How many times has a man shouted at you from a moving car, stood uncomfortably close to you on public transport, or even touched himself publicly, in front of you? According to a recent study, as much as 85 percent of us have endured some kind of street harassment, though, you probably don’t need a stat to tell you that the problem is pervasive.
These ‘small’ acts of aggression and shows of dominance often succeed in making women feel scared or insecure, the same study stated 63 percent of women feel generally unsafe in public spaces and almost half of us make conscious safety plans when out and about.
Obviously this is unacceptable, though sometimes the issue can feel too overwhelming to deal with yourself. Must you confront every wolf whistle? Report every inappropriate touch?
Thankfully, London-based photojournalist and set designer Eliza Hatch is taking a stand against sexual harassment through her project ‘Cheer Up Luv‘.
Hatch, 22, began the project by asking every girl close to her whether they would share a story of sexual assault and have their photo taken to accompany it.
After perusing the all-too familiar accounts of these women, we reached out to Hatch to find out more.
Why the name ‘Cheer Up Luv’?
The number of times I have been told to ‘cheer up’ by a strange man is countless, and it never gets any more acceptable. It is one of the most simple and seemingly harmless phrases, but it leaves you feeling unarmed, frustrated and three steps behind thinking of a comeback. It’s the lack of thought that really bothers me.
“At a pub I was working at, this guy who was maybe in his mid 30s and friends with the managers, constantly harassed me. Asking me out and saying he’ll “destroy me”.one of the nights we were staying after, having some drinks with some of the other staff and he was continually putting his hand up my legs. He was trying to get in my skirt and saying I was a pussy for not sleeping with him.” – Noga
The man in question obviously doesn’t know a thing about your life, yet he still demands you to look happy for his own satisfaction.
What if you had just been given some horrible news or just had the worst day of your life, and then you are made to feel guilty for not looking happy? It’s such a small phrase, but has a lot of impact.
Was it tough to find participants?
Most women I asked sent me at least three stories to pick from. After launching the project, women have been approaching me from all over the world asking to be involved, through email and Instagram.
What patterns have emerged in the stories?
Unfortunately, many stories are about men masturbating at women in a public place.
Another pattern I have noticed is that many of the stories start with, ‘When I was 12, once when I was young, when I was in my uniform..etc.’
It has become obvious that girls are targeted at a young age, on public transport, and especially when they are in school uniform.
UNFORTUNATELY, MANY STORIES THAT HAVE BEEN SENT IN HAVE BEEN ABOUT MEN MASTURBATING AT WOMEN IN A PUBLIC PLACE.
What is the point?
The project is necessary because women are made to feel that being harassed even on the smallest scale is normal.
I strongly believe in equality for all men and women, and as it stands, women are harassed on such a huge level by comparison. If men were subjected to the same things as women are in public, they would be absolutely mortified.
Part of the problem isn’t just the harassment itself, it’s the awareness surrounding it. A lot of men aren’t even aware that they themselves are culprits, or that it happens so often.
What is the concept for the photography?
“When I was sixteen and walking to school one morning on a quiet residential street, I saw this middle aged, rather normal looking guy up ahead of me standing in the middle of the pavement. As I got closer I realised he was having a full in wank, dick out, and all in broad daylight. As i walked past feeling shocked and too freaked out to even change my route and cross the road he goes, “Yeah you want some of this?” – Chesca
I want to capture the confidence in every woman I meet, and that can be difficult when speaking about a time when they have felt the opposite. So before each photo I like to spend a little time with the person, especially if I have never met them, just to have a coffee and a chat.
Did you actively choose only to shoot women?
Many people have asked me that, and I am aware that street harassment can happen to anyone, not just women.
However this project started from a place of personal experience, and for the project to be the most impactful, I needed it to be saying something about one particular thing. It is hard enough to fight one battle for awareness, and for it to have a strong message, so for that reason I choose to shoot women.
Why does sharing these stories help?
Hopefully by sharing these stories, more awareness for the issue can be raised. I think it also creates a wider support network for these women and a solidarity between them.
“I was sitting on the subway and I had my earphones in. But then my battery died so I could hear people talking. Two white guys got in and stood in front of me. They were talking about dating girls and how they were in bed and stuff. Then one guy said, “have you ever done it with an Asian girl?” And the other guy said, “no, never had the chance”. Then the first guy said, “oh they’re the best, you must fuck an Asian girl”. – Sally
Different women find that different stories resonate and it is comforting to know that you are not the only one who has been through something.
Do you see change as possible?
If we keep speaking up about the issue, then yes. The more attention it gets the better, and if we begin to teach that all forms of harassment are unacceptable at a young age, to boys, then we are influencing change.
Read all of the stories here.
From: ELLE UK