Buzz Feed put out the following video, What Men Are Really Saying When Catcalling Women. Given the material, it’s actually pretty bad. The actors are all quite good, but the writing is weak. It does, however, get to the what catcalling is all about, even if it isn’t aware of it. And it misses an opportunity for an effective ending by giving men a pass I think they don’t deserve.
After showing various somewhat true statements, it ends with an 18 second riff on, “I do this ’cause I’m lonely.” If that were true, it would still be a pathetic ending. But in fact, it is not true. Catcalling is all about signaling that the catcaller is a virile and heterosexual man. And who is he signaling it to? Mostly to himself.
It is a sad truth that male culture as I have found it in America is primarily about convincing everyone that you aren’t gay. This isn’t to say men are a bunch of closeted homosexuals. But there is such a taboo about male homosexuality that you would think that every football party was on the verge of breaking into an all mall orgy. You may remember last year I wrote, These Are Victims: Matthew Shepard and Emmett Till. In it, I noted Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and his “creepy obsession” with anal sex. He is not an exception but very much the rule in the “real man” culture.
I don’t know how the objects of catcalling respond to it. I suspect there is a wide range. Introverted women probably find it very upsetting. But I’m sure there are women who do take a certain pleasure in the public confirmation that they are nubile. Still, even for such women, I’m sure men sneaking glances does the job as well. We men are not nearly as subtle as we think we are. And certainly, as Dan Arel noted at Patheos, “I joked about never meeting a couple who had the story about meeting when, ‘I was walking down the street and he yelled to me from his car about my ass and we have been together ever since.'”
There is, of course, a reason that you never hear a story like that. I don’t think it matters who you are, what is most attractive is self-confidence. It is hard to get too worked up about people who seem adrift. And catcalling does not say, “I’m virile and heterosexual!” It says, “I’m afraid I’m not virile and that you might think I’m homosexual!” And that isn’t attractive. Much better is to act the way that Mike Birbiglia and I act when confronted with an attractive woman: stare at your feet uncomfortably and avoid looking at her. Because it communicates the same information without nearly as much noise.
Now that’s how it’s done!