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I Didn't Ask For It, part 5 - Physical Copy, Feedback & Public Responses

In this article I would like to make an update on the physical copy of my book as well as mention feedback and some responses on my project.

I had printed a couple of physical copies that arrived last week. The physical copies revealed some mistakes I had made when preparing the book for printing. I wasn’t happy with the text layout as the text was really close to the margin and the font was too large – unfortunately this is something I didn’t notice when revising the book before ordering the prints. Therefore I decided to edit the book again. I changed the font size from 11 to 9; which allowed me to shorten the length of the text and fit each woman’s interview to just one page (instead of having it on two pages originally). It works better because this way the readers won’t miss the rest of the interview which used to be at the end of each story and after viewing all the photographs. I also changed the layout of the text; now it’s further away from the margin, so it’s more comfortable to read. Unfortunately the new couple of copies that I had ordered won't arrive before the assignment deadline so I won't be able to take photos of the improved physical copies before then. However, I updated the online version (the e-book), which is more important at the minute. I would like to push the project further and apply for funds so I could publish the books professionally. My plan is to distribute them to galleries, art cafes, art space, book shops and more, where people would have a chance to purchase them.

Fig. 1-2: Lucie Nechanicka, I Didn't Ask For It, book cover

Fig. 3-11: Lucie Nechanicka, I Didn't Ask For It, book spread

Fig. 12: video - listing through the book I shared my project with a variety of people; sociologists, activists and photographers focused on gender equality and women’s rights, galleries, newspapers, feminist art platforms, and more. Not all contacted people got back to me, however those who did gave me very positive feedback on my work. Michael S. Kimmel SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Emeritus Stony Brook University website: "Your project is excellent. I like how you photographed the women wearing what they were wearing: the plain-ness, the simplicity, the "ordinariness" is what is so powerful. Any woman, any time of day, in any neighbourhood.

I think several of the women's narratives pointed out that there are two "motives" for the men: the individual man who simply feels entitled to make a comment or the man in a group of men who is clearly posturing for the other guys.

When I've asked my male students over the years if they have ever catcalled or street harassed a woman, they answered that their motive was to "get with her," to get a date. I asked "Has that ever been successful?" Of course not. So there must be another motive. The motive, as I now understand it, is as you imply: it is because men are entitled to do it, but more, that it is a way of making a woman feel uncomfortable, as if to say "the street is a public space, it is MY space, and you are trespassing. I do this to remind you whose street this is!" In that sense, your simple act of photographing the women at the spot where they were harassed, in the outfits they were wearing, is a form of reclaiming that space, re-occupying it. It's very powerful." Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Author, activist, filmmaker Creator of “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women Author, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel Inductee, National Women’s Hall of Fame website: "By documenting instances of sexual harassment experienced by ten women, this important book reveals how universal and disturbing these experiences are. It illuminates the fear engendered by the underlying threat of violence that exists even in seemingly innocuous encounters. Far from being trivial, the normalization of harassment leads women to blame ourselves and remain silent, discourages men from speaking up and challenging other men, and reinforces the patriarchal power structure. We need to combat this with widespread education and public information about the harm this causes all of us. And we need to find the courage to speak up, as the brave women in this book do." Eliza Hatch Photographer, activist, speaker Founder of @CheerUpLuv & Host of The Cheer Up Luv Podcast website: "I think all of your photography projects are really interesting and critical in examining issues of gender discrimination and violence against women. Especially your project I Didn't Ask For It which is extremely relevant with the recent spiking cases in Nottingham and the prevalent issue of male violence plaguing our streets. I think it's especially powerful that you have photographed your subjects wearing the clothes they wore when they were harassed. It speaks volumes to the idea that what you are wearing does not determine or equate to the sexual attention you receive, it can happen to anyone wearing anything anytime and any place." As part of the dissemination I’ve shared the e-book with my friends and other people I thought that might be interested in reading it. The feedback I received was very positive as well as very satisfying; some readers found it eye-opening which is exactly the result I was hoping for. “I thought that I would just skip through but once I had read a couple of the interviewees stories I had to read them all. Only took about 20 mins. I have to admit that previously, I was a bit sceptical about the seriousness of female harassment, believing it to be fairly isolated. But the stories bring home the insidious, upsetting and degrading effect that sexual harassment has had on the women. I am shocked that the perpetrators feel they can make such comments and get away with it. I would like to think, however, that these men are in the minority and that most men are decent and wouldn't make such comments. This doesn't in any way detract from the seriousness of the issue, which I can now see is not only insulting to women, but is frightening and can have lifelong repercussions.” - Anonymous reader

“This is a really creative and interesting approach to the problem of sexual harassment, which, as one of your protagonists wrote, is as much an issue of power as it is of "sex," per se. These powerless men are exerting ownership over the female in their space - your portrayal of that space is a key aspect of the interaction. The clothes are important as they capture the different women's personalities, but it is not the clothes that attract the males' attention, it is the opportunity to demonstrate power. (Really powerful men do not have to demonstrate it in the same way, though Trump may be an exception). With this photo-project you have created a powerful visualization of the relationship between sex and power.”

- Anonymous reader

“I have just finished reading your photography project and I think it is EXCELLENT. Your reasoning and the summary of that reasoning gives a new way to look at, and correct the male gaze! I think it is a brilliant idea to picture the dresses and environment of those harassed. Perfect photographs of clothes and places and the fact that the women in them are NOT provocative and asking for it.”

- Anonymous reader, 95yo

“I found the stories really eye opening, and it's broadened my views on how common the situations are, how easily they happen and how quickly they can escalate. It's also made me realise how uncomfortable women can be with what I viewed as fairly innocent; catcalling. And the repercussions that has on them. I was most upset with the Police's response to the lady whose dog bit the aggressor. Thank you for doing this project. I hope it gets more exposure, and I look forward to part 2 in the future.”

- Anonymous reader

“Excellent project! I liked the fact that what the women are wearing belies the myth that is perpetrated that it only happens when women are dressed in flesh-revealing clothes. Also that your interviewees all recognise that it is about power and feelings of entitlement, nothing to do with sexual desire. It is a form of violence against women, at one of the scale, where physical assault, rape and murder are at the other. No matter how lovely and feminist men are, they will never understand what it is to be a woman, how pervasive perceived male superiority, and their actual superior physical strength, are used to intimidate and belittle, from early childhood onward. Just as white people will never understand what it’s like to experience racism on a daily basis.”

- Anonymous reader

My project has been also featured on FemLENS – a platform dedicated for supporting female photographers and telling visual stories focused on women’s rights, etc.

Fig. 13: Screenshot from Instagram

My project has been added to Nottingham Women Centre’s library, so more people are now able to access it.

Fig. 14: Screenshot from Facebook I have been invited for an interview with LeftLion for their fashioned themed magazine which will be published in March.

Fig. 15: Email screenshot This project has been very eye-opening, I’ve learned about issues I was conditioned to believe they are ‚normal‘ part of life as well as had the opportunity to use my camera as a tool to voice out these issues.

Women I photographed seemed to be enthusiastic about sharing their stories. In many cases I was the first person to share them with, but it also gave them the opportunity to be heard and taken seriously as well as help raise awareness through the project. I would like to believe they felt empowered by being given the opportunity to speak out and have the audience to see their perspective.

I’m aware this project might be just a drop in the sea, however I’m hoping to raise some awareness and spark conversations among the readers. I have already achieved small victories: my partner and friends found my project eye-opening. It made them realise the seriousness and harmfulness of sexual harassment as well as it made them more critical and observant about their surrounding and other people’s behaviour/attitudes.

In the future I would like to stay within this area of photography and explore more issues I would like to voice out through my camera; such as body shaming, toxic beauty standards, domestic violence, homophobia, and more.

And of course I would like to return to I Didn’t Ask For It and make a sequel. Next time I would like to collect more material – from women of diverse backgrounds as well as areas outside of Nottingham.

Figures: Fig. 1-2: Lucie Nechanicka, I Didn't Ask For It, book cover

Fig. 3-11: Lucie Nechanicka, I Didn't Ask For It, book spread Fig. 12: video - listing through the book Fig. 13: Screenshot from Instagram Fig. 14: Screenshot from Facebook Fig. 15: Email screenshot

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