WAVAW’s speech at the November 22nd March to Reclaim Consent
We’re here tonight to Reclaim Consent. Let’s first Remind ourselves to acknowledge that historically consent has been an important tool of feminist legal reform. We also want to acknowledge that consent cannot be the only response to sexualized violence. Consent must happen in the absence of pressure, threats or force. So how can we have consent when we still have oppression and when power still dictates our relationships?
Before consent, beyond consent, alongside consent – we need to…
… work to Realize Justice and a world without oppression. We know that people do not perpetrate violence against those that they believe are their equals and fully human. Before we can even talk about consent, before we can even talk about safety, we must acknowledge the context in which we are living and learning. This campus is literally built on the site of the dehumanization and destruction of indigenous peoples who have not been valued as fully human. Otherwise we would not have 600 Aboriginal women who have disappeared due to violence. Is it any wonder then that we are struggling with women on this campus being objectified, dehumanized and violated? We know that sexism and racism intersect. Let’s Re-train our minds to Recognize difference as a source of strength instead of something that fragments us. We all experience violence differently and all of our experiences are required to understand the full reality of violence. Who has the privilege to consent? What are we asked to consent TO? When are we lacking the choice to consent in the first place?
Let’s Redistribute power.
Dear UBC Administration:
We do not consent to living, working, and learning on a campus where women’s bodies are considered risks to be managed. Where women have a curfew and don’t have equal access to mobility and public space. Where surveillance takes the place of real commitment to change. Where women are told not to be the next victim instead of supported to ensure there won’t BE a next victim.
We demand that you analyze and revise your policies and systems in your administration, programs, faculties, departments and student groups that are discriminatory against women. We demand that you work with police to unlearn the ways rape myths impact investigations and collaborate with experts in the field of sexual assault until violence is no longer imaginable or expected here.
Let’s Re-structure governance.
Dear Canadian Government:
We do not consent to be represented by a government that detains refugees, exploits migrant workers (like Filipina women in the live-in care giver program), and engages in war on foreign soil for economic gain – while knowing the impacts of war on women and the most marginalized.
We do not consent to be represented by a government that ignores national and international concerns about human rights abuses being perpetrated against Indigenous girls and women.
We demand accountability to ALL people living on this land.
Let’s Rethink individualism. Imagine that instead of telling individual women not to get raped, that instead of equipping us with whistles and that instead of telling us not to walk alone, the UBC leadership acknowledged the real causes of violence against women, and the fact that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime cannot be responded to individually and instead requires collective action.
Let’s Re-imagine safety. It’s not a scarce commodity. It’s not limited or individual. It’s not a cab ride or self-defense classes or mace or video cameras. Safety is everyone realizing that rape is everyone’s problem. Collective safety-making is what we’re doing here tonight!
Let’s Remember compassion (listen to survivors, believe them, give them options instead of advice).
Let’s Remember to create a culture of respect. How easy would consent be if we truly respected and valued each other, without cultural stereotypes of masculinity requiring men to feel entitled to women’s bodies.
Let’s Rediscover anger and outrage over violence against women! It’s ok to be angry about sexual assault.
Let’s Remember big radical love that reconnects us to each other and to feminism. Feminism, a movement to end violence in all its forms so women will never have to be afraid again.