Category Archives: Gender Issues

How You May Be Able to Be a Better Feminist

I don’t need to add anything here. If you like/hate what you read, click the link and get up to speed on the rest of it!

White feminists: this is a call for you to get your shit together. The point of equality isn’t to claw your way to the top so that you can treat other people just as badly as white dudes have treated you — we need to elevate each other, amplify each other’s voices, and maybe let someone else tell us if we’re allowed to be on their team. Because, as per Flavia Dzodan, if your feminism is not intersectional, then I’m sorry but it’s complete bullshit.

* by “white feminism” I mean a certain demographic of white women who are straight, cis and able-bodied and view their brand of “feminism” as being better and more “real” than that of anyone else’s.

Sh*t white feminists need to stop doing | rabble.ca.

Image: New York Public Library

Being a Better Ally: #IWD

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Click me; it’s good for you!

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.

Last year, despite calls for a public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, the prime minister ended 2014 by saying a public inquiry, “Um it, it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest, Peter. You know, our ministers will continue to dialogue ah with ah those who are concerned about this.

I honestly believe him.

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?

The academic term for this is intersectionality. Miriam Dobson, a professor of modern history at Sheffield University in England, provides one of the best illustrations of the term you’ll find on the internet. In it, she describes intersectionality as “the belief that oppressions are interlinked and cannot be solved alone.”

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:

  1. Understand your privilege.
  2. Listen and do your homework.
  3. Speak up, but not over.
  4. You’ll make mistakes; apologize when you do.
  5. 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.

Looking for Heroes?

energy-east-poster.jpg

I’ve been watching The Book of Negroes this week. I have no words. I only recognize justice, integrity, brutality, acknowledgement, witnessing, story telling and a myriad of other foggy responses.

It’s easy to also ponder qualities of heroes.

Then I read this from earlier this week, and nodded. Do you get it?

Anishinabe Women Protest Energy East Pipeline on Family Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 16, 2015

‘Protect the Water, For Future Generations’: Message being shared today with local families, starting at Market Square at noon.

Kenora—Dozens of Anishinabe Women, their families, and supporters converge today on Market Square at noon to deliver a message against the proposed Energy East Pipeline that will deliver tarsands oil right through the City and through all of Treaty 3 (and other First Nations) Territory.

Today’s Family Day demonstration, with a focus on protecting the water for future generations, is intended to be highly visible—with drumming, singing, placards and speeches—and to inform and engage the local public about the immense threats posed by the likelihood of oil spills to local water sources, ecosystems, animal habitat, and human health, as well as broader environmental impacts from proposed tarsands expansion.

Fawn Wapioke is Chief of Shoal Lake #39. She says, “I am deeply concerned about the pipeline and believe that our responsibility is to the land, the water, and future of our People. Our responsibility is upholding the law of the land to ensure survival of our Mother Earth.”

TransCanada, speaking to the possibility of a major oil spill in the area, has said that it would take a minimum 22 minutes to shut down the Energy East pipeline in case of a leak. Any spill from the pipeline  could allow as much as 2.7 million litres of oil to spill in that time.

It wouldn’t be the first major industrial spill in the region.

“Being from Grassy Narrows, I know firsthand how damage to the water can poison our families and our kids, not just now, but in the future, too,” said Corrisa Swain, a Youth from Grassy Narrows where families continue to watch newborn children exhibit the brutal symptoms of mercury poisoning, a Dryden pulp and paper mill having dumped over 9000 kgs of Mercury into the English and Wabigoon River System over 40 years ago. “We know from our own experience how these kinds of projects can have terrible impacts on future generations and how unlikely it is that government or companies will ever clean up afterwards,” says Swain.

The environmental impacts from the Energy East Pipeline also extend far beyond the local effects on the Winnipeg River, Lake of the Woods and local ecosystems.

“The project is a climate nightmare, demanding as much as a 40% expansion of tarsands extraction, releasing millions of tonnes more carbon pollution, just when we’ve been told that 75% of tarsands oil needs to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate impacts in the next century,” said Teika Newton, a representative of Kenora Transitions Initiative (TIK), a Kenora-based environmental advocacy group. “There is also the reality that tarsands extraction, like pipeline spills, have terrible impacts on downstream communities across the continent,” Newton says.

Trancanada’s new pipeline project has already been opposed across the entirety of its route, from local tarsands impacted communities to the Mohawk community of Kanesatake and Mi’qmak communities on the East Coast. In Treaty 3 Territory, Grand Chief Warren White has already clearly stated that the pipeline will not carry tarsands oil across the territory without express consent from affected First Nations. Local grassroots communities have echoed those sentiments.

“The Energy East Pipeline is going to affect us all, we together as Peoples need to prevent this project. For the sake of the water, wildlife, and land,” says Alicia Kejick, a Youth from Shoal Lake #39. “For our Peoples and future grandchildren,” Kejick says, “it is momentous that we protect what is ours to begin with. We will be out on Family Day, not just to raise awareness, but to speak for those who can’t.”

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Contact:   Chrissy Swain, 807 407 1468

Pink Washing: Does This Pink Shirt Really Say Enough?

PNKTYTBy Emily Griffiths

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?

23 Questions About the SHOCKING New Renee and Uma

RENEE ZELLWEGER
Who IS this anyway?

Stop the presses. Two women who used to look a certain way, now look different.

Renee Zellweger had the audacity to change her look. Now, Uma Thurman has done so! CTV put it this way: “Uma Thurman has Zellwegered her face.” And if you follow the CTV link, you can use a slider to examine her before and after pictures, which is your right, as a consumer of media!!!!!!

Uma Thurman
And who is THIS?

 

  1. What have they DONE to themselves?
  2. Does it matter?
  3. Who are we to ask?
  4. What do they owe us?
  5. Should we expect to see them always the same?
  6. What are we entitled to?
  7. Should they have asked our permission to change/age/alter/be-without-makeup/whatever?
  8. Will this hurt their career?
  9. Will people long for how we used to know them?
  10. Have we ever REALLY known them?
  11. Was age to blame?
  12. Are they ageing?
  13. Can’t they stop that?
  14. Are we capable of accepting them as older people?
  15. They’re not in their 40s are they?
  16. Do we end up feeling older by looking at them age/change their look?
  17. Do we value wisdom or elders?
  18. Do we fear death?
  19. Who makes us so ageist?
  20. Can we blame corporations, the corporate media, consumer culture, celebrity worship?
  21. Can we blame ourselves?
  22. Is it our fault that this is even a story?
  23. Have I asked all the questions that need to be asked?

You Deserve Better Wages and Benefits

Canadas_Pay_Gap

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.

via Who gets paid more? | CCPA Policy Note.

MORE Sexism Against Female Canadian Athletes!

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THIS picture respects the dignity of a tennis player. Not, “give us a twirl” demeaning, sexist abuse.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. And last year at the Australian Open, an idiotic [female!] Australian media interviewer asked Genie Bouchard after she won a match who she would date. Because female athletes are meat, right? And today, an idiotic [male] Australian media interview ASKED HER TO GIVE US A TWIRL!

That’s twice in two years that the Australian media are living down to their country’s stereotype of sexist pigs while interviewing her.

I wonder if this media fellow was pondering what he could get her to do and settled for a twirl.

Bouchard later said, “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny,” she said. NO ONE should be put into this idiotic position.

This continues to be intolerable!

Who Cares About Fixing Poverty in BC?

https://i1.wp.com/bcpovertyreduction.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prc-slider_BC-last-place-745x210.jpg?resize=396%2C112Well, it’s the Poverty Reduction Coalition!

One of their many activities is to send recommendations to the government when the government deigns to ask people for their ideas. The Finance Committee is an all-party committee of the legislature, so the government usually ignores their recommendations.

As citizens, we need to make the government respond to our demands, particularly when legislative committees provide pretty good recommendations!

Here’s what’s going on this year, from the Poverty Reduction Coalition.

  1. Read it, below
  2. Then email, phone [250.387.1715], tweet or Facebook the premier and tell her to listen to the Finance Committee this year
  3. Then read the Coalition’s latest op-ed: Trish Garner: B.C. is now last province without a plan to tackle poverty
  4. Then visit the Coalition’s webpage and get more involved in making BC a less shameful place!

From the Coalition:

After our submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, they have now released their report, which again recommends to the Legislative Assembly that the provincial government “introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction plan” but this time it also includes stronger features to “review income assistance rates, the minimum wage, and clawback of child support payments.” Also, last year’s “Look at ways to provide more affordable and accessible quality child care” is now “Provide funding and support for the development and implementation of a child care plan.” See the full report here.

Shhh, The Bold Revolution Has Started

We live in tumultuous times:

  • Ferguson and other non-indictments of white police who murdered people of colour
  • ISIL and other extremism
  • Stephen Harper’s continued assault on democracy and embrace of soft fascism [has he had CRA audit YOUR favourite progressive group yet?]
  • Accusations against Jian Ghomeshi
  • Accusations against Bill Cosby
  • The epidemic of campus rape, and necessary reflection about why it has taken this long to take this seriously
  • Victoria’s Times-Colonist newspaper’s racist editorial cartoons, and necessary reflection about why it has taken this long to take this seriously
  • Pipelines, fracking, dirty energy, tankers
  • The destructive Site-C dam in BC going ahead instead of spending that $8 billion on greener, more responsible energy infrastructure like solar and wind power
  • Radio hosts joking about asking whether Justin Trudeau would fuck, kill or marry Rona Ambrose, the prime minister’s wife and a former governor general

But 2014 has been a time of boldness:

There is a bold civil revolution happening so far this decade.

There is a convergence of issues that revolve around equality and justice. Social movements come when many different demands coalesce. This has been a decade of coalescence.

Our job, everyone’s job, is to make 2015 the year when enough of these roads join together to rebuild a world that respect dignity, peace, equality and justice.

We have #ClimateHope, #BlackLivesMatter, #NoPipelines, #IdleNoMore, #StopHarper, #VAW, #MMIW and every other movement.

Our job is to help each other on every different road, to realize how all our roads are the same roads.

That’s what solidarity looks like. And together we build society. Separate, the 1% tears it down, rapes it and plunders the wealth of the commons.

Enough.

Roll up your sleeves. But, don’t forget to dance!

Who Are the Main Caregivers for People with a Parkinson’s Diagnosis?

tips to manage caregiver stress and burnoutIt’s women, of course, who pick up the slack when our healthcare system neglects people. It’s either picking up the slack or being the excuse for systemic neglect.

The main informal caregiver was typically a woman (62%), lived in the same household (72%), and provided assistance on a daily basis (76%). For the most part, the recipient’s spouse was the main informal caregiver (64%).

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/141119/dq141119b-eng.htm?cmp=mstatcan