“That A** Tho!”: Reflections on the Absurdity of Catcalling

Written by: Justin Leonard Clardy

I rewrote the opening for this piece four times. I was trying to construct a witty frame to make phenomenon that I find to be utterly pointless, more interesting. I realized that, much like Macallan 18-year-old scotch, some things are best served straight. Catcalling is stupid. No, not all men catcall. Nor do all we always intervene when someone around us is. Passively standing by, we allow it to persist and perpetually disregard the experience of women as members in our society. It has to stop.

Despite numerous testimonies of women who have been catcalled that are all over the Internet, men still do it. Why? For some reason, it’s still not understood that it is corny and mad oppressive. Think about it. We’re men…thinking will be hard to do. But, I mean, if we can’t take a second and reflect on our behavior combined with the experience of women as fellow members in our society, we contribute to an ongoing vicious cycle of oppression.

We don’t really talk to women. Or, we talk to women, but are not really interested in their experiences as women. We don’t talk about how bras make them feel or whether or not shaving is something that they enjoy. Since men don’t get catcalled, there is no wonder why there is distance between the two perspectives about it. Men do it. Women do not understand why men do it. Shit, men do not even understand why they do it. What could the reasons be?

Our catcalls can’t be attempts to show genuine interest in a woman, can they? I don’t think so, given that catcalls are usually comments that are directed toward women about their bodies. “You’d look a lot prettier if you smiled”, “That ass tho!”, “Damn Ma, ya body is bangin’!” (Insert a list of the rest of the corny ass phrases that people think is cool and somehow increases the likelihood that someone will find them romantically attractive). This is harassment. We, in a shared public space, say “I want to smash (i.e., to have sex with you); and you should stop your day to acknowledge that I am letting you know in front of all these people that I want to smash.” If not disrespectful, you surely come off as shallow and uninteresting. You’re not flirting; you’re being an obnoxious asshole.

Honestly, hollerin’ at women this way unmasks the face of misogyny. There is an asymmetrical relationship between the people who do it and the people to whom this happens (which has been every single one of the women close to me, and several millions more). Catcallers feel they are more entitled to the space they are sharing with their victim (“It’s okay for this space to be safe for me, even if it is not safe for you”). Women are not in these shared spaces in order to mold themselves into what men think that they should be. When they respond in ways that you don’t like, their response is not permission to be cursed at or to become targets for beer bottles.

Are our catcalls a means of feeding our egos in front of a group of homies? Does objectification translate into power or social capital? Pathetically, this would suggest that enlarging the ego relies on the presence of women and treatment of them as merely objects and not people. It seems far more plausible that this attempt to acquire power, which is relies on the object being objectified, most of all, shows man to be powerless.

There are no justifiable reasons for it. It makes women feel uncomfortable, violated, unsafe, threatened, and powerless. We should take the experiences of women seriously. Only then can we really sympathize with the feelings of discomfort, disrespect, and fear that our own behavior generates. Don’t just read this post and share it for Facebook or Instagram like and the sake of putting on a #woke fiscade of depth to your networks. Talk to women. Really talk to them.

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