While overt sexism is often thought of as a thing of the past, it’s clear it’s still around to this day. But what kind of reaction to it is pushing things too far?
Redditor Hctibbitch asked if she overreacted when a group of men catcalled her. She gave her response, but wasn’t sure if she was morally right, especially after talking with a friend about it.
So she asked the subReddit “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) about her story:
“AITA for making a complaint about someone for calling me sweetheart/their reaction when I told them not to?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“Throwaway as the friend who called me an a**hole knows my main. All this happened under an hour ago, so apologies for errors, I’m pretty flustered.”
“I (27F) was walking down a part of my city that closed to cars, so it’s known for shopping, buskers, and people collecting money for charity. I walked past one particular charity, and there was a group of about 3 men who looked to be in their early 20s collecting money.”
“One of them yelled at me ‘hey sweetheart come over here’. I said ‘don’t call me sweetheart’.”
“He and the group started laughing and asked why, I said it’s patronising.”
“Keep in mind, he yelled at me from quite far away, so I was walking past them without stopping for the whole interaction. They started laughing harder and told me to lighten up.”
“Not my proudest moment, but I gave them the bird (while still walking away).”
“I was pretty angry, I see the term sweetheart (when said to a stranger) as sexist and patronising, and I was angry that I was laughed at when I asked them not to call me sweetheart.”
“I used to do that exact job (for like a month lol), so I know that they are not hired by the charity but a third party marketing company. I even worked for the company that included that charity in its roster.”
“So ten minutes after the interaction I rang the company and put in an official complaint, and I explained the exact reasons I was angry. They confirmed that they do do the fundraising for that charity still, and that they would look into it. (I was well out of earshot of the group by then).”
“Having worked there for a whole month, I know it’s unlikely they’ll actually do anything, but maybe things have changed since I was there.”
“I ended up texting a friend to vent a bit, and she said that while she agrees and also hates being called sweetheart by random strangers, it’s not something they should potentially lose their jobs over, which might happen by making a complaint.”
“She also said that I was very rude by giving them the finger.”
“So am I the a**hole?”
On the AITA subReddit, people are judged with one of the following acronyms for their actions:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
The situation wasn’t dire, but the sexism was very blatant.
OP’s actions might get the men fired, but it would have been the result of their own actions.
It was voted OP was NTA.
“NTA. They should lose their jobs for cat-calling.. it presents a terrible image for the charity they are trying to raise money for.” – Annalirra
“Also, this is not the kind of job that will break their career. This is a good level of consequences for their actions, and will be something they should learn from.” – monagr
“NTA. It IS patronizing to be cat called. I call EVERYONE honey while I’m at work but if they ask me not to then I stop.”
“Usually no one cares because I’m a woman and I’m not SHOUTING IT ACROSS THE STORE trying to get people’s attention. When a man is shouting across a street to a only women like that, it’s gross and concerning.” – DobbyFreeElf35
“NTA. So much of these details are irrelevant. They were cat calling you, and even more dumb is that they were cat calling you while on the job. If they get fired, it’s their fault, not yours.”
“That said, without names of them, hard to see anything coming from the company, but we’ll see.” – Chairmanca93
“I’d also complain to the charity. They are representing that charity and it shows that they are supporting harassment which could hurt their donations.” – bibbiddybobbidyboo
Worse still was the knowledge that this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence.
Many women shared their own situations of being catcalled, or spoken down to because of their gender.
“NTA when I lived in the south, a lot of men called me ‘sweetheart.’ SOME could get away with it (like he elderly gentleman who said ‘thank you sweetheart’ when I held the door for him.) some VERY much could not.”
“What gets me is the laughing and being jerks about it, too. While at work. For a charity no less. And while trying to get you to give them money. They should be fired. They suck at their job.” – CityBride
“NTA, my parents and half my friends (men mostly) don’t understand my aversion to the word sweetie or sweetheart, I HATE it, it is reserved for my dad ONLY. Not even other family members are allowed to call me sweetie.”
“I have had numerous jobs (I work in STEM) and almost ALL my older male coworkers called me sweetie until i sit them all down and explained that this is a workplace, i am their colleague and equal, but if they wanted to act like my dad I could act like their daughter (they almost all have kids), they obviously get uncomfortable with this and i explain this is how i feel whenever they call me that.”
“Usually it stops, maybe a slip up here and there but then they get the look and think of their own daughters and how they feel if older men call them pet names.” – throwaway-RA-WTFBRO
“One time someone canvassing in this way for Greenpeace tried to force me to give him a hug. I went to his coworker and explained what happened and the guy absolutely freaked out, full on meltdown.”
“That made me feel like I absolutely made the right call in saying something; my guess is that he was harassing other women too, and at the very least he should not have been representing Greenpeace!”
“This is to say, NTA. Absolutely the right call. The charity deserves to know (or at least have the opportunity to know) that people are cat calling while representing their cause. I’m glad I did it and I’m glad you did too!” – mebutpd
A while later, OP came back with an update about the situation. She reminded people to not attack her friend, and told everyone what she decided to do next.
“Thanks to everyone who voted, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with my decision.
“Apologies for not responding to comments, I’m an Aussie so I posted, went to bed, and then woke up to this.”
“A couple of points; -my friend isn’t a bad person, stop the insults. She has said since she does think they should lose their jobs, but she’s worried that I may be hurt in the future with my habit of talking back.”
“Since our city is small, she’s also worried about them running into me again.”
- “I contacted the charity they work for, they were extremely supportive and angry and gave a full apology and assurance that they will investigate”
- “funnily enough I do actually already annually donate to this charity, so they wouldn’t have gotten anything from me. I won’t be stopping the donations, they do great work and it’s very close to my heart”
- “it was very busy and the middle of the day, otherwise I would not have reacted for safety reasons”
Assuming anything is done about the men who catcalled OP, maybe this will serve as a lesson—a teachable moment they will remember the next time they consider catcalling someone.
But stopping sexism begins at younger ages, with teaching kids to treat all people with kindness and respect is a better lesson.