Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Sam. Originally from Florida, studying in the science field at UF. I enjoy the local music scene, fitness, traveling and caffeine.
When did you start your account?
I started the account the summer of 2019 (specifically May 10, 2019).
Why were you inspired to start an account?
The primary emotion that inspired this account was exasperation. I live in downtown Gainesville and I was catcalled minutes before creating the account. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I am catcalled almost every day near my place of residence. I noticed there was already a “catcalls of UF” account but I wanted to create an account that was associated with the city itself, specifically downtown. I also didn’t want the group to have a university affiliation as student groups are subject to specific rules and regulations.
Why do you think ending online harassment is important?
I think it’s important to end harassment everywhere, wherever it occurs. I generally haven’t used the term “feminist” in my personal life because I feel it could be misleading or not inclusive, but I do view the struggle against gender-based harassment as historically significant. Call it what you will, but patriarchy is a real physical and economic reality that has been the dominant system on the planet since the agricultural revolution. Women have been regarded as the property of men, and in the Victorian Era, a “separate sphere” existed for women barring them from active participation in public and civic life. These archaic ways of thinking still affect us today when women are primarily judged for their appearance when entering the public arena and occupying public space. Even at my university now, women in sororities are required to wear makeup for certain events and no such requirement exists for men in fraternities. Female politicians are often sexualized and comments made about their appearance more than male politicians. I want to fight for a world where women and female- appearing people are judged more on the basis of their values and their accomplishments than their body type, physical appearance or sexualized image. This change is already happening but we still have a long way to go.
Catcalling is an expression of male ownership and the male gaze and expresses judgement of a woman’s appearance. Why do strangers not ask me how I’m doing today, or the location of my favorite restaurant, or my opinions on current events? This happens sometimes, but the majority of the time I am addressed by men in public and online, the greeting is about my appearance, often including crude and detailed comments about specific body parts or what they would like to do to specific body parts. This is an archaic practice and should not be acceptable in civilized society.
I’ve often received questions about what constitutes harassment. I do believe that some comments that are appearance-based are genuine compliments, such as “I like your pants,” or even “You look really good tonight,” and it’s okay to celebrate appearance or fashion in a complimentary way. However, “Can I take you to a hotel now?” “Hey ma!” “Nice ass,” “Mami!” “Sexy,” “Those tits!” or indistinguishable shouting are not appropriate ways to greet anyone. Sometimes it’s unclear that the speaker is even addressing me because the language is so impersonal or shouted at such a distance. If the language is a genuine attempt to connect with another human, then an equitable exchange will be possible, i.e. asking a specific question and listening for the answer, but catcalling is not a genuine attempt to connect with another human— no specific question is being asked and the speaker is not listening for an answer but rather speaking for the sake of only hearing themselves and the sound of their own voice. This is why call-backs and chalk-backs are so empowering. It adds our voice to an event where we were otherwise mute and silenced.
While I believe some confusion about what constitutes harassment is genuine, I also believe that most harassers fully know that what they’re doing is wrong and they do it anyway because they don’t care or even that they enjoy and derive pleasure from nonconsensual harassment. It’s not my responsibility to educate or explain anything to a harasser. Fuck harassers and fuck losers who touch us against our consent. To anyone this has happened to: you do not deserve this. Your daily lived experience should not have to include this. It doesn’t matter where you are, what time of day it is or what you’re wearing. Stop raising women on advice like “don’t walk down dark allies” or “carry pepper spray” or “don’t be too friendly.” I will do whatever I want and I will walk where ever I want and I will travel where ever I want because this is my planet too. And I will speak out but the onus is ultimately on harassers to change their behavior.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
I’m inspired by cities like NYC and Miami with vibrant street art. Gainesville also has a great street art scene for a smaller city. I would love to have a mural dedicated to calling out catcallers here in Gainesville.
I would also love to involve artists, musicians, academics and the general public in the creation of more posts that are not chalks but address other issues related to catcalling and street harassment. I also want captions of all posts to be written in English and Spanish to reach as many people as possible. I would also be open to the creation of a nonprofit to accept donations for a specific cause furthering the well-being of women and female-id people, such as loans for small business creation.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve ever experienced?
When I was younger, street harassment would often result in physical touching by the harasser. The speaker would say something verbally and then escalate the situation by trying to grab my breasts or waist at which point I would realize they were trying to harm me and I would run away and tell an adult or other friend.
When I was older, I was walking in a park in Chapel Hill, NC and a guy said to his friend as he passed me: “If my girlfriend looked like that, I would make her stay at home.” Once in Gainesville during the day and a man offered to pay me to go to hotel. My least favorite form of street harassment is honking from vehicles, especially when I’m walking or biking because it’s very startling and the loud noise is traumatic. Honking can also give the impression that there is traffic or an accident is about to occur and should be reserved for situations related to driving and not the appearance of pedestrians or cyclists.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
I hope this campaign will continue after I have moved away from Gainesville. I am a part of it, but it’s not just something that affects me personally, it affects everyone. I hope for the project to involve many more people in the Gainesville community.