Catcalls aren’t compliments

Catcalling is a form of harassment despite its supposedly innocuous nature.

Aditi Pradeep

A couple of days ago, I had a rather eye-opening social media experience.

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to the photo series “City of Brotherly Love” in which Philadelphia-based photographer Hannah Price turned her camera toward the men who catcalled at her. The series went viral last month, appearing on National Public Radio and BuzzFeed.

However, my close friend’s response to the link truly shocked me.

My friend left a comment saying she enjoyed catcalling. She said she felt appreciated when men hollered, whistled, etc., at her.

“If a man whistles at you, do not respond. You’re a lady, not a dog.” This quote, usually posted with a picture of its supposed source, Adele, also went viral during this year. Despite its meme qualities, the quote brings up an important question: Should women be expected to feel flattered when a man catcalls?

Catcalling is not a form of flattery; rather, it’s derogatory street or sexual harassment. Catcalling robs its subject of control in an unnerving way. How would you feel if someone sexualized you without your consent, especially in public?

A Minneapolis woman called out a man who catcalled at her via a Missed Connection ad on Craigslist in September.

“When you comment on a woman’s appearance, you are not doing it for her,” the ad reads. “You are doing it for you.”

A catcall is not simply a compliment, and women shouldn’t welcome the objectification. Catcallers do not deserve a response or reciprocation.

There’s also the question of safety. Do you speed up or slow down when you’re walking down the street and someone hollers at you? Making public advances incites fear in a very direct way. In some cases, a woman may feel unsafe or threatened by a sexual comment.

Catcalling shouldn’t be welcomed or considered flattery. Catcalling problematically falls under the guise of a compliment, but it can be harassment.