Infuriated by being catcalled repeatedly, Kati Heng launched the Tumblr page "But What Was She Wearing? Stop the Cat Call" as "a project documenting what street harassment really looks like." Her blog encourages women to submit their own photos of what they were wearing when they were catcalled to show that a woman's outfit has no impact on whether or not she is verbally harassed.
“A couple days before I launched, I got catcalled twice in one weekend – the first time, wearing a shorts and a baggy flannel, walking with my boyfriend, some dude yelled out his car to my boyfriend, ‘Hey, I want to fu*k your girlfriend!’" Heng told BuzzFeed News. "That one was really upsetting because I wasn’t even the object of harassment any more; I was just an object for men to compete over.” She said that she wanted to create a platform for women to share their stories without feeling blamed.
The picture above was posted by 14-year old Jada, who said she was walking home and decided to take the side streets for a change of scenery. A mile and a half away from her home, a man in his mid-twenties slowed down by her and said, “D*mn girl, you’re fiiine.”
"Girls my age often love feeling pretty and being complimented, but I knew this grown-man [sic] yelling to me from his car window wasn’t something that I wanted or deserved,” she wrote. “I ignored him and kept walking as I had been taught to do, and he drove off after he realized I wasn’t going to pay him any attention.” She wondered why he couldn’t tell she was only 14.
As Kati explained, "So often, when women try to talk about the harassment we face, we’re met with that stupid question, ‘What were you wearing?’ as if WE are the ones responsible for what happened to us. By having the selfies of what we were wearing upfront, it takes the question away, forcing people to get past it and just read the stories.”
One such story, as told by Lauren Alexander (pictured above): "I was walking to work at 8 a.m. dressed like an avocado last Halloween and was catcalled. Dressed like this."
While the blog has been met with approval by many, BuzzFeed News notes that the "reaction from many men has been one of disbelief." Kati explains: “'Sometimes guys will call out outfits and tell me that I made it up, I didn’t really get harassed in that outfit.'" She says there's a "'general disbelief'" from men that she has something new to submit every two days. This skepticism proves Heng's point: sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of what she's wearing, where she's walking or why she was out, and the most shocking part is that we don't often realize this truth until we see it for ourselves.
Have a story of your own to tell? You can send your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.