• Stuart Benson

The boys aren’t alright and the girls are sick of it

Girls speak out about harassment at Wakefield skatepark


The tricky thing about blind spots, especially as a journalist, is sometimes you need someone else to point out what you’ve missed.


Twelve-year-old Mairi Gillis’s letter to The Low Down (“Kids are alright is really guys,” April 21 edition), had a simple criticism about this reporter’s story, “The kids are alright,” which was published in the April 7 edition: “I was just wondering if you had asked any women or girls how they felt while at the skatepark, and if you had, why weren’t they included in your article?”


Mairi Gillis(middle) and Anabellla Douglas wanted to make sure The Low Down included all perspectives in its reporting on the Centre Wakefield La Pêche skatepark, and shared their experiences of being harassed, catcalled, and bullied by the older boys and young men with reporter Stuart Benson. Zoom screenshot
Mairi Gillis(middle) and Anabellla Douglas wanted to make sure The Low Down included all perspectives in its reporting on the Centre Wakefield La Pêche skatepark, and shared their experiences of being harassed, catcalled, and bullied by the older boys and young men with reporter Stuart Benson. Zoom screenshot

All reporters should do their best to ensure every legitimate perspective on a story is heard from in their reporting, which is why it was important to speak with Gillis and get to the bottom of everything she had pointed out that this reporter had missed.


Gillis and her 11-year-old classmate, Anabella Douglas, who both attend Wakefield Elementary School, spoke to this reporter online on April 25, and said they still go to the skatepark at Centre Wakefield La Pêche around three times a week, but the behaviour of the boys – many of them much older – not only makes them feel uncomfortable, but unwanted.


Gillis and Douglas describe being catcalled, ogled, and harassed by many of the boys at the park, including having their personal property stolen or being the subject of sexually derogatory comments.


Douglas described her younger, nine-year-old sister’s experience, where she recently felt unsafe at the park after an older boy approached her and began making inappropriate comments and “moaning at her.”


“It was uncomfortable for her,” Douglas explained. “She still goes, but doesn't feel it's as safe and welcoming as it used to be.”


Anyone who read Gillis’ letter on April 21 should find it unsurprising to hear that she and her friends have not been silent when they are being harassed or bullied by the older boys. She said their protests, however, are continually ignored.


“There are older guys that come up to me for my Snapchat or phone number, and if you say, ‘No, I don't know you,’ they keep on asking,” Gillis explained. “They don't take ‘no’ for an answer."


Gillis and Douglas both agreed that they doubt the boys who are harassing the girls at the skatepark will listen to them, but are hopeful that the other boys who know better, but have remained silent until now, might help change that.


“I feel like they think [the harassment] is cool, so they keep doing it, but if one of their close friends decided they weren't going to do it or laugh at it, they would all follow,” Douglas suggested. “I know some boys don't like it, but they don't stand up to it; they stay quiet.”


“If their friends stood up and said to stop, they would listen,” Gillis added.


Gillis and Douglas said they will still continue to go to the skatepark, but all of the smoking, catcalling, and foul language directed at them sometimes makes it seem like they shouldn’t skate there.


“We don't feel welcome when those things are happening,” Douglas said. “They're not even acknowledging how we feel. They don't care, and it makes us feel unwanted.”