French anti-catcalling law spurs conversation

Culture Editor: Print Naz Ozturk

In July, Marie Laguerre was walking home after work in Paris when a man she did not know started shouting inappropriate remarks at her. Laguerre kept walking, but the man continued to make lewd comments, and finally, Laguerre turned around and told him to stop. At that moment the man picked up an ashtray from a nearby cafe, threw it at the woman’s head and continued to physically attack her.

After this CCTV video of Laguerre’s experience with the catcaller went viral in France and around the world. As a result, French authorities moved to criminalize catcalling. In an attempt to decrease the risk of sexual, physical and verbal harassment, catcalling in France is now illegal and will be met with an immediate fine of €750 (£658).

Amelie Angelov (’19) believes that the implementation of this new law “discourages men from thinking that catcalling is something that is normal and that they have a right to do.” She believes that catcalling impacts all women, regardless of where they live. Therefore, she hopes to see similar laws enforced in other countries such as the U.K. “I have been catcalled in London,” she said, “so it would be reassuring to know that a law is in place.”

Moreover, Angelov feels that a fine for catcalling is a justifiable idea as it demoralizes catcalling and draws attention to the fact that verbal harassment isn’t something that should be brushed aside.

Like Angelov, Josh Quarderer (’19) believes that the law would be beneficial in discouraging verbal harassment. However, Quarderer questions if the law can actually live up to its purpose as it could be difficult to execute. “I just think that enforcing the law could be hard because it happens a lot,” he said. Additionally, Quarderer doesn’t find that the law is necessary; rather, he believes that even though catcalling shouldn’t be normalized, “police forces can be better used.”

Furthermore, Quarderer thinks that the fine should have different variations as there are different variations and degrees of verbal harassment. “[The amount of the fine] should depend on the situation and how far a person has gone when harassing someone and how much damage they are actually doing to the person,” he said.

In reaction to the catcalling ban in France, Reagan Skaggs (‘21) believes that “this new law can really change things for the better.” Skaggs believes that catcalling is something that is often dealt with in big cities and therefore “being charged for it makes sense.”  

Skaggs hopes that the law can help diminish the threat of verbal and physical harassment for everyone. Moreover, Skaggs thinks that the fine for catcalling may seem steep but that a high fine will lead to people thinking twice about the way they act and things they say when approaching someone on the street. “I think [the high fine] would also cause [catcalling] not to happen as much compared to if the fine was lower,” she said.

Angelov is also convinced that the law would be beneficial for society. She views the large fine as a cautionary regulation that would further make people think about the purpose of the law: conveying that although catcalling may seem harmless, it can actually have quite detrimental effects on the people who are victims of it. “When you are discouraging that behavior and you have that law in place it will make people think about why that law is in place, why catcalling is bad,” she said.

Further, Angelov hopes that the law will “help solve the problem of inequality between men and women when people start to think and learn about why those difference are there and how ridiculous they are.”

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