Sunday, 8 March 2015

Please Don’t Blame Those Dental Students

The male dental students at Dalhousie University who recently exchanged offensive 
Facebook posts are not to blame for rape culture. Punishing these 13 young men — or trying to educate them — will just make things worse.
The administration of Dalhousie University is not to blame, either.
Who is to blame?
First let me explain my objections to the term ‘rape culture.’ The use of this term implies that there is something specific, localized or contemporary about a lack of respect for women, their bodies, and their rights as human beings. But misogyny is not unique to Dalhousie, or a bunch of dental students, to most university age males, or to some young basketball players in Ohio (remember the Steubenville scandal of 2012?). 
Our western culture is a rape culture, and it all started with Eve.
From your Bible studies, you will remember that Eve tempted Adam with the apple, and that she is the source of evil. From talking to any red-blooded Canadian fellow over a beer, you will learn that though he thinks women are ‘hot’ he also imagines that they are very different from men, and that— perhaps through no fault of their own — they are mysterious and somewhat dangerous creatures who traditionally and perpetually tempt men, introducing them to strange extremities of lust.
These poisonous and antiquated ideas are part of our sexist culture.
What to do?
The answer is education.
Presently the government of Ontario is trying to institute a new sex education curriculum. The program is receiving vocal opposition from Ontario’s fundamentalist religious community, the Toronto Sun, and certain ‘concerned individuals.’  But removing sex education from the school curriculum will not keep children ‘innocent.' (Children are not innocent!). It will merely validate the present rape culture. I’m not a parent myself, but I know parents, and little girls (yes little girls under 5 years old!) ask their parents about their vaginas and where babies come from. These children deserve detailed, honest answers. Knowledge that children may gain about sex and their own bodies is not ‘scary’  unless it is taught to them by those who are frightened of sex, or it is delivered in a clandestine way,
Similarly there are 98 universities in Canada and only half of them have Women’s Studies courses. Of the universities that do have Women’s Studies courses, not all have actual Women’s Studies programs. And if they do, those programs are often mixed in with generalized departments that focus on ‘human rights’ and ‘a better world.’ If you examine these Women’s Studies websites you will see that some are being phased out (McMaster’s, for instance). At Guelph (where I teach) the Women’s Studies program was phased out several years ago, the justification being that we are well beyond women’s studies issues, and that such issues are covered by gender studies programs anyway. (For the record, we don’t yet have a gender studies program yet at Guelph. We need one!)
But should the age of Women’s Studies over? Do all men now know that ‘no means no,’ and that a 'yes' from a woman must be an enthusiastic one?
No. And they won’t learn this lesson unless we stop blaming young men at universities who say politically incorrect things.  Like the young women they are verbally abusing, they too are victims of a fundamentally sexist culture. Instead, we must challenge the core misogyny that lies at the root of Western culture.
That will only happen through education.
That is, if we really want to change.
But do we?