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Being A Better Man - Alf Herigstad 11th July 2016
073 – No Excuse For Catcalling
00:00:00 00:12:46

073 – No Excuse For Catcalling



Today’s episode is inspired by an article I read recently that was about catcalling, and how there are a faction of men who defend catcalling…as though they have some sort of right to hurl insults and sexually suggestive phrases to women on the street with whom they have no familiarity.

Here is  the article http://www.dailydot.com/irl/men-defend-catcalling/?fb=dd  basically…a woman made a post on twitter about cat-calling and then a bunch of men started tweeting their outrage at her post and were defending the time honored tradition of cat-calling.

Ok…really?  Is this really a thing?  Growing up in rural America as I did, being raised with a natural respect and reverence for females I always thought that cat-calling as it is described in this article was just something they did in movies to make some men appear like complete morons. 

Now I have to acknowledge that I’m a little out of touch, because there are men who actually partake in, and defend this behavior.

So what is Catcalling exactly?  My definition is that It is an unprovoked loud whistle,  a comment, or gesture usually of a sexual nature directed toward a stranger, typically a woman who is out in public minding her own business.

Hmmm…when put that way it sounds like plain old harassment doesn’t it?  That’s because that’s exactly what it is.

Apparently, the men who defend this indefensible behavior are unable to make the distinction between catcalling and merely talking to a stranger.  They act as though if you take away their ability to catcall that they will never be able to interact with another woman…as though this is the only means in their tiny little brains they can come up with to communicate with the opposite sex.

This isn’t rocket science guys…Yelling at a woman you don’t know on the other side of the street is not talking.  Expressing your admiration of a strange woman’s body parts…is not having a conversation.  Describing what you would like to do to a strange woman…is not talking…no, what it is, is a type of verbal rape. 

Some guys defending this behavior said “what, I can’t say hello to a woman anymore?” 

Well…there is a big difference between saying “hello” as you pass, or saying “hellooooooo” as he stops and looks the woman up and down.  One is talking and one is harassment, can you tell the difference?  It’s kind of like the difference between actually being part of the human race or being a Neanderthal. 

Then there is another problem that arises; women say that when they are catcalled if they respond in a disapproving manner, that they are attacked verbally or physically for not being friendly towards the cat-caller.  These men deal with deserved rejection by lashing out and calling the woman names, as though they expect every woman they meet to be enchanted by them regardless of how rude they are…WHAT?  This all sounds crazy to me and it makes me a little angry. 

The article stated that women have been physically injured or killed for not responding favorably to a rude catcall.  Unbelievable.

I realize that the vast majority of men listening to this program are not out catcalling women…at least I hope you aren’t.  I like to think that if you are interested in being a better man that you would have already evolved beyond this point.  But…it’s still an important topic and something to be aware of because the men doing this are recognized by society as men, and you are a man, I’m a man, so in some way as men we are all guilty by association.

That’s why it’s so important that good men are seen, that good men stand up and speak out against behavior like this.

I have a confession;  I can’t remember actually ever witnessing a woman being catcalled.  I know this because if I saw a man treating a woman this way I would immediately confront the man and tell him to stop, I would make him stop…and I can’t remember that ever happening.

I wonder though, if it has happened subtly around me and I just didn’t notice because my brain isn’t tuned into this kind of thing. 

I had a conversation with my wife about this topic and she had a lot to say.  She lived in New York for several years and she describes a daily routine of preparation before leaving her apartment every day.  She had to consider what she was wearing, what her route would be, where the safe places were, what escape routes would be available, she had to prepare herself mentally and emotionally to endure what lay ahead of her because she says she got catcalled every single day she lived in that City.

Wow…That sounds like living in a war zone.  Don’t even get me started on the fact that even girls as young as ten have to deal with this…it’s totally unacceptable.

Some guys who defended this behavior in the article tried to down play catcalling as harmless fun, feeling the women should be happy they are being complimented and noticed. 

I can almost relate to this attitude because there were a few times when I was younger that I recall a car full of women yelling some compliment about my arms or butt when they drove by.  I didn’t mind it at all, in fact I was happy I was complimented and noticed.  But there is a huge difference, that a lot of guys seem to miss.

The difference is that I do not feel physically threatened in any way by a car load of women.  My safety was not at issue, which freed me up to take it as a harmless compliment.

Imagine though, how it must feel to a woman.  Try really hard to put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine what it would be like to take a walk through the jungle, at night, with a bloody steak tied to your back…that’s kind of what being a woman in public is like.

Imagine traveling to a world where the average person was 1.24 times bigger than you…for me that means everyone would weigh at least 330…physically, there would be some potential risk everywhere I went.  That’s what its like for women in public.

Some men defend catcalling as a means of pursuing their sexual or romantic interest…gimme a break!  Has any guy anywhere ever got a date this way?  I highly doubt it. 

Instead I agree with Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D, a sexuality educator who is quoted in the article as saying 

“Men don’t catcall to earnestly get a woman’s number, but to signify to whoever is listening that they are powerful, virile, and that public spaces belong to them.”  

In other words it’s all about perceived power and status, not honest sexuality.

It disturbs me that there are men who are so pathetic they will tromp all over the liberty of one person to gain the approval and acceptance of another. 

In my world that’s the worst of what it is to be a man.  That’s not sharing your strength…that’s imposing your strength.  If you go through life with the full knowledge of who you are then you don’t require the acknowledgement of others to acquire a false perception of power…rather, you exist in your own true power every day.

Hey I’ve got an alternative suggestion for these catcalling guys.  If you really, genuinely want to meet a woman or get her attention try this; 

Instead of being a rude Neanderthal who catcalls women, be on the lookout for other guys who do that.  If you see someone mistreating a woman in public walk up and politely tell him why he’s wrong.  Ask him if he would like someone saying that to his mother, or wife or girlfriend or daughter.  Cordially explain that he is making himself look like an ignorant bully. 

You might still not meet the woman, but you may distract the guy long enough for her to get away.  You might also get attacked or even beat up depending on your own physical prowess…but so what.  In my book there are lots of things worse than getting beat up in the defense of an innocent person. 

If potentially getting beat up is the price you pay for knowing you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem…I think its a good deal.  This might sound crazy to some people…I agree, it’s not a common way of thinking, but we are not common men, I ask you;  if you don’t speak up and spread the message that this behavior is unacceptable, then who will? Are you just going to leave it up to the next guy?  What if it was your mother, your wife or daughter?  Wouldn’t you want someone there prepared to defend them?  I certainly would.

Some may think this is radical thinking and I might even catch some flak for it, but I wouldn’t suggest anything I’m not willing to do myself, and I have done it.  Not with catcalling but in the case of public verbal or physical abuse I have interjected myself on several occasions, and I will continue to.

The bottom line is an uncomfortable one; the bottom line is that if women and girls in our world are being made to feel unsafe, if they are being verbally mistreated and accosted in public spaces…it’s because we as a society, all of us, have allowed it to happen.

If that’s true then it stands to reason that the answer would be for all of us to stop allowing it to happen.  Period.

I think I’ll stop there for today, but we may revisit this issue in the future.  I’m going to be keeping my eye on it. 

I’ll also be interested to hear your thoughts about this topic, I would like to hear from men and women what your experiences with this are and what your feelings about it might be.   You can send me a note here:  Write to Alf.