Anna’s Story | January 19, 2019
Gender-based street harassment is an epidemic affecting women, non binary, and trans folks in cities all around the globe. Join Catcalls of NYC writer Jessica Hutt in hearing first-hand accounts from people who are saying “NO!” to catcalling. In this interview, read the story of Anna Bayer, a German university student who is all too familiar with the realities of seuxal harrassment and the pain it can bring.
Jessica Hutt: Where are you from?
Anna Bayer: I am from Germany. More specifically, I am from Mainz, near Frankfurt.
Hutt: How old were you when you were first catcalled?
Bayer: I was about 14/15 years old the first time I remember being catcalled.
Hutt: What happened? Who catcalled you? What did they say/do?
Bayer: At that time I had blue hair, so I was used to people staring at me. But one time, on my way home at my local train station, two grown men started staring at and following me. They yelled at me in a language I didn’t know. I don’t know what they really said, but I was totally scared when they followed me to my platform. Eventually, they left me alone.
Hutt: How did the experience make you feel in the moment and after the fact?
Bayer: I was really scared and angry. [I was] scared of what could do to me and angry because I thought “they’re grown men. Why don’t they act like adults?”. Later, I learned a lot of adults act like that.
Hutt: How did you react outwardly?
Bayer: I am not really sure because it was so long ago, but I think I walked faster and tried searching for other groups of adults so in case something happened, there would be somebody around.
Hutt: Do you believe that catcalling is a compliment?
Bayer: I’m not scared of compliments and they don’t make me feel threatened. Catcalls make me feel like that, so I don’t see them as compliments.
Hutt: Do you go out of your way to avoid situations in which you could be catcalled?
Bayer: I used to barely go outside, especially with colored hair because it would attract so much more attention. The older I got, the worse it got. I’m 21 now and I’m still afraid to go out at night because I get catcalled or threatened every time. I barely wear the short pants or crop tops I love so much because I know it makes it worse. I stopped riding my bike last summer because I am easily scared by loud noises and was afraid that I would fall off when catcalling cars honked at me.
Hutt: Did you feel the need to change your behavior after the experience?
Bayer: At night I still hold my keys between my fingers. Sometimes in the summer if I'm really paranoid or scared I'll carry my arts and crafts cutter in my pocket at night.
Hutt: What do you think can be done to end street harassment?
Bayer: I think the best thing you can do is teach boys (and girls) from a young age about this issue. Also, a lot of my (boy) friends became educated simply through hearing about my and other girls’ experiences and started speaking up for girls.
Hutt: Why is it important to end street harassment?
Bayer: I want to be able to enjoy life (especially at night time) like boys are able to. I want to feel good in my own body and wear what I want without being scared of being a potential rape victim. I want to dance in a club without being touched. I want to ride my bike without being afraid of every truck because the driver might honk at me just because he thinks my booty is nice and I could fall off and injure myself badly. I want little girls to enjoy their childhood without being overly sexualised by pedophiles. I really just want to exist as a human and not just a thing to whistle at.
Want more stories? Keep checking the Catcalls of NYC blog for new interviews with badass people sharing their personal experiences with street harassment. Special thanks to Anna for telling her story and speaking out against unsolicited sexual advances!