What Should You Do When Your Friend Is Catcalled?

e5bc23b64dc7d91bc261a84be8b7a2c5b6254396b9deb2e8af74850fffb63a71I experienced something for the first time the other day that left me in a quandary.

I went to see Finding Dory (quick sidenote: Wonderful movie! It has one of my favorite moments in any film) with two female friends. As we walked back to our cars after the movie, we were crossing a wide intersection when a beat-up sedan nudged out into the crosswalk, almost as if to get our attention. There were two guys in the car.

When we reached the edge of the intersection, one of the guys made a loud barking sound directed at one or both of my friends. Yes, that’s an assumption there on my part, but the sound was unmistakable, as was his body language as I looked back.

It was a crude, unwelcome violation of my female friends. They were uncomfortable, embarrassed, and perhaps a little afraid. It does not feel good to be barked at.

We continued walking, but I found myself looking back over my shoulder at the perpetrator, who was huddled down in his seat. I wanted to protect my friends, and I wanted somehow to show him that what he did was unwelcome. That it was not okay.

But nothing else happened. He didn’t look up, and I didn’t do anything else. I didn’t know what to do. Was there anything to do? To say? Is a busy intersection the place to teach someone about common decency? Plus, it seemed like the last thing my friends wanted was to draw more attention to them.

The thing I probably could have done was ask my friends if they wanted me to do something. My strong sense was that they just wanted to keep walking, but I could have asked.

If you were a guy in my position, what would you have done? If you were a woman in my friends’ position, what would you want me to have done?

5 thoughts on “What Should You Do When Your Friend Is Catcalled?”

  1. I have actually been in that position, too many times to count.

    I have tried many things in my days. One thing I learned never to do was to respond with pretty much anything other than “What an asshole”.

    The biggest thing to know is that most women do not want or need you to defend or protect them. That is what is frequently referred to as “White Knighting” and is frequently, and properly, viewed as misogynist.

    If they wanted to respond, they would have done so. More than likely, they have experienced this dozens if not hundreds of times in their lives already and probably have learned to basically ignore it, sometimes even subconsciously.

    Think about it this way. When you go to a convention as a well known board game creator, how many times have you had people hit you up with the “greatest game idea evers!!!!1!11!1”. Some of these people probably hit you up while you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else and frankly don’t want to be bothered or really need to deal with someone like them at that moment. Most likely, you have learned to zone them out and either ignore them outright like you didn’t even notice them or you have a canned response that you throw out quickly that works to shoo them off and then get back to what you were previously doing. Its pretty much the same thing for a lot of women and cat calling.

    The exception of course is if the cat caller starts following the person. At that point, you call the cops.

  2. This is precisely why we have middle fingers. They’re quick to deploy and pretty much unmistakable. Crude, but clear and oddly effective.

  3. Sticks and stones, Jamey. People tell all about themselves by the way they behave (in this case, that they’re not worth paying attention to). It’s only when they cross the physical line that you need to act.

  4. Like David said, any catcalling it’s not worth reacting to, but please do definitely react when it is physical. Catcalling like that barking from a car is not worth anyone’s energy to look back because that’s what they want. I would absolutely refuse to give them that satisfaction. It would be 100% appreciated if you notice someone in an uncomfortable situation physically that is brought on by another individual. That individual will not look at the other in the eyes, shifty eyes, raised eyebrows, head down, etc. That fear look is a really good indication of “Help is needed. Please HELP!” You don’t have to be 100% certain that person needs help, if it seems like that person is uncomfortable, go with your instinct and please do something. Thank you!

    • I appreciate the comments here, and I really appreciate Jasmin’s female perspective. That’s very helpful to know.


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