activism, education, consent, bullying, sexual education, resources
Tara: As Arden gets ready to go to high school, what would be the things that you would want the school to offer Arden as –as she gets ready to spend four years there?
Catherine: Oh, you know what would be great is like what Farrah Khan is doing at Ryerson battling rape culture but starting in high school.
Tara: Tell us more about that.
Catherine: Well, um, from what I understand of the work that she does is that she does a lot of work around, um, working against rape culture at Ryerson. I mean it’s at Ryerson but I know it’s like –it’s- the reach is much farther than that because of her social networks. And I find that really inspiring because, you know, teaching people who are masculine to not rape is a really great reframing that we need to see more everywhere, right? And, um, I think it’s powerful. I just think that by university that’s a lot of unlearning that you have to do. That’s like really –that’s like back pedalling uphill.
Catherine: The conversation around rape culture, to me, is almost more important than teaching them about the birds and the bees. Because the truth is that the teachers aren’t doing a good job of that anyway. If they’re teaching them to smile and say “I’m interested in football too,” if that’s how they’re teaching them to pick up then really I would rather they just let us teach her at home and it just be all about consent. I’m fine with that just because it’s been such a horrible failure. Sex ed. has been such a horrible failure. I haven’t met one that has taught it well.
Nazbah: I had a really good one, actually, in middle school.
Catherine: Yah, but it’s so rare, right? It’s so rare. I just feel like I don’t know what you have to do for yourself like massage or acupuncture before you get into that room but just do it.
Nazbah: She was pretty explicit about things. I learned so much about my anatomy and all the various ways that I could get pregnant and all those things but we didn’t get taught about consent. That was one of the things that I wish we had been taught.
Catherine: And that’s –I feel that consent should be the first thing, you know, we need to –I feel that anti-oppression workshops should be done, like it should be a requirement at least twice a year, very specific subject matters for it, for teachers during professional development days, so that would make me feel confident in getting Arden into the high school system. Because right now, I don’t. I don’t feel confident, I think we’re just going to continue the entire thing where we’re doing most of the work when she comes home saying “you would not believe what we just learned today”.
Nazbah: Or talking about some guy who’s harassing her, and teachers just looking the other way. I mean, we just talked with one of our nieces, and they’re talking about a teacher that, like, stares at young women, and makes them do, you know, like, odd exercises in PE so that he can look at them, and everyone has, you know, given feedback about this teacher to their parents and other people, but he’s still teaching there.
Tara: And the behaviour has not stopped?
Nazbah: It’s not stopping.
Catherine: No. So, yah. It’s –I feel like what I want to change is more in the behaviour of the teachers and the willingness to change the curriculum based on that. It’s -but I feel that in the education system change is so hard to come by. It’s just –it’s too –I feel very frustrated most of the time. Oh, and just really quickly is that because of my book M is for Mustache: A Pride A, B, C Book, is that I actually, there was a time when I was very much at odds with the TDSB because of the fact that Charlottetown Public School said that they did not feel that I should read the book to a kindergarten class because of the fact that the new sex ed. curriculum had come in and they were worried about backlash. And we’re talking about an ABC book about a little girl going to Pride, it’s not like she was putting, you know, condoms on her hands, and even it was happening with a condom, who cares? I feel like it was such a failure on their part that they –like I’m just really disappointed in this day and age that I felt that my children’s book was like the To Kill a Mockingbird of gay children’s books. Like it was so ridiculous like in 2015 when that happened, I couldn’t believe it. Um, so you can imagine, my relationship with education has not been very positive to be quite honest.