Tag Archives: feminism

Waiting for #Ghomeshi

It has become clear to me that I am far more concerned about the Ghomeshi trial than most of the people I know. I can partly explain that by admitting my (thwarted) childhood ambition was to be a lawyer. I have always been fascinated by rules and by how people follow, or don’t follow, those rules.

I have also always been a woman. Which leads me to consider what being a woman means.

The difference between the way my grandmother had to live her life, the way my mother coped, the way I am living, and the way that young women today conduct themselves is striking. Some things have progressed, but some still lag. The reason for the lag is that so many of us are behaving the way we were raised to behave in the past, yet we’re all living together in this same moment in time. How  my grandmother, my mother, myself, and my niece would react to a scenario like what is alleged to have taken place between Jian Ghomeshi and his accusers could be very different.

We say women have all the right to say yes or no to sex, to make their own sexual choices. On paper they do. Off paper much of the current understanding and attitudes that come with those rights were not the understandings and attitudes in place when many of us were growing up. They’re not the rights and attitudes that inform our behavior subconsciously. How a woman copes and how she tries to make sense of being assaulted varies widely depending on her generation and her subconscious understanding of her rights.

As a culture as we’ve raised successive generations of women in progressive environments. These women will have less internal conflict when it comes to sexual assault. They’ll be confident that it was assault because they will have always been raised that they are their own master. They will be less likely to try and smooth things over afterwards and quicker to go to the police. They will have been raised to know since the man committed the crime, that they don’t have to fix anything and the law has an obligation to address the crime.

A huge part of our progress lies with men. The world is changing for them so rapidly.

Never before in human history have men been held so accountable for their behavior. Never before have men been expected to be as aware and as fair about sex as they are now. Sex is no longer only for and about men. The sexual ground has shifted beneath men’s feet in two generations.

For many, many men this shift makes little to no difference because they never felt like sex was something they were entitled to. For other men, there are some bad lessons to be unlearned.

Our culture needs several things.

We need women who feel completely comfortable with their sexuality, with having sex or not, with saying no and saying yes. We need men who step up their game and are completely comfortable with not putting their personal sexual urges on a pedestal, with owning their desire and being completely willing and respectful of the needs of their partners.

We need to stop seeing sex as a transaction between agressive male and passive female. We need to stop thinking women will lie because sexual arousal is not their natural state, and men will be tricked because men are in a constant state of sexual arousal. When women aren’t emberassed (read: shamed) by the details of their sexual behaviors, there will no longer be any reason for them to obscure what happend and not only will that make real life relationships happier, it will make these sort of trials much easier to sort out.

We need to see sex in the moment, and not as one domino in a long line of behaviors. Nothing leads up to sex for certain, and the outcome of sex is not predetermined. We have to take ownership and responsibility for what we are doing as we do it. Men must, and women must be allowed to do so.

No matter the outcome of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, there is no going back. A conversation has been started. Our culture is shifting. Our laws are adapting. As horrifying as this whole trial has been, I believe this is a very good time and place to be a woman because we are progressing.

ghomeshi

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Niquab or not Niquab, that is the question, Canada

COVERINGS

(hasty blog alert)

I admit to having an emotional first reaction to the niquab.

It is not of my culture, and it does, visually, represent to me all the things that I as a western feminist have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I know women who feel it is their right to wear skimpy clothes, show their bras as part of their ensemble, wear tiny skirts, and bare their cleavage.

I admit to having an emotional reaction to that as well. Dressing so skimpily represents to me all the things that I, as a western feminist, have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I choose to dress conservatively, but I would be livid if someone told me to wear a longer skirt OR a shorter skirt. Fundamentally it is my choice. I choose a hem length to balance what I want to say about myself and about how I view myself in relation to the world around me. I love clothes, and I love feeling attractive. But I most definitely do not like sensing that men are imagining me in ways that I would never in reality consent to. Naked. With them. In their sight at all, really. So I balance wanting to look like a beautiful woman with my distaste for being sexualized. And that balance is a very personal one.

That balance is a very personal one for every woman.

My choices are influenced by my upbringing, my dad, my mom, my Sunday School classes, my friends, my husband… But saying that the choice is influenced is very different from saying I do not have free choice.

I assume this is the case with almost all women. There are women who feel pressured to dress sexy for their significant others. There are women who feel pressured to cover up for their significant others.

But we aren’t going to mitigate that by being yet another party in that woman’s life to pressure her to conform to an outside (outside her own head and body) definition of what is, or what is not, acceptable when it comes to how she clothes herself.

My emotional reaction to her choices, her emotional reactions to my choices, do not matter. What matters is that logic dictates that the choice be hers.

Our laws protect her freedom to choose. What she chooses must always be left up to her. And to me.

Pork-barrel-pie Politics

So topic of the day has to be the pie. Look at this political poster.

pie politics

B Y W P … Bring Your Wife’s Pie.

In spite of the people who claim that this is not a real issue, I am going to explain why it actually is an issue and why it actually is offensive to progressive Albertans.

I know it can be subtle, but sexism in politics is a real problem. It seems minor in the same way that low dose daily exposure to a carcinogen seems minor. Sexist stereotypes interfere with the ability of women (and the non cisgender, non heterosexual members of our communities) to fully and confidently participate in political life. I am only able to personally address how it affects heterosexual women, but I know that other communities suffer the same type of ill effects.

Let me tell me what is NOT wrong with this poster and get that out of the way. Reaching out to people and creating community is very constructive. Calling people together to participate in the democratic politic process is admirable. And in my personal opinion, pie is the ultimate dessert – nothing beats a fresh apple pie with a good homemade crust.

What’s WRONG with this poster?

It is pretty clearly an invitation to men. Which, in and of itself, is perfectly acceptable. It can be acceptable to target specific audiences if you are addressing issues and concerns specific to that audience. For instance, is acceptable to exclude teenagers from a conversation about seniors housing …

… UNLESS that info is being handed out at a political rally during an election. I will explain that later.  The acceptability of the exclusion is negated by the tone and underlying message of the information that goes along with the invitation.

It is an invitation to men married to women. It passively discourages single men and men married to other men by painting a specific picture of who should attend. Not overtly, but covertly and passively, the call to participation looks straight married men in the eye while avoiding the gaze of everyone else. If it was direct and stated that it was a meeting for straight married men to discuss some concern exclusive to straight married men then it would be better. However, politics are in no way exclusive to straight married men, nor should they be.

Then there’s the ‘Bring your wife’s pie’ part. That is truly insidious. So much is between the lines of that text. Have your wife make a pie for you to bring along, it’s OK as the man of the house you are entitled to use her labour for your own gain. Of course she makes it, women cook, you couldn’t bake your own pie as you are too busy farming and calving and doing man stuff. It also somehow manages to neglect to include the wife in the meeting, almost as if it too manly for her; this politcking is man stuff. Bring her pie with you and learn important political man stuff and then go home and share your new knowledge with the little woman. It harkens back to a dark time for gender relations that we really should not be nostalgic for.

The poster doesn’t leave open the door for anything outside the straight male marriage in which the man does man stuff (like politics) and the woman bakes pies. I admit, it doesn’t close the door on it either, but it is intimidating to see one section of our population ushered through a door while we are left to open the door for ourselves (because they legally can’t actually keep us out). The poster paints a very narrow view of society that serves to exclude people who don’t fit that mould. AND THAT is not appropriate during an election campaign.

Everything about and all the information pertaining to policy, platforms, plans and intentions should be be made as broadly available as possible during an election. During the democratic process there is no room for the politics of exclusion.

During an election  not only do people get to do what our society grants them the legal and moral right to do – choose for themselves how they live, who they love, how they work and what they believe in – they get to decide who they will vote into office to make decisions about how free they are to continue doing those very things. There can be no exclusion at any point in the democratic process.

This isn’t like not letting men in the women’s change room. This isn’t like having men only baseball teams. This is the very core of how we currently define and continue to evolve ourselves and our society.

The world has changed. The world is changing. To have open, inclusive and accountable government we must start with an open, inclusive and accountable democratic process.

gender pie chart

I hope I’ve made my point. This may be my fastest blog yet.

For fun, watch this video of the much respected Peter Lougheed if no other reason that looking back at it is creepy and feels wrong for reasons that are difficult to put a finger on exactly. That is how our kids are going to look at the above poster.

WATCHhttp://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/peter-lougheeds-go-go-campaign

It’s subtle, but watch the men greet him at the door and the women stay inside the threshhold. At 1:15 he meets ‘Martha and Henry’. After the greeting Martha immediately goes back into the home and leaves the politics to the men  …  I don’t even know where to start on the go-go dancers at the end…

#DearMe

Dear Me,

My 46 year old self wishes that I could tell you the things it took me 46 years to learn. Like:

The path of least resistance is not the easiest path. The people who resist you as you try to move forward, or mock you because your progress is slow? Ignore them.

Don’t stop questioning or challenging or arguing. Those are all signs of intelligence, they are not character flaws. Not questioning and following blindly are character flaws. ‘Bossy’ is a compliment.

Take physics. Take math. Don’t drop-out of art. Don’t stop writing. They all matter, you are capable of them all, and they will all help you find your own happiness.

Those ideas you have about yourself, they are dreams, and dreams are not signs of weakness. Follow them. Pragmatism is not the be all and end all, and being pragmatic is not incompatible with ambition. You just need to find other people with dreams that will help you learn to fly.

You can go to university without a plan, the plan will come. Ignore all the dissenting voices who ask what job that degree will get you. The job will come. What you need is knowledge.

Don’t give into the pressure to define yourself in relation to others, ever. Nothing good can be kept in a box. Everything good grows and changes over time. You are too big to be defined. You are more than what you represent in other people’s eyes. Don’t be for them, be for you.

You are loveable and capable of inspiring love and loyalty, you just have to find people who are loving and loyal. When you find them, (and your 16 year old self has already found some of them) never let them go.

all of us

#DearMe

http://www.tubefilter.com/2015/03/03/youtube-dearme-campaign-international-womens-day/

Women against feminism part four – the man update

(Maybe) this is the last time I will address women against feminism. I cannot say for sure because both women and men keep undermining the (human rights) cause(s) that are in their best interest.

For example, this sad example of women blaming women for our unwillingness to accept the status quo, where the status quo is not acceptable. Or this offensive example of trying to erase women from a global discussion.

Anyway…myth busting…

A woman who hates men is not a real feminist, she is a person with problems. I love you guys … when you treat me well, and when you don’t I don’t. A real feminist’s affection for men is a reciprocal affection.

Feminism is not about targeting any segment of the population for contempt. That would be misandry. Misandry is the b-side of a really bad record (the a-side be misogyny). True feminists do not march to that tune.

Feminists promote extending human rights to all human beings, not taking them from men. Human rights are not a zero sum game, rights shared are not rights diminished. Extending human rights to one more human does not in any way mean there are fewer human rights for those who already enjoy them.

Human rights are an infinite resource and hoarding them or restricting their possession to and elite group of humans can in no way ever be justified.

In fact, the one thing that restricting access to human rights CAN and WILL do is make those rights less certain for every last one of us regardless of gender.

Men can and should be self-identifying as feminists. Not for our sake; although I appreciate that sentiment; but for their own sake. What is universally available is very hard to take away.

Feminism is not a power grab, it is a method of solidifying prosperity and freedom for all of us whether we like each other on an individual basis or not.

Men have absolutely nothing to lose by feminism and a great deal to gain by  actively working in unison towards feminist goals. When women win we all win, and denying that men need to be involved or asserting that feminism is not fair to men is just not productive. We are stronger when we stand together.

 

 

Women against feminism part three – think outside the box

The momentum that has ushered white, educated, wealthy woman in the western world out from behind the veil and into the wide where-and-when-ever-I-want-to-go world is not ubiquitous. The momentum exists in pockets of privilege and well lit corporate hallways, but it is conspicuously absent in many non-western societies.

Our momentum is improving our neighbourhood, but it isn’t helping the woman trapped outside the boundaries of our accumulated privilege at the same rate or in the same way it helps us. Only our active engagement with the feminist movement can do that.

nellie     louise     emily

Women against feminism are not only turning their back on the movement that fought for their comfortable ability right to turn their back at all. It’s like a dog biting the hand that feeds it. This isn’t the first movement to have a free rider problem and it won’t be the last.

But that isn’t the worst of their folly.

The true tragedy (and disgrace) is that they are turning their backs on all the women who have not yet gained the privilege of being treated like human beings, being safe in their own bodies and being allowed to pursue their own happiness.

Hey, you know, sometimes it’s not all about you, right? Think outside the box.

Too many of us don’t want to acknowledge what has come to be a globally accepted, albeit comicbook, truism: with great power comes great responsibility. We are empowered and have the responsibility to work extend that empowerment beyond our immediate selves.

Be a feminist for the woman who hasn’t got that option.

Be the feminist face to a government other than your own that thinks it can ignore the women it refuses to represent.

Be a feminist for the sake of other women until those other women are able use momentum to propel themselves to the place you currently take for granted.

Women against feminism part two – get thee behind me, momentum

So my point, continued, is that neither anger nor misandry are inherent to feminist ideology and shouldn’t be used as reasons to reject feminism. The core of feminism is a call for human rights. We need people to stick with feminism to keep the core large in order that the fringe is kept in check.

Now, the thing about being a white, educated, wealthy woman in the western world is that it doesn’t leave a lot of starkly obvious[1] things to object to. My grandmother and mother took care of the stark and obvious injustices. For instance, their lot gave me the vote, personhood under the law, and access to the education I want. That is the big picture, and it can give the impression that everything is taken care of.

But you know the devil is in the details. That’s leaves us, as white, educated, wealthy woman in the western world, with issues that are grey and have softer edges. They are harder to clearly define. They take more detailed evaluation and more strategic motivated action to address. They are no less important as issues, they are just less clearly defined. For example we need to address the pay gap between men and women, unrealistic beauty standards, access to family planning and reproductive autonomy, and body sovereignty.

I accept that those issues already have considerable momentum behind them and are easy to lose enthusiasm for. The blessing of being a white, educated, wealthy woman in the western world is that we have a choice between losing enthusiasm; cheering halfheartedly or opting out of the discussion; and still the momentum will carry us forward. How long it will carry us forward if everyone chooses to not participate I don’t know. It’s a gamble that holds very good odds in the short run that even those who opt out will benefit. As in many circumstances, playing the odds is selfish and one person’s win is another person’s loss. Opting out and making gains from the efforts of other people is a bit selfish. In the long run staying the course, identifying as a feminist, continuing to point out the remaining inequalities and helping the feminist cause stay on course and strong enough to resist fringe elements, is the generous and less risky course. Opting leaves the continued work from which all HUMAN BEINGS (not just women) benefit, up to a minority of the population. It leaves us all open to the risk of being dragged down by the fringes and/or backward by outliers who actually do not believe in the feminist cause (and by extension in human rights).

I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I not only opted out, but also denied that any work needs to be done, which is precisely what ‘women against feminism’ do.

My next blog, continuing this topic, is about the majority of women. Most of us are not white, educated, wealthy woman in the western world with momentum behind us.

 

[1] It didn’t until recently anyway. But I simply don’t have the energy right now to bring up Jian Ghomeshi and the beautiful can of worms he has opened up

Women against feminism (pt 1of4) – The Fringe Mentality

I know I am not the only person who has noticed that the ‘women against feminism’ are privileged white women – privileged with reference to the fact that they can vote, go to school, testify in a court of law, and generally exist without anyone asking for permission. In turning their back on the movement that earned them these privileges, anti-feminists reveal they are either not the brightest crayon in the box or something is being lost in the constantly evolving communication of modern feminist ideology. (Quite probably some combination of the two)

There are mistakes being made in communicating feminism to a new generation of women. The worst damage is being done by a vocal minority attempting to define feminism leadership and the ideology a feminist must adhere to.

Listen – NEVER confuse an ideology with that ideology’s fringe element. I know they are vocal and easy to point out. I know they are cocky and pretty sure they are in charge. I know that they can rub moderate fence sitting types the wrong way.

The thing is, ‘women against feminism’, (and I CANNOT bring myself to type that phrase outside of quotation marks) make the mistake of equating angry, bitter women with feminism in its totality. Yeah, there are angry feminists. There are happy feminists. Feminists vary as much as people do (go figure) Exacerbating the ‘angry’ image problem is the fact that frequently women who speak up about anything are swiftly caricaturized as angry and pointed out. Which coincidentally, is a good indicator of how fragile our hard earned western feminist privileges are and how easily the layers of equity can be peeled away with a label like ‘bitch’ or ‘femi-nazi’.

Another point of miscommunication is the idea that feminists hate men or want to take away rights from men. I am loath to touch ‘man hating’ because it makes the worst of all mistakes; it continues to draw a strict line between human beings based on gender.

difference-between-men-and-women42-300x296

Let’s just say that human rights are not a zero sum game, and granting women human rights in no way strips men of human rights. It’s not a war, win or lose, us or them. You can love cooking dinner and still maintain the feminist belief that you are equal to your husband. You can give respect a man while still insisting on respect for yourself. You don’t have to be personally victimized to understand victimhood. Being accountable for your own actions does not mean you cannot expect others to be accountable for theirs. You can dislike one man and love a hundred other men. Feminism and motherhood are not antithetical (why would they be?) Looking out for women does not mean over looking-men (in fact feminism benefits men, more on that in another post) You can lift yourself up without pushing someone else down.

If what you are doing is your free choice you are standing up to patriarchy. If you are actively making your own free choices in your life no matter what they are, understand that whether you own up to the label or not, you are a feminist. Feminism isn’t about conforming to an ideology, it is about conforming to your own inner narrative about who you are and what you need to be fulfilled.

 

 

We need a feminist re-brand and collective smack upside the head

(this was written very quickly – albeit after I calmed down because this has me very agitated – and I will probably come back to revisit grammar and spelling and rhetoric, but I felt compelled to post it, imperfect as it may be)

http://globalnews.ca/news/1588583/iceland-announces-men-only-un-conference-on-women-gender-equality/

“Iceland Announces men-only UN conference on women, gender equality”

When I posted this on my Facebook page I did so because I thought this was wonderful news.

Men wanting to talk about gender equality is, to me, a clear sign of commitment to seeing gender as an issue that transcends male and female. It is, after all, a human rights issue, which it makes it an issue whether there is a woman in the room or not.

However, gender equality effects men and women differently. And, it DOES effect men. Sadly, many men are not aware that it does. Societies that are more equal are not only coincidentally also more stable and wealthier. Countries that have lower rates of violence against women have over all lower rates of violence.

Perhaps if men in positions of influence sit together and talk they can share how it effects men and come to understand why it is so important for men to work toward constructive change in the way that gender is dealt with in our societies. They can discuss how dimorphic gender roles harm men as much as they harm women. The best person to demonstrate that fact to a man is another man.

When I saw this article I was encouraged that these men wanted to band together and talk about how they can be my ally, and about how they can walk beside me in a way that only a man can – and let’s be clear AGAIN, men and women will be addressing the issue from different vantage points.

I was glad to see the battle for equality will be fought on two fronts. I was glad that these men were going to gather and talk about how, in their male relationships, they can work toward the same goal I am working toward. We need men to model positive male behavior to other men.

I want them to meet. I want them to talk. It is wrong to not allow them the space to do that.

No one has any logical reason or moral right to object to or  to be offended by or to mock manhood’s sincere attempt from a uniquely male perspective to come to terms with an issue they are expected to help solve.

This is why my boys roll their eyes when they hear the word feminist. Because they are being told they must join a group for women, driven by women on women’s terms. It doesn’t accommodate their maleness. Feminism isn’t just for women and a man cannot experience it on a woman’s terms. It’s for humanity, and men must come to understand it on their own terms before we can have equality.

We need a feminist re-brand because the ideology has gotten off course, steered by people who are NOT thinking critically before they react and collectively all need a smack upside the head.