In February of 2016, I wrote about 29 incidents of sexual violation from my own life. I shared them at rabble.ca, one for each day of the month. The #MeToo movement wouldn’t hit for another two years; Women Who Tell helped to give a framework to the large-scale discussions of sexual assault we see in Canada today.
Women Who Tell: Mugging
“I had so little of value in my bag, it was tucked into the back of the stroller, and I didn't think someone would attack me just for my stuff with the babies there. I thought he was going to rape me. I suddenly understood that it would be very easy for him to do that.”
Women Who Tell: Conclusion
“Silk stored folded over years will crack along its creases. Some of the stories in this project had been packed so neatly, so tightly, that to open them was to expose their fault lines as they became tatters in my hands. These were the stories that only I remembered and, because I had never told them, had never seen the light of day.”
'Women Who Tell', two years on
“Two years later, our world has changed. New political leaders, new court cases, new understandings of sexual assault. We have had many hashtags, but #MeToo broke the floodgates. In gymnastics, in politics, in the service industry, in film, in theatre, in tattoo artistry, in media, in agriculture, in tech, in Canlit. Women everywhere are lighting a match.” Image by Kristie de Garis.
Kanadas ouppklarade försvinnanden
Canada's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
"The idea that Indigenous women are not 'rooted' and exist outside of dominant social mores has long been present in the Canadian colonial context.'
Venue: Feministisk Perspektiv (published in Swedish)
Review: 'Berkeley Dance Project 2018' at Playhouse, U.C. Berkeley
“‘Peel' addresses Tang’s experience of an abusive relationship. And it begins and ends with water, a metaphor for cleansing but also a brilliant expansion of Tang’s range of motion.”
2016 is never going to happen again
I designed this apocalyptic holiday card after the United States elected a known sexual abuser. The New York Times interviewed me and put it in their Style section. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I am a founding member of Missing Justice: Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a Montreal-based grassroots solidarity collective that works to eliminate violence and discrimination against Indigenous women living in Québec. Indigenous women make up less than 5% of the total population of Canada, yet constitute 24% of its homicide victims. On the left is a photograph I took of Tiffany Morrison’s mother at the vigil held on the three-year anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance. Tiffany’s body was found just a few months later; she is survived by her mother and daughter. This image links to an article I wrote for the Swedish publication Feministiskt Perspektiv.
Venues: Feministiskst Perspektiv; Concordia and McGill Universities.
Women Who Tell: Salt Spring Island
“I didn't understand that, "I don't want to touch you" often springs from aroused misogynist mouths. That when he said I was disgusting, he gave himself and his outrage-boner away. Being a child, I knew little about sex or sexual harassment; all I knew then was that he hated me.”
Women Who Tell: Peeping Tom
“The officer told me that he had already spoken with some officers from my precinct. He said that on Wednesday night we would do a sting operation. I was to leave the blind open and lounge around in something revealing, while the officers parked an undercover car nearby, laying chase when the man appeared. My boyfriend and his friend would also be watching from his car.
Despite its absolute insanity, this plan was the thing that was going to happen.”
Women Who Tell: Groping (Incident No. 35)
“This kind of behavior is completely normalized amongst men of all generations. It's what we expect from men. I tolerated this touch like I would tolerate the enthusiastic laps of a puppy. Good-natured tolerance is what we expect of women.”
Women Who Tell: Frotteur
“The man leaned deep into my shoulder, rubbing up against it again. Once more, I looked up and said "excuse me." He smiled again, nodding, leaned back for a brief moment and then leaned in more. As if he were incapable of keeping himself upright and needed to rest his penis on me for support. It continued for forever or about five to ten minutes.”
Women Who Tell: Manual Pregnancy Test
“Walking out of the clinic, I felt like I was a completely different person. A Not-Svea. I don't know how to describe this feeling. Like a deer in headlights, like a car on autopilot, like a coffee-maker without a carafe making a hissing sound as it haplessly drips coffee onto a circular heating pad.”
Women Who Tell: The Boss and His Friend
“I was wearing a tan-coloured trench coat purchased from a thrift store, and from which someone had torn out the lining. I probably had the biggest smile on my face. I said that I would love to see him again, that everything was great! But that I had to go! See you later! No need for gold! Bye now! I got out of the car and watched from the window to be sure that his car drove off.”
Women Who Tell: APA Convention
“I hadn't counted on most of the attendees being mid-level late-career professionals just looking for some time away from their wives. The air of the conference was charged with sexual frisson, almost like a summertime Queen Street patio. People weren't there explicitly to screw younger women, but they weren't about to not screw younger women, either.”
Women Who Tell: Crowdsurfing
“It wasn't until more than a decade later, on hearing about an incident in which Aaron Lewis, lead singer of Staind, stopped his live show to berate audience members for "molesting" a crowdsurfing teenaged girl that I realized that this experience wasn't...inevitable. Pre-ordained. Part of the great Chain of Being.”
Women Who Tell: Tourists
“We were on the deck, walking that weird, lumbering way people walk when they're facing heavy winds, when a man approached me. His English wasn't great and at first I wasn't sure what he was saying. Something like, ‘Hi, can I have a coffee with you?’ I was confused. I stopped walking. He said, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ I still didn't get it. He repeated the question, remarking, ‘You are very beautiful!’ And I got it.”
Women Who Tell: Men and Public Space
“In Invisible Cities Italo Calvino describes a mythical city's streets created through the myriad paths of a pursued and naked woman, its walls erected by men who wish to trap her, though she has already escaped. This story feels like a pretty apt metaphor for my morning commute.”
Women Who Tell: Ex-partners
“Sometimes the amusing and seemingly endless pursuit of women ends in a happy marriage, if you believe the movies. Sometimes it ends in terror, if you believe the women.”
Women Who Tell: The 'Accident'
“There was no accident. His penis was not strolling along minding its own business while my vagina suddenly stopped to send a text on a busy sidewalk. His penis was not a drunk person boarding an elevator and my vagina a wall of small buttons. His penis was not a child's right foot and my vagina their left shoe.”
Women Who Tell: Street Violence
“The police took some statements and did nothing and asked me if I was OK, sweetheart. I said yes, it's just so terrible...But they weren't interested. They asked if anything had been stolen. They had notepads.”
Women Who Tell: "Jailbait"
“I felt like a hot metal net had been cast over me. I wished I had a sweater. I asked him to please be quiet. He said no, that it's a free country and he can say whatever he wants. I was all out of assertion after that one fledgling attempt. He continued to berate a 12 year-old for being too young to consent, his face getting redder and his eyes wider.”
Women Who Tell: Kits High
“Rob wouldn't let it go. My gross, disgusting breasts were something he really wanted to talk about. He sat behind me in science class. I stopped going to science class.”
Women Who Tell: My Son's Doctor
“The rest of the world knows this, and that you would do anything for your child. As a parent, you can only (ever!) hope that other people will not break your egg; and that they will have the decency not to use it against you.”
Women Who Tell: Spiritual Teachings
“I was hacking at the safe with a knife, trying to get the lock open. Failing at this, I left with six dollars and a stomach flu, running down the hillside. Disoriented, I asked the people I came across if they could direct me to the nearest town, where I thought I could probably convince the employees of a guest house to let me stay.”
Venues: rabble.ca; Pathologize This! Zine
Women Who Tell: Distress Centre Sex Callers
“It's hard to convey the intensity of the fear and loathing I felt when I realized that someone I was trying to help was trying to exploit me.” With images and written contributions by the immensely talented Kristie de Garis.
Women Who Tell: Fingers Bitten, Twice Shy
“I was not upset about having my finger bitten. I wasn't crying into my satin gloves in a bathroom stall.
But I did immediately go to find my husband. Just because .... I didn't want to get bitten again? I could have ‘made a fuss.’ But I wanted to keep up my end of the social contract that says that weddings are not a night for resolving conflict but for ignoring it. So I needed someone who would silently demonstrate, to the biter, an investment in the sanctity of my body. In other words, a father or a husband.”