The Weal

There’s no shame in doing anything #LikeAGirl

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March 9, 2015 – When an Always ad aired during the Super Bowl, it caused a major stir and online uproar. Twitter feeds exploded with the hashtag #LikeAGirl, and there have been almost 40,000 comments posted on the YouTube video of the commercial, which has received over 56 million views.

The ad features grown women and men, young boys, and young girls, who are all asked to perform tasks such as “run like a girl” or “throw like a girl.”

The adult males and females, and the young boys, portray girls as weak, pathetic, and laughable.

But when girls aged five to 10 are asked to run “like a girl,” they take it seriously. One little girl takes off across the screen in a sprint – and later, when she is asked what it means to run like a girl, her confident response is: “It means run fast as you can.”


This commercial is meant to empower women, and while the ad itself has been airing since July 2014, the groundbreaking moment was when an advertisement for feminine products was broadcast during the Super Bowl, which is usually dominated by ads and products aimed at men.

The hashtag #LikeAGirl has been trending since, with women posting photos of great achievements and men commending the women in their lives for their leadership, strength, and success.

But while most men joined in the chorus of women online who praised the ad for its celebration of girls, many have spoken out against the commercial.

On Twitter and YouTube, some went so far as to argue that the ad was demeaning to men.

Note: not once during the three-minute, 18-second commercial is a comment made against males.

One Twitter user, @Meninist, began a campaign to get the hashtag #LikeABoy trending, which he claimed was in the name of promoting gender equality.

On Feb. 2, Eric Thomas Roy commented on a Huffington Post article with a retort to the males asserting that the Always ad was disparaging men:

“’Demeaning to boys’…..Have you heard of the patriarchy? As soon as the male population is oppressed for one mere moment in ANY society, I will give your notion some merit.”

This argument, and other similar reasoning—most often posted in online forums by men who support the ad—has spread just as quickly as praise for the commercial itself.

For the most part, people are embracing what Always did. But some men continue to bash the commercial for focusing on women.

Umm – did we forget what Always is? Should we aim advertising for feminine hygiene products toward both sexes, in the name of gender equality?

Somehow it’s doubtful that men could be a primary target audience for pads and tampons.

Clearly, some people missed the point of the commercial.

It was not intended to raise women higher than men. The objective was simply to remind girls that they can do anything they set their minds to, and to renounce the negative connotation behind the words “like a girl.”

I recall a time in junior high when we had a school-wide softball tournament, and each homeroom class was a team. The boys were ready to take every important infield position and shuffle all the girls into the outfield, but I told them I could pitch.

After all, I had played ball for seven years and could throw good, hard fastball pitches that rivalled the speed thrown by boys on my brothers’ baseball teams.

Not believing me, one of my classmates squatted down, gloveless, and told me to prove it. I told him to get a glove—I warned him—but he refused. So I took a deep breath, wound up, and fired a strike right into his bare hands.

It knocked him on his back, and I walked to where he lay, stood over him, and said, “Told you to use a glove.”

It was one of my proudest moments as a girl.

I proved something that day, and the boys in my class never saw me the same way again. As far as athletics were concerned, we were on an even playing field.

But it should not take so much effort for girls to be taken seriously. It seems as though they must prove themselves at every turn.

Look at education. Historically-speaking, it was just recently that women were afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts to attend post-secondary institutions and pursue careers that were traditionally dominated by men.

The “old boys’ clubs” are being forced to let the girls in. And while some want to dig in their heels and post that cardboard sign outside the clubhouse that reads “No girls allowed,” the fact is that Western society is changing, and more equality is gained with every passing year.

Building women up, protecting young girls from past ridicule found in those phrases, “throw like a girl” or “fight like a girl” does not make all women—and the men who stand up for them—feminists. It does not mean that men are disparaged.

It only means that women are finally taking pride in what it means to be female, and that being a girl—doing things “like a girl”—should not be cause for ridicule.

Maybe I throw like a girl. Maybe I talk like a girl, dress like a girl, walk like a girl.

Maybe I write like a girl.

That’s because I am one.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate – there shouldn’t be a question

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March 2, 2015 – As parents there are hundreds of choices that we make on behalf of our children, particularly during their first year of vulnerability.

Whether to vaccinate infants is one of those decisions that have to be made, though there should not be much room for uncertainty.

In the midst of the current measles outbreak, government officials—including Barack Obama—are imploring parents to vaccinate their children, to protect their babies, and prevent further spread of potentially-deadly, preventable disease.

And that’s just it – the measles, and a host of other viruses that we vaccinate against, are completely preventable with due diligence.

But some fear the needle, quoting research done in the name of proving the dangers of immunization – like the 1998 study that claimed vaccines cause autism, which was ultimately debunked when it was revealed that British researcher Dr. Andrew Wakefield had falsified data and was consequently stripped of his medical license.

People like to have something to blame for matters out of their control, and so the autism study continues to have a following, regardless of its invalidity.

There are others who believe that vaccines are unsafe because children should not have chemicals and viruses injected into their bodies, and should simply develop antibodies naturally.

True, the body does need to learn how to fight its own battles. But left to natural devices, there is no telling whether a child will recover from a virus, whereas vaccines allow the immune system to cultivate those same antibodies without the dangers of infection.

Yes, people should be allowed to make their own decisions as to whether to have their children immunized. But they should also realize that their choices do not impact only their own family and children.

They are putting thousands of other people at risk.

My infant daughter began daycare this past September. She is now eight months old, and has received her first three rounds of immunizations.

But children, though especially vulnerable, are not eligible for the two-part measles vaccine until they are 12 and 18 months of age.

What this means is that my baby—like thousands of others—is at risk in her public daycare, where parents may not have chosen to immunize their child and could bring deadly diseases to other families.

Some parents take an “I don’t have to worry about other people’s kids” approach.

Frighteningly, some of these are even health care professionals, like cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson of Arizona, who told CNN: “I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure.”

He went on to claim that he would never feel guilty about knowing his children infected someone else’s baby, saying, “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”

How very “Hippocratical.”

Despite this close-minded, cold-hearted attitude, what Dr. Wolfson should consider is how he would feel if it was one of his boys who suffered and died at the hand of a preventable disease he chose not to protect him from.

While we cannot force people to vaccinate their children—yet—we should be educating people on both the true effects of immunizations and the diseases they protect us, and our children, from contracting.

And those who choose not to be vaccinated should not be permitted to use public services—like public daycares and schools—at least during times of infectious outbreaks, like the current measles situation.

One daycare in Ottawa, though it has received criticism and backlash, actually has the right idea. Melissa Amekah and her husband Paapa opened a “vaccine-free” child care facility.

Though some disapprove of their decision not to immunize, and condemn the couple for encouraging people to not vaccinate, they should be celebrated.

The Amekahs are keeping non-vaccinated children separate from vulnerable babies and toddlers in public facilities. Despite not believing in immunizations, they are providing some method of protection.

Elsewhere, parents who are not willing to have their children vaccinated should be prepared for criticism, and possibly a law suit.

Because if an unimmunized child transmits a deadly disease to a susceptible baby—particularly in the U.S., where the cost of healthcare can bankrupt a family during their time of suffering—you can bet there will be repercussions.

Not to mention the guilt associated with knowing that your child infected—and possibly killed—an innocent baby. Or that your own child died from small pox, or rubella, or any of the other many preventable communicable diseases we deflect with regular immunization.

Rather than questioning the needle and referencing fallacious arguments, we should rejoice in the fact that our western medicine permits us to keep our children safe from dangerous and potentially life-threatening viruses.

Vaccinating babies—saving lives—is our social responsibility.

Parking is hard?

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Feb. 23, 2015 – We’ve all been there. The parking lot is full, and it’s a race against the other four people circling the aisles to find an available space. And then there it is: that guy who decided that his Jetta needed to take up three spaces at an odd angle that warrants the most epic of all slow claps.

Or the older woman, alone in her car and clearly free from any physical limitations, who pulls into the space “reserved for pregnant women and parents with small children,” and then slinks into the store hoping to go unnoticed.

Oh, we see you.

It shouldn’t be difficult to park between the lines of a stall or read “no parking” or “reserved” signs in front of spaces, but it seems to be a confusing and challenging task for some.

Parking blunders, while frustrating for others, are usually laughable offences and ultimately rather harmless (unless you’re stuck in your space because someone decided to park at such an angle that maneuvering your vehicle is virtually impossible without hitting something).

That’s why there is a Twitter handle called @DBagParkingYYC, where Calgarians post photos to publically shame bad parkers all over the city. Scrolling through the page is good for a laugh, but also begs the question: how are people so bad at parking?

The answer is simple. It is not so much a matter of being skilled at parking as it is thinking about the world outside one’s personal scope.

Essentially, the social trend toward self-importance has wormed its way into parking habits. People are so involved in their own daily business, their own to-dos and schedules, that they are completely ignorant when it comes to parking their vehicles outside of Walmart while they run in with their shopping lists.

It’s no surprise that fellow drivers are taking up arms against these offenders. Not only are they shamed on social media, but some have taken to serving up a little poetic justice of their own.

Viralnova posted a list of 19 photos of passive-aggressive and entertaining messages people had left for discourteous parkers in the form of notes and even a carved potato-army ready to take vengeance.

One upset individual went so far as to spread an entire tub of peanut butter over someone’s windshield and write in the sticky mess, “Less expensive than having it towed.”

If everyone took the time to notice their surroundings and consider others, there would be fewer bad parking jobs in our busy neighbourhoods and shopping centres. It only takes a few extra seconds to straighten a car rather than leave it at an impossible angle.

It’s like colouring in the lines back in kindergarten. If you take your time, it comes naturally and the result is a beautiful, fridge-worthy piece of art.

If you hastily scribble, the page is destined to end up in the recycling bin.

Or worse yet – to be obliterated with peanut butter and displayed for the world to see.

Break the silence, break the bully: Standing up for our children

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Feb. 23, 2015 – On New Year’s Eve, 14-year-old African American Dee Dee Knudson was hanging out with a friend at home when she began receiving hateful and racist Snapchat messages from twin boys who attended her Prior Lake, Minnesota school. The video messages used racial slurs—the “n-word”—and called her “a slut” and “a fat-ass bitch.”

Dee Dee’s friend informed her parents, who in turn took a video of the next incoming message. Her father then played that Snapchat as part of an emotional YouTube video that called out not only his daughter’s bullies but also their ignorant father.

Knudson and his wife—both Caucasian—adopted Dee Dee when she was just three years old, and had been on the receiving end of racism for years when out in public with their daughter.

This time, though, the racism was not aimed at her parents. It came directly to Dee Dee, on her phone, in her home.

Her father decided to take action.

According to Knudson, several attempts to make contact with the offenders were unsuccessful, and he even approached the police before finally being provided with the cell phone number of the twins’ father, Deron Puro.

Puro did not deny the bullying his twins had done, nor did he apologize for their behaviour.

Instead, he stood behind them and claimed that there was nothing wrong with their remarks, that this was just what kids do, and that his family makes jokes using those racial slurs in their home on a regular basis.

He then proceeded to call Knudson a “n— lover” and a “fag.”

It is no wonder the twins found no fault in their actions, if this is the role model they have grown up with.

Two days after Knudson posted his video—in which he played the offending voicemails left by Puro and called him out by name—the twins’ father was fired from his job, and the company has publically declared on their website that “Deron Puro is no longer associated with Roy E. Abbott Futures, Inc. as of today January 21.”

Prior Lake High School has also announced that it will be doing a thorough search into the conduct of the twins, to determine whether this was an isolated incident or if they engage in such behaviour on a regular basis.

Knudson brought his daughter’s bullying into the public eye and his video, which has now received 7.5 million views, and succeeded not only in raising awareness of bullying, but also in bringing justice to these racist persecutors.

Let’s hear it for good fathers and social media.

Similarly, when 18-year-old Kristen Layne, of Tennessee, posted a photo of herself online wearing an extravagant prom dress, she received hateful messages calling her fat and ugly. Her entire community took up arms against her persecutors and muzzled the ignorant comments.

If all parents and communities of bullied children—schools and other institutions included—stood up against offenders in a similar manner, the world may become a safer place for children to thrive.

It is the silence that perpetuates bullying behaviour.

Parents must be as courageous as Knudson, willing to put themselves out in public to defend their children, to bring bullying to an end.

Some would argue that this might make matters worse for the children being bullied, that putting the actions of the oppressors in the spotlight may incense them enough to escalate the persecution.

On the other hand, placing their behaviour on centre stage of social media may curb it – after all, the world is now their audience, and their every move will be scrutinized.

And if children are encouraged to speak out against their tormentors, they may be less inclined to suffer the effects of bullying alone.

The number of young people who take their own lives because of bullying could drop, because in most cases those anguished children are the ones who never spoke up about their plight, never admitted to anyone the suffering they endured every day.

It comes down to listening to the silence of our children and recognizing the agony of victimization.

Suppression will never stop bullying, will never help a child haunted by terror and intimidation.

Consider the old adage, “If a tree falls in the forest…”

So, then, if a child breaks in a school and no one is willing to listen, will it make a sound?

Where Canada stands with bullying and youth suicide:

  • 1 in 3 adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently
  • Adults who were bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression in adulthood
  • 51% of all teens have had negative experience with social networking
  • 1 in 5 Canadian teens have witnessed online bullying
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24
  • 2 in 5 parents report that their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident
  • Any participation in bullying increases risk of suicidal ideas in youth
  • The most common form of cyber-bullying involves receiving threatening or aggressive e-mails or instant messages

Parents need to open their minds

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Feb. 2, 2015 – In the cold early morning hours of Dec. 28, after years of being condemned by her own parents for announcing that she was transgender, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn slipped out of bed, snuck out of her house, walked four miles down the road, and performed her own execution by stepping into the path of a fast-moving tractor trailer.

Leelah wrote a heart-wrenching suicide note, which appeared on Tumblr shortly after her death, explaining the agony she had endured for more than 10 years.

Born Joshua Alcorn, the child’s confusion about her gender first began at the tender age of four. At 14, she approached her parents and explained that she identified as a girl – that she was transgender.

Her parents denied the possibility and, as Leelah explained in her suicide letter, her mother “reacted extremely negatively, telling [her] that it was a phase, that [she] would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that [she was] wrong.”

In the next sentence, the note makes a plea to other parents: “Please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me (sic).”

Leelah Alcorn has become synonymous with transgender discrimination. People around the world identify with either Leelah or her parents, and social media is filled with posts that range from supportive to hateful towards both parties.

Leelah’s parents are criticized for making the teen feel unworthy and “wrong,” and many have blamed them for the suicide. Some even went so far as to suggest that the parents should be charged for the part they played in Leelah’s death.

While that is excessive, it is true that the teen’s parents are not 100 per cent blameless. Their treatment of their child is repugnant – locking her away from her friends by confiscating her cell phone and banning her from peer interaction for five months.

It is no wonder the teen fell into depression, as she was forced to exist within the walls of the family home with “no friends, no support, no love. Just [her] parents’ disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”

Leelah’s parents could take a page from the book of some other parents who have made headlines in the past few months, for their support of transgendered children.

Brad and Angelina’s eldest daughter, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, has insisted that she is called John and dresses as a boy, wearing a suit and tie alongside her father and brothers Pax and Maddox, at Angelina’s movie premiere in December – just two days before Leelah took her fatal step in front of a truck.

In a 2010 interview, Angelina told Vanity Fair that “she wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

She went on to say that “it’s who she is. It’s been a surprise to us and it’s really interesting, but she’s so much more than that – she’s funny and sweet and pretty.”

For the most part, Brad and Angelina have received kudos for their acceptance of their daughter, though some—like parenting expert Cherie Corso—criticize the couple, arguing that a child cannot understand gender issues at such a young age, and they should not be fostering an idea that could “expose their daughter to possible ridicule.”

But their support is unwavering. John expressed a male identity as a toddler, a conviction that has not altered, and so they stand behind their child with steadfast love. It’s a model a lot of parents could stand to follow.

Many people read the story of Australian parents Yolanda Bogert and Guy Kershaw, who issued a heartwarming retraction of their original birth announcement in a show of support for their transgender son:

“In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget, Elizabeth Anne, as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would now like to present, our wonderful son – Kai Bogert. Loving you is the easiest thing in the world. Tidy your room.”

Kai was overwhelmed by the public encouragement offered by his parents, and announced that he was happier in that moment that he had been in his entire life.

The impact parents can have on children confused—and possibly frightened—about their gender identification is remarkable. There is no shortage of evidence online of transgender children who are thriving with the support of their families. Many of them have even posted on the Facebook page “Justice for Leelah Alcorn.”

Society is generally uneducated in the realm of transgender, and it is often feared as an “unknown.” Many associate it immediately with homosexuality, though the two do not necessarily always fit hand-in-hand.

If young people are questioning the way they feel within their own skin, their disorientation should not be taken lightly or cast easily aside as “wrong.” These reactions can lead to devastating loneliness, and could result in depression heavy enough to crush a person’s will to live – as in Leelah’s case.

Before signing off on her suicide note, Leelah wrote, “Fix society, please.”

It has taken the social media world by storm as #FixSociety – an appeal to everyone to work toward the evolution of thought, a prayer to parents to listen, a petition to the world to empathize with and show tolerance for transgender individuals of every age and race.

The underlying fact is that parents need to be understanding and accepting of their children, no matter what the situation.

Children will make decisions, will make mistakes, will make messes – but they always deserve the unfaltering love and support of their parents.

The fact that your child is your son is not more important than the fact that your child is alive.

Fix society, please.

#ItAin’tRapeIf just ain’t funny

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Feb. 2, 2015 – It is intended to be an entertaining social media trend. For four years, the hashtag #ItAintRapeIf has ambled through the twisted corridors of Twitter, and has provided thousands of people with laughs.

It has also fueled the fire of outrage and horror for thousands of others.

The hashtag accompanies distasteful comments, like: “#ItAintRapeIf u duck tape her mouth shut (sic),” or “#ItAintRapeIf you sing gently in her ear while you tighten the cord tied to her hands.”

And men are not the only ones using the hashtag. One woman tweeted: “#ItAintRapeIf u viagra and ruffee a dude, then perform mighty squats over his asleep, yet erect body. (sic)”

These tweets receive a nauseating number of retweets and favourites, propelling the trend further into the Twittersphere.

While there is no inherently malicious intent behind the words —they are meant to elicit laughter—there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire fad as a whole.

Rape is not something to be taken lightly. It should never be the butt of any joke. It is a living, breathing threat to millions of people—women and men—worldwide, and its effects are damaging and everlasting.

Victims of rape suffer physiological and psychological consequences indefinitely, and while many eventually make the shift to “rape survivor,” some never overcome the effects of the violence.

Using the hashtag to entertain online peers is akin to the victim blaming and shaming that is often associated with rape allegations – the “he/she asked for it,” “he/she was drunk,” mentality.

Only now, those defenses are supposed to make us smile.

And, while some stand up against the hashtag trend, many continue to turn a blind eye to—if not follow and laugh at—the posts on their Twitter feed.

There are users who have spoken out against the posts, responding with arguments like these: “#ItAintRapeIf you’re both of age and consensual. that’s literally the only time ‘it ain’t rape,’ (sic)” or “The fact that #ItAintRapeIf has a trending disgusts me. Both genders must be equally held accountable.”

Sadly, these tweets receive substantially less attention than their more toxic counterparts, and are not shared or retweeted nearly as extensively.

The hashtag has been thriving for almost five years, and new tweets continue to surface daily. Unfortunately, as long as people find them entertaining, they will endure.

This is a product of the online culture we live in. What we post and laugh about on social media seems so far removed from reality – these are jokes intended for Twitter, not actual words coming out of the mouths of those who posted them.

Or so we choose to believe. There is no way to know whether the men and women contributing to the “ItAintRapeIf” trend are offenders, or simply making light of a grave situation they clearly do not understand.

Allowing these posts is parallel to broadcasting, “It’s okay, rape is a joke.”

There is no excuse for such a repulsive online fad to be permissible. It has a far-reaching audience of all cultures and age groups, and its following is nearly impossible to track.

Sometimes humour is misguided. In the case of “ItAintRapeIf,” that humour is irresponsible, reckless, and offensive.

When the laughter stops, the trend will reach its natural end.

It is up to online users to reject this fad and expose it for what it really is: a violent attack on a serious situation that deserves more consideration than a hashtag and injudicious giggles.

Trial by Twitter: the problem with believing everything we read

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Jan 26, 2015 – North America has stumbled over the allegations of sexual abuse made against Bill Cosby since November, the possibility of “America’s Dad” being capable of drugging and sexually assaulting women forming a pit in millions of stomachs.

Cosby, his lawyers, his wife, and his closest friends and colleagues continue to deny the claims, despite the fact that over 20 women have now come forward.

But social media and celebrity news outlets exploded with the news—and continue to air every development as it occurs—along with the opinions of people who have posted about the situation. And the continent seems to be split on judging Cosby’s guilt.

Some would say that these women are fabricating every incident, and are merely out to destroy an American idol and have their time in the limelight.

But the purpose—and the benefit—of taking down a 77-year-old comedian is mysterious at best.

Most argue that these women must be telling the truth, because nobody would willingly attach their name to such allegations without substance; being a victim of sexual abuse has its own stigma attached to it.

A divide that rivals the Grand Canyon spans the distance between those who believe in Cosby’s innocence and support the comedian they’ve always loved, and those who believe unequivocally in his guilt.

A Canadian tour in Ontario from Jan. 8 to Jan. 10 was the first series of stand-up comedy performances Cosby has presented since the allegations began and countless venues cancelled their bookings.

Protestors waited outside of each venue—and some disrupted the shows inside and were quickly removed from the premises by security—shouting that Cosby was a rapist and chanting, “We believe the women!”

No charges have been laid against Cosby, but judgements have been made across the globe. There is a considerable amount of confidence in his guilt, regardless of the defenses of his character by peers and his outright denial of the claims.

It is a product of the society we have cultivated, in which sexual assault is a serious issue—no argument there—especially against women, celebrity lives are lived in the public eye, and social media is the bible.

For many, those 140 characters are gospel, no matter what the source, particularly when they have to do with public figures—whether they are Hollywood stars, political icons, or business tycoons.

And the opinions of every social media user form the backbone of a culture wrapped up in scandal and turned on by shocking testimonials.

Whether right or wrong, Cosby has already been tried and convicted by the public.

At this point, if charges are laid against him, an acquittal could cause serious upheaval.

Essentially, Cosby is a condemned man whether innocent or guilty, because a significant percentage of his peers and the vast world of social media have cast their verdicts.

We believe what we read, whether we want to hear it or not. Unfortunately, those words could lead to a form of vigilante justice the likes of which we have never seen.

“Innocent until proven guilty” has been replaced by “guilty because Twitter said so.”

Restorative justice is not enough

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Jan. 19, 2015 – In December, 13 University of Dalhousie dentistry students were suspended from continuing their clinical practicum after a Facebook page they managed, Class of DDS Gentlemen, was exposed for its demeaning and offensive comments about women, including some of their female classmates.

The posts ranged from making malicious or sexist comments to listing which of their colleagues they’d like to have “hate sex” with, and one of the worst involved using chloroform on women in order to sexually abuse them.

The male administrators of the page defended their behaviour, claiming that it was only “locker room talk,” as though the locker room is naturally a public forum.

The dentistry faculty apologized on behalf of its students, stating that it was unaware of the Facebook group, and that it did not condone the behaviour of these male students.

Dalhousie took action with the suspension, and determined that it would not allow the students to practice in clinic until a formal review of the situation had been performed.

But this seemingly lackadaisical approach to justice has Dalhousie students, and some faculty, reeling.

Female colleagues—and victims—of the men in question have been asked to participate in restorative justice, in which they would be brought together with the offenders to help determine the best course of action and a suitable punishment.

“It feels shocking to be asked to discipline my own peers,” one female student told CBC. “How can we be asked to make a decision based on partial information about our peers? It’s very, very hard.”

She explained that she feels it is unfair for the students to be forced to make judgment against their peers who, should they be permitted to return to regular class routines, they will have to face and work with for the remainder of their studies at Dalhousie.

The university defends its position, believing that the restorative justice action will help to keep the names of the students private, rather than turning the matter over to a third party investigation, which could mean releasing all names of offenders and accusers in a courtroom setting.

While it may be respectful to guard the names of the students who have been attacked by their peers, the men who blatantly posted hateful and insolent comments on Facebook do not necessarily deserve the same courtesy.

After all, they chose to slander in public; why shouldn’t their justice be meted out in the public eye as well?

Not only will restorative justice keep the matter and its resolution hushed behind closed doors, and allow the parties to remain anonymous, it also means that no formal charges will be laid against the men who participated in—and condoned—deliberate and extensive exploitation of women online.

It is time that the laws in our country change with regards to online defamation and sexual harassment. People should not feel comfortable writing and publishing vilifying statements or judgments online.

Yet it continues to happen because, despite the obvious immorality of it all, there is no real legislation against such groups. Yes, the Class of DDS Gentlemen page was forced to be shut down, but this is not sufficient action.

Media and authorities had access to screenshots taken from the page prior to its termination, which included not only indecent and offensive comments, but also licentious and demeaning photos – like a woman in a bikini accompanied by the words, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”

The posts may have disappeared at the click of a mouse, but the comments are forever etched into the minds of the women they were written about. The damage has been done.

And the issue with a slap on the wrist and restorative justice does not end there.

The governments of Alberta and Ontario have spoken out against the men involved in this situation, demanding that the names of the delinquent students be released to governing bodies before they are provided with dentistry licenses to practice in their respective provinces.

Understandably, Dalhousie has refused to release those names, due to privacy acts.

So, because restorative justice will not permit the names of the accused to be released, provincial governments cannot determine whether the Dalhousie graduate they are licensing was involved in the incident.

Both Alberta and Ontario have determined that these graduates could pose a possible risk – after all, these men joked online about using chloroform to assault women, and then want to practice a profession wherein patients are often sedated and rendered defenseless in the name of dental procedures.

Unfortunately, without the names of the accused, it is possible that all male students from this graduating class from the school of dentistry will be discriminated against in the future – which could impact obtaining licenses in certain provinces or gaining employment after graduation.

The entire male body of dentistry students has been tarnished by the actions of these few, whom shall remain nameless.

Legislation against libelous online offenses must be established, so that real justice can be administered in future instances because, unfortunately, this is by no means an isolated incident.

Clearly some people need to learn that the internet is, in fact, a frighteningly public beast – and that “locker room talk” has no place in its den.

Getting past gym-timidation

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Jan. 15, 2015 – As the new year dawns and holiday binge-eating ceases, many people turn attention to their waistlines, determined to make a change in their lives.

According to a survey conducted by the Toronto Star in 2013, only about 20 per cent of Canadians make resolutions at the end of each year, and of those fewer than half remain dedicated past Feb. 1.

The top goal of resolution-makers continues to be fitness and health related from year to year, with “weight loss” being the most popular.

So, it is not shocking to see that the number of people in local gyms has increased in the past two weeks.

And, also not surprising is the increase in the number of two types of posts on various social media forums – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even our own SAIT Confessions.

The first are written by frustrated—and often discouraged and heartbroken—people, new to working out, who are attempting to get fit but feel as though they are being judged by more gym-savvy, physically-fit peers.

The second type of posts are composed by those “gym-savvy” people, who poke fun at those who are overweight or out of  shape, sometimes to the extent of saying that they are disturbed, grossed out, or distracted by them.

The derogatory comments often specifically describe, or even name, the “offending” individual.

The result? Those who desire to improve their lifestyles and want to get into shape, to improve their health and wellness, are often among those half who leave the gym by the end of January, disheartened and depressed by their inability to follow through with their weight loss goals.

And let’s not forget the embarrassment and mental anguish that is associated with being publically ridiculed for attempting to work out, which, for many, is intimidating to begin with.

After all, many people who are overweight in any capacity are often insecure about their bodies already, and are hoping that going to the gym and eating healthier will help to shape the figures they desire – not lead to further humiliation.

This attitude of unacceptance is what leads to phenomena like Body Exchange, a club in the heart of Vancouver that caters specifically to plus-sized women and sees them through their health and weight loss goals.

Body Exchange originally opened in 2012, and received an outpouring of negative publicity; people accused the gym of being exclusionist and discriminatory because it banned so-called “skinny people” from joining.

One commenter on the province of B.C.’s website wrote: “This a human rights violation. You can’t discriminate based on body-type.”

That’s a fairly substantial accusation, given the fact that the very people who join Body Exchange are judged heavily when they attend other facilities.

Overweight people may not be banned from public fitness centres, but many seem to feel as though they may as well be.

Rather than focusing on the fact that the gym just got busier, and that some people are slower and less confident working out there, people should be more understanding of others.

Because no two bodies are exactly alike, and everyone has the right to exercise and feel good about themselves, no matter what their pant size may be.

Dates are brownbagging it: a new twist to speed dating

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Jan. 5, 2015 – The latest trend in speed dating is bringing literal meaning to the term, “blind date.”

LoveFlutter, a U.K.-based company, launched a new concept to the dating world: paper bag speed dating.

The theory is that, by wearing paper bags on their heads that have been decorated to match their personalities, speed-daters will base their first impressions of strangers on conversation and character, rather than on physical attraction.

Paper bags are intended to essentially remove sex appeal from an initial two-minute encounter.

After 60 minutes, each participant will have “dated” 30 people, having approximately two-minute-long conversations at each table.

They are encouraged to write down the name, phone number, and “quirky fact” of each person, for easy reference later.

That’s right – across the top of each bag is scrawled an interesting tidbit about the person beneath the mask, intended to create ice-breakers and steer conversations away from the traditional introductory topics of careers and hobbies.

So far, so good.

It sounds like a creative way to make connections and meet people without concentrating on their appearance.

But at the end of the 60-minute speed dating event, all participants remove their paper bags and reveal themselves to the room.
At this point, then, physical attractiveness is the only focus.

Rather than detracting from the importance of looks, these dates are now all scrutinizing one another based solely on appearance, deciding whether the personalities they were attracted to half an hour ago belong to people who are attractive enough.

The overall intention of the paper bag speed date is noble; we live in a world wherein too much emphasis is placed on our external appearance and not enough attention is paid to what lies beneath our skin.

One needn’t look much further than apps and websites like Tinder and Plenty of Fish to realize that sexual appeal plays a large role in our society.

In many cases, these “hook-up” sites have taken the place of actual dating. And let’s be honest—they are based exclusively on physical appearance.

Paper bag speed dating, then, offers a unique way to meet people without such intense focus on the exterior.

The execution of the dating, however, could use some work.

To LoveFlutter’s credit, the paper bags are decorated on-site, to ensure that all bags are uniform and that the embellishments comply with company and moral standards, and men and women craft their masks in separate rooms.

It’s a good start.

But in many cases, participants are encouraged to drink their courage from an open bar, which could alter the personality they are offering to their 30 LoveFlutter dates.

And they could do without the sudden “reveal” at the end of the night. There are other options for ending the evening.

If the lifting of the bags was not such a production, drawing attention to each and every participant’s physical features all at once, perhaps the focus would remain more on personality than looks.

Regardless of how it is handled, however, we have to realize that we live in a society that places great emphasis on the physical attractiveness of others, and—whether right or wrong—often uses looks as a means of character judgement.

Despite great efforts to diminish the importance of physical attraction, it will always prevail as a major aspect of attraction.

After all, even blind speed daters may forget about witty banter and comfortable body language if the paper bag comes off to reveal a caterpillar eyebrow or racist tattoos.

People can pretend not to judge a paper bag by the colour of its hand-drawn features, but that doesn’t mean they won’t recycle it if they don’t like what’s on the inside.

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