HollabackPHILLY ad campaign aims to reduce ‘street harassment’

    New ads posted in SEPTA trains are a bid to start a conversation about “street harassment” including cat calls, unwelcome comments and inappropriate touching.

    One transit ad makes suggestions about ways to greet women in the subway: “Good morning” would welcome by most. “Hey sexy,” not so much.

    Anna Kegler helped craft the media effort for the group HollabackPHILLY. Many people have never heard the term “street harassment,” she said, so the posters equate that concept to something more familiar.

    “Workplace sexual harassment used to be very normalized and it was not considered a big deal at all,” Kegler said. “Now it’s something that’s completely unacceptable. So we’re hoping to make some of those connections and then, hopefully, get people to start thinking about street harassment along the same lines.”

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    When HollabackPHILLY’s director, Rochelle Keyhan, speaks with community groups, she often asks how many have been street harassed.

    “Most people don’t raise their hands,” Keyhan said. “Then we start asking how many of you have been followed home? How many of you have been uncomfortable on the subway because of attention you were getting from someone? How many of you have been grabbed, groped? How many of you have had vulgar things shouted at you. Then all of the hands start shooting up.”

    Keyhan said she’s not aware of any specific scientific studies on the health impacts of street harassment, but her group is working to share the many negative experiences reported by individual women. Researchers are also building a case using analogies to bullying directed at lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people.

    When people talk about street harassment, Keyhan said those experiences are often downplayed by “parents, friends, peers” who say “it’s just boys being boys” or “you’re being sensitive” or “get over it.”

    The ads will be posted on SEPTA’s Broad and Frankford lines throughout April. 

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