As those of you who attended our Town Hall Meeting will know, one of the many issues brought to our attention that evening was that the dyke march and dyke march rally can feel like an unsafe space due to unwelcome folks hanging about. Specifically, we were reminded of the unwanted attention we receive from those who we will name the “creepers” and “cat-callers” who come out to gawk at, take invasive pictures of, mock, and/or harass “the gays” at Pride. This is a complex problem that opens up an extensive dialogue which no one workshop or conversation will single-handedly solve. However, we hope that in working together as a community we can challenge it and make our spaces safe ones.
With this aim in mind, Michelle and myself attended METRAC‘s We All Have a Role on April 26th, a forum to challenge sexual violence. For those who may not know, METRAC is a community-based, not-for-profit organization based in Toronto working to prevent and end violence and the threat of violence against diverse women and youth. Panelists included Gaela Mintz and Julia Swaigen, two social workers affiliated with the gender-based violence prevention office in the Toronto District School Board, Ashleigh Judge of Springtide Resources, Jeff Perera associated with the White Ribbon Project, Wendy Komiotis of METRAC, and Chanelle Gallant from Maggie’s, the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project. Each panelist outlined the various way they and their organizations are working to end sexual violence.
Two organizations working to end street harassment discussed at the forum that may prove useful are INCITE! and Hollaback! Their messaging is straightforward; there is no one “right way” to respond to street harassment. More to the point, responding or not responding to street harassment won’t solve the problem itself. To stop street harassment the culture that made it permissible in the first place has to change. Hollaback! provides options of responding both directly to street harassers, as well as alternative responses available on their website. They aim to end street harassment by creating a world-wide community which shares stories of street harassment, and to reduce the negative impact of street harassment. INCITE! has downloadable toolkits on their website that can function as a resource tool for organizers and activists. One of INCITE!’s focus is on ending law enforcement violence against women of colour and trans people of colour. These are but two organizations that may provide useful tools for us which were discussed at the forum. However, if you know of any others you would like to share, or if you have any thoughts or suggestions on this topic we would love to hear from you, and work together to make our march a safe and comfortable space.