Tag Archives: women

A daisy chain for Anna

annaMy grandmother passed away a few days ago, and I will be at her funeral tomorrow morning.

She’s been unwell for a while so her passing was not unexpected. In fact, I have been thinking about writing this blog about her for over a year without having found the strength to string any words together until now.

I’m not a sentimental person. I spend very little time thinking about what is done except when a memory can help me move forward. Even in mourning I find myself thinking about today.

The picture below is of four generations. The woman at the centre is my great grandmother, Ada. On the left is her daughter, my grandmother Anna. On the right is my mother and Anna’s daughter, Margaret. The babe in arms is me.

fourgenerations

In the past week I have thought fondly of moments, items and traditions that link me to these women, and my grandmother in particular.

I remember spraining an ankle because I jumped on Grandma’s couch even after she told me not to. I have a photo of me taking my first steps in an emerald green velvet dress she sewed for me, and I have the pattern she used to make it. I remember sitting at her old sewing machine while she helped my sew clothes for my baby on the way. I remember when she helped me give him his first bath. I use her pastry recipe when I make my Christmas butter tarts.

I cherish these little memories of her, but what I value most is the differences between our lives. The gulf of experience between the babe in arms and the woman who holds her is immense.

nowthatwearepersonsAda was born before women could vote. My grandmother Anna was born seven months before women were recognized as persons under Canadian law. My mother Margaret was born seven years before Canada passed The Female Employees Equal Pay Act. I was born the year after Prime Minister Lester Pearson established a Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

The world – my world – is a better place for each step forward taken by generations before me. My life is better for what each generation of women have passed on to me.

I recently read an article about the ‘mother wound’: the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures.

grandmahillI feel this wound as part of mourning. I feel not only the loss of my grandmother, but the final and irrevocable loss of what she wanted to be, could have been, and would have been had she been born when I was. I feel guilty that I have achieved that was out of her reach.

How do I reconcile that with my continuing pursuit of happiness? How do I avoid carrying the guilt of continuing my journey, knowing hers is at an end? I do that by keeping her in the present. Ada, Anna, Margaret and Darcy are tied together.

No matter how far I go in life, how many more choices I have available, how much more freedom I enjoy, and how much more dignity of person I win, my life is tied to her life, and my life will be tied going forward in an endless daisy chain of of women’s experiences and dreams.

Anything I have, it belongs to my Grandmother too. She earned it with me.

I don’t have to say goodbye to her because I’m not leaving her behind. I’m keeping her in my heart, tied to me with everything I do.

heart-daisies-meadow-40289068

 

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Missing & murdered …

 

six of one, half dozen of another

I have been so proud to witness the (overdue) change in attitude toward aboriginal peoples in Canada in the last couple of years.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission‘s efforts were so well done and so positive. I am not aboriginal, but I felt like I was bettered and healed by it. Certainly my society was. It’s a first step, anyway. Truth is a lifelong goal, and at least we are pursuing it now.

That Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson was so solidly and unflinchingly in support of the pursuit made me proud to be an Edmontonian. That our new Premier Rachel Notley consistently references aboriginal people and the fact that we are on Treaty 6 land made me proud that Alberta had grown up, finally.  Top that with hearing my local federal NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie reference the inequality in resources provided to aboriginal children in their education and point out that we are all on Treaty 6 land, and the NDP party leader Thomas Mulcair  talk about taking aboriginal issues seriously makes me hope that our federal landscape is on the threshold of a constructive cultural shift.

Today was the REDdress campaign to lend visibility to the issue of a crisis of violence against aboriginal and indigenous women in our nation. On social media, women were encouraged to hang a red dress on their homes to show they understand the issue is real and protest our current Conservative government’s refusal to take real action.

This is one of the issues that will define us a nation as we go forward. There are too many truly terrifying issues being lobbed around in this election, that this one flies just under the radar is shameful.

Vote better. Act better. Be better, Canada.

mmiv do better

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.

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.

Dec 6 1989 – Let’s talk about 25 years

December 6, 2014. Twenty-five years since the day that a man that believed that ‘feminists’ had ruined his life purposefully selected and killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

I was days away from my 21st birthday. Montreal was really far away from Edmonton, and the massacre was really far away from anything I had ever experienced or imagined could happen in my world. Afterall, I lived in a western democracy where women’s rights were respected. I mean, maybe when my mother was young there was a problem, but for me? I couldn’t imagine.

The blessing of my life is that I have never been the victim violence, sexual or otherwise.  I’ve known sexual harassment, and obviously I know that nagging fear every woman who finds herself suddenly alone in an unfamiliar place knows. I’ve struggled with body image, but I’ve managed to get through with pretty good self esteem. I am lucky in ways that a human being should never have to refer to as luck, yet in a way that for women is realistically characterized as coin-toss good fortune.

Reading the news today I wonder what has changed between that and now, days away from my 46th birthday.

What I do know now is that the world is not as safe and benign as I naively thought it was then. Have we made any progress since Dec 6 1989? I have a hard time sorting out the progress from the regress and I don’t know if I can do the topic justice.

Here are 6 views on the topic written by people trying to sort that out.

Misanthropy and the elevator experience

Our western social structure with our understanding of status and hierarchy and the subtle rules and principles that govern our communal lives has been largely constructed by extroverts, overwhelmingly from the male point of view.

Our culture is rife with unwritten gesture and behavior that act as grease for the grinding wheel that is our crowded community life. For introverts and women, behavioral expectations that on the surface may seem benign invite a host of complex inner conflicts.

The conflicts stem from the fact that western society undervalues the traits inherent to introverts and tends to portray their preferences as anti-social. I think it is because an extrovert sees an introvert’s desire to temporarily shut out the world as a denial of the social nature of existence. It isn’t true of course, and other introverts know it, but other introverts also know that there is a stigma attached to their inward looking personality.

There is a double stigmatization for introverted women because our gender is expected to smile and be receptive to other people’s needs over our own. Introverts are constantly pressured to act like extroverts, and female introverts are additionally pressured to ignore their guts and let people get closer and friendlier than our instincts tell us we should.

Take the elevator, for instance.

What is more unclear that elevator etiquette?

Tell me – how long are we actually expected to hold a door for a person who is approaching? It’s not as if this is the last elevator ever and if we let the doors close and leave them on the main floor that they are abandoned. Why do we feel pressure to hold the door and why is there a stigma attached to pushing the door close button?

What input do I have over the determination of a non-creepy amount of time someone holds the door for me? If you choose to delay yourself am I expected to rush in hurried gratitude? What if I was purposefully going slow in order to avoid company on the elevator? Then how do I get out of it?

I suppose if you are standing next to me while I wait and I get one first I should hold the door – that is unless I am feeling particularly misanthropic or you creep me out, in which case I will avoid getting on by faking a phone call to avoid being stuck in an enclosed space with you. But aside from changing course, how do I refuse the door held for me?

We’re following rules and forgetting to communicate.

Truthfully, unless you have caught my direct gaze and I clearly want on that elevator when you hold the door for me or ask me to hold it for you, you have put me in a position that is uncomfortable. This is doubly uncomfortable for me if you are a man, because I have not had time to decide if I want to be trapped on an elevator with you – especially bad if it is only the two of us and I also feel vulnerable. If you are a man I am put in the position of acting the charming girl in addition to acting the extrovert, and all the while I am thinking about egress.

Honestly, unless you have made it obvious that you want me to hold the elevator, I am going to push the door-close button to avoid the possibility of discomfort. If I feel uncomfortable I am going to push the button either way.

I titled this blog ‘misanthropy and the elevator experience’ on purpose.

The desire to opt out of social encounters is far too often portrayed as a rejection of other people, or snobbery or bad manners. But it isn’t. It is an embrace of self and an act of self preservation.

Elevator doors are like a portal to an unknown world. So, please, let the door close.

“You call me a misanthrope because I avoid society. You err; I love society. Yet in order not to hate people, I must avoid their company.” Caspar David Friedrich

“There is nothing I detest so much as the contortions of these great time-and-lip servers, these affable dispensers of meaningless embraces, these obliging utterers of empty words, who view every one in civilities” Molière, The Misanthrope

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.