I’m thinking about the definition of the word, “resignation”.
Right now, you might picture leaving your job and the letter that goes along with that unfortunate (or fortunate) experience. But, resignation also refers to the unresisting acceptance of something as inevitable. It’s an unconscious acknowledgement of social norms, like spending money to get basic necessities or wearing clothing in public.
But, resignation goes further than that. It feels more conscious and deliberate.
There are two sides of resignation. There is the person who represents the norm, who naturally experiences it, and who considers the norm as “not their fault”. On the other side, there is the person who goes against the norm and, after a lifetime of being blamed for their natural (or unnatural) position, feels that they shouldn’t expect anything different. An example would be a wealthy homeowner versus a poverty-stricken individual who can’t find stable housing.
So, why am I thinking about resignation?
J.R. LaRose and Angus Reid, players from the BC Lion, made an appearance in Fort St. John as ambassadors of “Be More Than a Bystander” campaign. According to the BC Lions’ main partner, Ending Violence Association of BC, the campaign is “aimed at substantially increasing awareness and understanding about the impact of men's violence against women.”
I was fortunate to watch their presentation when they visited local schools. They were passionate and poised presenters, speaking unashamedly about the importance of leadership and courage. Students were uncomfortable with the subject, but willing to give their thoughtful responses related to daily, complicated, and sometimes traumatizing experiences of gender-based relationships.
Internalizing the realities of violence against women and girls is endlessly challenging. Everyone is aware that teenage girls experience sexual violence far too regularly – one too many drunken parties end in bad decisions. As well, the devastation of domestic violence is felt throughout generations in our community. But, in some ways, violence against women and girls is still put in the same category as social norms related to boys’ and girls’ politics. Boys will be boys – it’s just the way it is.
Students talked about the inappropriate ways that young men talk about young women, saying things like, “It’s so normal that sometimes it’s kind of bad. It’s a guy thing.” Related to a discussion about whether or not girls deserve negative attention after wearing revealing clothing, one student made the comment, “There’s always going to be the dirt bags that make bad comments” and “If we don’t follow the dress code, we’re asking for it.”
Each statement resonated resignation.
The philosophy of “that’s just the way it is” influences us greatly. Many notable musicians have named their songs after some version of the saying: Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Rancid, Rum DMC, Tupac Shakur, Rancid, Tesla, and The Strokes.
Each artists’ lyrics assumes that the listener is the underdog. Here are a few lyrics from these songs and how they relate to the resignation associated with gender-based violence.
Run DMC, “I just go through life with my glasses blurred”:
At school, work, or home, it’s difficult to admit when something someone says feels wrong. We are animals by nature and must control our primal urges. Luckily, we are the top of the food chain. Despite our intelligence, we still remain silent in situations when men and women are speaking inappropriately about the opposite sex.
Tupac Shakur, “I wonder what it takes to make a better place”:
Even though gender issues feel silly and difficult, we wish we understood how to have positive conversations about them that don’t feel awkward. We want to make a difference and speak out, but it’s too difficult. We risk too much to say anything.
Bruce Hornsby and the Range, “Ha, don’t you believe them”:
As one brave student from North Peace Secondary School pointed out, “We need to realize we don’t need to tolerate it.”
If we follow this progression to the end, resignation turns into young women and men working together to resist a way of thinking that puts us in one category or another. We stop fighting. Young women and men learn that they deserve better. Suddenly there is no inevitable circumstances, but only healthy possibilities.