This past Saturday, while I was enjoying the seawall, a woman in a sundress walked up to a pro-lifer at Commercial and Broadway, and asked if a rape survivor should be forced to have the child if she conceives during her assault. The pro-lifer answered “if she’s dressed like you, she should.” The woman who this happened to is now helping to organize a guerrilla counter-protest, taking place this coming Saturday at noon, at Commercial and Broadway. We will be meeting tonight at Grandview Park at 8 p.m. to help each other organize. Before she created an event page to attract help organizing it, I was unaware of her very existence. But I was aware of a single UBC student who stripped down to her bare skin to protest Genocide Awareness Project’s grotesque 6-foot-high banners on campus. She was harassed as a result — not by Genocide Awareness Project or police, but by campus security, and subsequently by UBC itself.
I can only speak to my personal motivations for planning to be there on Saturday, but it is not simply a protest against pro-lifers in general who give sermons in public spaces. They crossed that line when they used their movement as a platform for slut-shaming, rape-victim-blaming, and policing of women’s bodies, all in the same breath. I am going to be there to hold them accountable, and to incite the public to hold them accountable as well. I am not speaking about this issue to inspire interest in a generalized pro-choice or anti-lifer protest micro-movement, because that’s a catch-all that doesn’t prioritize the issue of misogyny. And misogyny is what slut-shaming is. A catch-all takes next to no work at all, and that’s not how social justice is taken. I say taken because social justice is never just handed out. I am taking this opportunity as a call to take specific action against misogyny, and I am asking all of you to consider what you can do too.
Again, I can only speak to my personal motivations for participating this Saturday, but de-prioritizing the slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and body-policing that took place during the inciting event isn’t good enough for me. Religion had absolutely no bearing on my experience of incest; being beaten and raped; being deprived of adequate nutrition as a means of controlling my body; being patronized, belittled, shamed, and silenced in public and private, by family, peers, teachers, doctors, social workers, and lovers; or watching countless women endure the same every day. That I’m pro-choice and an atheist is irrelevant to the fact that these things happened because I have two X-chromosomes.
That UBC student wasn’t harassed by campus security for breaking a law or failing to; it happened to her because she is a woman. The woman who was slut-shamed on Saturday wasn’t subjected to that treatment because wearing a sundress in public on a hot day negates her human rights. It happened to her because she is a woman.
Misogyny is pervasive. It’s here, and it’s disempowering women and trans* people every day, who could otherwise be facilitating powerful social change. If you need to put a face to the damage that’s done, I offer my own for you to gaze upon:
You’re looking at the face of a person with potential that is actively diminished by slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and body-policing. The same is true for your girlfriends, wives, sisters, and mothers. And for every woman sleeping in the streets, standing on the corner waiting for a trick, or handing out anti-abortion pamphlets at the skytrain.
If you choose to confront misogynist behaviour, whether through this effort on Saturday (assuming you’re a local) or through any other choice you make hereafter, it requires a willingless to be uncomfortable. This is especially true for cisgendered men, because your default position in society is safe and comfortable. You aren’t the target of misogyny. If you don’t confront it directly, you don’t have to get directly uncomfortable, which in turn allows you to avoid the very real possibility that your life will have to change in some way. It may not seem immediately obvious, but the ability to avoid things that don’t directly target you in harmful ways is one of your social privileges. If you’re willing to be uncomfortable, you’re ready to become an ally. I am open to discussing what any one of you can do to become an ally against misogyny, and try very hard to remain open at all times. I am quite literally happy to have that conversation.