Several weeks ago, 28-year-old Minneapolis resident Lindsey was standing on an escalator when a stranger began touching her hair and calling her "blondie." When she told the man he "could just say 'hi' next time," she said, he began screaming at her and calling her ugly. The situation reminded Lindsey — a longtime confronter of catcallers, most notably in last year's Craigslist ad gone viral — that while she could control her reaction to street harassers, she couldn't always anticipate their reaction to being confronted.
It was then she had the idea for Cards Against Street Harassment: pocket-size cards women could download, print, and hand out to their catcallers, explaining why the attention was unwanted without even speaking.
"When you walk down the street do random strangers comment on how you look?" one card asks. "No? Wow. That must be nice."
Of course, Lindsey still engages with the men she encounters. But now, with the cards as her platform, she films the conversations as a "cathartic extra response," she told BuzzFeed.
"I am genuinely interested in what place this is coming from," said Lindsey, who asked to only be identified by her first name. Lindsey's tone in the videos is obviously confrontational, but also curious — never combative.
"The first time that I caught it, I was just on the phone with my sister and the guy interrupted my phone call and tried to hug me," she said.
"I'm a man. If I see a female that, hey, is about something, I'm gonna speak."
The videos aren't meant to highlight specific dramatic confrontations, but the "cumulative daily impact" of street harassment, Lindsey said. Since she began filming, the "only interactions I haven't been able to capture are car honks."
In at least one of her videos, Lindsey discusses race with a catcaller — a man who claims she only became upset because he was a black man and she was a white woman. But Lindsey emphasized that she believes "harassers come from all races."
"Though I'm filming as I'm encountering experiences, I'm in no way attempting to target a specific demographic," Lindsey said. "Sexism is sexism."
"When you're dressed the way you are …. what's the purpose for a woman to be on this earth [if not] for a man?"
There's also "justice" in uploading the conversations to YouTube, she said: "The filming provides them a platform to embarrass themselves in a way that they've already embarrassed me."
She's already been contacted by one frustrated man — the star of her "Minnesota Chicks Are Hot" video.
"The irony is not lost on me, that a man who gave me unwanted attention is now upset he may get unwanted attention."
"I'm surprised that you're offended."
Lindsey estimates she's distributed about 25–30 cards since creating them earlier this summer. She believes her method isn't for everyone or every situation, especially when personal safety is at risk. But for her, the experience has been an opportunity to tell a man something he may have never heard before.
"The theme I hear the most often is that they truly, genuinely think it's a compliment, and they are shocked," she said. "If that is true, then simply telling people it's not a compliment may go a long way."
"Women are put on this earth to satisfy a man, so if she feels offended, she shouldn't have [ever] been born."
An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the conversation between Lindsey and one of her harassers.
YouTube temporarily removed one of the videos embedded in this post "as a violation of YouTube's policy on nudity or sexual content." Lindsey appealed the removal.
"With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it's brought to our attention that a video or channel has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it," a YouTube spokesperson later said in an email to BuzzFeed.
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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