TARA COLLUM | Contributing columnist
When I was younger one of my favourite movies was “Splendor in the Grass,” starring Natalie Wood as a teenage “good girl.”
She has a nervous breakdown when Warren Beatty’s character can’t be with her because she’s a good girl, and instead he sets his fate after being with a “faster girl.”
At the time, I thought this A&E channel classic had nothing to do with real life.
The Me Too era is necessary. While we can’t be too harsh on individuals for things that were acceptable back in their time, we must allow society to progress. And we can call out people who actually committed crimes and have them be accountable.
In grade school kids have a bubble of protection. As a public school student, our guidance teacher especially was supportive and caring and we could go to her with our issues and be heard.
Once in class I fainted, and the French teacher had a talk with me to make sure everything was OK. It’s an odd time transitioning from Grade 8 to Grade 9 because that protection vanishes.
In the 1980s there was a popular GHS skit where a teacher would dress up as sort of a pimp Santa Claus with sunglasses, accompanied by high school girls called “The Tarts.” It was a joke, but teachers sexualizing teenagers is gross and I remember it helped to create a toxic culture for girls.
It can be difficult for students to navigate issues like consent and waiting until they are ready for certain activities. Teachers should absolutely not be in this mix or creating an environment that makes things more difficult.
For 20 years there was a teacher at GHS who everyone talked about. In the 1980s he was notorious for looking down the shirts of female students. There was an urban legend that he shared a joint with students during a teacher’s strike. And most troubling was a story I heard about his relationship with a girl in my grade during my graduating year. The details are not my story to tell, but I’m sure most know the story and exactly what teacher I am referring to.
During my last year I was assigned to work one-on-one with this teacher for an OAC class. He talked to more like a peer than a teacher, and he once confided in me he felt like he wasted his time teaching high school and wished he had taught college or university instead.
This was a shocking admission. For years I wondered if some teachers were only in it for the money or because they didn’t know what else to do. But all of my teacher friends later showed me they entered teaching because they loved learning and wanted to help students.
While times are changing; they are not as far along as we would like.
Often young girls are sent home to change because their outfits are seen as a distraction to the boys or the teachers. Girls are taught that it is their fault how they are perceived and need to take time out of their own learning to fix something that isn’t their problem.
I don’t have children, but if someone told me my daughter was distracting to a male teacher, I would demand an apology or the teacher’s resignation.
Children should be shielded, not held accountable for the behaviour of others.
In 2012 Amanda Todd a 15-year-old was extorted by a man from the Netherlands with a revealing photo, he had taken of her on a webcam. She told her story in a poignant YouTube video detailing her distress about not wanting to be an outcast if her family and friend’s saw the photo, before ending her own life.
This culture contaminates the court system. In Nova Scotia in 2017 a young woman was heavily intoxicated and her friends put in her a cab. She was not taken safely home, but instead found half naked and unconscious in the back of the cab with no memory of what had happened. The cab driver was not charged because the courts didn’t believe that it could be proven that anything happened without the young woman’s consent.
When it comes to famous people like Bill Cosby, a conviction is nearly impossible. Despite his conviction in 2018 for indecent assault and an alleged history of mentoring young women, gaining their trust, drugging them and sexually assaulting them, he was recently released from prison. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his three- to 10-year sentence two years in citing a previous deal with a prosecutor that he not be prosecuted.
Some in the Me Too movement fear his surprise release will erode gains made to hold men accountable.
This apparent lack of protection from teachers in the court system leaves women vulnerable and without the proper tools to defend themselves from the workplace in a night at the bar.
The Me Too movement is about not having to be punished for the behaviour of others.
When I was a little kid, I remember an elderly man smoking a cigar. I complained about the smell and was chastised for being rude.
Now we protect our kids from smoke.