Photo: Lukas Janko
The conversation about sexual harassment is currently on every Canadian’s mind, because of some horrible allegations about a radio-host Jian Gomeshi, and then this video on cat calling went viral. There are some problems with it, like the white dudes were all edited out, making it look like it’s a racial issue – and it’s certainly not.
Despite the issues with the video, it’s been shared over 24 millions times and has been aired on television through news outlets across the world. Seriously, it is about time this conversation happened. Sexual harassment: It’s a problem for all women, and minority populations are more vulnerable.
So far, there are common retorts to these allegations that women’s harassment isn’t a big deal. The women are collectively invalidated with “It should be taken as a compliment” and the victim blaming “If she didn’t wear such tight clothes”…. Of course the woman in the video was threatened with rape and death threats immediately. There is a lot written on the subject of these retorts, but the one I’d like to address is this:
“You dont know how hard it is to meet people in Vancouver”
“What’s wrong with saying Hi?”
“Vancouver is the coldest place on earth, you don’t know what it’s like to be rejected.”
I can’t believe I have to say this to anybody, but;
Yes, I do know what it’s like to be rejected. I know what it’s like because, as a street performer, it’s my job to be rejected, publically, every day, by thousands of people. I have spent 10 seasons juggling on the streets and I have met an enormous amount of lovely folks, and that was likely only 1% of the total who walked by. When I meet these people, I am covered in gold from head to toe, I am making a ball appear to float, dancing to beautiful piano music on my amplifier and offering an experience for my crowd to watch.
Photo: Cameron Knowlton
That is the difference between those men and myself. They just expect women to want to talk to them to have the experience of their glory as a man. They are offering nothing of interest, and in fact are taking away from our experience we are already having. You don’t have to cat call a woman to get her attention.
The men who state that we should at least give the courtesy of a conversation to these strangers, that we owe men this attention is absurd. Imagine me, a street performer, arguing with people on the streets that they owe me the courtesy of paying attention to me? “Hey, everyone, seriously, I came all the way out here, painted myself gold, dragged all my gear, my amp, my balls and giant plinth to entertain you, and you can’t even bother to tip me?”. It’s ludicrous. Nobody “owes” me the courtesy of attention.
Perhaps these men are right with one thing, saying “Hi” shouldn’t be a problem, yet women have this happen over 100 times a day, and for us it’s like an obstacle course to try to avoid it. Like Jessica Williams from the Daily show puts it “The assholes ruined it for you. Police your asshole friends and then maybe we can talk in 5 years”. We don’t owe you anything, not attention, not a hello, not a second glance and to believe otherwise means you are carrying a sense of entitlement to our attention.
Do I hate rejection? Sure! However, when I get rejected over and over again, I don’t get to eat or pay rent. That doesn’t even consider my hurt feelings, or doubts over my career path and worth as a person. The only reason you are complaining is the hurt feelings, and these men are calling us women too sensitive?
Hundreds of people pass me by every day and it’s completely their right to. They have jobs and ideas and streams of thought that I may be interrupting. Yes, I am literally doing everything I can to stop them, show them something unique, artistic and make them consider beauty in a new way for 5 minutes. But, I can’t hold it against them if they don’t have time or change to tip me after they’ve watch my show.
The point of street performing is the element of surprise. So, when I show up and have something I consider an amazing art to offer them and they don’t have time or money to give me, I don’t go around complaining that all pedestrians are cold, heartless, inconsiderate people because they don’t have time for me. I consider it a fact of life on the street.
Yet, here are all these men who think they are the amazing and that they are offering something unique – themselves. On top of that, any woman who doesn’t stop what they are doing to consider them is fair game to be called a bitch.
You’d think as a woman street performer that I would get harassed often, but I’ve gone to lengths to ensure I don’t have to talk by becoming a statue, and after being groped and dry humped in the crowds in the days leading up the the Vancouver riots, I spent my time only in family friendly affairs, mostly, the Richmond Night Market, which has security guards if I need them. No, the harassment I face these days comes before or after my work.
I’ve gone out of my way to protect myself on the pitch by hiding in the confines of a protected environment, but I can’t protect myself on a bus, or walking down a street. To be fair, I think other street performing women have it worse, I found a super-friendly & guarded pitch, and I consider myself lucky. The fact is this “hello” from these men is not just hello. My most recent experience with this was literarily “Hello, wanna have a foursome?” It’s no secret why they are talking to us, and it’s not because they like our ideas. Please stop telling us it’s innocent, it’s not.
In reality this behaviour is creepy and dangerous.The matter of rejection is not simple, just this month a women’s throat was slit because she rejected a man’s advances, and another women was shot and killed for the same reason. The fact that these men can’t take the rejection is a position of entitlement, and if it’s shown they don’t, they are willing to insult them at best, take their lives at worst. Yet, when we women speak to this problem we are served with these retorts: What about the man’s feelings, passive aggressive comments, blaming the victim about how they deserve it, want it, need it, or just a simple insult to silence us. We stated we don’t want it, so don’t do it. If you want to start saying hello to people on the street,the solution is simple, why not say hi to other dudes!