On Sunday (April 12), Stacey Forrester will use a clicker to record the number of times she’s affected by street harassment.
Every time she’s harassed by a man in public, the Downtown Eastside nurse will click the device twice. She’ll click it once for “any negative thoughts or feelings” related to street harassment—perhaps brought on by witnessing an incident or avoiding a certain area due to a previous one.
Forrester will also carry a notebook, in which she might draw or write about these experiences.
“We consider street harassment any unwanted attention, usually of a gendered or sexual nature, that happens while out in public space,” Forrester told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So it could be comments about appearance, invitations for attention, or it could also be kissing noises, whistling, groping. But the main characteristic is it’s unwanted.”
Forrester is a team lead for the Vancouver chapter of Hollaback, an international organization working to end street harassment. On Sunday, Hollaback Vancouver will launch What’s Your Number?, a campaign against street harassment, to coincide with the start of International Anti-Street Harassment Week.
The campaign will see 14 clickers and notebooks placed in the hands of volunteers, who will pass them on to other participants after 24 hours. For each individual, the clicker will be reset and the score recorded.
This process will continue until April 26, when the clickers and notebooks will be collected in order to put together a free art show at 436 Columbia Street on April 30.
Last fall, a Hollaback video showing one New York City woman’s experience of street harassment over 10 hours went viral. Forrester recalled that local Hollaback volunteers heard from people who said the video didn’t resemble the situation in Vancouver or their experiences.
“We really wanted to find a way for people to be able to tell us what it’s like for them as they move around Vancouver,” Forrester said. “So we decided to distribute clickers. They’re counters, like what a bouncer uses at a concert or an event.”
According to Forrester, anyone in the city is welcome to participate in the campaign. That includes cisgender men. (Qmunity’s glossary of queer terminology notes cisgender people are those who have a “gender identity that society considers to match the biological sex assigned at birth”.)
“We want to show that everyone experiences this very differently. The picture of street harassment that our app is showing us is right now the primary targets are women,” Forrester said, referring to Hollaback’s mobile apps, which allow people to record incidents of street harassment. “But we think that, by guys participating in this campaign, maybe we can really create some conversation about it.”
Forrester noted that Hollaback Vancouver has invited Mayor Gregor Robertson and local MLAs to the art show.
“I want the city to be talking about this,” she said. “I want it to bring about maybe some conversations about the different ways that people move about their city and how the impact of street harassment can limit how well people move.”
“This exists on a continuum of violence against women,” Forrester said. “There are things that are dismissed as accepted and normal, and street harassment is one of them. But it’s all a part of the same culture.”