Question: How many reports does it take to end sexism?
Answer: Infinite. Or: None.
Since the report on sexism at Dalhousie’s dentistry program was released last week, observers have noted — just as they did after the report on sexism in the military came out earlier this year — that no campus or government department is an island. Our broader culture is, at root, to blame.
And it’s true.
The Dalhousie report, which stemmed from the revelation of a very rapey Facebook page run by male students — found the school “permits incidents of sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism.”
Dalhousie, of course, isn’t alone. Last week, a York University student filed a human-rights complaint against that school for its allegedly lackadaisical response when she told them she’d been raped by a fellow student.
“The (Facebook page) ‘Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen’ did not exist in a vacuum,” the Dalhousie report notes in its section on “Society,” under the heading “Why did this happen?”
If that sounds like a cop-out by the report’s authors, partly, it is. It’s an admission of the obvious: that reports can’t solve sexism, as much as they may attempt to do their part. They can’t even force change unless they’re turned into action (the Dalhousie recommendations don’t even include new rules at the school: It already has sufficient ones in place).
In fact, they’re most successful as litmus tests. We’re at a point on the sexism scale, they indicate, where the ultimate, implicit goal is a world free from prejudice. We’ve made improvements, we then tell ourselves. Maybe, with these reports, we can make more.
And maybe, a lot won’t change. The Dalhousie Facebook page, with its comments about using nitrous oxide on women and “hate f–king” them, carries the same message as was scrawled across Queen’s University in 1989. At the time, as This Magazine reported, signs such as “‘No’ means ‘Kick her in the teeth,’” “‘No’ means more beer” and “‘No’ means ‘Down on your knees, b-tch’” were posted in response to a “‘No’ means ‘No”’ campaign against date rape.
Some days, and this is one of them, I don’t believe victory over sexism is possible. I don’t believe reports will do much to help. I don’t feel like doing the womanly thing and being grateful for how far we’ve come, or hopeful for the future. I’m not even angry.
I drink my coffee, and do my job, and think that’s just the society we will always live in.