“You should smile more, you look so beautiful when you smile.”
“You want a piece of this? I’m all you need baby.”
“Can’t a guy just give you a compliment? You know you like it.”
“So you think you’re too good for me? Well then f*ck you b*tch!”
We have just finished sorting through catcalls submitted from more than 100 Calgary women and recording them verbatim with a group of our male friends and volunteers. It was a very uncomfortable experience for us, to say the least.
Why are we doing this?
The reason we are recording these catcalls is so Calgary men can experience ‘what it feels like.’
As part of our mission to build better men through youth and peer engagement, education, and empowerment, we want to inspire our peers to stand up, speak out, and help end catcalling, street harassment, and gender-based violence in all its forms.
Gender-based street harassment is defined by StopStreetHarassment.org as unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent, directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
For the Calgary Stampede, we’ve partnered with California-based artist Terra Lopez to bring the ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ project to Calgary.
This Is What It Feels Like is an auditory art exhibit intended to shift society’s treatment of women by providing attendees the opportunity to experience being on the receiving end of catcalling. In the installation, participants walk into a dimmed enclosure to the sound of men catcalling them, with varying levels of harassment and objectification.
Since its first unveiling in Sacramento, California in February, the compelling art exhibit has received widespread acclaim from the likes of the Huffington Post, Bustle, and AJ+. The response to the project has thus far been powerful.
“The coolest thing I think I’ve heard is that a lot of men have said ‘I’m going to step it up. I’m going to tell my friends next time they’re doing that to knock it off and I’m going to change my own behaviour.’” – Lopez
The exhibit has also resonated with female participants, not because catcalling is new for them, rather, Lopez said, women are grateful that men can now experience what they are used to going through so regularly.
One study has estimated that more than 80 percent of Canadian women have been harassed by male strangers in public places, and according to the largest survey on the experiences of transgender people in the United States, nearly half of transgender Americans were verbally harassed in the past year because of their gender identity.
A lifetime of street harassment adds up – it can cause someone to change their daily routines, to lose their sense of safety in public spaces and their connectedness and trust in their community, and may have long-term implications for health and well-being. And catcalling and street harassment are really just the tip of the iceberg of gender-based discrimination and violence in our society.
Ultimately, we hope that This Is What It Feels Like will help promote empathy, understanding, and commitment for ending gender-based violence and achieving gender equity, and especially to inspire our fellow Calgarians and contribute to the ongoing work towards a #SafeStampede.
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