“Why Do Men Catcall?” is an article currently on Alternet.org’s homepage. The topic of why men harass and abuse women makes me mad – just ask my male partner how I behaved toward him during the week when I was writing my chapter on why men street harass women. I’ll save you the trouble and answer: I was a ball of rage generally and toward him if he did anything that hinted of male privilege – so I’m not going to get too into this.
I do quickly want to point out something I wrote in my comment on the story that I think the author misses: regardless of whether men mean catcalls as compliments or not, the act of intruding on a woman’s space to offer an evaluative comment or noise (positive or negative) demonstrates a sense of entitlement and that they think it’s their RIGHT as men to do so.
It’s the kind of entitlement that some abled bodied people may show toward persons with disabilities (ie believing they can push them out of the way if they’re in a wheelchair) or some white people may show toward persons of color (how many African American women have had white people think it’s okay to touch their hair?). Again, a lack of respect by the person intruding comes into play.
If men really wanted to compliment a woman or meet a woman, they would say hello in a respectful, non threatening way etc and as they got to know her, they’d offer her a real compliment, not just something vulgar like “nice ass.” See Shapely Prose’s excellent guest post on this topic.
My last point – from my research, I’ve found that most women have experienced a scary form of street harassment, such as men stalking, touching, or assaulting them. Why do people who write these types of articles never focus on that reality and why men engage in those behaviors? Instead they always focus on the “hey baby”‘s. They’re related and, really, the conversation should be about all forms of gender-based public harassment and assault, but my problem is that the only conversations I see outside of feminist sites about street harassment only focus on catcalls and whether or not they’re compliments. It detracts from the larger and more complex experiences women have in public because they’re female.