Toronto Sun

Thursday, July 8, 1999

Kickin' Vixen won't back down

By MICHELE MANDEL
Toronto Sun

The woman now dubbed the Kickin' Vixen has no regrets about decking one of seven wolf-whistlers who was hounding her the other night.

After years of being harassed by catcalls, taunts about every part of her anatomy and then obscenities when she told them off, Corinne Branigan finally decided to bring these prehistoric dinosaurs into the 1990s with a punch in the nose and swift kick where it counts.

And for fulfilling many a woman's fantasy, the 30-year-old actress is set to appear in court Aug. 19 on assault charges.

"Any psychologist would tell you that when you're harassed over and over and over again on a continual basis, you will snap," the reluctant heroine said over herbal tea yesterday. "I've tried other ways. I've tried ignoring them. I've tried laughing at them. I've tried just giving them the finger. I've tried it all and nothing makes me feel any better.

"What would make me feel better is walking down the street without being pointed out or humiliated."

It's not difficult to understand why she has been the object of attention: She's a beautiful woman, with curly dark hair, huge brown eyes, a lithe dancer's body. She has nothing against compliments, even an admiring whistle would just bring a smile. It's the obscenities, it's the wolf whistles, it's being treated like a piece of meat that she can't handle.

Which brings us to Monday night.

Not that it should matter, but she was wearing a floral one-piece bathing suit and white shorts, pretty standard attire for the hottest day on record. She was on her way to the laundromat down her new street when a group of seven young guys started calling out at her.

They began with "hello," she recalled, which sounds innocent enough until she explains that they must have said it about a hundred times, hissing it over and over again, becoming increasingly hostile when she refused to answer.

And when she finally did tell them that she didn't have to reply, they unleashed a barrage of foul-mouthed insults.

"I couldn't believe it was happening again," Branigan said. She had just moved to the area to get away from exactly this kind of taunting in her old Parkdale neighbourhood. One man in her building used to follow her on to the elevator and alternate between sexual innuendoes and obscenities. Men on Queen St. continually would catcall her, taunt her, even stand in her path. When she'd give them the finger or tell them to leave her alone, they'd turn abusive. She thought moving to Wright Ave. meant she had left that all behind.

It was after 11 p.m. and she was on her way home with her laundry when she spotted the same seven guys in the school yard across from her apartment. Most of us would have walked on by. She decided it was a perfect opportunity to set them straight on how she wanted to be treated by her new neighbours.

"I said, 'You see that house across the street, that's where I live. When you see me walking down the street, you won't be yelling at me. You won't be swearing at me. You'll leave me alone.' "

All of which must have just killed those punks, this strong woman standing up to them, telling them to show a little human decency. The whole pack began screaming at her then, she said, and one picked up a broken beer bottle. "I was enraged. This was three years of constant abuse. Something had to give after so many years."

And what gave was a mean right hook and a swift kick between the legs from this woman who stands 5-foot-5 and 118 pounds.

"I don't go around looking for fights and I don't approve of fighting," insists Branigan, who admits that she has done this before, though she's never been charged until now. "But you know how in school, when there were bullies waiting for you on your way home day after day and your parents told you that you have to fight back so they'll stop? That's what I have to do. There's only so much you can take."

Now Branigan dismisses those of us who would advise her to control her anger and simply cross the street or ignore the louts rather than putting herself in danger, not to mention the court system. But she's happy the victim's mother called police and vows not to back down.

"I'm sick of walking around hiding," Branigan said fiercely. "I'm not going to run away meekly any more. I'm not going to take the long way home any more. I'm not afraid of doing what I have to do to walk alone in peace on my own street."

Even if that means being charged with assault.

And yes, we all know in our heads that violence is never the answer. Still, you've got to know that there are women everywhere cheering her on with a collegial 'You go, girl.'


Michele can be reached by e-mail at mmandel@sunpub.com.
Letters to the editor should be sent to editor@sunpub.com.

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.