In the past, the Eddy has written articles on the issue of consent and feminism, but unfortunately, the subject is one that necessitates a return to again and again. The continued discussion of how to protect women from being targeted because of their gender continues throughout the media and on online platforms. A sad reality.
The list of continued acts of violence towards women continues to grow. The more publicized ones: in March of 2020, a missing London woman, Sarah Everard’s remains were discovered. It was later discovered that the person responsible for the murder was 48-year-old police officer Wayne Couzens, who plead guilty in court to the rape and kidnapping of Everard, but did not plead for the murder charge; on March 17, 2021, Jamie Coutts shared a video of a man aggressively following her, though the video was seven minutes long, she was followed by this man for 40 minutes before walking up to a group in the skate park to ask if she could sit with them. These stories generate a lot of anger and fear with women all over the world and the source of anger is this: why are women or girls encouraged to ‘be careful out there’ and boys/men are not taught to be respectful towards girls and women, to realize certain words and actions contribute to a culture where violence towards woman is normalized?
Some men defend themselves with statements such as “Not all men,” and “men are targeted as well,” which are true statements, but they still don’t address the lack of education for boys and men on the topic of consent and respect. In fact, many of society’s spaces that boys and young men are encouraged to admire, foster aggression and toxic masculinity, such as professional sports, movies, and online content.
Schools are another space where attitudes toward gender is either fully and respectfully addressed, or not. Some students were asked if the school system taught them anything about gender-based violence; most said a lot of their knowledge on the subject comes from home and not school. But many agree that the topic should be discussed more in the lower grades to educate young people who are eventually either going into the workplace and/or seeking higher education, where according to a stats Canada 2019 study, “a majority (71%) of students at Canadian post-secondary schools witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a postsecondary setting in 2019.”
Multiple middle schools have incorporated the viral tea video to educate students on consent, and while this video may be very informative, the conversation shouldn’t stop there. “I have been sexually assaulted by some boys that saw the same three-minute video in middle school, but the topic of consent is complex and can’t be addressed in three minutes; more should have been followed up with about that video,” said grade 11 Riverside student Ella Aspinall, who offered her thoughts on what she believes is a lack of education on respectful attitudes toward girls and women in our culture.
Young men are also victims of violence, but women are disproportionately targeted. Sexassault.ca reports, over 80% of people who are sexually assaulted are female. Statistics Canada also suggests that in 2019, 1 in 10 women in post-secondary have been victims of attempted or completed assault. Grade 11 Riverside student Quinton O’Neal was asked if he ever feels unsafe when walking home. “I definitely look over my shoulder, but I can see how it could be a lot worse for a woman,” said O’Neal.
How a woman dresses is often the first consideration in sexual assault cases. The dress code in schools is about maintaining a professional environment, but just underneath that reason is the flawed idea a code is needed to reduce the distraction for men. Dress codes are much more detailed and complicated for girls than boys: for girls, no midriffs, spandex (if not worn for sport or gym), navel areas and skirts/shorts that do not go past your fingertips. Grade 11 Aiden Cowly gave his thoughts about the dress code, saying that “the dress code is definitely biased towards women; I have never been dress-coded and some of the prints on my hoodies may be questionable, but women get dress-coded for being a distraction. I can say for myself that shoulders and stomachs do not distract me,” said Cowly.
“We need to start addressing the sayings that contribute to toxic masculinity such as ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘that’s just locker room talk’ to start holding people accountable and showing that that attitudes and words contribute to the problem. I don’t think the average everyday man is as responsible for attacks on women as the ones who commit them are, but the lack of effort many do not put into speaking up against them, and therefore, helping to change attitudes, is not helpful. “This movement of awareness is not an attack on men but rather, a hope that they want change as well, through education and respect,” said Aspinall. With reports of assaults on women done by men on university level sports teams and frats being a focus, many say it is not always dealt with as it should be, which is unfortunate. There are many things that should be done to educate everyone.