Being harassed on the street is an all too frequent occurrence for most women.
And often when it happens, it’s hard to know how best to react. Should you engage with your catcaller or ignore them?
Well one young woman has found an ingenious way to deal with her harassers and send a powerful message at the same time.
20-year-old Noa Jansma, a student from Amsterdam, takes selfies with every man who catcalls her.
And these aren’t sly selfies without the men realising either - she asks them and they’re happy to oblige, seemingly not understanding the situation at all.
Jansma set up an Instagram account, Dear Catcallers, for her month-long project where she’s documented each incident.
In just a month and 30 posts, the account has am***ed over 45,000 followers.
There’s a theme to the pictures too - we see Jansma, straight-faced, and grinning men, oblivious to the fact that they’ve made her feel uncomfortable. The first man she asked replied “with enthusiasm,” Jansma told Het Parool.
Explaining her project, Jansma writes that being catcalled is “not a compliment.
“This Instagram has the aim to create awareness about the objectification of women in daily life,” she wrote at the end of August.
“Since many people still don’t know how often and in whatever context ‘catcalling’ happens, I’ll be showing my catcallers within the period of one month.”
In a selfie, “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.” Jansma had had the idea in her head for a while, but after two men harassed her on a train, she decided to take action.
Over the course of the month, only one man asked her why she wanted to take a selfie, which says it all really.
“They’re not at all suspicious because they find what they do completely normal,” Jansma said.
And there were actually more incidences of street harassment than the Instagram account suggests - on some occasions, Jansma didn’t feel safe enough to ask for a selfie or the man had already got away.
Having finished her month-long project, Jansma wants to pass on the Instagram account to other girls around the world.
From 1 January 2018, street harassment will be punishable by a fine of 190€ (£170) in Amsterdam. Whilst she believes the law will be hard to impose, Jansma says she thinks it’s “symbolic, and I think that’s good.”
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