I normally wear headphones when I get off at the 15th and Market station – also known as the Clothespin – to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city. This week, I forgot them and was reminded of how much I was missing as a result.
Coming up the steps from the SEPTA station underground, I see a crowd of men hover around the entrance. Smoke can be seen surrounding the outskirts as a group of women are walking up. One by one, the men begin to catcall at them and each time the women try to avoid them like the plague.
One of the men proceeded to call them a bitch when none of the women responds. It was in that moment that I simply asked the men to “knock it off.” What followed were a few verbal homophobic jabs at my masculinity and physical intimidation. While this was going on, several other men just walked by.
The biggest disappointment is that this should have been their concern as well.
According to recent numbers provided by the organization Stop Street Harassment, 65 percent of women in America report experiencing some form of harassment – which includes unwanted physical and/or verbal interactions involving strangers – with 41 percent of them noting being followed or touched.
LGBTQ individuals, such as myself, are also disproportionately affected by such harassment in comparison to heterosexual men.
There has been a few glossy campaigns attempting to address this issue in the past, such as Hollaback Philly’s SEPTA ad spread that featured messages dispelling misconceptions about street harassment. However, in one of the most visible open spaces in the city, the problem still persists.
“I feel as though men on these streets feel entitled for me to speak to them,” said Daisha Boone. Boone, 21, says she received “loud flirtations from men” at least four times a day when she leaves the Clothespin to go to work. “As long as these men aren’t grabbing me, the police around never really say anything to them. ... I now get off at 13th Street station to try to avoid them,” she added.
And that’s a shame because even in my own experience I was stunned to witness how bold some of these individuals were. I went back to the location the following day to confront one of the members in that harassing group. One of them was actually willing to talk.
“We don’t mean no disrespect, just simply trying to holla,” said Nasir, 19. He wouldn’t give me his last name, or share why he frequents the area on a regular basis. “Females out here be buggin ... they say they want a (n-word) to come at them correct and then when we do they start tripping.”
But perhaps consent is what’s missing from this altogether, for what he doesn’t understand is that unwanted advances aren't “correct” at all.
According to Technical.ly Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney’s “dream app” is one that lets women map and report street harassment in the city. “I am so sick of street harassment,” he told the publication. “I see it and I scold it and I hate it.”
I am too, Kenney. Now let’s do something serious about it -- starting with the Clothespin.