Catcalling is one of the most common – and frankly, unimaginative – examples of everyday sexism there is. And for the millions of women around the world who experience it regularly, being whistled at, insulted or "complimented" on their looks, is intimidating, frustrating and exhausting to deal with.
But one woman, who experiences it on a near-daily basis, has come up with a canny way of handling catcallers and highlighting the problem. Noa Jansma, a 20-year-old student based in Amsterdam, started taking selfies with her catcallers and posting them on Instagram.
The account, Dear Catcallers, makes for uncomfortable viewing and has amassed nearly 50k followers from all over the world, highlighting the extent of the problem. "Dear catcallers, it's not a compliment," Jansma wrote in her first post just over a month ago. "Since many people still don't know how often and in [what] contact 'catcalling' happens, I'll be showing my catcallers within the period of one month."
In the selfies, “both the objectification and the object are assembled in one composition. Myself, as the object, standing in front of the catcallers represents the reversed power ratio which is caused by this project,” she added.
The selfies weren't taken on the sly, either – Jansma openly asked each harasser for their permission to be photographed and all but one happily obliged without even questioning her motives, she told Het Parool, which only serves to highlight their audacity, really. "They're not at all suspicious because they feel that what they're doing is completely normal," she said.
The catcalling episodes highlighted during her project weren't the only times Jansma was harassed. There were times when she didn't feel safe enough to ask for a selfie or the man got away too quickly for her to ask.
Jansma's month-long project may now have come to an end, but she plans to keep Dear Catcallers running. "To show that it's a global phenomenon and that this art project is not only about me, I'll pass on the account to different girls around the world," she wrote on Instagram earlier this week, encouraging others in send in their own images under #DearCatcallers.
Research carried out by experts at the University of Melbourne in Australia earlier this year found that women experienced sexual objectification every two days. Being personally targeted or witnessing others being objectified was linked to a "substantial increase” in “self-objectification”, showing its damaging impact on the way women think about themselves.
There is a glimmer of good news for women in Amsterdam, however. Street harassment will be punishable with a 190€ (£170) fine from the beginning of next year, which Jansma believes will be difficult to enforce but is "symbolic" and so is to be welcomed.
If you're thinking about contributing to Jansma's project, be wary before interacting with catcallers and, whether or not you want to contribute, it's worth reading Stop Street Harassment's advice for dealing with street harassers.