Skepticism

Skepchick Chat: Catcalling!

In a moment I’ll be liveblogging our next chat session, this time about catcalling and whether it’s creepy or a compliment. The inspiration was this CNN article.

Keep reading for more!

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Created on 2008-05-18 14:13:27.

2008-05-18

Rebecca Watson: 13:00:09
Ladies!
Tracy King: 13:00:51
word up
Jill Powell: 13:00:55
Hello!
Donna Druchunas: 13:01:05
Hi!
Rebecca Watson: 13:01:21
I’ve added everyone I saw online, but if anyone sees someone I missed go ahead and add them
Rebecca Watson: 13:02:24
Hm, does anyone know bug_girl’s screen name?
Tracy King: 13:03:15
nope
Donna Druchunas: 13:03:19
not I
Jill Powell: 13:03:23
me neither
Rebecca Watson: 13:06:07
okay, I’ve searched and can’t find bug . . . Maria said she’d be around but I’m not showing her as online.
Rebecca Watson: 13:06:35
So, we can just get started now or wait a few minutes more . . .
Tracy King: 13:07:09
I’m only really half here
Rebecca Watson: 13:07:32
oh sure, because you have “work” to do
Jill Powell: 13:07:46
yeah where are your priorities Tracy?
Tracy King: 13:07:46
:(
Rebecca Watson: 13:07:54
don’t you love us?
Tracy King: 13:08:01
not even slightly
Rebecca Watson: 13:08:13
(emo)
Tracy King: 13:08:18
(devil)
Jill Powell: 13:08:34
well, that makes things a tad awkward then :P
Tracy King: 13:08:53
yeah, I feel bad about using you all for sex
Donna Druchunas: 13:09:28
From Maria via email: I am five mins away

Rebecca Watson: 13:10:29
cool….
Rebecca Watson: 13:10:41
the good news is that I think I found a nicer way to post the chat transcript to the blog
Rebecca Watson: 13:10:54
the bad news is that Teek doesn’t love us.
Jill Powell: 13:11:15
she’s broken this Skepchick’s heart for the last time
Tracy King: 13:11:48
you always say that
Tracy King: 13:11:52
but you always come back
Jill Powell: 13:12:04
its true, I can’t stay away for long
Tracy King: 13:13:43
8-)
Rebecca Watson: 13:14:08
Hm, ok my engenius way of posting the chat has effed up the site layout.
Rebecca Watson: 13:14:12
I am brilliant.
Tracy King: 13:14:18
Ha ha you broke the internet
Jill Powell: 13:14:22
tsk tsk
Rebecca Watson: 13:14:24
suck it, King.
Tracy King: 13:14:33
I can’t, the end fell off
Donna Druchunas: 13:14:35
The site looks the same from here
Maria Walters: 13:15:09
sorry sorry i’m late
Maria Walters: 13:15:16
longest mani pedi EVER
Rebecca Watson: 13:15:24
Ha! How appropriate
Maria Walters: 13:15:26
:)
Rebecca Watson: 13:15:41
Did your new look get any catcalls on your way?
Rebecca Watson: 13:15:48
(see how I got it started right there?)
Maria Walters: 13:15:52
ha!
Maria Walters: 13:15:53
alas, no
Maria Walters: 13:16:02
and i have a hot new henna tatoo as well
Maria Walters: 13:16:04
but nothing
Rebecca Watson: 13:16:10
What’s the ocassion?
Maria Walters: 13:16:26
no occasion, really. i went to the ren fest yestrerday
Maria Walters: 13:16:38
a co-worker of my hubby’s got married tehre. awesome
Rebecca Watson: 13:16:46
ah, cool
Donna Druchunas: 13:16:51
sounds like fun
Maria Walters: 13:16:58
it was
Rebecca Watson: 13:17:19
so, what do you all think of the whole catcalling thing? I found that article a bit disturbing
Maria Walters: 13:17:27
the article was disturbing
Rebecca Watson: 13:17:29
on both sides
Maria Walters: 13:17:33
yes
Donna Druchunas: 13:17:43
I just skimmed the article. Do I lose points?
Rebecca Watson: 13:17:48
yes.
Jill Powell: 13:17:49
major points
Maria Walters: 13:17:53
i think catcalling is slightly creepy
Maria Walters: 13:17:59
but mostly harmless
Jill Powell: 13:18:02
I’ve never really experienced it
Donna Druchunas: 13:18:06
I just think it’s rude. I hope that doesn’t make me one of the old farts I was complaining about last week.
Maria Walters: 13:18:16
i think the whole dude touching himself thing was super creepy
Rebecca Watson: 13:18:16
I’ll catch you up, Donna: one side calls it street abuse, and the other side gets self-worth from it.
Tracy King: 13:18:33
it depends on the context
Stacey Rodberg: 13:18:40
Sorry I’m late
Donna Druchunas: 13:18:41
touching yourself is not catcalling… 
Jill Powell: 13:18:50
yeah that should be done in private
Maria Walters: 13:18:57
yes, please :)
Stacey Rodberg: 13:19:00
Don’t forget those that just ignore it
Tracy King: 13:19:01
When I was a teenager, I would get upset if I didn’t get comments when passing a group of guys or a construction site
Donna Druchunas: 13:19:18
Did you all read that story a few weeks ago about the guy who was masturbating in a woman’s hair while she was sleeping on an airplane?
Jill Powell: 13:19:25
what???
Maria Walters: 13:19:27
EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
Rebecca Watson: 13:19:27
EW!
Stacey Rodberg: 13:19:28
I think it has to do with culture, as well
Rebecca Watson: 13:19:29
WTF
Tracy King: 13:19:33
It did validate the three hours I spent on my makeup and hair, in the those days
Tracy King: 13:19:35
Ew, that’s gross
Tracy King: 13:19:40
but also great
Maria Walters: 13:19:42
that is seriously frakked up
Stacey Rodberg: 13:19:53
For example, in Spain, it had to be explained to me that men stare (and do not look away when you make eye contact) and that, if they don’t, it’s an insult
Tracy King: 13:20:00
yeah, but as an anecdote, it’s a corker :D
Maria Walters: 13:20:15
yes, there is definitely a cultural element
Tracy King: 13:20:18
Yes, there are cultural differences
Stacey Rodberg: 13:20:19
But in the US, that is rude
Donna Druchunas: 13:20:19
I wonder if catcalling is just an East Coast thing in the US.
Rebecca Watson: 13:20:32
I think in the US there are big differences between regions
Maria Walters: 13:20:33
i got more stares and comments in India than i do in the US
Donna Druchunas: 13:20:34
well, I think the masturbating in someone’s hair thing is rude anywhere.
Tracy King: 13:20:37
I got catcalled by a hobo the other day :(
Donna Druchunas: 13:20:47
I don’t remember any catcalling since I moved to the California & Colorado.

Rebecca Watson: 13:20:51
I got hit on in public a lot more in Boston than in Seattle
Stacey Rodberg: 13:20:52
Catcalling definitely happens in Spain.  Spanish men will actually make kissing noises at you.
Rebecca Watson: 13:20:52
yeah
Jill Powell: 13:20:55
i think masturbating in someone’s hair crosses the line a tad
Stacey Rodberg: 13:21:04
(Not sure who finds that appealing…)
Tracy King: 13:21:11
what about using a toupee to get yourself off?
Rebecca Watson: 13:21:13
I got comments from guys in Paris, too . . . like, lewd stuff.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:21:16
lol @ Jill
Donna Druchunas: 13:21:20
But I remember a lot of it (catcalling, not hair masturbation) when I lived in NY and Tennessee.
Tracy King: 13:21:31
“that’s not YOUR toupee, it’s MY merkin!”
Maria Walters: 13:21:40
well, it also depends on the city – all i ever do is drive, so it’s not like i have much opportunity to get catcalls becuase i hardly ever walk in the city
Jill Powell: 13:22:03
I listen to my ipod when I walk so if it ever happens, I rarely hear it
Maria Walters: 13:22:13
now there is an equivalent which is catcalling in cars
Maria Walters: 13:22:24
i get that in the summer, if i have the top down (on my car)
Donna Druchunas: 13:22:38
Maria, that’s because your car is topless.
Maria Walters: 13:22:45
presumably i would get it if i had my other top down too
Jill Powell: 13:22:58
yeah but that’s a different topic altogether
Stacey Rodberg: 13:23:08
I think that calling catcalling “street abuse” shows the trend of entitlement to be completely comfortable 100% of the time.
Maria Walters: 13:23:09
true
Rebecca Watson: 13:23:20
good point
Maria Walters: 13:23:27
calling it street abuse is stupid, i agree
Donna Druchunas: 13:23:32
I think people have become over sensitive to EVERYTHING in the last couple of decades?

Jill Powell: 13:23:37
definitely
Maria Walters: 13:23:43
you dont have any right to control what people do on the street,
Stacey Rodberg: 13:23:53
There are always going to be people that are offensive, and learning to deal with them constructively builds character.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:24:02
If they’re posing a true threat, that is different.
Donna Druchunas: 13:24:12
I don’t remember ever feeling threatened by catcalling.

Rebecca Watson: 13:24:18
yeah, it’s a fine line
Jill Powell: 13:24:18
yes, as long as they don’t get into your personal space
Rebecca Watson: 13:24:25
I did feel very threatened in Paris
Stacey Rodberg: 13:24:40
Most catcalling is done from a distance, in broad daylight, in the presence of others.
Donna Druchunas: 13:24:43
Are the men more aggressive there than in the US, do you think?
Jill Powell: 13:24:43
yeah a friend of mine said the same thing about being in Paris
Maria Walters: 13:24:43
it can be concerning, if you are alone or it’s late, quiet street
Rebecca Watson: 13:24:45
but that was due to not knowing the language very well, plus the night before I was nearly assaulted by a man on the street.
Tracy King: 13:24:51
paris is bad for it
Rebecca Watson: 13:24:52
and yes, I was alone both times
Jill Powell: 13:24:56
yikes
Donna Druchunas: 13:24:59
My experience matches Stacey’s (broad daylight, at a distance, etc.)
Tracy King: 13:25:02
but I enjoy it as long as it’s not nasty
Tracy King: 13:25:11
a wolfwhistle is a compliment, to me
Maria Walters: 13:25:13
but nasty is subjective, too
Rebecca Watson: 13:25:17
true
Donna Druchunas: 13:25:18
I’ve only been in Paris with mr writerdd so….
Tracy King: 13:25:19
“get yer tits out” is not
Stacey Rodberg: 13:25:29
The same behavior could be threatening if done after dark, when you’re alone, when there are no people around…
Jen Myers: 13:25:29
I’ll admit the first catcall I got after I had my daughter was kind of nice.  Mothering a newborn doesn’t offer a lot of oppportunies to feel particularly sexy.
Maria Walters: 13:25:29
fair enough
Rebecca Watson: 13:25:35
there have been guys that left me smiling ear to ear just for saying something off-hand as they walk by
Rebecca Watson: 13:25:40
and others that made me want to punch them
Rebecca Watson: 13:25:50
I’m sure the latter thought they were just as charming as the former
Maria Walters: 13:25:51
i would agree with that
Donna Druchunas: 13:25:52
You can always reply with “go fuck yourself, asshole” ….
Rebecca Watson: 13:25:58
and I have
Rebecca Watson: 13:26:00
heh
Tracy King: 13:26:00
We could be accused of wanting our cake and eating it, I suppose. To which my answer is generally “and?”
Maria Walters: 13:26:18
what is the point of having cake if you cant eat it?
Jill Powell: 13:26:25
thats jut torture
Donna Druchunas: 13:26:26
Why don’t women hoot when sexy guys walk by?
Tracy King: 13:26:27
Because I think most guys know the difference between fun and lewd, too
Tracy King: 13:26:47
That was the answer to my cake question, btw
Maria Walters: 13:26:52
i’ve been known to stop and stare when a hot guy walks by
Tracy King: 13:26:54
as to why women don’t hoot…
Rebecca Watson: 13:26:55
yeah, have any of you ever catcalled a dude?
Donna Druchunas: 13:27:00
Sometimes I think it’s best to just give it back, see what they feel like.
Tracy King: 13:27:01
oh yes
Rebecca Watson: 13:27:05
really? ha
Jill Powell: 13:27:06
no..only inside my head
Tracy King: 13:27:14
When I’ve been with a bunch of college mates
Jen Myers: 13:27:14
I haven’t catcalled a dude, but I’ve been with friends who have.
Maria Walters: 13:27:15
i also once bet a friend to bounce a penny off a dude’s ass in a bar
Donna Druchunas: 13:27:23
ahhahah
Maria Walters: 13:27:24
and we all catcalled him when she did it
Tracy King: 13:27:25
you get bold in groups. Not now, I’m 32, it would be hideous
Stacey Rodberg: 13:27:31
I don’t know if I’d recommend giving it back unless you’re for real
Rebecca Watson: 13:27:44
I suppose that’s a good point to keep in mind
Maria Walters: 13:27:53
yes, you get bold in groups and with alcohol
Rebecca Watson: 13:27:55
the guys who do it are probably ready to go should you take them up on the offer
Tracy King: 13:27:58
I got followed home once, when I was 13
Maria Walters: 13:28:03
yikes
Rebecca Watson: 13:28:03
eek
Jill Powell: 13:28:08
scary
Donna Druchunas: 13:28:10
do you need a black belt in karate just to whistle at a hot guy, if you’re not actually making a proposition?
Rebecca Watson: 13:28:11
what happened?
Tracy King: 13:28:16
He squeezed my bum and said “will you go out with me, you’re sexy”
Tracy King: 13:28:25
I said “no I have Latin homework”
Rebecca Watson: 13:28:26
holy crap
Jill Powell: 13:28:28
whoa—no touchy!
Maria Walters: 13:28:29
ugh
Tracy King: 13:28:30
and then he left, thank goodness
Donna Druchunas: 13:28:47
that’s pretty scary
Stacey Rodberg: 13:28:50
Tracy – followed?  That is scary?
Jill Powell: 13:28:51
ah latin homework, saved the day
Tracy King: 13:28:53
yeah, Latin at that age!
Stacey Rodberg: 13:29:11
Touching is, I think, where it begins to cross the line
Tracy King: 13:29:13
I still carry a rape alarm to this day, though
Stacey Rodberg: 13:29:20
What is a rape alarm?
Tracy King: 13:29:23
I tend to attract nutters
Rebecca Watson: 13:29:32
like a horn thing?
Tracy King: 13:29:34
yeah
Jill Powell: 13:29:35
is it like a car alarm, strapped to you?
Maria Walters: 13:29:35
no touchy, definitely
Tracy King: 13:29:43
it’s a compressed air can thing
Tracy King: 13:29:51
you press it and it goes AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Rebecca Watson: 13:29:53
anyone carry mace?
Jill Powell: 13:29:58
nope
Tracy King: 13:30:01
Not sure mace is legal here
Maria Walters: 13:30:01
i used to, when i was in college
Stacey Rodberg: 13:30:03
I’ve carried mace for the last two years
Rebecca Watson: 13:30:09
ever use it?
Maria Walters: 13:30:10
and i would get home to my apt late
Maria Walters: 13:30:15
nope never used it
Stacey Rodberg: 13:30:15
Not  yet
Rebecca Watson: 13:30:26
it’s one of those things I don’t think about a lot
Rebecca Watson: 13:30:28
self-defense
Donna Druchunas: 13:30:30
Well, I’m older, fatter, and marrieder than I was way back when, but I am a little nervous about spending a month in Lithuania by myself this summer.
Tracy King: 13:30:40
cause of the Vampires?
Maria Walters: 13:30:48
dont be silly tracy
Rebecca Watson: 13:30:53
if any of us is prepared for the vampires, it’s Donna
Jill Powell: 13:31:01
I take kickboxing classes, so it’s kind of like self defense if i ever needed it
Maria Walters: 13:31:02
it’s the werewolves you have to be worried about in lithuania
Maria Walters: 13:31:08
well-known fact
Maria Walters: 13:31:22
i would like to take self-defense classes
Donna Druchunas: 13:31:29
I just haven’t traveled alone in a long time.
Maria Walters: 13:31:35
i am a wimp:)
Donna Druchunas: 13:31:43
But it’s the Russian mob that you really have to worry about….
Maria Walters: 13:31:47
i travel alone a lot -it’s not bad once you get used to it
Donna Druchunas: 13:31:59
I used to not be a wimp. Sigh.
Rebecca Watson: 13:32:04
it is harder to travel alone as a woman, I think.
Rebecca Watson: 13:32:26
it’s like, travelers are alread vulnerable as is
Rebecca Watson: 13:32:42
being a woman seems like having a target stuck on your back at all times
Maria Walters: 13:32:53
i lived alone in london for 3 months a few years ago, for work.  great neighborhood but i lived right on the high street and it got crazy on friday and saturday night
Tracy King: 13:33:00
yeah, a sign that says “yeah I want casual sex with you, why not try it on?”
Donna Druchunas: 13:33:03
Well, growing up in New York made me … something… I don’t feel intimidated in many environments
Stacey Rodberg: 13:33:04
I read an article last week that warned against filling out those room service cards that you leave on your door
Maria Walters: 13:33:05
that would often get unpleasant
Stacey Rodberg: 13:33:17
I guess predators were reading them to find out who was ordering food for one
Maria Walters: 13:33:29
ohhh… creepy
Stacey Rodberg: 13:33:33
Then the guy went to the front desk, said he was the “husband”, and got a room key
Rebecca Watson: 13:33:39
that reminds me of the advice I got to never make your answering machine message obvious that it’s just you.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:33:46
Luckily, she had the chain latched, so he didn’t get in
Maria Walters: 13:33:55
yes, i ‘ve heard that too rebecca
Rebecca Watson: 13:34:13
I had a friend whose message was “This is Mag and Sam, leave a message” and Sam was her dog.
Maria Walters: 13:34:18
oh yes, try to get a room that isnt on the ground floor and always do the extra latch
Tracy King: 13:34:27
Hotels give out keys willy nilly? Seems implausible.
Rebecca Watson: 13:34:41
depends on the hotel
Maria Walters: 13:34:43
that seems strange to me as well – would surely need an ID or something?
Tracy King: 13:34:44
yeah
Donna Druchunas: 13:34:45
I’m staying in a dorm. So I’m mainly hoping it’s not a bunch of loud party-animal students so I can sleep.
Rebecca Watson: 13:34:48
I’m sure a large chain would have security in place
Rebecca Watson: 13:34:59
but some crummy motel? Maybe not…
Rebecca Watson: 13:35:05
oh, but would they have room service? Hm.
Maria Walters: 13:35:16
yeah, true
Rebecca Watson: 13:35:24
Okay, yeah, I’m thinking that any hotel with room service is going to be checking IDs before handing over keys.
Donna Druchunas: 13:35:34
There were a lot of drunk, roudy guys when I was in Vilnius last summer. But they were more concerned with basketball than women. 
Stacey Rodberg: 13:35:36
The front desk is not supposed to give room keys without ID, but you’re relying on a clerk to enforce this
Tracy King: 13:35:39
I suppose you could con someone into it with the right patter
Stacey Rodberg: 13:35:43
And the “customers” can be forceful
Tracy King: 13:35:46
yeah
Stacey Rodberg: 13:36:04
With the focus on customer service, and our natural inclination to avoid confrontation, it can happen anywhere
Tracy King: 13:36:10
But I’m sure it’s more of an exception than a rule. Still, why take the risk?
Maria Walters: 13:36:12
but but but if you are going to break into someones room to attack them
Stacey Rodberg: 13:36:18
Yeah, probably
Maria Walters: 13:36:27
are you really going to be forceful with the clerk soyou’re all memorable?
Tracy King: 13:36:41
true
Maria Walters: 13:36:41
i guess criminals are stupid, but still…
Tracy King: 13:36:51
did we just debunk a media anecdote? :D
Maria Walters: 13:36:53
i think the moral is , order extra breakfast !! :)
Jill Powell: 13:36:59
hahaha
Tracy King: 13:37:03
I can eat two helpings of eggs benedict
Maria Walters: 13:37:07
yeah man
Bug Girl: 13:37:09
I’m here! (late!)
Tracy King: 13:37:10
I like this moral
Tracy King: 13:37:13
Hey buggy!
Rebecca Watson: 13:37:13
Hey Bug!
Maria Walters: 13:37:19
hi bug girl!
Jill Powell: 13:37:22
hey Bug!
Bug Girl: 13:37:33
was having too much fun turning the compost pile to come inside
Rebecca Watson: 13:37:37
So yeah, that’s very interesting though that we did just sort of debunk that, yet there’s still “but why take the chance?”
Donna Druchunas: 13:37:55
I do like the two breaksfast solution.
Rebecca Watson: 13:37:56
But I think it’s important to not scare women over things that aren’t real risks.
Rebecca Watson: 13:37:58
You know?
Maria Walters: 13:37:58
i think it’s a win win
Maria Walters: 13:38:06
extra breakfast, and extra caution
Maria Walters: 13:38:11
:)
Rebecca Watson: 13:38:14
ha
Jill Powell: 13:38:15
its a new slogan
Maria Walters: 13:38:18
yes, that is true rebecca
Donna Druchunas: 13:38:19
Yeah, I hate all the news that is just a bunch of fear mongering drivel.
Tracy King: 13:38:25
Two Crepes, No Rapes!
Maria Walters: 13:38:29
HAHAHAHAHAA
Rebecca Watson: 13:38:30
HA
Donna Druchunas: 13:38:32
extra caution works in many situations
Stacey Rodberg: 13:38:32
lol!
Jill Powell: 13:38:33
ha!
Bug Girl: 13:38:33
which fear mongering drivel?
Bug Girl: 13:38:51
(there’s a lot–trying to catch up)
Rebecca Watson: 13:38:54
BugGirl, we’re talking about the advice that women not fill out room service cards at hotels when traveling alone
Donna Druchunas: 13:38:55
like drive with your car windows up and the doors locked so you don’t get carjacked and shit.
Tracy King: 13:39:10
ugh, my friend got carjacked in a parking lot
Maria Walters: 13:39:27
well like the stories you get via email taht say WALK DIRECTLY TO YOUR CAR DONT MAKE EYE CONTACT AND IF ANYONE APPROACHES YOU, KICK THEM IN THE NUTS AND RUN SCREAMING!!!
Rebecca Watson: 13:39:29
(and bug, I’m posting all this on Skepchick so you can skim the previous transcript if you want!)
Bug Girl: 13:39:30
I think that has more to do with your car model than anything else
Donna Druchunas: 13:39:32
I guess I’d just rather take my chances than spend every minute worrying
Maria Walters: 13:40:04
i think there has to be some sort of middle ground
Stacey Rodberg: 13:40:11
I agree, Donna.  Take reasonable caution.
Rebecca Watson: 13:40:16
Ugh, when I was in 6th grade or so a cop came to talk to us about being safe during the holidays. part of that was watching for men LAYING UNDER YOUR CAR in the mall parking lot waiting to slice your achilles and steel your car.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:40:19
But not extremem.
Rebecca Watson: 13:40:22
I was, like 11 years old.
Jill Powell: 13:40:23
Yeah, you just have to be smart about it—be prepared but not crazy paranoid? because who wants to live in fear for life?
Stacey Rodberg: 13:40:25
or extreme. (oops)
Maria Walters: 13:40:27
AHHHHHHHH
Rebecca Watson: 13:40:33
I’m still scared of guys laying under my car.
Maria Walters: 13:40:33
that is scary rebecca
Rebecca Watson: 13:40:36
and I don’t have a car.
Jill Powell: 13:40:44
i remember getting told that too in grade 7
Maria Walters: 13:40:50
now i’m scared of guys laying under my car
Donna Druchunas: 13:40:51
that’s worse than rapture fears
Jen Myers: 13:41:05
There’s a email meme that talks about the under the car thing – I’ve gotten it from about five different female friends.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:41:06
Has anyone ever heard to be careful if you come out and there’s a van parked next to you?
Rebecca Watson: 13:41:23
ah, so it wasn’t just in S. Jersey
Rebecca Watson: 13:41:25
no Stacey
Rebecca Watson: 13:41:27
kidnapping?
Donna Druchunas: 13:41:29
no
Jill Powell: 13:41:29
there’s a van parked by the curb of my apartment building all the friggen time
Rebecca Watson: 13:41:36
RUN!
Maria Walters: 13:41:38
i think i’ve heard that one jill
Maria Walters: 13:41:42
scream and run
Jill Powell: 13:41:47
i watch a lot of horror movies so i walk really fast
Maria Walters: 13:41:49
and scream “Fire”
Maria Walters: 13:41:59
because people wont respond if you scream “Rape”
Maria Walters: 13:42:03
ever heard that?
Jill Powell: 13:42:10
i don’t want to relive a scene from silence of the lambs
Stacey Rodberg: 13:42:16
Well, the concept is that kidnappers allegedly are more likely to drive vans, and that they will swipe you as you try to enter your car.
Rebecca Watson: 13:42:22
YES, I have heard the fire thing
Jill Powell: 13:42:26
i haven’t
Donna Druchunas: 13:42:32
why the frak would someone want to kidnap ME?
Rebecca Watson: 13:42:49
I think the idea is that yelling “rape” means it’s just you in trouble. “Fire” means everyone is in trouble
Bug Girl: 13:42:52
but…this is all a tiny part of the actual rapes/kidnaps that occur. Stranger rape is extremely rare.
Rebecca Watson: 13:42:53
I’m not sure I buy it, though
Jill Powell: 13:43:05
stranger danger
Maria Walters: 13:43:06
yeah,  i dont know rebecca
Bug Girl: 13:43:06
You should be more suspicious of people you know.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:43:08
It would be interesting to do actual resesarch on the truthfulness/likelihood of all of these things we have heard.
Maria Walters: 13:43:14
seems to me if you are the type of person to respond to someone screaming
Stacey Rodberg: 13:43:18
Jeez – I can’t type today.  Research.
Maria Walters: 13:43:21
it wont matter what the person is screaming
Donna Druchunas: 13:43:21
I agree, stranger kidnapping and murder are rare too
Rebecca Watson: 13:43:26
should we do an investigation where we stand outside yelling “RAPE!” ?
Maria Walters: 13:43:33
HA!
Bug Girl: 13:43:33
no
Maria Walters: 13:43:40
half of us yell Rape, the other half yell Fire
Rebecca Watson: 13:43:40
okay, right, probably not.
Rebecca Watson: 13:43:42
ha ha
Maria Walters: 13:43:42
see what happens
Bug Girl: 13:43:46
as a survivor, that would totally freak me out.
Maria Walters: 13:43:53
i vote we put Sam in the “Rape” group
Donna Druchunas: 13:44:04
since he’s not here, we get to assign him!
Rebecca Watson: 13:44:06
clarification: I was being facetious about standing outside yelling rape.
Maria Walters: 13:44:13
yes, me too!
Bug Girl: 13:44:13
well, it’s a neat idea.
Bug Girl: 13:44:25
but I think it wouln’t work well
Maria Walters: 13:44:31
sorry if that wasnt clear :) i dont want to be the girl who yelled Rape
Donna Druchunas: 13:44:34
rebecca, we got that you weren’t serious about that
Rebecca Watson: 13:44:34
But it WOULD be nice to know if any of this stuff is worth our mental energy
Bug Girl: 13:44:44
i respond anytime i hear screaming
Donna Druchunas: 13:45:05
I don’t remember ever hearing screaming 
Jill Powell: 13:45:11
i don’t know if you are about to be rape, would you be able to scream? I think i would be so scared I wouldn’t be able to say anything, you know, paralyzed with fear or something?
Bug Girl: 13:45:11
I don’t think this is worth worrying about, other than having a plan in case of attack.
Maria Walters: 13:45:35
Jill – i dont think any of us know how we would react
Bug Girl: 13:45:40
You are so much more likel, as a woman, to be murdered or raped by an acquaintance.
Rebecca Watson: 13:45:47
yes
Bug Girl: 13:45:50
sad, but the stats are pretty clear
Donna Druchunas: 13:45:52
that’s why I have no friends!
Maria Walters: 13:46:01
i have friends but i can take them all..
Stacey Rodberg: 13:46:06
Yes, I just read that – in PT, I think.
Bug Girl: 13:46:09
On the other hand, if you live your life in a constant state of fear, you’re easier to control….
Rebecca Watson: 13:46:25
interesting, while googling for stats on yelling fire, I found this: http://www.justyellfire.com
Donna Druchunas: 13:46:29
actually, weirdly, when I was younger most of my friends were men, now just about all of my friends are women
Stacey Rodberg: 13:46:56
That’s an interesting statement, Bug.
Maria Walters: 13:47:28
easier to control by who?
Maria Walters: 13:47:31
whom?
Tracy King: 13:47:32
sorry guys, I gotta bail
Stacey Rodberg: 13:47:38
Bye Teek!
Tracy King: 13:47:41
bye
Rebecca Watson: 13:47:42
later Teek!
Maria Walters: 13:47:43
by Teek!
Jill Powell: 13:47:43
bye!
Donna Druchunas: 13:47:43
ttyl
Bug Girl: 13:47:45
when I was helping teach self defense, one of the hardest things for women to do was to yell  loudly. They had “be nice” so ingrained, yelling and getting angry usually took at least 3 class periods before they could yell regularly
Bug Girl: 13:47:48
bye t!
Bug Girl: 13:48:04
Control by the media; politicians; religion.
Rebecca Watson: 13:48:10
maria: I think easier to be controlled by whomever is doing the scaring
Bug Girl: 13:48:12
I mean, tazer parties??? WTF?
Stacey Rodberg: 13:48:19
You taught self-defense?  I didn’t know we had an expert on the panel…
Rebecca Watson: 13:48:20
that’s interesting, Bug
Rebecca Watson: 13:48:35
that’s why I think so few women are outspoken skeptics — they’re just too nice.
Donna Druchunas: 13:48:44
hey, we should have a skepchick self defense class at a conference in the future
Rebecca Watson: 13:48:44
Or they are expected to be nice.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:48:46
So what does that make us?  Not nice?
Jill Powell: 13:48:47
damn niceness
Maria Walters: 13:48:53
i think my problem tends to be the opposite – i have a tendency to assume i’m safe, probably more than I should
Stacey Rodberg: 13:48:56
Donna – I’d attend.
Rebecca Watson: 13:48:57
Sorry, I meant . . . “nice”
Bug Girl: 13:48:59
unfortunately, I’m an expert both in being raped and learning to defend your self.
Donna Druchunas: 13:49:00
I’m not nice.
Bug Girl: 13:49:11
Good. Don’t be nice.
Donna Druchunas: 13:49:13
Oh, so sorry to hear that. 
Maria Walters: 13:49:36
I’m sorry Bug Girl – that’s awful…
Jill Powell: 13:49:46
yeah that is awful and scary
Rebecca Watson: 13:49:51
From that perspective, Bug, what are your thoughts on the original topic of catcalling?
Bug Girl: 13:49:54
It was long enough ago that I can talk about it now. And it was an acquaintance rape, when I was a freshman in college.
Rebecca Watson: 13:49:56
do you find it threatening?
Bug Girl: 13:50:27
i hate it. I hate cat calling, but I have always disliked it. I have huge tracts of land, and get way too much attention.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:50:55
Guys do like those  huge tracts of land…  ;)
Rebecca Watson: 13:50:56
first of all, big points for the monty python
Maria Walters: 13:50:57
heh
Rebecca Watson: 13:51:11
is it (catcalling) ever okay?
Bug Girl: 13:51:23
I definately think catcalling is a type of control as well.  What quicker and faster way to make you realize you are only worth something when you have a cooze?
Rebecca Watson: 13:51:51
see, I disagree. I think that in some instances it can simply be a compliment
Rebecca Watson: 13:52:07
yes, a physical compliment, but not necessarily something designed to humiliate the woman
Jill Powell: 13:52:07
It depends on the person who recieves it
Bug Girl: 13:52:29
Well, there is the accidental cat call. Like, someone comes around the corner and suprises an “Ay Mami!” out of you.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:52:38
Rebecca, are you saying it can be elegantly done?
Maria Walters: 13:52:47
I agree it can be a compliment. And how the person receives it means you can allow it to be about them cotnrolling it or you can take control of it yourself
Donna Druchunas: 13:52:49
I don’t think all guys mean it in a threatening way, in that I agree with Rebecca. But I still think it’s rude and I don’t see how any guy in today’s society can not know that.
Rebecca Watson: 13:52:55
I wouldn’t call it “elegant”
Stacey Rodberg: 13:53:04
sophisticated?
Bug Girl: 13:53:09
I find my self doing that about undergrads often–lack of clothing startles a “whoah!” out of me.
Rebecca Watson: 13:53:09
but I mentioned earlier that there have been some men who have made me grin
Jill Powell: 13:53:32
what if the catcall is in the form of a poem? :)
Stacey Rodberg: 13:53:42
And what, in particular, inspired the grin?
Rebecca Watson: 13:53:52
In fact I still remember a guy I passed on the street, who gave me this huge grin and told me I looked like “walking sunshine, baby!” I laughed, he laughed, we kept walking
Stacey Rodberg: 13:54:06
Jill – unless they’re well done, poems often come off cheezy.
Maria Walters: 13:54:26
it’s all abouot what you get complimented on too, i guess
Stacey Rodberg: 13:54:28
I like that catcall
Rebecca Watson: 13:54:39
I think it’s about the delivery, yeah
Donna Druchunas: 13:54:40
Is there a difference between a catcall and a compliment from a stranger?
Maria Walters: 13:54:42
i get complimented on my smile sometimes
Maria Walters: 13:54:49
and you can’t help but like that
Rebecca Watson: 13:54:52
oh, that’s a good point, Donna.
Bug Girl: 13:54:57
what kind of poem? “Roses are red, violets are blue, I get a boner, Just looking at you?”
Donna Druchunas: 13:55:00
ahhahahhaha
Maria Walters: 13:55:02
yeah, what is a catcall
Rebecca Watson: 13:55:02
HA
Jill Powell: 13:55:02
hahahaha
Maria Walters: 13:55:04
snort
Stacey Rodberg: 13:55:12
lol Bug
Bug Girl: 13:55:30
If someone catcalls me in iambic pentameter, that I think I would be ok with.
Donna Druchunas: 13:55:42
when I think of a catcall, I think of a guy yelling something lude at me, or whistling. Not saying “You are a ray of sunshine.”
Stacey Rodberg: 13:55:54
Me too, Donna.
Jill Powell: 13:55:55
yeah i agree
Rebecca Watson: 13:56:02
okay, fair point
Stacey Rodberg: 13:56:19
Ok, consulting dictionary.
Rebecca Watson: 13:56:25
I suppose my definition included anything that came out of nowhere from a total stranger on the street…
Maria Walters: 13:56:27
it’s still someone you dont know yelling something about your physical appearance
Bug Girl: 13:56:29
Now that I’m older, I tend to get negative catcalls. “hey fat bitch!” or “Hey ugly bitch! Go home!”
Maria Walters: 13:56:39
oh damn
Rebecca Watson: 13:56:41
Ugh, seriously?
Donna Druchunas: 13:56:43
Shit, really?
Maria Walters: 13:56:44
that’s awful, no matter what
Bug Girl: 13:56:46
yeah, it’s the focus on the body.
Bug Girl: 13:56:49
And the shaming.
Jill Powell: 13:56:50
Yeah, same here Bug
Stacey Rodberg: 13:57:10
A harsh or shrill call or whistle expressing derision or disapproval.
Maria Walters: 13:57:23
woah – derision or dissaproval?!
Maria Walters: 13:57:25
that changes things
Rebecca Watson: 13:57:26
derision
Rebecca Watson: 13:57:28
huh
Donna Druchunas: 13:57:32
Yeah, that part doesn’t make sense.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:57:47
Well, I’m skeptical of dictionary.com  ;)
Maria Walters: 13:57:53
heh
Bug Girl: 13:57:54
sure it does. You don’t do that to someone you respect or know. It’s for strangers.
Bug Girl: 13:58:12
also, don’t look up science or theory. You’re head will asplode.
Bug Girl: 13:58:19
OMG
Maria Walters: 13:58:19
is it by definition a stranger?
Rebecca Watson: 13:58:20
well, I can see how it might transition to what we consider catcalling. The kind of catcall that is telling a woman she’s nothing better than a sex toy, for instance
Stacey Rodberg: 13:58:21
In pop culture, it definitely refers to unwelcome, sexually-oriented, objectifying statements.
Maria Walters: 13:58:25
can you cat call a friend?
Donna Druchunas: 13:58:31
Disrespect, yes. That’s why I don’ think the “you are a ray of sunshine” type of compliment qualifies.
Bug Girl: 13:58:31
I can’t believe i made that typo
Bug Girl: 13:58:35
ah well.
Stacey Rodberg: 13:58:52
Hmm….replace unwelcome with unprovoked
Rebecca Watson: 13:59:35
JanieBelle on Skepchick has agreed that context is the thing
Stacey Rodberg: 13:59:55
You know what I think is key to the context?
Rebecca Watson: 14:00:16
Though I’m partially pro-catcalling, the attitude of the woman in that article who seemed to get all her self-esteem from catcalls was . . . depressing
Donna Druchunas: 14:00:19
what?
Stacey Rodberg: 14:00:20
I think that it IS, by defintion a stranger making comments about you that are inappropriately personal
Stacey Rodberg: 14:00:26
Which is what makes it unnerving.
Jill Powell: 14:00:46
good point Stacey
Stacey Rodberg: 14:00:55
The comment itself may be a compliment, but the fact that a stranger is talking about your tits is a bit unnerving
Donna Druchunas: 14:00:56
But is is just a sexist thing? I mean, back to the women catcalling at men…. if it were happening in equal frequency, would this still be the same discussion?
Rebecca Watson: 14:01:14
Would men enjoy it?
Stacey Rodberg: 14:01:22
I say yes, Rebecca!
Rebecca Watson: 14:01:37
I hate to say it because it feels sexist, but yeah I think they would
Stacey Rodberg: 14:01:41
Or a larger percentage of men than women would enjoy it
Donna Druchunas: 14:01:44
mr writerdd says “I think so. It would boos their ego.”
Bug Girl: 14:01:53
Yeah, but aside from the package on a spandex clad guy, what is visible to comment about on a guy?
Bug Girl: 14:02:02
Yo Daddy, those some awesome ears!
Stacey Rodberg: 14:02:04
Biceps?
Jill Powell: 14:02:06
uh…nice hair?
Donna Druchunas: 14:02:07
It doesn’t have to be visible to comment.
Rebecca Watson: 14:02:07
muscles
Maria Walters: 14:02:09
isnt it about self-confidence too, to some degree? I mean, if you feel uncomfortable tlaking about yourself, you will be uncomfortable with others, and particularly, strangers, talking about you
Maria Walters: 14:02:17
particulalry true from a physical standpoint
Rebecca Watson: 14:02:19
or you could postulate about, ahem, girth.
Maria Walters: 14:02:29
all the things I am most confident in about myself tend to be non-physical
Jill Powell: 14:02:35
me too
Stacey Rodberg: 14:02:41
Or extrapolate based on factors such as nose or feet
Maria Walters: 14:02:42
you can comment on a guy’s ass
Maria Walters: 14:02:45
totally
Rebecca Watson: 14:02:46
Hey baby, nice wits!
Rebecca Watson: 14:02:52
That would be okay, I think.
Stacey Rodberg: 14:02:52
lol Rebecca
Maria Walters: 14:02:53
heh
Donna Druchunas: 14:02:58
Is that a cucumber in your pants?
Bug Girl: 14:03:01
I don’t know. I’m pretty pro sex, but wouldn’t comment like that. I guess it’s the southern thing.
Maria Walters: 14:03:04
i would be happy with that
Donna Druchunas: 14:03:30
Bug, I’m from NY and I would not comment like that either.
Rebecca Watson: 14:03:39
well that’s just it, though
Rebecca Watson: 14:03:42
I think most women wouldn’t
Rebecca Watson: 14:03:46
which is why they don’t
Maria Walters: 14:03:51
not sober, no :)
Bug Girl: 14:03:59
and now we’re back to socialization and being nice…..
Rebecca Watson: 14:04:04
right, there’s still the drunken pennies bouncing off asses thing.
Stacey Rodberg: 14:04:05
We could easily weave evolutionary theory into this discussion if we wanted to go that deep
Stacey Rodberg: 14:04:15
(the behavioral aspects)
Rebecca Watson: 14:04:21
Maybe another time. My hangover is still raging.
Stacey Rodberg: 14:04:26
lol
Bug Girl: 14:04:35
Let’s not. Sociobiology is a pretty weak way to explain anything.
Maria Walters: 14:04:37
i can’t be the only one who asked a someone to bounce a penny of someone’s ass! :)
Donna Druchunas: 14:04:39
No, I wouldn’t not comment because I’m being nice. I just am not interested in picking up strange guys and I wouldn’t comment like that if I didn’t have some intention of doing something…. 
Stacey Rodberg: 14:04:55
Agreed, Donna
Donna Druchunas: 14:05:10
Which makes me wonder if the guys who are catcalling have some intention of doing something….
Rebecca Watson: 14:05:13
There are certainly better ways to pick people up
Rebecca Watson: 14:05:16
right
Maria Walters: 14:05:17
hmmm
Jill Powell: 14:05:19
I’m just shy and awkward in the best scenerios :P
Maria Walters: 14:05:20
is cat calling about picking people up??
Stacey Rodberg: 14:05:34
Yeah, what is the motivation?
Bug Girl: 14:05:36
they want you to react and feel their power over you.
Maria Walters: 14:05:38
i mean, if you got cat called, and turned to the guys and said ‘ok, let’s go!’
Rebecca Watson: 14:05:41
I feel like there are two reasons: either just to give someone a genuine compliment (which might not be catcalling) or to freak them out.
Maria Walters: 14:05:49
What would they do?
Donna Druchunas: 14:05:50
It’s also about showing how macho you are in front of your friends.
Donna Druchunas: 14:05:59
Like a gorilla beating his chest.
Rebecca Watson: 14:06:07
yes. getting an ego boost by showing you have power over someone else
Maria Walters: 14:06:23
I can see that…
Rebecca Watson: 14:06:26
so I think I can say that under certain definitions, I am anti-catcalling.
Donna Druchunas: 14:06:50
Well, I’ve gotta run. This was fun! 
Maria Walters: 14:06:54
only cat call if you are being nice about it?
Stacey Rodberg: 14:06:58
Bye Donna!
Jill Powell: 14:06:59
bye donna!
Maria Walters: 14:07:00
seeya donna
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:02
bye donna!
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:08
I think this is probably a good place to end it
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:14
we’ve been at it an hour
Maria Walters: 14:07:18
yep
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:19
and I need to go get more aspiring
Bug Girl: 14:07:20
I think it’s probably not a coincidence that guys that are steretypically known for catcalling are on the low socioeconomic scale
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:21
aspirin
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:22
ugh
Bug Girl: 14:07:29
This was fun!
Maria Walters: 14:07:30
good luck with the hangover!
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:35
thanks!
Jill Powell: 14:07:37
i need to work on my comic, see you all later!
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:42
and thanks, ladies, for the great conversation once again
Stacey Rodberg: 14:07:48
Also interesting, Bug!
Rebecca Watson: 14:07:54
let’s do it again. I’ll send out an email
Maria Walters: 14:07:55
see you guys!
Stacey Rodberg: 14:07:59
Later!
Maria Walters: 14:07:59
yes, definitely!
Rebecca Watson: 14:08:02
and big thanks to you, Bug, for sharing!
Bug Girl: 14:08:04
bye!
Rebecca Watson: 14:08:06
happy Sunday, all
Maria Walters: 14:08:09
bye all!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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93 Comments

  1. As a neandertal man there have been a few times in my life when a woman of such amazing beauty would pass by and I would whistle. I am sure I could have helped myself but it is amazing how attractive some women are and the primal feelings they can stir up. Testosterone really clouds the thinking portions of the mind.

  2. Am I the only one who’s not entirely comfortable with the idea of half a dozen women assigning motivation to the actions of men they don’t know? Honestly, if you’re sitting around saying it’s something you don’t, and wouldn’t do, how can you posit an explanation for why someone else does it? Not exactly the scientific method, is it? Sexism cuts both ways, ladies, and I’m rather disappointed to see how much of it reared its head there.

  3. Rystefn makes a good point. How would a study of the motivation be set up?

    I think first the definitional issue would have to be resolved. Then send out a group of scientists, one of whom would be designated “the bait”. Have the rest follow her around from a distance, and start doing a survey.

    Sounds like a Skepchick get-together to me.

  4. “Assigning motivation?” Trying to figure out why a man would shout a vulgar comment at a woman is hardly assigning motivation, it’s discussing possibilities.

    And no, this wasn’t the scientific method. It was a Skype chat. Though we did briefly talk about how one would scientifically verify a common piece of advice concerning rape.

  5. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I think that part of the conversation was speculation. I don’t think anyone claimed to have performed a study on the topic.

    I agree that it would be interesting to perform such a study. Perhaps anonymous surveys would shed light, though, survey results are limited by the honesty of the survey takers.

  6. I agree that it would be interesting to perform such a study. Perhaps anonymous surveys would shed light, though, survey results are limited by the honesty of the survey takers.

    Agreed, but it’s probably more practical than dragging a brain-scanning MRI machine around.

    :)

    I think it would be an interesting study.

  7. I’d like to clarify that, when I brought up evolutionary theory above, what I was thinking wasn’t actually that deep. Two questions were posed:

    – Why don’t women (generally) catcall men?
    – If they did, would men be more likely to enjoy it?

    It occurred to me that perhaps this has something to do with a topic covered by the last issue of PT about the basic dynamics of relationships between men & women. The artice was based on broad generalizations, but basically suggested that men have shorter term goals than women – men’s goal is to “get” the girl and women’s goal is to “keep” the man (again, broad generalizations), and the key underlying factor is that women give birth and are more likely to raise the child if the couple splits. So, in short, I was thinking that perhaps these underlying dynamics affect the propensity of men to catcall women vs. women catcalling men.

    Maybe or maybe not….it was just a thought.

  8. To clarify my comment about class/socioeconomic status–
    If catcalling is about power, then the folks with the least power (=money, control over their lives) would be most likely to do it.

    It’s a quick rush.
    And that is speculation, BTW, but it certainly fits my experiences in Texas.

  9. “Assigning motivation?” Trying to figure out why a man would shout a vulgar comment at a woman is hardly assigning motivation, it’s discussing possibilities.

    I’ll be the first to admit to the limitations inherent in reading something over the internet, but it seems to me that a few of those possibilities were being asserted more than suggested. I apologize if I’m wrong, but it felt that way to me.

    For example “they want you to react and feel their power over you.” doesn’t feel like a hypothetical to me. Again, if it’s simply a failure of the medium to carry the finer nuances of language, then I apologize for misreading the intent. Surely you can see how a person might make that mistake, though.

  10. Bug, I think that’s a really interesting topic to bring up. Catcalling is, as a rule, perpetrated by those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. Why is that? Power? Different class-specific norms? A combination of factors?

  11. Rystefn, when women have been ruling society and discriminating against men for, oh say 10,000 years, then let’s talk about “sexism goes both ways.” Until then, pffffft.

    Sorry, but no. You can’t have it both ways. Either sexism is wrong, or it is not wrong. Double-standards do not fly with me. Never have, never will.

    I do think it is a power dynamic.
    And that is based both on 30 years of being on the receiving end, as well as what I learned while working at a womens’ safe house.

    …and I’m pretty sure 90% of the time, it’s an unthinking response meant as a compliment. Callous, maybe. Inconsiderate, maybe. Rude, almost universally. An attempt to derive power, not often. This is based on nearly thirty years of carrying around testicles and actually knowing from direct experience what goes on in a male person’s head.

  12. And that is based both on 30 years of being on the receiving end, as well as what I learned while working at a womens’ safe house.

    Bug_girl, that’s just anecdotal. Your experience doesn’t count for shit unless you have a study to back it up. Don’t you know anything? Sheesh.

  13. Rystefn, when a guy catcalls a girl, does he watch for her reaction? If so, does having made the pretty girl feel something (whether flattered, embarrassed, or other) affect him? If not, what is the payoff for catcalling? Almost no one does anything if there’s not some payoff, even if it’s just that he wanted to release the tension caused by his attraction.

    I think Bug was referring to the power the catcaller exerts over the girl by making her react, in whatever way (sorry if I misinterpreted, Bug).

  14. Ryst, I’m not talking about double standards. There is no double standard here because women have never had power over men in society.

    Sexism is about the group without power being discriminated against, insulted, harassed, and otherwise taken advantage of by the group with power. Males have the power in every society on this planet. Racism is the same thing, it’s about power, in this case it’s about white people having power over people with brown skin.

    Talking about reverse sexism or reverse racism is just bullshit because you’re talking about the people without the power. It’s not about whether or not one group likes the other or says bad things about the other. It’s about taking advantage of a less privileged group.

    The more I think about this the more I agree with Bug that it is about power.

  15. In the interests of science, I volunteer to sit in a cafe patio and examine my feelings while I watch attractive women walk past.
    But I don’t think I’ve ever catcalled anyone I didn’t already know. Though I did get severely and publicly chastised back in the ’80’s for giving a woman the up-and-down look. Man, even thinking about that 25 years later makes me squirm.

  16. OK, let me draw you a parallel. Forgive me if this seems rambling, but it does come back around to the point.

    Working at the weapons shop, we had a bit of a game, wherein one of the guys (please note that I always use “guys” as gender-neutral, and the women who worked with us played as well), upon spotting an attractive person in the vicinity of the shop would “call dibs.” There were a great variety of rules and interplay (it was a game, after all), and it got quite complicated at times. Was anyone laying any sort of actual claim to anyone else? Of course not. Was it in any way serious? Not remotely. Were we trying to get a reaction out of the people we saw? Not at all, in fact, we didn’t do anything overt in the course of the game at all. What was the payoff? We pointed out to our friends a person worth seeing, and got a little bit of credit for being the first person to notice.

    Now, I want you to think back, and see if you can recall ever hearing a catcall from a guy who was alone. Not very often, I’ll wager.

    Moreover, if I pick a flower a lover just to see the smile on her face when I give it to her, is that about my power over her? I mean, I’m clearly doing it to cause a reaction, and the reaction IS the payoff, but I don’t want her to “feel my power” over her or anything like that.

    The simple fact here is that you’re taking something which is at worst unthinking and making it into something sinister.

  17. Rystefn, your analogies don’t hold up for reasons we made clear in the chat. Giving a flower to your lover is no where near to shouting “Nice tits” at a stranger.

    At the start of the chat, I was defining a catcall as something that could be positive or negative. In that case, I specifically said that one reason a man might do it is to simply pay a woman a compliment.

    When defining a catcall as a derisive comment, it’s very doubtful that it’s meant to make a woman feel good. It is “unthinking” at best, and sinister at worst. The fact that you believe unthinking is the worst possible motive tells me that you’ve never been in or seen a situation where a man purposely attempts to make a woman feel frightened or hurt with a catcall.

  18. I hope by “you” you don’t mean “me” because I never took the position that it was sinister. I said that catcalling is creepy, but harmless, that people (including women) aren’t entitled to be comfortable 100% of the time, and that adapting to uncomfortable circumstances builds character.

    That said, we all do things to provoke reactions in other people all the time, and we should. Context makes the difference. For example, the difference between catcalling and giving a woman a flower is the familiarity of the parties. As I said in the chat, one of the key factors of catcalling is that the the caller is yelling out something inappropriately familiar to a stranger. A boyfriend complimenting a woman’s body is a completely different situation than a stranger on the street doing it. And that’s what can make women uncomfortable (IMO).

  19. Talking about reverse sexism or reverse racism is just bullshit because you’re talking about the people without the power. It’s not about whether or not one group likes the other or says bad things about the other. It’s about taking advantage of a less privileged group.

    So you’re saying that it’s not racist to say “all white people are lying, thieves”? Or it’s not sexist to say “all men are pigs who only think about sex”? Because it sounds to me like that IS what you’re saying, and it’s completely and utterly wrong. Talking about reverse sexism and reverse racism is bullshit because there’s NO SUCH THING. racism is racism, no matter who is hating whom. Sexism is sexism, no matter who is looking down on whom. Prejudice is an ugly monster that finds its way easily into the minds of all of us, and pretending otherwise only encourages it to grow. Thinking you’re immune from the very idea of sexism merely because you’re a woman is a HUGE mistake. Are you in a position to oppress men on a societal scale? I don’t know you, but probably not. Are you in a position to oppress men on a specific, personal level? Ten-to-one, you are. So are a great many women, especially here in the west, where the societal domination of men over women isn’t remotely as complete as it is in other places.

    Do not try to tell me you’ve never been in a position of power over a man. That it’s impossible for you to insult, harass, discriminate against, or otherwise take advantage of a man. I won’t believe it, and neither will anyone else with the slightest inkling of the way the world works.

    There IS very much a double standard here. You spelled it out yourself. According to you, a “traditionally oppressed” person is in the free to do all these things and more to someone because of their skin color or gender or whatever, while I, automatically an oppressor because of my skin color and Y chromosome, MUST be in the wrong for trying to defend myself from blanket statements. Tell me again how that’s not a double-standard. Please. Because I completely and utterly fail to grasp where you have a leg to stand on making an assertion like that.

    Sexism is sexism is sexism. It doesn’t matter who it comes from, or who it’s directed at. It’s ALWAYS wrong. Period.

  20. I was using the generic plural form of “you.” English is an ugly language that way. Yes, we all do things to get a reaction from people. It’s only about power when it’s actually about power, though. If it’s about the reaction, then it’s about the reaction, not power. If it’s about pointing something out to your friends, then it’s about pointing it out, not power. If it’s done without a thought to the actual consequences, then it’s pretty much never about power.

  21. When defining a catcall as a derisive comment…

    It’s not ever defined that way. It may include the use for derisive purposes, but it is most certainly not ever limited to only that.

    The fact that you believe unthinking is the worst possible motive tells me that you’ve never been in or seen a situation where a man purposely attempts to make a woman feel frightened or hurt with a catcall.

    You are absolutely right, nor have I ever heard of such a situation, and frankly, I even have trouble imagining such a thing… Believe it or not, I’m in a bit of a unique situation to understand the derisive use of catcalls, because there ARE situations where men will use a catcall purposefully to embarrass or insult, for example, a man with long blond hair. That, I completely understand. It’s not about power in that instance, either. It’s about being a jerk.

  22. I actually do hear what you’re saying, Rystefn. The motivations for catcalling are likely as diverse as the catcallers. For one person, it may be about showing off, for another about expressing interest, for yet another power to make a person believed to be out of one’s league feel something or react in some way, etc. I agree that a blanket statement saying that the motivation of all catcalling is power would be insufficient.

  23. Incorrect. Dictionaries don’t give definitions. However, I will concede that some people apparently use the word that way. My understanding, however was that we were discussing such things as the wolf-whistle, and shouting “Hey sexy!” at people, in which case, I stand by my previous statement that these are NOT used derisively.

  24. Thank you. Sometimes it’s too easy to get into the argument mode, and I freely admit to falling into it myself more often than is likely good for me. I apologize if I come off as being more antagonistic than I intend.

  25. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’m a guy who’s been “called” at several times by women and once by several gay men. I remember feeling uncomfortable once or twice, but generally flattered or at least amused.

    I’ve always thought that cat-calling, traditionally, was a product of unbridled lust coupled with social ineptitude. If I’m so overcome with emotion that I have to say something, it’s generally “hi,” and a smile.

    Rystefn – I agree with you man, as opposed to: “Of course I agree with you my white brother. Let’s go watch football, drink domestic beer and objectify some broads.”

    If there’s some sort of constituency of white men ruling this world, then I was never put on the mailing list. I believe I’m owed 27 years worth of “cracker of the month club” fees. And free tickets to NASCAR. Yeah.

  26. Incorrect. Dictionaries don’t give definitions. However, I will concede that some people apparently use the word that way. My understanding, however was that we were discussing such things as the wolf-whistle, and shouting “Hey sexy!” at people, in which case, I stand by my previous statement that these are NOT used derisively.

    I actually agree with this too – for proof, check the chat where I said I was skeptical of dictionary.com. :)

    And yeah, when I first heard we were going to chat about catcalling, I immediately thought of the whistling and yelling you describe. By the pop culture definition, the comments are generally compliments, but the personal nature is inappropriate coming from a stranger.

    Back to the power discussion, even though I agree that motivations probably vary, I do think that Bug’s observation is interesting: catcallers are generally on the low end of the socio-economic continuum. And speculation as to why is an interesting topic. I think her suggestion is plausible: that those with less power may be motivated to provoke a response out of those with more power. It may not be the explanation in every case, but I think it’s a plausible explanation.

  27. Speaking as a guy who has been catcalled by rowdy groups of women a few times. I was normally confused and would look around. When I realized that it was me they were calling sexy or whistling at or whatever I felt great. I would smile and wave. I think this has happened maybe 5 or 6 times in my life. Usually in bars but one time at a street fair. I liked it. Made me feel attractive.

  28. Honestly, I think the situation is a bit less complex than all that. What is and is not good manners is highly mutable. I think in most cases, you’re simply seeing the interaction between subcultures – one in which it is appropriate, and even expected, and one in which it is not considered acceptable. I’m sure if they thought about who they were whistling and shouting at, most of them men in question would realize that it’s probably not appreciated much of the time. As I said before, unthinking. There are groups of people to whom it is acceptable, and in fact, some who consider it somewhat insulting to NOT react in that way. Everyone wants to feel attractive, and that is most certainly a way of being told that you are considered attractive, at least to those specific people. Witness the woman referenced above who claimed she’d feel like she was old and unattractive if she didn’t get shouted and whistled at. I’ve spoken to more than a few women who feel similar, but less extreme reactions – that the ego boost men were referenced as having as a universal reaction to such a thing happens to them as well in that scenario.

    There are few black-and-white issues in the world, and this is no different. The thing to remember is that just because something might make one person uncomfortable or be considered inappropriate by a certain group, that is no reason to condemn it altogether.

  29. interesting discussion”.

    Now, I want you to think back, and see if you can recall ever hearing a catcall from a guy who was alone. Not very often, I’ll wager., dudes.”

    Well, I know it’s anecdotal, but I have been the recipient of many solo catcalls. You know who is a big fan of issuing them? Latinos. Also black guys (but they mostly say stuff…”I would love to jack off all over your naked body” was a particularly memorable one)

    In L.A. and S.F., it was/is almost exclusively that (I don’t enjoy walking down the street alone because of this…the latino guys are particularly fond ofmaking sucking or kissing noises) .

    The time when I was 14 and a guy grabbed me by the arm and propositioned me for sex? A white foreigner of mediterranean extraction. White guys tend to say stuff more, too, although it’s usually more flattering/stupid than intimidating/overtly graphic.

    So, yeah, in my (extensive , I also traveled in India, where white chicks are basically targets for a game called “stare or grab her tits?”) experience, catcalling IS about power and NOT about actual flattery…although it is extremely easy to tell the difference when it’s happening.

  30. latino guys are particularly fond ofmaking sucking or kissing noises

    I know! This happened to me when I was in Spain, and coming from a different culture, I looked at him like – are you serious? is that supposed to be appealing? Also, the staring (and not averting their eyes when you look back at them) is positively unnerving.

    I think this discussion about culture is interesting, whether the subcultures Rystefn mentioned or international cultures.

  31. I wonder how much influence situation has in relation to socio-economic status? Is it really the s-e status or the appearance thereof?

    On many occasions, I’ve seen a lot of the worst of what y’all are including under the heading of “Catcalling” being committed at hockey games by men who return to seats that indicate they are in no way on the low end of that scale. Those seats are not cheap, and neither are the polo shirts or casual footwear (i.e. not sneakers) they wear.

    So is a lack of piggish behavior a function of being on the higher end of the money scale, or a function of being overtly so? (Like when he’s at work in an office in his business suit?)

    How much is a function of opportunity? Said man in fancy suit spends a large amount of his day on the thirtieth floor where he can lose his very lucrative job for sexual harassment. Hand him a hammer and a pair of jeans, does his behavior change?

    Conversely, hand the carpenter an Armani suit, a six figure salary, and stick him on the top floor, does his?

    How does that affect the gender angle? How many women are swinging hammers on the street level and even have the opportunity to behave badly? (I’m going with the stereotypical construction-worker eyeballs office-girl scenario, but adjust as needed.)

    For clarity, let me say I’m not making any assertions (other than the hockey guys), I’m asking questions.

  32. “Wake up and smell the coffee. Jeesh.”

    I’m awake. I’m drinking coffee. It’s delish. I’m still not ruling the world with my white, XY brethren. I’m on my own in this world just like you and the next guy. Sorry. That’s seriously the way it is.

  33. So, DD… Does that mean you know where I can go pick up my big, fat “Thanks for Being a White Male” check? I could really use the cash, since the IRS managed to lose my refund check and I have to wait for them to go through the whole bleeding process again.

  34. JB, I’d just like to point out that construction workers, office workers, and spectators at a hockey game are all really their won subcultures, where different rules (or lack thereof) apply. Sure, some people go farther than they likely should, but that’s true of any culture anywhere, regardless of circumstances.

  35. Ryst,

    I hope I don’t sound mad at you or anything, but we definitely have a different perspective about what sexism and racism mean as concepts. I think the examples you gave above illustrate the use of stereotypes, but without the power structure behind them, I don’t consider them to be examples of sexism or racism.

    White males hold the power in the Western world and they have for a long time; and the Western world has had power over the rest of the world through colonization and economics, essentially giving white males power throughout the world.

    That does not mean that every white male holds a position of power, but that for the most part positions of power are held by white males. It also does not mean that I have anything against white males, but I do have something against a system that does not allow for diversity in power.

    These things have been changing slowly throughout the 20th century, but they have not changed enough to have become untrue. There are huge forces (such as the U.S. Republican party and the religious right) fighting to keep the white male power structure in place. I hope they fail and that true equality comes into play, but I am by no means optimistic that this is the only possible outcome.

    I’m sure this has strayed far off the topic of catcalls, but there you have it.

  36. OK, I’ll grant you that the concept of institutionalized, societal oppression and marginalization had no bearing on my original statement to you, but I still stand by my statement that you were applying a double standard. Unless I somehow fundamentally misunderstood what you were saying, which, again, I freely admit is possible.

    Let me ask it this way: If it were a group of half a dozen having a conversation about why women sometimes say “I’d like to date someone just like you” but then continually reject that person in favor of a completely different type of person altogether, and then one of the men said, “they want you to react and feel their power over you,” how would that make you feel?

    Would you appreciate being painted, as a gender, across the board, as a bunch of manipulative, malicious people?

    Now imagine that when you pointed out, with at least some degree of calm and politeness, how this sat wrong with you, the men in question leapt to defend their statements and to declare that you had no place to say anything about it, since the male gender has been manipulated by women for thousands of years.

    No, it’s not exactly the same, and I’m aware of it, but I think the analogy is quite similar enough to get my point across: it doesn’t feel good at all.

  37. rystefn said:
    “Believe it or not, I’m in a bit of a unique situation to understand the derisive use of catcalls, because there ARE situations where men will use a catcall purposefully to embarrass or insult, for example, a man with long blond hair. That, I completely understand. It’s not about power in that instance, either. It’s about being a jerk.”

    And being a jerk IS a type of power. It’s how heteronorms are enforced.

    I don’t think a complex power dialog happens in the head of a guy that makes a catcall. (Frankly, I hope not, because that would make it even more despicable, if they had an internal dialog about how to make me feel the worst.)

    It’s playing out the roles that are given to each of us by culture. The game you described where guys would call “dibs” about pretty women wouldn’t work unless you were in a culture that viewed women’s bodies as property.

  38. also:
    “Would you appreciate being painted, as a gender, across the board, as a bunch of manipulative, malicious people?”

    We are talking about the motivations of a group of men who are, by definition, behaving very badly.

    I have not said anything about all men everywhere, and I’m sorry you heard it that way. But it doesn’t change what I think about the power dynamics of this culture.

    Other example:
    The drive-by snark is a common way to catcall. I think people do this because there are No Consequences to what they do. Drive away! All solved!

    I don’t think that it’s thought through like that, but I do think it’s part of the internal equation that makes it OK to shout stuff about the vagina of a random person walking down the street as you drive by them.

    Most people (hopefully) wouldn’t do that to a person they saw in class every day.

  39. “Really? So I guess the females who worked in the shop calling dibs demonstrates that we are in a culture where men’s bodies are property, too?”

    No, it means that the male way of doing things dominates, and if you want to be accepted, and want to play with the boys, you do things their way.

    I have been the only woman in my field of work for many, many years.
    I know this game.
    It wasn’t until several years after I started winning it that I realized it was harming me, and had radically changed the way I interact with the people around me.

    I’m done arguing with you Rystfyn. You don’t seem able to step back and see what I’m trying to say, perhaps because I’m not doing a good job explaining it via this medium.

  40. Yeah, I should hope that’s the problem, because it certainly looks to me like you just said that treating a person’s body as property is the male way of doing things. Please, please tell me that you aren’t saying that, because that’s FAR worse than anything else I’ve seen anyone say today.

  41. BTW, an additional discussion on catcalling–some of the stories are really heartbreaking.

    http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/the-ins-and-outs-of-catcalling/

    I especially liked this comment:

    “Catcalling is not a compliment, period. “I like your haircut” is a compliment. “Nice outfit” is a compliment, although in some situations it can be creepy. Friendly observations can be complimentary.

    But catcalling is a summons. It’s a “Hey, you, I’m looking at you. Look at me!” It has very little to do with the woman being catcalled and everything to do with the ego of the catcaller. And as such, I usually find it either annoying or frightening.”

    I find it amazing how many women report this treatment every day, day after day, just trying to get to work.

  42. I see a lot of examples of “people who like what I don’t like must have something wrong with them” and a couple “I used to like something I don’t like now, there must have been something wrong with me.”

    I see a Hell of a lot more attempts to place thoughts and motivations into the mids of strangers than I’m comfortable with.

    I’ll freely admit that I may be overreacting to this case because of how often I’ve had to deal with trying to place some sort of mental defect or trauma into my head for the things I like and do, but the world as I see it is colored heavily by my experiences, and my experiences with “I don’t do that, but people who do must have X going on their heads” have been universally appalling when applied to me, so I react negatively to seeing people trying to do it to anyone else.

    Honestly, I’m surprised that after a lifetime of “deep down, everyone believes in god” and “atheists have no morality” and a dozen other like statements, there aren’t more people around here reacting the same way.

  43. treating a person’s body as property is the male way of doing things. Please, please tell me that you aren’t saying that, because that’s FAR worse than anything else I’ve seen anyone say today.

    I’ll say it.

    Throughout history this has been true. Again, that doesn’t mean that every male today acts that way, but it has been the societal norm in a more-or-less literal way for thousands of years. In many cases it has been and still is very literally true, thank goodness not usually in this country (the US).

  44. This is me calling bullshit. It is nothing like the MALE way of doing things. It is some people’s way of doing things, and since we pretty much all live in a society dominated to a greater or lesser degree by men, you simply choose to apply it to the male half of the species. It has not been THE societal norm for thousands of years, either. It has been A societal norm. Mostly perpetuated by the Abrahamic Three here in the west. So what you should really be saying is that treating a person’s body as property is the Abrahamic way of doing things, it would be a FAR more accurate description.

    Next you’ll be saying blue raspberry is the WHITE way of doing things, or putting north on the top of a map is the HETEROSEXUAL way of doing things. Rape is the MEN WITH SHORT HAIR way of doing things. Lying is the SHORTER THAN SIX FEET way of doing things. Correlation does not imply causation.

    In addition to which, while I find myself back on the subject – the game itself need not take place in a culture where a person’s body is viewed as property anyway, since I happen to know with a great deal of certainty that none of the players saw anyone that way. The one tiny way in which such as attitude might be viewed as impinging itself in any way is the use of the word “dibs” as opposed to, say “tiddlywinks,” for example. If you doubt it, I’ll gladly write out a detailed list of the rules exchanging every occurrence of calling “dibs” on a person with calling “distraction,” “art,” or “Murglefurtz.”

  45. Actually, putting North on the top of the Map IS a bias left over from most of the map makers being European or North Americans.

    It’s a globe; there isn’t an inherent top or bottom.

  46. You know, somehow I doubt that people’s whose knowledge of world geography began and ended with the Mediterranean put north on the top as a slight against Australians and South Americans… It was then, and is now, quite simply a completely arbitrary call. There isn’t an inherent top or bottom,and the ancients knew it as well as we do. Up is up, down is down, but something has to be the top of a map, and several thousand years ago, someone random person whose name is forever lost to history picked north. I’d bet anything you like that people from the same part of the world arbitrarily chose different directions as well around the same time, but for some reason north caught on. There’s nothing more to the story here.

  47. Actually, north was largely chosen because of the north star’s unchanging role in navigation. In fact, due to the fact that they are the only directions that can always be picked out due to the stars, north and south are by a wide margin the primary directions chosen for the top of a map throughout history (with exceptions, of course, which generally held for maps with a specialized purpose), but since most early navigational maps were from the northern hemisphere, north became the standard. Similarly, the Prime Meridian (which has no such astronomical basis) runs through Greenwich, England because at the time, the British had the best navigational maps and that’s where they put it, so when the international community decided to standardize such things, that’s where they put it, too.

    Meanwhile, the British sailors were out on the sea yelling at mermaids to show them some fin.

  48. That’s an interesting hypothesis, but short of actually having the memoirs of the guy that did it, it’s nothing more than conjecture. I’s all well and good to point out that it’s the only solid absolute direction the had to work from, but why should that be the top? They wrote from left to right, so wouldn’t it make as much sense to have north the left side of the map?

    More to the point, however, none of that has the slightest relevance to the assertion that putting north on the top of the map is the Heterosexual way of doing things, and anyone else who chooses to do so is only playing the game by heterosexual rules, does it?

  49. Have I ever been catcalled by a lone dude?

    Yes, very often. I have my breasts and ass and crotch grabbed in the street, had men lean into my personal space to make the most foul and disgusting suggestions. Just because YOU don’t engage in this behavior, Rystefn, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. My brother couldn’t believe it either, because he never saw it happen when we walked down the street together and never saw it happen to any of his girlfriends. Of course he didn’t, he looks like the muscle-y spawn of Vin Diesel and Bruce Willis (if it were such a harmless compliment then why refrain when it appears that a woman is walking with a man?) One afternoon, I told him to walk about 20 feet behind me for a few blocks to observe. His eyes were opened to say the least. I have white men in suits in the financial district, as well as laborers, the homeless and everyone in between of every culture do the same. Like it or not, sexually explicit catcalls are threatening, not flattering. Men rape. Not all men, nor even most men, but it is men that rape. That is at the heart of the matter. If a man smiles and says “good morning” or even “god bless you” or “hello beautiful” that is a compliment. Screaming “I want to fuck you up the ass” or hissing “You’ll love it when I lick your pussy” (got that charmer this morning while walking my dog). I am in my 40s, and not a beautiful woman, especially by NYC standards, so I don’t think these comments are necessarily motivated by someone being overcome by my pulchritude. I think it is motivated by someone getting off on forcing himself into another’s awareness who would otherwise be ignored.

    I was pushed too far once when someone who had been following me for about a half a block spouting a stream of obscenities about what he’d like to do to every orifice of my body grabbed me between my legs from behind. I had been trying to “ignore” what he had been saying, but to say the least it was impossible. Everything went white. The next thing I knew, the guy was gasping to catch his breath because I had apparently caught him right in the solar plexus with my elbow. He started calling me a “fucking crazy bitch ” and threatened to call the police, but all that came out of my mouth, in a voice I had never used before was, “get the fuck away from me or I will kill you.” I did not shout this, I merely stated it as the fact it was. He ran off. It took someone walking by asking if I was OK for me to come to my senses again because I was about 1/2 second from chasing him and stomping the guy to death. I don’t say that as a brag, it is just what happened.

    And writerdd–I do agree with you regarding sexism and racism, but I think the important point is not what the words are but the effect. When a comment increases the power differential, it causes harm. That is why it is much worse for a white person to call a black person a “nigger” than it is for a black person to call a white person a cracker, or a straight person to call a gay person a fag, than a gay person calling a straight person a breeder. Comments and actions that reify and enhance the power differential do much more harm than those that arguably narrow it. Racism, sexism, homophobia, etc carry the weight of history. This is a history of real physical abuse, not some hurt feelings. Everybody grows up internalizing the prejudices of their culture. Women learn, as men do, that females are worth less socially and economically than males and that their worth is directly tied to their sexual appeal to men. Whether that is the case for an individual woman or man is not the point. Women have to work pretty hard to overcome this within their own heads. A man crying boo hoo because he was called a name that does NOTHING to reduce his assumed value isn’t going to get a a lot of sympathy. Bloggers and commenters on this site make quite a sport of calling out Christians who claim they are being oppressed by the big mean non-Christians in the county. We see how absurd their argument is and rightly call them out for it.

    Bug_Girl, you hit the nail on the head about trying to “out-boy” the boys. I think any of us who have been involved in non-traditional activities for women are under the same pressure.

    Rystefn, you might want to read up on something called the theory of mind. It is what humans and higher primates engage in all the time. It is necessary for survival. We need to predict what the motivations for another person are in order to negotiate our way through our day as social animals. When my only evidence of someone’s motivation is their singling me out and declaring to the world that they want to engage in sexual acts with me, then yeah, I take that as an aggressive act.

  50. Very later to the conversation here…

    I really think cat calling must be more of an eastern US and European thing. I’ve never seen any catcalling here in the northwest. Would never do it myself and would not be terribly happy if someone did it to my wife or daughter. While I suppose some guys are “harmless” when yelling hubbahibbahubba, great (favorite body part) or letting lose with a wolf whistle it all seems so 1940’s, 1950’s or juvenile, regardless of motivation or hemisphere.

  51. I can’t speak to your experiences, I definitely wasn’t there, but I can say with total honesty that I’ve never seen anything like what you’re describing. True, I’ve never been to new York, but I’ve been to a Hell of a lot cities in a Hell of a lot of countries. I’m not an oblivious person by nature, nor the type to ignore something like that, so when I say I’ve never seen it, that means it simply hasn’t happened within a reasonable perceptive distance from me. No, I’m not a small person by any measure, but if 20 feet of distance was sufficient for a Vin Diesel/Bruce Willis crossbreed dude to not scare people off, I’m sure the entirety of my perceptive range isn’t a reasonable distance from which I’d scare that kind of person into submission.

    I guess what boils down to is that one of us is on the extreme end of the probability curve here, maybe both, but since before today I’ve never heard anyone complain about this level douchbaggery, you’ll understand if it’s hard for me to accept that I’m so far off of the normal.

    Now, when you talk about racism and sexism, I notice you specifically call one thing worse than the other. I’ll call that a tacit admission that BOTH are wrong, and on that point, I rest my case regarding your attempted defense of sexism against men.

    I’m not going to argue with you about theory of the mind or you making assumptions based on a single data point. I’m just going to say this: Who the Hell are you to tell me what’s going on in a man’s mind? I don’t presume to speak for all men, but I’m a metric fuck-ton more qualified to speak on the subject than you will ever be. I’ve never yet presumed to claim that I know the mind of a person with whom I have little in common regarding an action I’ll never participate in, and I don’t expect I’ll put much credence in another person doing so.

    If a person grabs you, or rubs up against you, that’s not a fucking catcall, that’s assault, and an altogether different issue. So is rape, while we’re on that subject. Now, people like to say that men rape, not women, but I’d like to see where that conclusion comes from, since most places define rape as being the act of a male forcing sex acts on another person. In the case of a man being sexually assaulted by a woman, the old “arousal implies consent” rule still seems to apply, doesn’t it? Of course, most people will just throw around some crap about men always wanting it all the time, and then you’re going to try to say that somehow that’s not a sexist and evil standpoint to take. Or am I wrong?

    Don’t give me that shit about someone in power claiming oppression, your analogy is completely off-base. I never tried to claim oppression as a man by women. I claimed that a specific group of women was being unfair, and I stand by that.

    I don’t need to make up bullshit complaints about oppression, I’ve got plenty of perfectly valid ones. Some of the people around here might recognize them. I’ll be complaining about watching the woman I love choose to marry someone else and the strain that puts on our relationship because the government forced her to choose. I’ll go on and on at great length about the risk that I or my Dove or both could easily wind up spending years in jail because the powers that be could declare us not competent to say we were willing recipients of the wounds we gave one another. I’ll rage about having to see tears in her eyes because she’s not legally allowed to marry the woman she loves. I will most certainly not attempt to apply it to a half-dozen young women harshing on guys for whistling at them.

  52. Hi, I just now registered here but I have been a fan of Rebecca’s since she became one of the Rogues.

    My own male perspective is that the wise course of action is simply not to catcall. Yes, I see women on the street that are drop dead gorgeous. Yes, I see women in outfits that may engender some not so enlightened thoughts in my head. Yet, I have never felt an overwhelming urge to just blurt out “nice ass!” or let out a whistle. I tend to doubt guys that say it is just a reflex. Yes, I am aware cultures differ. As an American diplomat I have lived in South America, Europe, and now Asia. For the purposes of this discussion I am coming from the American point of view.

    In the few instances in my life when a strange woman made such a comment about my posterior I was greatly flattered. And if I knew that all women would be flattered by such comments I would gladly hand them out throughout the day. But the impression I get is that it is split. Some women like it, some are neutral, and some hate it. It would seem not all women are the same. Go figure.

    It is because of these differences of opinions that I do not do it. Why take the chance of offending a strange woman, or worse yet, making her feel threatened. It is the same reason when walking at night I will cross to the opposite side of the street if I find myself approaching a woman walking alone. Why make her feel nervous if I can easily avoid it? The main difference here, however, is that it takes absolutely no energy on my part to NOT catcall.

    As for women being sexist? Sorry, but I absolutely believe women can be sexist just as I believe ethnic minorities can be racist. Yes, men currently have more power than women which means their sexism is potentially more destructive. But this isn’t an either or proposition folks. Just because sexism in the hands of men is more destructive than sexism in the hands of women does NOT mean that sexism in the hands of women is not at all dangerous, and it certainly do not preclude women having the capability of being sexist.

    Sexism is at its strongest in the corporate world and to a slowly decreasing degree in the political world. However, I find the power differential argument untenable when it comes to catcalling. Really, how much more power does the construction worker have over the woman in the skirt walking down the public street? I use the “public” caveat because the threat of a physical attack accompanying the catcall is virtually nil.

    Anyway, enough of my rambling. Keep up the good work Rebecca. My wife and I are trying to have a child and if we have a daughter it is reassuring to know there are good role models out there.

  53. I believe alot of catcalling has to do with showing off for friends, like a gorrila beating his chest, as was suggested. But that brings up a question for the ladies: Are you usually catcalled by a someone in a group? Or have you ever been catcalled by an individual?

    It’s just not something I’ve participated in. I like to look, but I try to be subtle about it.

  54. I am amazed at how many guys don’t see this happening! I see it every day.

    Bob asked: “Really, how much more power does the construction worker have over the woman in the skirt walking down the public street? ”

    They have the power to make me feel like shit, while they get a vicarious thrill.

    They have the power to make me feel threatened and fearful, even though nothing will *probably” happen.

    They have the power to make me choose where I walk and change my route to simply get to work without a discussion of my tits with strangers.

    They have the power to make me feel bad about my bodyshape by calling me an ugly bitch, or to make me feel like a walking vagina by calling me a hoochie mamma.

    They have the power to remind me my real purpose in this world is to be decorative. They can strip all my degrees from me, and all my achievements. Cause it’s all about how I look. And I’d better get with the program.

    They have the power to affect me while asserting their hetero-dominance to their friends.

    They have a lot of power.

    It’s walking a freaking gauntlet to go from point A to B in the city.

  55. Sorry, when I posted question I hadn’t read all the way down, and didn’t realize Thewiremonkey had already answered it. But I’d still be interested in how many other women have encoutered the same thing.

    James: I’ve seen it once or twice in the northwest. The last time it was a group of drunks having an outdoor barbeque in the low income complex I was living in at the time.

  56. bug_girl, I have seen that sort of thing, granted not every day. And I certainly agree that you shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of crap.

    Please note that I didn’t ask “What power does the construction worker have” I asked “How much MORE power” does he have. I pointed this out to refute the argument that men can be sexist but women can’t.

    Reading down your list, as justified as most of the points are, I see nothing that disproves my stance that women can be sexist as well. The one exception being the possible physical threat, which I acknowledged before.

    The other points are equally valid from a male perspective as well (substitute tits for ass, or not if the unfortunate male is obese or suffering from a hormonal disorder). Women are just as capable of making a man feel horrible as vice versa. We are not THAT different. We are less likely to vocalize our feelings but they are there nonetheless.

    As for stripping your degrees and accomplishments from you…I assumed you lived in the US. While we still have a ways to go toward total equality I don’t believe for a moment that such a thing can happen to you. I am willing to examine evidence to the contrary.

    And bug_girl, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not making light of your situation. With the exception of the degrees comment, your concerns are totally valid. But while sexism is worse for women than it is for men, my point was that women are not exempt from the “sexist” label.

  57. Aaah! I couldn’t even read the rest of the posts after #57!!! What are you talking about, dude!

    I would like to see an example of a female-controlled society (if you even could come up with some historic example of this) that treats its men the way that women have been treated as property. Shit, When was the last time an army of women conquered some place and made 12 year old boys their “muses” (I just heard about a co-workers friend, a female, wh0 was taken as a “muse”(read: child sex slave) to some general in Cambodia back when Pol Pot was wreaking the havoc).

    Rystefin in making me think of people who are totally not racist but think “why can’t those black people just not get all freaked out if some unenlighted jerk calls them nigger”? You know,they should just realize that some people are idiots, they don’t have to get all freaked out…I mean I would never call them that,in fact I have always had black friends, but why can’t they just not get offended?

  58. I’ll be complaining about watching the woman I love choose to marry someone else and the strain that puts on our relationship because the government forced her to choose. I’ll go on and on at great length about the risk that I or my Dove or both could easily wind up spending years in jail because the powers that be could declare us not competent to say we were willing recipients of the wounds we gave one another. I’ll rage about having to see tears in her eyes because she’s not legally allowed to marry the woman she loves. I will most certainly not attempt to apply it to a half-dozen young women harshing on guys for whistling at them.

    This sucks for you. Seriously. But it isn’t happening because you’re male. And while I wouldn’t want to make any assumptions about what is in your head, is it safe to guess that you are less likely to engage in homophobic behavior? I didn’t say that women can’t be sexist or that non-whites can’t be racist or that gays can’t be heterophobic. The point is that it carries different weight. Having your feelings hurt, no matter how badly, is NOT the same as being reminded that it wasn’t that long ago that you were considered property, or that you can be jailed for no reason, or murdered with no justice or that you can be raped.

    The point about my brother walking 20 feet behind me is that is all it took for us to not appear to be together. The fact that I was an unaccompanied female (not the property of someone else?) meant that it was OK. NYC is a crowded place, 20 feet might as well be a mile in this context.

    And why does being male give you any more insight into what is happening in other males’ heads. You called me out for drawing conclusions based on a single data point, back at ya. 25 years of putting up with this crap, let’s say on average once per week (more in the warm months obviously; people spend more time on the street) takes us to a conservative estimate of 1300 events. Why this happens in NYC is the simple fact that we walk more and travel in crowded conveyances more than car-bound cities. I tried to estimate once and figured I came into eye-contact distance with approximately 2,000 people on my way to work every morning. One out of 5000 men being a douchebag is probably (though unscientifically) a pretty fair guess. What is that, a frequency of .02%? Obviously a tiny minority, but 1300 events nonetheless.

    As for stripping your degrees and accomplishments from you…I assumed you lived in the US. While we still have a ways to go toward total equality I don’t believe for a moment that such a thing can happen to you. I am willing to examine evidence to the contrary.

    I believe Bug_Girl is saying that this behavior tells a woman it doesn’t matter what her degrees and accomplishments are, not that any committee or organization will decertify her.

  59. While jogging, I have had girls catcall at me a number of times. They would say great legs or ass. I would guess it was to show off to their friends because it was usually one of several teenage (15-16 years old?) girls. It really did not offend me . I just thought it was funny. I frequently however have men driving by yell out nasty stuff such as asshole or motherf***er for no apparent reason which upsets my whole mood. I am serenely running on the sidewalk or grass in the park when out of the blue some nasty remark just shocks me. I think it has to do with their low self esteem. They see me accomplishing something and they want to put me down. So I can relate to the women who feel upset at the catcalls.

  60. Here’s a short, related post from feministing:

    Here’s your ugh news of the day. A new study reports that ninety percent of teenage girls experience sexual harassment. Not exactly shocking news for anyone who has, well, been a teenage girl – but horrific nonetheless.

    Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers.

    The study also noted that girls who had been “exposed to feminist ideas,” were more likely report sexist behavior and harassment than girls who didn’t know about feminism. Just another reason to spread the f-word.

    http://feministing.com/archives/009222.html

  61. Catcalling is one of the many behaviors that make me ashamed of being a man. It is an appalling, inexcusable behavior that has NO place in civilized society. While some women may enjoy it, the mere fact that many do not is enough reason to argue that it is a pernicious form of harassment.

    bug_girl, please accept my apologies on behalf of my gender. I can only offer up the fact that at least some of us value women for their brains and their character, both of which you possess in ample amounts. As a man who is husband to a brilliant, strong, beautiful woman, and father to two brilliant, strong, beautiful daughters, it breaks my heart to know that much of the world seems incapable of looking beyond their boobs and asses to see the incredible value that lies underneath. They (and you) deserve a better world than the one in which they find themselves.

  62. I’ve never cat-called in my life, and don’t plan to. I don’t think it’s generally meant as a compliment, and it would seem it’s rarely taken as one. Honestly, if I really want to compliment a woman’s appearance, I’ll go up to her and do so honestly. Whistles and “hey baby!” are just plain rude.

    To make an analogy- people whistle and applaud performances. When I was learning jazz improvisation, we were encouraged to shout, clap, and whistle when our fellow musicians played a particularly good solo. I think if you’re showing off your body intentionally (like a model or stripper would do), showing appreciation would be appropriate, but a women out walking her dog should be appreciated silently, IMO.

  63. While I can’t personally contribute any first-hand accounts of cat-calling (being a white male), I have seen it happen to others and have heard very, very many stories from women that I know. Often, the stories do indeed involve a lone man (often in a car at a stoplight), so the “gorilla impressing his friends” bit doesn’t hold. The man will say some assorted vulgarities that, I suppose, could be taken for compliments if you don’t mind highly personal vulgarities from total strangers. I might be tempted to write it off as “at worst, unthinking,” if — and here’s the thing — except many of the men get pissed when she doesn’t respond and starts insulting her in as vulgar a manner as possible.

    Now, no, I can’t claim to know what’s going on inside that man’s head, but I find it hard to believe that anyone can simply not realize that calling a stranger a whore and a “cold dyke bitch” (actual quote) might make her uncomfortable.

    And while I can’t know for sure what he might be thinking, since the ones who actually participate in such behavior do not seem to be commenting here, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for us — especially those who actually have to put up with this on a regular basis — to at least speculate on why people might behave like that. And I can speculate that someone who flips from inappropriate “compliments” to vulgar insults upon not getting a response is simply trying, even if it’s unconsciously, to get any response they can, positive or negative. That isn’t about being unthinking. That is, indeed, about having the power to make someone respond to you.

    (And while I’m tempted to get back into the maps thing and whip out my Ptolemy, I feel that would be inappropriate.)

  64. I’m starting to lean towards bug_girls idea, that the innapropriate comments are an attempt to demonstrate power over someone else, if only the power to wreck their day. When their power is ignored, they get nasty.

    I’d like to ask you a question bug_girl, if it’s not too personal. Did it take you a long time to trust men again? Or do you really trust men even now?

  65. OK, 13 comments since I logged off last night, so bear with me if this is a friggin’ HUGE post.

    My own male perspective is that the wise course of action is simply not to catcall.

    I agree completely. Just so we’re clear. Some may be joining the party late and might get the wrong idea. I think it’s a practice that’s insufferably rude in almost all instances.

    Women are just as capable of making a man feel horrible as vice versa. We are not THAT different. We are less likely to vocalize our feelings but they are there nonetheless.

    Quoted for Truth. Neither are women more fragile, nor are men more skilled at this kind of abuse.

    I would like to see an example of a female-controlled society (if you even could come up with some historic example of this) that treats its men the way that women have been treated as property.

    Correlation does not imply causation, we covered that already… I can, however, point to a metric shit-ton of women who view men as property. Many of the women present would (thought they wouldn’t admit to it). What is the common response to being “cheated on”? Anger, invective, jealousy… Why? What possible motive is there for such a reaction? Because the person is considered property.

    Rystefin in making me think of people who are totally not racist but think “why can’t those black people just not get all freaked out if some unenlighted jerk calls them nigger”? You know,they should just realize that some people are idiots, they don’t have to get all freaked out…I mean I would never call them that,in fact I have always had black friends, but why can’t they just not get offended?

    First, I’d just like to point out that I have been told on more than occasion that greeting my black friends with, “what’s up, my nigga?” is completely acceptable and encouraged. Would I do so to a group I don’t know? Of course not, but the fact remains, it’s NOT universally offensive.

    Second, why would I remind you of that? I fail to see the parallel you’re trying to draw here… I’m not saying anyone should or shouldn’t get offended, that’s got absolutely nothing to do with the conversation at hand here.

    Third, there’s no I in my name.

    This sucks for you. Seriously. But it isn’t happening because you’re male.

    Sorry, you seemed to miss the point of what I was saying there. I wasn’t claiming to be oppressed because I was a male. I was pointing out that I have more than enough perfectly valid reasons to complain about oppression, so you won’t see me claiming it when it’s not there. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    And while I wouldn’t want to make any assumptions about what is in your head, is it safe to guess that you are less likely to engage in homophobic behavior?

    Guessing tends to be safe, it’s only the actions you take based on your guess that might not be. I have never yet engaged in homophobic behavior that I’m aware of, and a pretty hypocrite I’d be if I did, wouldn’t I? Well, you don’t know much about me, so i guess you’ll have to take my word on that.

    I didn’t say that women can’t be sexist or that non-whites can’t be racist…

    You didn’t, but someone else did. Please understand that in the confusion of such a large conversation, it’s easy to lose track of who said what to whom, and take any incorrect assertion I might make on that from as an honest mistake, not an attempt to put words in anyone’s mouth. Please accept my sincere apologies for any confusion that might have resulted or may yet result.

    Having your feelings hurt, no matter how badly, is NOT the same as being reminded that it wasn’t that long ago that you were considered property, or that you can be jailed for no reason, or murdered with no justice or that you can be raped.

    Perhaps not, but I can tell your from personal experience just how harrowing racism directed at white people can be. I grew up in a neighborhood where speaking English too publicly could get you jumped. Again I say it,and I stand by it – racism is racism is racism. It is ALWAYS wrong. Being a lesser degree of wrong is not remotely anything like an excuse to me, and claiming it is is highly disrespectful to the I don’t know how many people who have been threatened, attacked, beaten, robbed, raped, and killed for being white. Before someone tries to say that such things happen with less frequency, i say again, that in no way qualifies as an excuse. Not even close.

    And why does being male give you any more insight into what is happening in other males’ heads

    Why would I have more insight into the motivations of a person with someone with whom I have more in common? Did you really just ask that?

    You called me out for drawing conclusions based on a single data point, back at ya.

    I have at least one data point you do not: the mind and experience of a male person. Somehow, in this case, I think it’s a critical one. Unless and until we get someone in here admitting to doing and explaining why, I don’t see anyone around here with a third to go by. I’ll pit my two points against your one and claim a better likelihood of reaching the correct answer.

    What is that, a frequency of .02%? Obviously a tiny minority, but 1300 events nonetheless.

    I guess that answers who’s on the far end of the bell curve here – which, in and of itself, will throw off your conclusions.

    I frequently however have men driving by yell out nasty stuff such as asshole or motherf***er for no apparent reason which upsets my whole mood.

    I’d say that I’ve experienced this from women at least as often as men, but 90% of the time, I just can’t understand what a person is yelling out of a moving car. I guess I could be receiving the old “hey sexy” from them just as easily…Word of advice, if you want to be understood, you have to generate some decent volume, project your voice, and keep the message short.

    Here’s a short, related post from feministing

    DD, I find myself wondering how many teenage boys receive sexual harassment… Probably a lot more than anyone realizes, since they’re supposed to enjoy it and not complain. Gender stereotypes cut both ways, and they fucking hurt on both sides of the knife.

    Catcalling is one of the many behaviors that make me ashamed of being a man.

    This is appalling. Ashamed of your gender? There’s no good reason for that. If this is a turn of phrase, I hope you start using a different one, and if this is serious, I’ll call that direct evidence of the damage sexism against men can do. If you aren’t doing it, you are not responsible for it. Seriously, what you just did is no different than if a homosexual felt the need to apologize on behalf of gays for priests molesting little boys.

    To make an analogy- people whistle and applaud performances. When I was learning jazz improvisation, we were encouraged to shout, clap, and whistle when our fellow musicians played a particularly good solo. I think if you’re showing off your body intentionally (like a model or stripper would do), showing appreciation would be appropriate, but a women out walking her dog should be appreciated silently, IMO.

    Wait… First you say you don’t think it’s intended as a compliment and then you describe as analogous to complimenting a performance? Sorry, I don’t follow.

    Now, no, I can’t claim to know what’s going on inside that man’s head, but I find it hard to believe that anyone can simply not realize that calling a stranger a whore and a “cold dyke bitch” (actual quote) might make her uncomfortable

    Do you find it hard to believe that a person who thought he was giving an honest compliment and then was ignored (or told to fuck off) might get upset about it? I don’t. Again, I’m not defending it, it’s unthinking and pretty dumb, but I still think most cases are likely to be this sort of thing.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable for us — especially those who actually have to put up with this on a regular basis — to at least speculate on why people might behave like that.

    Speculate? Sure. Assert as fact? Not remotely.

    (And while I’m tempted to get back into the maps thing and whip out my Ptolemy, I feel that would be inappropriate.)

    Really? Why? Did Ptolemy say that north being on the top was the heterosexual way of doing things, and that Sappho put north on the left?

    OK, joking aside, I’ve been pushed and pulled all over this conversation, and I think it’s time I spelled out what I’m trying to say in simple and direct terms, so one misunderstands me. I hope you’ll forgive me if I begin with a self-quote…

    I’ll freely admit that I may be overreacting to this case because of how often I’ve had to deal with trying to place some sort of mental defect or trauma into my head for the things I like and do, but the world as I see it is colored heavily by my experiences, and my experiences with “I don’t do that, but people who do must have X going on their heads” have been universally appalling when applied to me, so I react negatively to seeing people trying to do it to anyone else.

    Honestly, I’m surprised that after a lifetime of “deep down, everyone believes in god” and “atheists have no morality” and a dozen other like statements, there aren’t more people around here reacting the same way.

    I understand speculating as the motivations of other, and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Really, I do. I’ve been the subject of a great many term papers by my friends over the years, and I am not offended by it in the slightest. I am aware of the ways in which I am far from the center of the bell curve, and I’m fine with being over here… What I have a problem with is when people start trying to apply their own motivations and purpose into it without so much asking me what I’m about.

    If I’m doubly on edge here, please understand, I am not attempting to make anything personal, but after far more attacks of the form “you just want to own and subjugate a harem of sex-slaves, that’s the only reason you would be that way” from rabid feminists, I tend to be automatically on the defensive around here half the time. No, I haven’t gotten that particular line here so far, but I’ve heard the beginnings of arguments that would string together into that quite easily, and honestly, I wonder how long before it comes up.

    I apologize if I’m more aggressive than necessary about this, but I hope you can at least understand why and perhaps take that into account.

    I doubt if anyone has actually read all of this, but if you have, I think you for it.

  66. I doubt if anyone has actually read all of this, but if you have, I think you for it.

    I read most of it, although I don’t really have anything else to add except that I’m sorry I baited you with that sexism/racism comment where I exaggerated my views (not a huge amount) just to get a reaction. :-/

  67. Get a reaction? Are you trying to get me to react and feel your power over me? :P

    Don’t worry yourself about it, DD. I loves me a good argument. An idea or philosophy that can’t stand up to vigorous attack isn’t worth holding, so I appreciate it anytime someone comes at me like that – so long as it’s not actually causing them real distress. The last thing I want is a bunch of hurt feelings and lingering anger over something like this among people with whom I should be friends…

    Just don’t go thinking this means I won’t be just as vicious and spiteful in the future, now. I’ve a reputation to unhold. :P

  68. The last thing I want is a bunch of hurt feelings and lingering anger over something like this among people with whom I should be friends…

    Nah, I don’t do lingering anger. I just blurt out what I have to say and then it’s over. No emotional baggage or holding grudges for me. That’s too unhealthy.

  69. This is appalling. Ashamed of your gender? There’s no good reason for that. If this is a turn of phrase, I hope you start using a different one, and if this is serious, I’ll call that direct evidence of the damage sexism against men can do. If you aren’t doing it, you are not responsible for it. Seriously, what you just did is no different than if a homosexual felt the need to apologize on behalf of gays for priests molesting little boys.

    Actually, Rystefn, I totally stand by my earlier statement. I think it’s way too easy to hide behind the “I’m not doing it, so I’m not responsible for any of it” mantra. I had nothing personally to do with the Nazi’s attempts to exterminate the Jews, or the slaughter of innocents at Wounded Knee, or the blowing up of those little girls in Birmingham in 1963, but I feel a strong sense of collective responsibility and shame for the actions of my fellow human beings in those circumstances. It is only that sense of collective guilt which, I believe, ultimately allows us as human beings to learn from those events. If I am being brutally truthful with myself, I cannot deny that the capability for those kinds of behaviors lies within my own heart. I would like to think that I am better, and more evolved than that, but I can’t be sure. I think we are all capable of being the worst sort of people if the conditions are right (or wrong). You may claim an exemption from my blanket apology if you so choose.

    I applaud you for your lack of even the hint of degrading behavior toward women, even in the deepest parts of your mind. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true of most men, at least in my experience. It’s not true of me, at least. If we are lucky, we learn to rise above those impulses, and see them for what they are. Do women have these same kinds of impulses? I’m sure they do. They just don’t have the opportunity to put them into play as often, since they don’t “run the show” in the same way that men do.

    To be clear, I don’t hold these views because of being “damaged” by female sexism. They come from my observation and interpretation of the world around me. As do yours. Same world, different experiences, different interpretations.

  70. So, you’re saying that the actions of the few ARE the responsibility of the many? Is that what you’re trying to say here? Maybe you haven’t been damaged by sexism (and racism, too, form the looks of it), I’m not qualified to say, but I’ll be damned if I can think of another reason you’d so willingly accept the guilt of other people’s actions… perhaps an emotional masochism thing? Maybe just an overdeveloped guilt response from some other source I’m just not privy to? I am completely at a loss here.

    Just so we’re clear – that IS what you’re trying to say, isn’t it? That the actions of a few individuals are the responsibility of everyone else who happens to share a physical trait in common with them? I’m a guy so I should feel guilty about sexual harassment (well, women do that, too, so I guess all of us, men and women should feel guilty)? I’m white so I should feel guilty about African slavery? I have blond hair and blue eyes, so I should feel guilty about the Holocaust? I’m right-handed, so I should feel guilty about the Inquisition? I have a beard, so I should feel guilty about the Mongol invasion of Japan? Where does it end?

  71. I resisted jumping into this conversation for a whole day…

    Anyway, being married (for 16 years now), I can get both male and female prospective.
    My wife said that it’s very simple: a trucker honking and saying “Great legs!” to her – good; a weirdo exposing his penis while she is walking to work – bad. Both were real situations that happened within the last decade in NYC.

    So, perhaps, we need to differentiate the levels of “badness” in behavior and do not put catcallers and rapists in the same category.

    Secondly, for the record, I agree with Rystefn on most (if not all) points.

    Intolerance can (and does) go all around, indeed.

    I used to volunteer for a local chapter of NOW. I guess this confused some members, since one of the committee chairs asked aloud if they couldn’t find a woman who can fix computers. I replied: “You are welcome”.
    On a different occasion, during a discussion about porn, I remarked that Larry Flint did more for the First Amendment than a hundred US Congresspeople put together. To which one member replied, looking me straight in the eye: “It’s a pity he only got paralyzed. I would’ve shot him dead, and any of his sympathizers also.” This was a bit too much, even for a “whatever” person like me.

    I have yet to receive an apology for either of the above.

    Another example would be rampant racism among some of the ex-Soviet Jewish community here in NYC (and that includes some of my relatives as well – I am a Jew from Ukraine). I had to explain on numerous occasions that if you don’t like being called “Jewish pig” and being accused of using baby blood in food, then don’t turn around and do exactly the same things to someone else! It should’ve been elementary.
    For me, racists among “my people” are frustrating and upsetting – just like rapists among men (another group that I happen to belong to).

    All this shows, again, that no one group is universally “right” on everything.

    However, “group guilt” is not a productive emotion, IMHO. Forget what this thinking could do to the Middle East, how about all non-Native inhabitants of the [present] United States?

    So, in conclusion, as the cat called Leopold from a Soviet cartoon said to the two mice: “Guys, let’s live friendly!”

  72. Wax asked:

    I’d like to ask you a question bug_girl, if it’s not too personal. Did it take you a long time to trust men again? Or do you really trust men even now?

    I’m not sure if this derives from my revealing I’m a rape survivor, or just that I’ve been endlessly harassed.

    But I do trust and like guys. Hell, I married one! I work mostly with men, and most of my friends are men.
    I don’t have a problem with men–I have a problem with violence.

    In my work with self defense and @ the shelter, the patterns of behavior that occur that lead to violence are pretty clear, so I can usually see people not to trust long before they get to the point of bad behavior.

    Testing behaviors like catcalling are also a way of finding out how passive a potential victim is.

    Also, I do think that some group *responsibility* is useful (with regards to the “ashamed to be a man). When a man tells another guy to shut up, they are behaving badly, their words have more weight than a woman’s.

    It’s called community standards in academic speak, where peers enforce behavior, rather than administrators. Works a lot better.

  73. I was walking downtown Toronto one hot summer day. I passed by two rather attractive blondes. They were both eyeballing me, and grinning.

    As we got closer, one of them said, “looking good!”

    I felt happy.

    As we pased, her friend said to her, “that was mean!”

    I no longer felt happy.

  74. Also, I do think that some group *responsibility* is useful (with regards to the “ashamed to be a man). When a man tells another guy to shut up, they are behaving badly, their words have more weight than a woman’s.

    I agree completely with the second sentence. 100%. However, I think the emotion of guilt has no place in that interchange (well, the guy who’s is behaving badly might feel guilty about it, that’s fine).

  75. Thank you Bug_girl. I was refering to the rape.

    I don’t know about feeling guilty for acts commited by men who have no connection with me, but I sure feel a deep saddness when a woman walking towards me crosses the street. One even picked up a piece of rebar, and stood and watched me until I’d passed.

  76. levp, I tried to participate in activities with ‘Take Back the Night’ while I was at Humboldt State. The first year, about ’95, they let men in , but many of the organizers were clearly not happy to see us there. After that, men were simply not allowed to participate anymore. We were only allowed to attend seminars set up specifically for us, but by then I’d heard enough at the meetings to not be inyerested anymore. Despite the stated goal of bringing men an women together, I only ever saw them drive wedges.

    I also had the impression they were big into the counseling method of having the victims re-live the experiance over and over.

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