Ever wondered what it would be like to step into the shoes of a woman? Of course, in case you’re a man. And if you’re not, you’re already familiar with a dark way home full of anxious moments. A pounding heart that beats faster at every strange noise, a firm grip on your mobile phone, and, in some neighbourhoods, pressing your keys interwoven between your sweaty fingers. It’s not a pretty read, is it? Yet, if you were a woman you’ve most likely experienced a night full of second-guessing your clothing choice, selected walking route, and the hour of the night…
Even in countries like Australia, where you would think safety would not be an issue. Yet, in a 2018 study, of 38 countries—including those with much higher homicide rates—the country Down Under reportedly had the largest gap between how men and women feel about their safety when walking alone at night, with many females actually reporting they felt under threat.
The question arises: What do women have to listen to when they walk alone at night? Again, it’s not pretty. But! There are plenty of young women who are adjusting their behaviour in order to feel safer at night. So, now it’s your time to step up.
And don’t you worry, you’re not alone in this. To tackle this issue, Melbourne-based agency Cummins&Partners and Risk Sound ask everyone to learn about what it means to ‘Walk Like A Woman’.
In partnership with global independent development and humanitarian organisation Plan International Australia, the agency has come up with a pro bono campaign aimed to raise awareness around helping women feel much safer when walking alone at night. That means that men can now immerse themselves in a 3D soundscape that simulates what it feels like to walk alone as a young woman.
The experience was recorded with a series of omni-directional microphones and has it all – strange noises, pounding hearts, and dark alleys. The track launches as part of a playlist on Spotify and is supported by outdoor, catch-up TV, social and digital ads.
Plan International Australia Ambassador and host of Sexism And The City podcast Jan Fran also explains how “Walk Like A Woman is breaking new ground in allowing men to step into the shoes of a young woman.”
“Most men want to help girls and women feel safer, yet they have never thought about how their presence affects girls and women walking alone at night – through no fault of their own, men simply don’t know how it feels to be a woman,” adds the host.
Moreover, Michelle Canning, Copywriter at Cummins&Partners admits that: “Women have been told for decades to modify their behaviour to stay safe, but now it’s time for men to do their bit to help women feel safer too. This incredibly realistic audio track not only gives them first-hand experience, but is also a way to help rectify the problem, with simple behavioural change suggestions sourced from Plan International’s group of female youth activists.”
If you want to find out how you can play your part in making women feel safer on our streets, you can head to plan.org.au/walklikeawoman. Or just scroll below to read about the tips for what men can do to help women feel safer. These have been developed by young women Plan International works with in Australia. These are some of the small but important things men can do to help everyone feel safe at night.
TIP 1: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
When walking behind a girl or woman at night, remember that the closer you are, the more threatening you seem. So, make sure to leave a good amount of distance between yourself and her. Maybe even take out your phone to show you’re more interested in what’s on your screen than in following her.
If you’re taking public transport, don’t sit next to a woman when there are plenty of empty seats elsewhere – it’s less concerning if you take a seat a few rows away.
TIP 2: DON’T RUN UP FROM BEHIND
Having someone run up behind you at night can give anyone a fright, but for a girl or woman it can be terrifying. Next time you’re out for an evening jog and see a woman walking ahead, put yourself in her shoes. Cross the road or make sure to leave a good amount of space while passing.
TIP 3: DON’T STARE
If you’re by yourself, being stared at is intimidating and unsettling. Taking out your phone and focusing on something else can go a long way to showing you’re not a threat. – look out the window to focus on something else or call a friend to have a chat.
TIP 4: KEEP COMMENTS TO YOURSELF
Calling out to a woman from your car doesn’t impress anyone, especially not her. What you might see as just a bit of fun, or even flattering, is actually harassment and can be terrifying to lone women and girls. So, if you’ve got something to say, keep it to yourself.
TIP 5: KEEP YOUR MATES IN LINE
You may not harass women, but if you stay quiet while your mates do then you’re part of the problem. So, if your mate steps out of line, it’s time for you to step up and tell them it’s not okay.
TIP 6: BE AN ACTIVE BYSTANDER
If you notice a woman is uncomfortable with someone’s behaviour, show your support by being an active bystander. It can be as simple as standing between a woman and her harasser to block their line of sight. Ask her if she is okay, and back up anyone else who is intervening. If you can’t intervene yourself, or there are others already involved, filming the exchange on your phone can help when filing a police report later.
TIP 7: SHARE THE WALK
The more men who take the time to ‘Walk like a Woman’ the better. Keep the conversation going by sharing these tips, and helping girls and women feel safer at night.
And wait there’s actually more to do! You can listen to Plan international’s previously-mentioned podcast, titled Sexism and the City, which takes a deep dive into city safety and harassment. Within this episode, the host, Jan Fran, talks with guests about making cities safer for everyone. You’ll hear real, tangible ways you can get involved and support girls globally.
Client: Plan International Australia