Social Question

syz's avatar

Do you call it harrassment, or do you call it a compliment?

Asked by syz (35649points) October 29th, 2014

If you’ve been on the internet at all, you’ve probably seen this video of a woman walking around New York. (For those not interested in watching the video, a relatively attractive woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt secretly filmed 108 catcalls from strangers during 10 hours on the streets of NYC.)

What started me thinking about this question were two responses from men when a (female) friend posted this link on Facebook. One said, apparently completely without irony “Ahh….beauty can be a gift and a curse but who would choose the alternative? She should consider having a plastic surgeon fix her up to look less attractive and that would end her dilemma” and another “Yeah this is one of those, “girl sit down somewhere” moments. Great point, if the alternative is her desire, then I’m sure she could tone it down to see if she gets the same experience. I would like to see her try this wearing a business suit or dressed formally. Just curious to find out whether the response will change”.

So, let’s set aside the question of respect and common courtesy. Are the majority of men not aware that 1 in 5 women have reported being raped at some point in their lives ? In that culture, why would making cat calls at a stranger be ok?

If you watch Fox, it’s a complement. So what say you? Intimidation, sexual assault, compliment, or pick up line? What’s your take?

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60 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Men have no right to make catcalls to women walking on a public street. To think that they can’t control themselves or that the women are to blame because of how they look is ridiculous.

zenvelo's avatar

I agree with @marinelife. The looking and staring is bad enough; making cat-calls is offensive. There is no desire to have a catcall responded to, it’s just macho posturing. And men who make catcalls are pretty much sexually inadequate anyway.

Men who are secure and confident in their sexuality don’t make catcalls.

ucme's avatar

Those men must be pretty fucking desperate for female attention, I never “catcall” but occasionally offer a friendly smile if eye contact is made between myself & a passing pretty girl, usually because she smiles first.
Her, I wouldn’t have given a second glance, so…meh!

dappled_leaves's avatar

Obviously harassment. I don’t know what is wrong with people who think that these comments and/or actions would be welcomed.

LuckyGuy's avatar

WTH?! I watched the video. It is a safe bet not one of the guys making the calls was a brain surgeon or engineer. A couple of them looked like they were selling drugs. It would be an interesting experiment to see if a white guy about the same age and dress would get half the number of calls.
I went back and looked at who was doing the catcalling. For the people I could definitely identify over.¾ of the catcallers were black. Slightly fewer than ¼ were Hispanic or White it is hard to tell. Please verify the numbers yourself before calling me racist. I’m just calling it the way I saw and heard it.
Does that kind of catcalling actually work in that culture? Incredible.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


“Men have no right.” You couldn’t be more wrong.

Catcalling is the expression of an opinion: speech protected under the first amendment.

It is in poor taste, and even worse is proof that the catcaller was made to lose their cool. I do not catcall for the same reason I do not deploy my middle finger at someone that has cut me off in traffic. It just does not reflect the kind of person I believe I am.

The woman in the video is literally trolling for reactions. Who would be surprised when opinions come, in tasteful forms or otherwise.

You are one of those that would have perhaps our nation’s dearest principle retracted just so you can possibly hear about, or receive, just one fewer catcall.


syz's avatar

@SecondHandStoke “literally trolling for reactions”

How so? By walking, making no eye contact, not speaking, wearing jeans and a tshirt?

In schools and workplaces, harassment that results in a “hostile environment” means that “collateral censorship” is constitutionally permissible. I would argue that sexual harassment is a hostile, oppressive act of assault and the “free speech” does not protect it.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^If the incidents were all recorded then the whole series of incidents were set up.

I’ll bet the bank that if no catcalls had come the video would never have been released.

Also, here we go with another sexist and pointless back and forth about catcalling. I guess we didn’t learn from last month’s, me included.

rojo's avatar

@SecondHandStoke you are sadly mistaken in your belief. No money was involved in the catcalling therefore it was not a free speech issue.

syz's avatar

@SecondHandStoke “If the incidents were all recorded then the whole series of incidents were set up.”

Bullshit. Try being more aware of what goes on around you, especially concerning women in the public. I’ve been in her situation. Pretty much any time I’ve been in a city of any size (and plenty of smaller ones). The daily grind of low grade fear and the feeling of being unsafe is a stress that you apparently lack the empathy to appreciate.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^ Oh, it is not that I do not have good awareness of my surroundings. I know that I do.

Rather, it is that I am interpreting what I see differently from you.

Also, where in my statement did I indicate that I had chosen not to empathize?

Most importantly: NO, I am not going to give any “group” (in this case women) more observation and empathy than any other just because you tell me to.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Forgive me but seriously, WTF?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Any of those guys look like they have jobs?

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

One of the ways I knew I was getting older was when I would walk past a construction site and be ignored. oh to have those days back when I was catcalled from construction workers…..

I use to be embarrassed but deep down I was complimented.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Jobs? They looked like crack dealers to me. Not a pre-med student in the bunch.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I didn’t notice the guys much on the first viewing. She is very good looking. Sorry, I’m human.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If that video was studied objectively all kinds of conclusions could be made.
How many men did she pass who said nothing? We can infer the total number from the number of men she passed during the total length of the video.and extrapolate that to 10 hours. It looked like she passed 40–50 men in the 2 minute video. Call it 20 men passed /minute. For 10 hours that is 600 minutes x 20 men pere minute = 12000 men passed. How many men gave catcalls? “Over 100” = call it 120 for easy math. 120 catcalls out of 12000 men passed. Therefore 1% of men are dogs. 99% are not.
What was the ethnic mix of the total men on the street. Let’s say ⅔ White ⅓ Black.
What percent of the catcalls came from Black men? What percent came from While? Say 75% and 25% respectively. Count it yourself.
How many times more likely is a Black male going to cat call than a White male given the B:W ratio determined above?
The answer: A Black male is 6 times more likely to catcall than a White male.
And 99% of men did not catcall.
A few conclusions can be drawn from that data:. By an overwhelming majority, most men do not catcall. Only 1% of men do it. And the catcall is 6 times more likely to come from a Black male
People might not like the answer but the data speaks for itself.

Ladies If you are involved with the 1% please teach them. And for Pete’s sake, Don’t date or mate with them!. End the cycle!

(My numbers are first order approximations. The full video would give the results more precisely. I’m willing to bet I’m not far off.)

canidmajor's avatar

The general lack of respect shown to another person who is minding their own business walking down the street doesn’t seem to be being addressed by a lot of you. The threatening behavior shown by some of the people towards the walking person isn’t being addressed by a lot of you.
And, just FYI, lots of gainfully employed white men (construction workers, painters, delivery guys) catcall. And, in office buildings all over America, men with high-paying jobs and advanced degrees catcall, but because they use their inside voices it’s not called that.

Not all women feel complimented, most of the ones I know are annoyed, wary or frightened.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I found them annoying, at the least, scary at the worst. Almost all were demeaning. It’s like saying, “Hey! I want to have sex with you! I don’t care about who you are, what you value, what you like, what you think about, I just want to fuck you.

rojo's avatar

@SecondHandStoke The SCOTUS (do you know if you have fat fingers and mis-type this it comes out SCOITUS, but that is a totally different screwing) ruled that free speech is a constitutional right and that money = speech so unless the catcallers were paid big bucks by corporate shill PACS then this question is not a constitutional first amendment issue but one of harassment.

Although, I suppose a good lawyer could make it into an 8th Amendment issue concerning cruel and unusual punishment.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

I just watched the video. the only scary one was the man that decided to walk along beside her. Most of the video seemed highly exaggerated to me. Looks like she picked the most lousy neighborhood to walk in with her video camera. looking for the reaction of street loitering men, not exactly men of any worth.

I had in mind the construction workers making $100 bucks an hour union scale. :).

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know nobody is interested in the numbers but I was able to tease out two more nuggets.
Of Black males 2.25% catcalled, 1 in 44, 97.75% did not.
Of White males 0.375% catcalled, 1 in 266, 99.625% did not.
(I’m hoping @phinotpi will verify my calcs.)

Did anyone else notice the guy dressed like a purple pimp? “I just saw $1000.” Do you think he thought she was hooking?
And the scary creep who walked alongside her for 5 minutes (which must have felt like forever) was the one who said “God Bless you!” I’m sure she found that comforting. Not!

janbb's avatar

@syz Great link. I was dismayed by the idea that this was a racial issue.

syz's avatar

Go, Jessica, go.

marinelife's avatar

@SecondHandStoke A woman has the right to walk down the street without receiving loud verbal comments from men.

Dutchess_III's avatar

In my experience I was cat called by blacks and whites and all races. However, the black guys did seem more aggressive and suggestive. However, rapes are almost always by white guys.

canidmajor's avatar

Some of the disappointing aftermath.
Some of the same people who so decry bullying probably agree with the commenters.

@SecondHandStoke: Do you also support bullying as an extension of someone’s First Amendment Rights?

janbb's avatar

@canidmajor That link showed a rhino and a goat playing together. Is that what you wanted?

canidmajor's avatar

Oops…kinda sucks the punch right out of my post! (But it’s pretty cute, no?)

This is the one.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Aaaaaand the inevitable strawman question to my statement is delivered.

Thank you @canidmajor

Dutchess_III's avatar

What straw man argument? What are you talking about @SecondHandStoke.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I haven’t read all the above responses, but I think it’s poor form from men to behave that way. Very uncool. I did read @ucme‘s comment about smiling and that’s fine. There are ways to show you’re appreciation of a woman without calling out to her and being disrespectful.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I always appreciated a true compliment, like, “You have beautiful eyes.”

But, “Oh baby! I wanna take you home!”

kritiper's avatar

Men think it’s OK (compliment) because they would like it if women treated them this way: like meat. I always thought it quite demeaning.

dappled_leaves's avatar

And in an unsurprising follow-up, the woman in the video has started to receive rape threats.

I really feel like we have been moving steadily backward for some time now. It’s like we’re experiencing some kind of cultural regression.

tinyfaery's avatar

This is horrible. L.A. Is not a place where people are always on the streets. I can walk almost anywhere without being harassed.

I will say that the cat calls I do get are usually people from other countries, and even then some just ask me about my tattoos.

I’m often so glad that most people ignore everyone here. This is yet another reason.

This is unacceptable. Men hate when women stand up for themselves or ignore them. What makes them so special. A swift kick to the brain balls usually does the trick.

hominid's avatar

Just watched this video. So, what are we supposed to take away from this? Is this a study in mating ritual of a particular socioeconomic/cultural perspective? Or is this supposed to be something else?

Why is it that men in certain cultures do this? Do you think these men want to make the woman feel so uncomfortable that she wants nothing to do with them? Or do you think they are exhibiting culturally-appropriate flirting techniques? By culturally-appropriate I only mean that do you think it’s possible that this behavior is appropriate in some contexts?

For example, I know that here in Boston, my pale-white upper middle class suburbia is extremely prudish. This would be unheard of. But I have spent enough time in Dorchester and Roxbury (my wife used to do community organizing) to know that there is a whole other way that men and women communicate with each other in very unfiltered ways about their sexual interests.

I’m not saying that it’s better or even right. But this smacks too much of white person ventures out of white neighborhood and is shocked. And like much of the internet, I suspect we are supposed to get furious about it.

If people are upset about this, what exactly is the solution here? Are we to invade urban America and convince other cultures to interact in the most sexually-absent white upper middle-class corporate culture way? Should we go lecture those guys sitting out on the corner about sexual harassment? Precisely what is the specific problem, and what is to be done about it?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

For those of you calling into question whether or not this is a cultural way (white or black specifically, since it’s been used as an example by a few of you) of communication, I respectfully call bullshit. I, sadly, live in the whitest major city of the entire country and I can tell you flat out that cat calling doesn’t happen any more with black men than it does with white men. I started experiencing it at 12-years-old, and it comes from all kinds of men.

LornaLove's avatar

Plastic surgery to look ‘less attractive’? She looks like an average girl to me. I guess the issue is really respect. People do not respect each other anymore. Perhaps it was because she was alone? That might be why and more vulnerable. I don’t think it was because they couldn’t help themselves because of her sex appeal. It’s a vulnerable thing, or least line of resistance thing.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

So a woman, not a person, has the “right” to not hear things she doesn’t wish to hear:

How exactly shall we legislate and enforce this?

I expect an actual and intellectually honest answer or I am getting out and saving myself from a repeat of the same rubbish that was the last time this was asked a month or so ago.

Beauty as burden is an experience known only to women. TIL.

JLeslie's avatar

I walk in NYC often enough to say that video is crazy. She must be in a certain part of the city to get catcalled that much. It isn’t any part of Manhattan I know, but maybe a part of Manhattan I don’t walk through often, or one of the other Burroughs. I’m not saying I am never catcalled in the city, but to that extreme? No.

My opinion is men should not catcall. They don’t realize how uncomfortable and even scary it can be sometimes for women.

I only skimmed the answers above. I saw some mention of race. In my experience blue collar men are more likely to catcall, but all sorts of men can be inappropriate at any given time.

canidmajor's avatar

Not a straw man, @SecondHandStoke. Your first posts roundly defended the cat callers’ “right” to harass, based on the First Amendment. Catcalling is bullying, in that it serves the purpose to dominate the emotional state of an individual through fear and intimidation.

LuckyGuy's avatar

On the lighter side… I just walked 1.5 miles to get my truck from the garage, ~20 minutes. (Someone gave me a lift for ~½ mile).
I passed one white guy, waiting for the school bus with his kid across the street, and he yelled “Hey, Good morning!”. (I yelled back “Good morning.”)

@canidmajor I’m not so sure the catcaller is intelligent or perceptive enough to be thinking about “dominate the emotional state ..through fear and intimidation”. I think they’re simply a-holes hoping to get laid. Note that 99% of the guys in that neighborhood didn’t do it. Only 1% did. 1% of men are a-holes – and we knew that already.

Also note that not one of them was either in school, or studying for their board exams, or were working. They are not the best examples of the species.
Their genes will die out if women do not date or mate with them.

Sadly, it is very likely the purple pimp in the Barney costume (the one who mentioned $1000) will be successful.

rojo's avatar

A quick review of answers shows that the vast majority consider it harrassment and not a compliment.

canidmajor's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Bullies can’t necessarily define their behavior patterns in an erudite fashion, but they do it anyway. You are dealing specifically with details of the video itself, I am referring to catcalling in general.

I do, actually, appreciate your engineer’s eye, here, the numbers are interesting. :-)

JLeslie's avatar

I think for the majority of the catcalling crowd they think girls are happy about being called after. They don’t contemplate their actions, they are not self analytical. For many of them it is just what they do because their fathers and uncles and make peers did it.

Look at the Q we had about how some women almost always have their antennas up around stranger men. A lot of people didn’t want to hear it and we women who felt that way were accused if blaming all men for being asses, which no one said. Women aren’t heard all too often. Our fears and feelings are pushed aside.

I saw that video discussed on The View and Rosie Perez said she liked a compliment given to her on the street and it didn’t surprise her what happened in the video. Nicolle Wallace said she doesn’t get catcalled constantly in NY.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The thing is, she was very pretty and had a nice figure. Things that are, for the most part, the result of natural selection, unless she’s had some surgeries, but let’s assume she didn’t. Lots of girls look like her without surgery. She wasn’t even dressed provocatively. She was just a pretty girl, walking around.

LornaLove's avatar

The more I look at this question, the more I put it down to the ‘area’. I’m not in the USA. I suspect though that there, even areas have their own culture about them. In Edinburgh or Glasgow’s main areas this would rarely happen! It seems to have gone the other way. Where men won’t even look never mind comment. Perhaps we are all too chilly here? or, they’d get punched on the nose by a woman.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the video is a fake. I think it is edited.

She is a very average woman. Not that catcallers need a gorgeous girl to do their thing, anyone who looks halfway decent will get them doing their thing.

downtide's avatar

What those man are doing in that video is absolutely NOT “compliments”. If they wouldn’t say it to a man, it’s not a compliment, it’s harrassment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys…it was 10 hours, edited down to a minute +. Obviously they’re going to only include the most extreme instances.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@rojo Did you read the comments at in the middle of the first video you posted, about the guy walking around town? They were directed toward the original video , with the woman.

“She shouldn’t be walking around with her tits and ass looking so perfect.”

“Walking around like a Harlot.”

This goes back to another thread, where another user used the excuse of a woman wearing all those tight clothes and short skirts and spiked heels. The attitude was “They’re asking for it.”
My argument was, it doesn’t matter what you wear, if you’re female, you’re subject to the harassment.

rojo's avatar

No, I didn’t read the comments. I usually assume on that kind of thing they are going to be pretty asinine. I guess you proved my hypothesis correct by reading them. ;)

Dutchess_III's avatar

It just floors me the way some guys can actually think. What causes that??

Dutchess_III's avatar


” I figured it was my favorite overalls attracting unnecessary attention so I never wore them again.” She was 11 years old and was wearing her ”.... favorite yellow and white overalls from Limited Too.”

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