Words and pictures by Tom Davies
Two students in Cardiff have decided to take a stand against ‘catcalling’ and street harassment against women. Midwifery students Sarah Farrence and Grace Packham from Cardiff University argue that the issue is too often overlooked but should be treated as intimidation and harassment.
The pair run the Instagram page @CatCallsofCaerdydd which documents their visual campaign across the city’s streets. The campaign sees them chalking messages such as “Teach girls to prioritise feeling safe over being nice,” and “Two thirds of women have experienced street harassment.” Their ambition is to bring this issue awareness and to challenge people to stop and think.
“Some people don’t even know catcalling still happens, so by doing this, we can talk about the issue and hopefully start to make steps to correct it. People will never understand how it feels until it happens to them. I’ve tried to explain it to someone who is so much bigger than me, and it just doesn’t occur to them that they could be intimidating… And it does come down to that a lot of the time. …It does make you feel scared when someone winds down their window and shouts at you, because you don’t know what they’re going to do after that…I don’t want to be whistled at like a dog”
This isn’t a new phenomenon on our streets. Grace explains that she was first ‘catcalled’ at the age of 13. However, they argue that street harassment has become worse in the last few years.
The pair say that a lot of people – mostly men – have approached them whilst they’ve been out campaigning. These men have asked them what counts as harassment, or say they are not sure what ‘catcalling’ is. Some even ask why women don’t like it.
Sarah says: “It sounds silly but a lot of people that come and talk to us are actually surprised that women don’t like ‘catcalling.”
She sounds exasperated: “It’s just nicer to have a polite conversation, where I’m spoken to respectfully rather than having abuse shouted at you from the window of a van.”
The pair hope to get people’s attention with the campaign and welcome questions and discussion around street harassment, especially from women who have experienced it themselves.
“It’s great that people stop and talk to us while we are out chalking, even just taking a picture for social media of the chalk is great, because it gets people talking about the issue,” said Sarah.
Sarah and Grace have a simple message to other women in Cardiff that have experienced catcalling: “You are not alone. It makes you feel so scared and vulnerable while it happens, but sadly it does happen to so many people. We need to come together in solidarity to raise awareness for the issue and try to change people’s ways.”
If you have experienced ‘catcalling’ and want to discuss the campaign, get in touch with Grace and Sarah on @CatCallsofCaerdydd on Instagram
This story can also be found on Voice.Wales at: https://www.voice.wales/i-dont-want-to-be-whistled-at-like-a-dog-students-raise-awareness-of-street-harassment-in-cardiff/