The ‘Morality’ of Discrimination and Violence: I just don’t get it.

The ‘Morality’ of Discrimination and Violence:
I just don’t get it

(A personal post from a SWTO team member.)

 

According to yesterday’s Toronto Star, some Christian and Jewish groups (see: the Institute for Canadian Values, Campaign Life Coalition, the Evangelical Association and the Council of Orthodox Rabbis) are denouncing McGuinty’s anti-bullying legislation as an affront to their faith and their religious rights. These groups are using classic diversion tactics, calling the Accepting Schools Act a front for a ‘radical’ sex-education agenda.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s (who recently made an It Gets Better video) Accepting Schools Act was in part introduced due to the tragic suicides of bullied teens. The act makes severe or repeat bullying punishable by expulsion, and specifically focuses on bullying that is based on sexual orientation, gender, disability, race, religion and other grounds.

From the Ontario Government’s website, the Accepting Schools Act, introduced November 30 but not yet proclaimed (i.e. passed), would among other things:

• Require all school boards to support students who want to lead activities that promote gender equity, anti-racism, understanding and respect for people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including groups with the name Gay-Straight Alliance or another name.

• Add a definition of bullying to the Education Act. *

• Designate the third week of November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week to raise awareness about bullying and encourage more people to stand up against bullying.

Not only would Ontario schools finally be required to accept Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), McGuinty has made it clear that the Government will ensure schools cooperate with this legislation so that children are supported to feel ‘welcome, accepted and connected’ to school.

Allow me to take a moment to clarify that from my understanding these organizations do not necessarily represent the majority or even the average practicing Christian and Jewish individual. I’d also like to note that there is plenty of anti-religious discrimination, (from which this same Act would also help protect children in schools) and assumptions about faith-practicing people. These are wrong just like any other type of discrimination, and I very much respect the rights and practice of anyone who is connected with their spirituality in a way that works for them. My personal basic guideline is this: I respect your right to practice your religion, so long as you respect my right to not practice your religion.

When I really start to bristle is when religious groups, and to be more particular, often certain charismatic religious leaders (yes, that’s you, Charles McVety, man largely behind the Institute for Canadian Values), capitalize on systems of oppression and social anxieties to wrest sympathy from their following in an attempt to shoehorn their religion into public policy. This usually comes with a social, political and/or economic benefit, and it always comes at the expense of groups and individuals who will be further marginalized and discriminated against by the actions, advertising and lobbying activities from these groups that seek to block fundamental anti-discrimination laws that are in the interest of violence prevention and the respect of basic human rights.

So, to recap, according to the previously-mentioned lobby groups, regardless that a 15- year old boy lit a girl’s hair on fire at a Manitoba school along with an anti-Semitic slur a couple of weeks ago… let’s oppose anti-bullying legislation, and rely on the Love of God (cited by one group as the ‘best defense’ against bullying) to protect kids from harassment and violence. Let’s engender more hate, let’s continue to pretend the world is the way we wish that it were, that our way is more important, moral and divine than everyone else’s, and abstain from teaching our kids about anyone else, so they’re more susceptible to hating everyone who isn’t exactly like them.

After Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley’s suicide, the Institute for Canadian Values’ transphobic and explicitly discriminatory advertising carried by two national news media sources (the National Post and Sun News {at 1.min in video} – media outlets SWTO does not support because of big issues with their ethics, something we’ll be blogging about in the future), and all the countless incidents that don’t make the front page, who’s getting sick of this? What kind of victim and/or death toll will it take for religious lobbyists to give it up already when it comes to anti-discrimination legislation, especially when it comes to giving kids a better chance at life?

I for one, am sick of this. On this of all weeks, on the heels of Dec.6, the Canadian National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, a day to remember when 14 women were murdered in 1989 at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in a heinous hate-crime by a man who yelled out before shooting them ‘you’re all a bunch of feminists!’, I’m sick to flat-out fury that we haven’t collectively learned our lesson yet. I am sick of certain religious groups and political parties using sex-negativity, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism, and every other type of entrenched form of marginalization and oppression to try to push for legislation and social currents that will further perpetuate systems of hate, discrimination and violence. Moreover, I’m sick of these same groups basing their platforms on sayings like that they’re pro ‘morals’ and ‘values,’ and ‘life’ (Once again, I’m looking at you, Institute for Canadian Values. I’m Canadian, and you do not represent my values, or those of anyone on the SWTO team), when people are being injured and dying as a result of their ceaseless adherence to religious mores which have no just belonging in our legislation, in our institutions, and in the private lives of victims; who experience these same values forced upon them in the form of violence. This becomes all the more distasteful when the scene of the battleground is schools and the target population that will bear the brunt is children – the most vulnerable of our population.

When there is an identified need for adjustments to policy and legislation for violence prevention, resistance to the implementation thereof is a form of violence. This makes children more vulnerable to bullying from peers, which can take the form of emotional, physical or sexual violence, and if children are to grow up not learning that these behaviours are unquestioningly wrong, they are at more risk for not only developing aggressive behaviours and feeling these are socially condoned, but as victims, are less able to seek help, less likely to have support, less likely to be able to expect that if they are victimized it is worth coming forward. They’re also going to be more likely to believe that they deserved it because of their status, ability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or race, if we don’t start judicially teaching them the opposite, if we don’t start teaching them about their worth as human beings and the inherent worth of every single one of their peers, to counter all of the bullshit around in their everyday lives, in and outside of school. I’m talking about all of this because it’s connected to what we’re trying to do with SlutWalk Toronto. Sexual violence, victim-blaming and slut-shaming are huge problems and part of why they continue to be is because children are growing up learning from adults, institutions, popular culture and their peers not only that difference breeds hatred and violence, but that this is natural and ok. When we have the opportunity to create a better system and to send a better message to children through any of these avenues of influence, it is our social responsibility to do so at all times.

As Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court Beverley McLachlin said in 1997 in Chamberlain vs. Schoold District No. 36, an infamous case where groups wanted to ban books with same-sex parents from schools-these books having been introduced with the interest of kids gaining awareness about different types of families in an attempt to combat bullying (yes, we’re still fighting the same battle, 15 years later), “Tolerance is always age-appropriate, children cannot learn unless they are exposed to views that differ from those they are taught at home.” The reality is that we can’t start teaching children about our differences and equal value as human beings soon enough. According to Minister of Education Laurel Broten, “There’s absolutely nothing radical about working hard as a community to make sure that every single student in our schools can be safe and accepted and succeed.”

 

*Note: The Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13) is in the Second Reading stage of debate in the Ontario Legislature. There is another Bill, the Anti-Bullying Act (Bill 14), that has been tabled by Elizabeth Witmer, Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo. While this Act very clearly outlines what bullying looks like and what the consequences are to victims, there is no mention of which groups and individuals are targeted (no mention of bullying based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, or the need for clubs like GSA’s), or the broader basis of discrimination, and how oppression needs to be tackled to make schools safer spaces for children. By all indications, Bill 14 may help with individual instances of bullying, but will be very limited in terms of a culture shift.

744 Comments

  1. Alicia says:

    Heather, you have articulated yourself in way I have never been able to truly do. You are one-hundred percent correct. I am tired of specific religious groups using “morality” as why we should stop recognizing LGBTTQIA issues in school. I am tired of religion being shoved down my throat as a reason.

    Just because we are atheist, or simply good-hearted and enlightened religious folk, does not mean we are second class citizens. I am so tired of the far right using their own beliefs to trample on other people’s families, gender identities, sexualities and the right for citizen of Canada to have equality.

    Just because I am not a Christian does not mean I am unequal; just because I do not have the same morals as you do does not mean my children should be forced religion down their tthroats and told that their concerns are of lesser value.

    Morality is relative. Period. To quote Dustin Lance when he won an Academy Award for writing Milk, “We are all creatures of value.”

  2. Brody says:

    Men and women are equals. This does not mean that they are equal in every single aspect. For example, men are, on average, physically stronger than women. It is much easier for a semi attractive (even a 6/10) woman to go out and get laid. The same cannot be said about men. Men have to work at it, have some skill (game) and thereby get a woman to sleep with them. It is a LOT harder for an equally attractive man to get women than it is the other way around. This is one of reasons behind why we, as a society, naturally celebrate men who are successful in bedding multiple women; while at the same time shame women who bed multiple men.

    Let us briefly visit the topic of virginity from both perspectives. Virginity in a man is not a desirable state or label when it comes to an attribute that the opposite sex wants. This is because he has obviously not been preselected by other women. However, female virginity is not looked at negatively in the least by men. If she looks decent, no man cares if the girl is a virgin or not. In fact, a female virgin is often wanted more.

    Now don’t get me wrong, men LOVE sluts. We will never turn down an opportunity to sleep with a good looking slut. Partly because she’s good in bed, partly because it’s sex. But any decently intelligent, self-respecting man will know that it is a terrible idea to emotionally involve himself (i.e. date) a slutty girl. That would be a very dumb move. Why would any man want to get emotionally involved with a girl who’s had 15+ sexual partners? We would just be setting ourselves up for failure. There are many nice worthy girls out there who don’t have daddy issues and haven’t slept with an entire fraternity house. But, by all means, fvck the brains out of sluts in the meanwhile.

    Most guys can detect when a girl is a slut by the first few dates and by what he hears about the girl from other people and from the girl herlself. We put this information together and figure out if she is dating material or not. If not, I like most guys, will still go in for the prize but have no intention of following through with dating the dirty little tart.

    To put it simply, a lock that can be opened by many keys is a useless lock and of little worth. But a key that can open many locks is a master key and is valuable.

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