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Archive for the ‘its a feminist issue’ Category

Ms Magazine, “Moroccan Women Protest Amina Filali’s Death”
Women activists took to the streets of Rabat, Morocco, to protest the government law which grants freedom to rapists who marry their victims. Why don’t they just pass a law that promotes bank robbers to bank managers? Cause that makes just as much sense. Amina Filali was 16-years-old, was raped, and then forced to marry her rapist. She spent 5-months with this man as her husband before ending her life by drinking rat poison. This law is unbelievably cruel – it forces survivors of sexual violence to re-live their trauma daily, and to live in a perpetual state of fear.

Ms Magazine, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Anyone but Women”
PETA’s latest ad campaign, “Boyfriend Went Vegan”, had the intention to raise awareness that a vegan diet has many men reporting “more energy and stamina after switching to a plant-based diet. Consuming less cholestoral and saturated animal fat promotes freer blood flow to all of the major organs”. The campaign video depicts a half-dressed woman wearing a neck brace and her male partner repairing a hole in the wall, presumably damage from the woman’s head during sex. On the one hand, yes, this could be a sex-positive ad, which accepts that anything can go in the bedroom so long as there is consent. But on the other hand, it is also drawing a clear line to intimate partner violence, and that it is okay if a woman gets injured during sex because she was “asking for it”. What are your thoughts?

Retronaut, Tips for Single Women, 1938
Something a bit lighter for this lovely Friday.

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Eve Ensler wrote this article for the Huffington Post. While I could just place a link taking you to the article, I want it posted here, because of the power of these words, and the effect I want them to have on you.

I am over rape.

I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.

I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame.

I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.

I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.

I am over how long it seems to take anyone to ever respond to rape.

I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages.

I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

I am over the thousands of women in Bosnia, Burma, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, you name a place, still waiting for justice.

I am over rape happening in broad daylight.

I am over the 207 clinics in Ecuador supported by the government that are capturing, raping, and torturing lesbians to make them straight.

I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called “comrades.”

I am over the forces that deny women who have been raped the right to have an abortion.

I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States.

And I’m over CNBC debate host Maria Bartiromo getting booed when she asked him about it. She was booed, not Herman Cain.

Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them.

I am over rape victims becoming re-raped when they go public.

I am over starving Somali women being raped at the Dadaab in Kenya, and I am over women getting raped at Occupy Wall Street and being quiet about it because they were protecting a movement which is fighting to end the pillaging and raping of the economy and the earth, as if the rape of their bodies was something separate.

I am over women still being silent about rape, because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen.

I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime – the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself.

No women, no future, duh.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it.

I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters – film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes – while the lives of the women they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you?

You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.

And thinking about rape every day of my life since I was 5 years old.

And getting sick from rape, and depressed from rape, and enraged by rape.

And reading my insanely crowded inbox of rape horror stories every hour of every single day.

I am over being polite about rape. It’s been too long now, we have been too understanding.

We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine – once and for all – what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered. We need you to let our rage and our compassion connect us together so we can change the paradigm of global rape.

There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.

ONE BILLION WOMEN.

The time is now. Prepare for the escalation.

Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape.

Because we are over it.

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Not quite sure where I found this, but it was quite some time ago, posted by some brilliant VAW-worker no doubt. Of course it is still relevant today, and it’s just as important as ever to remember that women are told and advised to avoid these situations ALL THE TIME (our parents warning us to keep watch over our drinks, to not walk anywhere alone, etc). But does it not make so much more sense for men to just NOT do any of these things? Anyway, it is a witty approach to preventing sexual assault that will give you a laugh.

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Sexual Assault Prevention Tips For Men – Guaranteed To Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.

4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.

5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not rape her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or rape her.

7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when lurking in shadows.

9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

11. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be raping her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

In other words, the best way to prevent rape is to not rape anybody.

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love love love for this feminist boy

 

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Like with most world events, I am usually a little late on the uptake. I don’t watch the News, I rarely read the newspaper, and even though I follow BBC World News on Twitter, they sometimes tweet SO much that I skip over their posts. But eventually I catch on and get myself up to date.

The 2011 England Riots began a few days ago, and if you want to know the basics, go read what Wikipedia has to say.

Most people, both within and outside Britain, are condemning the riots as senseless, gang-related looting and violence that is without cause or justification. But this view fails to consider the broader social context, and instead looks to place blame on the easy targets: gang culture, crime, unemployed rebellious youth, etc. These are scapegoats for the real problems (though I am aware that these factors did play a role in the riots, I believe they were just one part of larger issues).

On March 26 of this year, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) organized the March for the Alternative, an anti-cuts protest held in London. Apparently unable to get a fairly accurate figure, sources estimate that between 250,000 to 500,000 people showed up to the demonstration in protest against planned public spending cuts by their government.

Hmmm… is this ringing any bells?

This article by Nina Power looks at the social unrest within Britain, and goes into a great explanation of the protests. Have a read! It touches on unemployment, lack of police accountability, police brutality and racism, poverty and class tensions.

Now, I am a firm believer that violence does not solve anything. Therefore, the looting, harm, and murder that has resulted from the England Riots is not something I support. What I do believe in however, is the courage, commitment, passion and rebelliousness these Brits have shown.

Here I sit, unemployed, hating on the Mayor of Toronto for cutting funding to social services (and hence contributing to my unemployment BIG TIME), and I kinda want to take a lesson from those Brits and start a riot of my own. Maybe run up and down Bay Street banging a drum and yelling out chants of shame on Ford for threatening public libraries (not pushing, looting, or hurting anyone of course). Or maybe start my own anti-cuts collective/gang, customize t-shirts, and loiter en masse (respectfully) outside City Hall.

Then again, haven’t Torontonians already done all this? So what’s next?

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A friend of mine sent me the link to this wonderful site jam-packed full of documentaries. Old. New. Short. Long. Every topic you can imagine. One of the most popular docs at the moment, is ‘The Perfect Vagina’. I had to see what this perfect vagina was all about…

Turns out that loads upon loads of women are unhappy with the visual appearance of their vaginas, and are going for surgery to alter the shape/size of the inner labia, so it does not ‘hang’ below the outer labia. This procedure is known as labiaplasty, and as a business it has skyrocketed over the past few years. So a woman named Lisa Rogers decided to investigate the growing trend in the UK, where, according to “the British Medical Journal, they said the number of ‘labial reductions’ carried out in National Health Service hospitals had doubled to 800 a year over five years” (Reuters article).

The UK in fact, has deemed this recent rise in labiaplasty as a “demand for designer vaginas”. Really? DESIGNER VAGINAS. Just wait… wait for it… give it a few years… soon enough, Gucci will release their sketch/model for the PERFECT GUCCI VAGINA. You can buy, for the right price, a fully-certified Gucci-fied vagina! And guess what? You will even be able to choose the colour, size, and location of your Gucci tattoo (though it must appear somewhere on the vagina of course, because everyone who visits your lady-bits must be made aware that it is the product of Gucci).

Check out the documentary ‘The Perfect Vagina’. What do you think about this trend? Is it a tool of empowerment for women to gain a sense of confidence and control over their bodies and their sexuality? Or is it yet another tool designed by the patriarchal system for the male gaze to pressure women to perpetually slice and dice their bodies to achieve the highly-sexualized and idealized body of a 12-year-old girl?

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The Facts:

Guatemala

  • January 17, 2007: Eleven Mayan Q’eqchi’ women were gang-raped by mining company security personnel, police and military during a forced eviction of families in the Lote Ocho community. The evictions were being carried out by Toronto-based HudBay Minerals Inc. and HMI Nickel Inc., based on the Fenix mining project plans. Rosa Elbria Ich Choc, Margarita Caal Caal, and nine other women from the Lote Ocho community are suing HudBay Minerals Inc. and HMI Nickel Inc. for negligence and carelessness causing physical and psychological harm (Caal v. HudBay). Have a listen to the story as told by Rosa Elbria Ich Choc, as she stands on the remains of her home.

  • September 27, 2009: Adolfo Ich Chamán, President of the Community of La Uníon,  a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, a school teacher and father, was brutally beaten and shot in the head by private security forces employed by the Fenix mining project. Chaman was an outspoken critic of the harms caused by Canadian mining activities in the Lote Ocho community.

The Big Picture:

There has been an ongoing land conflict between local communities and international mining companies. During Guatemala’s civil war, 200,000 people were killed, 83% of which were Aboriginal Mayan people (clearly these were acts of genocide aimed at eliminating the Maya). Q’eqchi’ people, living in communities such as Lote Ocho, were driven off their land, and upon returning to what was once theirs, discovered the government had negotiated the sale of their land to mining corporations. In 2006, the International Labour Organization of the United Nations, ruled that Guatemala had indeed breached international law when they granted Fenix mining privileges without first consulting the local Mayan people.

The Implications:

Forced evictions. Destruction of property. Violence. Rape. Racism. Murder. Violations of human rights. This situation is highly reminiscent of colonization stories. And yet we remain blind to these facts. It doesn’t help that Toronto-based media does not prioritize reporting on these events. We like to think that colonization is a thing of the past, but it is still very present.

What Can We Do?:

1. Educate Ourselves
Check out the official site for more information on the lawsuits. Post links to your social media pages and spread the word. It is clear from this map, ‘Trouble at Canadian mining sites around the world’, that this is not an isoalted incident, and that international mining corporations need to hold their employees more accountable for their actions.

2. Join + Participate
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability welcomes participation of environmental and human rights NGOs, faith groups, labour unions, and research and solidarity groups.

3. Donate
Click here to donate as little as $5 through PayPal.

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I attended a conference the other day: “Widening the Lens: Combining Science and Compassion in Treating Addiction and Mental Illness” presented by Gabor Mate, sponsored by William Osler Health Centre.

In order to understand an illness, we must understand the whole person. This theme was central to Gabor’s presentation, known as the biopsychosocial perspective, which acknowledges and explores the connections between the mind, body and environment in influencing and affecting an individual. (Although I completely agree with this idea, there is a lot of merit for the short-term approach of providing immediate assistance and support to clients who are not in the right space to delve into trauma counselling. For some clients, all they need are practical tips and suggestions for how to get more sleep, how to stop sleep walking, etc., which does not require counsellors to obtain a full understanding of the person to provide compassionate support). Without compassion in counselling and medical treatment, we are not considering the individual as existing outside of their symptoms/illness.

Addiction is the continued involvement with a substance or activity despite the negative consequences associated with it, where pleasure or enjoyment are also gained. We view addiction in 2 ways: as a choice, and as a disease. Regardless of whether addiction is the result of choice or disease, we have a tendency to focus on what the addiction is doing TO the person, and not FOR the person. Oftentimes people develop addictive habits out of necessity, as a coping mechanism when stress levels are high or where trauma has occurred. We expect people to stop their negative addictive behaviours, but what are we really asking of them? We’re asking them to stop something that makes them feel good, loved and connected (if only momentarily). Who would want to give up feeling this way?

An example: During the Vietnam war, 1 in 5 American soldiers were using regularly using (or were addicted to) heroin. When the war was over, 1 in 20 remained addicted. What does this mean? It means that the drug itself is not independently addictive, but that soldiers were temporarily susceptible to drugs because of the situation of war. Gabor argued then, that the soldiers who remained addicted to heroin had childhood issues of trauma.

Gabor did not deny that genes set the potential for addiction to develop, but insisted that our genetic makeup does not define us, but that if addiction develops, it is in conjunction with social and environmental factors.

Another example: Gabor was born in Hungary during the outbreak of World War II to Jewish parents. As an infant, Gabor was very upset and was crying all the time. When his mother called a doctor to inquire the causes, the doctor replied that all the Jewish babies were crying. Gabor concluded this was a result of the stress of his parents were feeling from the fear and threat of death and war. Children are attached and attune to their parents’ emotions and state of being much more than we might know.

At this point Gabor paused for a music break, playing the songs ‘Mother’ and ‘I Call Your Name’, both written by John Lennon, which portrayed John’s struggle with addiction and the rejection he faced in childhood.

However, in recent years, we have seen a shift of the attachment of children and youth from their parents to their peers. Peer-attachment is much more common today, and is facilitated by the developments in technology, where youth can communicate and bond with one another through text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. Peer-attachment is also more prevalent due to the hectic lives and stresses of parents, who do not see their children all day, and then at night are irritated or working second jobs. It is no wonder then, that children and youth seek attachments to their peers when they cannot get what they need from their parents. Gabor warns however, that so-called ‘normal’ development requires a hierarchy of attachment, where children attach to and learn from adults, and that peer-to-peer attachment will result in greater risk of youth for addiction. Looking at the situation of First Nations peoples in Canada, where addiction is highly prevalent, we have to go only as far as the violently imposed residential school system to see Gabor’s point.

The approach Gabor takes, centers on harm reduction and practices that bridge the mind-body-community gaps, such as spirituality, yoga, meditation, and non-Westernized practices, particularly those practiced by First Nations cultures, such as sweat-lodges and consciousness-raising experiences.

While I think the arguments presented here by Gabor Mate raised some very important concerns and issues, it needs further exploration. Also, the practicality of how to work with individuals in a way that addresses the biopsychosocial model is something I would question.

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This past week, Bitch Magazine, in conjunction with Feminist Coming Out Day, led a campaign known as the “click moment” — or when you first realized you were a feminist. It allowed self-identified feminists to showcase their faces/voices/words/thoughts on the internets, and to tell their “coming out” stories. The faces and voices of feminism, I just love it!

So what was my “click moment”?

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about when the click happened, and I couldn’t really pin it down. It’s like trying to figure out when you really bonded with your best friend, or when you started liking chocolate (duh, since always!). I do know that I was actually a little hesitant to define myself as a feminist, even though it was clear that I was. During my formative years my favourite television shows were BUFFY and XENA. In Grade 12, we had to do a book report assignment for English class with Mr Beckett, and I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…

“It is a novel often considered ahead of its time due to its portrayal of the development of a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral. Jane evolves from her beginnings as a poor and plain woman without captivating charm to her mature stage as a compassionate and confident whole woman. As she matures, she comments much on the complexities of the human condition. Jane also has a deeply pious personal trust in God, but is also highly self-reliant. Although Jane suffers much, she is never portrayed as a damsel in distress who needs rescuing. For this reason, it is sometimes regarded as an important early feminist (or proto-feminist) novel.”

Ummm, closeted-feminist much?

Going into my 2nd year at UTM, my mum convinced me to take Intro to Women and Gender Studies, despite my hesitation and uncertainty, and wouldn’t ya know it, I kinda fell in love. There wasn’t a moment when I said “Well damn, this is for me” — but I guess it was just falling into the community, reading the texts, listening to my profs, and chatting with classmates.

So thank you, feminism, for introducing me to a community of lovely people and activists, teaching me, and providing me the tools and the language that I had unknowingly been searching for.

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The University of Toronto Students’ Union is hosting their 2011 eXpression Against Oppression (XAO) week, and last night they featured keynote presentations from writer and activist Ward Churchill, and Professor Angela Davis. The topic focussed on academic freedom, public education, and student autonomy.

The night began with Professor Roland Sintos Coloma (OISE/UT) who gave a short lecture on the politics of apologies. “What does it mean to say ‘I’m sorry’?” Apologies are both necessary and dangerous. Professor Coloma listed three of the most notable public apologies in Canadian history: 1) 1988, Prime Minister Mulroney apologized to Japanese Canadians for the internment during WWII, 2) 2006, Prime Minister Harper apologized to Chinese Canadians for the head tax laws, and finally 3) 2008, again PM Harper apologized to Canadian Aboriginal peoples for the residential school system. Professor Coloma co-wrote an open letter to Maclean’s magazine, calling for the elimination of anti-Asian racism.

Next up, was Ward Churchill, American scholar, author and political activist. Churchill’s lecture was absolutely enthralling (albeit a little over my head at times!). He spoke about the obligation we as social advocates feel for speaking truth, but the problem lies in the fact that POWER does not listen to TRUTH. “You don’t speak truth to power, you speak truth to people”. And it is the power of speech, of communication, and of galvanization that makes individuals a threat to the systems of oppression, that makes individuals targets. Churchill went on to look at specific examples of individuals who became such targets: Fred Hampton, John Trudell, Kate Richards O’Hare, and Norman Finkelstein. Linking these cases to the idea that university students are removed from their communities, planted into universities, and begin working within and for the institution. Students are there to serve the goals of the university. And when they resist, they are expunged from the institution.

Lastly we arrive at Angela Davis, political activist, scholar, author and feminist. And Oh the topics she touched on! Davis talked about the need for a collective quest for social justice. A collective that will spread globally: a need to produce global solidarities that can challenge imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, and ALL the other ‘isms’ and oppressions out there. Davis also referred to the prison-industrial complex, and insisted that “we can never say we’ve made significant progress as long as we have this prison-industrial complex in place, as long as the numbers of people incarcerated continue to rise, as long as the number of women, of Aboriginal women, incarcerated continues to rise”. And in what direction is Canada heading? Following in the footsteps of the US of course, and investing over $2 billion dollars to expand prisons. Why is it that the imprisonment of human beings has become so profitable? Why would we be heading this way, when studies have shown that increases in prison complexes leads to the decline of public education, the decline of addressing health care needs, and in fact increases racial disparities within those prisons. And the racial disparities are huge: Aboriginal women make up less than 2% of Canada’s population, yet they account for approximately 27% of the women in penitentiaries. Davis says that we have learned a few things about racism: We are able to recognize and reprimand someone who uses racist language. We are able to reprimand someone who egnages in racist activities. But what remains invisible is recognizing the structural consequences of racism. February, is Black History Month, and in closing Davis reminded us of what Martin Luther King Jr said in one of his speeches: “Justice is indivisible”. Justice links us across the globe, and it will not come for one struggle until it comes for all.

What a night with the academic activists!

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