Why women are using chalk and Instagram to stop street harassment

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Susan Devaney
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Women are writing catcalls in chalk on pavements in London in a bid to stop street harassment. 

If you ask any woman to recall an incident of catcalling, we bet that she’ll be able to recite multiple occasions – word for word.

So, in a bid to stand up to this ongoing sexual harassment, thousands of women – from New York City to London – are taking to the streets to write out catcalls in coloured chalk.

The movement began in NYC with university student Sophie Sandberg, who, using the Instagram account @catcallsofnyc, urges her followers to send over the catcalls they’ve faced and the location of where it happened. Sandberg then goes to the exact location and writes out the catcall in chalk.

Some of the more despicable quotes include, “Call me when you’re 18” and “You ain’t gay, you just haven’t had my d**k yet”. 

Now, the campaign has reached London. The Instagram account @catcallsofldn, started by Farah Benis, aims to “keep the conversation going”.

“Harrassment is widespread and a real issue as evidenced by countries like France introducing new legislation to address it,” Benis tells “I’ve experienced it, my friends have experienced it, I don’t think anyone I know could say they don’t know someone affected by it in some way. The idea resonated me massively and I wanted to contribute to raising awareness on it.”

In July last year Nottingham became the first city in the UK to expand its definition of hate crime to include misogynistic incidents, like catcalling and wolf-whistling – but more still needs to be done. 

Benis has so far received a “positive response” to people contributing their stories on Instagram.

“It is one of those things that almost every woman can relate to and has experience of - so it obviously resonates,” Benis explains.

“A fairly common reaction I get from men is to ‘take it as a compliment and move on’. However, a compliment should never make you consider your safety. It shouldn’t leave you planning different routes home. It shouldn’t leave you questioning your actions or wondering if ignoring it will make it worse.”

Women in other cities – including Amsterdam, Paris and Philadelphia – have also started to follow suit.

“There are loads of accounts springing up from all over the world. I believe collective voices will amplify the message, and if that makes one person correct or reconsider their behaviour then that’s a start,” Benis says. 

Last year, Noa Jansma, from Amsterdam, started an Instagram account, @DearCatCallers, to share selfies with every man who catcalled her for one month.

You can read more on why the catcalling culture has to stop here.

Images: Unsplash / Instagram 


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.