Hearing women’s voices

Harassment still a concern this International Women’s Day

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Women still face harassment vocally and sexually every day. In 2014, 553,000 cases of sexual assault were self-reported by people identifying as female in a survey done by Statistics Canada. Thanks to movements like #metoo, which calls out the widespread prevalence of harassment, especially in the workplace, more women are coming forward.

Arielle Vicklund, a current University of Manitoba (U of M) student, says the #metoo movement communicates that harassment didn’t just happen to one person, but it has happened to others. The movement is giving a voice to those who don’t have a platform to speak out about their experiences.

“Often we feel quite alone in experiences we’ve gone through, and we don’t recognize that other people have experienced the same things,” Vicklund says.

Jordyn Sheldon, a current University of Winnipeg (U of W) student, says for her, the #metoo movement has its strengths and weaknesses.

“I think that it is as powerful as any social media movement has ever been at inciting dialogue and awareness. Violence against women is an enormous issue that does not get a lot of spotlight in the average news cycle or at dinner-table conversations,” she says.

“We should all know rape is wrong and ‘no means no,’ but how do we empower ourselves to say no when we don’t want to hurt our partner? Where is the line between giving and taking? These are conversations I want to be a part of,” Sheldon says.

According to the U of W’s website, the university will not tolerate any form of sexual misconduct. This term is broad, but will encompass any unwelcome conduct of the sexual nature.

The website also states that sexual misconduct can vary case to case and includes a large variety of behaviours like stalking, sexual harassment and sexual assault or threat of assault.

Women have achieved many things like gaining the right to vote in 1914 for white women and in 1960 for Indigenous women in Canada. International Women’s Day is a way to celebrate these achievements. This year, it falls on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Vicklund says there needs to be  an International Women’s Day, because women
do a lot that goes unrecognized and never get thanks.

“I believe that for so long, women have been oppressed, and we’ve been put into the private sector and not the public sector. By having this International Women’s Day, we’re saying, ‘yes women are people, and they’re here, and they’re strong, and we need to see that as such,’” Vicklund says.

For Sheldon, International Women’s Day is important, because it is a reminder to consider and appreciate the work that women do for themselves as well as the human rights of others. International Women’s Day also acknowledges the importance of women’s rights.

“I always take the day as an opportunity to remind the women in my life that what they do, how they think and who they are matter,” Sheldon says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 19 of The Uniter (March 1, 2018)

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