And I appreciate your insightful comments as well. My issue is not with idle conversation, or even complements about physical aspects within the context of conversation.

“If you want to actually compliment someone, someone that perhaps you are interested in getting to know better, do so in the course of a conversation.”

My issue is with invading someone else’s space uninvited — yelled from across the street or in being otherwise more familiar with someone than the nature of the relationship allows for. I used to live in the south and I get that context matters. I had no problem with waitresses calling me “honey” although I found that I did have an issue with an 18 year old male grocery clerk calling me that, not so much because he was male but because I was old enough to be his mother. It felt disrespectful in a way that it might not have coming from someone who was not half my age.

I do agree that outer appearances are not entirely neutral. We do assess people based upon how they attire themselves, but as I’ve already pointed out, a lot of harassment has nothing to do with being dressed in a revealing or sexually provocative way. My point is, there is a difference between friendliness and entitlement.

“I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve experienced someone noticing me, but in a way that was not invasive or creepy. That was just fine and dandy. In some instances it was actually flattering. I’m not asking you to pretend that you’re dead; I’m just saying that there’s a big difference between appreciating and entitlement. There’s a big difference between idle curiosity and trying to make conversation.”

I guess a lot of it comes down to intent. What is your intent when you speak to a stranger in a public place? Because what’s generally classified as “catcalling” is not actually about giving a complement; it’s a form of aggression and one that has been shown to lead towards actual danger for women.

“A new study by the University of Kent reinforces a reality that many women have long known to be true: that the sexual objectification of women leads to more aggressive behavior toward them.

This aggression might be groping, following, accosting or rape and since you don’t know on the receiving end whether or not it’s going to escalate to that, it can engender fear and anxiety even if it never goes beyond having the sanctity of your personal space violated by someone because they are yelling at you, rather than talking to you.

So, yes to friendly conversations and to showing genuine appreciation for other people, including in some instances, their physical appearance, but context, manner and intent all matter.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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