Are cat-calls compliments?
I mean, really, what woman doesn't want to be admired by men for the way she looks?
Syndicated columnist Suzanne Fields writes that recently-elected Republican women are the embodiment of female power, as opposed to women Democrats who, according to Fields, "are focusing on victimhood and crying harassment at every slur and imagined arrow."
Fields mentions a video in which a woman walks through New York for ten hours. (She's not the woman in the photo above. The video woman was wearing a sweatsuit. Not that it matters.) She receives more than one hundred cat-calls from men. Fields scoffs at the idea that it's harassment when a man calls out, "What's up, beautiful?" or "What ya doin' today?"
"There was nothing menacing in the flirtatious banter," says Fields, and she recommends that women "Shake It Off," as Taylor Swift's new song advises.
Ms.Fields is wrong. If my husband or boyfriend says, "What's up, beautiful?" it's a welcome compliment from a man who has earned the right to comment on my appearance. Men who are strangers have no such right, even if it sounds like a compliment. What about a male co-worker? Is he inbounds if he tastefully compliments my appearance? Even that may be inappropriate at the office depending on the relationship. If we are in a group at a bar for happy hour, a polite compliment is probably acceptable if both of us are single. It's flirting. If I flirt back, it means I am comfortable with the gentleman's interest.
But the stranger on the street has no right to make any comment, positive or negative, on my appearance, and I have no right to comment on his.
Perhaps what Fields fails to appreciate is that there are degrees of harassment. Obviously, an unwelcome compliment is not rape. But that does not make cat-calls okay.
It's good to pay someone a compliment on their appearance.
But earn the right first.