Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

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It isn’t just locker room talk

Sex is the one three letter word in the English language that has the power to make us turn red and shift in our seats. It is a natural part of adult life but most of our communities haven’t found a way to talk about sex freely and openly. When we’re uncomfortable it’s easier to avoid a subject than it is to talk about it. When we find the courage to talk about sex and sexual violence our conversations are often limited and private but we can’t create an open culture with closed conversations.

Culture is a powerful thing. It influences our social norms, sets collective beliefs, and sets the conscience to our moral compasses. In a world where powerful politicians can refer to conversations about sexual assault as “locker room talk” without consequence, you would think that our culture’s acceptance of sexual violence would be easy to identify. For some it is and has coined the term rape culture. In practice, naming the problem isn’t easy when we’ve been taught to accept it as normal. Rape culture remains a taboo subject. We’ve been taught to accept excuses for sexual harassment and disrespect like “it was just a joke”, “I didn’t mean it like that”, or “she was asking for it”. Even when we don’t agree with it, we have been taught to shy away from the topic of rape culture instead of standing up against it. Anne Bishop said it best in her book Becoming an Ally when she wrote: “All members of this society grow up surrounded by oppressive attitudes; we are marinated in it. It runs in our veins; it is as invisible to us as the air that we breathe”.

For some of us, our discomfort discussing sex and sexual violence comes from attitudes and assumptions about who can discuss sex and how. We accept it as normal when men brag about their sexual conquests and congratulate them for being “manly”, a “player”, or a “playboy”, while women who talk about their sex lives are judged for being “easy”, “slutty”, and lacking social graces. These gender stereotypes are evidence of rape culture which is itself the product of patriarchy: the social structures and beliefs that assume men should have more power than women. Despite the progress we have made towards gender equality, these oppressive beliefs die hard.

The history of patriarchy is long, depressing, and continues to shape our society. Naming patriarchy as the problem does not mean that only men are responsible for it because we can all repeat and promote toxic beliefs in our daily behaviors. We don’t have time for the full history lesson about patriarchy here so let’s jump right to the root cause of the problem: imbalances in power. When we allow men to play by a different set of rules than women, we support the idea that it is natural for men to have more power and imply that they deserve it. When we belief that only one gender deserves sexual pleasure we support sexual inequality and make inequality seem normal. When we justify a sexual assault against a woman because of what she wore, what her body looks like, how she resisted, or her sexual history we dehumanize her and protect her assailant. One of the core beliefs of rape culture is that victims are made responsible for the actions of the people who assault them. That is never true.

Imbalances in power don’t just hurt victims. Before perpetrators hurt and traumatize others they have often experienced pain and trauma themselves. Men who are told to hide their emotions, resist expressions of vulnerability, and ignore the emotional experiences of the people around them lack the skills to participate in healthy, empathetic, mutually satisfying, and intimate emotional and sexual relationships. Saying this does not remove perpetrators’ responsibility for

their actions. It does acknowledge that we are the products of our culture. We learn what is normal by watching and listening to the people around us, especially in the private spaces where we gather with peers like locker rooms. It might seem imbalanced to focus on men in this conversation but we know that males perpetrate 99% of sexual assaults against women in Canada. We can’t talk about sexual violence prevention without addressing men.

May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month and in some ways the cure to sexual violence is simple: to make sure that everyone has the skills and beliefs necessary for healthy, balanced relationships with their intimate partners. Healthy relationships are built on trust, respect, honesty, accountability, shared responsibility, and – perhaps most of all – equality. Healthy relationships also require vulnerability, kindness, gentleness, caring, acceptance, and will still come with fear and disappointments. Our conversations about these ideas are important because we model our beliefs about relationships and sex in what we do and in what we say, inside and outside of the locker room.

Chelsea Donohue and Jon Farmer

Violence Prevention Grey Bruce.

Disappointed SOLS cancelled service

I am writing today to clarify recent changes made by our government to library funding.

It is important to note that the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport is maintaining base funding for libraries at $25 million for 2019/2020.

Our province is faced with the highest sub-national debt on the entire planet at more than $340 billion. When we took office the government was spending $40 million more per day than it was taking in.

Our government is committed to protecting what matters most: our world class health and education systems. As a result, library shared service organizations are being asked to find efficiencies and we are reducing funding to those organizations. Both the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and the Ontario Library Service-North (OLS-N) were asked to work with our government to identify, modernize and keep key programs running.

Instead of working together with us, they decided to immediately cancel the inter-library loan service. SOLS has acknowledged the inter-library loan program was unsustainable and was costing $1.3 million per year to keep running. The service delivered approximately 320,000 items, costing over $4 each, in both directions. Canada Post offers a special rate to libraries of $1.38 (round trip) to send an item through the mail. This represents a reduction in cost of more than 75 per cent.

Minister Tibollo and his staff have met with the chairs of both SOLS and OLS-N, as well as the Ontario Library Association and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries recently to discuss how to move forward to ensure that the services that are most important to Ontarians continue in a sustainable way.

I’m disappointed SOLS chose to cancel the inter-library loan program before consulting with libraries or our government about alternatives. Collaborating on how to move forward would have been preferable than blaming the government in the media.

Bill Walker

MPP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

Climate film inspires action rather than fear

On May 8, the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound was filled to capacity (over 400 attended) for the launch of a locally made film. Resiliency – Transforming Our Community is co-produced by Liz Zetlin (filmmaker) and John Anderson (science consultant) and has been three years in the making. This 55-minute film focuses on climate change in the Grey Bruce area. It includes parts of John Andersons’ presentations on Climate Change and features interviews with local people and business owners. It asks questions and (importantly) provides responses.

Unlike much of the information about climate change (‘U.N. Chief says total disaster if warming not stopped’, Sun Times Thursday May 9), this film is designed to inspire not fear but action and to build community. It is intended for post-screening and discussion groups. It will continue to be available. (see website: resiliencedoc.info for details)

The atmosphere in the theatre at the close of the film when the lights came up was charged. During the Q and A, many who raised their arms stood up to voice not only a question but also their own beliefs and feelings about what lies ahead in our collective future.

This topic touches everyone and for once I found myself in an audience in Owen Sound that included all ages. When a six year old in the third row stood up speak and was asked by the moderator where she fit in on the scale of ‘Alarmed to Denial’ , her answer was “Active.”

It is time to take the impacts of climate change and its causes seriously but not alone. Ask the questions. Look for others to talk with. Share the film with your own networks, families, social connections. Like ripples in a pond, enough action can spread.

Danuta Valleau

Georgian Bluffs

 

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