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New York - Lawmakers Probe Street Harassment of NYC Women

Published on: October 28, 2010 05:12 PM
By: AP
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New York - Whistles, catcalls and lewd come-ons from strangers are all too familiar to New York City women, who say they are harassed multiple times a day as they walk down the street. Now lawmakers are examining whether to do something to discourage it.

A City Council committee heard testimony Thursday from women who said men regularly follow them, yell at them and make them feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Advocates told stories of preteens and teenagers being hounded by adult men outside city schools and pleaded for government to address the problem.

“This is not our way of not being able to take a compliment,” said Nefertiti Martin, who testified at the hearing. “This is an issue of safety.”

Street harassment of women is as old as cities themselves and is common around the world, but the pushback against it is a more recent movement. Volunteer activists in Cairo are planning to launch a website, Harrasmap, where women can instantly report cases of leering, groping and other sexual threats.

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Soon, the group Hollaback, an organization formed five years ago to stand up to street harassment, will release a smart phone app allowing women everywhere to do the same.

Hollaback told councilmembers that women have left jobs, broken leases and skipped school all just to avoid incessant unwelcome advances from strange men they pass on their commutes.

Holly Kearl, author of “Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women,” said she informally surveyed more than 800 women from 23 countries and 43 states, and 99 percent of them had been harassed by strangers.

“Because of street harassment, from a young age women learn that public spaces are male territory,” Kearl said. “They learn to limit the places they go, they try not to be in public alone — especially at night — and when they are alone, they stay on guard.”

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, chair of the women’s issues committee that held the hearing Thursday, recalled learning as a young teen how to “speedwalk” to dodge certain men, and which corner stores she should always avoid.

“This harassment limits the rights and freedoms of women and girls to enjoy a simple walk outside,” she said.

The Associated Press heard similar stories from New York City women.

Kat Pope, 28, of Manhattan, said she quit going to her gym in the mornings because she was harassed so badly on her way there and back. Men at a construction site would whistle, stare and yell at her as she passed, every single day.

She still gets harassed in other locations, but it happens maybe once a week instead of daily.

“It feels disgusting,” she said. “In the moment, I feel helpless and I never know what to do to make it stop.”

Carrie Goodman, 27, a student who lives in Manhattan, said she hears a whistle or comment “once or twice a day.”

“It bothers me, but I just keep walking,” she said. Goodman is skeptical that lawmakers can do anything about it, though.

“You can’t really control what comes out of people’s mouths,” she said.

Hollaback is pushing the city to commission a study, a public awareness campaign and perhaps even legislation, including “no-harassment zones” around schools to protect young women.

“Too commonly, street harassment is believed to be the price women pay for living in New York City,” said its executive director, Emily May. “But we’re not buying it.”

Councilmembers said they are open to many of the ideas, but said they are in the early stages of exploring just what can be done. If there were to be legislation, a key issue would be enforcement, since the concept of no-harassment zones could encroach on First Amendment rights.

New York men who told the AP they have called out strange women on the street said they were doing it just to be friendly and seemed genuinely surprised that any attention can be unwelcome.

“We say hello, that’s all, nothing derogatory,” said Tony Alibrandi, 54, a construction worker taking a lunch break with several of his fellow workers. “We see a friendly face, we say hello.”

Terrence Beam, 41, said he had no problem with lawmakers investigating “whistling and howling and that sort of thing.”

“Yeah, because that would be harassment,” he said.



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Read Comments (21)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 28, 2010 at 05:40 PM Stop being a Prutza Says:

If you wont walk around like that people wont pick on you don`t you think?

It is disturbing that women walk around "asking" to get picked on and they blame the guy for whistling.

2

 Oct 28, 2010 at 05:42 PM Paskunyak Says:

.......And it's not fair to blind people either!

"..........said Nefertiti Martin...............". Who names their kid "Nefertiti"?

"Volunteer activists in Cairo".........Cairo, Egypt? Where the men run around in their pajamas or bedsheets all day and the women wear burqas and look like nuns without heads?...... Ich farshtay nisht!

3

 Oct 28, 2010 at 05:49 PM Anonymous Says:

Something could be done about the construction workers who are under federal contract, or even state or local contract, since sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace. Unfortunately, in EY, this kind of activity also occurs.

4

 Oct 28, 2010 at 05:52 PM harvey Says:

so many sickos on the street

5

 Oct 28, 2010 at 06:11 PM mewhoze Says:

this is ridiculous.
men have whisteled at women for a zillion years.
i think the next thing to report is people sneezing or coughing in the streets

6

 Oct 28, 2010 at 06:16 PM salmonfish Says:

Give it a couple of years and the parking officers would be able to ticket you for "talking"

7

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:01 PM YUDA20 Says:

I assure you that the harresment of woman depends on the tsnius of the woman, we can't ignore the weeknesess of men and when men see a very imodest women (I'm trying to keep my writing clean...) They stare and comment, if the woman would dress properly they would not invite unwanted attention, if men would go dressed with ninimal clothing they would also attracked unwanted comments from woman.

8

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:05 PM Shani_G Says:

Reply to #2  
Paskunyak Says:

.......And it's not fair to blind people either!

"..........said Nefertiti Martin...............". Who names their kid "Nefertiti"?

"Volunteer activists in Cairo".........Cairo, Egypt? Where the men run around in their pajamas or bedsheets all day and the women wear burqas and look like nuns without heads?...... Ich farshtay nisht!

Hashem yirachem. Im not sure which is worse, your dumb comment or your absolute ignorance.

9

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:19 PM yaakov doe Says:

Thankfully, - whistles, catcalls and lewd come-ons , don't come from members of our community. Some of these women are dressed so provocatively that they invite such attention and it has to be intentional. They certainly don't appear to be dressed that way for comfort. If these women would dress modestly as if they had some self respect the "problem" would disappear.

10

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:25 PM blahblah Says:

Reply to #1  
Stop being a Prutza Says:

If you wont walk around like that people wont pick on you don`t you think?

It is disturbing that women walk around "asking" to get picked on and they blame the guy for whistling.

Plenty of tzniusdige women get harassed too. NYC men are animals.

11

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:49 PM Babishka Says:

I can't believe how many commenters are saying "she asked for it." This is the same excuse that rapists give!

12

 Oct 28, 2010 at 07:53 PM mewhoze Says:

right #7, if men wore little clothing women would comment too. ''wax your back mister, nice beer belly, etc''

13

 Oct 28, 2010 at 08:15 PM Anonymous Says:

To #'s1, 7, & 9- You seem to think that only provocatively dressed women are the subject of harassing remarks, whistles, and lewd comments? There are plenty of modestly dressed women who are also harassed. Let us get over the "blame the victim" mentality. In 1970, a number of NYC women went to a number of sites where there were construction workers, and harassed them in reverse, to see how they would like it. The construction workers (they are cowards, when they are in a group) were not too appreciative.

14

 Oct 28, 2010 at 08:21 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

Reply to #7  
YUDA20 Says:

I assure you that the harresment of woman depends on the tsnius of the woman, we can't ignore the weeknesess of men and when men see a very imodest women (I'm trying to keep my writing clean...) They stare and comment, if the woman would dress properly they would not invite unwanted attention, if men would go dressed with ninimal clothing they would also attracked unwanted comments from woman.

While we appreciate your assurance, how old are you? You don't seem to know what you're talking about.

18

 Oct 28, 2010 at 08:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
blahblah Says:

Plenty of tzniusdige women get harassed too. NYC men are animals.

Don`t blame NYC Men, it`s all men in general (if not then we have a problem here) but being a Tznua helps a lot, and being a prutza just means asking for trouble

19

 Oct 28, 2010 at 09:13 PM Frum Mother Says:

OMG! I can't believe the BLAME THE VICTIM card here! I grew up in williamsburg and I witnessed all day every day how these guys would whistle at anything passing, be it young old, dressed provocatively or dressed with loose tzniusdig clothing and tichel on head! someone who will whistle at a complete stranger will not check the length of your skirt or the style of your hair! Get over it guys!

20

 Oct 28, 2010 at 09:31 PM a yid Says:

i can just tell you all commentors, that this week in the parsha the torah talks about the tzunas of surah umainee and all the rewards you get for being a tzanua........just all remember the reboino shel oilem dont forget anythink anyone does its maybee a little hard in the begining but it pays off big time at the end,you get fine children,very good shiduchem and in general lots of easy things in life like parnusa bneikel ETC i will finish my muser with this....let us all have just nachas thank you for reading

21

 Oct 29, 2010 at 01:23 AM Anonymous Says:

This kind of behavior does not mostly have to do with the tznius of women-it has to do with the tznius of men.

22

 Oct 29, 2010 at 02:31 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Paskunyak Says:

.......And it's not fair to blind people either!

"..........said Nefertiti Martin...............". Who names their kid "Nefertiti"?

"Volunteer activists in Cairo".........Cairo, Egypt? Where the men run around in their pajamas or bedsheets all day and the women wear burqas and look like nuns without heads?...... Ich farshtay nisht!

Commentor 1, refuah sheleima for whatever brain disease you seem to have.

Plenty of modestly dressed women get harassed and picked on. I am not describing women from Hasidim places with the tight sweaters and the weave/sheitel. Some women are pretty ugly, perhaps your mother was hideous and you never witnessed this type of harassment first hand.

Commentor 2, Who names their child "bear" plenty of people we know. It is unnecessary for you to attack other races names. Go read Shemot you slow learner.
Who wears Burqas in Cairo? More importantly what in your right mind thinks it is acceptable to make fun of women of other religions who dress tzinus?

23

 Oct 29, 2010 at 02:18 PM Paskunyak Says:

Reply to #22  
Anonymous Says:

Commentor 1, refuah sheleima for whatever brain disease you seem to have.

Plenty of modestly dressed women get harassed and picked on. I am not describing women from Hasidim places with the tight sweaters and the weave/sheitel. Some women are pretty ugly, perhaps your mother was hideous and you never witnessed this type of harassment first hand.

Commentor 2, Who names their child "bear" plenty of people we know. It is unnecessary for you to attack other races names. Go read Shemot you slow learner.
Who wears Burqas in Cairo? More importantly what in your right mind thinks it is acceptable to make fun of women of other religions who dress tzinus?

Thank you Mrs. Nefertiti Anonymous for your wonderful analysis.

Let me guess. You are either 400-500 lbs. and wear a burqa or you're just plain ugly and crave the attention that the "Hasidim women with tight sweaters and weaven sheitels get". Keep dreamin'.

You either have a child named "Bear" or you have a child who resembles a bear or you have big heavy children who are as big as you are and eat like bears. Hmmmm.

There are Muslim sects in Cairo who wear burqas and I don't see anything wrong with making comments about how ridiculous they look. Neither do I think it inappropriate to poke fun at people who run around the streets in their pajamas all day or wear bed sheets for clothing. They look ridiculous!

25

 Oct 29, 2010 at 05:48 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #23  
Paskunyak Says:

Thank you Mrs. Nefertiti Anonymous for your wonderful analysis.

Let me guess. You are either 400-500 lbs. and wear a burqa or you're just plain ugly and crave the attention that the "Hasidim women with tight sweaters and weaven sheitels get". Keep dreamin'.

You either have a child named "Bear" or you have a child who resembles a bear or you have big heavy children who are as big as you are and eat like bears. Hmmmm.

There are Muslim sects in Cairo who wear burqas and I don't see anything wrong with making comments about how ridiculous they look. Neither do I think it inappropriate to poke fun at people who run around the streets in their pajamas all day or wear bed sheets for clothing. They look ridiculous!

Have you been to Cairo? Which muslim sects are you talking about? You're not able to even name the sect because you don't know. You're just talking rubbish. Where did you get your info with Google?

Cairo is one of the most modern cities in Egypt. There are only 3 sects within Cairo. One non muslim based. I have no clue what muslim you're talking about. I do see a problem with you commenting how women of other religions look. Did your mother and father teach you to be this disrespectful?

Go do something useful with your life. Go learn. The more you write, the more ignorant and stupid you look.

I won't even go into how ridiculous Hasidim look with their leprechaun outfits calling it Jewish. I won't go into how stupid it looks to be wear a squirrel tails on top of your head. i wont go into how stupid it looks to shave all your hair off when you are perfectly healthy. i won't go into how stupid it looks to have a fat beer belly and wear a cheap white collard shirt with a black dot on your head. I won't go into how tacky it looks to wear long white athletic socks and call it Hasidich garb. I won't go into how tacky it looks to wear polyester during yom tov.

26

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