Hey Catcalling Guy and Guy Defending Catcalling Guy:
Your behavior when you see a strange female walk by you on the street isn’t appropriate.
It isn’t complimentary.
It isn’t cute.
It isn’t classy.
It isn’t decent.
It isn’t flattering.
It isn’t the right thing to do.
You want to know why it isn’t any of those things?
Women are telling you it isn’t, that’s why.
Regardless of the intent, or the rationale, or the spin, or whatever twisted justification you want to make about your actions, the actual recipients of these misguided advances are letting you know that it’s frightening.
They’re telling you that it’s intimidating, that it disrupts their lives, that it makes them fear for their safety, that it makes them self-conscious, and in general, that it damages them.
They’re letting you know that the net effect of the remarks you make isn’t attractive; it’s creepy.
Arguing with women when they tell you this, just makes you less of a man; at least it makes you less a gentleman. (If needed, consult a dictionary for the distinction).
Defending this behavior only underscores the fact that you’re really not interested in making these woman feel attractive or loved or encouraged; you just want to be able to say whatever you want to say to a stranger, and have them be OK with it.
You want to define for women, what feels good for them.
That’s simply not how this thing called Humanity works. Humanity works, when we listen to people when they tell us how they are negatively affected by us, and make an effort to not affect them that way.
I remember a conversation I had with my wife a few years ago when she confronted me on something I said that had hurt her. As I began doing what I am really, really good at doing (preparing an iron-clad defense of my position), she reminded me of something critical that the catcallers and those who defend them are so often missing; intentionally or unintentionally.
She reminded me that the way she feels is the way she feels, and to tell her she’s wrong for feeling that way, is ignorant and selfish.
She was right.
Guys, the women who are telling you that catcalling makes them feel fearful and objectified? They’re right too.
We need to be decent and wise enough to admit that women may not actually feel the way we expect and want them to when they receive drive-by accolades from us, and that isn’t their problem, it’s ours.
I know in some strange, illogical way that makes sense in your head, you believe that saying these words to a stranger is somehow a cute, endearing conversation-starter.
I know you’ve seen it so many times by so many guys, that you assume that it’s acceptable; even desirable to women; that they rush home and excitedly tell their girlfriends about the strange guy at the supermarket who commented on their backsides.
And let’s just say that an extremely small minority of women out there actually do enjoy the unsolicited attention; that they actually do desire and receive these uninvited words as flattering, ego-boosting expressions of encouragement. Since you can’t know who these women are among the crowds, it’s irresponsible to just keep throwing stuff out there and hoping you hit the right target. There’s too much collateral damage involved.
Guys, I know you think, somewhere in the back of your mind, that this is all some kind of fantasy kickstarter, where you envision a strange woman being so enamored by your unsolicited walk-by remarks about her “assets”, that she stops whatever she was doing, abandons the busy day she had planned, and jumps into your arms in a passionate embrace.
Let me bring you back to the this lovely place called Reality: That just ain’t happenin’.
Yes, women are beautiful, and yes, if we’re heterosexual men we’re going to notice their shape and their features, and yes our minds are going to go all sorts of places, but those places aren’t real, and those places don’t account for the fact that the women we’re responding to have brains, and jobs, and families, and plans, and integrity, and most of all they have the choice of whether or not they want their day interrupted by some dude they’ve never met.
Being a man, I can’t know for sure, but I imagine that even if these women do happen to be looking for a partner at the particular time they cross our paths, they’re probably not looking for the kind of guy who says random stuff to strange women on the street.
They’re probably looking for a man who has dignity, and self-control, and self-awareness, and more importantly they’re probably looking for a man who is aware of others and who values their needs above his own. I imagine they’re looking for a man who understands that words of affirmation or attraction or affection are best delivered and received within the context of relationship; not tossed out to strangers at the crosswalk.
Guys, the bottom line: Even if your heart is in the best place, even if your intent is simply to boost a woman’s self-esteem or make her feel attractive or desirable, when she tells you that isn’t what’s happening here; then you need to man-up and admit that maybe women know themselves better than you know them.
When women tell us something about how we make them feel, maybe the mostly manly thing we can do, is listen.