Dear catcallers,
October 7, 2017 7:01 PM   Subscribe

20 years old dutch student Noa Jansma documented one month of street harassment on her @dearcatcallers Instagram account, taking selfies on the street with the harassers, to which they were happy to oblige, without the faintest clue of the situation, bar one.

As the project came to a wrap, she plans to involve other women from around the world in the project passing along the account, and invites everyone to use the hashtag #dearcatcallers (NSFW content).
posted by _dario (66 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Many of the comments on the account are more abhorrent than the initial catcalls (which are bad enough). Add in anonymity and it gets worse.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

God those pictures make me so uncomfortable. The fucking good-natured confident grins.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:24 PM on October 7, 2017 [7 favorites]


I know this is important, but I feel I'm being run over by a very long train. We keep talking and talking and talking about misogyny and sexism and the goddamn fucking patriarchy (not just "we" like MetaFilter but "we" like the freaking entire female gender), and writing essays like "Hey Watcha Reading," and creating Instagram projects like this one, and nothing gets better. I'm tired of the endless hand-holding and understanding and reining in our *tone* and allowing for garbage-spewing cretins to spew their cretinous garbage in order to maybe partially get through to one guy, and then we have to give him a medal. I'm tired of everything women have to do for men just to get through the goddamned day. I'm so fucking tired.
posted by tzikeh at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2017 [150 favorites]

Her expression by contrast remains bravely neutral. Even the one where the creep has put a hand around her shoulder, she's keeping her cool. I wouldn't have.
posted by adept256 at 7:47 PM on October 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

Not a single one of the guys she took selfies with is going to come away from that thinking that she was shaming them. They all came away from it thinking "cool, the hot chick I tried to pick up wanted a selfie with me!"

This didn't and won't work. I wish I knew what did, but this isn't it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 PM on October 7, 2017 [27 favorites]

> This didn't and won't work.

If her goal is to get those particular guys to stop, no, I guess not. But that's not her goal.
posted by rtha at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2017 [37 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos, a catcaller is unlikely to be changed by a momentary reaction to the offense, because the act of catcalling is based in removing value from the victim. My takeaway is that posting a permanent record of the perpetrator might encourage a more considered behavior in future.

But, as rtha, that's not her goal.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:58 PM on October 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cat calling was an issue in my grandmas' days (100+ years ago), in my mother's day, and, of course, for my generation (boomers). Back in the late 60s/earlier 70s, it became a thing to confront cat callers. By god, WE weren't going to take the street hassling bullshit that previous generations put up with. ( "I am woman, hear me roar!" yadda, yadda.)

Anyway, bless your heart for trying Noa, but no one will fault you if you decide it's easier to just ignore the assholes rather than trying to change the world.

On the plus side, you will eventually age out of the issue. I haven't been bothered while out walking for almost 5 years (I'm 63) and it is fucking wonderful to leave the house without considering if I should change my clothes or my route in order to be left in peace.
posted by she's not there at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2017 [7 favorites]


This doesn’t bode well for humanity.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2017

Revolutions are often lead by angry women.
posted by loquacious at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

she's not there: "Back in the late 60s/earlier 70s, it became a thing to confront cat callers. By god, WE weren't going to take the street hassling bullshit that previous generations put up with."

I suspect women have been fighting back against street harassment for as long as we've been subject to it, it's just the terminology and tools used that have changed with the times. In 1903 women used hatpins to defend themselves against "mashers" (and of course the public response was to try to put restrictions on hat pins). Now we use cellphones (and the internet) to document and report "cat-callers" (and gosh there is just SO MUCH concern for the rights and privacy of the people accused of harrassment).

The more things change the more they stay the same?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:59 PM on October 7, 2017 [33 favorites]

I'm fat, graying, turn 50 next year and am still subjected to this shit....most recently:

A car full of pigshits ordering me to "suck my dick, bitch!" as they drive past me on Santa Monica, then leering "I love you" when they're stopped in traffic in front of the Nuart.

A junkie trying to block my way on Castro St. who called me a "faggot" when I screamed at him to get the fuck out of it.

An astroturfing canvasser on NYC's upper West side ( one of the darkest shaded parts of a midnight blue city) doing same who sneered that I "must be a democrat" when I snapped at him to do same.

A coked up douchebro at a sushi place on Bleecker who slapped and put his discards on my table, called me crazy, screamed that his friends were pussies when they didn't want anymore to drink and claimed that I was moving the table too close to his smegma encrusted thumbtack as I was getting up to leave. The management refused to kick him out.
posted by brujita at 9:48 PM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

There is no "correct" way for any of us to resist shit like this. If we talk back, we're just giving them attention.

If we don't say anything, how are guys supposed to know that behavior like this isn't okay.

If we make campaigns or art like this, we are just shaming men and that is bad and dehumanizing (worse, certainly, than the way they shame and dehumanize us by behavior like this).

If we talk about being catcalled, we must be extremely specific and careful so as not to implicate all men.

We must reassure men that yes this really happens, that yes even though every single woman on the planet is not in agreement that it's unwelcome, it's unwelcome by enough of us that it's not okay.

We must convince men that yes, we do not find this complimentary.

We must produce evidence that men we do not know tell us to smile when we are walking down the street or waiting for a bus or otherwise engaged in the role of being a person in public.

We must comfort men who express that they now feel they can never speak to a woman about anything.

If we're lucky, this starts only when we grow breasts and stops when we get fat and grey-haired and "old." If we're not lucky, it starts before and stops when the coffin lid is shut.
posted by rtha at 9:59 PM on October 7, 2017 [114 favorites]

And "just ignore it" doesn't fucking stop it.
posted by brujita at 10:04 PM on October 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

I don’t know if it matters, but as a male heterosexual type human who has never catcalled or been catcalled, I honestly had no idea at the extent of this problem until that video a couple years ago. It’s weird that this had never come up in conversation with women I know, even my wife. Well, actually it probably did come up or I did witness it, but in my ignorance I chalked it up to “wow, some guys are assholes” and “what a weird rare and shitty thing but it’s no surprise to me that sexism exists.” But until I saw these kinds of posts and the subsequent conversations with women in my life, I was really unaware of the sheer ubiquity of this kind of harassment. I’d like to think I’d always called it out when I’d witnessed it, but I probably didn’t because I’d assumed you’re never going to fix the bottom 1% of the population. Now, realizing most of this has been invisible to me, it has certainly changed my understanding of what women go through trying to do something as mundane as walk to work.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:44 PM on October 7, 2017 [19 favorites]

> It’s weird that this had never come up in conversation with women I know, even my wife.

Thing is, it's not that weird when you know that for most women it's on the level of "yeah so I was crossing the street and there were cars, can you believe it" and when we tell men about it we are super likely to get responses like "Are you sure?" or "He was just giving you a compliment," which, no matter the intent, comes off sounding like "shut up."
posted by rtha at 10:49 PM on October 7, 2017 [69 favorites]

Yeah, I think I get that at the end of the day no one really wants to relive something that is so plainly and painfully obvious and for me, when I’d hear stories of being cat-called I’d relate it to something in my own experience, like getting flipped off in traffic — which is irrational and stupid but makes you feel bad and it’s a good thing it only happens a couple times a year — not understanding that most women are getting flipped off in traffic every day, multiple times a day and that we live in a world where there’s a large portion (the majority?) of the population which feels, correctly, there is no penalty for these violent threats. And so we are dismissive or try to be reassuring to the women in our lives without really understanding the problem. Which absolutely helps perpetuate the horribleness.

The point is, the people who write about this stuff might seem tiresome but there’s a whole lot of room for the rest of us to become more aware of what is going on.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:28 PM on October 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

Catcalling is so repulsive and infuriating. I’ve been lucky enough to live in places where it’s not common (it seems to really vary geographically ) but every single time it happens I have to restrain myself from going totally apeshit at the guy and physically assaulting him/them. Like I get so apoplectic I’m actually afraid I will wind up punching someone’s fucking teeth out.

This “I was trying to compliment you!” crap is horseshit and dudes know it. They’re trying to intimidate you, and often for kudos from their male peers - why else does it happen more often when dudes are in a group?

I sometimes wish for the power to cause spontaneous anal fissures. I’m sure it’s not healthy to be this angry but seriously fuck catcallers forever they are human garbage.
posted by supercrayon at 11:48 PM on October 7, 2017 [15 favorites]

Weird thing is, I got it more in the small towns I lived in more than in the larger college town.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:56 PM on October 7, 2017

The only way this stops is if women stop existing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:30 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Or men.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:37 AM on October 8, 2017 [45 favorites]

I like the hatpin approach myself.
posted by Slinga at 2:47 AM on October 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

with women I know, even my wife

She's a runner, right, unless I'm misremembering? Ask her how often she gets harassed when she runs beside any road with traffic. It's horrific.
posted by smoke at 3:59 AM on October 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

it seems to really vary geographically

It really does. Which is proof that it isn't "boys being boys" but learned.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:02 AM on October 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

If she took out her phone and took photos or began recording him/them without any other interaction, the catcaller/s would most definitely understand what was going on, and their reaction would be very different. I have seen a similar dynamic unfold on the train, before. But, as was already mentioned, her goal is different here. And pissing off persons who are okay with catcalling women on the street might be a bad idea. (Unless you had an organized squad or something, in which case the cat calling would probably not happen at all. It requires vulnerability and plausible deniability).

I've come to the conclusion that there is nothing that can safely be done in the moment that you are being catcalled. Attitudes and norms have to completely change. There has been some progress in my lifetime, I think, but that progress is mostly that women are talking about it. And you have to go back 20 or 30 years to see the difference. I think the internet helps facilitate such changes. People can't avoid the truth.

And it can't be stated enough: It's horrible to be catcalled. It's violating. It's not just disrupting another person's peace, but actually quite threatening. It's drawing someone into something they don't wish to be a part of, usually for the audience of others who are emboldened by mob mentality, who join in or instigate it, who clearly enjoy making you the focus of something you never signed up for. And now you have to find another route to work, but the catcallers are everywhere. (Or, there are no catcallers over 'there', but instead it's a dark, creepy side street where you might mugged). And for the very young, like girls 10, 11, 12 years old, catcalling can make you feel ashamed for merely existing. And it never, ever happens when you are accompanied by a man.

I note when another person in earshot is being harassed. There's safety in numbers. But for the most part I pretend not to hear catcalls that are aimed at me. Then at least any attempt to devalue me will have appeared to have failed. Then they can decide to get louder and more heinous if they want to. But all they're doing is making themselves the actual focus of their ugly spectacle at that point, because by then I'm already across the street, blended into a crowd, or inside my building. Living my life. (Where no one ever behaves that way).
posted by marimeko at 6:52 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm going to take five minutes to imagine a different reality, one in which women are believed and our testimony is actually considered evidence, and the predominantly POC police force can be trusted, and so when you go and report an incident of catcalling it is treated as harassment or stalking and the asshole is actually arrested. After a few of these on their record they are quarantined from fucking society, in a prison where the focus is actually on rehabilitation, along with anyone who ever hit a woman or committed any kind of sexual assault. Imagine what that would be like.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:03 AM on October 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

schadenfrau: After a few of these on their record they are quarantined from fucking society, in a prison where the focus is actually on rehabilitation, along with anyone who ever hit a woman or committed any kind of sexual assault. Imagine what that would be like.

It would be like living with men who are indignant and frustrated because they have lost one of their valves to vent their pure, underlying, unconscious, in-bred hatred of women, and we'd see a lot of rapes and murders of wives/girlfriends/dates as an alternative way to blow off their misogynistic steam.

So, kinda just exactly like now.

I mean, your fantasy is nice? But it will never, ever, ever be anywhere near true, so indulging in it only makes me weep.
posted by tzikeh at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, actually it probably did come up or I did witness it, but in my ignorance I chalked it up to “wow, some guys are assholes” and “what a weird rare and shitty thing but it’s no surprise to me that sexism exists.”

Same here, but once I started talking about it with my women friends, they clued me in that (at least in our US Midwestern neck of the woods) the likelihood of being catcalled goes way down if they're accompanied by a man or in a mixed gender group. Catcalling is intentionally hidden, in some ways. (I'm guessing it's rooted in some weird combination of Bro Code ("Don't mack on Another Dude's Woman") & some concern that another dude would be willing and able to actually fight the catcaller.)

Which is not to excuse you/me/us for our ignorance so much as it's convinced me that a big part of changing our culture has to include those of us men who are at least a little aware of the problem being willing to call it out as not only intrinsically Not Cool, but also as a pervasive issue, especially in all-male groups. Because the first line of defense when you do call it out is often, "Well, ok, maybe it was kind of a dick move, but it's just one dude being a jerk, I'm sure she'll shake it off." At which point you go, "No, man, that's probably the sixth time it's happened this week and it's only Tuesday. Seriously, Google that shit. It happens way more often than you think because you don't see it." And then they do on their handy pocket computer and go, "Ohhhhh. . . . . . . Wow." (Well, some of them do, anyway.)

IOW, men need to not only call out catcalling as bad, but also as way more common than most men think it is. I don't know why, but my experience has been that "You have no clue how often this happens" is often the gap in the armor that starts to change a guy's perception of catcalling as "annoying but harmless" to "really shitty thing to do."
posted by soundguy99 at 8:19 AM on October 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

This isn't even just about women getting harassed. It started for me when I was 12. And on at least one occasion, went way beyond comments or whistles, to indecent exposure. Children shouldn't have to deal with this.

Prior to 12 I was just a carefree kid playing hide-and-seek in the neighborhood with her friends. Then we moved to a new city and the catcalling started. It was something akin to deflowering. Suddenly I was completely self-conscious. Took me a long time (like, 15 years) to feel confident walking in public after it started.
posted by mantecol at 8:27 AM on October 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I wish I understood what was going on in the men's minds here. Do they genuinely think catcalling is a compliment? Do the men think there's a chance the woman they are harassing will be enticed and respond to them? Is it some exuberant expression of sexual appreciation? I mean of course I understand catcalling as just another disgusting form of harassment women are subjected to daily. But I have to think the men doing this don't seem themselves as the bad guys. What are they thinking? Maybe nothing at all.

There must be some men reading this here who've catcalled. Maybe someone has the courage to explain why they did it? Feel free to tell the story about "your friend" instead if it makes it easier.

(The closest thing I can relate to as a gay man is cruising other men in public. But that's such a furtive delicate thing. A slightly-too-long lingering look, a smile, nothing overt. And a huge amount of plausible deniability lest I've guessed wrong and the other man will decide to kick the shit out of the faggot looking at him.)
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've never catcalled, but I had two (cis het male, white, early 20s) coworkers who used to do it. From the window of our company vehicle, while we were in it together, while we were on the clock. Once to a girl who couldn't have been more than 12 or 13. Who was with her mom. Who also got a catcall.

I would confront them about it, and I was not successful in getting them to knock it off, and unfortunately our manager was no help either, when I tried to bring him in. But for them, at least, there was clearly no thought of getting a phone number or 'enticing' their targets -- it was always a drive-by and they usually drove off before getting any kind of verbalized response. The goal seemed to be making the woman feel uncomfortable, like she *couldn't* even respond, except by looking embarrassed, maybe. Demonstrating that they had the power to decide which women were 'hot' and which weren't and to announce their judgements to the world at large. Feeling like their opinions mattered to the women they targeted. It was about showing off for each other, showing women 'their place,' and to some extent, I think, pissing me off, once they knew I hated it.
posted by halation at 9:16 AM on October 8, 2017 [21 favorites]

As a follow-up: looking back on that job, and those co-workers, Sedgewick's Triangle Theory provides a helpful framework for me to understand what my knucklehead jerk colleagues were doing with each other, with those catcalls from that car window, I think. The actual women enduring the catcalls were, weirdly, kind of beside the point?
posted by halation at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2017

I wish I understood what was going on in the men's minds here.

There was a comment about five hours back that explained it, but it got deleted. The TL;DR is that they wouldn't be doing it at all if they were the only ones in the car. They need the audience.
posted by Leon at 9:30 AM on October 8, 2017

I wish I understood what was going on in the men's minds here. Do they genuinely think catcalling is a compliment?

man I'm not even a man but the ones who aren't yelling explicit threats or actually trying for a date, it's no mystery what they're doing. when you wander through an art gallery and talk out loud to your friend about which pictures are nice and which ones are ugly and which are dumb or hilarious or not even really art at all, you don't do it so the pictures will feel nice and get a compliment. you don't even do it to make the pictures feel bad about themselves.

or when you walk through the city in spring and see the cherry blossoms and say hey look at THAT! boy, spring is nice! you don't do that to make the trees realize they're lovely.

or when you see a kitten wandering by on the sidewalk and you bend down to scritch its ears if it doesn't run away from you fast enough, it's not because you need the kitten to know it's adorable, it's just you feel like it and you could, and it made you feel nice

say you don't understand the comparison because women aren't inanimate objects or animals or lower forms of creation, ok, but you can understand that. none of us like it but it's pretty plain and simple.

(edit: I mean this is all one tier up from the ones who just do it because they hate you and want to make you feel like shit, which is most of them. but those aren't confusing to anybody who isn't enjoying pretending to be confused.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:36 AM on October 8, 2017 [20 favorites]

Nelson, I'll own up and describe my mental state.
When I was much younger, if I passed a woman I found attractive walking the other way on the street, I would occasionally make eye contact, smile, and say something like "you look great today!" or "wow you're so pretty!"

I very consciously didn't stick around to get their numbers because I wanted it to be perceived as a genuine compliment rather than a self-serving pickup line. In my mind, I was just brightening a stranger's day as a sort of good deed. How I regret it now!

But on the other hand, I intuitively knew that anything sexual or leering would make people feel uncomfortable, so I tried to avoid it. And after the first conversation I had with a woman about catcalling, I felt terrible and never did anything like that again. So I can't speak for the mental state of men who say explicitly gross stuff even after being told not to, they should probably just get GULAGed.

I also feel ambivalent about this line of conversation in this thread. Like, WTF are these assholes thinking is a reasonable question to have and maybe the answer is relevant for how we deal with it as a social problem, but coming into a thread where women are talking about the way catcalling makes them feel and centering the experience not only of men but of harassers specifically is sort of wow ok but here I am participating so dudes are incorrigible I guess
posted by Krawczak at 9:47 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

It is helpful, though, Krawczak, because there’s certain kinds of calling out that are easier to “fix” and your example is one of them. I’ll take your thoughts further though and suggest that in addition to your happy thoughts, you were also engaging in a power play. You may not have known it but there is a hierarchy of people we can just talk to if we want or order around if we want or that we expect to get out of our way if they are in it. A great example of this is children. We expect them to behave in respectful ways to adults including taking almost any kind of order or direction. They have less power. When we walk up to them and say, “How was your day at school?” We not only expect them to answer, we expect them to be nice. Those power plays, social hierarchies, go on all the time and we are always making micro calculations about the people we interact with and how we show deference or not.

Women are supposed to show deference to men. Blacks are supposed to show deference to whites. Children to adults. Poor to rich. Uneducated to educated. Employee to employer.

Women feel this. Not only are we socially obligated to “take the compliment,” we are socially obligated to not make a fuss. I bet you got a lot of half-hearted smiles and maybe some pseudo-friendly waves. But the women you were admiring had an internal range of feelings about it. And regardless of whether they were somewhat flattered (I do have the occasion to be flattered when a stranger compliments in the right way), they all felt the power embalance. The micro-calculation of their place in the world. The reminder of lesser status. That’s a bummer for just walking down the street. And this is your best case scenario.
posted by amanda at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2017 [50 favorites]

The TL;DR is that they wouldn't be doing it at all if they were the only ones in the car. They need the audience.

I'm not sure that's true. I've been experiencing street harassment since before I hit puberty, so more than 25 years now, and I would say it breaks down roughly 50/50 between lone men and groups of men. Often, but not always, the groups are less threatening. Of course when the groups are threatening then it's fucking terrifying.
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think amanda's point is closer to the nub of why most of them do it.
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:59 AM on October 8, 2017

And regardless of whether they were somewhat flattered (I do have the occasion to be flattered when a stranger compliments in the right way),

for me sometimes I think the involuntary pleasure in being complimented is a worse feeling than the flash of rage at being insulted. because the pleasure is followed by shame at having allowed this rando to be in the judge's position, to make me feel that second of Oh, I got a good grade! thanks, boss. thanks, teacher. thanks, dad. thanks for the approval, mister stranger. sometimes I feel real gratitude and it's a foul feeling. like, it was in no way my fault that someone felt the urge to offer me an assessment the way he'd throw a quarter to a street performer, but somehow if I don't feel immediately terrible, I make myself complicit in my own infantilization and feel terrible a few minutes later instead.

this is all just a long-winded way of saying it's about power and everybody knows it, especially the men who do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:12 AM on October 8, 2017 [25 favorites]

Yeah, it's a power play, it's saying "*I* get to decide whether you are worthy" and that's why even a seemingly innocuous "you look great today" is still incredibly dehumanizing. This is so ingrained in our culture that I have no idea how to stop in short of banning all media.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

to announce their judgements to the world at large. Feeling like their opinions mattered to the women they targeted.

Yup. As men we've basically been raised from birth to believe that Our Opinions Are Important, and that therefore everyone wants to or should want to hear them.

It was about showing off for each other,

Yup. There is very clearly often a strong element of "performative virility/masculinity/heterosexuality", especially when done in front of other men. It's chest-thumping, a signal to the other males around you. (Which could just mean "other males in earshot", which is probably one reason solo males do it too.) Which in turn relies on not viewing women as autonomous individual human beings, but as reward for masculinity/prizes to be won/decorative objects.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

they do it because they think that women by themselves are public property who "need to be put in their place"
posted by brujita at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

They do it to because a women's autonomy is totally threatening to them. Yelling at her, objectifying her (audience or no) shatters her autonomy.
posted by marimeko at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

"But I have to think the men doing this don't see themselves as the bad guys."

Why? No, really. Have you considered why you're inclined to be so charitable about their motivations? (and how that works to their advantage)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:31 AM on October 8, 2017

There is very clearly often a strong element of "performative virility/masculinity/heterosexuality", especially when done in front of other men.

Like Trump telling Billy Bush how powerful he is, he can just grope women and get away with it, so pass the tic-tacs. It not only worked on BIlly, the tape was leaked and it worked with at least a third of voters.
posted by adept256 at 11:32 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Like She’s Not There above (and eponysterical), you do sort of age out of it. I’m glad, at age 60+, she’s getting less harassment. I thought I was too and I think I have a comment somewhere on here saying as much (around my late 30s) but I realized shortly after that I hadn’t aged out but I had become less public. I was no longer bike commuting, riding the bus, getting an office-worker’s lunch on a park bench. I had become more home centric, more car-bound. But when I have been in those familiar public, solo situations, I have been cat-called, approached, had weird comments and interactions. I just had a networking lunch with a guy last week, an established professional in his late 40s, and there was a weird moment that I won’t go into but I just had to internally be exasperated that as a woman in the world almost no interaction with men passes without something gendered and strange happening. So, I haven’t aged out and with the most recent example, that’s something I never in my lifetime will. It’s amazing how excited I get when an interaction with a man isn’t colored by something stupid. This guy last week wanted me to refer him to my clients but he couldn’t keep his shit together for one lunch so I never, ever will. He felt like he could make a weird comment and it was fine, he doesn’t need a filter...he’s a man! It’s so boring.

And to tie it back to the Instagram, these men, they are so boring. So same. They gain esteem from other men as they plummet in the esteem of women. Toxic masculinity ruins the party again.
posted by amanda at 11:41 AM on October 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

A friend posted this on her FB feed yesterday. The thread I saw had over a thousand comments at the time. A sub-thread in the comments asked women to comment on the age they were the first time they were cat-called. The average age was 12, and there many comments that said 11, 10, and 9.

What fucking barn is a 35-year-old man raised in that he thinks it's okay to shout "suck my dick bitch!" at a nine year old child who is walking home from elementary school?
posted by vignettist at 8:17 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The bottom line is, they do it because they can, because they aren't afraid to do so. As long as they aren't terrified of the possible consequences of catcalling, they will continue.
posted by happyroach at 10:28 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's pretty much stopped at my age. But I started getting it at age ten from adult men, and at five from adolescent and teen boys. And I was never a pretty girl; I think my vulnerability was just always pretty obvious. Because no matter how hard the ignorant “you should be grateful and take it as a compliment” commenters stick to that line, it's just a load of hoop cheese.

One of the worst parts is, there's so much you just have no way of knowing about the perpetrators. Are their intentions bad, good, or indifferent? Are they really trying to get your attention, or showing off for their buddies? Are they just passing the time, or is it a prelude to violence? If you ignore them, does that make them stop, or does it make them escalate because now you're a snooty, stuck-up bitch who thinks she's too good to acknowledge them? And I know from experience that if any kind of negative thing whatsoever arises out of the situation, it's gonna be blamed squarely on the catcallee for not “handling” the harrassers correctly.

So, I guess I'm saying that if you're a friendly person politely handing out compliments on the appearance of strangers, sorry, but you haven't got "harmless" tattooed on your forehead and we have no way of telling you apart from the creeps who've ruined it for everybody.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:55 PM on October 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

for me sometimes I think the involuntary pleasure in being complimented is a worse feeling than the flash of rage at being insulted.

Yeah, and you know what's really fucked up? When I was younger and living in the city, all of my friends and I had the same experience. Since catcalling was so constant, that one weird day when you didn't get catcalled on the way to the metro at 8 am, you started to think, Wait a minute, do I have something on my face? Did I forget to brush my hair? The absence of catcalling came not as huge relief, but as an indicator that something about our appearance was out of whack.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:55 AM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I work for a martial arts academy. We have a leadership program for our students and we talk about bullying, and include catcalling in that. So hopefully that's x-dozen young men educated per year.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:55 AM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Why? No, really. Have you considered why you're inclined to be so charitable about their motivations? (and how that works to their advantage)

I actually don't think that recognizing that catcallers "don't see themselves as bad guys" necessarily is a charitable read. To wit:
Most catcallers don't see themselves as bad guys; instead, they see themselves just as "guys taking a chance at asking out a pretty girl". They weren't socialized to know that this kind of behavior is wrong.

therefore, posing for a selfie with them and then putting it on an Instagram account that they are most likely not going to ever see may not be the best approach, if what you want to do is educate them. If you are just trying to express your own frustration, then hey, go ahead. But if you want to effect change, this is not an approach which will address their mindset.
Recognizing somoene's motivation isn't necessarily being chartiable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 AM on October 9, 2017

I find myself in the strange position of being a person who appears outwardly female, in my middle thirties, who has not experienced catcalling. From youth until about two years ago I was overweight, even morbidly obese, which I suspect gave me at least a certain amount of social invisibility (though I know that's not a reliable shield for everyone).

Even now that I'm pretty much a "normal" BMI and spend a decent amount of time running, in public, I still have been incredibly lucky to be seemingly exempt from being subjected to this awful experience. I don't think it's that I'm particularly oblivious, I don't wear headphones, but apparently there's something about me that just doesn't provoke the urge to flex this particular power play.

The sick part is that whenever this topic comes up I wonder what's wrong with me. But mostly I'm grateful.
posted by miratime at 7:15 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are many things that are very, very difficult about having a reactive, possessive dog. But the fact that he seems prenaturally tuned-in to anyone catcalling me and he goes off on them as soon as they say anything is actually pretty fucking convenient. I've always felt very safe when out walking with him - 'cause for all their talk, these guys back right off the second they're confronted with a little curly white ball of fluff that is barking the most serious warnings he knows.
posted by mosst at 7:30 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Miratime, it's really dependent on where you live/go. FWIW, I've found that Pittsburgh is very low on the catcalling scale and I've experienced very little of it here as well. Compared to when I lived in DC, where it was worse. And I think DC pales in comparison to New York. (The bigger the city, the bigger the problem, it's been my experience. Maybe it's the degree of anonymity? Because the cliche here in Pittsburgh is that it's the world's biggest small town and everyone knows everyone. The chances of catcalling someone and then finding out that person is your aunt's best friend's baby cousin and now that whole side of the family knows about what you did are high.)

One of the many reasons I noped out of DC after a year and a half there was that I was not used to that level of catcalling.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:34 AM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I first got catcalled when I was 11 or 12. I used to walk home from school every day, along a main road; the first time it happened, I looked around for who it was supposed to be directed at, and realized it was me. It happened probably at least once a week along that same route, possibly more, from that age until I left for college at 17.

I got more and more comfortable flipping people off or yelling at them as I got older - 'older' as in 16 or 17.

This was good practice for when I left my hometown to attend college in New York City, which was like Catcalling: Extreme Edition.

Fucking depressing is what it all is.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:45 AM on October 9, 2017

I think a lot of it does have to do with specific aspects of appearance. I wore glasses up until six months ago and I could count the number of times I'd been catcalled in my life (including two years of living in New York City as a small, skinny, femme, early 20s woman) on two hands. And I also used to feel super self-conscious and abnormal during discussions of it with other women. It definitely does *not* happen to all women, at least not with enough frequency that you register it as a problem. Now, I no longer wear glasses and get catcalled most days, despite living in a smaller city. Hair seems to have a lot to do with it too--it happens a lot more when my hair is down.

Now that it happens so much more often, I feel like I've developed a really weird relationship with my body and external self-presentation. Because I used to not get catcalled, I barely thought about my body in space while walking down the street. Now, I think about it before leaving my apartment everyday. It creates a weird kind of double consciousness in your mind. You're thinking about yourself not just as a subject but also as an object--trying to see yourself as you're seen.
posted by armadillo1224 at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've been catcalled when I basically dragged myself out of bed, sick, to shuffle off to the store to get some OJ. Men's minds are truly opaque to me.
posted by XtinaS at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Question: is there a phenomenon where a group of boys or young men just yell extremely loudly as they drive or walk by a lone pedestrian? Not necessarily specific comments, just.... yelling very loudly right as they pass by you. I have experienced this and my mother has experienced this, and I'm rather baffled by it (especially because I am usually not paying attention to people when I go walking, so I have almost zero context -- just suddenly a group passes by and screams, which is alarming and inexplicable).

(I say "pedestrian" generally because it's possible that they thought I was female, but it's probably equally possible that they didn't; on the other hand, my mother is a cis woman who is pretty attached to the gender binary, so if it also happened to *her* then it probably wasn't transphobia-related. The only for-certain common thread was that we were walking alone and they were men/boys in a group -- and, I suppose, that we're visibly East Asian. We don't even live in the same state.)
posted by inconstant at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Question: is there a phenomenon where a group of boys or young men just yell extremely loudly as they drive or walk by a lone pedestrian?"

Wouldn't be surprised. Though as a lone (male) pedestrian I've been startled by such only to realize they were just riding along yelling out the windows and paying no attention to me. The two cases can sometimes be hard to distinguish. (Sometimes!)
posted by floppyroofing at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2017

Then there was this Post on Reddit asking women the age at which they first noticed someone treating them in a sexual manner. Ages were, oh, 5, 8, 11, etc.

There are over TWENTY THOUSAND comments on this thread. Almost every woman has a story.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:46 PM on October 9, 2017

Warriorqueen Thank you for mentioning that your leadership program groups catcalling in with bullying. I hadn't ever thought about it that way but it's exactly right.
posted by mcduff at 1:51 PM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been catcalled when I basically dragged myself out of bed, sick, to shuffle off to the store to get some OJ. Men's minds are truly opaque to me.

sometime in my early 30s I thought I had acquired some mystical air of Maturity that warded it off. since I never got too much of it compared to most women I talk to, and I have always looked exactly the age that I am.

then suddenly I spent a year not sleeping, traveling all the time, and being on high alert for scary phone calls all the time, when my mom was dying. much of that year I was unkempt, unshowered, unhair-cutted, at least once I had a button-up shirt on inside out, and most of the grey hair I have appeared during that time, all at once. and if you go by the opinion of the Man on the Street, I never looked better. (I also got carded more than I ever had before, even by women. because I looked terrifyingly young that whole year -- which means, I looked sleepless, confused, I looked like I didn't know what was happening, I looked like I was miserable. against all that, physical markers of age fade to invisibity.)

and this is why I feel so dumb and self-recriminating whenever I feel flattered by a creepy stare or comment now, because I know not just from ideology or from studies and reports but from my own memories, I know that men who do this like it when you look afraid and lost and fucked up. they like it so much, they like it even better than they like a woman who looks pretty or well-dressed. to be crude, if I may: this kind of man might like tits, but he likes weakness even better. so I know very well that even if I wanted a general male consensus on how good I look, that's not what I'm getting, I'm getting something worse.

so I think that it is no coincidence that so many women remember being catcalled when they were sick or wrapped in sweatshirts or delirious or staggering drunk or whatever. it's not that it doesn't matter what you look like, it's that this is a look they like.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:55 PM on October 9, 2017 [13 favorites]

I was walking down a very busy Lawrence Ave (Chicago) a few years ago—I was in my late 50s, wearing my typical "come hither" clothes (jeans and a baggy hoodie), when some jackass called to me from his car, loudly commenting on my appearance and offering me a ride. I took advantage of the fact that his car was stuck in traffic and yelled to everyone within earshot that "this motherfucker is trying to pick me up and I'm a GRANDMOTHER*! How sick is that?"

He became the target of ridicule for about 5 seconds. Then some bystander yelled "Looking good, Granny" and the cat calling got worse.

I suspect that this behavior can only be changed through the process of evolution, i.e., the cat-caller type will need to literally go extinct.

*Technically not true (no pressure, kids, seriously)—just used to make a point.
posted by she's not there at 6:06 PM on October 9, 2017

I started being aware of catcalling, around age 11 or 12. I lived in a very small town where everyone knew everyone, and I assumed the catcallers knew me and were doing it because they knew I was on the very lowest rung of the social status ladder. Often they were in cars and gone before I could identify them.

It continued to happen when I left that town but by then I was aware of myself as a grown woman. At that point it felt less personal, which was comforting, even though I knew it was more physically threatening.

It didn't occur to me that in those catcalling incidents when I was a teenager, it wasn't personal in the sense of them identifying me as a specific, known social outcast, until I was about 40 years old. A lot of those people I couldn't identify, back in the day, were probably actual strangers, and not just jerks from the high school who happened to spot the nerd pedestrian from their cars and swooped by to remind me of my status. My peers had convinced me that I couldn't possibly be seen as a woman, but the strangers were not fooled.
posted by elizilla at 5:38 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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