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Student Hits Back At Men Who Catcall Her On The Street By Taking Their Photo
By Jillian Wong, 18 Sep 2014
Fed up with constantly being catcalled by men on the street, 22-year-old student and photographer Caroline Tompkins decided to hit back at them by taking their photographs.
Tompkins, who moved to New York City in 2010 to attend college, started her ‘Hey Baby’ project after she found herself the subject of unwanted attention from random men.
“Every time I stepped out of my house, it was a comment on my appearance. It was relentless. I needed to do it because I needed to react in some way. I needed to show that I wasn’t just taking it and not doing anything,” she told PolicyMic.
It was the juxtaposition of the public yet intimate nature of catcalling that unsettled her.
“It’s this private thing they’re telling you, in a private way, but in a public space. I wanted them to feel some consequence.”
Tompkins also acknowledged that there’s a grey area regarding street harassment, as technically the men hadn’t done anything to her other than comment on her appearance. “There’s no real grounds in terms of whose responsibility it is to stop it. It’s kind of the law versus social norm.”
When she confronted her harassers, they shrugged off their actions by saying they were merely paying her a compliment. It’s a view worryingly echoed by many of her classmates and professors, in particular older women, who told her that she “should feel lucky.”
Another issue that cropped up was that all of the men she photographed were of color. This could be attributed to the fact that she shot the pictures in Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, which are predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods.
As a white woman, Tompkins was aware of her privilege and how the racial aspect might look to others, but viewed it as a challenge to think beyond herself and about the system.
Ultimately, she hopes her endeavor will help end the harassment, and encourage other women to take a stand against it.
She’s not the first woman to take matters into her own hands—Brooklyn-based street artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh previously plastered posters with anti-harassment messages all over the borough.
Check out some images from Tompkins’ project below.
[via PolicyMic and Al Jazeera America, images via Caroline Tompkins]
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