Hi ganda, pahingi ng number mo.” Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for women to hear that on a regular commute. Women experience street harassment everyday. Lately, it seems that more attention has been given to all the cases. Twitter and Facebook have given people a voice.
Women are fighting back, and boy do we mean business. It’s been said before, but it seems like a lot of people still need reminding: no one has the right to make us feel uncomfortable about our bodies or make us feel unsafe just for wearing certain kinds of clothing.
One tweet that’s been making the rounds on social media lately is from a fresh graduate of the University of the Philippines Manila, Jara Rogacion. Jara was sick of all the harassment stories that she’d been hearing, so she decided to make these simple fliers and calling cards meant to educate (okay, maybe even threaten) all the catcalling men.
Jara makes graphics as more of a hobby. She is currently thinking of going into medicine or science-related jobs, but she does photography and makes films in her free time. Either way, you’ve got to admit that it’s a brilliant idea, so we decided to chat with Jara to ask her what prompted her to make the flyers and cards.
What prompted you to make the flyers/calling cards?
My initial motivation for making these printable statements is the story of my friend who was catcalled and followed by a stranger until she got to her place of residence. That same day, my girlfriend was street harassed by employees of an office supplies establishment in Cubao — these were employees, asking for her name and where she goes to school. It’s rare for me to leave the house and not experience a dose of street harassment: no matter who I’m with, what I’m wearing, and whether or not I just wanted to buy a stick of isaw nearby. Up to this moment, my friend, my girlfriend, and I feel more fear than safety in public spaces. This was my primary inspiration for making these statements — that this unnecessary feeling of terror is experienced by so many people around the country and the globe. It’s as if we can’t go out without hearing unwarranted and offensive words anymore. It’s exhausting.
One night I decided to channel my disappointment into something I’ve always loved to do — making public materials. I made these generally because most of us live in fear of speaking out, so I thought, why not let them know our number once and for all? I thought, maybe a picture of a sliced penis would speak louder than their objectifying words.
What was the process like? Did you do any research?
The process started from a mere road of agitation and having the last straw. I started to feel more agitated when I read other stories, articles, and analyses regarding street harassment by organizations such as stopstreetharassment.org and cardsagainstharassment.com. This lead me to the realization that street harassment is an everyday public problem; yet it is under-researched and poorly prohibited due to shortage of laws. I’ve also reviewed the full text of women protection laws in the country such as the Magna Carta of Women, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004, and statements of various anti-sexual harassment women’s desks and offices. Although these laws do not fully encompass street harassment, people can approach authorities –– women’s desks especially –– to reconcile this issue with a definite description of sexual harassment so that offenders will still be penalized.
All of this gave me the opening to encourage people, not only to do everything we can to fight against sexual harassment in any form, but also to choose to be brave enough to send a message to harassers that, “Yo, what you’re doing is abusive and unacceptable. You can be considered a criminal. Please change into a decent human being.”
I made these generally because most of us live in fear of speaking out, so I thought, why not let them know our number once and for all? I thought, maybe a picture of a sliced penis would speak louder than their objectifying words.
Have you given them to anyone yet?
I have yet to print a couple of copies myself. I’m excited for the next time I get the chance to. Hopefully, I will get an enlightened response.
Did you get any notable reactions?
After sharing the link where the printable statements are enclosed, I’ve received overwhelming positive feedback both from strangers and friends, women and men alike. They mostly expressed their gratitude for the fearsome, straightforward, and predominantly profane words that I used. Some of them even went ahead of me and printed them out already, urging others to print some as well. Other reactions were from guys saying, “Not all men!” (LOL) and telling me to take it down because it offends them. They’re still up there, so that’s my response to them.
Download Jara’s anti-catcalling materials here.