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A catcall crisis? That’s a hoot
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By Andrea Peyser
October 31, 2014

A catcall crisis? That’s a hoot

Calm down, ladies. Chill, gentlemen. And members of the group referred to by the newly politically correct term “queer’’ need to get over themselves.

A catcall isn’t even close to sexual assault. Unsolicited compliments do not rise to the level of abuse, physical or psychological. Listen up, people —it is not a national emergency that women (and men) walking the streets of New York City may be forced to hear the words “sexy,’’ “bless you, mami’’ and “damn girl!’’ uttered by strangers.

But the radical feminist activists have spoken. And killjoys who take themselves way too seriously have issued a message that risks impeding the free speech rights of crude guys (and possibly women) who express their appreciation of physical beauty in clumsy ways.

A video was posted on YouTube Tuesday entitled “10 Hours of Walking in NYC’’ by the international nonprofit group Hollaback! The organization exists to protect infantilized women, men, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and queers (did I leave out anyone?) from the tyranny of “street harassment.’’

Over the last few days, I’ve been visually assaulted, against my will, as the 1 minute, 56 second video clip has been turned into a public-service announcement that’s continually played amid TV news programs. It shows aspiring actress Shoshana Roberts, 24, walking city streets in a black T-shirt, snug jeans and with a grumpy look on her face as she’s secretly videotaped by Rob Bliss. According to Hollaback! the gal endured 108 strangers’ comments during her stroll, most of them of the “nice!’’ variety. But one guy followed Roberts, according to the org, in silence for five minutes. Another bugged her with “You don’t want to talk? Because I’m ugly?’’ Yet another demanded that she say “thank you.’’ And so on.

Hollaback! finds this downright threatening.

Street harassment “exists on a spectrum including ‘catcalling’ or verbal harassment, stalking, groping, public masturbation and assault,’’ reads a post on the Hollaback! Web site. No evidence was provided to show that oral displays of admiration are on the same plane as stalking, groping, public self-gratification or assault.

The harassment “constantly reminds subordinated groups (women and LGBT folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces,’’ the site continued. “Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist.’’ I get it. More than half the population can be victimized by mainly-male brutes!
“We’re not children,’’ a female friend told me. “Walk away or tell the creep to get lost. It works.’’

As The Post’s Doree Lewak bravely wrote in August, “And when I know I’m looking good, I brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and ‘Hey, mama!’ catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!’’ The piece was headlined, “Hey ladies, catcalls are flattering! — deal with it’’.

In 2011, with the cheering of former Speaker Christine Quinn, Hollaback! received a $20,000 taxpayer-paid grant from the New York City Council to be used to update its mobile app. Released last year, the free app for iPhone and Android devices allows complainers to report street harassment ordeals to their council members, but not to police. Why?

That’s likely because going after a non-touching fiend — one who utters an un-asked for “smile!’’ for example — would stomp on the speaker’s Constitutional right to free speech.

Only if the alleged nitwit’s language or gestures are abusive or obscene can the person be charged with disorderly conduct, a violation that carries a fine up to $250 and/or 15 days in jail. The person can be charged with harassment, a violation that carries the same penalties — but only if the accused harasser alarms or seriously annoys an alleged victim at least twice.

But we’re talking about crude flattery, not scary behavior.

New York’s women (and men and… you know) need to grow up. Tell street harassers to get lost. Call the police if it’s warranted. Or enjoy the catcalls, if that’s your fancy.
Crisis solved.

©2007-2024 Andrea Peyser and; No Reuse without permission.
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