TBTN Interview: Coach Riley

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Take Back the Night, an annual event organized by SACHA, is a powerful opportunity for survivors and their supporters to actively build connections, assertively reclaim our right to safety, and courageously stand up against violence.

TBTN centers the experiences of women and gender non-conforming folks. We invitemen to cheer the march on from Gore Park.

Coach RileyA winner at all levels, Coach Riley was a two-time All-Canadian as a player and was a key player on the 1982 Vanier Cup championship team at UBC, before moving on to the CFL where he won a Grey Cup as a member of the 1986 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In 2012 he was nominated for selection to the Tiger-Cats all-time team. As a coach at McMaster, he helped build a strong O-line tradition that has seen several grads move on to play in the CFL. He is also recognized as a Master Instructor by the Ontario Football Alliance. Coach Riley was recently appointed President of the Hamilton Tiger-Cat Alumni Association. He resides in Hamilton with his wife Paulette, twins Jordan and Jessica, and son Jason Jr, who completed his career as a Marauder defensive lineman in 2014.

Why do you think it is important to create space for women and gender non-conforming folks?

It is important to create space in a physical sense for women and all people in our society because as human beings we all need to have a comfortable personal space to develop our own personal identity, maintain our sanity, and develop self-confidence in what we do; this can’t happen if we are confined, restrained, or physically dominated.  Infringing on this personal space is at best bad social etiquette and at worst a result of some form of oppression.  Systemically, it is important to create space for everyone to thrive economically, spiritually, and creatively to allow our citizens to reach the heights of self-actualization and productivity – this is good for the the economy, the arts, and for the overall wellness and success of our society.  Accordingly, every individual in our society should be treated with equity, dignity, and respect, which includes providing the space they need to thrive literally and figuratively.

What do you think male allies can do to create more space for women and gender non-conforming folks?

Men in our society need to become more educated to the needs of women and gender non-conforming folks, so that they understand the difficulties that they face in our society.  Although we live in the best country in the world, with constitutional rights that make us the freest society, there are some that don’t provide these basic rights to women.  There needs to be a social paradigm shift in the way men think of women.  Since before Aristotle’s time in Ancient Greece, we have lived in a patriarchal, male dominated world.  As a naturalist philosopher, Aristotle believed that “women should be primarily defined by their biological and reproductive roles”.  His social philosophy has influenced and helped shape societies around the globe for centuries.  This has lead to long standing gender bias, which has created systemic discrimination against women that is very difficult to combat in contemporary society.  This is one reason we still have not attained “equal pay for equal work” in the corporate realm of our society, although all government employment must recognize this basic right.  Education is the key to creating more space for women and ensuring all people are treated fairly.

What do you think male allies can do to end gendered violence?

Good men can stand together with women in our communities to help create social change to eradicate gendered violence that stems from ancient values that promoted male oppression of women.  Accordingly, male allies can help end gendered violence by supporting women in educating those who may not understand contemporary values of freedom, peace, and non-violence towards women in local communities.  In this way, men can become a valuable ally to women in the quest for safer communities.

 What inspires/motivates you to be a male ally?

I am a male ally because I was raised in a loving family where mutual respect for each other was taught and I have tried to educate my family the same way.  Our immediate family consists of three wonderful women – my two daughters and my wife – and my son, who is most respectful to the women in his life.  We have tried to create an environment in our home where colour, gender, and race are irrelevant and it is the quality of one’s character that determines the quality of the person. Consequently, when I see women being treated with inequity, I think of my own daughters being bullied and it angers me.  We need to ensure that everyone in our society has the opportunity to thrive in a non-threatening environment that promotes positive contemporary values of equality, peace, creativity, and productivity for the betterment of our community.  I believe that with groups like SACHA embracing male allies in educating the public with events like Take Back the Night, we are reaching closer to these common goals.

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