If you're a woman and you've been outside, chances are, someone has whistled, hollered, or muttered "daaaaaaaaaamn" — unsolicited — at you. Street harassment is so prevalent that Hollaback factions have sprung up around the world. Unwanted sexual attention is offensive, irritating, intimidating, depressing and violating. But a council of Europe convention that UK Prime Minister David Cameron signed today to mark International Women's Day is not advocating for arresting guys who whistle at women — despite reports to the contrary.
According to the Telegraph, Cameron's official spokesman has downplayed the issue of street intimidation, pointing out that more importantly, those who rape or "seriously harm" women will be prosecuted in the UK country if charges are not brought abroad. Cameron is more intent on explicitly criminalizing stalking. Of course, the "wolf-whistle" angle is getting lots of play from media outlets, as though they want dudes to put down their newspapers and say, really, I can't whistle at a girl? This has gone too far. Seriously, there's a Daily Fail headline that reads, "You Want To Ban Men From Wolf-Whistling? Isn't That a Cute Idea, Sweetheart." Rick Dewsbury blames "militant feminists" for being "killjoys" and advises we "calm down, dears."
Cat-calling is not flattering, or harmless. It deeply affects victims, and creates an overall atmosphere in which a woman is an object at which to gawk, about which to fantasize, and not a human being. But the headlines about how just saying "morning, darling" will get you arrested just distract from the actual plans, which are to make sure British men accused of rape will stand trial in UK if they can't be tried overseas.
In a statement, Cameron says:
The agreement is not just a piece of paper. It's going to lift the standards of protection for women across Europe, give greater support for victims and, crucially, bring many more perpetrators to justice. By signing the convention we would ensure that British offenders who commit their crimes abroad would still face justice in our courts. We believe rapists and abusive men from the UK who seriously harm women should face the same fate wherever they commit the offence. Our message must be loud and clear: there must be nowhere to hide.
Kind of unfortunate that everyone's concentrating on the whistling instead.
Wolf-Whistling "Could Be Made Illegal" Under New European Convention [Telegraph]
Builders Beware: Wolf-Whistling Set to Become a Criminal Offence Under New European Rules [Mirror]
You Want To Ban Men From Wolf-Whistling? Isn't That A Cute Idea, Sweetheart [Daily Mail]
Wolf-Whistling Is Just The Start – Harassment Is Not Harmless [Guardian]
Image via SVLuma/Shutterstock.