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Pro-sexual harassment sign? Oh, hell no!

Change.org is like AA: it works if you work it. That was made quite clear this week when Holly Kearl of StopStreetHarassment.org posted a petition on Sunday and got results in less than 24 hours.

MarketFair Mall in Princeton, NJ, was in the middle of some construction and had the bright idea to put up the above sign, which normalizes — indeed encourages — sexual street harassment and paints all construction workers as mindless harassment zombies. So Kearl put up her first Change.org petition and in less than a day got 1500 signatures (she was hoping for 250). When she contacted the VP of marketing at the mall Monday day, they told her they’d take down the sign later that night after all the patrons had left. She got confirmation yesterday by the original photographer of the image above that the sign had indeed been taken down. Victory!

Here’s the very convincing case made by the petition letter (which we tried to sign before realizing change had already been effected):

At your Mall in Princeton, New Jersey, there is a sign by a construction area that reads, “We apologize for the whistling construction workers, but man you look good! So will we soon, please pardon our dust, dirt, and assorted inconveniences.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace and in schools is illegal, so why is it being promoted in the Mall? Here are four specific reasons why this offensive and inappropriate sign should be removed immediately.

1 – The sign treats the sexual harassment that happens in public places as a joke when it is actually a serious problem that makes public places less safe for women worldwide.

Whistling is just one of the many forms of unwanted sexual harassment that people (mostly women and mostly young women) face at the hands of strangers in public places. Numerous studies show that at least 80 percent of women worldwide have experienced sexual harassment in public places and at least half have been sexually touched or groped by a stranger.

When women face unwanted sexual harassment, they are more likely to avoid the place where it happened. If construction workers at MarketFair Mall whistled at female shoppers, it would actually be bad for business at the Mall because many of the women would then feel uncomfortable coming back to that area, especially alone.

2 – Young women are the main targets of sexual harassment in public places and young women also frequent malls at high rates. In a study of 811 women, nearly 25 percent had been the target of sexual harassment in public by age 12, and nearly 90 percent by age 19. Do you really want to promote the sexual harassment of young teenage girls by adult male construction workers?

3 – Sexual harassment is not complimentary, it is illegal. Compliments are consensual and do not sexually objectify people. A stranger whistling at you is not complimentary, it’s sexual harassment. Because of the negative impact sexual harassment has on harassed persons, it is not allowed in workplaces and schools and it should not be allowed on the streets and in shopping malls.

In England, there have been a few incidents where construction workers were suspended from work for harassing women walking by. That is how construction companies should view sexual harassment – as something to penalize their workers for doing, not as something to encourage their workers to do.

4 – The sign is an insult to every construction worker who respects women and does not harass them since the sign suggests that all construction workers are harassers.

Please help make MarketFair Mall a safe environment for everyone, especially young teenage girls, by taking down this sign. Sexual harassment is illegal, not funny or complimentary.

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