We live in a world where rape culture exists. I said it! No pussy footing around it. And women are victims. Too often women are scoffed at when they bring this up. “Not all men” they say. “Don’t drink so much” they warn. “Stop dressing like a slut” they judge.
We need to look no further than this photo project to show that women constantly feel scared, and this will not change until the culture does. These women were given a simple task to be part of Taylor Yocom’s Guarded project: Show Taylor how they protect themselves when walking down the street. It’s something men, generally, never have to think about. Even women don’t give it conscious thought much, we just put our keys between our fingers without a second thought and keep walking. This speaks volumes to our culture, that it is such a normal thing to feel scared; that we don’t even think “this is wrong” while we’re grabbing an umbrella on a clear night, just so we have a defensive weapon; that self defense classes and picking out pepper spray key chains have become a social thing to do with friends.
The idea I am trying to portray is that this fear can be so normalized for us and is something that men don’t think about too often. The idea that we have the mace and the rape whistles on our key chains—something we use multiple times a day and don’t really think about it—really does speak volumes about this culture.
– Taylor Yocom, Photographer
While working on the project Taylor had a terrifying encounter that re-enforced her belief in what she was working on. While walking home from class a stranger grabbed her with the intent to attack. Luckily, Taylor was able to scare him off with a scream.
The idea sprung from a conversation Taylor had with her friends. They were pulling out their heavy key chains to compare their defense techniques and her male friends were shocked by the visual.
The men were pretty taken aback that we even had to think about this. This moment when I witnessed such a gendered divide sparked the idea to represent this visually.
If personal accounts don’t convince you, because so many peopl do just brush them off, then maybe the facts will: Every 107 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, 68% of those assaults will never be reported and 98% of rapists never see a day behind bars. 1 in 4 women will experience abuse during her college career, making it difficult to get the same level of education as her male counterparts.
It seems we live in a culture that does not wish to change and sometimes it looks like that is because of the money there is to be made. Every day self-defense products are put in pretty packages and sold to women with the promise to make them feel empowered and keep them safer. Everything from pink bottles of mace to nail polish that changes color if your drink is spiked to “back to school” specials run for self-defense classes. And while all humans should be encouraged to protect themselves in situations where they are vulnerable, the fact there is such a large market for these items is a form of victim blaming. It shows that our culture would rather make a buck than work to end the problem by changing the system.
The idea that so many things are marketed toward to women to defend us in case of assault does portray how normalized this tragic event is, and how the victim should always be on guard
What started as a simple college class assignment for Taylor has grown. Her photographs have been displayed at a gallery in Iowa and are going viral online.