Category Archives: Feminism
Yeah, so I’m going to chime in on this Jian Ghomeshi thing. And look, I don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent, and it’s not my place to determine that. I don’t have the evidence. But what IS bugging me is all the swirling speculation that these women must be lying since they haven’t gone to the police. I understand why they haven’t gone to the police. I was mildly sexually assaulted (I say mildly because it could’ve been a lot worse, it was very quick and over my clothing, but it was still violating and is still an assault) while I was living in London, England, at 9 am on my way to work. I yelled at the guy to “Fuck off!” and whipped myself away from him as he smirked and walked away. I walked in the other direction and promptly burst into tears. And when I called a close female friend, still weeping, what was her comforting response? “It’s no big deal, it’s happened to me. It happens to everyone.”
This is a systemic problem. It’s a political and legal and cultural problem; the conviction rate for sexual assault is abysmally low. Victim-blaming, as we have seen, is rampant. Yet instances of false accusations are statistically quite rare.
Eventually, I was convinced by a lawyer friend to at least report it to the police for statistical purposes. Even though I had no idea what this guy looked like, besides his race and general height – I didn’t get a good look at his face – it could show a pattern in the area. No one answered the phone at the local police station, and that was enough for me to give up and try to forget about it. Because I could envision the response: “What do you want us to do about it? You can’t ID the guy, you’re not physically injured, so why are you calling us? At least you weren’t raped.”
We need to look at the bigger issues – the systemic issues of misogyny and patriarchy and victim-blaming. And yes, while women need to be careful when walking alone at night – or in my case, in the morning – the focus of sexual assault prevention should NOT be on the women who are victims, but on the men who perpetrate.
On Saturday night, Alex and I went to the Reclaim the Night march and rally. I was there representing the White Ribbon Campaign (and myself, of course).
When we arrived at Whithall Place, I was initially surprised to see so many police officers there. I thought, “what, do they think we’re going to get violent at an anti-violence against women march?”
It didn’t take me very long to realize that they were there to protect US. That was scary.
Alex and I saw many men (usually in groups) laughing at us as we marched through downtown London, bringing traffic to a standstill. One man stood at the edge of the sidewalk, frowning and staunchly thumbs-downing our march. A lad, being a little shit, ran up to us and stuck his butt out at us, saying something like “don’t you want to get some of this?” Another man, more aggressive, started running toward us and yelling “I’ve been on the other side of that!!” until a police officer stopped him. Of course, there are male victims of violence, but how does that fact make protesting violence against women (the VAST majority of domestic violence, rape, honour killings, female genital cutting, forced marriage, etc) any less valid or important?
Still, what we saw was nothing compared to what happened to the blogger Noble Savage, who was sexually assaulted during the march:
Last night, I marched through the streets of central London with 2,000 other women and dozens of police escorts, holding a sign that said “End violence against women.”
Last night, I used my voice to chant and shout about sexual violence, unsafe streets and women’s rights.
Last night, when I should have felt at my most powerful, most inspired and safest, I was sexually assaulted.
I had to stop typing there for a minute and make sure I’d written that right and that it wasn’t just a strange dream. But yes, I was sexually assaulted at a march protesting sexual assault. How’s that for irony?
As we came through Leicester Square, a man pushed his way abruptly past the barrier and with one swift movement of his outstretched arm, managed to push me backwards and roughly grab my breasts at the same time. I swung at him with my right hand but he’s already stormed past so I only made contact with the back of his shoulder before he disappeared out the other side and down a side street. My friend Jen and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. I hadn’t seen him coming until he was centimetres away and before I noticed the arm coming at me, what I undeniably saw was a face riddled with disgust and anger.
He, along with the man who had spit towards us earlier, and the one who had stood on the side shouting “Boo! Boo!” with his thumbs and his mouth turned downwards, and the significant number of men I saw mocking us — laughing, rolling their eyes and grabbing their crotches — were obviously disturbed by our presence. Perhaps we were reminders of violence they had perpetrated themselves, or a catalyst for the potential violence bubbling within them, just beneath the surface, like a nearly-boiled kettle. Maybe they felt threatened by our numbers and our voices and our demands. Maybe they were scared.
But whatever the reasons for their animosity, they will never know what it’s like to be scared of being humiliated and violated, in public, by people who feel they have a right to our bodies, our smiles, our time and our compliance. They will never know what it’s like to trade stories, with friends of the harrassment, abuse, assault and violence nearly each and every one of us has experienced, some of us in many different ways. They will never understand that we call these ‘war stories’ because every day is a battle and we are tired of feeling like soldiers, fighting off an enemy that has the better, more powerful weapons. They will never experience life and humanity the way we experience life and humanity because their view is unobstructed. They stand on the shoulders and backs of so many people, so many women, to survey their kingdom and claim rights to us, its spoils, with indifference and greed.
It’s disgusting. That’s about all I can say. These men are obviously threatened by 2000 women who refuse to back down in the face of gender-based violence. The actions of these particular men only reinforce how important feminism and organisations like the White Ribbon Campaign are.
After 5.5 weeks traveling across East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda) and 3 months back in Southern Ontario, I’ve arrived, back in the UK!
It’s good to be back.
A little weird, but still amazing. When I arrived in London, after maybe 2 hours of sleep on the plane, I took the train to King’s Cross station from Gatwick and then a taxi to my friend’s house near Turnpike Lane. Driving through the city, both in the train and in the taxi, I felt strangely at home and in a strange place. I was back, but in a completely different place in my life. I wasn’t here for school, but for work. Most of my friends had gone back to their respective countries, but a new one had arrived. I didn’t have a place to live.
I still don’t. But, I’ve been in West Yorkshire for the past week, so I will find something when I go back to London. I’m located in Hebden Bridge, a self-described quirky town and the lesbian capital of the UK. It is awesome. I’m working for the White Ribbon Campaign, an organisation started by men to end male violence against women.
More to follow on my work so far, but for now, a teaser from an event we had on Saturday: “These Heels Are Made for Walking” –