There are some men who really don’t know the meaning of “no” and “back off.” The fact there are Philippine cities enacting anti-catcalling laws, and a national law prohibiting harassment in public spaces is enough proof that women deal with such acts daily.
What’s annoying is when you raise your voice at men, or even just scowl at them, for catcalling, their usual excuse is they’re simply complimenting you. Even worse is when they pull the “I just want to be friends with you” card.
The latter happened to me recently at BGC when a man sat next to me to ask if I was with someone and if he could take me home because he wanted to befriend me. He wouldn’t get the hint and leave even when I told him “no” and “I don’t want to answer you” three times. (THREE. TIMES.) When I walked away and told two guards about what happened, hoping they’d do something about it, they told me, “Baka type ka lang, ma’am.” (Maybe he just likes you, ma’am.)
Excuse me, was I supposed to feel flattered?
There is a clear difference between giving someone a compliment and straight-up harassing them. The dictionary definition of a compliment is “a formal act or expression of civility, respect, or regard” and also “a polite expression of praise and admiration.” Both indicate that it’s meant to be given consensually and without any malice involved.
Bustle notes that compliments are usually given to people you’re close to, but you’re also free to tell a person you just met that you like their shoes. Good Men Project also explains that intent is important because compliments are given when “you genuinely want to make someone feel good and understand your appreciation” without asking for anything in return. Just always make sure you’re being respectful and not crossing any boundaries,. (ie. Commenting on someone’s weight)
However, there might be some people who will make you feel uncomfortable when they compliment you, especially if you’re not close, and you’re free to tell them so. There are also backhanded compliments meant to put you down. Inc advises to just ignore such comments so you won’t give power to the insult.
Now let’s talk about harassment. It’s basically the opposite of what we said about compliments—it’s given without consent, it’s meant to intimidate a person, and some do it because they’re trying to gain something. The latter explains why harassers do it repeatedly or retaliate just to get a reaction out of you. This is why Business Insider advises that you react with strong body language and a firm voice, and to always assess your safety because they might hurt you during a confrontation.
People also shouldn’t tell you that someone thinks you’re attractive or they’re just being nice when you clearly felt uncomfortable and/or unsafe, most especially when you told them to back off multiple times. This mindset doesn’t give the harasser/catcalling accountability, and the victim is made to look rude for not reacting positively to a so-called compliment.
It’s not that women “can’t take a compliment.” Men are just being creepy. It’s as simple as that.
As unfortunate as it sounds, we live in a world where women need to protect themselves and stay alert because catcallers and street harassers could be anywhere—they can even be someone from work.
In an ideal world, women shouldn’t be afraid of their surroundings. We should also be teaching people to be decent human beings and respect people’s boundaries. Remember that one of the first things they should learn is that “no” means “no,” and to back away and apologize when they’ve made someone feel uncomfortable with their actions. The last thing we want is for people to conflate catcalling and harassment with compliments.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
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