Some very unfortunate comments (to put it mildly)

I attended the recent ArcticNet conference in Winnipeg. It is a conference showcasing all varieties of Arctic research being conducted by researchers from across the country. Ice, snow, glaciers, hydrology, Arctic foxes (yay!), polar bears, caribou, Inuit literacy, and a whole lot of other topics within the natural, biological, and social sciences.

There was a banquet on one of the evenings of the conference, and it was quite a spectacular affair. Awards were handed out, and there was a speech “honouring” one of the founders of ArcticNet. I say “honouring” because in that speech the speaker poked fun at the recipient, and in the process made some very unfortunate comments. 

They were sexist and offensive. I won’t repeat them here. If you’d like to read more about it, the story was picked up by CBC News and Nunatsiaq News.

I was shocked by the comments. There is a long line of decision-making that goes into choosing words for a speech. Did it not occur to the speaker that the “roast” might rub people the wrong way? And if it did occur to him, well, he decided to say them anyway. How sad.

What also shocked me was when the speaker referred to his comments as “Trump-isms.” Oh, so because it is something Donald Trump might say, that makes them okay?!

I wasn’t going to say anything about the speech. My blog is generally for other (more fun) purposes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I didn’t say anything at all, silence could be construed as acceptance. Or indifference. 

And I feel anything but accepting or indifferent.

The comments were unacceptable. The speaker should have known better. A lot better. It is very disturbing when people in a position of power (the speaker and especially Donald Trump) make it okay or even acceptable to say sexist and misogynist statements. I know it is very eye-rollingly cliche, but with great power comes great responsibility. It concerns me greatly that an atmosphere of “locker-room talk” has been made mainstream.

Thank you to the students and professors who spoke up against the comments. It was very brave. And the right thing to do.


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