Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Here Are My Thoughts on Cat-Calling

So there has been a lot of talk about cat-calling and harassment of women in the news (and/or gossip sites) lately, as I'm sure you've seen. That video of 10 hours of walking in New York City (and the subsequent parodies), the CNN video of Steven Santagati "mansplaining" his views on catcalling to a female host and guest, and all the other articles and opinion posts...there's a lot of discussion about that.
I know, as a man, that I can never fully know what a woman goes through. I know that I can't do justice to this topic. As my attending on my OB/GYN sub-internship a month ago put it, "You have the wrong chromosome for this job." (She was joking...I think). But I can provide my own opinion on one particular aspect of it. Putting aside (but not lessening the importance of) the disrespect, the murder of women, the fact that women can't feel safe on the street, or whether some women enjoy the compliments...all of these things are being debated. But there is one overarching fact that I think most people would agree on.

Men look stupid when they cat-call.

There's a reason I can't watch those videos, at least not all the way through. Maybe part of it is because my attention span is too short for them, but mostly it's because they disgust me. It's principally because the catcalling is disrespectful to women and hearkens back to an outdated way of thinking. It's a philosophy that was once seen as fun and/or funny - by many people, men and women alike, including myself. But one component of that philosophy I never understood, amid the mildly sexist jokes and the checking-out-women and all of that...was catcalling. I could never wrap my head around the idea that yelling to some woman passing by that she "Looked good" or that "I want some fries with that shake" was a proper way of complimenting them. That it was a good way to get them to date you or sleep with you or even notice you.

Jerry Seinfeld, in his hilarious 1998 comedy special "I'm Telling You For The Last Time", talks about this. Parts of it are pretty dated, but he has some great bits, including one on Men and Women. "This is why you see men honking car-horns, yelling from construction sites. These are the best ideas we've had so far...
Honking the car horn amazes me, this has gotta be the last living brain cell...
What is she supposed to do, kick off the heels, start running after the car, grab onto the bumper? 'Well, it's a good thing you honked! I had no idea how you felt!'"

This sarcastic scenario sums up my attitude towards catcalling. Men never look dumber than when they are catcalling a woman. It astonishes me that men actually think this will work. That they actually think they are going to get anywhere with this, or that it's worth doing to "compliment" a woman. 
If a man wants to tell a woman he is interested, or try to get anywhere with her, even if it's just to sleep with her (hopefully being honest with his intentions)...he should make more of an effort. Talk to her for real, not just some lame one-liner. Write her a that you actually took the time to put something down on paper. Do like Heath Ledger (God rest his soul) in "10 Things I Hate About You" and sing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" on the loudspeaker in a football stadium. He made a fool of himself for her, but at least he looked smarter than some moron yelling "You know what I like!"

Again, if you're a woman, I have no idea how you feel about this. If you find it disrespectful, or if you enjoy it, I don't pretend to have a say. But I know how my gender comes off in this, and it's not good. We don't look attractive when we do this. Some of us look menacing. Some of us "give off that rapey vibe" that means women can't feel safe at night or alone, when there should be no reason not to feel safe. But almost universally, we look like freaking idiots, and not funny ones. And I can't laugh at any part of that.