Skip to main site content.

‘Surely sexist'

Catcallers across America pretty much use the same language everywhere

By WITW Staff on August 15, 2017

Street harassment is a problem that persists across the entire United States — indeed around the world — with about 65 percent of all American women claiming they have been the subject of unwanted remarks or catcalls while moving around in public. Wondering whether there would be any regional differences in the language catcallers across America use, NPR asked their listeners about their experiences and found that words men use to verbally harass women remain rather consistent across the country.

Using gestures and sounds, as well as “vague” words such as “damn” and “baby,” allows harassers to deny they meant any harm, according to Benjamin Bailey, an associate professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Bailey’s research focuses on street remarks. “My most striking finding is mostly it’s ‘Hi,’ ‘Hi beautiful,’ ‘Hi, sweetie,’” that are the preferred phrases of catcallers, he told NPR. “Very boring, surely sexist, but the vast majority of [street harassment] are these subtle things that are appropriate in other contexts and give an out to that person.” Bailey added that most of these men just want attention, and are subtly “reproducing the patriarchy” with these catcalls disguised as greetings. “It’s hard to fight back against. The threats of violence and extremely offensive ones exist, but 95 percent are these other things,” Bailey added. Of course if you’re walking down the streets of New York City, the language can get a tad more colorful than what’s described above, as this viral video from 2014, which now has more than 10 million views shows.

Read the full story at NPR.


Clueless man catcalls women … during anti-catcalling news report

Man booted from plane after catcalling flight attendant