PHOTO: ROBYN BELL

International Women’s day at Ryerson

In Communities /

By Andrew Kalinchuck

If you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put a frog in lukewarm water and slowly heat it up, the frog will acclimatize and eventually die.

Winnie Ng’s, a labour rights activist and Ryerson’s social justice and democracy chair, shared this story with students and members of the community on March 7 as part of a panel discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day. She was one of four females on the panel.

Ng’s story is a metaphor for women in Canadian society. The frog represents the female and the water represents the social climate — this demonstrates that more subtle problems can add up and have damaging effects.

But Ng thinks it’s time for women to start pushing back when it comes to discrimination.

“What a lot of politicians have been doing is trying to put the blame back on us, that we are not good enough, we haven’t done enough training or whatever crap they say,” she said.

Ng wasn’t the only panelist who focused on the subtleties of gender discrimination in Canada. Ryerson Students’ Union President, Melissa Palermo, shared a story about a female colleague of hers who was the subject of multiple rape jokes on Twitter. She said it really opened her eyes to the realities of female discrimination.

“Many of us [are] judged based on gender and not our work,” Palermo said.

In the mid 1980’s, women made about 64 cents for every dollar men made. Now, the number is closer to 71 cents. Yes, progress is being made toward gender equality in Canada, but the main question discussed at the panel was: is this progress moving fast enough?

Cathy Crowe, a member of Ryerson’s sociology program advisory council, said she sees a lot of potential for change. She cited examples from Canada’s past, mentioning women like Dorothea Palmer who sold and distributed birth control when it was still illegal.

Near the end of the discussion, Six Nations elder Jan Longboat, suggested a solution.

“If someone asked me what I would do and what I think should happen to the world now, I would have to say, let our women rule.”

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