thanks but no thanks part 2

Administrative policies can wedge prohibitions and fear between inhabitants of the city. Coinciding with the city’s dropping crime was what seemed like a decline the independence of its citizens.

The newest (and my personal favorite) vague, socially damaging and intellectually dulling MTA announcement is “A crowded train is no excuse for an inappropriate touch”. When I hear it, half of me wants to laugh. I imagine someone actually telling the police that the train was crowded and that he or she did not know that sort of thing was frowned upon. The other half of me wonders what exactly they are talking about.

In high school, a close friend of mine in a crowded train on her way to school felt something bumping her leg. A man had exposed himself, and was very inappropriately touching her leg. She yelled at him and asserted with disgust (to the entire car) that she was 15 years old. He was humiliated and the other people on the train gave her the support that she needed.

This creative and assertive problem solving, is what this city is supposed to breed in its residents. If something or someone is legitimately threatening to you, you can say something without waiting until after the fact and going to the police or an MTA employee. Resolving an issue with an unarmed person should not require a sign or a police officer. It requires awareness of yourself and others around you. The city should facilitate communication, and community through solidarity and self sufficiency. It should not inject a middle man that discourages interpersonal relations and encourages dependence upon its institutions.


  1. I’m so sorry if you found this post offensive! In no way did I intend to trivialize sexual abuse in any form; I’d like to clarify the point I was trying to make.
    Perpetrators of sexual harassment in subway cars are aware of the offense they are committing. To me, that ad might as well say “A crowded train is no excuse for stealing somebody’s wallet, even if you can get away with it.”
    If women do not know that being touched by strangers in a train is inappropriate, I don’t think that the optimal advice is: wait, and then tell an MTA employee or police officer. Maybe if the ad suggested instead, “you do not have to tolerate inappropriate touches just because a train is crowded. Move away from the person, or call attention to the behavior.”
    Because there are no police officers or MTA officials wandering through crowded trains, to me it suggests that even one instance is permissible. Further, when someone leaves the train and tells an officer or MTA official, what will the procedure be? Bring the victim to the police station and write up a report? For young children, or those who feel at fault in any way, I think this process would be daunting.

    I really appreciate your response because I had not considered that perspective. I see how my post could have implied a much harsher message; I hope it was not offensive.

  2. So interesting. I actually love those ads; I wish they’d been around when I started traveling from Queens to Manhattan alone, at 12 years old. Perhaps they would’ve given me the courage/support I needed to yell like your friend. I moved a lot but never yelled; I was scared. I had no idea such things could happen in public and the adult public see and not intervene. I only told my mother about such incidents years later, when I was an adult… I’m not even sure why I didn’t tell her. Maybe I felt like it was my fault back then, I really don’t know. And you know, that’s ok. Because I was a child… the rules of agency/empowerment should be different for adults and children. But I get it: in a big city, children have to grow up fast. So back to the MTA’s sign, I’d bet it probably gives a lot of courage to girls (or boys) and women who’re being fondled on the train and it probably acts as a deterrent to some perpetrators because at least they know some official person is watching. I’ve written some about this before:

  3. On the one hand, you are right that it is ludicrous to think that a sign will stop a sleazeball on the train. On the other, I’m not sure that the goal of policy makers should be angry public confrontations. Your friend’s story turned out well, but this was not a guaranteed outcome. All New Yorkers are confrontational, but old school natives also have to know when to avoid confrontation.