I am a Elephant Hunter.
Yes, I hunt Elephants.
Growing up, my mom had little wooden elephants and carvings of elephant tusks all over the house and I was fascinated with them. I was not born in Sri Lanka, but born here in Toronto, Canada. I imagined walking through forests looking for them. Years later, today I hunt Elephants.
Everywhere I go, whatever I do…I am hunting them. When I am at a meeting, out shopping, at an event, on campus, or sitting down with you…I am hunting Elephants.
…oh, I mean the Elephants in the Room.
You know, the conversations we don’t have. The ones we are afraid to have. The conversations we avoid. The conversations we NEED to have.
Now, in another lifetime I was dating and engaged to a woman born in Pakistan. I spent seven years with her and around her very large family here in Toronto. Being of Sri Lankan decent, and living in the very culturally diverse Jane & Finch community: I have also known many people from the so-called East Indian region of the world. I got to see, first hand, how status, respect and reputation amongst the neighborhood, community and within the extended family were an overwhelming influence and factor in all things.
I have also dated ‘white’ women and had many friends who were white, born in Canada and of various decent (French, Italian, Russian, European etc.) I got to see, first hand, how status, respect and reputation amongst the neighborhood, community and within the extended family were an overwhelming influence and factor in all things.
A conversation, an internal and self-reflective honest conversation is needed amongst every cultural group, space and community around violence against women, embedded and engrained sexism, as well as societal attitudes towards women and girls.
Today, I had a great recorded chat with superstar reporter Kelsey Wingerak of the Ryersonian about these internal & reflective conversations every community (from Irish to Russian to Pakistani to you name it) needs to have about violence & the everyday realities women face. We also talked about how so-called ‘honour killings’ have nothing to do with Islam or religion, that we all, as allies and friends, must speak out against the shameful way the media and people have dragged these murders into being ‘Islamic’ or a ‘Muslim issue’.
We also need to have conversations within cultural spaces (again, every cultural space, you name it) about attitudes towards women and girls. This is about the global pandemic of devaluing women and girls, the societal & cultural norms and attitudes that foster all forms of violence in every community. This is not about a group like the White Ribbon Campaign or any organization parachuting into a community and telling them what to do, this is about people in their own communities rising up and saying we need to talk…
We need to talk about this elephant in the room.
For too long, folks have worried that ‘if we discuss it, we bring spotlight on these stereotypes and prove the stereotypes to be true’. What we need to do is address the pillars, the legs of these stereotypes and myths, and topple the table one leg at a time.
We all must do our part, we must do this together.
In October 2011, Muslim groups and leaders took steps to take out one of the legs of the stereotype, and have the conversations we need to have. A statement was issued, called the “Call to Action to Eradicate Domestic Violence”.
Canadian Imams, leaders and organizations took a pledge to help eradicate the violence. It ends by stating “As Muslims and as Canadians, we stand with all Canadians and pledge to combat domestic violence in all its manifestations, wherever and whenever they arise.”
On December 9th 2011, Imams across Canada gave sermons condemning domestic violence. The next day the Toronto Muslim community launched a campaign asking men and boys to take the White Ribbon pledge to ‘never commit, condone or remain silent on violence against women.’ This message was also taken to the large annual ‘Reviving the Islamic Spirit’ convention in Toronto this past December.“ As Muslims and as Canadians, we stand with all Canadians and pledge to combat domestic violence in all its manifestations, wherever and whenever they arise.”
Afaun Mandol, a spokesperson for Muslim Presence Toronto has been working to spread the conversation. In an article in Iqra.ca Mandol says “We are hoping to raise awareness about domestic violence in Canada with the White Ribbon Days…the White Ribbon Campaign is a means to start the conversation in our community to challenge everyone to speak out, and think about their own personal beliefs, language and actions”.
It is time every space, community and neighborhood had these internal reflections and dialogue. There is a hunger to have these conversations. There is a hunger, to create safe spaces to have the discussions.
Afaun Mandol will speak at the upcoming ‘What Makes A Man. Higher Unlearning: The 2012 White Ribbon Conference; at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada about the White Ribbon pledge being taken up by Muslim leaders as a sign of leadership and taking ownership.
What we all must do is step up and follow this example. Shatter stereotypes that this is an ‘Islamic issue’ and acknowledge that it is about conversations of societal influences and oppressive structures of patriarchy and sexism.
It is a conversation we must all have, every space and place must do its part. The issue of gender inequity affects us all.
To paraphrase the Canadian Muslim Imams & leaders call to action: As Canadians, let’s stand with all Canadians and pledge to combat domestic violence in all its manifestations, wherever and whenever they arise.
It’s time to start hunting those elephants.
Come out to ‘What Makes A Man. Higher Unlearning: The 2012 White Ribbon Conference on Saturday February 11th . Join Afaun and many other speakers at a discussion-focused event looking at the spectrum of identities, experiences and realities that determine ‘What Makes a Man’.
What Makes A Man. Higher Unlearning:
The 2012 White Ribbon Conference
Saturday February 11th
ENG 103 in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.
245 Church St. (South/East corner of Church St and Gould St.)
11:00am – Morning Session begins
12:20pm – Lunch Break
1:20pm – Afternoon session begins
4:30pm – Dinner Break
5:45pm – Evening session with SHIHANADMISSION $10 (or pay what you can)
Lunch provided by Salad King.*All proceeds go to the White Ribbon Campaign*
___Visit www.whatmakesman2012.wordpress.com for more details