By Julia Nethero
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.
Thus SAFER: NYC was born! SAFER: NYC (Street Action For Equality & Respect) aims to end street harassment in a unique way: by mobilizing men to be part of the solution. We strongly believe that the issue of street harassment cannot be adequately solved without the engagement of men—being the source of the problem, men’s enthusiastic participation is essential to the truly ending street harassment. Our campaigns and messaging humanize the victims of street harassment by highlighting who—in men’s own lives—may be victims: their daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, etc. This serves as a reminder that by harassing others, they are harassing someone’s else’s family member or friend. This message personalizes the devastating impact of street harassment and will serve as a pivotal force for changing behavior.
So how do we actually engage and mobilize men? First, we created two videos that you can see here, as well as a four public service announcements that we will be premiering on New York City subways soon. Second, we are doing research on why men engage in street harassment, as there has never been research done on what specifically is going on in a man’s head when he harasses—We all know they’re not catcalling to get phone numbers so what are they getting out of the interaction? Armed with this research, we can design the most effective solutions and programs to address the root causes of street harassment. And lastly, we hold community building and awareness raising events, such as our debut comedy show that took place on November 19th! We had 7 amazing comedians speak to the absurdity of street harassment using humor, a tool which we believe is a great way to engage men in an otherwise uncomfortable conversation.
Backed by our research, our events and media campaigns create a new conversation about the role of men in ending street harassment. On the one year anniversary of SAFER: NYC, we are launching this blog to continue the conversation online between our events and programs. Please check back here for exciting news, thought provoking and hilarious commentary and updates! We have some great guest bloggers lined up for this spring, an FAQ series, and more!
And if you’d like to get more involved or just show your support, donate, sign up for our mailing list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on social media, and share this post! Thank you for being a part of the movement to end street harassment!