This is not a first amendment issue. It’s a public safety issue.
In the Downtown corridor of Miami, a woman can't walk a city block without facing this invasion. And it is an invasion. It’s not flirting. Smiling is flirting. Saying hello is within reasonable bounds. Nice shirt. Cool hair. That’s not catcalling or street harassment.
Let’s be clear about defining catcalling and street harassment. If you holla at someone repeatedly, follow them without consent, invade their space, grope or grab, sling insults and curse words, it's in the least a disturbance of peace and an invasion of one’s privacy, and at most, it’s sexual harassment, provoking and a slippery slope towards a possible assault or abuse, either physically or mentally.
It is against the law to use the first amendment to incite violence or lawlessness (Bradenburg v. Ohio).
We all have mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters, friends, classmates and neighbors who face needless harassment from strangers. In the British county of Nottinghamshire, street harassment is now considered a prosecutable hate crime.
By making catcalling a crime, an enforceable offense, not a hate crime yet, but an enforceable offense, perhaps with a ticket and fine, it calls attention to the issue and the incidents over time will occur less and less. This isn't a feminist issue.
It’s a societal problem.
Just this week, France is considering fining men for catcalling women.
Men are catcalled too but we all know the scales tip way more toward women.
Sure, labeling catcalling felonious is a reach and having local law enforcement police the issue could be complicated, but with the right leadership it isn’t asking too much, it’s asking for a little. What’s wrong with issuing a few tickets? Maybe put up a few signs.
Think of it like driving without a seatbelt. The more tickets cops issued, the more society buckled up. Or think of it in the vein of disturbing the peace, loitering, jaywalking or public indecency, all criminal offenses, but not always enforced.
This is common sense public safety, not a wedge issue.
Sexually harassing women does not have a counterpoint. Yet every once and awhile a window opens shedding continual light on an ugly persistent culture displaying harassment of women. Bill Cosby, the Access Hollywood Tape, the Fox News firings and now Hollywood producer Harvey Weinsten. All of these examples open up the window, we talk about the barbaric vile, but then the news cycle changes and the culture of harassment of women quietly continues. Let's use these windows to push towards change, maybe even legislation on the county or city level. There are 34 cities or municipalities in Miami Dade County. If City Commissioners in one city called attention to this issue, it would make national news.
What do we have to lose?
After all, it’s just the safety and security of a whole gender.