20-year-old Noa Jansma, like many women, can barely leave the house without catching a lecherous stare, a whistle, or a vulgar pickup attempt.
“Catcalling,” as its known, is a well documented phenomenon. In 2014, a viral video showed a woman walking the streets of New York for a day and getting harassed by countless men, sparking widespread discussion and opening a lot of eyes to the epidemic.
Three years later, though, the problem persists while most advice for women still centers around various ways to ignore the offenders.
Jansma decided to try a new tactic to deal with her harrassers: She posed for selfies with them.
The experiment, called “Dear Cat Callers,” lasted a month.
When she was stopped on the street, Jansma asked the men to pose for a photo with her. Most happily obliged.
She even included snippets of what they said to her.
Why “Dear Catcallers”? To send them a message.
“It’s not a compliment,” her Instagram profile reads.
The selfies, she writes, don’t only help bring awareness to the problem (and the creeps behind it); they reverse the power dynamic and put her back in control.
Take special note of her stoic, fearless expression in most of the photos — despite many of the men asking her to “smile” or putting their arm around her. Some are totally oblivious to her anger.
The project may be a dangerous one, but Jansma appears to be quite comfortable with sharing the frame of a photograph with her harassers.
The photos also put a face to the gross and frightening behavior.
Catcalling isn’t just an annoyance. It’s legitimately harmful to women (and other men, too).
The emotional toll of being constantly terrorized by strangers on the street can’t be overstated. Catcalling also rightfully fosters more anger and suspicion toward men in general.
In some places, including Amsterdam, Canada, and areas in the United States, street harassment is even illegal. But it’s tricky to enforce, and rolling out bans on this type of behavior will take quite some time.
The response to Jansma’s project has been astronomical, with her account gaining over 100,000 followers in a month.
That Jansma could collect so many photos and stories in such a short time is alarming. That thousands and thousands of women across the world can easily relate to her experience is even worse.
Now that the initial project is over, she hopes to hand off the account to women in other countries so they can share their own photos.
Every woman who stands up to her harassers will be taking a risk, but campaigns like Jansma’s help make more people (men, specifically) aware of and disgusted by the problem. The more that happens, the more likely it is that catcallers become the ones who feel uncomfortable being out in public.
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Tags: The Conversation