Message from Naheed Bardai, Head, Middle Division
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was on Nov. 25 and we’ve spent two assemblies (Nov. 25 and Nov. 28) discussing the raising of awareness around this important and prevalent issue.
Sometimes in the media or in our communities, we think of violence against women as someone else’s issues, in another country or another community. However, the facts don’t support that assumption. Violence against women is pervasive in all our communities. According to the Government of Ontario, 6 per cent of married, common-law, same-sex, separated and divorced women report being the victims of physical/sexual assault by their partners. Even more alarming is that less than one-third of female victims of these abuses report the assault to police. And this doesn’t even take into account women who suffer emotional violence.
To make the matter even more complex, violence is not only physical or emotional in nature. It can also be systemic and cultural, embedded into the fabric of our societies and at times taken as unquestioned norms. This kind of violence is more difficult to combat because it’s quiet or hidden. While I could cite many examples of this kind of violence, the most visible in the media is equity in pay. Women today in Canada aged 25 to 34 with post-secondary education earn 12 per cent less than men in the same category. Some gains are being made to ameliorate this gap, but progress is slow. This type of systemic issue is also a type of violence.
Our boys, whether they like it or not, inherit this history as men of the future; and while they have had little part to play in the establishment of the systematic injustices that have taken place against women over time, they have a responsibility to help fix the system (or at the very least, not perpetuate the system).
During my assembly with the boys, I showed them a video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking about the importance of all boys becoming a feminist. Sometimes the word “feminist” can carry a negative connotation in male circles. I pointed out to boys that it’s not a bad word, nor does it mean that being a feminist in any way degrades boys and men. In its most essential form, being a feminist means recognizing the historical and systematic injustices towards women, and helping to make a positive difference towards changing the situation.
It’s important for our boys to have deep and meaningful conversations with girls or women in their life around some of the issues women face, and for them to hear it from a female point of view.* When you have the opportunity at home, please explore some of these issues with your son.
*I want to acknowledge that while I speak of boys and girls or male and female, both sex and gender are far more complex and are non-binary.