By Marcus Choong
A common issue faced by so many around us, yet nothing is changing
Come on now, show us a smile. A line used by parents to cheer up their child. A line used by sympathetic friends to reassure their friend. A line that unfortunately, has now been strongly associated with creepy detestable men lurking on sidewalks, leering at any unfortunate victim going about their day.
Street harassment, or catcalling as it is better known as, can be found everywhere, from the streets of New York to the slums of Manila. It has become so integrated with culture and lifestyles all around the world, that most people have seem to have just accepted it as set it stone, that women everywhere have learned to be thick skinned and turn a blind eye, that young girls are taught to just let it be or it could be worse. In the age of the #metoo movement, where rape and sexual assault is finally being addressed, catcalling is seen to be a smaller, inconsequential issue.
Some attempts at solving this issue have been made, with countries like France, passing laws recently in an attempt at outlawing street harassment. Even in places with clear laws against it, enforcers such as police officers still remain ignorant of the issue, and more likely, often times there is no one nearby to help the victim. In other places, the laws are so muddled and unclear, that most harassers are able to get away scot free. In America, where laws differ from state to state, it is so complicated that most times,victims have no way of defending themselves. Some victims have started movements in an attempt to combat this problem, but is nowhere close to solving it.
So now that we know that the traditional route of imposing or updating new laws to combat this would be ineffective or would take a long time before it starts to be effective, what else is left that we can do? Well, like everything in today’s world, how we educate our youth will come into play. A female friend of mine told me a story last year. In essence, she was in the middle of a run in her neighbourhood when suddenly two men on a motorbike starting following her while whistling and yelling phrases in a language she didn’t understand. With no one else around and her phone not on her, she didn’t know what to do except keep running and pray. Thankfully, the men
drove off after about five minutes and she reached home safely. However, since then, she has not gone for a run around that area again. The difference in our thought processes really struck me. We were the same age, more or less had grown up in the same place, yet while i had no idea that street harassment even existed in Malaysia, she was actively making steps in her life to avoid it.
This is an clear example of how society has adapted to the issue of street harassment, which is in a way is also relevant to sexual harassment. Much like sexual harassment, when it comes to street harassment, young boys are not told or educated about the problem at all, and instead, people focus on teaching girls how to act. By doing this, some boys will go on to be rude and disrespectful while even those who are morally sound will remain woefully ignorant. Furthermore, girls will learn that it is their fault if they get harrassed, and they should change their behaviour or clothing because of it. Young children need to be taught to treat everyone equally and respectfully just as much as they need to learn math and history.
For too long, street harassment has gone under the radar and the people in power need to step up and do something about it. Individuals have been forced to change their habits and routines just to accomodate a certain group of disgusting people. The world has adapted badly to this issue, and there is no easy and clear way out. Depressing isn’t it? Fear not, for as long as we continue to spread understanding, and educate the youth, slowly but surely we will overcome this issue. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. So come on now, show us a smile.
- Brinlee, Morgan. “Catcalling Laws Differ Depending On Where You Are In The US – Here’s What They Entail.” Bustle, Bustle, 17 Dec. 2018, www.bustle.com/p/laws-against-catcalling-in-the-us-are-kind-of-a-mess-heres-what-they-entail-9983984.
- Gill, Gurvinder. “Catcalling: Women Write in Chalk to Stop Street Harassment.” BBC News, BBC, 2 July 2018, www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-43718034.
- Fernandez, Sandy M. “LET’S TALK ABOUT RESPECT: No one should ever have to feel uncomfortable, pressured, or harassed, but that’s exactly what’s happening to teens–even at school. Take our quiz to see how much there is to know about what kind of behavior is and is definitely not OK.” Choices/Current Health, Mar. 2018, p. 14+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530829385/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=84ff01b9.