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I breathed a sigh of relief Sunday night. Leonardo DiCaprio has officially received his Oscar. You may have seen the deluge of memes, gifs, and video compilations all protesting his lack of Academy recognition. I have never seen the Internet collectively want something so badly. “Please God,” I said, eyes skyward, “let this be the last I hear about how mean the Academy has been to little Leo.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think DiCaprio is a brilliant actor, but in a year that the Oscars have been boycotted for being unapologetically and overwhelmingly white, all the fanfare surrounding one white dude left a bad taste in my mouth. Now that we can all sleep soundly knowing Leo has finally made his parents proud, the time has come to stop praising white guys for things that the rest of us do without fanfare. Here to help is my list of five places to start:

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1) Winning awards

Yeah, we get it. White guys are good at being awarded stuff. When almost everyone winning an award looks pretty much the same, why are we still excited over a predictable result? Things may be looking up; I take solace in the fact that the proposed scholarship intended for white heterosexual people at the University of Western and the University of Windsor was struck down by the Ontario Superior Court last week. Progress.

2) Stay at home dads

Or for that matter, Dads who help with parenting at all. You do not get brownie points for doing things that women have been obliged to do for centuries. Frankly, I don’t care if you are overcoming gender stigma to be an effective parent, because you are not the only one doing so (see also: single mothers). Dads who change diapers are not heroes for dealing with the same crap we do.

3) Embracing their dad bods

Look, I am all for body positivity. Regardless of who you are, you deserve to feel happy in your skin. However, I am pissed that when people of color and women accept (or even dare to celebrate) their appearances it is considered egotistical and vain, while when white dads do it, it is amusing and charming. Congratulations on inviting yourselves to the feminist body positivity party, just don’t expect me to be ecstatic when you are praised for arriving late and partying harder than we do.

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4) Not being sexist/racist/etc.

I’m looking at you Matt McGorry. If this list were in any meaningful order, this would be number one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen men praised for simply not being the-biggest-douche-to-ever-douche. I absolutely refuse to praise you for not using that racist word, I won’t give you kudos for not committing sexual assault, you are not my personal Jesus for using someone’s correct pronouns. Recognizing your privilege and working to overcome it makes you a half-decent human being. Welcome to the club.

5) Teaching us stuff

I’m really happy that you read that article or saw that documentary, but please stop trying to teach people how they are oppressed. As someone who has had firsthand experience with sexism, I’m not going to be impressed when you try and tell me about the intricacies of the wage gap. This by the way is not a dude-exclusive problem; white feminists have a long history of lecturing down to, or “teaching” people of color about racism. Rule of thumb: teach those who need to hear it most, i.e. other people with your privileges who refuse to recognize there is a problem. I promise you will get significantly less praise than you do preaching to the choir, but instead you will potentially make a difference.

In the end, making that difference is exactly what this comes down to. Would you rather enact change by addressing your own privilege? Or be angry at this article for stereotyping all white men? It is difficult to reject what you have been told your entire life — that you have earned every one of your victories without an unearned advantage. If you do manage to do the right thing, just know I’m not lining up to thank you for your decency.

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By: Emily Current

When we take part in a group discussion we pay so much attention to what people are saying that we don’t really think about who is speaking. It wasn’t until I talked to a classmate of mine one day about classroom dynamics that I noticed that our tutorial often ended up being male dominated.

One of the reasons why it can be so difficult to see how gender dynamics play into classroom discussions is because these sort of interactions play into all aspects of our lives. Girls are taught from a young age that we should remain silent if we’re unsure of what we have to say. And when we are sure of what we have to say and do assert our thoughts, we often get criticized for doing so. Our society sends the message to girls and women that we are not welcome to say what we think, and this message has translated into university classroom discussions.

I’ve started to pay more attention to the way gender dynamics play out in class discussions and I’ve noticed that, overall, men seem more confident speaking in this sort of setting than women. I’ve noticed that men are more assertive when they contribute, and respond more confidently when another student argues with what they have said. While guys will simply assert their thoughts, girls seem to couch what they have to say with phrases like “I don’t know but…” or “this may just be my opinion…” adding an element of uncertainty to what they’re saying. Not only do men speak more confidently, they also speak more frequently. In one tutorial I took a tally of how frequently class members of different genders spoke, and found that there were similar numbers of girls and guys that spoke during the discussion. While this initially makes it seem like there is no issue, in the class there are twice as many girls as there are guys, meaning that in my tutorial, female students were speaking half as often as their male counterparts. Granted, I only tallied up one tutorial, but it is indicative of a larger problem.

Clearly these ideas are based on generalizations, because there are of course girls who do speak up in conversations and who make their claims confidently, just as I’m sure there are guys who don’t feel so confident speaking up. I think that it is important to be aware of our classroom dynamics regardless. There is no easy way to address the way that gender dynamics play into classroom discussions; therefore, it is crucial that at the very least we recognize the impact that they have. Even if nothing else can immediately be done, we should at least aim for an increased awareness of the space we take up in class discussions, and ask why we might participate the way we do.

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“I’m not a feminist.”

I was shocked to hear the words leave her mouth; I almost didn’t even believe it.

“I can’t tell, are you joking right now?” I asked.

“No. That’s just never a word I would use to describe myself.”

Hearing my mom tell me she didn’t relate to the term “feminist” was a blow to my whole understanding of society. For my entire life she has been the driving force that has taught me that women deserve equal rights when compared to their male counterparts and that I should always take care of myself and never rely on a man — or anyone else for that matter. And she is the one that is always the most disturbed and angry when she finds out I’ve faced sexism in the workplace. Yet for some reason, she wouldn’t call herself a feminist.

My parents, like many other students’, grew up in Canada in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. While they are both racialized individuals and these decades of their youth made headway for movements in civil rights, their greater understanding of things like gender and women’s rights, on the other hand, is slightly tainted with memories of what would have then been considered extremist activism.

Second-wave feminism was sweeping the nation at the time, and if youth were not actively involved in the movement (for a variety of reasons), they were often taught that this was something negative and over the top. Especially for people that were already being treated as pariahs for their skin colour, going into the street and talking about abortion and marital rape just brought up more opportunities for people to mock and abuse them.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.

The actual semantics of the word “feminist” have gotten a horrible reputation over the years. And contrary to many a belief, some sampling in a Beyoncé song isn’t going to change everyone’s minds. Often I feel that my mission as a feminist is to overthrow the opinions of the people closest to me in age range, because they “are the future” and we should be focusing our time on them. But the harder mission may be to work with the people who raised me, and to educate people that I feel already know what’s going on, but don’t quite have the history to know what it means in our day and age.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.  

When trying to create a society that is truly intersectional, I often forget the important role that age plays. While there are many older citizens who do not stand up in arms in our present-day activism simply because they’re assholes, there are also many who weren’t raised to have the same knowledge and understanding that is being promoted to us today.

When we’re looking to talk to people and to promote diverse causes, it’s important to remember that age is also a point of privilege and the terms and ideas we’re bringing up may take more effort to understand. My mom is a feminist, but she refuses to call herself one because of the time she grew up in. Here’s to hoping our current efforts towards education in feminist activism can start to turn back time.

Photo Credit: Diana Davies

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