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Catcalls of NYC: Fighting against street harassment

Many cases of harassment and revelations about sordid harassment stories have emerged. A number of public figures in the entertainment industry have been accused of vile acts. Various platforms have emerged such as the Catcalls of NYC and #Metoo movement to combat harassment. Both men and women are speaking up against harassment of any form including catcalling on the street. 

The Circular had the opportunity to speak with Sophie Sandberg the creator Catcalls of NYC, a platform fighting against harassment such as Catcalling. This platform encourages women and men to share their stories of harassment on the streets of New York.

There has been an influx of messages with stories of personal experience filled vulgar and inappropriate words uttered to individuals by strangers on the streets. Catcalls of NYC makes a statement with the experience of readers and uses this to stand against street harassment by writing experiences shared on the streets of New York in chalk in the exact location where they were Catcalled.

Can you tell the readers what Catcalls of NYC is about? And is this a personal project or part of a bigger platform?

Catcalls of NYC started off as a personal project. I created it as a way to respond to the harassment I faced growing up in New York and continued to face as a college student. I felt that no one cared about catcalling and yet it was affecting the way I felt in public space. Whether it was going to a store or going to school or work, I always felt uncomfortable or self-conscious walking down the street because of this behavior. This project was a way to address the problem and show people how widespread and inappropriate the behavior is. However, as the project has grown, it is no longer about me but everyone else. I want to give people the space to share their stories and raise awareness about street harassment on a large scale.

Is this project targeted towards women or men? Or anybody who has experienced catcalling?

The project is for everyone experiencing harassment. It’s called gender-based harassment because it disproportionately affects women and folks in the LGBTQ+ community for their gender/sexuality. Most of the submissions I get are from women and LGBTQ+ individuals but I also get some submissions from men that I post.

Has there been an influx of stories and can you share what you feel when you read about other peoples experiences?

There are so so many stories from people from all around the world. This issue resonates with a lot of people because even though catcalling is mainly an urban phenomenon, gender-based harassment happens everywhere, in schools in the workplace etc. When I read these stories I feel so sad and angry that people have to deal with this. It’s difficult to read so many horrific stories. Sometimes I wish I could do more to help and comfort these people. But many people thank me just for listening because it helps to get their stories off their chests.

What do you hope men and women will learn from this as they see people sharing their personal experience?

I hope that people facing harassment will feel comforted by this community. I hope they will have a safe space where they can talk about their stories and how to respond when it continues to happen. I hope people not facing harassment will learn about how widespread this issue is and hopefully feel emboldened to step in if they see something happening. Even something as simple as asking a victim of harassment if they’re okay can help the situation

As a society that is evolving, what do you aim to create with this platform?

I hope to create awareness around the issue because I believe that awareness will allow more people to step in when they see this happening and eventually, the issue will not be overlooked. Those who catcall will realize that what they’re doing is unacceptable and they will have to stop.

what would your advise be individuals if they ever experience this?

I normally advice folks to keep walking and ignore it. Unless there are a lot of people around and they feel comfortable, then they can respond if they want. But I don’t like to advocate for fighting back because in many situations confrontation leads to further harassment. 

Do you think the individual’s involved in Catcalling know what effect it can have on their target?

I think some men like to abuse their power and make us feel bad about ourselves. However, I think other men involved in this behavior genuinely think that this is a way to compliment women and make them “feel good about themselves.” I want to show these men that this is never the case. 

Photo credits: Jessica Kurtz, Tatianna, Catcalls of NYC

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