Joanna Lumley on wolf-whistling: “It’s a compliment... What’s wrong with that?”

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Kayleigh Dray

For many women, wolf-whistling and catcalling are seen as a form of misogynistic harassment – so much so that a police force in England recently reclassified them as hate crimes against women.

However Joanna Lumley, famous for playing Patsy ‘Sweetie Darling’ Stone in Ab Fab, has said that women should start viewing such actions as compliments, rather than insults.

“How can wolf whistling be offensive to women? It’s a compliment,” the 70-year-old told The Mirror

“They’re saying ‘Cor you look all right, darlin’. What’s wrong with that?”

She continued to explain how, in her modelling days back in the 60s, male advances were viewed very differently.

“We were tougher in those days. You knew someone would whistle in the street and you weren’t insulted,” explained Lumley.

"We have become more sensitive flowers nowadays, people are very offended by everything.”

Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders
Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders

She continued: “When I was modelling photographers were much ruder, they’d say ‘You look frightful, what’s the matter with you?’ ‘You look podgy, you look fat as a pig’.

“It was good-natured banter, you kind of got on with it.

“It didn’t upset you.”

Her words come just months after Nottinghamshire Police announced that they would start recording uninvited sexual and verbal advances towards women (including catcalling and wolf-whistling in the street) as hate crimes.

Speaking about the decision, Loretta Trickett, a criminologist at Nottingham Trent University, told the BBC: “We're not saying all men engage in this behaviour, but for some women this has become an everyday experience. A lot of men are not aware of the implications it has on women

“Up until now, women have largely not reported this. Women put up with it because it is trivialised in society. People say it's complimentary to be wolf-whistled.

“I think the new recording will give women reassurance that if they call the police, their incident will be registered and they will do something.”

"We have become more sensitive flowers nowadays, people are very offended by everything.”
"We have become more sensitive flowers nowadays, people are very offended by everything.”

Martha Jephcott, who has trained Nottinghamshire police officers on how to deal with misogyny as a hate crime, added: “I want forces across the country to adopt this. I think it's a matter of equality.

“UK-wide, racist and homophobic hate crimes take place and are recognised as such. Women should have that too because, wherever they are, they probably will have experienced this.”

Catcalling and wolf-whistling are often seen as intimidating and threatening behaviour, demanding of a reaction - and many have praised Nottinghamshire police force for taking them seriously.


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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