A call to end catcalling


By Sam Pulling

Catcalling is not a compliment. It is not an innocent form of flirting and it probably won’t earn you any positive attention from people you’re attracted to. Catcalling is harassment. It is unwanted and unwarranted advances toward someone who is doing nothing more than walking down the street, and it can feel threatening and intimidating.

With spring break right around the corner, I thought it was time to remind the University that street harassment is not OK. Spring break is a time to let loose and have fun, preferably on a beach somewhere. While we show some skin and soak up the sun (and maybe some drinks), it is still not the time to degrade each other’s bodies with useless catcalls and offensive slurs. A woman walking in her bikini does not need your comments, and girls, this is a two-way street. A shirtless guy doesn’t need your car honks, hoots or hollers, either.

Still, the inappropriate nature of catcalls applies all year.

As a female on this campus, I have experienced street harassment on multiple occasions: In the middle of the day, on my way to the library, coming home from a night out or on a run. It seems that some people find it acceptable to throw snide comments at me at their convenience. 

Whether they’re intending to compliment me, assert their dominance or show off to their friends, I don’t care. The comments are degrading to my body and my rights, and that needs to end now. 

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

In my year and a half on this campus, I have been catcalled too many times to count:

“Damn, baby, how you doin’?” 

You are not Joey Tribbiani; I do not want you asking me, “How you doin’?”

“Ooh, look at that body.” 

Apparently, you already are looking at my body.

“Show me your titties.” 

I’m really just trying to go to the library.

“Hey, lady, you tryna f***?” 

No, I definitely do not want to sleep with you.

Hollaback!, an international nonprofit organization, houses a website for women to log on and share their stories of street harassment. None of the stories end with the woman laughing it off like nothing. They end with terrified young women, not knowing how to stop the threatening behavior. 

I’m not trying to sound unapproachable, but if you want my attention, this isn’t the way to go about it. Start with something simple, something along the lines of “Hello” or “Hi, my name is ____.” Don’t start a conversation with my roommate by asking, “Can I lick your butthole?” It’s gross and will get you nowhere.

A Huffington Post video from last November interviewed New York men about catcalling. The men were asked if and why they thought catcalling was okay. Responses included, “If you have a nice body, why can’t I say something?” “If you wear tight leggings and I see something … I’m saying something,” and “We’re just being teenage boys.” 

However, the same teenagers were upset by the idea of someone doing the same things to their sisters or mothers. That reaction alone shows why catcalling needs to stop. 

If you don’t want it done to your mother, your sister or your daughter, please, do not do it to me. 

Rude comments aren’t cute or endearing. Some girls are able to let these comments roll off their backs like it was nothing. For others, these comments can feel threatening. Girls are often taught to look out for sexual assault everywhere they turn, so unfortunately for catcallers, we probably are made nervous just by your words.

A group of guys once made kissing noises at my roommate and me as we walked by. Without saying a word to each other, she and I both sped up, dire to get out of that situation as quickly as possible.

Catcallers: You aren’t funny. This isn’t witty, clever or a sign of confidence. It is intimidating. It makes us, or at least me, afraid of you.

After a night out, I find myself holding my breath as I walk by groups of guys, just waiting for them to make an inappropriate comment. Granted, not every person catcalls; some do nothing more than drunkenly tell me to “have a good night.” 

However, it’s the other times that matter. It’s the times that my friends and I are outnumbered, and the guys think it’s a game to get our attention. It’s the times that guys continue yelling at us until we turn the next corner. It’s those times that make me scared of even the nice guys wishing me a good night.

Before you catcall someone on spring break, no matter how little clothing they may be wearing, remember the threat you can possibly present and bite your tongue instead.

Sam is a sophomore in Media.

[email protected]