Sticking it to subway slimeballs

New York police arrest 13 men for flashing and groping women on subways.

Published June 26, 2006 11:30AM (EDT)

I've always considered the miles and miles of exposed flesh on view in New York City in summer -- breasts peeking out of tank tops, skirts that barely cover private parts -- a testament to New Yorkers' confidence and to their insistence on comfort. The city can be a smoldering, humid hellhole, after all, and people will do anything to beat the heat.

But as we all know, when women bare their skin they risk unwanted attention. Especially if they're traveling on a crowded subway car. Saturday's New York Times had an interesting but not surprising article about the routine harassment women face on New York subways, a problem that seems to get worse in the summer. Prompted by the arrests last week of 13 men charged with flashing and groping women in the city's vast, subterranean transit system, the Times surveyed a random sampling of women during the morning commute and found that those who had been harassed tended to "seethe inwardly but say nothing" because they felt so helpless.

"What is the right way to react to a humiliating, but not life-threatening, situation?" the Times asks. "Should you announce to an entire car of strangers that you have just been violated?" I say yes. Why not vent your rage and perhaps even get some sympathy and support from your fellow passengers in the process? Or even better, grab your cellphone camera and snap your harasser's picture. Thanks to the truly awesome Web site Holla Back NYC, there's even a place to post it.

According to the Times, publicity about Holla Back was in part what led the New York Police Department to launch "Operation Exposure," the two-day undercover campaign that resulted in the 13 arrests. Hey, it's a start.

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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