Do You Think Catcalling Is Flattering? Our Favorite Feminist Responds

An article extolling the virtues of the practice has the Web up in arms.

If you’re a woman who has walked down a street at some point in your life, it’s likely that you have been catcalled — as in a completely strange man has yelled something unsolicited and unwelcome about your appearance as you strolled to the bus/exited a store/discussed your cat’s persistent vomiting on your cell with your mom (true story).

For a lot of women, these kinds of objectifying occurrences are unwanted — even scary sometimes — but for one New York Post writer, they’re flattering. In fact, she finds them so empowering that she thinks women should just “deal with it.”

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“When I know I’m looking good, I brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and ‘Hey, mama!’ catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!,” Doree Lewak wrote in an essay published this week, adding, “Oh, don’t go rolling those sanctimonious eyes at me, young women of Vassar: I may court catcalls, but I hold my head high. Enjoying male attention doesn’t make you a traitor to your gender.”

Lewak’s statements are as bold as her strut, so it’s no surprise that some denizens of the Internet didn’t exactly agree with her sentiments regarding street harassment, taking to Twitter to voice their frustrations.

In light of the digital dustup, we asked Roxane Gay, our favorite feminist and author of “Bad Feminist,” for her take. Check it out below and voice your own in the comments:

What do you think of this writer’s stance?
This writer is certainly entitled to her opinion. If she finds this kind of unsolicited attention flattering, that is her right. The desire to be desired is human. That said, she absolutely diminishes the pervasiveness and perniciousness of catcalling. She is cherry picking those instances she finds palatable and ignoring the breadth of street harassment that is rarely flattering or harmless.

Related: Find Out More About Street Harassment Here

Do you think catcalls are ever flattering?
Not really. It’s the nature of the catcall, where the man doing the catcall is treating a woman he finds attractive as spectacle that is the problem. It’s one thing to walk up to a woman and tell her you find her attractive. That is flattering. It’s awesome. But generally catcalling is a man or a bunch of men offering their unsolicited opinion and trying to get a reaction out of a woman. Even if they are offering what might be construed as a compliment, there’s much more going on and we have to consider that.

Is this writer’s stance dangerous at all?
This writer’s stance is irresponsible and lazy.

What is your usual response to catcallers?
It depends. Mostly I just shrink into myself because it makes me uncomfortable, but if I’m having a bad day, I will offer a glare or a pointed, ‘F–k you.’

Senior writer/editor at MTV News. Former Mashable associate editor & CNN columnist. "Stuff Hipsters Hate" co-writer. Moshpit fan.
@BrennaEhrlich