One way to deal with catcalls: Needlepoint

Catcalls: They’re everywhere and they’re horrible. (In case you need a primer on why, here’s our recent look at violence tied to street harassment.) But one amazing Brooklyn-based artist named Elana Adler has taken all the offensive street harassment she’s endured and turned it into some really unique art.

Adler’s project is called You Are My Duchess, and it’s a collection of needlepointed phrases that she’s collected from street harassers. The phrases, intricately sewn onto canvas, say things like “Why won’t you talk to me, I’m not such a bad guy” and “Smile, babycakes, smile, you know you’re really pretty” and “Damn, promise me you’ll never go to the gym.”

The contrast between the threatening tinge to the messages and the delicate, old-timey art of needlepointing makes Adler’s work particularly striking.

She chose the format because, according to her artist’s statement, “the traditionally feminine form of the piece engages the viewer and confronts him/ her with a sweetness that may mask its crassness and vulgarity.” Her goal is to elicit a strong reaction to street harassment and dig at the notion, with each stitch, of how it feels to be verbally assaulted.

“You read one sampler. Perhaps you are amused, but as you continue reading and consider the body as an entire collection, the response changes,” Adler writes on her website. “The inherent filth emerges. It is a beautification of an assault. Perhaps in the moment these statements are meant to compliment, but most don’t find vulgar, highly sexualized statements whispered or screamed at them by random strangers complimentary. Rather, they are an invasion of personal space.”

“The body of samplers is a contemporary and unexpected response to unsolicited and unwanted attention,” Adler continues. “They reduce the complex emotional experience of being heckled by catcalls to a simple piece of women’s work.”

It’s a beautiful way of showing just how strange and invasive catcalls are through art. Check out some of her incredible work below.

You should totally check out Elena’s entire project at her website.  She’s created over 30 of these images, each one more haunting than the next.