1 in 5 female-identified students will be sexually assaulted during their post-secondary studies.
Sexual violence is prevalent on Ontario Universities & Colleges.
In order to eradicate sexual violence from our campuses, it’s necessary for young men to speak up and step up against sexist language and behaviours.
Becoming an Ally
Allyship is about standing with women, queer folks, and other men to support them and advocate for their right to have a life free of violence and harassment of any type.
Becoming an ally involves educating yourself, listening carefully to disenfranchised individuals who experience violence, and advocating for the systemic changes needed to achieve equity in our society.
Effective allyship is about knowing when to
stand beside someone
to offer support to their cause and learn from them to understand their needs
stand in front of someone
to help them avoid being harmed, harassed or attacked
stand behind someone
to support them while acknowledging that they are the owners of their own voices and experiences
* Adapted from the 519’s “Being an Effective Trans Ally”
More importantly, true allyship will only exist once you have taken the time to question your own behaviours and attitudes.
Accountability is at the root of allyship and it is only through the acknowledgment of your own mistakes and by taking responsibility for your own behaviour that real solidarity with women and queer folk will exist when addressing gender-based violence.
Why are you focusing on men?
Although most men don’t commit sexual violence, more than 9 out of 10 cases of sexual violence are perpetrated by men.
However, it's crucial to acknowledge that sexual violence finds validation in a spectrum of actions and attitudes often entertained by men acting in accordance to a culture of harmful masculinity.
By harmful masculinity, we refer to cultural traits and expectations traditionally attributed to masculinity and leading to harm in women, queer folk, and other men.
These attitudes and behaviours are learned during childhood and reinforced throughout men’s lives. Due to the privilege and the gender-policing aspect of our culture, men rarely get to question the implications of these attitudes and behaviours or contemplate the possibility of creating healthier alternatives.
Examples of harmful masculinity include:
The need to be dominant and aggressive towards others to achieve status or control.
Seeing women as sexual objects and seeing romantic/sexual encounters as currency for social status.
Not showing emotions other than anger fearing it will seem ‘unmanly’.
Holding homophobic and sexist attitudes.
Although you might think that some sexist behaviours are acceptable because it is not directly physically hurting someone, the reality is that all sexist behaviour serves to perpetuate a system of gender-based and sexual violence.
It is not only until men take the time and effort to question these masculine expectations that the root cause of violence will be addressed and all men can play a part in doing this.
Is masculinity “toxic” or harmful?
No. Masculinity is not toxic and by saying that we would be failing women, men, trans, gender non-binary, and queer folks since masculinity is not exclusive to male-identifying individuals.
Masculinity and what we consider to be “masculine traits” are a valid form of gender expression that anyone can use as long as they don’t entail sexist attitudes and behaviours that might put them or others at risk of harm.
The truth is, we should not even be talking about “masculinity” in the singular, but rather “masculinities” because the norms and expectations that define masculinity greatly vary across time and geography, and masculinity has never been static or unchanged. In addition, it is time to imagine various forms of non-harmful masculinities in which men can successfully express themselves, and relate to others in ways that do not create harm but instead healthy and pleasant relationships.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Acknowledge that masculinity is a social construct and that a critical approach to gender could provide you with the tools to not only become a more authentic and nuanced individual, but also create healthier and more satisfying relationships with yourself, your friends, your families, and partners.