The ladies love street harassment!

CNN asks the tough questions: "Catcalling -- creepy or compliment?"

By Judy Berman
May 15, 2008 7:40PM (UTC)
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"Stop harassing women. I don't like it. Nobody likes it." That's how I was taught to respond to catcalls at a feminist workshop in college. But according to CNN, some women actually enjoy a little street harassment. In an article called "Catcalling: Creepy or a Compliment?" Anna Jane Grossman reports that some ladies are disappointed when their appearance doesn't merit a "Nice ass" or even a "Hey, baby." Jessica, a health educator from Los Angeles who wouldn't disclose her last name, is quoted as saying, "Yeah, it's objectifying and all, but you know, if I walked down the street and didn't have men looking me up and down and catcalling, I'd think, 'Boy I must really be getting old and dumpy.'"

I will admit that a whispered "You look nice today" can be enough to make me smile when I've had a shitty day. But Grossman doesn't differentiate between the harmless, unsolicited compliment and more pernicious forms of street harassment. As Kimberley Fairchild, an assistant professor of psychology at Manhattan College, points out, "When a man catcalls you, you don't know if it will end at that point, or if it could escalate to assault."


While Grossman does a good job of spotlighting smart responses to street harassment, like Maggie Hadleigh-West's confrontational 1998 documentary "War Zone" and the frequently hilarious blog Holla Back New York City, it's rather pathetic to cloak this sort of coverage in the sensational revelation that catcalling of women may not be so bad after all. Even more depressing is the article's conclusion, which claims we can't really blame men for street harassment because they just don't know any better. Are guys really dumb enough to believe that "I wanna squeeze those titties" is an acceptable public utterance? In the alternate universe where women are begging for that kind of feedback, I guess it's possible.

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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