This year, universities have been under scrutiny due varying aspects of sexual violence towards women. The most recent being student elected officials at the University of Ottawa. Five men had a sexually aggressive online discussion concerning the female student federation president, Anne-Marie Roy, as reported by The Fulcrum, UofO’s student newspaper.
The discussion was considered private by the men and they threatened to sue if it went public. This has some people discussing whether or not there is such thing as a private conversation anymore.
The value of privacy
By Alex Driscoll
After reading the article on the Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa student newspaper about the elected student scandal, something must be said about private conversations and their function. Just so that we can be clear, I am not, nor will I ever, be seen defending the comments of these particular men. It is clear that their comments crossed lines. No one is questioning that.
Privacy is very important and necessary in society. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s summed it up nicely with, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” when commenting on state intervention with homosexuality. We have the ability to be intimate with friends and family without having to necessarily be questioned.
In the legal world, the court can enjoy the grace of in camera hearings or publication bans. This means anything said in the meetings cannot be reported in the press. These hearings are sometimes fundamental for justice because it allows a healthy discussion about a certain topic, by allowing things to be said that may be considered wrong, offensive or confidential, without risking harm to a defendant, witness or professional.
I’d like to present the ability to have private conversations as a “draft” for public discussion. That is to say, people say things all the time that are less optimal than they should be. Those comments require editing. A private discussion is exactly the forum in which that can be done.
The implications of entering into a private conversation is that content may not be up to standard, which is evident in the aforementioned case. Private conversations, therefore, ought to be respected and not brought into the public sphere, which is what happened to these men. When someone enters the public sphere and says anything at all, it is fair game for scrutiny and consequences may occur, as shown with that duck calling fellow on A&E. A private conversation is different from a public one.
Say that I’m writing a paper. I’m unsure about the quality of my content and give a copy to my friend to read over. Let’s also assume my friend is shady and gives the draft to my professor to mark, as a final copy. Is it fair that the professor accepts the draft of my paper that my friend had handed in without my knowledge? And is it fair that my professor marks the paper, even though I have not finished my final copy?
As for the gentlemen in Ottawa, they have acknowledged their wrongs and they’ve all stepped down. Yet, I think they all knew that it wasn’t aimed at the Good, as Plato would say, to have a discussion like that anyway. I think this can be seen from their apology letters.
As for us: to err is human; to forgive is divine.
Privacy doesn’t excuse words
By Maite Cristina
Public concerns have arisen regarding the behaviour of some University of Ottawa’s five male students. I’m not surprised the five men offered an email apology and threatened to take legal actions if their private conversation was made public. Sadly this supports “men are only sorry when they get caught.”
It is concerning the normality to which these types of chauvinist behaviour are among men. Though one may say that these five men are being publicly humiliated for “normal” behaviour patterns that went public, the reality is these types of rapist, destructive and aggressive male demonstrations spill from the circles of male brotherhood to the every day life where female citizens become witnesses to our own objectified sexualities and identities.
Rape culture ideology and other male accepted behaviours are “normal” because we continue to live in a society that supports such male socialization. This society refuses to promote the healthy development of men’s creativity, intelligence and emotions by continuing to support male groups where men get their aggressive macho “going” by chanting disgusting and cruel songs where women are raped, brutalized and objectified.
This summer when serving a large group of rugby male players at work I, and everyone else around, was forced to hear them chant, “Fucking a pregnant woman until her baby made her choke.” As I stood there I realized that there was no sign among the singing crowd of disgust or distress. Their deathly song, probably cheered on team buses and before games, funded by governments and universities, was no longer within the male brotherhood private circle. It was in a public space, where women and men who challenge or at least refuse to participate in the patriarchal, hostile culture, were forced to be witnesses of such violent language and celebration. This is similar to the St. Mary’s 80 frosh week leaders who chanted to first year students about “how cool” non-consensual sex with underage girls is. What’s sad about St. Mary’s are the male-socialized women clapping their hands and singing with the men.
Some may think that this male behaviour causes no violence, that it is harmless behavior. Well, a Rape Victims Support Network study states every 17 minutes “a woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse in Canada.” The chants matter, the discourse matters, the attitudes of men matter because they influence, promote and maintain violence towards women.
If you are the type of man or woman that about this point you are rolling your eyes, or popping them out of your face because us “hairy, anti-men feminists are just so ridiculous and exaggerated we must always be on our period,” this message is for you.
Every time you are part of a conversation where women are objectified, you matter. Learn to be a man or a woman and walk away from such behaviour. Learn that stating your opinion against your male mates is valid, because you are a being on your own, and you will be respected and appraised for your actions.