HollabackPHILLY launched their new Anti-Street Harassment Transit ad campaign this week, and the results are pretty awesome. Working in conjunction with Feminist Public Works, an organization that “promotes public awareness about the safety and well-being of women,” the ads are comprehensive, thorough, and cover a wide variety of street harassment topics including defining and explaining street harassment, LGBTQ-specific harassment, encouraging intervention, and providing information on how to intervene safely.
BuzzFeed spoke to Feminist Public Works and HollabackPHILLY director Rochelle Keyhan, who told them:
“We were frustrated at how many people had no idea what we meant when we said ‘street harassment’ despite having knowledge of the behavior from either experiencing, perpetrating, or witnessing it. So, we decided to find a way to expand the conversation beyond our individual workshops to a broader, more accessible forum, like advertising.”
This should feel pretty relatable to anyone who’s heard “wait, what is street harassment?” or “he was just complimenting you,” as we all have heard at some point or another.
These ads look great to me, and I’m especially enthused by the number of bases they covered. Instead of only focusing on intervention by bystanders, or vaguely saying “street harassment sucks,” the ads call out actual aggressors, most effectively by defining street harassment. Furthermore, the ads that say things like “your friend says the following gross term–are you okay with that?” is also a pretty decent way of calling out aggressors in a non-threatening way. If you’re not okay with your friends doing it, you’ll think twice about doing it yourself.
The ads will be placed in subway cars, stations, and bus shelters all over Philadelphia, and given how often public transportation is the scene of harassment, that placement seems spot on. Actually, I take that back. The placement is great because everyone rides the bus or subway, but street harassment happens every place you can possibly imagine.
Ultimately, these ads succeed because they inform, put the responsibility on harassers to stop and on people who are privileged enough not to be harassed to intervene safely (street harassment can easily turn dangerous, and so intervening in a safe way is a good idea whenever possible), and don’t blame the people getting catcalled. Hopefully these ads will get at least some people to rethink the way they speak to strangers on the street, and affect some positive change.