Is catcalling ever okay?

cat paint

A while ago I wrote a piece for my blog titled “Stop hitting on me” that people both praised me and critized me for. I think the criticisms came from people thinking I was bemoaning how hot I am and how I’m sooooo sick of male attention. Not even close. I don’t think that and that isn’t what I was trying to say. I probably should have titled the post “Stop harrassing me.” That is closer to the point of the article. Anyway, if you don’t feel like reading it, the post is about how rude and upsetting it can be when strange men harrass young women when all we’re doing is minding our own business. We should be able to walk down the street without a stranger commenting on our appearance. Doesn’t matter if the man in question is young or old. It comes off as creepy and disrespectful.

But. But. A few nights ago I had an experience with catcalling that did not make me feel degraded. It actually made me feel…happy. Attractive. Confident. Is this wrong and hypocritical?

I’ll explain the situation.

I don’t often like going to parties alone. I’ve written about the subject and on my blog and on Hello Giggles about how it’s okay to go alone and have a kick-ass time, but on occasion I feel overwhelmingly shy and not good enough. The event I went to last night was a gathering of beautiful people and hosted by one of my all time favorite film directors/artists and usually this doesn’t bother me, in that, I’m born in LA and have lived here my whole life, so who cares about celebrities, but given the drama that’s happened lately, I felt kind of small. And I’m really embarrassed, even ashamed, to admit that. Though I eventually met up with the awesome person who invited me, I had to go in alone and be there alone for about 40 minutes. But once I got in there I was okay. And here’s why.

I was waiting on the corner in my dress and lipstick and heels pretending to be busy on my iPhone determining if I should go in alone. I felt like a dweeb. Just very shy and not at all confident. I’m doing nothing with my phone and a car is at a red light near me. I don’t notice it until the man inside rolls down his window and says something like, “Excuse me, miss.” I’m thinking, “Okay, here we go.” And he says, “You have the perfect body.” And I’m stunned. I’m about to attend a party where there are size 0 actresses who look stunning like a ray-gun. I do not think I have even close to the perfect body. He went on. “I’m not trying to be weird or hit on you, but I muted my phone call just now, put them on hold, I had to tell you. You look so good.”

And I almost cried. I know. I’m apalled. But I needed to hear it, and he was so kind about it. “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you so much.”

“No problem. You look great. Really.” Then the light turned green and he drove off.

Maybe my perception of body image is warped, and by maybe I mean, 100% completely is. I was surprised to receive this compliment from a strange man. And yes, I was flattered.

Am I screwed up? What do you think and what’s your experience been like?

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25 thoughts on “Is catcalling ever okay?

  1. gingermandy

    oh girl I’m so with you on hating “cat calls,” but something like that would flatter me just as much as it did you.

    It usually depends on the rhetoric, person, and situation. When I’m going for a jog and a guy yells “guuuuurl you don’t gotta lose none of that,” it’s much less flattering and totally creepy. But when someone is genuine and clearly not trying to be a weirdo, it’s way rad.

  2. Lauren

    I’ve been fighting myself in my head about cat-calling for a while, trying to figure out where my line is.

    At a bar last week, a guy came up to me and said “You have the most beautiful smile,” and it felt really nice to hear that. I gave him a heartfelt “Thank you” and wore that smile proudly the rest of the night.

    On the road yesterday, a guy whistled at me the way one would call a dog, and when I glanced over started taking off his shirt. UGH.

    Basically I think there’s a huge difference between a cat-call and a compliment. Compliments are, 99% of the time, totally welcome. Cat-calls are never.

  3. allie

    oh Almie, I just want to give you a big hug.

    And you know what? Even if that guy rolled down his window and yelled something obscene (I was going to actually type something rude but I thought better of it), if it helped you feel good about yourself and walk into that party with confidence, then that’s ok too.

  4. Rachel

    I tend to just roll my eyes at cat calls, because really, dude? Really? BUT I have had a couple of experiences similar to the one you described above, and I felt the same way. If someone takes the time to specifically address you and then give you a straight up compliment, I’d say that it’s okay to feel happy about it. That kind of cat call (I dunno, maybe it shouldn’t even be called that in this situation) is flattering. Especially since he obviously wasn’t trying to get anything out of it, because he was sitting in a car waiting for the light to turn to green. Hooray for courteous strangers!

  5. brooklynchick

    “Excuse me, Miss” is where we are NOT in catcalling territory! He was polite and respectful. Whistling like you are a dog – RUDE.

  6. Kat

    I love cat calls! Whistle away boys, eat your hearts out!!! I’m pretty sure I would have hopped into that man’s car and gone home with him. Not even my husband talks to me like that, so he sounds like a keeper to me.

  7. Matt

    This is why guys call girls batshit crazy – reading your previous post and then reading this; it’s unbelievable – you hate being hit on / talked to (even ever so slightly) yet you’ll lap up compliments as long as they’re nice. Yet guys generally won’t compliment as they may fear it’s a bit weird, or forward to say how you look, so they try and stir up some conversation.

    I’ve personally taken to just ignoring them completely unless they start talking, and then I’m nice, as long as I’m in a good mood.

    1. dee

      oh please, there is a difference between yelling out to a woman from your car something obscene and respectfully paying a compliment and you know it. These two different ways of approaching someone is going to produce different reactions. That doesn’t mean girls are ‘batshit crazy’- it’s just contextual like most things are.

    2. Paige

      This is ridiculous– just because women are complex enough to distinguish between catcalling and complimenting, we’re “batshit crazy”?

      This man took the time to acknowledge Almie as a person, and pay her a compliment in a non-predatory way. Catcallers aren’t treating women as humans, but as pieces of meat walking by. There is an enormous difference there, and like any human being (not just because we’re girls), we will respond to that difference,

      1. Matt

        You’ve both missed the point I was trying to get across; it’s that many a man (well, I may use that term loosely..) generally won’t say so called ‘nice compliments’ such as this because they’re fully aware of how self conscious you all are and wonder if it is indeed too far. It may also be a case that we just lack that hint of confidence to come out and say something like that.

        It’s also been distinguished between selfishly giving a nice compliment, expecting nothing inbetween and treating women as pieces of meet – I have to be honest; any guy giving a compliment has a form of selfishness behind it; it’s all about ego boosting! Just because this guy for example knew he may not have any reciprocated effect, it has boosted his ego knowing that A) He’s seen someone he’d totally do (blunt, but if you can’t read that from what he’s said; you’re ignorant) and told her thus, and B) Good deed done for the day (cheered her up).

        I say batshit crazy – it’s because you’re all living in some sort of dream world fantasy with all kinds of strict lines of what’s okay and what’s not okay, yet it’s all irrelevant as it’s false context and you don’t even see it. That plus these lines are always changed anyway. This is what drives guys crazy, trust me. But hey, who am I? Just some dude on the internetz.

        1. Matt

          Selflessly giving a nice compliment* – first paragraph. It’s too early and I’m hungry. I’m sure this’ll cause some mad thoughts/replies, but I’m just calling it how it is from a guy’s perspective.

  8. Ami

    Personnally, I don’t get offended if someone wolf-whistles or stares or even says a lame pick-up line. I take it as a joke, and usually those guys take it as a joke, too. Like, they might say a Johhny Bravo style line and laugh or whistle but it’s not like they’d follow me down the street or harass or assault me. I guess they’re just having a laugh, too, so I don’t pay much attention. Unless they say something really insulting, of course, but frankly, I cant remember the last time that happened to me.
    Anyway, I usually like interacting with strangers. Sure, it can get creepy, they are creepy people out there but it can also be fun. And I have many experiences like that. Not men hitting on me. Someone passing next to me in a store while I’m trying sth on and saying “You should buy that, looks great”, or someone in the subway, saying “I love your earrings”. Someone joking on the bus being late while I’m waiting at the station. Just people communicating. It can brighten up your day :)

  9. D

    If it elicits an amusing entry from a witty blogger? Goddamn right it’s ok, haha.

    I always say that everything in life is timing. In that moment, just like they sang in that one song, they gave you just what you needed.

  10. Brian

    Haha. Catcalling. Because you’re wearing a cat face in the picture. I get it now.

  11. Gene

    People love to pretend life is black and white, but it’s not, it’s full of nuance. That’s what I think the difference is in the situations you’ve mentioned, & I think both blogs are great- very honest.

  12. K

    Getting hit on or cat called in general don’t bother me. Usually I’m very flattered. Perhaps because it doesn’t happen all that often to me. The other night was some sort of record for me. First, as I got out of my car after parking on the street, a man idling in his car at a light looked out of his window and called to me, “Beautiful.” It was really sweet. And I think he might have even been cute! I smiled at him and went on my way. Later, as I was walking back to my car, another man rolled down his window and tried to pick me up. He even slowly followed me down the street in his car, offering to drive me home and requesting my number once. But after I said no, he wished me a good night and drove away.

    However, it is NOT okay when men make lewd comments about sex with me. And it is DEFINITELY NOT OKAY when I’m driving in my car and he’s driving in his car, and after I’ve already said I am not interested and have a boyfriend, he persists in FOLLOWING ME TO MY DESTINATION and won’t leave me alone until I give him a phone number. No. That is definitely not okay.

  13. Kaitlin

    that’s not cat-calling- what you got there was a really awesome and considerate compliment! and that is almost always a great thing. compliments all around! everyone should get them.

    i would most certainly define cat-calling as someone yelling something offensive or annoying or making annoying sounds while driving past you fast enough that you can’t even give them a proper dirty look. but it’s almost like the dirty look is what they were trying to provoke. they were just trying to get a reaction. it’s infuriating!

    a few weeks ago a male friend of mine was walking down the street. my friend has a mullet partially dyed blue… because he’s into that for some reason. and anyhow someone from a car yelled “nice mullet!!” out the window at him. it definitely wasn’t a cat-call. it could have been an insult. but he took it as a compliment, because he likes his hair that way :)

  14. Shannon

    My advice to guys who are worried about crossing a line when approaching or speaking to a woman they want to compliment would be, do you feel like a creep for saying it? Then don’t, because you probably are. If you are trying in earnest to give a girl a compliment and aren’t being lewd, predatory, or doing it to get her to pay attention to you (selfishly), you’re doing it for the right reasons and she’ll probably notice that. When you’re doing it selfishly, it’s because you want to feel validated, sexually or otherwise, by an object you find appealing, almost as if to say, I am glad you look that way FOR ME and you should stay that way FOR ME, because I have power over you (even the way you feel about yourself! my compliment is nothing short of saying “I approve and you need my approval”), and that’s nothing short of disgusting and the worst and women have a right to find it disrespectful. Because it is.

  15. Cherie

    I definitely think it depends on the way they go about it. A lot of guys are really rude about it, but it sounds like this guy was paying you a genuine compliment. So yeah, totally fine and normal that you were so flattered. He wasn’t treating you like an object. He was paying you a genuine compliment. If all guys went about it like this, I doubt girls would complain about getting hit on so much.

  16. Paige

    Catcalling versus complimenting– this guy was not catcalling you, he was a stranger giving a compliment.

    There’s an enormous difference between a stranger taking the time to address you as a person whom he wants to compliment, and a stranger making remarks about your body or appearance as if you are an animal or a piece of meat. This guy clearly made the effort to address you as a human being and to speak to you in a context in which you felt safe.

    On a side note– it’s completely valid for people to feel whatever they want in response to catcalling. If someone loves it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, that does NOT justify catcalling in any way; no one should assume that the object of their catcall is going to enjoy that kind of attention. That would be like someone saying that they think all women should be housewives, because their friend Mary wants to be a housewife and so obviously all women are cool with it and don’t need to make the choice for themselves.

    1. Almie Rose Post author

      “This guy clearly made the effort to address you as a human being and to speak to you in a context in which you felt safe.” I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being “safe”; the word never crossed my mind. But this is it. Safe.

  17. Kelly L.

    I’m sure someone said this already but I’m too lazy to read through all the other comments. There is a difference between catcalling, which is usually rude and offensive and not at all flattering, and a sincere compliment, which gives you warm fuzzies and makes you feel awesome. Obviously, this was the latter, and thus: revel in it. Own it. I’d say “you go girl” but I’m pretty sure nobody says that anymore.

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  19. Madeleine N.

    If I’m catcalled, my response is always the same. I go through three phases in a matter of seconds:

    1) I am about to be attacked!
    2) Pants! Shit, am I wearing pants? I forgot pants!
    3) Oh wait, he finds me attractive. There we go.

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