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A plea for help and patience

Fighting misogyny one step at a time in an ever-changing climate

One aspect of being a teacher people don’t often talk about is bodily awareness. In other words, you are conscious of the way people may be perceiving your body and how they may be possibly judging you. The effect varies from person to person.

As a female teacher working in a male-dominated program, I am incredibly aware of my femininity when I’m up in front of a class. I can’t help but focus on how my clothes fit me and how become self-conscious about certain parts of my body. This awareness, to me, is usually neither positive nor negative—it is just there.

However, since Donald Trump won the United States presidential election, I no longer feel this awareness solely in situations where I am surrounded by men. I feel it all the time, and it is no longer a neutral feeling but a negative one. I have become self-conscious of being female.

I carry an invisible weight with me everywhere I go—sometimes it intensifies out of nowhere, like a panic attack. I’ll be at home working and suddenly wonder if my research will be taken less seriously because I am a woman. I’ll hear men debating about abortion and instead of responding rationally like I normally would, I become consumed by rage that people who will never be in that situation are trying to tell me what I can do with my own body. I’ll walk through the halls of my school and hear a male student tell a female student, “you only think that because you’re a woman.”

I am tired. I am so very tired. And I succumb to the inescapable thoughts circulating in the darkness of my mind: “I am not a human being…I am a woman.”

I have always been proud to be female. By being a proud and successful woman, I always felt I was proving to the world that women can do anything we set our minds to and I never backed out of a fight to prove it.

Now, however, I feel like an injured lioness who needs to retreat in order to heal my battle wounds. I used to feel powerful but now all I feel is overwhelmed, and I wonder if other women and other groups targeted by Trump feel the same—like we’re being stripped of our humanity. Or perhaps, we never had it to begin with—it was all an illusion.

Donald Trump sets a precedent for saying and doing atrocious things, such as saying blatantly misogynous remarks about women and openly calling Hillary Clinton “a nasty woman.” We need to ban together and say that it is not okay. This is why I ask that, if you see someone being the target of violence, whether verbal or physical—intervene.

If you have a friend who is particularly affected by the events and rhetoric in the U.S, be patient and understanding with them. In a world where blatant misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and hate are on the rise, it is more important than ever to accept, love and support each other.

As my greatest fictional hero, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the starship Enterprise in Star Trek the Next Generation once said, “We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again… vigilance Mr. Worf. That is the price we must continually pay.”

Graphic by Florence Yee

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Why Concordia needs a ‘female only’ space

The university should create mandated safe space specifically for women

As a feminist and a survivor of sexual assault, I’ve been very open in sharing my own personal experiences, keeping in mind it may provide the strength and courage for other survivors to come forward and speak out.

My experiences with sexual assault are unfortunately not uniquean estimated 460,000 women are sexually assaulted every year in Canada, according to the YWCA, Canada’s largest multi service-organization for women.  

When I saw Kelly Oxford, a Canadian author, screenwriter and social media blogger,  ask women on Twitter to share their first experience with sexual assault in response to Donald Trump’s leaked audio saying he grabbed a woman “by the pussy,” a flood of memories came back.

Graphic by Florence Yee

What was my earliest recollection of sexual assault? The time a stranger pressed himself up against me on the metro? The time someone slapped and grabbed my butt as I headed to class? The time a guy groped my breasts and then laughed as I ran off crying?

Could these (amongst other more graphic) instances be why I often feel unsafe walking alone? Or why I feel uncomfortable being at school surrounded by groups of men? I had never really thought about it before. I realized I often felt unsafe in public, but I always assumed it was because I grew up in a small town. I never thought there could be another reason.

This is why women need a women-only space at Concordia. We shouldn’t  need our own space. We should not feel afraid when men sit next to us. We should not feel unsafe at our own school—but some of us do.

We feel unsafe and uncomfortable because so many of us have had similar experiences with sexual assault, and sometimes more than once. Women are also the most vulnerable to sexual assault, with 15 to 20 per cent of female students experiencing some form of sexual violence during their time in university, according to Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC).  

Hopefully one day women can stop being afraid, but for now, we should have a place of refuge, even if it’s just to study for a few minutes without being ogled—even if it’s just to finally catch our breath and say “I am safe.” How many women do you know go to the washroom just to get away from men who are harassing them? I can say with certainty that the vast majority of the women I know have.

Several universities across Canada have implemented designated women-only sessions at their campus gyms, including the University of Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Ryerson, according to The Mcgill Daily.  

It is time for Concordia to prove that it is a progressive, feminist university by taking an initiative to make women feel safe, not just when they exercise, but wherever they are in the school by giving them a safe space.

Kelly Oxford received thousands of tweets from women sharing their stories of sexual assault. The number of incoming tweets was so overwhelming that her story went viral. Sexual assault is not a rare occurrence, and victims of it are everyday people like you and me. Whether it’s that shy girl who sits in the corner at the back of class and keeps to herself, or that bubbly girl who goes to every party—it can be anyone. Any of these women may (and probably) have been a victim of sexual assault.

The first step to making a change is awareness. If you’d like to see a women-only space at Concordia, talk to your friends, your peers, or your program’s student organization.

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Portrait of a young woman in Montreal

A Concordia student’s personal account of sexual harassment

I was on my way home from school in the evening and waiting in the metro when suddenly I had the sensation of being watched. I turned around to find a strange man standing right next to me, his eyes glaring at me. I jumped and heard my heart pounding as I stared back. I tried to get to the nearest exit but he raised his arms up and prevented me from getting around him, as if he was playing defense in a game of basketball.

Photo by Jeffrey Zeldmen.

That’s when he uttered, “cops aren’t around, what are you going to do little girl?” and began walking towards me again. I started to run the other way but he grabbed my bag. I screamed and pulled on my bag as I hard as I could, forcing him to let go.

I ran as fast as possible out of the metro and onto the streets. When I was out of breath, I looked behind me and saw that he was gone. I called my boyfriend in tears asking him to come pick me up.

All this happened a few weeks ago and I’m still afraid to be alone in the metro, and I’m afraid to walk home alone at night. Though my friends have recommended I go speak to a counsellor, I hesitated for a while, feeling embarrassed by the situation. According to the United Nations, sexual harassment consists of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

Sexual harassment is a reality many women have to live with and is tremendously frightening when it happens as it catches you off guard on a day like any other. According to Northwestern University Women’s Centre, there are numerous potentially harmful effects which survivors of sexual harassment may experience including depression, anxiety, shame, withdrawal and isolation.

Survivors tend to become more alert, anticipating a sense of danger, and feel unsafe in public according the same report from the women’s centre. According to the website Feminist.com, some survivors feel a sense of embarrassment—as I did—and hesitate to seek to help and many survivors often blame themselves. This guilt can be consuming, but it’s important to remember that it’s a symptom of the incident. Fortunately for me, I have an amazing support system of family and friends, in which I was able to comfortably share my thoughts and emotions.

 

[Resources]

  • If you are in immediate danger on campus, call 911 or security at (514) 848-3717—option one.
  • Sexual Assault Resource Centre (GM-300.27). Monday—Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can reach them at (514) 848-2424 ext. 3461 or ext. 3353.
  • Visit the Centre for Gender Advocacy at the SGW campus for support at 2110 Mackay St. between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at (514) 848-2424 ext. 7431. For peer support call (514) 848-2424 ext. 7880.
  • For 24 hour support, call 1 (888) 933-9007.
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Officer, someone stole my identity

Identity theft left me disoriented and wandering in circles

I was emotionally exhausted and fought back tears as I headed straight to the Virgin Mobile kiosk. I had just spent hours on the phone arguing with them, and it was hard to believe that my final semester had taken such a dramatic turn for the worse.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

It all began a few months ago. I loved my classes, my teachers were wonderful mentors and for the first time in my life, I had A’s in all my classes, which was very important since I was applying to graduate school.

Unfortunately, my joy eventually came to a halt when I received a letter from a phone company I never dealt with. The letter stated that I owed them hundreds of dollars.    When I called them to inform them this had to be a mistake, they told me someone must have stolen my identity and I had to go to the police.

I did go to the police. I skipped class and waited five hours for the officer to arrive because all units had an emergency to deal with. He called back a few days later saying the case was cold and would remain that way unless new evidence arose. In other words, the police were no help at all but I was determined to prove my innocence.

The next step was even more time consuming and frustrating; I had to notify all my creditors and it took hours on the phone. I called seven different numbers to finally get the right one, and sometimes, when I’d call the wrong one, they would just tell me I hadn’t reached the right department and had to call elsewhere. They wouldn’t transfer me or tell me how to reach said department! When I finally got through to them they told me there was nothing that could be done because according to the phone company the account was valid.

The worst part of the whole ordeal however, was the countless times I contacted the phone company to argue that my account was not valid. They kept transferring me from department to department. Each time I had to re-explain my story until I eventually spoke to the proper representative. She kept going around and around in circles telling me there was nothing I could do. The last time I called, my boyfriend noticed I was on the verge of tears so he took the phone and was more forceful, but no matter what he said the representative would not hear me out nor let me speak to her manager. After many hours completely wasted on the phone, and my finals quickly approaching, I gave up. My grades were starting to slip and I could not let that happen.

The next morning, I headed down to the phone company’s office and told them that I was the victim of identity theft, but wanted to pay the bill to clear my credit record.  The representative refused to let me pay the bill and started to argue with me, “But that’s not right,” to which I responded, “What do you want me to do? I can’t get a job now because of my credit!” Her co-worker then asked, “Why don’t you call the identity theft department?”  That was the first time, in all the hours and painstaking days I spent talking to them, that I was told the phone company had an identity theft department. It turns out only employees of the phone company can call the department, which is why I couldn’t find it. Still, why didn’t they transfer me there in the first place? Victims of identity theft spend an average of 600 hours recovering from the crime, often over a period of years according to Idalerts.com, meaning that recovering from identity theft is a lengthy process.

The theft specialist and I were finally able to find out who stole my identity. My knees buckled underneath when I realized who it was… someone very close to me. I don’t blame her for what she did, she couldn’t get a phone because of her bad credit rating, so she used my name instead. I didn’t press any charges and in fact I’m still friends with her today. Why? I sincerely believe that people can change. However, take it from me, be very careful who you trust.

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