A woman walking down the street encounters comments from men who are strangers to her. At various times in her life, she reacts differently to them. By the way, I did not imagine this woman. She is real. My question to you is, which woman is right, the one complimented by the whistles or the woman disgusted by the catcalls or even the last who misses the attention? I’d suggest they can all be right at the same time. Of course, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), a woman has the right to react to these street interactions however she wants. I think it gets tricky when people want to legislate them, particularly the more strident feminists.
I’ve worked in construction my whole life and have witnessed thousands of these situations over the years. As for me, I’ve never been comfortable going beyond a smile and saying good morning to a pretty woman as she passed by me and this fairly rarely. Some women have responded in kind, many have continued on their way with no reaction at all. I’ve never been called out on it. Logically, I understand I’m putting a social obligation on the woman. I’ve said something to you, now it’s your turn. The woman has every right to ignore me. And once ignored I should cease all attempts at contact. On the other hand, I’ve seen my fellow workers do it constantly and in various ways. Some are polite with their hellos and compliments, some get rather suggestive and lewd. I’ve never seen a woman smile or react kindly to a lewd comment. I can only conjecture the man making them gets off on it for some odd reason.
As a job goes on and the same women walk by the same men, a routine can start to occur, where they seem to expect and enjoy the brief, polite interaction. Good morning, you look great today! Some men are quite good at it and can almost always get a smile or even a laugh in return. I’ve found a woman’s reaction is often dependent on what, how, and who is saying it. A complimentary, non-threatening remark in passing by a guy who looks like Jon Hamm is often looked upon better than anything said by the guy who looks like Paul Giamatti.
I have scolded several men over the years I’ve felt crossed the line into lewdness or harassment. My usual line of reprimand is, How would you feel if some filthy fuck said that to your wife or your daughter? I’ve seen the rare woman stop and put an offending man in his place. Those women scare me. Their I don’t give a fuck attitude is a force of nature.
I do not think catcalling should be outlawed. We have a little thing called the 1st amendment in this country, but we shouldn’t use the law to be creepy or harassing. As men, we should call out our fellows who cross the line between a compliment (whether wanted or not) and harassment. I do believe there is a line and like the definition of pornography, we know it when we see it. We must recognize a woman has the right to ignore us and curse us in return, if she wishes.