Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Amanda, I am 20 years old and I am studying Psychology with an interest in criminal profiling. I love to paint and create art and I was very interested in finding a way to bring a visual element to issues such as harassment. To me, being an activist means helping to give a voice to those who have had their voices silenced, and that’s what I love about being a part of this movement! My account is for Boston but I take stories from all around Massachusetts and travel to those locations to chalk as well!
When did you start your account?
I started @catcallsofbos in early April of 2019.
Why were you inspired to start an account?
I was interested in finding a way to start giving back and fighting for movements I care about. I was looking through Instagram one day when I came across @catcallsofnyc. At first I thought the movement was contained to that account but the more I looked into it I realized there were hundreds of accounts worldwide and I immediately fell in love with it. I chalked less than two weeks after creating the account and have been ever since. Most people who submit want their stories to stay anonymous which speaks to the fact that they may not even be talking about this issue with people in their lives. I was inspired to create the account to take those stories and spread them as far as I could. We only allow harassment to continue to prosper when we keep our experiences in the dark and this movement takes those stories and displays them in a way people cannot just ignore. Whether doing something as simple as running errands or scrolling on Instagram, the outreach is incredible.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
It is cheap yet effective. It takes nothing more than a box of chalk and access to a phone to spread awareness and give people a voice. I love chalking because as people walk by me while I write, some stop to ask questions. Some like to fight back and say that I should not be writing the horrendous words I am writing and I enjoy being able to sit back and tell them I wouldn’t have to write it and no one would have to read it if other people didn’t feel as though they had the right to say it to an innocent and unsuspecting person. It takes harassment and puts it right in everyone’s faces, bringing light to issues that are otherwise shrouded in darkness. Harassment harms everyone and the anonymity of the stories keeps the focus on the fact that humans in general are the ones affected despite their gender, sex, orientation, etc. I love when people tag me when they find things I chalked and the interaction with people who support and fight the movement alike. There are so many incredible people who support the movement and look forward to seeing new posts each week because every post from every account that posts moves us in the right direction.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
Harassment affects everyone involved and it’s intimidating and terrifying. It is one person believing they have the power and the right to say whatever they way to an unsuspecting victim yet more often than not, people affected are not treated as a victim but rather as though they may have done something wrong to entice the harasser. I believe ending street harassment is important because it means giving the power and voices back to the victims and showing them that they didn’t do anything to deserve the abuse they suffered. People deserve to feel safe and confident despite their location, status, gender, or how they present themselves. Ending street harassment gives people the power to feel as though they are not at risk simply by existing.
What’s your favorite thing about your city?
The history and the people. There have been some really incredible events that occurred here such as many of the key events of the Revolutionary War along with influential people such as Ben Franklin, John Hancock and Sam Adams who studied at the Boston Latin School, which was founded the same year as Harvard University. It has been a center of the abolitionist movement and Massachusetts was the first state in the Union to abolish slavery. Today it is a center of technology, education, and medical research. We have a history of fighting for the rights of people and even today it continues to carry those values which makes it an amazing place to chalk and fight back harassment. There are so many incredible people in Boston and around MA who support this movement and my account along with so many other @catcallsof accounts.
How can your city better address street harassment?
We can do a lot to bring light to the issues and get people talking but making real change goes a bit further than what we can do with an Instagram account. Many cases of harassment are unreported or charges are dropped with little interest in the case. The city could better address the issues by police stepping in and protecting citizens and opening legislation up so more acts can be considered harassment. Massachusetts law does contain some language targeting harassment. Section 53 of the statute prescribes a penalty for accosting and annoying persons of the opposite sex, wanton and lewd speech or behavior, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace” but this writes out harassment of people of the same sex and the language is ambiguous enough to discount many cases including where harassment of children falls in.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
I love watching my account grow because it means that awareness is spreading. I want to show people that they are not alone in what they deal with and that harassment is a widespread issue. Although the account does receive some backlash, more often than not the responses are encouraging and supportive. Both comments make me feel more passionate about what I am doing and encourages me to get out and chalk more. When people fight the movement, it inspires me to continue going so those people cannot continue to take away victims voices, and supportive comments are obviously encouraging because it means people are feeling empowered by what I am doing. I hope to keep spreading the voices of people who have been silenced and bring more awareness to the issues. I also hope to help those who have dealt with, are dealing with, or who may deal with harassment, by giving them ways to stand up to the harasser and a movement of people who will stand behind them and support them.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced? (if you feel comfortable sharing)
One instance that stood out the most to me was when I was walking through Boston with my then-boyfriend. We were having a nice night just exploring the city when a group of guys drove by us and as they did they yelled “you got a fat ass”. It stood out to me for multiple reasons. First, they felt that was something that was acceptable to yell at someone but they didn’t stop long enough to get a response from either of us. They hid behind the cover of a moving vehicle and the ability to get away fast. They knew something in what they were doing was wrong and they couldn’t stand by their words. Second, it happened when I was with my then-boyfriend who was over six-feet tall. People feel as though there is safety in numbers but the reality is men and women alike are harassed and there is no protection in the number of people who are there.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
To me, being a part of this campaign means being part of an incredible group of people who fight to give a voice back to those who have had their voices silenced. It means giving victims a movement that stands behind them and the idea that no one is alone. This movement is bigger than any one person, there are so many people, those chalking, those submitting, and those supporting, who are coming together to fight for the safety and prosperity of every individual.