I Didn't Ask For It

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I DIDN’T ASK FOR IT


© Lucie Nechanicka | 2021 All rights reserved




CONTENTS

The Project 5 My Background 6 Lucie (The Author) 7 - 14 Bianca 15 - 22 Jordan 23 - 30 Zuzana 31 - 38 Emily 39 - 46 Nikki 47 - 54 Jane 55 - 62 Claire 63 - 70 Nora 71 - 78 Kara 79 - 88 Afterword 89 - 90 Bibliography 91


THE PROJECT

This project is about the sexual harassment of women in public spaces. The women I’ve worked with had experienced harassment in public spaces in the area of Nottingham. I asked them to wear the same clothes they had worn on the day of the incident, and photographed them at the location where it had taken place. I also conducted an interview with them and asked questions related to the experience as well as harassment of women in general. The purpose is to present to the viewer that experiencing harassment can happen

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anytime, anywhere and to anybody. I asked them to wear the same clothes because I would like to point out that the clothes or appearance of the women is in fact irrelevant. Yes, it can be a factor, but not the cause. I‘ve photographed and interviewed 9 brave women and myself. I decided to include my story in the project because I didn’t want to separate myself from the women and present their stories as though it is their issue. This is our issue. This is what we have in common. I’m doing this project, because it personally bothers me.


MY BACKGROUND

The first time I can remember being harassed was when I was 14. I worked as a waitress – one off job my dad arranged for me – at an outdoor event. There was loud music, a lot of people and of course a lot of booze. It was only an early afternoon and many people were very drunk already. I was taking a break, so I sat down on a bench. It didn’t take more than ten minutes, and I was approached by this bloke – at least in his fifties, who sat down next to me and casually put his hand on my thigh and asked me: „What’s your name?“ Then he carried on saying: „You can call me ‚uncle‘.“ I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but I felt somewhat violated and disgusted. I managed to brush off his hand and said: „Name is; Piss off!“ Then I got up and left, didn’t want to hover around to wait for his reaction. I never told anyone about this incident because it simply didn’t occur abnormal. Uncomfortable, yes. But I somehow knew that my expected reaction was to brush it off and get used to it because it would likely happen again. And it did. The other memorable incident happened when I was 17. I was doing a placement through my school – I was trained to become a waitress. Only a couple of months after I started working there I was called to my boss’s office in order to discuss my wages. However, wages wasn’t quite the thing that had been discussed. He suggested that I can earn more if I do him a favour every now and then. Without saying out loud what sort of favour it was pretty clear he was offering me money for having sex with him. I was instantly disgusted and left without saying anything. At that time I had no sexual experience and the idea of having sex for the first time with this middle-aged perv really made me sick. I told my parents about his ‚generous‘ offer. Their reaction? Not much. They neither reported it to the school, nor they confronted my boss, and it was never brought up again. I had to stay in that pub to finish my placement. Occasionally I would get messages

from him saying how pretty looked, which I would ignore. Again, I felt a sense of violation and unfairness, but this time I was even more conditioned to believe that this is a very normal experience in the life of a woman. Most striking incident I’ve experienced happened in my early twenties when I went for a massage. I paid for a full body massage, however the idea of a full body massage meant something quite different than what I would ever expect in a professional studio. The masseur was a guy in about his mid fifties. Not very long after he proceeded with the massage, his hands slipped between my thighs and continued going up. My heart dropped. I brushed his hands off and said: „Dude, this is not what I bloody paid for!“ - „But you will like it! This is why young girls come here.“ I wasn’t sure if I felt more shocked or disgusted, but either way I didn’t dawdle around to contemplate that. My final words to the guy was to piss off and I legged it to the changing room. And as usual, I didn’t make much out of it because even though it was a horrible experience, it was over and at the end of the day nothing really happened, right?! But mainly I felt really ashamed for it because I felt like it was my fault – I thought that for many years. So of course I didn’t bother reporting it. Other times I would be occasionally catcalled, whistled at, stopped and asked for a date. Nothing very memorable except from one time when I waited for a tram and was approached by a random guy who made me a very generous offer; make a lot of money by shooting porn with him. Whether he was joking or not didn’t matter as the result would be the same; I told him to stay away from me. He did, but before doing so the bloke topped it off by calling me a ‘fucking cunt’. Shocking, but not shocking. I haven’t told anyone about this.

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Lucie (The Author)

West Bridgford, Nottingham Late spring, early afternoon I was on my way home from the Embankment, and about to cross the busy junction the opposite side of Wetherspoon. I had a new hair style – bright pink hair. There were two other pedestrians waiting for the green light. Both British, white blokes in about their fifties. One of them looked at me and said: „Hey, pretty hair!“ Now this is tricky, because it’s not sleazy in an obvious way, so this sort of comment can go two ways: It’s either just an innocent comment and the interaction will end there. Or it is an excuse to start an interaction where the person’s intention is seedy and the situation can escalate. In this case it went the second way. Because the intention is never written on anyone‘s forehead, I said ‚thanks‘ to him, but kept myself to myself and didn’t make any more eye contact. However, the guy continued speaking to me: „Hey pretty, what’s your name?“ Shit, why is it taking so long for the traffic light to go green, I was asking myself and pretended I didn’t hear and kept looking at the traffic lights. „Hey pretty, give me your number!“ The traffic light went green and I proceeded to cross the road quite fast. The guys crossed slowly behind me and the one who was interacting with me the whole time, yelled at me for the last time:

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„Come on, don’t be like that, I just want your number!“ I turned around and gave him a thumb down. Whether he said anything or not, I wouldn’t know, I walked fast away from them. This was the least freaky incident I can recollect, however it was the first time I said to myself that this sort of behaviour shouldn’t be accepted or tolerated. But it is. 97% of British women have experienced harassment of some sort, yet we never talk about it. We rarely discuss our experiences with anyone because we are conditioned to believe that this is a normal part of women’s lives and we just need to bite the bullet and get used to it. That was the moment I decided to do a project about the harassment of women to make more people aware of this problem in our society. Any form of harassment on any level is harmful, and by ignoring or not giving enough weight to these issues we just contribute to the cultivation of gender stereotypes and toxic attitudes toward women. Women are urged to carry keys between fingers. Watch out for their drinks on a night out. Carry pepper spray. They are urged to not walk alone at night. Women don‘t feel safe. Can we urge men not to act like they are entitled to women? Can we teach women that men are not entitled to women? Can we teach people more about mutual respect and gender equality? ●



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“WOMEN DON’T FEEL SAFE. CAN WE URGE MEN NOT TO ACT LIKE THEY ARE ENTITLED TO WOMEN? CAN WE TEACH WOMEN THAT MEN ARE NOT ENTITLED TO WOMEN?”

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Bianca

Meadows, Nottingham June, 6:00pm I was walking home from work; it was still daylight. A guy came out of a house with a bicycle and sort of caught my attention. He was a black guy in his mid twenties, wearing a tracksuit. I looked up and caught his eye by accident. He started following me on his bike and said: „I want to lick your pussy!“ He carried on: „Will you go out with me?“ and then: „Stop, I want to talk to you!“ He said other things, also explicit. I ignored him at first, but he just kept following me, so I told him that I’m not interested and wanted him to leave me alone. But he kept following me, telling me to stop and saying these things he wants to do to me. So then I stopped a man who was passing by the other way and I said: „Please, can you help me, this man won’t leave me alone, he’s following me!“ But then the man who was following me racially abused the guy I stopped. He said: „What are you looking at, you fucking Paki?!“ I was worried that he would attack this passer-by, so I just carried on walking, and he kept following me until we came out the Trent Bridge, and I shouted again: „Leave me alone! You are scaring me!“ And then his tone completely changed, he said: „Oh, I’m sorry love. I didn’t mean to scare you!“ and just cycled off. I was really scared, my heart was beating. I felt violated. I felt stupid for walking down this road because it’s the most direct and quickest route. But I’ve never walked down here before and I should have walked on the main road and it might have been safer. But it was daylight, so I thought it would be safe. I wouldn’t walk down this road again, even in the daytime now. I was on my way to meet some friends, I told them what happened. I was quite upset, I phoned my husband. I was crying because I was shocked. My friends told me to report it to the Police, so I did it because of the race element and hate crime,

such as the misogynistic comments he made. They dealt with it seriously, but unfortunately they couldn’t find any evidence. They checked the CCTV and went door to door with the description I provided, but they didn’t find him. No one admitted knowing who he was, but that’s very much the culture around here; even if somebody knew him they wouldn’t tell the Police. It was highly unlikely he would be caught in this case. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? Good question! Probably to get a reaction. Maybe it’s worked for them in the past? I don’t know of any examples of that, though. I believe it’s a power thing. This guy was on his own, but perhaps if he was in a group of friends, it would be a funny thing to do; get a bit of respect from his friends. But like I said, he was on his own, so I I’m not sure what his intention was. Maybe something to entertain his friends with later? 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 in a position from which we can’t escape. I think that men and women are still not treated equally in the society. And I think men hold the power in a lot of situations. Also men don’t have the confidence to speak up and challenge other men because they would be afraid of the repercussions - of not being included within the group in power. You don’t want to remove yourself from that position. That’s why they don’t say anything. So it just carries on. What would help to resolve this? I think education in schools, around respect, consent and treating people. It’s also important to get boys and men to understand the fear women have, and how it makes us feel. Because they might think it’s funny – for them, but it’s not funny at all. ●

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“WE DON’T KNOW IF THAT PERSON IS SUDDENLY GOING TO BECOME VIOLENT OR TOUCH US. WE MIGHT SUDDENLY BE IN A POSITION FROM WHICH WE CAN’T ESCAPE.”

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Jordan

West Bridgford, Nottingham August, Thursday, 8:00pm It was still quite light, and I was walking on Wilford Lane to get the tram. As I walked to the tram stop, there were builders in a truck that slowed down as they were going past. It was two of them, around their fifties. They started leering out the window and shouting and making jeering noises. I think the passenger was laughing on with it but I don’t think he was joining in the shouting, it was the driver because it was on the other side of the road, so he was facing me. I didn’t hear exactly what was said but it was clearly aimed at what I was wearing - a dress. Most of the times I would say something back or give a death stare. This time I felt quite anxious already; I was going on a date, and was questioning what I was wearing. So for some reason this really got me. I quickly glanced at them and then looked away because I didn’t want to encourage any of the comments. Because of the beeping of the truck people nearby already started looking, so I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t at me and walk off. Most of the times I’m pissed off, but this one made me upset. Before the event I was messaging my friends in order to discuss the clothes. So for a few minutes I was thinking; Do I have enough time to turn around and change? You are the first person I talk to about this incident. It’s such a passing thing, it happens often. Do you feel safe on the streets? It sounds horrible, but when it comes to builders; you see a builders site and there is a few of them, I will avoid walking near them or past them. If I need to pass them I will stare at the ground and pretend I’m not there, but that doesn’t always work. Where I live it’s quite a safe place. I’ve travelled abroad by myself a lot so you come up with; Don’t walk in the dark alley by yourself. Don’t walk in parks at night. But maybe because

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I’m lucky I’ve always had ‚just‘ catcalling, I’ve never had anything worse than that. So I don’t know if this is just a false confidence. When you are young your mum would question the length of your skirt, but now I’m questioning the length of my skirt; Is that inappropriate? Is that going to give guys a message I don’t mean to send? In the last couple of years t 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. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? Generally I think it’s how they have been programmed. 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 is more likely to be a target. So it’s the fact that girls have all these extra layers of thinking, and we shouldn’t. What would help to resolve this? I think that the MeToo movement is giving guys the confidence to speak up against their friends when they are in a group where someone does catcalling. Unfortunately the good guys often get shouted down. So they are afraid to speak up against other males, and call out the ones that are behaving inappropriately because of the ‘bro code’. But giving them a platform and the ability to do something about it themselves would help, so they can start taking more action. ●



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“UNFORTUNATELY THE GOOD GUYS OFTEN GET SHOUTED DOWN. SO THEY ARE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP AGAINST OTHER MALES.”

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Zuzana

Forest Fields, Nottingham Summer, 5:00pm - 6:00pm I was going home from work, and it was still light. When I wasn‘t too far away from my house a man stopped me and asked for directions. He was a white, tall guy and wore an oversized t-shirt and jogging trousers. I would say, he was in his mid thirties. I showed him what street he was looking for, and when I turned back to face him he stood closer to me than he was before, and he offered me forty pounds for having sex with him. I said ‚no, thanks‘ and walked away. He started shouting and eventually went up to sixty. I didn’t want to turn around to look at him, I was quite intimidated. But as I was getting more away from him he started shouting that he was just joking. I got scared when I started realising 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. I avoided that street for a while. I've told my co-workers about it, and they've encouraged me to report the incident to the Police, so I did. The police officer I spoke with was kind and supportive. But I’m not sure if they found anyone. This incident made me really disgusted as I was thinking more about it. It is not a compliment, I don’t want those people to look at

me in that way. I don’t want them to think about me. Just mind your own business. When I’m catcalled I usually feel angry and it puts me off immediately, even if that person was goodlooking I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them. I always contemplate what to wear even when I just go shopping or for a walk, and wonder whether there is a potential of being whistled at. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? I think they seek attention and approval from their friends, maybe it’s for fun. This is not a women’s problem only. Non-binary and transgender people, but men as well get harassed on the streets. It’s more about establishing who’s the more powerful one, more alpha. It makes people feel unsafe and it makes them question what they wear and how they behave. They can’t be themselves. It’s not right to step over someone’s boundaries and affect them. It could have a long lasting effect. What would help to resolve this? Perhaps better education at an early age, campaigns and raising awareness. In an ideal world, this wouldn‘t be something to be admired for. So as long as this culture persists then there’s not much to change because they won’t be discouraged. ●

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“IT’S NOT RIGHT TO STEP OVER SOMEONE’S BOUNDARIES AND AFFECT THEM. IT COULD HAVE A LONG LASTING EFFECT.”

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Emily

West Bridgford, Nottingham August, afternoon I was on a long run, and I would run from home, all the way around to the east side of West Bridgford, up Radcliffe road and then cut into the Cricket Ground when it started to rain. The test match was on, it was busy and the Cricket Ground was full. Coming past the Cricket Ground there were loads of people coming out because it was raining, and they wouldn’t be playing again. I was running across the road and two men walked past me. They were England fans, looking quite normal with sports gear. Both were white, British and probably in their late thirties. They started cheering; „Alright, love. Keep going!“ as I run up. Not something you often get around the Cricket Ground. One of the reasons I like Cricket is that it’s a lot more inclusive and you feel less vulnerable as a woman. It frustrates me more than anything because I feel like I should be able to go for a run whenever I want, wherever I want without feeling like I’m going to be commented on. I told my husband about it. It frustrates him from the husband point of view, but he also finds it fascinating because he would do exactly the same run and there is no way that anyone would ever comment on him. Do you feel safe on the streets? No. Especially not in the dark or places that are not busy. I tend to run way more in the summer because the daylight lasts longer. When we start losing light in the evening I just won’t run until the weekend. I’m on a maternity leave at the moment. When I’m at work I sometimes run on my lunch break, but sometimes I pick up my children from the nursery, and then run, and then work. So it’s all planned around daylight and busyness. If I have to go out in the dark I’ve got a head torch, but I still would follow the bus route to the town, and then often get the bus back.

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I know now in the future if I realise it’s going to rain and all the cricket fans are going to be coming out I would go the other way; across the Lady Bay bridge instead. I would never run in shorts despite the fact it’s warm, and I would always run in a t-shirt. I never have my shoulders or anything on display. And it still happened. When I feel like there’s nothing in my appearance that’s warranting any kind of attention, it happens. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? I think they’ve been brought up seeing other men doing it. It’s a normalised and learned behaviour. There is nobody calling them out on it and telling them that this is not appropriate. I’ve experienced it with secondary school age boys and I would love to challenge them myself but you feel very vulnerable on your own. Women don’t feel safe on the streets. And women should be able to do anything they want to do. 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 there without second guessing it. That’s why it’s wrong. Women should feel safe to do all they want to do. What would help to resolve this? I think it’s going to take a very long time, which is really depressing. There will be more Sarah Everards happening. Well, there are all the time. There are plenty of women being harassed from my level up to her level. It needs a serious level of campaigns and education. I don’t want to be the person who says it needs to be in schools because everything gets shoved in schools; that’s the answer to everything. But it does need education wherever it’s coming from. And not just for men, but for women as well. When I talk to my family about this, they say to me: „Oh, right, that was happening to me all the time when I was younger!“ This kind of normalisation of it is not helping. ●



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“WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING THEY WANT TO DO. I SHOULD BE ABLE TO RUN WHENEVER I WANT; DAY, NIGHT, MORNING, AND WHATEVER ROUTE.”

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Nikki

Ruddington, Nottingham Winter, 9:45pm I was going home from a class I go to. I walked past the church and went across the road. Coming towards me, crossing the road the other way was a chap walking. He was younger than me. I didn’t get a good look of him, but would say late thirties, early forties. He didn’t appear to be drunk, or obviously drunk. He was taller than me, white guy. I think he had a beard but I couldn’t swear to it. He looked like a normal guy – you wouldn’t spot him across the street to avoid him. Without thinking, I smiled at him. I do that pretty much to everybody, I’m quite a smiley person. And as soon as he crossed behind me, he turned very abruptly and started following me. He didn’t say anything, but it was really obvious that he changed direction deliberately because I was there. There was nobody else out, but I thought I wouldn’t say anything, and not confront him because I was really close to home. I got to my gate, and I remember thinking; Is this just someone who was drunk and being silly or have I got one of the predatory ones? There was just no way of knowing. I came through my gate, and I closed it quickly. It’s a gate with a bell on, so you can hear the bell when the gate closed. I walked into my garden and I heard the bell go again. The chap followed me into the garden. Fortunately, my husband was at home and the light was on in the house. There is a conservatory where my husband was looking out the window. The chap saw him and just turned around and walked straight out. He didn’t say anything at all. I didn’t tell people about this. And when I said I was doing this project, they were like: „Oh, when did that happen? You never told me about that.“ I wasn’t ashamed of if, and I wasn’t keeping it secret. It just wasn’t massively different to those slightly scary experiences that you have as a woman.

Do you feel safe on the streets? Yes, within the caution that we all take. I walk around after dark in areas I know, always aware of people. But 99 times out of hundred, probably 999 times out of thousand you don’t need to be aware but you don’t know which occasion that one occasion is. When I was younger I used to wear really high shoes. And then at one point I started thinking that these are really impractical shoes to defend myself or to run away from anything. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? Because they can. I don’t think the issue with me was sexual. Even when people say it is and it might lead to a sexual assault, it’s about power and intimidation and establishing your place as the more powerful person. I was a feminist when I was younger, but I’ve become more feminist as I’ve got older and I’ve become angrier. Not in every way, but in this way men are much more in an advantage than women. They don’t have their bodies as a public property in the same way women do. You would think that it is only between the ages that seem, by society, sexually attractive. However, your body is still a public property even when you are older or younger. The first harassment I had was when I was about eight, when a chap stopped me in the street and just showed me a pornographic magazine. People think it’s about adult female sexuality. I don’t think it is. What would help to resolve this? This is something that’s happened for thousands of years. It’s talked about more now, which is really good, and the prevalence of the MeToo movement has made people more aware. Well, women were always aware there was a lot of it, but some men I know weren’t aware of how much of it there is. It’s like racism, it’s still there, but it’s less acceptable. The awareness of it will eventually make a difference, but it’s slow. ●

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“I DON’T THINK THE ISSUE WITH ME WAS SEXUAL. EVEN WHEN PEOPLE SAY IT IS AND IT MIGHT LEAD TO A SEXUAL ASSAULT, IT’S ABOUT POWER AND INTIMIDATION AND ESTABLISHING YOUR PLACE AS THE MORE POWERFUL PERSON.”

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Jane

City centre, Nottingham Winter, Saturday or Friday, around midnight I was at the bus stop waiting for the 23:20 bus to go home. I would be on a night out and then heading home. The friend I would be with was often getting a bus going in a different direction. So it would be just me waiting at the bus stop. Sometimes there would be other people in the queue, but sometimes there would be no one. That particular bus stop is surrounded by at least four bars. What tended to happen was that I would get a couple of guys – it’s usually more than one, who would come over to the bus stop. They are predominantly quite young, probably in their late twenties. They would either sit down and put their arm around me, or if I had chips they would want to share my chips, and they would begin to get closer to me. Occasionally one or two would be so drunk they couldn’t stand up, so then I would want to get up and move away. Most people would just look away, nobody would come and say if I was alright or needed help. And the guys – it was always guys, never women – would always make it out like: „What do you mean you don’t want to talk?“ „Why can’t I put my arm around you?“ And there have been occasions where I walked very fast to another bus stop to get away from that situation. These situations always make me feel like I’m fair game. A lot of the times I’ve just been annoyed and fed up. There’s also a bit of tension when I‘m thinking; Do I need to walk away from this now? Do I need to get a taxi? Could the situation get out of hand? I have a friend, and we’ve shared similar experiences. She’s less confident than me, and most of the time now she just pays more for a taxi so she doesn’t have to experience that situation. Do you feel safe on the streets? I have another friend who’s more outgoing, and she would tell them to fuck off. But when

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you are on your own you don’t do that because you’re thinking; If I’m going to do that what are they going to do? I walk with confidence and I’m always observing. But there are times, especially in the city centre when I think about what might happen, what I can do, and if I have a way out. There are places I wouldn’t walk down on my own after dark. I think about what footwear 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 do men do it and why is it a problem? 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? Rarely. And where does it come from? Is it nature or nurture? 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 the ladies over there! Different skirts on, different length. Why shouldn‘t they? And not have somebody coming around later and trying to lift the skirts up. What would help to resolve this? When people’s personality is formed as a child – if their home circumstances are not the kind where women, mum and sisters are not respected. And then if you go into the school environment where that’s also perpetuated. And if you watch the telly and you are brainwashed by what you see – it all has an impact. All of these things need improving. ●



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“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.”

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Claire

Edwalton, Nottingham Spring, Sunday, 3:00pm I needed to go to the corner shop to get some essentials. As I walked over the road there was a group of youths, aged between 10 and 16 and at least thirty of them, which is unusual around here, and they all pulled up at the shop on their bikes. I went into the shop, got my bits and came outside. Then I walked across the road away from them, and one of them shouted: „Get your tits out!“ and I just turned around and said: „Pardon me?!“ And he was like: „Flash your tits!“ And that was it, so I just told him to grow up. They were laughing and I walked home. I went into the house, I was a little bit nervous because I was on my own, so I locked the door, looked out the window, they seemed to have everything they needed to get from the shop, so they rode off. I told my friends and family about it. I was shocked because they were so young, so I didn’t expect that to happen. Also this was out of character in this area. I usually feel safe around where I live. 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. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? 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. 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. What would help to resolve this? More education and perhaps tougher laws put in place. Unfortunately people tend to do what they want to do and nothing seems to stop that kind of behaviour. ●

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“WOMEN DON’T FEEL SAFE. THEY DON’T ASK FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE COMMENTS AND BEHAVE IN THAT WAY TOWARDS THEM.”

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Nora

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London Road, Nottingham Spring, Friday, 9:00am

incident to anybody because you don’t even think twice about it.

It was one of the first warm days in spring. I was going to work with my colleague. We came from the train station, walked across the road and walked along London Road. There we came across this guy in his car waiting at the junction. He was probably 50-60 years old, not very articulate. He was whistling and shouting: „Girls, you look nice!“ We actually didn’t really catch his exact words, but we didn’t need to, because we got the impression of what it was about anyway. My colleague and I just looked at each other and sighed in disgust. What did the person actually think? That we would stop on our way to work and say; Yeah, come over here and let’s go for coffee! It is humiliating and annoying. I felt awkward and angry at that guy. This situation was also kind of a reminder why I’m not so keen on wearing dresses anymore. Because you get this unwanted attention. I wouldn’t wear a mini skirt anymore. When I was 14-16 I found it flattering to be catcalled, 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. That’s why I haven’t mentioned this

Do you feel safe on the streets? I don’t fear that someone would rob me as much as I fear sexual predators. I feel less safe in that regards in the UK than back in Hungary because the night crime and drug use is higher over here. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? I think they’ve been always 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. 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? What would help to resolve this? It would help if men confronted other men. So when they see a stranger catcalling a girl it would be helpful if they challenged him and said that this is not okay. ●



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“BEING CATCALLED STRIPS AWAY THE HUMANITY OF THAT PERSON. YOU ARE JUST A SEXY OBJECT WALKING DOWN THE STREET. IT MAKES YOU CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR OWN SAFETY.“

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Kara New Basford, Nottingham Spring, Saturday, 12:30pm The man who I had the incident with was a neighbour who lived around the corner. He’s an African man in his fifties and really tall, over 6 foot. I used to see him in the morning when I walked my dog. We started to say ‚morning‘ to each other. This progressed to briefly mentioning the weather in passing. He seemed polite. When I walked a dog with my daughter in the park in the morning, he would stand at the top and watch us walking around. It was weird. One day I walked my dog by myself. I remember that my dog kept looking back, but I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was on the phone. It turned out to be the man who was behind me. He put his arm around my neck, but my dog bit him. He immediately let off, and I shot across the road. He refused to walk on, and wanted me to walk in front of him. I wasn’t going to do that, so I ended up walking the long way home. I phoned the Police and reported that. The only thing they seemed to be bothered about was the fact that my dog had bitten him. I was told that if he reports my dog for biting him, I would be arrested for having a dog out of control in a public area, even though my dog was on a lead, and my dog would be seized. They didn’t seem to be interested that he grabbed my neck. It’s crazy. A few months later, in the winter it was a really rainy day. I had a coat on with a huge hood. I went for a walk, but this time I didn’t have my dog with me. I saw the man on the street again. All of a sudden he came up to me and ripped my hood down, and picked me up giving me a big bear hug. He squeezed me really tight and then put me down. I walked off without saying anything because I was scared. I didn’t bother reporting this to the Police because what would be the point? It didn’t go well the last time, so it put me off.

I told my neighbour about it, he’s our family friend. He went around to the man’s house to confront him. The man was telling him that we were friends. I don’t even know his name, and he doesn’t know mine. He roughly knows where I live, but that’s it. He also denied grabbing my neck. My friend who lives around the corner also has a dog. She used to have a partner, so at that time they would walk the dog together. She would never have any issues. However, when she started walking the dog on her own, the man upset her as well. That day she phoned me saying she needed to come to mine. She was too scared to go back to her flat, in case he saw her because he wouldn’t leave her alone. I don’t remember what he did, but I remember her shaking and crying. It wasn’t long after the issues I had had. I think she reported her incident, but I can’t remember the outcome. I’ve lived in Nottingham my whole life and I would go wherever and whenever I want. But after the incident we were avoiding his street. The fact that we couldn’t go there angered me. I was angry that I was bothered and scared. One day a neighbour told me that the man moved, so we walked down there and saw a sign ‚for sale‘ outside of his house. That was a nice relief. Now we walk up and down that street every day because we can. However, since that incident I generally feel less safe. I’m wary and always looking around. 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. Speaking of hair colours; my mum who

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“WOULD BOYS AND MEN LIKE THEIR MUM TO BE TREATED THE WAY THEY TREAT OTHER WOMEN? WHAT IF THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO THEIR SISTER OR DAUGHTERS? FOR SOME REASON THEY DON’T SEE IT THAT WAY.”

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is in her late fifties, is also blonde. She looks after my older brother who is in a wheelchair, and she’s usually pushing him around. My mum wears casual, comfy clothes. She gets harassed all the time, usually by men in cars and vans shouting out the windows. Or by work men that she has to walk past. It ranges from “hi gorgeous” to “do you want to fuck”. When I was a little kid I remember that men would harass my mum in front of me. She is very silent, and doesn’t look or acknowledge it. She’s not an argumentative type. Why do men do it and why is it a problem? 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. 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

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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. Why do men have issues with women? I should be able to walk my dog in the day time, morning or whenever I want. I should be able to wear a tracksuit and a pair of leggings, or even a skirt. I shouldn’t need to dye my hair to become invisible. My daughter should be able to walk to school and not have men shouting out their cars at her when she’s wearing a uniform. I think they like to do it to children because they find it funny, and of course there’s that intimidation aspect again. But what’s funny about that? What would help to resolve this? I think boys should be taught respect of women at schools and also at home. Would boys and men like their mum to be treated the way they treat other women? What if the same thing happened to their sister or daughters? For some reason they don’t see it that way. If a man in a nightclub smacks a woman‘s ass he should be kicked out. Whether you are drunk or not, keep your hands to yourself. That should be the norm, that’s what they need to be taught. ●


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AFTERWORD

I’ve always revolved my practice around nude photography because I considered it beautiful. I love using the (female) body and experimenting with different techniques. There is an abundance of female nudes in the art world and beyond that have influenced my work. I began to wonder what these female nudes say about women. I‘ve started a research revolved around the representation of women in western culture – in art history and media nowadays, and what impact it has on our society. The most fundamental topics for my project are; male gaze, male entitlement to women and patriarchy. Female nude is an ever-recurring subject in the European oil painting. We‘ve been living in a society where women are inferior to men for millenniums. So it comes as no surprise that women didn’t have the same rights and opportunities as men. The art world was a male dominated world. The female nudes were painted by men – for men. Nowadays the same attitudes and values are expressed through other media – advertisement, movies, music videos, porn, etc. The term ‘male gaze’ was invented in 1975 by the film theorist Laura Mulvey in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. She explains that in Western media the female characters are often depicted from a masculine heterosexual perspective and their role is narrowed down to serve the male protagonist’s interests and storyline. However, the essence of male gaze is best described by John Berger in Ways of Seeing: „Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed is female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision: a sight.“ (Berger, 1972)

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The way women (and men) are represented in our culture has an impact on the everyday life of men and women and their relationships. Women are often framed to be viewed as an object to be owned, rather than a person. The outcome of this depiction is a message that the primary currency of women is their appearance. Men learn to look at women as an object or sight, and women are encouraged to turn themselves into an object. This gets me onto the other topic; male entitlement to women. Turning a person into an object robs that person of their humanity. It creates a climate that normalises and justifies violence against that person. In other words, representing women as objects of desire, mere decorations or commodities can lead to seeing women as less human. Living in an environment that cultivates these attitudes clearly has an impact on how some men think about women and how they treat them. We indeed live in a society where men and women are still not quite equal. Male gaze and male entitlement to women thrive in this environment because they are rendered normal and therefore invisible. I‘ve started thinking about how this affects me in everyday life. I‘ve become more critical about my photographic work – how I represent the female body. I began to pay more attention to the effects of media in my immediate surrounding, and became more observant about my interactions with (mostly strange) men. I’ve discovered some revelations that really bothered me, and that was the moment when I decided I would do a project about harassment of women in public spaces. I focus on catcalling, wolf-whistling, stalking, up-skirting, groping, etc. because harassment of women is not a crime in the UK unless it crosses the borderline with violence.


A lot of women don’t bother to report the incident because in many cases they believe it wasn’t a crime enough. Also these toxic attitudes about entitlement to women and normalization of this behaviour are responsible for worse outcomes than ‘just’ catcalling. These situations might escalate and turn into violence. Why is catcalling and wolf-whistling not a compliment? In the 18th century the term ‘catcall’ would be an expression of disapproval of someone's performance on stage. The term gained a sexual meaning in the 20th century, however the idea remained the same – the catcaller is vocally judging and giving feedback to another person. Wolf-whistling is a form of catcalling. Originally designed to herald the arrival of a wolf among sheep. However, it was employed as a wolf’s attraction in Avery's cartoons, where the wolf in a nightclub is amazed by the singing woman that he can’t control himself. He starts whistling at her, slaps the table, etc. It is just a cartoon, but it already communicates some ideas about the relationship between men and women. The meaning of both words is an approval (usually by men) of someone’s appearance (usually women). Why do I need a stranger’s approval that my appearance is good enough? Good enough for whom? If I make myself look attractive, I do it for my own pleasure. It is natural and absolutely fine, and I can make my own judgement whether I achieved it. My body is not a subject to public opinions, especially not to the extent of needing to be informed by strange men that I did a good job with my looks. Comments on somebody else‘s body is a very intimate matter, and receiving these comments from complete strangers crosses the borderline between a compliment and harassment. Some women might like it. But would women do it to someone (men or women)? Would men do it to other men? See the double standard?

This gets me onto another problem – victim blaming; If a woman is attractive, dressed ‘provocatively’ and gets harassed, it is her fault because she was asking for it. But not everyone pays much attention to the fact that the perpetrator took an advantage of her. Anne Munch explains Rape Myths on Trial that men should get offended by the statement ‘she was so hot, I couldn’t help it’ because it implies they have no control over themselves. But they do, because not exercising this behaviour is a choice. This is what Lynn Phillips in Flirting with Danger calls looking for ‘a perfect victim: „We talk about blame as though as it is a zero-sum game. So if a woman has even 1% of responsibility (tries to look hot, walks at night, walks alone, etc.) it is as though it is 100% her fault, and he bears no responsibility.“ (Phillips, 2012) Violence against women is male violence. So is violence against men. The same system that produces men who abuse women, produces men who abuse other men. This is something women and men have in common. The way forward lies in accepting that something in our society needs changing. Some people when they hear the term ‘gender equality’ act like it’s a swearing word, as if it’s anti-male. But it is not. This is not women against men. We live in a faulty system that needs a lot of repairing, and that will take both men and women; we need to work together, not as men and women but as decent people.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Open Access Government (2021), Research finds that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed Mulvey, L. (1975), Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Berger, J. (1972), Ways of Seeing, Chapter 3, p. 47 Online Etymology Dictionary, Origin, history and meaning of; catcall Scene, (2015), Don’t call me baby: The history of catcalling Marshall, A. (2018), The surprising history of the wolf-whistle Munch, A. (2012), Rape Myths on Trial Phillips, L. (2012), Flirting with Danger

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