Biking and Sexual Harassment

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Does biking make you feel safer in navigating the city?

Are you somebody who likes using bikes to get around a little better in this stinkin’ sexist world that’s so heavy with gendered violence? Does biking around the city feel different than walking or using public transit? Does it make you feel more powerful? Less powerful?

Able to zip past otherwise obnoxious and/or dangerous situations? Or does it make you feel more vulnerable to cars? Does biking in Hamilton increase or decrease your safety?

Here are some thoughts on biking and sexual harassment from some of the super smart women of Hamilton!

  • When I’m biking home late at night, I never worry about the fact that it’s late at night!
  • Yes, I can identify with the physical safety of speed and mobility, but I also still feel super self consciousness because I have still been street harassed on a bike. My body on a bike seems to garner more unwelcome attention than when I’m walking sometimes.
  • I absolutely feel more safe biking home late at night than I do walking. It’s frustrating that I feel more secure around a 3000 lb. heap of metal than I do with some of the creeps who follow you down the street, but it’s true. Riding a bike lets me power past them before I even hear the catcalls.
  • When I ride my bike I feel like I am myself, just amplified from the outside perspective. I’m fast and strong and have a big personality, but riding a bike gives me a way to SHOW that in a second as I fly by.
  • It gives me a quick way out – My legs to propel me out of a bad place are a lot stronger than the parts of me that I might use to defend myself.
  • Cycling absolutely makes me feel safer when moving around the city! I feel untouchable because I’m not in the same physical space as potential harassers on the sidewalk and I can move away quickly from folks on other forms of transportation, and being on a bike means I can move quickly even through stopped traffic, turn down alleys, etc. I can leave places late at night when I want to without being dependent on others (rides with friends, spotty late night buses, taxis) and that makes me feel independent and secure!
  • I feel that on foot I am more vulnerable to street harassment than on a bicycle but I don’t feel safe anywhere from sexualized, targeted violence against women in this city. One time someone through a lit cigarette at me from their truck window as i was parking my SOBI on James North. I also notice how men stare at me when i ride over a bump on the road, just as when i run down the street to catch a bus. Always in the public eye, the male gaze. I feel freedom on a bike and the wind in my hair. I feel I can speed away and I feel like a more powerful machine. I don’t want to have to borrow power from the mechanics of my bicycle, i want to be powerful in my skin and bones. I want to be safe, respected and confident to share the sidewalk, road, park path, anywhere with anyone else. I want to feel safe that someone won’t use their perceived powerlessness to take my power in order to gain a little for themselves. You cannot take my power away.
  • I can remember when I first started biking around the city. It definitely made getting around on dark fall or winter nights feel way less icky. I went out to more things once I started biking because having biking as a transportation option helped my bypass a lot of anxiety about being harassed on the street or having to walk past an abuser.

Compiled by Dev.

Join SoBi for bike decorating and a group ride to Take Back the Night on Thursday, October 13th! More information on SACHA’s website.

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Malvinas Bring Rebel Girls To Hamilton

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malvinas posterMalvinas is an art/rock/noise/punk/riot grrrl/jamboree/feminist band from Syracuse, NY. They are based in the work of Malvina Reynolds (b. 1900, USA), a folk singer/songwriter whose intersectional approach to social, political, and environmental justice continues to provide wisdom and inspiration.

Malvinas will be playing a free concert Saturday, August 22nd from 1 – 4pm at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre at 51 Stuart St. as part of Radiodress‘ summer-long exhibition, Mysterium Tremendum.

Check out the Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/847644862021729/

R: What was the inspiration behind the band, and why was it important for you to participate/contribute/co-create?

LexMal: Initially, I thought connecting to Malvina Reynolds would be a way for people with various music abilities to create together. Malvina Reynolds was wicked smart and funny; her lyrics are great, she connected so many social justice issues. From our first rehearsal we’ve had an energy and collaboration that is better than almost any other creative thing I’ve done. So the group is very important to me. As an artist, I work on how art is related to political change, and I’ve found our band, and music has a stronger connection to audience and politics than I usually experience in visual arts.

DrumMal: I was initially wary about joining a group based in “folk” music as that isn’t really my deal, but I WAS interested in joining, as it was pitched, a “DIY feminist band” and getting to play my drums more often. I knew VoxMal the most, but still only a bit. However, I knew if she was involved, it was a worthy pursuit. In such a short time, the Mals have become a second family tribe. Perhaps because we all feel safe and empowered in the messages we create with each other.

LuluMal: While there were many reasons to initially join the band – simply being part of a band itself was pretty empowering and something I never thought I’d do. Beyond that, it’s fulfilling  to work within the context of talking about the issues of social, economic, labour and gender rights. Also, being a younger member of the band, I get a lot out of listening to and being around people who have seen and lived more than I have.

UkeMal: When Joanna asked me if I would like to be involved in forming a band and playing Malvina Reynolds songs, I had a vague notion of who she was. After I did some research and started playing her music, I have found Malvina Reynolds to be an inspiration for my creative life and in general. I am in my late forties which is when she started writing and singing songs. I really identify with a lot of the things she said about how women are perceived at each stage of our lives and her resistance to being defined by society. This band is a way to use my voice and be in collaboration with others who want to raise up their voices to confront injustice and to support people’s right to self-determination and creative freedom. I also come from a long line of agitators and union organizers. I grew up with union stories about my grandfathers and father. My mother was a community organizer and I have done a lot of work myself in different communities. I grew up with the folk music from my mother and the punk music of generation X, so it is natural that I would find a musical and artistic home with the Malvinas. Continue reading

Spotlight on TBTN Performers – Eileen Griffet

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Take Back the Night, an annual event organized by SACHA — Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton & Area) — is a powerful opportunity for all woman-identified individuals to actively build connections, assertively reclaim our right to safety, and courageously stand up against sexual violence.

This year we’re celebrating Take Back the Night in Hamilton on Thursday, September 18th at Hamilton City Hall.

More details about the event here.

We’re highlighting the amazing performers that bring life to and share their skills with us during our TBTN rally.

Eileen Griffet has volunteered at SACHA on our Management Committee, 24 Hour Support Line, as well as on the Take Back the Night Coordinating Committee.  This year Eileen will be leading laughter yoga during the TBTN rally. She has a great laugh and we can’t wait for her to share it with everyone at TBTN!

DSCN1311Tell us more about laughter yoga?

I was introduced to laughter yoga many years ago when I ran a girls group at work. I invited a leader to one of our sessions and was attracted to her passion and excitement. Several years later I met up with a leader who I knew and told her I was interested in becoming a leader (I saw many ways that it could be used in my life and with those I work and volunteer with) and she was running a training that weekend so I went. That was summer of 2013.

What excites you about leading laughter yoga at Take Back the Night?

Take Back the Night is a very special evening for me. It was how I was introduced to SACHA. I started taking my daughter shortly after she was abused as a young girl. I am so excited to bring laughter to a very serious celebration. I hope that I can spread some laughter without forgetting why we are there.

Do you have a particular TBTN memory that you would like to share?

My favourite memory happens every year. I just love watching the start of the march. Seeing all those women united against violence – strong and passionate – brings tears to my eyes every year. For me it is the best part of the night.

Why do you march at TBTN?

I march for my daughter and for all women. As a woman I have a responsibility to do all I can to support and help all other women.

Social Inc Workshop – What We Talked About

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We had an AMAZING workshop today at Social Inc. at Mohawk College!

Before we got into details, folks attending the workshop first shared what qualities they look for in a friend:

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Folks came to the one hour long workshop wanting to learn more about and have discussions about:

  • consent
  • myths about sexual assault
  • ways to help and support survivors
  • is our activist making a difference?  how do we see social change?
  • wanting to learn more about the issue of rape and sexual violence
  • effective ways to take action
  • tactics that women use when being pressured for sex or being hit on by aggressive men
Brainstorm of what folks would like to cover in the workshop

Brainstorm of what folks would like to cover in the workshop

Every single item on the list could be its own three hour workshop (or more!).  The group decided that they would like to not only talk about what myths and lies we are taught about rape but get into real life ways to confront or challenge these myths when folks near to us repeat them.

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SACHA’s 24 Hour Support Line and Twitter address

We split the group in two with one group coming up with a rape myth or lie and the other thinking of how they might respond to it.

We ended the hour by talking about ways that we take care of ourselves while working for social change and things that we would like to see in our idea world.

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Here’s some links that I promised to share after the workshop:

Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop, participated so openly, respectfully and bravely.  We’ll see you again at Social Inc!