What would you do if -- between cat videos and political sniping -- your social media feed was peppered with "up-skirt" shots and images of the breasts and backsides of women who were unaware they were being filmed?
This week one CanadaCreep caught the attention of police and the media, but there has been little mention of the 17,000+ creeps who, for up to a year, hid behind their screens exploiting women knowing full well none of the women they were gawking at had agreed to be in those video clips.
It's deeply disturbing that thousands of people followed this Calgary-based Twitter account which existed solely for the purposes of objectifying women and girls in our community. For more than a year, the account persisted and its following grew. That is until one popular Calgary social-media activist (huge props to the ever-awesome @Crackmacs) caught wind of @CanadaCreep and called him out to their own followers, encouraging folks to report the offender to Twitter.
Within hours the account was suspended. The individual who allegedly managed this account -- and thanks to rapid Calgary Police action, now faces multiple criminal charges related to voyeurism -- bears responsibility for his disgusting behaviour.
But we're left asking "Where is the line?" for those who followed along and said nothing. Where is their accountability for encouraging, through their interest, the victimization of women? It's time for serious introspection and re-education among those who watched, liked and retweeted images of women which were captured and shared without their consent.
The images and videos that @CanadaCreep recorded now exist online and we know that erasing them is next to impossible. They're out there. And our most sincere empathy goes to those women and girls who were violated and victimized.
Sometimes it seems that no matter how many steps forward we move, we continue to be held back by a culture deeply rooted in misogyny. A culture that seemingly unconsciously accepts it is men's right to treat women's bodies as though they exist solely for viewing pleasure. It is shameful that in Canada in 2017, women and girls -- some reportedly as young as 14 -- can't simply walk down the street to get a sandwich or attend a show without the fear their bodies will be broadcast, leered at and critiqued.
We need to continue to declare that street harassment and other forms of violence against women are not OK.
The kind of behaviour exemplified by this account and the many more like it contribute to online and real-world environments where women do not feel safe. Women don't feel safe wearing what they want because shaming based on the perceived quality of physical assets or attributes remains a very real threat, every day.
Surreptitiously recording women and making pithy judgments about their bodies or clothing choices contributes to a culture of shame and abuse. Women are shamed any time they report harassment or sexual assault when we continue to hear of women being questioned about their choices -- like "What were you wearing?" and "How much had you had to drink?" and "Why were you on that street?" -- putting the onus on victims rather than those who took advantage.
Enough. We need to continue to declare that street harassment and other forms of violence against women are not OK, and that requires dealing swiftly with bullies, creeps and perpetrators. This means bystanders and follower must speak up and speak out. The "if you see something, say something" posters have been up in most workplaces for years. And just as we'd report a suspected crime in progress on our street, so we must we all commit to making reports of abusive behaviours.
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