In reply to “Hey girl, let’s smash the patriarchy” by Kacper Niburski, published Jan. 16, 2014 on A8 (Posted as “Daily Dose: Feminism without women” on thesil.ca)

Ana Qarri
The Silhouette

Gentlemen, hold on to your boxers.
The idea that feminism is for everyone isn’t new. It’s not revolutionary, it did not grace the world for the first time on page A9 of the Silhouette. It’s an idea that feminists have been repeating over and over for decades. If I had a dime for every time I’ve said it, I would still be drowning in student debt, but at least I’d have enough money for a beer.

We know feminism should be for everyone. We know feminism isn’t a movement only for women. It’s because we know this that we can’t stop talking about it.

So, yes, Kacper is right. Men are and should be part of the solution. Men are important to the movement. Men should be feminists, they should be involved, they should care, because feminism is for them too.

Feminism isn’t isolated to “one gender, one lifestyle.” It’s not isolated to one way of interacting with the world. Feminism is diverse, it’s multi-dimensional and complex. Feminism takes into account so many things that a claim like that is hardly justifiable. Feminism has never attempted to alienate men. I’m not saying that there haven’t been feminists who have happened to hate men. I’m not denying that there are people – feminist or not - who will hate a group solely based on their gender. Those people exist, but they’re not really who we’re talking about when we refer to feminists. The perception of feminists as men-hating, men-blaming women is hopefully one that, as reasonable and educated individuals, we’ve all put behind us.

The first feminist that I met was my high school friend Micah. He was challenging our friends, our teachers, and our gender norms before I even knew what feminism was. He was and continues to be a supportive ally, and I love him for it. He was the reason why I felt safe calling people out on their blatant sexism, on their homophobic and slut-shaming slurs, on the idiotic teenage jokes that undoubtedly included the words “kitchen” and “sandwich” somewhere in them.

As a feminist, I’m aware how important men can be to the movement. I’m aware that men will listen more if other men are telling them that feminism isn’t just a bunch of men-hating lesbians whose mission in life is to kill off anyone who gets in their way.

Men can make great allies. They can create safe spaces for women. They can start discussions. They can reflect with their peers about how they might be perpetuating sexism. They can talk about how the current societal norms are affecting them too, how it might be affecting what’s expected of them, what their role in society is, how it’s impacting their mental health. Women should do all this too. Women can also perpetuate sexism. Everyone can. But unlike men, women don’t get the same privileges that men are born with in a patriarchal system.

Since men already have all this privilege, wouldn’t it be easier then, you might be wondering, to just let a few of these men who “get it” be in charge? Wouldn’t that solve all of our problems? Let men “lead the whole damn thing.”

After all, as Kacper put it, “If men are in charge, it often takes them to cause and want the shift in paradigms.”

But why is it that men need to be in charge to want to cause a paradigm shift? Why do we need to perpetuate just what we’re trying to tear apart? Do we really think so little of men? Do we think that they can’t appreciate a cause that they’re not leading, that they can’t make any connections and lack the critical thinking skills to understand why feminism is important even if they don’t see themselves represented in the leadership?

I do want men to walk alongside me and this “flurry of hollering and hooting women.” I don’t, however, want men to lead a movement that’s trying to empower women, trying to challenge male privilege and gender expectations. I don’t want men to be our saviours. I want them to be our allies. The male perspective is present everywhere in our society. It’s present in our literature, in our music, in our politics. So we don’t need men who will try to take over the movement. We need men who will let us speak. We need men who recognize that there are stories to share, that there are voices that have been silenced and need to be heard.

I don’t think I’ve ever met or will ever meet someone who hasn’t perpetuated sexism at some point in their life. Sexist behaviour isn’t a male-isolated phenomenon, but male privilege is.

There are a myriad of ways in which men can use their privilege to bring forth, alongside women and people of all genders, great strides of feminist development. Leading the whole damn thing, however, is not one of them.

 

Ladies, hold on to your knickers. Things are going to get messy for what follows in a pudding-like consistency is an argument for feminism without women.

Listen. I recognize I’m a male – a white one at that – and anything I say will be a shameful parade of my possibly oppressive, certainly privileged status. I will never understand the plights, the struggles, or the difficulties that riddle women daily. Please understand, though, that I’m not speaking for you or your individual experiences that I can never know. I will not make a blanket statement as if I know you. Instead in this entire piece, I’m speaking for me and speaking to what white, privileged males like myself can do in a culture that has run amok with political correctedness and blatant hypocrisies, and that fosters invisible modes of dominance and false conceptions of normality that are fads on the order of a yo-yo.

Follow me for a second. Far too often has feminism been isolated to one gender, one lifestyle, one personal form of identification: a woman. It is dressed up as a battle about women for women by women. It concerns women’s rights, women’s issues, and women’s equality. Men are not part of this system; they have caused it. They created this mess of a patriarchy. They are the problem. They are the dicks in every sense of the word.

For the most part, this is undeniable. Historical paradigms of oppression can almost always be reduced down to a few rich, white men cat-fighting about anything and everything. Yet I diametrically oppose the thought of separation, whether it is in the processes that led to feminism or those that still fuel it. Such thinking has only led to the shambled together society we find ourselves in now.

More importantly, however, is that restricting feminism to females inadvertently supports the same injustices it is trying to quell. By denying men as some part of the solution, the construction of feminism is alienating one section of the population. In pursuit of equality, it cannot be unequal. Building a basic assumption of feminism does exactly this, and worse yet, it gives men a reason to decry it as poppycock, an issue that is not important to them because it is not about them. Once steadfast and widespread, men no longer question their gender or its dominance, and the inequality spins on and on and on.

But this is wrong. If men are the problem, they are also needed as some of the first steps in a long-form solution. If men have torn the world asunder, they need to be there for the repair. In fact, they, alongside the flurry of hollering and hooting women from all of gender classifications, sexual orientations and racial identifies, need to try to lead the whole damn thing.

This might be sexist for me to say, but to battle sexism, one must first be sexist. It seems silly and arrogant to suggest, but this is an old truth: to defeat the enemy, one must know them first.

Think about feminism’s various strides. Though the irrefutable persistence of women everywhere have propelled and focused the various movements both in mainstream and smaller, local clusters, it is a few men that have helped catalyze the change that millions of women dreamed of. If men are in charge, it often takes them to cause and want the shift in paradigms. Otherwise, the first gear never moves and the whole machine doesn’t run.

I know, I know: the sentence seems like yet another man taking yet another success from women. But it is not, at least not at the the most initial stages of a movement where it takes the prime-movers to ensure sustainable, lasting change.

While this may not ostensibly be the case any longer – women are found in high corporate positions, they can often choose how they are represented in media, they have sometimes empowered their bodies and sexuality – it does not deny the importance of the claim. Allyship is not enough. We all need to fight. We all need to strive for excellence. And by accepting men as possible forces to advocate and facilitate female issues, rather than isolate them as perpetuators, one does not deny the issues importance or trivialize the concerns. In fact, the opposite occurs. Only by working together through education and dialogue can all become better.

When I suggest feminism without women, I am not talking about fe-men-ism or anything like that; I am talking about feminism for the rest of us.

I’m not speaking about the white, educated perspective; that is hogwash that has since served its time. Instead I’m talking about a Polish immigrant house mom working two jobs to feed her twin boys. I am talking about a ninety-year old Nigerian who is trying to buy a gender-neutral toy for her grandchild. I am talking about the four year old who has been told she can’t play with the boys.

But I am also talking about the boys and men everywhere who have woman dear to their lives, who are trying to help carve a way for their force, success, and experiences, and who get out of the way when its needed.

So know that this is not a white, male talking about feminism as though he understands the various, nuanced waves of suffering by millions of people. He never can. He never will.

But he is here to listen and hopefully offer a statement for us all: we cannot allow complacency to sit in. We do not need just women. That is not enough. We need men, children, elders, people of colour, of any orientation, of all faith systems and anything in between, from saints to sinners, politicians to garbage men, me to you. Because more than any one person, we need each other to fight against the world we’ve created by first tearing it apart.

Graphic by Ben Barrett-Forrest / Multimedia Editor

Em Kwissa
The Silhouette

 

I distinctly remember the last time I ever used the word “faggot.”

I was sitting in my friend’s car outside my mother’s house. As he pulled up into the driveway to drop me off he saw out his window, on the ledge beside my mother’s driveway, the big globs of wax that lay baking in the sun. He asked me who had put all that wax there, and I told him that it had been someone I knew in grade school, and he had done it many years ago but the wax had baked and frozen and baked and frozen and never gone away. Matter-of-factly, I called that boy a faggot.

My friend turned to me with one eyebrow raised in a gesture of disbelief.

“Um, hello?” he said. He didn’t have to say anything more. A few months previously, I had found out that my friend was gay.

I hadn’t intended to use the word as a slur. I didn’t mean to say that the boy who’d waxed the ledge outside my mother’s house was gay or that gay people were bad. In the school where I grew up, the word “faggot” was tossed around as a gratuitous insult. I liked it for the guttural sound of it, like “maggot.” There was a strength in the way it rolled off my tongue.

But the hurt on my friend’s face, the way he looked at me like he couldn’t believe what I had just said, changed everything about my perception of that word. I explained to him what I had meant, and he told online pharmacy viagra me it didn’t matter. The intentions behind our words rarely matter more than their consequences.

I was in grade nine. I have never used the word since.

In subsequent years, there are a number of words that I have chosen to remove from my vocabulary, and while I wouldn’t impose my rules for my language on other people, I have yet to hear an argument convincing enough to bring such words back into my life.

For many years, my mother used the word “retard,” no matter how I insisted that it was hurtful. She told me that it was a word from her childhood, and that she didn’t mean it the way people heard it.

It wasn’t until her friend’s disabled son started being called by that name in school, until her own son was identified with a learning disability, that the word started to trickle out of her mouth less and less.

Many times I have heard the argument that culture has taken words like “faggot” and “retard” and changed them to mean something different, much in the way that “literally” no longer means literally. This is an interesting argument, but the intuition that rises in response is that the change in the meaning of the word “literally” is not used to hurt people.

Today, a friend of mine stated that while he still throws the word “faggot” around occasionally, he only does it with people he knows, and who he knows won’t be offended. He censors himself much in the same way that I censor myself when I’m around his mother. I don’t say “fuck” around my friends’ parents, though you can bet I’ll sprinkle it liberally throughout my sentences when in more relaxed company.

Another interesting argument.

My counter-argument is this: People who are offended by the word “fuck” are not a minority that has been systematically oppressed. These people have not had their rights taken away and they are not at a higher risk of violence than other people.

The word “fuck” offends them because it is crude, not because it is being used to marginalize and belittle them.

The word “faggot,” on the other hand, comes from a place that has made it so that there are still parts of the world in which two people who love each other aren’t allowed to get married, among the least harmful results.

It comes from a system that has designated a certain minority as lesser than. It was created by that system to keep those people in their place. One cannot be certain that no one in present company will be offended by that word.

You don’t know which of your friends are closeted or have friends who are. You don’t know which of your friends has a learning disability or knows someone who does. Which is more important – to be hip to the lingo or to do no harm? If anyone has an argument adequately formed to convince me that one can use such words without supporting the systems of oppression from which they are born, please, let me know.

It took a lot of training for me to remove certain words from my vocabulary (I still find myself having the urge to call someone a “pussy” when they can’t kick a soccer ball), and it would be a lot less work to be able to throw words around without really needing to mean them. Until then, I continue pruning my language, difficult though it is, because there are a fuck-ton of people out there who have to deal with way worse shit than I do, and the least I can do as their ally is the work it takes not to use the same language as the people who treat them like dirt.

Making the conscious effort to improve your language in order to reflect how you actually feel about the world isn’t something that’s actually very difficult. In fact, if it’s something you see as hard, you should probably consider yourself lucky that you haven’t had harder things to deal with.

Ana Qarri
Staff Reporter

Feminism is here to destroy the patriarchy, not men.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding feminism – one of them being the idea that feminists hate men. Sure, there may be some women feminists who happen to hate men, but being a “man-hater” isn’t a requirement or value of feminism.

Feminism doesn’t aim to bring men down; it aims to viagra for women online bring women up. In fact, while advocating for women’s rights and dispelling negative gender stereotypes, feminism has also benefited men.

The idea that women are less than or inferior has, for centuries, given the “feminine” qualities that some women (and men!) possess a negative reputation. Things like caring, being sensitive and emotional, liking to dress up, wear make-up, and so on have been seen as characteristics solely and exclusively reserved for women.

By changing the way feminine qualities are perceived, less pressure is put on men not to act likes “girls,” which apparently, in our society, is the worst thing a man can be. The pressure to act the way men are supposed to act - whatever that may be - can be overwhelming.

Cases of verbal and physical violence directed at boys who weren’t perceived to fit the societal ideal of masculine have been endless, and raising little boys to become men who can’t recognize the harmful impact of this isn’t fair to anyone.

This emphasis on masculinity has created a culture of silence amongst men.

Men aren’t supposed to talk about feelings or show that they have feelings – that’s weak. Men aren’t supposed to cry in public – that’s only for girls.

With documented cases of male mental health problems rising, this has become much more obvious. The most convincing evidence of what’s being called the “silent crisis” by health professionals can be found in male suicide rates. In 2007, four of five people who had committed suicide in Canada were male. The code of silence that surrounds men’s behaviour has become a barrier that stops men from seeking the help they need, and acknowledging any mental health issues they’re experiencing.

Normalizing the discourse of well-being and self-care for men and alleviating the pressure of acting anything but feminine is just one of the many ways that feminism is creating a better society for men, too.

In addition to redefining gender and the societal expectations of what it should be, feminism also indirectly advocates for men’s rights where the patriarchy has backfired on them and created unfair situations.

One of the most well known examples is child custody. The majority of child custody cases prior to 1970 were won by women. This was mostly a result of the idealization of the mother and child bond and the shift in family structure that took place during the Industrial Revolution. In fact, before the Industrial Revolution, children were seen as property of their fathers, since women couldn’t legally own anything.

The empowerment of women through feminism has had a significant role in the continuous redefinition of parental roles (ex. making it socially acceptable to be a stay-at-home dad), which has made custody cases a determination of what’s in the child’s best interest rather than a gender-biased debate.

Problems with child custody that arise due to gender still continue today, but the push of feminism towards gender equity has definitely helped make procedures fairer than they were.

So if feminism really means “gender equity” and if it’s also important for men, then why does it have to be called feminism?

Because feminism is about empowering women, and in doing so, creates a better society for everyone.

 

Jemma Wolfe
Executive Editor

Who makes a better wife: the modern girl or the old-fashioned girl? In 1930, this was a hot topic on campus, and unsurprisingly (at least to me) the old-fashioned archetype prevailed.

Such a debate (and a formal one at that – hosted by the Women’s Debating Society) is one I initially wanted to dismiss. Who wants to take such archaic discussions about “culinary skill and budget-keeping proficiency” by “freshettes” and “sophettes” very seriously?

What’s sad, however, and what makes reflection on such seemingly outdated conversations worthwhile, is that really, not much has changed. A stunning 83 years later, we’re still talking about the same old issues. Granted, we use different language and our judgment of women has expanded beyond the criteria of cooking and financial planning. But women are still commonly expected to desire the essentials of the “old-fashioned” girl’s life: being a good wife, wanting to “bear and bring up children,” learning to cook (and being good at it), and willingly sacrificing her career for children.

It’s not that women should feel bad about questioning who they want to be, what they want out of life and what ideals they want to live by. Those are natural and critical conversations to have with oneself; but that’s just it – they’re private subjects for reflection, and are not appropriate identities to classify as either “modern” or “old-fashioned” binaries. Women’s, or rather, people’s identities are far too nuanced to be so simplified and pigeonholed.

Back in 1930, The Silhouette’s writer was careful to point out that despite their edgy discussions, “the freshettes have firm faith in the modern girl’s ability to make a perfect mate for man.” On the contrary, I have firm faith in the modern girl’s ability to see beyond society and convention and be their own person, pursue their own careers, have babies if they want them – and not be shamed if they don’t.

If they attract a man – or woman – along the way with whom they are equally enamored, then that should be seen as pleasant happenstance.

Women’s personal growth and skills are not a means to an end in marriage. I hope that in 2013, we can put this thinking to rest.

 

Ana Qarri
The Silhouette

Queer and trans* topics rarely come up in my class discussions (which is an issue for another day), but often when they do, I find that I voluntarily take on the role of makeshift educator.

generic viagra soft tabs

Just recently in one of my tutorials, someone brought up the Belgian man who was granted permission for euthanasia after an unsatisfactory sex change surgery. What followed could be described as a very awkward, uncomfortable silence and a few unpleasant reactions.

A lot of people aren’t necessarily as exposed to discussions surrounding topics of gender and sexual diversity as I am, which is why I will often reluctantly excuse and overlook these signs of prejudice and ignorance.

While rude and offensive, these moments serve as reminders that there’s still work to do, awareness to raise and people to educate.

I know that a lot of people in the Queer community and other marginalized groups don’t hold the same view about the process of educating privileged folks. I completely understand this perspective; having to constantly repeat your story, the same information; the same facts that are easily accessible online can become frustrating. Sometimes you wish people would take the time to learn about issues that don’t directly affect them.

Unfortunately, as we all probably know, this isn’t the case for most individuals who are privileged in one way or another (myself included with respect to certain privileges I hold).

Becoming an ally to a group is an extensive process – one that never really ends. As someone who isn’t experiencing what the people you’re supporting are experiencing, your activism looks different from theirs.

The process will definitely consist of a lot of mistakes, especially at the start. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and for some people it may be that time they spent five seconds listening to the uncomfortable silence of their tutorial room.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt during the first few moments of this “process.” Even if I was offended by the reactions, the eye-rolls and the sounds of confusion, I don’t like to point fingers or start yelling (at least not right away).

Privileged people have spent their whole life in a society that has taught them that things are a certain way, and I think expecting a two-second paradigm shift to take place isn’t realistic.

That’s why I like to begin the process by educating. Some people are very receptive, and others not so much.

And I think it’s at this point, after I’ve attempted to educate someone on issues they aren’t familiar with, that I can begin to make the distinction between those who have good intentions and are trying to be allies, and those who don’t. The latter, of course, can be incredibly unnerving, and it can be another reason why members of marginalized communities don’t like having the burden of educating privileged people placed on them.

However, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between well-intentioned folks who might be asking ignorant questions in the process of learning, and those are intentionally offending and refusing to learn/unlearn.

That’s not to say that members of marginalized groups owe anyone any sort of education. In the end, it’s up to the person and not the entire community. Everyone has different experiences with oppression, activism and advocacy, and educating should never be an individual responsibility.

So when someone is talking about a group of people you’re not very familiar with, listen. When you hear terms you’ve never heard before, try to remember them. If someone is getting up the courage to educate a room full of strangers on a topic they’re intimately familiar with, respect them.

These aren’t hard rules to follow, and can make the discussion have a positive tone, while also making the burden of the educating that a lot of marginalized people feel obligated to provide much more bearable.

Sophia Topper
The Silhouette

Women are either stupid, or bitches.

Let’s start with the second option. Try walking down the street with your mother. You pass a man on the corner who calls something out. He sounds aggressive, so you don’t respond. He follows you for two blocks, shouting at you. You’re so stuck up. So rude.

Such a bitch.

You blame yourself. If you had just said hi, maybe he wouldn’t have followed you. If you had only smiled, maybe he wouldn’t have humiliated you in front of your family. Next time, you’ll be nice.

One day, you’re walking to the library. It’s a Thursday at 11 p.m. You’re about to cut through the student centre when a seemingly friendly guy asks if you’re going out tonight. Tell him that you wish you were, but you’re heading to the library. He says he’s sad. He doesn’t know anyone. He wants someone to hang out with. This makes you sad too, because in this option, you aren’t a bitch. You’re nice this time. You invite him to walk to the library with you. His face lights up, and he agrees.

He begins to walk, guiding you through the alley next to MUSC. You’re slightly caught off-guard, but assume that this way is faster. After all, you’re a frosh who’s only been on campus for two weeks. You go through the usual welcome week questions: what’s your name, your hometown, your faculty, your year. His answers surprise you. You think he says an upper year, but you aren’t sure, his accent is hard to parse. He begins to ask you questions. They aren’t the standard welcome week questions. Do you have a boyfriend? You look around. You’re lost. It’s dark.

Of course you do, you reply. Your guard is finally up. Yeah, he goes to Mac. No, you’d never cheat on him. You crane your neck, looking for something you recognize or a building that seems open. He asks you another question. This time you can’t parse it. He awaits an answer. You offer a quiet ‘uh huh’, which apparently invites him to grab your waist. His other hand clamps onto the back of your head, and cigarette ash falls into your hair. His mouth presses against yours, and his stubble scratches your cheek. You freeze. An eternity later, he breaks away. He asks you if you can feel it. No. He says he can, and his hand moves south. You stride away. He doesn’t follow.

When you finally reach the library, you walk over to your table of friends, and ask if anyone has mouthwash. Gum would do. Maybe mints? They are perplexed, and you head to the bathroom. A girl follows you. You lean over the stained sink and splash water onto your face and into your mouth. You tell her what happened. She asks how you could be so naïve.

So stupid.

You wash your own mouth out with soap.

Women can’t win. We’re expected to be nice and polite, friendly and welcoming. “How’s it going, girl?” from the guy leaning on the bus shelter. If you respond, you’re encouraging it. You’re engaging. You’re asking for whatever comes next. We’re expected to ‘protect ourselves’. But who are we protecting ourselves from?

We should be safe making friends on our own campus. We should be safe exchanging a few pleasantries while we wait for the bus. We should be able to be as guarded or as friendly as we like, without worrying about the repercussions.

Cassandra Jeffery
The Silhouette

Ladies, it’s about time we have a serious conversation about gender equality.

There’s a certain issue that I’ve been trying to rack my brain around for quite some time now, and the finger to blame is on us women. Well, the first finger anyways. I’m sure as women we’ve all felt the bitter sting of sexist oppression in one form or another at some point in our lives. And even in the name of progression, unfortunately, I’m sure we will continue to feel the wrath of sexism for decades to come. As much as I dislike the way that society makes me feel as a woman, I absolutely hate the way other women in society can make me feel. As women, we can be the worst perpetrators of sexism and frankly, I’m already fighting one class of gender difference, I don’t have the energy to defend myself from girl-girl sexism.

I can guarantee we’ve all experienced and took part in a form of woman shaming. Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m a saint because though I have been the shamed, I admit I have also been the shamer on various occasions. Only now that I’ve received a certain level of education in women’s rights and a little more experience with age, can I say that I try to be a good feminist and stay away from shaming other women. Just think back to all of the times you commented on a woman’s weight (friend or not). How many times have you referred to a woman’s attire or sex life (presumed or not) with words like ‘slut’ or ‘whore’? When’s the last time you judged a woman based solely on what she looks like? Or, on the flip side, when’s the last time you referred to yourself as a slut because in your mind, because you think you’ve slept with one too many people? Not only is there woman-woman shaming, but we shame ourselves as well. And of course, we understand women’s identity primarily with how we understand society. Society implies women are to act a certain way, especially within the realm of sexuality, so we subconsciously follow suit. For example, how many times have you heard this scenario:

Girl discussing a date—“I went on a date last night with (add random name here) and we ended up sleeping together. But I completely wanted to and they’re only the 5th person I’ve ever been with so at least I’m nowhere near the double digits yet. I’m not like (add other, most likely woman’s, name here). She’s been with 15 people. I’m not that slutty.”

There are so many things wrong with a statement like this I don’t know where to being. First up, why do we always feel the need to justify to ourselves and to others why we were intimate with someone? In my opinion, your sexuality is exactly that: yours! If you’re comfortable, happy and consenting then why does it matter if your “number” is 2, 5 or 35? What might feel right for one woman in terms of sexuality may be completely different for another so let’s please lay off the slut shamming. We don’t allow and appreciate when men refer to us as “sluts” so why is okay for us to shame another woman for her personal sex life?

Women need to start becoming more encouraging to one another. As I’ve said earlier, we’re already facing oppression in society and we need that support and reassurance from other women in order to make solid progress. It’s about time we started to compliment and acknowledge the accomplishments (whether large or small) that other women make. I’m tired of hearing women say “well, she only got that promotion because of [insert angry accusation here].”

Enough.

One of the biggest issues I have with women is the constant weight-shamming culture that continues to exist despite our efforts to promote the ideology of beauty at whatever size. We’ve become big on this idea that curves are sexy but it seems there is a certain ratio quota to meet “curviness.” In a blog post by bellejarblog entitled “10 signs that feminism may not be for you,” the author writes, “you think that there might be a type of body-shaming that is acceptable.” Never in any case is it okay to shame another woman based on her body. We have to remember that we all have bodily autonomy. We choose how to maintain our bodies and it isn’t for anyone else to judge based on our choices. We can push both extremes of the situation; of course you would be concerned if a friend suffered from an eating disorder. It is unhealthy to either be much too thin or obese however we are still not in the right to judge based on such cases.

 

Here’s where the support part comes in. Be a good friend, listen and offer support, but never judgment. Bodily autonomy applies to self-maintenance as well. A women’s choice to grow or shave her body hair is exactly that, a choice. We can choose to have plastic surgery and we can certainly choose whether or not we have children. We must respect the choices of other women despite our own beliefs and opinions. It is her body and her choices, no one else’s. Shaming a woman for her choices only reiterates the gender hierarchy already implicated in society. So I’d say it’s about time we start supporting and encouraging the very people who make up our feminist movement.

Sauder School of Business at UBC was graffitied in response to the pro-rape chant being lead during frosh orientation week. C/O Reddit

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Saint Mary’s University and University of British Columbia frosh week rape chant debacle. And, if you’re a decent human being, you’re probably also appalled by it.

In short, frosh orientation leaders at the two universities (that is, the two universities it has surfaced at so far) have come under fire for a cheer that goes, “Y is for your sister, O is for oh-so-tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass.” It’s inappropriate, inexcusable, and frankly, inhuman. But that we already know.

What has come under less fire is how the media, the universities, and the students involved have handled the whole situation. That’s where my beef is.

To start, this article is one of only a few newspaper pieces you’ll find that actually puts into print all the verses of the chant. Most condense it, and only include excerpts – strange to me, considering it’s a whopping 26 words long. They usually eliminate the “oh so tight” part, perhaps to avoid offending readers (and yet is that not the whole point that this is really offensive?), which becomes convenient when they then water-down their adjectives to the stuff of mere “sexist chant” instead of acknowledging the vaginal violence that phrase indicates: rape.

Indeed, the National Post ran the shockingly forgiving headline “Saint Mary’s University student president apologizes for ‘sexist’ frosh chant that critics say ‘reinforces rape culture’”. So we’re relying on critics to confirm that that disgusting string of words is, in fact, offensive? And what is with those scare-quotes? Is the National Post so insecure in its values that it has to only tentatively identify that the chant ‘reinforces rape culture’? Grow up, NP, and tell it like it is.

The Globe and Mail, too, published, “Frosh video cheering on non-consensual sex is ‘sexist and offensive,’ Saint Mary’s University says.” Let me make something clear right now: sexism is stuff like believing women are worse drivers than men by the mere fact of their gender. Sexism is by no means harmless, but it’s not on the violent level of this rape promotion. This frosh chant goes way beyond sexism, and to reduce it to that is to belittle the severity of the situation.

Enough with the “non-consensual sex” language, too. Rape is rape. Let’s not dilute the violence of that word by smothering it with “non-consensual” euphemisms. Doing so decreases the urgent sense of violence and pain that the term “rape” appropriately connotes, and disrespects the countless victims of this horrible crime whose experiences are downgraded by such rhetoric.

Enough, too, with all this talk of sensitivity training. The people who chanted the rape cheer were fully aware that it was wildly inappropriate – it’s common sense. No amount of university-administered sensitivity training or bringing in bullying professionals (the actual response at SMU) will awaken them to something they already know, or solve the deep-seated indifferent misogyny that perpetuated the chant’s continuing presence at so many years’ frosh events.

What does need to happen is to hold students more accountable for their actions – upper-year coordinators and first years alike. It shouldn’t have taken days for the Saint Mary’s student’s union president – who led the cheer, among others – to step down. He should have been fired - immediately. The schools shouldn’t be promising to “investigate the incidents”; the frosh leaders involved should be suspended, and maybe even expelled.

Consequences need to apply to the youngest people involved, too. First year students are, on average, 18 years old. They are legal adults who can vote, can drive, and have achieved secondary school grades high enough for admission into a university-level institution. So I don’t care about group mentalities, or how impressionable these young adults are. They are autonomous, intelligent individuals who have no excuse for singing along, for not blowing the whistle sooner on this chant, and who then grow up to become frosh leaders who propagate this whole cycle.

I’ve never heard anything like that cheer at McMaster, and I hope I never will. But I won’t be surprised to hear about more students criticizing and publicizing similarly violent and vulgar experiences at other universities after this coast-to-coast reveal. For in a country where our media sugarcoats, our administration band-aids, and our students deny responsibility, where's the pressure for this culture to change?

View the full video that kickstarted this whole discussion, here:

[youtube id="SMY9Tqxz-Ec" width="620" height="360"]

 

“I get that it’s important to teach rapists not to rape, I mean yeah, that’s great,” I overheard someone say the other day and thought to myself, okay, yes, good we’re all agreed, until they continued on to say, “but I just don’t get why we can’t also teach women how to not get raped. I mean, it’s not like they’re mutually exclusive.” At this point my jaw opened and my brain shut. I said nothing, but I should have. As I was relaying this to a friend later on, she offered the term “esprit d’escalier” to express what I was feeling. Which was the perfect term to describe it, though I am glad I did not literally experience this in a stairwell, lest I’d throw myself down it.

Let’s go chronologically, here. First, we have the statement, “it’s important to teach rapists not to rape”. Right, yes I’m on board, obviously, with this sentiment. I’m talking campaigns like Don’t Be That Guy and other, including non-gender specific, campaigns that make it clear that if you are having sex with someone without their freely given and enthusiastic consent, you are committing rape. Yes means yes. Anything else means no.

Good, all right, that’s out of the way. Next, we had the question of “why we can’t also teach women how to not get raped.” Well, what does that look like? From what I’ve experienced, this teaching looks like being told to avoid certain streets at night, to be aware of what message my clothing is sending, to not drink too much. All this despite the fact that about 80% of sexual assault happens in the survivor’s home, despite the fact that the most common outfit survivors report to have been wearing is jeans and a tee-shirt, despite the fact that more rapists have reported being under the influence of alcohol than survivors have.

What this teaching does is place the onus on potential victims, rather than potential perpetrators. This is why we still get people asking, “well what was she wearing?” and “was she drunk?” Pretty straightforward victim blaming. These kinds of widespread teachings just support harmful systems and thought processes, for those involved directly, and indirectly, in sexual assault. It can serve to reinforce feelings of guilt many survivors experience, and restrict them from accessing important resources and support.

So you see, Person I Overheard, there are a few more things to consider on this matter than whether or not these teachings are “mutually exclusive”. Which, I mean, is logistically fair enough. We could also teach people how to build sandcastles at the same time as we hand out tiny bulldozers and point out flaws in sandcastle construction techniques.

Teaching people not to rape and supporting harmful ways of thinking about rape, though not impossible, is kind of like hosting your sandcastle-building seminar in the middle of the ocean.

This is what I should have said.

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