WARNING: This article contains language used by street harassers that may seem offensive to some readers.
"I go up to nyc at least once a year and I get cat called anywhere I go. I bring a tazer with me out of caution. I was hopping off the ferry to Ellis island when one of the crew from the ferry said 'hey, smile!' I wasn't smiling and I continued not to. Then he said again 'smile lady you'll look prettier.' I kept walking and never said a word back." - Anonymous Raise your hand if you're tired of being told to smile ????????????#stopstreetharassment
The trend that started in New York as a way to call out men for their actions is now spreading to several cities across the globe.
Street harassment has been a problem everywhere, making women as young as 11 feel like they are nothing but sexual objects. So to Sophie Sandberg, the creator of the Instagram account catcallsofnyc, the idea of calling out on men who take part in catcalling was a no-brainer.
"When I first came across Sophie's account, it really resonated with me,” Benis said. "I saw there wasn't a London version of it, and I wanted to get involved. It's a massive issue, and I thought highlighting it is one way to make it stop."
To Benis, the idea that men feel it’s OK to treat women like they are pieces of meat is unacceptable. And unfortunately, she added, girls as young as 12 have told her they, too, are constantly harassed on the street.
"A lot of the time when people say these things there is a sense of entitlement that you have to stop. People feel they're entitled to your time," she explained.
To women who are touched by Sandberg’s work, seeing these catcalls exposed feels like a step in the right direction.
Olivia, a woman who told Sandberg about her experiences, said that even now at 21 she can still remember the first time she was catcalled at 11.
"It felt really gross, and even though it was in broad daylight, it made me feel really unsafe,” she explained. "One second I was being a child, and the next I was being forced to see myself as a sexual object."
Ambrien, 16, started another “chapter” of the campaign, the catcalls of Amsterdam.
Ik was alleen bij de Rosse Buurt aan het wachten op 2 jongens om hun blowjobs te beëindigen, een man gluuuurden naar mij en zei: “How much, baby?” I was alone at The Red Light District waiting for 2 guys to finish their blowjobs, a guy leeeeered at me and said “How much, baby?” ~ Anonymous. #stopstreetharassment #amsterdam #catcalling
She said the catcalls started when she was 12.
"Some people like the attention, which is fine, but I feel uncomfortable. I am not a sexual object," she said.
Benis said she thinks that people who see catcalls as compliments are missing the point.
"I've had a lot of people talk to me about the fact that you should be grateful for the attention and it's a compliment, so what's the problem?” she explains. "It's not a compliment to me, and I should not have to give my time to you."
Ambrien agreed. That’s why she wanted to raise awareness.
"I think people aren't talking about it enough in Amsterdam, and girls who are 12 or 13 shouldn't be getting unwanted attention from older men," she said.
While Sandberg has heard both negative and positive comments about her movement from men, she explains that, nowadays, people seldom become friends or romantically involved by meeting in the street.
"I find a lot of men that will talk to me have trouble knowing where the line is drawn -- when it's harassment, and a compliment or flirting,” she said. "The street isn't the right place. There are bars, dating apps, and so many other ways to flirt and court, and I think the street should be off-limits," Sandberg added.
The group’s several images have gone viral online.
“You’re a natural blonde? Let me see up close will you love” #stopstreetharassment— Alannah Jasmine (@AlannahJasmine) July 2, 2018
It's time something gets done about catcalling. Spoke to many women recently & we don't think it's a form of a compliment. Well done @catcallsofnyc & @catcallsofldn for trying to bring attention to this problem. #stopstreetharassment— Maya (@London_Damsel) July 2, 2018
I honestly don't understand why (apparently) grown men think catcalling is, on any possible basis, a good choice. It's just gross. There's a BIG difference between complimenting a stranger & yelling at a stranger, belittling & intimidating them. #StopStreetHarassment #CatCalling— Charlton #4 (@AlexandraCharlt) July 2, 2018
Just to clarify, when I’m walking down the street and a man shouts “get your tits out girl” at me from his car window, I don’t think he’s telling me that I’m pretty— ?????????????????? ??selca day (@withloveyg) July 2, 2018
As more girls and young women use Sandberg’s catcallsofnyc as inspiration, it’s clear that more men also need to join them in saying “no more” to street harassment.
After all, harassment is harassment. No matter where it takes place. And people are finally rising against it.