Using terms like “catcalls,” “wolf whistles,” and “eve-teasing” to describe street harassment negates the seriousness of the problem. The terms make the behavior seem funny and cute-sy. The terms make it easy for people to dismiss women’s complaints and to stand by as men continue to harass women. (And can you imagine a similar type of “funny” phraseology for racial harassment? Wouldn’t happen, hasn’t happened.)
I use these terms grudgingly, when I think I must because they’re what people understand or when I’m reporting on a source that’s used them.
So I’m overjoyed by the news that Bangladesh’s high court ordered that incidents of harassment have to be called sexual harassment, not eve-teasing. (via Dawn.com):
“Bangladesh`s high court recently ruled [that] the term downplays the seriousness of such crimes. The court said this in response to a class action lawsuit filed by legal activists after a number of teenaged women committed suicide, reportedly due to stalking and harassment. Police would often dismiss such crimes as innocent mischief caused by young men.“
And here’s more via Sify.com:
“The court also ruled that stalking, either physically or electronically, must be considered sexual harassment.
From January to November 2010, 26 women and one father of a bullied girl committed suicide, and 10 men and two women were murdered after protesting against sexual harassment, according to a Bangladeshi rights group.
Since coming to power in December 2008 the Awami League government has launched a crackdown, including stationing undercover police in playgrounds to prevent young males from molesting female pupils.”
Nice work, Bangladeshi activists!
Now we need to get rid of the term “catcall” in the United States!!