Sidewalk chalking file image.

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NYU senior ‘chalks back’ at catcallers with sidewalk graffiti

October 03, 2018 - 2:39 pm

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- There's plenty of vulgar stuff scrawled in public places around the city, but some of it is there for a reason.

NYU senior Sophie Sandberg is documenting catcalls around the five boroughs with an Instagram account called 'Catcalls of NYC.'

"It can be confusing to explain how someone saying 'thank you' or 'you're beautiful' or 'you have such a nice smile' feels so uncomfortable to hear while walking down the street. To me, it doesn't feel like a compliment, it feels like 1) I'm being called out for my looks, which I don't think are the most important thing about myself or any woman. 2) It's not genuine. I know that the man who said it doesn't really care if I'm beautiful or not, that's obviously not all he wants... 3) the compliment is a subtle reinforcer that, yes, he is watching me, he is sizing me up. So for me, it doesn't feel like a compliment. In fact, it feels as predatory as any other of the disgusting things men say to women on the street. For me, it's not about what they say, but their ever-present, ever-soul-sucking gaze." - @gnissenbaum

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Those who have been catcalled can message Sandberg with the location of the catcall and what was reportedly said, then she'll head to the spot and chalk the sidewalk with the offending comment. Sandberg calls it 'chalking back.'

Sandberg said she gets about 20 submissions every day -- before Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee she was getting fewer than five.

“It’s been blowing up because what happened with Kavanaugh and Ford was back in high school, whether this is verbal harassment — boys making comments about girls’ bodies — or physical harassment,” she told the New York Times.

Emily May runs Hollaback, a Brooklyn based anti-street harassment group, she says reports of harassment are up 20 percent since the 2016 election.

“What I have seen broadly is there being a lot of folks who are having flashbacks and being re-traumatized by the hearing and by the allegations, and that translates into a shift of the experience of harassment: If you’re having flashbacks and are traumatized by your sexual assault, your experience of being degraded and sexualized on the street can hit even harder,” she said.

While the majority of those who are writing in are female, Sandberg said she has also heard from members of the LGBTQ community and men who have experienced harassment.