Speak out about sexism and abuse, urges author

Jackson Katz wants to redefine what it means to be a man. Strong men, he says, don't abuse women. Nor do they stand by when others are doing the abusing.

Jackson Katz wants to redefine what it means to be a man.

Strong men, he says, don’t abuse women. Nor do they stand by when others are doing the abusing.

Katz is an American author, educator and public speaker. He travels North America repeating his message: men need to be involved in the solution to end violence and abuse against women.

Katz got the crowd warmed up in Whitehorse this week during the Canadian Teachers’ Federation’s conference on women’s issues. This year’s event focussed on engaging men and boys.

There were over a hundred people in the room – teachers, students, youth workers, women’s rights advocates and others. Men were in the minority.

Just before lunchtime, Katz asked what you call a man who speaks up to discourage another man from taking home a drunk woman. Discernible whispers filled the air: “cock-blocker.”

He asked how many people had never heard the term, and less than 10 hands were raised. “It’s not a compliment,” he said.

Katz said the solution is to have strong male role models at all levels of society who vocally encourage “cock-blocking” and “snitching” when this behaviour helps create a safer society for women.

Violence and abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual, is endemic. Statistics show Yukon rates three times higher than the provinces, but lower than the two territories.

There were microphones set up through out the room to encourage conversation and testimonial. Annie Blake, a First Nation woman from Old Crow, said her tight-knit, isolated community makes it near-impossible to go against the status quo because people will fight against what you’re doing.

“You risk losing your friends if you speak out. You risk being attacked.”

Violence and abuse is higher among the aboriginal population, and it is tied up with poverty and alcohol abuse. Katz said layers of history, culture and race need to be acknowledged – there is no “one-size fits all” formula to address the role of men and women in communities.

“People are uncomfortable to talk about colonialism, and racism, so we make generalizations instead of zeroing in on behaviour,” he said, “but violence prevention is interwoven with social change.”

Katherine Mackwood is the president of the Yukon Teacher’s Association. She helped organize the symposium, and she has a personal connection to the cause. She too took to the floor and spoke about her experience in an abusive relationship.

Mackwood wants to equip teachers with the ability to discuss abuse and sexism. She said it shouldn’t just be one unit in school, it should become a part of the underlying culture of the education system.

Mackwood also said recognizing people who have been abused, and getting them to open up and talk about it, will help everybody.

Sruthee Govindaraj is a student at Vanier Secondary School. She says anti-bullying and anti-violence rhetoric is pounded into students, and they are numb to the message. She said the conference was stimulating because it offered a different perspective, and more options for change.

Katz said change has to be political; it has to come from the top. There has to be a trusted figure directing actions – if kids learn to speak a certain way at home or school, but don’t see what they learned exemplified in the workforce, they won’t stick to it.

The minister of education, Elaine Taylor, was present to speak at the beginning of the symposium, but other than her opening words the conversation lacked political voices, male or otherwise.

Katz said he didn’t say it would be easy. But studies show that most men are silently uncomfortable with sexist comments or behaviour.

“It’s not that men don’t want to speak up,” he says, “it’s just that they don’t think they have permission.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 21, 2020

Movie poster for <em>Ìfé,</em> a movie being shown during OUT North Film Festival, which includes approximately 20 different films accessible online this year. (Submitted)
OUT North Film Festival moves to virtual format

In its ninth year, the artistic director said this year has a more diverse set of short and feature films

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Most Read