These shocking photos explore what everyday harassment really feels like for women

When you read about the myriad ways that male entitlement invades women’s personal space and boundaries are violated every day, the transgressions are temporal things, difficult to capture in a photograph: A prurient glance, an unwanted catcall, passing comment.

But in her new photo series, Boundaries, photographer Allaire Bartel makes the daily incidents that women must navigate very visible. Bartel pictures a woman going about their daily activities—doing yoga, grabbing a drink at the bar, walking down the street—only to be accosted by disembodied hands clutching at her. It’s an incredibly disturbing and moving series of images that makes concrete what oppression and sexism feel like, even if they look subtler than the images.

“Being able to read about the experiences of other women, and in turn share experiences with my female friends, made me feel connected, supported, and especially inspired to make work that interpreted this conversation in my own way,” Bartel writes on her site. “I was particularly determined to express the idea that oppression of women does not just occur in extreme isolated incidents (violent rape and physical abuse) but can also be felt in lesser forms during the day to day.”

“The concept of male entitlement is represented by male arms and hands performing a variety of actions that are overwhelming intrusive on her body and her life,” she wrote. “In each situation [the model] maintains a blank expression, a visual choice that demonstrates how conditioned we as women have become to accept this atmosphere as excusable and even normal.”

When she spoke to Mic, Bartel emphasized that the project isn’t about shaming men, just raising awareness on how intrusive seemingly harmless comments can be. “The point isn’t ‘Men are bad people,’ it’s, ‘These intrusions are harmful,’” she said. “That’s really the perfect male takeaway from this in my opinion. We don’t want people to feel sorry for us. We just hope it’ll make them stop.”

This week, Bartel went a step further with her efforts to raise awareness and make a difference in women’s lives. She’s writes on her site that she plans to turn the “unexpected attention this project is gaining to do some good.” Her plan is to make “small run of prints from this series available for purchase and donating a portion of the profits to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.” For more information on acquiring prints, you can reach out to her here.

(Photos by Allaire Bartel)

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