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The Globe and Mail

When is it appropriate to catcall a woman? Playboy's answer

This file photo made June 19, 2004, shows the Playboy trademark image in Los Angeles.


Bravo, Playboy?

The lad mag is receiving praise from an unlikely source, after it published an online infographic on catcalling this week.

Women who never thought they would endorse Playboy content are applauding the magazine for its flowchart, titled "Should I Catcall Her?," and sharing it over social media with an unexpected hashtag: #feminism.

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In the flowchart, Playboy concludes there are only two situations in which yelling suggestive comments at women is appropriate: 1. If she is literally a cat, and 2. If both parties know each other and "consensually agreed to shout sexually suggestive comments to each other in public."

"Well aware of the irony of Playboy giving guidance on how not to objectify women, but this is actually pretty great," one woman wrote on Twitter.

"This is amazing. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but thank you PLAYBOY!," another woman tweeted.

As Jenny Kutner of the news site Salon explains, the infographic coincides with Playboy's recent announcement it is rebranding its online presence to focus on safe-for-work content that can be shared readily on social media.

She notes the flowchart "offers a concise lesson in consent," and suggests it may be an example of the magazine's new digital direction.

One thing is for sure, Playboy has struck a chord with a broader audience by tackling the topic of catcalling.

The U.S.-based non-profit Stop Street Harassment reported earlier this year that 65 per cent of women in its national survey had experienced street harassment. And alarmingly, 23 per cent said they had been sexually touched, 20 per cent were followed and 9 per cent were forced to do something sexual. Among men, 23 per cent had been harassed.

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Clearly, catcalling is no laughing matter. But the cleverness of Playboy's infographic lies in its attempt to answer a universal question: What the heck goes on in the minds of the meatheads who do it?

"Is that booty bangin'?" the flowchart asks. If the response is "Hellsya!," it leads to the next question, "Does she have those legs that go on for days?"

Shedding light on the unsettling behaviour, New York sociologist Michael Kimmel previously explained to Globe contributor Micah Toub that those who catcall do it for two reasons. The first is to passive-aggressively claim public space as their territory. The second is to provoke a response that will allow them to vent anger. For instance, if a woman were to respond by saying "Drop dead," they may use that rejection as an excuse to become hostile.

Unfortunately, those inclined to catcall are unlikely to stop and use Playboy's flowchart before bothering their next targets. Luckily, Stop Street Harassment offers some handy tips on how to handle harassers – here's one guide that is truly deserving to be shared.

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