Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry Facebook posts 'boggle the mind'

Advocates who talk to men and boys about gender issues say the Dalhousie 'Gentlemen's Club' Facebook scandal should start a wider cultural conversation.

'We have to sort of dig deeper into what is this doing to us, as men, if we behave in this way?'

The male members of the Facebook group Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen also joked about using chloroform on women. (CBC)

Advocates who talk to men and boys about gender issues say the Dalhousie 'Gentlemen's Club' Facebook scandal should start a wider cultural conversation.

They are encouraging men and boys to confront sexist comments when they see them. 

Bruce Dienes is a coordinator with a project called "Engaging men and boys in ending violence against women and girls."

The project is led by Chrysalis House in Kentville and Juniper House in Yarmouth. Both are transition houses for abused women.

It 'boggles the mind'

Dienes says anyone can speak up, but sometimes there's a different effect when a man is seen calling out another man on bad behaviour. 

"What if, whenever somebody said something inappropriate they just got confronted by their peers?" Dienes said. "It's like, 'Hey man, you can't be doing that.'" 

Dienes said his organization offers courses to boys and men to get them thinking about how to react when they see others committing sexist acts. Some of the acts he suggests involve simply saying, "That's not right," or "You can't do that." 

"It's like stepping up. It doesn't mean you're wrestling the other to the ground, you're not getting violent. You're just saying no, and making it really clear," he said. 

"The fact that, that Dalhousie page could even exist — that they thought that was cool — it kind of boggles the mind. But what is it about the culture of the university that makes that cool? What is it that we can do in that culture to make it not cool? That sounds simplistic, but it really is that simple." 

Ron Kelly has been counselling abusive men in New Glasgow for more than two decades. He says, although it's a necessary conversation, men often avoid talking about it. 

'What is this doing to us, as men?'

"We need to have these discussions and step forward and talk about it," he said. 

"I think it's starting to happen. I think there's been a bit of a fundamental shift in society in the last little while. I hope it continues to shake the foundations a little bit."

Bruce Dienes says men should not be guilted into intervening. 

"If the only reason that men are doing this is because they feel guilty, that's not sustainable. We have to sort of dig deeper into what is this doing to us, as men, if we behave in this way?"

"Being conditioned into the role of an aggressor is dehumanizing," he said. "Nobody chooses that. How do we take a stand as men to stop being dehumanized?" 

Both men say, incidents like the posts made by the Dalhousie dentistry students can have a positive outcome if they cause people to do a bit of soul-searching. 

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