When did you start your account? I officially started my account in February of this year, shortly before the pandemic and quarantine started kicking in full swing in my area. Why were you inspired to start an account? I’ve always been really passionate about intersectional feminism, and try to do what I can, where I can. I'd been following Chalk Back and @catcallsofnyc for a while, and seeing the amazing global work of the catcalls accounts not only moved me, but meant a lot to me in how the organization was taking a stand against gender based violence. It's such spectacular work, and I wanted to join the fight and help raise awareness. Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness? Chalking back is a good method as it’s a way to share stories on the streets where they happened, showing that there’s more behind the statistics by telling the real experiences and the words of survivors. This brings light to a topic so often left behind, in a way that can’t be easily ignored, for we are writing these stories for all to see. This also breaks stigmas around harassment and directly fights victim blaming and the normalization of GBV by uplifting the voices of survivors. Chalking back empowers survivors and their stories as well, for chalking is an act of defiance against the people who think they have a right to us. And, by being completely anonymous, it allows survivors a safe and supportive space to share their story. Why do you think ending street harassment is important? Street harassment is such a rampant issue within our patriarchal society, and one that is still constantly dismissed and ignored. Too often, as we are objectified and sexualized on the streets, reduced to others’ invasive comments on our bodies, we are told that we should just take it and swallow it down. That it’s a compliment, that it’s just words, that we should enjoy it while we can. That our worth can be determined by others, that we should change the way we present ourselves, that we’re asking for it, as if catcallers don’t still prey on us when we’re wearing sweatpants and hoodies while walking with keys between our fingers. We’re told that we should forget it and make excuses for the people who disrespect and demean us, that “boys will be boys” and “men will be men,” they tell us that we’re the problem. And all of this feeds into the toxic culture of victim blaming, and allows harassment and gender based violence to thrive by normalizing its occurrence. Harassment is not normal; it is not a reality people should expect or be forced to live in. Additionally, all forms of gender based violence are connected. By allowing street harassment to continue, society is failing young girls, women, and marginalized genders by subjecting them to danger, terror, and dehumanizing behavior. We need to combat it. We live in a patriarchal, misogynistic world designed to let predators take advantage of us without consequences, and we at Chalk Back cannot and will not stand for it. Street harassment needs to end so we can walk down the street without looking over our shoulder every five seconds to make sure we’re okay. Street harassment needs to end so we can dress how we want without fear. Street harassment needs to end so we can be safe. It’s as simple as that. What’s your favorite thing about your city? Honestly, I’m not sure I have a favorite thing per say, but I do really like living in the SFV. Especially where I’m at right now, it's the nicest place I’ve lived with the best memories. How can your city better address street harassment? Education. We need to be teaching people that street harassment is not okay, and not “just words” or “just a compliment.” Showing the importance of consent and respecting others, particularly starting with children at a young age, is such a crucial part of this, and vital to dismantling the patriarchy and building a culture where consent is prioritized. We need to implement more anti-harassment programs in schools and workplaces, as well as inclusive sex ed courses in classrooms. We need to hold perpetrators accountable and show that harassment is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. What do you hope is the outcome of your account? I hope that through my account, more awareness is raised within the SFV and also in general about this serious issue. Street harassment is a problem that so often goes forgotten, and so we need to keep advocating so people can keep learning and keep educating themselves on GBV. Advocacy and awareness is the first step towards action after all. I also hope that those who have faced harassment and other forms of GBV will be able to find safety and strength in my account and all of Chalk Back. Chalk Back is very much a safe space in that it is an organization fighting harassment by collecting these stories, and so I hope that by submitting their stories and seeing other chalks, survivors can feel empowered, and also inspired to share their own stories. Because we’re standing with you, we’re supporting you, and we’re fighting with and for you. What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced? I’ve experienced street harassment a few times. The most disturbing situation for me that I can think of was when I was fifteen and chalking (ironically). A group of guys suddenly pulled over in their car, rolled down their windows, and started yelling and cheering at me. They screamed out “Hey sweetie! Write my name down for me, won’t you?!” followed by more whoops and laughter. I ignored them and said nothing, and eventually they sped off, but I felt so creeped out. I was vulnerable, extremely disturbed, not even really registering what was happening in the moment, and a literal minor at that. You can actually find my chalk of this experience on my catcalls account. What does being a part of this campaign mean to you? Honestly, being a part of this campaign means everything to me. It’s an incredible honor to work in this amazing movement, alongside such educated, inspirational, and dedicated people, towards such a fantastic goal. I love being a part of this campaign, and am so proud to call myself a member of Chalk Back.
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