I had no intentions of talking about specific legal definitions but since you brought it up (…is a charge) I suppose I should mention that a single cat call would not be considered harassment because it is neither systematic nor is it continued. Additionally, I would argue (and I will) that it is a word with made up connotations, especially in, but not limited to, colloquial speech, which is what I was talking about in my original post and what I will, unless noted otherwise, be talking about in the rest of this post.
You stated that being ignored by a long time friend isn’t harassment because it doesn’t make you feel “unsafe, annoyed, or /harassed/”. I think it’s fair to assume that the possibility exists for someone to find that situation annoying. Based on that assumption (challenge it if you like), would it be fair to say that being ignored by a long time friend could constitute harassment?
I understand that harassment exists on a spectrum – I don’t see any way around that fact. However, a spectrum, where on one end is a smile and on the other is stalking, is entirely useless in any practical sense. This spectrum, and the qualities you assigned to harassment, allow me to make the claim that you harassed me by posting your response. Let me clarify, and note that I’m using this to make a point, not because I genuinely feel harassed:
“If you decide to cat call a woman and they feel threatened by it, it isn’t ‘hurting their feelings.’ That is harassment. Also, harassment is a charge that can be placed upon you.” [emphasis mine]
It’s offensive and annoying for you to imply that I would threaten anyone; and the combative and direct nature of the post makes me feel unsafe. The potential exists for someone to read your post and, in a reactionary fit, send me hate mail, threats, or any number of things.
An example based on the “annoyed” qualification could be something as simple as a bumper sticker stating an opposing viewpoint. I could find it annoying that someone might think my views are wrong.
An objection to this could be that it’s not harassment because there’s no way someone could feel harassed by a bumper sticker. My response to that would be that an argument from personal incredulity is no argument at all and if you can easily dismiss this as a “no way situation” then I could equally, and just as validly, dismiss your claim that a cat call is harassment as a “no way situation”. Another objection could be that because it’s not directed at you it can’t be considered harassment. Using the bumper sticker I linked above, if I were a republican, I could easily claim that it’s directed at me. If we were to extrapolate this we would have to say that expressing any opposing viewpoint in public, no matter the medium, is harassment.
If I were walking down the street and off in the distance is a man standing on the corner that I find physically intimidating. He could be muscular with tattoos, black with baggy clothes, a police officer, or a clown; it doesn’t matter so long as I feel intimidated by him. I see him and feel that my life could be in danger by walking any further. This is an example of harassment using your “unsafe” qualification.
A potential objection to this could be that he isn’t actually doing anything to you. On the contrary, the man on the corner is causing stress in the same fashion as the cat caller, through sensory perception, albeit a different faculty. Also, you can’t make an objection based on intentions because in each case, the intimidating man and the cat caller, their true intentions are unknown. At this point you must either concede that a cat call isn’t harassment or you must accept that a person’s presence alone is harassment.
- Perhaps you meant that it’s harassment only when all conditions are met – that is to say, it must be annoying, unsafe, and harassing. (We’ll have to ignore the third condition because defining harassment as being harassed is circular.) In that case, imagine that I see the same intimidating man driving down the road in the car with the annoying bumper sticker. Does this allow for a prima facia harassment suit? You have no choice but to say it does – unless you have changed your mind since your response.
In closing, because of ambiguity, the currency of the idea (harassment) has been distorted, so much in fact, that it’s to the point where it’s value has been completely diminished. Furthermore, it’s very clear that, primarily due to unintended consequences, a once philanthropic idea has been turned into, essentially, a “nonword” by the very people looking to create the paradigm shift; and as a result they have trivialized everything they stood for.