Margaret Eby
January 27, 2015 11:20 am

Remember that viral video from last year where a woman recorded 10 hours walking in New York City and all the attendant catcalling that she faced? In response to that woman’s experience, and to the omni-present and generally awful experience of street harassment, a writer named Danielle Page resolved to confront all of her catcallers for a week, to try to understand the motivation for the jeers and lewd “compliments” flung her way. And the results? They were interesting.

“It actually took me a few missed catcalls to remember that I had made this promise [to respond],” Page wrote on The Daily Dot. “Retraining myself to stop, listen, and—hardest of all—be brave enough to strike up a conversation with the men I’d been working so hard to ignore for so long proved to be no easy feat.”

Page talked to a married bouncer who catcalls women because he’s bored at his job, a couple of petulant teenagers who said “Wow, you must be desperate” when she attempted to interact with them, and a man who screamed “LEAVE” into her face when she asked if he’d be willing to talk with her.

It’s a quick, informal survey, but it proves definitively that the age-old response to catcalling–that guys are “just saying hi” or “just offering a compliment”–is one hundred percent false. Catcalling is an assertion of dominance, it’s not an invitation to a conversation or a good-hearted pick-me-up.

“I know now that some men catcall women strictly for entertainment purposes. I learned that for the most part, these men are not looking for a response or expecting you to actually stop and talk to them. But I don’t regret the fact that I didn’t try to make them understand why they shouldn’t catcall,” Page wrote. “How can you explain to a stranger that a compliment makes us feel afraid?. . .That we feel uneasy, objectified, and uncomfortable when you say this to us while we’re going about our normal routine, not asking to be judged on our appearance out loud? That this thing they do for fun is at the expense of our peace of mind?”

But of course, Page is also pointed to an important principle: She shouldn’t have to explain that. Behaving with decency towards women shouldn’t require a point-by-point plan, and nor should it be her burden to correct everyone’s behavior. Catcalling isn’t innocent entertainment. It’s a form of harassment that can turn into assault. No one should have to deal with that.

(Image via Shutterstock)