dealing with catcalls while I’m walking with coworkers

A reader writes:

I’m a 20-year-old summer intern at a company that I absolutely love, and one of the reasons I like it so much is the casual environment and culture. There’s an office candy stash, complimentary yoga classes, and no dress code (my offer letter literally says that I could come to work in a sparkly cowboy suit if I really wanted to).

Usually, I wear sundresses (like many women in the office). Now, I don’t think this should be relevant, but I know some people might wonder — my dresses are nothing that would cause me to get a detention at the Catholic school I went to. That is, my skirt is always longer than my fingertips resting at my side, and the straps are always more than two inches thick. Despite the fact that this is my first office job, I can say with confidence that for the work environment I’m in, my attire is appropriate and professional. I look like everyone else, but a little younger.

Being able to dress for warm weather is especially useful in the summertime, because our office is actually split across two buildings that are a couple blocks apart, and the nature of my work means that at least once a day, I walk with coworkers from one building to the next. These blocks that we’re walking down are somewhat busy city blocks right next to a park, and I’ve had the same embarrassing thing happen to me a few times while walking: I’ve been catcalled by some passing jerk.

They’re nothing out of the ordinary for catcalls: “Hey there, pretty baby” and “Ooh, sexy!” and, most embarrassingly, “Hey red dress, what does that mouth do?” Euugh. When I’m alone or with a friend when I get catcalled, I just ignore it (or, admittedly, show the guy in question a particular finger). But I have no idea what to do when I’m with coworkers! It makes everything feel so awkward all of a sudden — conversations stop, eye contact is avoided — and I want to be able to defuse the tension. Staying silent feels like I’m not condemning it enough. Responding to the catcall feels too aggressive. Saying I’m embarrassed feels like an apology, when I haven’t done anything wrong. I once said something like “Ugh! Cat-callers are the worst!” but that didn’t really make the situation any less uncomfortable.

What can/should I do? Pretend it isn’t happening? Stop walking with my coworkers? Bite the bullet and cover up more at work (even though, I might add, this has even happened on days when I wear jeans and a t-shirt)? I’m an intern still getting used to the professional world, so I appreciate any advice you can give me.

Ugh, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and that it’s making you feel like the burden is on you to smooth things over for the people you’re with.

Ideally, your coworkers would be jumping in to support you, or at least ensuring there’s no weird silence. “Gross,” “what an asshole,” “that’s not okay,” or “ick, sorry that happened” would all be acceptable things for them to say. I’m not going to blame them too much, because it’s pretty normal for people not to have the perfect on-the-spot reaction in the face of this kind of thing, but I’m pointing it out so that you know that the responsibility doesn’t lie with you to make everyone else feel comfortable. If anyone is taking that on, it should be them for you.

As for what you should do in the moment: whatever’s going to make you the most comfortable. “Gross,” “what an asshole,” and “ick” are all perfectly appropriate things for you to say too. Or you can just continue on with whatever conversation you were having. Or you can say nothing, if that’s what you end up with! Saying nothing is not in any way an insufficient response. You don’t have any obligation here at all, and saying nothing is perfectly fine. Of everyone involved in this situation, you are the person with the least obligation to defuse the tension caused by someone harassing you.

For what it’s worth, your coworkers almost certainly know that this a crappy thing that happens to women, they’re not thinking you’re in any way responsible for it, and many of them probably deal with it themselves. They definitely don’t expect you to smooth it over; they’re almost certainly feeling awful that you’re having to deal with it and probably are questioning themselves later about whether they could have handled it better in the moment themselves.

And no, don’t conclude you need to dress differently or stop walking with your coworkers. You’re dressing appropriately for your office, and you don’t need to change your clothing, your perfectly normal habits, or your work relationships because of assholes.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. OlympiasEpiriot*

    LW, I’m so sorry this is happening. It is not your clothes. I know you already know that, but, it is good to remind yourself of that. I’m well into middle-aged years and I still get this shit…even in winter when I’m bundled up. There are assholes out there and it is not about you.

    1. sparklealways*

      I was just coming here to say the same thing! It’s not about your clothes. It’s not about you. They will do it regardless of what you are wearing. They just want attention and power. Don’t give them either.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup, and a lot of times, the same guy will switch on a dime from “Hey, sexy lady” to “Ugly b*tch!” if he doesn’t get a reaction he likes, because obviously the woman’s looks deteriorated vastly in 1.2 seconds (snark).

        1. Product Person*

          I’m glad it’s not just me whose looks deteriorate in warp speed after ignoring the stupid remark :o).

        2. many bells down*

          Yeah, I got catcalled the most when I was on my morning walk: baggy sweats, no makeup, hair in an unwashed frizzy bun. Clearly at my most alluring.

          Honestly, I think it’s worse when you’re dressed “down”. If I’m all dressed up and I know I look good, somehow it bothers me less.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            The one time a guy really hassled me I was wearing a ratty tshirt and gym shorts. From middle school gym, BECAUSE I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL. Even middle schoolers with bad hair and acne wearing their middle school gym clothes are not immune, apparently. (Somehow now that I’m an adult I am harassment-proof, and I have no idea why but I wish I did so I could bottle it or run free seminars or something. I’m That Person Who Just Doesn’t Get Catcalled. I have no idea.)

          2. Ann*

            What is the deal with these cats anyway? Every cat I’ve known has gone out of his way to pretend that people are invisible. It sounds fishy to me, that all these cats have become so vocal.

            1. Vicki*

              No, no, they’re calling the cats. It’s not the cats calling. Because they know the cats are independent and won’t come when called. That annoys them.

              Just act like a cat. Lick your paw; it didn’t happen.

          3. One of the Sarahs*

            Weirdly, my sister, who’s always had catcallers, gets more of them now she’s a mum, pushing her son in his pushchair. I guess that makes her seem more vulnerable?

        3. TrainerGirl*

          I used to work in the city and took the subway, so I’d be walking a lot and got harassed every day. I don’t miss it. I found that if I put on my “mean face”, I got bothered a lot less. It’s terrible to have to alter the way you carry yourself, but those jerks don’t deserve to make you feel uncomfortable.

      2. Myrin*

        I’ll never understand the “logic” behind catcalls anyway. I mean, I’ve accepted that it’s about power but where does that power even come from? I guess it can be derived from the knowledge that you’re making the other person uncomfortable but… so many women are so used to this (and what a horrible thing this is to write) that they don’t visibly react at all, so the harassers don’t have any indication that they’ve even been heard, so why do they still get that powerful feeling from it?

        I’ve just been pondering a bit about this recently because I got catcalled for the first time in eleven years just two weeks ago – my sister says I must have some kind of creep-repellent inside of me or something – and I was annoyed and upset about it for the whole day and I wondered what the dudes ever got out of it (other than some weird and gross bonding ritual, but then again, one would think that going hiking with your buddies would be enough of a bonding situation already).

        1. sparklealways*

          That’s exactly it… They know it bothers you… Like you said, you were upset about it the whole day. That gives them power over you even if they don’t see it.

          There’s a quote “He who angers you, controls you.” I think it has been attributed to multiple authors, so I’m not sure who said it, but remind yourself of that to let go.

            1. LD*

              It sounds like she was saying to let go of the anger that continued to spoil her whole day. And in any case, what would she realistically do to solve it? Everyone has a different level of tolerance for the BS that comes from just existing as a female. Some might feel comfortable approaching the person and having a serious conversation. Some might feel comfortable ignoring it as far as possible. Some might yell profanity and names back at the “caller.” Whatever the choice, it’s a good idea to do what you can to feel safe and “let go” of the negative emotions that could ruin a day.

              1. LD*

                To add and clarify, if the negative emotions lead to action planning for what to do to feel safe or to better respond, then sure, let that anger fuel your action! When the fear and/or anger are affecting your ability to function and focus, then it can be a good idea to seek support, whether through Ask A Manager, an EAP, or friends and coworkers you trust.

              2. sparklealways*

                Thank you LD! Yes – by no means did I mean to imply that those feelings were not justified. As a woman, I have certainly felt them myself when being catcalled.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I know, I always just think that… so often this stuff happens in crowded places like in a busy street or something so the target (Jesus Christ, that wording) doesn’t even hear these creeps or realise it’s about her in the first place or something, so there is no anger or upset going on. But I guess I’m looking for logic where there is none, really, I just like to get to the root of things and it annoys me when something is dumb and doesn’t make sense:

            1. Koko*

              I think even if the exact target didn’t necessarily hear them, they know they spoke loudly enough that plenty of people did hear and nobody said or did anything about. That’s enough of a sense of power in its own right. Being able to say horrible things and know that people around you think it’s horrible but aren’t confronting means you must have enough power that no one wants to go up against you.

              1. Alix*

                That, and they can totally pretend you heard them. The men I know who do stuff like this, they’re very good at convincing themselves they got a reaction, or that if you don’t react that you totally heard them and you’re just ~pretending to be above it.~ (That’s obviously assuming they don’t do what others have mentioned and switch to cruel comments or threats when they don’t get a reaction.)

                So, no, they don’t know you heard them, but they assume you did because they know they spoke loud enough that most people would, and so they assume you’re reacting somehow. And honestly, I know one guy who claimed to enjoy it more when women purposely ignored him – he said they’d often deliberately hold their head higher, pointedly not look at him, start striding more firmly, and he knew then that whatever they wanted to pretend, he’d gotten under their skin.

                (On the one hand, learning this stuff from male “friends” was really eye-opening, on the other, I wonder what it said about me that they’d tell me this stuff.)

          2. Katniss*

            Hmmm…I do understand what you’re saying, but I would say this framing of it has an implication that women shouldn’t allow themselves to be upset by catcalling. Catcalling can be frightening, and I also think it’s valid to be angry about it. I don’t like this idea that we’re somehow allowing ourselves to be controlled if we’re legitimately frightened by or angry about what sexists do to us.

            1. sparklealways*

              I didn’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t have a reaction or shouldn’t feel anything by it. You can certainly be frightened or upset by it. I am a woman and I have experienced all kinds of horrible feelings from being catcalled, especially fear. However, when you are out of the situation, the feeling of fear is no longer a rational one… That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to feel that way, it means you are being overwhelmed by emotion and letting it control your rational side. I have slowly taught myself to let these types of emotions go with that quote and it has helped me because I used to be an extremely emotional person, especially with these types situations.

              My point was that this is how these a**holes control you. If you can find a way to let it go once you are out of the situation, you are not letting the catcaller control you anymore.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I don’t stay afraid of or angry at the specific guy once he’s off my radar–I do, however, remain angry and apprehensive about the aspects of the wider culture that enable this crap.

          3. Anon for this*

            I don’t think that a random stranger who shouts at me on the sidewalk from his car cares whether I’m upset. It’s not like they stick around to see how you react.

        2. TootsNYC*

          there is also some power that comes from bystanders. Everyone around has seen them get away with doing something mean.

          That’s a huge part of schoolyard bullying. And it’s why bystanders have the most power. Especially for our OP, it could be really powerful if her COLLEAGUES were the ones who said, “Eff off, jer!” or “what an asshole!”

          However, often it’s wisest to not say anything to avoid escalation. So the colleagues may be letting the OP make the choice and have the control over how to respond.

          But colleagues can help by simply continuing to speak as though nothing was said. Or starting some ordinary conversation in the immediate aftermath.

          Something for us onlookers to think about.

        3. TrainerGirl*

          Not only anger, but fear. They know you’re uncomfortable and maybe afraid, and the more you show it, the more they get out of it. Just like the “smile” contingent…as if I’m a dancing monkey just walking around for your entertainment and I should perform for your pleasure on command. Ugh…some guys are wretched.

    2. Tris Prior*

      +1. Some of the grossest comments I’ve gotten have been while wearing my huge winter puffy coat that obscures my entire body, face wrapped up in a scarf, hair covered by hat. I don’t know how they could even tell I was female.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        Oh yes, I got some reeeeally gross comments at a bus stop in Minnesota in January once.

      2. phedre*

        I’ve never gotten as many catcalls as I did the day I walked to the pharmacy while sick, unshowered, no makeup, sweatpants, hair in a messy unkempt ponytail. That was the day I fully realized it has absolutely nothing to do with how you look/what you’re wearing and more to do with being female in a public space.

    3. Mustache Cat*

      I once got catcalled in a kayak from the road 50 meters away. Between the screen of trees, the glare of the river, the overlarge baseball cap I was wearing, and my life jacket, I have no idea how they could even tell I was female. Catcallers are…bizarre.

    4. ZuKeeper*

      Yep, not your clothes. It wouldn’t matter what you were wearing, assholes will be assholes :(

    5. sam*

      Yeah – as a plus-sized 42-year old lady who has been cat-called/harassed while walking around in the equivalent of baggy PJs (but for outside, I swear!) while running errands on the weekend, it REALLY does not matter what you wear or what you look like.

      My main solution, which obviously only works when you are by yourself, is to wear GIANT headphones so that you can just pointedly ignore everyone.* These guys do it to get a reaction out of you. If you can’t hear them, you can’t react.

      *This also helps you ignore the (a) 800 people with clipboards who swarm city sidewalks on weekends trying to get you to sign up to save the earth/children/whales/etc. by giving your contact and credit card info to complete strangers; and (b) the tourists who think the best person to ask for directions is the white lady clearly booking it down the street trying to catch the bus instead of the three completely harmless people standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, but who happen to not have complexions that are quite so…pasty.

      1. Sparrow*

        One of my friends used to live in a neighborhood absolutely rife with street harassment (like, I was literally catcalled every time I walked from the metro to his house, often by multiple people), and I also did the earphones thing so I’d have plausible deniability for ignoring them. But I always left the music off so that I could still hear what was going on around me. Constant awareness is exhausting but part of life as a woman in a city. :-/

    6. SystemsLady*

      I wore sweatpants and an overly large t-shirt to take a nice walk to grab coffee once and STILL got honked and whistled at by some jerk in a red truck.

      (he even honked more when he realized I wasn’t going to pay attention to him, which thanks to the shop being close and a divider making a U-turn impossible, earned him a certain finger).

  2. Allie*

    LW, I once got cat called walking around with some coworkers while wearing my most conservative suit and a full winter coat. Do not obsess over your dress when it comes to catcalling. The kind of people who do that will do it no matter what you are wearing. I hate that you feel like this shit behavior is your burden to deal with.

    1. LetterWriter*

      You’re right. These jerks will do it no matter what–and sometimes I wonder if they can *tell* I’m at work, and are still doing it just to make me that much more uncomfortable.

      1. A Non*

        Possibly. There’s an element of ‘keeping women in their place’ in most catcalling, so heaping extra shame on women who *gasp* have jobs makes sense in that context. Ugh. I need a shower now.

        By the way, I bet you look awesome. I love it when my coworkers dress up, because they look good and they’re clearly enjoying it. It’s a ray of sunshine where I don’t usually expect to find one.

      2. chickabiddy*

        Unfortunately, it is very possible that some of these idiots do believe that women should not “take men’s jobs” so they want to show how they feel about women. It sucks and it’s not your fault in any way.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I used to get constantly cat-called, but now that I’m over 40 it’s not nearly as common. I was walking somewhere with my former boss once when some dude ran over, gave me a flower and told my boss that he was a lucky man and that he should cherish me. We both turned beet red but at least the guy wasn’t vulgar, which would have been even more embarrassing. Nowadays it’s things like this that happen: I thought some hot young guy on the subway was checking me out the other day and was feeling pretty good about myself until he called me “ma’am” and asked me for directions and then told me I reminded him of his mom.

    3. TL -*

      I was wearing men’s jeans, a grey oversized men’s hoodie and men’s flip flops. Apparently the sound my flip flops made was hot.

  3. OhNo*

    There’s a lot to be said for using silence and a disgusted facial expression if you can’t or don’t want to say anything. It conveys the same attitude of “well, that was gross” without requiring you to actually think of a comment off the top of your head. Follow it up with some redirecting comment like, “Anyway, Fergus, you were saying?” and most people will take the cue that they should move on.

    FWIW, You might be able to turn this into a bonding experience if your coworkers are receptive. Comments like, “Ugh, can you believe that guy?” or “I’ve gotten catcalled before, but that’s a new one” can sometimes invite stories or comments from your coworkers, too. Using that as a tactic to diffuse the tension depends a lot on your coworkers’ attitudes and how comfortable you would be making a joke out of a pretty unpleasant experience, though.

    1. LetterWriter*

      Good advice! Especially if I’m walking with all female coworkers. I think it’s a unifying experience.

    2. my two cents*

      I’m a lady who’s been working in tech since graduating engineering school in ’07. Sexism is something I’ve only recently had male coworkers engage me in conversation over, typically on the heels of some awkwardly obviously sexist interaction happens right in front of their faces…like a customer only directing their conversation at the sales guy instead. Our industry is still very much dominated by men, though it’s slowly shifting some, and it’s been interesting to talk to my male mentor about the various interactions from my POV.

      However, cat-calling and other unwanted/unsolicited comments/come-ons/etc from strangers is only recently being discussed by everyone. There’s a lot of dudes who don’t realize the frequency or magnitude of this harassment. In my experience, they are simply in shock when they finally see it – and immediately think to their wives/sisters/daughters/mothers who may have also endured the same damn thing.

      A quick “gross, right?” or “when would that line even work?” or even a really scrunched-up “…really??” facial expression would be enough to acknowledge it with the group and then move on. If you’re walking with women, they’ll understand 100%. If you’re walking with dudes, they may have never actually witnessed it before and are frozen with embarrassment ‘for their gender’.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        If you’re walking with dudes, there’s research done that shows they *tune it out* because it doesn’t affect them, and would be unpleasant to acknowledge! The human brain is so weird.

        Saying “Ick” or “gross” and then moving on will help point this stuff out when otherwise their brains might elide it for them. Only if you feel comfortable with such a response, though.

    3. DoDah*

      My mother (who was smoking hot when she was young)–once stopped dead when catcalled and yelled, “my husband is a construction worker–and he WOULD never yell at a woman this way–how dare you!”–One of the guys actually apologized.

      1. motherofdragons*

        Your mom is awesome. This also got me thinking that an outraged, Dowager Countess-style “How DARE you!” would be a great response. Going to work on that!

      2. TrainerGirl*

        When I was in my 20’s, I got catcalled on the street by some construction workers. It pissed me off so bad that I walked over to them and said, “You want to talk to me? Go ahead…talk!” They all muttered “Sorry” and pretty much ran away. Not saying that will work with every guy, but I think some of them would be shocked and wouldn’t have anything else to say.

  4. BadPlanning*

    I think this might be an odd example of your coworkers might treat the situation as you treat it. If you ignore it, they’ll try to ignore it. If you flip the bird back or give an equivalent of “Screw you” then they might jump in and do similar.

    As part of a tactical response, if this is a larger group of people, could you shuffle yourself towards the middle of the pack? Literally use your coworkers as a human shield? Not that you should have to — but it might be nice to do on some days.

    Also, ugh.

    1. LetterWriter*

      This is a good insight–my default has been to silently ignore, so that could be why it feels like there’s an awkward silence every time it happens.

      I like the tactical idea too. Agree that it shouldn’t be necessary, but would certainly be useful on the days I’m already stressed about something else.

      1. Erika*

        You could always be a smart alec and turn it around and ask the catcaller for their number so you could get together later. I did that once and the guy turned beet red and turned away (to be fair, I adapted this from an episode of Sex and the City).

        I should mention that this happened when I worked for a labor union and was walking with a coworker and on the clock, much like you. My coworker (a slightly-older young woman) was impressed.

      2. Lissa*

        Yes, it could be they don’t want to react in a way that will cause you more upset or embarrassment. For instance if I was with someone and this happened and they didn’t say anything I probably would not want to draw more attention to it, especially if we didn’t know each other super well. It’s possible they are very upset and more talk about it would make it worse, after all! But if they say “ugh, what a jerk” I can tell my own story of how I thought I was immune to catcallers as it never happens, then I went to another city nearby and it happened 3 times in fifteen minutes. Apparently I’m only sexy to Seattle guys, not Vancouver guys. (joking, as I know of course it doesn’t have to do with attractiveness a lot of the time!)

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I very rarely hear any catcalling in Vancouver, actually! Hooray for frostiness / politeness / screen addiction / hipster too-cool-to-GAF attitudes / whatever.

      3. TootsNYC*

        This is a good insight–my default has been to silently ignore, so that could be why it feels like there’s an awkward silence every time it happens.

        There is more than one way to ignore. You don’t have to be silent to ignore.

        You could immediately start some other conversation–pick something you can be sort of enthusiastic and happy about: “did you see those videos of the gymnast’s parents? Aren’t they cute? They’re a riot. How did your mom & dad react when you were on stage as a kid?”
        Or, “did you hear that the RAGBRAI riders were encouraged to throw seed pellets of milkweed into the ditches, to provide food for monarch caterpillars?”

        So there’s not an awkward silence, but you’ve filled up the “air” with animated, friendly conversation. It’s probably the most powerful “I’m ignoring you” message to the catcaller as well.

      4. Gene*

        I wonder how the coworkers would respond if the next time you are all making that walk, you enlisted them. As in, “I know you’ve all heard the catcalls, and you looked as uncomfortable as I felt. Next time it happens, follow my lead!” Then if it happens, stop, turn around, and go full on nuts at the catcaller. Say all the things you’ve said in your head at the glasshole. Make him want to crawl into the closest hole and pull it in after him. Since you aren’t alone, the risk of retaliation is nearly non-existent. I know if a coworker did this while I was with her, she’d go up many notches in my estimation.

        As a close friend told his daughter when she was just slightly post-pubescent, “All men are pigs, even me. But some of us hide it better than others.” I’m sorry for my side of the species.

    2. OriginalYup*

      I agree that your colleagues might take their cues from how you react. If you’re looking for more scripts, I mostly treat street harassment like someone just intentionally pooped on the rug at a party. I stare at them for a second like WTF did you just do, make a face like I’ve smelled something unbearably disgusting, and say “Blech!” or something similar. If I was with a coworker I didn’t know well, I’d probably then change the subject to work, “Have you heard anything more about the new Widget XYZ project Chris mentioned yesterday? It sounded interesting.”

    3. Bwmn*

      I agree with you that this is likely the case – particularly for male coworkers. While men who are your friends or family may feel more inclined to provide a response, for a coworker they’re likely more inclined to hold back and follow you’re lead on how to response.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        Yes, even (and perhaps especially) people who want to support you often look to see how you’re reacting and follow your lead.

      2. TootsNYC*

        especially because often it turns out that responding in any way will lead to a confrontation with someone who is already over the line of appropriate behavior. And they don’t want to do that to you. (or themselves)

    4. Jady*

      I echo this! As casual an environment as this place sounds, I think a nice little “Screw you” or flipping the bird would not be considered unreasonable.

      If this were some really uptight place with a lot of strict unwritten rules, maybe not. But if you can wear a cowboy suit, you can flip off a stranger who deserves it.

      Assuming OP is a good standing performer otherwise, the worst I would see happening is a “hey I get it, but keep the language down”. or something silly.

      Keep in mind a couple weeks ago someone wrote in about their coworkers were playing Cards Against Humanity together! It’s all about the environment you’re in.

  5. LetterWriter*

    I really appreciate this answer, Alison–having the reassurance of a workplace norms expert that I’m not doing anything that pushes the boundaries of professionalism already makes me feel a lot better. Hopefully it won’t happen again, but if it does, I’m definitely not going to let it get me down. (Also, I like the one word “gross” response a lot, and I’m for sure going to use it. It’s lighthearted while still recognizing how inappropriate the dude’s behavior was.)

    1. KTM*

      Yep, I think that’s the easiest way to avoid the uncomfortable silence. Even an ‘ugh’ or eyeroll/disgusted face might be enough for you to feel like you’ve addressed it.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        Also, opinions may differ on this, but I think it’s fine to flip off a cat caller when lunching with coworkers.

        1. EmilyG*

          I think so too. FWIW, now that I’m older, if someone did this to a younger woman I was walking with, I’d go absolutely effing ballistic on them, with all the confidence I have now and didn’t when I was twenty. LW, don’t worry about your clothing and don’t let anyone make you think you’re inviting it.

          1. Myrin*

            I did the milder version of this recently while I was waiting for the train. Two young teenage girls walked by – they were 14 at most – and some guy in his probably late forties obviously ogled them. So I walked directly into his field of vision and gave him the stink-eye as well as some explicit gestures that showed him exactly what I was thinking of him. I wouldn’t have thought it’d work but he actually shrunk in on himself and was properly mortified. Super satisfying feeling there!

            1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

              I love that you did this. I started getting street harassment (often more direct than cat-calling, too) when I was about 12–in fairness, I probably looked 14 *eyeroll*–and I would have been ever grateful to have an adult step in and make it clear that it wasn’t okay. Of course, many people who sexually harass children are smart enough to do it out of the sight of grown-ups, I was pretty much out of luck.

            2. Kora*

              Sincerely, thanks for doing this. I still have memories of being 12 or so and being asked ‘how much?’ by adult men and other adults just standing around and laughing. Happened to every one of my friends, too, and nobody ever intervened. It makes such a difference just to have somebody demonstrate that this stuff is inappropriate.

              1. Jill*

                I also started getting catcalled at age 13. That’s also when I stopped being a “good girl” about such things. I would be the female coworker that wouldn’t give a rip if I was with coworkers or not. Cuss words, the finger, stopping and giving him a stink eye, a smart ass comeback – you’d see ’em all with me.

                So, assuming you’re in good standing at work, I say turn the tables right back on them, if it pleases you. And I agree with Alison – do not change your clothes just for them. In fact, stop trying to come up with reasons to blame yourself for this!!

            3. Anonicat*

              There was a reddit thread semi-recently where a guy asked women to describe their first sexual/romantic experience, and it was basically 40,000 variations on these – young teens being ogled or catcalled or groped by grown men. I nominated the day there was a flasher on the way to school. There was a LOT of men commenting that they had no idea it was so widespread (harassment of young girls, not the flashing…)

            4. WildLandLover*

              My 15-year-old daughter was at a city bus stop with me (this was 15 years ago, BTW) standing a few feet away (because, hey, can’t be seen with mom at 15, right?), when some sleazebag in a car pulled over and motioned my daughter to come over. I completely LOST it! I started yelling at him to get the F*CK away from my daughter, stupid POS, etc. and the guy took off like the cops were after him.

              I embarrassed my daughter at the time, although now she understands as she has a daughter too.

              I only wish I could have defended myself as well during all those long, uncomfortable teen and early 20s years . . .

    2. INTP*

      FWIW, if you prefer not to say anything but don’t want to seem weak or like you are condoning it (not that anyone would be fair to make that judgment whatever you did), I think it comes across as fairly assertive to completely ignore it. I mean completely – don’t let your posture shrink a little in response to the aggression, don’t pause what you were saying, don’t avert your eyes to the man that said it, don’t change your facial expression, give absolutely no physical cue that you have registered the existence of these men at all. It’s difficult at first, but feels very empowering after you get the hang of it. And because completely ignoring people is generally not “done” in society (especially if you’re an American and not from NYC or a similarly dense city), it makes a powerful statement without requiring you to actually engage in a confrontation.

    3. Anna*

      Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is my secret boyfriend, has taken to yelling “thank you” if he’s close by when a woman is cat-called.

      1. Anna*

        Also, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, will walk over and introduce herself. It usually freaks the catcallers right the eff out.

      2. Katniss*

        I don’t usually go all fangirl over celebrities, but I want LMM to be my friend. He just seems so amazing!

          1. Katniss*

            He really is. For awhile there, he used to do running jokes in the Facebook group for my favorite podcast (My Brother, My Brother, and Me) and it was adorable and hilarious.

            1. Anna*

              I LOVE MBMBAM. Griffin was doing a good job. :)

              I too am a member of that group. And TAZ. And Sawbones. I may be a total McElroy fangirl, too.

      3. Recently Diagnosed*

        I see you are secretly dating my secret best friend. I wish you and Lin the best of luck.

  6. Moonsaults*

    It’s most certainly not what you’re wearing, do not let them put that idea into your head. It’s all on these nasty animals who act like they cannot control their impulses and have no respect for women. I’ve gotten this behavior no matter what I’m wearing, they just see “woman” and start howling at the moon, slobbering all over themselves like a beast.

    No joke, I just hung up with a perv that ended the conversation about picking up a load of materials with “And you’ll be there all pretty and everything?”

    Oh I’ll be here all right, argh.

    I’m sorry you have this happen so frequently and would handle it with others as I would without them. Your coworkers are just as uncomfortable as you are and probably want to punch these fools in their slackjaws for you but you know, we’re the civilized ones :(

      1. Moonsaults*


        This is some old guy, like my dad’s age probably, hopefully his mother has long since disowned his ass.

    1. Lissa*

      “They just see “woman” and start howling at the moon” made me crack up hard. That’s exactly it! It doesn’t even matter what we do, wear, or look like. I think the Internet proves this even harder, somebody sees a female user name even something bland like “Sarah205” and sends unsolicited come-ons…you have no idea who this person is, how old they are, what they look like etc. so obviously it doesn’t have to do with hotness, as some people seem to think!

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        The great Caitlin Moran wrote something about how your inhibitions when you’re online are lowered by the same level as if you had just had three drinks! Makes a loooootta sense when you think about it. :)

      2. annejumps*

        Huh. I don’t get catcalls or come-ons. Like, nothing. Wonder what’s wrong with me…. :)

  7. Anonish*

    It makes me sad that the first three paragraphs of this letter are a justification for why OP is wearing the clothes she’s wearing, as if catcalling were ever okay under any circumstance no matter what the person is wearing. (This is not directed at you, OP! You did nothing wrong. I’m mad at society for making you feel like you have to justify your perfectly normal and appropriate clothing choices because otherwise someone would blame you for the actions of others.)

    1. LetterWriter*

      Honestly, it kind of makes me sad too! But I figured if it got published, and I hadn’t explained what I was wearing, some jerk in the comments would have said “Well, maybe it really IS unprofessional what you’re wearing,” etc. etc. These comments have all been so supportive, though, that I’m thinking it maybe wasn’t necessary at all :)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Your outfit is fine–and even if it weren’t professional for your particular office, these assholes aren’t your boss. They don’t even work there. They don’t get to enforce work’s (hypothetical) dress code on you.

        1. Kelly L.*

          (And even if a boss did have an issue with your outfit, this is not how to express it! That probably goes without saying, but like you, I worry about covering all my bases in comments!)

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Now I’m imagining another Worst Boss of the Year contender: “Dear Ask A Manager, My boss cat called me outside our office building. He was wearing sunglasses and a hat, but I could still tell it was him. When I complained to HR, he denied it and said that I should dress more professionally anyway.”

      2. many bells down*

        99.9% of women know that it’s totally not what you’re wearing. Last time I got catcalled I was in a plain t-shirt and linen palazzo pants. I looked like the suburban 40something mom I am.

    2. Mustache Cat*


      My thoughts exactly. LW, don’t let the catcallers get you down! You’re doing awesome.

    3. Allison*

      Yeah, but especially given her age and intern status, there are bound to be concern trolls going “Well honey, I hate to say it but you may be showing more skin than most women in the business district, and that’s why you’re their target. You should try to dress more professionally if you want those men to respect you as a working woman and not a street walker.” I’m hoping that by making it very clear what she wears to work, people won’t assume she’s dressed inappropriately, but the thread is still new, so . . .

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. And it’s moot anyway, because they shouldn’t be harassing anyone, no matter what they’re wearing.

      2. Michaela T*

        Yeah, I think the letter writer’s instinct to explain was correct. This is a good comment section, but there’s always SOMEONE willing to derail with a “Have you considered that this is all your fault?”

        1. CMT*

          Hahaha, that’s (unfortunately) so true. Or somebody wanting to excuse another person’s bad behavior by armchair diagnosing them with something.

        2. Allison*

          I’m not so much concerned someone will say it’s her fault, but someone might say “if people are catcalling you, maybe your attire isn’t appropriate for work.” IN OTHER WORDS, and please read this carefully, they might want the OP to take it as a sign that her work attire is too provocative, even if they don’t necessarily (or at least consciously) think the OP is at fault for being harassed. The two thoughts often correlate but aren’t necessarily the same thing.

      3. Katniss*

        Yeah, you never know who will try to victim-blame. When I first got sober, my first sponsor asked me how short my skirt was when I was upset about catcalling. My SPONSOR. I got a new one the next day.

          1. Katniss*

            Thank you! It worked out for the best as I found the BEST sponsor and just adore her, so I can’t complain too much.

        1. A Non*

          One of my coworkers was telling another (older, female) coworker about an incident with a vendor who was being creepy. And the coworker’s reaction was “well, were you wearing a low-cut shirt? The girls are pretty big, you know.” That got her a reprimand from HR, as well it should. Usually other women are great allies, but sometimes they surprise you.

    4. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

      Well, the comments section has been hyper-reactive these days about finding fault with the LWs too.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        That was the first thing I thought of when I read OP’s description of her dresses. :(

  8. boop*

    It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. They aren’t expressing that they are finding you attractive, they are trying to put you down for daring to be out in the world. To them, you are a woman with too much freedom and they are trying to make you uncomfortable to put you in “your place”.

    Trip them.

    Ha! Just kidding, I have no idea how to respond to that.

    1. Sibley*

      You are 100% correct though. They are, consciously or unconsciously, trying to assert that they’re more powerful than the woman in question. It only stops when enough men and women make it stop though.

      Parents teach/correct/punish their children (adult children too).
      Men stand up for women (“Hey, that’s not cool. Cut it out”)
      Women stand up for themselves and other women.

      1. Renee*

        My teenager has been dealing with this in school. The sad thing is that my friends with boys, who are completely nice and rational people otherwise, don’t seem to understand how it’s partly their responsibility because they think it’s not their sons. Only it is and they just don’t acknowledge it because the son shows a different face to his parents (I’m no longer friends with someone who’s son was specifically mentioned in an incident and she denied it was possible). Or it’s their sons’ friends who the sons don’t call out. It’s frustrating. I tell them my daughter’s stories hoping to help them understand (because the school has actually had to get involved in harassment situations twice since the fifth grade — active and pervasive harassment instigated by one or two boys — which requires at least complicity by the “good” boys), and they can’t seem to see how it affects them personally. I’m very concerned for her generation. I don’t think it’s getting any better because boys are not being held to better standards at all. I’ve given my daughter complete permission to call out any harassment she sees in whatever words she feels are appropriate but the girls should not be bearing this burden because the parents don’t do their parts.

        1. OriginalYup*

          I read something once that stayed with me, and it sometimes helps people break through the “but I didn’t do anything” thinking so feel free to share it with the parents you’re dealing with. Psych research indicates that people who do terrible things often rationalize their actions through the thinking that everyone secretly wants to do what they’re doing, they’re just the ones who are go through with it—e.g. everyone would do this if they thought they could get away with it. So when perpetrators joke about doing terrible things and others around them laugh it off (because someone would never “really” do that, right??), they understand it as others expressing admiration for their acts – basically, they choose to interpret the lack of negative response as permission and acceptance. This makes it critical for bystanders to speak up, to break the illusion. The more the herd reacts negatively to someone doing something harmful, the less ground perpetrators have to pretend like what they’re doing is secretly A-OK with the majority around them.

          1. Renee*

            This is a good suggestion. I’ve discussed these themes with a couple of other parents. Of course the ones with the boys that aren’t doing this are the ones that readily understand it. The others I think just can’t acknowledge that their kids could ever be a part of it. Perhaps addressing it as a bystander issue would help.

        2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          Interesting that they think it’s not their sons. Thinking their children are inherently faultless, or something. I thought this stemmed from the “boys will be boys” and “that’s just how the world is” mentality — my parents, for instance, react to various prejudices in the world with “that’s just how life works” — but this denialism isn’t any better.

          1. Renee*

            This former friend implied that my daughter was a liar instead. So it’s a combination of “boys will be boys” and “the girl must be lying because he’s actually a good guy.”

              1. Renee*

                It’s taught her some skills in coping with this kind of thing and she’s pretty good about speaking up now, though I’d prefer she not need these skills. I just hate how it indicates things haven’t changed. I was hoping for things to be better for my daughter.

          2. Hrovitnir*

            This is so common. When it comes to harassment there’s almost certainly an element of internalised sexism, but I actually can’t believe how much many parents are unwilling to admit their child is a person with all the potential foibles that accompany that. It’s not good for you not to teach your kids to take responsibility for their actions??

            Particularly when it comes to abusive behaviour: but then abusers are bad and my child isn’t bad so they can’t behave abusively…

        3. James*

          Part of the problem with boys calling out such behavior is that there are consequences. Boys are pretty simple creatures when it comes to in-group signaling; if you betray the group, they let you know, often in physically violent ways. In other words: For many boys, the fear is that if they stand up for the girls, they will end up getting the everloving tar beat out of them. I was beat up a few times because of the music I listen to–someone saw a CD case and decided that it warranted violence.

          That’s certainly no excuse for the parents or school administration that allow this to continue. I’m just saying that the situation the boys not doing the cat-calling face isn’t simple, and it takes real bravery to call out people doing the cat-calling in a social setting where violence is a very real possibility.

          I found a work-around once. Two guys were harassing a girl, playing “Keep Away” with some of her school supplies. One missed a shot, and I grabbed the stuff and handed it to the girl. One guy started getting all huffy and demanded “Why’d you do that?!” I responded “She’s cuter than you” in an off-hand way. Shut the whole situation down. The fact that I had a reputation for not being a creep helped; the girl knew what I was doing.

          1. Junior Dev*

            Um… It really doesn’t help to fight the objectification of women if you imply the only reason to stop harassment is if a girl/woman is “cute.” I know it was a joke but it was the kind of joke that serves to perpetuate the problem. I would be very creeped out if a man “defended” me with that kind of language.

            Also, if you think it’s scary for men to defend women how do you think the women feel?

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              Your last line is the crux of the problem. It happens also when a straight person stands up for a gay person, or a cis person stands up for a trans person. You give up some of your safety and acceptance, to help bring about greater safety and acceptance for the other person. Yes, it’s scary, requires courage, and you get shit for it. This is still happening in 2016 and it reminds me of a certain phrase that was hurled at Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

            2. Renee*

              I get that it’s complicated for boys. But girls have to deal with it, period. They don’t get the luxury of being left alone by remaining silent. They get harassed going to school and they get harassed walking between buildings at work. It’s more than just not “allowing it to continue.” Parents need to affirmatively teach their boys not to do it. Parents that simply ignore the issue of harassment because they think it doesn’t affect them as parents of boys contribute to the problem. I talk to my daughter about harassment and consent, and speaking out about problems. They need to be doing the same thing. And men need to be calling it out when other men do it.

            3. James*

              I didn’t say it was an ideal solution for all similar situations. I merely was providing an example of how I handled it in one instance. There’s a gulf of difference between prowess and strategy–the methods you use to defuse a situation while it’s actually happening are very different from the methods you use to make that sort of situation not happen anymore. How you go about that will depend on the situation. In a high school classroom, what I did is effective. It would be WILDLY inappropriate in a business environment.

              I am in full agreement with your last line. I’m not saying it’s not true. I’m just saying that when we say “Boys have to stand up to their peers engaging in this behavior” we have to also acknowledge that we are asking them in many cases to take a very real risk. Should they do it anyway? Sure–that’s the whole point behind chivalry in the modern era. But we should at least acknowledge that the risk is there, and not blame the boys too much for not painting a target on their own backs.

              1. Yup*

                But boys / men calling other boys / men out on their behavior is NOT about chivalry – that’s just another standard by which women are seen as the weaker, meeker sex.

                It’s about women and men BOTH standing up to sexism, demarcating the lines of appropriate behavior, and asserting the importance of civility, no matter who’s the object of a catcall or public insult (in other words, any person who’s not male, heterosexual-passing, and typically, white).

                And as others have said, the risks for a man getting involved are far, far, far smaller than those for women, because the kind of bully who catcalls women will only back down in front of a man. As Renee so well puts it, this is an issue for families and society at large.

                1. James*

                  That’s not really what chivarly is about. I encourage you to go to Chivalry Today and read some of their essays on it–chivarly is a complicated code of behavior that can’t be easily simplified into our concept of society. “I know it’s going to hurt but do it anyway” is pretty strongly present in the concept, though.

                  As for risk, I never said that it was equal. I merely said that we must consider it. And I think you’re mistaken.

                  Cat-callers I’ve seen back down pretty quick from a woman confronting them (it’s not about control, but in-group signalling in my experience, so when confronted they tend to go away). In fact, a woman confronting the cat-caller is often more respected by the cat-caller’s buddies (humans are weird). I genuinely don’t think most cat-callers have any intention of physical contact with the women, as evidenced by their stammering when confronted. I explain my reasoning in more depth elsewhere.

                  As for a guy getting involved, you and I have had different experiences apparently. Many times I’ve intervened directly it quickly escalated either to physical violence, or almost to it. But then, I grew up in a small town, where a bit of rough-and-tumble was expected among males.

          2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Yes, this is true and terrible. I’ve observed that boys (or adult men) who either betray the group as you said, or are perceived as supportive or sympathetic to girls/women, get ostracized from the group at best and physically harmed at worst. It’s similar or worse for men who are themselves perceived as feminine. It seems there is a “social cost” and possibly a physical cost as well for men who stand up in these ways. So yes, for a young boy to stand up to his peers does take courage.

            I knew a guy who got beat up for listening to Tori Amos.

            I remember when I was younger, if you were a straight person who supported gay marriage, you would start getting some of the abuse that was (and still is, of course) hurled at gay people. That seems to have calmed down in my immediate area.

          3. Panda Bandit*

            Then people need to stop teaching their boys to be criminals. Beating the tar out of someone? That’s just a folksy veneer on the crimes of assault and battery.

  9. SquirrelsJustWannaHaveFun*

    I’m heavily leaning towards recommending the “What an asshole!” response myself. Because asshole.

    And then I guess for any additional incidents from there, you could resort to “Another asshole for the list,” or “Dear Diary: Met another asshole today.”

    No one should have to deal with this though. It’s ridiculous and I’m sorry. This is one of those things that cause my fists to clench in immediate feminist rage.

  10. K.*

    I’ve been getting catcalled since I was 11 (I was an early bloomer). Hot weather when I’m not wearing much, cold weather when I’m wearing snow boots and a heavy coat, dressed to the nines, dressed in gym clothes post-workout and sweaty and gross … doesn’t matter. Happened to me this morning, in fact. There was a trending hashtag on Twitter, #YesAllWomen, that was intended to highlight how all women go through forms of harassment and misogyny and violence.

    It’s not your fault and you don’t need to change or justify what you’re wearing or doing. When it happens to me in front of people, I tend to toss off an “UGH” or something and keep it moving, but do whatever will bring you some comfort in the moment.

  11. Bee Eye LL*

    First off, on behalf of MOST men, we don’t all yell at women like that. It’s embarrassing to me when another guy does that kind of mess. I’m sorry it’s happening to you.

    Since it sounds like you HAVE to walk between these buildings for work, you might be able to report this to management and complain about being in a hostile work environment. Most managers tremble at the mention of “sexual harassment” and this surely fits. Maybe have someone in your company’s management contact that construction company’ management and throw out words like “lawsuit” and “police” and see if it settles down.

    1. Jennifer*

      Thank you, Bill! (May I call you Bill?)

      > It’s embarrassing to me when another guy does that kind of mess.
      What do *you* do in those circumstances? Silence is often seen as assent or approval. We need men to push back too, since men are usually doing these things for the other men around them.

      > Maybe have someone in your company’s management contact that construction company’ management
      This is actually genius. Since it’s really coming from that one source, it really can be shut down in this instance.

      Here’s an example that’s not completely relevant, but it does show that some people are taking this seriously:

    2. esra (also a Canadian)*


      It would largely depend on her company’s culture, but I’m not sure reporting this as a hostile work environment would be the way to go. Definitely flag it to management, but I don’t think it fits sexual harassment (in the scope of her workplace) or hostile work environment.

    3. LetterWriter*

      It’s actually not construction employees doing the harassing–it’s just random park patrons, usually.

  12. grasshopper*

    That sucks. iHollaBack and StopStreetHarassment sites both have good resources on what you can say and do in these situations.

  13. Floral Laurel*

    I feel you, OP. You are not obligated to change your attire, nor are you obligated to diffuse this situation yourself. I’m fresh out of college myself and my new job is located in a bustling city with many people- both kind people and jerks. I wear floor-length maxi dresses and I get catcalled. I wear yoga pants and a t-shirt (my office is laidback as yours is) and I get catcalled. Heck, one guy started saying pervy stuff about my SUNGLASSES! It doesn’t matter what the female wears or looks or presents herself, these jerks will still be jerks and find SOME way to harass.
    If you feel unsafe for any reason, definitely let your coworkers know. I had one creepy catcaller follow me to my office building when I was an intern and I was genuinely concerned. In hindsight, I know I should have told the two coworkers I was walking with because they could have helped/stepped in. I thought I was being silly if I said anything to them, but I know better now.
    I agree with AAM’s advice that you can make whatever comment you feel comfortable saying at the time. This is behavior that is never acceptable, no matter who is in your company, and it is not your responsibility to make your coworkers NOT feel awkward. This is unwarranted harassment brought upon you, and your colleagues happen to be witnesses. (& I agree that they should step in to diffuse the situation.)

  14. Anon For Now*

    You shouldn’t have to do this, but if you are really intent on it stopping consider walking with a man in your group?

    I have not once been harassed when walking with a man.

    1. Natalie*

      Sadly I don’t think that always works, especially if it’s a group of co-workers as opposed to say, a couple. Jerks gonna jerk.

      1. LetterWriter*

        Yeah, I think Natalie’s right. As I said in an earlier comment, it’s almost like some of the guys can tell that I’m at work, and they take advantage of the opportunity to make me even more uncomfortable. It’s really gross.

        (I also tend not to get catcalled when I’m walking with male friends, though, so I see where you’re coming from)

      2. aebhel*

        Yeah. I’ve never been harassed when I’m with an individual man, but it happens all the time if I’m in a group with no obvious Male Partner to offend.

        I usually cuss them out, but I’m not sure that would give the professional impression that OP is going for.

    2. Moonsaults*

      That sometimes works, it depends on how aggressive and vile the creature doing the catcalling is. I have a large BF and people still try toying with me or him even, they are usually in large groups of say construction workers. So they know that most people aren’t going to come up to them and pop them one, so it’s even more fun to screw with a woman with a guy who can’t do anything to them. It’s all about power and power is so much better when you’re really pushing it like that.

    3. Allie*

      That hasn’t been my experience, unfortunately. I have gotten comments along the line of “leave him and come with me” (except way more vulgar) which is almost worse because it implies something inappropriate about me walking around with a male coworker.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      I have. Though it’s been a different form of catcalling. More of a winkwink nudgenudge “you’re lucky she’s with you” type of thing. Which is almost worse in some ways.

    5. Tris Prior*

      I wish that were true. :( Boyfriend is absolutely shocked when it happens with him walking right next to me. But unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    6. Turanga Leela*

      Eh, it doesn’t seem to help for me. I got my most vulgar catcall ever while I was walking with my father. It was incredibly embarrassing for both of us.

      1. LetterWriter*

        This has happened to me, too! And the catcall was along the lines of “I’ll be a *real* daddy to ya, gorgeous.” It was mortifying. It made my dad feel awful and me feel worse.

        1. Bird*

          The first catcall I remember receiving was when I was with my dad. I was nine years old (and tiny – looked more like six or seven at that point), and this guy said something so gross to about me and my dad that I don’t even want to repeat it anonymously online. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I knew it was bad because my dad’s face turned the most horrifying shade of red and he yelled until the guy ran away.

            1. Bird*

              Thanks. That wasn’t the last time I got gross comments while with my dad, but it was definitely the most frightening.

      2. Naomi*

        I was on the phone to my Dad once and got catcalled. I turned around and said ‘I’m talking to my Dad. Would you like to repeat what you just said to him?’. They went so red, it was awesome.

      3. many bells down*

        My little sister got hit on all the time when she was with our dad. Like somehow they’d totally ignore the fact that he was sitting right there laughing at them. He was laughing because a) my sister is gay, and b) she takes no shit.

      4. Alix*

        I have only been catcalled three times in my life. Once when I was out walking with my mother – she was entirely oblivious. Once was actually kind of funny – it was while I was a long-term substitute teacher at a high school, and it started out as a catcall and quickly became “-shit, no, that’s Ms. ___, hi Ms. ___!” instead. The last time I was with my father, who first wanted to know what the guys said, and then when he realized it was a catcall, said I had to be confused because I wasn’t pretty enough to get male attention. (There were no other people around. I wasn’t confused.)

        So, yeah, having a man around doesn’t always work.

    7. Cat Callers are Gross*

      Ugh, unfortunately that doesn’t always work. I’ve been harassed while walking with men, including my dad, my brother and various friends and significant others throughout the years. The cat callers usually direct their gross comments to the guy, in a “wink wink nudge nudge” kind of way. Fortunately, they’ve always been shut down by the guy I was with, but still. Yuck.

      I was even harassed me while I was wearing a very unflattering retail uniform by a creepy creepy man making a sexual comment about me TO MY DAD. I was walking over to my dad, coming from my mall after school job. Creeper McCreeperson apparently thought my dad was just some guy also “enjoying the view” from where they both happened standing on a checkout line at the mall. That was lovely. 13 years later, I am still mortified when I think of it.

      1. Mela*

        Can you share some of the language the guys use? I think a lot of men are just as shocked to hear it as we are, and in the moment could use some go-to lines. Obviously there’s “Dude, wtf.” and other short ones, but anything particularly useful that you’ve noticed?

    8. zora.dee*

      Yeah, one just happened to me this weekend.

      Was at a pub w/ my bf and his coworkers (all male) and the barback came over to clear our plates, “can I take anything?” My bf said “sure, take whatever you want” (because we were done with everything) and the barback looked at me and said “Miss, can you come with me please?”

      There was a beat while we all figured out what just happened, and I was so taken by surprise I tried to laugh it off with a “hey!” and then he turned to my bf and said “sorry man, I know she’s yours. haha” AARRRGGHHHH … we all just kind of looked at him and then he left, but I am obviously still irritated. blerg.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        Oh my GOD, I know she’s yours. Yep, I would (and will, on YOUR behalf not your bf’s) stay pretty damn pissed about that for a good long while.

        1. zora.dee*

          My bf just rolled his eyes, he really didnt think it was funny, which is why I’ll keep him ;o)

          But yeah, I’ve thought about sending them an email or something. I’ll look into that.

    9. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The only walking companion I’ve found to help keep these comments away is a very large, scary-looking dog.

      1. LCL*

        I kid you not, when I went running at midnight with my wolfish looking dog, the dog got catcalled. “Hey, that dog has a nice @#$.” That was disconcerting because it was so damn weird.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          O.o I almost give them points for the pun value. But only almost. That’s something you do to a friend who you know will find it funny.

      2. A Non*

        I’ve gotten comments while walking a large dog, but always from a safe distance! (And I’ve encountered more than a few construction workers who were just thrilled to say hi to a friendly pooch. That was pretty awesome, actually.)

    10. Anonsydance*

      Unfortunately it’s happened when I’ve walked with my boyfriend. He was a few steps ahead of me (he’s 6’1, I’m 5’2 – it happens) and 2 cars in a row did that drive by yelling out the window thing. In a way, I’m kinda glad it happened when he was with me so he could hear it and see what it’s like. He’s actually really confused as to why they even do it.

    11. Trillian*

      I was trying to give directions to a (male) driver once, to a barrage of ‘show us your t*ts!’ from the Neanderthal in the car beside.

      Then there’s the jerks who throw things at lone women.

  15. JOTeepe*

    UGH. #yesallwomen

    It sounds like our summer wardrobes are similar. I’ll add that, though I typically throw on a cardigan or a light blazer when in the office, when walking to work or outside walking on lunch, I will leave the sweater in the office. It’s been a hot summer in the northeast!

    My current walking commute is a corridor where I don’t have to deal with this, but at a former job, which was about the same distance but in a different direction, I walked to and from work through a city park and I got harrassed CONSTANTLY by men sitting on benches. I would typically ignore them, but it gets really old, really fast.

    Funny enough, I do commonly still walk through this park, though typically I am with my 85 lb Doberman mix. I don’t get comments about my appearance anymore, because these men respect my (scared of his own shadow) DOG more than they respect me.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Oh yes, I had a rottweiler for many years and nobody messed with me when I had that dog. She was a couch potato, but randos didn’t know that. They’d sometimes comment on her, but in a fearful type of voice, like “OMG is that a purebred pit?”

      (Hey, I didn’t say they were any good at dog breed identification. LOL)

      1. JOTeepe*

        HA! Purebred pit!

        They very frequently comment on him with a similar fearful voice. Meanwhile he’s wrapping his leash around my legs trying to get as far away from whomever is approaching us (he was abused as a puppy and is still fearful of strangers, even though we’ve had him his whole life). Sometimes he barks, and his bark is a little terrifying …

        1. Katie-Pie*

          My family got a Doberman puppy when I was 2, so we grew up together. SWEETEST dog I’ve ever known. Now when I see Dobermans, I get so excited. I always ask, first, if I can pet them, and the owners are like, “Okay…wow. No one ever does that.” What great dogs.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I become a puddle of squee whenever I see a rottweiler. They’re not all that common here. I miss that old galoot.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            I love Dobermans. And yes, I am the person who will, given the chance, have the dog’s head cradled in my hands, because I am scritching the pooch and baby-talking him/her. Some years ago, I was walking through the local Renaissance Festival, and happened to be in costume that day. This couple was walking toward me with their Doberman. The dog proceeded to make a detour to the end of his leash, and buried his head in my skirt. I think what freaked the people out the most was my complete lack of surprise. I just leaned over and started scratching the dog behind the ears.

      2. Serafina*

        I confess…I have made unsolicited comments on the street about people’s dogs. Pretty sure that doesn’t qualify as street harassment of the dog, not even “hewwo, pwetty boppy, I just wants to snuggle youuuu!” (Hey, it was a Welsh corgi puppy – brain-meltingly cute in public!)

      1. Moonsaults*

        Take them up on that sparkly cowboy suit and get your dog a toy saddle “Have you ever seen a sparkly cowboy without their horse? I don’t think so!” :P

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I have a Newfie. He’s the laziest, friendliest dog ever, but he’s 150 pounds and has a deep bark so people avoid me because he’s a big dog.

      Though I have gotten passing comments about how they’re surprised someone like me (i.e., stereotypical feminine appearance) has a dog like that instead of something smaller. Which is an entirely different type of stupid comment.

      1. JOTeepe*

        Yup, I’ve gotten that, too. “That dog is bigger than you are!” (No, actually, he isn’t.) “Looks like you are walking a horse!” Etc. Does it appear I don’t have control of my dog? No? Then stuff it.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          My favorite, which always seems incredibly bizarre, is when someone aska, “IS THAT A BEAR?”

          No, it’s a dog. Why would I be walking a black bear on a leash in the city? Pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get away with that.

          1. Lissa*

            Oh god, I’d be so tempted to be like “Yup! We met in the woods and have been best friends ever since!” or something.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I grew up with an oversized (though not farm; he was about 85lbs) Airedale who was assertive to the point of borderline aggressive. I really didn’t like him but he was great for keeping away creepy strangers!

      3. AFT123*

        I have a newfie too! She is petite but even at 100lbs of black fluff and a big blocky head (she looks like a shaggy black bear), she is intimidating enough to ward off most idiots. As is typical for newfies and giant dogs in general, she is a big baby, but I do believe she would protect me if someone approached and my body language indicated I was in trouble. I think. I feel 1000% safer with her than alone and it def. cuts out annoying comments.

      4. Lora*

        I have a Newfie and a Great Pyrenees, 150 lbs each, and both are the sweetest, laziest fluffballs you will ever meet, who have only injured other creatures by accidentally stepping on them while backing away. But aggressive men and Chihuahuas with Little Dog Syndrome both have the same reaction: “I… I may have made a terrible mistake… so sorry to have bothered you, ma’am…”

    3. ThatGirl*

      My little white 15-lb fluffball dog is not a big barker, but if he senses any sort of threat to me, he’ll start yapping, which is still useful for creeps and door-to-door marketers.

      1. Ruthie*

        Last week, when I was walking my dog with my one-year-old daughter on a busy street, a strange man pulled over, got out of his car, and looked me up and down. I was ignoring him, focusing on keeping my dog and kid walking in the same direction, until he blocked my path. Alarm bells rang in my head. But my dog? My 14-pound rescue chihuahua mutt? He did not care for this man blocking his walking path and barreled forward–not aggressively, but assertively. My dog just kept walking straight on. The man was forced to step aside, giving me time to pick up my daughter and hightail it out of there.

        Small dogs rock.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      When I became the unexpected owner of an akita rescued after having been with fighting dogs — oh so many, many years ago — I had PROOF that none of the street hassle was complementary. All, and I mean all, the comments stopped. Stopped dead. Occasionally I’d get a complement on the dog. But, commentary on me? Not a peep. He had been completely unsuccessful as a fighting dog which was why he was abandoned, but retained some serious attitude (which I corralled with mild/partial schutzhund training) and it radiated off of him despite him actually being a great, well-disciplined dog with a real joker/playful streak.

    5. Afiendishthingy*

      Yup. I think very young or young-looking women are targeted more often than older women is not because they’re more attractive but because they appear more vulnerable. Ick, ick, ick.

    6. Lemon Zinger*

      My boyfriend and I have a very cute medium-sized dog. He has a puppy face and isn’t intimidating in the slightest. Our old apartment complex was a real nightmare with all sorts of creeps living there, and I was catcalled frequently while walking the dog after work.

      So glad to be out of that place!

    7. KR*

      My dog makes me feel so safe. When he barks, even if he’s being friendly, it can easily come across as aggression to someone who doesn’t know him. You’re all just making me miss my dog so much!!

    8. Almond Milk Latte*

      I live in a neighborhood with a really high percentage of outrageously beautiful dogs and I catcall (dogcall?) them remorselessly as I drive by slowly, d’awwing out the window.

      1. Katie-Pie*

        I did this the other day. A car pulled up next to mine with their windows down and a HUGE black Great Dane beauty taking up all the cargo space. I rolled down my window and told them how gorgeous their dog was, which I’m sure they get all the time. Couldn’t resist.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        My dog just went to doggy HR to report you and they called her a bitch and told her to stop humping their furniture. So rude.

  16. Marcy*

    Seconding everyone’s comment that it’s not what you are wearing, and that you should feel no responsibility for diffusing the situation. It’s also a perfectly normal reaction, both for you and the people with you, to just freeze with shock and not have anything to say about it. Your colleague’s silence is not necessarily reflective of how they feel about you or the situation.

    My favorite catcall story was from when I was in law school. We’d just finished up a round of law firm interviews and were walking down the steps of the law school, which happens to front on a busy street. We’re all dressed in sober black suits, conservative footwear, etc., when a car comes down the street and starts honking loudly. Someone leans out the side and screams something to the effect of “Hey pretty baby” or “Hey sexy thing” while the car continues to honk enthusiastically, then zooms past us. I was the only female in the group and was literally stunned silent with mortification. After a moment, the guy next to me (a hulking ex-marine) sighs loudly and says “This always happens when I wear this suit. Sorry about that guys.” This breaks the ice and the rest of the guys join in and claim that THEY were the sexy thing being honked at, and we all laugh and go our separate ways.

    1. Anon for This*

      I was an intern at a top 5 consulting firm in a small city (really a unique project, hence the anon) where we would have to walk past a small jail to get to our offices. Each of the cells had an outdoor yard attached that was right on the road where we had to walk to our offices. oh, the catcalls. And it wasn’t just me. The men, including the senior managing partners!- were the recipients of the most obnoxious catcalls from people in jail standing like, 2 feet from them. They handled it the same way I do–head up, eyes forward and no response. It’s professional and never a reflection on you to not respond. ;)

    2. Mreasy*

      I am 5’8″ and athletic and get lots of catcalls, like every woman who goes outdoors in NYC, but they are less gross/abusive than those my tiny blonde friend gets. I’m convinced it’s because she seems more vulnerable.

  17. Mike C.*

    I’m really sorry. :(

    As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to respond in just about any way you want.

  18. Sibley*

    Parents, may I request that you teach your children (male and female) that catcalling women is NOT ok, under any and all circumstances, regardless of the woman’s appearance or dress? If your children are grown, feel free to rake them over the coals for doing it too.

    1. Nervous Accountant*


      In order for this to happen, men AND women need to comprehend that this is NOT OK. I have not read all the comments so may have missed if there was *THAT* person, but there’s way too many women who think catcalling is related to dressing. I know I’ve thought like this when I was younger and immature, and even though I honestly don’t get catcalled or harassed at my age (30+), I know it’s a problem and would never say “well no one bugs me, so it doesn’t happen for anyone else!”

      Sadly, all too many parents miss this. I ve read way too many comments by parents, laughing and amused that their young child expressed disgust at an overweight or whatever woman was wearing certain clothing. They say “well the kids not wrong!”

      These are the kind of parents raising shitty people. ugh.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I agree. I wouldn’t post nearly as many wittering-on comments if I could just upvote pretty much everything.

  19. Temperance*

    It’s not what you’re wearing, it’s that you have the audacity to be female in public. I’m so sorry.

    I tell this story regularly, so I apologize if you’ve heard before. I once had a man follow me back to me office to try and get my number … while I was out wearing a suit. Nothing sexy about that, and I certainly wasn’t showing him any interest. Nothing made me feel worse than the fact that a man wearing a filthy jumpsuit felt entitled enough to follow me for several blocks and then hit on me in front of my building, where colleagues could see.

    It’s like, you can be a professional and dress appropriately, and some men still can’t control themselves. It’s a them problem.

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      Thanks for sharing this. It actually made me realize for the first time that I have been subconsciously blaming myself a little for the only time I’ve actually been FOLLOWED by a creepy dude. I wore a sundress and no bra to the park because it was hot out and I wanted to be comfy. Of course I knew the guy was a creepy asshole, but for years I’ve also thought “but really I should have worn a bra with that dress—” but no. F that noise. You are right, it’s a them problem.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I had a creepy experience a few months ago, don’t even remember what I was wearing, but it was a weekend afternoon so probably a baggy tee and jeans, and I had gone to the bus stop to wait for the bus. Except it was hot out, and I was running early, so I changed my mind and decided to walk two blocks to the bus station where I could wait in the shade. There was a guy who walked by when I was at the bus stop, and then I ran across him again on my way to the station, and he was like “Hey, lady, I just saw you over there, why did you change your mind?” Like…why are you paying that much attention to my movements, and why do I owe you an answer?

      2. Temperance*

        That guy sucks. I’m glad you were able to let go of the guilt and blame – you don’t have to dress a certain way to prevent men from acting like wild beasts.

    2. SJ*

      Catcalling always sucks, but it’s quadruply (is that a word? it is now) horrifying, and honestly terrifying, when you try to just walk away and the guy follows you. I’m sorry that happened to you.

    3. A Non*

      My go-to if I’m being followed is to go into the nearest store – the higher end the better, but a gas station works too. They generally won’t follow where there are witnesses and someone with the authority to tell them to leave. If they do follow you in, loudly asking the clerk to call the police works. It also has the advantage of not showing the creep where you live/work/shop.

      I’m sorry this crap happens. It’s really scary.

  20. LQ*

    Personally I’d go with a hard eyeroll and a pause if I was talking, then a sort of head shake back to work. (For me having a couple seconds of not speaking helps calm down, from embarrassed/angry/etc that comes with that moment.)

    And I hope I’m the thousandth person to say, you don’t need to justify what you are wearing this is 100% inappropriate.

  21. rozin*

    Ugh. That really sucks. I can assure you that what you’re wearing isn’t the problem. One thing that has worked for me in curtailing cat-calls is changing my body language a bit. If I walk with a “masculine” military-like stride with clenched fits plus a “come at me bro if you dare” kind of scowl, I’ve found that the number of comments tends to go down a lot. Though I can see that not quite working so well while walking with coworkers. Maybe try mimicking how your male coworkers walk, that way it might fool the cat-caller’s minuscule “cave-man” brains. Or don’t. Do what you feel is best and don’t let these jerks dictate how you want to be.

    1. Kelly L.*

      See, if I walk along looking scowly and determined, I get the “C’mon, smile!” type of BS.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        YES THIS. I have Resting Bitch Face, so I’ve been told to smile since I was a little kid. The worst was one day when I was at my summer job in college, and I’d just gotten devastating news about a close friend. Some guy said “Hey, why don’t you smile?” and I snapped back: “Smiling isn’t in my job description.”

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I was all about the term “Resting Bitch Face” for a while, but I’m getting so sick of it. Just because the corners of my mouth aren’t turned up, doesn’t mean I’m making a bitchy face. Smiling is’t the default for most men, either, and I’m sick of hearing that women look like bitches when we’re not grinning.

          1. Alix*

            My natural expression is essentially a scowl, so I jokingly use RBF to refer to myself, but otherwise – yeah, it’s getting a little old to see that applied to any woman who isn’t smiling.

      2. Xay*

        I hate the “smile” comments so much.

        LW, the only advice I have is to keep walking and acting like you didn’t hear the comments. Hopefully your coworkers realize that the behavior is unacceptable, but unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about them. Just don’t let some assholes shake your confidence.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It doesn’t always work for everyone, but it did work for me. It helps that I’m tall. I used to get panhandled constantly in CA, but when I started walking down the street like I just got out of prison, it stopped. Heh heh.

    3. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

      This, or Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (or Cruella DeVille, or any Disney villain.) It’s taken me years, but at this point, even the charity muggers don’t even try to talk to me. I still get catcalled and harassed, actually, but it makes it easier for me to let it float away on the wind.

  22. animaniactoo*

    Personally, I’d try to invite them to talk about it or acknowledge it in a way that allows it to be something you can agree on and move beyond. “Do you think that’s ever worked for any of them?” “Geez, if I knew how to make that stop, I think I could get rich quick. Any ideas?”, an eyeroll and a very exaggerated “Anyyyway…”, etc.

    1. LetterWriter*

      “Do you think that’s ever worked for any of them?”–now, that’s a really great response. I’m going to use that, too. I think it’ll make people laugh, they can respond with a quick “Doubt it!”, and we can move on with the conversation.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Even lets you follow up with “Well it didn’t work yesterday. I guess if at first you don’t succeed, try try again?” and things in that vein of laughing at “Still no success!”

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      On the “has it ever worked for them?” In my fantasy world, I want to respond approvingly to my cat caller and see what he does. It has probably never crossed his mind. “Hey baby, why don’t you … [insert vulgar thing].” Me, “oh yes, handsome. Should we do it behind this tree or back at your place?” My money is on they wouldn’t be able to follow through. For many many reasons I have never tried this but I so want to.

      1. literateliz*

        I think this happened in a Sex and the City episode. Miranda keeps getting catcalled by the same guys and is finally like “OKAY, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT FOR ME?!” and they all flee in terror. Ha.

  23. Fuzzyfuzz*

    Writing as someone who once got catcalled with my boss (I’m white; she’s black. The catcall was ‘let me get a taste of that salt and pepper’–ick!). We rolled our eyes and shared a ‘that’s gross.’ Acknowledging it did seem to diffuse the situation.

  24. OhBehave*

    These are bullys. Pure and simple.
    This is really disgusting behavior by these boys. My dream is that your group stops and turns toward the insult with camera phones ready. “Do you talk to your mama that way too?”
    Of course, that runs the risk of him escalating the behavior. Just a fantasy here!

    FWIW – it doesn’t matter what clothing you wear. No one deserves this disrespect no matter how we are dressed!

    1. LetterWriter*

      I have the same fantasy! Except in mine, his mom is driving by in a passing car, and she jumps out and starts beating him with a handbag.

      1. OhBehave*

        His girlfriend, wife, daughter, grandma!
        Bwahaha! That is PERFECT! My imagination runs wild with pictures going viral on social media (*rubbing hands together in anticipation*).

      2. Amadeo*

        Well, I’ve tried to post a link, but I think it’s in moderation. If you google ‘men catcall their moms’ the youtube video of the results is the second result.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Oh man. In my 20s I lived for awhile in parts of Latin America (including Peru, where that video was made) and the street harassment culture in some areas is just scary. At one point I was walking and two teenage boys rode past me on bikes and one of them groped. My. Breasts as they went by. And laughed when I screamed. I had some great experiences in my time abroad, but damn I don’t miss that. (Not that I don’t encounter assholes in the US, but the harassment isn’t generally quite so blatant and common.)

          1. Simonthegrey*

            Ugh. I have actually never been catcalled in the US (honked at once or twice years ago but nothing scary) but when i was studying in Italy, it was a 3-4 times a day occurrence, as was getting groped on the bus (which was the alternative to walking…yay, a choice between groping and catcalls).

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      I usually get the feeling that the mothers would encourage this, or look the other way, because that girl must have deserved it.

  25. WhichSister*

    What saddens me is that the OP leads off with a description of what she is wearing. Like she is to blame. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME. As many of the posters have shared, the clothes don’t matter. I was once…. aggressively touched at work… when I was 7 plus months pregnant. And I immediately defaulted to “Its my fault somehow.”

    Be yourself, be confident and ignore the catcallers.

    1. LetterWriter*

      That’s really disgusting. I’m sorry that happened to you, and I appreciate your support. :)

  26. HRChick*

    This is harassment plain and simple. They’re not doing it to “compliment” you. It isn’t even necessarily about you being an attractive young woman. They KNOW this makes women uncomfortable. They KNOW it makes women anxious. They KNOW it makes women uncomfortable. They KNOW it makes women feel like they are unsafe. They do it anyways because they are more concerned with feeling like powerful alpha males than decent human beings.

    When you are with your coworkers, I would stick with making a disgusted look or eye roll and continuing your conversation. I’m sorry you’re made to feel embarrassed by these street harassers.

  27. Marissa*

    OP, please don’t walk alone because you are embarrassed! You may be more vulnerable walking alone. I worked at a garden center one summer and got harassed, and it was pretty scary knowing that the offending customer might come in while one of my coworkers was busy or in the bathroom. I was wearing sweat pants, a grubby loose T-shirt, work boots and a baseball hat, and some man approached me and told me I “had a nice ass.” I just walked away without saying anything to him, and he had the nerve to tell me I should take it as a compliment. On a day when I felt my “ugliest,” I still got catcalled; so please do not think it is anything you are doing or were wearing that is bringing this attention.

    1. LetterWriter*

      Yeah, this is a good point that I didn’t really consider until the letter got published. I like to think that because it’d be the middle of the day on a crowded city block, nothing could happen… but you really never know.

  28. Libervermis*

    Another voice to say: none of this is your fault. It’s not because of how you dress or how you walk or anything, it’s because the cat callers are entitled jerks. Unless your coworkers are also entitled jerks, they don’t think it’s your fault either. A dismissive “gross” or “ick” answer to your group will probably elicit agreement from them.

  29. Blue Anne*

    I got catcalled while out with my grandma the other week. I was dressed super-conservatively and walking my 90 year old grandma to the theater. A group of guys who had one girl with them thought this was an appropriate time to be all “heyyyyy, you should make out with my friend here”.

    I hate humans sometimes. Soldarity, OP.

  30. all aboard the anon train*

    It’s definitely not what you’re wearing. People like to justify catcalling and awful behavior by criticizing what women are wearing, which is something that really needs to stop. You’re not asking for it because you’re wearing something that shows skin. Anyone who makes that assumption is an idiot. You don’t need to apologize or justify what you’re wearing and it makes me sad that women still feel the need to do this (and this isn’t an attack on you, OP, I completely understand why you did it – I just wish we were at a point where it didn’t have to be explained).

    I’ve gotten catcalled wearing everything from dresses to unflattering winter coats, and it happens because we happen to be women and there are still men who think it’s a compliment to catcall instead of harassment.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with it, and I think Alison is correct in saying that you’re the last person who needs to make apologies or come up with something to say in that situation.

  31. Leatherwings*

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you, OP. It’s really really Not Okay behavior and it pisses me off that we have to deal with it. It’s a power play – none of these guys think they’re actually going to get laid from comments like these, it’s just a way for them to exert control over women.

    To any dudes who may be reading and may recognize themselves in the behavior of the catcallers (not that I think AAM readers do this, but just in case), please please don’t comment on women’s bodies. It makes us feel unsafe, and it’s NEVER a compliment.

  32. gnarlington*

    Ugh, this is so gross. LW, don’t feel like any burden is on you to smooth this over. In fact your coworkers probably are probably disappointed that they don’t know how to react themselves; I know I would be. So react in whatever way is comfortable for you.

  33. OhBehave*

    I am curious to find out what your male coworkers think when this happens. Maybe during lunch you can bring it up casually asking why some guys find it OK to make such comments. I’m sure one of them knows a guy who would do such a thing!

    1. Leatherwings*

      Eh. I understand the temptation, but I think it would be inappropriate (and probably taken poorly) to ask a professional coworker to speak on behalf of dudes who catcall.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        I don’t think she should ask her coworkers to speak for cat callers, but I don’t see the harm in saying something like “no guy I know would talk like that to a stranger- so where do these creepy dudes come from?” Like oh behave, this would just be my own curiosity talking. To paraphrase When Harry Met Sally, every guy you meet denies he would ever do this, yet every woman you know experiences it multiple times in her life. (I mean, I truly believe that most men don’t act like this, but there is clearly a small vocal minority of street harassers.)

        No need to put the male coworkers on the spot, of course, but if someone wanted to share a story of their asshole fraternity brother it might be illuminating.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I think asking coworkers as a group would be okay, because both men and women know that frat guy. I don’t think it would be appropriate to ask that question of a just one or two men in the group though.

  34. Nunya*

    I’d say paintball gun, but that might be too assaulty. Maybe a supersoaker? loaded with bleach?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Supersoaker loaded with some super-sugary liquid so they spend the rest of day attracting every insect in the tri-state area. Less assaulty but still retribution!

    2. AnonEMoose*

      In the area where I grew up (years after I left), the local high school developed a “tradition” of putting toilet paper, etc., all over this one guy’s house on a particular night. Homecoming or something like that – I forget.

      The local cops basically told him to deal with it. So he did. He got a super soaker, and filled it with fox urine. And soaked the teenagers when they arrived to continue their “tradition.” These, of course, were the kids of the moneyed and influential, so the local district attorney actually tried to file charges and such. I think they were eventually embarrassed into dropping them by the resultant media storm. I often think of this story when dealing with people catcalling me. At 40+, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, which is fine with me!

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I know it’s tempting to dream about, but please be careful as someone could take it seriously, and you could permanently blind someone if you really did that, as Xay was probably hinting at.

      I like the fantasy above of the a$$hole’s mother, GF, sisters, etc. all overhearing it and smacking him…or, better yet, the person he catcalls as she walks away turns around, and it IS his mother/GF/sister! That might even make some of them feel properly ashamed.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Agreed – I don’t think is something anyone should actually do. The risk of actually harming someone, legal trouble, etc., is just too great. But it’s fun to contemplate (without, again, actually doing it!).

  35. Designer*

    Ugh. So gross and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve started firing back at men who catcall me with “Has that ever worked for you?” in the iciest tone possible. Some might call it feeding the trolls but usually they’re too flabbergasted to say much else.

    1. Temperance*

      I tend to yell “suck my d”. Not near my office, obvs, but they never know how to respond. ;)

      1. Kristine*

        One time I was out with a friend and she got catcalled. She turned to the guy and said very matter-of-factly, “I’m going to piss on your shoes”. He just stood there dumbfounded, didn’t know how to respond. Then my friend started to assume a squatting position and the dude booked it in the other direction. She was never REALLY going to pee on him but that whole exchange was a sight to behold.

  36. Lemon Zinger*

    OP, I am an average-looking young woman who looks VERY young. I work at a university, so I think a lot of people assume I’m a student. I’m catcalled every month or so. Just wanted to show some solidarity with you! Keep doing what you’re doing!

    Some things I’ve found helpful: do not acknowledge their comments, because they’re trying to get a reaction out of you. Do not give them that satisfaction. Stand tall with great posture. Clench your fists. Be the same fabulous person you know you are!

  37. 42*

    Read ihollaback – dot – org. There’s a whole movement dedicated to this. I’m sorry this is happening OP.

  38. Lauren*

    Many years ago when I lived in Hawaii, I used to run through the downtown to the park. I was dressed in running clothes and shoes, nothing you don’t routinely see. Still, at construction sites I’d get the hoots, hollers and catcalls, which annoyed the hell out of me. I ignored them until I decided one day that I wasn’t going to take it any more. Instead of responding with equal rudeness, I stopped, looked up and almost shouted, “Good morning, gentlemen!” with a strong emphasis on “gentlemen.” It got silence that first day, and every day after that I would wave and wish them good morning as I went by. Got some nice responses in return and the insults stopped.

    This was in the late 70s and early 80s so given the downward spiral of language these days I don’t know how that approach might work. But I believe that lowering yourself to that level never works.

    1. A Non*

      It’s like they think of women as animated statues. And then when you turn out to be a human being they’re too shocked to continue being rude. I can’t decide whether it’s a relief that it’s often easily shut down, or horrifying that they’re so casually dismissing women as people until they’re forcibly reminded that it isn’t the case.

  39. RO*

    Annoying. If it is the same people, are you comfortable telling them to stop?

    I consider that behavior to be a form of street harassment and after a while I started telling them to stop. Result is that some of them become creepy respectful and from others I have then been called ugly a*% b**** who they did not want to talk to anyway…ugh. I just laugh it off and keep walking.

  40. Spooky*

    The thing that worked best for me: film them. Just pull out your cell phone, determined look on your face, and film them. If they ask what you’re doing, saying “documenting this to give to the police for a sexual harassment case.” I’m not sure from the letter if these people are on the job (say, a construction site, or in my case, parking garage attendants), but if they are, you can also say you’re going to take it to their boss. Disgusting creepers can’t stand having that kind of gaze being turned back on them.

    Also, I find it really sad that so many of our female commenters have experienced this so frequently. :(

  41. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    If it makes you feel any better, this sort of thing drops off quickly w/ age. Never goes away altogether, but once you develop a good murderous glare and learn that it’s not your fault, they can tell and they look for ‘fresh meat.’ For me it tapered off in my mid 20s.

    If you can think of yourself saying “What does this mouth do? Well for starters it tells you to fuck off and die, you [lengthy string of expletives]” it’ll show in your face.

    Good luck, and solidarity!

  42. Nobody Here By That Name*

    Millionthing that it is not your clothes. Catcallers do it because they’re assholes.

    As a born and raised New Yorker my response has always been to give zero response to idiots who feel they need to make comments about me. Like as if I neither saw nor heard them. They’re hungry for attention so I’m happy to let them starve.

    If you feel a need to make a comment, I’d go with a joke that only those with you can hear. Like: “And kids, THAT’S how I met your mother…”

    (Admittedly my muttered response to “What does that mouth do?” would likely be “More than you can afford.” but since you’re with coworkers maybe don’t go that route ;) )

  43. irritable vowel*

    Alison, I’m curious — does what the letter writer describes constitute a hostile workplace? I know she’s in a public place, and the people catcalling are not clients or customers of the business, but if she is required as part of her job to travel from one location to another, does the company have a responsibility to ensure that she can do that without encountering harassment?

  44. DM*

    Uggh, that sucks. I agree wholeheartedly with what Alison said. I only came here to say I literally stood up out of my chair and put my hands on my side to see where my fingertips rested LOL. I don’t think I’d heard that one before. Suffice it to say, I have short arms, so if that were the criteria in a school I went to, well, I think after one day of wearing a skirt in compliance, they’d no doubt hastily revise the dress code LOL!

    1. insert name here*

      Yeah, I have never really understood this rule…I’d be showing a good 4 inches of skin above my knee! But maybe we both have unusually short arms, or weird arm-to-leg length ratio. In any event, that’s beside the point when it comes to this letter–the catcallers are clearly in the wrong.

  45. James*

    This is why we (as a culture) can’t have nice things. Every time a woman dresses nicely, some jerk has to make an ass of himself. The end result is a culture where business clothing is, to be blunt, bland and lifeless. I was at an office where women were specifically instructed to stop dressing in exactly the manner the OP describes, because apparently women dressing nicely makes some people uncomfortable.

    This IS NOT your fault. The fault lies entirely on the shoulders of the morons who are doing the cat-calling. I learned how to compliment a woman’s looks without being creepy when I was 10 (yes, it is possible); “prepubescent” doesn’t begin to describe the immaturity of such behavior.

    Ignoring it is entirely appropriate. Speaking as someone who’s been in the group where women endured cat-calls (guy here, so it’s pretty rare that it is directed at me), much of the discomfort comes from not knowing how you will respond. If you decide to make a big deal of it, it can blow up extremely quickly (sexual harassment lawsuits and the like), and issues related to that are notoriously ticklish in our culture. The best way to diffuse the situation is to make a joke about it to your colleagues a few times (“Can you believe that still happens? What is this, the 1800s? Anyway, were we?”), then ignore it completely. Don’t even break stride. The rest of your group will pick up on it in my experience, and it’ll show that you have an admirable level of confidence. If they know you think it’s pathetic and beneath your notice (and it is), they’ll feel more comfortable ignoring it. That’s not to say you can’t talk to your manager or a building manager about it as well; I’m just saying that doing so should diffuse the immediate discomfort among the group. Unfortunately, the reality is that you need to set the tone for the response.

    1. Temperance*

      It actually has nothing to do with how you dress. I’ve been harassed leaving the gym, in a baggy old t-shirt and giant shorts. I’ve been harassed wearing a winter coat. I’ve been harassed wearing appropriate work clothing.

      1. James*

        I know, but the “solution” is always to essentially tell the woman to dress more conservatively in my experience. It’s not necessarily that the cause is the reason women can’t dress the way they want; the solution is always “Dress like X and the problem will go away.”

        I actually have had some success with telling guys that the more they cat-call and act like morons, the less they’d see good-looking women in attractive outfits (let’s just say I targeted my language to my audience and leave it at that, shall we?). That REALLY got them thinking. They started talking about how they used to see more women in dresses and skirts and the like, and a light bulb sloooooowly started to flicker to life. Not, perhaps, the best way to approach the issue, but at least somewhat effective. It meant I had to put up with less of that sort of thing at work, and a few of them corrected their coworkers’ behaviors.

  46. Anna*

    So gross. This is unfortunately something that women deal with all the time. It’s not you or your clothes that’s causing it–it’s them and their disgusting attitudes. And every reasonable person around you knows this and doesn’t expect you to be the one woman who is able to make this stop magically.

  47. Minion*

    I’ve never understood what catcallers expect to get from that behavior. There’s a lot of talk about reinforcing certain behaviors by rewarding them, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman respond positively to this and I know I never have. So, if those behaviors are never rewarded, why do they keep doing it? Or are there some women who stop what they’re doing, walk over to the catcaller and hand him her phone number and so the guy’s thinking, “Well, one outta eight hundred ain’t bad”?
    Also, what is it about some men that make them want to do this in the first place? Obviously not all men want to, but this seems to be a man thing – you don’t see a lot of women catcalling, right? Or am I completely wrong in that? I can’t even imagine calling out, “Hey there, Sexy!” when I see a good-looking guy or worse, what might happen if I did! Maybe AAM should do one of her interviews with one – we could get a glimpse into what drives the habitual catcaller and how many positive responses they actually get.
    OP, don’t stop wearing your cute sundresses. The problem is theirs, not yours. And, honestly, I’d stop responding to them altogether even if it’s just to give them the old one-finger salute.

    1. AFT123*

      It makes me think of children actually – the way that children know when their action or behavior is bad, but they are compelled to keep repeating the action. I don’t know the psychology behind this but I assume it has something to do with pushing boundaries and the way the brain learns how to function in society, combined with the need for attention even if it means getting yelled at vs. getting hugs or whatever. You can tell a child 100 times not to throw their spoon from the table, and they know it’s wrong, but they look you right in the eye and throw that damn spoon another time, because if they stop throwing the spoon, they stop getting your attention at all. If you ignore them, they don’t learn that throwing the spoon is bad, and they don’t finish eating, which is another issue all together.

      That is my theory anyway. I don’t know what that means your reaction can be if you’re trying to stop their behavior with regard to catcallers. Since they’re adults and not your responsibility to teach how to act in society, I guess ignoring them is probably the only option.

      1. AFT123*

        Wow now I’m really thinking deeply about this, ha – Maybe catcallers are basically very lonely people without the ability or resources to have deep relationships/conversations with others, and catcalling is driven by an instinct to get attention so they don’t feel so lonely for the brief second. But they don’t realize this might be the driver so they can’t be self-aware enough to think of other better, more effective options of fulfilling their Maslow needs for human connection.

    2. TQ*

      Actually, a couple years back, my friend was getting an unusually high number of catcalls (it was summer + she just lost a lot of weight from joining sports) so two times I watched her input a fake number into guys’ phones and later she told me it was the number to a therapist’s office.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          I really like this, too. I wish she could have recorded all the calls that therapist’s office got! Post it on YouTube!


        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          *wince* Dunno about that. I’ve been hassled by cops. That gives another level of creepy because they can also legally stop me when driving, ask for ID, run my address through databases, … That creeps me the f**k out. Personally, cops are the last people I go to about stuff like this. I also have a girlfriend who incurred the wrath of half a precinct when she broke up with an abusive boyfriend who was also apparently Officer Popularity at the Pct. House.

          Sorry. That just brought back a whole lot of ugly memories.

          1. Minion*

            I think Victoria, Please meant to give the catcaller the number to the local police instead of OP’s actual number. So Catcaller calls police instead of OP (or whatever woman gives him this number) and ends up looking like an ass having to explain why he called.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Yeah, but if this happens often in a particular area, I could easily imagine the cops figuring out which woman it was doing that and then hassle *her* for giving the Pct. desk number out. I mean, really, unless someone gets killed or they can look like a hero, I haven’t found the police departments in my life to be very helpful.

    3. James*

      It has nothing to do with the women, in my experience (I’ve done environmental monitoring on construction sites, and construction workers are….not the best of the bet, if you get my drift). Mostly, it’s about showing off to your buddies. It’s a show a manliness in some circles. “See me? I’m man enough to talk to a good-looking woman!” Thus why they get so embarrassed when the woman responds. Imagine if you were yelling at a toaster (we all do it) and it responded by actually saying “I’m so sorry! I’ll never do it again!!” (Please please please note that I’m not condoning or excusing this behavior; I’m merely explaining what I’ve seen!)

      The reward the cat-caller gets is from his buddies. Watch the people around the caller next time it happens–they all congratulate him, either directly or by counter-signaling–ie, either by “Way to go man!” or by a good-natured insult along the lines of “Yeah, like she’d go for you when I’M around!” This increases group unity and strengthens group identity. Whether the group is worth uniting or identifying with is, of course, another question; to the cat-caller it de facto is.

      The evolutionary psychology take on it (for what it’s worth) is signaling. Humans are tribal organisms, and we like to say that we’re a part of the tribe. Some tribes signal this by the way the members dress–that’s why office dress codes exist. Others, by certain activities–that’s why office March Madness brackets exist. Others, by certain rituals–look at the power those rituals have in religion and sports! Cat-calling is another example of this. (Note that I’m HIGHLY dubious of evo-psych, and consider the field too young to have any real firm conclusions; I’ve seen a lot of evidence for this particular concept, however, and it does seem to explain a lot of otherwise ridiculous behaviors.)

      1. Minion*

        That makes sense. I’ve never considered the rewards the guy might get from his peers, but you’re right – I’ve actually seen that happen with a group of guys, the congratulating and the laughter. It’s very interesting to have a different side of it pointed out.
        Thanks for that.

          1. LetterWriter*

            Actually, every catcaller I’ve encountered while at work has been alone. I’ve definitely seen groups, though.

          2. James*

            I’ve seen it once or twice, but to me it seems like carry-over–they get into the habit around their buddies, then when they’re alone they just keep doing it. It’s for the same reasons, though; to them “everyone acts this way”. Folks are a lot more likely to say exactly what they think of a guy alone making comments than they are to a whole construction crew, so it’s really just the stupid ones who make those comments when they’re by themselves.

            Oddly, from an evo-psych perspective, the girl calling out the creep is always considered more attractive than the ones who ignore them, by pretty much everyone. There are a number of potential explanations for it, but this is already getting into “Just So Story” territory.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It isn’t carry-over. Bonding with other guys is one reason cat-callers do it. Another reason is that it makes them feel powerful or important to make women uncomfortable.

              1. James*

                Is there any evidence that this is a prevalent reason? (I typically dismiss the abnormal; you’ll find a few hundred people willing to do ANYTHING in a culture of a few billion.)

                I’m not doubting you (at least, not more than I doubt any claim initially). I’m just curious as to the evidence for this stance on their perceptions. It’s been stated as fact numerous times, but mere assertion is not convincing and gauging people’s motives is notoriously difficult. The concept simply doesn’t make sense to me; the folks who I have seen cat-calling generally don’t notice that the woman is uncomfortable, or dismiss the discomfort as a facade.

                I know this isn’t a thread on evo-psych or sociology, but I think this is a useful line of discussion. In order to attack something, you need to know where it is, what its strengths are, and what its weaknesses are. In order to end cat-calling, it seems like a good first step is to take an honest, rigorous look at the phenomenon and those who engage in it. Once we understand them, we can start to look at how to fix the problem effectively and efficiently.

    4. Afiendishthingy*

      I’m a behavior analyst and therefore ethically bound to chime in anytime people discuss reinforcement (see also, this mornings post about the always-right coworker). So here is a very incomplete and basic behavior-analytic perspective.

      So if we hypothesize catcalling behavior is reinforced by attention, that could mean a couple things. Could mean the women react in some kind of way that pleases the harasser. From my own experience, when I’ve gotten visibly flustered (like screaming when a kid grabbed my boobs) the harassers thought it was funny. Because you know, haha, they scared and violated a woman they don’t know.

      They also could be doing it for the reaction from other guys- even if they’re alone when they harass you, they can tell their buddies about it later.

      Whatever reaction the guy is looking for- and it must vary from individual to individual, because each person is acting based on their own past experiences and History of Reinforcement- that reaction does NOT need to occur every time for the dude’s behavior to be reinforced. In fact intermittent reinforcement is the strongest kind- that’s why people don’t walk away from slot machines, because they know the machine will pay out eventually. In fact a lot of that is reinforcement by proxy- the person at the machine next to you won, or your neighbor’s cousin did. You’ve never had anything good come from harassing women, but your uncle’s poker buddy has a GREAT story about a girl he met in Pittsburgh. (I suspect it’s more about humiliating women, though.)

      These guys have also likely not faced much punishment for this behavior in the past. So that’s sucky, but it seems like being called out (calmly but firmly and loudly, if you can manage it) by victims and/or bystanders– if they feel safe doing so- may function as a punisher. Hopefully.

      1. James*

        Thanks for chiming in! :) It’s always a pleasure to hear from experts on complex topics like this!

        My immediate thought is that calling them out could backfire. Done improperly, it could easily be interpreted as being flustered.

        I also wonder if the cat-callers (or groups that contain them) do similar things among themselves. I know that my family, and in college my friends, and I frequently tried to “get a rise” out of each other–pick on each other until you made the other guy react somehow. We all knew it was going on, and there were pretty strictly enforced limits to keep it good natured, but still, we all (including the victim) would laugh about it when we got a reaction out of someone. It was a form of counter-signalling (essentially saying “We are close enough that our relationship can handle discarding social norms”). If the cat-calling group engages in such behavior among themselves, it wouldn’t surprise me if the cat-calling group didn’t realize that cat-calling a stranger is different in kind from getting a rise out of someone in the group.

  48. hayling*

    LW, you have my sympathies! You’ve also gotten some great advice from Alison and the other commenters. I did want to commend you on what seems like great self-awareness for a college-age intern. Whether you have that naturally or you have read Alison’s articles/advice about interns and young workers, I think it’s great that you are doing one important thing you’re supposed to be doing at an internship — learning about office norms and how to be sensitive to and adjust to them. I agree that the cat-calling isn’t about what you wear, but the fact that you’re actively trying to balance dressing cute and for warm weather with being office-appropriate is really great!

  49. MommaTRex*

    Or how about, “Did you guys hear something? Must’ve just been the squeaking of a tiny mouse.”
    Emphasis on the tiny.

  50. AnonEMoose*

    I don’t think you’re required to respond to the catcallers. But with your coworkers, maybe an eye roll, and then say something like: “Ugh, those guys/jerks/idiots/assholes really need to get some new material/a hobby/a life.” And then go on with your conversation as though nothing happened.

    Or even just make eye contact with your coworkers, shake your head slightly and say “Really? REALLY?!” And then “Anyway…” or “As I was saying…”

    Either way, your coworkers know that you’re slightly annoyed, but not overly bothered, and can take a cue from you about just resuming your work conversation.

  51. anonymous Question asker*

    I have to admit, I’ve never really been harassed or catcalled in the street in the way people are posting here

    I realize its a serious problem, but I’m wondering what it is about me that I dn’t get any attention (Not that I want it!!!!)

    I dont’ dress in any particular way, i’m average looking, and I live in NYC.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Who knows. Maybe you give off a really excellent Don’t F*&# With Me Vibe.

      Revel in it. :-)

      1. phedre*

        As I’ve gotten older (early 30s) it happens less, though it does still happen. My theory is it’s because 1) I’ve perfected my bitch face and 2) the type of men that catcall are drawn to younger women because it’s less likely that younger women will be assertive. I know it took me years to get over that whole “be nice” crap. Now I give zero f*&#s.

    2. Victoria, Please*

      Yes, me too! I have maybe had it happen once and it was minor. So yes, I know it happens to other women and I’d like to rip the balls off of people who do it, but it doesn’t tend to happen to me. I don’t *think* I have a bitch face, maybe I have…I dunno, a Luna Lovegood vibe? Like, I’m so in my own little world (not really — believe me, I am paying attention to my surroundings) that nothing will get through anyway.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        Me three. I’ve wondered about it a lot – I mean I’m not sorry not to have to deal with it! But it really hasn’t been a thing that’s happened to me, even as it’s happened to other people living in the same city and walking the same streets. My tentative guess is that it’s got more to do with me not noticing, tbh – if I hear someone shouting something in the street I tend not to even parse the words, and assume it’s nothing to do with me.

    3. Lissa*

      Me too. And it’s a hard thing to admit, because I know a lot of people do say “this isn’t a problem because it doesn’t happen to me” but it can be rough to hear people say “this happens to every woman” when it really…doesn’t happen to me. The only time it has happened to me is when I went to another city, the logic of which I cannot explain. I’m not saying never, but while living here, less than 5 times in my over 30 years maybe?

      1. Blue Anne*

        I think so much of it is location-based. It seems to be much more acceptable in some places than others.

        I used to never get cat-called at all. I figured it was because I’m pretty average looking. Nope… moving from Scotland to Cleveland has been a shock on gender stuff more than anything else.

      2. annejumps*

        It doesn’t really happen to me either, and when I read threads like this I end up wondering what’s wrong with me, even though I don’t want to deal with this stuff.

        1. Petronella*

          I actually wonder how the LW knows that the catcalling is directed at her and her alone, when she says she generally walks with other women. The best advice in this thread is from the person who suggested having LW’s management contact the construction company whose employees are doing the harassing.

          1. LetterWriter*

            There have definitely been a couple instances where it wasn’t super clear–I guess in those it just was more of a feeling that they were directed at me. However, most of the time I’m walking with two other male coworkers, so then if it happens I know it’s meant for me–I don’t think I ever said I generally walk with other women, because I actually only do occasionally! There were also a couple comments that I know were specific to me because they called me out (as in, “Hey red dress!”).

            Also, you’re not the first one in the thread to assume this, but it’s actually not construction employees who are harassing me, and there’s no company to call. It’s usually just random passersby.

    4. Afiendishthingy*

      As far as I can tell, any woman can be a victim of street harassment, but those perceived to be more vulnerable may be more frequent targets. So, younger women and girls, and those who look young, women of color, etc. The harassers want someone who’s insecure and easy to humiliate. I am very petite and look younger than I am. I got this crap a lot in my twenties, but it does seem to have mostly dried up around age 28 (which is when my prematurely gray/silver streaks really started to show, but also when I moved to a quieter neighborhood, so who knows).

  52. no name, no face, no number*

    LW, one thing I always try to remember in equally upsetting situations (I’m a male, so I can only try to find the equivalent… and I’m coming up empty for now) is that is about them, not about you. I repeat in my head “That’s just him/her; that’s all (s)he can”.

    Although you obviously cannot do that, I’ve seen a young woman with her boyfriend (college kids, walking hand in hand) respond to a very gross catcall directed to her BF (“Eff her, dude!”) with a very loud “I effed him, you wanker!”. All the caller’s coworkers (construction workers, IIRC) went silent. I cheered for her silently (they were about 100 ft in front of me, so by the time I was close enough to call them back – I usually do, now that I’m older – the silence already reigned).

  53. ginger ale for all*

    I once wrote down the phone number of a guy’s work truck who did that to me and called his boss to let him know how he was representing his company. I don’t know if it made a difference or not but I like to think it did.

    I think I would even take it a step further now and report that behavior on yelp.

    1. Allison*

      I thought of doing something similar when a bunch of roofers wolf-whistled at me from a company van. But I was worried that it was such a small company the owner might have been in the van, or that maybe it was a family owned company and the men who did it were sons or nephews of the owner. Either way, I was afraid whoever answered the phone would get all defensive and tell me they were just being boys, and I should stop complaining and take it was a compliment.

      1. Temperance*

        In cases like that, I tend to post stuff in my neighborhood Facebook group, on the business page, or on Yelp!. I don’t think Yelp! does anything, but posting things like that in your community, where the person’s targets are, is really helpful.

  54. Mona Lisa*

    LW, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Hopefully if you have cool, casual co-workers, the scripts Alison suggested would work well. I’d also caution you that some people might respond that you should “enjoy the attention while it lasts” or some other such non-sense, and you should prepare yourself to deal with that, too. I commented on a creepy guy who hit on me at my last job, and an older woman said the above phrase to me and that I’d miss the attention when I “got old like [her].” You might want to think up a line or two just in case that’s the reaction you receive.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Yeah, I got that from a boss (!) I had when I was 19. I was very happy to point out what happened when I got the dog (story above). Perfect proof it was *not* complements.

      It isn’t good attention and I have to say that I’m deeply disturbed by any woman actively wanting that kind of street attention. Getting an appreciative glance is nice or one of those ‘piropos’ that seem to be a kind of street poetry contest in some cultures (spanish word, I’ve encountered similar in places without the spanish colonial history); getting oogling, shouting, gross invitations and even groping if they get close enough is not.

    2. MashaKasha*

      What the actual hell! I’m old. Well, old enough that I’ve gotten catcalled only once in my 20 years in the US, and was very confused when it happened – I was out with my teenage son, who back then had a bit of a weight problem. A car stopped by and random guys yelled “Nice ass” out of the window and I was all, ARE THEY PICKING ON MY KID?!?! But hell no, I do not “miss the attention”. That’s not attention to begin with – that is some kind of a creepy power game, where some of the men think that, in some capacity, they own the women that they see on the street. That these women owe them something… yeesh. There’s nothing to enjoy. I can’t wait for the day when the last generation that thinks this is normal (probably mine…), ages out of it, and this behavior stops once and for all.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I hope that woman steps on a rake. I’m “older” and I don’t miss catcalls one. damn. bit.

    4. WildLandLover*

      I’m older too (57) and this doesn’t happen to me anymore, although it did A LOT when I was in my 20s and early 30s. I DO. NOT. MISS. IT. There’s something wrong with women who do.

  55. Observer*


    I want to stress what Alison said about it not being your responsibility to smooth things over.

    As for “condemning it strongly enough”? What does that even mean, in this context? For your co-workers, who are witnessing it and not calling it out / stopping it, there could be a conversation about whether they are feeding into this behavior. But, you are the victim! It should go without saying that you condemn it! Not that you are not allowed to comment, but you do not HAVE to.

  56. Clever Name*

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this and that you feel you have to be the one to smooth over resulting awkwardness. The assholes are making things awkward- not you. And as many above commenters have noted, your attire has nothing to do with it. I’ve been catcalled while wearing a (huge) high-vis safety vest and hardhat *and* I was working on a construction site. I personally think your coworkers should speak up and yell back to defend you, but not everyone is comfortable doing that. I yelled at catcallers who were saying really, really awful things to a friend, “Why don’t you go home and masturbate!!” That shut them up quick. But that’s probably not the best thing to say in front of coworkers.

  57. CM*

    I think whatever reaction you want is fine in this case. Given how informal your work culture seems to be, I’m guessing that even flipping the bird wouldn’t faze a coworker. Silence is fine too, although I agree with those above who said that if that causes weird tension with your coworker, you could make some comment to your coworker acknowledging what just happened (“ugh, I’m so sick of these comments,” funny story about a time someone said something ridiculous to you on the street, or whatever).

    (My typical reaction: either ignore, stony glare, or if I’m feeling up to it, a very loud and firm “That’s disrespectful. I am a human being. Stop talking to people like that.”)

  58. RWM*

    LW, I used to be in this exact situation on the daily walk I took each afternoon with my two male coworkers to go get snacks / take a break from the office. I always ignored the catcalls, though sometimes I would sigh or something if it was extra obnoxious that day. My coworkers definitely would comment occasionally, though, and say how gross it was, or how much it sucked that I had to deal with it. But sometimes we all just ignored it. I was definitely not worried that they were blaming me for it because that would be unreasonable, and my guess is your coworkers realize that too!

    One interesting side effect is that it definitely made them more sympathetic to how annoying catcalling is…like, they knew catcalling existed, but witnessing it firsthand and seeing how relentless / jarring / distracting / shitty it is made them REALLY understand why women hate it so much, and removed any trace that MAYBE it could be a compliment. (Not that they really thought that, but you know.) Being catcalled relentlessly in my neighborhood while my husband is with me also had that effect.

    Anyway! Fully agree with Alison’s advice here, and I hope that this gets better for you (though I’ve kind of given up hope that it ever will for any of us).

  59. Maxwell Edison*

    It’s weird, but to the best of my recollection I’ve only been catcalled twice in my life, and I’m not sure one of those was even directed at me.

  60. Zoë Ames*

    Just wanted to add to the chorus of people saying: SO not your fault, LW! I know you know this and I understand why you explained what you were wearing… but I often find such reminders reassuring. So: yeah, not your fault. As others have observed, it’s a pathetic attempt to assert power over you and has nothing to do with what you’re wearing. Aggressive responses to catcalling etc. aren’t my style (at least not yet!) but I think ignoring is perfectly appropriate, and wouldn’t come across as condoning the catcalls.

    Sorry this has been happening to you; if it helps, know that we’ve all been there and you have our sympathy… Best of luck.

  61. Sarah*

    I’m guessing that your coworkers are mostly men. In which case, I’d recommend saying something like, “Ugh, cat callers are the worst!” or “Again? That’s the third time today!” or “Gross, makes me feel like a piece of meat instead of an actual person!” And then segue back to, “Anyway, what were you saying about the Underwater Basketweaving book I should read?”

    Most men have simply NO idea how often this happens to women. Making it clear to them how common it is and how awful it makes you feel will likely blow their minds. Moving on quickly will keep things comfortable.

  62. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    @Mona Lisa, that has worked for some women, in which the woman called up the business, quoted the guy word for word, and he got fired.
    You could also file a complaint with places like Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Yelp. If it hurts their business, they will do something.

    1. Mona Lisa*

      Did you mean to direct this to Allison and Temperance? I didn’t mention contacting businesses in my comment.

  63. Em Bargo*

    I’ve been tempted to carry an air horn and blast it in the cat caller’s general direction when they start up.

  64. animaniactoo*

    You know, I dream about living in a world where young girls can begin experimenting with their dress and sexuality without being met by an avalanche.

    Fwiw, in addition to my responses above, I would also wholeheartedly support flipping the catcallers off even when in company.

    My thinking around this is that women are taught to be peacemakers so much, we’re taught SO HARD not to make a fuss out of things, that many of us actually don’t make a fuss when it would be very appropriate to make a fuss. When it would actually serve to do something by making a fuss. For that matter, sometimes we’re slapped down for making a fuss when it was appropriate and we end up hesitating over that too.

    When I was young and riding the train by myself in NYC, starting from 13 and on, I was SOOO proud of myself for figuring out how to deal with guys who would use the crowded train to rub up against me (fwiw, I looked older than I was, most of them were probably not pedophiles, I looked at least 15 when I was 13). I’d turn sideways and stick my elbow out and deny them access, and feel so smug that they weren’t getting the opportunity they wanted with me. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I realized that what would have been *so much better* would be to turn my head and not-loudly-but-not-quietly say “Excuse me, but would you get your [beep] off my [beep]?” Because I’m sure that being called out and embarrassed for it would have made many of those guys much less likely to try it again.

    They did it because they knew that women were unlikely to say anything. And if a woman didn’t say anything, they could convince themselves that she was enjoying it. It was some secret communication between them. The same way that my silent crooked out elbow was. But by the time I’d turned and crooked my elbow, I’d already had more contact than I or most women I know would ever have wanted with a random stranger on the train. But having absorbed the lesson of how to “quietly” handle things and “not make a fuss” – despite being raised by parents who very earnestly taught me how to make a fuss on many other fronts (mostly political) – my first thought was never to be blunt and clear and blatant that this was not okay, and it was unwelcome and I was not going to be the solely embarrassed person here.

    So… I’m all for flipping that finger. Because in the scenarios you describe, it sounds like you probably don’t have the time to stop and say “Excuse me. I don’t appreciate that.” If you do, I would absolutely advocate doing that. Put em back on the spot. Even more so, because they probably laugh about getting flipped the bird and feel like it’s part of the standard communication. If people give you grief over it, you can own being unwilling to be a silent victim. Often about as many people will respect that as think that you’re making too big a deal out of the “boys being boys”.

    So, really. I dream about a world in which it is safe for girls and women to start exploring their own sexuality through dress and actions without it being seen as the equivalent of hanging out a shingle. Just as another part of growing up and learning and figuring out what one likes, and who they are in this aspect, the same as they get to try out things like dance and football and math and figure out which aspects of any of those they want to do.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      So, really. I dream about a world in which it is safe for girls and women to start exploring their own sexuality through dress and actions without it being seen as the equivalent of hanging out a shingle.

      But men who harass, catcall, and sexually assault women do so regardless of how women dress, so really I would just say “I dream about a world in which it is safe for girls and women.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        Trust me I agree – but there is also such a stigma around whether a woman is dressing “sexy” or not, that it is a distinct piece of the equation in my eyes. I was not dressing sexy when I was a teenager. I was, however, well developed [cough cough], and the very idea that I might call any *more* attention to it absolutely drove choices about how I dressed. The idea that I had to (and still do, mostly because that’s how I’m comfortable now) dress *down* to avoid the “appearance” of wanting attention is what I’d like to see change. Because as much as men still do all those things anyway, it’s absolutely true that if I dressed up at all, I did get *more* attention. A lot more. Just for wearing decently nice clothes that fit right. And putting on lipstick. That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to “the avalanche”.

        When I was in my early 20s and a club girl is when I started really experimenting with how I dressed – but mostly limited to occasions where I was going out and was going to be in a group for a specific amount of time and felt more comfortable that way. Now I have a level of dressup for work occasions and nice social occasions that I’m comfortable with – but it was kind of a hard-fought level to get to where I’m comfortable and know how to present myself in these clothes.

    2. Editrix*

      Flipping the finger is my first instinct when I get particularly nasty catcalls, but my fear has always been retaliation from someone who’s irrational. I work in a major city and don’t feel safe giving some of the jerks what they deserve, unfortunately.

  65. Gandalf the Nude*

    I’ve very, very rarely been in a position to respond to these types of assholes, but my go-to is, “You’re not being the neighbor Mr. Rogers knew you could be.”

    1. Mookie*

      I love this, actually. I’m going to use it on my actual neighbor, though. Hopefully it’ll guilt them into stop treating my garden like a dustbin.

  66. Tyrion*

    I think it’d be pretty badass if you casually flipped them off, not looking, and said “anyway…” and continued with the conversation. Is that too unprofessional for the environment?

    1. LetterWriter*

      I think it would be a little jarring for my coworkers, but that’s mostly because it’s not like my “work personality.” My internship position requires me to be super-flexible and get along with everyone (I’m basically a marketing liaison with vendors and other departments), so they’ve avoided seeing the harder edges of my personality so far, lol.

      1. LetterWriter*

        (Also, as casual as this place is, there’s still the sense that interns should be on their best behavior, and we’re held to a little bit of a higher standard than the regular employees in terms of decorum. E.g., a sales person who’s been there for three years can complain about the hot lunch catering, but I definitely couldn’t.)

    2. RVA Cat*

      Also inappropriate for an intern, but an alternative to flicking them off is to hold up your pinkie (think Dr. Evil) to imply something about the catcaller’s…shortcomings.

  67. Caro*

    LW, I hate that this is happening. Don’t change your clothes, don’t shrink back, and don’t change what you’re doing. Stay vigilant and stay safe! Like a lot of previous commenters, I would recommend that if you’re walking with coworkers, you can roll your eyes, or say something to the effect of “what an idiot.” That’s OK!

    If you’re ever walking alone, though, doing something loud and unexpected can often fend off cat callers and creeps. I live in a neighborhood where English is not the predominant language. And if I hear someone yelling to me in that language, I yell back in German. Nothing at all explicit, but something to the effect of “I hope that your day gets better, you sad drunk” delivered in the right tone is highly effective.

    Also: barking. Scares them every time.

    1. James*

      FYI, this works for telemarketers, too. I’ve answered in French, and have actually gotten them to hang up on me! :D

  68. AJ*

    Not sure if this has been said already, (lots of comments!) but since you are with a group this may be the perfect opportunity to respond to the street harassment – if you want to. Since you’re with coworkers maybe not the best time to to flick anyone off, just something short and simple like “shut up”, “not impressed”, “thanks but no thanks, buddy!”, or “is this how you want your sister treated?” That last one’s a little long, there’s prob a better way to word it, but I think bringing up sisters/daughters/mothers seems the quickest way to shut someone up (in daylight, when other people are around). Unless they say, “yeah, my mom’s hot!” – then they look like a complete fool. My opinion is that street harassers do it to show power/dominance over women. While ignoring it is usually the best (safest) option, I think they keep doing it because there are no consequences – they still feel dominant even when women completely ignore them. Don’t know about you, but when I’m driving and someone honks at me without a good reason I feel awful and embarrassed – even though I didn’t do anything wrong! I used to try to take the “high road” but I’ve discovered honking back at jerk-honkers makes me feel a lot better – I have the power and I’m in control of the situation, I have something to say about this! Anyway, what you do is totally up to you, I’m not suggesting you start a one woman crusade against harassment. And to agree with other comments – you absolutely shouldn’t feel like it’s your job to make your coworkers comfortable in this situation. They should be sticking up for you.

  69. Amy*

    Okay… I’m expecting a pile-on, but I’ll offer a slightly alternate perspective from the other comments. I frequently work in locations where catcalling can be quite pervasive. At best, it’s “Hello-ooooo lady.” At worst, it involves talk of body parts. The summer is hot and I’m frequently schlepping from one site to another. My basic summer uniform is flats and a knee-length sleeveless black dress. But I keep a cardigan in the car. Putting it on as needed reduces cat-calls by about 50%. Is it unfair? Sure. Am I letting them win? Maybe. Are there people that would catcall if I was wearing a parka? Of course. But fundamentally, it’s about my comfort. It rattles me to get cat-called. It throws me off my game before a meeting. My trusty cardigan offers me a little bit of armor to keep my focus on my work and I’m cool with that (though not literally, since it is a bit warm)

      1. Amy*

        I too have been catcalled in a parka but it’s definitely rarer. After experimenting with different approaches, my non-scientific number for my own experiences is about a 50% reduction in catcalls with cardigan/ suit jacket versus sleeveless. It’s just not a battle I want to fight daily if there is a way to diminish it. And really, I’m just joining the ranks of almost all professional men who cover their arms for work. Additionally, I sometimes work in locales where it is simply culturally inappropriate to be sleeveless.

      2. animaniactoo*

        Amy said that it reduces the volume for her. Not that it fixes it. She’s already got proof that it makes a difference. It’s something I was talking about in another post – yes, catcalls will happen regardless. But while we’re not to blame for dressing in a standardly normal way which happens to look attractive on us, it’s being wilfully blind not to acknowledge that how we dress can affect our circumstances. Not because it should, but just because it *does*. What we choose to do about that is up to each of us – as long as we all support each other in whichever path is comfortable. Because we should all be able to be happy with how we look, to present ourselves attractively to ourselves and other people. But we should also all support each other in choosing what we prioritize for ourselves in the struggle around these issues and being able to get ourselves through the day.

        So if Amy is saying that for herself she chooses to put on that cardigan, while acknowledging that it’s unfair that she should have to and is not urging the OP to do likewise? Then I think the best thing to be said here is “I get it. That sucks, but I understand why you would make that choice.”

        1. Katniss*

          My only point is that what works for her won’t work for many. Changing how I dress has never reduced the number of catcalls I get for me.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Sure, I think it’s valuable to say “unfortunately that hasn’t worked for me, others may not find it works for them either”. It sounded to me like you were initially just rejecting Amy’s experience and choice – even with all her caveats and acknowledgements – as absolutely wrong, vs your experience, which is a trigger point for me when people talk about their own experiences of something. I know for myself, while the volume does increase when I’m more nicely dressed (and when I weighed less), I *also* know that the creepiest incidents come when I’m looking and feeling like absolute hell. I have no idea why, but that’s how it seems to work for me.

        2. Random Citizen*

          I’ve definitely made choices like that, and it sucks. When I was in my early 20s in a college town with a strong party reputation, I desperately wanted a particular flashy sports car that was in my budget(!), but knew I would get catcalled and honked at and everything else more in that car than a less flashy one (I’d gotten that junk _with my mother_ in older, very unflashy vehicles while driving around town at night), so I didn’t buy it. It sucked, it wasn’t fair, and it made me mad that I felt like I needed to make a decision based on the way some stupid guys were going to react, but I was honestly concerned that driving it in this town could be a potential safety issue for me at night, and certainly an unwanted irritation at other times.

          Women should never have to make those decisions; it’s wrong and it sucks, but we do sometimes anyways out of necessity and for our own comfort level. My best friend at the time was really supportive when I was mad that I couldn’t (wisely) buy the car I wanted – agreed that I was making the right decision, but it wasn’t fair and someday I would live somewhere safer and could buy it, which helped a lot, but man, it sucked. And then a male friend bought one about two weeks later, and I was mad all over again that he could buy the car he wanted and I couldn’t. So frustrating.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Look, if it helps you, then it helps. I get it. No pile on from me.

      My own experience is that I really can’t find a single thing that is guaranteed to reduce or eliminate it — except that I actually seem to get more hassle when I’m dressed for a job site (construction) like I’ve messed with someone’s masculinity or something. But, I’m not about to argue with someone’s experience! We all look for something to do the trick. It is damn exhausting to go though this.

    2. Blue Anne*

      I’m not going to criticize you for that. You know it’s a sucky situation and you’re doing what you need to do in order to preserve your mental health. Good.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Why would anyone pile on? You’re saying that you do a thing and it helps you personally; you’re not required to endure additional catcalling as a moral stance.

  70. Noah*

    Ugh. If possible, find your most ostentatious but trusted male co-worker and walk with him. With any luck, he’ll be like a coworker of mine who, when the same thing happened to a female colleague we were walking with, kindly shouted, “Fuck off, asshole” to the cat caller.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Well, there are women who implicitly back up this behaviour. Any time a woman tells another woman that she’ll “miss this attention when you’re older and they not pretty anymore” or comments that “she was asking for it dressed like that”, that woman is part of this just as much as if she had been harassing people on the street, too.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          oops. That first quote should have read “…and they think you’re not pretty anymore”.

  71. Suz*

    This thread is so depressing so I have to lighten the mood with my catcalling story. I was riding my bike this dude drove past me and shouted some really disgusting things at me. He was so busy eyeballing me when he drove past that he didn’t notice that he was drifting over into the next lane. He sure noticed when he hit the car parked on the shoulder. LOL. Karma!

  72. SebbyGrrl*

    I know the OP is younger and this is her first foray into the working/work men world.

    Normally and in the past I would have said ignore it, or the other responses Alison noted, I wish I’d had even just “Ick” when this was a part of my work life.

    But looking back from 50 I say – give it back and show how POWERFUL you are.

    “I guess a tiny pen*s makes you a loud mouth idiot.” “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” “Seriously has that ever worked for any of you?”… I wish I had been taught or learned how to take back my power and be snappy too.

    It doesn’t diminish you to give them as good as (or better) than they give. You might even become a secret hero.

    Write down as many sassy comebacks as you can, a few shut downs, practice them and become the brave-ish co-worker comedian who schooled everyone in the fine art of catcall return.

    It’s a seriously underdeveloped skill I wish anyone had encouraged me to practice. And I might have said “Oh, no, a person should never respond to that and should just keep walking and ignore it.” That’s un-powerful old school, you don’t have to buy that. Do what ever you can to take back your voice and self in this dynamic.

    tl:dr Have a snappy comeback. Doing so is not stooping to their level, it’s upping your game.

    1. stevenz*

      I don’t agree with this suggestion. Always take the high road. Otherwise you’re just feeding the beast.

      1. Vendrus*

        ‘Taking the high road’ is still feeding them, alas. They’re after a reaction (discomfort, fear, embarrassment) and validation from peers… and deliberately ignoring them is a reaction that plenty like to see. They know they got under your skin and that’s enough.

        An aggressive reaction or a challenge is, if anything, more likely to get them to back off or stop – and I wouldn’t even say (anecdotally and from reading comments) that it’s more risky. I don’t know of anyone who’s been followed after they yelled at someone but plenty who were when they tried to ignore the catcaller.

        Taking the high road is good in many situations, but in this one it can easily be construed as weakness or vulnerability through apparent inability to respond.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        There is no “high road”.

        There is also not any solution that comes from the victim of harassment. So, imo, the best thing for the victim of harassment to do is to do what makes them feel better, safer, or stronger.

  73. TN Buttercup*

    I got cat called on a Sunday when I was with my three young sons. I walked right up to the guy and said, “I’m someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother. Would you like someone to say things like that to your mother/daughter/sister/wife?” I don’t know if I changed his behavior but it felt good standing up for myself in front of my kids.

    1. Petronella*

      I don’t disagree with this sentiment, but will add that no woman deserves harassment, even if she is not anyone’s mother, sister, or wife.

  74. Honeybee*

    Personally, I would choose to say nothing, because it’s my personal philosophy that I don’t even dignify such statements with a response of any kind.

    I have tried responding in the past and it has rarely gone well for me – sometimes the catcaller wants to start an altercation in the street, turns nasty, or even gets hostile and threatening. It makes me personally feel more empowered to simply ignore them and pretend that they don’t exist. It’s like – proving that they’re simply insignificant.

  75. stevenz*

    Why don’t you all just laugh? That’s not what the cat is expecting or wanting, and would consequently feel like a fool. Growling or frowning or cursing only encourages them. These aren’t polite, refined people so they aren’t looking for a positive response. It’s harassment. Don’t let them think they are harassing you, but just being stupid.

  76. Tweety*

    I recall a response used by a woman in a TV comedy. Something like:”Your fly is open and your brains are falling out”. It was in the British Comedy series, The Thin Blue Line.

  77. ThinkAboutIt*

    Playing devils advocate here … how do you know – if you are walking with co-workers – that the cat calls are meant for you? Since you can’t be sure (I imagine gay men would cat call other men as straight men do to women) I would say ignore it like it’s not happening. I can’t imagine making a comment to defend yourself only to have the offender say “I wasn’t referring to you!” Talk about embarrassing. Yeah, my vote is take the high road and ignore it.

    1. zora.dee*

      Um, no, gay men do not catcall other men. (there might be a random instance someone can point out, but it is not a thing.) And gay women do not catcall other women. Straight men catcall women because the reason is Patriarchy. Not because they are honestly just trying to get a date.

      Also, if one woman stands up to a catcaller, even if he was talking about a different woman, it would make the same point. This isn’t about individual interactions, this is a systemic thing.

    2. LetterWriter*

      Answered this above, but usually I’m walking with male co-workers, and the comments are pretty gendered (as in, “Hey sexy lady”), so it’s not likely for them. Also, sometimes (like the red dress comment) they’re directed at me in a really specific way. I’m also going to agree with zora.dee that cat-calling is primarily a straight man’s game.

  78. Bowserkitty*

    I wish I had advice to give. Just the other day my friend told me she was walking to the gym with her husband and someone yelled out “I’d f—- that b—-” from their car. We’re all pretty gutter-minded often but it really threw her off guard and I know it would have done the same to me. People can just be horrible. :(

  79. Vicki*

    OP –

    I assume some of those coworkers are male. Could you get one or, better, all of them, to turn and wave, blow kisses, bow, or otherwise act like the catcaller was calling them?

    That would be potentially dangerous 1 on 1 or at night, but with several of you in a clump, it might be more funny.

    Be sure that you (or another one of the women) also has a phone out to be obviously taking photos.

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