My experience with cat calling before arriving to Buenos Aires (in the United States, Europe, and other parts of Latin America) was as follows: men in teams or groups, yelling or speaking loudly, sometimes using vulgar or offensive language, sometimes accompanied by whistling or gesturing, which generally would go on for a bit too long (until I was out of sight), possibly because they were attempting to get a reaction out of me. Because this type of cat-calling is always quite public, and men are not on their own when they do it, it almost seems like it has more to do with impressing other men rather than actually wanting to call attention to the woman’s appearance.
Cat calling in Buenos Aires is a very different experience. For me, this type of cat calling is private, quick, complimentary, and totally free of expectations. Men, as they’re walking past me on the street (or driving by me in their cars) will make a quick and quiet (almost whispered) comment to me about my appearance. The most common remarks I hear are “Que linda que sos!” (How pretty you are!), “Que hermosa que sos!” (“How gorgeous you are!”), and finally, my personal favorite, “Que Belleza!” (“What beauty!”). This type of cat calling is generally (in no way do I want to claim that it always happens this way as I can only speak about my own experience) quick and private, done in passing, meant for my ears only, using complimentary and non-vulgar language, and with no expectation of a reaction or other interaction to follow. It’s as if they just want to quickly compliment me, and for us both to continue on with the day. So, what’s bad about that? To be honest, it doesn’t bother me personally, but when I think about it, I do recognize that cat calling, in any form, proliferates the importance that society places on female appearance, delaying the strides we are making towards gender equality.