We Aren’t Asking For It 

Oh boy. What a hectic way to end off last month. Two consecutive weeks, two mysterious men, two different universities, and a whole slew of disturbed university students—mostly female university students. On the morning of the 24th Global News reported that for nearly 2 weeks, students at Mount Royal University disclosed multiple accounts of a naked man following female students around campus and peeking into residence windows. The next day, CTV News Calgary released an article which detailed limited sightings of a man with a weapon seen at the University of Calgary. Now, before jumping to any conclusions, know that the incidents were likely unconnected and that the police responded to these reports skillfully, even managing to apprehend the individual who they believe was at UofC—an individual who later that same day perpetrated a sexual assault downtown. So, you might think that the issue is isolated. However, in accordance with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, of all the sexual assaults that are reported per 1,000 people over the age of 15 in Canada, it is estimated that a whopping 87% are targeted towards women. 

This fact makes it clear that police arrests will not and cannot solve the root of this problem: the sexual objectification of women in society. A topic that is highly sensitive for a lot of people and shrouded in many misconceptions. After all, when these upsetting situations occur, many people feel it crucial to inquire what the woman was wearing or where she was, when the incident occurred; you may have even previously heard something along the lines of “if she was…wearing a [insert article of clothing] at [insert place] at [insert time], she was asking for it.” Yet, these details alone should not be relevant. Yes, there are certain pre-conceived notions attached to wearing a dress or being out at night. Sure, sexual desire is a perfectly natural affliction of the human condition. Regardless, what matters in these situations should be the verbal and physical cues that are exchanged, if any. Otherwise, we are essentially part of a society that does not offer the individual protection from society itself. Observe. Process. Act. Is she visibly uncomfortable? Is the interaction one-sided? What is the entire context? If so, someone could be butt-naked and no one would be entitled to anything, and that’s that. This is the sentiment that should be perpetuated in society; a sentiment that you can help perpetuate. No, this does not mean you cannot compliment women, but moving forwards, know that there is a fine line between compliments and out-right objectification. 

And for those of you who walk this thinly determined line with grace, I sincerely thank you for helping to make our society a better place. 

By Chase Abernethy


Why I joined CSWAG—And Why You Should Too!

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging—in my mind, CSWAG is held up by these three fundamental tenets. Though women and girls are, of course, one of CSWAG’s core focuses, it’s also about identities of all kinds and representing their struggles and trials in everyday life. Overcoming these systemic barriers not only relies upon us to educate ourselves and the people around us, but to become the generation that truly changes centuries of discrimination. To me, CSWAG is all about changing societally normative standards, considering that misogyny and sexism still run rampant through many facets of our society today. As a member of the Research & Education committee, I hope to confront the misconceptions and barriers to both gender equity and equality. In essence, I joined CSWAG to educate, to challenge, and to progress; alongside the other members of R&E and CSWAG, I want to shape a world where all identities, sexualities, and orientations can coexist without fear of persecution or harassment.

By Joshua Cheng


A Movement For Equality

What does the word “feminism” spark in your brain? Depending on your relationship to the word, it could be a variety of thoughts. Maybe your interpretation is women in a conference room, directing a presentation; you see strong female leaders. Maybe you see crowds of girls in the streets, fighting for equal rights. Either way, the feminist movement is seen an a woman’s movement, a woman’s fight, a woman’s job. While these are big parts of feminism, this could also be considered one of the biggest problems with how feminism is seen as a whole. 

Feminism, as an institution meant to support not only women and girls but all peoples and all genders, is faced with many obstacles in its fight for equality. But misconceptions have arised, with people believing that feminism means more for women, less for men. This prejudice is extremely harmful as it prevents many people from identifying with the movement or even supporting it. This is seen mainly on a social level, visible to us in highschool. For example: boys who say they are feminists are often met with negative reactions from both male and female peers. How can we as a society move towards equality when the notion of being a feminist threatens so many people’s accustomed sense of identity? 

Equality and feminism should be looked at through the same lense, as they have almost identical goals. Certain people who do not have issues with the word “equality”, might with feminism.  For the majority of even mildly progressive thinkers, the word “equal” is looked upon very fondly. Who wouldn’t want a world where one race has no distinction from another and no judgments are subjected onto individuals beyond judgments of their own actions? But the moment that the word feminism is mentionned, one’s perspective alters. So is the problem vocabulary? Is it preconceived bias? Whatever the motivation for this mindset, as a feminist, I can only hope we progress past it.

By Genevieve Gault and Ella Mazerolle


Survey Results

In April of 2022, CSWAG’s Education and Research Subcommittee created a survey for the student-body in hopes of getting to understand how our students feel about the various nuances and issues surrounding gender and sexuality at our school. Hence, these five articles written by subcommittee members discuss the responses of our youth, showcasing areas of growth and areas of pride. 

Question 1: Is gender equality attainable? Explain your response. 

By Heba Badahman

The first question that was laid upon the students of Western Canada High School concerned our ability to achieve gender equality, and if it is even possible. Most of the answers showed a similar pattern, as the general point of view was that gender equality is indeed doable but not in the near future. Though one of the students, optimistically stated that this equality being seeked will be reached during their lifetime. Solutions or methods of achieving this goal were also provided by the students, including more female representation and unlearning the stereotypical, misogynistic ideas that have been ingrained in our minds by society. However, between the responses that shared commonality, one comment stood out to me: “Men will never be able to equal or surpass women’s ability to bear children. Men and women do play different roles in life.”  The student talked about how men can never equal women in their ability to bear children, and therefore both genders cannot be equal in every aspect of life. I believe the point that this student highlighted is that equality does not require uniformity. People, no matter which gender they identify with, possess different societal roles. Equality comes into play when people are given the same rights and treated with the same dignity, with no bias no matter where they are on the gender spectrum. Overall, the students recognize the work and time required to achieve a goal of this magnitude, while their initiative to participate and learn (for instance, by doing this survey) is a step in the right direction for our school community. 

Question 2: Do you see the impacts of gender roles in school? Explain. 

By Ava Wagner and Hanko Ngu

On the topic of gender-based issues in our society, we asked students whether they see an impact of gender roles in school. In order to understand the question, first, we must define what gender roles are.  Google defines gender roles and stereotypes as “how [individuals in society] are expected to act, speak, dress, groom, and conduct themselves based upon their assigned sex.” From our conducted survey, we received an even 50/50 between two different points of view; yes, gender roles are present and play a role in the school environment, and no, they do not have an impact. This tells us that there is no clear consensus among the student body on this issue. Furthermore, two contrasting responses stood out to portray the previous statement. The first response talked about how they did not see any impacts of gender roles in school because of how clubs and extracurriculars at Western aim for gender diversity and appropriate representation. For example, a stereotypical society would allow for men to make choices for the greater body of the community, however, Western’s Students’ Council consists of members that are “not one-sided when looking at the gender of the students” as stated in the response. Conversely, the second response sought to bring up the issue of gender roles within casual conversations amongst students and friend groups. As expressed in this response, they mentioned how misogyny and toxic masculinity are “disguised as humour”, while the use of the word feminist implies an insult. From our findings in the survey, we can infer that in professional environments, such as club and extracurricular settings, individuals tend to act self-aware and advocate against these issues. However, in private and amongst comfortable friend groups, the filter is removed. This goes to show how more work needs to be done by family, friends, and our society to extract the normalization of toxic gender role joke culture behind closed doors. 

Question 3: How does social media influence gender equality? 

By Madeleine Embury 

Overall, the answers to this question tend to come to the general conclusion that it depends what type and side of social media the user is on to understand the effect on gender equality. The majority of students that answered agreed with the idea that social media is a crucial tool, as it is used to spread knowledge and information, as well as, to start discussions around gender equality. However, several responses also highlight the negatives of social media use in combating this issue, adding that “some people use social media as a place to publicize their [sexist] opinions”, or that popular uses of social media such as the spread of infographics “don’t really do anything to solve the issue”. In general, the answers, coupled with modern professional opinions on the subject, can lead us to the conclusion that social media can influence the fight for gender equality in a productive way if it is used correctly and paired with more concrete initiatives to make change. This type of media can have a very large impact on the way that people form opinions, and as such it is critical that the discussions being had on these platforms are constructive so that this impact is felt to be positive. 

Question 4: Do you have role models who exemplify/strive to accomplish gender equality at school/within your community? Tell us about them!

By Sanjit Samanta and Weilan Zhang

Role models are crucial to ensuring that an individual can directly seek inspiration in their actions from others around them. Students offered a variety of responses to the inquiry. From mothers to classmates to CSWAG itself, students pointed to different role models they found significant within their community. Students also went as far as to name their role models, referring in particular to Eliza and Hayley, two inspiring students who have taken a large initiative in advancing the ambitions of the project. A single student also reported not having any role models; while this may be initially received as an unfortunate circumstance, it serves the intent of being an incredible source of motivation to advance the fight for gender equality. Consciously or otherwise, almost everyone has identified someone in their life that prompted them to live and act with integrity.

Guidance and influence are evidently crucial to the individual on their journey to maturing; in escaping toxic mindsets surrounding body image and mental health, many look to their mother’s affirming words. The role of the maternal figure is one that not only provides comfort but emotional growth as well, which is crucial to an individual’s esteem and self image.

Contrastingly, in navigating convoluted social climates where the disparity between the sexes can cause widespread struggles, many look to role models that exemplify an actively feminist way of life — one that seeks to reconstruct the narrative surrounding the systemic patriarchy. Hayley and Eliza’s way of teaching by demonstration normalizes advocating for equality on an individual level, and in this way, the impacts of their efforts as role models to the student body reaches far beyond the media coverage of activist events; they’ve inspired steps in the right path — a collective shift — in all of our hearts.

Question 5: How do you show activism and/or support gender equality? 

By Joshua Himmens 

Throughout CSWAG’s survey, one thing became clear in response to the question: “How do you show activism and/or support gender equality?”. Many people, evident through their responses, don’t know what they can do to support gender equality. It’s perfectly understandable. Gender equality and activism are necessarily complicated issues because they involve fundamentally reconsidering ideas once held as fact. Truthfully, it’s hard to act thoughtfully all the time and even harder to make incremental improvements on such a huge issue. The only way to progress is if we do our part to create a safe and welcoming world around us. 

Though flashy acts like protests and walkouts have their place. Most of us don’t regularly have the opportunity to participate in them or ample reason to do so. What we can do, though, is act in our day-to-day lives. I know that almost all of us have had an experience where we have seen inequality in action. From subtle disrespect based on gender to blatant sexism, I guarantee that everyone has seen it. The most significant impact we can have is simply standing up for ourselves and the people around us. Don’t accept that any level of bias or discrimination will be tolerated. Additionally, normalizing these small acts will ensure they become as integrated in our society as the past discriminatory systems have been. Overall, the students’ vague or unsure responses demonstrates the importance of CSWAG, and other committees alike. 


Say ‘hello’ to CSWAG!

Hello Western! We are CSWAG, the Committee on the
Status of Women and Girls. This committee was
created for several purposes, and the main propellor to
get this committee going was making sure that ALL
genders at Western felt safe at school. As a
committee, we want to educate on gender bias, ensure
that sexual assault victims have resources, and to
assure that all genders, especially women and girls, to
have a voice at our school, and to assure, above all else,
that they are heard. We are very excited to begin a new
chapter at Western, and we look forward to working
alongside you all.