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Wolf whistling, how can it be a compliment?

(73 Posts)
Kalizahara Mon 17-Apr-17 00:41:08

I was debating this with a friend the other day. She said she likes being beeped or whistled at, it's a compliment.

I really don't understand how any woman can feel flattered by it. Do they not realise that the men doing it don't actually fancy them and do it to anyone with a vagina?

My own experience of catcalling has been horrendous. I've been getting beeped, whistled and hollered at since I was 12-13 years old, I've been honked at with my mother, with my children, had obscenities shouted from van windows. The men doing it often do it from behind and have no way of knowing if they're doing it to a woman or a child. They have no way of knowing if the woman will feel embarrassed or intimidated.

Personally I believe men do it to embarrass and control women, to put them in their place, and often to make fun of them.

I can just about understand a woman not being offended, but how on earth can you be flattered?

What's the mindset there?

I watched a documentary on it recently and a woman walked around London for 4 hours, she endured hundreds of unwanted comments and even a man photographing her bum fgs.

redexpat Mon 17-Apr-17 00:50:01

Because she thinks it only happens to women who are attractive. Thus if someone whistles at her, she's attractive.

Im with you. The men who do it do so because they feel entitled to. It is their right as owners of publuc space.

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 17-Apr-17 00:59:36

Because some part of her self worth comes from other people/men finding her attractive, so she over-values a random man wolf whistling her. It validates her self worth and makes her feel that she is attractive and valuable. It's not what I'd want to base my self-worth on. Plus I agree that it's also about men feeling entitled to comment on any women in a public space, which I find infuriating.

ChocChocPorridge Mon 17-Apr-17 08:21:07

What red said - it's about letting you know that they see you, walking around in their space, and letting you know that they still control it if they want to.

It's marking territory.

SailAwayWithMeHoney Mon 17-Apr-17 08:37:08

What red said - it's about letting you know that they see you, walking around in their space, and letting you know that they still control it if they want to.

Yes this. The men that do it don't do it on the off-chance the recipient will like it.

I've had total strangers hollar "milf" out of car windows at me when I've been out with my (4yo) son. Fucking milf ! It's entitled men thinking I am public property to comment on because I dared to venture outside without a male chaperone.

I think some women do "like" it because, as has already been said, we are so conditioned to root some if not most of our self worth in how attractive we are to men, so for some women it's a sort of validation of how attractive they are.
But, again, the men that do it (unless they already know the woman and have pre-arranged consent to yell things at her in the street) don't do it on the chance that the woman will like it.

IAmAmy Mon 17-Apr-17 09:23:42

Personally I believe men do it to embarrass and control women, to put them in their place, and often to make fun of them.

This is exactly right. It's not even intended to be a compliment much of the time, in my opinion. Men are well aware how many girls and women find it irritating at best. When it and general street harassment has happened to friends and I, we've agreed those who perpetuate it seem to enjoy it when it makes us feel uncomfortable. I believe the motivations are power and intimidation - as you say, to belittle women/girls and remind us our place in society is to be judged by men for whom we exist.

I've been harassed since I was 14 by men and boys of all ages including in my school uniform by a man about in his 40s dressed smartly in a suit - it really is all demographics who do this and my experience is by no means unique amongst my friends (or other women as threads like this show). My friend and I were followed for what seemed like about 10 minutes (was probably more like 2 or 3 but felt like more) in New York on holiday a couple of years ago by a group of men who were discussing what they'd like to do. Had to go in a shop and talk to a security guard to get rid of them. I imagine some would say they were just trying to "compliment" us.

Wolf whistling is also only one form of street harassment but those who defend it claim it's all "a compliment". If it's such a compliment it's interesting how quickly it can turn into abuse ("miserable bitch" has been hurled at me, friends have had "you're fucking ugly anyway", "you're not all that, think you're special do you") if you ignore it sometimes.

As for the man taking photographs, that's very commonplace unfortunately. There was an article in The Telegraph some time ago about whole social media accounts and threads on well known forums dedicated to sharing photographs taken of women and girls without consent or knowledge in public.

I suppose when you're conditioned to accept this as just part of being a girl/woman and keep seeing anyone who challenges it told "lighten up, it's a compliment" you can take that in and feel it is. As you say, though, it certainly isn't one nor intended to be.

patodp Mon 17-Apr-17 09:33:03

I've been wolf whistled whilst wearing the shittest attire and hair in a "haven't -washed-it-in-days" plait. But it happened to be a hot day so the attire happened to be summery.

It's like... look! female in a dress. You should cover up or what do you expect?

Actually once I got a lewd comment because I actually was dressed up walking to meet my boyfriend. I threw the twat a dirty look, he hand gestured and SAID "Well, what do you expect?"

I EXPECT Men to treat women with human dignity without humiliating them. Is that too much to ask??

noeffingidea Mon 17-Apr-17 12:21:57

Those who take it as a compliment will probably miss it when they get older and therefore invisible.
I'm in my late 50's and rarely get male 'attention' while out and about now. What a relief it is, being able to go about my business without being harassed. Almost as good as not having periods. Reaching my menopause has made me realise how much easier life must be for men in some respects.

DeleteOrDecay Mon 17-Apr-17 16:43:04

I agree op, it's not a compliment and anyone who takes it as one just enables this sort of behaviour.

faithinthesound Tue 18-Apr-17 06:20:36

What's worse, I have never met a woman who likes it that also understands that some women don't. Women (in my experience) fall into two camps:

hate it/feel harassed by it


like it/love it/get a boost of confidence from it, and why are you such a prude anyway, lighten up it's a compliment.

Me, I am of the opinion that men only do it to remind women that public space belongs to men, and to further remind them that a woman's right to exist in public is valid only as long as she makes herself available to the male gaze. (Subtext: because otherwise, what is the point of you really?)

FenellaMaxwellsPony Tue 18-Apr-17 06:36:52

If they were a dog, they'd be peeing on your leg- it's not a compliment, it's an attempt at dominance.

AnotherQuoll Tue 18-Apr-17 06:38:37

It's a reminder that "OI !!! A man is here!"; That men are always watching, and we're always to give them our attention.

dementedcommuter Tue 18-Apr-17 09:39:25

I was painfully shy in my 20s and went to extreme lengths to avoid being cat called by builders, and working in London there were a lot of them. I changed my tube stops and the roads I took for months at a time. It was way worse back then and builders were known for it.

Men critiquing your body even with favorable comments is horrendous, humiliating and disrespectful.

Nancy91 Tue 18-Apr-17 09:41:23

I find it really degrading which totally detracts from anything positive they thought about my looks. So humiliating when it happens in front of people.

Spam88 Tue 18-Apr-17 09:55:23

Ooh I think people saying 'you should be flattered' actually gives me the rage more than the initial whistling/shouting. Yes, of course, I should definitely be flattered by a random man shouting from his car 'do you want to suck my cock?' I mean really, how is that anything but a compliment? hmm

I have noticed though that I haven't had any of this since being (very) visibly pregnant. I'm not sure if it's the bump or the waddle that puts them off but I'm considering just constantly being pregnant 👍

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 18-Apr-17 13:19:55

I've never actually heard a wolf whistle beyond say in something like a Carry On film.

Xenophile Tue 18-Apr-17 13:25:37

It's not a compliment. The men who do it know they aren't complimenting you, they are asserting their dominance over a public space that you have dared to enter.

The kind of man who would cat call a random woman is almost certainly a complete social inadequate, with all the charm of a long abandoned canal.

Kalizahara Tue 18-Apr-17 13:50:15

I do wonder whether our views are shaped by our experience.

I've endured a hell of a lot of street harassment beyond wolf whistling. I've been getting it since I was about 12 years of age.

Wolf whistling, men in vans beeping, shouting obscenities, I've been shouted at with my kids, some of it very explicit. I've also had men turn nasty when I've ignored them.

If you've never seen anything more than a whistle or a "morning love" perhaps you think it's harmless.

Xenophile Tue 18-Apr-17 16:00:45

I think it's more than that Kali.

Some people who have never experienced it, or any of the many other things that the majority of women have to contend with in order to live their lives, actually contend that it never actually happens

It's weird.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 18-Apr-17 16:30:28

I've never actually heard a wolf whistle beyond say in something like a Carry On film.

Do you think that's statistical fluke, or something about the way you carry yourself - have you had any other sort of unwanted attention?
I can't remember ever hearing an actual whistle; my demeanour when I was perfectly happily going about my own business for some reason used to attract the weird 'cheer up (love), it may never happen' intrusion. confused

SailAwayWithMeHoney Tue 18-Apr-17 16:49:27

"Cheer up love, might never happen" angry I hate that one. Also being told to smile.

I find I tend to get more attention on days I feel confident. I remember last year putting on a new, bright, floral dress (you know the ones that are like midi-length tee-shirts?) and feeling amazing, was off to meet someone. I got 10 minutes from my house and had been beeped at and shouted and whistled at at least 10 times. It made me feel so exposed, I went home and changed.
I've not worn that dress since because it attracts that kind of unwanted attention.

My BIL says I should get a big fake beard to freak the beepers out. Especially the ones who beep from behind grin

AnyFucker Tue 18-Apr-17 16:51:38

Women who like it are terminally stupid, IMO

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 18-Apr-17 18:24:05

Do you think that's statistical fluke, or something about the way you carry yourself - have you had any other sort of unwanted attention?

I can't think of any thing beyond once a van driver beeped and said "I like your hair" (when it was very long and sort of Pre-Raphaelite/ Robert Plant in his heyday) I was with my husband at the time. I suppose he woudn't have said the same to a man but I took it as a genuine compliment. I get compliments from strangers occasionally about what I'm wearing and occasionally they are men.

WankingMonkey Wed 19-Apr-17 12:59:13

I dunno. I get a confidence boost if I get wolf whistled and stuff blush I know its just men viewing women as a piece of meat but I still have the idea that if a guy wolf whistles, he actually thinks you are goodlooking and that which in turn must mean I look half decent. I do know its wrong to get a bit of a buzz from this, but can't seem to help it. Sorry.

WankingMonkey Wed 19-Apr-17 13:01:14

Women who like it are terminally stupid, IMO

Or this grin I don't think I am stupid. It just takes a lot to get away from my teen days where everything was based on looks, if you were decent looking you had a great life, everyone tried to be the one the guys wanted. Etc.

I know appearances don't matter (even moreso as a happily married woman!) but its nice to have a little fleeting though of 'I must look decent' even if its not true..

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