Standing on the street with a protest sign is a new experience for me. The closest I’ve come is during high school when I participated in a sit-in to protest administration rules against wearing shorts to class in summer. We were sent back to class and the no-shorts rule remained. Although at the time we didn’t think we were successful, students nowadays have much more freedom in dress choice, so our protest may have played a role in changing things.
Generally I’m a pretty tolerant person. Although I have strong opinions on many issues, I usually do not act on my activist tendencies in a physical way, preferring to use pen and paper as my tools of protest. This past weekend, however, I found myself walking around with a crowd of neighbours holding a sign and waving at passing cars – protesting the opening of a Source Adult Video store at the end of my street. Not only does this store rent adult videos, it sells sex toys, gifts, clothing and magazines. It is also open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
My concern has nothing to do with passing moral judgement on the store itself. I consider pornography degrading to women, but I try to have a tolerant, non-judgemental attitude towards behaviours other adults choose to engage in. If consenting adults want to participate in the making or viewing of pornography, I consider it a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that people who rent adult videos are all perverts either. I’m protesting this store because I think it is in an inappropriate location, one that affects myself and family on a personal level.
I live in an older established neighbourhood, with mature trees lining the streets. The end of the street meets a thoroughfare that links to a major freeway, and that street is zoned commercial. Across the street is a small strip mall with a Shoppers Drug Mart, a Second Cup and an A & W. We have a couple small pubs in the area, convenience stores and two small liquor stores, but any major retail or commercial activities are several blocks away.
Although most of the neighbourhood consists of older homes, with many seniors and established families, it is changing. Increasingly young families are moving in, and the area is becoming revitalized by the presence of young children and teenagers. This is occurring in many older parts of Edmonton. This revitalization means homes are being torn down or renovated, and the city has recognized the need to protect the character of older neighbourhoods by placing certain development restrictions through a special inner-city zoning bylaw called “mature neighbourhood overlay.” Under this bylaw, certain new developments in older neighbourhoods are rigorously screened, and may require adjustments to height or size. More importantly, consultation with neighbours must be undertaken to ensure support. However, in the case of the video store – no consultation occurred. The first I knew of it was a few weeks ago when my daughters came home quite upset, telling me the old Boston Pizza now had a Source Adult Video store sign on top.
The bus stop is right in front of the store, and they have to cross the parking lot on their way home. They were very distressed by this. In their viewpoint they will be coming home from school every day, or at night from work or an outing with friends, and will have to walk past, and be ogled by, horny men coming to the store to rent pornography. They asked if I was going to do anything about it. I suggested that people renting adult movies are not necessarily potential rapists, but I could understand how uncomfortable this was making them. So when a neighbour dropped off a flyer suggesting we organize a protest, I was more than happy to join in.
NEXT WEEK: TAKING ACTION
Debbie is a native Edmontonian, a single parent with four daughters. She has worked as a professional musician for most of her life, and has enjoyed a rich variety of life experiences – with many more to come! Debbie is working towards an eventual doctorate in psychology, and currently serves as the president of the Athabasca University Students’ Union.