Catcall chalkers, rentable sisters, transgender high school... Beyond its mainstream headlines, BBC shows a world of gentler power


We’ve noted in recent months, in our search for a better media, how the BBC seems to run two operations in its news and features output. At one level, they are fully engaged with - perhaps even complicit in - the status quo priorities of the official politics: Brexit, the standard political duopolies, climate “change” rather than “crisis”…

But at another level, their newsgathering culture - drawn from a wide community of traditional broadcast, but also social media operators - seems committed to bringing a picture of fundamental global and human diversity to their audiences.

We often come upon these clips through personal recommendation, friends who have been inspired by them - which is a different angle on the power of memes, usually tied to polemic or polarisation. More power to the BBC, at least in this part of its operation.

Catcall Chalking in London & NY

From a BBC 2018 Newsbeat article:

"You better learn to answer a man when he speaks to you!" It's a rainy afternoon in east London and two women are writing these words on a pavement in coloured chalk.

The words are a catcall - shouted by a stranger to a woman walking down a street in London. The trend of writing out catcalls started in New York and now it's spreading to other cities around the world.

The woman who started the idea says she wants to stop "street harassment". Sophie started the Catcalls of NYC account on Instagram

Sophie Sandberg and Farah Benis met on social media after Sophie started the catcallsofnyc Instagram account. Farah was inspired, and started a similar account based in London.

"When I first came across Sophie's account it really resonated with me." Farah told Newsbeat. She says she wants to try to raise awareness about sexual harassment on the streets.

"I saw there wasn't a London version of it, and I wanted to get involved. It's a massive issue and I thought highlighting it is one way to make it stop."

She adds: "A lot of the time when people say these things there is a sense of entitlement that you have to stop. People feel they're entitled to your time."

"Let me be your Harvey Weinstein," was another catcall said to a different woman in London. Farah says she has been shocked about how many 12 and 13-year-olds have contacted her about catcalls.

Japan’s Sisters For Rent

From the blurb:

In Japan, to become a 'hikikomori' means to withdraw from the world and social life. Many of those who suffer from the condition shut themselves in their bedrooms for years on end, refusing to work, study or interact with anyone around them. More than half a million people are thought to be hikikomori, most of them young men.

One organisation, New Start, has come up with an unusual solution: rental sisters. The sisters-for-hire visit regularly, helping to coax the hikikomori out of their bedrooms and back into society. That could mean just talking through the door, going out for lunch or even moving into a hikikomori boarding house and starting some part time work.

Chile’s Transgender School

From Pink News:

For more than a year, Amaranta School in Chile has been helping trans children to escape bullying and discrimination suffered at mainstream schools.

The school, which is believed to be the first school predominantly for transgender children, opened in 2017 with just five students and now has 38 pupils aged six to 17…

The school is named after Mexican transgender politician Amaranta Gómez Regalado and provides a safe learning environment for trans children.

Among the student population, 22 to 23 identify as transgender—the other pupils tend to be siblings and friends of the trans children…

Amaranta head teacher Evelyn Silva told the BBC: “Gender is not so static. We think you’re a boy or a girl, I think the kids go from one to another. They are more free than us. I think we as a parent, or grown-up people, we want to tell you what you are.

“Boy or girl? Tell me. Sometimes the children don’t know, they just want to play, they just want to grow up, they just want to be happy.”

The school is free for now, with lessons taught by volunteer teachers. All costs for its first year were put up by Silva and school co-ordinator Ximena Maturana from their personal savings.

More videos like this from the BBC’s People Fixing The World site.