Anna's Story

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.

Image courtesy of Thais Ramos Varela

Image courtesy of Thais Ramos Varela

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!


How to Fight Street Harassment with Chalk

Catcalls of NYC was started in an effort to raise awareness about street harassment. The Instagram account is used to create community, share stories and provide a space to talk about street harassment. The public chalk, on the other hand, is used to grab passersby and make them think about the experience of being catcalled. The sidewalk chalk illustrates the vulgarity of the words and the scope of the problem of street harassment.

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Starting a “catcallsof” account is a great way to do this in your community. Both the Instagram account and the public chalk are important parts of running an account. But, if you’re in a place where its difficult or impossible to chalk, sharing stories digitally is another option. If you feel uncomfortable chalking, reach out to others in your community and ask for help.

As more people around the world join the movement and begin chalking, I wanted to compile a list of advice for running a “catcallsof” account. Over the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about chalking and engaging with people in person and on social media. I want to share with those starting out so they can use the tips I’ve learned over time.

I’ve been so lucky to gain a community through Catcalls of NYC and meet people from different places and backgrounds that I never would have met otherwise. As of now there are “catcallsof” accounts in more than 20 places the country and 25 places around the world. From Iran, to California, to London and Ohio people are using their “catcallsof” accounts to fight back against harassment. I hope that many of you will join us in taking to the streets, creating community and ensuring that our experiences be heard (or rather, seen). Join us in chalking back. And if you do, here are my tips:

1. Keep Calm and Chalk Back

I am very angry about street harassment. The comments people submit to me on a daily basis are disgusting, violating, objectifying, etc. I hate that so many people, women, girls, non-binary and trans folks, have to deal with this behavior. But when I go out to chalk, I try to leave this anger at home. I give passersby the benefit of the doubt. I am open to conversation. And if someone gets angry at me for what I’m doing, I try to take the highroad and disengage. Your safety always comes first. So if you feel uncomfortable talking to someone, try to ignore them.

2. Educate

Chalking is a great way to get the word out about the “catcallsof” project. When people stop and look at the chalk, tell them about your account. Explain to them that you’re fighting back against street harassment by writing the harassing comments where they originally happened. Tell people it’s a global movement. As much as they’re willing to listen to you, talk. 

3. Respond to Haters on Instagram

First and foremost, this account is about education and raising awareness. Insults and comebacks feel great. Witty jabs are fun. But it’s important to balance that out with dialogue and productive conversations. It’s okay to disagree with someone, but if they mean well and want to learn, it’s best to engage them in conversation and hopefully make them see your side of the argument. Some people are genuinely ignorant about catcalling and street harassment. If these accounts can be used to educate them and make them aware of the problem, that does a world of good.

5. Gain Media Attention and Followers

Email your local newspaper. Email national news sources. Plan an event to engage your community. Post as frequently as possible. Respond to people’s messages and comments. Message other feminist accounts on Instagram and tell them about your account. Ask them to share. Street harassment is an issue that so many people deal with. If you reach out to others, they’ll want to help get the word out.

6. Have Fun

Maybe it sounds lame, but, have fun! Street harassment is a serious, difficult and upsetting topic. But running a “catcallsof” account doesn’t have to be. Chalking back is empowering. It’s a method of reclaiming a spot where someone was harassed and creating a beautiful chalk writing. Enjoy it. 

Cassie's Story

Cassie’s Story | January 8, 2019

Gender-based street harassment is an epidemic affecting women, non binary and trans folks in cities around the globe. Join Catcalls of NYC writer Jessica Hutt in hearing first-hand accounts from people who are saying NO to catcalling.

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Jessica Hutt: Where are you from?

Cassie: I’m originally from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but I have been living in Nashville, TN for about 10 years.


Hutt: How old were you when you were first catcalled?

Cassie: I was 11.


Hutt: What happened? Who catcalled you? What did they say/do?

Cassie: I was going to the pool, and this boy who was probably 15 or 16 whistled at me. He was cute, and I was young and thought it was a type of compliment, so I smiled.


Hutt: How did the experience make you feel in the moment and after the fact?

Cassie: In the moment I thought it made me more mature, because I had only ever seen women get catcalled. It was almost like a right of passage or something in my mind back then. Now looking back it makes me sick. While I looked much older than I was at the time (I looked like I could’ve easily been the same age as the boy), it’s still wildly inappropriate for him to have whistled at me like a dog needing to come home.


Hutt: How did you react outwardly?

Cassie: I gave a small, quick smile and then I walked a little faster.


Hutt: Did you tell anyone what happened?

Cassie: I’ve never really told anyone, my mom was around though and told the boy to shove it.


Hutt: Do you believe that catcalling is a compliment?

Cassie: I did, I thought it was like a reaffirmation. Now I think it’s derogatory. Women are humans, created to be the equals of men, not possessions.


Hutt: Do you go out of your way to avoid situations in which you could be catcalled?

Cassie: I don’t really [take measures to prevent] getting catcalled, more just for my general safety. Common things, like parking close to whatever place I’m going to, making sure I’m in a place that’s well lit, holding my car keys a certain way.


Hutt: Did you feel the need to change your behavior after the experience?

Cassie: No, never. I have pepper spray, but I’m more likely to punch someone than use it, and where I work, I’m not permitted to have it. As far as dressing, I will always dress in a way that makes me feel good, mostly because I’ve found that I’ll get catcalled whether I’m wearing something with my tits out or a literal trench coat.


Hutt: What do you think can be done to end street harassment?

Cassie: Honestly, calling out those who catcall. I’m an outspoken person, so I’ll usually cuss whoever it is out without thinking twice about it. Showing them it’s not consensual, not a compliment, and overall not okay.


Hutt: Why is it important to end street harassment?

Cassie: Because I shouldn’t wish to have sons one day just because I don’t want another little girl to go through what I have. If any kind of sexual harassment persists in our community then it perpetuates the idea of women only having worth if they are deemed desirable, objectifying them.


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 Cassie for telling her story and speaking out against unsolicited sexual advances!

BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CHALKING BACK

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Hi everyone! We're so excited about the event this coming Saturday. Here’s some more information about what to expect the day of and a few chalking tips so you’re all prepared to have a ~badass~ time. 

1.    Community

This event is about building community. It will be a way for us to support each other, vent about experiences we’ve had and share the ways we’ve learned to respond and cope with the behavior. There will be allies at the event who haven’t dealt with street harassment. This is a great opportunity to share with them what you’d like to see from a bystander, and what you want active ally-ship to look like.

2.    Chalk

This event will be an opportunity to chalk your own catcalls. As we all know, these comments can be extremely vulgar. When I chalk, I use asterisks to bleep out the curse words. I firmly believe that children should be educated about this behavior and that the chalk is an opportunity for that.  But I also don’t want to be responsible for a 4 year old asking her mom what “F - U - C - K” spells out. Whether or not parents explain the project to their kids should be at their own discretion.

As much as I want people to be outraged by the words, I don’t want that to turn into anger towards us. I want this to be a peaceful and educational gathering. Engage people. Explain the project to them if they seem interested. And if someone seems confrontational, try to ignore them. 

3.    Support

Catcalls of NYC is run purely on a volunteer basis. We will be selling feminist merch in hopes of making back the money that was spent on the event and saving up for more chalk and future initiatives. A portion of the profits from the Femininitees' Cats > Catcalls tee-shirts will go to a feminist organization. If you’re able to donate, it will go straight back into the project. Catcalls of NYC is growing rapidly and the more resources we have, the more we can continue to make change.

Thank you and see you Saturday ❤️

Catcalls of NYC 

CHALK BACK

Hello fellow activists!!
 

We are thrilled to announce our first chalking event next month. "Chalk Back" will be on July 21st at 12pm in Washington Square Park. Come out for an opportunity to share your story and chalk a catcall. Have your voice heard, raise awareness and speak (chalk) back against harassment that has been normalized for far too long.

We will have exciting merch, goodie bags and free chalk. Come get involved with the cause and meet amazing people working hard to end harassment on the streets of NYC.

Stay tuned with updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Get your free tickets on Eventbrite

Sincerely,

Catcalls of NYC 

 

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