SMU students rally against rape culture, call for changes

About 100 people gathered to chant down rape culture and to change societal attitudes about sexual violence. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – There is a new frosh cheer some Saint Mary’s University students and faculty hope catches on.

“Y is for you. O is for ‘it’s obvious’. U is for understand. N is for ‘no means no’. G is for ‘get it?’.”

The cheer, shouted Thursday at a rally held at the university by the SMU Women’s Centre, is in stark contrast to the one caught on camera last week that condoned rape and sexual assault.

About 100 people gathered to chant down rape culture and to change societal attitudes about sexual violence.

“We want the message out there. These chants are wrong,” said Staci Simpson with the SMU Women’s Centre. “This should not be happening at frosh week, anytime of the day or anytime of the night.”

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“When it happened…they didn’t take it seriously. This stuff is serious.”

Professors and students say rape culture is a systemic issue in our community.

“I think it comes from a broader social climate in which [there is] mundane objectification and lack of thoughtfulness for each other,” said Dr. Val Marie Johnson, a sociology professor at SMU.

“I think we as an institution and in our classes and as faculty members with our students need to try and grapple with these issues in a frank and open way, something I think we’ve been reluctant to do.”

The issue was further pronounced last week after it was discovered UBC students had sung the same cheer.

“There is a systemic problem nationwide,” said student Ali Ghous. “It’s not just Saint Mary’s. It’s all over Canada if not North America.”

Some believe the solution may be more conversations about consent, sexual violence and the concept of masculinity.

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“It is an issue. It does happen. Rape is prevalent on campus and no consent is a huge thing,” said student Stephanie Tripp.

“I think [the frosh chant] sparked interest for a change everywhere now that it’s finally talked about.”

Randy Henderson is a member of the Boys’ Club, an organization for that works with those identifying as males on anti-sexist issues.

He says that society defines masculinity as having multiple sex partners and being strong, a definition he disagrees with.

“The boys’ club is about looking at and unpacking masculinity. What are the parts of masculinity that are actually harmful?” he said.

“The men, boys, the folks on campus have misconceptions. Those are related to the cultural influences that we have.”

The Women’s Centre is calling on SMU for some changes, one of which includes hiring a sexual assault counselor.

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It also wants a zero tolerance policy for rape and sexual assault on campus as well as more frosh week programming that educates students about consent.

Though the rally attracted a lot of attention on campus, students say they just hope everyone is listening.

“I don’t think the problem can solve itself,” said student Cameron Taylor. “Obviously there needs to be a willingness by people to be open to that. You can educate all you want but if people don’t want to learn, then what good is that going to be?”

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