Page 1



‘‘I dress up depending on the places I go to, the situations I am in, if it is for work or not... And not according to what people are going to think. So if I want to wear a pair of jeans or a dress, I just do it. Because actually street harassment can happen anytime, anywhere, and clothes don’t really matter. And that is annoying actually. Because people make you feel guilty about what you wear, but you can be bothered by anyone on the streets even if you wear regular pants. [...] If I wear this or that, it is because I like it. Not because I want to draw the attention. Actually I don’t like drawing the attention. And I don’t like people judging others' looks.’’

‘‘It's not about men, it's about education. Why do we tell girls not to wear short skirts but don't we tell boys not to harass, for example? It is simply respect, and it is necessary to teach that! I think that stereotypes are still deeply-rooted in mentalities. Many people see women weaker than men, and men stronger than women. But if you are strong or sensitive, it is because of your personality, not your gender. We also always put people in boxes. Gender boxes. Men are like that so they belong to that specific box. Women are like that so they belong to that other box. But it's more complicated than that. We all are more complicated individuals. Regarding my own case, I don't feel that I belong to any box. [...] Since I got a short haircut and I started to wear more 'masculine' clothes, I have noticed that it [street harassment] has stopped. When guys can't really identify you as a woman, they don't try to catcall you. Again, the problem is stereotypes, and how people perceice women, and how women are supposed to behave and be.’’

‘‘People say ‘‘It’s what you wear or how you behave that makes you get harassed’’. They tell women who wear short skirts or put too much makeup on that they want to be catcalled and like it. But it’s not an invitation to act like that! I’ve never seen a woman enjoying it and giving a positive answer to the catcall... I’ve never seen that it works on any woman actually. [...] In my own case, I don’t care what people and guys can tell me. I wear what I want. I put make-up on if I want to. And when it happens that a guy catcalls or whistles to me, either I respond or ignore them. That’s the kind of energy I have.’’

‘‘In Egypt it happens every single day. So I have learned to be a different person in public. I become a mean person in the street. I don’t smile, I talk aggressively to people and avoid too many interactions. I also put layers and layers of clothes even by 45 degrees. I don’t wear jewellery, bright colours and make-up. If I have to put some, for work for instance, I just take it with me. And I always tie my hair. A woman’s hair is a sexual symbol there. The thing is that you don’t want to draw the attention. When you’re a woman in public in Egypt, the safest thing to do is to become invisible. [...] In London, it’s so different. I don’t say nothing can happen here! But the gap between my personality at home and my personality in public is not as wide. I can wear what I want, dresses, leggings, jewellery. I can put make-up on and untie my hair. I’m not constantly on alert, looking around or being aware to have a wall behind me when I stand on the streets. And even though I’m worried about taking a bus at night here, the fear of physical aggression is not my first thought in the morning when I wakeup.’’

“It happened during a night out. We were dancing in a nightclub. I was wearing my white pencil skirt. Everything was fine at the beginning. Rachel and I were dancing and having fun. But then it happened very fast. There was a group of guys next to us and one of them just copped my crotch from behind. I was so angry! [...] I didn't know really how to react after that. But now I know I could have gone to the police, because what he did it was illegal. And I like to think that if the guy would have realized that what he did was illegal and that it affected me, perhaps he wouldn't have done it.�

‘‘It was the worst night ever. I remember that we talked to the club manager and asked him to kick the group of guys out. But then they managed to get in again, and nobody bothered to get them out once more. So Laura and I just left the club. The way back home was awful. It was too late to take the tube. So we took the bus and got harassed there too. Many guys tried to draw our attention and catcalled us. When we shoved them off, they became mean towards us and insulted us. So we go off the bus without knowing where we were. Some other guys in the street catcalled us again and asked if we wanted to go with them. We ignored them and tried to get into a hotel to call a cab at the reception, but we were kicked out by the receptionist. When we eventually got a cab, we were in tears. It was awful! Everything happened at the same time. In one night we had been angry, upset, terrified... We were feeling so empty when we got back home. Laura and I slept in the same bed that night because we didn't feel up to staying alone in our separate rooms after what had happened.’’

‘‘Catcalling is not a compliment. Simply because it usually makes the person feel uncomfortable. I have already come acrosse men complimenting men in the street, and it was fine. They were speaking to me, face-to-face, without yelling, like normal persons do, and we had a proper conversation about him, me, the weather, etc, and there was no inappropriate, lecherous, sexual or despising comment. Many people think "Women just don't know how to take a compliment". But I do enjoy compliments! I just don't like being yelled at across the streets, and getting comments on my body, my figure, my look, my clothes like that. It is not a compliment! It is only very intimidating. [...] No I don't think that it's flattery when some random guys at a bar keep asking me and my friend to come with them. Or when strangers use my clothes or accessories, such as the goggles I wear sometimes, as a reason to yell at me and become too insistent. It's just inappropriate and scary! And if I put make-up on or dress up with particular clothes, it's because I like it, not because I need someone to give me some 'compliments' that really are not.’’

“The last time it happened to me, it was in a supermarket. A guy kept asking me where I was living and if he could go to my place with me. He was becoming too persistent. So I refused and moved my hand to tell him to let me alone, and he went away. Most of the time I ignore them. But if one day I feel some guys get too close or make me feel uncomfortable and insecure, I shout and stare at them badly. That's my thing. If it's just words, I ignore. If it goes too far, I react and shout back. [...] Either here in London or in Egypt, it happens. But in Egypt verbal harassment has even become normal. Everybody does that, so people think it's normal, even though it shouldn't. There is a sort of normalization around verbal provocation and lustful comments aimed at women in public space: as if every man is considered to have the right to do it. However I'm not going to change my lifestyle because of that. I like being a lady. I like putting a bit of make-up on, wearing long elegant skirts and heels.�

“Nothing really bad has happened to me. But I have already been catcalled, stopped by insistent guys or even followed once. It has always been during daytime, as I don't go out very late that often. [...] However I don't want to feel in danger in the street, either here in London or in France. It's a public space and I reckon that it should belong to anyone. So I always try to spend time outside during the day in order to get familiar with my environment, to feel that it's also my home. Nowadays I am quite self-confident in the street because I've found ways to ‘adopt it’ and to know it well. When I go somewhere or decide to stroll in the neighbourhood, I look at the local maps I hanged in my room to remember directions, areas, places, etc. When I go out, I also ride my bicycle most of the time. That makes me more confident. Less reachable. That is why I don't feel very at risk. Because I try to have my own place in public space like everybody else.”

“In Zimbabwe street harassment happens very often. People try to draw your attention, call you ‘sexy’ or ‘babe’ when you just walk pass them, or try to stop you. The worse aspect of that problem there, it's when it goes to physical assault. It is not actually very usual but it can happen to women and men. Most of the time the police is responsible for such aggression. I have experienced such assaults while I was working as a photo journalist for the Zimbabwe Mail. I had been savagely beaten and arrested by policemen during a MDC-T [Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai, main opposition party in Zimbabwe] protest because I was standing next to the activists taking pictures, simply doing my job. I'm sure, though, that they took advantage of the fact I was a woman. They wouldn't have gone that far if I were a tall strong guy. [...] That is why I learned to become tough. When I walk in the street, I walk fast and confidently. Because then people don't target you if you appear self-confident and determined. Even one day, I decided to wear high heels and a beautiful long skirt while I was going to a place for a reportage. As I was walking very confidently in the street, nobody stopped me or yelled at me.”

Woman beings (English)  

Documentary photo-project tackling street harassment, ordinary sexism, the role of women within society and the construction of femininity v...

Woman beings (English)  

Documentary photo-project tackling street harassment, ordinary sexism, the role of women within society and the construction of femininity v...