This December 6, 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at E̒cole Polytechnique. Every year, many people, especially women, gather to mourn this traumatic event in Canadian history and to support change.
Status of Women Canada has produced an article entitled: The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). (The article can be found at here.) These 16 Days of Action begin on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and runs until International Human Rights Day on December 10. The Days of Action provide an opportunity “to increase awareness about the disproportionate levels of violence faced by women and girls, as well as diverse populations, including Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2 community members, gender non-binary individuals, those living in northern, rural and remote communities, people with disabilities, newcomers, children and youth, and seniors.”
There have been some positive changes in the past 30 years. People seem more inclined to speak out about GBV and micro-aggressions and question others about perceived inappropriate behaviours, actions and comments, however, is it simply a case of all of us being more aware of these actions and increasing our willingness to address them when they arise?
Many examples of bad behaviour exist and are often modelled by prominent individuals on a regular basis. For example, when leaders of Canada’s two most prominent Federal political parties can rudely attempt to outshout each other during a pre-election debate; when the President of the United States claims during an interview that he can grab any woman, basically, because he is male, entitled, wealthy and powerful; when virtually anyone can bully, intimidate and attack a person or group anonymously on social media, there are some serious problems in our society.
Much of our societal violence in Canada is GBV. Women of colour, Indigenous women, and those who consider themselves to be on the LGBTQ2 spectrum are often targeted by GBV. Virtually any woman can relate a story about being the victim of actions ranging from name-calling to unsolicited sexual advances, to sexual assault. When a prominent woman, such as MP Catherine McKenna, can have her constituency office graffitied with an explicit sexual slur, no woman is safe. This incident begs the question: Would this happen to a male MP?
There are 98 women who were recently elected as Federal representatives. It would be interesting to survey/interview these MP’s to determine what forms of GBV they have experienced during their respective political careers.
Though some things have changed during the past 30 years, such as the speed at which information can be disseminated worldwide, many things remain the same or have become increasingly prevalent in the media: for instance, GBV routinely surfaces in jokes, sexist comments, objectification of women, “corrective rape” of lesbians, the rise of rape culture at post-secondary institutions, and sex-trafficking, to name a few of the issues. All of us have a role to play in reducing the “toxic masculinity” that perpetuates these abuses of each individual’s right to feel safe, appreciated, accepted, seen and heard.