“Catcalls of NYC” is a bold project making a powerful statement about street harassment
Sadly, many women receive and expect catcalls on the street. And while a simple “hey sweetheart” may seem harmless, it’s not. Another term for “catcalling” is “street harassment,” and a new project called “Catcalls of NYC” uncovers the lewd things that women hear in public, ranging from creepy to terrifying.
Sophie Sandberg, 21, attends NYU and started “Catcalls of NYC” on Instagram. Sandberg, who grew up in New York City, asks her followers to tell her things that street harassers have said to them and where it occurred. Then, she goes to the site of harassment and writes the harasser’s words on the street with brightly colored chalk.
Sandberg’s social media takedown of street harassers joins women’s past movements, like one woman’s 2014 project of photographing her catcallers. More recently, a woman named Noa Jansma took selifes with everyone who catcalled her. Unlike those past projects, Sandberg’s “Catcalls of NYC” allows the busy commuters of New York to get a sense of the pervasiveness of street harassment. Not only that, but it shows how aggressive and vulgar some catcalls can be. For those who don’t know what catcalling is like, seeing the words spoken to unsuspecting women actually written out could serve as a wakeup call.
Here’s what “Catcalls of NYC” looks like on the streets.
Some of them use profane, derogatory language.
Even the more mild catcalls seem threatening when you see them written on the street.
Sandberg says that she hopes the chalk will catch people’s eyes.
"By writing the comments on the sidewalk where they happened, I raise public awareness about the issue," she told The Huffington Post. "The colorful chalk and colorful words catch people’s eyes. They force those who wouldn’t normally experience catcalling to take a second look."
Sandberg has likely achieved her goal. Seeing words like “bitch” and “fuck” (among others) should grab any passerby’s eye.
The “Catcalls of NYC” Instagram also serves as a shocking gallery of all the things women hear on a daily basis. While looking at it, you might even realize that some things you hear regularly do count as harassment, even if you hadn’t thought so. Women are so used to hearing things like “baby” or “sweetie” on the street that it’s easy to forget how disturbing they are.
Even just “smile baby” subjects women to the male gaze.
Hopefully “Catcalls of NYC” will make people think twice about both allowing and participating in street harassment. A woman’s daily existence shouldn’t be shrouded in men’s desires and demands.