A letter of support to those fighting for gender justice

We, the members of Divest Dalhousie, would like to express our deep gratitude to the Board and Staff of the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre and everyone on the Dalhousie campus working in fierce solidarity with those who are victims of sexual and gendered violence. We are further grateful to female members of the Dalhousie Student Union who have continually spoken out against misogyny and oppression in many forms as this issue has become increasingly publicized.

We are angered and disgusted by the misogynistic, violent and hate-laden posts by the DDS2015 “Gentlemen’s Club”. We hurt for the women who now are tormented by the actions of their peers. We owe our respect to the women in the dentistry program who return to class every day despite the challenges they face.

The violent posts came to light at the end of a year of upfront misogyny and sexism in mainstream media. In order to challenge misogyny in all its forms on campus and in society, perpetrators must be held to account. This is what the South House and broader allies are doing, and we love and support them for it.

Divest Dalhousie is arguably an environmental group, but we know that environmentalism goes far beyond the physical environment. We believe environmental justice is the most effective form of environmentalism because it directly addresses the systemic root causes of [environmental] destruction – colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy. Like colonialism and capitalism, misogyny is the result of an imbalance of power. Patriarchy is a system that enables men to assume power and control over the lives, experiences, and desires of women. This same structural division of power enables men to control an unbalanced proportion of natural and human resources, to centralize power in corporations and governments that destroy our environment and our climate, and to take away women’s access to the resources and communities necessary to shape their own lives and futures. We recognize that climate justice and gender justice are one and the same, and we can’t have one without the other.

At Dalhousie, as at most institutions in Western society, men hold a disproportionate number of positions of power. For example, the privileged membership of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors is predominantly held by white males. These men shape the way that the university liaises with corporations and governments, they influence the physical and cultural elements of campus life, and they decide how injustices like those in the dentistry school are addressed. The power of men to make decisions and shape the experience of Dalhousie’s students touches all aspects of the school. Without the experiences of women shaping these decisions, Dalhousie is doomed to continue to uphold patriarchal structures. That’s why the work of women fighting against these systems is so valuable – they’re forcing the administration to take experiences of women into account as they address the blatant misogyny in the School of Dentistry, and at Dalhousie as a whole.

We work hard to put women at the front of our group not only because women make up the majority of Divest Dalhousie, but also as a step to make up for the traditional underrepresentation of female voices in our society. It takes work. Groups and individuals fighting systemic oppression need to support each others fights for justice because patriarchy will not smash itself.

The misogynist comments that have become exposed recently are just one example of an attitude that is pervasive in many other settings and groups. Patriarchy is deeply entrenched in society and the deep roots are not always easy to detect. We must continue try to understand the different forms that such oppression may take in day-to-day life, including within our own group structure.

As we fight for climate justice, we stand in solidarity with those fighting for gender justice. The two are interwoven to the core and one is not possible without the other.

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