Briefs News

World in brief: Justice for Rafi, death of ISIS leader and a third extension for Brexit

Sixteen people have been sentenced to death for setting a 19-year-old girl on fire after she accused her teacher of sexual harassment in Bangladesh. The verdict came after the country was left in shock, protesting for justice. It was one of the quickest sentences to be pronounced in such cases. Nusrat Jahan Rafi was murdered in April by classmates who urged her to retract her complaint. They lured her onto a rooftop 11 days after she came forward to the police with accusations of sexual harassment, as reported by BBC. Bangladesh has an alarmingly high rate of sexual violence. According to UN Women, more than half of Bangladeshi women have experienced some form of sexual violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime.

On Sunday, Trump announced the death of one of the most wanted terrorists, Islamist State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Several media outlets reported that he died in a raid conducted by American troops in northwest Syria, on Saturday night. It was later confirmed by Trump that al-Baghdadi ran into a dead-end tunnel with three of his children, where he detonated a suicide vest. Yet, people are reluctant to link his death to the end of ISIS, as the terrorist organization is most likely to name a successor. Talking about a possible ISIS resurgence in a TIME article, Michael Downing, former head of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau for the Los Angeles Police Department said: “Now is one of the most dangerous times, when you injure an animal, that is when it is most dangerous.”

A new Brexit deadline has been granted to Boris Johnson’s government after the Prime Minister was forced by the parliament to request a further extension. On Twitter early Monday morning, President of the European Council Donald Tusk referred to the setback as a “flextension” – meaning if a deal was to be made before February 2020, Britain could still have the opportunity to leave the EU. Johnson has repeated many times that a Brexit deal would happen by Oct. 31, but it has become increasingly difficult to reach a consensus with a minority government. Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, was first voted for in 2016 and has been extended three times since.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


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.

Student Life

Dancing our way to safety with PLURI

Nightclubs are beginning to address the sexual harassment marginalized groups experience

Suppose you want to have a fun night out with a group of friends, but you’re not a cisgender, heterosexual male. Of course, bartenders are usually apt to thwarting suspicious behaviour, and venues often have bouncers or security for when dodgy situations escalate. Nonetheless, for marginalized groups—namely the LGBTQ+ community, women of colour (WoC) and cisgender women—a night out typically entails a mixture of catcalling, verbal harassment, non-consensual physical interactions, and, in too many cases, sexual assault.

In 2017, just under 30,000 sexual assault cases in Canada were reported to the police, according to a StatsCan report released in July. Of those cases, almost 4,000 were deemed unfounded, meaning “police determined that no crime had taken place,” reads the same report. The Conseil des Montréalaises released an opinion paper titled “Montreal, a Festive City for all Women: Security of Trans Women and Girls at Outdoor Events in Montreal.” It cites studies indicating that, in 2011, 47 per cent of women felt twice as nervous as men walking through their neighbourhoods at night, and 45 per cent of women avoid certain areas at night. These, and many other reports, cannot even begin to quantify the degree of sexualized violence marginalized communities experience and the number of unreported sexual assault cases.

Christopher Roberts, a Concordia student who enjoys Montreal’s nightlife, said they spent a lot of time at Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Datcha is a nightclub that recently partnered with PLURI, a non-profit organization aiming to reduce harassment on dance floors. Through integrated safety monitors visible by the yellow ‘Party Support’ label on their backs, or staff shirts from respective venues, PLURI volunteers are trying to make dance floors more enjoyable for everyone by intervening in harassment situations before they escalate.

PLURI, which stands for Peace Love Unity Respect Initiative, was co-founded by Éliane Thivierge and Celeste Pimm, alongside a small team of other volunteers, in August 2016. The non-profit offers a range of workshops for event organizers, bar staff, and aspiring volunteers that provide “training on how to recognize harassment, how certain systemic oppressions interact with party spaces and bystander intervention,” according to an interview with PLURI.

Party Support volunteers have been present at music festivals such as MUTEK, POP Montreal, Red Bull Music Festival, and Slut Island. PLURI explained that Party Support volunteers are the “middle [ground] between the event patron and security… They are points of contact that are more accessible and less intimidating than security.”

Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Patrick Gregoire has been the manager of Datcha for the past four years. He said the venue has been working with PLURI’s dance floor safety monitors for over six months, despite only announcing their partnership just over a month ago. Gregoire explained that, at first, the Party Support volunteers were inconspicuous, and didn’t wear any labels that indicated their position. “But we felt that their work is best when people see someone on the dance floor with authority that isn’t security,” said Gregoire.

Roberts explained two instances, both occurring the same night at Datcha, which involved their friends experiencing sexual harassment to the point where bar staff and security intervened. “The wrong people found [their] way to [some] queer people […] and one was grabbing people, including my friend,” said Roberts. “I found a bartender to let them know the situation and, immediately, a bouncer kicked the guy out.” Roberts said the second incident involved a cis male harassing two of their queer friends and, when the situation escalated, Roberts “made eye contact with a bouncer who immediately dissolved the situation.”

Carla, a bartender at Datcha, said she’s very happy about the bar’s collaboration with PLURI. “It’s a plus having that extra team around,” she said. “And the fact that they’re all women—I love.”

Chris, another bartender at Datcha, said he’s been fortunate enough to “work [at] places where [they’ve] always had someone to deal with those issues.” Carla added that the Party Support volunteers try to educate people and deconstruct instances of harassment. “At the end of the night, the girls all sit down with security and the bouncers and go over what happened that night,” said Carla. “It’s really cool.”

Gregoire, as well as PLURI, emphasized the benefit of having initiatives like Party Support. “Before, these things wouldn’t get flagged until it was a problem,” said Gregoire. “[Volunteers] often end up checking in with people who are being harassed before they decide to reach out for help,” explained PLURI. The non-profit organization added that most patrons facing harassment will accept the support offered instead of tolerating these behaviours or removing themselves from the space.

Concordia journalism student and techno music enthusiast Erika Morris said that an initiative like PLURI “makes [her] feel better about these places recognizing an issue and trying to do something about it.” Security has been helpful at times by keeping their eyes on men who harass her, explained Morris. “Sure, it made me feel a bit safer that night, but the next time I went out, I had just as many chances of being harassed again,” she said. Marginalized communities—particularly queer folk—who experience harassment in public spaces, thus creating the need for these programs, “just reflects a higher societal problem,” added Morris.

“I think it’s cool that these people who are volunteers stay sober to try and help people,” said Morris. Roberts agreed that they feel PLURI and the Party Support initiative is an important step towards helping marginalized communities feel safe when they go out at night. “But in the end,” said Roberts, “there’s an overwash of sorrow that reminds our communities that we are being pushed into corners of spaces […]. [We] need more help than ever just to feel comfortable being with each other and ourselves for a night.”

Feature image by Alex Hutchins.


“I want some accountability from this institution”

Former Concordia student files human rights complaint against Concordia University

More than two months since the start of the investigation into sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against creative writing instructors, another Concordia professor has been accused of sexual harassment.

A former student, who wished to be identified by the pseudonym “Alya,” filed a human rights complaint with Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) after enduring what she considered to be repeated sexual harassment from a professor in the philosophy department.

Alya not only claims she was subjected to sexual harassment, but that the university did not take sufficient action despite years of discussing her experiences with faculty members, deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR). In her complaint, Alya said she is seeking $60,000 in damages from the university, and is requesting that Concordia take sanctions against the accused professor and “address the systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies” within the next six months.

“I want some accountability from this institution,” Alya said. “I want this to not happen to other people. It’s not fair. It’s not okay.”

The initial abuse

Alya claims she met the professor in 2008 when he was teaching a mandatory first-year course for students in the philosophy department. When he first began to show an interest in her outside of the classroom, she hoped it would lead to a friendly student-teacher relationship.

From her perspective, what happened instead was “creepy” and blatant harassment. He began to email her repeatedly, often late at night, inviting her to concerts and out for drinks. In one of his emails, the professor wrote he could “get you drinking Scotch and [sic] Dancing!!!!”, despite Alya telling him she did not drink. In another email, he wrote: “I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking.”

Alya alleges that, on two occasions, the professor invited her out under the guise of meeting with master’s students, but when she arrived at the bar, it was only the professor and another female student, who Alya said she believes also experienced harassment.

Feeling powerless and violated, Alya said the harassment drove her to discontinue her studies at Concordia and leave Montreal before completing her second semester to pursue a summer job.

“Even now, if I see someone that resembles him, it freaks me out,” Alya said. “I haven’t gone into the philosophy department since then […] There was no way in hell I was going to step foot in the philosophy department again with that man still working there.”

Nine years, no action

According to Alya, the allegations outlined in her complaint should come as no surprise to university administration. Since the spring of 2009, Alya said she has discussed her experiences with university officials, including deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and former ombudsperson Kristen Robillard. Yet, according to Alya, she was bounced around “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

Alya first reached out to the ORR in May 2009, with the hope of being able to hand in and receive credit for assignments she did not finish when she left Concordia before the end of the semester. Alya said the ORR asked her to contact the then-chair of the philosophy department, Matthias Fritsch.

For the course taught by the accused professor, Fritsch granted her an extension and arranged for the outstanding coursework to be marked by an independent grader. However, Fritsch denied her request for an extension on work for two other courses she did not complete, telling her via email that her argument that she felt too uncomfortable to be in the department was “insufficient” and her decision to leave Montreal was made “at [her] own discretion.”

In the same email, Fritsch also recommended Alya speak to her other professors about extensions, but cautioned her that it “would be best not to mention the harassment case, as it is confidential and also […] an insufficient reason.” Alya did not tell her other professors about the harassment and failed both courses.

When she returned to Concordia to take classes outside of the philosophy department in December 2014, Alya reached out to Gregory Lavers, the then-interim chair of the philosophy department, about removing her failed courses from her transcript. He referred her back to the ORR, where she was told she had waited too long to file a complaint with the university. She was then referred to Robillard. Despite filing a complaint with the then-ombudsperson, Alya never received a response, even after she called to follow up.

One of many Concordia complaints

Currently employed in the tattoo industry, Alya said that, when she began her studies at Concordia nearly 10 years ago, she had been hoping for a career in academia. Although her transcript was altered in 2017 to change her failed marks to “discontinued,” Alya said her lowered GPA had already cost her opportunities, including rejection from a McGill education program.

Despite filing the complaint on her own, Alya insists she is not the only woman who faced harassment from this professor. As a student, she suspected some of her female peers were also being targeted, and she claims she once spoke to the ORR on behalf of another student making allegations against the professor. She also said she discovered a number of female students avoided taking courses taught by this professor because of his reputation of being inappropriate.

In October 2017, encouraged by the #MeToo movement and the subsequent investigation into Concordia’s own creative writing program, Alya decided to reach out to CRARR and file a complaint.

“With the Me Too thing, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, people can actually do something about what happened.’ This exact thing happened to me, and no one did anything,” Alya said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I have to do something.’”

Although the current investigation being conducted by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy is focused on Concordia’s English department and creative writing program, there have been multiple complaints filed against the university in recent years. According to Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR, the organization has taken on six human rights complaints against the university, four of which are still being considered by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.

“We believe, in the end, someone at the institution has to be held accountable,” Niemi said.

“We want to pinpoint, specifically, the president and the board of directors […] Ultimately, the president, Alan Shepard, has to be held accountable.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


The line between conversation and action

France’s new catcalling law brings up a larger question about meaningful change

In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood and the rise of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment has become an issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds. France is hoping to take action against one particular form of harassment—catcalling.

Catcalling is the act of whistling or shouting sexually suggestive comments to passers-by, usually women. France is looking to make this form of sexual harassment a ticketable offence. A CNN report states: “Men who catcall, harass or follow women on the street in France could face on-the-spot fines under a new sexual abuse law.” However, France isn’t stopping there, according to a report in The New York Times. The law would extend the statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault involving minors as well as fining men who make overt, lewd comments or are aggressive towards women.

While this appears to be a major step forward for women in France, I have doubts about the effectiveness of these potential laws. In a perfect world, this new legislation would come into effect and women in France would feel much safer in their day-to-day lives. These kinds of laws could also set a precedent for other countries in Europe and around the world. However, for all that to happen, these laws will have to overcome many obstacles, the first and most cumbersome being existing free speech laws.

The right to express opinions is ingrained in the French constitution. The constitution states, “Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law.” Based on this, can catcalling be qualified as an “abuse” of this right? In my opinion, there is potential for catcalling and other forms of street harassment to be considered as such in France.

Also, there is a risk that even if this law does get passed, it will be respected and policed the same way jaywalking is. Most people jaywalk because, if they aren’t caught in the act, they won’t face consequences. I believe catcalling could fall into the same trap. If someone isn’t caught in the act, they won’t face any repercussions. The law would be on the books in France, but I think it would serve more of a symbolic role than anything else.

Symbolic laws and movements, like hashtags, have their advantages. Take the women’s marches that happened around the world after Trump’s election, or the #MeToo movement. All these actions started conversations. However, they also run the risk of fading away. In my opinion, real and recognizable action, like this potential law, is needed for meaningful change to occur.

Laws like the ones being considered in France could be the beginning of that real change. However, I worry this is just a really nice idea that will calm peoples’ rage about sexual harassment rather than actually take a step towards solving a real and pervasive problem.

The fact that these powerful movements have created such a strong outpour of emotion and caused governments to consider new laws fosters great hope. But talking about it and actually getting it done are very different things. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” rings true in this case. I don’t want to undermine how incredible it is that people are starting to have very open and honest conversations. Talking about important issues is always helpful for getting the ball rolling. However, if real, enforceable action isn’t taken in some capacity, whether it be through education or, in this case, new laws being implemented, then we risk living in an endless cycle of talking instead of doing.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Time’s up for sexual assault in Hollywood

As more voices speak up, the social movement takes centre stage during awards season

If you watched the Golden Globes on Jan. 7, you’ll know that time is up for sexual misconduct and gender inequality in Hollywood.

On Jan. 1, an open letter signed by more than 300 women in the film industry announced Time’s Up!, an initiative which aims to end sexual assault, harassment and pay disparity in the workplace.

The initiative came as a response to The New York Times and The New Yorker exposés about the decades-long sexual assault allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Since the Weinstein stories came out, according to the L.A. Times, “a powerful person has been accused of sexual misconduct at a rate of nearly once every 20 hours.”

The Time’s Up! movement was in full force at the Globes last Sunday night, with nearly everyone in attendance wearing black in protest of sexual misconduct. Conversations about female empowerment and gender inequality dominated the red carpet as well as some acceptance speeches.

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Oprah Winfrey were among those who delivered impassioned and rousing speeches. In one glorious moment, which followed Oprah’s encouraging words, Natalie Portman called out the blatant sexism that exists within Hollywood when she announced the Best Director nominees by saying, “here are the all-male nominees.”

With Time’s Up!, the women of Hollywood are taking great strides to illuminate gender inequality and sexual misconduct in the workplace. After watching the Globes, however, it’s clear there is still plenty of work to do.

While the women were leading the charge, the men stayed relatively silent. Sure, most of the male attendees sported Time’s Up! pins, but they were hardly asked to speak about the movement or why they support it. Unlike the women, none of the male winners brought up issues of sexual harassment or inequality in their acceptance speeches.

Last year, I wrote about how two women accusing Casey Affleck of sexual harassment would not thwart his chances of winning the Oscar for Best Actor. I was right; Affleck won that accolade at nearly every major awards show in 2017, including the Globes.

While it’s tradition for the recipients of the previous year’s Best Actor and Actress awards to present to the opposite sex the following year, Affleck did not attend the Globes. Although not formally announced, he was replaced on stage by Angelina Jolie and last year’s Best Actress winner, Isabelle Huppert.

It was a nice, albeit quiet, gesture on the part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the committee of film journalists and photographers who nominate and decide the winners each year.

However, the HFPA chose to honour other problematic stars, including filmmaker Kirk Douglas, who has long been rumoured to have “brutally raped” actress Natalie Wood when she was 17 years old, according to the online media company Gawker.

In addition, when James Franco took the stage to accept his award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, The Breakfast Club actress Ally Sheedy tweeted (and later deleted) the following: “James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/TV business.” We can’t say for certain what Sheedy was insinuating with her tweet but, since the Globes aired, five women have come forward with their own accusations against Franco claiming sexual inappropriateness in the workplace. On Jan. 11, the L.A. Times spoke to the women, which included actresses Franco has hired for his films and students from his time as a professor at USC, UCLA and CalArts.

However, it seems Franco is getting the Casey Affleck treatment—just a few hours after the L.A. Times story broke, he won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Critics’ Choice Awards. Earlier in the week, Franco denied the accusations, which at that point had only been mentioned on Twitter, during appearances on both The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Since the women came forward, Franco has cancelled several scheduled events and was a no-show at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

While it might seem shocking that Hollywood continues to allow allegedly abusive men like Affleck and Franco to succeed, it’s hardly a surprise. Just look at Woody Allen.

In 1992, Allen’s adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow alleged that he molested her when she was 7 years old. Farrow has penned several essays calling out the actors who have continued to work with Allen despite her testimony, and has been an active voice in the Time’s Up! movement.

The allegations against Allen have been an “open secret” in Hollywood since the 90s, much like those against Weinstein were, but that never stopped Allen from continuing to make films and work with the top actors in the industry.

His most recent film, Wonder Wheel, stars Justin Timberlake, who sported a Time’s Up! pin at the Globes, and Kate Winslet, who has been one of Allen’s biggest defenders.

Allen has also worked with the likes of Selena Gomez, Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Blake Lively and so many more. They all must have, at the very least, been aware of the accusations against Allen and chose to work with him anyway. Some, like Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig, have expressed their regret about working with him, but most have remained quiet.

Because, in 2018, working with an alleged pedophile and molester still gives an actor prestige.

Honouring and awarding men who have such severe allegations made against them at an awards show where everyone is protesting that very thing is disturbing. Doesn’t all the aforementioned effort go to waste when the actresses protesting sexual misconduct are forced to share the stage with an accused harasser/abuser?

The Globes may have seemingly banned Affleck from attending, but the Academy Awards are known to be far more traditional, so there is a chance we’ll see Affleck present at the Oscars when they air in March.

If that is the case, what can be done? Should we all change the channel the second Affleck appears on our screens? Should the audience boo as he makes his way over to the microphone? Would it not make more of a statement if the likes of Casey Affleck were formally banned from attending awards season altogether?

Time’s Up! is but a small step in an greater battle against sexual harassment and gender inequality, but cherry-picking who is held accountable and who gets a pass is not going to enact any change.

We must also leave room for the possibility that more stories will come out between now and March. Stories about those who have championed the movement since the beginning; stories about the very people who sported Time’s Up! pins at the Globes. If these stories emerge, those with the power to do so will have to respond quickly and accordingly.

Hollywood is not entirely there yet, and it looks like it still has a long way to go.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Taking action to prevent sexual assault

Once again, a scandal has erupted around allegations of sexual assault at the hands of a powerful man. On Oct. 5, The New York Times reported that several actors, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, came forward saying they had been sexually harassed by producer and former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein. Three women even accused Weinstein of rape.

This scandal has reignited a conversation about sexual assault as celebrities condemn Weinstein’s alleged actions and more people speak out about their own experiences with sexual assault or harassment. Needless to say, this is an issue that extends far beyond Hollywood and needs to be addressed. Yet it is still easy to feel discouraged and powerless in the face of so many instances of sexual assault that have been ignored or covered up for so long.

Thankfully, closer to home, preventative action is being taken to educate people about sexual assault and consent. Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) recently implemented a mandatory training program for first-year students living in residence. The workshop was designed by the centre’s staff with the purpose of educating new students about sexual consent and communication, according to Jennifer Drummond, the centre’s coordinator.
SARC already offers several consent and awareness workshops available to faculty, residence assistants and varsity sports teams. Drummond said she hopes these workshops will do more than shed light on sexual assault, but rather educate students and prevent sexual assault from being committed in the first place.

A large part of prevention is about consent which is why these workshops focus on sexual consent as it applies to assault and prevention. It is also important to understand that sexual assault can happen anywhere, be it at clubs or bars, on the streets at night, in classes or at parties—even in your own home. According to statistics provided by SARC, 82 per cent of sexual assaults in Canada are committed by someone the survivor knows. Although the statistics are widely reported, take a moment to really reflect on these numbers. It’s daunting to realize that one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

This makes it all the more important to speak out about sexual assault and make sure students recognize the behaviour, understand the necessity of consent and have the tools to intervene. We at The Concordian applaud SARC for implementing this workshop as it is one more step towards ensuring the safety of our fellow students. We hope one day these workshops will be mandatory for all students and staff.

The more people learn about sexual assault and understand the realities of it, the easier it will be to de-stigmatize this issue and eradicate it from our campus and community. Open dialogue about rape and assault is the best way for people to understand that these behaviours and actions are unacceptable and will never be okay—nor are they something to joke about. Until we work to ensure our peers are educated about this issue, it will only be that much harder to find solutions and implement change.

The allegations against Weinstein have sparked a conversation, but what needs to happen now is action. We at The Concordian hope to inspire readers to educate themselves about this topic and speak up about the issue. The one positive outcome of this scandal is that it has empowered more survivors to talk about their experiences and educate others about sexual assault and consent. We want to encourage open discussion on the topic of rape and assault, and we hope this leads to more preventative action.

Whether you are a survivor of sexual assault, know someone who is or are just looking to learn more about the issue, Concordia’s SARC is a good place to start. For more information or to reach out for support, call 514-848-2424 ext. 3461 or visit the drop-in centre in the Hall building, H-645.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin 


ComicCon doesn’t have a harassment problem: society does

Blaming geek culture isn’t only insulting, it’s simply wrong

Beware ladies, there is a new threat roaming our streets, and it masquerades as superheroes and villains. It is… the male nerd.

With the announcement that the Montreal Comiccon would be implementing new measures to prevent sexual harassment at its event, the media went into a feeding frenzy. The Montreal Gazette typifies this, stating that “creeping at the con’ has become a widespread problem.”  Although probably written with good intentions, such reporting is hurtful to the two major groups who attend such conventions: men and women.

For men, the message put forth is that only a certain type of person would be associated with fantasy and sci-fi genres. Through the mysterious and threatening language used, the stereotype of the “ultimate nerd” is evoked: that of the forty-year-old man who lives in his parents’ basement, subsists on a diet exclusively of Cheetos, hasn’t seen the sun for at least five years, and is deeply sexually frustrated — an individual who would commit acts of sexual harassment out of social ineptitude.

For women, the message is not always one of protection, but sometimes of subtle blame. Many news outlets reporting on this note that some of the costumes worn by female attendants are skin tight and revealing.  Making that point feeds into the concept that if one dresses in such a way, one must be asking for the attention, looking for sexual harassment to occur. Such a line of thinking places blame on the victim, which is simply not the case. These women are lovers of the genre wanting to go, in character costume, to a convention.

Further, such reporting calls into question whether women are welcome at such events or even a part of the community Comiccon is geared towards. Through the stereotype of the “male nerd,” women are essentially shut out. Comiccon risks being portrayed as a boys’ club. Such a view excludes a large portion of the convention-going public.

None of these criticisms change the fact that sexual harassment exists. But this issue is not relegated to convention halls: it’s in the classroom, the workplace, and any area where people gather. In all other public places, a special group — most often a human resources department — is tasked with dealing with cases as they occur and offering training to try to prevent such situations. Comiccon is following this trend in an attempt to stop sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment does happen wherever there is a large enough gathering of people. Its victims are women and men alike. To date, the only report on male harassment at Comiccon is by the CBC. Unwanted attention, directed at both sexes, is a conversation that society needs to have.

It is easy to lose focus of the fact that it is a small minority of people at the convention who engaged in unwanted activity. Through magnifying the issue, the popular media is, in essence, doing something akin to equating all Christians to members of the Westboro Baptist Church. One would never do the latter, so why make it different for those who like comics, sci-fi and fantasy?

While the media hype will probably die down in the next few weeks, the issues it raises should remain a part of our public conversation. Lovers of these genres should put aside their ideological differences, take up their swords/staffs/light sabers/phases/mystical artifacts of unknown origins and say that enough is enough. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated, nor will those who commit such acts be welcome.

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