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All synonyms are approximate. Are the following close enough?


Please note that these near-synonyms are not about sex as much as they are about position. The comic’s aristocratic lady is frostily furious at being addressed by a commoner, as a commoner.

If she had been more versed in demotic speech, then she could have sassed back with honour. “Back at ya!” if she enjoyed his flattery, “dream on!” if not.

Suppose we play the synonym game the other way around. If he had said,
“Lovely lady, you light up my day!”
– would that be classy? Maybe if one guy said that; but if a dozen said the exact same thing, then that would be Common. So R-E-S-P-E-C-T is not what’s said as much as how it’s said, and by whom.

“Privilege” means private law, meaning purchased manners. For as you may have heard:

Money’s honey, my little sonny
and a rich man’s joke is always funny!

– to which I add:

Cash is sassy, my little lassy
and a rich man’s catcall’s always classy!

Yeah, no. It’s not about social position and it’s not about race or idiom. It’s about appropriate contexts.

If a neighbour waves at you, it’s a greeting. That’s being neighbourly. The appropriate response is to wave back, and if you’re in the mood for conversation and they don’t look in a hurry, start by asking how their life is going or something equally neutral. As with any conversation, it is totally inappropriate to segue straight from “Hi” to sexual innuendo and commentary on a person’s looks.

That makes sense. Neighborliness for neighborliness. Rude superficial flattery is for much later, if at all.

But how do you define context, except in terms of sex, class, idiom and ethnicity?

I define context by what’s actually HAPPENING at the moment. In this case, a woman was walking, passed a neighbor and waved a greeting at him. Out on the street. In public. How anyone could think that this is a context for sex is beyond me.

Being out in the street, in broad daylight, and giving a nodding acquaintance a friendly wave has absolutely nothing to do with gender (I assume that’s what you meant, in regards to context), class, idiom nor ethnicity. As for sex, unless the woman is an acknowledged sex worker, who picks up customers on the street by waving to them in broad daylight, it also has no bearing on that situation or context.

Is that clear?

No. Catcalls – usually sexual and always focusing on appearance – are never welcome, and never ever ‘classy’. When a woman is in a public space, she’s there for her own reasons and spending her own time. That a man then starts catcalling at her while she’s in that public space does not show admiration – it shows that he feels so entitled to her body and her time that he will make her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in public spaces. You can’t blame a woman for being uncomfortable – she’s there for herself, but a man has verbally taken possession of her, and not for her at all: he does it to exert his control over her, to exert his perceived power over her, to demonstrate his sexual prowess and reputation in front of male friends (we can say all we like that a man does this because on the inside he is insecure and pathetic and needs to exert control over someone who can’t fight back to feel powerful, but he won’t admit it to himself).
Of course, women can’t do much about it. Saying anything to his face about his catcalls so often makes him angry that her for challenging him, and most women genuinely fear a man’s anger. Why shouldn’t they? 1 in 2 women will have experience sexual harassment in their lifetime, 1 in 5 (or more or thereabouts) will be raped, and 20% of women will experience sexual harassment before their 16th birthday. She might make friends with gay men to avoid this, but cis men, gay or straight, have been raised to believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies, and 80% of them will have commented on a woman’s body (the ‘Sassy Gay Friend Stereotype, anyone?), touched it without permission, or even sexually harassed a woman in the name of controlling her, because they know she can’t fight back, or thinks it’s okay because ‘he’s not into me like that’.

Men, don’t catcall. It’s genuinely a shitty thing to do, and it’s never a compliment. Women, if you get a catcall, catcall back – tell him in the same leering tones how pathetic he is, how he’s only desperate for attention, how he can go to Hell. If he touches you without consent, call him out on it, and loudly, so every person sees and hears what’s going on – men only do this when they think they won’t get caught, or believe you won’t fight back. prove him wrong on that account, and he’ll think twice about doing it again.

Finally, men: if you see another guy catcalling, call him out on it. Tell him that what he’s doing is shitty, and remind him that the woman he’s catcalling is a human being. (You could say ‘she’s someone’s daughter’, but the fact is that she’s her own person first, and you should treat her like a human being rather than qualify that status by her relationship to a man (even if the man is her father)).

(Long comment, but this isn’t said nearly enough).

Are catcalls – and worse signs of entitlement – ‘classy’ or not? According to upper class’s perception of itself, no, showing entitlement is never, ever classy. But others of lower status might see that getting away with entitlement is a part of what class is all about.

“Classy” isn’t about entitlement. “Classy” is about behaving in a gracious manner. Good manners are classy. Rich entitlement is not.

“Classy” has absolutely nothing to do with social class. I know some very well-mannered and classy poor people.

Skeezy. You forgot skeezy.

Also gross, impertinent, and disgusting. Give me a minute. I’m sure I can think of some others.

Good! And those are wonderfully expressive words, full of verve and passion!

So far the synonyms cover various fields. There are the class-based words: inappropriate, over-familiar, disrespectful, boorish, tawdry, vulgar, common, low, presumptuous, bumptious, uncouth and impudent. To these you add the utterly toffish “impertinent”.

Then there are the explicitly sex-based words: gross, skeezy, disgusting, seedy, creepy.

To these I added ethnic descriptors: African-American, Hispanic. Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps it was a lower-class young white man who spoke in that idiom; but the underclassness of his call is immistakable. There may be White in that voice, there may be Black, but that voice surely has not the slightest trace of the Long Green. (Rich men say the same thing but in different terms, unless deliberately slumming it.)

To all of these vivid adjectives, allow me to add one more, which I think explains the whole incident:


If I may join in the game of words to replace “creepy,” I could add the following:-

– maladroit
– vulgarian
– oafish
– oik
– degenerate
– insufferable
– immodest
– indecorous
– improper
– indecent
– indelicate
– indiscreet
– intolerable
– tiresome
– nauseating
– vile
– slovenly
– nasty
– ghastly
– grotesque

A delightful game! I could be at this all day!

The catcaller’s speech pattern is not consistent with suit-wearing.

I forgot to add “presumptuous”, “bumptious”, “uncouth” and “impudent” to the list; all class-based. I looked these words up in my thesaurus, and the entry ended “see POPULACE”.

Oh by the way, any SJW must deal not only with the topics of gender and class, but also race. The word I would use to describe the catcaller’s idiom is “African-American”. Or perhaps “Hispanic”. This comic’s edgy jest is a translucent white Austin princess being boisterously hailed in an idiom of color.

oops, that should be “Austen” princess.

Oh, well I suppose that makes it ok then.

I can’t help but admire your mental agility in finding ways to explain that, not only is catcalling perfectly harmless but, moreover, that the person who feels threatened/insulted by catcalling is in fact the one who needs to be held to account here. Remarkable. I particularly enjoyed the part of your argument which hinged on the assumption that synonyms must be interchangeable, allowing you to make an instant and otherwise unexplained leap from “creepy” to “common” – though your somewhat lacklustre examination of class privilege suggests you may wish to read up on dialectical materialism.

Perhaps, though, you could put the thesaurus aside for a moment and consider the possibility that those on the receiving end of harrasment are entitled to find their own words to describe their experiences.

She asked for synonyms. I provided some, all approximate.

Catcalls are far from harmless, and also far from classless. The, quote, classier, unquote, the idiom of the call, the more likely the caller is to get away with it. That’s how privilege works.

Dialectical materialism? What has Marx’s quaint expropriation of Hegelian absurdity have to do with actual liberation of actual persons? Who takes either seriously any more? Remember, Hegel proved that there can only be six planets – right before Uranus was discovered. And as for Marx… interesting diagnostician, failed therapist.

From personal experience, the more class privilege the catcaller exhibits, the creepier it feels – and “getting away with it” has more to do with gender than class (since almost all catcallers in my experience have been male, and none of them have had to answer for their catcalls). This is also how privilege works. Though we may be working with different definitions of class, since you seem to have rejected material conditions as a basis for understanding class relations.

Interesting conflation of dialectical materialism with Hegelian philosophy. Of course, the historical conditions of the person who coins a term does not exclude the term from being applied, with good effect, to different historical conditions.

I agree that privilege has multiple forms and sources. For instance, were an Austin lady (as in Texas, not Austen the writer, oops!) before the civil-rights era hailed in terms as Ebonic as in this comic, then the man accused of making the call would be well advised to flee town to save his life. So race can trump gender. Throw money into the mix and it gets complicated. Material conditions can contradict each other.

I erred, and I apologize, in not realizing that a catcall is _by_definition_ intimidating. (Or creepy, gross, seedy, impudent, inappropriate, etc.) A call not received that way is not a catcall. The distinction is a negotiated one, and hence shifts for reasons rarely stated openly. O the times, O the manners.

That there’s Hegelianism in Marxism is uncontroversial. I erred in saying that Hegel proved that there could only be six planets; he proved that there could be only seven; then came the eighth, Neptune. See “Unpopular Essays” by Bertrand Russell, “Philosophy’s Ulterior Motives”, page 54.

And as for how well Marx used Hegel’s failed methods of reasoning, why just look how well Marxism worked.

“Dialectical materialism? What has Marx’s quaint expropriation of Hegelian absurdity have to do with actual liberation of actual persons? Who takes either seriously any more? Remember, Hegel proved that there can only be six planets – right before Uranus was discovered. And as for Marx… interesting diagnostician, failed therapist.”

You can write all that, and seem to comprehend it, but you don’t know how quotation marks work? I’m amazed.

My speech community actually does say the words quote-unquote around a quote, especially for quotes from which we are distancing ourselves. It works for us. I understand that there is another speech community, called ‘hipsters’, who use a gesture called ‘airquotes’ for the same purpose. I’d have done that here, but airquotes don’t work online.

I notice that you say nothing about Hegel or Marx or dialectical materialism. Good move.

…I can’t resist rising to that.

If material conditions do not form part of your understanding of the “classism” you keep raising as an issue, then how do you define class?

Of course there is Hegelianism in dialectical materialism, in the sense that the base-structure and super-structure of a society – or, if you prefer, the material conditions and culture – are mutually influential. There is nothing at all controversial about this idea, and it remains influential, certainly in contemporary British cultural criticism (I am guessing, based on your references to Texas, that this is not your background and our conversation may be falling through some gaps between our respective contexts).

Having said that, the idea that the material conditions of a society influences its cultural output has very little to do with C19th astronomy, and I am slightly mystified as to why you chose this as your basis for disputing the relevance of dialectical materialism as a theory. Though I have no doubt you are about to enlighten me…

Of course class involves material conditions.

My critique is of the sophistry of the Hegelian dialectic. It is at best a truism, and in any case null-content. From his dialectical logic Hegel determined that the Prussian state was the culmination of history. Marx appropriated the dialectic to prove, with equal logic, that the proletarian revolution will start in advanced economies like Germany, and result in the withering away of the state. Science tests theory with experiment; Hegel made his predictions, Marx his; these predictions have been tested against history, both to a negative result.

To say that thesis and antithesis results in synthesis is optimism; the usual ideological trajectory is thesis, antithesis, thesis doubled-down.

Hegel’s Neptunian mishap presented as an Hegelian triad:
Thesis; Hegelian dialectic proves that there can be only seven planets. Antithesis; Neptune. Synthesis; Never mind!

“The catcaller’s speech pattern is not consistent with suit-wearing.”

TWADDLE! Absolute twaddle! If you believe that men who wear suits never talk like that, then you just haven’t been out of doors enough.

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