Somehow, catcallers expect women to answer their unsolicited commands with the face version of “why, yes! How sweetly may I acquiesce?” or else receive the name of “stuck up bitch” as they walk past.
SAFER: NYC is working to mobilize men in the movement to end street harassment--so what is street harassment? Is it the same thing as cat calling? wolf whistling? sexual harassment? groping?
In the last twenty years there has been an explosion of grassroots movements led by young men and women to create greater awareness of the issue of street harassment and find creative solutions to a complex societal issue. Here at SAFER: NYC, we believe the solution to ending street harassment is by changing the minds and behavior of men, particularly those men who engage in street harassment or simply do not consider it a genuine issue. And we’re in good company! For International Women’s Day, SAFER: NYC would like to highlight the work of two great organizations that are also working to engage men in the movement to end street harassment and are addressing the issue of violence head on.
Today we’re proud to present SAFERsquares: a pocket-sized card made for use by men or women, targets or witnesses of street harassment as a respectful, non-confrontational, educational tool against catcalling. SAFERsquares are conveniently packaged in pouches of five, perfect for your purse or wallet so that, when you need them, if you feel safe to do so, you can simply hand one over and keep on your way.
If you told me when I was in high school that I would found a feminist organization, you would have gotten heckled by that younger me. This was of course, in part, due to my misunderstanding of the word "feminist." My friends, the music I listened to, my environment, my role models all told me that word was for butch lesbians who believed in female superiority. I had no idea that it meant equality. I also had no idea that I could also unknowingly have been guilty of street harassment, specifically catcalling.
Like many women all over the world, I have been a victim of street harassment countless times over the course of my life—starting from the age of 13. Every cat call and wolf whistle, every prolonged stare and uncomfortable gaze is extremely frustrating, and makes me feel ashamed, embarrassed, and frankly pissed off. One year ago this month, after complaining to my boyfriend Joseph for the umpteenth time about harassment I had experienced that day, he said to me, “Well stop complaining and do something about it!” “Ok, but how? What can we do?” I replied. As a feminist and my partner, Joseph wanted to help stop this harassment too. Influenced by all the recent videos that had been flooding the Internet at that time, he suggested we make our own videos that specifically speak to men about street harassment because as a man, he often felt alienated by existing media. He made me realize that if we’re going to end street harassment, men have to be part of the solution too.