The #metoo movement has ignited flames around the world. With fire comes both heat and light – heat for those who have trespassed and light to show us a better way forward. This is good. Nefarious deeds should be revealed and perpetrators should be punished. The next step is to work towards preventative measures.
The negative exposure of perpetrators from all strata and walks of life will undoubtedly act as a deterrent for some. However our over-crowded jails are proof that the fear of being caught is often ineffective. Some people may still believe that they are above the law. Others are frightfully ignorant of the law. Ultimately we know that it is impossible to legislate morality. If we as a society are serious about effecting enduring change, we are going to have to be more proactive.
The solution can be found in three locations: at home, in schools and the workplace. At home parents must teach values to their children by modeling socially acceptable behaviour and by addressing situations immediately and correcting attitudes when there is a lack of politeness and respect.
In schools we must review our codes of conduct to ensure that they address all aspects of a student’s life. Then it must be taught and taught again. Teachers from all disciplines should find a way to work these codes into weekly lesson plans. In classrooms, misogynistic comments and actions must be confronted and educators should find ways to turn them into teachable moments.
It is time for a cross-Canada curriculum that is taught in all of our schools that is designed to educate our young people how we should interact with other. Educators must break out of their provincial silos. This issue is too important for us to remain isolated. The curriculum must include the proper use of technology. Our young people must learn to discern right from wrong. Every student graduating from a Canadian high school should become part of the solution to prevent abuse everywhere. The enduring benefits of a national education plan are exponential.
In the workplace, for gender-partnership to be practical, we must have gender-parity at all levels of work and in decision-making processes. Men and women must have equal opportunities and equal compensation. When it comes to dealing with abuse, it is critical that decisions and judgements are made by gender-balanced boards. Progress can only be made through mutually respectful dialogues where women can express themselves freely and when men are really listening.
At home, in schools and in the workplace there are two dangerous pitfalls that must be avoided. Because most of the #metoo stories include a sexual element it is possible to conclude that it is sex that is the problem when in fact it is actually a much deeper rooted pathology that is at work. Most often sexual harassment, abuse and rape is about power. When teaching our young people, we must focus on this perceived imbalance of power that compels some men to violate a woman’s dignity.
The second potential pitfall involves the perpetrators. Initially we might be tempted to point to men as they are, in the vast majority of the time, the offenders. However it is only some men who feel threatened or so inadequate that they attack women. This is a critical point. We must resist the temptation to generalize. In fact, if we are going to find a viable solution, it is going to take men and women working together as allies against those who refuse to evolve.
We must begin a countrywide conversation that will develop into the standard for teaching equitable human development. This will take a strong will and determined leadership. If there ever was a time to level the playing field, it is now. If there ever was a place for this movement to take root, it is here in Canada.
Unacceptable behaviour must be identified, acknowledged and stopped. We must teach students and adults to stand up to all forms of abuse – when they are the victims and when they notice it happening to others. Like #metoo we must develop safe ways for people to speak out.
Doing nothing is not an option. Too many lives have been destroyed by our refusal to identify and correct abusive behaviour. We must create a country and perhaps a world in which not one woman will ever feel compelled to write #metoo ever again.