Catcallers of NYC
Photo: Catcallers of NYC
Photo: Catcallers of NYC

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This powerful Instagram account is tackling New York’s catcallers head-on

21-year-old Sophie Sandberg is part of a growing group of young women using Instagram to tackle street harassment

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By Lily Peschardt on

“Lift up that dress. Show us that pussy.”

Even if nothing that explicit has ever been yelled at you from a passing car window, or by a group of men on the street, every woman knows the flush of embarrassment, of shame, of anger that floods through them when a total stranger catcalls them. For generations, women have been told to ignore it, to let it roll over them, to clench their jaw and look the other way, but for 21-year-old Sophie Sandberg, that wasn’t enough – she wanted to do something about it.

So, she set up an Instagram account with the handle, Catcalls of NYC, bought some brightly-coloured chalk and got to work. Sandberg asks her Instagram followers to send in the details of their experiences of street harassment, including where the incident took place and what was said. She then goes to the location and writes the catcaller’s quote in large, colourful chalk letters and posts the image to Instagram.

“The colourful chalk and colourful words catch people’s eyes,” she explained to the HuffPost. “They force those who wouldn’t normally experience catcalling to take a second look.”

It’s undeniable that there’s something striking about seeing these lewd remarks written down in an almost childlike manner that grabs your attention.

By writing these quotes on the pavement of busy New York streets and posting these images to her Instagram account, Sandberg hopes it will help raise public awareness of the issue – especially for those who haven’t ever experienced catcalling and are prone to trivialising the issue.

“For me, it has always been more than an annoyance,” Sandberg explained. “It’s shaped my experience in public space. It’s affected my confidence and comfort walking down the street. It’s silenced me ― I’ve never felt comfortable responding to catcalls, as much as I’d like to tell these men off.”

Sandberg is part of a growing group of young women who are using Instagram to try and tackle street harassment. Earlier this year, 20-year-old Dutch woman, Noa Jansma, started posting for selfies with the men who harassed her on the street and posted them to her account, Dear Catcallers. If these young women are the future, count me in.

@LilyPesch

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