#ELPITODEMANCERA

Just call the rapist “brother” or use this whistle: The ridiculous ways powerful men globally suggest women fight rape

In Mexico City, where 72% of women have suffered some kind of violence, head of government Miguel Ángel Mancera this week launched a new initiative to combat sexual assault by handing out whistles.

Mexicans promptly and mercilessly shot down the idea. It doesn’t help that the Spanish word for whistle, pito, is also slang for penis, unleashing a tsunami of social media mockery best encapsulated in the hashtag #elpitodemancera, or Mancera’s… whistle. Some commentary on that below:

“Mancera thought that to not be harassed he had to give us exactly what we don’t have,” wrote this commentator.

But the measure is also being condemned on its substance, or lack thereof: How much can whistling do to undermine the pervasive machismo and disrespect that women in Mexico City endure on a daily basis?

(Graphic description of how it will work.)

And from a journalist whose dress was lifted and underwear pulled down while walking in one of Mexico City’s chicest neighborhoods:

It’s a question that women around the world are asking about other policies that seek to defend or remove them from the threat of harassment, instead of stopping the harassment in the first place. Several countries, including Brazil and Japan, have implemented female-only transit to completely isolate would-be aggressors from women. When being in the presence of men is unavoidable, New York City’s police commissioner and officials elsewhere have advocated for adopting the “buddy system” because, in their logic, a woman alone (particularly if she’s drunk) is easy prey. Others promote the use of self-defense methods, for example, vomiting or urinating on an attacker, as one university in Colorado recommends.

And it doesn’t stop there. Per an Indian spiritual guru, calling rapists “brothers” and begging them to stop might prevent the whole incident. Or, officials could just ban spicy chowmein, which in the consideration of an elder council in India, produces hormonal imbalance, and therefore rape. The ultimate anti-harassment advice for women, however, comes courtesy of the mayor of the Turkish municipality of Muş: Just stay home.

Aside from being ludicrous, those kinds of policies ignore the heart of the problem, which is that sexual harassment and assault are learned behaviors, says Holly Kearl, founder of non-profit Stop Street Harassment. Officials should focus on educating school children that such conduct is not OK, and stop the portrayal of women as sexual objects in the media, Kearl says.

Mexico City’s whistles are part of a broader campaign launched by Mancera after massive women-rights marches took place across the country last month. It also involves a public-education drive, and an app for women to report abuse to authorities.

His critics remain skeptical. A good start, says columnist Catalina Ruiz Navarro, would be to address harassment (Spanish) from the people who are supposed to protect women in the first place.

“Women who are not only brave enough to denounce harassment, but who many times have taken their stalker by the collar to the police, have to declare themselves ‘victims’ so their complaint is taken into account,” she writes, “and on top of that, they have to prove they are not crazy or that they’re not ‘making things up to call attention.'”

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