Monday, November 1, 2010

NYC considers public awareness campaign, legislation to discourage catcalling

New York City councilmembers are considering enacting legislation to help eliminate catcalling in the city.

Recently, some ladies from Hollaback NYC gave testimony to the Council about their experiences with catcalling and harassment. The group is pushing the city to commission a study, a public awareness campaign and maybe even legislation, including "no-harassment zones" around schools, according to NBC New York.

This has spurred some controversy for a few years. There are questions of legislation potentially interfering with First Amendment rights and there is concern over whether this is the wisest way to use lawmakers' time as well as taxpayer dollars.

Fair points. However, as one Hollaback speaker said,
"Because of street harassment, from a young age women learn that public spaces are male territory," Kearl said. "They learn to limit the places they go, they try not to be in public alone — especially at night — and when they are alone, they stay on guard."

Street harassment is a systemic problem that is way too normalized in our culture. I remember the first time I was catcalled, back when I was in high school. I was embarrassed but otherwise didn't think much of it. I thought it was just a part of being a female, but that's an attitude that should no longer be tolerated.

If using taxpayer dollars is not the way to deal with this problem, what is? We should be teaching children from a young age to respect other people as well as respect others' personal space - that way we can get at the root of the problem. But for now, a public awareness campaign and legislation to protect school kids seems like the best solution we've got.

Either way, here's to the Hollaback ladies for taking such a strong stand on the issue.

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