Content warning: Misogyny, heteronormativity, gender binary, violence against women
Sometime before the night of November 24, the walls of Leacock and the Arts building were plastered with posters displaying an incoherent, misogynistic piece of victim-blaming rhetoric. These posters were a page long rant on masculinity and sexuality, but we will not be providing a platform for the voices of exclusionary misogynists by repeating their words. Instead, this is a call for radical solidarity.
The poster was ludicrous: it advocated for the policing of women’s bodies, blamed women for men’s sexually transgressive behaviour, and urged men to take action to reclaim their “natural” “sexuality”. It was clearly heteronormative, and perpetuated toxic concepts of the gender binary.
So why respond if the poster was ridiculous? Because this is not one isolated incident. These posters are part of a larger trend of oppression and discrimination becoming increasingly vocal, violent, and naturalized by the rhetoric of “world leaders” and civilians alike. It is present here on campus, even if not always present in the form of an explicit poster. But if this poster indicates an emergent Men’s Right’s Activist (MRA) faction at McGill, we want them to know that we, the newly formed McGill Anti-Fascist, Anti-Sexist Solidarity Network, are ready to respond.
This will not stand. No one gets to dictate the ways in which women, femmes and non-binary people express our sexuality. No one gets to delegitimize the sexual harassment we experience daily through unsolicited advances, comments on the way we look or dress, or the discrete yet abundant activities of patriarchal power.
These posters appeared within the halls of McGill, and so must be understood within their context. Canadian universities continuously fail to properly address cases of sexualized and gendered violence, and our universities continue to be unsafe and inaccessible for many. These posters were displayed within a culture of institutionalized violence and day-to-day misogyny that comes in various forms and degrees of severity. In this province, gendered violence reached its height within a university setting, when an armed gunman murdered 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. We continue to grieve for these women. We refuse to let any of our comrades become more names to grieve.
Canada is not immune. McGill is not immune.
Acts of misogynistic violence are not limited to those who actively organize against women. Men who hold positions of power should take a hard look at the ways in which they participate in and benefit from misogynistic practices. We need better allies. Calling yourself a feminist does not qualify you as an ally. Allyship is ongoing, and requires radical solidarity and support.
We are writing this open letter to make it loud and clear that we are watching, we are organized, and we will not stand for the normalization of violent, gender-based rhetoric. We will stand up to fascism, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, nationalism, white supremacy and other forms of oppression. When one of us is threatened, the rest of us will respond. We are not afraid of those who police our bodies, silence our voices, and dominate space with heteronormative and sexist values. McGill is our space, and to unapologetically occupy it as a female, queer, or racialized body is an act of political resistance.