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Proud to glare back

As I watched the proud, supportive group from behind the lens of my camera, I realized that I wanted – maybe even needed – to join in.

On Saturday night, I went to Victoria Park to report on a public protest. I had my recording device prepared and my notebook in hand.
Let’s be real. The pen I thought I had in my pocket was actually a stray baby carrot.
But still, I was trying my best to wear my ‘reporter hat.’
This was the meeting place for the “Cats Glare Back” event organized by Hollaback and the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. It was a ‘Rolling Revolution’; a solidarity movement in protest of street harassment and sexualized violence.
[box type=”info”] The term “street harassment” includes catcalls, leering, vulgar comments and stalking. [/box]
I listened intently, watching about 50 individuals gather with bikes and rollerblades. Some were dressed in cat costumes. Others were painting whiskers and ears.
I took photos at appropriate times, keeping my distance from the group. I felt journalistic, objective.
I followed the crowd, led by a flatbed truck carrying spoken word artists and musicians. We went along Spring Garden, around Brunswick, through Citadel Hill and all the way up Gottingen.
Not too far into my walk, something happened.
As I watched the proud, supportive group from behind the lens of my camera, I realized that I wanted –  maybe even needed – to join in.
Like many other individuals, I have experienced street harassment, and felt vulnerable in public spaces before.
Sometimes I have responded to it; I’ll admit, I love flipping off a stranger every once in a while. Other times, I’ve been shy or felt genuinely afraid. I’ve wondered if I should have travelled with a group, if I should spend my money on a cab, if I should go home and change my clothes.
I usually turn up my music. I avoid eye contact. I focus on my shoes.
But Saturday night, I found a space where I didn’t need to carry those ‘I should haves’ and ‘what ifs’.

Deirdre Lee speaks to the crowd. (Photo: Bryson Morris)

I was proud to put down my notebook, and join a group of people proudly proclaiming their right to exist in their city, on their streets and in their own bodies, exactly as they were.
Nobody was threatened or shamed. And the important thing is, nobody should be.
But the truth is that even here in Halifax, people still are.
This event could serve as a news story. There are many times to be objective, to show both sides. As a journalism student, I know this is my job.
But in this case, I want to use my voice in a more subjective and consciously political way.
I want to say I was upset to hear about the harassment and violence experienced by members of my own community. Frankly, it pisses me off that I live in a city whose residents create unkind and unsafe spaces for others.
I want to say I was moved by the supportive and celebratory atmosphere at the protest. The spoken word performed by Deirdre Lee, Rebecca Faria and Des Adams made me laugh, made my stomach drop and made me sniffle, all at the same time.
Moving through Halifax at our own pace, and taking up as much space as we needed without receiving any honks or complaints, gave me hope for the people of this city. It reminded my why Halifax is a place I am proud to call my home.
I want to live in a place where no matter who I am, I can go through my day making choices that make me feel comfortable, cool, badass or even hot (seriously though!), without feeling upset or unsafe. We all deserve this!
I want to say, as loudly as I can, that street harassment and sexualized violence of any kind is not okay. I want to glare back.


By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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