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I Didn't Ask For It, part 1 - Work in Progress

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

In my previous articles I have explained the intentions and reasons for my current project. In this post I would like to quickly summarise the basic information and then share some updates on my work.

I focus on the sexual harassment of women in public spaces such as catcalling, groping, upskirting, stalking, whistling, etc. The women I work with are victims of these incidents. I ask them to wear the same clothes they wore on the day when the incident happened, and photograph them at the location where it took place. I also conduct an interview with them and ask questions related to the experience as well as harassment of women in general.

The reason I ask them to wear the same clothes is that I would like to present to the viewer that in fact the clothes or appearance of the women is irrelevant in these situations. Yes, it can be a factor, but not the cause. I talked about catcalling and victim blaming in my previous article: Victim blaming was an aspect I considered when I thought of a suitable name for the project. I came up with: I Didn't Ask For It, because it is true - no one asks for it.

The photographs I take consist of full body shots, close-ups of the clothes, head shots and finally I photograph the place itself.

In terms of the interview I want to know when the incident happened (what time of the year and what time of the day), who was the perpetrator (what he looked like) and then obviously what exactly happened and whether they have told anyone about it. The other questions I ask are: How did that [incident] feel? Do you feel safe on the streets? Has your choice of clothing been affected by the potential danger of being harassed again? Why do men do it? Why is it a problem? What would help to resolve it?

The answers are part of their story that will accompany the photographs. The titles for the photographs will be named after what exactly was said to them.

I have photographed and interviewed four brave women and the other three are scheduled for the next following weeks. I’m hoping to have at least ten women in total. I also plan on including my own story and photographs in the project as I also have experience to share. I don’t want to separate myself from the subjects and present their stories as though it is their issue. No, this is our issue. This issue is what we women have in common. This is why I’m doing this project, because it personally bothers me.

Hereby I would like to share a little sneak peek of my project. These women below who experienced street harassment, although each in a different form and on a different level, expressed their frustration and fear, and gave me a clear insight why this is not a compliment.

Fig. 1: Zuzana, from I Didn't Ask For It How did that make you feel?

It is disgusting. I feel disgusted in general, it is not a compliment, I don’t want those people to look at me and in that way. I don’t want them to think about me. Just mind your own business. That incident made me really disgusted as I was thinking more and more about it. I got quite scared thinking about what could have happened if there had been someone else, and if they had grabbed me. It felt more frightening afterwards when I came out of the shock . And usually when I’m catcalled I feel angry and it puts me off immediately, even if that person was good-looking I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Fig. 2: Emily, from I Didn't Ask For It Why do you think this is a problem?

Because women don’t feel safe on the streets. And women should be able to do anything they want to do. They should be – I should be able to run whenever I want – day, night, morning, and whatever route. If I want to go down the canal I should be able to go down the canal without second guessing it. That’s why it’s wrong. Women should feel safe to do all they want to do.

Fig. 3: Nikki, from I Didn't Ask For It Why do you think men do it?

Because they can. I don’t think the issue with me was sexual. I think it’s more predatory and intimidating. And I think that even when people say it’s specifically sexual and it might lead to sexual assault, it’s about power and intimidation and establishing your place as the more powerful person.

Fig. 4: Bianca, from I Didn't Ask For It What do you think would help to resolve this?

I think education around respect, consent and treating people. Also getting boys and men to understand how it makes women feel, because they might think it’s funny, but actually it’s really intimidating for women – because we don’t know if that person is suddenly going to become violent or touch us. We might suddenly be a position from which we can’t escape. Figures: Fig. 1-4: Nechanicka, Lucie, from I Didn't Ask For It, 2021

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