I have mixed feelings about catcalls on the street, or any attention on the street for that matter. As Americans, we are used to thinking of catcalling as something negative, disrespectful, or derogatory.
In other countries (and cultures), a woman walking down the street would feel upset and disrespected if something DIDN’T notice that she looked particularly beautiful or well put together that day.
I’ve traveled around the world, and struggled with the attention I received at times because of how different I looked from the local people (skin, hair, eyes, clothing, size, shape). I also didn’t understand which of the responses (whistles, sucking on teeth, remarks) were meant to be pleasant or offensive.
When responding to catcalls on the street, you’ll first have to decide…
…whether you are pleased by the attention or offended. I suppose it also depends upon the type of catcall or harassment (creative versus vulgar, appreciate vs hateful).
In this post, I my goal is to give you plenty of creative ammunition to deploy as you please against those who decide they have the right to comment (unasked for) on your appearance out in the world.
Best Comebacks for Catcalls
Not all comebacks are created equal. Here are my top five (with more to come below).
Would you talk to your mother that way?
Huh, all this time, I thought you were ___ (insert insult to manhood, such as sexual orientation, gender, weakness)
Walk over to them and ask them for their names and phone numbers.
In response to a man yelling about how he wants to get into your pants, you can respond with, Oh sorry, there’s only room in these pants for one ____(your preferred name for your lady parts).
Other Responses to Catcalls You Might Want to Try
Can I call your mother and tell her what you just said?
Sorry, I only date men.
Has that line ever worked?
That line would work a lot better if you were cute.
My boyfriend sure thinks so.
I know, right? I totally agree.
I don’t understand, can you explain it to me again?
You have so much confidence! It’s good to be confident.
Thanks, I work out!
Are you my baby’s daddy? I could use some child support.
Why do you yell things at women you don’t know?
Hey, you look like you want to have some kids!
You look like my grandpa.
Say something funny, loser!
Shout WHAT over and over again until they get bored.
If you are going to be a pig, at least get it right. My _____ is fantastic.
Turn and look at him and say “Oh?” until he gets bored.
You couldn’t afford me.
You kiss your mother with that mouth?
Could you say that again?
Do I look like I recently suffered a head injury?
You have issues, and you need to go.
That’s a no from me.
Sorry, jerk isn’t my type.
I’d rather go to jail than talk to you.
Startle Them Into Silence
These crack me up, and I bet they would stop the men in their tracks as they puzzled through what you just said and to formulate a response.
I have diarrhea.
I’m calling the cops…I’m only 13!
I have a penis.
You could also throw your dog’s poop bag at them (don’t close it).
Alternative Options to Comebacks
You don’t have to say anything at all to people who think they have the right to comment on your appearance. Here are some other options:
- Say nothing at all, and just ignore them. Go about your business as if they don’t exist. (I don’t recommend ear buds or headphones out on the street turned up to tune out noise because it isn’t safe for women (or anyone) to be out in the city unaware of what is happening around them).
- Take out your phone and record them. Then post the video on social media and tag the owner/company.
- Talk to other bystanders on the street, and ask them to also record the behavior and post it.
- If the harassment is threatening (and makes you afraid to be on the street), contact the local authorities and report the behavior.
- Pretend that you can’t hear them (like you are hard of hearing or deaf).
- Fake a phone call.
- Pretend to be walking with someone else.
What if you are a bystander to catcalling?
One of the things I wish people would do more of is to step up and help people who are being harassed on the street. While in some cultures it is common to show appreciation for attractive women, this does not go as far as chasing women down the street, getting into their faces, grabbing them or touching them in any way, or being aggressive.
If you see this type of behavior, we should all be willing to step in and be with that person, ask if she needs help, be ready to call 9-1-1, or even to create a distraction or attraction attention away from the vulnerable person.
Honestly, with the availability of video cameras on every smart phone, it amazes me that catcalling and harassment is still so pervasive as it is, because people can easily document what is happening. As an employer, the last thing I want to see is employees violating company policy, potentially creating liability that I would be on the hook for, wasting my money distracted by people on the street, or making my company look bad (catcalling while wearing company uniforms). If someone were to be documented behaving badly like that, I’d fire them.
Blame After the Fact
After something traumatic happens, it is easy to feel like you were somehow responsible for it. Like maybe if you ‘d worn something different, or if you’d gone at a different time of day, or if you’d taken a different route.
We are only responsible for our own behavior. It sucks to think that we have a responsibility to avoid doing things that will cause others to harass us or hurt us. Ultimately, women are not to blame for harassment or catcalling behavior, regardless of what we do or wear.
Don’t let yourself get sucked into the trap of blaming yourself for other people’s bad behavior. Yes, all of us women do things to keep ourselves safe, and we don’t go out of our way to invite harm to ourselves. But we shouldn’t feel responsible for it when it happens to us.
It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.
What’s your favorite comeback when someone harasses you on the street? Let us know in the comments section below.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer screen when the kids are occupied or sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.