Hands up if you’ve ever been cat-called from a passing car? Strategically positioned yourself in a train seat late at night, with your escape route planned? Clenched your keys in your fist on the walk home alone, ready to use as some sort of...slashy weapon, Kill Bill style?
For every woman who’s had “pussy pussy pusssaaaaaay” yelled at her from a speeding vehicle on King Street (true story), there’s a more sinister incident that makes our streets feel seriously unsafe and unwelcome.
These anecdotes get shared widely among friends and family IRL or on social media (with a healthy dose of angry face emoji reactions), to create a mental know-how of how to navigate our urban landscape safely. But how about spinning these collective stories into hard-core, science-y data that we can present to the policy movers and shakers, and get some real change happening on our streets?
Free To Be is a crowd-mapping website, designed by the non-government organisation Plan International. It allows users to mark public spaces where they feel uneasy and scared, or happy and safe—just drop a pin on the 'Good Spots' or 'Bad Spots' of Sydney, and provide some back-up details about your experience there. What time of day did the incident happen? Was it on the street, on public transport, or on your way to work? Did you experience discrimination against your ethnicity, sexuality or disability? It’s pretty sobering work, especially when the website asks, “what happens next?” and your options include, “this happens so often that I’m just used to it.”
But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. Free To Be will present your ‘spots’ (they don’t collect personal data BTW) to the big-deal decision makers in your hood, and will use this info to advocate for change in Sydney. This project launched in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and now Metro trains are working to make their transport safer for women. The map has international reach, too—it’s being launched in Lima, Kampala, New Delhi and Madrid this month.
So get pinning! Check out Free To Be right now.
Image credit: Free To Be