Earlier this week, public threats were made at the University of Toronto, threats targeting women academics and calling for violence specifically against women who study or teach gender studies.
The culture of violence against women that makes such statements possible needs to be addressed. Actual violence against women must stop. We know that this type of violence is not an exception, nor are statements like these always an empty threat. Too many women have lost their lives at the hands of those who believe in such hateful words, and act on them in ways that destroy lives and devastate communities. Most mass shootings disproportionately target women. Violence against women takes many forms, from domestic abuse to rape to shootings, but all are rooted in a hatred of women, in a belief that women are less human than men. For academics in Canada (student workers, faculty, staff) the shooting of 14 women in Montreal by someone specifically targeting feminists serves as a pointed reminder that as we struggle to make our workplaces more equitable we are not immune to violence aimed at the women who do this work.
If you feel unsafe, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. Inform your supervisor or course director, as well as the Union, should you take this path. This is a right that you have as a unionized worker, and you should make use of it if needed. You have the fullest support of your Union in defending this right.
While we should all support grassroots activism (such as the work of TFAC and Silence is Violence on our campus, The UofT Thrive Initiative and UofT Students Against Sexual Assault at the University of Toronto, and Take Back the Night and WomenatthecentrE in our broader community) the fight also occurs in our homes and in our classrooms. Our Chairperson, Jen Cypher, shared the following on social media yesterday, and it is a challenge we could all accept:
“For the love of all that is meaningful and worthwhile tell your students about this fear and demonstrate why it exists. Show them the posts that target feminists at the U of T. Talk about Montreal – tell them the story and read out the names of those women (I usually cry when I do this, but that’s okay with me). No matter what subject you teach, teach your students that ideas are so important that they incite violence, and that the most important thing that they need to learn, and live, is to reject this violence and commit to living lives that contradict the notion that difference is something to be opposed, oppressed, even shot down in a classroom. This is how we fight back. Don’t be silent.”
– CUPE 3903 Executive Committee