I don’t feel safe going out in Sackville. I am not alone in feeling this way: like me, several female students I have talked to have had negative experiences with sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour on nights out in town.
Following a particularly negative experience in which I was groped by a stranger at a local bar, I felt as though there was a lack of appropriate avenues to express my concerns or pursue solutions. When I tried to take action by disclosing the incident, I do not feel as though my concerns were taken seriously. I felt defeated in my efforts to resolve an issue that would continue to put other patrons at risk. Sexual assault itself makes victims feel violated and unsafe, while the systemic barriers that hinder victims’ ability to obtain support make the experiences even more disheartening.
Mount Allison students should be able to feel safe at bars in town. Generally, the environment of these spaces is such that sexual assault and violence are risk factors for women. The fact that the protection of female patrons is not prioritized at all of the nightlife venues in Sackville is unacceptable.
A person who doesn’t value a woman’s autonomy over her own body or her right to consent is a person who should be removed immediately from a nightlife establishment. From my experiences, this is often not the case.
When I felt that my safety at a bar was not prioritized, I left in tears, feeling dejected, helpless and scared. Violating a woman’s consent, whether it’s in a bar, a library, or in your own home, is sexual assault — a crime. Seemingly small acts have the ability to make victims feel vulnerable, embarrassed and violated. I no longer have any interest in going out to places where I feel unsafe.
In light of the danger to women that is often present in nightlife spaces, particularly in a university setting like Sackville, I believe that Club P’s recent Facebook marketing for an event titled “Ladies Night,” which has since been cancelled, was disrespectful and inappropriate.
The event description, before it was amended and apologized for on the Club P Facebook page, read: “Being a girl is hard. Club P wants to reward women for taking that extra challenge every day. Ladies get drinks at half-price until 1 a.m.! You go girls, you’re HOT!”
The sexist tone and wording of this event description is exceptionally offensive. There is a condescending attitude toward female oppression as well as an affirmation of the notion that a woman’s value should be measured by her desirability.
When female students took to Facebook to express their opposition to this event, the Club P Facebook page initially refused to discuss its intentions behind the event, responding “No” to students who asked to have the event taken down or renamed. This blatant disrespect of women’s concerns is both ironic and depressing given that the discussions concerned an event called “Ladies Night.”
More work is needed to make bars in university settings safer spaces for women, given the increased risk they face on nights out. Venues need to adjust their business practices and policies to make the safety of their patrons their top priority. All people should feel that they will be respected and feel safe, and that the staff will react quickly and appropriately to their serious concerns.
Given Sackville’s limited nightlife scene, women should not have to be put at risk of sexual violence when they choose to go out. It’s time that we listen seriously to the concerns of women and take the appropriate action to turn nightlife venues into safe spaces.