November 7, 2014

What were you wearing when you were catcalled?

A question answered. 

IN THE COMMENTS: FullMoon observes that the word "catcall" means: "1: a loud or raucous cry made especially to express disapproval (as at a sports event) 2: a derisive remark."

He continues:
Most of the verbal ejaculations in the original video were of a down to earth, complimentary vein.

"Nice ass" and "I could eat that all day and nighttime, too" are not derisive or expressions of disapproval. Quite the opposite, in my neighborhood.
Good point! That is how I remember the meaning of the word "catcall," now that you mentions it. I don't know what dictionary FullMoon looked at, but I go to the OED, where I see that originally a catcall was "A squeaking instrument, or kind of whistle, used esp. in play-houses to express impatience or disapprobation." (1660  S. Pepys Diary 7 Mar. (1970) I. 80,  "I..called on Adam Chard and bought a Catt-call there; it cost me two groats.") Then it became "The sound made by this instrument or an imitation with the voice; a shrill screaming whistle." (1817  M. Edgeworth Harrington & Ormond I. vii. 144  "Shrill catcalls in the gallery, had begun to contend with the music in the orchestra.")

But there's a "Draft addition" from December 2006:
orig. U.S. A whistle, cry, or suggestive comment intended to express sexual attraction or admiration (but usually regarded as an annoyance), typically made by a man to a female passer-by.
The examples go back to 1956:
1956   Charleroi (Pa.) Mail 4 Apr. 7/1   The catcalls and approving whistles brought her back to the present and she stood in the center aisle and gave them a gay smile.
1982   Chicago Sun-Times 25 Nov. 7/1   Karen Downs, an attractive woman who was sick of the catcalls she received every time she set foot outside her house.
1993   R. Shilts Conduct Unbecoming iv. xxxiii. 317   Women recruits found themselves the object of catcalls when they walked by the mens's barracks... ‘Hey babe, you want to get lucky?’ the male Marines called.
2001   R. Peffer Virgin Islands (Lonely Planet) 46/1   Women find themselves most vulnerable to harassment when they're working out. If you are jogging..along public thoroughfares, you must prepare yourself to get whistles, catcalls, clapping and the like from local men.
BONUS: Joseph Addison's essay No. 361 from The Spectator, dated Thursday, April 24, 1712. is all about the cat-call:
I have lately received the following Letter from a Country Gentleman.


Mr. SPECTATOR,

The Night before I left London I went to see a Play, called The Humorous Lieutenant. Upon the Rising of the Curtain I was very much surprized with the great Consort of Cat-calls which was exhibited that Evening, and began to think with myself that I had made a Mistake, and gone to a Musick-Meeting, instead of the Play-house. It appeared indeed a little odd to me to see so many Persons of Quality of both Sexes assembled together at a kind of Catterwawling; for I cannot look upon that Performance to have been any thing better, whatever the Musicians themselves might think of it. As I had no Acquaintance in the House to ask Questions of, and was forced to go out of Town early the next Morning, I could not learn the Secret of this Matter. What I would therefore desire of you, is, to give some account of this strange Instrument, which I found the Company called a Cat-call; and particularly to let me know whether it be a piece of Musick lately come from Italy. For my own part, to be free with you, I would rather hear an English Fiddle; though I durst not shew my Dislike whilst I was in the Play-House, it being my Chance to sit the very next Man to one of the Performers. I am, SIR,

Your most affectionate Friend
and Servant,
John Shallow, Esq.



In compliance with Esquire Shallows Request, I design this Paper as a Dissertation upon the Cat-call. In order to make myself a Master of the Subject, I purchased one the Beginning of last Week, though not without great difficulty, being informd at two or three Toyshops that the Players had lately bought them all up. I have since consulted many learned Antiquaries in relation to its Original, and find them very much divided among themselves upon that Particular. A Fellow of the Royal Society, who is my good Friend, and a great Proficient in the Mathematical Part of Musick, concludes from the Simplicity of its Make, and the Uniformity of its Sound, that the Cat-call is older than any of the Inventions of Jubal. He observes very well, that Musical Instruments took their first Rise from the Notes of Birds, and other melodious Animals; and what, says he, was more natural than for the first Ages of Mankind to imitate the Voice of a Cat that lived under the same Roof with them? He added, that the Cat had contributed more to Harmony than any other Animal; as we are not only beholden to her for this Wind-Instrument, but for our String Musick in general.

Another Virtuoso of my Acquaintance will not allow the Cat-call to be older than Thespis, and is apt to think it appeared in the World soon after the antient Comedy; for which reason it has still a place in our Dramatick Entertainments: Nor must I here omit what a very curious Gentleman, who is lately returned from his Travels, has more than once assured me, namely that there was lately dug up at Rome the Statue of Momus, who holds an Instrument in his Right-Hand very much resembling our Modern Cat-call.

There are others who ascribe this Invention to Orpheus, and look upon the Cat-call to be one of those Instruments which that famous Musician made use of to draw the Beasts about him. It is certain, that the Roasting of a Cat does not call together a greater Audience of that Species than this Instrument, if dexterously played upon in proper Time and Place.

But notwithstanding these various and learned Conjectures, I cannot forbear thinking that the Cat-call is originally a Piece of English Musick. Its Resemblance to the Voice of some of our British Songsters, as well as the Use of it, which is peculiar to our Nation, confirms me in this Opinion. It has at least received great Improvements among us, whether we consider the Instrument it self, or those several Quavers and Graces which are thrown into the playing of it. Every one might be sensible of this, who heard that remarkable overgrown Cat-call which was placed in the Center of the Pit, and presided over all the rest at [the] celebrated Performance lately exhibited in Drury-Lane.

Having said thus much concerning the Original of the Cat-call, we are in the next place to consider the Use of it. The Cat-call exerts it self to most advantage in the British Theatre: It very much Improves the Sound of Nonsense, and often goes along with the Voice of the Actor who pronounces it, as the Violin or Harpsichord accompanies the Italian Recitativo.

It has often supplied the Place of the antient Chorus, in the Works of Mr.----In short, a bad Poet has as great an Antipathy to a Cat-call, as many People have to a real Cat.

Mr. Collier, in his ingenious Essay upon Musick has the following Passage:

I believe tis possible to invent an Instrument that shall have a quite contrary Effect to those Martial ones now in use: An Instrument that shall sink the Spirits, and shake the Nerves, and curdle the Blood, and inspire Despair, and Cowardice and Consternation, at a surprizing rate. Tis probable the Roaring of Lions, the Warbling of Cats and Scritch-Owls, together with a Mixture of the Howling of Dogs, judiciously imitated and compounded, might go a great way in this Invention. Whether such Anti-Musick as this might not be of Service in a Camp, I shall leave to the Military Men to consider.

What this learned Gentleman supposes in Speculation, I have known actually verified in Practice. The Cat-call has struck a Damp into Generals, and frighted Heroes off the Stage. At the first sound of it I have seen a Crowned Head tremble, and a Princess fall into Fits. The Humorous Lieutenant himself could not stand it; nay, I am told that even Almanzor looked like a Mouse, and trembled at the Voice of this terrifying Instrument.

As it is of a Dramatick Nature, and peculiarly appropriated to the Stage, I can by no means approve the Thought of that angry Lover, who, after an unsuccessful Pursuit of some Years, took leave of his Mistress in a Serenade of Cat-calls.

I must conclude this Paper with the Account I have lately received of an ingenious Artist, who has long studied this Instrument, and is very well versed in all the Rules of the Drama. He teaches to play on it by Book, and to express by it the whole Art of Criticism. He has his Base and his Treble Cat-call; the former for Tragedy, the latter for Comedy; only in Tragy-Comedies they may both play together in Consort. He has a particular Squeak to denote the Violation of each of the Unities, and has different Sounds to shew whether he aims at the Poet or the Player. In short he teaches the Smut-note, the Fustian-note, the Stupid-note, and has composed a kind of Air that may serve as an Act-tune to an incorrigible Play, and which takes in the whole Compass of the Cat-call.

32 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Women's clothes make men's imaginations work all the harder.

William said...

The suppression of catcalling is the necessary first step. After that the feminists can move on to child rape in Rotherham, Boko Haram kidnappings, and genital mutilation around the Horn of Africa. It's mportant to have priorities and a sense of proportion in this struggle.

SteveR said...

So do we have any concept of the issue in an American city besides NYC?

Emil Blatz said...

I didn't realize that standards were so low.

Paul said...

I was wearing Speedos... went into the WRONG bar.

I still thought 'gay' just meant happy.

madAsHell said...

I believe that some men pick on women that fail to show self-confidence.

mikee said...

I once had to explain to a young man that attempting to start a conversation with my young and attractive wife by yelling from the street that her "ass looked good in those shorts" while my wife was planting flowers in our front yard was likely to result in his requiring treatment for injuries inflicted by a shovel, and that if I became involved his injuries would be even worse.

Hopefully that young man learned something that day. I know I did. It is hard to stop one's wife from using a shovel to attack an idiot, so next time I won't.

I never saw that young man walking on our street again.

Young men can learn, they just sometimes need lessons.

Moose said...

A better experiment is to ask what the ethnicity of the catcallers was. I'll bet it'd be enlightening. If the respondents were truthful...

Tari said...

What disturbs me are the comments the women wrote along with these photos. Some of what the men said - one followed a woman and kept asking to touch her lady parts - is truly disturbing. But a lot of the comments are in the "hey, where's you get that ass?" bucket ... and to me, those comments are something women just need to ignore. Many of these women, however, say they were "scared and shaken" by those kinds of comments, or "this ruined my evening and I wanted to go home". I'm sorry, but toughen up, sunshine. I was taught as a child/young woman to shake off unpleasant or difficult experiences and not let them stop me from doing what I wanted to do. Why are these women doing the opposite, whining and acting like special snowflakes who needs extra protection from this awful, ugly world? Unpleasant people are everywhere, and you can't legislate them away.

Angie said...

I haven't been catcalled in years.

What am I doing wrong?

Just kidding, I'm joking!

or not

n.n said...

Normalization has consequences. Thank the sluts and their male counterparts.

Anonymous said...

Some of the faces these girls have plastered on are hilarious.

Reminds me of Tim Blair's "Compassionate Head Tilt" picture expose he did during the removal of Saddam Hussien. Funny stuff.

donald said...

I can't imagine grown men saying most of the stuff I read there.

That could be for a coue of reasons. We just don't do shit like that here (Georgia, I mean I've never heard anything remotely like some of that stuff). Or they're lying, which I would bet serious money is closer to the truth.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Essay topic: anti slut-shaming campaigns' effects on catcalling behavior.

Hunter said...

Moose said...
A better experiment is to ask what the ethnicity of the catcallers was. I'll bet it'd be enlightening. If the respondents were truthful...

From the link, a line that made me laugh audibly:

So far, Heng’s blog mostly features young white women, which she recognises is problematic.

The answer to your question might also turn out to be... problematic.

Lucien said...

Oh come on -- no one is really defending the idea that it is OK to tell a complete stranger that she has a nice ass, or equivalent remark, much less the claim that after bothering someone in that manner they are obliged to provide a response, are they?

Everyone walking on the street has the right to be left alone without such intrusions, or for that matter, beggars asking for spare change or petition desk set up outside of supermarkets (comments like, "don't step in that dog shit are different).

I think instead that the people sniping at this story and the prior video that made the rounds are doing so not because they feel the conduct of the men involved is justified, or because they do not feel that women have the right to be left alone, but because they feel uncomfortable when confronted with the fact that women are in fact subjected to such conduct and are justified in being weirded-out and pissed-off by it.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Blond hair.

I was also ten years old, and this was on the mean streets and souks of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Joe said...

Are these women sure they were the ones being catcalled? Not really being sarcastic here; there is a narcissism going on here.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss the work of our hostess here on catcalling?

Why is it called "cat" calling?

Because women are catty?

Because cat is a euphemism for pussy?

kcom said...

So what can we learn from this? It's not about the clothes. Which is not surprising since none of the comments are about the clothes.

FullMoon said...

Before the environmentalists forced
the closure of Baylands Raceway in Fremont California, the phrase"show yer tits!" was frequently heard over the sweet music of blown, fuel injected, nitro methane fed, bazillion horsepower dragster engines. The young hussys who complied served to encourage this boorish behavior.



FullMoon said...

CATCALL

1: a loud or raucous cry made especially to express disapproval (as at a sports event)
2: a derisive remark

Most of the verbal ejaculations in the original video were of a down to earth, complimentary vein.

"Nice ass" and "I could eat that all day and nighttime, too" are not derisive or expressions of disapproval. Quite the opposite, in my neighborhood.
How else is a young guy gonna meet a nice girl, pay site internet dating?

Jupiter said...

Lucien said ...

"I think instead that the people sniping at this story and the prior video that made the rounds are doing so not because they feel the conduct of the men involved is justified, or because they do not feel that women have the right to be left alone, but because they feel uncomfortable when confronted with the fact that women are in fact subjected to such conduct and are justified in being weirded-out and pissed-off by it."

Well, the men involved obviously feel OK doing what they are doing. Are you maybe suggesting that people who use the adjective "dat" are different from the people who comment at Althouse? How, exactly?

Bruce Hayden said...

Are you maybe suggesting that people who use the adjective "dat" are different from the people who comment at Althouse? How, exactly?

For one thing, the commenters here are probably unlikely to catcall strange women.

As I pointed out, it is probably mostly a race/class issue. Upper middle class whites just don't do this sort of thing. Mostly not middle middle class. Taught young that it is inappropriate behavior. Much more blue collar and ethnic. Their women, their sisters, daughters, etc., grow up expecting this sort of thing, and aren't usually nearly as phased by it.

Which means that the left has a problem here. Multiculturalism would say that this behavior should be tolerated. Obviously, feminists disagree. And, that is why they rarely show the guys involved - because this dynamic would be obvious - low class or minority males catcalling white women. It is their way of intimidating the women, and it seems to work.

mikeski said...

eric said:
Why is it called "cat" calling?

When you call a housecat, do you expect it to come to you?

...same thing.

tim in vermont said...

The experiment was just tried in New Zealand. No catcalls. One man did ask directions, and yes, he did appear black, based on the grainy gif. Another man who "appeared European" talked to her and asked if she were Italian. He then apologized for talking to her.

A few did double takes, so she was attractive enough.

Ann Althouse said...

It is called a catcall because it was originally an instrument that makes the sound of a cat. So it's the equivalent of a duck call — a cat call. Read the additions I've put on the post. The original cat-call was a noisemaker used in the theater to boo the actors.

Thorley Winston said...

Everyone walking on the street has the right to be left alone without such intrusions, or for that matter, beggars asking for spare change or petition desk set up outside of supermarkets (comments like, "don't step in that dog shit are different).

A statement that kind of flies in the face of the whole First Amendment and public square doctrine.

About the only place you have the “right” to be left alone in is your own property. If you chose to go out in public, you’ve made the decision to go to a place where you have to deal with other people some of will exercise their right to try to talk to you, some of which may try so in ways that are annoying or downright offensive. Unless and until they do something that is considered a crime or a tort, your remedies are pretty much (a) exercise your First Amendment rights to respond or (b) ignore them and move on.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Yeah, Thorley. The First Amendment is sooo sexist.

These complaints make me want to vomit at the insecurity and implicit nanny-statism pleas.

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

The pictures of course are complete bullshit. The women have every reason to dress down when they put on their "cat call" uniforms.

First, for ideological reasons. Second, they don't want to be embarrassed (Oh, yeah I was cat-called in this see through blouse). Third, its an ego thing. Look, I'm so good looking, I got cat-called even when I wear a potato sack.

chillblaine said...

These women passed hundreds of men in their movements, and they only retain the horror of a single ham-handed flirtation.

Were this a muslim area, their virtue itself would be forfeit.