I was once catcalled while wearing my son in a baby carrier. I guess the presumed presence of my body underneath the baby strapped to my torso was apparently good enough for the guy who shouted at me as I was on the way to daycare one day.
Another time, my harasser used my son as the middle man, directing his “You’ve got a beautiful Mommy, you know that?” to the stroller I pushed in front of me. “NO!” I thought but didn’t say because I tend to avoid the uncertainty of conflict in these situations. “You don’t get to use my son to catcall me!”
We’re entering summer, which for many women and non-binary people is when street harassment escalates. It’s always unpleasant, but it may be even more unpleasant and jarring when it happens in the company of your children.
I didn’t know this was a common experience until I started asking. Just as every woman I know has a story of some guy harassing her, so do many mothers had a story of being harassed while out with their children. Some of them are almost amusing in their sheer nerve, some are shudder-inducing, and they unanimously make you want to say, “Ugh.”
Below, 12 women speak out on what the experience is like.
1. “He suggested to the kids that mommy should give him her number.”
I had a guy follow my children and I into the parking lot of a grocery store telling me how beautiful I was and asking for my number. He suggested to the kids that mommy should give him her number. I considered backing up over him with my car. ― Jamie Lechner
2. “What a cutie! And the baby’s not too bad either!”
I was carrying my 9-month-old through the parking lot of a department store to my car and a man was staring at us for an uncomfortably long amount of time, enough to make me pick up my pace and avoid eye contact. Then he yelled, “What a cutie! And the baby’s not too bad either!” He thought he was so funny. Ugh. ― Brie Riley
3. “I want my daughters to know that they can speak up for themselves and that it is not OK with me for strangers to comment on my body.”
Summers are always the worst for catcalling but it gets even worse when my kids are in tow. Men feel they can comment on my tattoos whenever they feel like it and when it does happen, I ignore them or tell them to stop speaking to me. It’s important to do this in front of my daughters because I do not want them growing up feeling like they can be objectified.
I want my daughters to know that they can speak up for themselves and that it is not OK with me for strangers to comment on my body. Hopefully it rubs off on them. ― Jennifer Clark
4. “I have been catcalled at 7 months pregnant.”
If it counts, I have been catcalled at 7 months pregnant (and VERY visibly so, I was wearing a dress which proudly showed the bump!). I was most confused ― did the man saying “Hey sexy mama” and making crude gestures think I was going to haul my large pregnant self into his white van and have sex with him?! ― Ayesha Jeary
5. “I can be his daddy.”
A few years ago, I was walking with my 2-year-old son when a man walked up to us and leered, “I can be his daddy.” We ducked into a restaurant. Thankfully, he was too little to notice. I just ignored the man. Nowadays, we have an open dialogue about how we treat girls and women. ― Sara Heistand
6. “He was so confused as to why mommy went from cheerful to fearful in seconds.”
I was leaving a large retail store at the anchor end of a mall with my son. We were laughing and I was swinging my bags in one hand and holding his with the other while he skipped, as we crossed the lane and into the parking lot. It was dusk and I hear a man whistle and shout. I was so used to it that I automatically stiffened up and picked up my pace, without acknowledging it. I was practically dragging my son by the time the man caught up to us and started asking to “be friends” and saying how “handsome” my son is.
I moved away briskly and he picked up his own pace and asked if I “wanted company this weekend.” I was almost running now so he stopped and then proceeded to shout “Ugly, b*tch, high on yourself” at my back, followed by more name-calling and slurs. I covered my son’s ears and jumped in the car. He was so confused as to why mommy went from cheerful to fearful in seconds and the vibe of our fun, late afternoon had totally changed.
I waited for 10 minutes before getting back out of my SUV to get my son situated in his car seat; he was only 3 1/2 at the time. (There are more instances but that one stuck out in my memory most because it was the most frightened I ever was with my son present.) ― Kasandra Powell
7. “And that, my fellow feminists, is how you sexualize a fetus.”
When I was pregnant with my first child, a random stranger told me that if the baby was a boy he’s be a lucky little sod sucking on those tits. And that, my fellow feminists, is how you sexualize a fetus. ― Nesta May
8. “I wear my daughter all around our hood and stay getting hit on.”
I wear my daughter all around our hood and get hit on. My husband thinks dudes don’t realize I have a baby in there and one guy actually told me that. But I don’t buy it. What the hell else would be in this OBVIOUS baby carrier? A bowling ball?
And pregnancy catcalls were also a thing but thinly veiled as “compliments” like “Oh you look good girl” and “Wish I was the daddy.” I walked to work until the end and got not shortage of street harassment. ― Helena Andrews-Dyer
9. “You just had to have it, didn’t you?”
I was pushing my twins in a stroller when they were about 18 months old when an older man leered at us and said “You just had to have it, didn’t you?” I had no idea what he was talking about and said “What?” He replied, “Oh the thing that gets you two babies born so close together,” and then winked at me.
They are boy/girl twins and don’t look much alike so he probably thought I had gotten pregnant again very soon after giving birth to the first. Either way, I was really grossed out and mumbled something about them being twins and got the hell out of there. ― Kelly Wilson Bossley
10. “It just feels particularly unkind.”
I’ve gotten pregnant catcalled and every time I’m just like WHAT??! I give them a look or say something to the effect of “Are you fucking serious?” I mean, I guess it’s no more or less offensive than regular catcalling ― pregnant bodies are beautiful and it can look sexy I guess. It just feels particularly unkind. ― Melissa Petro
11. “Did you know your mother’s hot?”
The worst was once when we were waiting for the subway and some dude leered at me and then said to my kid, “Did you know your mother’s hot?”
I just ignored him because I’m always scared about escalating stuff. Later when my son asked me about it I just said, “We live in a really messed up culture that thinks women’s bodies are public property.” ― Anne Thériault
12. “I feel so uneasy when I’m catcalled while with my kids.”
I was once catcalled on my way to the pool with my two young daughters. The man was driving while I was walking. I ignored him and turned left onto a one-way street. He drove in reverse down the one-way street still catcalling to me and trying to get me to give him my number. My daughters were 2 and 4 at the time. This was in NYC. I was terrified!
Even for a NYC street, there was no one else around. I thought he was going to kidnap us. My daughters didn’t ask me anything and I didn’t tell them anything either. They don’t remember thankfully.
However, I feel so uneasy when I’m catcalled while with my kids. Almost like the only reason they’re catcalling me is because I have children. Almost like I’m an easy target or prey. Maybe I’m overthinking it but it feels like it’s my kids some of these men are after. ― Doris Villegas
These accounts have been edited and condensed for clarity.