#MeTooIsn’tEnough sparks discussion surrounding gender equity
On Nov. 6, 2017 THEMUSEUM hosted a public dialogue surrounding gender equality in the Waterloo Region called #METOOISNTENOUGH: A part of the Model Citizens Dialogues.
The dialogue, moderated by Julie Barker-Merz, board director at THEMUSEUM, was inspired by the #MeToo hashtag which recently surfaced on various social media channels.
“I felt there was an opportunity for us to actually talk about it and identity what those triggers are in our community and how we might need to change and some things that we might need to look at a little bit differently in order to put forth some meaningful change,” Barker-Merz said.
Some main themes that came up during the dialogue included further training and education among children, families and more. As well, the significance of women supporting other women and identifying an opportunity for women to support one another even more than what is already occurring.
As well as recognizing that the issues being discussed are not just women’s issues; however, it is a community issue. As both men and women were present at the dialogue, explained Barker-Merz, it opened up the subject surrounding the roles of men and women within this particular issue.
“One comment that I heard from a gentleman that really impressed me … he stood up and said that men have to change and men have to take ownership and women need to call us out on it,” Barker-Merz said.
“I thought it was such an authentic, genuine callout that he made and it really shifted the dynamic in the room. It was a very courageous thing to say and to do and he did it in a way that was so genuine and so real that it was very powerful.”
Another major topic of discussion surrounding the event was the Miss Oktoberfest contest which takes place in KW annually.
Although the contest provides a positive opportunity for women, allowing them to gain skills while in a leadership role, there are other aspects of the contest which may be outdated or critical questions to impose and think about.
“People wanted to go deeper on some topics we just didn’t have the time of space to do it. I see us coming up with a series of dialogues and the museum certainly has an appetite to make that happen — we’re going to figure out how to keep the conversation going.”
Five present and past Miss Oktoberfest’s were in attendance at the dialogue, as well as Margo Jones, president of KW Oktoberfest Inc.
“It feels like it’s the time to ask some questions if we’re thinking about gender equality. Are we being equitable and do we have the right rules around Oktoberfest … what are some other rules that could be more meaningful that could look and sound different than ‘Miss Oktoberfest,’” Barker-Merz said.
A main topic surrounding the contest which was brought up was regarding the rules that state contestants cannot be married or have children.
“We kind of reflected back and said years ago mother stayed at home with their children … but maybe times have changed. Women know what time they have, how much time they want to be away from their families and, maybe, they require this opportunity,” Jones said.
While Jones is open to further conversation about changing these rules, she stressed the significance of the opportunity being for young women.
“This opportunity is for young women to give them that upper leg, whether it is networking or whether it’s feeling confident,” Jones said.
“Keeping it to younger women, I think, is where we need that assistance and we give them that skill that they maybe didn’t have before.”
As a whole, Barker-Merz felt that meaningful suggestions were brought forth as a result of the discussion in an individual regard.
Some of the more broad discussions included talking about the judicial system and ways in which it could be changed as well as how local police departments can improve in terms of how they make women in the community feel.
On a more personal stance, those in attendance discussed how each person can individually take action in order to make meaningful change.
“People wanted to go deeper on some topics we just didn’t have the time of space to do it. I see us coming up with a series of dialogues and the museum certainly has an appetite to make that happen — we’re going to figure out how to keep the conversation going,” Barker-Merz said.
“I think if one person walked out of there feeling empowered to make change then I think we accomplished our goal.”