Woman have endured public catcalls while walking along the street for decades. But only within the past few years have people began speaking out against this form of controversial harassment. One performance artist made a bold statement last month by stripping down to her underwear and enduring catcalls played on loop for eight hours, all while passersby watched.
According to the Huffington Post, artist Mirabelle Jones performed the piece, called “To Skin a Catcaller,” inside a window gallery facing a busy Los Angeles street. Wearing nothing but underwear, Jones paced in circles inside the glass case while 200 different catcalls played on a loop through a stereo system.
The catcalls that the artist collected were taken from an online survey that Mirabelle Jones started, which asked women to send in real messages that men shouted at them on the streets. The catcalls range from rude and sexist to downright terrifying, including things like “Where’s your boyfriend,” “Smile,” and “B***h, I said come here!”
In addition to the audio recordings of catcalls, Mirabelle Jones was also surrounded by printed messages of more catcalls, which lined the walls of the tiny cell where she paced nearly naked for eight straight hours. These also ranged from mildly invasive to outright horrifying, with messages like “You look beautiful” and “I’m going to follow you home and f*** you in your sleep.”
You can watch parts of “To Skin a Catcaller” in the video below.
Even more catcalls were written on balloons filled with helium at the top of the display case. Strung to the bottom of those balloons were razor blades, which also lined the floor of the window gallery. This meant that periodically, razor blades would fall from the balloons, requiring Mirabelle Jones to be increasingly careful about where she stepped as the performance dragged on.
“Like people do everyday on the streets,” the artist explained. “I [had] to make decisions about what spaces in the gallery are still safe for me to move in without coming too close to violence to escape it.”
— Reveal to Heal (@reveal_heal) December 8, 2015
The artist wrote about the piece on her website, calling it “exhausting.” Throughout the eight hours, she received a lot of feedback from passersby who stopped to see the performance. Many responded positively to the catcall message, realizing that Mirabelle Jones was making an important point about what women have to endure every day. But, ironically, other pedestrians essentially reacted to the catcalling performance by perpetuating the street harassment problem themselves.
“Throughout the day, there are men who enticed by my lack of clothing stand and stare at me. When they realize through the audio loop and visual cues that they are watching a performance about catcalling, some take off… Another group of men stand, point, laugh and make comments about my body, especially my breasts and a**, as if weighing their value. There are groups of men who argue on the sidewalk about whether or not I as a woman have the right to object to catcalling. ‘Those are just compliments,’ one says. ‘Women should be grateful they get that kind of attention,’ says another.”
— refinery29 (@Refinery29) December 2, 2015
According to Refinery 29, the purpose of the catcall performance piece was to start to change the public perception of catcalling from “compliments” to the frightening harassment that they really are. By enduring catcalls for eight hours, Mirabelle Jones was serving as a focused example of what women face every day, hoping to embody the fear that many of them feel while simply walking to and from work.
What do you think people should do in response to catcalls?
For more on catcalls, read about the man who was being interviewed about why catcalls are hurtful and proceeded to catcall women during the broadcast.
[Image via Shutterstock]