[guest post by Dana]
Will this madness never end? The viral catcalling video has inspired professor of sociology and director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University Laura Beth Nielsen to propose a law that would prohibit catcalling. This is street harassment and Nielsen wants it to stop right now:
The police may largely ignore harassment on the street because men often do not understand how pervasive it can be, but most importantly because there are no laws being violated in such encounters.
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.
If the law has an appropriate role prohibiting sexual harassment, violence and rape in our homes, workplace and universities, why not the street? Shouldn’t gender equality exist everywhere?
Curtail the First Amendment and make men of every stripe come to heel because oh no, rude and obnoxious catcalls made by ill-mannered, disrespectful louts. And based on the video, consider which group(s) would be impacted most by the proposed law. I have come to believe that the potential list of female grievances is never-ending and eventually, as a result, men will just cease interaction with women altogether because every single move will be the wrong move. At some point in time, it just won’t be worth their effort as the risk will have become too great. And I guess that means women will finally get what they seem to have been fighting for all along: the knowledge that they have conquered their opponents.