“Nice tits, babe”, “You got nice butts”,”Hey baby, you’re beautiful” are only few of catcalling words women often experience on the street. While being catcalled makes women extremely uncomfortable, most of the time we do not know the appropriate responses. This articles aims to provide you with alternatives and guides in responding to catcalling.
What is Catcalling?
Catcalling a.k.a gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation (1). Catcalling can be in form of whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature directed to a woman passing by (2).
Why is Catcalling Bad?
As much as the harassers want to argue that catcalling is meant to be flattering, women who have been catcalled consider it to be offensive (3). Catcalling is not compliment, it is harassment. Catcalling allows the harassers to say whatever they want to about women; no matter how much it makes the women feel uncomfortable.
How to Respond to Catcalling?
If you are being catcalled
- Assess your safety. There is no one response fits all situation. If you are in desolate area and it is nighttime, the best response is not to engage; ignore and walk away (4).
- Make eye contact. Eye contact can be used as strong body language to tell your harassers that you are displeased by their actions/words (5).
- Speak up. Some options are including: “Stop it now!”, “did I ask for your comment?”, “leave me alone”, “I don’t appreciate it” (6).
- Remind them of the women in their life. It can help/shame the harassers that you are a women, just like their wives, daughters, sisters, or mothers . You can try “Would you let someone talk to your daughter that way?”, “Would you say that to your own mother?” (7).
- Report to authorities. If you are feeling unsafe and the harassers follow you or make physical contact with you, don’t be hesitate to call police to report.
If you are a bystander
- Intervene directly. Having assessed the safety situation for yourself, can approach the harasser and tell him to stop or loudly say “ugh, that is gross” (8).
- Create a distraction. If you don’t feel brave enough to address the harasser directly, you can create a distraction by approach the target and ask for directions, offer your seat, or act like you know each other (9).