Though I am about as much of a dentist as I am a squirrel, the Dalhousie Dentistry scandal cannot be ignored, even by a humble B.F.A, such as myself. Of course, I was outraged by the misogynistic nature of a Facebook page that was created for the express purpose of debasing women within the dentistry program. However, the first thought that ran through my mind wasn't outrage over their sexist remarks.
"Boys will be boys" and "it's just guy talk" are expressions that we need to erase from our vocabulary as a justification for some men's blatantly inappropriate behaviour toward women. This week, we saw disturbing events at Dalhousie University's Dental School involving comments of a sexual nature and those suggesting sexual violence against women, posted on a social media site. Response to the incident ranges from condemnation to commentators justifying the action of the male students on the basis that this was "just guy talk."
"It's the way these girls dress Manju -- it's just an invitation for a man to come on over and rape them." I was 16 years old, lounging on the front steps and listening to my mom chat with our neighbour about a rape case dominating the local news cycle. As they spoke, I saw my mom's worried eyes repeatedly dart over to me and anxiously frown. A couple of months later my family moved and I never saw or spoke with that neighbour again. But oddly, I thought of her often. It was neighbour Brenda who once again came to mind when I decided to share my experience in the Huffington Post about being sexually assaulted by Jian Ghomeshi.
When you're a woman, tone policing is rampant. Amid the hate and abuse, we are expected to stay as calm and eloquent as possible. Our justified rage is always attributed to over-sensitivity, hormones, or PMS-ing. We are treated as emotional, not intellectual beings, when the truth is we are emotional AND intellectual beings. Intellect without emotion is dead inside. There's a whopping double standard regarding tone between men and women (and of course others along the gender binary and non-binary folk). Men who are angry are passionate and driven. Women who are passionate and driven are just angry.
Today is International Men's Day, so let's join hands today and celebrate all that men have done for the world. Wow, I couldn't even type that with a straight face. But International Men's Day? Seriously? Every day is International Men's Day, or really International Cisgender Men's Day. Every day the achievements of men are celebrated. Every day their innovations are hailed. What's next? International White People Day? International Heterosexual Day? I'm sure some of you would love that.
Girls like me are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Our critiques about, let's say, the misogyny within our community are so often co-opted by white Eurocentric feminism as a kind of "see, look, the oppressed brown women need us!" And at the same time, I don't want to silence myself from critiquing by own community just because I'm scared that some white feminists may twist my words.
"Innocent until proven guilty" is a criminal law concept used in conjunction with the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to guarantee an important legal doctrine: it's better for guilty people to go free than infringe the liberty of the innocent. This high threshold isn't used in civil action, where judges decide guilt on the balance of probabilities standard. And it certainly isn't required in Facebook or any public forum of debate. There may be two different accounts of the same incident; that's OK. Trust me when I say, there is no need to Columbo such a situation.
As the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre approaches, it is interesting to reflect upon the evolution of gun control and the government's approach to questions of gun violence and misuse. However, ensuring a safer environment for women -- and for society in general -- requires more than official recognition of sexism or any other so-called justification as an invalid reason for violence.
David Letterman recently hosted Parks and Recreation actor Aziz Ansari on his show who beautifully summed up what it means to be a feminist. I think even those Hollywood girls who won't call themselves a feminist will agree with this analogy: "You're a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert and you're not like, 'I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 per cent less money than Jay Z. Also I don't think Beyoncé should have the right to vote and why is Beyoncé singing and dancing -- shouldn't she make Jay a steak?"
Trish Kelly, a prominent member of Vancouver activism and a self-described sex-positive" and "queer" resigned her nomination as a candidate for park board in the city's upcoming municipal election, because of the surfacing of a humorous and risqué Fringe Festival video she made about masturbation from way back in 2006. As a male, I struggle with the guilt that something like that would not be nearly as damaging to my public figure.
Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette is proposing a private member's bill that will institute a quota system that will mandate that 40 per cent of all corporate board members must be female. Gender quotas result in good numbers on paper, but that's about all they do for the advancement of women. In reality, gender quotas simply reinforce tokenism and push the sexist belief that women somehow aren't "good enough" to earn power on their own.
Abercrombie & Fitch has been peddling billboards of apparently-naked men for decades and it seemed to work okay. American Apparel shocked and titillated with its early campaigns: using sex appeal to sell such sundry basics as t-shirts and socks. My theory? BAD sex doesn't sell. And this is one similarity between the porn and fashion industries.
Sexism is beyond male ignorance. It is a cultural problem that we all must confront every day, at work, at home and everywhere else. As a lawyer and a Senator who is currently tabling a bill (Bill S-217) designed to increase gender equality in the private sector's leadership, I cannot stand by and be silent. I find it extremely perplexing that the government's Minister of Justice believes that gender equality is not his concern. It is unacceptable for a Minister of Justice to be ignorant of the injustice of sexism.
"Our patios are like national parks. Huge and filled with cougars." This is Jack Astor's latest brilliant burst of marketing genius. Cougar: An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man. Now here's the term for older men who date younger women for casual sex. They're called... men. The term 'cougar' is so derogatory, ageist and sexist, it baffles me that some women use with it pride. Jack Astor's logo is an ass. As in a donkey's ass. I've never felt any which way about the company, but after today, I feel like that logo suits them perfectly.
We've never met, but I read your open letter to Nazanin Afshin-Jam in the Globe and Mail. As you may have heard, there is a very unfortunate trend in the media to go after the spouse of a politician for something that politician did or said. This disturbing trend almost universally applies to wives only. Why is that?
American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney, was ousted from his very own company spread like wildfire this morning. And it was predictably greeted with major glee among most of my feminist friends, who've had enough with this guy's gag-inducing sexist marketing campaigns, as well as his own personal conduct with employees. I still have no intention of ever purchasing anything from them in the future. Ousting Dov Charney may have been the right decision to make, American Apparel executive board members, but that's not why you finally got rid of him.
Creating a society where all men respect women starts in the home. Boys look up to the adult males in their lives. With Father's Day approaching, dads are realizing the power they have to make a difference. We can't fight the violence until all men respect women as equals. And this Father's Day, changing men's attitudes starts with dad.
Dear Tom McLaughlin And Joshua Sealy-Harrington: We need to talk about your recent article in the Globe and Mail about being "silenced" based on gender. First of all, let's get a few things straight here: You are not being silenced. Yes, sometimes your opinions will be discounted because of your identity -- because you know what? In the context of social justice, lived experience trumps everything else every time.