When I was 19 and in my second year of university on Vancouver Island, a robber entered my home and stole a number of valuables.
I had been home alone. I had fallen asleep and when my friends left my house they didn't lock the door. I was agonized by the idea that something worse than theft might have happened. The sense of invasion when your home is robbed is tantamount to the way girls feel at all times: nowhere is safe-- not your home, not your street, not your campus.
This is the climate that girls must survive in small-town Canada, and it's time you knew about it.
[Trigger warning: physical assault]
On March 27, a female student who had been actively speaking out against men's rights activist groups on the Queen's University campus in Kingston, was assaulted outside of her home around 11 pm. She was punched in the face repeatedly, with so much force her front tooth was broken.
When I think about all of the times I have been catcalled, touched, or insulted in public, I was minding my own business. Actively speaking out as a feminist in small-town Canada, where I grew up, is downright dangerous; the unspoken consensus for women is to cover your body, lower your eyes, and only speak when spoken to, otherwise you are inviting violence. Last year in London, Ontario someone threw a full water bottle from their moving car, which struck and severely injured a local woman. This is just one other example of the violence women are exposed to in public.
Kingston Police are investigating yesterday's incident, but how do you capture a moving target? Assaults on women are often hit-and-runs, and that's what makes them so difficult to punish.
To live as a woman is to know that the majority of crimes perpetrated against you are virtually unpunishable. Have you ever tried to report street harassment to the police? How did that go?As we cited in our post earlier this week, even severe and obvious crimes like rape, are rarely judicially punished.
You can't even go to the Eaton Centre, because you might get shot. You can't even walk down the street, or you might see something like this:
Or if you open a magazine, you might see something like this:
The discussion being held by The Men's Issues Awareness Society, to which the assaulted student objected, was entitled: “What’s Equality Got to Do With It? Men’s Issues and Feminism’s Double Standards.” Sounds lovely! They deny any association with the attack.
"Professors and colleagues will not be attending [the talk] for fear of violent attacks," says a Queen's gender studies professor, Maria Martina, who flat-out warned her students against attending. "I will be there in representation although, I was warned not to speak as I may be sent hate mail, death threats and potential physical attacks."
Perhaps the most infuriating detail is that a woman was giving the anti-women talk; Janice Fiamengo. Fiamengo regularly hold discussions denying the existence of rape culture. What shocks me most is upon reviewing Fiamengo's official page on the University of Ottawa website, is that her main areas of research all involve female and feminist writers--is she like, just skimming the work of Alice Munro and Barbara Gowdy? Yeesh.
It's saddening that Fiamengo has spent years studying feminist schools of thought, and has still managed to internalize misogyny. This incident further proves reality of rape culture and normalized violence against women. Fiamengo describes herself in her bio as a life-long student of literature. I encourage Ms. Fiamengo to become a life-long student of feminism, so that the students at Queen's, across Canada, and around the globe don't have to learn the hard way.
What this really boils down to is that both women involved in this event--the student and the speaker--were expressing their beliefs, but the one that got her face punched in was the one speaking out against male privilege. The woman that was not safe, was the one working to expose a violent culture where women's bodies are treated as less than human. It's pretty clear which woman has a more valid point.
If you feel unsafe, call the Campus Security emergency line at 613-533-6111 or Walkhome at 613-533-WALK (9255).