Should we legislate against street harassment?

If it’s just verbal, then my short answer is “no.” Doesn’t make it ok, and doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take other steps to counter it, but legislating against it? No.

Author: has written 5277 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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172 Responses

  1. Emily H.
    Emily H. October 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

    I’m curious to know the “other steps” you mention. People have tried other ways of combating street harassment, but don’t you think it will only be taken seriously if put into legislation?

  2. bellareve
    bellareve October 29, 2010 at 1:19 pm |

    Jill, can you elaborate? I think it should be illegal. I feel so fucking scared and vulnerable when I go anywhere by myself. I want it to be taken seriously and, most of all, I want to have legal recourse when someone does it to me.

    (Of course, I think a good policy would have to include harassment based on gender identity and perceived sexual orientation)

  3. Joe
    Joe October 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm |

    Yes. It’s terrible and scary and exactly as protected by the first amendment as “your money or your life!” is.

  4. thefremen
    thefremen October 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    Fine then. Hate speech laws, they will not destroy the union. If they will, fuck it, fuck this stupid broken society where a corporation is considered legally a person but anyone with less privilege than a straight white male is not.

  5. sophie
    sophie October 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm |

    If no one can yell out, “hey baby!” in that creepy, leering way then how will we be able to tell who the creepy, leering guys are? Instead everyone will look nice on the surface and it’s only when we agree to meet a boy for coffee or drinks or something that we discover he’s an asshat. Guys on the street making rude or aggressive comments get an automatic entry on my “don’t talk to or make eye contact with” list. Saves me time and energy to instead chat up the cute but shy bike messenger boy I see every morning. I mean, I would chat him up if I didn’t have a boyfriend (who I hope doesn’t hang out here but maybe he does so I should just shut up already).

  6. Jadey
    Jadey October 29, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    Enforcement would be a nightmare and would probably end up dumping on people for the wrong reasons. One more thing for cops to throw at street sex workers for certain (because laws have to be written in broad language that applies to specific behaviours, not specific people – enforcers will choose whose behaviours to police and punish). Plus what is the result? Fines for a lot of people who won’t be able to pay them? Because a lot of people who harass on the street do so because they don’t have offices and private buildings to harass people in. Unpaid fines lead to jail time, which is hugely problematic for a million reasons (cost, lack of effect, waste of time) and won’t help anyone. Legislation is not a fine enough tool to do this job properly.

  7. David
    David October 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    I think the basic problem is that such a law, if it didn’t fall under current definitions of harassment would be considered unconstitutional.

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    I think the law would be impractical because it would be so difficult to enforce. And what would the penalties realistically be?

    Bellareve, I get what you’re saying, but when people follow me, yelling at me, even if it were illegal, I would be terrified of calling the cops in the event that the guy following me got violent.

    It’s just that I don’t know if it solves the problems it’s designed to solve. I would much rather take the money you would need to enforce these laws and use them to fund a mandatory gender studies kind of class in K-12.

    Do other countries have street harassment laws? Does anyone know how effective it is there?

  9. andrea
    andrea October 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm |

    As we have seen in the past, making something illegal doesn’t always prevent it from happening, just as decriminalizing something doesn’t necessarily make a change to social norms (for each example, see prostitution and recreational drug use, vs Canadian topless laws)

    I agree with the people who have stated that trying legislate and criminalize street harassment (short of out and out threats) would be a logistical nightmare.

    Two phrases come to mind here: “No one has the right not to be offended” and “Educate, don’t Legislate”.. Legislation against street harassment wouldn’t even need to be discussed in we were all a little more educated in respect for each other.

  10. David
    David October 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    If we’re talking about legislation like this, shouldn’t we also define (very specifically) what we mean by street harrasment? Are whistling or catcalls included? Does a person have to follow another person for a certain distance for it to be considered harassment? More specifically, since I don’t know what the current legal standard for harassment is in the U.S., what is the current standard, and how would it (Or does it) differ from what we’re talking about?

  11. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin October 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    What formally constitutes street harassment is just so subjective, too, and would be difficult to enforce. I understand the zeal of previous posters to this thread, but legislative zeal produced prohibition as well.

  12. April
    April October 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    I’m torn on this. On the one hand, it does seem excessive to legislate something like street harassment, not to mention… complicated. What do you do is you want to prosecute? Stop on your way to work and hang around the guy until the cops show up? That sounds like the least fun thing ever. How do you even enforce such a thing? I think it’d be like jaywalking; you don’t get ticketed for it unless a cop watches you do it.

    On the other hand, street harassment is harrassment. Harassment, sexual or otherwise, is against the law when you know the person, work with them, etc. What, aside from the difficulty of enforcing the law, would make street harassment less legislate-able(?) than sexual harassment committed by someone the victim knows?

  13. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    andrea: “No one has the right not to be offended”

    I do want to point out that it’s not a matter of these people creating offense. Re-read bellareve’s comment. She’s pretty clearly terrified, not offended.

  14. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar October 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm |

    I’ll just add that this is one of those areas where the limits of law become apparent. I don’t mean “you can’t legislate morality”, which I think is glib and oversimplified to the point of being useless, but rather that every law is just words on paper, applied by a society, and how it works in practice depends on the police, prosecutors, judges and juries, who all bring their biases. There has been a massive sea change over 40 years in rape cases, but it is still tough to get convictions for anything other than forcible stranger rape because police, prosecutors, judges and juries harbor prejudices that limit the actual application of the law.

  15. David
    David October 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    Well, it’s also a limit of probative truth in the law. It would be much easier to prove rape than a street harassment charge, for example.

  16. Lance
    Lance October 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm |

    In addition to the points Jill has raised, with which I completely agree, I can easily see the law being turned against gays. That is, male homophobes running to the police and trying to get gay men in trouble for “harassment.” Feel like giving the NYPD that kind of discretion?

  17. Alexis L., The Studioist
    Alexis L., The Studioist October 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm |

    Harassment is illegal. Stalking, threatening, unwanted touching are all illegal. There’s no way to practically to legally prevent men from objectifying women, consuming them as so much eye candy, and then talking to us.

    ‘Street’ harassment (and I find it interesting that the term is centered in the ‘street’ rather, than, say, in ‘public’, which has some interesting class and geographic implications) ranges from annoying to terrifying but we have to fight this on a social level.

    There’s a degree of hysteria about some of these ‘hollaback’ initiatives–for instance, the video game where the pale female protagonist murders harassing dark skinned men–that is very reminiscent to me of the Jim Crow South where black men couldn’t look white women in the eye lest looking lead to speaking and speaking lead to touching and touching, of course, leading to forcible rape.

    I hate walking down the street and hearing, “Hey baby”, “Whattup shawty” or even “Excuse me, miss.” I don’t want you. I’m not here for you. I’m not dressed for you. My red lips, my black skirt have nothing to do with you. But I don’t see how criminalizing bad behavior does anything more than further pathologize and criminalize black and brown men disproportionately.

  18. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking October 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm |

    It would be good–GREAT–to stop it. But I don’t see how it can happen from a legal standpoint.

    We already have enough trouble enforcing harassment laws in areas where the first amendment DOESN’T apply, or applies only in part (schools, workplaces, etc.) It does not seem even slightly realistic to imagine

    Or, to phrase it differently: The type of harassment which could be enforced would be so bad that it’s probably already illegal NOW under some other statute (assault, for example.) And it’s not like we prosecute now.

  19. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    To begin with a problem is we have a piss poor definition of “threat.” If some dude tells me in graphic detail how exactly he’s going to rape me, whether that is consider a threat (constitutionally) is based solely on whether a “reasonable” person would consider the words used to be “unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific” and “convey a gravity of purpose and imminent prospect of execution” (Kelner).

    So if we’re in a dark alley and he’s holding a knife, its a threat. If we’re on K Street in NW during the middle of the day with a police officer 10 feet away, its not a threat. But what if it isn’t so clear? What if we’re standing in a public street, but the man making the “threat” is in a position of relative power? What if I’m in a position of relative power over him?

    The problem is that what is and is not a threat is determined by this reasonableness standard and that standard is informed by and created within the kyriarchical structure. So threats by a homeless person are taken more seriously than threats by a dude in a tux even though both harassers may intend harm. Conversely, threats issued by a spouse or partner are dismissed based on the erroneous notion of escape.

    Secondly, street harassment is a form of hate speech. Plain and simple. And we don’t criminalize hate speech because we want to protect people’s fee fees, its because there are real physical consequences to the ongoing terrorism that is inflicted by hate speech.

  20. gretel
    gretel October 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm |

    What would the punishment be? A fine? Jail time? I really don’t understand how this would help anything. There are more questions than answers to the proposal of legislating street harassment. What exactly would constitute street harassment? Would it have to be verbal communication? What about a gesture? Or a lewd glance? When I am cat-called on the street, what am I supposed to do?

    No doubt that street harassment sucks (getting cat-called while yo’ure on the way to take the GRE = not fun), but legislating against it does not address the underlying problematic power dynamics at play. Instead I think it would merely propagate various flaws in the criminal justice system.

  21. laura macisaac
    laura macisaac October 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    I think the frustration women feel when they advocate legislation against street harassment is they feel legislation is their only recourse (probably because there is no accessible movement fighting street harassment). I feel it is incumbent upon those who would oppose such a legislation to provide, at the very least, a reasonable suggestion for an alternative. After all, laws are created (ideally, anyway) to protect the powerless. If reasonable, rational individuals can’t bring themselves to find a better alternative to this legislation, it might be necessary.

  22. Miss S
    Miss S October 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm |

    Like Jill, I’m certain that this law would be used very harshly against men of color. Black men are already, in many ways, constructed as being violent or threatening. I think women would be far more likely to call the cops on a black man (or even worse, a group of them) for saying “hey sexy” than a white man. Sadly.

    What constitutes street harassment?
    “Hey baby/sexy/mami can I talk to you?”
    “I wanna get to know you.”
    “Damn ma, you are wearing that dress. Come here for a second.”

    Is this street harassment?

  23. April
    April October 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm |

    Kristen J.: The problem is that what is and is not a threat is determined by this reasonableness standard and that standard is informed by and created within the kyriarchical structure.

    YES, exactly this.

  24. David
    David October 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm |

    laura macisaac:
    I think the frustration women feel when they advocate legislation against street harassment is they feel legislation is their only recourse (probably because there is no accessible movement fighting street harassment). I feel it is incumbent upon those who would oppose such a legislation to provide, at the very least, a reasonable suggestion for an alternative. After all, laws are created (ideally, anyway) to protect the powerless. If reasonable, rational individuals can’t bring themselves to find a better alternative to this legislation, it might be necessary.  

    There is no legal recourse to it like there is no legal recourse for anyone if someone is randomly a jerk to them. There is a mountain of socially unacceptable behavior that no legislation covers, and yet legislation doesn’t exist because such legislation is literally unenforceable. Besides, there is recourse and it is called social pressure. There are plenty of internet resources and discussion about this topic (I think there recently was a discussion brought in front of the new york city council about this very topic) and sites where you can post pictures of people to shame them for this behavior.

  25. Yglesias » Endgame
    Yglesias » Endgame October 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    [...] Should we legislate against street [...]

  26. libdevil
    libdevil October 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm |

    Kristen J.: And we don’t criminalize hate speech because we want to protect people’s fee fees, its because there are real physical consequences to the ongoing terrorism that is inflicted by hate speech.

    We don’t criminalize hate speech. If you want to put on your bedsheets and go stand on the National Mall and call racial epithets at everybody who walks by, you can do that. If you want to stand outside a soldier’s funeral and shout “God Hates Fags!” at the grieving family, you can do that too. If you want to post on Facebook that you hate gay kids and that you’re happy when somebody dies of AIDS, you can do that. If you want to stand on a street corner and read aloud from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion while wearing a dozen swastikas, that’s within the Constitutional protection of free speech. “Hey baby,” and even a lot worse than that would surely fall within Constitutional limits as well.

  27. laura macisaac
    laura macisaac October 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm |

    David:
    There is no legal recourse to it like there is no legal recourse for anyone if someone is randomly a jerk to them. There is a mountain of socially unacceptable behavior that no legislation covers, and yet legislation doesn’t exist because such legislation is literally unenforceable. Besides, there is recourse and it is called social pressure. There are plenty of internet resources and discussion about this topic (I think there recently was a discussion brought in front of the new york city council about this very topic) and sites where you can post pictures of people to shame them for this behavior.

    Well, there is being a jerk, and there is harassment. Intuitively, I would say at least one notable difference between the two is jerkiness isn’t constant or focused against one target group. Shaming sites are nice, but what if the individual is shameless (kinda likely) and are these sites really all that effective. More power to them, but has there been a noted decrease in harassment since they went up?

    1. Cara
      Cara October 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm |

      I think we should all be clear about what exactly we’re talking about. All of us are not from the same place. We all live under different laws. Assuming a uniformity here is a mistake. So, for example: in the U.S., no, “we” don’t criminalize hate speech. In some other countries, though, they most certainly do.

      I do agree with Kristen J, though, that at least in the U.S., what exactly constitutes a “threat” is defined far too narrowly and oppressively, and from a dominant perspective rather than a marginalized one.

  28. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm |

    libdevil: We don’t criminalize hate speech.

    Umm…of course we do. Sentence enhancement criminalizes speech. If you beat a dude up and call him a jerk that’s assault. If you beat a dude up and call him [insert hate speech], that’s a hate crime.

  29. Andrea
    Andrea October 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm |

    PrettyAmiable:
    I do want to point out that it’s not a matter of these people creating offense. Re-read bellareve’s comment. She’s pretty clearly terrified, not offended.  

    Fair enough.. but aren’t most crimes (correct me if I’m wrong) convicted on the basis of intent and not the victim’s perception? So if someone perceives a comment as scary or threatening, do we assume that’s the intention of the person commenting?

    This is where the problem with trying to legislate harassment (public OR otherwise) hits a roadblock.. what to someone might be an innocent ‘hello’ or ‘Hey there’ can be perceived as threatening depending on who is hearing it, as well as who is delivering it.

    There would have to be very stringent guidelines as to what constitute criminal harrassment and as some have mentioned, stalking, threatening and assault are already covered by existing legislature, and as other have mentioned, are already difficult as hell to make a case for.

    By educating people on street harassment, we stand to enact more change (yes, slowly) than simply fining or throwing people in jail which stands to tie up the court system into a judicial nightmare.

  30. Crissa
    Crissa October 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm |

    I miss RICO being allowed on this. If a group coordinates efforts it shouldn’t matter their goal being monetary or not; their behavior should.

  31. alynn
    alynn October 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    Yeah, Jill…I’m with ya. Such a law would have a chilling effect, for sure.

    Street harassment very clearly shows how males feel a right to women’s bodies/attention/smiles in public. This is a huge problem. A social problem that needs social remedies.

  32. Dominique
    Dominique October 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm |

    I like the idea of shaming. In fact, calling out “loser! This is the only way you can get a woman’s attention” very, very loudly might work wonders in a crowded area.

  33. Crissa
    Crissa October 29, 2010 at 6:04 pm |

    Kristen J.:
    Umm…of course we do.Sentence enhancement criminalizes speech.If you beat a dude up and call him a jerk that’s assault.If you beat a dude up and call him [insert hate speech], that’s a hate crime.  

    That’s not criminalizing it, though. The words did not create the crime, any more than many things we do normally, but if in a commission of a crime, they provide context to it. To take the rape example, penetration during intercourse isn’t a crime: But rape is. And penetration becomes part of the context of the crime.

  34. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 29, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    Crissa: That’s not criminalizing it, though.

    Hate crime statutes create a criminal penalty for using hate speech. You can call it farfignugen for all I care. There are legal, criminal consequences for using hate speech which was my point.

  35. laura m
    laura m October 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm |

    Can’t a person be jailed for being a public nuisance? That’s not quite criminalization, but it’s a deterrent.

  36. Julia I.
    Julia I. October 29, 2010 at 7:42 pm |

    As someone who cheered you on during the AutoAdmit sexual harassment case and was proud as heck when two women sued them into stopping their harassment, your opinion here confuses me.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/06/12/autoadmit-sued/

  37. Random Process
    Random Process October 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm |

    I take your point, Jill, but I wonder if perhaps we might not loosen the statutes just a bit, to include a “reasonable person” standard. If a verbal comment would put a reasonable person in fear, then perhaps there should be legal consequences, even if they are mild.

  38. Jadey
    Jadey October 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm |

    Random Process: I take your point, Jill, but I wonder if perhaps we might not loosen the statutes just a bit, to include a “reasonable person” standard. If a verbal comment would put a reasonable person in fear, then perhaps there should be legal consequences, even if they are mild.  

    What constitutes a mild legal consequence? A $25 fine might be reasonably affordable and thus mild ($100 could easily be completely out of range for many people who could be prosecuted under such legislation), but it also puts a mere $25 price tag on the experience of the victim and is hardly deterrent. There is no point fining people who cannot pay fines. It causes exponentially more problems than it solves.

    The point of legal consequences is never to be mild. That is not what the system is for. That is what diversion from the system is for – when an actual legal consequence would be drastically out of proportion, absurdly costly, and/or unreasonably detrimental and perpetuate more harm than it addresses.

  39. Julian Sanchez
    Julian Sanchez October 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    It seems like a central problem is that the really harassing part of street harassment comes from the cumulative effect. Some individuals might be especially vulgar or intimidating, but I’m guessing the “Hey girl, you look so hot” variety would be, at worst, a mild annoyance if it were one dude every other month, rather than several times a day. But since the harm is dispersed, it’s harder to justify penalizing any particular individual for any single remark that doesn’t rise to the level of a threat.

  40. Kyra
    Kyra October 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm |

    Can’t a person be jailed for being a public nuisance? That’s not quite criminalization, but it’s a deterrent. laura m

    Now that’s an interesting concept. Multiple women making complaints about the same specific man gets that man a visit from the police? I like it. Especially for the bombshell to the harassers that being a nusiance to women actually constitutes being a public nuisance to people.

    I don’t know how well it’d work, though . . . and as with all legislative solutions, it’s dependent on the police taking it seriously. We haven’t consistently managed that with rape and domestic abuse even.

  41. David
    David October 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm |

    Dominique:
    I like the idea of shaming. In fact, calling out “loser! This is the only way you can geta woman’s attention” very, very loudly might work wonders in a crowded area.  

    I kinda like this idea. Mostly because if the insult is effective enough it’s a really good way of getting back at whoever harassed you. At the least it would make you feel as if you burned the guy for being a jerk. Now I’m not sure how effective that one is in particular but I’m sure there are some really good zingers.

  42. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan October 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm |

    One of my more memorable street harassment moments was being catcalled by a group of boys who looked all of, I dunno, middle school age. Was I supposed to start flagging down cops on dumb-ass kids? Not to mention, I’d have been flagging down white cops as a white lady on black boys. Nah, I’m sure that woulda worked out fine for those little dweebs and not thrown them into an abusive adult system at all.

    At that point, when there are stupid 13-year-olds trying to be cool, throwing the book at them doesn’t do anything — it’s not a teaching moment or a good place to start enforcing correct behavior. And naturally I didn’t like being catcalled (I felt somewhat threatened, and somewhat offended, and slightly depressed at oh-kids-these-days-I-never) but what I liked less was when I told my male friend about it afterwards… and he told me “but it was a compliment!”

    And, in fact, he was the only dude involved who I promptly schooled. :p (The boys I pretended not to hear.)

    My friend’s attitude is where we need to change stuff on a societal level, not on the street in the heat of the moment by summoning people with guns. We need to win the hearts and minds, so to speak, of those pretty decentish guys who don’t hate women but who also don’t have a thought in their heads about harassment. Imho.

  43. Jadey
    Jadey October 30, 2010 at 12:54 am |

    Agreeing with Bagelsan, I would say that I think the best protection/deterrence we could get is if some of these guys could and would turn to their friends and tell them, “Not cool, dude.” Especially for the younger harassers. Achieving this would also require a monumental amount of effort, but I think it would be better spent than with the equally, or more, difficult punitive alternatives.

  44. Sonia
    Sonia October 30, 2010 at 1:58 am |

    Given the way both harassment and US justice system works, this is a guaranteed way to have even more minority males have a criminal record and become part of the permanent underclass. First off, as many have mentioned, this is horribly subjective. Back when I lived in the US, I was sensitized to how different the world is for blacks when a cop friend of mine talked to me about patrolling. He used to cruise black neighborhoods and then ticket people for things I didn’t even know were crimes, like jaywalking in a residential neighborhood. We were around a campus, so, it isn’t like jaywalking wasn’t a common occurrence but he wouldn’t be ticketing the white students, of course. In his words, he was doing them a favor because “most of them have records anyway and I am helping them make sure they are up on their terms of parole.”

    Secondly, what is constituted as harassment is very subjective. I’ve known guys who would saunter up to women in bars and feel them up and make directly sexual comments and get a positive response and meek, mild-mannered guys who would elicit slaps for saying “excuse me”. If you leave it up to whether a particular woman feels threatened in a situation then it would effectively mean saying that certain behaviors by a minority male are worse than the exact same behavior by a white guy.

  45. Axiomatic
    Axiomatic October 30, 2010 at 3:15 am |

    I do wonder how this would actually work.

    “Yes, officer, they leered at me and said I had nice breasts. No, they’re gone now. What did they look like? Um. I guess average height…they wore dark clothes.”

    “Okay, we’ll send out an APB and get the choppers in the air. The culprits should still be in a five mile area – we just need to set up a cordon and curbstomp anyone dark we see wearing a hoodie. Don’t worry, miss, the police are on the case!”

    …I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that even if it WAS legislated against, street harassment would be ridiculously low priority for cops most of the time. What would actually happen is that they’d file a report, and it would end there, unless they needed an excuse to crack down on something.

  46. Robin
    Robin October 30, 2010 at 3:49 am |

    Why not legislate against it? In Australia, “assault” is defined by the use of such words or conduct that create in the subject a fear of actual or threatened imminent physical danger. This is how many women who experience street harassment feel. It’s also a double standard to legislate against things like racial vilification and not sexual vilification. The law is entirely capable of being adapted towards such a measure. I’m surprised at your attitude, feministe.

  47. Natalia
    Natalia October 30, 2010 at 4:17 am |

    I think to some extent, it depends on the society in question. In Dubai, for example, they were able to dramatically lower street harassment against women instances via a severe crackdown which involved the possibility of spending 4 months in jail, or something close to it, if you harassed a woman. But Dubai is largely an immigrant/guest-worker society, and has its own rules. When both foreign women and local women started getting harassed (the majority of the perpetrators were also foreign workers, btw – and the harassment usually didn’t involve “hey baby”, but tended to be way worse than that, more crude, threatening, etc.), it was the native Emiratis who heavily stepped in and continue stepping in. I saw it happen a few times while living there. Nobody wants a huge Emirati man in a startlingly white keffiyah and thobe bearing down on them, yelling “HOW DARE YOU TALK TO A WOMAN LIKE THAT! APOLOGIZE IMMEDIATELY OR I’LL CALL THE POLICE!” Hell, I would shit my pants if I was on the receiving end of that.

    But New York is a way, way different place. A case in point – my ex is Arab. Immediately recognizable as such. Due to the way he looks, he’s already perceived as a “threat”. Now imagine he locked eyes with and smiled at a Nice White Lady in a store, for example, and the Nice White Lady decided he’s a Scary Muslim Terrorist Rapist Dude. We lived together for years, and having noticed the way he was perceived in public, over and over again, I can only imagine what effect such laws could have on him.

  48. Random Process
    Random Process October 30, 2010 at 5:35 am |

    Jadey, I take your point. Julian, you’re right. The pervasive atmosphere of harassment is what’s problematic more than one particular statement, I’m looking at it as a crime when what it is is an ugly social reality.

  49. William
    William October 30, 2010 at 8:36 am |

    Hate crime statutes create a criminal penalty for using hate speech. You can call it farfignugen for all I care. There are legal, criminal consequences for using hate speech which was my point. Kristen J.

    Thats not quite accurate though. The act of hate speech is only criminalized within the context of an act that is already illegal. Saying that hate speech is already criminalized in the US because of hate crimes sentence enhancements is like saying gun ownership is criminalized because most states in the US have a sentence enhancement for using a firearm during the commission of a felony. What hate crimes laws criminalize isn’t speech so much as motive. The speech merely constitutes evidence of a certain kind of motive given an existing offense.

  50. michele
    michele October 30, 2010 at 8:38 am |

    I’ve started taking Martial Arts classes. I got so tired of being harrassed in the convience store (‘hey baby, I wanna party with you tonight”), walking with my dogs, walking through the parking lot to the grocery, walking back from work being followed in a vehicle that pulls past and stops, pulls past and stops, staring, staring. It can be a nuicance and it can be frightening. I do not think I should be confined to my house, or in the company of a male when in public. It’s been all race types, income levels, etc. Just depends on where you happen to be. But, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to make a case to put it in the law books. You don’t always have a way of submitting proof if you were to report it anyway. And it is subjective – to a point. Some of these guys perhaps they fancy themselves large, brightly colored birds and this is their mating call. Best to learn how to protect yourself. Start fighting back.

  51. William
    William October 30, 2010 at 8:52 am |

    I know I’m going to be accused of being a glibertarian or something, but the likely consequences of legislating against street harassment are an example of why I’m really fucking hesitant to support any legislation with a criminal penalty.

    Trying to legislate away street harassment isn’t going to work because controlling street harassment doesn’t add to the coffers of government, enrich the kinds of people who write big campaign contribution checks, or address a threat to the system which allows rich white men to remain in control. Theres no profit so there is no motive for aggressive enforcement. What legislation against street harassment would do, realistically, is give the agents of kyriarchy another means of intimidating and controlling disempowered groups.

    That white guy with the greek letters on his sweater and the GHB in his pocket shouting something about what he’d like to do to you? Not going to be targeted, likely not going to be investigated, almost certain not to be prosecuted, and the chances of a conviction are so low as to be nil. We live in a country where you can videotape a gang rape, brag about it in public, and get away with it. The people who will be targeted and arrested will be poor folks, folks without power, and folks who the police want to get for something. Its going to mean gay men getting picked up for asking the wrong person to dance. Its going to mean black men getting arrested for looking at white women. It will likely mean making the world far more dangerous for trans* folks.

    The intention of any legislation is irrelevant because ultimately it ends up in the hands of a thoroughly corrupt system. It becomes enforced by police which cannot ever be trusted who often intentionally oppress. It becomes prosecuted by DAs who often haven’t been convinced that rape is a crime unless it happens to a virgin in a burka at knife point in an alley by a stranger with darker skin (if even then). It goes before judges who, by the very nature of the system which chooses them, are politically beholden assholes a generation or two behind the rest of society.

    Laws against street harassment won’t stop harassment. They’ll just become another means of oppression, enforced just enough to justify their continued callous use against the kinds of people that racist thugs with badges deem undesirable.

  52. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 30, 2010 at 8:56 am |

    Julia I.: As someone who cheered you on during the AutoAdmit sexual harassment case and was proud as heck when two women sued them into stopping their harassment, your opinion here confuses me.

    They also seem to have had their privacy monstrously violated

  53. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 30, 2010 at 9:47 am |

    William: Thats not quite accurate though. The act of hate speech is only criminalized within the context of an act that is already illegal. Saying that hate speech is already criminalized in the US because of hate crimes sentence enhancements is like saying gun ownership is criminalized because most states in the US have a sentence enhancement for using a firearm during the commission of a felony. What hate crimes laws criminalize isn’t speech so much as motive. The speech merely constitutes evidence of a certain kind of motive given an existing offense. William

    Oy, this is ridiculous. Among almost all the legal scholars I’ve worked with…hate crimes statutes are considered to be criminalizing speech. “Motivation” was just the way statutes were written to avoid SCOTUS’ opinion in Chaplinsky.

  54. justin
    justin October 30, 2010 at 10:43 am |

    i guess i agree only from a freedom of speech perspective, but i personally know so many women who have been reduced to tears over comments from skanks on the street. some of those women have just put up with it, and then it got worse. a threatening comment. being followed into a deli. a grab.

    a big part of the problem is that doing nothing almost comes off like acceptance, which seems to encourage these guys. and god forbid you actually have to walk the same route every day — then it feels like you’re being stalked. but one of the worst parts of it is that the cops really do nothing. in fact they’ve been pretty rude to women i know who have reported harassment. they say things like “walk a different way next time”. basically unless there is an attempted rape, they do nothing. maybe it’s just nyc where the cops suck ass, but i suspect you’d get the same attitude in a lot of big cities with serious crimes happening all the time. so women are left feeling vulnerable and like they can’t wear a pair of heels to work without inviting harassment.

    i also have to agree with the post above making the point about this becoming a racially-biased issue. if you’re down by wall street and some douche-bag white power broker in a $3,000 suit says something wrong to a woman, who is going care or do anything about it? but if there is a homeless black guy in your neighborhood that does the same thing, i bet the cops would be all over that (if there was a law to empower them to do so).

  55. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla October 30, 2010 at 10:54 am |

    Bagelson @46: Yup, I agree.

    I’ve been harassed by white people (mostly men) and people of color (mostly men), and it sucks and I do feel threatened. But in no way does that verbal harassment come anywhere near, nor justify, the violence that cops would likely commit against the person of color I complained against.

    So I would not call the cops for that reason.

    But there’s another reason: Think about the fact that many women don’t report their being raped or sexually assaulted to cops. Why? Because cops don’t take these reports seriously and routinely victim-blame and revictimize women. So if cops routinely dismiss reports of rape and sexual assault, does anyone here really think that a cop would take a report from a woman of public harassment seriously? (Well, maybe he would, if it presents a handy opportunity to go kick a black man to the curb.)

    And furthermore, would a cop take a report from a trans woman such as myself[1] seriously? From the reactions of cops towards me and towards other trans women and trans feminine people, I’d bet money that the cop would either just laugh at me or arrest me for being the instigator.

    William: That white guy with the greek letters on his sweater and the GHB in his pocket shouting something about what he’d like to do to you? Not going to be targeted, likely not going to be investigated, almost certain not to be prosecuted, and the chances of a conviction are so low as to be nil. We live in a country where you can videotape a gang rape, brag about it in public, and get away with it. The people who will be targeted and arrested will be poor folks, folks without power, and folks who the police want to get for something. Its going to mean gay men getting picked up for asking the wrong person to dance. Its going to mean black men getting arrested for looking at white women. It will likely mean making the world far more dangerous for trans* folks.

    Yes, THIS, exactly.

    Frex, the Silvia Rivera Law Project, a New York organization that advocates on behalf of trans, gender-variant, and queer people of color, is pretty staunchly apposed to hate-crime legislation for similar reasons. They have seen a pattern where hate-crime sentencing enhancements are used against the very groups of oppressed people that hate-crimes legislation porports to protect. (The fact that said legislation is worded in a way that *totally fails* to account for power-over relations is a major factor in this; the impact of a black man calling me “cracker” is far far less than the impact would be if I were to call him a racial slur.)

    [1] I know, I’m (femme) transgenderqueer. But for simplicity’s sake in a binaristic world, and because I am treated and harassed like one, trans woman works for me.

  56. Julia I.
    Julia I. October 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    Women’s privacy is monstrously violated by sexual street harassment, just like men taking pictures up women’s skirts is a monstrous, public violation of privacy. Not every time, but too many times my “private parts” have forcibly been made public by men.

    I’m not seeing any arguments against a potential new law that couldn’t be made against any law (cops are racist, class will affect implementation, degrees of punishment need to be handled delicately, etc).

  57. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking October 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm |

    I’m not seeing any arguments against a potential new law that couldn’t be made against any law (cops are racist, class will affect implementation, degrees of punishment need to be handled delicately, etc).
    Here’s a summary then. Harassment: is amorphous; is incredibly hard to define; is location- and party-specific; does not involve any physical evidence; and is incredibly difficult to prove in court. It would also, frankly, be well on the low-priority end of “interpersonal actions which are illegal,” as compared to rape, assault, abuse, etc.

    It would be enforced through incredible discretion. The more discretion that laws have, the more that the outcome matches kyriarchy and the beliefs of the enforcers/judges.

  58. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm |

    Has anyone else noticed that “kyriarchy” has been the it-word on Feministe for about the past two weeks?

  59. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig October 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    I don’t know. I’m really having a problem seeing a downside to getting guys off the street. (Yeah, I’m the girl who curls her hand into a fist anytime I walk by a guy who’s white, black, brown or purple.)

  60. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton October 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm |

    Sonia:

    I was sensitized to how different the world is for blacks when a cop friend of mine talked to me about patrolling. He used to cruise black neighborhoods and then ticket people for things I didn’t even know were crimes, like jaywalking in a residential neighborhood.

    Wow, I hadn’t realized it was _that_ blatant. Are you still friends with them?

  61. Jadey
    Jadey October 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: I don’t know. I’m really having a problem seeing a downside to getting guys off the street.(Yeah, I’m the girl who curls her hand into a fist anytime I walk by a guy who’s white, black, brown or purple.)  

    How about where to put them other than the street? And how long they will stay off the street? And the harm that incarceration does to communities and individuals, in terms of disrupting any good thing they might have going and enhancing their likelihood for antisocial behaviour? And the harm that incarceration does to every single one of us by bogging down systems that are already drowning and costing billions upon billions upon billions of unnecessary dollars across the globe?

    “Getting people off the street” is an arrogant, privileged, short-sighted attitude. Harassment is absolutely a big fucking deal that needs to be addressed, but I am so sick of the self-interested and destructive “Just get those bad people away from me!” attitude. For some people, those bad people are their friends, family, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, and so forth. Talk about wasting precious resources – when we take that attitude, we are talking about wasting people. That some people, some large groups of people, are more valuable and important than others. I want solutions that improve conditions for everyone who is part of the affected communities – victims and perpetrators. It’s the me-first, zero-sum attitudes of people who only see laws as there for the protection of them and their loved at the expense of other people and their loved ones that are the root of why we can’t come up with and support better solutions that can try to help everyone at the expense of no one.

    And there are no purple people. The people and communities who are most vulnerable to and damaged by approaches and attitudes like this are brown and black and generally not white.

  62. Jadey
    Jadey October 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm |

    And to make myself perfectly clear:

    I do not believe that the truly dire issues of the violence against and victimization of women can be truly mitigated or addressed by any system that is actively violent towards and victimizing of people who are poor, people of colour, young people, queer people, trans people, sex workers, colonized people, immigrants and anglophones, and people with disabilities, and especially those who experience marginalization on multiples of these axes.

    This is the very definition of intersectionality.

  63. t
    t October 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm |

    Recently penned a post over at PinkScare that responds to this post, here: http://pink-scare.blogspot.com/2010/10/should-we-legislate-against-cat-calling.html

  64. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    Julia I.: I’m not seeing any arguments against a potential new law that couldn’t be made against any law (cops are racist, class will affect implementation, degrees of punishment need to be handled delicately, etc).

    The law is too broad. It covers things that are not harassing or threatening. Because it is too broad it is particularly likely to be selectively enforced which will make it entirely ineffective. What we need is better definitions and better (i.e., less -ist) enforcement of the threat and stalking standards.

  65. Jadey
    Jadey October 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    After my last comment, I disengaged from this thread to go and cool down. Having done that, I want to apologize to you, politicalguineapig, for going off that strongly on you.

    I stand by the content of what I said, but making you the specific target of that comment and releasing my general frustration with this issue on you did no great service to anyone and was unfair to you. For that I apologize.

  66. Sonia
    Sonia October 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    Wow, I hadn’t realized it was _that_ blatant. Are you still friends with them?

    No, I’m not. Interestingly, I knew this guy from a campus atheist group. He wasn’t a student but attended because he wanted some socializing away from all the evangelicals in that area. He was a Democrat, refused to enforce pot and underage drinking laws (regardless of skin color) and believed in equality of women. He was easily one of the much better guys in the police department and at least admitted at times that he might be biased. The average cop even according to him seemed like right out of the 1920s to me. The attitudes weren’t much better among the black cops either.

  67. Miss S
    Miss S October 30, 2010 at 6:48 pm |

    Exactly William.
    I’ve seen girls respond positively to being leered at and cat called at white frat parties. However, if we’re leaving a club in the city and a black guy says “excuse me miss, can I talk to you” the very same girls act as though they are about to be assaulted or robbed.

    Women may not have male privilege, but white women certainly have white privilege. This privilege and power does extend over men of color. Black men have been beaten and killed for looking at white women. Black men have been beaten and killed by police officers. This legislation would place an awful lot of power in the hands of white women and police officers to wield over black men, and I don’t see how that’s beneficial at all.

    Obviously racial implications play a large role in determining who is a threat and who isn’t. Race also plays a large role in who gets taken seriously by law enforcement and who doesn’t.

    PrettyAmiable- Yes, I noticed that too.

  68. William
    William October 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm |

    Oy, this is ridiculous. Among almost all the legal scholars I’ve worked with…hate crimes statutes are considered to be criminalizing speech. “Motivation” was just the way statutes were written to avoid SCOTUS’ opinion in Chaplinsky. Kristen J.

    Authority by proximity and the fact that hate crimes statutes are a patchwork of different laws in different places not withstanding, there is a pretty significant difference between criminalizing speech and action. As it stands now, I could use whatever racial epithet in the street to whomever I pleased and that speech would not be criminal. It might be immoral, it must be justification for an ass kicking, but it wouldn’t be illegal in any US American jurisdiction I can think of unless some local cop decided to use breech of the peace laws in a creative fashion (even then the likelihood of such a case going to trial is pretty much nil). Therefore you cannot reasonably argue that the speech itself is what has been actually criminalized. That isn’t the way in which these laws are used, it isn’t the reality on the ground, and it isn’t a way in which those laws could reasonably be interpreted as meaning given the way in which they are written. Hate crimes increase the penalty for certain crimes the same way premeditation (another kind of speech in many cases) or the use of a weapon does. Thats what they do on their face.

    As for Chaplinsky, I’m not sure if you’re confusing it with another case or if you’re using a counter argument from rote that doesn’t apply here. Chaplinsky was about “fighting words” and it specifically exempted some kinds of speech from first amendment protections. That might be a means of arguing that hate speech could be regulated by the first amendment (something which, you’ll notice, has nothing to do with what I’ve said). What Chaplinsky doesn’t do is create something legislators would have to “avoid” if they wanted to regulate hate speech. It would be a justification for such legislation, not an impediment.

  69. William
    William October 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm |

    I’m not seeing any arguments against a potential new law that couldn’t be made against any law (cops are racist, class will affect implementation, degrees of punishment need to be handled delicately, etc).

    Well, in a nutshell, yes. Thats the problem with living in an inherently unjust system. Any new law is going to have the primary effect of increasing the power and authority of the people who are already abuse the existing laws.

    Look, we live in a society that can’t effectively prosecute rape even if its videotaped and in which a man who supports laws making homosexuality a fucking capital offense is chosen by an ostensibly liberal and progressive president to give the invocation at his inauguration in the name of conciliation. We live in a world in which finding out that a sexual partner’s genitals didn’t always look quite the way they do now is seriously seen as justification for assault (or even murder) by a not insignificant portion of the population. We live in a society in which the police exist primarily as a means of violent and systematic oppression. We live in a society where rape while incarcerated is treated as a joke at best and as part of punishment at worst.

    So when someone comes along telling me that they have a great idea for expanding the authority of the people who have made our society they way it is, I’m not paying very close attention to the justification they give for it. I’m paying attention to the way it will inevitably (and likely by design) be used against anyone who isn’t rich, white, male, straight, cisgendered, and Christian. Everything else is smoke and mirrors, bullshit that the kyriarchy uses to get us to take swings at each other in the desperate hope that we won’t catch onto the fact that we’re being fucked by the same people.

  70. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla October 30, 2010 at 8:38 pm |

    Julia I.: I’m not seeing any arguments against a potential new law that couldn’t be made against any law (cops are racist, class will affect implementation, degrees of punishment need to be handled delicately, etc).

    Thank you for making my point! The fact is, *most* laws are used as tools of oppression by the police state (which the US most assuredly is), and not to make our lives better. All the drug laws, immigration laws, abortion and birth control laws, jaywalking laws, saggy-pants laws are designed and used by racist* cops, judges, lawyers, DAs, politicians, prison guards and wardens, etc as weapons against people of color. And in the meantime, women are still getting harassed on the street. An anti-harassment law will do nothing to make women safer, but will result in more men of color being jailed and abused by the police state.

    The answer is not another law. The answer is men fucking calling out other men who harass women. The answer is parents raising their children to understand that harassment is unacceptable. That’s a societal change that cannot be brought about by law.

    * and sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc … cops.

  71. Julia I.
    Julia I. October 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm |

    It would also, frankly, be well on the low-priority end…rape, assault, abuse, etc.

    Something about the word “frankly” suggests accepting that men’s verbal frequent abuses of women in public isn’t abuse and isn’t important. Too many anti-rape advocates have worked too hard making courts more receptive to the fact that not all rapes leave black eyes and blood on a victim to slip backwards to the “no physical proof, no sexual assault” days despite an imperfect system.

    The law is too broad. It covers things that are not harassing or threatening.

    There is no law, just a request for further investigation and an open mind to solutions. I’m sincerely surprised at how much resistance such a small step in no defined direction has met.

  72. David
    David October 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |

    GallingGalla: Thank you for making my point!The fact is, *most* laws are used as tools of oppression by the police state (which the US most assuredly is), and not to make our lives better.All the drug laws, immigration laws, abortion and birth control laws, jaywalking laws, saggy-pants laws are designed and used by racist* cops, judges, lawyers, DAs, politicians, prison guards and wardens, etc as weapons against people of color.And in the meantime, women are still getting harassed on the street.An anti-harassment law will do nothing to make women safer, but will result in more men of color being jailed and abused by the police state

    I don’t know, it feels tiresome when we bring out the police state argument every time that we talk about the law. Could we just for once assume that that the law is an imperfect system that contains racist individuals, like the rest of society?

    I mean, I feel like the argument people are putting forth here is rather weak. We’re saying that “we agree with the law in spirit, but that the law would be bad because it could be used against minorities”. Isn’t that true of any law? Hell, rape charges have been pinned against plenty of innocent men before but that doesn’t preclude the fact that rape laws exist to protect women against a horrendous crime. Besides, from this point of view it seems nonsensical to support most laws. They could just be used for “the police state” to gain power.

  73. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig October 31, 2010 at 1:33 am |

    Jadey: Apology accepted. My point was that when out and about, I regard any male, regardless of color, as a threat until further notice. Especially the white dudes, since they often run in packs.
    Gallinggalla: And this magical education will come about.. when? Most men don’t care about women, and they seem incapable of learning. I personally think that legislating that only a certain amount of men can be present in a given area would be more effective, since men tend to be at their worst in packs. (Getting rid of fraternities or prohibiting players on a sports team from socializing off the field, for example, would be very positive changes.)

  74. Miss S
    Miss S October 31, 2010 at 1:37 am |

    People aren’t rejecting the notion that street harassment is problematic. It is the consequences of legislation and who bears that consequence, that concerns me.

    Does legislation on street harassment give women more power? Which women? Power over whom?

  75. Medea
    Medea October 31, 2010 at 2:36 am |

    GallingGalla: he fact is, *most* laws are used as tools of oppression by the police state (which the US most assuredly is), and not to make our lives better. All the drug laws, immigration laws, abortion and birth control laws, jaywalking laws, saggy-pants laws are designed and used by racist* cops, judges, lawyers, DAs, politicians, prison guards and wardens, etc as weapons against people of color.

    The laws you listed are not “most” laws. I don’t think your claim is accurate. I also think laws regulating abortion clinics to provide minimum standards are a fine thing–along with workplace protection laws, minimum wage laws, and many other laws that are absolutely necessary and opposed by libertarians.

    On the other hand, I do agree that verbal street harassment should not be illegal.

  76. Natalia
    Natalia October 31, 2010 at 2:54 am |

    I am strongly tempted to agree with GallingGalla wrt solutions to street harassment.

    I would put it this way: both Dubai and Jordan technically have laws on the books (and broad laws at that, from what I understand) that prohibit street harassment. Yet for some reason, it’s fairly easy to walk down the street in Dubai if you’re a woman, and it can be extremely difficult in Jordan – I know, because I’ve lived in both places (and though looking distinctly E. European made me more of a target – most Jordanian women will also tell you that they’re downright sick of getting harassed. It even happens to women in full niqab – so you know right away that dress is not the big issue here.) Why? Because local society in Dubai became outraged by instances of harassment, and they set the tone. Harassment is seen as completely unacceptable by most Emiratis you speak to. Jordanian men in particular, on the other hand tend to think that it’s either a) “a compliment” or b) “kinda bad, but what can you realistically do about it? At least it’s not as bad as in Egypt!”

    The law, I’m afraid, doesn’t make a meaningful difference in this case. What makes a difference is when people understand that This Shit Ain’t Right – and act accordingly.

  77. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 31, 2010 at 8:53 am |

    William: As for Chaplinsky, I’m not sure if you’re confusing it with another case or if you’re using a counter argument from rote that doesn’t apply here.

    Doah, I was thinking of R.A.V….Chaplinsky provided the basis of the state’s argument in favor of the statute. When SCOTUS upheld the sentencing enhancement in Mitchell they specifically relied on the motive argument to distinguish the Wisconsin statute.

    As for the substance of your argument, we’ll have to agree to disagree. From my perspective, state and local governments were trying to directly criminalize hate speech and failed (in RAV not Chaplinsky…my bad) and their solution was sentence enhancement under Wisconsin. That they made the hate speech portion of the law fit into the existing concepts of motive is irrelevant to that analysis.

    All of which is an argument based on semantics, since my point still stands if you disagree with my criminalization analysis. We have penalties associated with hate speech because hate speech is a form of terroristic threatening.

    Julia I.: There is no law, just a request for further investigation and an open mind to solutions. I’m sincerely surprised at how much resistance such a small step in no defined direction has met.

    The proposals then are too broad.

  78. William
    William October 31, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    I also think laws regulating abortion clinics to provide minimum standards are a fine thing

    Not to piss on your parade but… TRAP laws. The fact is any regulation can and will be used by people in a position of power in order to enforce their view of how things ought to be. This isn’t about libertarianism (which has a lot of problematic economic baggage) but about a basic understanding of how human beings act when you give them armed thugs and the ability to put people in prison.

    More to the point, even the good laws you mentioned (minimum wage laws, workplace safety regulations) can often be oppressive because they create a frame against which it becomes difficult to agitate. The minimum wage isn’t a livable wage in the US, but it does a hell of a job of setting a standard wage for unskilled labor. It also creates exceptions (piecework, waitstaff, etc.) for the kinds of jobs most likely to be done by people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Its difficult to demand a raise (or even imagine such a thing would be possible) when you’re surrounded by other people and see nothing but other jobs which pay the exact same amount. Its kyriarchy and the old crabs-in-a-bucket image at it’s most base, people in power know that if everyone is paid the same shitty wage that anyone who tried to rise up is going to get pulled down by the scared, dissatisfied, envious people around them. Hell, if that doesn’t work theres always at-will employment to get rid of a trouble maker. Good laws create an illusion of fairness designed to keep people just satisfied enough that they keep playing the game.

  79. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking October 31, 2010 at 9:55 am |

    Julia I. 10.30.2010 at 8:54 pm
    Something about the word “frankly” suggests accepting that men’s verbal frequent abuses of women in public isn’t abuse and isn’t important. Too many anti-rape advocates have worked too hard making courts more receptive to the fact that not all rapes leave black eyes and blood on a victim to slip backwards to the “no physical proof, no sexual assault” days despite an imperfect system.

    It IS abuse, and it IS important. But “abuse” is a big spectrum. And this is all relative.

    I remain convinced that. given X number of prosecutions or convictions, I’d rather have those aimed at people who were raped or seriously abused, than have them aimed at people who were harassed on the street.

    We’re doing a shitty job of helping women as it is. i don’t think it makes sense to dilute the already-limited societal interest by focusing on a crime which is, relative to rape, not as serious.

  80. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking October 31, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    Also, there’s the “hoist by your own petard” problem.

    In the PRIVATE setting, we don’t need to be consistent. So if someone claims that Feministe discriminates against men, we say yeah, whatever, move on please. You don’t have to like an argument here. You don’t have to be “balanced,” or “neutral,” or consistent. You don’t have to be viewpoint neutral.

    In the PUBLIC setting, at least in the US, that’s illegal. You can’t write a law which makes it illegal for a guy to drunkenly approach a woman without also making it illegal for a woman to drunkenly approach a guy. You can’t write a law that protects a pro-choice protester from having some guy yell “BITCH!” in her face, that won’t also protect a prolife protester from having some woman yell “ASSHOLE!” in his face.

    Do you want to force everyone to treat you politely, under threat of prosecution? You do? Well, do you want to be forced to treat everyone else politely under threat of prosecution? Do you want that even when you consider that there is NO CHANCE that the cops and judges will always be on your side, morally speaking? (Even if they are now, or at some point in the future, societies change.)

    I know it’s easy to think that we’re all special and that women would never, ever, worry about this law because it’s all teh menz who do things wrong. But that’s a very dangerous expectation.

  81. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    Could we stop blanket labelling police officers as armed thugs? I don’t see how that constructively helps us talk about this issue. Thanks.

  82. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 31, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    Usually Lurking: I remain convinced that. given X number of prosecutions or convictions, I’d rather have those aimed at people who were raped or seriously abused, than have them aimed at people who were harassed on the street.

    Why are you beginning with a set number of possible prosecutions? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this law would work well, but I don’t agree that this is the way to think about it. Rape isn’t prosecuted because of a limited set of resources; it’s because society thinks most of the time it’s reported, women are bullshitting the police. This attitude needs to change. That’s the only thing that’s going to take rapists off the street.

    Also, I’m not really sure I need to explain to you why sexual harassment is NOT the same as being treated impolitely, which you conflate in your comment @ 84. I’m not going to be terribly miffed if someone tells me I can’t follow a guy, telling him to shake that ass for me, lest I get thrown in jail.

    David, for MANY men of color, police are essentially armed thugs. If you are not an armed thug (or you know someone who is not an armed thug or whatever), that’s cool. It doesn’t change the systemic problem that people of color have faced with the police.

  83. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable October 31, 2010 at 3:23 pm |

    *”Rape isn’t prosecuted because of a limited set of resources; it’s because society thinks most of the time it’s reported, women are bullshitting the police.”

    Clusterfuck of a sentence, but I’m pretty sure y’all know what I’m saying.

  84. William
    William October 31, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    Could we stop blanket labelling police officers as armed thugs? I don’t see how that constructively helps us talk about this issue. Thanks.

    Maybe some people can. I live in Chicago, a town that recently had a major back-patting moment because we finally managed to prosecute an armed thug for beating confessions out of suspects and hooking their genitals up to car batteries. I live in a city where a cop can savagely beat a woman on videotape because she wouldn’t serve him a drink at a bar because he was too drunk and not go to jail. I live in a city where I have personally witnessed more police brutality than I have police civility. I live in a city where a week doesn’t go by that I don’t see the police harassing a 12 year old in my neighborhood because he’s black and they’re bored. I live in a city where its well known that a cop beat a child with a baseball bat for being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood and, even though he brags in public about keeping Bridgeport white, is still on the job.

    So no, I can’t stop calling police armed thugs because I’ve yet to see evidence to the contrary. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but not all of us have the privilege of living somewhere where the worst thing you have to fear from a criminal with a badge and a gun is a speeding ticket.

  85. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 4:04 pm |

    and sure, that is a valid point to make. I think that calling them armed thugs in a sentence without any context is wrong. I could call all Americans murderers for paying taxes that go to our military, but its an emotionally charged word that isn’t intended to persuade through force of argument. I could also call cops heros, and, citing the number of arrests of violent criminals every year, support that statement with fact. However, calling all cops “heros” or branding them all “armed thugs” is more an appeal to emotion than an appeal to fact. Appeals to fact can be done without using charged language anyway.

    Speaking of rape, I agree that rape isn’t prosecuted because of a limited set of resources. I think that ample resources exist to prosecute rape. I think when rape isn’t prosecuted its because either there is bias on the part of the DA and the police, or that there simply wasn’t ample evidence to support a conviction. There are plenty of criminals that get away with their crimes simply because of the limits of the criminal justice system. (For one, that we support a burden of proof that requires the state to provide significant evidence of the accused’s crimes.)

  86. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2010 at 4:24 pm |

    David: Could we just for once assume that that the law is an imperfect system that contains racist individuals, like the rest of society?

    No. It is not a case of a few bad apples. The systems (plural because I’m talking about at least the Canadian and US systems here) are themselves racist. So even when individuals within the system aren’t particularly racist or abusive themselves, because of the overwhelming trend of racism (and other -isms) and abuse that predominates even these individuals become complicit, unless they actively fight against it all the time (which is usually impossible). I won’t say there aren’t ever people doing good things, but they cannot and do not erase the widescale abuse that goes on.

  87. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    *rape isn’t prosecuted not because of a limited set of resources.

    Gotta watch my double negatives when I post.

  88. Medea
    Medea October 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm |

    At the same time, William, not all of us live in Chicago. Or New York. I can understand concentrating on the way this potential law would play out in New York, because that’s the setting, but the police and the public they supposedly protect have different relationships depending on the location within the United States (and, of course, outside).

  89. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery October 31, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    Could we stop blanket labelling police officers as armed thugs? I don’t see how that constructively helps us talk about this issue. Thanks.

    Those that aren’t armed thugs cover up for armed thugs. See “Silence, Blue Wall of.”

  90. William
    William October 31, 2010 at 6:16 pm |

    At the same time, William, not all of us live in Chicago. Or New York. I can understand concentrating on the way this potential law would play out in New York, because that’s the setting, but the police and the public they supposedly protect have different relationships depending on the location within the United States (and, of course, outside). Medea

    Yes, but at the end of the day police exist in order to enforce a state monopoly on force. Thats their role, they are the truncheons that are used to apply physical force to people who break certain rules. In some cases that role is necessary (even vital), but just because sometimes you need a club doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be worried about the implications of constantly expanding the list of justifications for a beating.

    Police abuses aren’t a problem unique to big cities. In Chicago its maybe a little worse and a little more public but that doesn’t erase the fact that human beings tend to become increasingly cruel and violent as they are granted more power over other people. You can look at Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, the increasing militarization of police across the US, or the behavior of Joe Arpaio if you need more examples.

  91. Athenia
    Athenia October 31, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    I feel that in an age of cellphone cameras and videos, I can imagine it might be possible to present evidence for street harassment.

    Some people might say that comments like “hey baby” are too quick to document, but I’ve seen street harassment where it continues long enough for someone to whip out their cellphone.

    Harassment isn’t just a whistle or a “hey baby”–it’s a threat. It’s “You have to acknowledge my presence or else.”

  92. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla October 31, 2010 at 6:36 pm |

    David:
    I don’t know, it feels tiresome when we bring out the police state argument every time that we talk about the law. Could we just for once assume that that the law is an imperfect system that contains racist individuals, like the rest of society?
    I mean, I feel like the argument people are putting forth here is rather weak. We’re saying that “we agree with the law in spirit, but that the law would be bad because it could be used against minorities”. Isn’t that true of any law? Hell, rape charges have been pinned against plenty of innocent men before but that doesn’t preclude the fact that rape laws exist to protect women against a horrendous crime. Besides, from this point of view it seems nonsensical to support most laws. They could just be used for “the police state” to gain power.  

    You have no idea what it’s like to deal with the police when you’re an out non-passing transgenderqueer woman like myself. Every single interaction with police is fraught with abuse when you are a trans person. Not a single police officer has an iota of respect for trans folk.

    You have no idea what it’s like to live in fear of what should happen if I get pulled over for an ordinary traffic violation. My license has a “M” (“male”) marker on it, and it also has my obviously female name on it. Any cop can decide that I’m trying to defraud the government and arrest me; and once I’m arrested, I can be put into a men’s jail, be raped, be beaten, be murdered. All of these things have happened to trans women, especially trans women of color, in the city in which I live.

    Go google Duanna Johnson, Nizah Morris, Erica Keel (the latter whom I knew and was friendly with).

    Duanna Johnson was beaten, on video camera, by police in Memphis, Tennessee, and then when she dared to file a lawsuit against the police force, she was shot to death.

    Here in Philadelphia, Nizah Morris was found dead of head wounds shortly after being given a “courtesy ride” by police. Audio recordings of police radio transmissions during that time were subsequently found to have been erased by the Philadelphia police.

    Also in Philadelphia, Erica Keel was run over by a car multiple times by a man who didn’t like the fact that she was trans. He backed the car up over her four times. Police refused to arrest the man or even cite him for leaving the scene of an accident. When multiple witnesses came forward as a group to give statements to police, not only did the police refuse to take their statements, but the police demanded to know the “real names” (birth names) of these trans folk, maliciously mis-gendered them, etc.

    This is not a few “bad apples”. This is an atmosphere that is pervasive and universal throughout the police force. *Every single officer* learns to treat trans folk like shit, treat women like sluts and liars, treat people of color like shit, treat sex workers like shit. Any officer who fails to learn those lessons will not last long on the police force.

    Statements like yours, David, come from a place of privilege. You would do well to talk to marginalized people before you make statements like this.

    (And egads, do I get tired of having to explain this over and over again…)

  93. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 7:05 pm |

    Jadey: No. It is not a case of a few bad apples. The systems (plural because I’m talking about at least the Canadian and US systems here) are themselves racist. So even when individuals within the system aren’t particularly racist or abusive themselves, because of the overwhelming trend of racism (and other -isms) and abuse that predominates even these individuals become complicit, unless they actively fight against it all the time (which is usually impossible). I won’t say there aren’t ever people doing good things, but they cannot and do not erase the widescale abuse that goes on.  

    Look, I don’t really want to drag this entire thread that far into off topic land. But I do believe that I’ve seen this opinion among a number of people, and I don’t see the conclusion that people are drawing as supported.

    First, presuming that there is an entire “US system” would imply that all police departments in the U.S. are identical. It has been shown, to the contrary, that the culture of police departments in different cities is different. Police corruption and police brutality can be a major force among one police department and it can be minor or nonexistent in another because of differences in how each IA department operates. (and how seriously complaints are dealt with) If you want to make an argument that the Chicago P.D. is corrupt and abusive, go ahead.

    Calling all police officers little more than “armed thugs” indicates to me that the people making this argument have no problem making generalizations about a vast group of people that they know little about. It would be like calling bankers a bunch of “money fascists”. I don’t support political language that in fact, comes off as laughable and as good as your intentions may be, I find it ridiculous that you could know so much about all police to presume that they are all nothing more than armed thugs. I see the police and judicial systems as systems that should be overhauled and renovated (as lets face it, most governments in the world could use a facelift in one way or another)- not as systems that are so thoroughly corrupt that we need to get rid of them all together.

  94. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 7:27 pm |

    Oh, and in Jadey’s defense I didn’t see any mention of “armed thug” in their post.

  95. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan October 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm |

    Here ya go David: as a middle-class cis white woman who dresses slightly conservatively, I have (almost) every confidence that if I flagged down an officer on some catcalling dude of color, I would get the better end of the stick. The police officer probably would not act like a total thug to me. I would likely be treated about as decently as a cop ever treats a woman. The catcalling guy might get in some kind of trouble — however much of a White Knight the cop felt like playing at that moment. (Mr. Catcaller might even get in the right amount of trouble, somewhere between “ignored” and “beaten to death” … an amount I would have no control over, once the cop got involved.)

    And quite frankly, this is about the best possible outcome I can imagine. One in which I am depending entirely on being “the right sort” …depending on being able to use racism, etc. to benefit me … That’s just a terrible setup. Calling a cop and thinking “gee, I hope this guy decides I’m a more valuable human than my harasser! What’s my privilege score compared to the catcaller, gotta do the oppression math…” is a shitty way to design or enforce a law. (It also requires that I be the kind of sociopath who doesn’t care if she winds up pointing out a guy to be murdered at the hands of the police.)

    So yeah, if you’re a nice white lady being harassed by the “wrong” kind of person, and you don’t care what happens to that person, and you luck out in your cop selection … then you’re golden. Yay.

  96. David
    David October 31, 2010 at 8:58 pm |

    Bagelsan:
    Here ya go David: as a middle-class cis white woman who dresses slightly conservatively, I have (almost) every confidence that if I flagged down an officer on some catcalling dude of color, I would get the better end of the stick. The police officer probably would not act like a total thug to me. I would likely be treated about as decently as a cop ever treats a woman. The catcalling guy might get in some kind of trouble — however much of a White Knight the cop felt like playing at that moment. (Mr. Catcaller might even get in the right amount of trouble, somewhere between “ignored” and “beaten to death” … an amount I would have no control over, once the cop got involved.)
    And quite frankly, this is about the best possible outcome I can imagine. One in which I am depending entirely on being “the right sort” …depending on being able to use racism, etc. to benefit me … That’s just a terrible setup. Calling a cop and thinking “gee, I hope this guy decides I’m a more valuable human than my harasser! What’s my privilege score compared to the catcaller, gotta do the oppression math…” is a shitty way to design or enforce a law. (It also requires that I be the kind of sociopath who doesn’t care if she winds up pointing out a guy to be murdered at the hands of the police.)
    So yeah, if you’re a nice white lady being harassed by the “wrong” kind of person, and you don’t care what happens to that person, and you luck out in your cop selection … then you’re golden. Yay.  

    Yeah, but again, if you accused a black man of raping you then presumably a similar reaction would occur. Is that grounds for getting rape legally struck off the books as a crime? No, it isn’t. That’s exactly why I feel like people are making very weak arguments when they say that a street harassment law shouldn’t be done simply because of the police’s bias. People are debating on the merits of the police rather than the merits of the supposed law or the practicality of its legal implementation. Police are part of the implementation, but to assume that police are always biased, are always looking to beat up a black man, or disrespect a woman, or disrespect a disabled person requires a fundamental ignorance of how seriously many police departments treat incidences of abuse. I count no less than 3 separate people that have either said that ALL police are thugs, or that ALL police are required to disrespect minorities. I can’t stress again, how difficult it is to prove a claim about a group of people when you say “all”. Not to mention that when you say all police, you are presumably talking about all county sherriffs, all city police departments, all MPs, and maybe everyone who has ever worked at the FBI. I agree with people that police departments have been used as instruments of oppression and are currently being used as such. But ALL policemen/women? ALL police departments? Hell, even saying that MOST police departments are corrupt would required detailed analysis of complaints and comparing police departments against some standard. I don’t see how people can make such a massive claim, and then be offended when someone disagrees with it.

  97. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2010 at 9:29 pm |

    David: Oh, and in Jadey’s defense I didn’t see any mention of “armed thug” in their post.  

    Huh? Did I need defending? From whom?

  98. David
    David November 1, 2010 at 12:49 am |

    It was an addendum to a post I made, which apparently is still awaiting moderation. I was basically talking about people’s overgeneralizations of the police and I quoted you . I added that bit later to state that I appreciated how you criticized police procedure without having to resort to the notorious “armed thug”.

  99. Natalia
    Natalia November 1, 2010 at 1:19 am |

    I have cops on both sides of my family – E. European, non-EU cops, members of forces that would make a cop in the US look like a bit like Tinkerbell. So when I read statements about “armed thugs”, I both agree and disagree. Cops, military, internal affairs, both here and in the US – these are people who have saved my life several times, but that’s because me and my family can be considered “one of us.” It’s not about a commitment to justice – it’s about protecting your own, because no one else will protect them. I’ll always owe a debt to many individuals who are one the police force, that’s just the way it is.

    But I would also argue that the system they operate under is broken – and I think many of them themselves would agree. It’s broken of what GG posted here. It’s broken, also, because I remember going out in a sleepy NC town – not even a place like Chicago – and knowing that in a way, I was my boyfriend’s “shield,” so to speak. A nice white girl with a bit of a twang going out with an Arab man – so that Arab man is probably not half bad, let’s not harass him! The nice white girl lending a man of colour “respectability” in the eyes of “the law” – it was the case in restaurants, in airports, in the damn grocery store, etc. It’s not a role you want to acknowledge – unless you’re forced to be very, very honest. And how many times have I been in a position when a friend was in trouble with the cops, and it was me having to do this dance of “hey officer, me right here? You and I are actually friends, and we want to stay friends. You don’t want me to pick up the phone and make some calls, do you? I’m a nice girl, you’re a gentleman, please let my friend go.” It is awful, when you think about it. And you never know if it will turn out badly, in the end.

    So not to get into too much of a derail here, but I agree with everyone on here who says that such a law would bring even less balance to an already unbalanced state of affairs.

  100. Miss S
    Miss S November 1, 2010 at 1:31 am |

    Bagelsan yes. yes a thousand times. That’s what I was trying to say earlier.

  101. dumas
    dumas November 1, 2010 at 2:10 am |

    Could you please add trigger warnings to this post and any comments that describe street harassment? I have been harassed too many times in the past and reading specific descriptions of it can leave me depressed and unable to leave the house for days.

  102. Matt
    Matt November 1, 2010 at 2:43 am |

    I’m not as cool to hate crimes legislation as some here. RAV v. City of St. Paul is a travesty and a failure of the Marketplace of Ideas paradigm to recognize that counter-speech does not make one whole or in fact counter the “ideas” that burning a cross convey. When the only intention, the only raison d’être of speech or a symbolic act like cross burning is to injure or to inspire mortal fear, the rational and decontextualized consumer of speech acts ceases to be able to discern a message resembling the one expressed to the original target. The Marketplace fails to regulate itself.

    This speech doesn’t convey a message about politics. The guy burning the cross doesn’t express that he wants Black folk out of his country or his government (an abhorrent but distinctly political message), rather he says to one Black family in a sleepy St. Paul neighborhood, “leave or we’ll kill you!” What exactly is legitimate/civil/political about that? It’s not exactly a direct action protest. I think there are legitimate concerns about viewpoint discrimination and/or chilling, but we need to get real about speech where the goal (not motive, motive is too sterile and subjective) isn’t political dialogue or even shouting at cars, but instead to act as bludgeon-words against citizens whose only crime is being different.

    Moreover, in that instance, no cure can be found in counter-speech. Counter-speech to hate speech is either more hate speech or advocacy against hate, neither of which makes the victim whole. If the system is in fact supposed to elicit more hate speech to cure the initial hate speech, I might be so bold as to suggest that the system, the Marketplace of Ideas, is broken.

    As far as street harassment goes, I think reasonable minds can differ as to whether it is hate speech that rises to the level of cross burning.

  103. Medea
    Medea November 1, 2010 at 2:47 am |

    @ William

    Well, that’s true enough.

  104. Jadey
    Jadey November 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    Honestly, David, I think what you are talking about constitutes a massive derail. Yes, there is a difference between “This system is fucked up” and “Every single element in this system is uniformly fucked up in the same way and to the same degree”, which is pretty much why I prefer framing things at a systemic and not individual level when approaching it from my perspective (my experiences are similar to Natalia’s), although I think it’s not difficult to interpret the latter approach in a flexible way in the given context (also, there are plenty of people here who cannot trust any cops at all because of system-wide fucked-upedness, and so the finer distinctions are kind of bullshit to them, ya know?). And on another thread or in another context that could be a conversation worth having. But frankly it’s coming off as a way for you to minimize the harms that are being talked about here, and it’s tiresome.

  105. groggette
    groggette November 1, 2010 at 10:13 am |

    I find it rather curious David that you haven’t responded to GG’s comments when you did respond to people that posted before and after her.

  106. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm |

    Yes, I believe street harassment should be illegal. Just as I believe emotional abuse should be illegal.

    Why is that even a question?

  107. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    But I don’t see how criminalizing bad behavior does anything more than further pathologize and criminalize black and brown men disproportionately. Alexis L., The Studioist

    So … you believe that black and brown men harass women more than do white men? And because this is true, you believe black and brown men should be given a break, because they’re already so discriminated against? Is that what you mean here?

  108. Chally
    Chally November 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    I don’t think that’s what Alexis L. meant, tinfoil hattie, and I’m really not sure how you got that out of the comment. I think what was meant – and please correct me if I’m wrong, Alexis – is not that black and brown men (or, I’d add, non-white men identifying otherwise) harass women (and I think specifically white women were being spoken of here) more than white men do, but that they are going to be disproportionately punished in relation to punishments directed at white men, as discussed multiple times in this thread.

  109. Miss S
    Miss S November 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm |

    David I think it would be more than just police bias; it would also be a bias on the part of person pressing charges for street harassment. What constitutes street harassment? Who is deemed an actual threat?

    Like I said, I’ve seen women (particularly white women) respond favorably to being cat-called and leered at by white frat guys in large groups. It’s funny, it’s a compliment, blah blah whatever. These women would feel threatened if it were a group of black guys. It’s not funny then: it’s street harassment.

  110. Simeon
    Simeon November 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm |

    I’m from the south side of Chicago, and as much as the cops are distrusted, folks don’t fear those “boys in blue” as much as they fear the ones who don’t rock a badge but look like our brothers, sons, fathers, uncles, etc.
    Cops by and large can be decent people but there is a way that “bad apples” are supported by either explicit encouragement, leniency or “turning away” from their violent actions. Thus they are enabled much the way many street harassers are enabled by their male com padres who themselves may not think of disrespecting, abusing, harassing, etc. women but through their silence, or accolades encourage the bad behavior of their pally boys.
    Are all men harassers or rapists? NO. Much like all cops are not thugs or abusers but both men and cops(often men) exist within a cultural system that, if not out right promoting this behavior create and nurture a space wherein it can reside without impunity. Like cops, men must do more to discourage their brethren from engaging in this behavior and strive to create new paradigms of male/female/trans/intersex relations.

  111. David
    David November 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    Jadey:
    Honestly, David, I think what you are talking about constitutes a massive derail. Yes, there is a difference between “This system is fucked up” and “Every single element in this system is uniformly fucked up in the same way and to the same degree”, which is pretty much why I prefer framing things at a systemic and not individual level when approaching it from my perspective (my experiences are similar to Natalia’s), although I think it’s not difficult to interpret the latter approach in a flexible way in the given context (also, there are plenty of people here who cannot trust any cops at all because of system-wide fucked-upedness, and so the finer distinctions are kind of bullshit to them, ya know?). And on another thread or in another context that could be a conversation worth having. But frankly it’s coming off as a way for you to minimize the harms that are being talked about here, and it’s tiresome.  

    It’s tiresome when I see people writing something I might otherwise agree with, but then end it with a completely unsupported and inflammatory non-fact. I would just ignore it, but then everyone picks it up and tosses it around the room like a cherished football. If you want to make the claim that I’m trying to minimize the harm of police brutality look at what I said. The only claim I was making is that other people’s blanket incriminations of all police departments were wrong. I’d like to add, that I think some of the more intelligent posts about police brutality have resulted from people’s mindfulness about viewing this as more of a complex problem.

  112. David
    David November 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm |

    Simeon:
    I’m from the south side of Chicago, and as much as the cops are distrusted, folks don’t fear those “boys in blue” as much as they fear the ones who don’t rock a badge but look like our brothers, sons, fathers, uncles, etc.
    Cops by and large can be decent people but there is a way that “bad apples” are supported by either explicit encouragement, leniency or “turning away” from their violent actions. Thus they are enabled much the way many street harassers are enabled by their male com padres who themselves may not think of disrespecting, abusing, harassing, etc.women but through their silence, or accolades encourage the bad behavior of their pally boys.
    Are all men harassers or rapists? NO. Much like all cops are not thugs or abusers but both men and cops(often men) exist within a cultural system that, if not out right promoting this behavior create and nurture a space wherein it can reside without impunity. Like cops, men must do more to discourage their brethren from engaging in this behavior and strive to create new paradigms of male/female/trans/intersex relations.  

    Agreed. Nice post.

  113. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 2, 2010 at 6:59 am |

    The linked article says they’re thinking specifically about criminalizing street harassment in designated school zones, not in all public areas. Does that affect anyone’s view on this? I would think there’s an argument to be made that the right of the children and teenagers to attend school without being harassed trumps the speech rights of the harassers. Schools are already permitted to take action on verbal harassment within their walls in the interest of learning; legislation designating special harassment-free zones would probably just extend this right to limited areas around the school, much as there are zones around schools in which penalties for various crimes are higher. On the other hand, designating certain areas “harassment-free” does send the disturbing message that harassment is fine anywhere else. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a blanket ban on street harassment, but I don’t think such legislation would have any chance of passing or being upheld, while safe zones around schools might.

  114. Niki
    Niki November 2, 2010 at 9:11 am |

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments so I might be repeating some things that have been said upthread – apologies in advance for any reduncancy.

    I just want to point out that this seems to be opening up a really good – and important – conversation. What are the limits of free speech and the things we lose by prosecuting hate speech, for one? This is, and always has been, an important question, especially for those of us that call ourselves liberal/progressive/feminist. After all, what are progressive and feminist movements, if they’re not all about freedom? Freedom to be a woman and live independently, freedom to practice a gay lifestyle in accordance with your natural orientation, freedom to make your own choices about life. But of course, if we champion the freedom to make choices, we have to champion the freedom to fuck up too – and to occasionally make poor choices in the way we address one another.

    I’m more inclined to agree with Jill (whose first few comments I read before I scrolled down). I think that the really dangerous/frightening street harrassment is already illegal; you can’t say “Hey baby come talk to me” and then call her a cunt when she ignores you. That is already criminal behaviour – it is harrassment. It is using intimidation to inspire fear in someone or pressure them into behaviour they didn’t want to engage in – harrassment! Perhaps even abuse. You can’t say “Whatever you’re a dumb bitch anyway, I hope someone rapes you” because that is a threat. You certainly can’t follow someone home, because that is stalking and VERY illegal. I will repeat: It is already against the law to intimidate, harrass, and frighten people.

    So aree these behaviours usually prosecuted or even brought forward to the police? Of course not. I doubt even 5% of these already-illegal street harrassment cases are treated by the victims and/or police as real crimes (with the exception, perhaps, of stalking). But criminalizing street harassment specifically will not change that. Others brought up that the main demographic that will be charged with this crime is sex workers and I think that’s a really plausible, and unfortunate, potential outcome of this. I’m not usually a fan of slippery slope arguments but occasionally, I think they do apply, and in this case I would be worried about where to draw the line.

    I don’t think this will change anything other than specifically targeting sex workers (and working-class men of colour, as well). So it is a waste of legislative time, money, and energy.

  115. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan November 2, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    PrettyAmiable: Has anyone else noticed that “kyriarchy” has been the it-word on Feministe for about the past two weeks?

    I first saw it in this thread. What does “kyriarchy” mean?

  116. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan November 2, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    By the way, that last comment was unclear. I did look up “kyriarchy” on Wikipedia, and it defined the word, more or less, as “rule by the people in charge.” Well, gee, that’s dumb; it would include everything except outright anarchism.

    Now if I were one of those fatheads inclined to scoff at feminists, I would laugh and dust my hands off. But I’ve learned through the years that when feminist ideas are being derided as stupid or meaningless, what’s really happening is that the derider is trying to simplify an idea he finds unsettling into meaninglessness. And I ain’t falling for that. So! <ICP>F***ing kyriarchy, how does it work?</ICP>

    1. Cara
      Cara November 2, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  117. Murrow Fan
    Murrow Fan November 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    How do you even enforce such a thing? I think it’d be like jaywalking; you don’t get ticketed for it unless a cop watches you do it.

    The practicality of such legislation is where I see problems. Unless a police officer actually witnesses harassment or the victim or a bystander captures it on video with their cellphone, how do you prove it actually happened? Unlike physical and/or sexual assault, which often produces observable physical forensic evidence, this really would come down to “he said, she said” in a lot of cases.

    I don’t know whether anti-harassment legislation would be a good thing or a bad thing, but I do believe that it would be an impractical thing. In many if not most instances, it would be nearly impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it occurred.

  118. Murrow Fan
    Murrow Fan November 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm |

    Kristen J.: Umm…of course we do. Sentence enhancement criminalizes speech. If you beat a dude up and call him a jerk that’s assault. If you beat a dude up and call him [insert hate speech], that’s a hate crime.  (Quote this comment?)

    When hate speech accompanies physical violence or property destruction, we criminalize it, but on its own, it generally isn’t criminal… case in point the Fred Phelps fuckheads and the KKK, both of which have the constitutionally protected legal right to publicly express their hateful beliefs.

  119. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm |

    I don’t think it’s the job of women to NOT protect ourselves and give up our rights so that men won’t be treated unfairly by the police. I don’t care what color a man is. Shut the fuck up when a woman is walking down the street, unless specifically invited by the woman to speak to her. Period.

  120. Medea
    Medea November 3, 2010 at 3:35 am |

    I’m interested in how you could make emotional abuse illegal–wouldn’t it be difficult to determine whether someone’s behaviour is abusive or not? How would the law define “abusive”?

  121. Natalia
    Natalia November 3, 2010 at 3:41 am |

    I don’t think it’s the job of women to NOT protect ourselves and give up our rights so that men won’t be treated unfairly by the police.

    Are you interested in living in a society which is more just than the one we currently have? Because if you are – then you know as it is that it won’t come about as the result of a calculated decision wherein unfairness against one group is dismissed in favour of another. You must also realize that with any broad law – the table can easily be turned, on women.

    I don’t care what color a man is.

    Good for you! I’m sure that all police officers and people in general are *just like you* – and like Stephen Colbert. They “don’t see colour”! It’s as simple as that!

    Oh, wait, no, it actually isn’t.

  122. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking November 3, 2010 at 8:19 am |

    It’s not as if anyone is in favor of street harassment. And yes: passing a law against street harassment would probably lower street harassment.

    It’s just that there’s a lot of interplay here. Laws have good effects and bad ones.

    For some of us, “Give the government more discretionary power to punish people” has some fairly obvious negative connotations. So does “increase the ways in which government can limit speech,” even though the speech being limited is pretty damn valueless.

    For example, I’m happy not to live in a country where saying the wrong thing can get you arrested. (think “Europe,” where speech is far, far, less protected than here.) So while I’m not happy at the level of street harassment, I’m also not willing to trade free speech for less harassment. I’m anti-hate-speech laws for the same reason.

  123. birkenfeldt
    birkenfeldt November 3, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: I don’t think it’s the job of women to NOT protect ourselves and give up our rights so that men won’t be treated unfairly by the police.I don’t care what color a man is.Shut the fuck up when a woman is walking down the street, unless specifically invited by the woman to speak to her.Period.  

    How do you define “specifically invited”? Verbally? that would basically mean no man may speak (to a woman) unless spoken to. If that’s not what you mean please clarify.

  124. William
    William November 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    It’s no coincidence that some of the arguments against enforcing legislation to combat street harassment have been used in the past against the possibility of lessening sexual harassment in the office, and bullying in schools.

    Think about it.

    The difference is that sexual harassment in the work place doesn’t involve the police or come with a risk of criminal liability because its a civil matter. More than that, because of the way civil matters are pursued, its difficult to imagine a sexual harassment claim in which a powerful person abused their authority in order to oppress a less powerful one. Sexual harassers don’t tend to be sued, the companies which enable and tolerate them are sued. People with oppressive power don’t tend to be in the position of making sexual harassment claims against people without it.

    As for bullying in schools, you’re damned right the same arguments have been used because the same problems exist. A law designed to protect vulnerable populations in schools is almost certainly going to give the people who enforce it the power to target those very populations. Hell, I’ve seen that happen even in the absence of a criminal system.

  125. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 4, 2010 at 12:33 am |

    I’m sure that all police officers and people in general are *just like you* – and like Stephen Colbert.

    I don’t see color. People tell me I’m white and I believe them, because when I report being harassed the police sometimes take me seriously. ;p

  126. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 4, 2010 at 12:37 am |

    A law designed to protect vulnerable populations in schools is almost certainly going to give the people who enforce it the power to target those very populations. Hell, I’ve seen that happen even in the absence of a criminal system. William

    Ah geez. Now I’m imagining what a “Zero Tolerance” street harassment policy would look like:

    Woman: Officer, that man harassed me!

    Cop: Did you respond to him at all?

    Woman: I said “fuck off”…

    Cop: Ooh, yelling sexual language in public? Alright, cuff ‘em both, boys!

  127. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 5, 2010 at 12:14 am |

    Natalia:
    Are you interested in living in a society which is more just than the one we currently have? Because if you are – then you know as it is that it won’t come about as the result of a calculated decision wherein unfairness against one group is dismissed in favour of another.

    Exactly. But both the position that police harassment of men of color is an acceptable cost to protect women from street harassment and the position that street harassment of women is an acceptable cost to protect men of color from police harassment dismiss unfairness against one group in favor of another. Maintaining the status quo is not, as you seem to assume, a neutral position.

  128. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 5, 2010 at 5:55 am |

    William:
    The difference is that sexual harassment in the work place doesn’t involve the police or come with a risk of criminal liability because its a civil matter. More than that, because of the way civil matters are pursued, its difficult to imagine a sexual harassment claim in which a powerful person abused their authority in order to oppress a less powerful one. Sexual harassers don’t tend to be sued, the companies which enable and tolerate them are sued. People with oppressive power don’t tend to be in the position of making sexual harassment claims against people without it.

    Random thought: if someone can file a lawsuit because of sexual harassment at the workplace, there should also be some legal protection against sexual harassment that keeps someone from getting to hir workplace. If street harassment can’t or shouldn’t be criminalized, perhaps people should be able to sue their city/township for not keeping them safe from it, with the city or township taking the place of the company that enables and tolerates harassment. At any rate there ought to be a way to make harassment a legal matter in which victims have rights that also reflects the reality that sexual harassment is a community issue (both in that it stems from the culture of a community and in that it damages the community as a whole).

  129. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking November 5, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    At any rate there ought to be a way to make harassment a legal matter in which victims have rights

    Very few rights lend themselves well to enforcement through the legal system.

    Everyone has–or should have–the right to proceed through life with dignity, but that does not mean that it is a good idea to use the legal system to get there.

    Also, the legal system in the U.S. is OBjective, not SUBjective. The objective stance isn’t very popular here on Feministe, mostly because it requires you to ignore the victim:

    Do you want to tell Joe Dude that he can’t say “Hi; that’s a beautiful dress” and wave to Wanda Walker as he passes her on the street? No?

    Well, do you want to tell Wanda, (who was previously assaulted by someone just like Joe, using the same line) that she’s shouldn’t ve be offended/scared/annoyed/intruded on by Joe’s actions? Do you want to fail to protect Wanda? No?

    Welcome to the law. The law only cares about whether what Joe did was appropriate. The law doesn’t actually care about–or consider–what the effect was on WANDA.

    The problem is that those of us who argue against legalities believe that the devil is in the details, while those who are supporting harassment laws are doing so much more generally. But laws aren’t general; they’re specific. Harassment laws are one of those things which are very easy to talk about–“Let’s ban harassment!”–and very, very, hard to actually execute (“Um, how exactly do we define this for purposes of the criminal code?”)

    If you want to understand exactly how hard it would be to stop harassment legally, try to write a law. Try to put into words: write a fact-based description of actions or speech which (1) would apply universally to all US adults, i.e. are gender neutral; (2) would accomplish the restrictions that you want re harassment; (3) could be interpreted by a neutral non-omnipotent third party.

    Good luck.

  130. William
    William November 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm |

    If street harassment can’t or shouldn’t be criminalized, perhaps people should be able to sue their city/township for not keeping them safe from it, with the city or township taking the place of the company that enables and tolerates harassment.

    I couldn’t agree more. Most of the kinds of harassment that ought to be illegal probably already are under a reasonable reading of the law, yet they aren’t enforced because individuals with power either don’t care (see the depressing enforcement of rape and stalking laws) or actively benefit from (see the almost constant tide of politicians who are outed as harassers or worse) the way the system exists now. Unfortunately, such a solution would require a system which exists to protect the populace. That isn’t the case we have in our society.

    ruled that police have no duty to protect individuals and that not responding to emergency calls due to negligence is not something for which a police department can be sued. The laws are there to restrict who those in power choose to restrict, not to protect you.

  131. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm |

    Verbally? that would basically mean no man may speak (to a woman) unless spoken to.

    Gee, the poor menz. What a hardship for them.

    Good for you! I’m sure that all police officers and people in general are *just like you* – and like Stephen Colbert. They “don’t see colour”! It’s as simple as that!

    Oh, wait, no, it actually isn’t. Natalia

    I care about women being oppressed, harassed, beaten, assaulted, raped, sold into sexual slavery, murdered … and I don’t CARE what color the men are who are committing these atrocities. That does not mean I don’t care about the injustices ALL people of color face. You are conflating two different thoughts so you can spout your indignation.

    Imagine caring about the issues that women face, without having to worry about every single other oppression under the sun at the same time! It can be done! One can even work against the injustices that all women face, and also work against the specific injustices that women and men of color face! Or people with disabilities! Or poor people! It’s not either/or. Why doesn’t any other movement concern itself with “justice for all” the way feminism is supposed to?

  132. Natalia
    Natalia November 6, 2010 at 3:36 am |

    But both the position that police harassment of men of color is an acceptable cost to protect women from street harassment and the position that street harassment of women is an acceptable cost to protect men of color from police harassment dismiss unfairness against one group in favor of another. Maintaining the status quo is not, as you seem to assume, a neutral position.

    I am not sure why you have interpreted my comment to be in favour of the status quo. I believe street harassment to be a problem that must be dealt with on the social level (re: my comments about two different approaches to street harassment in two different Middle Eastern countries).

  133. Natalia
    Natalia November 6, 2010 at 5:04 am |

    Tinfoil hattie,

    Feminism is a movement that includes diverse people and diverse philosophies, so keeping that in mind, I personally don’t believe that I can definitively say what feminism on the whole is “supposed” to do. At the same time, I believe that the problem of street harassment, on the more basic level, goes back to the idea that some people (namely men) “own” public spaces in a way that other people (namely women) do not. Based on my experience, there are good and bad ways to address that problem. I think the example of Dubai – where in most instances it is men themselves who decided to start addressing this problem, and loudly and publicly shaming fellow men for harassing women, is a good one to keep in mind. As I’ve mentioned before, Dubai is its own society, with its own very specific rules (and problems), but there are some elements of that society I think we can all learn from.

  134. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 6, 2010 at 8:32 am |

    Natalia:
    I am not sure why you have interpreted my comment to be in favour of the status quo. I believe street harassment to be a problem that must be dealt with on the social level (re: my comments about two different approaches to street harassment in two different Middle Eastern countries).  

    Because that doesn’t explain why recourse against injustice should be social for women but legal for men of color. One could just as easily take the “education not legislation” line to argue that police and the judicial system should be “educated” not to target men of color but that the potential for racial oppression is not a necessary consideration when formulating laws. It’s a question of whose needs matter enough to become a legal issue and who should be told to sit back and wait or to handle things on their own. The exception to this is if you believe the law enforcement and judicial systems are so corrupt legislation couldn’t possibly help women, but in that case there may as well not be any other laws either.

  135. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 6, 2010 at 8:38 am |

    Imagine caring about the issues that women face, without having to worry about every single other oppression under the sun at the same time! It can be done! One can even work against the injustices that all women face, and also work against the specific injustices that women and men of color face! Or people with disabilities! Or poor people! It ’s not either/or. Why doesn’t any other movement concern itself with “justice for all” the way feminism is supposed to?

    Maybe because justice that only works for white, het, cis, able, conventional attractive, wealthy, non-sex worker women isn’t justice…its privilege.

  136. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 6, 2010 at 8:51 am |

    Or, to put it another way that’s maybe clearer, to say that steps taken against street harassment should be purely social because legal measures would be used disproportionately against men of color is to say that on this issue women should ask, not demand, that their rights be respected, while men of color should not be put in the position of having to ask at all.

  137. albyselkie
    albyselkie November 6, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    Just to be clear, “hey baby” is not the issue. If any of you read the comments over at Broadsheet (and didn’t throw up) you will read one woman talk about her 14-year-old daughter who is now, as one person said above, terrified of men. Most catcalls go waaay waaay beyond “hey baby”, and are uttered by groups of men. There is no way not to take much of it as a threat.

    Still, maybe the best response to street harassment is not to make it illegal, but to make something else legal: if a woman is harassed, she can then taze the offender(s) without consequence. Really, all it would take is a handful of women actually doing it to have the appropriate societal effect.

  138. Natalia
    Natalia November 6, 2010 at 9:36 am |

    Aishlin, I think it’s a matter of what is effective, and what is in line with actual justice (as opposed to in line with the criminal justice system – which I consider a broken system). I don’t believe that social measures are akin to a refusal to demand that your rights are respected. As I said to tinfoil hattie up above – anyone should be cautious about broad legislation, including women themselves, because the tables can easily be flipped on us as well as on any man. Sitting back and waiting and/or handling things on our own is clearly not a good option – as I have mentioned. And I don’t believe we can differentiate about “whose needs matter enough” to begin with – I mean, let’s say you’re a WOC whose son gets thrown in jail because of the unfair actions of the police. Is there a distinct line that runs between your needs as a feminist then? As a mother? As a targeted minority? …

  139. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla November 6, 2010 at 9:43 am |

    Aishlin: Or, to put it another way that’s maybe clearer, to say that steps taken against street harassment should be purely social because legal measures would be used disproportionately against men of color is to say that on this issue women should ask, not demand, that their rights be respected, while men of color should not be put in the position of having to ask at all.  

    I caution you, and other people who are making similar statements, that it is so easy to have the term “woman” stand in for “white woman”, because white people are the unmarked default. I make that mistake *all the time*, that when I say “women” or “men” or “people”, in my mind’s eye, I am visualizing white women / men / people.

    This isn’t splitting hairs, people. Look at the racial statistic regarding the enforcement of nearly every law, and then answer me this: Suppose we do pass such a law, and given how enforcement of that law will undoubtedly be racialized, we get into the expected situation where the harassment charges lodged by *white* women will be taken far more seriously than those charges lodged by women of color; and where men of color will be arrested, jailed, and abused at far greater rates than white men – when this happens, will you, Aishlin, will any of us be able to just wash our hands of that situation? Will you be cool with women of color being ignored, dismissed, or perhaps even arrested themselves as long as white women get to lodge charges? Will you be cool with men of color being jailed while white men walk, because after all, at least *some* men are suffering consequences?

    In addition to *white* being the unmarked default, so is *cis*. Will you be cool with trans women being ignored, dismissed, or perhaps even arrested themselves as long as cis women get to lodge charges?

    Will you be cool with lesbians being arrested because of charges lodged by homophobic straight women? How about gay men being arrested because of charges lodged by homophobic straight men?

    Is this all “collateral damage” that you find acceptable, as long as white cis het abled women get to lodge their complaints?

    Yes, definitely, there should be consequences for men who harass women. Women should not have to be in a position to ask. Men who harass should be ostracized and isolated. But justice demands that we do so in a way that does not privilege complainants on axes OTHER THAN GENDER (such as race, sexual orientation, trans status, dis/ability) and does not change the frequency, severity, or nature of consequences borne by offenders based on OTHER THAN GENDER (such as race, sexual orientation, trans status, dis/ability).

  140. William
    William November 6, 2010 at 2:07 pm |

    One could just as easily take the “education not legislation” line to argue that police and the judicial system should be “educated” not to target men of color

    One could, but that would be comparing apples and oranges. Police, by nature, carry guns and are allowed to use them with impunity. Even in situations of severe negligence they are able to hide under the color of qualified immunity, under the blue wall of silence, intimidate witnesses, and find protection in the rest of the system (just scroll up a little on the front page and look at the “involuntary manslaughter” sentence Mehserle got in California for shooting an unarmed, handcuffed, cooperative black man in the back of the head). If street harassers have a gun its no longer harassment but assault. Police are literally the instruments of power.

    Still, it sounds like you’re speaking from a position of privilege. When you think about legislating street harassment you think about a means of protecting women from harassment. Embedded in that consideration is the belief that the police and the system care about you and are here to help you. That isn’t the experience for everyone in the US. What legislating against street harassment would mean would be protecting those people (not necessarily women) who have the privilege of being able to access our existing system at the expense of giving the police a new means of oppressing and controlling those people who do not have access to our existing system. One necessarily require the other. They are related.

    Also, lets be clear, a law against street harassment cannot exist in our current system which protects women from men. It would have to be written to protect people from “harassment.” That is going to open up an entire range of harassment claims which will be used by privileged people in order to harass people without privilege. Don’t like the race of the guy hitting on you at the bar? Call the cops. Have you been thrown into a gay panic by the way that woman who doesn’t conform to your ideas of femininity glanced at you? Call the cops. Are you a pretty, white, straight, cisgendered, young, middle-class woman having some kind of conflict with your less-than-socially-appealing neighbor? Call the caps, who are they gonna believe! Someone called the cops on you for pinching their ass? Well, just say they said “fuck you” and you’ll both get booked while the police sort it out.

    Yeah, sounds like a great idea…

  141. chava
    chava November 6, 2010 at 6:52 pm |

    William @ 135–

    I’m curious as to how being able to sue the gov’t for not protecting you from street harassment would actually make things *better*–wouldn’t this just lead to the government cracking down/mass arresting/fining “problem elements” in an effort to slash the expenses of the lawsuits, and/or drowning those who did sue in paperwork?

  142. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm |

    GallingGalla, I absolutely agree that there is a suspicious absence of discussion of women of color on this thread. But that isn’t coming just from people like me and Tinfoil Hattie. The comments that bring up the racial issues involved have overwhelmingly focused on the effects on men of color, disappearing women of color and creating a false opposition between “men of color” and “women” generally. I shouldn’t have contributed to that, though, and I’m mortified that I did. I deeply apologize.

    I don’t think it’s true that only “white cis het abled women” would support some form of legislation against street harassment. Although I’m a lesbian, I’m much more concerned about men harassing me with impunity than I am about being arrested for harassing a homophobic straight woman. It’s true that lesbians, trans women, disabled women and women of color face greater obstacles in talking to the police or other authorities, but women from these groups also face the highest rates of and the most vicious street harassment. How this affects their viewpoints will depend on the individual. There seems to be an assumption here that everyone who is marginalized in any way lives in fear of the law, but in reality the same people who have good reason to be wary of the law also have good reason to be wary of many of their fellow citizens. Sometimes we turn to the law to protect us from the people around us and sometimes we turn to the people around us to protect us from the law.

    “Will you be cool with men of color being jailed while white men walk, because after all, at least *some* men are suffering consequences?” This is the calculation we already make in regard to many other laws, which is why I think people are mistaking supporting the status quo for a neutral position. There are practical reasons to oppose new legislation without advocating for overturning what we already have, but there aren’t ideological ones.

    Similarly, I can see why criminalizing street harassment wouldn’t work practically, but I disagree with the ideological reasons behind opposing it given here. From reading this thread alone one would think most of the commenters completely oppose using legislation for any purpose (because that would be the only way to square the reasons for opposing street harassment legislation with a desire not to put the needs of one group over those of another) but I doubt that’s the case. There is a long tradition of marginalized groups using legislation to defend their rights that is being ignored here.

    Though it’s at least as impractical as criminalizing street harassment, if not more so, as a way of looking at things I like the idea of giving people the right to sue their local government for not protecting them from street harassment, thus shifting the onus from individuals to the community as a whole. Of course, criminalizing street harassment might be among the options a city or township would consider to prevent such lawsuits, but there would be other options as well, such as outreach programs aimed at prevention and the much less progressive or useful (and therefore probably fairly popular) designating of certain routes or forms of transportation for women only. (They do that here in Tokyo, with certain subway cars designated women-only during rush hour.) I also think it’s worth noting that the penalty for street harassment could be something like mandatory attendance at counseling or classes on equality, and maybe community service. At any rate, it almost certainly wouldn’t be prison time.

    We should also be wary of arguments that appeal to the absolute right of freedom of speech. First, it’s obvious that we don’t actually think freedom of speech is an absolute right. Many people have already mentioned that threats are not protected speech. The real debate, then, is over what constitutes a threat. And even if any harassment worth criminalizing is already illegal under legislation against threats, I still think there’s a place for a specific street harassment charge in order to draw attention to the dynamics of power involved, in the same way that murders and assaults can also be labeled hate crimes. Second, I think we should pay attention to where our ideas about what should and shouldn’t be an absolute right came from. In whose interests is it that speech is an absolute right but the freedom to walk in public without being harassed is not? The people who made this decision were not the people who have to worry about the latter.

  143. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 6, 2010 at 10:55 pm |

    There’s another problem with lumping together all lesbians, trans women, disabled women, women of color or any combination of the above. (Sorry for double posting yet again.) If the majority of men around you are part of all the same classes you are except gender (say a white, cis, het, abled woman in a mostly white neighborhood or a cis, het, abled woman from a minority racial background in a neighborhood made up mostly of people from the same minority background), the “education, not legislation” line makes much more sense than it does if the majority of men around you constitute an oppressor class towards you in more than one way (say any woman in a white neighborhood except those who are white, cis, het, and abled). If the people around you are just as likely to mistreat you as the police, you’re more likely to prefer legislation as a solution, because at least it carries a semblance of accountability and can be appealed to a higher level. This is especially true of gay people living in conservative areas of liberal states.

  144. Jadey
    Jadey November 6, 2010 at 11:01 pm |

    It is absolutely worth saying: street harassment hurts women of colour, probably disproportionately so (I don’t happen to know for sure – it seems like a damn good bet, though). The criminalization of men of colour and of communities of colour also hurts women of colour. Perpetuating systemic racism hurts all people of colour. (And white people too, after a fashion, to the extent that each facet of the kyriarchy reinforces all other facets by justifying a society built on inequality among individuals and groups.)

    Aishlin: There is a long tradition of marginalized groups using legislation to defend their rights that is being ignored here.

    There is also a history at least as long if not longer of legislation being used to harm and violate marginalized people, including legislation intended to protect.

    I am opposed to this kind of legislation because its impracticalities not only make it unfeasible, they make it downright dangerous. Impractical legislation becomes monstrous when it’s put in practice – see: ridiculous drug laws. Cracking down on people because it’s easy to target them and the simplest way of approximating (in a seriously warped way) the actual intentions of the law, not because it’s effective law enforcement. This is the kind of law-making that is begging to be abused. A knee-jerk reaction to a real and serious issue that completely misunderstands the actual functioning of the law system in place. That is why this in particular is a very bad idea, because it’s the wrong tool for a very important job, but so many people seem to think it’s a decent approximation of the right tool. It’s like going into surgery and overhearing the surgeon say, “Oops, out of scalpels! No problem, I’ve got a butcher knife here that should do the trick.”

  145. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 7, 2010 at 1:06 am |

    To add to that, yes, it is a mark of privilege to be able to assume that the police will protect you. But it’s also a mark of privilege to be able to assume that you have the power to discipline men who sexually harass women by ostracizing them. If you’re a minority in your community, something that is very common for trans, gay and disabled people, you don’t have that power.

  146. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 7, 2010 at 1:48 am |

    Jadey, I’m mostly objecting to the rhetoric people are using to oppose this. I definitely don’t have the legal knowledge to be able to make helpful suggestions about actual laws. It does seem, though, that as others have mentioned earlier in the thread many of the same impracticalities and the potential for injustice are also present in laws against rape and domestic violence.

    Does anyone have information about the current state of laws against threats? I realize it will probably vary by place. Is it already possible for threats to be treated specifically as hate crimes? That would seem to be one way of implementing a law against street harassment -by strengthening extant laws against threats with a hate crimes provision. Again, I have no legal expertise and it’s not that I think I’ll be able to find a template for legislation, I just want to question the way we think about these things.

  147. Natalia
    Natalia November 7, 2010 at 2:36 am |

    “Will you be cool with men of color being jailed while white men walk, because after all, at least *some* men are suffering consequences?” This is the calculation we already make in regard to many other laws, which is why I think people are mistaking supporting the status quo for a neutral position. There are practical reasons to oppose new legislation without advocating for overturning what we already have, but there aren’t ideological ones.

    Well… I personally do not make that calculation. As I’ve said up above – I believe that the criminal justice system in the United States is broken. I’ve believed that for years. I’m not a lawyer – I can’t speak with authority on overturning legislation (though ridiculous drug laws, and the racist and classist ways in which they are applied and enforced, have been on the forefront of my mind in regard to this issue), but I do know that the system as it is at present is dangerous, for some people it’s mortally dangerous, and I don’t wish to make it worse.

    I think there are better ways and, once again, maintaining the status quo is not one of them.

  148. William
    William November 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm |

    I’m curious as to how being able to sue the gov’t for not protecting you from street harassment would actually make things *better*

    In all honestly, Chava, you’re probably right. The only upside to suing the government, were it even possible, would be that the impetus would have to come from a victim rather than from a thug with a uniform. I suppose that fantasy a little more comforting than throwing up one’s hands and saying its hopeless. The actual application would likely be problematic, though, you’re absolutely right.

    But it’s also a mark of privilege to be able to assume that you have the power to discipline men who sexually harass women by ostracizing them.

    I don’t assume that at all, Aishlin. I know I can influence the people close to me, but thats a pretty small group. As a friend, or a brother, or an uncle, or a cousin I do have influence. I can chastise people who care what I think, I can start a discussion, but thats not going to end the greater social problem because I only know so many people. As a large man, I know that I can step in when something is happening around me, but I’m well aware that that only stops one instance and isn’t likely to teach a cowed harasser much more than to mind his surroundings a little better.

    My argument was never that ostracization would work better than legislation. My argument was that legislation was unlikely to be used to protect women as it was intended but would instead become another means of oppression.

    If you’re a minority in your community, something that is very common for trans, gay and disabled people, you don’t have that power.

    I’m well aware of what it takes to protect yourself when you’re a minority exposed to hostile persons in a position of power. Thats a big part of why I feel the way I do about this, I’ve been personally victimized by people who have used well-meaning laws which were designed to protect me as a means of threatening or oppressing me. I’m not saying that oppressed persons have the power to stop their own oppression, I’m just saying that giving the very people who oppress you more power to oppress isn’t likely to reduce the oppression we face.

  149. Jadey
    Jadey November 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm |

    Aishlin: Does anyone have information about the current state of laws against threats? I realize it will probably vary by place. Is it already possible for threats to be treated specifically as hate crimes? That would seem to be one way of implementing a law against street harassment -by strengthening extant laws against threats with a hate crimes provision. Again, I have no legal expertise and it’s not that I think I’ll be able to find a template for legislation, I just want to question the way we think about these things.

    The problem with this is that the problem is too pervasive and endemic to be handled appropriately by criminal legislation. (I think another issue at play here is the failure to distinguish the wide variety of types and functions of legislation, so let me be clear: not all functions and forms of legislative governance are being criticized here. Neither is criminal legislation being roundly discarded – merely strongly criticized in its documented and disastrous shortfalls, which have more to do with irresponsible use than anything else.) If this sort of legislation were enacted and enforced consistently whenever it was appropriate (which is how laws are supposed to work, after all), it would constitute an immense influx of criminal prosecutions with no reasonable, effective penalties in place and no real support to the system to actually process them and no longterm foreseeable benefits. We would see all the harms associated with criminal prosecution and subsequent incarcerations (I’ve already made the argument above that monetary restitution won’t be effective and I know for a damn fact that diversionary programs do not exist in sufficient quantity or with adequate support), and very likely no actual gains in any substantial number – criminalizing street harassment will not stop street harassment. Please do not place excessive faith in the deterrent effects of legislation for this kind of endemic and culturally-reinforced behaviour. It is irresponsible to institute criminal legislation when the criminal justice system is not equipped to even remotely reasonably assure positive outcomes. This type of approach would not solve the original problem and would exacerbate another.

    Again, how I dearly I wish there was as much energy and effort put into developing and evaluating alternative measures that do not first invoke criminal penalties and their iatrogenic consequences.

  150. Aishlin
    Aishlin November 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    Jadey:
    Again, how I dearly I wish there was as much energy and effort put into developing and evaluating alternative measures that do not first invoke criminal penalties and their iatrogenic consequences.  

    Do you have any suggestions? On the subject of street harassment, almost all efforts have been outside of the criminal and even legal realms, so I think in this case there’s little reason to lament that people devote their time and energy only to methods involving criminal penalties.

    It bothers me that so far those who advocate sticking to social methods have brought up those methods only as proof that they aren’t dismissing street harassment as a problem, not as a topic of discussion in their own right. The suggestions so far have been brief, covering things that are obvious and that so far have not been effective. If anyone has something more useful to add, I’d be happy to hear it.

    This thread smacks of “What about the men?” with queer women, trans women, women of color and women with disabilities thrown in as an afterthought and without much attention to the specific circumstances and needs of women in these categories. The treatment of street harassment has largely been to underestimate it as a problem -despite repeated assertions that that’s not the intention, when the response to a proposal to criminalize street harassment is “You want to criminalize ‘Hey, baby’?” and “But police” -with the implication, ‘unlike street harassers’- “are dangerous!” (as if street harassment were not part of a continuum of violence against women and as if street harassers never went on to rape and physically abuse), when street harassers disappear from the argument entirely in favor of poor, innocent men arrested for absolutely no reason -then, whatever the intentions, that is the effect. A legitimate discussion of social methods for fighting street harassment is a different matter, and I would be glad to see it.

    This is eating up my time (and my sanity!) so I apologize but I can’t respond any more. I will read responses though, so those are so inclined should feel free to give me the smack-down.

  151. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 8, 2010 at 10:15 am |

    I think all the people going on about education are being willfully naive. Men have had ages to learn that harrassment is bad and they don’t ever seem to get that. I still don’t think it should be a jailable offense, but putting fines in place strikes me as an acceptable solution.

  152. groggette
    groggette November 8, 2010 at 10:33 am |

    Aishlin,

    why I think people are mistaking supporting the status quo for a neutral position.

    Who has done this? Can you link back to a comment that argues this? Because I’m seeing people argue that they don’t like this potential legislation because it won’t work and may possibly/probably make things worse, not out of some misguided belief that the system is fine as is. We all know the status quo isn’t “neutral.”

  153. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 8, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    Politicalguineapig: I think all the people going on about education are being willfully naive. Men have had ages to learn that harrassment is bad and they don’t ever seem to get that. I still don’t think it should be a jailable offense, but putting fines in place strikes me as an acceptable solution. Politicalguineapig

    So what happens to people who are homeless and sex workers? I think everyone here knows these groups will be specifically targeted by these laws. The homeless will no be able to pay a fine and so will be jailed. And sex workers will have yet another layer of criminalization to push them even further underground.

  154. Jadey
    Jadey November 8, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    @ Aishlin

    Actually, my first concern was sex workers, and I commented to this effect and still feel very strongly that this sort of legislation would be very much used in that capacity whenever an opportunity would arise. But I want to reiterate that men are part of their communities – actions that disproportionately harm men of colour also harm the communities to which they belong. Women in general are not incarcerated to the same rates as men (although women of colour are also disproportionately targeted and incarcerated compared with white women), but that does not mean that there are not many different ways in which they are also impacted by this kind of approach.

    Also, my point is not entirely that men who do not do these things will be arrested (although that certainly would be a shitty outcome). My point is that even arresting only men who do these things will not actually help anyone. It won’t deter others, it won’t likely deter the people arrested and charged (and will put them in a position to be even more likely to commit crimes, because that is the known effect that incarceration overwhelmingly has), and it won’t change the environment on the street.

    In terms of alternatives, part of the problem is that there is not a lot of support or momentum for actually researching, developing, and testing alternative approaches to situations like these, which is why I phrased that part of my comment the way I did, so I can’t say, “Yes, this specific approach will work for sure!” That being said, because this is a big chunk of my professional vocation, I will say that I personally would start by looking into a) community-based measures developed in concert with as many local stakeholders as possible (which may also mean addressing other community issues that are creating barriers) and using their intimate knowledge of the situation and investment in successful outcomes combined with adequate external support and resources as the bedrock for success, b) looking toward environmental prevention approaches like CPTED and Routine Activities Theory, which might take the form of deliberating populating troubled areas with the unarmed and peaceful presence of invested stakeholders (this could even be off-duty cop volunteers, if that were appropriate for a given community – the point would be simply to be there and bring a new context to the use of the area that would not be pro-harassment, not to be intimidating and defensive. This is the solution I have used to prevent bullying among children I was supervising – just being around and among them as a positive presence with a clear no-bullying policy already established eliminated all casual bullying. This is not a magic bullet all-in-one solution because there are a lot of factors involved, but it can be effective, especially when combined with other approaches), and c) targeting populations at risk for offending at as young an age as possible with relevant and accessible information and challenges to pro-harassment values, which might look something like this.

    All of these approaches have at their core community capacity-building and a deliberate focus on sustainable, productive ends that minimize unnecessary contact with the formal criminal justice system (which anyone who works in any capacity of a criminal justice system will quickly assure you is the best thing for EVERYONE, unless that person is deeply invested in reaping capital from incarceration). They are also complex, potentially resource-intensive, and by no means easy or quick – so they do have that in common with the criminal legislation approach.

    And there is evidence that these kinds of approaches can and do work (and that criminalizing approaches have the effects I have described), but I will not be doing a pro bono lit review without a specific cause to support with it. Google and Google Scholar can be quite helpful, however.

    @ Politicalguineapig

    I’ve made this point several times in this thread already, but what will happen when they can’t pay their fines?

  155. Donald
    Donald November 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    Britain has a law which could be used against most street harrassment. It criminalises repeated unwanted contact and was originally brought in to protect people from stalkers. In general the police require a pattern of behaviour over a significant period of time before they will prosecute. However one case involved a person writing two emails to the managing director of a major company complaining about something the company was doing. The judge ruled that two communications was sufficent to count as harrassment and the person was convicted. So in Britain the legislation is there but has it ever been used in this way? No – for the most part it is used where there is evidence of a threat but not enough to gain a conviction. Only those with considerable priviledge have any chance of getting the police to take more minor harrassment seriously.

    I’m a bit surprised to see the argument that making more offences will have no effect on the prosecution of existing offences. Every police force I’ve ever heard of has insufficent resources so every time a new offence is added one of three things happens:
    1. The police ignore the new offence.
    2. The police divert resources from other matters to give priority to the new one.
    3. The offence becomes another charge to add to the list when they want to charge someone.
    I’m not sure how these alternatives are going to improve anything.

    @Natalia
    Dubai’s laws against sexual harrassment work because of the relative status of the people involved. The laws were aimed to protect the wives and daughters of Arab men from ‘guest workers’ – mostly temporary immigrants from Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philipines. I very much doubt there would be any protection for a female guest worker who was harrassed by an Arab man.

  156. William
    William November 8, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    This thread smacks of “What about the men?” with queer women, trans women, women of color and women with disabilities thrown in as an afterthought and without much attention to the specific circumstances and needs of women in these categories.

    I’m confused as to how you’re getting “what about the men?” from any of the people who find legislation problematic. Thats doubly true when trans* folk, queer women, and women of color are likely to be targets of any law against harassment as such a law will be interpreted by police in whatever way is necessary to justify the oppression with which they are already used. Any law against harassment is going to be used to go after women whose partners discover that they have (or once had, or might have once had) the “wrong” genitals, its going to be used against queer women who glance at (or are perceived to glance at) straight women in the “wrong” way, it is going to be used by racists to target people of color who are perceived to be engaging in “unacceptable” mixing. If there was any hope that such a law would also be used to protect women, perhaps we could be having an unsettling utilitarian discussion about maximizing good. Thing is, I’m just not confident that a new law is suddenly going to convince police (who, lets face it, are often harassers themselves) who haven’t given two shits about women to suddenly care.

    You, I, and pretty much everyone in this thread care about the specific needs of specific groups of women. Some of us just aren’t convinced that police and prosecutors who have yet to show any inkling of concern are going to look at a law against harassment as anything other than another tool to go after the kinds of people they see as being the root of all social ills. No one here is saying “what about the menz?” A lot of people are saying “this looks like a bait-and-switch.”

  157. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm |

    Kristen J: What exactly do sex workers have to do with this? Men don’t get sexually harrassed, and they wouldn’t report it anyway.
    Jadey: Well, if I were making the law, I’d put in some real vile community service as an alternative: shoveling roadkill, garbageman for a day, etc. Alternatively, they could be taken through a sort of ‘scared straight’ course.

  158. Natalia
    Natalia November 9, 2010 at 4:56 am |

    @Aishlin,

    I’m not sure why you believe that this discussion is illegitimate. The original question was – should we legislate against verbal street harassment? Jill thinks no. Some people think yes. Others also think no. There are reasons for and against that have been discussed here.

    I’ve been a victim of totally evil street harassment, so downplaying the issue is personally not in MY best interest, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that from anyone on this thread. However, I firmly believe that community-based responses are needed to address this problem. Right now, harassment is still a kind of bizarre “norm” – and the victim is automatically mistrusted. I mean, the questions are standard: What was she wearing? Why was she walking alone? Did she “encourage” that dude somehow? Etc.

    This attitude is extremely dangerous, but there are ways to appeal against it. I think this will involve a joint effort – with allies who are not necessarily feminist or not explicitly feminist. It can often start with something small. A relative of mine (a guy who votes Republican, btw) owned a coffeeshop in a strip mall and started noticing guys who made a habit of harassing women while technically on his property – so he began banning them. Then he spoke to the retailers and restaurant owners next door – and they began implementing similar policies. A cafe owner saw a dude yelling “I’d like to fuck that!” at a pair of teenage girls, came out, and said, “you’re not welcome, don’t do that in front of my cafe.” I don’t know what it’s like now, but it was obviously a safer place then. A lot changes if you have a community code of conduct. Likewise, when I lived in Amman, I knew there were places were I could go and expect other people to protect me if I needed protection. My gym was one – any guy who tried to get up in a woman’s face had his membership revoked real quick. It didn’t make life in Amman easier – harassment was one of the main reasons I left – but it gave me good examples of what works.

    @Donald,

    As I mentioned, what works in Dubai is the idea that harassment is inappropriate. What works is a community standard that people tend to observe. If there was no community standard, the law would be meaningless. I lived there, an obviously foreign woman, surrounded by other obviously foreign women – and as I mentioned before, it’s a society with problems (where Arab males often get preferential treatment), but it doesn’t mean that it’s only local women or even white foreigners who benefit from being able to walk down the street unmolested. When I first moved to Dubai, most of my neighbours were from the Philippines – the women regularly pointed out how much better it was in Dubai than elsewhere. This doesn’t mean that racism somehow magically disappeared from society, but once again, it gave a good example of what can work.

  159. Kayle
    Kayle November 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm |

    Natalia: I am strongly tempted to agree with GallingGalla wrt solutions to street harassment.
    I would put it this way: both Dubai and Jordan technically have laws on the books (and broad laws at that, from what I understand) that prohibit street harassment. Yet for some reason, it’s fairly easy to walk down the street in Dubai if you’re a woman, and it can be extremely difficult in Jordan – I know, because I’ve lived in both places (and though looking distinctly E. European made me more of a target – most Jordanian women will also tell you that they’re downright sick of getting harassed. It even happens to women in full niqab – so you know right away that dress is not the big issue here.) Why? Because local society in Dubai became outraged by instances of harassment, and they set the tone. Harassment is seen as completely unacceptable by most Emiratis you speak to. Jordanian men in particular, on the other hand tend to think that it’s either a) “a compliment” or b) “kinda bad, but what can you realistically do about it? At least it’s not as bad as in Egypt!”The law, I’m afraid, doesn’t make a meaningful difference in this case. What makes a difference is when people understand that This Shit Ain’t Right – and act accordingly.  

    biggups. “this shit ain’t right…” In the case of the NYC discussions (where street harassment is now illegal), the best point made was that this kind of unwanted attention tends to happen when the woman is on her way somewhere or it would be unsafe to remain in the area until the police come in order to press charges. Sadly, it took the national guard to make people agree with desegregation in the US, but they had to have something to enforce. The culture does have to change, but I’m not sure that people ignoring the law is the best argument against making it a law.

  160. Usually Lurking
    Usually Lurking November 12, 2010 at 9:34 am |

    Aishlin 11.7.2010 at 1:48 am

    Jadey, I’m mostly objecting to the rhetoric people are using to oppose this. I definitely don’t have the legal knowledge to be able to make helpful suggestions about actual laws. It does seem, though, that as others have mentioned earlier in the thread many of the same impracticalities and the potential for injustice are also present in laws against rape and domestic violence.

    Yes, but those are different things.

    We have decided as a society that rape and domestic assault are objectively horrible. Rape is one of the historic felonies, punishable by death. So we’re willing to try to stop them, even if there are downsides to the effects of doing so and even if we do a bad job at it.

    We have similarly decided that street harassment (and why limit it to taking place on the street?) isn’t in that category.

    I am NOT saying that harassment is OK. But you need to accept that different crimes are different levels of “bad,” and that different levels also control the appropriate level of prevention or response.

    While I don’t like the thought of any government abuse at all, I can theoretically accept a certain potential for government abuse of the rape law, if it does enough to reduce rapes and/or prosecute rapists. But I won’t make that tradeoff for less value: I’m not willing to live with those identical problems for harassment.

    That applies to enforcement, punishment, and anything else.

    I’m willing to have the cops kick down a door to stop a rape or a beating; I’m not willing to have them kick down a door to stop a verbal harassment. I’m willing to have the cops chase down, tackle, and handcuff a fleeing suspect for rapes or assaults. I’m not willing to have them do that to someone suspected of saying something offensive, no matter how offensive.

    So yes, they are in the same category but no, they shouldn’t be treated the same way.

    This is even more the case because compared to rape and domestic assault, harassment is more widespread. The potential pool of accused harassers is pretty much the entire society–anyone within verbal range of anyone else–and therefore that functionally gives the government even more power and makes discretion even more problematic.

  161. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    Usually Lurking:We have decided as a society that rape and domestic assault are objectively horrible.
    Um, when was this? They’re prosecuted half-heartedly, and most of the time the perp’s let off with a wink and a nod.
    My reasoning behind prosecuting street harrassment is that if you can nip bad behavior in the bud, you will then prevent rape and domestic assault, most of which happen because men don’t think women are human. It’s simple behavioral conditioning.

  162. Jadey
    Jadey November 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: My reasoning behind prosecuting street harrassment is that if you can nip bad behavior in the bud, you will then prevent rape and domestic assault, most of which happen because men don’t think women are human. It’s simple behavioral conditioning. Politicalguineapig

    Not to beat a dead horse, but no valid behavioural research in the world supports this with regard to the behaviour you are talking about. It’s a scientifically defunct position. In fact, as I have attempted to point out above, the measures you describe tend to have the exact opposite effect in real-world outcomes.

    I say this not to pick on you or turn this into the Jadey-centric zombie!thread that won’t die, but because there is genuinely an pervasive general misapprehension in terms of what doesn’t work and what does work with regard to antisocial behaviour* prevention, partly due to the failure of researchers and policymakers to disseminate information effectively and partly due to factors among the general population that reduce receptivity to or interest in this kind of information.

    *I am saying “antisocial” because, as this discussion demonstrates, not all rejected social behaviours are necessarily crimes (and not all crimes are necessarily rejected social behaviours). Specifically, I am using the word in its psychological (non-pathological) context, as described in the Wikipedia article linked above. Just so there’s no confusion.

  163. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 15, 2010 at 11:55 am |

    Jadey: Feminists have been trying to make men care about women for 50+ years. By and large, it hasn’t worked. Relying on ‘education’ and talky-talk has gotten women nowhere. But hitting the guys in the pocketbook might actually persuade them. If guys had to pay fines, they’d learn to keep their mouths shut. If they had to pay a testosterone tax to public safety, they might actually start caring about the women who are threatened by their presence.
    Alternatively, like I said, eliminate opportunities for men to socialize. Roaming packs of men, especially groups like fraternities, are a huge risk to women’s safety.

  164. Jadey
    Jadey November 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm |

    You have a very narrow view of alternatives and of the people who would be affected by this kind of legislation. I maintain that this is an intersectional issue, and not just well-funded frat boys vs. [middle-class white] women.

  165. Donald
    Donald November 16, 2010 at 7:30 pm |

    @Politicalguineapig
    Nobody cares about abstract groups like ‘women’ or ‘men’ or ‘americans’. They care about individuals. It takes more than a minority complaining to change social attitudes. Legislation combined with education can work provided it is backed up by a consensus that it is necessary and proportionate. I’m thinking of drink driving legislation here – it was introduced on the basis that drink driving killed people and that justified restricting people’s freedom to do both at the same time. It took at least a decade before it was generally accepted that it was your fault if you lost your licence to drive because you had been drinking.

    There isn’t such a consensus over remarks which many people find offensive so the people fined will regard themselves as martyrs. That’s assuming you can write legislation which criminalises the speech you find threatening without infringing the right to freedom of speech. And you really don’t want to be doing that or every religious nutcase will claim to be offended by your opinions.

  166. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla November 16, 2010 at 8:17 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: If they had to pay a testosterone tax to public safety, they might actually start caring about the women who are threatened by their presence.

    Oh dear, here’s the inevitable biological essentialism. Like no woman or non-binary person ever lifted a finger or used abusive language against another person. Ok, now we’re on the slippery slope to transphobia, folks … cuz we all know that trans woman are “really men” and vice versa, right?

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