Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Asta, I’m 24 and besides administrating the Catcalls of Berlin account I’m a political science student and nerd when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights. I’m originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, but moved to Berlin a few years ago to study. On the chalking team we have…
When did you start your account?
I started the account in February 2019 and quickly, three women – Mia, Hannah and Angy – joined the chalking team. Now we have sort of split the city between us and that makes it a lot easier.
Why were you inspired to start an account?
All four of us have been following @catcallsofnyc for some time and thought it was a clever way to address the problem.. Personally, I started noticing street harassment more and it lit a fire to try to raise awareness on the issue and how insulting it is to be objectified when you’re walking around living your life. Hannah met Sophie (New York) and Farah (London) and felt inspired to take the project to Berlin.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
It really shows just how out of any sexual context sexual harassment often happens. Walking home from school, to the grocery store, on the way to get a falafel... Chalking these quotes and experiences where they happened is a good and peaceful way to confront people with the absurdity of what often very young kids are confronted with when they’re just doing their things. But mostly it’s to show people, who experience street harassment that they are not alone and that there is a place to turn to, to take a stance against it.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
It’s part of something bigger. Street harassment, rape, assault – it’s all a part of this logic of masculine domination and entitlement where it’s socially acceptable to be sexually aggressive. Unfortunately, womxn and lgbti+ people are to some extent still seen as sexually inferior and it’s a culture we need to actively change.
What’s your favorite thing about your city?
It’s green, friendly and multicultural. And the safe-spaces within the queer community are wonderful.
How can your city better address street harassment?
Actually addressing the issue would be a great start because currently nothing is being done. I think it also comes down to having more comprehensive sex education and teaching kids from an early age that consent and mutual respect is important. We get messages from young girls who have stories to share but either they are ashamed that it has happened to them, their parents blame them for being harassed or even persuades them to retract their stories because of fear of further harassment. Education, information and debate would do wonders.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
I hope people who read the messages or follow us on social media will start thinking about catcalling, street, and online harassment as real issues. Ideally, it will spark a debate in class rooms, amongst friends and that it will encourage more victims of harassment to think as the harassers as the problem and not themselves. Long term I hope it’s going to be part of a cultural change where sexuality and gender (identity) is no long going to be grounds for
discrimination or harassment.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced?
Chalking a quote reading “nice ass for a 13-year-old” got some really aggressive reactions from the people walking past. But generally, just receiving messages from really, really young people who have been sexualised by strangers before they’re even done being children is awful, especially when they don’t have their parents’ support. That’s heartbreaking.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
It is such a wonderful support network and being part of a global movement focussing on real life issues is amazing. I’m grateful that the movement is getting so much traction because it gives me hope that we all together could become the critical mass necessary to actually change something. There are so many bad a** young feminists out there and I’m honestly happy to be part of giving them a platform.