Tell us about yourself. Hello, I’m Sarah Farrance, a 22 year old midwifery student from Bristol, currently living in Cardiff. Hi! I’m Grace Davies-Packham. I’m 20 years old and studying midwifery in Cardiff. I come from Leicester originally. When did you start your account? We started catcalls of Caerdydd on the 2nd of January this year (2021) but due to being home for Christmas and the Welsh weather we didn’t actually first get out chalking until 22nd of January. Why were you inspired to start your account? The truth is, after an impressive amount of Chardonnay at our local pub we were talking about the state of the world and how we’d send each other our live location for the less than 5 minute walk home we both had ahead of us. We spoke about checking the back seats of our car before we got in and locking the doors as soon as we were sat in the driver’s seat. The harassment we faced daily as we left the house and stories of being catcalled in our own front garden. We decided it was too big of a challenge for us to undertake and that we’d never be able to change anything and that was that. Until Christmas when the two girls I live with bough be Gina Martin’s fab book ‘be the change’. Instilling the mindset of if we aren’t going to stand up and make a difference who will? After following @catcallsofnyc and admiring their work from afar, along side the realisation that there was no catcalls account for Cardiff, catcalls of Caerdydd was born! Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raised awareness? Chalking back is unignorable, it doesn’t need people to seek us out on Instagram or to message us to ask what street harassment is (although this does happen and it’s fab)! Chalking is bright and bold and right in the centre of the pavements that all of us walk down everyday. Most people stumble across our work accidentally and we think this often means it reaches the people who need to hear our messages the most, the people who may not naturally engage with us in other situations. We know that by chalking the catcalls on the very pavements they were said means it’s likely the perpetrators will see it, and we hope that calling out the cat callers of Cardiff will make them think twice, especially seeing the words they shout written in a physical, tangible form. Why do you think ending street harassment is important? Ending street harassment is important because we deserve to feel safe where we live, especially in a time of lockdown when our only escape has been going to the local shop or our daily run around Roath park, we deserve to feel safe and to take that time to unwind. Not to be always looking over our shoulders or walking with keys clenched between our fingers, it is our right to feel safe where we live and to be able to walk the streets in peace and without fear. What’s your favourite thing about your city? I love Cardiff, I love the sense of patriotism and community and I think the overwhelming response @catcallsofcaerdydd has received in the short time it’s been running is testament to that. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and when we are out chalking we are always met with smiles and encouragement no matter where we are. Cardiff is a beautiful city that I never tire of walking around and soaking up the (very rare) sunshine. How can your city address street harassment better? We both feel that education is definitely key to making a change: whether this be educating children as part of a school curriculum, or educating those who were never taught about street harassment and it’s impact. One big thing that we’ve realised since talking to people while we’re out chalking is that a lot of people don’t actually realise what “counts” as street harassment, and in turn they don’t realise why someone wouldn’t want to be targeted with it. We need to go back to basics and integrate street harassment into the lesson we’re all taught at school - “treat others how you would want to be treated”.
What do you hope is the outcome to your account? According to Plan-UK (2018), 2/3 of young women have experienced street harassment. This is already a staggeringly high statistic, but from speaking to our friends and hearing their stories it would definitely seem that the stat should be closer to 100%. Everyone has a story of receiving unwanted attention or remarks that have made them feel uncomfortable. While this is disgusting, we feel that bringing victims of street harassment together and building a supportive community based on common experiences can help to strengthen the fight back against these experiences. We want to unite our anger to make a positive change, raise awareness and change people’s perspectives on street harassment. What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced? Sarah: I have been catcalled countless times both in my home town of Bristol and my university city of Cardiff. I have been catcalling running down city road, I have been catcalled on nights out and most ironically I have been catcalled walking to meet Grace to chalk the words of harassment that others have faced. But I think the scariest experience for me was the first time I was catcalled, I was around 13 years old walking home for a PE lesson in my kit. A van with three men sat in the front stopped next to me as I was walking home, the men were hanging out of the van window telling me I had nice legs and asking me if I wanted a lift and to “get in the van”. I said no and continued walking, the curb-crawled next to me for a few minutes before releasing they weren’t getting anywhere and drove away. Since moving to Cardiff I have even been catcalled on my own property. Shorty after moving in I was stood at the front of my house cleaning my bedroom windows when some men drove past and shouted at me, this was a pivotal moment for me and made me realise, if I don’t even feel safe in my own property outside my flat, how can I be expected to feel safe when I am just walking to the shops or going to meet a friend. What does being part of this campaign mean to you? Sarah: To me @catcallsofcaerdydd means advocacy, giving women a voice and the opportunity to tell others their story and to help them feel empowered when they see us chalking down their stories of harassment, to physically see the words that people have said to them and make them last more than a second and to feel like they are speaking out about their street harassment. Our time out chalking gives me hope that when people stop and talk to us about street harassment, and ask what it is, how it makes us feel and that we part of the catalyst for change to stop street harassment! Grace: Being part of this campaign gives us the opportunity to provide a safe space for people to share their stories, or read the stories of others and feel less alone in such an awful experience. We hope that our account is a positive place for sharing information, and we have received so many lovely messages of support so it seems like that’s how people are viewing it too!