Really, the question isn’t whether there might be a Harvey Weinstein in Canadian agriculture, but how many of them there are likely to be.
I’m not one to doubt the fundamental decency of farm society. In fact, I believe in it implicitly. Yes, farm society has had to evolve like other sectors have had to evolve, but none of us arrived in the world with a set of 2018 morals carved in our genes, and farm societies in my experience have made more room for differences than most people outside of agriculture would ever expect. No one has boasted about it, we’ve just gotten on with the job of taking our neighbours as we find them.
But, of course, we must not be too forgiving of ourselves.
One of the great shocks of my professional career came when I interviewed the head of a rural women’s shelter here in Ontario.
It was an afternoon that fundamentally reshaped my perspective. It wasn’t that I had doubted there could be spousal abuse on the back roads. It was just that I was sure there wasn’t any along the roads in my area.
Then I began to see the patterns. Don’t you know any farm, I was asked, where the wife used to be very outgoing and social, and now seems to have given up all her connections, or where it’s only the husband who ever answers the phone, and where no one gets invited over.
The list goes on, but you get my point. The warning signs had been there all along. I had just been blind to them.
So too was the way that these warning signs crossed financial and income barriers that I had thought were proof against them.
In agriculture, this #MeToo winter is an opportunity to do the listening and the learning that we should have been doing all along, but that was too easy to ignore.
It doesn’t mean that all men are guilty, but it does mean that if we don’t take this opportunity to learn, we are in fact complicit.
As you will read in Lisa McLean’s excellent article in our February issue of Country Guide, the issues go beyond the threat of sexual violence and harassment (although I recommend you do read lawyer Cherolyn Knapp’s advice on setting up your own on-farm standards).
The issue must also involve a fundamental discussion about disrespect, and the evils that take root within it.
The truth is that the agriculture I know excels in every field. Farmers are leaders in technology and science. They are brilliant at organizing and adapting themselves to a world that seems to change with every season.
It means to me that if farmers put their hearts to it, they can excel in treating women equitably too. Agriculture can be a role model for the rest of society, and it can be perceived as that.
It’s a goal within our grasp.
Am I getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].