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Sya Groosman is a talented, passionate college student and photographer in London who has big dreams to make an artistic impact to fight sexual/street harassment. With her culminating project at the University of Arts, she hopes to raise people’s awareness of the low conviction rates of sexual harassment while channeling her interest in fashion. She brings to light some of the most common experiences of young women everywhere through an artistic protest. Read on for a special and fascinating interview with Sya herself and learn about how to get involved.
Was there an event that served as the breaking point for wanting to explore sexual harassment more?
About a month ago a man followed me home after a night out while shouting out things like “I want to go home with you, you’re so beautiful.” Thank God it never became violent, but this event did make me realize: I have to do this project, even if it only creates awareness on a small level. Before this, I’ve always used my photography to criticize the roles of women in our society, yet I didn’t how to turn it into a project. I always thought of it as a very important but very sensitive subject and so decided to wait until it was the right timing for me and society. There is a lot going on about this in the news now, which makes it so much more interesting to explore.
How did you get into photography? Was this always a medium you wanted to use?
Yes, my love for photography started around the age of 15 when I got my first digital camera. And when I started my BA in Photography at the University of the Arts in Utrecht 3 years later, I found that this was a medium that I could use to express my opinion. You could make beautiful images that you may want to buy for your living room but that never loses that underlying critical concept. Hopefully it makes the viewer think about what is going on in our society.
Who do you want to influence with your finished project? Who is your target audience for this?
Sexual harassment survivors and their friends and family, as well as all the other people that have a strong opinion about sexual harassment without ever experiencing it. I’m definitely not targeting rapists or offenders, because these are just sick people and I know that an art project won’t change that. But I do hope that by creating awareness, girls realize that it is not something to be ashamed of.
Why do you think people assume that clothing always serves as an invite for unwanted sexual attention?
It seems to be the easiest excuse. By coincidence, I spoke to a guy in a club in London last weekend, and he sincerely asked me “Why are all the English girls dressed as sluts but don’t act like it?” I don’t know what he said to the girls he approached, but I told him clearly, if you approach a girl like she is a slut, why would she ever feel flattered and actually like you? She may dress in the clothes she likes but it doesn’t mean she takes them off just as easily. Likewise I wasn’t dressed provocatively after my night out when the guy followed me home, and most women in the street, during daylight, aren’t wearing such clothing either. In my opinion every form of sexual harassment is an expression of power, about intimidating and having control over women.
Any empowering words of advice for young women all around the world?
Please do go to the police and tell your story. You never asked to be harassed, even if you are wearing that short skirt. You are not the offender and you didn’t do anything wrong–nothing gives a man the right to harass you. We’re not pieces of meat, we’re human beings.
Contact Sya or message her on Facebook to get involved with her amazing project:
Phone: +44 (0)7585934641
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