Reclaiming the Streets of Cardiff

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Earlier this year, a hoax was going around on social media about a ‘National Rape Day’, where men would supposedly be able to rape women without any consequence.

Despite it being a ridiculous rumour, women still had to warn each other about it; you never know who might take it a little too seriously. That night, we all made sure that we wouldn’t go outside alone, just in case.

And although I was myself accompanied by three men, going home after a party in Cardiff, I was still hyper vigilant the entire way. Not only because of this horrible joke of a day, but also because that is simply the automatic mode I enter whenever I have to walk the streets at night.

The fear of unknown men and their potential to hurt me has been so deeply ingrained in me that I cannot help but tense up whenever I see a stranger.

Like most other women in a similar situation, my flight-or-fight response activated as I felt the adrenaline rush through my veins, wishing I could experience the same carelessness as my male friends who were unaware of my discomfort.

As a woman who has travelled alone around the world for many years, I couldn’t help but feel humiliated at the idea that I depended on them to get home safely in my own city, despite feeling grateful for their presence.

I am not the only one.

That day came only a few weeks after the death of Sarah Everard, the young woman who was kidnapped by a police officer while she was simply walking home. The wound was thus still fresh, after this event sparked international outrage.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Women everywhere are tired of not feeling safe in the public space. All of our lives, we have been taught that we had to be careful of what we wear and say, how we act and hold ourselves. We have all adopted behaviours such as looking down or pretending to be on the phone in order to avoid someone whistling or staring at us insistently. And we have all come to accept this as a normal part of our existence, while running the risk of being labeled as ‘angry feminists’ if we dare to complain about it. But things are changing.

Increasingly, women are speaking up against this complex societal issue.

The film ‘Reclaiming the Streets of Cardiff’ explores this topic by looking at two young Cardiff-based students, Grace and Sarah, who chalk messages about street harassment around the city and post about it on social media under the name ‘Catcalls of Caerdydd’.

By doing this, they are opening important conversations and making people question why these attitudes have been accepted for so long. I followed them on two different occasions, in order to get and idea of the kind of reactions they raise, and ask passers-by their opinion. It includes the voices of both women and men, who are in some cases also victims of street harassment. Together, these testimonies paint a picture of the current climate surrounding this current topic, and offer suggestions of how to move forward in order to create safer public spaces for everyone.

Watch it here:

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Writer, Journalist, Filmmaker

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Sophie Zermatten

Sophie Zermatten

Writer, Journalist, Filmmaker

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