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Opinions

How the legal system has failed victims of sexual assault once again.

Warning: this piece deals with mentions of rape, sexual assault and abuse. 

It all began on Oct. 5, 2017, with an article in the New York Times which contained accusations agaisnt Harvey Weinstein, a revered movie producer, of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Ashley Judd and Emily Nestor. They were the first women to publicly come forward and share their experiences with Weinstein.

Although the #Metoo movement has existed since 2006, and was started by Tarana Burke, following her own personal experience with sexual abuse, the movement became widely popular in 2017. The use of the hashtag by Alyssa Milano on October 15 of that year is what revived it.

Burke’s goal was to “build a community of advocates, driven by survivors, who will be at the forefront of creating solutions to interrupt sexual violence in their communities.” The #MeToo movement is an amazing medium that has encouraged women to come forward with their stories. It helped them to no longer be afraid of sharing what they’ve been through.

The fact that Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison instead of walking away free is a great victory, but why did it take over three years for him to be convicted? the legal system definitely has to become more tailored to these cases, as it can be traumatic having to tell time after time what these survivors went through, especially when they aren’t believed. It’s quite upsetting and unjust that these hearings take forever.

According to an article by CNBC, the maximum sentence for rape in New York is 29 years. This is yet another instance where the legal system continues to reduce the consequences of dire actions, especially when powerful people hire the best lawyers in the field. In order to keep this from happening again, the justice system has to change and become easier for victims to navigate. The stigma and discreditation of victims are some of the numerous reasons  why so many survivors are ashamed to come forward.

According to Beverly Engel, a psychologist at Psychology Today, three out four victims of sexual harassment decide against telling anyone in authority about the abuse. Instead, they choose to avoid the abuser, downplay the gravity of the situation or attempt to ignore what is going on. Feelings of shame, denial—especially when the victim blames themselves for  the abuse––and fear of consequences fuel the desire to stay silent. Combined with the fact that the legal system can be overwhelming to navigate without a lawyer, since some can’t possibly afford one, the system unconsciously grants privilege to the accused.

It’s honestly disheartening that we continue to live in a world where class and fame determine the chance of someone being taken seriously in a court of law.

If the legal system were to offer more options for victims to have proper representation, quicker court hearings and not have their stories questioned every second, we could make sure that more rapists and abusers end up behind bars.

As a society, people in positions of authority such as the police force and important players in the judicial system need to change their ways of viewing these survivors. Victim-blaming isn’t going to help anyone. Times have changed and the legal system needs to go through an enormous reformation for the better. 

 

 

Photo collage by Laurence B.D

Categories
Briefs News

World in brief: Weinstein convicted, more climate protests, updates on COVID-19 and Buttigieg drops out of Democratic race

Harvey Weinstein was convicted in the rape and sexual assault of two women, on Feb. 24. The charges will carry up to 29 years behind bars. Accusations against Weinstein began in 2017, sparking the #MeToo movement, gathering global attention and encouraging victims of sexual violence to come forward. Weinstein’s lawyers have said they will appeal, as reported by The Associated Press. Weinstein was acquitted on two other accounts of predatory sexual assault.

On Friday, Bristol welcomed Greta Thunberg, as an estimated 22,000 people took to the streets to participate in the “Youth Strike 4 Climate” protest. The young climate activist marched alongside those in attendance in the southwestern English city, reports The Globe and Mail. Thunberg’s movement has continued globally, as frustrations with impending climate change increase. “I will not be silenced while the world is on fire, will you?” asked Thunberg.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues its global sweep, affecting over 60 countries. The death toll worldwide has reached at least 3,000 and infected 88,000 people around the world. The virus has caused lockdowns and emptied streets, affecting the financial markets. Countries are losing their tourism revenue across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. France has temporarily closed the iconic Louvre as of Sunday, in fear of the virus spreading further, reports The Associated Press. 

Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, announced on Sunday he was backing out of the race for  the Democratic presidential nomination. The Guardian reports that Buttigieg was unable to make progress in Nevada and South Carolina. After Joe Biden’s win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Biden hopes to establish support from Buttigieg in order to win the nomination. Though the Democrats are competing for the nomination, they have a common goal. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values,” said Buttigieg, as reported by Variety.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
News

2010’s biggest news events, and some memorable moments

A new decade is here, bringing with it new events. But before we look forward, here are the 10 defining news events that have set the stage for the 2020s, in no particular order.

Arab Spring

Beginning in December 2010, anti-government protests shook Tunisia and, in 2011, quickly turned into a region-wide uprising referred to as the Arab Spring. This pro-democratic wave of protest that spread across Arabic-speaking countries in Northern Africa and Middle East overthrew the governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. This then led to civil war in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.

Release of information

The 2010s were filled with whistleblowers and leaks. Notably, Edward Snowden worked for the National Security Agency and leaked documents about monitoring American citizens. Then U.S. army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning––then Bradley Manning––leaked thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, a website intended to collect and share confidential information, created by Julian Assange.

The Black Lives Matter Movement

On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old boy was shot by George Zimmerman, who ended up being acquitted for murdering Martin. This acquittal prompted the creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement, an international activist movement against violence and systemic racism towards Black people.

The #Metoo Movement

In October 2017, #Metoo went viral, making international news, encouraging women to share their stories of sexual violence and harrassment. The #Metoo movement brought to light sexual predators like Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein.

Donald Trump

In 2017, Donald Trump was elected and became the third American president to be impeached. The Trump administration is known for separating migrant families at the border and shutting down the American government for 35 days—the longest in American history—in an attempt to try to force the Democratic party to agree to a deal to build a wall along the Mexican-U.S border.

Brexit

England held a referendum and voted to exit the European Union in 2016. This created a riff in the country’s political parties, who are unable, to this day, to agree on what may

be one of the biggest decisions in English history in decades.

Climate Crisis

Rising temperatures throughout the past decade have caused an increase in natural disasters around the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global temperature will increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 10-years, which will cause devastating damage to the planet. In 2015, 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement, agreeing to keep the global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. The inaction of various government have caused people like Greta Thunberg to mobilize millions across the globe in a climate strike.

America’s School Shooting

There have been approximately 180 school shootings in America from 2009-18, and 114 people have been killed. According to an article by CNN, school shootings have increased since the start of the 2010s.

Russia invades Ukraine

Russian forces occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in an attempt to stop Ukraine from trading with America. Over 10,000 people were killed in the long-lasting conflict between the two countries from 2014-18.

ISIS and the rise of terrorism

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born of an offshoot of Al Qaeda in 2013. The group was involved in multiple terrorist attacks across the world, notably the bombing of a Russian airplane, killing 224 people, and a series of attacks in Paris on the night of Nov.13, 2015, killing 130 people.

Memorable moments

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar 

The only important event of the 2010’s is that DiCaprio won best actor in 2016 for his role in The Revenant. He had been nominated six times prior to his first win.

Said goodbye to Harry Potter

The last Harry Potter movie came out in 2011, ending the 14-year saga of the Wizarding World. The movie series brought in over $7 billion, and the book series sold over 450 million copies with a similar estimated revenue.

Discovery of the Higgs boson 

The Higgs field is theorized to be what gives matter mass and is made up of a particle called the Higgs boson. This particle has been theorized since the 1960s, but was only detected in 2012. This helps add to the understanding of the Standard Model, a theory that explains t hree of the four fundamental forces in physics.

Ice Bucket Challenge

The viral phenomenon of people dumping buckets of ice water over themselves to raise awareness for ALS and fundraise for the ALS Foundation took place in 2014. Celebrities like Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. participated in the challenge. The campaign raised over $10 million in 30 days, and funded a number of projects. One of these was Project MinE who, in 2016, were able to identify a gene associated with ALS which could possibly lead to a treatment.

First photo of a black hole

We got to see the first ever photo of a black hole, located more than 50 million lightyears away in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy. The photo was created by the Event Horizon Telescope project, a global collaboration of more than 200 scientists using observatories around the world, ranging from the South Pole to Hawaii. It took more than two years to assemble all the photos gathered from all observatories to create an actual image of the black hole.

Discovering new species

Biologists discovered new species at an incredible rate, averaging approximately 18,000 per year. Some of these include the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey and the Vangunu giant rat. New categories for animals were made to describe newfound fish with “hands” and frogs smaller than a dime. Yet, in 2019, scientists warned that a quarter of plant and animal populations are at risk of extinction.

Categories
Opinions

Certain things shouldn’t be justified with “it’s just my opinion”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Scarlett Johansson was asked how she felt about Woody Allen. Hollywood is in the midst of a great change in how it treats women and sexual harassment.

And this question is posed decades after Allen was first accused of sexual assault by his adoptive daughter. She replied: “I love Woody, I believe him, and I would work with him any time… I have been very direct with him, and he’s very direct with me. He maintains his innocence, and I believe him.”

On one hand, I could argue that everyone has the right to their own opinions and judgements. I can feel the way I want to feel about Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson can feel the way she wants to feel. But on the other hand, the voice of a celebrity as big and influential as ScarJo has an impact, and right now Hollywood is in a state of flux about how the #MeToo movement will evolve.

To provide you with some context, Dylan Farrow says that Woody Allen, her adoptive father, sexually assaulted her on Aug. 2, 1992. I won’t go into the details, but Farrow tells a story that is, according to Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair, “…consistent with the testimony of three adults who were present that day.” Allen was never charged with a crime and investigations ended up claiming no molestation took place and that it was more likely that Dylan Farrow was coerced by her mother, Mia Farrow. However, a judge by the name of Elliott Wilk came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that Mia Farrow coerced her daughter in any way, and that Allen’s behaviour towards his daughter was extremely inappropriate.

Essentially, nothing’s official.

Some could argue that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty.” But here’s how I see this situation: Dylan Farrow has been telling the same story again and again for years, and she didn’t do her first television interview until January 2018. In fact, these claims against Woody

Allen have been persistent since 1992. I feel that if claims have been going on for this long, with little amount of public attention drawn to Dylan Farrow, the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law is no longer valid. Johansson claims to stand by the #MeToo movement but comments like “I love Woody, I believe him,” voicing her love for Allen, send the message that she fails to grasp the fact that even the men she trusts or likes are capable of such terrible acts.

This isn’t the first time Johansson has made arrogant and ignorant statements. I’m referring to the time she was the lead in the film Ghost in the Shell (2017) and was criticized for whitewashing the character. This movie is based on a Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow in 1989. In an interview with Marie Claire, she apologized; “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

About a year later when it was announced that Johansson would be playing a transgender man in a film called Rub & Tug, she was criticized so heavily she simply dropped out of the project. In my eyes, her defence of Woody Allen is just an addition to the list of her problematic traits.

Although I’ve always enjoyed Scarlett Johansson’s films and acting career, she is, without a doubt, ignorant (whether it be willfully or not) and hypocritical. She has the right to stand by her colleague and friend under the guise that no allegation has been confirmed. However, with the years and years of fighting from Farrow’s side, taking Allen’s side seems like a bad move. Scarlett Johansson has voiced her support of the #MeToo movement and TIME’S UP, an organization which supports “safe, fair and dignified work for women” and whose mission is to stop and prevent sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. She has even gone as far as making a speech at the Los Angeles Women’s March in 2018. “I am proud to be representing Times Up, an organization made up of some of the bravest, most determined, most inspiring women that I have ever had the great privilege of sharing with and learning from.” If she genuinely supports victims of sexual assault, Johansson should re-evaluate her position and her reasoning as to why she stands by Allen. Her support will only encourage others to get away with their own acts. In the end, she messed up, but she still has the chance to make things right and denounce him.

In the words of Scarlett Johansson herself, “We must take responsibility, not just for our actions but for ourselves.”

Ultimately, the things Johansson has done in the past are relatively forgivable. She was accused of whitewashing with her role in Ghost in the Shell, for which she “apologized,” moved on, and didn’t get the point. People forgot about it. She was criticized for being cast as a trans man, but she dropped the role before production. People forgot about it. Now, she’s defending a man who we can safely believe sexually assaulted his daughter when she was seven years old. I really hope people don’t forget that.

Categories
Student Life

Roxane Gay on body image, the #MeToo movement and contemporary feminism

‘This reckoning has been a long time coming’

Professor Roxane Gay delivered The Beatty Memorial Lecture at McGill University on Thursday, Oct. 11. Gay is an internationally acclaimed cultural critic and author the short stories Ayiti and Difficult Women, as well as Bad Feminist, which the The New York Times deemed to be “a manual on how to be human.”

A McGill tradition since 1952, The Beatty Memorial Lecture series annually hosts some of the greatest minds from around the globe. According to The McGill Tribune, the 2017 lecturer was famous philosopher Charles Taylor. Faculty members, students, academics and patrons from all walks of life engage in a public conversation and openly share ideas.
Gay was at Le James McGill bookstore for an hour and a half signing books before the lecture, with more than 600 people waiting for her in front of Pollack Hall. About 200 people tuned in to the live stream that was made available on YouTube.

After Nantali Indongo, the event’s moderator, introduced the lecture, she invited Gay to join her on stage. Gay began by reading pages from Hunger: A Memoir of Body, which spoke about her relationship with her body and weight. An article by Laura Snapes in The Guardian explained that Gay’s memoir “deals with [her] rape at the age of 12 and the lifelong consequences of her decision to make her body as big as possible as a form of self-protection.” @McGill_VPRI tweeted a quote by Gay: “I don’t have all the answers. I just write truthfully about the body that I have, in a world that is often hostile.”

Gay proceeded to speak about the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Cosby, and the percentage of women who voted for Trump—all significant events of this past year. Twitter user @barbirite shared another quote by Gay: “53 per cent of white women voted for Trump. And I’m gonna say that over and over and over again because it’s a horrifying statistic, because they’re voting their own rights away.”

“Justice felt like a real, tangible thing rather than a vague, illusory ideal. This reckoning has been a long time coming,” Gay said. Victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment continue to await justice, she added, proving that she is more of a realist than an optimist. “Hope is too ephemeral, too inconsistent, too fleeting. This is a brutal time […] Every day there is new information about men who have abused their position or acted inappropriately or committed crimes against women.”

@McGill_VPRI shared a final quote from Gay: “I am often asked to describe #Feminism and I don’t answer that question anymore, because honestly it’s 2018. How can you not know?”

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Opinions

Louis C.K.’s return to comedy is too soon

Celebrities called out during #MeToo movement can’t make quick comebacks

Comedian Louis C.K. made an appearance on Aug. 26 at a New York comedy club with a 15-minute surprise set. This happened only nine months after he admitted to non-consensually masturbating in front of five women, as well as committing other sexual indecencies.

C.K.’s reappearance has struck a conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement and the countless male public figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct. The #MeToo movement is attempting to normalize the idea of listening to and believing women, in revolutionary and unprecedented ways.

In my opinion, if we accept C.K.’s surprise return, we are sending the message that he was merely in a “timeout.” A successful return would enforce the idea that C.K.’s position holds more importance than the women whose lives he permanently affected.

Don’t get me wrong—this has been a hard year for fallen heros. Some of these public figures had a strong presence in our lives. We were attached to these celebrities, and we held many of them very close to our hearts. That being said, being frustrated and disappointed by the changing perception of powerful male figures does not mean we should lose sight of what we are fighting for. Women didn’t ruin Louis C.K. for us—he ruined himself.

C.K.’s surprise comeback strategy is all too congruent with his disregard for consent. His forceful reappearance reinforced his perception of power. Any woman sitting in that comedy club, who listened to his set, heard him tell rape jokes and saw the standing ovation, was hit by a brick wall of evidence that C.K.’s career and reputation mean more to our society than a woman’s safety, experience, feelings, and agency. And he didn’t give them a choice.

Nine months ago, C.K. publicly admitted to his behaviour, while acknowledging his power and influence as a public figure in the comedy community. According to The New York Times, in C.K.’s apology, he said, “I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community.” If his apology held any ounce of integrity, then his return to comedy and his return as a public figure should have been approached with self-awareness and remorse. Instead, C.K. resorted to showing up unannounced, resuming his regular comedy shtick and making a rape joke. Classy.

Comedian Paul F. Tompkins was at the comedy club when C.K. performed. After the set, he told The New York Times that C.K. “made a career out of embracing the uncomfortable. Suddenly this is beyond his powers to tackle? Where is the evidence that he cares at all to redeem himself? That he understands what he did was wrong? That he has learned anything? That he has tried to pay for his abuses with more than an enforced vacation?”

As a society, we are still wrestling with the repercussions of C.K.’s behaviour as well as the many other allegations against countless men. Where do these men go from here? We may not have a direct answer yet, but we can assure you, Louis C.K., this was not it.

C.K. finished his original apology by saying, “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” Who knew that “a long time” actually meant just nine months? There are many public figures stepping up and handling this social climate with grace and bravery, and for once, those are the voices we need to be listening to. We must remember that this movement is about women and the survivors of sexual assault.

Writer and comedian Hannah Gadsby may have said it best: “These men control our stories, and yet, they have a diminishing connection to their own humanity, and we don’t seem to mind so long as they get to hold onto their precious reputation.” C.K. has no right to reclaim his reputation after his disgraceful behaviour. So if anyone is ready to listen and laugh along with Louis C.K. today, they need some serious introspection.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante

Categories
Opinions

Aziz Ansari, welcome to the conversation

The time has come to speak out, listen and change the discussion 

When I first read the allegations about Aziz Ansari, I was extremely disappointed. He was supposed to a good guy. A feminist. A social activist. An underdog. Yet, there he was being aggressive, inappropriate and supposedly unaware of his actions.

The allegations were written in an article titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life,” published on the website Babe on Jan. 14. After seeing Ansari with a “Time’s Up” pin at the Golden Globes, a writer using the pseudonym “Grace” was set off. She recounted a date with Ansari after meeting him at the Emmys in 2017. She wrote about how abruptly Ansari wanted to have intercourse, and how he continuously put her hands on his genitals even after she removed them.

In her story, Grace claimed Ansari ignored her “verbal and non-verbal cues” indicating how uncomfortable she was during their time together at his home. Grace wrote that she still felt pressure to perform oral sex and allowed the unbearable experience to continue.

It would be naive to retrospectively say she should have just said no and left, because the pressures Grace faced are far more hidden, insidious and complex than they appear on the surface. This situation has brought up a discussion about consent, a long overdue discussion that has exploded in our society.

To me, what Grace described is a situation that lacked consent and empathy. However, this Ansari incident is so much bigger than the technicalities of sex being consensual or not. I believe arguing about consent in this situation should not be the focus, as it is clear Grace was feeling extremely uncomfortable, based on her recollection of the experience. We should be focusing on how to communicate during sexual encounters and how to encourage women to advocate for themselves in these situations.

Through my observations, I’ve noticed there was a great deal of hesitation to label this incident as sexual assault, by both men and women. To many, this situation may be all too familiar. This may be too close to home for women as it forces them to re-label personal experiences they thought of as just bad sex. Similarly, men may hesitate to reconcile their approach and actions—they might not understand that their actions have made women uncomfortable. Others have pushed back because of a perceived dilution of what assault really looks like. I’ve realized the movements #MeToo and Time’s Up may be more complicated than I originally anticipated.

In my opinion, issues with consent and sexual assault begin because of the hypersexualization of women in society. From a young age, men and women are taught to treat the female body like a sexual object. Men are taught about the “chase” and winning girls over with effort and perseverance. In media, women are often shown as unsure in their sexual encounters, and it’s supposedly the men’s job to change their minds. Porn, social media, advertisement, music videos and countless other media perpetuate this narrative.

Although sexual assault is a multi-layered, systematic issue, I think the media presence and the culture surrounding sex has acted as a catalyst for non-consensual relationships. We need to start thinking critically about how we can improve communication between men and women during sex. If we do not also examine the male perspective of the Ansari issue, and of sexual assault in general, we won’t be able to affect complete change.

For the first time in history, we are listening to and believing women about sexual assault allegations. It’s revolutionary, and it needs to continue. But I strongly believe we must include men in this conversation too. Not just by calling them out, but by making them understand their actions. Without trying to understand the complexities on both sides, we risk staying stagnant during this discussion and progress.

What Ansari did was bad. What others did was worse, and all of this is much too common, even among the “good guys” in our society. This is an opportunity unlike any we’ve had before. Not only are we calling men out, we are calling them in. Welcome to the conversation.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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