‘Things Men Have Said To Me This Year’ (2017)

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In my home country (Ireland), I grew up under a social pressure to laugh off sexist jokes, for fear of being deemed anything from ‘no craic’ (no fun), to a bitch.  For a long time I followed suit, or buried my head in the sand, not wanting to diverge from social norms or to have difficult conversations.  But I realised – with time – that by ignoring the problem, wouldn’t make it go away & that by calling out sexist behaviour & actually engaging with people about the topic not only offered an opportunity to claim back some dignity & power in an otherwise very powerless situation, it simply felt right.  Sometimes, though, it doesn’t always feel safe.

Reflecting on the culture whereby comments & judgements about women’s bodies pervade not just social & professional spaces, but more intimate situations for women – I devised this piece because I wanted to do something with that feeling – the feeling of disempowerment that comes from being judged or slighted or commented on inappropriately.  It still seems to be a pretty prevalent to openly judge women’s bodies or to take sexually explicit & aggressive talk as light-hearted.  This behaviour, even today with all our awareness & ‘wokeness’, is still very normalised for women.  By publicly ‘handing’ these comments back – just some that I have personally received this passed year – I wanted to regain some control & open up a conversation.

Feedback ranged from two elderly Italian ladies who worked in a women’s crisis centre, patiently translating each sign saying “well done, keep going”, to the young man who told me I had a bad boyfriend.

Photographs:  Charlotte Colgate