Is the #MeToo Movement Leading to Vigilante Justice?

Canadian author Margaret Atwood, best known for her novel the Handmaid’s Tale, has recently gotten herself in trouble for comments that she made opposing the #metoo movement.

Primarily, Atwood’s concerns focused on where the #metoo movement is going, and how the accused will be treated by the general public. She cites a recent incident, involving professor and fellow author Steve Galloway, as a reason for her concern.

In 2015, Galloway was accused bullying and sexual harassment. This prompted members of the Canadian literary community, including Margaret Atwood, to stand behind him in support. Many then retracted this support, however, when further allegations came out – including bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Galloway was dismissed from the University of British Columbia, where he taught, but is facing no criminal charges.

Margaret Atwood claims that Galloway’s dismissal was unfair, and she fears that the #metoo movement will lead to vigilante justice.

Galloway, however, is not the only man to be dismissed from his job due to claims of sexual assault. In the media, we have seen this happen time and time again. Harvey Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company following allegations of sexual assault. Kevin Spacey was fired from television series House of Cards following similar allegations, and Louis C.K. was fired from Secret Life of Pets 2. So is this also unfair? Is this also an example of vigilante justice?

There have been some who would say so; who would say that, yes, these are bad men, but they are good at their job. They are talented artists (or, in Galloway’s case, professors), and they should be allowed to continue doing their jobs.

I disagree.

In Weinstein’s case, I feel the reason why he should be let go is fairly obvious; Weinstein’s job put him in a position of power, and a sexual predator can and will abuse that power – as Weinstein did again and again. His job is directly connected to his being a sexual predator – he wasn’t the right one for the role. He wasn’t the sort of person who would do that job without abusing it. He was, quite frankly, bad at his job.

And in the case of Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey, who were similarly put in a place of power and adoration and then abused that power, they are both part of industries that have no shortage of competition. There are hundreds of talented comedians and actors in this world who deserve their shot at the job – comedians and actors who don’t happen to be sexual predators.

But let’s talk about Galloway for a moment, because the thing that I find interesting about this particular story is that this is a profession that isn’t part of the media. This is a more everyday profession, and while Galloway most certainly does have a system of support and adoring fans, this is to a lesser extent than what a Hollywood celebrity has. This is moving more into the mundane.

And was Galloway’s dismissal from his job unfair? Was this an instance of vigilante justice?

Well, quite frankly, no. I don’t think it is. I think that, if a person is poorly qualified for their job, then they should not have their job. And a bullying sexual predator is not the right candidate for a professor.

There is another story that came out of Canada recently, this one focusing on George Brown college in Toronto, where several former students of the acting program have come forward to discuss suffering abuse, humiliation, and harassment from the faculty of the school. These are people who wanted nothing more than to pursue their dreams, to become qualified in the job that they so desperately wanted, and instead, they were belittled, picked apart, and abused to such an extent that it affected both their mental and physical health – and all of this was caused by the very people who were supposed to help them. This was caused by their professors.

Professors have a huge task to fulfill – as all teachers do. Professors are there to teach people. They are in control of their students’ grades and education and, yes, even their lives, to a certain extent. A bad professor can very easily hurt a person’s chance at getting the job that they are working so hard to get, or they can kill a person’s self-esteem and motivation.

And, yes, Galloway’s first victim to break her silence was, in fact, a former student.

But what about the fact that Galloway faced no criminal charges? Is he being punished for a crime that the law hasn’t recognized that he committed? Well, this is where the argument gets complicated.

Just because Galloway hasn’t been charged with anything, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t guilty. Out of every 1000 rape cases, after all, only 7 will lead to a felony conviction, and this is not because the majority of allegations are false. It is estimated that somewhere between 2% and 6% of allegations are false. So, yes, that does mean that the majority of sexual predators will go without any legal punishment for their crime.

Does that mean that we should turn to vigilante justice to fix this problem? No, that isn’t what I am trying to say here (although we do desperately need to fix a legal system that allows the vast majority of sexual predators to walk free and go unpunished). What I am trying to say is that the University of British Columbia is under no obligation to keep a man under their employ when all evidence points to the fact that he is not good at his job and should not be allowed to keep it – especially not when allowing him to keep his job would send a message to his victims that what he did to them was okay. And sexual assault is already a rampant problem in colleges and universities.

So, no, from what I have observed thus far, the #metoo movement is not leading toward vigilante justice. What the #metoo movement is creating is a society where sexual assault and sexual harassment is taken more seriously and discussed more prominently. There was once a time when a man like Galloway might have been allowed to keep his job, and continue to harass, assault, and bully students that are simply seeking an education. But times are changing, and we are no longer willing to accept these things. We are creating a world where a woman might be allowed to seek an education without fear of being treated differently or unfairly by her teacher.

And, hopefully, this influence can continue to spread to all industries.

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It Is Never Too Late To Discover Your Abilities

We as a society seem to preach a certain order to things, a flow that all lives are supposed to follow.

Get born. Spend the first six or seven years wanting to be a fairy or a race car driver or a a princess when you grow up. Decide that isn’t practical and move onto something that is. Dedicate your high school years to fine tuning that plan. Graduate, and go to college or university with your plan in mind. Achieve your practical plan, and get a job in that field. Work at that job until you’re dead.

And I think that most of us, once we actually set out on this path, began to realize that it just isn’t realistic. Or, at least, we do if the fact that 80 percent of students in the United States change their major at least once indicates anything. And then there are the kids who graduate from high school without a plan, the ones who were too busy or too young or too indecisive or too surrounded by outside influence to really know what they want to do.

I think most of us realize that it just isn’t realistic to expect kids to decide what to do with the entire rest of their lives, all in the most formative eighteen years of their lives. And yet, we continue to preach this order to kids. And, to a certain extent, we continue to expect this order of ourselves.

We feel let down by ourselves if we haven’t fully decided what we want to do by the age of eighteen. I know that when I realized, at the age of twenty-two, that I didn’t actually have a plan for a job that would pay enough to keep me alive, I felt like I was behind everyone else, that everyone else had already figured this out and here I was, still developing.

We feel as though we cannot change our minds later on in life, as though once we have decided on our job, then that’s it. This is our career forever.

I mean, statistics indicate that this just isn’t true anymore. The days of working at one business your entire life are apparently over, as some surveys indicate that the average person works at least four jobs by the age of thirty-two. But do these surveys matter to us? Apparently not, because I still hear people express regret at not having chosen a different path, not having sought out a certain job that they showed promise in at once point, but forewent for one reason or another.

We act as though there is a script to our lives, and we have no choice but to follow it. Yet, this has never really made sense to me, because it is far from the truth.

I mean, sure, there are some obstacles that might get in the way of our dreams. Perhaps a physical disability might make being an NFL player difficult, and perhaps going back to school will be difficult if you have only enough money to keep you and your family alive.

But at the same time, there are often ways to do the things you love, in one way or another, whether it be seeking out a sports team made for people with disability or applying for scholarships or whatever the case may be.

And, more than that, I have even heard these lamentations made by people who have absolutely nothing standing in their way besides themselves.

If you want to switch careers, and you have the means to do so, then do it! If you want to start writing a book despite having never done so before, then now is as good a chance to start as ever!

The reason why we do not do these things is not because we can’t; it’s because we accept that we can’t. We say that we want to do something, and everyone around us says, “why? Isn’t that difficult? Are you sure it’s practical?” and so we do not do it. We tell ourselves that it’s impossible, and so it becomes impossible for us.

But if we gave it a try, we might be surprised. I mean, sure, things might not work out for us, but maybe they do. We won’t know for sure until we try.

So long as you are still alive, anything remains possible. We preach a simple script to ourselves and to our peers, but that script does not exist. We are limitless. We are capable. And it is never too late for us to discover our abilities.

Who Has The Time?

The March Hare: The time! The time! Who’s got the time?

In high school, it was simple: wake up, go to school, hang out with friends, go to work, go on dates, do homework, hang out with parents, take some breaks for mental health, volunteer because it looks better on university applications, be active, eat, sleep for eight hours. Wake up, repeat. And if you don’t do every last thing on that list, then you’re slacking off. You aren’t doing well enough. What are you doing? You need to get up, smarten up, think about the future, what are you going to do if you fail at one of these things? What sort of adult are you going to be?

Do you even care about your future?

Mad Hatter: If you knew Time as well as I do, you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.

Alice: I don’t know what you mean.

Mad Hatter: Of course you don’t! I dare say you never even spoke to Time!

Alice: Perhaps not, but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.

Mad Hatter: Ah! that accounts for it. He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock.

I think I must have pissed Time off at some point.

In university, it got even simpler: Wake up, eat healthy because if you don’t you’re going to gain weight and feel awful, go to classes, do five hours worth of reading a day, exercise, write essays, go to work, hang out with friends, go to parties, develop a small drinking problem because everyone else is doing it, go on dates, spend time with your parents, try to build your own life, come up with the final answer for what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, volunteer because it makes you look better for future jobs, work on your passions even if they don’t pay anything, take breaks for your mental health because if you don’t then the crushing weight of everything that you have to do is going to descend upon you.

Them: So, have you been going on any good dates lately?

Me: No, I don’t have the time.

Them: Really? That wouldn’t stop me!

The future better be fucking spectacular, because I seem to be living exclusively for it.

Then university ended, and it became even less okay to not have any time. They say that we aren’t kids anymore; we need to get serious. This is our life, the only life that we ever going to live, and we had better do everything with it.

Wake up. Go to work. Plan out the future, because you didn’t actually have time to do that in university. Volunteer, because it looks better for the kind of jobs that you actually want to have. Hang out with friends. Go on dates. Work toward your passions. Exercise. Eat healthy, because there’s still that problem of feeling awful if you don’t. Build your own life. Take breaks for mental health. Don’t give into the existential crisis waiting for you at night when you turn out the lights and lie alone in your bed.

I make plans. I work hard. I do everything I can to work toward my goals, and so what if I don’t do anything else? Who has the time?

We all make time for the things that matter, that’s all I know. We prioritize what’s important. And, unfortunately, not everything can be important at all times. There is too much in the world for that to be so.

But, perhaps, for the things that we miss today, their time will come tomorrow. Just be patient, work on what matters now, and wait for the time to come for everything else.

After all, today might feel long, but it remains short in the span of an entire life. It is not possible to do everything with a day. But it might still be possible to do everything with a life, so long as you work on it all in its time.

We Need to Listen

While I find my voice quite frequently in the form of writing, if you were to meet me face-to-face, you’d discover that I tend to be a very quiet person. And all my life, people have told me that this is a problem.

In school, my teachers would tell me again and again that I had very good things to say when they read my essays or my homework, but that I never contributed to the conversation in class. This more than anything brought my grade down.

At jobs, while I have absolutely no problem speaking the words that need to be spoken, and even engaging in conversations when I come across people who are particularly chatty, I have been told by employers that I need to be more talkative, more socially engaging, and if I can’t do that, then I shouldn’t be here.

In social settings, I have always felt bad about the fact that I am quiet. People will tell me things like “don’t be shy” or “you don’t need to be nervous”, but that has never been the case for me. I’m not shy, and people don’t make me nervous. I’m just quiet. That’s just the nature of me. When I am very talkative, that usually means one of two things: that a topic of conversation has been brought up that I am particularly passionate about, or that I am trying to push myself into a place where I am not being myself and I am not comfortable.

And I think that these two comments really sum up the misconception that tends to be made about me, or quiet people in general: that we’re shy. That we don’t like people. That people make us nervous, and as a result, we are weak, or there is something wrong with us. But, at least in my experience, none of this is true. I love people. I love to be around people, and I love to hear what they have to say, and I love to receive attention from them. And yet, I’m quiet.

And as much as I’ve heard people say, over and over again, that this is a character flaw of mine that needs to be overcome, as much as I’ve had people praise me for making myself uncomfortable and speaking when I wouldn’t normally have spoken, I disagree with all this. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d understand forcing myself to be uncomfortable for something that I actually believed would make me a better person, but I don’t believe this will.

Because, while everyone else seems to believe that, when I’m not talking, I’m not doing anything, this isn’t the case. When I’m not talking, I’m listening, and I’m thinking. And these are two actions that I sincerely do not want to do less of.

Let’s go back to the classroom setting, for an easy example of what I mean here. When I was sitting in class, I was so busy listening to what my teachers and peers had to say that I wasn’t really thinking about what I could contribute myself, and this was what made me a decent student. Because I already knew my own thoughts on the matter, but I was obsessed with hearing other thoughts, because frequently enough, they differed from mine. And once I stocked up on all of these differing perspectives, when I left the classroom, I would sort through them, decide which perspectives made sense to me and which didn’t, and then I would take this thought and put it in my homework and essays. I felt that it was incredibly important for me to listen and think through everything I had heard because I didn’t think that my own opinion on the matter was wrong, but I firmly upheld the belief that my opinion wasn’t the only one that mattered. In fact, I sort of believed that all these opinions mattered, and that the truth lay somewhere in between them all.

And if I tried to tell this to my teachers, they would tell me that the other students could benefit from hearing my opinion as well, but when I tried to force myself to speak in class, then I found that I was so preoccupied with trying to come up with something to say that I forgot to even listen. And listening was just too important for me to give up.

And the classroom is not the only place where my penchant for listening has helped me. When a friend is going through a difficult time, before I judge or suggest any action for them to take, I make sure that I listen to them and try to understand what they are going through. I try to see things from all perspectives, and while this takes more time, it has also helped me gain a deeper kinship with certain people.

Listening has also helped me to become a much more empathetic person than I might otherwise be. For example, as a white woman, I have no idea what it is like to live life as a person of colour – I’ve never done it myself. But I have listened to people, and I have tried to understand them and think about their perspective. So while I am aware that my voice, when it comes to these matters, is not the most important voice, it is essential that I lend these matters my ear and my eye, because that is the only way that I will learn about them.

There is a time and a place to speak, and there is a time and a place to listen, and personally, I believe that one of our society’s problems is that we think that the time to speak is constant. We forget the value of listening, because everyone is so obsessed with talking, with having their voices heard above anyone else’s, that they’re completely forgetting that other perspectives even exist, or that they might also be important.

And we all, every single one of us, have something to say. But what good will that do if there is no one to hear it?

Four Years

Four years ago, I showed up at this massive, foreign campus with the understanding that this was to be my home for the next long while. It didn’t look anything like I expected, with its blocky, grey buildings occasionally covered in bad graffiti and the endless multitude of posters discussing the possibility of rape. It looked like something from a dystopian novel – big, looming, threatening, empty at the time, and I didn’t think that I was going to make it. I thought, for sure, something was going happen before I graduated.

A few of my friends from high school dropped out along the way, and I figured it was just a matter of time before I did. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready for this. This was too daunting, too much, and staying here would kill me. Oddly enough, the only thing that pushed out all thought of dropping out was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I watched around the same time, wherein Buffy struggles to adapt to post-secondary life in much the same way I did. I saw myself in her then, and I decided that if Buffy could stick to it (later seasons notwithstanding) then I could too.

The next four years were strange and difficult, to say the least.

After my first year, I realized that I had both anxiety and depression. My first year was characterized by emptiness, nothingness, simply getting from day to day and passing all my classes but not really doing much else.

After my second year, I hesitantly began to hope that things might get a bit better. I still hadn’t made any friends at university, but I hung out with a few of my friends from high school from time to time, and though they didn’t know it, they taught me a few things about myself. They taught me that I spend a lot of time trying to please other people. They taught me that I’ve been maintaining this ideal of what my life should be – that I should be partying, sleeping around, getting drunk, behaving (the way I saw it) like a normal twenty year old. But none of that was ever me. It made me feel uncomfortable, unhappy. It was a role that I was trying to force myself into, and I just couldn’t do it. I needed to start putting my happiness above that image.

After my third year, I came to the conclusion that I needed to put my past behind me and start focusing on my future. I’ve always prided myself on my ambition, but it’s hard to climb upward when you have all of these insecurities, doubts, anger, and fear from yesterday weighing you down. So I decided that what I needed to do was cast that off. I needed to be a little bit selfish, I needed to focus on myself. I needed to actually start making my life better.

And now here I am, almost finished my fourth year. Almost at that graduation that I never saw in my future, and I only made it here by being so preoccupied by what I needed to learn that I didn’t even really see how far I’ve come.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that there is no ‘normal’. I’ve learned that just because society says that I need to do something, like, say, drink and party, that doesn’t actually mean I need to do it. Normal is a pointless standard, especially when the alternative choice is happiness.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that life is occasionally going to be terrible and difficult to get through, but that doesn’t mean that you just stop trudging through it. Even when you’re just getting by, just doing the little that you need to in order to survive, someday that’ll change, and you’ll start doing things because you actually enjoy them again. It just takes time.

Hell, in the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve even learned to love it here. I love my classes. I love the reading and the lectures and my peers who usually have some pretty insightful things to say. I love these blocky, grey buildings with their bad graffiti because, for one reason or another, I’ve always been drawn to broken things. I love those posters warning against rape because now they’re less of a threat and more of a call to action, an attempt to make people realize how prevalent rape is in university campuses and how we all need to do our part to make that stop.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve started to identify loudly and proudly as a feminist, not caring what anyone has to say against that. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve gained an appreciation for Victorian literature and medieval Arthuriana, while still maintaining my old love for comic books and bad movies. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that just because someone is older than you and paid to know more, that doesn’t actually mean that they do. I’ve learned to question, to think, to empathize. I’ve learned a lot, and as much as I never thought that I’d say this when I first showed up on this dystopian campus four years ago, I’m really going to miss this place.

But even so, I still have so much to learn. I’m not a perfect person, not even after four years of post-secondary. There are lessons I’m trying to teach myself even now, and lessons that I’m sure I’ll stumble upon in the next, unknown chapter of my life. And I can’t wait to find out what those are.