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I Didn't Ask For It, part 2 - Work in Progress

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

In this article I would like to make an update about my project I Didn’t Ask For It, which focuses on the sexual harassment of women in public spaces such as catcalling, groping, upskirting, stalking, whistling, etc.

Feel free to find more information in my previous article:

In the last few weeks I photographed and interviewed five more women. Hereby I would like to share a little sneak peek of what we discussed. I asked them how their experience with harassment and the fear of it happening again in the future affect them in everyday life (I've got quite similar answers from each woman). I also wondered about their opinion on why men do it and why it is a problem.

Fig. 1: Kara, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021 Kara I wouldn’t wear a skirt or shorts anymore like when I was younger, because it draws too much unwanted attention. When the incident happened I had blonde hair – I’m naturally blonde. Since then, I’ve kept changing my hair colour, because you are more invisible if you are not blonde. No one bothered me when I was ginger. I would walk past work men, and they wouldn’t even look. The red colour seems to work okay, too. A lot of men like to make you feel intimidated. Even if it’s just by holding a stare for a little bit too long. When the man picked me up I think he was saying by that; I’m stronger than you. Hence why he can do what he likes. It’s rather control and intimidation than anything else. They want to make you feel their presence. Kind of like a dog peeing on everything, marking its territory. My friend and I talked about when we were year eight in secondary school – around 13-14. Most girls are mature at that age already. We remember going to our science class, and the boys would grab your boobs. They would do it really hard that you would be bruised. But that was the ‚normal‘, so you never thought anything of it. You’ve been brought up to put up with it and shut up. You go on nights out and you get grabbed or someone smacks your ass. It shouldn’t happen but it does because it‘s still ‚normal‘.

Fig. 2: Jane, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021 Jane

I think about what foot wear I have on if I need to run. There are also clothes in my wardrobe I would like to wear, but don’t wear them here. I might wear them on holiday or if I’m with other people, but I wouldn’t wear them if I knew I was going home on my own. And that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m talking about revealed shoulders, maybe a bit of cleavage.

Why shouldn‘t women wear what they want? And the whole idea that women get what they get based on what they wear is toxic and utter bullshit. Look at these ladies over there! Different skirts on, different length of the skirts. Why not? Why shouldn‘t they? And not have then somebody coming around later and trying to lift the skirts up.

I think it is the sense of entitlement that makes men think this is okay. They look at the women and think; Why can’t I? I’ve been to places where I thought I couldn’t stay there because of the way they were looking at me. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s everything to do with them. When do women do it to men? It’s a rare thing. And where does it come from? Is it nature or nurture?

Fig. 3: Claire, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021 Claire

I think twice about going out at night - I wouldn’t go out on my own. I also think twice about what to wear. When I was younger, I was wearing dressier clothes, skirts and so on. But you do draw attention and sometimes the wrong one. So now I would rather put on clothes that wouldn’t draw the attention.

You see these things on the news about women being stalked, raped or murdered. Women don’t feel safe. They don’t ask for someone to make comments and behave in that way towards them, it’s not appropriate. Some individuals, even though they know it’s wrong they take it too far.

I think it‘s mainly to show off in front of their friends. That’s the kind of thing I have experienced. Some men think they can do that and it’s not offensive. I would be more scared if it was a man on his own, because I would be thinking that his intentions are a bit worse than just having a laugh.

Fig. 4: Jordan, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021 Jordan

When you were younger your mum would be questioning the length of your skirt, when now I’m questioning the length of my skirt; Is that inappropriate? Is that going to give guys I message I don’t mean to send? Definitely in the last couple of years I’ve noticed that I would rethink my options and put on something else, depending on where I’m going and who with. Especially at work you start thinking what’s appropriate, because you get all sorts of guys at work looking at your top as you are talking to them.

Generally I think it’s how they have been programmed. Unfortunately. It’s like a group mentality. So if you have a group and one starts, others will join and encourage each other. It makes girls feel unsafe and it shouldn’t do. It makes them rethink things when they shouldn’t have to. I can’t imagine a guy spending an hour getting upset about what he’s wearing on a night out, whereas a girl would, because you think ahead of what might happen. And it spoils your night, you have to watch your drinks, it’s risky to be on your own, etc. Whereas a guy can walk on his own, and he will very likely be fine. A girl – she’s more likely to be a target. So it’s the fact that girls have all these extra layers of thinking, and we shouldn’t.

Fig. 5: Nora, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021 Nora

This situation was also kind of reminder why I’m not so keen on wearing dresses anymore. Because you get this unwanted attention. I would not wear a mini skirt anymore. When I was around 14-16 I found it flattering when someone catcalled me because I thought it was a compliment. But as I grew up I realised it is not a compliment, and it put me off wearing clothes that could draw attention.

It’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t have even recalled the incident if it wasn’t linked to the dress because it just happens so often.

Being catcalled strips away the humanity of that person. You are no longer a person, you are just a sexy object walking down the street. It makes you concerned about your own safety. You simply don’t know if he’s going to ‚just‘ whistle at you, or if he’s going to grab your ass. Where is it going to stop?

I think they do it because they‘ve always been doing it. Guys don’t call out on each other. They don’t discourage others from doing it. Perhaps they’ve seen it in movies - a lady walks down the street and some of the male characters whistles at her. It’s made out as a positive thing as well, indicating that the woman looks good. But that’s what turns women into objects.

Figures: 1-5: Lucie Nechanicka, I Didn't Ask For It, 2021

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