Gritty becomes the (unofficial) face of stopping street harassment

A local art group used the mascot’s likeness for its annual anti-catcalling campaign.

Gritty stars in this anti-harassment poster that's been pasted around Philadelphia

Gritty stars in this anti-harassment poster that's been pasted around Philadelphia

Courtesy Pussy Division

Almost since the mascot’s inception, Gritty has been co-opted by Philadelphia’s political left-of-center. The creature has been branded a representation of the resistance, its orange likeness often symbolizing the anti-Trump.

That’s happening again this week. You might have already noticed the posters all over the city, featuring none other than Youse Royal Highness — that’s Gritty — and a campaign designed to halt street harassment in the city.

You can thank the activist group Pussy Division for the fresh Gritty material.

To the members of the organization, which designs public art around feminist causes, especially related to rape culture and LGBTQ equality, the citywide obsession with the mascot is a little confusing. But they’re rolling with it.

“I don’t fully understand why Gritty resonates as a working-class, leftist, anarchist hero,” said Christie, a member of the mostly anonymous group that requested members be identified by first name only. “But there’s something about him that feels like a little chaotic and kind of anti-establishment.”

On the posters, Gritty’s paired with a Smokey-the-bear style slogan, reading

Only you can prevent street harassment in Philadelphia

They’ve been up since Sunday evening, when Pussy Division members posted the flyers on a handful of Philly blocks:

  • 11th and Chestnut
  • 49th and Baltimore
  • 5th and Bainbridge
  • 13th and Spring Garden
  • Broad between Dauphin and Allegheny
  • 10th and Arch
  • 12th and Wharton
  • 3rd and Chestnut

It’s a tradition for the feminist organization. Every year, Pussy Division designs an art installation to recognize International Anti-Street Harassment Week (April 7 to 13). They’ve done it since 2013. Two years ago, the pop-up featured striking caution tape.

Most often felt by women, street harassment is a common experience for Philadelphians who are just trying to commute to work or walk to school or run back home. Though Philly police have a hard time tracking it, dozens of women told Billy Penn in July of 2017 that they experience street harassment almost every day.

“We try to spread the message around what respect looks like in a public place, especially for women,” Christie said. “We raise awareness around street harassment and the idea that it’s not OK.”

Courtesy Pussy Division

Ever the equalizer, Gritty is meant to be accessible in this iteration, too. On the Pussy Division Facebook page, the group provided a copy of the flyer. They encourage their fellow Philadephians to print out some copies and hang them in any spots the organization might have missed.

“We’re all about putting messages out as a community that support other people in the community,” Christie said. “We created this piece, and if people like it and they want to put it up, we want them to feel welcome to do that.”

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