How to deal with cat calling?

lark street sidewalk smoothedAfter being cat called on Lark Street -- again -- Colleen writes:

I had had it. I was tired of being catcalled on the street because I happened to be guilty of being a Woman While Walking. In sweats, in jeans, in a slouchy dress in 90+ degree heat, they sidle up to you, just too close for comfort and insinuate themselves into your errand. I was tired of having to keep my eyes locked forward in my own neighborhood. I was tired of fixing my face into a haughty mask any time I walked without Mike by my side. I was sick of it.
And he happened to be there. And I happened to be ready to ovary up and be a woman.

You can read what happened next.

The experience prompted Colleen to ask us via Twitter:

I'm done w/ just ignoring catcallers around Lark. How do other ladies handle the #harassment?

This is an ongoing problem. And if you're a guy, you might not realize how big a problem it is -- ask some of your lady friends, you might be surprised how often it happens.

So. What's the best way to handle these situations? Experiences, suggestions or encouragement to share with Colleen and other women? Please share.


Love the story.

Made me think about this awesome website:

Colleen - you sure hollabacked. A+ for telling him that his "compliment" was if fact not a compliment and inappropriate behavior.

This story made me smile.

This is behavior that I have never understood. What is the expected outcome? Is the object of your lewd insinuation supposed to suddenly be overcome with desire, toss aside her normal sense of wariness, and become infatuated with your obnoxious self, all based on your having presented yourself as admiring of some fetching feature of hers? Has that EVER happened in the history of ever? Or is this really just about expressing your masculinity by reminding women you're a danger to them?

Also, cat-callers: get a mirror. Look into it. Re-think.

If the cat-caller looks menacing I just keep walking -- quickly. If not I say "Your mother must be so proud!"

I got catcalled in my car once by a guy on a bike. I ran him over and reported to police that he had biked into me and got off scot-free.

This happened in my fantasies. I usually just flip the bird if I can get away.

I was in my neighborhood (Delmar) the other day and, wouldn't you know it? A group of young ladies let out a whistle as I went by... I am a male in my early/mid 30s and thinking back, this may have been one of the very few, if any, times in my life that I have been "cat called" at. It was an interesting experience. I did not exactly find it flattering, I think I even sort of got all blush-y. As I am a fairly intimidating sort of adult male I can imagine how it is the other way around. At least I think I can imagine, but I probably really can't....

In any event, I will adhere to my life-long policy of no cat calling at anybody.

Good for you Colleen! This is a big enough issue that it has contributed to friends of mine moving out of downtown Albany and Troy, trading in their neighborhoods for car-centric lives. I virtually never get catcalls so I don’t have any advice for you, but mad props for calling him out. I wish we didn’t live in a world where we have to fear for our safety for speaking up for ourselves.

Personally I welcome all catcalls with enthusiasm. If someone fancies my form from afar then I can’t help but give thanks and agree.

I'll continue to do it since it annoys you so much. It's also a cultural thing too, blacks & latinas love it.

Turn 35.
Yep. I know that's not the socially correct answer, but believe me once you are a woman past a certain age (I don't care how you're dressed or how attractive you are) you start becoming invisible...

I follow the same rule as Miss Blankenship- if they're crazy I ignore them.

Usually, though, it's just a run of the mill jerk and I read them the riot act on how they're being disrespectful. It all depends, though, on what you're comfortable with. If you're not worried about potentially being called a bitch by some random guy on the street for having the stones to say something back, speak up. The majority of the time I actually end up getting a sincere apology.

I'm with Carl, I just don't understand the motivation behind it. When I worked in Glens Falls I used to take a walk in a loose t-shirt and basketball shorts on my lunch break (not that any attire is an invitation for comment). But it NEVER failed: every day I was catcalled, usually by some idiot in a pickup truck. I don't get it. It's certainly not flattering and does very little except humiliate, degrade and make you feel like a piece of meat instead of a unique and complex human being. I hate it, it's disgusting.

I just came back from Ireland and had many discussions about how things are a bit different, here. I felt nervous over there when everyone tried to make eye contact with me as I walked by. Slowly, the blank stare and "stay away from me" facade faded to smiles, "h'ya!", and being able to acknowledge the humanity passing by.

Coming home has been a bit of reverse culture-shock. Oh, yeah, I can't be that friendly because me acknowledging someone may result in being followed home. Keep the eyes down, head phones on... otherwise (true story one July 4th when I had a bit of food poisoning and went to Price Chopper- you know the one- to get Pepto.)

"I was waiting for you."
"Well, I don't know why. I'm leaving."
"Hey shawty-"
"I'm not short."
"Hey mamma."
"I'm not a mother and if you don't mind, I'm very sick."
"What's a guy got to do to get yo numba?"
"Probably not what you are doing."

I got followed for another block- and that is just a mild instance. I feel like it is done by people who feel like they have nothing to lose so go for it. I've been propositioned by guys in trucks on my way to pick up orange juice for Sunday brunch. I don't think I was really dressed like a working girl? Sometimes, I have fun with it and ask if they speak to their sisters and moms in such manners. Most times I say "no thank you" and keep walking. Coming back, I find the matter pretty sad as I can't walk alone here without issue.

I was "cat-called" (I guess) on my block in Ctr Sq. during Pride weekend. It went beyond whistling or whatever; these idiot frat types repeatedly asked me if I wanted to party. It was noon. It felt different than being cat-called on Lark St. since it was my block and I thought that if I said something, with my luck, I'd run into these scumbags again since they were shouting from a balcony down the street from where I live. So, I gave them a severe stink eye, but only after they hollered at me the 3rd time (3 times... ugh).

It really is one of the worst feelings.

This highlights my need to not skim....or get more sleep. I read this on FB originally as a problem with people needing to find their cats in Albany and too many people "calling" for them. Sounds of "here Fluffy....Iago...I have tuna for you FuzzY" were filling my head.


Thanks for the suggestions and support, everyone! I lived in a college town prior to living here and prior to that in two larger Midwestern cities, and I haven't experienced harassment anything like I have here. If it wasn't so annoying, it would be fascinating.

I'm really appreciating hearing about your own experiences (male and female). And thank you for recommending IHollaBack. So interesting!

OK, I'm going to weigh in here. I've had this happen as well. And lord knows I'm not under 35 ;-) I don't think age matters that much -- but I just don't get it. Now I'll admit, I complicate matters with a tendency to smile as I pass people on the street and wish them a good day -- damn me and my politeness. But a few years ago I was walking to work at 10a.m. (yes, 10a.m.) when a very strange man approached me on Western Avenue and asked me to have a drink with him. Normally I'd just keep walking , but it was a very hot day, I was under a bit of stress and the ridiculousness of the situation just hit me in a strange way. So I stopped a moment, looked him right in the eyes and said, "It's. Ten. O'clock. In the morning. And... does this every really work for you? Really?" And today, I still wonder. Does it ever actually work?

Just ignore it, toughen up and move on. BTW, That over 35 comment is ridiculous and WAY more offensive than some jerk telling me how hot my backside is.

The guys who do this don’t seriously think they’re going to get someone to go home with them. Some of them do it because they think masculinity means they have to, some of them do it to exert their power over women, some of them do it because they want to interact with people and don’t know how to do it appropriately. Most of them haven’t thought through how threatening women often find it, but that’s not an excuse- if they thought about it for half a second they would. I wonder if it would be productive to point that out in a response:

“Hey baby, nice legs!”
“When men talk to women they don’t know about their bodies, it feels threatening.”

This is something I deal with a near daily basis.

If the guy looks dangerous or messed up, I just ignore it and if he keeps following me I go into a store/restaurant and that usually stops them.

If the guy looks like he's just trying to posture, I give him a Lucille Bluth eye roll and tell him to grow up.

If it's a bunch of teenage boys, I tell them to call me when they have to shave (I actually use a less pleasant statement, but not sure it can be printed here)

If it's a guy around my age who looks like he's generally trying to hit on me, I just call him a creep and that they'd have more success if they treated women like people.

And if I get the one that annoys me the most, the "Smile, gorgeous!" I just tell them that my grandmother just died. Both of mine have passed so I'm not jinxing them, and I have yet to see someone do anything other than stammer and apologize or just bolt.

I feel like this is an opportunity to organize a mass response to the harassers of Albany women. Imagine if they all received the same hollaback?

Something like: Albany'ding your number, NOT!
Pronounced: I'll be needing your number, NOT!

I'm not excusing this silly behavior of strangers (also a favorite: "smile, it can't be that bad") and yep, my "over 35" comment could be construed as ridiculous and offensive. It just my observation.

Most guys, including me, will say nothing when passing an attractive woman on the sidewalk. Say nothing, wait until she passes, then turn around and check out the backside. Lock the memory in the spank bank and go about your business.

"It's certainly not flattering and does very little except humiliate, degrade and make you feel like a piece of meat.."
and *that's* why they do it.

"It's also a cultural thing too, blacks & latinas love it."

Ponce, I hope that was a lame attempt at a joke... somehow.

Trust me, women of all colors find cat-calling annoying, even if to your eyes, they're smiling.

Occasionally, a cat-call can hit me in just the right way: you've had a bad day, you feel grubby, and the cat-call is done sweetly and non-threateningly. But I'm a pretty polite person, so my response to cat-calls is the same whether I appreciate it or am annoyed by it (if I feel degraded or threatened, that's a different story). You might THINK that all women of color LOVE it, but you have no idea what you're talking about.

If the dude says "hello", I say "hello back" and keep walking. If they try to talk more I don't stop. I am not strolling on the street to make friends, I am running errands, going to work and typically running late. Depending on my state of mind or what they say I'll stop and say something to them. For example, "Hey baby", my response, "I'm not your baby" and in my mind I say in a deadpan Aubrey Plaza way.

While we are addressing the issue of solicitations, especially around Lark St, can we all agree to stop giving the guy with the gold watch and cell phone money when he asks (specifically) for $0.45 for the bus. He doesn't need money for the bus. He usually walks up and down State st bothering people. If people ignored this guy, he'd go away. He's needed that same $0.45 for years. It has to stop.

This reminds me of a little incident I witnessed about two weeks ago on Lark.

A woman in her mid-to-late 20s was walking on the block of Bombers. A slightly younger man was walking in the opposite direction. As he passed her, he checked her out. Except it went beyond a guy admiring an attractive woman into really-creepy-stare territory.

She was extremely preoccupied with texting and didn't even see him. He kept staring back at her over his should so much that I thought his head was going to twist off his neck.

And then he walked right into one of the hanging baskets on the awning of the flower market.

He didn't even seem to realize WHY he'd crashed into the flowers and looked annoyed that I was laughing out loud at him.

(I do agree with Pete about the people soliciting money on Lark Street. It's chronic and they can be very aggressive getting into your personal space. Sometimes with a story, sometimes just asking for the money outright.)

I don't know if 35 is some kind of cut off on cat calls. I think not if memory serves, but frankly that's a long time ago for me. I can tell you that it doesn't happen over 60 -- which is just fine with me. There is nothing greater than being able to walk around comfortably in your own skin and not give an iota of mental energy over to this kind of crap. Call it invisible or call it freedom, I'll take it.

I usually ignore it, but once in a while do a Seth-and-Amy style "really?!" with my hands thrown up in the air. Once, on a day like it seems Colleen was having, I snapped and said "WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN NOW? LIKE I'M GOING TO STOP JOGGING AND GO OUT ON A DATE WITH YOU? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!"

This really brings to light the dangers of confronting aggressive people on the street, whether it's for cat-calling or any other provocative action. In many cases, the objective is to provoke the victim into attacking (verbally or physically), so that the perpetrator (i.e. criminal) can feel justified in an assault.

There are dangerous people in Albany who will do what they need to do to get their fix of violence.

Eye opening commentary here, I never knew this was an issue but it makes me quite happy to live in suburbia where these jackals don't roam.

When I lived off lark, I was conditioned to never make eye contact with a strange man. Even just eye contact could be interpreted as a sign of interest and elicit a disgusting "'sup baby'". As for the outright harassment, I pretended I was deaf. Pervasive, scary, awful and I don't miss it one bit since moving.

I remember reading somewhere that Laurie Anderson did a photo-journal project where she turned and snapped pictures of men that cat called her... apparently it really freaked most of them out. I've always wanted to try this method of counter-intimidation. We all have cameras in our pockets at all times anyway, although a cell photo vs. a flash in your face might not seem as menacing.

I don't know if it's because I've always lived in rural areas or if this doesn't happen to girls in glasses but I've never experienced this in my life (now 36yo). I don't WANT to but I feel a bit left out. :)

@laureen: "I am not strolling on the street to make friends". That's kinda sad...

Putting on a huge b!%$# face and making seriously uncomfortable eye contact usually does the trick to make them stop. I don't respond verbally, it eggs on the cat-caller.

Not a big issue these days for me - age and living in rural car-centric areas keep it down. BUT - when I lived in cities, and walked everywhere, it was nonstop. And very nerve wracking. The more you look like you can be messed with without repercussion, the more you crap you get. Going to work in office wear was the worst.

In my experience (your mileage may vary!) when I was really dressed super sexay, and looked HAWT as all hell, the guys wouldn't dare meet my eyes. They'd maybe stare after I walked by, but not any aggressive face-to-face BS. For everyday life harassment, I used to just cuss them out a well placed "Eff you, loser!" using really aggressive body language and severe tone of voice, and it worked fine. Taking a picture is a great idea too, as mentioned above.

The worst were the frat boy types on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that were coming out of bars. They'd be the most likely to try violence, but weenie crap like throwing a bottle at you or something. I moved to a mixed neighborhood in Brooklyn and didn't get too much hassle generally, and later got a Rottweiler who was serious, large, and well trained. Then I got nothing but sincere respect, and could walk anywhere I wanted, at any hour. You don't have to take any crap from anyone, ever.

Twice I've had men in cars actually do U-turns and park their cars to come talk to me. Both creepy but one of the times was worse as he "snuck" up behind me late at night while I was letting my dog out to pee. To tell me I had a nice figure.

One time a guy walked behind my dog and I while we walked around the pond in Washington Park. When my dog stopped to sniff something, he walked up to me and told me he'd been watching my "fine ass".

One time I had a guy ask my then-boyfriend, who was right next to me (I was completely ignored), if he would allow me to star in a commerical for him. And tried to hand him a business card, saying I would look "great" in it.

I'm big on making eye contact and smiling at people I pass - unfortunately I do that much less so now. These are all funny stories in retrospect but not so much at the time.

@ S - I guess it's not entirely true. I am generally friendly when walking around and often do make small talk with people and neighbors.

Excellent comment Colleen! This is a really disturbing trend that needs to be addressed by our society and it will take more of us (women AND men) to stand up against it. Most men do it because they think they are complimenting you and I've found that some really respond to a good talking to about how DISrespectful and demeaning it really is. I and my employees/friends/relatives have to endure this sort of harassment on a daily basis. It makes you feel like you are worth nothing but a pretty face/butt/boobs/vagina/etc and that is NOT acceptable because women are so much more than a vagina and a pair of boobs. Please check out the link to hollaback that feminist mom posted.....very excellent information there. This type of behavior is simply unacceptable and needs to be addressed. I say something about 90% of the time, I only don't in instances where there are multiple men at night where I do not feel safe. It's not okay to feel that way. You go girl! Stand up for yourself!

I am an international student coming from East Asia to study in U.S. Since this spring, as the weather becomes better, I was catcalled, harassed in my every walk. Even only for a five minutes walk from my apt to the corner grocer. No exception. At first these comments were culturally unfamiliar with me. I couldn't tell if these male Americans talking to me on streets are just being friendly and funny. Could they be normal? Am I being too sensitive to feel uncomfortable by their "compliments"? Months later, when a young male tried to stop me on my way home, repeatedly questioning if I am Chinese or not, stating that he wanted to find a tutor to teach him Chinese. A young male, stopped a completely female stranger at the night in Philadelphia, asking her to be his tutor in a foreign language. It was that experience that made me realized they didn't mean good. After this, I have become more and more afraid of American male, and feel so unsafe and uncomfortable presenting myself on the streets of U.S. as an female. By knowing what is this, by knowing catcalling is nothing but friendly, it helps me to face it and deal with it. These male have been given too much tolerance and privilege that they are taking catcalling female on the streets as their guaranteed right. I am a foreigner, but I will "write out" in my own language, to empower myself and to fight this phenomenon.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine