General Tom Lawson, Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff claimed in an interview that men are “biologically wired” to harass women.
I am going to call bullshit on that statement.
He later apologized for his awkwardly worded statement.
I’m all for giving people space to clarify their statements. Sometimes the words that come out of our mouths don’t really convey what we intended to say. Especially in interview situations when you are on the spot to come up with an immediate response.
General Lawson has had more than 24 hours to clarify what he really meant and he has not really done that in any meaningful way. So we are left to assume that he believes what he said. He seems to believe the ‘boys will be boys’ myth. The suggestion being that men are simply incapable of controlling their base attraction to women.
So if General Lawson believes that men are wired to harass women, what kind of commitment can we expect from the Canadian Forces Leadership on the issue of working to reduce and eliminate sexual harassment and abuse?
Let’s be clear. Harassment and abuse are not a biological imperative. They are learned behaviours.
Harassment and abuse are about power. They are not about biology or attraction. It is about (typically men) people using words and actions to assert power over other people (typically women).
Since these are learned behaviours, they can be unlearned and prevented in the first place.
The military can do more and in fact has been handed a guide book on how to do it.
If General Lawson and his leadership team want to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the issue of harassment in the forces, they need to announce their response to the recommendations and begin to demonstrate progress towards implementing those recommendations.