What to Know
- Catcalls of NYC was started by NYU senior Sophie Sandberg in a freshman writing class.
- The project now has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and dozens of global sister accounts.
- Sandberg’s goal is to get people to stop and think about power dynamics in public spaces.
Have you stumbled across any colorful chalked quotes around the city lately? Look closely and you might be offended.
Written on sidewalks across the city, quotes like “Nice t**s, baby" were made to shock, but also to increase awareness of street harassment.
Catcalls of NYC, the project responsible for these phrases, was started by NYU senior Sophie Sandberg. Originally for a freshman writing class, the project now has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and dozens of global sister accounts.
Hundreds of people a day send Sandberg messages on Instagram about their experiences with street harassment, along with the location of where it happened. Sandberg then goes to the place it occurred and writes the catcall in chalk, for everybody to see.
Sandberg’s goal is to get people to stop and think about power dynamics in public spaces. “I want people to feel emboldened to act,” Sandberg said. “They don’t have to deal with this behavior silently.”
A native New Yorker, Sandberg was inspired to start the project because of her personal experiences. Sandberg said she’s faced street harassment since middle school.
The project has experienced immense growth in the past couple of months, with the number of followers near doubling. Because of the increased amount of traffic on the page, Sandberg now has a team to help her chalk.
New chalker Cameron Anderson, an NYU junior, said chalking is not as easy as she expected. “It’s very nerve-wracking,” Anderson said. “I didn’t really expect it to be so intimidating, coming into this.”
Ironically, the chalkers also get hit on while they chalk. “Basically every time I chalk there’ll be guys who ask me if they can take pictures of me chalking it, who just take it completely out of context,” Anderson said.
But at the end of the day, these challenges are worth it, Catcalls of NYC chalker Jessica Kurtz added. “Telling our stories is just the first step in building agency in public space."