Healing Gaia

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

There has always been a segment of the male population that has openly supported and promoted gender equity. What's needed now is wholesale buy-in.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published May 27, 2015

Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. A feminist is any person who supports feminism. In other words, feminists believe that women's rights are human rights.

I'd like to start by thanking for a few of the Canadian feminists who helped make life for women and girls more equitable:

Nellie McClung, The Famous Five, Agnes Macphail, Cairine Wilson, Rosemary Brown, Doris Anderson, Michele Landsberg, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Stephen Lewis, Henry Morgentaler, Jack Layton, Adrienne Clarkson, Naomi Klein, Maureen McTeer, Olivia Chow, Elizabeth May, Emily Carr, The Women of Beaver Hall, Lawrence Hill, Sheila Copps, Deepa Mehta, Margaret Atwood, Jean Augustine, Maude Barlow, Judy Rebick.

Canadian women have been working for gender equality for a very long time. There has always been a segment of the male population that has openly supported and promoted gender equity. What's needed now is wholesale buy-in.

Let's be clear from the outset, Canadian women live in a culture of rape. Women and girls make up the majority of sexual assault and rape victims. Men overwhelmingly are the perpetrators. The lived experience of women and girls makes them the experts.

Men need to play a supporting role. The men who work and volunteer with The White Ribbon Campaign are wonderful allies. They understand the importance of helping women move society from the destructive patriarchal model that we currently have to an equitable model that is inclusive and supportive of all marginalized groups.

This organization started in Toronto 24 years ago and has grown to one of the largest worldwide movements of men, and boys, working to end gendered violence by promoting gender equity, healthy relationships and "a new vision of masculinity."

Support groups like Toronto based Abuse: Survival Stories, bring women and men together to share stories of survival. Workshops create a safe space where participants can share their original music, spoken word, poetry, one person plays, and speeches.

Reesee Zigga Zagga, creator of Abuse: Survival Stories, has also launched a weekly radio program: I Reclaim My Voice! on VoiceAmerica.com. A recent show included interviews with two male allies. Jeff Perera from White Ribbon Camapign Toronto discussed men's role in ending violence against women.

Glen Canning, father of Rehtaeh Parsons, spoke about the role he played in his daughter's life as well as his current role of advocate for victims of sexual violence and cyber bullying. It's well worth listening to this hour-long program.

Street harassment, another form of assault that has been normalized, is in fact stalking which is a crime. Hollaback! provides a forum for women who have experienced street harassment to share their stories so that they know:

Men have a role to play in ending street harassment. If you're with a friend who hollers at a woman, tell him it's not cool. If you're a bystander, assess the situation and speak up if you feel safe. Ask the woman if she's alright or if she needs help. Call 911 if you feel the situation warrants it. Take a photo of the abuser with your cell phone to show to officials.

If you have a young kids with you, make this a teachable moment. Tell boys and young men why it's unacceptable to treat women in this fashion. Teach girls and young women that this is abuse and that no women should ever be treated this way when they go out in public. It's time to start teaching our children and youth that women and girls deserve respect and equality.


Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2015 at 07:44:17

As for the famous five, you do know about eugenics don't you (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics)? It's difficult to applaud someone as a champion of human rights who simultaneously supported one of the most grotesque attacks on human rights at the same time.

Comment edited by notlloyd on 2015-05-27 07:44:36

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By Just_saying (registered) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 12:30:34

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 14:16:42 in reply to Comment 111790

a tiny and declining sexual assault rate of 62/100,000 people,

Maybe you are talking about incidents of sexual assault that are reported to and substantiated by the police in a criminal investigation? Otherwise I'm going to call bs on your stats. Its estimated that 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

Its ok to have some scepticism, but if you are making up facts to downplay the legitimate concerns of others, you are part of the problem.

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By bafusilier (registered) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 19:22:55 in reply to Comment 111801

http://time.com/3633903/campus-rape-1-in...

"As two of the researchers who conducted the Campus Sexual Assault Study from which this number was derived, we feel we need to set the record straight. Although we used the best methodology available to us at the time, there are caveats that make it inappropriate to use the 1-in-5 number in the way it’s being used today, as a baseline or the only statistic when discussing our country’s [America's] problem with rape and sexual assault on campus.

First and foremost, the 1-in-5 statistic is not a nationally representative estimate of the prevalence of sexual assault, and we have never presented it as being representative of anything other than the population of senior undergraduate women at the two universities where data were collected—two large public universities, one in the South and one in the Midwest."

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 08:53:36 in reply to Comment 111808

There you have it. Just stay away from university or college and you'll be fine. Nothing to see here!

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 07:40:59

There always seems to be a strong negative reaction to the description of our society as being a "rape culture". I think this is due to a misconception. Our society is not one that supports rape directly, that would be ridiculous (though unfortunately a reality some places in the world). It does however condone elements that contribute to individuals believing sexual assault on women acceptable.

As has been mentioned, the core issue is gender inequality which is deeply deeply rooted in our culture; and really, how could it not be when women have only been considered "persons" for under a century. There is not the overt inequity that there was then, but it's important to seek out and understand the double standards in our society and within ourselves in order to continue to make progress.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 08:48:40 in reply to Comment 111809

We see the same thing with racism. People talk about the problems that result from systemic bias and unconscious bias against skin colour and the response is "I'm not a racist; I don't hate those people."

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 14:31:38

I think that some of the confusion in the comments is due to the fact that the term “Sexual Assault” includes nonconsensual sexual touching. Rape no longer exists as a term in Canadian criminal law. Needless to say, forcible sexual intercourse is a lot less common than nonconsensual sexual touching.

Which is not to say that nonconsensual sexual touching is OK. Quite the opposite! Of particular concern to me are overcrowded public transit vehicles that bump and lurch over every pothole in our crappy Hamilton roads. This inevitably throws people against each other. Particularly standees packed into the bus and each other. Throughout my life, I have seen some “accidental” contact that looked somewhat suspicious to my eyes.

Of course, it is impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that anything criminal was going on. So the important lesson is to provide adequate public transit service so that public transit vehicles are not overcrowded and facilitating sexual gropers.

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By Munna (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 22:37:59

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:39:06 in reply to Comment 111819

How about keeping it in your pants?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 09:05:33 in reply to Comment 111819

There are some trains and buses in India like that. But in a Hamilton context, perhaps we should simply provide adequate service to avoid overcrowding and "happy hunting grounds" for sexual gropers. Which, I repeat, constitutes Sexual Assault in Canadian law.

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By facepalm (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 09:02:52 in reply to Comment 111819

Separate but equal, what could go wrong with that?

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:24:51 in reply to Comment 111831

"Back of the bus ma'am "

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By Squeeze (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2015 at 13:33:47

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By fran (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2015 at 15:15:21 in reply to Comment 111903

You sicko.

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