I know we’re all still in shock of the events that took place in Toronto last month, but I feel torn in two directions and have decided that it’s in times like these when we come together that we can potentially make the biggest difference.
When I say, “I’m torn” it’s because part of me says “don’t publicize this, don’t give this loser the headlines and don’t bring attention to his alleged motivations or cause” but another part of me wants to discuss it as I feel it needs to be spoken about.
Toronto doesn’t need a new hashtag, and as proud as I am to be a Torontonian I feel that we’re already stronger, more tolerant, more accepting and more welcoming than most, as can be seen by watching the cultural mosaic of witnesses interviewed in the area.
This hits especially close to home as Christine and I have called this area our home for the last five years.
Christine was working from home that day and out running errands at Shoppers, Tims, clothing donation etc. and on the very same sidewalks that a few hours later became news around the world.
We’re horrified seeing events like this on an almost weekly basis but this one feels different, this one was home.
Chris and I know every inch of these sidewalks. The restaurants and shops seen in the news clips are places we visit daily. Mel Lastman square is somewhere we walk nightly in search of the latest stray cat Christine has found to feed.
I don’t want to spend time on the matter of “incels” or legitimize the word or the people who believe in this nonsense but do realize that their misogynistic attitude exists out there and we as a people have a responsibility to educate ourselves above it.
A few years ago, we lost a friend to a senseless act of violence and have since pledged our time to a lesser known cause, White Ribbon.
White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity. Since its inception in Toronto in 1991, White Ribbon has spread to over 60 countries around the world. White Ribbon asks men to wear white ribbons as a sign of their pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
Regardless of the motives of this recent attack, I feel that now more than ever we need to bring issues like violence against women to the forefront as it is a very present issue that doesn’t always receive the publicity it deserves.
On May 30, 2018 we’ll be participating in White Ribbon’s “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes” campaign for our “Ribbons for Rachelle” team to raise money and bring awareness to this issue.
I would love your support whether it be monetarily or by joining our team and walking with us. I’d love to see some of my friends (and friends with sons!) and everyone out there showing their support.
Mike Hollinsworth and his team “Ribbons for Rachelle” are participating in White Ribbon’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, presented by Town Shoes Ltd, taking place on Wednesday May 30, 2018 at 12noon, David Pecaut Square, 215 King Street West, in Toronto. Visit the Walk website to register, participate, and or donate. Thank you for your support of White Ribbon’s work to engage men and boys in promoting healthy masculinities and ending gender-based violence.
Why I Walk, or How I Underline My Vulnerability
I walk because I have been shamed and felt ashamed as a victim of sexual violence.
I walk because living with shame is like wearing a set of prescription glasses made for someone else.
I walk because being vulnerable is human and there is no shame in my humanity.
I walk to underline that vulnerability, which I am told is “weak” and should be kept private. Rape culture, a euphemism for our shared social environment that permits and condones sexual aggression and obscures understanding of consent, is excruciatingly public and I cannot be quiet about its insidious consequences.
In early 2016, Toronto Police Service (TPS) charged a man with sexual assault after I reported a ‘date rape.’ They took my statement three times that day. They made copies of my handwritten notes detailing what happened. They photographed the bruises. They collected clothing for evidence. One year later, in early 2017, in a meeting with the Crown to discuss the upcoming trial, I was told that the behaviour of this man was “ungentlemanly” but that it was, in the words of the TPS detective, “hard to read minds.” Never-mind the statement which indicated how many times I uttered the word “no” and the brutal nude photographs they had access to—this was not a winnable case. The Crown suggested I ask the man to sign a Peace Bond instead of going to trial. I agreed (flippantly) because it was clear that my experience at the hands of this man was no longer enough. A lawyer and a cop had agreed it wasn’t that bad.
One of the goals of sexual violence is the humiliation of the victim; reporting sexual violence often re-traumatizes and re-humiliates. Prosecuting this crime is a heavy and harmful burden on victims who often have no advocates. The incentives to report are low, the burden of proof is high, and the system is not equipped (nor designed) to deal empathetically or ‘productively’ with people who experience sexual violence.
I walk for White Ribbon because by the time the crime is reported the harm done is irrevocable. We must stop gendered and sexual violence where the first seeds are planted and become rooted: in schools, in the media, in political discourse, and in gender socialization, in every form. White Ribbon is doing the work of education, with programming that promotes “gender equality [and] healthy relationships and helps to counter the harmful effects of toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity as an ideological system negatively codes vulnerability: it is the female-sexed body, the feminine mystique, the “weak,” and the victim. I am all of these things in concert and in conflict.
I walk because when I do, I am reminded that I am also surviving and I am not alone. Victims keep living. We are here. We exist. We walk together. And we walk for the ones who didn’t and who cannot and we walk for a different world.
Lindsay Sidders is participating in White Ribbon’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, presented by Town Shoes Ltd, taking place on Wednesday May 30, 2018 at 12noon, David Pecaut Square, 215 King Street West, in Toronto. Visit the Walk website to register, participate, and or donate. Thank you for your support of White Ribbon’s work to engage men and boys in promoting healthy masculinities and ending gender-based violence.
A few years ago, I was speaking with one of my mentors about some of the hard times I experienced growing up, and some I am currently dealing with. He listened carefully, then asked me to be more vulnerable.
“I’ll talk about anything” I said. “What do you want to know?” He told me it wasn’t about the facts I was already sharing, it was much deeper than that – the real stuff, the stuff that makes you uncomfortable to share out loud.
He said if I wanted to have the impact I was capable of on my clients and students, and to be the kind of dad and role model I needed to be, I’d have to get comfortable with being vulnerable.
I soon realized how much I had been holding in for more than half my life – the pain, sadness, anger, and fear – all because I never learned how do things any differently. And for some reason, all the real, human emotions that men feel every day are ones we’re taught to keep to ourselves.
Sure, we can talk about sports, women, money, and power, but that’s as deep as we’re allowed to go, because “real men” don’t talk about their feelings.
I grew up watching Arnold courageously battle the Predator and John Maclean save the day in Die Hard, so my idea of masculinity was the same one so many of us learned. There’s an image we try so desperately to live up to – an image that surrounds us and makes us think that being ‘macho’ is a badge of honour when it’s really killing us from the inside out.
It wasn’t until I started talking openly about the ‘uncomfortable’ stuff that I understood how much of giant weight I had been carrying around, and how much it was holding me back. At first, I was afraid sharing my “flaws” would make me look weak, but the truth is I’ve never felt stronger. I was worried being vulnerable would push people away, but they keep getting closer. And the more I let down the shield I thought I needed to protect me all these years, the more people are thanking me, just for being honest and real.
I have a young son and another on the way. Being a dad is the greatest honour and responsibility I’ve ever experienced, and while the words I speak matter, I know the example I set matters so much more. In my work as a mentor with youth, I guide teens and young adults to be their greatest selves as they discover who they really are and how much they’re capable of – but that requires the kind of real trust that only comes with being vulnerable.
If that means being comfortable with the uncomfortable, then that’s what I need to do. And if that’s what it takes for the next generation of young men to be happier, healthier, more self-aware leaders than ever before, I’d say it’s something we all need to encourage.
As dads, mentors, and role models, our job isn’t to be perfect “heroes”, Arnold, or John Maclean, but daring to lead by example takes courage. And there’s nothing more courageous than putting down the shield, being vulnerable, and embracing who you really are.
As a role model, one small thing you can do is to participate in White Ribbon’s event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, on Wednesday May 30 at David Pecaut Square. Show your solidarity to end gender-based violence, and promote healthy masculinities- which are rooted in vulnerability, empathy and courage to get out of the “manbox.” You can register here. Walk a Mile is proudly presented by Town Shoes Ltd.
Cory Chadwick is a thought leader, speaker, mentor, and founder of The Personal Greatness Project, helping teens, young adults, teams, and organizations realize their personal greatness and thrive in a quickly changing world.
For more information, check out: www.personalgreatnessproject.com and follow @thepersonalgreatnessproject
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have illuminated the unequal ways that attention is paid to survivors (and perpetrators) of different economic circumstances, racialized status, gender identities and sexualities, and abilities. While many highly public movements play out in real time on an international scale, a new generation of history scholars is grappling with how to handle sexual violence in the past - in their classrooms and research projects - and in assessing how historical inequities intersect with sexual violence in the present.
Historians and scholars need to recognize that sexual violence cannot be treated “simply” as an academic subject, no matter how “distantly” in the past. People in our classrooms – students and teachers alike – enter learning environments with a wide range of identities and personal histories, including lived experiences of sexual violence. To create accommodating classrooms, teachers must not only commit to a rigorous analysis of historical ‘perpetrators’ and ‘victims’ of sexual violence, but most especially attend to the real effects of teaching historical sexual violence in a classroom full of students who are statistically at risk of being or becoming either and both perpetrator and victim of sexual violence.
The discipline of history has tended to concern itself with such concepts as “critical distance” and “rational discourse.” One unfortunate result of this is that, often, the historian teaching episodes of sexual violence pays more attention to their historical subjects than to the lived realities of their students and their experiences of gender-based discrimination and violence.The gap between historical analysis and empathy can be cavernous. Emotions and feelings, those of our subjects, and most crucially, of our students, must be a source of knowledge going forward. Teachers must acknowledge the historical exclusions and impacts of colonialism, the systemic power dynamics, and the institutional barriers that make our classrooms safe and comfortable for certain students, to the detriment and discomfort of the historically marginalized.
History must meet empathy.
History teachers must be assertive in addressing the barriers to teaching sexual violence and to meeting the goal of generating accessible classrooms. Teachers must be sensitive to students’ diverse experiences but still investigate the prevalence of sexual violence throughout history with disciplinary rigour. Further, we must act resolutely to restructure the classroom to accommodate students and instructors with experiences of trauma.
Some of the barriers to these goals emerge from the structure of our curricula and classrooms. For example, instructors (at any level) typically receive no training that prepares them for dealing with trauma in the classroom, a crucial consideration for handling a topic like sexual violence.
Other barriers are societal: the apparent growth of “men’s rights” and “free speech” advocacy on university campuses—trends that find their way into lecture halls and seminar rooms—pose particular problems for teaching assistants who are women, racialized, queer, differently abled, or are otherwise marginalized.
We need to be open minded but firm in our approaches to dissolving these barriers; the solution to these problems is absolutely not to remove sexual violence materials from our courses. On the contrary, this vital subject deserves serious historical analysis. But sexual violence must not be treated as “just another topic.” Trauma-informed approaches can help make the classroom safer and more welcoming for students, teaching assistants, and instructors.
When we treat sexual violence as simply an omnipresent “part of history,” it hampers students’ ability to question why these events occurred in specific times and places. There is a danger of assuming an innate human tendency to commit sexual violence, instead of understanding the phenomenon with its social, cultural, and political contexts. One consistent justification for sexual violence in history is the assumption of male desire, a harmful assumption that occludes the social factors that make sexual violence so prevalent and erases the experiences of men as survivors of sexual violence. By situating sexual violence in its specific historical context, we can begin to see that sexual violence is dependent on societal factors that perpetuate unequal power relations. It is incumbent upon historians to do this work—it is not only about advocacy in our own time; it is also about doing more diligent work to shed light on the lived experiences of historical people.
Attention to the issues outlined above is long overdue. The university is intended to be a place of innovation and community. As historians and members of this community, we need to commit ourselves to finding solutions to the difficulties of teaching sexual violence, and to creating a community that is more inclusive and therefore more creative, original, and inspired.
Written by Joel Dickau, Edward Dunsworth, William Fysh, Benjamin Lukas, Kari North, Maris Rowe-Mcculloch, Lindsay C. Sidders, Hana Suckstorff, Nathaniel Thomas, Erica Toffoli, and Spirit-Rose Waite. With intellectual contributions from Kaitlyn Carter, Sanchia deSouza, and Zixian Liu.
The authors wish to acknowledge the land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.