We've All Been Catcalled. We Haven't All Caused Riots.

Published by Wednesday Martin

You probably don’t know that in September 1968, there was a riot in Manhattan’s Financial District. Streets were shut down, parked cars were damaged when men scrambled atop them, the police were called in, and activity on the trading floor all but halted. An article about the chaos in New York Magazine noted that “Ticker tapes went untended and dignified brokers ran amok." So what caused Wall Street to turn into such a zoo? A 5’3” clerical worker just shy of her 21st birthday. 

Francine Gottfried lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her parents, and worked at the downtown data processing center for the Chemical Bank New York Trust Company. But what history remembers is her measurements. At 43-25-37 (according to the same piece in New York Magazine), Gottfried literally embodied the voluptuous ideal of the day, and men working downtown took notice. What started as a small group of catcallers leering at Gottfried early in the summer ballooned exponentially until the oglers were numbering in the thousands. By September 19th, an estimated 5,000 men swarmed the street surrounding subway station from which they knew Gottfried would emerge on her commute to work. Still others leaned out of their high-rise office windows to catch a glimpse of her notorious bust. On September 20th, it’s said there were ten-thousand people, including press, packed into the narrow streets. But it was for naught: In hopes of putting an end to the pandemonium, Gottfried’s boss had instructed her to not come into work.

For her part, Gottfried was baffled. "These people in Wall Street have responsibility for millions of dollars and they act like they're out of their mind," she told reporters. "What are they doing this for? I'm just an ordinary girl."

Happily, feminists responded to the treatment of Gottfried. Two years after the mayhem, feminist lesbian artist Karla Jay organized the “Wall Street Ogle-In.” She and dozens of other women took to the streets, wolf-whistling and catcalling the businessmen who crossed their paths. Remembering the stunt in her memoir, journalist Susan Brownmiller wrote,

“Wendy Roberts, a free-spirited hippie who called herself Wendy Wonderful, was my heroine that day. She sauntered up behind an unwitting passerby and grabbed his crotch. Oh retribution!”

Sounds like tit for tat—or perhaps more accurately, tat for tits.