20-year-old Instagrams every man who catcalled her in a month

A new law banning cat-calling, harassment of women on French streets will see men fined on the spot


Warda Imran October 16, 2017
Bristol Women’s Voice want women to share their experiences of misogynistic street abuse to help create ideas on how to prevent it. PHOTO: AFP

A 20-year-old Amsterdam-based student Noa Jansma has taken the internet by storm by publicly calling out to ‘catcallers’.

The world ‘catcall’ is officially defined as, “a shrill whistle or shout of disapproval made at a public meeting or performance” but is used to define how men harass women on the street by making vulgar comments or even by whistling out to them. In an attempt to strip a conversation about this concept, Noa started an Instagram account called @dearcatcallers where she has documented every man who has catcalled to her in the month of September.

A new law banning cat-calling and harassment of women on French streets will see men fined on the spot for lecherous and aggressive behaviour, France's women's minister said on Monday. The legislation is being piloted by 34-year-old Marlene Schiappa, a feminist and early supporter of French President Emmanuel Macron who wants to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces.

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"It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law," she told RTL radio on Monday in a major interview to outline the law, which is to be voted next year. The escalating scandal over Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual assaults on a string of actresses has rekindled debate on sexual harassment and predation in France.

Asked about the difficulty of drawing a line between harassment and flirtation, Schiappa replied: "We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street." She cited examples such as when a man invades a woman's personal space - "by talking to you 10, 20 centimetres from your face" - or follows a woman for several blocks, or "asks for your number 17 times."

A cross-party task force composed of five MPs has been asked to work with police and magistrates to come up with a definition of harassment that can be enforced by officers in the street. "The level of the fine is part of our discussions," Schiappa said, adding that neighbourhood police would act on complaints brought to their attention by women.

"The symbolic value of laws that outlaw street harassment is very great," she said. The legislation will also include provisions such as lengthening the amount of time women have to lodge sexual assault complaints dating from their childhood and toughening laws on sex with minors.

By taking selfies with these men, she has exposed how often women have to struggle with such incidents; but also, she has shown the world how disturbing these experiences can be for women all over the world. Similarly, in Pakistan catcalling is fairly common behaviour too.

The most interesting aspect of the selfies that Noa has taken are the unapologetic facial expressions on the faces of the men, they are juxtaposed by her mundane, exhausted and frustrated face expression. By showing the world what these men said to her, and what they looked like gives her power over them. She is demonstrating that although she is being objectified, she is also ensuring the world acknowledges it and acknowledges the kind of men who do behave in this way.

Her first Instagram post reads, "#dearcatcallers, it’s not a compliment. This Instagram has the aim to create awareness about the objectification of women in daily life. 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. By making the selfie; both the objectifier 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. Please join me in the fight and post your own #dearcatcallers or send me a DM."

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By explaining the power dynamics between the objectifier and objectified and by breaking normative patterns of behaviour, she has picked a 'fight'.

Here are some of her posts:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYYSmReFDLq/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYamUxWlX6k/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYddV9lFj_E/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYrVnV1FUY1/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYvHuPwlpTs/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BY_WW89lCu0/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZHFcNQlFMp/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZeIQuoF6CZ/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZjprOUlvrv/?taken-by=dearcatcallers

At the end of September, Noa promised to pass the account on to another woman struggling with catcalling so that she may continue the trend and pass it on, so this Instagram account could, in some way, become an archive for such experiences.

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It is important to note the similarities of catcalling in different cultures, and to give women a platform to engage in critical dialogue about this. Her account currently has 134k followers and 29 posts.

From January 2018, Netherlands is officially going to term catcalling a punishable offence, violators will be subject to fines of up to 190 euros ($220).

With additional input from agencies.

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