In keeping with the theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we wanted to bring attention to an amazing organization out of Chicago, Courage Campaign: CTA. The group is taking initiative to work against the problem of rampant street harassment in the city, especially on the public transportation system. We asked Kara Crutcher, the founder of Courage Campaign: CTA, to shed some light on what motivated her to create the program and what she hopes it can accomplish. She is a Lady with a very important dream, and we can’t wait to help out!
It started because a black woman told me that she wanted to “bust my pussy wide open on the sidewalk.” I have no idea what that meant, may never know and honestly, don’t want to. It was one of the most grotesque things I’ve ever heard, and more importantly, one of the most memorable instances of street harassment that I’ve faced in my life.
One may ask: why does it matter that she was black? Or why does it matter that it was a woman? Why is this so memorable? After all, a person saying inappropriate things about my body as I walk down the street is just another day in the big city, as it is for most women. Well, it matters to me, a LOT. Since I was 14 years old, I’ve had men of all backgrounds follow me home, call me inappropriate names, use completely derogatory language when commenting on my body, masturbate in front of me, and more commonly, continue to pursue me after I’ve made it clear that I do not want to give them my number. As a 24-year-old native Chicagoan who spends the majority of her commutes on public transit, I could write a Tolstoy-sized novel filled with these stories. In the grand scheme of everything that has happened during my time navigating the streets of Chicago without mommy holding my hand, a vulgar comment about “my pussy” seems minor. But it was my first experience in which someone who looks like me decided that it was perfectly okay to talk about my body any way they wanted. This was first time that a young black woman street harassed me, and it left me straight up pissed off.
In this hyper-masculine society that we live in, it’s one thing for a man to comment on my body that way. It is not okay, but it is the norm. But I could not bear the thought that when I walk out of my house, I’ll need to put on my “resting bitch face” for women, too. With the prevalence of street harassment in the United States, I knew that the chances of this woman having been in my position before were through the roof. All I wanted in that moment was to think of a kickass comeback, but that has never been my strong suit. I tend to think of comebacks a day and a half after they would’ve been relevant. But I did do something and I believe it will have much stronger affect than yelling back at a stranger on my block.
This past August, after this street harassment encounter, after seeing an Instagram photo of a public transit advertisement advocating for respect in another city, and after reading a ThoughtCatalog article on why creative people need to stop being lazy, I decided to get active. Although this encounter happened on the street, a lot of the harassment I face is on and around the CTA. So, I decided to email them about creating advertisements for the trains and buses that discourage sexual harassment.
After hearing back from the CTA and their ad agency, I reached out to local artists and anyone interested in helping out. Slowly but surely, a campaign with a very important message developed: that being the message of courage. With these ads, we hope to discourage sexual harassment, encourage bystanders to stand up when they witness these instances of disrespect, and most important, employ courage in ourselves. Courage to keep your chin up when someone you pass says, “nice ass.” Courage to say “Hey, how are you doing?” instead of “Hey baby!” to a girl you’ve never met. Courage to show another passenger on the bus that they are not alone when these things happen to them.
Anyone who has ever met me knows that there are few things I love more than my city, Chicago. The creation of the Courage Campaign: CTA has become a project that I hope will influence a cultural shift regarding the issue of respect in public spaces. It is this cultural shift I believe can help improve the city that I love so much.
Check out CTA: Courage Campaign’s Facebook page to stay up to date on upcoming news and events. If you’re interested in contributing funds, head to their gofundme. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, come to their event Laughs on Loop on Saturday, April 25th. This is an amazing cause with the potential to do a lot of good in the Chicago community. Let’s pack the place!