What’s Wrong with Canada? We’re Not Denmark-ish

And I don’t mean we need to become Denmark, but we need to have the dialogue about why they can do what they do and we choose not to.

When Canadians are surveyed, a very large majority of us support these public goods. But those desires get subsumed with corporate, neoliberal, right wing government-cut rhetoric.

We need to explore the political sociology of Denmark to understand how they embraced the tax commitment to provide these public goods.

We can be Denmark, but we choose not to.

We need to respin the messages from the tax-hating corporations and make the economy serve human beings better!

 

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

Reject the Slow Motion Privatization of K-12 in BC

Privatizing education in BC has been largely subtle and hidden. Absurd conflicts like this below [Restricted Vancouver playground access sparks angry exchange between [PRIVATE!] school principal, parent] help the general public see what’s actually been going on for a long time with private schools. Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine. Not ours. This is unacceptable!

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.

Enough!

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.

via Restricted Vancouver playground access sparks angry exchange between school principal, parent – Yahoo News Canada.

Restricted Vancouver playground access sparks angry exchange between school principal, parent

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.

De-Spinning the Political and Re-Spinning it for Social, Economic and Political Justice