Promoting consent culture at McGill

Over the past year, McGill students have engaged in a necessary conversation about consent on campus: On Oct. 11, 2017, SSMU signed off on the Our Turn Action Plan, an initiative aimed to combat rape culture on campus. The McGill Tribune spoke to Chloe Garcia, Faculty of Education graduate student and volunteer at IMPACTS, a multidisciplinary effort to address sexual violence on university campuses, to discuss the importance of fostering a healthy consent culture on campus.

McGill Tribune (MT): What is consent culture?

Chloe Garcia (CG): “I view it as a culture where asking for consent is normalized as an essential part of [both] sexual relationships [and] non-romantic relationships. Consent culture [refers to…] everyday media and popular culture [….] Media shapes how we think about sexuality and also impacts how we behave. Media is a great tool to raise awareness about what consent is, why it is important to have a consent culture, and provide steps to improve our current society.”

MT: What are barriers to consent culture?

CG: “There are many barriers to consent culture caused by harmful perceptions and stereotypes about women and marginalized communities […. This includes] patriarchal ideologies where women are devalued, but they can also refer to rape myth[s], such as, ‘she was asking for it’ or ‘men don’t get raped’ [….] Another barrier […] is current misconceptions of feminism.”

MT: How can the McGill community work to overcome those barriers?

CG: “We need to work together to overcome these barriers through [administrative channels] like [the] McGill administration, faculty, and student leaders […. By] opening dialogue, listening to each other, modeling respectful behaviour, [and…] intervening [when we witness abusive behaviour], we can take better […] responsibility for the wellbeing of our community.”

MT: As part of Consent McGill you hosted the “Let’s Talk About Consent Culture! A Vlog-Making workshop.” What do you hope students took away from the workshop?

CG: “I do research in the Faculty of Education on teaching about consent and sexual violence with YouTube vlogs, [and I …] run workshops on vlogging to promote consent culture. This specific workshop featured conversations about what consent and consent culture [are and…] what we perceive to be barriers. We looked at interventions focused on social change, particularly how YouTube vloggers […] promote dialogue, raise awareness about consent and sexual violence, and show support to survivors. We practiced making our own videos [to…] share our vision of the type of change we would like to see, [which] will eventually […] be made available to the McGill community within the next few months.”

MT: Has McGill done enough to promote consent culture?

CG: “McGill has taken great strides to improve the community, such as working with IMPACTS and student organizations [….] There is always room to grow [….] [McGill needs to address] unresolved issues on campus with professors accused of sexual misconduct [….] I always think there is room for improvement, but it will not be that easy to change a culture.”

MT: How should students talk with their peers about consent culture?

CG: “I think that any language is appropriate when talking about sexual violence, sexual consent, and consent culture. It’s very important that we do not dwell on formal versus informal terms [….] There have been recent complaints about students using colloquial […] language to talk about their experiences with sexual violence, [but…] this use of language is not always well-received [….] It’s important not to dismiss allegations on the basis that formal language wasn’t used. Not everyone knows legal terms or can concretely express [their experiences].”

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