Wednesday, September 3, 2008

street worker?

Submitted by: Sophie

I live in downtown Toronto, east of Jarvis. Cracktown.

Today walking home from the Subway I saw a homeless aboriginal man and, without thinking, I gave him a good look up and down. It was unconscious. Perhaps I was trying to assert myself, and imply that I wasn't intimidated by him as he was tall and a somewhat big fellow. I don't know. But he called me on it. He said with a bit of a smile, "Good thing you didn't check out my home!" (which I immediately realized was a nearby stoop filled with garbage, a popular homeless perch). Shit, I thought. Well at least he's got a sense of humour. An effective hollaback on his part I'd say.

A block or so later a large white van slowed down and when I turned to look the guy gave me a creepy "hey you" nod. I ignored him and kept walking but he drives one more block and stops just after my house. Thinking I recognised this van from other occasions there was no way that I was going to walk into my home, I was forced to take a detour. I think he may have followed me as I saw a similar vehicle a minute or so later which seemed to also be showing an interest but I actively avoided it. Finally I arrived home 45mins later after a winding route and stop at Timmy's. I was hissed at and commented at en route as I continued but at least these weren't from potential stalkers.

Part two. I decided to buy a bike from Craigslist. Location: Wellesley and Sherbourne/Parliament. Being somewhat familiar with the neighbourhood, I suggested that we meet during daylight hours given the neighbourhood. But it wasn't going to work. Meeting time: 9:15. The seller assured me that things were fine "It's no longer the '20s," but, nevertheless, I purposely dressed in what I hoped was the most unassuming of an outfit. Ripped/patched jeans, a baggy pajama shirt, closed shoes, and a jacket to top it off. I also set off attempting a butch-style walk. But while looking for the seller, I was inevitably approached, nodded at and asked by one "are you a street worker?" No, he was not joking. Ironically, this comment seemed one of the least objectifying of them all. As though it was an insiders nudge (he appeared likely to have been up to his own tricks of another sort).

I have become very acquainted with harassment and sexual objectification in my neighbourhood. But this is not okay. Work must be done to educate men on how their comments and leers towards women can intimidate and offend. Thankfully though, the wit of one reminded me how I myself unwittingly objectify others. I also have some awareness to work on.

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