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How To Safely Respond To Catcalling, Because It's A Major Problem

Catcalling: it happens small towns and sprawling cities; in the middle of the day and late at night. Far from a compliment, catcalls can be obnoxious, perplexing, and even scary. That's why it's important to know how to safely respond to catcalling when it does happen, because it affects most women at some point.

A few years ago, I took my car to get serviced and decided to cross the street to get a coffee. As I waited for the walk sign to light up, some dude in a car stopped in the middle of traffic and laid on the horn, screaming "Hey baby!" at me. He continued for some time until other drivers, fed up with his nonsense, honked and yelled at him to drive away. Not that it should matter, but I was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and — because I was recovering from tendonitis — orthopedic sneakers. Big honking orthopedic sneakers, the most sexless shoes ever manufactured. But even then, on a sunny Sunday street in the suburbs, I was catcalled while running errands in the most utilitarian outfit ever. At the time, I just stared at my feet and waited for the screaming guy to drive off, but perhaps a braver person could have rounded on him with some of these safe responses to catcalling. Because no one should have to deal with that nonsense while going about her daily life.

And, although I wish this weren't the case, here's a quick caveat: it's important that you assess your situation and ensure your safety before responding. Back-sassing some rude guy on a crowded street is one thing, but you may want to exercise caution if you're in a remote area or outnumbered by a group of people. Stay safe and implement this ideas on how to respond to catcalling.

1. Respond Firmly

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If you're a quick thinker with a strong voice, then this may be a good choice. According to Business Insider, you can tell the harasser to stop what he's doing or even loudly repeat their comment to you. It's one way to turn the situation around.

2. Make It Weird

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Do something that's so out of left field, the harasser won't know how to respond. One idea: sing the opening bars of the Lion King's theme while holding your purse aloft, as noted in The Telegraph. If nothing else, you can make it weird for him, too.

3. Go Viral

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If you don't feel like immediately responding to the harasser for whatever reason, you aren't left without any resources. Organizations such as Hollaback! collect and share stories of catcalling in an effort to bring an end to such harassment. You can still go public with your story to bring more visibility to this everyday annoyance.  

4. Be Blunt

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This response is so effective, you may want to memorize it. In Cosmopolitan, writer Molly Oswaks suggests saying, "No one likes that," when responding to a catcaller. Even better, you can say the phrase in a calm manner — think of a Kindergarten teacher chastising a misbehaving kid — to rise above the situation entirely.

5. Fake A Phone Call

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Sure, you can pretend to get a call as a way to blatantly ignore the harassers. Or, take a cue from Gurl and proclaim that you're on the phone with your grandmother. That might remind those street harassers that you are a human being (and to cut the crap). Certainly the women in their family wouldn't want them saying such things.

6. Say Thanks

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You can be as weirdly sincere as you like. Go overboard with your gratitude and ask for his hand in marriage. Make the cat-caller feel uncomfortable for once.

7. Say What

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No, literally. Take a note from Your Tango and reply, "What?" after the cat-caller's initial remark, as well as all those that follow. Maybe he'll realize how silly it sounds the third or fourth time he makes the same remark about your body.

8. Show Compassion

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Sometimes kindness is the most unexpected, confusing, and wonderful response of all. So if some guy is saying garbage about your appearance, you can respond with quiet sympathy. "You must be in a bad place to comment on stranger's bodies like that. I hope life gets better for you." You can say, with full sincerity. Then sashay away.  

9. Ignore It

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Sometimes, no response is the best response (especially if you're concerned about escalating the situation). As noted in Self, some harassers might enjoy any sort of attention, so ignoring their foolishness is the best bet. Hopefully, they will eventually get a clue and stop catcalling completely.