For a good discussion (including race) with links to other pieces, check out this article at the New York Times: link.
A lot of guys (and some women) simply don't get it: e.g., "They're just saying good morning!" But do they say good morning to everyone, or just woman who they find attractive? A Reddit user did her best to explain it. I copied it in its entirety (full thread here):
Between the original video and the parody one, I see a lot of the same reactions, generally from men. "But that's not catcalling! Lots of people just wanted to say hi or good morning!" "She gets more compliments in 10 hours than I get all year." "How am I supposed to get to know someone if I can't even say hello?" "Ok, maybe being talked to is annoying, but come on...harassment?" and "Oh, yeah, it must be REALLY HARD being attractive." I get it. I understand that when you haven't experienced something, it's hard to understand. So I'd like to give to a brief explanation as to WHY it feels so awful to be shouted at every few minutes while you are just trying to exist in this world.
Let's pretend you have something lots of people want. Maybe you're famous or rich or powerful. In fact, let's go with something lots of people on reddit understand: let's say you're a whiz at computers. You've always been great at them, and when you hit college you finally decided to make it your career.
Of course, people know you're a whiz. When you were in high school, your parents always had you fix their computer, and maybe they made you go over to your grandparents house and teach them how to do simple stuff on it. It wasn't a big deal, and you liked using your skill to make other people happy. It made you feel good to be acknowledged for your talents, too.
But as you've grown, your social circle has widened, and now that it's your career path, everyone knows that you're a whiz. And the requests start coming more often. Your friend thinks he has a virus. Your cousin who you never speak to is having an issue getting his printer to work. A facebook "friend" wants to make a wordpress site and heard you were good at that. Your brother in law just can't get his wireless router set up.
It starts to really grate on you. You recognize a pattern...someone whom you don't talk to that often will send you text, email or facebook message, and it always starts off nicely with the "how are you"s, but within 3 or 4 minutes of small talk they will get to what they really want. You realize that the more you do for people, the more they want; and if you accommodate everyone, you would never have any time for yourself. So you decide to start being more assertive and tell people (nicely) "no."
Well, that was a fucking mistake. There is now hostility in your family because no one can understand why you were so rude to Uncle Joe, it would have just taken you a half hour to set up his new monitor, why would you be such a dick about it? And now you've been unfriended on Facebook by several people, your boss is pissed and you're worried now about job prospects down the line.
You obviously handled that poorly, you think. But you're still unwilling to spend 5-10 hours a week doing favors for people who seem pretty ungrateful, so you just change the way you deal with requests. You don't sign on to social media much anymore, and emails keep getting "lost." You try to ignore as many requests in as many ways as possible, thinking that if you don't say no, people won't get angry. Weeeeell, that was a lost cause. People are just as mad as before. In fact, it seems that the only thing that will make people happy is to do what they're asking...no one seems to care how this impacts you, because they just want what they want when they want it.
This starts to color all of your other interactions. Now, every time an old friend randomly wants to reconnect with you, you get a knot in your stomach. You read emails knowing that at the end of all of the sucking up and small talk, there's a good chance for an ask at the end. And because you've had so many hostile reactions when you tried to stand up for yourself, all of these reactions are now colored with that.
Maybe your old middle school crush really is just trying to say hi, but you've been through this before and you know the odds are on the fact that she wants something from you. This is now the way you look at most people. It wears you down. You don't understand why people can't respect your right to just be left alone, and why you can't find a space that is free from all the asks. You know your dread at seeing a simple facebook message seems unreasonable, but damn. If people only understood how many you get, and what it has led to. It's become a big thing in your life somehow, and you fucking hate it.
Now, this little comparison isn't really the best, because it doesn't deal with the actual scary shit that women get constantly...being followed in the streets, sometimes with people in cars. A guy walking down the street and putting his arm around you while he starts a conversation. The touching. The slurs of "slut," "cunt," or "whore" when you ignore someone. The threats. The occasional actual violence.
So yeah, I guess some people see someone saying, "Mmmmmm...good morning, mami!" as a nice greeting. But when it is constant, when it is colored with years of experience, when you JUST WANT TO WALK DOWN THE STREET AND LIVE YOUR LIFE....it is gross. So gross. Someone earlier mocked the fact that it was only 100 example of harassment in 600 minutes. When you have random strangers (an ALL men) talking to you every five minutes, when it seems like they all want something from you and there is no good way to respond to it, a simple twenty minute stroll just becomes exhausting.
Sorry for the length of this, and I doubt anyone will read this novel I've just written, but I wanted to explain why this feels the way the way it does for people who simply can't sympathize. I hope this maybe helps a couple of people understand why even "innocent" interactions feel very charged for the women who experience them.