Walking along a sidewalk in Montreal, minding your own business as you head to your destination, can turn into an ugly experience. As simple and innocent as strolling on a sidewalk may sound, sometimes people take it upon themselves to objectify another individual simply because they happen to see them.
This is a daily occurrence and it's referred to as "catcalling" by most. "Street harassment" is a much more stark, and accurate term.
Uncalled for, offensive, and typically sexist, street harassment is a problem in almost every major city, Montreal included. The thing is, most people don't really know it's an actual issue. Well, guys don't at least.
Street harassment is a social issue predominantly enacted by men upon women, with the latter subjected to objectifying leers and sexist remarks from complete strangers.
Sometimes the experience can be quite frightening, with men verbally forcing themselves upon women when they're walking home alone, late at night, uncertain how far their harasser will go.
This type of street harassment happens all the time, as some women will tell you. As a male, I've only ever heard stories of street harassment from friends (men don't typically get catcalled by women, or other men, for that matter), originally unaware it was still an issue in today's society.
Women in Cities International, a Montreal-based non-profit wants street harassment to stop all around the world, but they're starting in our city first.
Coinciding with International Anti-Street Harassment Week, which began on Sunday, Women in Cities International took to the streets of Montreal, interviewing passersby (both men and women) on their experiences with street harassment.
The group even created "no catcalling zones" on the sidewalk, using chalk to write messages on the street to demonstrate that public space shouldn't be a site of harassment of any form.
During their day out in the city, collecting data on street harassment by interviewing Montrealers, the Women in Cities team found a fairly troubling, if not unsurprising, fact about awareness on the issue. As the group related to CBC Montreal, men weren't really aware that street harassment was an issue in the city.
On the other hand, a majority (if not all) women interviewed explicitly stated that street harassment is a major issue, one that occurs frequently and instills a sense of fear.
So despite the fact that Montreal is heralded as a liberal, socially progressive city, it is still home to basic (and some may believe outdated) forms of sexual harassment.
Women in Cities hopes to end this ongoing trend, but as with any social issue, the only way to create change is by raising awareness and spreading information. The group hopes their video on street harassment in Montreal will do just that, but you can help.
Get involved with International Anti-Street Harassment Week in any way you can, read up on the issue, and get other people informed on the topic. Head to Women in Cities International's website and official Facebook page for more information.