These women are trying to put an end to street harassment. Let's join them.
A video that quickly went viral yesterday featured actress Shoshana Roberts and the 108 times she was harassed on the street while walking silently around New York City for ten hours. The PSA was created as part of the ongoing crusade to put an end to street harassment. But campaigns to end the ubiquitous scourge of catcalling and the violence that can sometimes result from incidents of street harassment are popping up all over. Women and men have worked on all kinds of creative ways to speak out, from Twitter campaigns to harassment maps to taking portraits of their harassers. We should join them. Here are just a few ways women everywhere are working to end street harassment.
1. Stop telling women to smile
A public art campaign by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Stop Telling Women to Smile started in 2012 when Fazlalizadeh began tacking up paper posters of women with quotes of how they felt about street harassment. The portraits soon gained national popularity, and Fazlalizadeh has put them up around the country, using the experiences and faces of real women who encounter catcallers every day. “I thought it was important to talk about street harassment where it actually happens,” she writes on her website. “I thought it was important to speak up for myself.”
An international organization devoted to putting an end to street harassment, Hollaback! is the organization behind Shoshana Roberts’ video. They operate in 26 countries, organizing local activists and providing resources for women. Executive Director Emily May has spoken at college campuses across the country on the subject of street harassment and what the world would look like without it.
One of their neatest innovations is their Hollaback mapping app, which allows women to report and document incidents of street harassment, and share them with other women. “Hollaback! was designed by a group of young folks who were tired of being silenced and sought a simple, non-violent response,” their website explains. “What has emerged is a platform where thousands of stories of street harassment have been told.”
3. Cards Against Street Harassment
A woman named Lindsey created these handy mini-pamphlets to hand out to catcallers on the street, as reminders that the behavior is not cool. Samples: “Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy” and “Be a better man. Don’t comment on random people on the street.” and “It’s not a compliment and I don’t like it.” They’re available to print out and distribute here.
Brooklyn artist Elana Adler hit upon a way to turn the harassment she was experiencing into fodder for beautiful, delicate needlepoints in a striking project called, You Are My Duchess. It’s a good example of how to communicate the unpleasantness of street harassment into art.
A Twitter campaign started by activist Feminista Jones, #YouOKSis is a way of checking in on other women experiencing harassment. Jones hoped particularly to address the way that women of color experience catcalling, and to break the cycle of silence around those incidents. “If you just talk to the person who is the focus of the harassment, you’re placing yourself in the moment and giving that person an out,” Jones told the Grio. “It’s something that breaks up the situation and diverts attention from the victim.”
6. Hey Baby
Photographer Caroline Tompkins did a project in which she took photo portraits of her street harassers. The pictures are striking, and they also opened up discussion about the way the people choose to deal with catcalls. ““It creates a forum to discuss a daily occurrence that most women feel they are powerless to,” she explained.
7. Safe Cities Global Initiative
A project from the United Nations, the Safe Cities Global Initiatives aims to make the streets safer places for women all over the world who experience harassment and assault. Per their website: “Although violence in the private domain is now widely recognized as a human rights violation, violence against women and girls, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to prevent and address it.”