No, We Won’t Give You a Smile

How Sexual Harassment and Cat-Calling is Not As Uncommon As You May Think.

A screenshot from the highly-viewed short documentary 10 Hours Walking as a Woman in NYC. Catcalling like the subject experienced in the video are all too common in the experience of students lives.

"10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman"

A screenshot from the highly-viewed short documentary “10 Hours Walking as a Woman in NYC.” Catcalling like the subject experienced in the video are all too common in the experience of students lives.

It’s not a compliment. 

             “Mmm, look at you! How much, 200?”, “Say hi back. I said say hi back!”, “You’re just asking for it, aren’t you?”, “Come over here, come sit on my lap!”, “Give me smile!”. Those are all statements that have been said to women who were just trying to go about their day. Instead, simply being a woman brings along what seems to be an open invitation to degrade and harass them. But because sexual harrassment is so normalized in todays society, some people believe that catcalls and other sexual harassment should be seen as a compliment, some even believe women should appreciate it. Why can’t you compliment someone if you think they look nice? You 100% can, but to make it clear, sexually harassing someone on the streets or in the workplace is no compliment. For many generations, women of all demographics have continuously been oppressed and degraded through each generation in one way or another. Cat calling and sexual harassment is just the 21st century way to do it. 

People who haven’t experienced sexual harassment frequently or ever, may not be aware how many women have been affected by it. Although 81% of American women have experienced sexual harassment, according to a survey conducted by a non profit organization called, “Stop Street Harassment” not enough people are spreading awareness of the frequency of sexual harassment against women. 

Many people wonder, “if there are so many women that have been sexually harassed then why don’t they report it?”. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. Many women who report seuxal harassment are shamed or nothing is done about it, so most women don’t bother to do anything about it.

Sexual harassment doesn’t only occur out on the streets. Someone can be a victim of verbal harassment at school or in the workplace as well. When women are addressed by an employer, customer, or peer in a crude, objectifying manner it can create a hostile environment which can affect their, education, work ethic, and mental health. According to the article “Survey: Nearly Half of Students Sexually Harassed in School” by Jason Koebler, of U.S. News, “Fifty-six percent of girls said they were sexually harassed at least once in the past school year..” “…According to the report, 87 percent reported detrimental effects from the harassment”. In additon, “The American Association of University Women” reported, “Some 48 percent of middle and high school reported being targets of sexual harassment, with many not wanting to go to school, feeling physically ill, and having trouble studying and sleeping.”

According to, “If Not Us, Who Will?” by Samantha Schmidt of The Washington Post, “I remember one time somebody asked me “How much?” I was being looked at like I was a sex worker while I was in school. I didn’t say anything about it. I wanted to, but it’s just really embarrassing to go to an administrator and say, “People are looking at me this way.””

— Makailah Jackson from a Los Angeles public school

Some people who clearly haven’t felt the fear of being sexually harassed, may ask, oh if you don’t like it, just ignore it, they’re just statements. Yes, some of the statements said can be uncomfortable, but harmless and nothing more, but it’s not uncommon for the statements to be acted upon. According to, “A College Student Was Killed by a Man Whose Catcalls She Tried to Ignore, Prosecutors Say” by Julie Boseman of The New York Times, in November, a young woman named Ruth George was murdered by a man who had cat-called her earlier, and when she didn’t respond the price was her life. Now to answer the question of why don’t women just ignore the statements, that’s why. The result isn’t always harmless.

Some people argue against the fact that women are commonly sexually harassed in our society. Some claim that women are twisting innocent compliments into harassment claims. Others have wondered, why don’t women want to be ‘admired’ and ‘appreciated’?

Flirting and compliments are usually respectful, kind, and light-hearted while catcalling and other forms of verbal harassment are much less humanising. They are demeaning, degrading and objectifying to women’s physical appearances. Flirting is consensual and equally acted out by both parties, while catcalling is about dominance over the victim. 

Wanting to compliment someone is not an excuse for sexual harassment. Being ‘complimented’ and sexualized on one’s physical appearance by someone who you have no interest in is not only unwanted but uncomfortable.