What is Catcalling?

Catcalling is a form of harassment primarily consisting of unwanted sexual comments. This may include honking, wolf-whistling and indecent exposures. Most of the time, it is a man who catcalls and a woman who is catcalled.

According to surveys by Stop Street Harassment (a non-profit organization):

  • Nearly 95% of female respondents were honked at one or more times
  • Nearly 82% of female respondents were the target of a vulgar gesture at least once
  • Nearly 81% of female respondents were the target of sexually explicit comments from an unknown man at least once
  • Just over 77% of women said they were the target of kissing noises from men.

Where catcalling takes place?

Catcalling doesn’t only happen on the streets. Sexual harassers find targets on campus sidewalks, in restaurants and movie theaters, at work, inside homes – literally anywhere. Similarly, anyone can be a catcaller – including a person’s acquaintances. Online catcalling is also an issue just as severe as in-person catcalling. What’s worse, people on social media are able to say more because they are protected by a screen.

The Problems with Catcalling

  • It’s disrespectful: Catcalling is uncalled-for and usually makes the victim feel exposed and uncomfortable. In some cases, catcalling is used as a method of expressing power over someone, rather than the misperception of it being a “compliment”.
  • It’s not impressive: Someone may catcall in order to impress their friends, or the person they are catcalling at, but it’s actually unimpressive and immature.

Catcalling is not a compliment, it’s a harassment!!

Whilst compliments and flirting can be harmless and fun, shouting at strangers is not flattering, it leaves “targets” feeling exposed.

Catcalling is degrading, demeaning, and disgusting.

Women have the right to be treated with as much respect and dignity when walking down the street as any man. Women deserve to feel safe.

How to react if you are being catcalled?

  • Catcallers usually look for a reaction. Don’t give them one, especially fear.
  • Get to a safe or crowded place as soon as you can. Seek help if needed.
  • If you are around other people and it’s safe, you can use a simple comeback like “that’s harassment” or “don’t do that”.
  • While snapping back (if you choose to do so), make sure to keep walking and don’t stop.
  • Avoid the use of swear words or eye contact.
  • If it’s online, you can block and report them. Choosing to reply is also an option (e.g., asking “would you find it okay if someone spoke to your mother or sister in that way?”).
  • Document it: write it down or take a picture/screenshot. By doing this you can call them out later.
  • Share your story if you feel comfortable.

How to intervene if someone is being catcalled?

  • Call out the harasser if it is safe to do so.
  • Create a distraction or start chatting with the target (e.g., drop your keys and ask “are these yours?”).
  • Approach the target afterwards to see if they need company or if there is anything else you can do to help.
  • Whatever you do, don’t put the person who is catcalled at greater risk (e.g., becoming aggressive).

Catcalling has become normalized, as it is often disregarded as a “joke”, or even a compliment. These are some tips to learn why this is absolutely not the case.