December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women
December 6th marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, a day marked by the tragic Ecole Polytechnique mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. These women were killed because of their gender. While acts of mass violence are rare in Canada, women in every province and territory are affected by the vocal resurgence of hate groups around the world. This worrying trend underlines the importance of December 6th: to demonstrate our remembrance through action against hatred and violence.
The recognition that sexism and racism are sometimes combined, not separate issues, is important to our collective work to reject intolerance. Just as we must recognize that violence against women continues, we must also recognize that women can and are affected by racial bigotry as well. The combination of sexism and racism is especially apparent in health and wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous women: discrimination and the threat of violence are felt in policing, our judicial system, in our homes – and in our classrooms.
Faculty know this: that’s why delegates made “addressing racism and promoting anti-racist strategies” one of our federation’s strategic goals at our AGM in May.
There are a vast number of ways to make a difference and reject sexism. Here are just a few things you can do at the individual and collective level to make your classroom, campus, and community a safer space for all:
- Look at your curriculum: are you including works or reference to female academics, including female academics with disabilities, or female academics of colour? This is especially important if you do not identify within these groups, as promoting these academics tends to disproportionately fall to those who are themselves experiencing oppression and violence.
- Do your female colleagues, and/or colleagues of colour feel supported and safe in their work? How diverse is the faculty, operational staff and management?
- Check with your local faculty association to see if they have a Status of Women committee (FPSE policy 7.11). If not, join with your colleagues to create one.
- Finally – continue to connect your feminism with anti-racism and anti-discrimination. If you do not see a gender or racialized group represented in the governance structures around you, ask why. You may be able to identify, and help remove, a barrier that is allowing inequality to persist.
December 6 falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign with the goal of ending gender-based violence. It began on November 25, the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, International Human Rights Day. I urge you to use this campaign as an opportunity to raise issues of sexist and/or racist policies, procedures or cultures with your union.
It is not enough to remember these victims of violence, or to acknowledge the discrimination that persists for millions of Canadians, and people around the world. We must use our place(s) of privilege – as union members, as educators, and any number of other demographic factors – to dismantle these structures and practices that keep people oppressed and subject to hatred, violence, and fear. Whether subtle or overt, intolerance is making our colleagues, students, family members and friends suffer. This is unignorable and unacceptable and it will take all of us working together to make a difference.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.