By: Jodi Miles
Photo by Trevor Swann
RE: Women’s gym hour campaign posters vandalized, Nov. 17-23
In the recent article about the women’s-only gym hour campaign posters being vandalized, Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) president Fahd Alhattab made some questionable critiques of the “Where’s Our Women’s Only Gym Hour?” campaign organized by several campus groups including the Womyn’s Centre, blaming the vandalism of posters on the structure of the campaign itself.
He is quoted saying that the campaign does not leave room for dissent, as it states an already-formed position by using the question “Where’s our women’s only gym hour?,” rather than a phrase like “give us your feedback.” He also blames the vandalism on the lack of “room for dissent” in the campaign.
These invalid criticisms of the campaign have also been reflected by other students, particularly in disgruntled Facebook comments—which demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the purpose and responsibilities of a campaign, and altogether show a lack of support for the initiative.
The purpose of a campaign is to present a straightforward position on an issue and to push for that specific change. Those who are involved in a campaign don’t usually have the power to make changes themselves, but rather represent interest groups who put pressure on policymakers and authorities.
Though it may make sense for Carleton Athletics to hold consultations on a women’s-only gym hour, those behind this campaign have no responsibility to do this, and are only required to represent their own interests.
It is also important to acknowledge that this campaign represents the voices of systemically disadvantaged groups. The campaign represents women as a whole, while making the campaign inclusive to trans women and non-binary individuals, and the interests of Muslim women. These groups are made up of minorities who regularly experience discrimination, and whose voices are often ignored or not taken seriously.
A clearly stated purpose for any campaign is undeniably effective, and when it comes to initiatives that support minority rights and interests, it is vital to its success. Minority groups, like those involved in the women’s-only gym hour campaign, do not have room to be passive or indecisive when it comes to fighting for their rights.
And finally, it is important to note that the women’s-only gym hour campaign has done an excellent job providing space for dissenting voices, despite the fact that campaigns are only required to represent their own interests.
Their survey, which has been circulated in order to collect feedback, allows those who do not agree with the campaign to respond. It does not contain leading questions, and provides an array of answers for everyone. It even contains a space at the end of the survey for respondents to submit additional comments, and students also have the option to dissent by not filling out the survey at all.
But Carleton’s women’s-only gym hour campaign has no responsibility to provide room for dissent or to avoid having an already-formed objective.
Alhattab’s comments are misguided and unfairly discredit the campaign. His comments may give legitimacy to students who wish to blame the campaign’s structure for more extreme forms of dissent, such as hate speech and the threats received by those involved.
It is part of the nature of campaigns to have a clear objective, and it is unreasonable to blame or criticize them for it.