There's been a story going around recently about a man who tried stop street harassment in Philadelphia who was then assaulted by the harassers. It's gotten national attention, mostly along the lines of- oh street harassment hurts men too. Or oh look at this poor guy with his chivalry and how he got beat down by the big, bad city.
And it's making me really angry. Angry and upset. Because now that a man got beat up, someone is going to cover the street harassment in Philly for a second. Because a MAN was hurt, people will pay attention for a minute.
I have to tell you, the harassment situation in Philly is bad. I am in the Rittenhouse area multiple times a week and have been for a few years now. And it seems like it is steadily getting worse there. Specifically, really aggressive panhandling.
It's pretty rare for me to go more than a few days in a row without someone jumping in front of me, getting in my face, or yelling at me. Demanding money. Demanding cigarettes. Men using their size to push into my space and physically intimate me. Men who scream, "Fuck you, fat bitch," or call me a liar when I say I don't have money or when I try to put my stone face on and pretend I can't see them.
It is exhausting to walk around the city sometimes.
It would be pretty easy to say-- Why doesn't the city DO something? And I have certainly wondered angrily why the city doesn't seem to care.
But what would "doing something" look like? Not more cops. The cops here have a long history of beating the shit out of people. And while I don't want to be grabbed or shoved by someone I've declined to give money to, I don't particularly want the cops to beat them up either. Also, cops don't necessarily come when you call here, even if you did think they would help, which I'm not so sure of.
Now why would Philly have a problem with people panhandling? Hmm... Let me think.
There's no shelter capacity for nearly half of the homeless people in Philly.
"About 13 percent of Philadelphians - or nearly 200,000 people - live in deep poverty, meaning that a family of three makes less than $9,700 a year, which is 50 percent of the official poverty line."
"The poverty rate here is the highest among the nation's 10 largest cities."
Don't forget that our country completely dismantled the mental hospital system (which was very flawed) in the 1960s and 1970s and replaced it with fuck all.
Oh, and Philadelphia is gentrifying quickly, and has a severe lack of affordable housing. "In Philadelphia County, only 37 affordable rentals are available for every 100 households with extremely low incomes (... an extremely low income is less than $24,450 for a household of four people)."
And the rate of job growth is below the national average.
So yeah, we have a much bigger problem than we could solve with a dozen more cops. Like a lot of other large American cities, we have systemic problems that require systemic solutions.
My suggestions? Total socialism, y'all. Guaranteed housing, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed minimum income. Single payer health care that covers everyone, which includes dignified inpatient mental health care for people who need it and access to social workers for assistance and outpatient care for those who don't need inpatient.
We need to totally reorganize our priorities. I fucking love Philadelphia, and we deserve better than the same old free market bullshit that has eaten this town alive.