Blackpool women relive casual sexism in street project

Sexual harassment victims get knitting to raise awareness of Fylde street incidents

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 3:40 pm

Katya Lawder describes herself as having a ‘brass neck and a spiky personality’, but recalls the casual everyday sexism she encountered at school. Now 47, she feels angry for tolerating it.

“Adults always told me that I should expect boys to ping my bra straps and call me names. They’d say it’s just what boys do so as a girl you just have to put up with it. Boys will be boys. I realise now just how wrong that message is.”

Mrs Lawder, of Spen Corner, Blackpool, has three textiles on display in an exhibition at Blackpool Library. It contains artwork by over 50 Fylde Coast women, highlighting real life incidents of street harassment and casual everyday sexism in the area.

Aunty Social's exhibition of textile art, We're Sew Done, at Blackpool Central Library

READ: Sexual harassment ‘normalised’ for children and young people - Ofsted reportEach piece is displayed with a QR code that links to a webpage where the viewer can read about the experience that inspired the artist and see the textile photographed at the original scene where the incident took place. They range from cat calls through to some very graphic sexual assault. The project co-ordinator, Catherine, 40, says: “some of the accounts are very traumatic so we have a content warning. If you don’t feel comfortable reading about it then hopefully you can still appreciate the work.”

The project was inspired by the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a police officer while walking home in London in March 2021. Katya admits the project was an eye-opener, and that it made her think more deeply about some of the casual sexism she had experienced. “I just thought it was normal, but hearing other testimonials has forced me to think about how unhelpful some of these gender stereotypes are. I really started to feel angry, so it was so cathartic to have this outlet.”

The project is about changing minds, hearts, and perceptions. Ms Mugyoni, of central Blackpool, says: “Fine needlework is a metaphor. It’s seen as ‘women’s work’ but it also requires a lot of care and patience. It’s about forming a long-term plan to change attitudes and spark conversation, rather than being about us protecting ourselves.”

Seeing the textiles displayed on location around Blackpool really hammers home the message that this is a real life issue that is happening on our doorsteps. Claire Walmsley-Griffiths, 47, photographer, thinks street harassment is a big problem in Blackpool.

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The We’re Sew Done exhibition is on display at Blackpool Central Library until October 31st 2021.