Smile For Me: Experience the harassment women face daily
A few weeks ago, Uplift continued our Hackathon journey by attending Wellesey Hacks (WHACK). We pitched a few ideas on Saturday and were thrilled to see the creative and thoughtful projects the teams brainstormed and implemented in a little over 24 hours.
The Winning Project
The Winners of Uplift’s education prize was Team Smile For Me. The team built a website that simulates the everyday life of a working woman and allows people to empathize with people experiencing catcalling, chronic interruptions, and other microaggressions. They put together an amazing website, with stunning visuals, engaging sound effects, that takes the user on a journey through a day in one woman’s shoes.
Meet the Team
Isabelle Li, Wellesley ’20 (Computer Science)
Fun Fact: I prom-posed to my high school prom date with a Java program.
“We decided to create a simulation, because we thought that it would be helpful for any user to see through the lens of woman going through her daily routine.”
Katherine Xiang, Johns Hopkins ‘20
Fun Fact: I am an NCAA fencer.
“I’ve always wanted to create art and graphics for a web experience or simulation project, and the idea of making a simulation to help combat such an important problem seemed particularly appealing.”
Heidi Cho, Wellesley ‘20
Fun Fact: I like to skateboard.
“In the beginning, our team was thinking of incorporating VR into our project, so that it was more immersive […] The most important next step for this project is to create an ending with some sort of take-away message”
Pooja Diwakar, Wellesley ‘18
Fun Fact: In my free time, I love to dance!
“Allies are absolutely invaluable for things like harassment because they can often not only make victims of these micro-aggressions feel like they have support, but it can also help create a more educated society.”
Why did you decide to make Smile For Me?
Isabelle: Before I arrived to Wellesley, I had never faced a cat-call or a derogatory comment. And because it wasn’t common for me, I figured that these comments aren’t an every-day occurrence for other women as well. However, when I went into Boston for the first time, I had my first cat-call, and I realized how common these microaggressions toward women are.
Heidi: It’s easy to be detached from issues like harassment and micro-aggressions if not directly faced with them. Smile For Me helps people experience what many women face all the time, and hopefully inspire them to become allies to combat discrimination.
Pooja: We wanted to create something that would really have a visceral impact on a viewer. In order to allow a user to understand the effect that these seemingly meaningless and often understated micro-aggressions can have, we decided to create something that would allow them to actually be in the shoes of a working woman going through her day, and see the pervasiveness of these biases.
What are the next steps for this project?
Isabelle: The code can be simplified and made more efficient. While we have audio effects, having text effects could also engage the user further. We can also game-ify the simulation. Right now, we have a “temperature” bar of the woman’s tolerance/anger level.
Pooja: It would be very interesting to explore the prospects of making the game into a virtual reality kind of simulator, and see what new potential that could afford us.
Katherine: There are also other factors that need to be addressed — for example, how can we encourage empathy, and how do we avoid alienating specific groups of people? How can we prevent the people we are trying to reach from feeling attacked?
Why are allies important for combatting harassment?
Heidi: Allies are important because they can sometimes stop harassment when the person being harassed can’t.
Katherine: Harassment can be reduced when more people realize that there are problems, and they spread awareness or they step in to create change in specific situations. Allies are definitely involved in that process.
Isabelle: Typically, a lot of teenagers to young adults face online harassment, and at that age, it is hard to deal with it without any help. When they face comments that attack their physical appearance, sexual orientation, beliefs, or any other factor, it’s difficult to determine what the right solution is, and too often, teenagers and young adults turn to unhealthier methods to deal with the problem. Victims of harassment are 7–9% more likely to consider suicide, which is why online resources and allies are crucial to helping out teenagers and young adults and preventing suicide.
What was your favorite part of the hackathon
Pooja: I particularly loved the collaborative nature of working with my team and being able to bounce ideas off of one another.
Katherine: I loved my team! I knew none of them before I got to WHACK, but I connected with them really well. The theme (Hack for Social Good) was also motivating.
An educated society in which people are far more aware of the pervasiveness of rape culture, internalized biases, and different micro-aggressions is conducive to a more equal world.— Pooja
Other Education Projects
In addition to Smile For Me, Uplift was thrilled by the work of the other projects for the Education category.
Wellesley Women Against Revenge Porn
Nonconsensual pornography (revenge porn) is a very serious issue and often time-sensitive issue. But when the team began researching, they discovered that websites offering resources about revenge porn were either out-of-date or filled with legal jargon making them inaccessible to a lot of people. So they collected resources, articles, and links to ways to get help by social media site and created a minimal, clean, and easy website as their finished product.
Team Hubris set out to create a virtual reality simulation allowing people to visualize online communities as real communities. They also ambitiously tried to learn Unity overnight and though they were unable to complete the project, they learned a lot in the process.
Anti-Troll Harassment Checker
This team built a chrome extension that analyzes text and determines whether or not the tone is harassing.
In their own words:
As more and more schools provide computers for students, we hope that schools will pre-download our extension. We imagine this tool to be especially impactful for middle and high school students who may be just beginning to become aware of the social impact that their online presence can have. This extension will provide a real-time reminder for users to be mindful of their posts and comments.
Congratulations to Smile For Me and all the the participants at WHACK! If you’re interested in working on projects like these over your winter break, apply to our Winter Task Force by November 1.