Author (and photo credit): Sophie Sandberg
At age 15, I became aware of daily street harassment in NYC. “Hello Beautiful,” “Hey Sexy” and “Mmm Baby” accompanied my morning commute to my summer job. At first, I thought there must be something wrong with me, something that was provoking this behavior. I soon came to realize that this behavior was actually “normal.” I spent years feeling frustrated: as angry as I was, I never felt comfortable responding to catcalls. I was always silenced by the comments. At age 19, I found my way of responding. I started Catcalls of NYC– an Instagram account that raises awareness about street harassment in NYC. I write catcalls on the sidewalk in chalk, in the spot where they happened. My goal is to give people a place to share their story of harassment, use it to raise pubic awareness and ultimately denormalize catcalling.
These predatory comments are often made by older men towards younger girls. There is no confusion here. These men know they are talking to teenagers and pre-teens.
“When I was only 13 years old an older man came up to me and said ‘Call me when you’re 18.’ I am still disturbed that a man said that to me at 13 years old.”
“When I was 15 years old, walking down a street with a couple of friends, we passed this small group of men who were at least twice our age. One of them motioned his hand towards me and said ‘Wow… beautiful. Call me in 3 years!’ He said more after that, but I felt immediately violated, and helpless. He was aware that I was a child, a teenager, had no regard for my peace of mind and decided that everyone around us needed to know that I was an object of his desire. I remember feeling afraid, and ashamed of myself from my first catcall.”
“I don’t live in New York but I went on a school trip and I was with my friends on a walk and this man decided he could cat call me and my friends, ‘oh mama, I’d love to fuck you in 2 years’ and I was horrified and we ran back to where we were staying.”
“One day I was walking from the train after visiting a friends’ house and I saw these two guys standing on the corner, and me being 16 at the time, I decided it was best for me to cross over, but one of them proceeded to shout at me ‘you don’t have to be afraid sweetheart, it’ll only hurt a little.’ so I immediately picked up the pace and called my dad. It was scary and is why I now carry mace in my bag.”
More about Sophie Sandberg and her Catcalls of NYC can be found here: www.catcallsofnyc.com