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Have you ever had a catcalling experience? A few days ago, I threw this question to my Instagram followers to see how many women have ever become the victim of catcalling.


Catcalling is part of sexual harassment created by strangers in a public space in the form of unwanted whistles, shouts, or a sexual appearance comment towards an individual who is walking by. Catcalling was then seen as a compliment. However, as time goes by, people tend to realize that it is part of sexual harassment that needs to be taken as a serious case.


Studies in this field have commonly found that the target of catcalling is usually for women yet everyone has a different response to this situation (Kearl, 2010). These various responses include: ignoring the catcaller, staring at the catcaller’s eyes, or even yelling back to the catcaller. In specific, catcalling is categorized as one of the street harassments in which for some individuals, it becomes a threat to walk along the street without anyone accompanying. 


Let’s Change The Point of View

Who does not like to get a compliment? Psychologically, humans love to get a compliment. It can be a compliment of clothes they are wearing, the shape of their body, the decision they are taking, or even an action they are doing. In other words, a compliment is one of the basic human needs of getting appreciation from other people. It cannot be denied that sometimes women received catcalling as a self-appreciation from other people to the way they represent themselves.


However, the meaning of compliment is changed when it comes to the context of women who are walking by the street and getting a whistle from strangers. This situation might sound simple by many people but sounds terrifying to certain individuals. For instance, a book written by Kearl (2010) explained several cases related to women’s experiences of feeling unsafe when walking to the street in a town. A great number of women around the world have ever faced street harassment in public spaces such as bus stations, public roads, or even a hallway. 

Motivations Behind Catcalling


The research related to sexual harassment has generally increased in decades but there is partly information on the motivations behind for men to be engaged in this behavior. Several factors that cause men to do catcalling; as taken from Walton and Pedersen’s (2021) research towards exploring the motivations behind catcalling in public space expressed that 72% of men tend to show their interests in women they catcalled for. For some reason, they also want to be acknowledged by some popular circles. 


Linking back to the responses of my Instagram followers regarding their experiences of getting catcalled, it was found that all of the respondents said yes. In a nutshell, they briefly share their attitudes towards this experience and most of them preferred to ignore the catcaller, give an annoyed look, and walk quickly from that space. Surprisingly, even though the respondents feel being threatened, they have a lack of power to speak up and against the catcaller. On the other hand, one of the respondents confessed that when she is trying to speak up, the catcaller feels embarrassed and has nothing to say anymore. For instance, Sarah [anonymous] commented:


 “I’ve been one of the victims before, all I did was staring at the stranger and then I yelled back. A catcaller is usually a man and I am sure that he did that because he wanted to get acknowledged from his circle that he also can do a catcall. Using that power because they think it’s funny or it shows other men how manly they are. How disgusting it is! To be honest, I felt afraid at first, but I tried to defend myself by saying “why? What’s the matter?” and the funny thing was they got shriveled.”


Strategies to avoid catcalling


Given the high prevalence and harmful impacts of catcalling, here are the tips for the victims to avoid being catcalled. 

1)      1)   Making an eye contact

According to a book written by Kearl (2010), the first way to avoid catcalling is through making eye contact. Ladies, the sight must be full of firm and resentment. Once you do that, the catcaller will feel guilty. 

2)      2)  Giving a firm shout

The catcallers in general tend to do catcalling to get acknowledgment from the gang. Therefore, it does not mean that you cannot against them. Try to raise your voice and yell back at them. The words can be “go away”, “shut up”, or “mind your own business”. 

3)      3)   Pretending you have a phone call

If you feel being threatened, you can try to take a phone and pretend to make a phone call with a family member or even the police. While you are doing this, you can choose a crowded path to make you feel safer. 


Kearl, H. (2010). Stop Street Harrasment. Oxford.

Walton, K. A., & Pedersen, C. L. (2021). Motivations behind catcalling: Exploring men's engagement in street harrasment behaviour. Routledge, 1-15.

Text and Photo : Ira Luik

Editor : Ira Luik/Mario Djegho (red)


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