Southampton café commissions street art after harassment of female staff increases

Muse Coffee Company in Portswood, Southampton has commissioned a street artwork after staff members experienced an increase in inappropriate behaviour from male customers during lockdown.

On the side of the independent café an anonymous artist painted “Protect your daughter” with a red cross striking through the words, while the slogan “Educate your son” is shown below. The statement has become synonymous with the campaign against violence against people who identify as women. Muse hopes the mural will encourage men to take more responsibility in the campaign, stating on the café’s Instagram: “stand alone. Stand apart. Stand out. Stand for something.”

Cafe manager Kate Jeffcoate said that the new street art is also dedicated to their staff. “Through lockdown we would have single members of staff working due to social distancing rules and unfortunately found that our female staff occasionally had to deal with instances of individuals making inappropriate comments about our looks, being a little forward etc,” explained Jeffcoate. “It’s stuff that may not seem a big deal to some, but for a woman alone can feel quite intimidating and uncomfortable.”

The street art was commissioned following the murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, who disappeared on 3 March 2021 in South London. Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was later charged with her kidnapping and murder. Everard’s death sparked country-wide vigils that highlighted the harassment those identifying as women experience on the street and at night.

We felt frustration that it really is madness that females have to take so many extra precautions that males wouldn’t even have to think about,” recalled Jeffcoate.

Southampton City Council have since received complaints about the piece, which claim it is “stereotyping men“. The council said they were aware that several complaints had been made, but they “are not permitted to remove artwork from private or commercial property unless we have the permission or instruction of the landowner”.

Speaking about the complaints made about the mural, Jeffcoate encouraged locals to “have a discussion instead of jumping to conclusions”. She added “they might not have experienced misogyny first hand but I could almost guarantee someone they love has.”

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