Sexual harassment is a widespread and dangerous problem, often localized to public transportation (walking, riding the train or subway, cycling) and targeted at women. Furthermore, victims of harassment are rarely believed or supported. In response to this, I made a five-page comic to educate those who are unaware of what street harassment really means. I wrote about harassment as an international issue, my own and others’ experiences, detailed the harm of harassment, and concluded with tips for bystanders.
Harassment takes a variety of forms (stalking, catcalling, groping, etc.), but it is always rooted in power dynamics and control―never a compliment, always a threat. Obviously, this is a heavy subject surrounded by misconception. My goal with this comic was to validate the experiences of victims, and provide them with a resource that could be given to others.
Early in the studio, I received the exciting opportunity to confer with a representative for Hollaback!, an organization dedicated to exposing street harassers, and Sarah Mirk, the online editor for Bitch Media, a major feminist media outlet. This helped to push my research forward, and I found that, among other things:
- 72% of American women have gone out of their way to find different routes to avoid harassment
- 90% of British women were first harassed on the street before age 17
- 88% of Italian women went out of their way to find different routes to avoid harassment
Aided by these statistics, I developed an initial outline and script for the comic. I decided to use the introductory page to briefly detail what street harassment looks like and why it happens. On the second page, I discussed my first experience with street harassment when I was nine-years-old, and in the next panel I “zoomed out” to focus on prepubescent American girls as a whole. The third page is dedicated to parallels and differences between global cultures. Unfortunately, I had intended to describe Japan and India’s interesting methods of dealing with prolific street harassment―women-only transportation―but decided against it in the interest of time. The fourth page is all about the psychological damage of harassment, re-enforcing the frequently-disputed fact that harassment is not a compliment. The concluding page describes resources for victims and tips for bystanders. The script and outline were continually edited throughout the process to maximize cohesion and clarity.
To make each page of the final comic, I started by drawing layout previews of the page and subject or character studies. From there, I made 1-2 full drafts of each page, with sketches and text bubbles laid out. Drawing was the most difficult aspect of the project, so drafting gave me substantial practice and made the final much clearer. Due to my messy handwriting, I laid out all the actual text within the panels in Photoshop, printed out each page accordingly, then drew over the prints with tracing paper. Then, I inked the drawings, scanned the text and drawings together, and cleaned up the scans in Photoshop.