Credit: Flickr/ (Carrie Sloan / Tatyana Fazlalizadeh)

Credit: Flickr/ (Carrie Sloan / Tatyana Fazlalizadeh)

It seems that people, or mainstream news outlets rather are finally taking notice of the problem that is street harassment. The New York Times recently made it a discussion topic for their Room for Debate feature. The question: ‘Do We Need a Law Against Catcalling?’ There were four responses to the question, one of them was in support of a law. In the post, “Street Harassment Law Would Restrict Intimidating Behavior,Laura Beth Nielsen writes:

I’d propose a law that would prohibit street harassment and would also be consistent with our First Amendment jurisprudence about other kinds of hate speech (cross-burning in Virginia vs. Black) that intimidates, harasses and perpetuates inequality. It would allow states and cities to recognize street harassment for what it is: physical and psychological acts that intimidate, exclude, subordinate and reinforce male dominance over women.

The law would prohibit “uninvited harassing speech or actions targeted toward individuals in public spaces on the basis of sex or sexual orientation when done with the intent to intimidate.” Violation of the law could be a tort, meaning a woman could sue her harasser; an infraction, like a ticket with a fine; or even a misdemeanor. Even if rarely enforced, the symbolism of a law weighing in on the side of equality would have powerful effects.

Well maybe this idea seems like a good idea on the surface, but there could be racial implications to this law. Just looking at the fact that the street harassment edited out the white guys who catcalled is the first problem and a signal of potential things to come if this were made into a law. And a woman might find one man’s words more threatening than another man’s. What determines this might not just be what words were said, but how the man was dressed, his race, the neighborhood, what type of day it was, etc., etc. We can pretend that these factors wouldn’t come into play, that all harassment from any man would be seen as harassment, but that might not be the case.

While something needs to be done about street harassment, trying to police it might not be the best way to go. What do you think?

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  • joe

    Does anyone actually believe that an anti-catcalling law would be enforced without race snd class bias? The same white feminists aggressively seeking to criminalize catcalling will, when challenged about the racist enforcement of this law, hide their hands and claim that black feminists were the driving force behind it.

    • GeekMommaRants

      What would stop them?

  • Objection

    What do you think?

    The SCOTUS will strike down any law that punishes a person for speech. I disagree with your opinion about “racial implications.” No woman has to give equal opportunity for all men to speak with her. A Caucasian woman does not have to be open to African-American men catcalling them (neither do African-American women). Maybe the Caucasian woman in the video didn’t care if Caucasian men catcall her. I know my opinion is not popular, but what she did was not racism. Bias, yes, but not racism. Everyone has the right to freedom of association. Women have a right to be bias in selecting which speech they enjoy, and who they enjoy it from.

    • joe

      “Women have a right to be biased in selecting which speech they enjoy, and who they enjoy it from.”

      True. But a law can not apply to one race or class of men only. That’s the problem. That would be both unconstitutional and unenforceable.

    • Objection

      No one is suggesting the New York legislators write a law that only applies to one race or class or men. Some men just have a problem with women not including them in the dating pool. A woman can reject you because of race, height, weight, and because you don’t make six figures. The Constitution does not give you right to be part of a woman’s dating pool.

  • GeekMommaRants

    They made a remake of the CatCalling video in another country (NZ) During the short video no man engaged a woman he did not know. This is true the world over.

    • joe

      “This is true the world over.”

      Are you serious? Street harassment is experienced by women all over the world. It’s an issue that has been well documented. A year ago, CNN did a report where a male actor in Egypt went undercover as a woman to experience street harassment firsthand. The verbal abuse was so extreme he feared tor his life.

    • GeekMommaRants

      A woman in New Zealand remade the Catcalling video, this woman experienced no Catcalling as disrespecting women in her country was not thing. Google New Zealand CatCalling. This is not global. In Arabic countries the men stare, in Europe, all types of men do not harass women in Asia and in Africa, a man does not talk to a woman that is a family member. This is not Islam, this is African culture.

  • Sassynaturals

    I mean it is not simply feeling a slight discomfort from being catcalled, but actually threatened by it. It is not just a simple “hello”, it could be threatening to my safety especially if they are in such big groups. And the solution to just walk away could be giving them a pass on such behavior, and then they might feel entitled to do more to you. But this case study is complete bullshit and should not be used as an example.