Note the editor conspicuously omitted the word “private” from the headline’s description of this school principal. Spin alert!
And why have we given a free pass to the premier for sending her child to a private school? That’s not an indictment of the public school system, it’s an indictment of her job as a public servant.
A dispute over neighbourhood children being denied access to a private school playground in North Vancouver has sparked an angry exchange between one parent and the school principal that ended up on YouTube.
Anne Fisher is outraged that the private school, which leased the former public school in 2010 including the playground which the community had fundraised to build, won’t let other children from the neighbourhood on the grounds during the day.
International Women’s Day is a check-in point for me: I try to take stock of what has improved or worsened since last year. Doing so helps me be a better ally.
Our soul as a nation has suffered this past year. It has suffered from the continuing culture of rape and violence against women. The behaviour of the Dalhousie male dental students is just one more indicator of our continued dismissiveness and our neglect of dignity, though the process of restorative justice they’re now participating in offers some hope.
The worst sign, by far, that things aren’t getting better fast enough comes from our supreme leader, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.
He could have tried to dodge the issue. He could have tried a non-answer. But ultimately, the communications wizards in the prime minister’s office decided that he should tell the truth.
People who don’t like the prime minister weren’t surprised by the answer. People who do like him probably appreciated his honesty. And those who are sexist or racist likely respected his bravery in championing the Conservatives’ continuing racist and sexist neglect of this national crisis. In 2015, the situation remains unchanged, with the government once again publicly stating it will not conduct an inquiry.
Another sign of the times lies in people’s continued reluctance to identify as feminist. They fear an increasing backlash, and they fail to see how feminism assertively addresses systemic injustices, past and present. They fail to see how feminism untangles the nature of oppression, the kind that has normalized hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in our society.
Though I’ve proudly identified as a feminist for decades, lately I’ve learned about complications that come from layered oppressions. For instance, what happens if you are a woman and suffer economic, social or political discrimination? And what if you also happen to be an Indigenous woman, who suffers from discrimination because of your heritage? Does one oppression “win,” or do oppressions interact?
So do Indigenous women address oppression as women or as Indigenous people? It’s not a binary.
As an upper-middle income, white, straight, English-speaking, university educated, fully employed, able-bodied man, I represent the demographics of the dominant class in Canada. In fact, I share more entitlements in common with Stephen Harper, demographically not ideologically, than most other Canadians.
This disturbs me.
And it motivates me to be a better ally. Luckily there are resources for everyone, including people like me, whose demographic entitlements often impede my ability to be useful to people suffering discrimination and oppression.
One of the best ally resources around is a short video by YouTube comedian and activist Chescaleigh. Watch “5 Tips for Being an Ally.” [It’s below, for your viewing convenience!]
If you’re reading Our Times magazine, you’re already an ally. Way to go! But we could almost always be better allies. Chescaleigh’s words encourage us to do just that. She defines an ally as “a person who wants to fight for the equality of a marginalized group that they are not a part of.”
Being an ally is noble and altruistic. But it can also be condescending, arrogant and paternalistic if we’re not careful. Thus, she provides these indispensable tips:
Understand your privilege.
Listen and do your homework.
Speak up, but not over.
You’ll make mistakes; apologize when you do.
Ally is a verb.
Many of us could more effectively acknowledge and restrain our entitlements.
And since as allies we’re helping others who have lived different lives from our own, we should ensure that our arrogance doesn’t make us think we know it all already.
Entitled people often don’t even know that people defer to them. How many times have you been in a group where women allow men to speak first?
Allies need to have humility: there are no alliances without humility. Allies need to acknowledge that we’ll make mistakes: there is no growth without our changing unhelpful or damaging behaviours.
Once we’ve addressed Chescaleigh’s first four tips, we must remember to be allies in action, not only in identification. One way I can do this is to discuss my understanding of intersectionality with people I am close to: the people I trust, the people who have my back, and the people who help me rise above more pathetic versions of me.
When we establish our role as an ally with our people, we set up relationships that make us accountable. This makes it easy for people to help us help others.
Chescaleigh speaks about her journey to becoming more conscious, about unpacking her own privilege, about redefining comedy for herself and using it in the service of social justice rather than to reinforce stereotypes of all kinds – something she calls out as “lazy” comedy. We are all on a similar journey. But while we can always be better allies, we can also better understand the dynamics of intersectionality.
If we don’t, we risk oversimplifying our understanding of marginalized people. We cannot afford to be so ineffective.
This piece appears in the current issue of Our Times magazine.
Pink Shirt Day is almost upon us. The annual campaign to raise money and “awareness” on the issue of “bullying” takes place on February 25. As this date approaches, I’m sure you’ve noticed an inundation of bright pink. Even at this very moment, I am sipping my tea from a Blenz paper cup, wrapped in a festive Pink Shirt Day cardboard sleeve. Blenz is one of “a bunch of great businesses [that] are holding fundraisers during the month of February with proceeds going to Pink Shirt Day.” Blenz doesn’t actually give money; they just provide us consumers with a number to text, so that we can “have $5 added to [our] monthly mobile bill, to be donated to support anti-bullying programs.” For their effort, Blenz can piggyback on the all the symbolic glory of philanthropic pink.
The colour pink ties in nicely with the Valentine’s Day displays around the city. This is the season of love and compassion, or at least the symbols of love and compassion. Pink also works well as the spokes-colour for anti-homophobia, which brings us to the Pink Shirt Day origin story: Two high school students in Nova Scotia witnessed a male classmate being harassed by a fellow student for wearing pink, a colour associated with the antithesis of masculinity. The witnesses went to a discount store after school, purchased 50 pink t-shirts, distributed them to their classmates the following day and stood in solidarity with their previously demeaned classmate. This display of empathy, solidarity, and community action was inspiring! The Premier of Nova Scotia declared the day officially and momentum has been growing ever since.
This type of origin story is familiar. Without it, Pink Shirt Day might be read as a superficial government/corporate campaign to boost their image as community-based philanthropic entities, as well as a gross simplification of the real and complex problem of inter-student violence in schools. The origin story works to root the event in an authentic action, thereby lending perceived authenticity to the entire “movement.”
This tactic is nothing new. The Pink Ribbon Campaign for Breast Cancer “awareness”, introduced in 1992, has an authentic origin story of its own behind all the colour-coded marketing. Charlotte Haley is the “granddaughter, sister, and mother of women who had battled breast cancer.” She made peach-coloured ribbons by hand in her dining room, and distributed them at the local supermarket. This origin story does not have such a happy ending, as Haley rejected Estee Lauder’s request for her ribbon, saying they were “too commercial.” Estee Lauder lawyers suggested changing the colour of the ribbon to avoid a lawsuit and proceed without Haley’s involvement. Voila! The pink ribbon was born!
Both the Brest Cancer and Anti-Bullying campaigns involve the corporate appropriation of authentic political and community action. This can be called “Pink Washing”, and it functions similarly to Green Washing. Just as we are reassured that using reusable shopping bags will save the planet without any real effort or sacrifice on our part, so are we reassured wearing the official pink T-shirt, posting a selfie #pinkshirtday, or participating a dance flash mob will bring an end to inter-student violence, oppression, and harm. I love a good dance flash mob, but is this the type of action that facilitates meaningful discussion and problem solving, or is the effect more so one of surface appearances?
I am not here to claim that Pink Shirt Day offers nothing of value to those who participate. The colour pink itself can help youth question gender norms, and I’m sure some deeper conversations of empathy and community do arise. What I do propose is that Pink Shirt Day serves to simplify a complex issue. One way this is done is through the use of language.
We use the word “bullying” as a catchall. Why do we call a harmful act or series of acts “bullying” rather than homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and classism? These more specific and political words can help us more deeply understand the various forms of power and oppression rampant in our schools and broader communities. An awareness of interlocking systems of oppression can help us work to dismantle these oppressions from an educated and empathetic perspective. Calling homophobia by its real name can help young people make sense of their own felt experiences. This is the first step in talking openly and constructively about the systemic injustices they face, and working towards a place of safety and empowerment. Painting all oppressions with the wide brush of “bullying” undermines the intelligence of children and youth by artificially simplifying complex problems.
One reason I think we are so drawn to Pink Shirt Day and other similar campaigns is that it offers us a feel-good “solution” to a known problem, without us having to give anything up. All we are asked to do is wear pink and donate a little money and we can go about our day believing the problem is solved. If we are forced to abandon the word “bullying” and talk openly about patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and the exploitation inherent in capitalism, we will be forced to acknowledge our own relative privileges within these power relations. When Amanda Todd committed suicide in 2012, the community was outraged at the horrific “bullying” she had been subjected to. The use of the word “bully” in this instance works to evade discussion of patriarchy and rape culture. We’re told the solution is to “stop bullying now” rather than work towards dismantling rape culture, problematizing male privilege, and empowering young women.
While we’re on the subject of language and how it can be used to obscure the truth, let’s consider who exactly a “bully” is. “Bully” is a word we use to call a human being. Naming a person “Bully” allows us to dehumanize that person and ignore the possible reasons behind their violent behaviour. How many times have we heard the tale of a school bully getting abused at home? This child is rendered powerless by his parents, and therefore seizes power in the only place he can – on the playground – and in the only way he has been taught how – through violence. If we really wish to eliminate bullying, we must look closely at the deeper causes.
People don’t often fit into distinct categories of “bully” or “victim”. Many of us do find ourselves in both of these roles depending on the situation and the specific power dynamics involved. Using language that enforces this binary is overly simplistic.
Pink Shirt Day does give the problem of inter-student violence status in the classroom and in the national consciousness, but I worry that the campaign elevates the image of solidarity above actual acts of solidarity. Perhaps wearing pink on February 25 is a step in the right direction; or perhaps it is a shallow distraction from considering the complex power relationships that underscore violence. Either way, the question must be asked: Does this pink shirt say enough?
I recall once that Stephen Harper believed in championing religious freedom. Except for people he doesn’t like.
Now he’s appealing a federal court ruling allowing people to exercise their religious freedom by becoming citizens while not publicly removing their niqab.
But why, you ask?
Because Canada is transparent, open, equal and just. And Stephen Harper is our leader, so he too is transparent, open, equal and just.
Except he’s not. At all. He’s a racist and a hypocrite. Read on!
“I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is — it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family,” he said.
“This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and that is just, I think we find that offensive; that is not acceptable to Canadians and we will proceed with action on that.”
Ishaq, a Pakistani national and devout Sunni Muslim, says her religious beliefs obligate her to wear a niqab. She has said while she has no problem unveiling herself in private so that an official can confirm her identity, she draws the line at unveiling herself at a public citizenship ceremony.
The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?
Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only armed transit police in Canada)?
These transit thugs in bullet proof vests just love detaining non-white Lower Mainlanders, corroborating with Border Patrol, and imprisoning suspected immigrants. Heaven forbid one try to save some grocery money by risking the month without a bus pass. A lost profit of $2.75 for Translink can result in a $173 fine for the already struggling rider. Heaven forbid you speak English with an accent, for your fate could be much worse. (Read about Lucia Vega Jimenez).
In all this talk of “transit” improvements, where is the case for free transit? Instead, fellow “leftists” on our Twitter feeds are regurgitating Mayor’s Council propaganda to achieve an ongoing increase of our provincial sales tax. I’m not sure about every “leftist”, but I myself am not one to support Gregor Robertson and developer funded city council. Why would I trust the gash-grab excuses of the same folks who are destroying the DTES, China Town, and Grandview-Woodlands for unaffordable condo development?
Why would I trust that the Provincial Government, run by Christy Clark and made up of conservative “Liberals”, will funnel their new citizen-approved revenue stream into the promised area? I have heard more than my fair share of broken election promises. What makes the transit tax different? After all, there are no legal stipulations that this additional government income must indeed be invested in transit.
The “Yes” campaign rhetoric assures me that this cash will improve Skytrain infrastructure and increase bus service. Are we honestly expected to believe that the money Translink rakes in equals a benefit to transit riders? What about the $200+ millionwasted on fare gates and Compass cards, an infrastructure that was already proven a failure in Chicago?
I am confused as to why we are being asked to pay more money for transit. We already pay 12% provincial and general sales tax. What is this covering, if not basic infrastructure like transit, roads, and bikeways? I know some of it must go to other essentials like health care and education, but then why is our health system resorting to corporate sponsorship (#BellLetsTalk) or emotionally manipulative attempts at securing private donations (those tear jerker bus ads for Children’s Hospital), and why are schools being consistently underfunded, with ever increasing class sizes, less support for children with special needs, and teachers being bled dry when they try to stand up for their collective rights? If our tax money isn’t going to healthcare, education and infrastructure, where is it going? Perhaps it’s not more money our governments need, but better priorities.
And if it really is more money that our local and provincial governments need, why not lay off on all those corporate tax cuts (HootSuite, property developers) and we can get a little more money out of the multimillion dollar companies benefiting from the same infrastructural improvements that we residents will be. Doesn’t Telus need their employees to get to work? Doesn’t HootSuite want better bike lanes, to move employees and to enhance their green hipster branding? Won’t property developers be thrilled when new Skytrain stations pop up in Surrey, Guildford, Newton and Langley, providing perfect sites for new clusters of expensive glass high rises?
Our big corporate neighbours are all too keen on showing their sense of “community” and scoring the big tax breaks on their public philanthropy. What better way to show your dedication to the community than pay more taxes? Sadly, corporations don’t want to put their cash towards anything they can’t put their name on. Would Vancouver World of Science sound anywhere as good as Telus World of Science?
And what about income tax? There are residents of the lower mainland bringing in huge skrilla each year. Why can’t these folks contribute a little more towards the infrastructure that helps them get rich? A 0.5% increase of flat taxes hurts those earning $8,000/year a lot more than those earning upwards of $500,000. This is an old argument. It strikes me as incredibly odd that this criticism isn’t popping up more. Is Tax the Rich such an absurd slogan that no self-respecting politician will even mention it? What about any self-respecting “leftist”?
Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Stay tuned for her upcoming book, Disney Dream Machine.
Right wingers want to pay no tax. It’s hard to bleat about that in public without sounding like the greedy, selfish people they are.
Instead, they say that public sector workers are paid too much, and that we should privatize everything. THAT way, governments get to starve themselves to the point where they collect virtually no taxes.
Instead of letting rapacious corporations dictate what market wages should be, we should explore living wages, then dream up a world not so different from ours when private sector workers make the stable wages and benefits of public sector workers.
Dream with me, what would that look like? Read on, and if it sounds good, click the link for the rest of the analysis!
If private sector compensation looked more like public sector compensation, the gender wage gap would narrow, discrimination against Aboriginal and visible minority workers would diminish, and CEOs would take a pay cut. Older workers would be less likely to retire into poverty. Fewer working parents would have to choose between a day’s wage and taking time off to look after a sick kid. Unemployment rolls would not double overnight in response to global market shifts.
Today is a terrible day for gender equity in sports. What it looks like is either continued sexism, or increased anti-feminist backlash against women who have been asserting their human rights to safety and dignity around the world.
Female World Cup soccer players have to play on plastic artificial turf while the men have played on actual…grass. They started a human rights complaint but have now dropped it.
improving the world because you are young and you have the most to lose with a rapidly decaying planet,
Then, read this paragraph. It comes from a document you should ponder endorsing.
If the paragraph is intriguing to you, click the link, read the rest and consider endorsing it!
Then, join or help form a co-op!
COOPERATE TO TRANSFORM SOCIETY
We, young cooperative leaders and members, believe in the co-operative principles and cooperative values. We believe that the co-operative movement must be at the centre of creating a more sustainable and equal economy. This economy should be built around principles of democracy, social justice and solidarity.