Echoing tourism ad, HollabackPhilly respectfully disagrees with approach

A Philadelphia nonprofit aimed at stopping catcalls and other unwanted comments in public has a new target: the city’s tourism corporation.

The anti-street harassment group HollabackPhilly has launched a new advertisement in response to a 2012 billboard on Broad Street by Visit Philadelphia, which read, “Dear Walking This Way, I Like The Way You Move It Move It. With Love, Philadelphia.”

Rochelle Keyhan, director of HollabackPhilly, said the ad normalized the street harassment of women. She walked by it regularly on her way to work.

“I felt street-harassed by the billboard every single day,” she said. “It’s definitely validating to harassers and really disempowering to people who have been harassed.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Meryl Levitz, CEO of Visit Philadelphia, said the ad was inspired by the song “I Like to Move It” in the children’s film “Madagascar 3.” She said the corporation has written hundreds of ad lines since the billboard was removed more than a year ago, and none of them have received complaints.

Still, Levitz met with HollabackPhilly and said she understands the group’s point.

“Every ad line that we’ve looked at since, we’ve thought of it in as many different contexts as we can … because the idea of all the ads, of course, is to attract people to come to Philadelphia,” said Levitz. “The ads would never be meant to purposefully offend anyone.”

HollabackPhilly’s retort to the Visit Philadelphia billboard went up on a bus shelter on 16th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard this month. With font and graphics similar to the tourism corporation’s ad, the new billboard has a slightly different message: “Dear Walking This Way, Welcome To The City of Brotherly Love (And Sisterly Affection). Our Streets Are Your Streets. With Love, (And Respect) Philadelphia.”

Levitz said she has seen HollabackPhilly’s ad and has no negative feelings about it. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“We like it,” she said. “It’s a terrific ad.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal