At least 65% of women report experiencing street harassment in some way, whether physically or verbally. Some may argue that shouting suggestive remarks at a stranger is harmless fun, but this attention is usually unwelcome.
Catcalling vs. complimenting
It’s possible you’re thinking, “Can’t you compliment a woman these days?” Of course, you can. However, compliments are not the same thing as catcalls. A compliment should be a respectful way of expressing admiration.
However, catcalling is the opposite as it belittles the subject. Many people who catcall do it by making improper comments or gestures to people they don’t know. It may seem like such a small, harmless thing, but catcalling can make someone feel objectified.
Instead of feeling good, the target feels humiliated or afraid. Generally, it’s not a compliment if a person only says it to get a reaction out of the recipient or to make themselves feel powerful.
Even worse, some catcallers follow or touch a woman after catcalling her. This only proves that making the other person feel good was not the objective.
The consequences of catcalling
Catcalling is illegal in Minnesota. There are three laws where catcalling may fall under verbal harassment.
- Disorderly conduct: Using offensive, obscene or abusive language, knowing that it will provoke the target, is a misdemeanor. A $1,000 fine or 90 days in prison are possible consequences for disorderly conduct.
- Prostitution in public: Even as a joke, asking how much it costs, offering money or doing something similar may be seen as soliciting prostitution. This is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a $1,500 to $3,000 fine or up to a year in prison.
- Solicitation of children to engage in sexual activity: Attempting to engage someone 15 years or younger in sexual activity, such as making lewd remarks or asking them to come home or ride with you, is a felony. If you are found guilty, you could pay a fine of up to $5,000 and go to jail for up to three years.
Additionally, following a woman without her consent can be considered stalking, a gross misdemeanor.
To avoid potential conflict or harm, women will choose to ignore comments from strangers completely. It may seem insulting to you, but it is their way of protecting themselves. Bear in mind that if a compliment isn’t said with respect, then it probably wasn’t a compliment in the first place.