Last week, while on my way to work, I encountered a couple of men on the street who were determined to get my attention, in any way possible it seemed. As I walked away from them they began whistling and shouting at me, so I increased my stride, pretending that I didn't hear them. I was hoping that by choosing to ignore them, they would just go away; no such luck.
Before I knew it the larger of the two men was running along beside me, commenting on my appearance and offering to carry my bags for me. I had no idea where the other man had disappeared to, which did nothing to alleviate my anxiety, so I simply attempted to put some distance between us.
Oddly enough, there was no one else around at the time who could help me if I needed to, even though it was mid-morning and there's usually plenty of people in that area.
Now, I know there are some people who are probably thinking, 'why were you so worried? The man was just paying you a compliment!' But the reality is that this man was very aggressive in his manner, and had completely ignored the fact that I was put off by his actions.
As I continued to attempt to walk away from him, he kept pace with me, telling me that I was pretty and asking repeatedly if I thought he was cute. He was insistent on getting a response from me, so I politely replied that he looked 'okay' and dashed across the street into the safety of my office building, high heels and all. Thankfully, he did not follow me.
Violence comes in many forms, and although this man did not touch me physically, his behavior, whether he realized it or not, was violent. In choosing to ignore my discomfiture and getting up in my face the way he did, his aggression could easily be perceived as violent, perhaps not by everyone, but certainly by anyone who has ever been a victim of sexual violence, or any kind of violence for that matter.
And unfortunately, as an Indigenous woman in Canada, I know that the level of violence perpetrated against me is three times higher than that experienced by a non-Indigenous woman. I also I know that I am five times more likely to be murdered than a non-Indigenous woman. I KNOW that the odds are NOT in my favour.
I've been thinking about my unfortunate encounter since then and, although initially I was just scared, now I am angry.
Why, you may ask?
I am angry because a strange man had the power to make me feel afraid.
I am angry because a woman cannot feel safe enough to walk across the street on her own, in broad, freaking daylight!
I am angry because this man thought it was okay to act that way towards me.
I am angry because some people thought the situation was funny, and dismissed my fear.
I AM ANGRY because there are still some people in this country who don't understand the impact that ALL the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada has on the rest of us Indigenous women in OUR OWN DAMN COUNTRY!!!
I AM ANGRY BECAUSE I FEEL FEAR, JUST BY BEING ME, an Indigenous woman in Canada.
I now have a daughter, and I do not want her to grow up with this same fear.