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Hello bloggers,

I thought I’d reproduce for you here the note I sent out to my friends and family to mark International Women’s Day this year.

Things with me are alright. thanks to those of you who have emailed to day hello — it’s always good to hear from you.

Best,

TG

Dear friends and family,

today marks International Women’s Day!  It’s a day of worldwide celebration for the achievements women have made, recognition of the difficulties and challenges women still face daily, and recommitment to fighting gender-based discrimination through the promotion of women’s substantive equality.

I encourage you today to reflect on the sacrifices women have made over the years in order to further women’s political and social equality in the face of much resistance from society at large that believes women should know their place, that women are naturally inferior to men, that women already have enough equality.

Here in Canada, there is still much to be done to further women’s equality.

  • Aboriginal women still don’t have equality in their communities in terms of property rights and representation in the governance of their communities, and are at a highly disproportionate risk of becoming victims of domestic and sexual assault. Before European colonizers arrived in Canada, Aboriginal societies were gender-egalitarian — meaning that our Canadian government has created this gendered hierarchy in Aboriginal communities with such measures as Indian Residential Schools and the Indian Act, which prevented Aboriginal women from holding land, voting in their band’s elections, taking away their status if they married a non-Aboriginal man, and preventing both Aboriginal women and men from learning their cultural traditions and languages to pass on to their children.
  • Access to abortion services in Canada are measly and inadequate. Women often incur travel costs to get from their small rural/isolated Northern communities to larger urban centres to access abortion services, taking time off work and often necessitating child-care services; most often, these expenses are not reimbursed by our health care system (there is a small travel budget for Northern women). Women in Prince Edward Island have to travel outside their province to access abortion services in Halifax; there are 0 abortion providers in PEI. Women in New Brunswick have to obtain letters of referral from 2 separate doctors stating that an abortion is “medically necessary” in order to access abortion services at the 1 hospital in the province that provides them. Women who need timely access to abortion services (which is in their best health interests) often have to pay out of pocket for abortion services at private clinics because the wait time to access services in a hospital setting is too long. Despite that abortion is not illegal in Canada, and that our government’s health care policy holds as one of its 5 pillars “accessibility,” Canadian women still face challenges in accessing abortion services – including vilification by many conservative and religious groups.
  • Women are still being sold into slavery in this country in the form of trafficked persons. 80% of all trafficked persons are women, who are forced into domestic and/or sexual exploitation once they arrive in their destination country. Here in Canada, statistics estimate that about 800 women are trafficked to Canada every year. Canada only took a legislative stand against human trafficking in 2006, after the release of a highly embarrassing report exposing our government’s complete negligence on the issue. Since then, 10 cases of human trafficking have been opened. These women are going largely unnoticed through our borders and in our communities, and they need help.
  • in Canada, the gap is widening between the rich and the poor, despite that Canada’s economy is soaring – our economy is the fastest growing in the G-8. A quarter million people in Canada are homeless, 1.7 million households live on less than $16,400 USD a year, and the majority of these are households run by single women. 5.5 million live on less than $8200 a year (24% of all tax filers), and again, the majority of these are women. As our Employment Insurance program is sitting on a billion dollar surplus, only 3 out of 10 unemployed women are eligible for benefits according to current criteria, which disadvantage workers with part-time or irregular hours, which, again, are mostly women, thanks to society’s expectation that women are the primary care-givers for children and the elderly. Social programs are increasingly out of reach for the poor due to reduced spending in the service of increasing Canada’s GDP – in fact, it appears as though one of the primary reasons for Canada’s economic success (GDP has increased 55% in the last 10 years) is BECAUSE of social program funding cuts, meaning the economic success of this country is dependent on the poverty of women.
  • Lesbian women are still suffering widespread discrimination in Canadian society, and face legal barriers to being able to care for their partners during end-of-life situations and inheriting property from their partners – even homes that they have been living in for decades. these situations are deeply painful, as the families of these women’s life-partners swoop in and take away every evidence that their daughters were gay and had partnerships with other women.
  • Transsexual and transgendered women face unique barriers to equality. Sex reassignment surgery is under or non-funded by the Canadian health care system, and ancillary services to allow for greater integration into their physical gender are completely outside funding. Pre-surgery transsexual women often turn to prostitution in order to fund their surgical and aesthetic interventions, and when in prison are placed in male detention facilities and have difficulty obtaining the hormonal therapy needed to maintain the process of transformation.  In order to have any government funded access to sex reassignment surgery, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, they must go through psychological counselling and live for a year as a woman, despite being considered legally and physically a man.These women face deep misunderstanding by society and are highly vulnerable to homophobic and transphobic male violence.

These are only some of the problems affecting women in Canada. Immigrant and refugee women, sex workers, (dis)abled women, and women of colour all face significant and specific kinds of barriers to equality. Federally, the slashed funding to Status of Women Canada means awareness about women’s issues in Canada is waning, and the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program and the courts’ aversion to allowing equality groups to intervene in cases involving women’s issues means women’s equality is not being adequately advocated in our justice system. Our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being interpreted and applied by our courts in such a way as to limit rather than protect and enhance women’s equality.

There are different problems affecting women in other parts of the world. Women are raped en masse as part of genocidal wars in Congo. Girl children as young as 8 are married off in India. Girls as young as 4 are subject to female genital cutting in northern Africa. Women are displaced in the Sudan. Women and girls are not permitted to go to school in Afghanistan. Women aren’t even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Girl children are abandoned in China. Women are forcibly sterilized in Tibet. Women are being denied access to contraception worldwide through USAID and PEPFAR, and have no way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even when they know they risk transmitting HIV to their fetuses.

It’s pretty obvious that there is still much work to be done, both at home and abroad, to gain full equality for women. this International Women’s Day, I’m thinking about what I can do to help. I believe women are not second-class citizens. I believe women do not deserve 15, 25, 50, or 65% equality. I believe women deserve 100% equality, no matter where they live or what barriers they face.  Today, I recognize the courage and dedication of women who have been fighting this struggle since before I was born, since before my mother was born, and I am deeply honoured and grateful for the important progress they have made on my behalf. Today, I rededicate myself to continuing this struggle, for myself, for my sisters, for my mother, for my aunts, for my cousins, for my friends, and for all of our daughters.

to the women in my life — I celebrate you today! You are, quite literally, the reason I do what I do. Thank you for your inspiration and courage.

to the men in my life — I look for you to be partners in the fight for women’s equality. This takes some strength, but I know you’re up for the challenge.

Happy International Women’s Day!

someone left a comment on my blog for Choice post from last year, and so I thought, perhaps I’ll write one for this year as well. since leaving blogging several months ago, life has been swell, and busy. I hope you are all quite well.

to my american friends: Happy Roe Day! 35 years since Roe was decided, and jsut look at how far you’ve come! White middle class to upper class women can still sometimes get abortions in some places in the US! AWESOME.

my message today is very simple: there are alternative funding groups out there who are able to help women who cannot afford to pay for abortion services.  Access to abortion is a huge problem for women, and I want to make sure people out there know that there are options available to help defray some of the costs of obtaining abortion services. they are mostly grassroots groups who are committed to reproductive rights for women, and they can help. perhaps you can’t afford to travel out of your town or city to get to an abortion provider, or to take the time off work, or to make sure your kids have a sitter while you go out of town for a couple of days to obtain the services you need. Abortions are expensive, but the cost of service is not the only cost associated with access to abortion. it’s important to know that there are some options out there.

please, go to this website: National Network of Abortion Funds. They have a list there of alternative funding for abortion, you can search by city so it’s really easy. There is help available.

peace!

not feelin’ it

alright folks, I’ve got an announcement.

I’m not feelin’ it anymore. you know, it’s been a great two years (and a bit), being here with you all, discoursin’ and whatnot. It’s been a pleasure, really. I’ve learned so much – SO MUCH. Maybe even more than what I learned during my whole undergrad degree. Certainly what I have learned through engaging with you all has been personally extremely useful and satisfying.

But, I am not feelin’ it right now. I’m super-busy, and there’s the ramifications of moving and starting a new degree, leaving all my real life friends and family behind, while having to extend myself past my little world in my head in order to meet new people and build a new community here. I want to be successful at what I’m doing here, and I also need to take care of myself. And, unfortunately, I feel that right now, part of taking care of myself is not doing this anymore.

Maybe for now, maybe for a while, maybe forever. I may not be able to resist poking my head in and letting a post loose every now and then, but that will all take place on the schedule of TCB -Taking Care of Baby (which of course, is me). If it feels right and helpful for me to do so, instead of a chore, then I’ll do it. so keep your feed readers active.

So for now, imagine me doing yoga, sitting and drinking tea with a friend, swimming, cooking wonderful things to eat for myself and my peeps, reading non-school related books, and getting lots of rest and/or work done, INSTEAD of being here. I’ll continue to deal with comment moderation, but I may not respond in the same manner as I used to do, as per the new TCB schedule. So that being said, I’m going to leave it up to you, faithful readers, to help me out in answering comments that may arise. And of course, please, all of you fellow bloggers, continue to lambaste, rankle, subvert, protest, rise up against, resist, and whatever other adjectives come to mind,  the hegemonic forces going on all around us. Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing all that too. You just might hear about it in different ways.

Regulars, friends, please do email me. I’d love to hear from you on a personal basis. You’re no less dear to me because I’m backing out of blogging.

Peace, my sisters and my brothers. TG out.

came across this post over at Shakesville. It’s a 101 post about MRAs. God, it’s so great. but what is really great, is the comment section. for a good dose of cognitive dissonance you can really get a good belly laugh from, I suggest you go over and take a read of it.

I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a session held by a local anti-trafficking group, during which I heard the most wonderful speaker, Benjamin Santamaria. He spoke less about what his organization does, and more about the issue overall, and the culture under which this problem has been permitted to flourish.

Human trafficking is a terrible problem; it’s hard to know how many people are trafficked every year, but women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for sex as well as domestic slavery. Victims generally are stolen or sold from less developed nations and taken to wealthy western countries for these purposes, or are held within their own country or a neighbouring country and used by wealthy westerners who come to less developed countries for the purposes of sex tourism. It seems a lot of trafficked persons have family situations that make them vulnerable, from extreme poverty to abuse to orphanism. These are often people that are vulnerable because nobody is looking for them; they are disappeared and nobody knows.

Ben talked a lot about white western culture as a culture of domination. [this particularly incensed the young woman I was attending the talk with, for typical white liberal "white people shouldn't have to feel guilty for what our ancestors did" reasons, but that's not really what I want to talk about just yet; please keep it in mind for later, however.] He spoke of “white is right” attitudes, about how white settlers on this continent felt they conquered the indigenous populations who were already here (they didn’t), and that gave them the right to [attempt to] obliterate indigenous culture, language, and spirituality, replacing them with the laws, language, and religion of the white homeland (didn’t do that, either, but not for lack of trying – for the indomitable spirit of indigenous peoples). He spoke about the continuation of those attitudes in the here and now, and the richness that is missed by shutting ourselves off from learning from other cultures. He spoke about a lack of sprituality the dominance of religion can bring. He spoke about the soullessness of capitalism, the attitude that everything can and should be commodified – even human beings, human lives.

but, while this is a large problem that takes place at a societal level, Ben was careful to offer a solution. He expressed that the solution of public policies and international treaties was important, but that the underlying attitudes of individual people are what will really matter most.

hold on.

We spend a lot of time here and on other forums talking about patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism as being overarching structures, a “culture not a conspiracy.” We say, “we’re not talking about YOU as an individual; we’re talking about your default position within relations of power that are larger than just you, don’t take it personally, try to see yourself and your position as one within the matrix.”

Well, it hit home to me, listening to Ben speak, that this is true, but it also isn’t the end of the story.

Going back to how the woman I was sitting with was infuriated by Ben’s slam against white culture. She was completely and utterly pissed off by this, ranted on afterward about how white people have a culture too, and it’s just as important as other cultures, and how other cultures can’t be so great really because after all, look at how they treat their women. [yup, seriously. this is a woman who has done a lot of international development work. just goes to show you, I guess...]

I felt none of that righteous anger toward him for saying such things. I was nodding along with him! I wasn’t offended by anything he said about white people at all! Why is that? I thought about it for a while. At first, I just felt like, “well, he’s not talking about ME.” Not in a pin-a-rose-on-my-nose, I’m-not-a-racist way, but more in a culture-not-conspiracy kind of way. but then, that wasn’t quite it, either.

What Ben was talking about was individual responsibility. He was talking about how these attitudes are ingrained in the fabric of our society, but that we are individually responsible to and capable of unravelling ourselves from that fabric. He described a lot of things that we could do, individually, to change how we felt and believed some of the underlying attitudes that make human trafficking possible, that make it possible for people to be bought and sold on a global marketplace and used like they mean nothing.

He spoke about spirituality – not religion, not dogma, but spirituality. Belief that everyone has a soul, a spirit, a spiritual life that needs nourishment, that needs fulfilment. He spoke about sexism, and how men must not force women to do or be what we don’t want to do or be, but allow us to develop into our own beings, support us, get the hell out of our way. He talked about the mistreatment of the animals we use, from labour to entertainment to food. He talked about racism, and the belief held so dear by so many that white culture is dominant because it is superior. He spoke about capitalism, the commodification of everything under the sun – the land, the water, the sun itself – and how screwed up that is, because the earth is for everyone, it can nourish all of us, and yet we scramble to get our little tiny piece of it all for ourselves. He spoke about not buying these things, not buying into the capitalism matrix, not buying goods from countries where humans are trafficked, not watching TV, not watching CNN.

And you know? yeah. I felt myself nodding, moved by this message. YES! We are, individually, responsible for the attitudes and beliefs that we hold. We can only, ourselves, change those attitudes and beliefs. And that is the difference. When we work to achieve attitudes of love for others, of spirituality, of equality, of harmony with the world around us – that is when the guilt fades, that is when the righteous anger dissipates.

I know I’m not perfect. I know that my placement within the social stratification system of this country, this culture, gives me unearned privileges that I can’t exactly back out of. But. I know that I am trying. I know that in my heart, I am moving from those negative, overarching, dominant and dominating atittudes, maybe a little everyday, as an individual person. And so, I know he wasn’t talking about ME.

I say this not to hold myself up as a shining example of light, or for congratulatory backslaps and praise. I say this because it clicked a little deeper for me that day.

We ARE individually responsible, within this culture of domination. We must be HELD individually responsible for atrocities that happen to others, because OUR ATTITUDES OF DOMINATION have led to, have supported, have made possible, those atrocities. It’s not about guilt. It’s about movement. It’s about change. It’s about evolution. It’s about revolution.

bias

had to read some stuff for class the other day on whether or not black judges and female judges could be impartial.

yup. that’s what I said.

and, of course, I harkened back to my summer of researching and writing my thesis. all kinds of stuff came spilling out about how the dominant class always thinks they have the market cornered on what is objective. but how of course, nobody is exempt from having a social identity, and how it’s pretty much impossible to ever escape the perspective that you have as a result of that identity. And so, those who claim they can are pretty much fooling themselves by assuming a false (because it’s not possible) and disingenuous (because they claim they can) god’s-eye view of the world.  Because the very act of claiming that false position is protecting the interests and values of the dominant class.

I think what we need to do is re-think the entire notion of objectivity. Because it’s ridiculous to claim that one group (who happens to be the dominant class, funny how that works) has a perspective that is unbiased and impartial, and all the rest can’t possibly achieve objectivity because they’re too tainted by their vaginas or their dark skin or slanty eyes or their homo/bi/trans-sexuality.

seems to me that the best way to get to a model of the world that reflects reality most closely is to include everyone in the process. you know, like EVERYONE. poor folks, white folks, women folks, gay folks, jewish folks, black folks, lesbian folks, men folks, rich folks, transfolks, hispanic folks, middleclass folks, bi folks, native folks, mixed race folks, intersexed folks, smart folks, asian folks, disabled folks… all folks. we all need representation, ya know? the more people who are excluded from a process like, oh, justice or academia or science or whatever, the more slanted that “truth” is gonna be (holla Kevin!).

class dismissed.

Dear misogynists -

here it is:

I’m tired of holding your fucking hand, being sweet and nice and understanding, calmly explaining things of a feminist nature with patience, giving you the benefit of the doubt. I’m tired of letting you get away with comments, quietly simmering, feeling the pressure build up inside me. I’m tired of  letting you define the terms, twist my words to use against me, read unintended meaning into what is said. I’m tired of your fucking ‘counter-examples’ that are meant to be some kind of silver bullet to the fact that things have been this way for thousands of years in the great majority. I’m tired of taking care of you in a discussion where you begin by saying, “so, you want to debate feminism with ME, do you?” (Answer: feminism is not up for debate, asshole.) I’m tired of watching you pack up your toys and go home when you can’t “win your point” and shut me up or down, and I’m tired of being blamed for your inadequate arguing skills and the fact that you know you’re wrong and if you can’t win you don’t wanna play. I’m tired of being accused of being a “wet blanket,” a “stick in the mud,” “humourless,” and being unable to take either a joke or a compliment. I’m tired of having my and other women’s experiences of misogyny in action made light of, taken over or sidelined by, and compared to men’s experiences of the world that have nothing to do with the discussion, in order to make some kind of point that “shit happens to everyone, it has nothing to do with your gender, stop whining about sexism, you’re bringing it upon yourself by seeing it everywhere, if you didn’t look so hard you’d see that it was something else, you’re reading too much into it.”

sick and fucking tired, I am.

because the thing is, the fact that you are arguing about it means you so aren’t even there yet, with enough internalization of  basic feminist principles, to even have such a discussion with me. I am not debating the basics of feminism. I am not questioning the validity of feminism as a system of thought or a framework for looking at the world. I am not suddenly going to give up on feminism because you think you’ve found a brilliant counter-argument to support your misogyny (like “not all guys are like that! you’re pigeon-holing all men! that’s just as sexist as what you’re complaining about!”).

the truth is, the guys who get it, don’t argue about it. And they don’t get so riled up by feminist theory, discussion, etc. that they freak out whenever a feminist has something negative to say about men in general or even just one specific man who has, oh say, chased and threatened her in the street. Because they know, I’m not talking about them.

so, stop trying to make me feel bad because I’m making you upset to be reminded that your privilege is unearned and undeserved, even as you’re using it like a club over my head.  I’m not the one who should feel bad about that. I don’t have to worry about your feelings, your ego, your pride, whatever – you clearly aren’t worried about me and mine. In fact, I’d say your entire purpose in discussions like these is to “bring me down a notch,” yes?

Stop casting me in some role of male caretaker – I’m nobody’s mother, nobody’s nursemaid, and nobody’s wife. I get no benefit, emotional or otherwise, from taking care of you. Demanding that I do so is reinforcing the gendered roles that have me so infuriated to begin with! This is not about social graces – it’s about demanding that even during a discussion about sexism, I have to play a gendered role that necessarily means giving way to you.

so, don’t tell me to be “reasonable” (as opposed to emotional? which is so bad, right?). based on thousands of years of evidence, I think I am being pretty fucking reasonable, actually, in analyzing the world in the way that I do and responding to it in the way that I do. I’d prefer to be pleasantly surprised by a non-sexist man than unpleasantly surprised by a misogynist.

This is how we survive. and yeah, it is that serious.

so, fuck you. holding your hand, taking care of your ego, being a “nice lady,” giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re one of the few men I have ever met in my entire life that isn’t sexist, is not my fucking job. Sometimes, I’m going to tear you a new one. Sometimes, I’m going to give you a look of utter disgust, scoff at you, and turn and walk away because that day I refuse to engage with assholes. Sometimes, I’m going to school you with a stream of theory and not stop to explain the basic principles because you should already know them. Sometimes, I’m going to have more patience and answer your inane questions. But, no way am I going to assume some kind of caretaker position for you and your ego, or avoid pointing out your misogynist behaviour, or break my analysis of the world into easy to digest morsels for you. I’m no babysitter; I don’t cut anyone’s meat for them. I’m no nursemaid; I don’t repair fractured egos. I’m no teacher; I don’t have to instruct you on a gotdam thing. You wanna know about feminism? you wanna have a meaningful discussion about feminism? you wanna be one of the few men I’ve met in my life that aren’t sexist patriarchs?  start by not asking me to do your work for you. go to a library. catch up with the rest of the class. think long and hard about it – you’re not just studying history, you’re studying a living body of work that reflects the lives of women, today, right now. set down your macho armor and talk to women about what it’s like to be a woman in this world. think about the role you play in that world, and start by assuming that you are sexist, and you do benefit from  male dominance. because you do, whether you want to admit it or not. admit it. and move on.
the end.

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