Why anti-catcalling crime scene tape is in busy Philly neighborhoods

A public art project pops up for International Anti-Street Harassment Week.

This public art installation in Fishtown was put up by Pussy Division in order draw awareness to Anti Street Harassment Week.

This public art installation in Fishtown was put up by Pussy Division in order draw awareness to Anti Street Harassment Week.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Hey, you. Yes, you. You should smile more. Maybe this cheeky public art installation made up of crime scene tape will help.

You may have seen crime scene tape at random places across Philadelphia this week indicating a “catcall crime scene” or directions of “do not comment on my body.” The custom-made tape is part of a roving, citywide public art installation created by local feminist group Pussy Division just in time for International Anti-Street Harassment Week, which goes through Saturday.

“We wanted something that would be functional and also something that people could relate the message to the idea of caution and danger,” said Lara Witt, a writer and spokesperson with Pussy Division. “We try to make it thought-provoking. We want people to be, not necessarily shocked, but we want people to feel a sense of solidarity or at least try to understand how their actions hurt others.”

Pussy Division, a local group that promotes awareness through outreach and online activism, started installing the caution tape Sunday night at the beginning of the week and has installed caution tape in locations throughout South Philly, West Philly and the Riverwards so far. And the eight-person group says they’re planning to continue installing them throughout more busy pedestrian areas in Center City and Old City this week.

Witt said the group installed the caution tape in random public spaces and places where street harassment might actually be prevalent, whether that’s outside a school, a bar or a construction site.

This isn’t the first time the group has used public art installations that look just like normal, everyday signage to push their messaging. In past years, they’ve installed “No Catcalling Any Time” signs in Center City and put up “end street harassment” flower installations in West Philly and other locations in the city.

Witt said though the response has been largely positive, she fully expects someone will eventually tear down the caution tape. The group just wants viewers to take street harassment seriously.

“It’s part of a larger issue and people may have heard of rape culture, and both of those issues deal with how people feel entitled to other people’s space, time and bodies,” she said. “It’s not just a compliment.”

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