Wolf-whistling and over-reactions


Irony is a hard concept to define but easy to recognise. The other day a woman contacted a police station in Worcester to report that she had been repeatedly and persistently sexually harassed by construction workers on a site in Worcester. Police heard her complaint, went and had a word with the company concerned and decided no further action was necessary.

This morning this story is splashed on the front page of the Daily Mail, and is reported at length in the Express, the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Metro and several international news sites, and as I write, it is being discussed on the phone-in show on the BBC’s talk station, 5Live. All these media outlets want to know the same thing… who has over-reacted? Was it the police? Should they have simply told her to piss off and stop wasting their time? Or was it the woman who made the complaint? Should she have grown a thicker skin or accepted the harassment as a compliment.

The answer, my dear friends and colleagues in the media, is that the only people who have over-reacted are YOU, you pustulating cluster of pillow-brained wazzocks, YOU have over-reacted, no one else. Irony.

Now, before I go any further, let me turn this into a bit of a public information service. Among many strings to my bow, I do contract work sporadically for the construction industry, turning tender bid documents and suchlike into something approximating English. Most if not all major construction companies are members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, an industry body that appraises and rewards performance in interactions between constructors and the public, which can be anything from noise pollution to tidying traffic cones, and very much includes the traditional builder’s cat-call and wolf-whistle. Previous performance under Considerate Constructors is often as an important factor in winning future contracts, so responsible companies should be very motivated to ensure their employees and any subcontractors stick to the code of conduct. Within companies I’ve worked for, sexual harassment of the public is an immediate sacking offence.

On the hoardings of any UK building site, you should see large Considerate Constructors scheme stickers which will have the number to call the company site manager and also the CCS itself. If you are harassed or wolf-whistled or whatever by someone on a member site, do call those numbers to report and it should be the case that your complaint will be considered very seriously indeed. If that doesn’t work or if the building company is not displaying such numbers, you are perfectly within your rights to go to the police and let them decide whether a offence has been committed and whether they want to take it further.

Now that public service duty has been fulfilled, permit me to rant.

Of all the regular debates around issues of gender politics and sexual norms, the one with which I have least patience and tolerance is sexual harassment on the streets. Every argument raised in its defence makes me want to scream at the sheer inane, vacuous idiocy of the proponent.

“It’s just a bit of fun, women should take it as a complime…” NO, SHUT UP! You do not get to decide how someone reacts to your intrusion or harassment.

“But some women say they like it when…” NO, SHUT UP! Some people like all kinds of strange shit. Some men like getting into fights at the football, that doesn’t mean you can punch anyone in a Millwall scarf. Some kidnapping victims fall in love with their captors, that doesn’t make kidnapping OK.

“Women do it too! Have you ever seen a hen p…” NO, SHUT UP! Sexually harassing people is wrong. It doesn’t get any less wrong if women can also behave like morons.

“I wish someone would sexually harass m…” NO, SHUT UP! Do not even finish that sentence. Your stupidity is so toxic there are fish turning bottom up in rivers for miles around.

“The guys who do it are only wanting a bit of attenti…” NO, SHUT UP! They are not ‘wanting’ attention, they are demanding it. They are demanding something to which they have no innate right or entitlement whatsoever.

“You’ll be banning flirting ne…” NO, SHUT UP! Flirting is one of the great pleasures of life. It is an interaction, a dialogue not a monologue. Flirting is to wolf-whistling as salsa dancing is to kicking someone in the shins.

“You must want to live in a joyless worl….” NO, SHUT UP! I find no joy in crudely asserting power and control over another human being. A cat-call or wolf-whistle is not a joyous act but a snide, cowardly grab at a fleeting moment of dominance.

“Oh come on, is it really such a big deal?”  You know what? No, it isn’t. It’s not that big a deal. As we now know, it barely even qualifies as a criminal offence. It is an insignificant, entirely unnecessary act. So let’s just cut it out, eh?

Comments

  1. Carnation says

    I spent years working on building sites and never once witnessed wolfwhistling but I don’t doubt it goes on.

    I would suggest that it’s so rare nowadays that greater offence is (rightly) taken.

    That said, a friend is currently complaining about a page 3 style calender being on display in a builder’s hut near her. Again, it seems almost quaint it’s so outdated and stupid.

    I truly believe, in no small part because of stunning feminist victories, workplaces are infinitely better places for all but the permanently outraged throwbacks who lament the loss of their privilege to offend anyone different.

  2. says

    Doesn’t seem like the construction dudes got off so bad. One would expect the self-proclaimed defenders of men to have better things to spend their time and outrage on.

  3. embertine says

    Hmmm, I work in construction in the UK and catcalling passers by is certainly grounds for instant dismissal in my company. I haven’t seen it for quite a few years, except on the Olympics where some of us women working on site got hassled by a small minority.

    While I agree it sounds a bit silly to go to the police, Ally’s right to say she may not have known that she could go directly to the construction company and that her concerns would be taken seriously . Besides, from the reports I have read she wasn’t just whistled at, but her path was blocked and one guy got in her face about it. That’s unambiguously threatening behaviour, and you don’t have to be the over-sensitive fainting blossom that she’s being portrayed as in the media to find that disturbing.

  4. darren ball says

    I too work in construction. Ally is correct only for the larger firms. Many of the smaller ones remain outside of this scheme and can be awful.

  5. 123454321 says

    I actually loath horn beepers and wolf-whistlers – low-life, neandatholic buffoons. However…

    Would someone kindly explain WHY this is labelled as “sexual” “harassment” and perceived as a negative form of communication?

  6. Darren Ball says

    12345etc
    Surley anything that a person might reasonably find sexually harrasing is sexual harrasment. She clearly found it so.

  7. expatriarchy says

    Carnation: I would suggest that it’s so rare nowadays that greater offence is (rightly) taken.

    What is different today is the offense is more commonly reported, not more commonly felt.
    It was always offensive. More than that, it was and is always threatening. That is the point: to assert and remind the target of the aggressor’s ability to carry out the implied threat.
    It is also not rare nowadays. The incidence lessens as one ages. I don’t get cat-called anymore, thank goodness. But I witness many girls do. (US)

    123454321:Would someone kindly explain WHY this is labelled as “sexual” “harassment” and perceived as a negative form of communication?
    I will be kind, as there are many many professionally written places online where you can educate yourself if you really wanted to know WHY.
    It is not “labelled” sexual harassment; it IS sexual harassment. The target is selected based on the immutable characteristic of sex. Differential treatment is directed at the target based on this characteristic. The treatment is an unsolicited, unwelcome and intrusive burden placed upon the target. The harasser is demonstrating that the target does not deserve the consideration of conventional polite form of address.
    It is a “negative form of communication” because it is the verbal equivalent of waving your prick at people to make them notice it.

  8. embertine says

    Well the sexual element is obvious – it’s done usually to women by men, as ostensibly a sign of attraction. It’s a negative form of communication for various reasons. Following list not exhaustive:
    1) It’s not unreasonable to think a person might be able to walk down the street without other people making unsolicited comments, verbal or otherwise, on their sexual attractiveness.
    2) It’s often accompanied by either comments on the target’s body or an actual approach; this behaviour feels threatening and dehumanising.
    3) It’s actually not about attraction. It’s about homosocial showing off to other men, and about putting women in their place. If you don’t agree, I guess you have never seen the ‘gotcha’ look in a guy’s eyes when he knows he’s made you uncomfortable.

    Just my experience, but that’s why I would see it as negative.

  9. StillGjenganger says

    @Darre Ball 6

    anything person might reasonably find sexually harrasing is sexual harrasment

    Those are weasel words. You do not say that ‘anything somebody finds sexually harassing is sexual harassment’ and indeed that definition would lead to chaos. By adding ‘reasonably‘ you are saying that what is harassment is determined by society, not by the individual. And that is exactly what we are discussing – where the limits should go.

  10. Jacob Schmidt says

    Police heard her complaint, went and had a word with the company concerned and decided no further action was necessary.

    This morning this story is splashed on the front page of the Daily Mail, and is reported at length in the Express, the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Metro and several international news sites, and as I write, it is being discussed on the phone-in show on the BBC’s talk station, 5Live. All these media outlets want to know the same thing… who has over-reacted?

    *facepalm*

    This is why we can’t have nice things. The system worked.

  11. Jacob Schmidt says

    Those are weasel words. You do not say that ‘anything somebody finds sexually harassing is sexual harassment’ and indeed that definition would lead to chaos.

    I suspect the point isn’t to offer a definition, but to imply how silly that question is. Sexual harassment by construction workers is practically archetypical.

  12. darren ball says

    Stillgjenjanger 9

    It was a reasonable answer to the post I was responding too.

    As a Virgin comment it would need further explanation, but others have already done that better than I could.

  13. Matt Penfold says

    Is wolf-whistling a crime in the UK?

    If done as a form of harassment, then yes.

  14. lelapaletute says

    See Ally, this I why I love your blog. Here, have my The Last Word On This Tedious Subject vote 🙂

  15. george says

    Listening to a women on the Radio; Not all find it offensive, It was rampant in my College days; Being rather introverted, In my younger days, I never did it, Maybe if I could whistle properly lol — But plenty of lads in my group did it, Who probably wouldn’t if alone. As someone who believes in free speech, A wolf whistle is just speech, Even racism is just speech; However, When it manifests into action I.e blocking someone’s walkway then that’s harassment. This is maintaining the victim status that feminists clutch onto — Only when it suits them of course — Do they now want the state to arrest anybody who subjectively offends them!

  16. StillGjenganger says

    @Darren 12
    Fair enough.
    And your comment was absolutely more reasonable than the one you were responding to.

  17. MadHatter says

    @16 george (and anyone who wants to defend catcalling) one of the biggest problems with this sort of street harassment is that it is inherently a form of aggression and frequently dominance. Men who do this often do so in groups, and if physically close to a woman it is not uncommon for it to lead to sexual assault. I’d argue that one of the reasons it happens less as women get older is that we become more confident and assertive and make much more difficult targets.

    In fact, I and most girls I know started experiencing street harassment between the ages of 11-13 and primarily by men who were adults, and not just out of college either. Often these men are much older. That should tell you a great deal about the psychology behind street harassment. So I don’t care if some women like it, men aren’t doing it for our benefit.

  18. MadHatter says

    Girls I know should have said “girls I knew growing up.” Since we’ve all been adults for a couple decades now. However, girls (and I do mean girls, we’re talking pre-teens and teenagers here) still experience it. Unlike us, they are willing to say it’s creepy and wrong because people are becoming less tolerant of it.

  19. 123454321 says

    Answers to my questions are pretty lame so far. For example:

    “It is not “labelled” sexual harassment; it IS sexual harassment.”

    Who exactly in society is saying that these communications – which are clearly intended to show positive feelings for the opposite sex (you don’t wolf-whistle at someone you don’t like, do you?) – are offensive actions that warrants the label of sexual harassment ? Who determines that label?

    “The target is selected based on the immutable characteristic of sex.”

    Not necessarily. I’ve often seen attractive women and thought they looked nice because of their presentation or the way she behaves, or perhaps her hair or eyes etc. I’m sure there are plenty of women who have been wolf-whistled for plenty of non-sexually related reasons.

    “Differential treatment is directed at the target based on this characteristic.”

    And? Not everyone is attracted to the same type and we’re all different. So what?

    “The treatment is an unsolicited…”

    I wonder what percentage of women find the odd wolf-whistle offensive. I wonder how many women have tried to pull off a provocative walk accompanied by a glimmer of hope that she will get noticed or possibly wolf-whistled.

    “…unwelcome and intrusive burden placed upon the target.”

    What burden? What percentage of women find it intrusive and unwelcome? Who exactly is saying this?

    “The harasser is demonstrating that the target does not deserve the consideration of conventional polite form of address.”

    But the communication, albeit mostly from neanderthal dick-heads, is not intending to offend. He (and let’s be honest here guys) sees MOST women responding to a wolf-whistle actually smiling and giving some positive feedback.

    “It is a “negative form of communication” because it is the verbal equivalent of waving your prick at people to make them notice it.”

    That’s just a plainly ridiculous comparison.

    I’m trying to think, if I were a woman, what are all the possibly reasons for getting upset or kicking up a stink about this type of attention:

    Inherently jealous of other women getting attention from men.
    Upset at your menfolk looking at, judging and communicating to other women who they find attractive.
    Generally hate men and want to stigmatise their actions as immoral, uncouth and uncivilised given half a chance.
    Recognise that a complaint could result in a sacking based on levels of social unacceptability – retributive control?
    Recognise that an award payment claim is possible.
    Think that your Husband, Mother, Father, Boyfriend or best friend wouldn’t like it.

    Come to think of it, if I were a woman, I don’t think I’d mind the odd wolf-whistle aimed in my direction. But if I were the jealous, controlling type…..

  20. Jacob Schmidt says

    Who exactly in society is saying that these communications – which are clearly intended to show positive feelings for the opposite sex (you don’t wolf-whistle at someone you don’t like, do you?) – are offensive actions that warrants the label of sexual harassment ? Who determines that label?

    Generally speaking, the recipient of the harassment. “Unwanted” is usually part of the definition.

    He (and let’s be honest here guys) sees MOST women responding to a wolf-whistle actually smiling and giving some positive feedback.

    Making up facts and calling it “being honest” is bullshit twice over.

    Come to think of it, if I were a woman, I don’t think I’d mind the odd wolf-whistle aimed in my direction. But if I were the jealous, controlling type…..

    Ally’s pre-emptive response is quite sufficient: “Your stupidity is so toxic there are fish turning bottom up in rivers for miles around.

  21. Jacob Schmidt says

    I’m trying to think, if I were a woman, what are all the possibly reasons for getting upset or kicking up a stink about this type of attention:

    Amazingly, “The attention persists despite it being unwanted” is both obvious and explicitly stated in the case discussed,* yet not on the list. But then the woman would have a point, and we can’t possibly consider that fact, now can we?

    *Not to mention virtually every other case discussed.

  22. 123454321 says

    Having just re-read my last post I must maintain that I honestly believe that the men who catcall are fucking pricks with no brains. So perhaps that’s a good enough excuse for those men to be stigmatised as morons along with spitters, public urinators, gum spreaders, streakers, queue jumpers, bare chesters and graffiti vandals.
    I’m probably on the same side here but can’t piece the logic together with the association of the “sexual harassment” label. I’m sure someone will help me out.

  23. StillGjenganger says

    @123454321
    Well, ‘sexual’ because it is from one sex to the other and calls up sexual interactions.
    And ‘harassment’ because many experience it as harassment. OK, in theory it could be generally accepted in society as a neutral or positive thing, in which case only people who misunderstood it or were out to cause trouble would complain. But that is not the case. We know that it is often experienced as intrusive and unpleasant (and surely that is part of the point of doing it).

  24. Archy says

    Off the top of my head. Factors to make it sexual harassment

    -Men are larger physically, and couple that with a society which loves to stranger-danger scare the hell out of everyone, especially women with stories to protect themselves from rape…it can lead to a hyper-awareness of the risks of sexual violence.

    -Since they are strangers, you don’t know if they are good or bad. Lookup Schrodinger’s rapist for that part.

    -It’s unwanted + commonly thought of as unwanted, coupled with all the other stuff associated it becomes highly negative. Very different to say…asking someone out ONCE which may be unwanted but also is expected if you try to find a partner.

    -Since they are strangers AND are making very very forward and obvious behaviour of cat-calling, it heightens the potential threat.

    -Most likely they’ve had lots of street harassment and it seems to come from guys that don’t read body language well, are very pushy and creepy. So even a potentially…lesscreepy/evil/whatever guy who only ever does the wolf-whistle and in his mind he assumes it as a compliment, in her mind it may remind her of much worse guys and he will get lumped in with them. Further increases the potential threat.

    -In general polite society, yelling out is rude and wolf-whistles are also rude. Someone willing to be rude like this further increases that threat.

    -It’s seen as low-class, dirty, depraved behaviour and downright creepy.

    -She wants to mind her own business and not get harassed every day, it gets annoying after the 100th “compliment”.

    -Stereotypes of construction workers being sexist, low-class thugs that sexually harass women probably also boost that feeling of fear and unknown.

    -As Madhatter talks about, it’s associated with aggression and dominance and done in groups.

    Now when she walks around things like this may run through her head. Women are usually smaller in muscle-mass and society also raises them to be less confident of their strength, and feel more vunlerable. A wolf whistle might appear innocent and friendly but can really put some people on edge.

    Whilst it would be nice to simply see it as a compliment and keep it positive, it’s origins seems to have been very negative and it will stay negative I’d say. Basically strangers shouldn’t be throwing out sexual comments, nor compliments based on the body, sexuality, or gestures well-known for that. There is too much other negative behaviour surrounding the behaviours which has associated them badly.

    If there was never any rape, people had perfect ability to read body language, knew when sexual comments are welcome to an individual, no history of sexism n heavily gendered types of abuse then a simple wolf-whistle may be taken very positively. But a wolf whistle from a stranger is a bit like saying “Hey I am a creepy person who will harass you, I am saying you are sexy and probably want to fuck you, I don’t follow social rules so you have every right to feel weirded out by me yelling out or making a rude gesture to you”. Does that sound nice at all?

    If a wolf-whistle was just a simple “Hey I like you”, then someone could just casually say that instead of a loud, obnoxious, very noticeable sound. It’s got far too much baggage so any positiveness is drowned in a horrible sea of creepy shit. I can see why you asked about it, but there’s so much attachment to it that it will never be seen positive again.

  25. blondeintokyo says

    “Who exactly in society is saying that these communications – which are clearly intended to show positive feelings for the opposite sex (you don’t wolf-whistle at someone you don’t like, do you?) – are offensive actions that warrants the label of sexual harassment ? Who determines that label?”

    1) The person being catcalled gets to make that determination. It is indisputable that people get to draw their own boundaries. 2) Catcalling is an expression of dominance as well as a show of contempt for the woman’s right to draw her boundaries. That is not “showing someone you like them”. Rather, it is “showing someone that you will say what the hell you want and too fucking bad if she doesn’t like it.”

    “Not necessarily. I’ve often seen attractive women and thought they looked nice because of their presentation or the way she behaves, or perhaps her hair or eyes etc. I’m sure there are plenty of women who have been wolf-whistled for plenty of non-sexually related reasons.”

    Sex, as in female gender. And yes, it IS about sexual attractiveness. All the things you mentioned, nice hair, nice eyes, the way someone carries themselves- are all things related to sexual attractiveness. Cat callers don’t yell things like, “I bet you get all A’s in school.”

    “And? Not everyone is attracted to the same type and we’re all different. So what?”

    Differential treatment based on gender – not treating people differently because they are different types of people. Men don’t catcall men, for example. They only catcall women, and they only catcall women they find attractive.

    “I wonder what percentage of women find the odd wolf-whistle offensive. I wonder how many women have tried to pull off a provocative walk accompanied by a glimmer of hope that she will get noticed or possibly wolf-whistled.”

    It is still unsolicited. I wonder how many women walk past construction sites and hope like hell they won’t be noticed, or how many put on headphones first so they won’t have to hear the catcalling.

    “What burden? What percentage of women find it intrusive and unwelcome? Who exactly is saying this?”

    Women are telling you it is a burden. Women are telling you they don’t like it. Women are telling you it is intrusive and unwelcome. Women. Lots and lots of them. Right here. Right now. In this thread, in other threads on other blogs, in newspapers, magazine articles, on blogs, on social media. You seem to be claiming you have never heard this before, yet you just presumably finished reading an article that says this very thing.

    This means that you are lying about never having heard any women say this, and that their dislike of this doesn’t matter to you. Why not just admit that? Why the pretense? Just be honest, and say, “I know lots of women don’t like it, but I don’t care.” Then I would say, “At least this dude is honest.” But you aren’t honest. And you aren’t even honest about not being honest. You really seem to think this transparent attempt at making people believe that you have never actually heard of any women who don’t like catcalling is going to work. I am not sure how you can manage that much cognitive dissonance. “I’m lying but I’m going to pretend I’m not lying and when someone shows me I’m wrong I’m going to keep lying and keep pretending I’m lying.”

    I could say more, but have things to do. Plus, you really aren’t worth it because you are just going to keep on lying. So yeah. Done here.

  26. 123454321 says

    archy#25

    Best post explanation that I’ve read in a long time. I will now officially add catcallers to my list of low-class, depraved fuck-wits.

  27. says

    StillGjenganger says @9

    . And that is exactly what we are discussing – where the limits should go.

    Translation: Just how uncomfortable can I make a woman before she is entitled to call the police.

    And as someone who also works in construction, the CCS has been a great improvement.

  28. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 28.
    Well, yes. Although I would put it differently, of course. Like “How serious is this? Thoughtless, rude, or illegal”? And also: “Just how many people need to find something offensive before everybody has to stop doing it”? One person, 1000? 1% of the population?
    People have different sensibilities and different ideas of what is OK, so any set of common rules will be good for some and bad for others. There is no way around that.

    Not that this is particularly relevant for cat-calling, of course.

  29. says

    ““Just how many people need to find something offensive before everybody has to stop doing it”? One person, 1000? 1% of the population?”

    This isn’t an abstract argument about “population”, but what makes an individual (in this case male) a decent person.

    Take the following two statements

    I often find myself using sexist language in the hope that I bump into someone it doesn’t offend, which will confirm my language is reasonable.

    or

    I don’t use sexist language.

    Its really not hard to be , if you’ll excuse the term, a gentleman. Arguing about what percentage of arsehole you can get away with makes you 100% arsehole.

  30. 123454321 says

    I don’t care what anyone says, you don’t call the frigging police for being wolf-whistled at!

    Almost as dumb as this:

  31. 123454321 says

    And I also think the woman who called the police for being wolf-whistled at should be added to the end of this little compilation.

  32. Holms says

    False equivalence, 1234. I would agree with you if she had called the emergency line, but the OP indicates she called a station instead.

  33. proudmra says

    Didn’t we just have this topic two articles back, under “When offence is not an emotion, but a currency”?

    No, catcalling on the street is not sexual assault, OR sexual harassment. Being offended doesn’t make you right; in fact, it doesn’t matter at all. There are efforts underway, based partly on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, to declare that anything defined as ‘hate speech’ should be regulated and even punished by law when people are sufficiently offended by it–and it’s dangerous garbage.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/jesus-n-mo-n-some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others/

  34. Jacob Schmidt says

    No, catcalling on the street is not sexual assault, OR sexual harassment.

    It is sexual and, when repeated and unwanted, it is harassment.

    Seriously, this is almost trivial.

  35. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 30
    We really disagree here. As I understand you, you are saying “if it is possible that there is even one person in the world who might find something offensive, exclusionary, etc. nobody should ever say it. That falls down because almost anything could be felt as offensive and exclusionary to somebody, somewhere. At a guess most jokes exposes some character as silly or inappropriate in some way. Those would have to go – they are bound to offend someone. All stereotypes would need to go. Pretty much any statement about Islam or any other religion would be offensive to someone. Even the most basic assumptions would need to go – as a nice example, I notice that a group of students have objected to ‘The Vagina Monologues’ because the implicit assumption that women have vaginas is offensive to trans women. Even if we stick to officially sanctioned sensibilities, imagine the political section of a newspaper that could pass as inoffensive in Riyadh, Pyongyang, Bangkok, Moscow, Beijing, Tel Aviv, Salt Lake City, South side Chicago, Buenos Aeres, Port Stanley, Madrid, Gibraltar. Stockholm etc. – at the same time. And that is without even considering people who pretend to take offense to obtain some political point.

    When you are dealing with a specific, known individual, you just adapt (within reason). “You should not speak of the rope in the hanged man’s house”. But if each person’s house is the entire planet, something has to give.

  36. opposablethumbs says

    Seriously, in what universe is making a sexually charged comment to a total stranger going about their own business not offensive? Why are some people so desperate to split hairs, even to the last syllable of recorded time, until they find some sliver of ground on which to stand and claim a right to demand the attention of strangers instead of having the common decency to let others go on their way unmolested?

    Why is it so important to some men to be able to accost women in the street and have no-one so much as criticise their boorishness? Gee, I wonder why.

  37. says

    StillGjenganger says

    OK, fine. I will not randomly approach women on the streets and make sexually based remarks or comment on their bodies and you can carry on doing so. I know who is the best man of the two of us.

    Or if you don’t act in this way, why not? I’m guessing you’re not religious so its not like your god prohibits it so what does?

  38. proudmra says

    Of course it’s offensive. What it’s NOT is a crime. Sexual harassment has a specific meaning–it applies to the workplace and job status.

    The notion that being offended is somehow a ticket to control the behavior of others is a noxious one, and it needs to be opposed whenever and wherever it crops up.

  39. H. E. Pennypacker says

    @Danny 39

    I don’t see where you got the idea that Gjenganger is saying catcalling is fine. It seems to me pretty clear that he’s suggesting that this is a sufficiently clear case to say it’s something that one shouldn’t be engaging in. The question he raised – a far more interesting one than discussing whether repeated unwanted sexual attention is harassment* – is how we decide what constitutes sexual harassment (or more broadly unacceptable behaviour). Anything someone somewhere experiences as sexual harassment clearly isn’t a good enough definition if nobody else agrees with them.

    *because it so plainly is

  40. Holms says

    @40
    Nope, it’s actually any harassment that is sexual in nature, and can occur in any venue, not just the workplace.

  41. StillGjenganger says

    @H.E.P. 41
    Thanks. I fully agree.

    @Danny 39
    As it happens I am a Christian, if not a particularly good one. Not sure what difference that makes in this context. though.

  42. proudmra says

    @41: Why, whatever could you mean? “The crime is defined by the victim and how badly their feelings are hurt” is a perfectly sound and rational principle of jurisprudence. What could possibly go wrong with it? A crime is committed whenever someone SAYS they feel victimized, period.

    It’s funny, but it’s also scary that anyone takes such arguments seriously.

  43. says

    comments 40 and 41 from H.E.P and ProudMRA takes us all the way down the snake, back to my comment at 28.

    Translation: Just how uncomfortable can I make a woman before she is entitled to call the police?

  44. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 45

    comments 40 and 41 from H.E.P and ProudMRA takes us all the way down the snake, back to my comment at 28.

    And back to my rebuttal. Which is:
    1) When dealing with a person you do not know, what do you target your behaviour at? Normal expected reactions in the society you live in? Or the most sensitive, offense-prone reactions you are able to imagine?
    2) If you stay inside accepted, normal behaviour and somebody is takes offense, is that her fault for not adapting to the culture around her (or telling you up front), or your fault for not guessing she might be offended?
    3) Given that we all agree it is better to be polite, is it really irrelevant whether some particular behaviour is a) bad manners? 2) a crime?

    To avoid misunderstandings, non of this is relevant for catcalling, which is well established as offensive to many (most?) recipients.

  45. Lucy says

    12345

    “Answers to my questions are pretty lame so far. ”

    Don’t worry, I’m here now!

    —–
    “Who exactly in society is saying that these communications – which are clearly intended to show positive feelings for the opposite sex (you don’t wolf-whistle at someone you don’t like, do you?) – are offensive actions that warrants the label of sexual harassment ?”

    Exactly me

    ——
    “Who determines that label?”

    The people who invented the English language

    —–

    “I’ve often seen attractive women and thought they looked nice because of their presentation or the way she behaves, or perhaps her hair or eyes etc. ”

    You have often thought people look nice because they look nice? Well there’s a revelation.

    —-
    “I’m sure there are plenty of women who have been wolf-whistled for plenty of non-sexually related reasons.”

    Why on earth would you be sure of such a patently dumb theory

    —-
    “Not everyone is attracted to the same type and we’re all different. So what?”

    Yes, so what?

    —–

    “I wonder what percentage of women find the odd wolf-whistle offensive. ”

    It’s 93.2%. The world’s women who been oddly wolf whistled have been polled and that is the number. I know you all like numbers. Numbers are important when it comes to sexism, so write it down.

    —–

    “I wonder how many women have tried to pull off a provocative walk accompanied by a glimmer of hope that she will get noticed or possibly wolf-whistled.”

    That would be 2. Seeing as you are wondering. See Some Like It Hot and Jessica Rabbit.

    —-
    ” What percentage of women find it intrusive and unwelcome?”

    93.2%

    “Who exactly is saying this?”

    Exactly me.

    —-
    “But the communication, albeit mostly from neanderthal dick-heads, is not intending to offend. He (and let’s be honest here guys) sees MOST women responding to a wolf-whistle actually smiling and giving some positive feedback.”

    He is quoted as saying he didn’t see her face, only the back of her head. A positive back of the head response.

    —-

    “I’m trying to think”

    I’m really supportive of this initiative.

    ——

    “if I were a woman”

    Which you’re not.

    —-
    ” what are all the possibly reasons for getting upset or kicking up a stink about this type of attention:”

    You’re trying to think remember

    —-
    “Inherently jealous of other women getting attention from men.”

    Remember

    —-

    “Upset at your menfolk looking at, judging and communicating to other women who they find attractive.”

    Reemember

    —-
    “Generally hate men and want to stigmatise their actions as immoral, uncouth and uncivilised given half a chance.”

    Reeemember


    “Recognise that a complaint could result in a sacking based on levels of social unacceptability – retributive control?”

    Reeeemember

    —-
    “Recognise that an award payment claim is possible.”

    Reeeeemember

    —-

    “Think that your Husband, Mother, Father, Boyfriend or best friend wouldn’t like it.”

    You forgot.

    —-
    “Come to think of it”

    Oh good, you’re going to have another try

    —-

    “if I were a woman”

    Which you’re not

    —-

    “I don’t think”

    Well one of us had to say it


    ” I’d mind the odd wolf-whistle aimed in my direction. ”

    I’m whistling.


    “But if I were the jealous, controlling type…..”

    You’d write a passive aggressive comment on a forum?

  46. Lucy says

    Opposablethumbs

    “Why is it so important to some men to be able to accost women in the street and have no-one so much as criticise their boorishness? Gee, I wonder why.”

    I got shouted at frok a speeding car last week. So I was sitting in my car the next day trying to put myself in the shoes of a man who would shout something lewd at a stranger from his car. I really got in the zone, I and cat calling man became one. Realised that it’s Pavlovian: hungry – eat; bell- drink; woman – yap.

    Asking them to do something conscious or self conscious like not yap is unfamiliar brain activity and it hurts so they need to make it stop.

  47. H. E. Pennypacker says

    @Lucy 47

    I often disagree with what you write but in this case excellent post.

  48. Archy says

    Catcallers remind me of a dog when he smells the scent of another dog. He scratches n stamps his feet, pees on a fence.

  49. Lucy says

    “lelapaletute says
    April 28, 2015 at 6:30 pm
    See Ally, this I why I love your blog. Here, have my The Last Word On This Tedious Subject vote :)”

    Why is it a tedious subject?

  50. Lucy says

    Ally Fogg: “If that doesn’t work or if the building company is not displaying such numbers, you are perfectly within your rights to go to the police and let them decide whether a offence has been committed and whether they want to take it further.”

    What woman in her right mind would go to the police again after seeing what’s happened to Poppy? Put in the public social media stocks.

    It would have previously been my obvious recourse, not now, I wouldn’t.

    And what would be the point? If a month of harassment from a group of men which included them coming out of the building site and blocking her path doesn’t incline them to take further action, then what would?

  51. Jacob Schmidt says

    Realised that it’s Pavlovian: hungry – eat; bell- drink; woman – yap.

    Were it Pavlovian, there would be at least semi consistent validation. Press a button; get food. Yell “nice tits” at a woman; get her number.

    I don’t think that’s actually happening.

  52. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy

    “I wonder how many women have tried to pull off a provocative walk accompanied by a glimmer of hope that she will get noticed or possibly wolf-whistled.”

    That would be 2. Seeing as you are wondering. See Some Like It Hot and Jessica Rabbit.

    Actually it is 3. Remember Edith Cresson complaining that British men were mostly gay, because they never whistled at her? That is still a minority, of course.

    And what would be the point? If a month of harassment from a group of men which included them coming out of the building site and blocking her path doesn’t incline them to take further action, then what would?

    Well, the police contacted the company, and the whistles stopped. What action do you think would have been appropriate?

  53. Holms says

    #51 Lucy
    Why is it a tedious subject?

    While I am not the person you were asking this of, for my part this discussion is tedious because of all the disingenuous people that keep popping up to pose the already-settled question of “but but is catcalling reaaaally sexual harassment?” The answer to which is “yes, yes it fucking is.”

  54. says

    And back to my rebuttal. Which is:

    1) When dealing with a person you do not know, what do you target your behaviour at? Normal expected reactions in the society you live in? Or the most sensitive, offense-prone reactions you are able to imagine?

    Personally I’d like to think I don’t “target” my behaviour in any way. I take the advice that is often given by pop psychologists and RomComs and be myself.

    2) If you stay inside accepted, normal behaviour and somebody is takes offense, is that her fault for not adapting to the culture around her (or telling you up front), or your fault for not guessing she might be offended?

    Whoa there Neady! Red herring alert!

    offended? where did any one claim the woman was offended? I used the term “made to feel uncomfortable” and others have said scared, harassed and intimidated. None of these is synonymous with “offended”.

    Now if someone is feeling scared or intimidated do you think it is right to side with those doing the intimidation? if they refuse to stop the intimidation what is your recourse?

    3) Given that we all agree it is better to be polite, is it really irrelevant whether some particular behaviour is a) bad manners? 2) a crime?

    You misunderstand what it is to be a gentleman. A gentleman is not required to be polite, only to be considerate.

    To avoid misunderstandings, non of this is relevant for catcalling, which is well established as offensive to many (most?) recipients.

    It is relevant to harassment and intimidation tho’, ie : “how uncomfortable can I make a woman before she is entitled to call the police”.

  55. mildlymagnificent says

    For those who have any doubt at all about how intimidating catcalling and whistling are, have a look at this thread on Reddit. 22000 replies – most of them from women reporting that the first time they noticed “attention” from men was when they were in primary or middle school, and that attention was mostly from adult men.

    If you read a few dozen/hundred/thousand of these, you should look out for … and I never went to the library, down that path, to the beach, to the shops, to any number of places again … as the entirely predictable consequences of these first frightening encounters with the world of intimidating, boundary violating men.

    http://np.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/3249ff/women_of_reddit_when_did_you_first_notice_that/
    And in the Mammoth thread about that, a few dozen more women opened up about their experiences. http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2015/04/11/in-creepy-reddit-megathread-thousands-of-women-recount-the-first-time-they-were-perved-on-by-a-grown-man/comment-page-1/#comments

    For those of a nervous disposition, I should warn that there are also several reports of sexual assault as well – though most of the women concerned make a clear distinction between those assaults and the public harassment under discussion.

  56. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 56
    This is the kind of conversation that makes me wonder if we both speak English.

    Near as I can understand you are saying that each person is fully responsible for other people’s feelings. If something makes someone else feel bad, you must avoid it. Also if you do not know the person and could hardly predict the reaction. Without asking the question whether the reaction is reasonable, weird, or frankly insane, or whether your own intentions were friendly or intimidatory.

    My alternative would be that we have a socially defined set of rules for normal, acceptable behaviour. As long as you stick to that, you are entitled to expect that people will be able to deal with it (unless, of course, you know better in some specific case). That is, rather, the point of having this kind of rules. Step over the line, and you are responsible for what happens. If on the other hand you are unable to deal with normal behaviour in other people, it is up to you to let other people know, and ask them for special treatment.

    And, for the n’th time, I do not consider catcalling to be normal, accepted behaviour.

  57. lelapaletute says

    #51 Lucy

    what Holms said, plus a bit. I find it tedious (and sad, and infuriating) that men are STILL catcalling and harassing women. I find it tedious that it I not a given that a woman encountering such treatment may seek redress and protection from those with a duty to ensure it. And I find it most tedious of all that the media, Numbers Boy, Gjenganger and their like will leap at the opportunity to question whether women are entitled to dislike this form of attention, and whether the fact one woman in a thousand may find it flattering invalidates the generally accepted view that such behaviour I unacceptable.

  58. lelapaletute says

    @58, Gjenganger:

    And, for the n’th time, I do not consider catcalling to be normal, accepted behaviour.

    Then why, one might enquire, are you trying to bring up this theoretical discussion about when it is permissable/not your fault to offend people when behaving towards them within the bounds of what is generally socially accepted as ‘normal’ behaviour? This thread is about catcalling, whether Poppy had a right to feel upset and harassed, and whether that upset entitled her to contact the police (FYI, answers are Yes and Yes).

    It feels very like you are trying to bring this unrelated topic back to your favourite topic, i.e. how much pressure is it permissable to exert on a woman to accept a sexual approach? This isn’t about that.

  59. StillGjenganger says

    Then why, one might enquire, are you trying to bring up this theoretical discussion

    Since you ask, I cannot put it better than H.E.P. in post 41: because I think this is a much more interesting discussion. Now I did realise that my words could be misunderstood as a defense of cat-calling – which is why I have written three times that my points do not apply to cat-calling, and written a post (#24) where I tried to explain to 123454321 why cat-calling IS harassment, also in my view. If people are not interested in what I want to say (not an unreasonable attitude, I might add), they have several good options: Ignore me (I will eventually shut up), reply that however general your comments may sound you do not mean them to apply beyond the specific topic, or simply ask me to stick to the topic. If Danny Butts chooses to keep answering back, with comments that are quite as general and theoretical as mine, neither he nor anyone else can complain if this particular discussion keeps running.

    whether Poppy had a right to feel upset and harassed, and whether that upset entitled her to contact the police (FYI, answers are Yes and Yes).

    You are not giving me anything new here. I agree on both points.

  60. Lucy says

    Still GjenGanger

    “Well, the police contacted the company, and the whistles stopped. What action do you think would have been appropriate?”

    Arrested, taken down the station, interrogated, parliament hold an emergency session to add sexism to the hate crime legislation, charged with a sexist hate crime, prosecuted, imprisoned, prejudice realignment therapy, when released branded, paraded through the streets to the colosseum, past pictures of naked airbrushed men, people lining their way whistling and demanding evidence of genitals. To be met by Poppy in splendid isolation who surveys the baying crowd and decides with a flick of the wrist whether they should live or enter final dreadful phase of social media death.

    Like what happens to people who direct random racist abuse at men in public.

  61. Lucy says

    Still Gjenganger

    “My alternative would be that we have a socially defined set of rules for normal, acceptable behaviour. As long as you stick to that, you are entitled to expect that people will be able to deal with it (unless, of course, you know better in some specific case). That is, rather, the point of having this kind of rules. Step over the line, and you are responsible for what happens. If on the other hand you are unable to deal with normal behaviour in other people, it is up to you to let other people know, and ask them for special treatment.”

    And how do you propose that this socially defined set of rules us arrived at? Other than via the wisdom of crowds.

    Which is surely precisely what is currently happening now that social media has broken the stranglehold of the male-run traditional media and women have a means of letting people know.

  62. StillGenganger says

    @ Lucy 63
    The wisdom of crowds sounds nice, but rather too ill-defined by itself. I would propose that we discuss these things. That we acknowledge, explicitly, that these are social rules, compromises between different groups that have different interests, so that neither victims nor perpetrators can come and say ‘I feel like this, so this is how it goes’. And that we make a stab at clarifying what the current rules are, before saying how various groups want to change them. Leaving the whole things to twitterstorms and internet shaming is not a good idea, whether you are a catcaller, or Anita Sarkeesian, or just an engineer with an exotic taste in shirts.

    @62. I have no idea what you mean with that, but I guess it does not require an answer.

  63. Holms says

    #62 Lucy
    Arrested, taken down the station, interrogated, parliament hold an emergency session to add sexism to the hate crime legislation, charged with a sexist hate crime, prosecuted, imprisoned, prejudice realignment therapy, when released branded, paraded through the streets to the colosseum, past pictures of naked airbrushed men, people lining their way whistling and demanding evidence of genitals. To be met by Poppy in splendid isolation who surveys the baying crowd and decides with a flick of the wrist whether they should live or enter final dreadful phase of social media death.

    Lucy, you are making the point that there is a glaring lack of punishment for the heckling of women by comparing it to what happens in response to the heckling of e.g. Pakistanis, by listing a series of punishments for said racial heckling. So, replace “show us yer tits, luv” with “go home, fukken paki” and… none of those punishments happen. A bit of yelled racial obnoxiousness does not result in anything resembling that fanciful list, leading me to think your list was grossly inflated so as to exaggerate the plight of women.

    Not that you would do that, or so you claim… But you totally do that all the fucking time. It’s tiresome.

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