B’ys, Times Up

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LETTERS -

I be­lieve Sherry Gam­bin­walsh.

I be­lieve Tracey Perry. I be­lieve Cathy Ben­nett. I be­lieve Pam Par­sons. Whether you voted for them or not, you should be­lieve them too.

It’s easy to dis­miss the ha­rass­ment in gov­ern­ment as sim­ply “school yard be­hav­ior” or “locker room talk.” Surely we have larger is­sues to worry about: a strug­gling econ­omy, Muskrat Falls, or our re­source econ­omy in oil and gas and our fish­eries.

But this is not a triv­ial mat­ter for many women in this prov­ince.

Ha­rass­ment in the House of Assem­bly makes the front page, but it is ac­com­pa­nied by the Snel­grove re­trial, the Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women’s In­quiry stop in St. John’s, a wage gap of $0.66 on the dol­lar, women be­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of min­i­mum wage earn­ers, no ac­cess to af­ford­able child­care, the Rum­bolt trial, and the dev­as­ta­tion of the In Her Name Vigil for miss­ing and mur­dered women. This is the deaf­en­ing white noise that fol­lows us through our days, and the cor­re­la­tion be­tween the sys­temic is­sues of ha­rass­ment in our pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship is clear.

In­stead of tak­ing the time for a mod­icum of self-re­flec­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing news that a col­league has brought for­ward a se­ri­ous com­plaint of ha­rass­ment, or tak­ing a day to speak to fam­ily, friends and trusted women in their lives to ask about any changes they should make to be a bet­ter man, an im­proved com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and a wor­thy MHA, we hear, “not me, not my prob­lem,” not in their house.

Watch­ing this be­hav­iour is so in­cred­i­bly in­fu­ri­at­ing and dis­heart­en­ing be­cause there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the poor sta­tus of women in this prov­ince and the be­hav­iour of our male elected of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing th­ese MHAS.

Women know th­ese men are re­spon­si­ble for de­ci­sions about when and where we can have an abor­tion, whether we have ac­cess to af­ford­able child­care, if we de­serve ac­cess to a nurse or le­gal coun­sel af­ter a sex­ual as­sault, or ac­tion to­wards equal pay for women. And while male MHAS are mak­ing en­ti­tled state­ments about not re­turn­ing to work, women and our chil­dren are deal­ing with im­mi­nent food in­se­cu­rity and home­less­ness and vi­o­lence and poverty.

In a time when sex­ual as­sault cen­tres are over­whelmed with calls, when women’s cen­tres are in­un­dated with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sur­vivors com­ing for­ward, how can we be ex­pected to turn to any of th­ese men, who refuse ac­count­abil­ity, to make de­ci­sions about our lives or the sup­ports and ser­vices we so des­per­ately rely on.

Let’s call this what it is: en­ti­tled toxic mas­culin­ity.

Un­less we have women in lead­er­ship who can be safe and work­ing to their full po­ten­tial, equal pay for women, women who are given equal op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to the econ­omy, we will never have the in­no­va­tion in lead­er­ship that we need to ad­dress all the broader is­sues in our prov­ince — those im­pact­ing women and our chil­dren di­rectly, and is­sues that im­pact us all. With­out women liv­ing at our full ca­pac­ity, this prov­ince is doomed to re­peat the same mis­takes.

#Time­sup for toxic mas­culin­ity to dom­i­nate our gov­ern­ment. Women: it is time to run for of­fice, to take up space in gov­ern­ment of­fices and de­part­ments. We can no longer al­low the sta­tus quo to be re­spon­si­ble for the crit­i­cal de­ci­sions that af­fect our qual­ity of lives and that of our chil­dren and com­mu­ni­ties. Reach out to Equal Voice, reach out to the Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil in your area. We will start run­ning cam­paign schools.

We will sup­port you. We are 52 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion in this prov­ince and we are com­ing. B’ys, #Time­sup.

Jenny Wright Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, St. John’s Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil/women’s Cen­tre

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