Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi all! My name is Ambrien Rukhsar Moeniralam and I am 17 years old. I live in The Netherlands, Amsterdam to be a little bit more specific. Currently I am a student, and I am studying Media and Editing which I think is a lot of fun.
When did you start your account?
I started @catcallsofams on 16th December 2017, late in the evening. I was so excited and inspired that I did not hesitate and immediately started the account after asking @catcallsofnyc for her permission.
Why were you inspired to start an account?
The reason why I was inspired to start @catcallsofams was because I was just scrolling through Instagram and saw this picture of beautiful bright chalk on the street, the first thing I thought was street art. But the moment I read what was chalked on the pavement I was shocked. The only thing I could think of was that it was ridiculous and that I unfortunately could relate. I clicked on the Instagram and saw ‘@catcallsofnyc.’ I went through all of the post and read all the stories, I got so angry and upset, but also relieved, to see that someone was standing up and fighting against street harassment in such a creative way.
At that moment I decided to message Sophie through ‘@catcallsofnyc’, saying: “Hey I just wanted to say that I love your work! You’re doing an amazing job, and I am so inspired by you. I think it is amazing that you do this for so many girls and that you’re not afraid. I am so happy to see these things, and it is so smart. People get oncomfortable sometimes by reading things like that on the street. Because of that they feel how we feel every single time. Thank you for doing this and keep on going!!❤️” She sended me a message back saying: “Thanks so much for your message!!! That’s exactly the point❤️. I’m so glad you agree.” After that I saw that there were more accounts, similar to ‘@catcallsofnyc.’
I got excited and searched for one based in The Netherlands, but there were none. So, I decided to message ‘@catcallsofnyc’ again saying: “Hey I was wondering if you would find it okay if I would start a CatcallsofAmsterdam? You’ve inspired me so much to do this and seeing all other countries do this lights my heart up. Catcalling here does not get the attention it needs. I thought I should ask you because you are one of the first instagram accounts to do this and I don’t want to steal your idea or something. If you agree, you should know that I am 15 so do you think that it is possible/good/safe for me to do it? And do you have any tips? Sorry for this long message’s and thank you for taking the time to respond to me!”She responded very nice and gave me her permission to start ‘@catcallsofams.’
Long story short, what inspired me in the first place was seeing Sophie doing such a great and amazing job by creating and starting ‘@catcallsofnyc.’ I know that catcalling is not really seen as a problem or issue here in The Netherlands, especially the big cities like, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I rolled into feminism at a young age. Right now, I am 17. At the time I discovered feminism and start calling myself a feminist, I was 14. When I joined the ‘catcallsof’ movement (and now a family) at the age of 15, it was a good way to express myself and standing up for what I believe in, to really do something. Now, more than a year later, a lot of media attention later, I am really happy I saw ‘@catcallsofnyc’ and being part of the team. Seeing, hearing and reading that what we are doing, has an impact, no matter how big or small, it has an impact.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
I think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness, because it is quick and efficient. Chalking is legal in the most countries and states, so you can’t get arrested. It is easily to do, it won’t stay for too long, but hopefully long enough. And most importantly, when someone walks by, the first thing they usually think (in my experience) is children or pretty, colorful or street art. Yes, it does look pretty, it is colorful, and I do see it as a way of street art.
It gives them a good and happy feeling, but that all changes when they read what is chalked on the pavement. That way, we as the ‘catcallsof’ accounts, are trying to make the person who reads the cat call, feel uncomfortable just like the person who got the cat call. It is confronting and, in this way, they cannot outrun the confrontation.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
I think ending street harassment is important because everybody has the right and needs to feel safe on the streets. Especially if it is your own neighborhood, a place where you would definitely need to feel safe. People should not feel like being alert and watching out for themselves in such a way when they are just going shopping, going to work, going to school, whatever they are going to do. I have the feeling that street harassment has been more tolerated these past few years, people don’t see it as a problem or an issue that needs to be solved.
How can your city better address street harassment?
My city has been trying to make Amsterdam, The Netherlands safer when it comes to street harassment and sexual harassment. They have been working on this for probably over a decade. Recently there has been a new law against sexual harassment on and offline, I think that is a good step. But for me, issues like these can’t just only be solved with a law and fining people. Issues like these are social problems. I think education and teaching your children from a young age about these sorts of things, could make a huge difference and would have more impact. For me, talking, education and creating awareness are the most important things to how my city can address street harassment better.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
I hope that my account and all the other ‘catcalls of’ accounts will succeed in raising awareness. I already have the feeling that it is definitely working. I hope for more projects and collaborations for raising awareness about street harassment and even other problems. I hope more people will start talking about this and will help each other when they see things like this happening on the streets. And I really hope that the account won’t be necessary for too long and that street harassment will end. It is a long way for street harassment to end, but with everybody helping and working on it, we can definitely reach that goal.