Watched a fascinating Netflix doc last night, Seeing Allred. Gloria Allred is a tireless high-profile American attorney and successful advocate for victims whose rights have been violated, especially for women and minorities.
It was enough to push this old white guy to cautiously wade into the numbing #MeToo conversation. In the words of Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, “We need a complete cultural transformation if we are to eradicate sexual assault in our lifetimes.”
I believe that transformation can only happen through the empowerment of women in all levels of society.
“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”
Not to minimize the real pain and frustration expressed by those who rightly decry persistent gender inequality and exploitation, I’d like to offer some concrete signs of change.
Better known as perhaps the coldest capital city in the world, Winnipeg is not on many lists of the most progressive. Yet here, in the geographical centre of North America, its second largest post-secondary institution walks the gender equality talk like no other in my experience. Red River College attracts an annual enrolment of over 30,000. A union shop, gender equality across all pay scales was won long ago. The much bigger story lies in the college’s governance and administration.
When I was elected to the Board of Governors in 2005, four of its ten regular Governors were women. Not bad. But by 2010, six of the ten were women, as were the college’s President, Chief Financial Officer, and the Chairs of its two largest academic departments. And though a man was again President in 2017, all five VPs were now women. Even Information Technology Services, that traditional bastion of male dominance, was headed by a female. This institution can proudly boast that its top decision makers and earners have been predominantly female for much of the last decade.
So, yes, there have been gains. There is hope.
But back to Gloria Allred. What troubles me about movements like MeToo, BlackLivesMatter, and even Feminism, is that they can fragment and diffuse what should be our universal cry for equality and fairness. We must advocate for all victims of injustice, regardless of race, gender, or other classification. Don’t get me wrong, we clearly need the Allreds of the world, committed advocates with the courage to tirelessly confront and express outrage in the face of injustice. But the danger is ghettoization and the inevitable backlash from the threatened who will then exploit our petty biases to divide and conquer.
Our common enemies are power and privilege preying on the weak and disadvantaged. Let’s not lose sight of that. We all have a role to play. We must not allow justice to remain a spectator sport, content to cheer on the captain of our favourite team.
“The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.” (from a tribute to Pablo Casals, 1953)
Let us celebrate our victories. Rah, rah Red River! But let us not also slip into complacency, or worse, smugness. Much is left to be done.
I will try to do my bit. #YouToo?