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Site Leader Rochelle’s Op-Ed was published in this week’s Inquirer! Check it out online!
Cross-Posted from Philly.com, originally posted Friday, April 12, 2013, 3:01 AM
For months, on my walk to work I passed a VisitPhilly.com billboard on Broad Street that read: “Dear Walking This Way, I like the way you move it move it. Love, Philadelphia, XOXO.”
On the mornings when I had already been harassed, the advertisement only reinforced how pervasive, accepted, and inevitable our city’s street harassment problem is. On the nights I was spared catcalls and whistles on the way home, this billboard reminded me to still be on guard and ready.
Street harassment is the most pervasive form of gender-based sexual violence. It limits the mobility of women and the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, and denies us the basic human right of feeling safe on public streets. Behind the “playful” language in the VisitPhilly billboard, and the dismissive “Can’t you take a compliment?” response, is the truth that sexually harassing comments in public are wrong. To say otherwise promotes the idea that people should not expect to feel safe on Philadelphia’s sidewalks.
The citizens of Philadelphia have had enough. From college and high school students creating public-service announcements, to community meetings where HollabackPhilly has been invited to speak, to an increasing number of reports of harassment on our blog and social media outlets, to large-scale rallies, Philadelphians are standing up and sharing their experiences with harassment.
It is time to move in a new direction. As a city, we need to start reversing the damage done by the negative, harassing behavior that too many find acceptable.
In response to the VisitPhilly billboard, HollabackPhilly decided to create its own ad campaign, coinciding with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and International Anti Street Harassment Week. We created public-service ads to start a broad public discussion about street harassment, and raised money to publish them on both the Broad Street and Market-Frankford subway lines.
The goal is to reach as many people as possible in a positive, accessible way. By familiarizing Philadelphians with the term “street harassment,” as well as the lasting effects of such behavior, we are encouraging a public conversation about how we can do a better job of creating a culture of support and safety. The next step involves a partnership with Philly artist Erin Filson to create an educational comic book to engage a younger audience about street harassment. We also hope to enlist more male allies to help us change the way Philadelphians interact in public.
We’re a small group of everyday citizens who are invested in creating a street culture all Philadelphians can be proud of. It’s time to stop ignoring street harassment. The longer we tolerate such behavior, the longer it will persist.
We invite you to add your voice to the conversation about how we can replace harassment with expressions of love and respect. As you ride the subway this month, keep an eye out for our ads and let us know what you think.
Don’t just walk on. Hollaback.
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