Monday, 16 October 2017


In the wake of the obviously long-overdue exposé of the horrendous behaviour of Harvey Weinstein, many high-profile women in the entertainment field have been tagged to weigh in by various news agencies, particularly the New York Times.

Canadian actor-director Sarah Polley was one, actor Mayim Bialik was another. I choose these two out of the many others because both have been involved in the entertainment industry for most of their lives. And their op-eds in The Times took very different tacks.

Ms. Polley took the system that protects predatory behaviour to task, Ms. Bialik said she chooses to protect herself by "...(dressing) modestly. I don't act flirtatiously with men as a policy". To my mind, she also appeared to suggest that ugly girls/women aren't targets.

A lot of people are - justifiably to my thinking - angry with her. As one of those ugly women, I can assure her that she's wrong.

The stalker I had at university was the older brother of a classmate. He was meeting the brother at school and I had thanked him for holding a door open - that's it. For the remainder of the school year, he would suddenly appear around campus in places where he knew I'd show up, despite not being a student. Then he somehow got my phone number.

I started university in the 1970s, no internet in every pocket, and this was pre- Theresa Saldana / Rebecca Shaeffer; stalking wasn't considered to be threatening, much less dangerous or criminal.

When I realized that the Paul Cooper on the phone was not the same Paul Cooper from the model United Nations committee, I told him not to call me ever again. To his credit, he didn't - but then I started getting letters.

Which meant he had my address.

He wrote long, rambling letters about being a born-again christian and how he "knew" that god had ordained me for him and that I would get a sign when the time was right.

People told me he had a crush and to forget about it. The campus police said they could do little to stop him, which is true when you consider the size and location of the downtown campus of the University of Toronto. They also thought he had a harmless crush, but I was frightened, and my boyfriend, friends, and other classmates ensured I was never alone walking around the campus, especially on those dark winter afternoons when I went from Hart House to the arena on The Philosophers' Walk.

The letters continued and I would simply "return to sender". Shortly after the holiday break, my beloved Hank was diagnosed with cancer and left school. But my classmates continued to surround me in a protective bubble for the remainder of the school year and the letters eventually stopped, though I would sometimes see Paul lurking at the corners where he thought he wouldn't be noticed.

Hank died that summer, and I returned to school in September broken in spirit. Three weeks into the school year, the incident occurred.

Following a class, I went to lunch at the Trinity College cafeteria with a group of friends - waiting for me was Paul with a massive bunch of flowers in hand.

He was bubbling over with happiness - Hank had died and this was the sign from god that I was meant to be with him, surely I had to see that.

There, in the middle of a room packed with 200 people, I started screaming and screaming as the impact of his words hit me. He dropped the flowers and ran only to be stopped by other students, while my friends tended to me and others contacted campus police.

This time, he was escorted off the premises and warned not to come back unless he had genuine business.

All I had done was say "thank you", nothing else.

I could tell you other stories; of the man that I went to work for as a summer temp the next year, who had the agency replace me without letting me know so that he could ask me out. On a Monday morning, I walked into the office to find someone else sitting at my desk, and he was waiting for me, wearing a new suit, sporting a new haircut. They didn't know my grandfather had died 2 days before and my family thought it would be good for me to go to work that day.

Or of the man that had a serious mental illness that worsened over the course of the year I knew him, and how no one took me seriously about the assaults because he was my boyfriend and had a key to my house. It wasn't until he caused a scene somewhere else and was coming to my place to "get" me that the police did anything - and even then, I had to phone a friend who worked for CSIS to get someone to come to my house. To the credit of the Toronto Police, when this came to court, they formed a protective bubble around me and I have never forgotten their kindness that day.

I am fortunate that I don't remember details about the assaults and that I had a wonderful psychiatrist who told me that I didn't have to remember in order to heal like so many people said.

He was fortunate that he had rich parents who could pay for his problems to go away, and that he was blessed with a ridiculously handsome face that helped. Like the probation officer that I called after he contacted me in violation of a court order. She didn't believe that a man "who looks like that" could be guilty of everything in his file. I called her supervisor and got him assigned to a male probation officer.

I am not attractive, I am not flirtatious, I did not invite these actions - these men did what they wanted, how I felt was not a matter of consideration. This is the mindset of the abuser/harasser - they will have what *they* want, PERIOD.

Any suggestion that dressing, speaking, looking, or behaving in a certain manner will protect you from this is WRONG! PERIOD!

And having the suggestion come from someone who uses their credentials as a scientist as proof of their feminist bona fides makes it even worse.

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