HUMAN RESOURCES / FEB. 09, 2015
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How to Not Let a “Cat-Call” Ruin Your Day

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In a recent Today.com article, Meghan Holohan shared the story about TODAY’s Natalie Morales and how she handled a cat-call from a complete stranger at the airport. For more on that story you can read Meghan’s article, Coping with Cat Calls. Maybe you’ve received a cat-call and felt good about it, accepting the compliment. However, it’s possible you took offense because it was more vulgar and it negatively affected the rest of your work day. This article will address several steps to take on how to handle such a situation while not allowing it to negatively affect your performance at work.

Importance of the Issue

Of course, as with many issues, there are two sides to cat-calling as well. The individuals who shout out the cat-calls may feel that they are being harmless and actually giving a compliment. The women who receive such calls oftentimes feel harassed or offended. The intent of this article is not to blame one side or the other. Its only purpose is to provide some tips on how women can handle these situations and then continue on productively with their work day. In Ms. Holohan’s article, she referenced a recent study from the University of Tennessee which studied various ways in which women cope with cat-calls. The study’s author, Dr. Dawn Szymanski, advised that many “women experience sexual objectification and body objectification and sexual advances.” Ms. Holohan’s sources cite that approximately, “65 percent of women have experienced cat-calls, leers and unwanted sexual propositions and advances.”

How to Regroup & Refocus on Your Work Day

As shown from the previously mentioned statistics, cat-calls have become a bigger problem for women than many people may realize. For more information on that study, click on the link at the beginning of this article to read from Ms. Holohan’s sources. Some proactive steps will be discussed below on how women can regroup after experiencing a cat-call and refocus on their work day.

1. Share your Experience

Rather than stew about the offensive experience all day and ruin your focus on work tasks, take a few minutes to chat with a good friend at work and vent. If you can share how you’re feeling with another trusted individual, you will have the right outlet to vent your frustrations. Contrary to most men, women usually need time to share their feelings and then they’ll feel better—even though the situation hasn’t changed. Of course, if something more traumatic happened, you may need to go to the proper authorities. However, if it was a cat-call and nothing more damaging, speaking to a friend or coworker about it can help you refocus again and let the incident go. Just remember that you need to quickly focus on work again and not turn it into an all-day gab session.

2. Safety in Numbers

If you work in an area where you have to walk far along the city blocks to head out for lunch or after work to get to the parking garage or take the bus, remember there is safety in numbers. It’s true that you and your female colleagues may all receive cat-calls. However, when you walk together, you will feel safer and also then have an immediate outlet to vent and let the incident go. In turn, be there for your fellow female colleagues who may have gone through a similar situation. You may not be offended by cat-calls, but maybe your colleague is. Don’t judge her or the incident. Rather, stand together in solidarity and allow her the chance to share her feelings so that she can then get back to work and focus on the daily job tasks.

3. Take the Humorous Approach

You may be seething inside or simply want to lash out when you receive a cat-call. However, that won’t do anything to help either party involved in the incident. That will only prolong the incident, make you more angry and further disrupt your workday. Try to relax and take a calm approach. This won’t always be easy. However, remember to keep your own sanity in the moment and don’t jump to conclusions right away. Take a second to evaluate the root of the cat-call and whether or not it was said innocently or in vulgarity. Regardless of the intent, keep cool and bring humour into the situation. Either, retaliate with your own cheeky cat-call or call out a humorous jab. Either way, you’ll leave your audience speechless, you’ll feel empowered and you can still own your day at work and stay focused on your tasks.

Cat-calls can become a serious issue, especially when spoken in vulgarity and ill-gotten humour. However, you need to remember that a cat-call does not define you as a woman and you shouldn’t allow someone else to steal your power by making you feel upset or defeated unnecessarily. Remember to share your experience and feelings with a trusted colleague or friend. Ditch going solo on lunch break or after work and choose safety in numbers with your fellow female colleagues. Finally, try to see the humour in the incident and maybe even accept it as a compliment—provided; the intent was not overly vulgar.

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