Cat Calling… Harmless Remarks, Or Clear Street Harassment?


Cats against cat calls

After experiencing being “cat called” (honked, whistled at while walking) today I decided to write about it. I find it disturbing how many men and women think this is harmless. Some even think of it as a compliment! Personally, I find it degrading and insulting. I do not walk outside for the purpose of being ogled by others, mainly men. I do not dress the way I do to receive attention from others. I certainly do not find obscene things being shouted at me to be complimentary in any way whatsoever.

A male friend of mine was giving me a difficult time for becoming so upset at this one day. I asked him “Why do men feel the need to honk and whistle at women like this? It’s insulting.”

His response: “Men whistle and honk at all sorts of things they like..maybe a nice car or’s a social cue that they like what they see.”

Me: “So I’m like a really nice car?…cool, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be.”

My point is that it is objectifying. I am not walking outside to be pleasing to someone’s eye. No matter what a woman is wearing, it is simply unacceptable. The message men send when they engage in this behavior is clear: I do not respect you as a coequal human being. Rather, I see you as an object for my entertainment.

Well, I’d like for my message to be clear as well. I am not interested in the slightest what your opinion of me is. I certainly do not need to hear your lack of self control verbalized as I try to carry on with my day.

For some comedic relief.. Check out this link to Buzzfeed’s “18 Kickass Illustrated Responses to Street Harassment”


2 thoughts on “Cat Calling… Harmless Remarks, Or Clear Street Harassment?

  1. > I find it disturbing how many men and women think this is harmless.

    It is harmless in the sense that it does not actually harm you. Statistically, men are more likely to be physically assaulted in public than women. Women are more likely to be cat called in public than men. So on balance women are treated better than men in public – assuming you rate physical assault as more harmful than honks and smutty remarks.

    Yet judging by the amount of media attention, blogs and articles devoted to cat calling vs violence against men it is clear that as a society we value women’s emotional comfort above men’s physical safety (or life).

    It’s hard to make these FACTS fit the feminist claim that we live in a ‘misogynistic’ or ‘rape’ culture that serves men at the expense of women. If anything the facts would tend to indicate the opposite.

    > My point is that it is objectifying. I am not walking outside to be pleasing to someone’s eye.

    Wearing clothes that are not purely functional is self objectification. We all objectify ourselves and we all objectify other people. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Objectification only becomes an issue if coercion or violence becomes part of the equation. ‘Everyday’ cat calling (as distinct from actual stalking or assault or prolonged harassment or rape etc) might be annoying and tiresome but it is not coercion or violence…. no more so than advertising, or loud markets, or those street charity people with clipboards are.

    Dressing up for a party or a date or for an interview is – in part – about making oneself pleasing to someone else’s eye.

    The point about cat callers is that (unlike friends, dates and potential bosses) they have absolutely nothing of value to offer you.

    Millions of women dress up specifically to provoke the attention (and even the physiology!) of men and get a mental, emotional, physiological reaction from men. These women do not object to being the object of male attention per se ….. they only object to getting attention from low status males who have absolutely nothing to offer them materially or emotionally.

    Provoking the attention of low status men = harassment, insulting, misogyny….. and “I do not deserve this!”

    Provoking the attention of high status men = compliment, flattery, getting ‘swept off your feet’ …… and “I do deserve this!”


    > My point is that it is objectifying.

    Well yes and no. Nobody shouts at objects. Obviously cat calling is a form of interaction between humans, not between humans and objects. Men do not cat call women who are out of earshot. They are trying to provoke a form of interaction. Perhaps ogling a women based on her looks could be called objectification, but not cat calling.

    Objectification is a very vague and ambiguous concept. If you really think about it men in a strip club are objectifying the women on stage less than the women on stage are objectifying the men in the audience. The men are turned on by the women gazing seductively at them while acting sexually aroused while pretending to desire them. They are turned on by the idea that SHE desires THEM sexually (even if it is all an act). By definition objects cannot have desires. So the men would not find an object (say a fembot) as sexy as a real women.

    But the stripper would happily strip in front of a bunch of robot men. She might even prefer it. She is only interested in their money and not their feelings or desires. To her they are just walking wallets. But to the men she is a sexual being with desires and feelings. The idea that it is mostly men who objectify women is just feminist propaganda.

    What’s never mentioned in these discussions is that 99% of cat calling is from low status males to higher status females. The classic example is male construction workers cat calling a young female office worker as she clip clops along the pavement in her high heels on her way to her office.

    Without any provocation from those men it is likely that this woman (and millions like her) will never pay any attention to those men who she considers beneath her. They have nothing to offer her materially or emotionally so she will never say “Hello” to them, let alone strike up a conversation. She treats them like worker drones, like tools….. like objects. (I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m just saying it’s the truth)

    From their perspective they work all day long building the pavements, offices, roads and infrastructure which empower this this young women by allowing her to earn loads of money working in a comfortable office (out of the wind and rain). The smooth pavements they lay allow her to clip clop to work each day in ridiculous footwear designed to highlight her curves and make her feet look smaller (indicator of high oestrogen, thus high fertility). Their hard work creates the clean, paved roads and running water and carpeted offices and air conditioning which allows her to be financially independent (ie independent of men) while ALSO allowing her to objectify herself to an extreme degree, such as wearing make up or immaculate dressed hair or having long nails (previously something only chinese emperors could afford to have).

    In return for helping to give her such empowerment she treats them like drones. They are invisible to her. In fact construction workers are invisible to everybody who live and work in the cities which they help to build and maintain.

    So when they cat call women like that they are literally forcing some kind of interaction, they are saying “Hey remember us! We are men! We exist! Acknowledge our presence!”

    They know they have zero chance of striking up a relationship (sexual or not) with women like that because they do not have enough money or status to be of value to her. Even a lowly female receptionist is looking for a nice professional executive for a boyfriend, not a rugged construction worker, no matter how charming, devoted and loving a boyfriend he might potentially make for her. If they thought they stood a chance at scoring a date with her they might buy her a bunch of flowers or read her a poem instead of cat calling. The very fact that they cat call is a kind of admission that they know they stand no chance of impressing her so… what they hell, why bother trying to make her feel like a princess?

    In this sense cat calling is just low status men venting a bit of frustration and reminding higher status women that they exist. The women who walk past hold more power than those men (they are valued by society much more than those men) and so by making that woman feel slightly self conscious and uncomfortable those men are rebalancing that power a bit – in a way that doesn’t really cause any real harm to anyone. The fact that it happens in a very public pace (typically a busy city during rush hour or lunch) makes it perfectly safe.

    This is very different to, say, some creepy guy who starts harassing a girl late at night on public transport with nobody else around, obviously.

    This recent trend to lump ‘everyday’ cat calling in with more serious things like genuine stalking or actual assault or even rape is disgusting. It trivialises those more serious CRIMES and is just an attempt to further demonises men by finding was to equate ALL male behaviour with rape.

    Yes, guys cat calling girls as they walk past is objectifying women … but let’s have a bit of gender equality here! Let’s acknowledge that women who provoke men out on the pull into buying them drinks all evening even though they have absolutely no intention of taking it any further are objectifying men…. and in a far more aggressive and harmful way. They are draining him of his money and wasting his entire evening on false pretences. At least cat calling is over in about 10 seconds and does not interfere with a woman’s plans for the day or cost her any money.

    The cartoons you linked to show women being extremely violent towards men who cat call them. One stabs a guy in the face with a sword and another blows a guys head off with a gun.

    So in the spirit of gender equality I guess it should be OK to depict men stabbing a woman or shooting her in the face when he realises she has just spent the entire evening treating him like a free cash/ drinks dispenser (an object) under false pretences. Somehow I imagine feminists would find that message offensive. So more double standards I guess….

    To be clear I am not justifying or condoning cat calling, and certainly not more serious and genuinely aggressive and violent behaviour. I am just pointing out double standards where I see them and trying to throw a bit of empathy into the discussion 🙂


    • Thank you for your response! I can certainly see the validity of many of your points. I know many females who find it “empowering” to be honked or whistled at because they feel as if the men are succumbing to a lack of self control, thus elevating the female.

      Yes, there are some women (and men) who dress the way they do simply for attention. I tend to think that this is largely a result of the shallow and often patriarchal society we live in.

      The number of PHYSICAL assaults, whether male or female, that occur in public or even in private is never completely reflective of an accurate number because so many victims fear reporting it because of the victim blaming society we live in.

      I personally believe that catcalling is detrimental to both males and females. I believe it is detrimental to men because it is enforcing the notion that men are such sexually charged, primal beings that they cannot control themselves enough to refrain from whistling, honking or shouting obscenities. Someone catcalling at me has NEVER made me interested in them in any way. In fact, it has caused me to lose respect for them.

      As far as it being detrimental to women I believe it comes back to power. You brought up a very valid point that it is often done by men of lower statuses directed at a woman of a higher status. By catcalling men are taking a little but of power back away from the woman. They are taking away her power to walk down the street undisturbed. They are taking away her power to feel safe while walking. They are taking away her power to feel accomplished for their intellect and ambitions, rather than her looks. It reinforces the idea that a woman’s worth is tied up in her physical appearance and/or what she has to offer the man. It can ultimately take a damaging toll on someone’s self esteem. For a woman who has undergone sexual assault or other forms of harassment, cat calling can bring back flashbacks and overwhelming feelings of fear.

      The disagreement on whether catcalling is truly detrimental or not has been around for for quite awhile, and I believe it will continue to be. That being said, no matter one’s personal opinion on the matter, I have yet to find someone who has even attempted to argue that it is in anyway beneficial.


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