Catcalling across generations

For most women, catcalling is a shared experience. But have you ever wondered how similar our experiences are?

This post may contain mature or challenging content.

Catcalling across generations

Most women have experienced catcalling at some point in their lives. We have all come home to tell our loved ones about the strange men that shouted at us from their moving cars and vans, or when we’ve been out with our friends in the evening. Catcalling by definition is “a shrill whistle or shout of disapproval made at a public meeting or performance.” The comments vary in profanity and rudeness, but they all result in the receiver’s feeling uncomfortable afterwards.

But are there generational variations in attitude towards catcalling? While today it is widely perceived as a bad thing, it was once ‘accepted’ as something females had to endure. I have interviewed five women, all representing different age groups, about their catcalling experiences. I intend on evaluating their responses and identifying any similarities and differences that crop up from the interviews. 

Here are the questions I asked:

  1. How old are you?

  2. How would you describe your clothing style in 3 words?

  3. At what age did men start giving you unwanted comments on how you dress?

  4. What are the 3 most common remarks you hear men giving to yourself and others?

  5. How do these comments make you feel?

  6. What is 1 piece of advice you would give to a woman who has just received these types of comments?

  7. What setting do you find this occurring in the most?

  8. What age group of men do you feel are the most likely to make these comments?

The responses to how they would describe their personal style varied from colourful to monochromatic and from eccentric to practical and mature; each woman appeared to have a very different style from one another. In response to question number 2, the age range was 10 - 17 years old; this means that every single woman was catcalled as a child, and some being a very young child. Grown men have catcalled all five interviewees when before they were 18, which is frankly appalling. 

The most common comments the women get seemed to vary in profanity. Here are some examples of what each woman said:

  1. “Mutton dressed as lamb”

  2. “Sexy ass”

  3. “You should be illegal in those clothes”

  4. “You shouldn’t have them out if you don’t want me to look”

  5. “Look at the ass on that”

When asked how these remarks made them feel, the majority of women responded with angry or uncomfortable, with one interviewee saying she feels this way because “they have no right” to be commenting on her and her body, and one woman disclosing that “it makes me want to punch them”, because she is so infuriated by such behaviour. 

From the interviews, I found that generally the age range of the catcallers is quite large, spanning from 30 - 65 years old. Interestingly, one woman told me that she felt that “younger men are generally more respectful towards me,” and most interviewees felt that older men were the most common to exhibit this kind of behaviour. Some of the most common locations where they were likely to receive catcalling were pubs and nightclubs, but also near building sites and on the high street. Unanimously, the interviewees felt that “anywhere serving alcohol” was likely to see such behaviour. 

To conclude, despite all of the women having very different clothing styles and ages, they responded very similarly to each question asked. From this information, I can see that catcalling happens across generations in a very similar fashion. This has got to stop. It is unsettling to those of us on the receiving end of it, and for many can spoil our day by making us angry or feel unsafe. If you are the type of person to behave like this, or know people that are, please don’t allow this to continue. Next time you consider catcalling: don’t. Next time you hear another man catcalling, tell him that it’s not okay. We all just want to get on with our day.

Finally, I asked each woman for some advice for any women that have just been catcalled which can be summarised as: “Don’t let them ruin your day, their opinions don’t matter. Whether you want to respond to or ignore them, stay safe and keep dressing in the way that makes you happy.”

Header Image Credit: "Street Harassment - 20140404-123815" by weaverphoto is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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