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It was a Saturday night and I was walking home alone from a bar on Whyte Ave. I only had to walk a few blocks so I figured I would be fine. As soon as I turned off Whyte I saw a man spot me walking alone. He immediately pivoted and stopped walking in the direction he was heading and walked towards me. I continued down 105st to my apartment. The man introduced himself to me saying that he was from Italy and then started complaining about “Canadian girls”. Out of fear, I was nice to him and entertained his conversation. Because we were all alone on a dark road I didn’t want to find out what he might do if I told him to leave me alone. After just one block of walking, he forcefully grabbed my face and started to kiss me. He was holding my head so tight that I couldn’t even breathe. I managed to break free and start walking faster down the street. He continued to follow me and did it again. This time I had to punch him in the groin to get away. I’m not sure why he decided to leave me alone after that. At that point we were even more isolated and he could have easily done a lot of damage to me. The thing that makes me sick is that it was too dark for me to get a good look at him so I had no physical description to tell the police. That is the last time I will ever go out near Whyte Ave by myself again. Even if it’s just for a few blocks.no comments
Two men leaned out of a cab shouting sexual invitations at me. When I wouldn’t respond, one hopped out of the cab and slowly walked after me for a block, still shouting. I walked faster and hopped on the train.
Today I went to go get ice for my company BBQ at “50th Street Liquor Store” at 5010 76 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6B 0A6 and the owner started patting me on the head during my debit transaction. Then he grabbed my hand to see what I had written on it and at that point I sternly asked him not to touch me. He laughed and started patting me on the head again. It was super awkward. I tried laughing it off but in reality I am upset that a stranger was touching me without my permission and when I asked him to stop he laughed and continued to do so. I know that people get touched in way more inappropriate ways and my situation is quite mild, but it’s still my body and I should have complete say in who is allowed to touch me.
After tossing and turning I called the non emergency police line to see if someone next week could accompany me to the store so I could talk to the store owner to make sure he knows what he did was inappropriate. The operator, in conclusion, said that Edmonton Police Service is too busy to help me talk to this guy and I could file for assault but the court system is too busy that an assault charge for a pat on the head wouldn’t be taken as seriously compared to other things going on. I agree that there is worse things going on, but I want my concern to be known. Since the one opinion of that police operator worker made it seem like I won’t get assistance from the Edmonton Police Service for standing up for myself, I want my concern to be heard in the community. That liquor store owner does not respect boundaries. If you go into that store, you are putting yourself at risk for unwelcome touching.
The first issue of the RAD RECAP Newsletter is out! Big thanks to our awesome volunteer and Newsletter Coordinator Clea Glasenapp for all your work!
Check it out:
By Clea Glasenapp
Welcome to Hollaback Alberta’s first newsletter! I’m Clea Glasenapp and I’m really excited to catch you all up on some of the awesome, empowering, inspiring projects, events and campaigns that Albertans have been organizing in the last few months. We have so many cool, intelligent people taking initiative and working to make change in this province, and across the world. Read on and be inspired to take part in these changes!
Call Out Your CatCallers
Last summer I decided to stop ignoring street harassment and start speaking up. I explored different strategies, some more effective than others, and felt more empowered after every encounter, every conversation, every time I stood up for myself instead of letting those slimy words and actions drip off my body. I was curious what strategies others were using and I decided to see if I could collect stories and create a zine filled with the badass, effective ways that people had fought back against sexual harassment. The feedback I got was inspiring; people came to me with all sorts of suggestions on how to make this idea larger and more accessible. Marlaena Moore created the Facebook group Call Out Your Catcallers, and Lauren Alston, the co-director and founder of Hollaback Alberta, partnered with us to make a super team. In February we presented a workshop for Project Feminist U, a series of talks and workshops at the University of Alberta that was organized by Students’ Union president Navneet Khinda, and we invited by Veronika Ilich to do a guest workshop for the Feminists at MacEwan in March.
In our workshops we discuss different forms of gender-based harassment, provide information, tips and resources as well as hold open discussions for participants to voice their ideas, concerns and questions. We aim to share a variety of experiences in order to learn how to react to and deal with sexual harassment in a way that suits each individual best, support one another, and better understand the effects of sexual harassment on our community.
Our Facebook page is a space where we encourage members to post about their experiences, positive and negative, express frustrations and inspirations, ask questions, and share relevant resources and ideas. It is beautiful to see the amount of validation that exists in this community- offerings of support and empathy, congratulations and encouragement.
It is crucial to us to make it clear that the only expectations we are holding anybody to is to not sexually harass people. It is not your job to educate or stand up to perpetrators. Taking a stand can be empowering but it can also be scary and potentially put you in unsafe situations. Your mental and physical well-being are top priority and we encourage everybody to take this into consideration before addressing a situation. It’s important to know where you can find support. It is our intention to encourage and support those who feel comfortable speaking out, and our hope that by broadening the conversation this way, people will begin to feel safer and perpetrators will begin to understand the repercussions of their actions.
You can be part of this movement too! We would love to hear about the clever ways you have responded to sexual harassment. We also have a list of resources that we can send you by e-mail, as well as all the awesome resources that have been shared on our Call Out Your Catcallers Facebook Page. Welcome to our community!
In March, Kira Buro and Tempo Sabatier created the Feminist Eatery Database- Undercover Project (F.E.D. U.P.). On the website their project is described a “feminist approach to eating out that seeks to highlight prominent issues regarding sex, gender, and race in the service industry”. Buro and Sabatier have created surveys for both patrons and employees (current and former) in order to learn more about the way establishments are handling the aformentioned issues. The surveys include a variety of questions about dress codes, diversity in job positions, sexualization or gendering of menu items and more. Many of the personal testimonies confirm the value the service industry places on female appearance: a manager suggesting a bartender adjust her clothing to show more skin and apply more makeup; a server being told to change her haircolour as being blonde had been part of the reason they hired her; a job interview ending because the interviewer felt uncomfortable agreeing to wear a bikini at a yearly tournament. Buro made clear to me that they in no way are intending to judge or shame anybody for choosing to sexualize themselves in the industry. The issue at hand is when management, other staff members, or customers bully or pressure employees to do so.
The website also highlights sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, something that should not be tolerated anywhere. They point out that too many restaurants “often escape accountability in terms of sexism and other forms of discrimination within their workplace, marketing, and service” and people often feel trapped in a toxic work environment, yet feel they are unable to discuss things with management, or quit due to financial reasons. The service industry needs to take accountability for its actions and working towards a universal work environment where staff will feel safe, comfortable, respected and supported.
Anti-Street Harassment Week
I was disappointed to miss out on Edmonton’s Chalk Walk for International Anti-Street Harassment Week but I was lucky enough to participate in Hollaback! New Orleans’ wheat pasting day! In New Orleans the graffiti law concludes that only permanent art is illegal so we walked around in broad daylight wheat-pasting posters from artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile campaign along with posters created by local artist Lyla Clayre. Her art is beautiful and she has an entire collection of artwork inspired by experiences with street harassment which you can find on her website or Facebook page. They are raw and chilling, truly embodying the discomfort, fear and anger too many of us experience simply trying to get from one place to the next. It was a great way to take back the streets, causing people stop and experience the emotion portrayed by the posters. We also had several people thank us, encourage us and ask questions.
Meanwhile, in Edmonton Lauren Alston, Marlaena Moore and Renee Cabana-Marshall organized the Chalk Walk down Whyte Avenue with the same purpose to raise awareness about the sexual violence that happens in that neighbourhood. People poured out love, support, vulnerability and messages to perpetrators of such as “DON’T FOLLOW ME HOME” and “STOP HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA – SAFE STREETS FOR ALL!”. One person drew a steady line block after block indicating how far she had been followed once. This event was covered by CBC Radio*, as well as getting on the front page of Metro News- well done team! If you want to read more about this event, or look at the photos, you can find an excellent account of the event on Hollaback Alberta’s website.
#SafeRedMile and #SafeStampede
Calgary’s 17th Avenue is known as the Red Mile, a street full of bars that got rowdy when the Calgary Flames got into the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2004, and again this April. While sexuality can be a fun part of any celebration, people take it too far by pressuring others to act or dress certain ways, harassing, touching without consent, or causing others to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I interviewed Elizabeth Booth who helped to organize the #SafeRedMile and the current #SafeStampede campaigns in an attempt to raise awareness about the sexual violence that is pervasive during these sports events.
When the Flames made it into the playoffs this past April, Booth explained, many people were remembering the behaviours exhibited in 2004 and decided to skip the Red Mile (nicknamed by some the “Rape Mile”) and hockey celebrations all together. Many women who live near the Red Mile found other places to stay during the celebrations to avoid being catcalled, groped and otherwise harassed while trying to get home. After listening to countless stories, Booth was discussing it with friends and asked “why is nobody doing anything about this? Obviously people want this to stop.” Deciding something needed to be done, she sent a tweet to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Police Service asking “what are you doing to make women feel safe in beltline on game nights? Current strategy isn’t working.” When the mayor responded that he hadn’t heard much about the way women were being treated in the streets, Booth asked women in Calgary to tweet their own experiences of sexual harassment using the #SafeRedMile. The mayor didn’t do much, Booth told me, and the police response was that sexual violence was not being reported and if this is a real problem, women should be phoning 911. This is reflective the level of understanding police have about what sexual harassment is. Phoning 911 for every encounter is not a viable solution, especially during events such as these. The police did send out anti-street harassment units to patrol during festivities, however, and the Calgary Flames management got on board quickly. Ken King was quoted by the Calgary Herald saying “We want to make it clear, do not do this stuff, ever. And for goodness sake don’t do it in our name because that’s not our culture, that’s not our organization.” So many people believe that it is a part of the culture, and that often prevents bystanders from calling people out, Booth explained. By bringing awareness to this subject the hope is that more people will look out for each other and stand up against this kind of behaviour.
Booth expected to have a hard time getting the Stampede on board but they have already shared #SafeStampede more than a few times; Mayor Nenshi, Enbridge and numerous other companies and Calgarians are also using the hashtag.
“It’s a hashtag, it takes a long time to change a culture,” Booth explained to me, but “it’s a step, it gives people less license … if people say what’s happening [the cause] gets more mobilized.” She hopes that next year they will be able to get more corporations openly supporting the cause, as well as more sexual harassment training for police officers, which will help to create a Stampede that is “more inclusive, [where people can] participate the way they choose”, and women feel just as safe and comfortable as men to celebrate.
You can support this cause by tweeting #SafeStampede; Pam Krause from the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club at the University of Calgary has created a Safe Stampede Tumblr page where you can submit anonymous, as well as a website with resources, information and tips about standing up to harassment and being an active bystander.
It snowed, it was windy, and then sunny, but that didn’t stop the participants of Hollaback Alberta’s first chalk walk event to commemorate International Anti-Street Harassment Week organized by Stop Street Harassment. The chalk walk took place on the sidewalks of Whyte Avenue between 104th street and approximately 108th street on both the westbound and eastbound sides of the street the afternoon of April 18th, 2015.
Many people stopped to read the messages.
We overheard people saying: “That happened to me!”
And others replying with a surprised: “Really? That’s awful!”
Some people even asked to join us and wrote their own messages of support and positivity.
A really great discussion began on social media sites with people using the #WhyteChalkWalk and #endSHweek hashtags. People were taking photos and posting how the chalked messages made them feel, some even saying that they “felt safer already”. Some also started the very important discussion about the potential for chalk walks to be triggering. We encouraged people to express themselves freely and respectfully, and the vast majority of the chalk walk was filled with phrases like “Safe Spaces for All!”, “Stop Homophobia/Transphobia!”, “Stop Telling Women to Smile”, “Catcalls aren’t compliments!”, and “Please respect!”. However it is always a tricky balance: we do not want to silence those who wish to express their experiences and we also do not want to trigger those who are not expecting explicit details in public spaces. What we learned from our first chalk walk is that we will keep our message the same: that street harassment is a form of disrespect and violence and that it does occur in Edmonton. However, in public spaces we will keep our written statements as broad and positive as possible with information of where people can learn about incidences of street harassment or report their own.
Thank you to all who supported the event, locally and globally, and to everyone who contributed to an important conversation about street harassment!
Big thanks to CBC Radio Edmonton for having us on the morning show on Friday April 17th.
Thank you to CBC Télé Edmonton for the live coverage of the event on April 18th!
Check out photos from EndSHweek events around the world, and our photos of the Edmonton event below:
“Actually you don’t know I want it.”
Big thanks to our Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton support person, Shannah, who was a total rockstar during the event!
We had PC candidate Shelley Wegner (above) join the chalk walk and write a message of her own. Street harassment is an issue regardless of the political party you support!
Street harassment affects people of all ages!
Above: The end of a long line that demonstrated how long a person was followed.
The post above is specifically dedicated to all the missing and murdered Indigenous women, children, and two-spirit folks, as well as all the Indigenous people who are harassed on Treaty 6 territory. Racist comments or actions in public spaces is street harassment, and it needs to stop. Get informed and involved here: Amnesty No More Stolen Sisters Campaign, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, and CBC Aboriginal.
Ever sick of people telling you to “smile”? Check out the amazing Stop Telling Women To Smile art project!!
Above: a few of the event organizers: Renee and Marlaena!
It’s International Anti-Street Harassment Week April 12-18th, 2015!
International Anti-Street Harassment Week is a program of Stop Street Harassment, a team of activists led by Holly Kearl and Britnae Purdy. Check out what is going on around the world on the Meet Us On The Streets website!
Hollaback Alberta is hosting an event on Saturday, April 18th from 1pm-4pm at Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park (Gazebo Park) for a Chalk Walk in honour of International Street Harassment Week (April 12-April 18).
The event aims to be a non-oppressive, inclusive, and safe event for people to come and join in a peaceful walk along Whyte Ave. During our walk, we will be using chalk to write messages of hope, anti-oppression, and to share our stories along the way. Click here for the Facebook event details!
The walk will begin at 1:30pm from Dr. McIntyre Park and proceed south to Whyte Ave. We will then move West down Whyte Ave, stopping at designated stops. Once we reach 109th Street we will move East back down Whyte Ave. Our last stop will be the corner of Gateway Blvd and Whyte Ave (outside Hudson’s), then we will head back to Dr. McIntyre Park. The detailed map is below:
One day after work, I got off the bus, and went to the store to buy a few things. When I entered the store, I heard a whistle. Then I heard an elderly woman who worked there told the guy “[his name] that wasn’t nice.”
I walked towards the aisle that I wanted to purchase food from. While I was walking, I thought to myself what was that? why did he whistle? Did he whistle at me or was there something else? Then I realized I was the only one that came in through the door, nothing else was going on there. It must have been towards me. When I returned to the payment area, I was not sure which guy whistled, because I really wanted to go and talk to that person. This was the first time that something like that happened to me, and I could not believe that such guys/men could behave like that. At the time I was taking a women and politics course; I had watched videos and listened to stories, but I had never been through such an experience myself.
As far as I am aware, such behaviour and other verbal comments are not criminalized in Canada. I hope, it will be considered a crime and dealt with by the law. Because, If I see something like this again, I will react and make sure they remember it.
On an almost empty train, a man walked the length of the car to sit across from me. I took my book and began reading it. He said something about how it was embarrassing that I was reading just as he sat down. I said my choices had nothing to do with him. He started asking me personal questions and leaning towards me. I told him “I don’t want to talk” three times, and he got off the train.
I didn’t want to share myself with him by smiling, apologizing, engaging or answering his questions. It frustrated me that he had control, and could have stayed or followed me, but I’m glad I was assertive.