Friday, 23 August 2013

Street Harassment in Winnipeg

At exactly 7:57 AM every weekday morning, I lock my front door to my River Heights home, march down my steps and head towards my bus stop. My route is always the same; I cross the street Warsaw Avenue to get to my bus bench on Corydon, where I wait exactly three minutes for the number 18 to come pick me up. It's a simple, boring, early morning routine that we all experience in our daily lives.

But one day this Spring, my morning routine was interrupted. I crossed the street, on my usual route, when I hear a "yewww" from a few feet in front of me. I look up and notice a 60-something-year-old man cat calling me from his parked white mini van.

I've experienced street harassment before, in fact, many times while going to school downtown either waiting for the bus or walking home from work. Usually, I think nothing of it. I do the same thing every time it happens: try not to make eye contact, make no acknowledgement of the person yelling and keep walking towards my destination.

But it was something about being face-to-face with this shaggy loser shook me.

Maybe it was because I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet, maybe it was because he was so close to me or maybe it was the interruption in my morning routine altogether. Either way, the interaction bugged me more than the usual "yeewwww"'s and "heeyyyy"'s I hear from passing cars.

I tried to not think much about this interaction until yesterday.

Alex Freedman interviewed Jodie Layne, director of "Hollaback! Winnipeg" on the CBC morning show and Jodie put what I was thinking into words: that it's not okay. All these years I felt ashamed for getting yelled at by passing cars. Like my outfit was too revealing or that I exuding some sort of sexual energy that welcomed men to yell at me. But in fact, that isn't true. I'm a 25 year-old young professional who wears long skirts and cardigans to work everyday and I am certainly NOT inviting attention. It's early, I'm tired and I just want to get to my bus stop in peace.

Jodie also gave me an idea: she said to turn it back on them. Take a picture of the harasser and upload it. So that's what I'm going to do next time I encounter Mr. White Van. Instead of cowering with my head down, suppressing my rage to the pit of my stomach: I'm going to subject him to the feeling of shame he subjected me to.

Since the face-to-face encounter, the old scumbag has yelled at me a few times from his van. Either in passing or while he's parked. I would like to get the chance to snap his pic, but since then, I'm much more cautious on my route to the bus stop. I carefully eye the corner where our encounters usually occur and proceed warily. I guess street harassment has a more powerful grasp on me than I thought.

Join the fight against street harassment in Winnipeg, visit and share your story.