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Catcalling: Why It’s Not a Compliment

So I’m super excited to be writing to you today from the second ever F-Word Link-up with Marielle and I!  Last month went really well, and we LOVED reading through all of your amazing posts, so we’re hoping that this month will be even better!  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go check out the first link-up where I talk about still needing feminism in 2014.  And when you’re done, head back here to catch up on this month’s posts!

This month’s topic is sexism that you’ve experienced in your everyday life, whether it be catcalling, unequal pay, how people view single mothers, or anything else you can think of! 


We’ve all heard this argument before: the fight over whether or not yelling “hey baby!” at a random woman on the street is okay.  Even Playboy and Fox News have weighed in on the subject of catcalling as a compliment (and I bet you can’t guess who took what side of that argument).  I’ve commented on the subject before, whether it was on this blog, on Facebook, or in person.  And yet I’m still always shocked and confused when a person says “I don’t know what you’re so mad about! They’re just trying to COMPLIMENT you for God’s sake!”

I guess my confusion stems from my definition of a compliment: “a polite expression of praise or admiration,” because to me, yelling at a woman from a moving vehicle doesn’t feel as polite as I guess it was intended.  Because the way I was taught, polite would be allowing me the chance to respond which, since you’re driving at 50 MPH straight past me doesn’t really seem like an option.  Although I suppose it is always an option for me to write down your license plate number and track you down through the DMV or local police station.  Or maybe I could just run after your car until you stop, and we’re finally united in true love.

But all of that aside, I was always of the opinion that a compliment is intended to make the recipient feel good, not the complimenter.  And if that were the case, there wouldn’t be women confronting you about it, or men going on the defensive when they do.  So defensive in fact, that I once had a man I’d been on one date with spend two days fighting with me that catcalling is a man’s way of “calling me sexy for Christ’s sake,” and my not being interested is me being shallow because he had a “friend” who had done it before and a girl had responded.

Here’s my bottom line though: maybe there are a few women out there who secretly love when the construction workers on Broad Street tell them how much they’d love to bend them over, but it’s pretty obvious that the majority of women are. not. amused.  And we would hardly consider subjecting men everywhere to something they’re made uncomfortable by simply because “we want to make them smile.”