not to let these constant experiences make me complete prejudiced against men of a certain socioeconomic level and ethnicity–but at the same time I know that lack of education and mistreatment of women is an ingrained part of their culture.

  15. 15 On June 18th, 2009, Rachel said:

    @damnsle: I try to exercise sensitivity in my language here overall and sometimes I’ll post sensitive material behind a cut, but I generally don’t post trigger warnings because 1) I have no idea what will trigger individual readers; and 2) I think that if you are triggered by feminist critiques on body image, eating disorders, etc… it probably isn’t a good idea to patronize a site that discusses these very issues in-depth.

  16. 16 On June 18th, 2009, Jess said:

    On my way up and back down, I noticed that at my smallest, I do not get many catcalls. At my largest, I got a great deal. In between, I got some.

    I also noticed that the bummier I was dressed, the more I got. Fresh from the gym in a t-shirt and too-big sweats? That’s a moanin’*. Out in a fitted top and looking like I put some effort into myself? Nothing, maybe some guy trying to burn a hole in my shirt. Shuffling along, head down, in a hurry to get from point A to point B, clearly exuding what I feel are “stay away!” vibes? “Hey ma, how you be?”

    Thankfully it doesn’t much happen at school, I figure I don’t really fit any “standards” to be accosted by any particular group.

    I’m pondering if it’s because they think/thought that I look(ed) downtrodden, so they should attempt to flatter me. Then again, at my largest I was “scarily” endowed (sayeth my friends. I enjoyed them!), so maybe that lead to people going big boobs/girl = easy. :(

    Since I grew up in a very urban place, obviously most of my harassers were black men. It’s sad to say, but these experiences (and some others) have left me never quite feeling at ease around strangers that I match.

    *This actually happened. I walked by this guy in a store, he moaned. I walked by again, he did it louder. What a creep.

  17. 17 On June 18th, 2009, damnsle said:

    I understand, and it is your blog so of course your rules apply, and I do understand your points. I thought I would mention it because your description of what happened to you with the men in the truck brought back some of the panic I felt when I was in a similar situation as a teenager, and I don’t have PTSD. In my opinion (and it is only that – I could be completely out of line and if so I preemptively apologize)it’s not the critique or the discussion itself that is a potential trigger but the graphic descriptions of harassment.

    Having said that, I do want to say that I really admire your writing and I look forward to reading your posts. Normally I only lurk. I feel bad that I broke silence for what is basically just critisizing, because I think your perspectives on all these various issues is excellent. I should have led with that.

  18. 18 On June 18th, 2009, JupiterPluvius said:

    Every single man that made a comment to me or my friends on the sidewalk was African American!!![....] Did anyone else notice this or any other trends?

    No, not at all. I would suggest that this is either a coincidence or observation bias (once you start noticing a pattern, you see it everywhere and subconsciously discard the observations that don’t meet that pattern).

    This, on the other hand:

    I read a story by one Latina woman who said that she was ashamed to admit that the constant catcalling she received from Latino men had made her prejudiced against them.

    I find odd, and suggest that it’s probably observation bias on her part as well. Either that, or the kind of boorish man who catcalls is also a racist, so she was “invisible” to him.

  19. 19 On June 18th, 2009, JupiterPluvius said:

    Sorry, I cut off my last sentence. “Either that, or the kind of boorish man who catcalls is also a racist, so she was “invisible” to him if he happened to be white.”

  20. 20 On June 18th, 2009, Rachel said:

    @damnsle: Oh, I didn’t take offense and I understand and appreciate your concerns and letting me know of them. It’s not my wish at all to upset or trigger anyone with anything that I or anyone else here writes and I apologize if it did.

  21. 21 On June 18th, 2009, Anna said:

    I think it’s a city thing, and a cultural thing. I and my co-workers of all sizes would get cat-calls constantly, in winter and summer. Few clothes and bitter-cold-snow-suit-face-covering clothes. They only went away when I went to upper-class neighborhoods or rural areas.

    Honestly, my experience is that poor men or men of color are FAR more likely to do it. They have little power so they degrade women to try and get some. My SO is Latino, however, and vocally feminist.

    It was the worst part of my life living in a city. Funny enough, I want to move back to a city because I’m so sick of the lack of diversity here, but it’s so nice to not experience cat-calling. Another wrinkle–the neighborhood that houses the 10% that is POC is still different from the city. I’ve gotten cat-called once or twice in the past year (vs multiple times daily).

  22. 22 On June 18th, 2009, Anna said:

    JupiterPluvius, I got catcalled at far, far more in Latino neighborhoods or countries. I didn’t realize it until I left moved to a place where I didn’t get catcalled at. My Latino SO actually argued with me about it–he said it was part of the culture and I said it wasn’t. Finally, when I go back, I see it’s true. There were also white men and African-American men. But it did not happen in rich, white neighborhoods and it happened far less in any white neighborhood.

    I’m not white, though, so that could be a factor. I appear “ethnic”– possibly Latina, middle eastern, or other. I wonder what women of other races have experienced.

  23. 23 On June 18th, 2009, Winnie said:

    Longtime lurker here, and this seems like a fortuitous time to come out! I live in NYC, where (as other commenters have mentioned), catcalling is rampant. The most disturbing thing about it is the men who stand in groups and shout at every woman who walks by, then get all angry if you call them on it and claim they’re “just being nice”. Anyway, I my friend Kat posted a great rant about this that cracked me up, if you need a laugh at catcalllers’ expense: http://www.pinkindiaink.com/2009/06/if-you-liked-my-cup-youre-gonna-loooove.html

  24. 24 On June 18th, 2009, Lucy said:

    “In New York at least, a woman can report catcalling and the catcaller be charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor usually punishable by a fine”

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Because I’ve been solicited by uniformed city workers. No joke.

    I have been catcalled, groped, jerked off on, and followed more times than I can count since I was about fourteen years old, and only ONE time have I ever been helped by people around me. Usually when a man says something disgusting to me, I’ll say loudly, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” and everyone, including the women, will look at ME like I’m crazy.

    Like, “Well, lady, that’s on you, for being the kind of woman that THOSE men are attracted to.” Or, “What do you want ME to do about it? Go die.”

    Mind you, this has happened when I’ve been wearing a winter coat, gym clothes, and god knows what else that HIDES my body. So it’s not a question of “dressing too provocatively,” which everyone like to accuse me of.

    It outrages me so much. When I see an attractive man I would never, EVER tell him to his face what I was going to do to him, or actually get close to him and rub myself all over him. And if I did, he’d probably yell for help and I’d get carted off.

    I need to stop, or I will rant for hours.

  25. 25 On June 18th, 2009, Bree said:

    The first time I got catcalled, I was 14 and walking home from school when a bunch of guys who had to be in their 20′s started catcalling me as they rode by. I ignored them, but wondered why the hell were they bothering with me when there were women their age they could be interested in?

    Two years ago last summer, a man saw me walking to the bus stop and yelled out that I was the biggest, sexiest woman he’d ever seen. Again, I just ignored him. He made no more remarks and made no attempt to follow me. I’m pretty sure he was drunk at the time, considering the bus stop is at a train station, which is a hangout for winos and drunks during the day.

    Last winter, at the same train station, a different man asked me if I had a boyfriend, to which I replied no, and commented that I could “warm him up.” He must have seen my icy look, because he never bothered me after that.

    Men can just be so stupid sometimes!

  26. 26 On June 18th, 2009, styleygeek said:

    The worst catcalling I ever experienced was only a couple of days ago. I was visiting a different city (Perth) and so on my own, and walking around a lot, seeing the sights. Within 12 hours, I got catcalled SIX times. They were pretty standard and not as scary (individually) as the incident you report, but it got so that I was almost in tears the last time it happened and just wanted to get out of sight, off the streets, and become invisible. I don’t usually feel unsafe walking alone after dark in a busy city, but I was just so on edge that I cut my sightseeing short and went back to the hotel.

  27. 27 On June 18th, 2009, gamer said:

    Yep, definitely gotten catcalled or anonymously sexually harassed, even at 200lbs in conservative clothes and without makeup or anything to make me vaguely sexual other than being female. I got propositioned on the streets of my small college town one Sunday morning, yelled at from a car in my suburban neighborhood, even yelled at and made lewd gestures at on the freeway (with my young cousin in the car with me!).

    Nowhere is safe, and they wonder why feminists are angry.

  28. 28 On June 18th, 2009, Ostara said:

    Can I just make the point here that men who do this kind of awful thing are real men too? I know it sounds nitpicky, but calling the kind of men who don’t catcall “real” men implies that men who DO do this sort of shit aren’t real which I think kind of invalidates the experiences of women in this sort of thing. These men are real, harassment is real. I’m sure most of us here know this logically, but it’s still something that bothers me. Though it’s possible the term grinds my gears because I’ve only heard the term used by men who are sexist but at least don’t do what “those guys” do.

    As to the catcalling, I’m grateful I haven’t had to endure anything like others who’ve posted here though one man in downtown Cleveland once thought it was ok to grab my hand and ask me who gave me the ring on my finger. Course, there was also the dude in Sweden who thought it was ok to continually feel up my leg though I kept telling him to stop.

    Oh, and there was also the dude in a club in Sandusky who kept grabbing my ass and then looking away like it wasn’t him. I wish I would have said something like “do I look stupid? Because I must if you expect me to feel someone grabbing my ass and not use a little logic to realize it’s probably the asshole right behind my ass.” Thing is, I’m sure I would’ve just been seen as a “bitch” who “can’t lighten up”.

  29. 29 On June 18th, 2009, Sara said:

    So often. It was really bad when I lived in Spain (particularly in Madrid); it was so bad walking out of a particular metro stop that I switched routes to get to school. I cut my hair really short, dyed it (I’m naturally blonde), took extra care to cover up–didn’t help. I screamed at one, telling him he should be ashamed and that he was old enough to be my grandfather, but usually I was too tired to do much more than keep walking.

    I also hate getting what I think the British call “the ups and downs”–the way a man will look a woman over from head to toe as if mentally undressing her. I don’t get the drive that some men seem to have to objectify women, but it’s clearly there.

  30. 30 On June 18th, 2009, Minnies said:

    I have no snappy comebacks, just painful memories and, in retrospect, connections between catcalls and my subsequent ED. I also had a terrifying experience when I was twelve, something very similar to Rachel’s, and I still occasionally have nightmare about it twenty years later. I don’t want to share that because it’s still too upsetting… twenty years later.

    I had a really really awkward adolescence and, of course, this made my appearance public property and men of all ages had the right, nay, *responsibility* of telling me how ugly I was. I remember walking home from work one night and having a group of teen boys lean out the window of a house and shout comments about my general unattractiveness. I especially remember how utterly humiliated I was that there were witnesses around (including a lovely young woman) to look at me pityingly (but not stand up for me, oh no.) I went home and threw out all the clothes I was wearing, washed my face until my skin bled, and stopped eating for weeks.

    By my early 20′s I outgrew my some of my awkwardness but still projected vulnerability to the sorts of assholes who catcall at young women. On my way to work one morning I walked past a group of young men who shouted a bunch of ugly things at me. I could only hear about one in three words but I remember they were all insults and my mind filled in the rest. I went home and threw out my clothes and stopped eating for… oh, I don’t know. Months? Years?

    You make such a good point about these men catcalling from positions of power (inside houses, cars, in groups.) I’ve never really thought about that aspect; I suppose in my teen/20′s I figured they yelled ugly things at me because a) I was ugly and b) that gave them the right to share that information with me. In case I was somehow blissfully unaware. How dare I exist while not being pleasing to their eyes?

  31. 31 On June 18th, 2009, Charlotte said:

    The summer before my senior year of high school, I worked at Auntie Anne’s, a pretzel place at the mall. The crew was mostly female, and we were constantly being cat called, leered at, and generally harassed by men of all ages. One of the more terrible incidents was when a married guy kept making seductive eyes at me while I was filling his order; the worst part was his wife and kids were standing right behind him while he was doing it. I hated that job so much.

  32. 32 On June 18th, 2009, merri said:

    This didnt happen to me till i was in college, in the Boston area. Then it happened almost every day i walked around Waltham (which is a small city). In actual Boston, later on, it happened less, and once I moved to San Francisco, it has almost never happened. The couple times it did were in the past year that i moved out of the city city and into the outskirts. If i go out alone at evening, without my male roommates, guys do call out to me or talk to me esp if i’m wearing a skirt. which makes me not want to wear one when i’m alone. so its been my experience that being in the main parts of cities, no one really bothers me, and living in new england it didnt matter what i was wearing, but here in SF it does. I did used to talk back to them in college, esp when it started, because i was so startled, and unused to any type of attention from the opposite sex (after growing up in a small NH town). Now i just ignore ppl for the most part, unless they actually walk up to me and talk to me.

  33. 33 On June 18th, 2009, Nazira said:

    I totally understand with the “well stop dressing provacatively and theyll leave you alone”schtick. And even though I was wearing an um tee and jeans I got the honks whistling hey sexy comments everywhere. I started wearing my moms ankle length skirt and this really heinous turtleneck sweater thingie. And a burka. Yes you heard me right I wore a scarf over my head so you could basically only see my eyes nose and mouth I was otherwise COMPLETELY COVERED! And guess what. I still got catcalled and some new ones “nice abs.” I am not quite sure how they could see my abs through my doubleknit/crochet sweater unless they had xray vision. And yet my mom said I am dressing too provacatively thats why they are saying these things. Thats when I got fed up. I was dressing like a muslim because of my large boobs/ass and I was still “dressing provacatively” Thats when i decided. Im gonna wear whatever the hell I want. I refuse to be opressed by these perverted assholes. If people are gonna say its my fault instead of the creeps eyeing me in the first place so be it. Its not MY PROBLEM.
    And you know since then Ive gotten less catcalling even when sporting (gosh) cleavage. OMG a girl with a RACK OF DOOM dares CLEAVAGE!!!!!11111 Hmm, I just thought I wonder if guys have like a sixth sense that can tell when girls are insecure and when theyll kick the ass of anyone who DARES mess with them.
    *warning: cheese factor* IM SUPERGIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. 34 On June 18th, 2009, Lynn (The Actors Diet) said:

    I’ve been catcalled on a daily basis when I lived in NYC. Wish I’d known about that disorderly conduct thing…

  35. 35 On June 18th, 2009, lilacsigil said:

    I’ve never been catcalled and I sure as hell don’t want to be! Just saying, I do exist.

  36. 36 On June 18th, 2009, Cute Bruiser said:

    @nazira: Most people, men included, can usually sense confidence or lack of it. I think that’s why we keep hearing from people saying they got MORE attention when they were fat/wearing sweats/head down — something about their carriage, behaviour, body language or the way they were dressed, etc., I think, was giving passerby the impression they were submissive. It’s a widely accepted fact that abusers will target those they believe can not or will not fight back.

  37. 37 On June 19th, 2009, Nathreee said:

    I can personally confirm that being cat-called has nothing to do with what you are wearing. I used to cycle to work over a bridge and get called out at least twice a week, no matter if it was summer and I’d be wearing long trousers and a blouse (I never wear skirts when I have to cycle) or if it was winter and I’d be wearing a huge winter coat and a scarf and a hat. It got me to really wonder what they are calling at. Maybe it’s the blonde hair, maybe it’s the DD, but I’m pretty sure that in my winter coat with a big scarf and a hat, there’s not much to see.

    The cat-calling started early, because I had B breasts when I was 11 and D when I was 16. When I was 18 it was at its worst because I had to pass through the Central Station of Marseille to get to college every Sunday night. I was the only real blonde for miles and the men at the station started to drool and yell as soon as I came into view. This seems an exaggeration but it wasn’t. And all of them were either poor men, who would be begging for change if I had been a businessman, or young men looking to pick up a girl. The language barrier prevented me from saying smart things and I was pretty scared they’d get violent if I had anyway.

    I’m not very good at thinking on my feet, so I don’t have any stories of witty come-backs. I mean, what am I to say when a man approaches me saying (in a caribbean accent): you are beautiful. In my culture, we like women with a big ass.

  38. 38 On June 19th, 2009, Rebecca said:

    I think one thing I find about being deathfat and catcalling is that people (not always men, but mostly) assume that I can’t hear. I’m talked ABOUT, not AT. I’m also usually referred to as ‘it’ rather than as a female. The last comment I remember hearing was in March, when a young man of about 20-22 said “Would you look at that? Who’d fuck it?” to his friend.

  39. 39 On June 19th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Can I just make the point here that men who do this kind of awful thing are real men too?

    That’s why I put the term in quotes, since I was referring back to an article that described the qualities of a “real man,” that is, a man who doesn’t engage in this kind of behavior. And the author’s intention there was more tongue-in-cheek and playing on the “real man” stereotype perpetuated by sexist men as the charcoal-grilling, beer-guzzling, women-objectifying redblooded heterosexual American male. The fact that so many women remember catcalling experiences for so many years certainly indicates just how very real (and fresh) they still are in so many minds.

    I think that’s why we keep hearing from people saying they got MORE attention when they were fat/wearing sweats/head down — something about their carriage, behaviour, body language or the way they were dressed, etc.

    I agree that abusers (and that’s what these men are) target those they feel are vulrenable, but even fat confident women like Joy Nash have been on the receiving end of catcalls. That’s one of the reasons why she released her staircase wit video. Being a woman, being fat and especially being a fat woman are all targets for catcallers, regardless of how you carry yourselves.

  40. 40 On June 19th, 2009, And this is why I love him » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] I’m trying to catcall you.  You know, like in your post [...]

  41. 41 On June 19th, 2009, apricotmuffins said:

    All of your stories on here make me sad. I’ve been on the recieving end of a couple of catacalls, but nothing at all offensive beyond ‘hey baby’ and wolf whistles, which I tend to have a jerk reaction of giving them the finger (not always good..)Im very fortunate in that respect.

    Though, I did have a strange experience a couple of days ago. I left my house to go grab a coffee (sometimes, you just gotta have a cinnamon latte..) and I walked onto the main road, passed these two guys standing round talking, one of which turned to see me and went ‘hey…’, which i just ignored. The strange part is I walked literally two steps down the road, and a car passed and honked at me.
    I found it amusing and puzzling because this kind of thing rarely happens to me, but two seperate incidents in the space of about 10 seconds? yeah, must be my lucky day.

    (I might add that I’m near enough a socially acceptable weight and shape, which obviously influences the type of catacalls. I cant remember any weight related ones.)

    Oh yes, the worst one I can remember is someone chucked a penny at me out of a car window while calling me a whore. I was walking with my fiance at the time, wearing a coat. whut?

    Gosh, the more I think about it, the more I can remember little incidents of street harrassment. It makes me angry.

  42. 42 On June 19th, 2009, Meryt Bast said:

    Oh, yeah, exotic hair color in foreign countries…when I was in Paris, about ten years ago, I seemed to be the only redhead in the entire nation of France, and my hair was really long even then (I can sit on the ends now). I got a lot of attention, but it was as respectful as I’ve ever seen. The men kept their distance or nudged each other while staring at me, and if they spoke, they were politely complimentary; one guy said, “Oh, marry me?” which I laughed off. I didn’t hear anything coarse or insulting, even in French. The women stared, too. On a bus once, two women were touching my hair so softly that I didn’t notice. When we got off the bus, one of my friends told me what had happened; he said they were smiling as if to say, “Wow.” I was actually flattered. One guy did grab me at a club, but I told him, in French, to step off, and he did. Our professor later told us that French girls have no qualms about smacking a man who grabs them.

    The few hours I spent in England, I got a lot of nasty comments, mostly relating to my hair color and how red hair=sluttiness. It was gross and I hated it, but I settled for jabbing my middle finger at them, and once saying, “Yeah, back to the barnyard with ya.” People drunk at 10am in the airport — who knew?

  43. 43 On June 19th, 2009, goodbyemyboy said:

    Last week I was walking down the street and passed a guy standing outside his truck. He catcalled and asked me if I wanted a ride. I ignored him.

    Then he got in his truck and followed me.

    That was by far the most frightening experience I’ve had.

  44. 44 On June 19th, 2009, Abby said:

    @JupiterPluvius, it absolutely was not an observation bias as i intentionally tried to see if a white man would catcall me.

    I’d also like to comment on Anna post “But it did not happen in rich, white neighborhoods and it happened far less in any white neighborhood”- I don’t think it’s as much about race as it is about education. Educated men are far less likely to degrade women than uneducated men, and statistically white men have higher education level then any other race. Thoughts?

    To address race specifically, the question is why. Why don’t white men make as many comments?

  45. 45 On June 19th, 2009, Erin said:

    Ha! I remember being catcalled when I was about 13 walking to my friends house by a man on a motorcycle. Little did he know my grandfather(tough ex-marine) was in the car behind him leaving my house! Oh man, he had no ideaaa.

  46. 46 On June 19th, 2009, Aleksiina said:

    I’m blonde, with a 36DD-36-40, and I got that shape at around 18 years old. And I have it still. And let me tell you, the things I have heard and endured…And not only because of my body, but because of my style. I’m a goth/50′s pin-up, and just because of that, men assume that I’ll be open to the most outrageous stuff ever and allow themselves to make filthy comments about me.

    It’s disgusting. But I have to say that the worst time for me didn’t involve catcalling, but some idiot who had the nerve to grope me in a crowded subway car. He stood behind me and grabbed my butt like it belonged to him. I was fuming. I turned around, and since he was shorter than me I loomed over him and said, pretty loud: “You better get the f*** out at the next station, or else I’m gonna rip off your arms and shove them up your a**.” I think I was pretty civil considering that I just wanted to punch his lights out. But it was smarter to point him out since everyone in the car just turned around and gave him hostile/disgusted looks. And he got out at the next station. But what angered me the most about the situation was that he probably allowed himself to do it because he’s done it before and got no retaliation.

    I always retaliate. And my best comeback emerged from this incident that occured when I was waiting for my bus in the evening once. And I was dressed very plainly in jeans and a t-shirt. A car with four guys in their mid-twenties stopped by the street corner where I stood and started asking me to come with them, etc. And I just laughed at them, which made one of them angry and he said something along the lines of: “don’t make me come out here, you whore”. And then I replied: “Oh really, I’m a whore now? Well hear this.” and I just started screaming at the top of my lungs: “these men are sollicitating me for sexual favours!!!” Of course people’s heads poked out their windows and everyone also on the street turned around to look. So that discouraged them pretty quickly. It’s my go to comeback now :D

    But even if I’m feisty, I never act recklessly. Some of those guys are dangerous, and sometimes it’s just smarter to steer clear of the routes where you might encounter them. Whenever I go out late at night, for any reason, there’s a couple rules that I always stick to: only walk on busy, well lit streets, always have a friend with me if I take public transportation or intend to drink, always have someone that knows where I’m headed and when I plan to get back, and I NEVER go out without pepper spray or enough money for a cab. I also took self defense classes with an ex-marine who showed me awesome tricks so I feel pretty safe at night.

    But the moral of the story is to never let anyone take advantage of you. Catcalls are insulting and uncalled for, and the worse thing to do is to let it slide. These guys like victims, so act like a winner! Stand up proud and tell them to f*** off. You’ll doing be doing everyone a service.

  47. 47 On June 19th, 2009, Lexie Di said:

    O boy. I got cat-called a lot in school. High-school was the worst. My junior year, I weighed around 270. I don’t make any excuses (no should I have to), I’m a big girl. I know people are going to say things.

    Anyway… There are bridges between buildings at the school and I would often walk from the 800 building to the 900 building to get to my next class (which was in the 900 building). There was this boy who would make a comment EVERY time we passed each other on the thin bridge. Comments were “Hey, Jaba-the-Hut,” or “Why don’t you come suck my dick, baby?” This went on every day and soon I started waiting until he got off the bridge before I’d even go near it. One day, I was so pissed off by his comment, I spun around and grabbed his backpack and said “What is your problem with me?!” He yanked away and ran up the stairs, me screaming after him, “You coward! You can’t even face me!” The comments stopped only for a few days and then it was back to the same. I went to my counselor many times about him but he didn’t do a thing. One day, I saw the boy standing near the bridge on the 900 building side (where I was going). I saw my chance to confront him and took it: I walked up to him and said “Hi. I’m the girl you yell at everyday. And I just want to know why you do that to me… Is there a reason?” He was stunned and said “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and quickly walked across the bridge. I followed for a bit saying, “Can’t you give me a reason? Are you so stupid that you can’t think of one reason?” After that day, he didn’t bother me for the rest of the school year.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. During my senior year, the same boy and his group stood next to my classroom door and he would harass me every day as I entered my class. Again, I would tell my counselor and he would do nothing. One memorable incident was when he had a plastic cone (used to make your voice louder). “Free penis! Free Penis!” he announced, until he saw me walking past. He put the cone next to my head and shouted, “Not for you!” I quickly became fed up with it. He said something as I was opening the door to my classroom. I stopped, closed the door and walked up to him. His group quickly surrounded me. He, however, ran off screaming “She’s gonna eat me! She’s gonna eat me!” (Like I’ve never heard that one.) I waited, quietly for him to come back, my hands on my hips. When he finally came back, I asked “What happened to you as a child to make you so scared? Does your mother not love you? Did your uncle molest you? I know something must have happened.” He just stared at me. Finally I just threw my arms up and pushed through the group of people and went to class. Even that didn’t stop it. The finally straw was when he ran up to me with a piece of cardboard cut out to resemble a knife. He held it up and said, “I’m going to fucking kill you!” And followed me to my class growling. I got to the safety of my classroom and waited until he was gone and then I ran to the counselor and filled out a report. Still nothing was done. Finally, my mom had to get involved and sent a scathing email to my counselor and the principal. The kid was expelled. (I got more harassment from his buddies later.) But the real reward was going to my counselor and advising him to quit his job because he didn’t deserve to go home every day thinking he had made a young person’s life better because he didn’t lift a finger to help me. I screamed it at him and he just sat there. That was the best day of my high school years.

    Now, I refuse to put up with it… I’m not afraid of cussing and shouting and flipping people off. No one should be afraid of making a scene over it. Men like these need to be called out.

  48. 48 On June 20th, 2009, Jackie said:

    Well that culturally innocent link, helped me understand why it seems Spanish men are so insatiably flirty. Well, I mean I met two, and they both would not leave me alone. It’s like, “I understand you like me, give me room TO BREATHE!” lol.

  49. 49 On June 20th, 2009, Rachel said:

    I’d also like to comment on Anna post “But it did not happen in rich, white neighborhoods and it happened far less in any white neighborhood”- I don’t think it’s as much about race as it is about education.

    Yeah, I should mention that I lived in a middle-class white-bread neighborhood and most, if not all, of my catcallers have been white. Ignorance and entitlement know no racial boundaries. In fact, I’ve found the most flattering kinds of attention to have come from black and Hispanic men. I still remember the adorable Hispanic waiter at a Mexican restaurant my sister and I went to often who could hardly speak a word of English, yet always hung around our table trying to make conversation in broken English and telling us, two fat girls, how beautiful we were and asking us if we had boyfriends. Bonus: I was taking Spanish classes at the time, so it helped me learn the language more. Perhaps it’s more of a regional and class thing than it is a race thing.

  50. 50 On June 20th, 2009, Flopsy said:

    I get catcalls pretty frequently. The worst is the car honking because it startles me and is harder to shake off. I attempted to jog everyday for a week, by the third day I had gotten enough honks that I was done with it. Now that I’m in a more ped/bike friendly area and have a dog that I take with on jogs, the honking has stopped completely.

    Once I got a catcall from a guy riding past on his bicycle. I thought “oh hell no, the cars I can’t do anything about but I’ll be damned if this guy gets away with it” and threw a small rock at him. Hit him in the back of the head, got called a dumb bitch, and grinned all the way home.

  51. 51 On June 22nd, 2009, Wazu said:

    A few weeks ago, as I walked home from the University where I attend evening classes, a girl, maybe 5-10 years younger than I am (I’m 30), stuck her head from the passenger’s side window of a car stopped in traffic next to the sidewalk. She called, “Hey baby!” I thought it was unfair, since I was walking on a bridge, with nowhere else to go, so I flipped her off and kept walking. She yelled back at me, as the car drove on, some rude sexual comments (“I wanna suck on your tits!”). I was so hurt, as she was obviously teasing me — and just, Why??? I get upset just typing this! I try not to walk over the bridge if at all possible now, for fear I’ll be trapped while someone teases me. I hadn’t thought about the possibility for years, and now I think of it every time I walk to/from my apartment, which is twice daily.

  52. 52 On June 22nd, 2009, Greyeyedeve said:

    After years of catcalling (‘you’re fat, huh huh’ yes, well spotted)- I have discovered a wonderful thing, something that renders me nigh-on invisible; it’s called a walking stick. The effect is even stronger when I am in my wheelchair. The male gaze just slides right over me, so clearly becoming disabled is the answer *rolls eyes*

  53. 53 On June 23rd, 2009, Lampdevil said:

    I was harassed constantly during middle school and high school. I managed to get most of my harassers punished. They moved on to harassing my friends, instead. I’d rather not go into details. Triggering? …Y… yeah. Triggering.

    I get very little crap these days. I live in a smallish city, in the generally worse parts, but seem to give off an aura of “leave me alone” most days of the week. When someone DOES try and Exert Their Manliness towards me, I’m usually confused. I clearly remember one white car full of douchebags that rolled the windows down and let loose with a rousing “Abldehblehwaarrghblahaaahhh!” ….which is to say I have NO IDEA what they tried to call me. Maybe they were all trying to call me something different. I don’t know. I stopped, saluted, and went “Same to you guys!”

  54. 54 On June 23rd, 2009, AnotherKate said:

    UGH – just got catcalled this very day and was thinking that I knew someone whose blog I like had recently posted on this. Hope it’s not too late…

    I am not fat, so I definitely haven’t had experiences like many people on here, and I apologize if this sounds trivial.

    I have about an 8-block walk in Center City Philadelphia from my office to the gym. At 20th street, a guy in a car yelled “Hey mama, yeah you in the black dress.” I was the only one around in a black dress, but I ignored him. 21st street, he’s at a red light, I have to walk past him again. This time he says, “I know you heard me, baby” and something I can’t hear. I kept going and should’ve put my headphones on…because he got stuck in traffic between 21st and 22nd and I had to pass him AGAIN. This time he yells, “You just need to get fucked, baby!” And of course, people are looking at ME like I’m causing the problem. I wish I’d had a great comeback, but I must admit I walked a few blocks out of the way to avoid having to see him at 22nd street, and 23rd, and 24th.

  55. 55 On June 24th, 2009, Wednesday Linkage! | Change Happens: The SAFER Blog said:

    [...] Rachel at The-F-Word (one of my favorite bloggers!) reflects on catcalls. [...]

  56. 56 On June 26th, 2009, amanda said:

    Living in a city I’ve been catcalled many times, I’ve also been followed as the catcaller shouted what they considered hilarious and clever comments to me. I never actually responded to any of these men, deciding they weren’t worth even looking at, but I’ve always wished I had told them off.

    But the best response I have ever heard to a catcall was on my bus ride to work one day, a young guy grabbed at a woman and called her ‘sexy.’ The woman did not actually respond to this but another woman on the bus started to yell at him and told him that he needed to go ‘talk to an uncle, or dad, or grandfather, to a real man and learn how to talk to a lady.’ That woman became a hero to me and all of the other girls I work with, it was also the first time I had ever actually seen anyone react to a catcall.

  57. 57 On June 28th, 2009, Samantha C said:

    I’ve never been catcalled. Not once. Not derisively, not as a compliment. Not in the suburbs, not in NYC, and i lived there two years now. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but I will since I think honesty is a lot of what this blog is about– It depresses me that I’ve never been. No one’s ever noticed me enough to make fun of my looks. When I was bullied in school, it was just for being the weird kid.

    It makes me feel like i’m not pretty enough, there’s this part of my mind that thinks men do that when they’re attracted to you. I wish I would be catcalled at least once, just because it would mean that someone found me hot enough to want to make derogatory comments about. Especially after reading so many accounts that almost every woman ever seems to have this happen to her.

    This feeling has gotten less-prominent since I’ve had a boyfriend, but it’s still there. I don’t want to be offensive or triggering or anything to anyone here, but godamnit. Everyone else gets looked at and stared at and noticed, and it feels like I must be some ugly unsexy thing since i haven’t.

  58. 58 On June 28th, 2009, Nathreee said:

    Don’t wish for it. Just don’t. It’s nothing that you would want. It’s not like getting a compliment on a nice new dress or on your new haircut. It’s just like being bullied all over again. Please don’t wish for it.

    The fact that you never get catcalled, has nothing to do with your attractiveness, I’m sure. It has to do with whether you attract attention to yourself; whether they see you or not. I guess you simply don’t stand out much, and this is probably because you are not shockingly different from “the norm”.

    Being “normal” has its assets, and not stopped told by complete strangers to comment on how you look is definately one of them.

  59. 59 On June 28th, 2009, Lori said:

    I think catcalling is more about intimidation than anything. I used to get catcalls in my teens and early twenties, and then more and more rarely later: even though I was (in my late twenties and early thirties) MORE attractive, by conventional standards, than when I was younger. But a thirty-year-old is much harder to intimidate than a 16-year-old.

  60. 60 On June 28th, 2009, Lori said:

    My best friend is a 500-lb man. Believe me he gets plenty of ugly attention as well. every single time we are out on the street some asshat has to moo, or do a Fat Albert hey-hey-hey, or even uglier things. After twenty years, we have our routine down: a tandem, middle-finger salute, without even interrupting our conversation.
    It saddens me, though, that he has to live with that every day of his life. He’s minding his own business. He’s not hurting anyone, and he is harassed pretty much constantly.

  61. 61 On June 30th, 2009, Annie said:

    I have been catcalled by policemen more than a few times. Once, I was walking home alone late at night (this was in the winter too, bundled up in NYC cold). A cop yells “hey, sexy” out of his car.. I look up. He repeats himself a few times, the light changes as I cross the street, and he slowly pulls past me giving me a creepy look. I wish I had taken down his plates. If these are the men who are supposed to protect me while walking home late at night, then I don’t know how I could possibly feel protected by the law from this type of thing.

  62. 62 On June 30th, 2009, Lisa said:

    As a frequent recipient of this sort of unwanted attention, I just cannot understand when women find it flattering and complimentary. I had a girlfriend who worked as a street performer and when I visited her at work, I was appalled to see how many men leered or made outright suggestive comments, one even slipped her a sexually explicit note. And yet she insisted it was all just in fun and seemed not only undisturbed but pleased with the attention. Being reduced to an object should never be gratifying. It may be ‘harmless’ but it’s all part of the same pattern of objectification and degradation that leads to real violence against women.

  63. 63 On July 11th, 2009, catcalled in cali said:

    I just dont understand why men and teenage boys find it so amusing to harass innocent women and girls on the street? Being only a young teen of fourteen years, i am not usually the object of most men’s fantasys i would hope, yet my friend and i were harassed by people in their cars twice, in a matter of three days, in fact, on the streets of a queit, upscale neighborhood. Just yesterday, the two of us were on a walk to a family oriented park, and an SUV full of teenage boys speedily drove up to us, and one boy was hanging out of the window shouting at us. They drove forward and turned around to come back towards us, for a second attack of chanting and shouting! Once they left, we thought they had decided to leave us alone, until – surprise surprise! – they came back for a third bout of hollering and waving at us! After being publicly harassed, in a place that we FELT was safe, only to be shown otherwise, has truly showed us that women everywhere are not safe from the crude and lewd jestures that men find so amusing. I find it truly sad that at such a young age, on both sides of the assult, men are being taught to look at women as mindless meat, and the women are being taught to see and feel like meat too!

  64. 64 On July 13th, 2009, Emily said:

    I found this article today and was grateful to read it after having been catcalled twice today by the same group of girls. I’ve been walking a path by the reservoir in my suburban town, birdwatching and trying to get some exercise; I’m not very pretty and edge towards plus sizes. It’s a long path and I was walking for about two hours; the girls must have been on some errand because they slowed down to yell coming from each direction. It was in a way more disturbing that girls are mobilizing such sexual terror tactics against each other. When men make the comments I personally take it as a comment on my lack of sexual appeal, but from other girls, the implication seems to just be a lack of general human worth. It figures, it was a pretty night, a nice walk, and once again exercising my body ends with the negative associations of every gym class/team sport/gym visit/etc.

  65. 65 On July 16th, 2009, Beth said:

    I’ve only received catcalls that were too bizarre to seem threatening. Guys driving by me while I rode my bike in sweaty, ratty clothes called out, “You should be in a music video!” A guy on foot (again, I was on a bike) once informed me that “Damn girl! I just want a bitch I can chill wit’ ” My favorite, however, was when a guy in a truck slowed down one night to tell my best friend, “I love you!” before driving off into the sunset.

    When I see plus-size girls looking really pulled-together or radiant or otherwise generally good, I always want to “catcall” them to let them know that a stranger noticed the nice things about them. Nothing sexual, but I’ve been tempted to yell from my car to larger women with good muscle definition that they look healthy, things like that. But then I would be treating their body/appearance like public property that can be commented on. But I’m also the kind of person who gives lots of compliments to strangers on their fashion or their hair or whatever. And to hear unexpectedly hear from another woman that I’m looking good to her would make me feel nice. So I don’t know.

  66. 66 On August 14th, 2009, PlusSizedFeminist said:

    The black men are really the ones who are the main culprits in my experience. I’m 20 and I live in Chicago, and I can’t go around the corner to the grocery store without hearing “hey lil ma, lemme get yo number.” And if you tell them you are taken, they just say “I’m just tryin to be yo friend, gurl!!!” PUHLEASE. This is why I keep the Rejection Hotline number memorized. And if you reject them, you automatically become a stuck up bitch.

  67. 67 On August 19th, 2009, november said:

    “When we hear about catcalls, we often think them to be directed at sexy and attractive (read: thin) women…”

    It is not really fair to equate “thin” with attractive and sexy, because you can be thin, but still be considered unattractive for other reasons.

    Having said that, I’m really glad, that the stereotype that only sexy women get harassed is challenged. The meanest things that have been said to me were about me not being hot enough for some random men. (Which did not stop someone else from groping me, so the notion that not being hot protects you, is also bullshit.)While all kinds of harassment are painful, I always felt that it adds another layer of shame is added when you are insulted for being fat or ugly than when get comments about how hot you are (though this is bad enough).

  68. 68 On August 19th, 2009, Rachel said:

    It is not really fair to equate “thin” with attractive and sexy, because you can be thin, but still be considered unattractive for other reasons.

    I totally agree. I was referring more to societal ideas that beautiful = thin.

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