Inspired by the outpouring of support for victims of sexual harassment elicited by the #MeToo movement over the past year, two Dal students have been working hard to keep the conversation going.
“I felt like the MeToo movement was dying out, and I wanted to bring it back up again,” said Morgan McAloney, a fourth-year Political Science student at Dal.
McAloney teamed up with Savannah Greene, a third-year International Development student, Dal lawyer Susanne Litke, and members of the Halifax Women’s Community Space to host a panel event on the topic last Wednesday evening in the Dalhousie Student Union Building.
Continuing the conversation
First coined as a hashtag on Twitter in 2006 by American civil rights activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo gained mainstream momentum last year in the midst of sexual harassment allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. Women all over the world have since emerged to share their stories about sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Meghan Leslie, chief executive with World Wildlife Fund Canada and former NDP MP for Halifax, moderated last week’s panel, which brought together four notable women for a public discussion that covered everything from gender discrimination in the workforce to how to educate youth about gender equity and sexual consent.
Panelist Liane Tessier, an ex-firefighter, opened up about her own experiences with gender discrimination in the workforce and the struggles (and, eventually, job loss) she faced when she brought her concerns to law enforcement.
“I would not go through it again,” says Tessier, as she recalled the feelings of isolation she felt as a result.
Pushing for progress
Maya Eichler, an assistant professor of Political Studies and Women’s Studies and Canada Research Chair in Social Innovation and Community Engagement at Mount Saint Vincent University, said the growing awareness around these issues brings the potential for positive change.
“To change institutions, there needs to be external pressure,” said Dr. Eichler, whose own work has touched on sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Diane Crocker, associate dean of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Saint Mary’s University, and Mariah Pelley-smith, a spoken-word artist and entrepreneur, rounded out the night’s panel, which was followed by a question-and-answer period with the roughly 30 attendees. Pelley-Smith opened and closed the night’s event with a poetry reading.
McAloney, who helped organize the panel as part of her practicum with Dalhousie Legal Aid, said the key to making progress is to keep the #MeToo conversation going.
“It’s made progress but it’s not perfect, so we have to keep talking about it.”
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