“That ain’t no way to treat a lady, no way to treat your baby,
Your woman, your friend.” — Helen Reddy, “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”
It’s a terrible truth to contemplate.
Most of the women who are murdered in this province are killed by a lover, husband or former romantic partner.
Already, at this early point in the year, there have been two shocking crimes that may fit this pattern. On Jan. 9, 28-year-old Chantel John of Conne River was murdered in what the Miawpukek First Nation described as a brutal act of violence. On Jan. 12, a Bay St. George man was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a woman.
Both suspects are former partners of the victims, though neither man has had his case heard and they are innocent until — and if — they are proven otherwise.
We’ve heard too many cases in this province of women being beaten, stabbed, choked, shot and killed at the hands of men they were involved with.
It’s a serious societal problem that must be confronted, combatted and prevented.
Yes, there are also women who are capable of relationship violence, but it is men who are most often charged and convicted. That’s why we need to hear from all those men who respect women and reject violence.
There were two positive developments this week that I hope will gain momentum.
The first was a fervent speech in South Africa, where 40,000 rapes are reported each year — a number thought to be just the tip of the iceberg.
It was immediately polarizing, with some praising “The Best Men Can Be” campaign and others pledging to boycott the razor company and proclaiming themselves victims of hate crime.
In a message delivered to thousands of supporters at a stadium in Durban on Jan. 12, President Cyril Ramaphosa denounced gender-based violence and called for harsher penalties and better trained police and justice officials.
“We have made huge strides in improving the position of women in society. ... However, gender-based violence is a national crisis that we are determined to end, so that all South African women and girls may live in peace, safety and dignity,” he said, as reported by the BBC.
“The emancipation of women requires a change in attitudes and the material conditions that perpetuate the oppression and marginalization of women. … It is important that children learn from a young age to respect one another as equals and not to resort to violence in situations of stress and conflict. …
“Please stand up on your feet, right now, so we can make a commitment to the women of our country … that as the men of South Africa, we will end gender-based violence.”
As the camera panned the crowd, it was incredibly moving to see scores of men rise to their feet.
On Monday, Gillette released a video on social media encouraging men to call out inappropriate behaviour — harassment, sexism, patronization, sexual violence — and to teach children that problems can be resolved without violence.
It was immediately polarizing, with some praising “The Best Men Can Be” campaign and others pledging to boycott the razor company and proclaiming themselves victims of hate crime. Here’s a sampling from Twitter:
Australian political commentator Paul Latham: “So let’s get this right: the Gillette ad starts with #metoo crapola, a problem centred on wacko Hollywood Leftist elites, yet all men are to blame? The way to help men is to demonize them??”
CBC Radio’s Tom Harrington: “Some of you will push back. Roll your eyes. Shrug. Snicker. Sneer. But if that’s your reaction to this ad campaign, you need to look in the morning mirror & ask yourself why. Then say, change must start with me.”
Wherever your reaction falls on this spectrum, one thing is undeniable: with Ramaphosa’s speech, with Gillette’s ad, with the support of other good men willing to stand up and speak out, this conversation is happening.
They say talk is cheap, but as we saw with the #MeToo movement, it can also lead to change.
Men in this province need to add their voices to the chorus. The girls and women in their lives and, perhaps most importantly, the boys who look up to them, need to hear it.
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