Every time a woman leaves the house, she is, in many subconscious ways, preparing herself for the possible onslaught of unsolicited comments about her appearance from strange men. Is it really any wonder that most of us walk quickly with our heads down, making every attempt to appear as unwelcoming as possible?
Though this is the most common tactic for dealing with and/or avoiding catcallers, one woman has discovered a confrontational-yet-peaceful way to address the catcalling phenomenon.
20-year-old Noa Jansma, who is studying design in Eindhoven, Netherlands, recently started an Instagram project in which she took selfies with the men who catcalled her on the street for a month.
Noa tells BuzzFeed that she had the idea for the project during a class discussion.
“I realized that half of the class, the women, knew what I was talking about and lived it on a daily basis. And the other half, the men, didn’t even think that this is still happening. They were really surprised and curious. Some of them even did not believe me.”
So, Noa began documenting her catcallers.
She was initially reticent about the project, because engaging with these men seemed pretty unappealing and unpredictable.
“I thought men would be suspicious of me, that they would understand my motives when I was taking selfies with them. So I was kind of fearful.”
However, she tells BuzzFeed that the majority of the men who bother her are totally oblivious about her motives for taking a selfie.
“Most of the time they have their thumbs up, they’re happy because they honestly think that they’re complimenting me. They really didn’t care about me. They never realized that I was unhappy.”
Noa says that, while this photography project is personally empowering, it’s also meant to be informative.
“This project also allowed me to handle catcalling: They come in my privacy, I come in theirs. But it’s also to show the outside world that this is happening so often.”
She also tells BuzzFeed that she understands there is actual risk involved when holding strange men accountable, and that she has only taken selfies in instances where she feels it is safe to do so. “My safety is more important than this project. I didn’t take photos when I was catcalled in the dark, in little streets.”
The response to the selfies has been largely positive, but, as expected, there are definitely people who are finding reasons to be angry about it.
“I’ve been called an attention whore or a liar,” she tells BuzzFeed.
Noa has apparently stopped taking the photos herself, but definitely encourages women to continue the project — as long as they do so safely.
“I’m not the subject. The subject is catcalling. I also want to show that this happens around the world. But I want to make sure that responsible women do it, because what I do is a bit risky.”