Not Just Words – Catcalling and Why It Needs to Stop

by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez


I’m pasty.  It’s the truth.  I come from an Irish and French background so in general there is not a whole lot of pigment here.  I love running but as the days grow warmer and brighter if I want to go for a day run, I have to dress like a beekeeper.  Thus, I tend to run at night.

Running is my meditation.  I’m usually busy but when I run there is an entire hour at least when I won’t be answering to anyone else.  I can listen to the music that uplifts me without having to compromise and I can really take in the world, the way I feel we’re all meant to.  I have the cool breeze and the occasional stray cat as a running mate.

Just this past week I headed out for one such run.   As I took the last leg of my tour I noticed that a beat-up Buick was barreling down the road at a much higher speed than is advisable with the windows down.  As the car passed, the guys inside made sure to lean out the windows of the car and yell inappropriate comments about me, my body and what they wanted to do to me.  Luckily the incident was done within seconds and they just drove off.

I was annoyed but also scared.  It irritates me when an adult man decides that it is somehow acceptable or even flattering for him to yell at me in public.  As I am not a plough horse or a show dog, I don’t respond well to being barked at regardless of what’s being said.  But part of me is always wondering when such an encounter will turn ugly and violent.  Whenever I’m out alone, which I frequently am, I am on guard.

I am self-employed and frequently travel for work.  I’ve worked very hard to not sit in an office all day long.  My life is hectic and I am almost always moving.  Because I’m on my own so often, I have had to create a system of covering my tracks in case something happens to me or I go missing.

If I am meeting a new client or business contact I text their information to my husband and let him know where we are and when I’ll be there.  Depending upon how long the meeting goes, I will text him to let him know that I am still good.  If he doesn’t hear from me in a certain amount of time he knows to be concerned.  I call once the meeting is finished.  I am also a trained martial artist and assistant instructor for my dojo.  Just in case something goes wrong, I can defend myself, though I hope I never have to use those skills for anything beyond centering and personal development.

Not a week prior to my running incident I was participating in a psychic fair fundraiser for the local Pagan group I currently lead.  I arrived at the location which had parking meters and I was uncertain as to whether or not the meter had to be paid on Sundays.  A couple of men happened to be eating lunch nearby and I apologized for interrupting their conversation but I asked if I needed to feed the meter.  One of the two men immediately stood up and approached me a bit too closely.  Luckily I was aware enough to leave a fence in between us but when he noticed the tarot card related materials I was carrying he immediately told me that I needed to “touch” him to tell him something about himself.  Once again I was fortunate that there were other members of my Pagan assembly not far away.

Later that same day I walked down the street to get a salad for lunch.  I was yelled at and told how sexy I was and how certain guys wanted to take me back their place. This was in the span of a two block walk during which I simply kept to myself.

This isn’t about concerns of feeling self-conscious or being propositioned by someone I consider unattractive.  Frankly the moment a man, any man, begins to yodel at me like a yak in heat, any thoughts of attraction that may have been there go right out the window.

So, why is catcalling a problem?  Because we are all told that words can’t really hurt us and that is a lie.  While those guys were bellowing at me something did happen.  Nothing violent perhaps, but something did occur.  What is sadder; an adult man yelling at a person minding their own business because it amuses them to demean and objectify a person they’ve never met, or those hearing about this who don’t believe it is a threatening act because no one raped or assaulted me?

Why does it have to go that far to register?  Why don’t we take harassment seriously unless a woman is wearing a toe tag?

Because boys will be boys of course!  Right?  It’s completely okay for men to be aggressive because in order to be considered a big strong guy you have to gain the respect of other big strong guys.  How better to do that than to dominate a woman?  Because women are walking pleasure centers.  Because we exist to sate the sexual urges of men who feel entitled to our attention.  Because the thought of “conquering” a fellow human-being is just too delightful to resist.

So here’s the question.  What do you do when you see a woman being catcalled?  Do you object?  Do you join in?  Do you ignore what’s going on?  Are you the recipient of the harassment?

Catcalling is just where this starts.  A few days ago this happened. A Chinese woman was at a McDonalds when a group of men began harassing her for her number.  According to reports some witnesses believed they were trying to get her number for personal reasons.  Others say that it was an information gathering tactic used by a cult to which all 6 men belonged.  When the woman refused to share her information she was beaten to death in broad daylight while onlookers did nothing but yell and record the beating!  This is far from the only instance.

So why was nothing done? Why did no one stop them?  Considering this happened in public view, is it any wonder why I was afraid when I was out running? Do I seem over-dramatic for being leery as I walked to get my lunch?  How often have you or someone you know told a woman she was being too sensitive when some jerk decides to hoot and holler at her?

Words are not just words.  If you are a Pagan practitioner you know the power of words.  Words program the mind and the mind controls will.  Will changes everything.  Words can educate.  They can teach compassion and self-awareness.  They can also teach and enforce entitlement and misogyny.  When those words can create monsters like Elliott Rodger, or the Chinese cult members, or any number of other guys we all have met at one point or another, we are obligated to assert our Will and rewrite dangerous and antiquated modes of behavior.

Guys, we need your help here.  I am so proud to have men in my life that respect me and care about me.  Those same men would never raise a hand to a woman, would never feel that she is required to give them attention or sex and would not ever allow another man to assault a woman in their presence.  These fellows know that yelling obscenities at a woman isn’t manly.  It isn’t funny or witty.  It’s lame and harmful.   For the “men’s rights activists” who feel this is going to work out for you, think again.  The only thing you’re showing is the reason women find you repulsive — because you don’t know how to treat them with respect.  And for the record MRA’s, PUA’s, or any other guy  behaving poorly,  we owe you nothing…ever…regardless of how many times you’ve been turned down or for whatever reason. You’re not a “nice guy” or even a “player”.  You’re just another fool hanging his head out the car window interrupting my jog.


3 thoughts on “Not Just Words – Catcalling and Why It Needs to Stop

  1. Michael Schanno

    I have a mother, four sisters, currently two sisters-in-law, seven nieces, twelve fellow coveners of whom only one is male, and more female friends than I care to count. I agree with everything you said except one point. You noted that something happened when those guys were catcalling you and allowed “Nothing violent perhaps, but something did occur.” I disagree.* Catcalling, aggressively bellowing at someone, is an act of violence. *The men, and in some contexts women, who engage in this behavior need to be made to understand this.

  2. Megan M.

    I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. I have been harassed twice in the past day just riding my bike to and from work – once by an SUV full of catcallers (men and women) whistling and shouting out what they’d like to do with me, along with gestures, and a bunch of guys on a porch while I rode by. It shook me up, and left me feeling deeply angry and somewhat afraid. It clearly felt like a violation. I don’t want to be afraid to ride my bike or go out for a walk.

  3. Pingback: Street Harassment: Why It’s a Problem & What You Can Do About It | Feminism Is For Everyone

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