What To Do When A Man Catcalls You On The Street
Today, a young man aggressively stopped me while I was walking. “I had to stop you to tell you that you’re beautiful,” he said nonchalantly.
Here are a few ideas on what to do when a man catcalls you on the street:
Keep your head down
Say thank you
Say thanks, bye
Walk the other way
Ask him what he expects you to say
Give him your phone number
Tell him your name
Ask him what he’d like to do you next
Tell him your name and social security number
Ask him if he wants to get a hotel room
Ask him if he wants you to go home with him
Tell him you want to suck his dick
Tell him to fuck off
Tell him to leave you alone
While it seems relatively innocent, street harassment (catcalls, sexually explicit comments, sexist remarks, homophobic slurs, groping, leering, stalking, flashing, and assault) can feel uncomfortable, annoying, embarrassing, aggressive, threatening, and downright scary.
The worry for a young woman walking alone (like myself), is that the situation could escalate into something worse. Sure, we’re in public, but what if he follows me? What if his reaction is even more aggressive than his assertion?
Women have to quickly assess the situation (is he harmless or dangerous?) and then try to end the encounter as fast as we can because we don’t feel like talking to this effing stranger on the street when we have a place to be. Not only are we trying to nicely exit the conversation, but we’re also trying to GTFO in a safe yet non-aggressive way (god forbid we offend the guy).
Look, I’m not complaining about a man telling me I’m beautiful. I’m assuming he wants me to know how he feels [weird, considering how often men don’t want to listen to how women feel]. Perhaps he thinks he’s being nice… and perhaps he thinks it’ll boost my confidence for the day. He’s probably saying what he would want to hear if the roles were reversed. It is a compliment after all.
But, the thing is…
It’s not flattering. It doesn’t feel like a compliment.
I don’t expected a man to understand because he may have never experienced systemic sexual harassment or how our patriarchal society encourages sexual violence and rape culture.
It doesn’t feel like just a guy who wants to make sure that you know you’re beautiful. Even if it is an innocent comment (which likely, it is), we don’t need validation from strangers on the street. Even though it’s just a compliment, it feels like power assertion, harassment, and feeling entitled to women’s bodies.
When someone approaches a woman and leads with her beauty, it dehumanizes her and lets her know that all she is in the world is an object.
Are women just receptacles for men’s desires? Are we just objects waiting for men (and their attention)?
How are we supposed to respond to street harassment?