College and university women sign open letter in support of Anne-Marie Roy: 'rape culture is pervasive'

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March 8, 2014

International Women’s Day 

We stand with Anne-Marie Roy. We’ve been there too.

As women who have held elected positions at our college or university students’ union, we write in solidarity with Anne-Marie Roy, the President of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). Anne-Marie was recently the target of sexually violent comments made by several men who held elected positions at the University of Ottawa. Several of these men initially threatened to sue Anne-Marie if she was not quiet about the disgusting comments.

Anne-Marie has bravely chosen to not be intimidated, to make the comments public and to speak out. As women who have held positions similar to Anne-Marie’s, and who have also dealt with sexism and misogyny while elected, we know that we must as well.

The misogyny and sexism faced by women elected to students’ unions is not always this blatant, but is ever present, regardless of the province, city or campus. As women, we have been critiqued not only for our politics, policy decisions, ideas and actions but our looks, our bodies, how we dress and our sexuality have all typically been fodder for our critics. We had to fight to have our voices heard within our executive committees, our councils and at our college and university governing bodies. We have often been belittled by those in positions of authority. When we expressed passionate opinions, we have often been criticized for being emotional and irrational and told to calm down. Those who did not agree with us often resorted to sexist name-calling.

Many of us have been the targets of threats, which are all too often sexual. Sometimes our critics resort to physical intimidation. We have been told to keep quiet and, like Anne-Marie, have received letters from lawyers when we do speak out. All of this can be compounded by discrimination based on race, Aboriginal identity, religion, immigration status, sexuality, gender identity or disability.

These conditions are not limited to student politics. They reflect the experiences of women who hold elected office at all levels in Canada, as well as those who organize on their campuses and in their communities. A combination of sexism and rape culture keeps most women away from political life. Indeed, it’s easier to stay away than to experience hateful or violent threats.

Rape culture is pervasive and cannot be blamed solely only on young men fuelled by hormones and alcohol. Our society is riddled with examples of rape culture: from Robin Thicke singing "I know you want it" (uttered by many rapists) in the smash hit Blurred Lines (and many of us singing along), to blaming a woman for being raped because of what she was wearing or how much she drank. Rape culture is telling women to not walk alone at night, to take self-defense courses and to not get raped, as opposed to teaching men simply not to rape. Rape has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power and control; and rape culture is about maintaining power and control over women. This is especially the case for women who dare to challenge the dominance of men within our society, or our governing bodies. The five men at the University of Ottawa were opposing Anne-Marie’s re-election and instead of critiquing her platform and record (as they would for a candidate who is a man), they resorted to threats of sexual violence to put her in her place.

We must all look at how we react to these incidents, both the ones that go viral and those that don’t, and how our reactions may reinforce this toxic culture. We must change our behaviours and commit to changing the systems that perpetuate it.

We support Anne-Marie and all of the other women currently elected to or running for their students' union. Simply being elected in such a misogynist and sexist culture is an act of resistance and shows great resilience. We support your demonstration of strength, of speaking out and organizing against these forms of oppression as well as rape culture. It is through standing up against these expressions of misogyny that we can make politics, and our society, a less threatening and demeaning place for women.

In solidarity,

Alanna Makinson
Chairperson CFS-Manitoba 2010-2011, Vice-President External University of Manitoba Students' Union 2009-2010, CFS-Manitoba Women's Representative 2009-2010, University of Manitoba Students' Union Women's Constituency Representative 2009-2010

Alyssa Williams,
Vice-President Student Life & Events Ryerson Students' Union 2011-2012, Women's Commissioner CFS-Ontario 2011-2012

Amalia Savva
President Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2011-2012

Amanda Aziz
President University of Manitoba Students' Union 2004-2006. National Chairperson CFS 2006-2008, National Women's Representative CFS 2008-2009

Amy Hammett
VP Student Affairs Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2010-2012

Amy Morris
VP Finance Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2005-2007, Women's Representative and Treasurer CFS-Nova Scotia 1999-2000

Anabela Ventura
VP Laurentian GSA, 2011-2011, Vice Chair Ontario Graduate Caucus, 2011-2012

Andrea Balon
VP Finance Carleton Graduate Students' Association 2008-2010

Andrea Milley
President of the College of North Atlantic Students Union Executive 2007-2008. President of the College of the North Atlantic Student Council, Carbonear Campus Local 46 of the CFS 2006-2008

Andrea Phillipson
VP Finance & Services Society of Graduate and Professional Students Queen University 2011-2012

Angela Regnier
President University of Saskatchewan Graduate Students' Association 2002-2004, Chairperson CFS-SK 2002-2003,; Deputy Chairperson CFS National 2004 - 2006)

Anne-Marie Grondin
Graduate Studies Rep 2005-2006, VP Campaigns Queen's University Society of Graduate & Professional Students 2010-2012, Secretary-Treasurer CFS National Graduate Caucus 2011-2012

Ash Hunkin
VP Student Services Carleton University Students' Association 2007-2008

Audrey Deveault
Chairperson Dawson Student Union 2011-2013, Québec Representative CFS 2011-2013

Becky Winsor
Executive Director Campaigns Memorial University of Newfoundland Students' Union 2009-2010

Brea Hutchinson
President Trent Central Student Association 2012-2013

Brittany Lee Smyth
President and VP Internal Carleton University Students' Association 2007-2009

Cat Ashton
York University Graduate Students' Association 2010-2012

Caitlin Campisi
Internal Commissioner, GSEAED 2011-2013

Caitlin O'Brien Meggs
Director Academic UVic Students' Society 2007-2008,

Chairperson University of Victoria Students' Society 2008-2009

Caitlin Smith
VP Finance & President Ryerson Students' Union

Camille Cendana-Patricio
VP Campus Life University of Toronto Students' Union 2006-2008

Carole Saab
Carleton University Students' Association President 2004-2005 & 2005-2006, Carleton University Rideau River Residence Association 2003-2004

Carole Sauve
VP External Affairs, University of Ottawa, 1993-1994

Carolyn Hibbs
President York University Graduate Students' Association 2011-2013, NGC Chair 2012-2013

Cathy Dowd 
VP University of Manitoba Students' Union 2004-2006

Cindy Brownlee
VP Finance Student Association of George Brown College 2009-2011, Director Education and Equity Student Association of George Brown College 2011-2012

Chloé Hallée-Théoret
VP Political 2010-2011 Association des étudiant.e.s francophones de l'Université Laurentienne, President 2011-2012

Corrie Sakaluk
VP Finance York Federation of Students 2005-2006, President 2006-2007, CFS-Ontario Women's Representative 2005-2007

Cynthia Morinville
Director of External Affairs Glendon College Student Union 2008-2009

Désirée Lamoureux
VP Student Services Society of Graduate Students Western University 2011-2012, VP Finance 2012-2013

Danielle Sampson 
Executive representative, Student Union of NSCAD 2003-2005

Danielle Sandhu
President, VP Equity, VP Campus Life University of Toronto Students' Union 2009-2011

Danika Brisson
VP Student affairs Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2007-2009

Darshika Selvasivam
VP Campaigns & Advocacy York Federation of Students 2009-2011

Denise Hammond 
President York Graduate Students' Association 1998-1999

Elise Boudreau Graham&
Student Union of NSCAD, CFS-NS Chairperson 2010-2011)

Elizabeth Carlyle
UWSA, CFS Local 8 President (1997-1998), CFS National Chairperson, National Deputy Chairperson (1998-2000), Treasurer, International Union of Students

Elizabeth Kessler
VP University Affairs Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2011-2013

Ella Henry President, VP Education St. Thomas University Students' Union 2009-2011

Emily Davidson
VP Internal Students' Union of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 2007-2008, President 2008-2009

Erin George
VP Education and President Ryerson Students’ Administrative Council 1998-2000, Chairperson CFS-Ontario 2000-2001

Erin Jacobson
External Director OCADSU 2004-2006

Farrukh Asif Khan
President Algoma University Students Union, VP Internal AUSU 2012-2013

Gabriel Castilloux
First Peoples Council Leader Carleton University Students' Association

Gail Alivio Fernando
VP Student Rights, President Continuing Education Students' Association of Ryerson 2006-2009

Gilary Massa
VP Equity and VP Education York federation of Students 2006-2008

Hadia Akhtar
VP External University of Toronto Students' Union 2009-2010

Heather Laube
President University of Manitoba Students Union 2010-2011, CFS National Women's Representative 2010-2011

Holly Gilroy
VP Academic Carleton Graduate Students' Association 2011-2013

Jen Hassum
President University of Toronto Students Union 2006-2007

Heather McKenzie
Director of Services for the UVic Student's Society, 2010-2011

Jenn Brown 
Grenfall College Student Union

Jennifer Stacey
Executive Director SGPS Queen's University 2005-2008

Jessica Denyer
VP External Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students of the University of Toronto 2012-2013

Jessica Jamieson Magalios
Chairperson CFS-Newfoundland and Labrador 2004-2007

Jessica Squires
President, Vice President External, Board of Governors representative, Student Union NSCAD, VP External Carleton Graduate Students' Association 2007-2009, and Pres Dal GSA should be VP External

JoAnne Gordon
Student Federation of the University of Ottawa Women's Resource Centre Coordinator 2010 - 2013

Julie Séguin
VP Communications Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2008-2010

Kayley Fitzsimmons
VP Internal Nipissing University Students' Association 2012 - 2013

Kaley Kennedy
VP External (2007-08) and President (2008-2009), King's Students' Union NS National Exec Rep (2007-2009), NS Chair (2009-2010)

Katherine Giroux-Bougard
VP Academic and President MUN Students' Union 2005-2007, Chairperson CFS-Newfoundland and Labrador 2007-2008

Kathleen Wilson
VP External Affairs University of Regina Students' Union 2006-2007

Katie Haig-Anderson         
President, University of Winnipeg Students Association (2010-2011)

Katie Yakasovich    
VP External Algoma University Students Union (2011-2012)

Kelly Holloway
VP External University of Toronto Graduate Students Union 2002-2003, Chair CFS National Graduate Caucus 2004-2005, President York University Graduate Students' Association 2007-2009

Kimalee Phillip       
President Carleton University Graduate Students' Association (2010-2011)

Kimberly Wucher
VP Operations Carleton Graduate Students' Association 2008-2012

Krista McNamara   
Glendon College Students' Union VP Bilingual 2011-2012

Kyra Knapp
VP External Nipissing University 2005-2006

Lana Hastings
Vice President Student Services University of Winnipeg Students' Association 2011-2013

Laura Grier
VP External Students' Union of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, CFS-Nova Scotia Aboriginal representative

Laura Haylock
VP Internal Graduate Students' Association Carleton University 2005-2006

Lauren Bosc
President University of Winnipeg Students' Association 2011-2013, National Women's Representative 2012-present

Leah Sharpe
VP Student Affairs University of Regina Students’ Union 2003-2004, VP External Affairs University of Regina Students’ Union 2004-2005

Lena Elamin
Vice-Presidnt Equity of the University of Toronto's Student Union 2011-2012

Lesley Vaage
VP External Carleton Graduate Students' Association  2009-2010

Liz Martin      

VP Operations Carleton University Graduate Students' Association 2009-2010

Louise Doucet
VP Association Étudiante de La Cité collégiale 2011-2012, Caucus Francophone CFS 2011-2012

Loveleen Kang
VP Campus Life York Federation of Students 2007-2008, VP Operations 2008-2009

Lyndall Musselman
Executive member, Student Union NSCAD 2005-2007, Deputy Chairperson Education for the Graduate Council of the Ryerson Students' Union 2008-2009

Maria Pilar Galvez
VP University Affairs & Academics UTMSU 2009-2010, VP University Affairs UTSU 2010-2011

Mary-Dan Johnston
VP Administration St. Thomas University Students' Union 2009-2012

MC Noël
VP Social Student federation of the University of Ottawa 2011-2012

Meera Chander
VP Finance Carleton University Students' Association 2009-2011, Treasurer CFS-Ontario 2010-2011, Women's commissioner CFS-Ontario 2009-2010

Melanee Thomas
President University of Lethbridge Student's Union 2002-2003, National Executive Representative National Graduate Caucus CFS 2008-09

Menal Mehari
Secretary Laurentian University Graduate Student's Association 2012-2013

Michal Hay
VP University Affairs University of Toronto Students' Union 2007-2008

Monique Drupaul
Centre for Women and Transpeople representitive, Student Association of George Brown College 2010-2012.

Nadine Tkatchevskaia
Director of Bilingual Affairs Glendon College Students' Union 2008-2011

Natasha Krzyzewski
President Student Union of NSCAD University 2010-2011

Nila Zameni 
VP Campus Life York Federation of Students 2008-2009

Noor Baig
VP Equity University of Toronto Students' Union, CFS-Ontario Women's Commissionner 2012-2013

Nora Loreto
President and VP Education Ryerson Students' Union (2005-2008), CFS-Ontario Treasurer 2007-2009

Odelia Bay President, VP Education, and Educational Issues Commissioner, Ryerson Students’ Administrative Council 1999-2002

Paige Galette
VP Communications Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2010-2012, Francophone Students Representative CFS 2011-2012

Paige Kezima
Vice-President of External Affairs for University of Regina Students Union, 2011-12 & Chair of CFS-SK, 2012-2013

Rachel Gotthilf
Director of Internal Administration and VP External, University of Manitoba Students' Union 2005-2007

Ranjini (Rini) Ghosh
President University of Toronto Arts and Science Student Union 2002-2004, and President University of Toronto Student Administrative Council 2004-2005

Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen
VP Internal Dalhousie Student Union (2002-2003)

Rebecca Rose
President and VP Education, Ryerson Students' Union (2004-2006, 2008-2009)

Roxanne Dubois
VP Finance Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2008-2010, National Treasurer and National Chairperson CFS 2010-2012

Safiyah Husein
VP Equity York Federation of Students

Sahra MacLean
External Executive Camosun College 2010-2012,

Samantha Clarke
President Graduate Students' Society University of Windsor 2010-2011

Sandy Hudson
President, VP Equity University of Toronto Students' Union 2007-2010, National Racialized Students Constituency Representative Canadian Federation of Students 2008-2009, National Women's Commissioner 2009-2010, Chairperson Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario 2010-2012

Sarah Jayne King
VP Finance Student Federation of the University of Ottawa 2010-2012, Chairperson CFS-Ontario 2012-2013

Shaila Kibria-Carter
VP Equity SAC UofT 2005 - 2006, President EPUS 2004

Shamini Selvaratnam
VP Education York Federation of Students 2005-2006

Shasa Boshoff
Director Student Association of George Brown College St. James Campus 2009-2011, National Chair CFS Students with Disabilities Committee 2009-2011

Shelley Melanson   
President Carleton University Student Association, Chairperson CFS-Ontario

Shewit Kalaty
VP Student Services Carleton University Students Association 2008-2009

Stephanie Nakitsas
VP Campaigns York University Graduate Students Association 2007-2008

Susan Hilts
VP College of North Atlantic Students Union Executive 2006-2007, President College of the North Atlantic Student Council

Taiva Tegler 
External Commissioner Graduate Students' Association of the University of Ottawa 2011-2013

Tiffany Kalanj
University Relations Officer Simon Fraser Student Society 2002-03

Tracy Ho 
Chairperson Students' Union of Vancouver Community College 2007-2008, Chairperson University of Victoria Students' Society 2008-2009,

Women's Liaison CFS-BC 2008-2011

Vanessa Holroyd    
VP Programming and Outreach Continuing Education Student Association Ryerson University 2009-2010

Vickita Bhatt
VP Equity and President University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union 2009-2011, Constituency Commissioner CFS-Ontario 2009-2011

Victoria Bowman
President Ryerson Student Union 1997

Victoria O'Neill 
VP Communications King's Student Union, University of King's College 2006-2008

Yusra Khogali
VP Equity Scarborough Campus Student Union 2012-2013

Zyler Zexi Wang
VP External UofT Students' Union 2010 - 2011

Abigail Gyaben Cudjoe
VP External UofT Students' Union 2012 – 2013

**Many women who are currently elected are in solidarity with this letter as well and fight every day on their campuses against misogyny and rape culture

Photo credit: Radical Girls:

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