Females today are highly likely to experience street harassment throughout their lifetime, according to the Stop Street Harassment organization.
The organization define such harassment as, “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
For fourth year painting student, Pie Herring, hearing a multitude of accounts of incidents of street harassment was not only disheartening, but infuriating.
During the summer of 2015, Pie experienced street harassment herself. Speaking to The Student she stated, “(the incident) just stuck in my mind and that kind of made me feel really vulnerable.
“After that experience, I just started noticing a lot more when men approached me… I would just be walking around and someone would say something to me and I want to respond but you’re told not to because it’s dangerous. I would go home and tell my friends and family and they would ask, ‘what were you wearing?’”
Pie decided to engage in her own research to uncover just how common her experience is throughout the wider community. She individually messaged every female Facebook friend she had on the social media platform, posing the question whether they themselves had ever experienced street harassment.
Pie’s Facebook was soon flooded with 80 responses from female Facebook friends, detailing their personal experiences with harassment and the impact it had on them.
Pie told The Student, “The amount of girls that came back to me- some of these girls I didn’t even know – because I sent this message out to everyone – was astonishing. All the stuff I was reading I couldn’t believe it; this brought out an emotion in me.”
Pie decided to take practical action through raising awareness in the form of art. She has chosen to focus her year-long painting project on the impact street harassment has had on women.
Pie stated, “I think so much can be said on social media about how bad this is, but an art work is a bit more impactful. I want to make it shocking and impactful for the people that see it because I felt shocked about things I’ve heard.”
The painting student has decided to spread this awareness through creating a ‘toilet book’.
“They are sort of funny books titled things like, ‘50 Hilarious Lies to Tell Young Kids,’ and you’re supposed to read it on the loo and it’s supposed to be funny. I wanted to do something like that along the lines of, ‘50 Hilarious Things to Say to Girls on the Street.’”
The book she plans on publishing will start with more comical comments, but will progressively become more appalling for the reader. Each page will include an illustration by Pie accompanied by a quote from one of the women Pie Facebook messaged.
The book is aimed at capturing the attention of men that partake in street harassment, as well as at women who have experience such behavior so as to make them feel they are not alone.
In addition to this art piece, Pie has another project in the works. She plans to create portraits of some of the victims of street harassment.
“I want to make [the women] look pretty and natural. Then in the background I would incorporate words and stories with stencils into the wax. So, from afar you see a nice pretty portrait of someone and then you look closely and see all of these horrific words that are said to this one girl to show how vulnerable it makes them feel.”
The paintings are set to be showcased at Pie’s Edinburgh Degree Show in June 2018.
Image: Caroline Bernet