The (cat) call of the wild

Molly Powell has penned what I can only imagine is an intentionally provocative editorial on the subject of men “cat calling” women. This immediately calls up images of construction workers on a coffee break whistling and yelling, hey baby at an attractive woman walking down the street. Clearly a case of harassment, abuse or “thought assault” going on, right? Well, Molly isn’t so sure about it. She describes some fairly disgusting public encounters she’s had with men (and I’ll warn you, at least one of them is pretty graphic) but goes on to say this:

Despite this disgusting experience (and a few others like it, including when I was much younger than 18), I’ll second the views of the lovely ladies of Fox News’s Outnumbered: Catcalls can be flattering, so long as they don’t cross the line into physical groping, intimidation, or assault. When I wear a tight skirt and heels down the street, and some guy catcalls, I think, Okay, I guess this does look rather good on me. And when I wear baggy jeans and a loose-fitting T-Shirt and no lipstick, no one gives me a second look. As women we can choose how we present ourselves. And if we are treated as mere pieces of meat, we bear at least some of the responsibility. This is not to say that we deserve to be harassed if we are naturally alluring or if we wear sexy clothing. And, yes, “attractiveness” is not the reason that hard-core sexual predators assault girls and women.

As you might imagine, an opinion like this coming from a woman – particularly the insinuation that women might bear some “responsibility” for the responses of men – produced the predictable head spinning on the Left. Enter Martin Longman, who someone should probably check in on to make sure his head hasn’t exploded all over his laptop.

There is really no way for me to do justice to this Molly Powell piece in favor of catcalls at the National Review Online, at least, not in the allotted time remaining to me in the universe. The article itself goes so far as to argue that women who have Alzheimer’s disease are extremely horny and would most definitely appreciate a catcall despite being “fat and gray-haired and hav[ing] three chins and cankels.”

Look, I think it’s a given that wolf whistles and chants of “hey baby” are not likely to result in a first date when directed at a woman you don’t know. The whole image of the construction workers I referenced above is more a relic of the past, taken out of the Mad Men era. And I’d hope that we would all agree that shouting out things about sexual acts you would like to perform on strangers is beyond the limits of civil behavior, though perhaps not crossing First Amendment lines. But Powell’s comments on responsibility really shouldn’t be taken as such an automatic Attack On The Women as the immediate reactions suggest.

I’m reminded of comments that my mother used to make to my older sister when she was in high school and college. (This was back during the “Summer of Love.”) She would tell her that if she decided to walk down the street in a top “with your boobs hanging out” and a skirt “cut up to your crotch” then the boys are going to stare at you, and that was just the way of the world. While it’s apparently absolutely verboten to say such things out loud today, there is a difference – particularly for women – between dressing to look good and dressing to look hot. Seriously… does any woman go to the beach wearing a tiny bikini top and a thong because it’s just so comfortable to swim in? Nonsense. You do it because you think you look good and you want people to see that. If you didn’t, there are a wide variety of attractive one piece suits to choose from.

Men like looking at attractive women, and the more they work on dressing up the display, the more likely we are to notice. That’s been true across the history of man. There are clearly lines of decorum which most of us wish would not be crossed, but having the thought police try to turn every pair of males eyes following a shapely pair of legs into a micro-agresssion, rape society assault turns the entire discussion into a parody.

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