Margaret Eby
January 28, 2015 6:00 am

The question of how, exactly, to respond to street harasser is one that has been hotly debated, well, everywhere. Do you confront them or ignore them? Do you attempt to take their lecherous leers as a compliment? Do you take their photo and publish it to shame them? Or film the experience and put it on the Internet? One PSA about street harassment has a novel idea: Prank them.

In the video, Everlast, which sponsored the PSA, found two men from Lima, Peru who were “repeat offenders” of catcalling and reached out to their mothers, who agreed to dress in diguise. And, yep, you called it: As the mother walk past their sons, they get harassed by their very own offspring. One of the women clocks her son over the head with a purse after he calls her literally the grossest name on Earth: “tasty panties.”

Needless to say, it’s very satisfying viewing. And it’s hard not to laugh. But it’s also fairly controversial. Because, let’s face it, the issue of catcalling isn’t a matter of making the worst offenders talk to their mothers and turning the issue into a joke doesn’t help anyone to take it seriously. We shouldn’t be making catcalling comedy, we should be focusing on the incredibly serious implications and deeply upsetting statistics: seven out of 10 women have been sexually harassed. Truly every day while we walk down the street little nuggets of harassment are thrown our way, and obviously that is not ok!

So what do we do about this pervasive problem? As Oscar Rickett points out in The Guardian, “All men do not need to be turned into monsters so that we all see women as mothers, daughters, friends and lovers whether we know them or not. The shaming of the Peruvian men by their mothers just shows us the poverty of some people’s imaginations. The message here is not that we need to take a beating with a leather handbag, but that we need to learn how to put ourselves in the shoes of other people. This means that men need to empathize with all women.”

And that really is the truth of the situation. It’s not comedy that the issue of catcalling needs, or vilification. What it needs is empathy, and perhaps that’s the only way we’ll be able to stop it.

Check out the video below and see how you feel about it.