NYU student Sophie Sandberg began an art project with sidewalk chalk to highlight the pervasiveness of catcalls.
Sandberg grew up in New York City and remembers experiencing street harassment when she was as young as 15. In an attempt to combat it, she began a project called "Catcalls of NYC." The accompanying Instagram asks followers to send messages about their own experiences with catcalling and to share where it took place. Sandberg then goes, bright chalk in hand, to where the harassment took place and writes the quote in large letters.
The quotes range from seemingly innocuous comments like "What's up girl? Hey girl! Hey girl!" to words far more sinister and intimidating in nature.
As women, the idea of being harassed while walking down the street is not new; however, something about seeing it written out so plainly is unnerving and stomach-churning. "By writing the comments on the sidewalk where they happened, I raise public awareness about the issue," explained Sandberg in an interview with HuffPost. "The colorful chalk and colorful words catch people’s eyes. They force those who wouldn’t normally experience catcalling to take a second look."
Other women have made artistic statements out of catcalling: One woman posted selfies to Instagram with her catcallers for a month including what they said to her in the caption. Another woman photographed her harassers and turned it into a collection.
Sandberg explains that she has always felt deeply uncomfortable when subjected to street harassment. She doesn't believe it should be an accepted annoyance. While her disapproval of the action is vehement, the Sandberg says that she has never felt comfortable addressing catcallers directly. With its attention-grabbing colors and prominent placement, she hopes that her project will inspire more people to intervene next time they see someone being harassed.
"I want people who feel silenced, objectified or victimized, to understand that they can be agents of change," Sandberg said to HuffPost. "One voice can contribute to a collective movement. With that, we have power and we cannot be silenced."