“Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” Campaign

Image from HollaBack NYC

Imagine waking through a busy section of a city and seeing giant silhouette cutouts of men and hearing vulgar comments like “Hey girl, why don’t you come over here and ride my pony,” and “Nice pussy baby!” It’s pretty shocking, right? Would it get you thinking about street harassment, perhaps discussing it with your friends?

This past Saturday street harassment activists in New York City launched the campaign “Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” in Union Square with the goals of sparking dialogue and raising awareness about street harassment. And those goals were more than met.

Sarah VanDenbergh, an art education graduate student at New York University, and Violet Kittappa, Director of Research and Development for Hollaback NYC, organized the anti-street harassment demonstration as part of Sarah’s master’s thesis on street harassment. They were kind enough to talk to me about it. I hope that learning about their activism will inspire you to think about creative ways to raise awareness about and to challenge street harassment in your community.

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Sarah is from a small town in New York and moved to New York City nearly two years ago to attend graduate school. She was upset by the street harassment she experienced on a regular basis in the city. Using her skills as an artist, she decided to create a public art installation in a busy area to generate conversations about street harassment and to direct the focus of those conversations on the men who perpetuate it instead of on the women who experience it. After all, the perpetrators are the ones who must change their behavior.

Sarah shares exactly what the demonstration entailed:

“I created six life size silhouettes of men and placed them in Union Square on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Attached to the cutouts were signs that said: ‘I grope women on the train,’ ‘I objectify women’s bodies,’ ‘I masturbate on women on the train,’ ‘I make catcalls to women in the street,’ ‘I say crude comments to women on the L train,’ and ‘I expose myself to women almost everyday.’

I had sound boxes with mp3 players and portable speakers sitting in front of the silhouettes playing a loop of 109 crude things men say to women. These quotes were directly from the HollaBack NYC website and from my own experiences.

We also passed out cards that said, ‘Hot pussy is no way to say hello.” On the back of the cards it said, ‘Sexual harassment is a crime, from crude comments and threats to stalking and indecent exposure…if you see a perv holla back, take their picture and file a police report.’ Included on the card were 2 pictures of men exposing themselves in public and a woman ‘holla-ing back.’ We passed out around 1,200 cards.”

I asked Sarah and Violet about the reaction and response of passersby. They said that overall people responded very positively toward the exhibits, especially, surprisingly men (Which shows that there are lots of male allies out there. In fact, it was male friends of Sarah’s who helped her with the audio aspect of the project by reading the crude comments she recorded and played. We need to mobilize and engage more men our efforts!)

Read the full article about the campaign launch!

4 Responses to “Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” Campaign

  1. Craig Zimmerman says:

    Wow. I had no idea I was having sandwiches with such an activist and artist. I am really impressed.

  2. Margaret says:

    Definitely impressive! I wish I could have seen that installation. What a wonderful and creative way to raise awareness.

  3. Golden Silence says:

    Is there a way to spread something like this to other major cities?

  4. @GoldenSilence Last night Sarah said she was starting work on a website where she’ll post info on how to do this project in other cities. So stay tuned!

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