WEST WINDSOR, N.J. — A construction billboard inside a New Jersey mall has come down after a protest that its message about wolf whistles treated sex harassment as a joke.
The billboard at MarketFair Mall read: "We apologize for the whistling construction workers, but man you look good!" And below that, in smaller print, was the more customary language: "So will we soon, pardon our dust, dirt and other assorted inconveniences." It was illustrated with a cartoon image of a woman in high leather boots.
Princeton University philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman was at the mall Sunday and said the billboard offended her. She posted a picture on Facebook, and a friend blogged about it. That led Holly Kearl, founder of the Washington-based organization Stop Street Harassment, to start a petition drive to have it removed.
Kearl said mall management agreed Monday to remove it, and Harman visited the mall the next day to confirm it was gone, replaced by a plain white board. Kearl said she was pleased they responded so quickly.
The mall's managers, Marquette Madison, referred questions Friday to a marketing vice president, who did not return calls or an email seeking comment.
"Whoever created it and all the people who thought it was OK just think harassment is something that women shouldn't be upset about, that women should take as a compliment," Harman said. "These are people who somehow haven't been around much harassment or just really aren't aware of the impacts of harassment. And street harassment is a huge issue."
Kearl said too often street harassment is made into a joke, "as they were trying to do with the sign, when the issue is quite serious."
If construction workers did actually whistle at female shoppers, it would make some women feel uncomfortable coming back to that area, hurting mall business, she said.