Walk Like a Woman: What Women Hear Walking Alone at Night

By Rachael Dexter, published on February 18, 2019 at WA Today

The falling footsteps of a man jogging behind up in the dark. The dull thumping of music and shouts from a carload of young men cruising past. The vulgar comment from a bloke standing with his mates at the traffic lights.

These are just some of the sounds that feature in Walk like a Woman, a confronting track to be launched on Spotify on Tuesday, that aims raise awareness about what women can be confronted with when travelling alone in a city.

Women hear walking at night: track launched on Spotify (1:00min)

Plan International Australia, advertising agency Cummins&Partners and Spotify have launched this chilling track to raise awareness women's safety in public spaces.

The soundscape, produced by an advertising agency for NGO Plan International Australia, weaves in sounds of traffic, frantic foot steps, quickened breathing and a racing heartbeat. With keys in hand, the fictional character dials a number on her phone – but no one answers.

If you're a woman, these sounds won't be unfamiliar. In fact, 87 per cent of Australian women have experienced at least one form of verbal or physical street harassment, according to the Australia Institute.

But the audio is to give men and boys an idea of what it's like, says Jeannette Francis, SBS journalist and Plan International Australia ambassador.

"Women walk through the world differently to the way that men do," says Ms Francis.

"Sometimes it's hard when you're not in that position to understand exactly what it's like.

"If they were faced with a group of men walking at them in the opposite direction, who are maybe looking at them, commenting at them about they way they looked, who were a lot bigger than they were – how would they feel about that?"

The campaign outlines seven tips for men who want to help women feel safer in public - which includes keeping distance in public, and being an active bystander.

The soundscape has a similar message to 2014 viral video called "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman", showing the number of times 24-year-old actress Shoshana Roberts received catcalls and unwanted attention from men - all filmed via a hidden camera.

That video, created as part of an awareness campaign, has had over 48 million views.

The recent death of student Aiia Maasawre in Melbourne has again raised the issue of safety for young women, Plan International Australia's CEO Susanne Legena says.

Late last year the organisation asked young women to map areas where they felt safe and unsafe in public in Sydney. Their findings showed 90 per cent of young women said they didn't feel safe after dark and 72 percent of the incident reports collected included sexual harassment of some kind.

"Many young women are scared walking around their cities – some women in Sydney told us they avoid certain places, or stopped studying or working because they felt unsafe," Ms Legena said

In a similar project in Melbourne in 2016, young women nominated areas of Flinders Street, Sydney Road and Footscray train station as the areas they felt most unsafe.

Ms Francis said many men want to make a positive difference, but often don't know how.

"I think what this campaign is asking is just to perhaps have a little bit of empathy and to be a little bit curious," she says.

"If you lead from those two platforms, you can't go wrong".