Catcalling is something that almost every woman has had to deal with at some point in their lives. Rare, random occurrences that are becoming more socially unacceptable due to the semi-progressive nature of some aspects of life in the United States are usually nothing more than a nuisance, shaken off immediately, and hardly given a second thought.
What I am talking about is the extreme cases of catcalling, coming barely short of physical abuse, that can leave a lasting effect on a woman’s life. These are the kinds of catcalls that need to be made illegal immediately. Of course, in the United States, the right to free speech in public is a basic principle, for now, that shouldn’t be breeched. That shouldn’t mean a woman should be subject to phrases, words, or actions, that make her uncomfortable to the point where she cannot focus on her daily life.
The victim blaming that surrounds this discourse is shameful. People will tell you to “avoid areas where you might be catcalled” or “dress appropriately”. It’s like telling a gay person not to kiss their partner in public, or for a black man to avoid sundown towns. Victim blamers aren’t the biggest hurdle in getting anti-catcalling laws passed, once the bills start appearing, victim blamers will be shamed publicly if they even try to victim blame proponents of the bills.
Lawmakers afraid to take a stand for what is right are the biggest obstacles in getting anti-catcalling laws passed. They don’t want to seem as anti-woman, but they will be afraid of being labeled as a detractor of free speech. Free speech should not mean a woman has to put up with emotional and verbal torture from strangers in public.
The things that need to be done to get these laws passed include.
1. Forming an environment where catcalling is akin to hate-speech. Every website, every blog, every public speech, everything, pushing the narrative that catcalling is sexist, misogynistic, and bigoted.
2. Start contacting your representatives. Don’t bother contacting your governor’s office or a senator’s office, go for federal representatives and state legislators. We only need one spark in one place for the nation to wake up to the fact that there are millions of us who want catcalling to be illegal. News outlets will pick it up, others will join the cause, it will be a snowball effect.
3. Publicly shaming those who verbally stand in the way. A lot of people are going to have the opinion that outlawing catcalling shouldn’t happen. However, a relatively small number of those people are going to be openly vocal about it. We need to go after these people in every way possible. Debating them at every opportunity, going to the media, contacting their place of employment, misogynists will have to answer for their actions.
4. Act on social media. Everyone has seen the woman walk around NYC for 10 hours being catcalled, that video went viral. If you find that you are often the victim of catcalling, record it yourself, secretly, and upload it to Youtube. Also, use the hashtag #OutlawCatcalls on Twitter, we need to build a following in order for our voices to be heard.
5. Volunteer to help with the cause. This might mean meeting with the media, legislators, or just sharing your own personal story. Anything you can do to help the cause would be greatly appreciated. This also means voting for those legislators who have made it clear that they would outlaw catcalling if given the choice.
6. Take an inch, not a mile. The goal of this movement isn’t to make it illegal for a man to talk to a woman he doesn’t know, or even stop him from complimenting her, but crude and vicious comments need to be illegal. If you demand every kind of communication between a man and woman who don’t know each other to be illegal, nothing will ever get done.