Hey, Baby, Keep Catcalls Legal!

Jennifer Cullen

Jackhammer workerYou're walking down the street in New York City and pass a guy on the corner. He yells out to you, "Hey baby. How about some fries with that shake?"

You may take that catcall as annoying or harassing, or you may even take it as a compliment. How you react to that catcall is your business. Not the government's.

But a New York City Council committee held a hearing last week on considering legislation to make catcalling illegal.

What's next, outlawing sideways glances on the elevator? Or checking out a guy's rear end on the subway?

What happens if a man looks for longer than necessary at a woman's enormous breasts because he's trying to figure out what kind of material her shirt is made out of? Not because he leering at her but because he can't believe those things are not busting out of it. And then he compliments her on her blouse.

Here's another example. Say you're walking out of your synagogue and the guy on the corner says, "Hey baby. I've never been with a Jewish girl before. Can I visit your love temple?" And then he starts walking next to you, very closely, for a block or so before he finally gives up and stops.

Huge difference between that last example and the others. I used to live in NYC. And I experienced catcalling. Even the synagogue scenario. The catcalling was mostly annoying. Every once in a while it brought a smile to my face, if it was a nice compliment and not vulgar. But only the last example made me feel threatened.

And there's the difference. The first example is a catcall. Verbal abuse to some. Complimentary or even funny to others. Should a woman have to deal with it? No. Illegal? No.

The second example is threatening and crosses the line because it makes you feel physically vulnerable.

So enact legislation? No. Enforce laws against assault, such as groping and stalking? Definitely.

Should New York, and other cities, enact anti-catcalling legislation?


Image via Aoife/Flickr.com

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