Over the last week or so, Western University and London, Ontario have found themselves in the news again. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons.
This picture, these words, and the meaning behind them have been discussed extensively on our private Facebook group. The furor has been varied, and intense.
Knee jerk reactions started with a proposed en-mass gathering at this home full of angry dads to protest this disturbing and disgusting line of thinking. A show of solidarity and power was seized, because we have a lot of dads, who have a lot of daughters, and papa bear is the biggest, angriest, and most powerful bear when his cubs are threatened.
Fortunately for all, we have a lot of priorities on the go, including our jobs and our children and our marriages and our social schedules. The flames on the torches burnt out and the sharp edges on the pitchforks dulled before anything rash occurred, but the discussion continued intensely.
I am told I have some talent with words, and so I tried to draft an open statement on behalf of our 1350 members that would adequately dictate to the residents of this home and anyone else who thought this word vomit was funny to take a step back and think of the meaning behind them, the culture they create, and the consequences to the actions that could stem from the beliefs of that culture.
I’m a dad of little girls. I’m a washed up jock. I’m a big guy. I can get passionately fired up.
I posted my thoughts in the group, and the debate and editing and arguing began. I started to notice some important universal themes.
Our message changed from “we are bigger, stronger, older, wiser, more connected, and are watching if you ever cross the line from taking these words into actions”, to a more reasonable form of unity and trying to improve education and offer awareness.
Rape jokes aren’t funny. They’re wrong. Sexual violence and rape culture are everywhere.
There are all sorts of social media accounts across multiple platforms dedicated to this type of humour. Nineteen year old boys in cargo shorts and flip flops and distressed hats laugh at them, tag their friends in them, and share them all over. And the message they share is lost and the targeted victims of these jokes and rape culture are diluted in their own humanity. Rape jokes objectify women as lesser human beings in an inter-gender power struggle, and promote a society of violence, fear, and degradation.
Some of the most powerful words put to paper by a rape survivor were those of Brock Turner’s victim, and can be found here for the few people on the planet who have not read them: A powerful letter from the victim to the court in Brock Turner’s trial
Women have been fighting since the beginning of time for a sense of equality in their lives and in our communities. They are human, and have hopes, dreams, wishes, and feelings. They also have less testosterone in their bodies than men do, and thus end up being subjected to their influence and exertion of will in an ongoing power struggle to be heard, seen, respected, and treated like equals.
This power balance exists in different forms world wide. Some cultures don’t let women get educations, or even show their hair or faces in public. Others like ours simply pay them 30% less in the workforce and joke or threaten their right to consent to a sexual relationship between two willing partners.
As the father of two little girls, this scares the absolute shit out of me. I am lucky in that my girls are 3 and 1.5 years old, and are a long long way away from an environment where I won’t be there to keep them safe and they might be vulnerable to predators because they had a few drinks while dancing with their friends.
I continue to learn and mature every day and gain more perspective and wisdom. I am lucky to be in a position to gain a lot of that from fellow dads in Dad Club London, and look forward to continuing my own personal development as a dad and as a good human being.
A few universal truths came from our discussions.
Rape culture exists, and sexual violence is everywhere. This type of joking and wording is inappropriate, offensive, immature, wrong, and disgusting. We don’t know where it came from, who put it there, or how they conduct themselves around women. We can’t condemn specific people or take any specific action.
What we can do is offer a lesson and future help. We are ongoing supporters of Women’s Community House, and we have reached out to the London Abused Women’s Centre because we want them to know that we exist and that we are the good guys and are listening to their needs and how we can play a supportive role.
We are fathers of little girls that we want to be safe, happy, respected, and loved. We are fathers of young women who are in the process of going out and discovering the world and what it’s like and what they want out of it. We are fathers of boys who are learning from us what it truly means to be a man. We are fathers of young men who are out of the nest for the very first time, and learning what it means to be responsible, prioritize, adapt, and succeed. Every day, we try to give them the tools to make the best decisions possible and be all that we can be.
We are here to help everyone who needs our help, in whatever way we can possibly help. Community starts small with every single member of it. A woman’s voice is just as powerful and has just as much value and as many rights to autonomy, dignity, and respect as a man’s voice does.
Let’s all do our part to make a better and safer community for all females. Respect them for their inner beauty. Listen to their voices. Grant them their right to make their own decisions and plot their own course in life. Young men can be respectful, honest, polite, and good people. Those who are considerate and compassionate to others can increase their own mood and sense of emotional well-being. They also will build the social relationships and chart the path to their own personal goals and successes. Guys who think its funny to joke about getting what they want whether or not the woman they are getting it from wants it as well don’t tend to amount to much in general. That attitude skirts the wrong side of the law and leads to a lot of wasted potential and flushed hopes and dreams.
Our parents did their best to raise us right, and Dad Club London is attempting to do the same by continuing to grow and build those lessons and apply them to our daily lives and our own children. We ask for our community as a whole to join us in doing the same.
Let’s all be good to each other. There is a time to speak, and a time to listen. Everyone’s thoughts and words have value, and everyone’s voice should be heard.
Rape culture and sexual violence are devastating to our society. We can all do better. Dad Club London and its 1350 members are all here to help.
We want to listen and we want to guide and advise whenever appropriate. Please reach out, because we are easy to find and happy to help. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community of fathers to set a good example for the greater good of all.
Jeremy McCall President, Dad Club London