What’s the best way to respond to catcalling?

As a woman, it’s like you can’t walk down the street without being objectified. From the whistling to the car honks, catcalling is something that women deal with on a regular basis. So then how do you respond in this situation? Do you walk past and say nothing or do you put your foot down and say what you really feel? If you are unsure how to respond, here are a couple of ways that could help you deal with this.

Firstly, there’s a difference between a catcall and a compliment

If you’ve ever spoken out against a catcaller, one of the excuses that you’ve probably heard is that they were just paying you a “compliment.” If you didn’t know, there is a huge difference between a catcall and a compliment.

A compliment is something that you say to make someone feel good about themselves, like “that’s a nice dress” or “I like the way you’re wearing your hair today.” Compliments are more personalised, whereas catcalls are all about objectification. They are un-personalised expressions of lust which ultimately make us feel unsafe.

Should you then respond at all?

Sometimes you’ll be walking down a street where you don’t feel safe, and then you get catcalled. In this kind of situation responding is not always a good idea. But what happens when you do feel safe and bold enough to make a reply? Yes, it’s not up to women to change what they wear to stop the catcalls. It’s up to men to change their sexist and misogynistic behaviour.

But sometimes you may just feel the need to call out a catcaller. So if you do feel like a catcall deserves a response, here are a couple of replies that you could use.

Shame them

Pointing out that what they are is actually incredibly rude and sexist is one way that you could respond. Telling them that, “no one likes that” or “that’s actually very rude,” lets them know how misguided they really are. It could help to also raise your voice so that everyone around you starts to look at what the commotion is about.

Remind them that there are also women in their lives

Sometimes it can help to remind them that you, like their mother, sister or wife, are a woman. For some reason, it’s like men forget that women on the street are “real” women too. So reminding them might help put them in their place. Saying “I’m someone’s mother” or “would you let someone talk to your wife that way?” could snap them out of it.

Catcall them back

One thing a catcaller may not expect is to be cat called themselves. So saying things like, “no your ass looks great” or “damn girl look at that body,” could be enough to unsettle them. If they “compliment” a specific part of your body, then “compliment” them back – even if they don’t have that same body part you do.

Respond politely and firmly

You don’t need to be aggressive when dealing with catcalling. Tell them, in your calmest voice possible, that you do not know them and to please stop talking to you in that way. Even saying something like, “why do you feel the need to yell vile things at women you don’t know?” could diffuse the situation.

Catcalling is something that happens in every country, every city and on every street – affecting women of every age and race. This is why it is something that needs to be addressed and that needs to be called out on so that women can feel safer.

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