Brighton-based Kim Williams posted slides to her Instagram page titled: “Things men did to me at weddings in 2021”.
Some of the things Williams noted included men grabbing her neck on the dance floor, asking for her number in the middle of speeches and repeatedly touching her.
“I know my clients will be mortified to know any of these happened at their weddings, which is why I’ve never spoken about this on Instagram before,” Williams stated in the caption. “I take great care in making sure you would never know it’s happened. But I feel it‘s a conversation that needs to be started.
“Working a job that requires you to be around large groups of cis-het men and alcohol means that this kinda stuff happens at about 80 per cent of the weddings I shoot. I am friendly, smiley, approachable, chatty, and I get stuck into a dance floor. This is not an invitation for any of the above.”
Williams added that last year she had two male video shooters with her for many of the weddings she shot and said the men who were patronising and who touched her didn’t do the same to the videographers.
One of the videographers, Tom, witnessed a lot of the behaviour. “He [Tom] asked me after one wedding in particular; I was grabbed around the neck on the dance floor after two guys had been increasingly harassing me all day, I ran outside, breathed through a panic attack, returning to shoot the rest of the night five mins later with a smile on my face and no one any the wiser…’what can I do?’” Williams wrote.
“I went away and spoke to my girlfriends, my non-binary pals, and decided it’s not our problem to fix.”
Speaking to The Independent, Williams says she decided to post the slides after she noted down every incident where she was assaulted, harassed and mansplained during a wedding she worked at over the past year.
“At the end of 2020 I was so sick of being touched by men, and it was highlighted even more so by the fact we were shooting tiny weddings — 15 or 30 people, wearing masks and social distancing — yet they were still putting their hand on my arm every time they spoke to me, or the small of my back when they complimented me, or my waist when they wanted to move by me,” Williams adds.
“It never felt like enough to report back to my clients. Could I really say to them ‘I’m so sorry to do this but your Dad keeps touching me and it’s making me feel really uncomfortable’? It’s a wedding day and therefore we as suppliers are making an effort to make this the best day of the couple’s lives.”
Williams added that the note “sat in her phone” for a year and then in her drafts on Instagram for a month.
“I was scared because I didn’t want to upset my clients. I knew they would be devastated that this happened at their wedding,” she explained.
“But I knew this was an issue that was bigger than me and my clients. I did a poll on my Stories asking if my followers wanted to see the note, and more voted than I’d ever had before, so I hit post.”
The post has since received thousands of “likes” on the social media platform and fellow female photographers have been sharing it and adding their own stories.
“This happens to us every day outside of work, and we all know it and we all talk about it. I think this is the first time we are ‘breaking the fourth wall’ of weddings,” Williams continues.
“I hope the result of this conversation is that we make real change. We address the everyday sexism and harassment and we find solutions to make our working environment a safer one for us all. And I believe it is only when cis-men take on the conversation that this change will happen.”
Williams says that at just about every wedding she attends there will be a man that shows distrust in her. This can range from eye rolling a shot she’s lined up to physically grabbing her kit to inspect it and telling her that he can “take better photos on his iPhone”.
“This may seem insignificant, but these microaggressions are a constant reminder that men do not see me as an equal,” Williams explains.
“I will be at a wedding with my male video shooter and over the course of 12 hours have a dozen of these incidents where he will receive zero. And then there’s the touching. The hands on the waist, the small of my back, the grabbing of wrists, the hugs that last too long, often while being complimented on my work, but again, they stand a distance when giving the same feedback to my male colleagues and don’t feel a need to touch them.”
The other most common occurrence, Williams finds, is drunk men on the dance floor who who grab her, sometimes grope her and often say explicit things.
There are also extremes that Williams says almost every female photographer has experienced at a wedding which, for Williams, has included a man following her into an unlit carpark, being grabbed around the neck, shouting at her asking if she’s single and getting aggressive when she ignores them.
Despite the prospect of facing these aggressions simply for doing her job, Williams says she loves what she does. “The toll from being a women existing in the world is high, and that’s with all the privilege I have as a white, thin, cis-woman. So to go to work and experience the same everyday sexism is exhausting. In fact, that’s how much I love my job. I do it despite all these incidents and I do it knowing they are coming.”
Williams says she has had “so many” responses from women who have left the industry because of harassment. “I get it,” she adds. “I am a queer woman and I have to say that I never feel safer than I do at queer and feminist weddings.”
After her post went viral, Williams posted a call-to-action for the wedding industry — whether you’re a vendor or someone getting married — for how to keep photographers safe.
The slides include ways to prevent the harassment, call it out and how to feed it back. “I have created a resource pooling ideas of my followers together that anyone is welcome to save and share, including a clause you can copy and paste into your contract,” Williams explains. “I think the best thing couples planning their wedding can do is help to prevent this behaviour happening in the first place. Discuss ways you can make your suppliers and guests feel safe.”
For people planning a wedding, Williams tells The Independent that you should consider designating someone in your wedding party to be a “visible person” that suppliers can go to if they are experiencing any form of harassment and sending out an email to any solo suppliers saying that their safety and wellbeing is important and you want to help them to feel safe in any way possible.
Other suggestions include having a designated room for any supplier or guest to go if they are feeling unsafe, talking to your venue about their harassment policy and having someone you trust walk your solo female vendor back to their car when it’s time for them to leave.
Williams adds: “If you are a guest and you see this happening on the day, call it out. [The same as you would] if you see it happening on the street, or the tube or at the pub. Call it out. Step up and step in.”