Ain’t no Hollaback Girl

Last Thursday started off like any other—after a late night of putting an issue of the Journal together, I set out on my usual route home. Though the walk is a particularly precarious route through patches of unlit sidewalk and creepy old houses, I’ve only recently started to become wary of it. After the recent sexual assaults at Carleton and York University, who can blame me?

As I approached a street corner, I was caught off-guard by the alcohol-soaked heckles of two male passersby.

“Hey baby, what’s up?” crooned Idiot #1, stumbling past me. I ignored them, pretending to fiddle with my cell phone. With a roll of my eyes and the intention of pretending I didn’t hear him, I kept walking.

“Come on, dude, leave her alone,” laughed Idiot #2. Much to my surprise, Idiot #1 shot back something that has echoed in my mind ever since.

“If she’s showing that much flesh, she deserves it.” Clad in shorts, flats, a t-shirt, and a scarf, I didn’t feel as if I was giving off a sexy vibe. Frankly, after staring at a computer screen in an office without air conditioning all day, I was sweaty, exhausted and downright unkempt. Ask any young female if she has been catcalled, taunted, or followed on the street, and you’ll be bombarded with a wealth of stories ranging from hilarious encounters to highly dangerous situations.

Herein lies the geography of fear, the way we appropriate our bodies and inhabit public spaces in accordance with the precedent of fear set by our particular community. Women are advised not to walk alone at night, and those in short skirts and high heels are thought to be “asking for it.” The sheer sexism of the notion that woman must tone down what they wear and strategically decide where they walk at night in order to curb the appetite of lurking eyes is disgusting. Unwanted attention—from name calling to sexual assault—is unwarranted, no matter how short the skirt or how desolate the neighbourhood.

When I go out late at night, the only thing I’m asking for is a safe walk home, free of catcalls. Perverts, rapists, and drunken students with loud enough voices and not enough sense will always exist, but it will only be when the victimized band together and refuse to be intimidated that they can reclaim their public space.

Catcalling, taunting, and making a space uncomfortable for any person is inappropriate regardless of whether the person yelling the comment is male or female. The threat of assault is a very real issue at Queen’s, but I refuse to be afraid.

There’s an overwhelming need to be safe when walking home alone at night, but there’s no need to limit your movement according to the geography of fear.

Stay in the light, call Walkhome, walk with a group of friends, and take back the night—you deserve it.

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