Is calling someone “beautiful” a compliment or harassment?

A woman walks down the streets of Manhattan.

She hears a faint “God Bless you mami–damn” behind her back.

A few minutes later she hears a whistle.

These moments were captured on a viral video made by Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative. Walking silently around New York City for 10 hours, the actress was catcalled more than 100 times.

No, the woman was not wearing anything revealing; she was wearing a crew neck t-shirt and a pair of jeans, something an average woman would wear on a daily basis.

According to Urban Dictionary, “cat calling is when a guy whistles or yells at a babydoll for the purpose of getting attention and in hopes of a future hookup.”

But is catcalling viewed as a form of verbal harassment or a compliment for the ladies? I mean, men are calling women beautiful, what’s the harm?

“I think it’s a form of verbal harassment,” sophomore Sydney Kim said. “There are many other ways to compliment girls in more appropriate manners than making girls feel uncomfortable.”

Somewhat disagreeing, Akiyoshi Komiya, a senior, said, “A lot of women view catcalling a form of verbal and sexual abuse and start coalitions to ban it, but they also go around doing similar things to men, like the guy from Target (Alex From Target). It’s just double standards, which I feel like is really prominent in most arguments presented by feminists.”

After the release of this video made by Hollaback, CNN invited Amanda Seales, a standup comedian, and Steve Santagati, author of Code of Honor and The MANual to discuss this controversial topic- is catcalling a harassment or a compliment?


Seales, who often experiences some of these catcalls when she leaves her house, expresses that this is in fact not complimentary. She feels that this is in a way “funny because [she] thinks guys think that by letting you know that they would be interested in sleeping with you that that is a compliment, but actually it’s just objectifying [her]”.

While Seales explains that saying hello back is not an invitation for one to holler at a woman, Santagati laughs and continuously shakes his head, showing that he completely disagrees with Seales and whatever message she’s trying to say.

He stated, “I’m more of an expert than you (Amanda Seales), and I’ll tell you why ‘cause I’m a guy and I know how men think.”

Santagati further explains that these men are just complimenting the women. If the men in the video hollering at the actress was hot and good looking, women wouldn’t be complaining, he continues, describing to CNN how women think (or what Santagati thought they think), not what men think.

But does he really know women better than women know themselves?

Santagati (along with other men who sides with him), in fact, should not be trying to decide what women should feel or argue that women are wrong. They should be taking a moment to listen and embrace the fact that women do not like being complimented in this way.

New York City isn’t the only place women are verbally harassed. It happens in many places around the world, including Singapore. And it’s happened to SAS students.

Senior Ye Jin Jeon, who has lived in Singapore for about 13 years, shares, “I was at Orchard when this older guy came up behind me and said, ‘Hey, can I have your number?’ I was immediately creeped out and sped up, but he followed me for a few minutes, repeatedly asking for my number before finally leaving.”

Other female students have had similar experiences. Junior Ji Sue Hahn often passes by construction workers. She states, “Sometimes, when I’m walking home, I see construction workers. They all just stare at me. One time, a worker smiled and winked. I felt very uncomfortable and I didn’t know how to react, so I quickly walked away.”

Most men who catcall might assume it’s a compliment that feeds a woman’s ego, but in reality, women feel uncomfortable and unpleasant when a random guy catcalls them.

Any guys out there still unclear? Let me simplify. It is not a compliment. It is a harrassment.

Author: Hong Bin Jeong

Hong Bin Jeong is the Art and Infographics Editor for The Eye and part of the Morning Show production staff. This is her first year on staff and eleventh year in SAS. She was born in South Korea, but has lived in Singapore for almost thirteen years. In her free time, she loves to create art and try different types of ice cream. She can be contacted at

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