Leave women alone in public. Everywhere. End of story.
In the past 72 hours, it has come to the student body’s attention that men in their early 20s have been approaching and harassing women on the downtown Concordia campus, according to the Montreal Gazette. Concordia student Lisa Komlos posted an Instagram video on Friday, March 29, detailing two of her experiences with men who first complimented her, then followed her through the lobby of a building on campus. The incidents, occurring within two weeks of each other, prompted Komlos to make her video, since the different men in both instances seemed to follow the same script.
“He started with a compliment, and then he started asking me tons of personal questions. And basically was trying to get me alone with him,” said Komlos, in her video. “He was very pushy about it. Very aggressive. He didn’t pick up on any of my social cues trying to let him know that [I was] uncomfortable with this. He wasn’t listening to me saying ‘No’ many times.”
Since the video was posted on Friday, Komlos has received a wave of support, as well as other students sharing disturbingly similar experiences. On Komlos’s Instagram page, the story highlight titled “PSA responses” had over 15 people respond, recounting the same experience around Concordia, McGill, Dawson, and UdeM, all within the last few months.
Raising awareness about the ongoing harassment, both on and off university campuses, that women experience all too frequently is incredibly important. And this conversation extends far beyond educational institutions. As we saw with the split response to Gillette’s ‘The best men can be’ ad, a lot of people (mostly men) are unwilling to engage in conversations that directly address toxic masculinity, let alone admit it exists.
On Sunday, I woke up to an article in The New York Times about a young woman named Samantha Josephson in South Carolina who was found dead after getting into a car she mistook for her Uber. Last week, my 18-year-old sister Savanna called me at 2 a.m. from Toronto in a panic. She said her friend EKat had to literally jump out of her Uber, while it was still moving, because the driver refused to stop and let her out. EKat said she felt uncomfortable from the beginning, and that he wouldn’t listen to her when she asked to pull over. Words cannot express how thankful I am that Savanna and EKat are safe, and I wish I could say the same for Samantha Josephson.
I could go on and on and on about the staggering number of friends who have experienced sexual harassment or violence. I could write a dissertation unpacking internalized patriarchal structures and how they hindered my ability to come to terms with my own history of sexual violence. I could praise Concordia’s administration for acknowledging Komlos’s experience and for spreading awareness about the pertinent issue of campus safety. But I won’t. Just fucking leave women alone. At school, on the street. Everywhere.
Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee