Editorial: Hey, jerk! Quit leering at me
'Hey, girl!" "Ain't that pretty!" "Smile for me, baby!"
The chorus of leers, whistles and lewd remarks is all too familiar to women of every age, shape, size and color as they make their way in the city.
The indignity of street harassment isn't a focus of the mayor's race or the mainstream press, but it's a real quality of life issue -- particularly for women and the LGBT community, two frequently targeted groups. Using city streets and public spaces is a fundamental right, and people shouldn't have to endure menacing or disrespectful behavior because of their gender or sexual orientation.
Although the problem is difficult to measure, national estimates suggest that nearly 80 percent of women have experienced catcalls, groping or other unwanted "sexual experiences" in public. A 2007 survey by the Manhattan Borough President's Office found that 63 percent of female respondents reported having been sexually harassed in the subway. For too long, it's just been seen as the way things are -- boys being boys. Now signs of change seem to be on the horizon.
Last week Hollaback!, a global network of activists, held a first-of-its-kind conference in the city to raise the profile of efforts to fight this repellant behavior. The event highlighted strategies about how to make streets less hostile. The group is also preparing to launch an app that allows users to report incidents directly to city officals.
In Brooklyn, the artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has been placing posters around Bedford-Stuyvestant with captions that directly challenge jerks on the street. With messages like "Stop telling women to smile" and "My name is not baby," Fazlalizadeh's work draws passersby in the broader community into a conversation about street harrasment.
Collectively, we should recognize street harrassment as serious and create an atmosphere where it's unacceptable. Only when we all speak up, even in small ways, will we change the culture of the city and send boorish beavior into retreat.