#International Women’s Day: Comic to imagine a future that’s ‘safe’ for women

In 2020, during lockdown, I wrote a script for a comic called ‘Changing Minds’ which aimed to raise awareness of everyday misogyny. The script was based on research by language and criminology experts Louise Mullany (University of Nottingham) and Loretta Trickett (Nottingham Trent university).

Their Nottingham Misogyny Hate Crime work has recently influenced police and government policy, including the Upskirting Bill. In 2016, Nottinghamshire Police became the first force in the UK to make misogyny a recognised hate crime. The researchers hoped that this would become a national policy but on 28 February, MPs voted to scrap a proposal to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales as part of new public order laws.

For ‘Changing Minds’, Mullany and Trickett conducted a survey, focus group and interviews with 679 participants. The participants were asked about their experiences of harassment in Nottingham between April 2016 – March 2018. Their findings included:

  • 94% of respondents had either experienced or witnessed street harassment.
  • 75% of people who experienced street harassment reported that it had a longterm impact on them.
  • Only 7% of victims reported the incident to the police.
  • 94% of people considered street harassment to be a social problem

My job was to take this data and condense the findings into three pages of a comic. The narrative also had to contain a positive message to men to ‘call out’ offensive behaviour; include a diverse range of women; demonstrate how women experience misogyny in a wide variety of settings. This was quite a lot to fit into three pages, but constraint is the essence of creativity.

My solution was to take one statistic from the report and use it as a framing device for each page. This meant that pages could ‘stand alone’ (and be printed out separately) while also providing context for the narrative. Given the density of the research, this helped to split the story into three parts and create a narrative arc.

The reason we were approached to create the story is because of our current project Whatever People Say I Am. This is a series of online comics challenging myths around identity. We haven’t included it on our website because the comic is too small at three pages. In terms of commissioning an artist, I spoke to Steve Larder who suggested Kim Thompson.

I mention this today, on International Women’s Day, as I’ve just given a talk with Loretta Trickett about a forthcoming comic we’re working on which will revisits some of these issues to imagine a world that’s safe for women. To do this, we’re asking women to come forward and share their experiences and ideas as this research will inform the narrative. One person this morning mentioned how her running route is determined by how well lit an area is and if there are other people around rather than a route that’s more aesthetically pleasing. Another person said she used to share her running route through an app until she realised this made her routines knowable to strangers. It’s these type of everyday anxieties we want to address in the comic.

Our intended publication date is the end of June. If you would like to get involved, please get in contact.

References

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