Alarming photo series captures sexual aggression women feel every day

Mar 6, 2015 at 12:26 p.m. ET

Whether it's through catcalling, office harassment or rape, male entitlement is still felt significantly across the world. As such, many artists are taking a creative stand against it. Brooklyn-based photographer Allaire Bartel has done so through an astonishingly bold photo series titled "Boundaries."

Bartel started creating the series in 2014 as part of the Young Photographers Alliance Mentoring Program. The theme of the program — Boundaries — came out of the massive and significant online discussion around #Yesallwomen sparked by the Santa Barbara shooting last year. While the situation that created it was awful, Bartel was very moved by the open forum of women standing up and declaring they will no longer be passive victims in the face of such aggression.

She explains on her website, "Being able to read about the experiences of other women, and in turn share experiences with my female friends, made me feel connected, supported, and especially inspired to create work that interpreted this conversation in my own way. I was particularly determined to express the idea that oppression of women does not just occur in extreme isolated incidents (violent rape and physical abuse) but can also be felt in lesser forms during the day to day."

While these "isolated incidents" may be individually less harmful than rape, the fact that they continue to occur on a regular basis to the point where women simply try to ignore them is a much bigger problem. Bartel depicts this in her series in a most compelling way, by having a woman going about her normal daily routine in neutral face while the hands of men grope, prod and abuse her.

"In each situation she maintains a blank expression, a visual choice that demonstrates how conditioned we as women have become to accept this atmosphere as excusable and even normal," Bartel expresses on the "Boundaries" page of her website.

She chose to depict male aggression through hands rather than faces to help focus the attention on the aggressive action rather than the aggressor. Bartel doesn't want to vilify all men, but rather exhibit the effect this can have on its victims. She told Mic.com, "The point isn't 'Men are bad people,' it's, 'These intrusions are harmful.'"

Bartel's friend and model for this series, Erin Cooper, is no stranger to casual sexual harassment. In fact, the two discussed a particularly bad day Cooper experienced at work where such sexist incidents took place, and were by no means exclusive to that one day. This strengthened Bartel's mission for this project, and made her realize Cooper was the perfect model for the job.

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She sincerely hopes this series strikes a chord, not only with women who are affected by this male entitlement regularly, but with men who may still not see their actions as violations. "That's really the perfect male takeaway from this in my opinion," she told Mic. "We don't want people to feel sorry for us. We just hope it'll make them stop and think."

So whether it's through the #YesAllWomen campaign, YouTube videos like "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman," or artwork like Bartel's, keep reminding yourself about this problem. Because it will not go away if you keep ignoring it, and carry on as if everything is normal.

Images courtesy of Allaire Bartel Photography

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