Taking Back the Streets

Monday, July 16, 2007

Brooklyn teens Latosha Belton and Ashley Lewis helped to organize a "Street Harassment Summit" to teach young women how to fight back against cat callers. Along with Maggie Hadleigh-West who made the anti-street harassment film War Zone, they talk about practical strategies to silence harassers.


Latosha Belton, Maggie Hadleigh-West and Ashley Lewis

Comments [30]

Andrew from Brooklyn NY

RE: Drivers Licences

Under the Governor's plan, thousands of US citizens and legal immigrants who earn honest livings as drivers, truckers, etc. will find themselves out of work, replaced by illegals who will work for much less.

If you doubt this, just look at the construction trades. Here in Brooklyn, small to medium construction projects use illegal Eastern European and Mexican workers almost exclusively. The illegals work for 1/3 to 1/2 the "legal" rate. If you doubt me, visit a few construction sites.

Love your show--my wife keeps saying you should get a Pulitzer.

Oct. 23 2007 10:54 AM
Miss or Ms from NYC

I first experienced cat calling when I was 12 years old.

While returning home from junior high school (7th grade) one afternoon, some older males loitering in my neighborhood told me "I look good in bed".

I was a 12 year old and not particularly developed, I was flat chested and flat assed, I stood 5 feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds.

If you don't know what a 12 year old kid looks like or why telling a random girl " You look good in bed" is an insane, stupid thing to blurt out, I feel sorry for the whole sorry lot of you.

yes, all of you.
It is pathetic seeing an older male breaking his neck to ogle and leer at women on the street as though he hasn't seen a woman in years, I see this every day and it is always a cringe inducing experience.

Looking is one thing,everybody looks, even women look at other women, but leering, staring ogling, screaming, shouting and hissing are something different.
You want to approach an attractive woman in the street? You say "hello" or "good morning" and offer you card with your phone number or email address- most women will not be offended by this gesture.
If the woman is interested, she will contact you.

If your email address is "big butt lover 69"- don't be surprised if you aren't contacted.

Ps. Control yourself.
You are staring, ogling, leering, hissing and shouting at someone's sister/daughter/mother/wife/niece.

Jul. 17 2007 08:58 PM
Tom from Brooklyn

Peter, you must be a cat caller!

If you're not, how are you able to control yourself since this behavior is "in your genes"?

Why are some men able to control this "gene"?

Have you ever stopped to think for one minute that it may be possible for a woman to dress enticingly for HER SELF? Or that she didn't consider what she was wearing to be enticing especially b.c. it's a gym shirt and shorts?

The point is STOP blaming the victim, women do not warrant this abusive behavior from men no matter what they wear. Learn what it means to be a man and EVOLVE...

Jul. 17 2007 12:07 PM

i am against sexually explicit comments which are a form of sexual harassment and contain the threat of violence. HOWEVER, humankind is rare in the animal kingdom in that it is females which must attract a mate. it would be hard to convince me that women do not dress enticingly in order to be sexually appealing to men (or other women). that men respond verbally is in their genes and hormones, and the continuation of our species depends on this elaborate mating game. as an aside, i'll bet women would also be complaining if they were routinely ignored.

Jul. 17 2007 05:02 AM
Jacqueline Cantwell from Brooklyn, New York

Street harassment limits women's freedom physically and mentally. When women walk in public self-conscious and vigilant, they cannot lose themselves in thought.

I have not listened to the program yet, but I wonder if racism and class were discussed. When I lived in San Francisco, I was always amazed how much abuse I suffered in the Mission, a Latino working-class neighborhood, but in the business district, I could walk undisturbed. It may well be that men with low social and economic status try to gain advantage by humiliating those they despise, women.

Jul. 16 2007 08:04 PM

One of the things I learned from the women's movement in the 70's was that often turning the tables on men is a great and fun way of showing men how obnoxious their behavior is. I was working for a feminist organization in the city back then, and I remember walking around the block to avoid a construction sight where we were routinely harrassed by the men on the sight. One day a friend of mine and I decided that it was ridiculous for us to go out of our way any we headed right on down the road, past the sight. When the usual whistle's and comments came our way, my friend (who had heard one of the guys' names) turned and said, "nice ass Tom!", and we continued on our way, as all of the guys turned on their co-worker and started teasing him! At least Tom probably thought twice about harrassing women passing by after that encounter!!!

Jul. 16 2007 11:59 AM
chestine from NY

I'm guessing gay men don't catcall because historically it might have been suicidal (and could still be in some parts) - but it is a nice thought about restraint...

Jul. 16 2007 11:44 AM
O from Brooklyn/Manhattan (work)

to Judith: "lighten up" doesn't cut it anymore. I don't know how old you are but in a climate of absolute sexual explicity and accelerated access to sexual images comments aren't what they may have been when you were younger. Lyrics in popular music can border on shocking, so I think the cat calls these days probably are different than "hello beautiful!" I don't mind that so much, it's when I am told I need to smile, or worse having some aggresive ignorant man tell me he wants to lick my genitals is when I want to fight. I am a tiny woman, only 4' 11" so this kind of stuff can feel really threatening. In response to another comment made by a woman to the man Michael: I agree that the reality of being over-powered by another person makes some of those remarks from certain men scarey and not flattering. If I could morph myself into the incredible Hulk, I think I could have serious crushed some heads in my time. Some of it is cultural and it's ok when it's only a compliment. Latino and African American men can sometimes be better than my own opinion about my reflection in a mirror when it comes to knowing if I look ok or not (it's usually just a jerk of a man who makes the 'nasty' comments) and sometimes I am grateful to hear something like "lookin' good! lookin' good". But I have been grabbed, I have been told my genitals can be smelled, I have been called a bitch if I don't respond and all of that is NEVER OK. Think about it being your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister. I am glad someone is doing something to raise awareness.

Jul. 16 2007 11:34 AM
steve from park slope bklyn

combining the last two guests.
The other night I was standing on the street talking to a friend and a woman walked by and I said "Nice hair, I really like that look" and my (female)friend agreed and told her. The woman stopped and adjusted this thing on her arm (which was a camera) and eventually told us that this was being sent out LIVE ON THE INTERNET! That she and several other people use this thing called I later went back and checked her archive and saw / heard the entire conversation (about her hair etc.)

Jul. 16 2007 11:32 AM
AWM from UWS

As a man I think it's really a shame. Most men feel threatened by the beauty of women, feel the need to dominate beauty and possess beauty by force because they have no beauty inside of them. I know it's hard not to be cynical or frightened but it comes with having to live and mate with the most destructive and oppressive species ever to live on this planet. Look at our past and present.

Men, if you catcall or harass or assault women or are merely offended by what I say then you need to be more introspective and less impulsive. Make an effort to find out what it really means to be a man.

Jul. 16 2007 11:19 AM
chestine from NY

PS show's over but I read Mia's comment and it brought me right back to Venice a few years ago in the spring before the tourist crowds - riding on the vaporetto and watching the most intense Italian public aggression against a local - you can't call that cat-calling, it is in a class by itself, that kind of aggression - very intense! I have had many other encounters in Italy that were just so friendly and fun. We do need to raise consciousness - nobody needs to take all the fun away!!

Jul. 16 2007 11:09 AM
Bridget from West Village

Let's not forget that any comment with sexual undertones OR overtones is illegal and is legally qualified as Sexual Harassment.

Jul. 16 2007 11:06 AM
JW from Williamsburg

A bit of the discussion has dealt with what women are wearing/not wearing. This has exactly ZERO to do with anything. I (and many others) have experienced catcalling, leering, etc., while looking less-than-perfect (unshowered/wearing sweats/visibly ill) in public. It isn't about desire or being attracted to someone, it's about a widespread desire to control all women's behavior (even those one doesn't harrass) in the public sphere.

As Nat clearly pointed out, stopping this hateful (and it IS hateful) behavior is the responsibility of men themselves.

Jul. 16 2007 11:05 AM
Andrew from Manhattan

Interesting that gay men never catcall other gay men....

Ultimately the excuses that men catcall women because they like the way the women look or because their testosterone made them do it wear thin. If such excuses were true, you'd have gay guys hooting and whistling at each other (and at straight guys) all over Chelsea.

Catcalling is just another form of harassment, and just another way for men to subjugate and demean women.

I love what this filmmmaker did. I had a friend who used to walk up to young guys who said lewd things to her and say, "I'm old enough to be your mother. Would you say that to your mother?"

Now, THAT got some reactions....

Jul. 16 2007 11:04 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

I think there are two diffrent kinds of cat calling. There's the "You look beautiful in that dress" or a simple "beautiful", which I admit is nice to hear. When its done right its respectful, non-threatening and a true compliment. The "hey mama, shake that thing" and boob staring, butt watching is totally diffrent. It feels though you are being deconstructed for your parts. Its an excerize of power and no woman, no matter what they are wearing asks for that. Keep yourself in check...

Jul. 16 2007 11:02 AM
Jacqueline from Sunnyside

I have received cat calls all the time, and frankly, its scary and offensive. Cat calls are not flattering. Because it is the overt sexualization of individual women. Simply coming up to a woman, saying hi, trying to make an actual human connection with her, is so much more meaningful and flattering. I've had men get mad at me when I ignore their cat calling. They seem to assume that I SHOULD be flattered.

Jul. 16 2007 11:00 AM
sarah from NYC

I have been groped, grabbed, and physically attacked in this city. After one incident I called my local precinct to report a groping. While speaking to the officer I mentioned the amount of catcalls etc. and asked what I could do. He said, "nothing" and "what's the problem, you're probably a good looking girl". Isn't there something we can do? It effects my everyday. I avoid making eye contact with men on the street and have come close to getting hit by cars trying to avoid the known harassers in my neighborhood.

Jul. 16 2007 10:59 AM

I just moved back to the NYC from Israel. People there are much more vocal to strangers, all the time. But because of the nastiness and invasiveness of the kinds of comments I encountered in NYC, I was very cold and resistent to any approach. It's confusing when you go somewhere else. In New York everyone is so in their own little world, people have to be even more brutish and rude to get attention. In Tel Aviv very often people acted like I was a bitch because of my silence. Once I got used to it though, I enjoyed that openness, and dated someone I met on the street- in a much less rude come-on. It's too bad that our culture here is both too closed off and too invasive with the sexuality and judgments.
It would be better if women felt more comfortable approaching men on the street as well!

Jul. 16 2007 10:59 AM
Lani from Bed-Stuy

I live about a block away from where these girls go to school in Bed Stuy. I am a 23 year old woman, and I get harassed on a daily basis. All kinds of cat calls and very deurogatory comments. I have tried a few things: ignoring it, or yelling at them, or calmly asking them why they think its okay to do that and tell them its rude. I have had also an array of responses, such a being called a b-word to being apologized to, to being threatened with rape.
I want men who cat call to understand, we do not like feeling like meat and it feels very threatening and scary. It is one thing to say 'good day', but another to verbally assault or make sexual comments. I would like them to consider how they would want their sisters or mothers to be talked to and treat other women with the same respect. It is a horrible feeling to not be able to walk in your own neighborhood with comfort. It feels horrible to be harassed, it does not make us feel appreciative. I feel like I can not wear certain clothes when I leave my own apartment.

Jul. 16 2007 10:58 AM
Amanda Francis from manhattan

I get a lot of comments from older men that are along the lines of "Smile!" or "Why do you look so mean?" and its ironic to me because I think the attitude I developed is in direct response to the more negative comments or catcalls I've heard.

Jul. 16 2007 10:58 AM
rl from east village

recently, i was in a greenpoint grocery store, when a drunk older man stumbled into the store, fell on me, and put his hand in between my legs. this is the first time i've ever experienced such harassment (aside from the occasional construction worker cat call). it really sucked.

Jul. 16 2007 10:58 AM
chestine from NY

true true true maggie thank you for your clarity! I have experienced "all of the above" innumerable times in my long life. just this morning i was marveling at the clear thought that i really don't trust or feel safe with men. Gee - i wonder why this is...

thank you Brian Lehrer you are the best!

Jul. 16 2007 10:57 AM
nat from brooklyn

Cat Calling and street harassment is about power. It is not that men don't understand that its disrespectful, its disrespectful by design.

It is a way that men remind themselves that we live in a culture that has its foundations really firmly rooted in male dominance. Cat calling is a way for men to assert dominance, its not sex. Its to remind women that, no matter the changes in our society, men still have this power, even if its abusive. Power has for centuries been expressed through sexual domination, this is a continuation.

It is the responsibility of men to stop it. As a man, I will say that blanket statements about it being disrespectful are on point. Men who do this just don't want that power questioned, especially by the women they are trying to demean.

Jul. 16 2007 10:55 AM
Amanda Francis from manhattan

This an excellent topic.
Although I would characterize most of the experiences I've had w/ catcalling as negative..There was an instance where a young man said to me "If I had confidence and a job, I'd holler at you!"
That's always stood out for me..

Jul. 16 2007 10:54 AM
Judith Kozloff from New York

when i was young I was told by an wise older woman to regard it as a compliment and ignore it. The day would inevitable come when the cat calls would cease and that I would miss it. all very true. Lighten up.
Physical contact is another subject altogether.

Jul. 16 2007 10:53 AM
Bridget from West Village

To Mike- This probably doesn't bother men because there isn't as much of a physical threat coming to a man. I know several women, and am one myself, that have actually been assaulted by men on the street.

Jul. 16 2007 10:52 AM
Ilana from Soho

I don't wear clothes for you, I wear them for me. If you enjoy the way I look, you are lucky to have seen me. You are welcome to look, but keep your comments to yourself.

Jul. 16 2007 10:51 AM
Mike from prospect heights

I'm a straight guy who would never dream of catcalling. But occasionally I get catcalls from women or from gay men, and although I don't respond, I find it slightly flattering. I know of other guys who have the same attitude about it. Why doesn't this bother us, I wonder?

Jul. 16 2007 10:48 AM
antonio from park slope

Can't we just have shock troops standing on the streets with taser batons to quench this problem.

Jul. 16 2007 10:47 AM
Bridget from West Village

This segment hasn't aired, but I'd like to make a comment. I live in the West Village and I work in the Meatpacking District, and I've now changed my route to work 2 times this summer to avoid catcalling abuse, and now my walk takes me 10 minutes longer than it needs to.

I don't think that anything can be done to stop this abuse until society recognizes it as a real infringement on the civil rights of women, telling any woman who complains that they are "being too sensitive." Catcalling is illegal and those who catcall should be prosecuted, and I challenge the Mayor to issue a task force on this subject, it would not be difficult to give thousands of tickets everyday to men who believe it is their right to make inappropriate comments to women.

Jul. 16 2007 10:20 AM

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