Misogyny is as much a part of Queen’s culture as Homecoming

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This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424. The Centre's online chat feature can be reached hereThe Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal.

This year’s unsanctioned Homecoming celebrations saw the return of a long-held Queen’s tradition: misogynistic and violent bedsheet signage draped from houses in the University District.

One sign read “Western guys wish they were Pfizer so they can get inside her.” Another demanded “Lockdown your daughters not [Kingston].”

Every year, at every large-scale event, you can count on walking past a bedsheet targeting or sexualizing women. During move-in week, there are “daughter drop-off” signs. For HOCO, crude slogans about Western. In March, St. Patty’s-related harassment.

Even amidst a pandemic and heightened public dialogue surrounding sexual violence in postsecondary communities, this year has proved no exception.

The student community is continuously proving that misogyny is just as much a part of Queen’s culture as tricolour spirit and street parties. And the administration has yet to make meaningful change. 

On Oct. 18, Principal Patrick Deane issued a statement that said the University would take action against the occupants of homes on which the bedsheets were hung under the Student Code of Conduct. However, he failed to specify what that action would be.

Queen’s has historically been vague and lax when it comes to holding perpetrators of misogyny and sexual violence accountable. And if the action taken against the students responsible for the signs is on par with past repercussions—falling far short of expulsion— students will continue to ignore the University’s weak efforts to discourage this behaviour.

Behind each misogynistic sign, there’s an entire social group that’s responsible—housemates who endorsed the idea, friends and acquaintances who were complicit in their silence, or passersby that laughed and posted pictures. 

The issue isn’t just that a handful of despicable signs went up last weekend—it’s that there’s a community of people who allowed it to happen. And there’s always a community that allows this culture of misogyny and sexual violence to flourish, year after year. 

Queen’s, as an institution, has an undeniable responsibility to culture a safe environment for women and those impacted by sexual violence. But the student body can’t only point our fingers at the institution when it comes to the failure to disrupt rape culture in our community.

We have the power to hold our peers socially accountable for their acts of misogyny and to engage in conversations about the behaviours that prop up our patriarchal rape culture. Those among us who often have the most privilege and influence—we’re looking at you, straight, white, cisgender men—must use that positionality to make positive and radical change within the community.

Stop your friend from hanging a bedsheet with a slogan sexualizing women. Start a dialogue about combatting sexual violence. Abandon the party culture this community prides itself on that’s built on a foundation of misogyny and a lack of accountability.

These actions are only the beginning. But if we don’t start somewhere, and we leave the full responsibility with an institution that has proven time and time again it isn’t prepared to successfully address the rape culture crisis on its campus, nothing will change. 

—Journal Editorial Board

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