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Catcalling: Should Women Take This as a Compliment or an Offense?

When it comes to catcalling, many people have different opinions. Is it offensive or is it actually a compliment? Here’s what we have to say.


Catcalling in general isn’t something most people have a very positive opinion of. The truth is, it has a bad rap. Many people hate hearing someone calling for them out on the streets and truthfully, they have a right to hate it.

What is catcalling?

If you’ve heard this term but aren’t really sure what it means, let us help you out. Catcalling is a term used to describe when someone – usually men – call out at a woman in a loud, obnoxious, and inappropriate manner.

Usually, it’s in a sexual manner that makes the woman feel uncomfortable and often times, even harassed. The stereotypical catcall is known as a construction worker whistling and hollering at a high-heeled woman strutting by. While this may be stereotypical, the idea for catcalling remains the same. [Read: 10 creepy guy types you need to avoid]

Is catcalling offensive or should it be taken as a compliment?

This is a debate that’s been going on for a very long time. Men say catcalling is just them complimenting a woman on what they see, but is it really? Women have been arguing against that notion for a long time.

In fact, the large majority of women you ask today will tell you that catcalling is NOT at all a compliment. They’ll say it’s very offensive. Here’s why women feel this way and when it might actually be a real compliment. [Read: 19 sweet compliments that’ll she’ll actually love]

Why it’s offensive

#1 It objectifies and dehumanizes women. There’s no arguing this point. Men call out at women as if they’re not people who have feelings. There’s no respect to a catcall. It flat out makes women feel as though they’re just objects that exist for men’s amusement and pleasure.

When you disregard feelings for someone else completely, you dehumanize them. A man catcalling to a woman about her butt or legs or breasts is showing that he views her as a sex object and nothing more.

#2 It’s just rude. Yelling out to someone on the street in a loud and obnoxious manner is rude. It will always be rude. There’s no way around it. If someone’s just calling out to you in order to get your attention because you dropped something, that’s obviously fine.

But if someone is yelling out and calling you inappropriate terms like “honey,” “hottie,” “sweetheart,” and more when they don’t know you, it’s rude. And when someone is rude to you, it’s offensive. Plain and simple. [Read: How to deal with rude people with class and grace]

#3 It’s a form of sexual harassment. If you don’t think catcalling is sexual harassment, you’re wrong. Obviously, sexual harassment is offensive and not at all welcomed.

If someone is calling you out for the way your body looks and even yelling about things they want to do to your body, it’s sexual harassment. Nobody wants that.

#4 It’s using women to feel better about yourself. The fact is, men who catcall aren’t really doing it for the women. They don’t actually think they’ll get anywhere by hollering about some woman’s “nice ass.” More often than not, they’re doing it in order to feel “manlier.”

By society’s standards, men are seen as dominant when they catcall. Not only is this offensive to women everywhere, but its only purpose is to make men feel more “in charge.” Of course that’s offensive and it actually makes them look like less of a man. [Read: 9 subtle differences between a confident and arrogant man]

#5 Men think they’re entitled to a woman’s time. Probably the most infuriating and offensive thing about catcalling is the fact that men think they’re entitled to a woman’s time of day. They think that by calling out to her so rudely, they deserve her attention.

They don’t. Nobody is entitled to anything. And it’s extremely offensive to women everywhere when men think they deserve women to stop and appreciate their “compliments.” They’ve done nothing for her. Therefore, they’ve earned none of her attention or affection. [Read: 9 real ways to get rid of that harmful sense of entitlement]

#6 It’s downright embarrassing for the women. Most women don’t want the attention. We don’t want to be going about our day and then suddenly have all eyes on us. It’s embarrassing – especially when we’re called out for our clothing or features.

If a woman has wide hips and a man blatantly shouts about how he’d love to “grab ‘em,” everyone is now focusing on that feature of hers. They’re now only seeing her as a sexual object with large hips. It’s embarrassing to be seen in that light.

#7 It’s scary. Women are put in a very vulnerable position with men who are literally shouting things about their body. It’s a very scary reality. This is especially true if someone is driving by and hollers out their window then turns around to follow her.

The scary thing about this is if men are objectifying women in this way, what’s to stop men from treating them as such? They could take their catcalling a step further and get physical. That thought is scary and believe me when I say every woman who’s ever been catcalled has this concern. [Read: How to comfort a girl and make her feel better]

When it can be taken as a compliment

Really the only time this type of behavior can be taken as a compliment is if it’s not at all like what we know of catcalling. That being said, if men are shouting things at women, this is when it’s okay.

#1 If it’s meant sincerely – and is not sexual. Sincere compliments in the form of catcalling are hard to come by. Really the only way catcalling can be taken in a non-offensive way is when it’s not sexual. If you’re yelling out about the color of a woman’s jacket, that’s fine.

But if you’re yelling about the breasts beneath her jacket, think again. It won’t be seen as a compliment unless you take the sexual nature out of it completely. [Read: How to compliment a girl and make her blush]

#2 When it’s not loud and rude. This basically gets rid of the whole catcalling behavior. However, there are times when men can try to get a woman’s attention by raising their voice, just not in a rude and obnoxious way.

However, in order for it to not be offensive, it has to be followed up by appropriate, respectful behavior. If a man thinks a woman is attractive but she’s walking away very quickly and he wants to stop and get her name, calling out to stop her won’t always be seen as rude.

#3 When it’s about something other than physical appearance. If you see a woman walking by carrying a book you recognize and like, go ahead and compliment her choice of reading material. So long as it’s not yelling about her body or appearance, you’re fine. This also shows a level of interest in her intellect, which is definitely a compliment.

 [Read: How to hit on girl – 15 things men need to know]

Catcalling is nothing more than sexual harassment. It’s rude, demeaning, and women shouldn’t have to put up with it. All in all, there’s nothing complimentary about typical catcalling.

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Annabel Rodgers
Annabel is a lifestyle writer, cheese enthusiast (Wisconsin native over here) and fantasy adventure author-in-progress who enjoys all things love, dog,...