Post: On street harassment & classism

This is a blog post written by Hollaback! Ottawa site director Julie Lalonde & Community Outreach Officer Jess Golden.

Reading a recent editorial about street harassment in the LA Times left us feeling all sorts of things, and none of those feelings were good.

We are part of the amazing Hollaback! Ottawa team. We are activists. We’re shamelessly in love with our pets. We love a good pun, snarky t-shirts and MAC lipstick.

We’re also two barely-making-ends-meet women from blue-collar, working class families.

photo (1)Julie & Jess reppin’ Hollaback! Ottawa at Capital Pride 2014.

So yeah, reading an article about how hating street harassment means you are elitist and hate poor people made us all kinds of ragey.

Jess’ father (before he left them) worked in disaster restoration, cleaning up homes after fires and floods. After her dad left, her mum took on a part time job on top of her full time job in order to make ends meet. Her uncle has been a mechanic since before she was born. Her brother has worked in construction and landscaping since leaving high school before he graduated. And Jess? She’s an addictions counsellor working at a homeless shelter in downtown Ottawa making less than $45,000 a year.

Julie’s story is eerily similar with a family makeup of manual labourers, miners, construction workers, line cooks; textbook working class folks.

To argue that street harassment is unique to construction workers is patently false and is part of a pattern of thinking that states that only “some” men or only men from “some” neighbourhoods engage in street harassing. Hollaback! NYC Deputy Director Debjani Roy recently tore this argument a new one in Xojane. Check it!

“Men that street harass” are just that: men who street harass. The end. C’est tout.

The accusation that a woman who speaks out against street harassment is classist, followed by the statement that education circumvents street harassment, is inherently flawed and classist in and of itself. To think that an educated man is somehow above engaging in street harassment simply because he is educated is malarkey.

Ever taken a strut down Ottawa’s “business” district or walked by a group of Hill staffers on a sunny day? What about all the harassment near campuses? A lot of “classy”, formally educated, well paid dudes think street harassment is their jam.

The men in our family are bread & butter blue collar men. You know, the whole “Workers who shower after work, rather than before” kinda people.

They are lacking in financial opportunities, not manners. Every time you argue that “that’s just how they are”, you are perpetuating classist BS.

And let us tell you something. When we detail to the men in our lives what we endure while we cycle to work, walk to the grocery store or simply leave our front steps, they are appalled. Because, even though our men work with their hands, they understand that neither those hands nor their mouths should be used to bring anything less than love and respect to a woman.

So, the answer is no, snarky LA Times journalist. We are not elitist scumbags when we call out street harassment. We call out all forms of street harassment because we have the right to navigate public space in safety.

We’re going to keep resisting street harassment everywhere we go; from construction sites to the steps of Parliament Hill, we will always, always Hollaback! #SorryNotSorry

One response to “Post: On street harassment & classism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *