What does it mean to be a feminist? Does it mean you hate men or does being a feminist mean that you advocate for gender equality? This is an important distinction, one that has been receiving more attention since Emma Watson, a well-known British actor, criticised the fact that, “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating” in her recent speech at a United Nations conference.
Last week, the Student Justice Centre (SJC) added their voice to the ongoing issue of gender equality with the Purple and White Ribbon Campaign. The campaign works to commerate the 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, who were shot dead by 25-year-old Marc Lépine in an act of gender-based violence, before committing suicide.
It also serves to end violence against women and raise awareness for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada, taking place on Dec. 6. The day was established in 1991 by Parliament to mark the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women.
On the week of Nov.17, Nichole Burrus, the Campaigns Coordinator for the SJC, helped set up a campaign table in Mackenzie Chown A Block. Students who came by were able to pick up a ribbon to show their support for gender equality. According to Burrus, the SJC handed out over 100 ribbons to Brock students. The white ribbons signified men working to end violence against women, while the purple ribbons signified women working to end violence against women.
The campaign also encouraged students to get involved and consider what they could personally do to help put an end to gender violence. Women were encouraged to educate themselves on the types of gender violence, support their friends and stop blaming themselves as women. Men were encouraged to be respectful, accept their role in helping to end gender violence and learn about the impact of violence against women in their communities.
“By facilitating this campaign, I hope to further educate students about an issue that affects a large portion of our population,” said Burrus. “I think that it is especially important because of everything currently happening around feminism, to get the message to students that it’s not up to a single gender. Both genders need to work together to help make our world a better place.”
It seems that this message reached a portion of Brock students, including fourth-year Applied Linguistics student Nicole Kellar.
“It’s assumed that gender equality is an issue that only affects women,” said Kellar, “but you can tell, just from the word equality, that this is an issue that impacts both men and women.”
Luke Tax, a fourth-year Kinesiology major, expressed a similar point of view.
“It’s right there in the word equal,” said Tax. “Everybody in the world has a right to be treated well, regardless if they’re male or female.”
While it seems that the call for solidarity between males and females has reached a handful of Brock students, it is important to continue to advocate for and continue to raise awareness regarding gender equality. Only through equality can there be hope to end violence against women and progress towards an equal society.