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Archive for January, 2007

just a reminder…

Blog for Choice Day is tomorrow.

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Sage just came up with an AWESOME tag, inspired by the discussion on my post, Killing Prostitutes. I encourage ALL of you to take this chance to participate in the political process and demand your political representatives listen to our voices on this important issue. If you never do another tag, please – do this one.

Here’s the steps:
1. Copy the following into a word file.
2. Fill in the blanks and edit as desired or completely re-write (a one page limit is best). A little research on your own area makes it even better.
3. Print
4. Get a few signatures or just sign it yourself.
5. Mail it. No stamps are necessary to the really big guns. Snail mail counts more than e-mail, so the extra walk to the box is worth it.
6. Tag five people (on-line or otherwise).
7. Repeat as necessary.

*****

Address here. Options might include your Mayor, MP, MPP, Prime Minister, other party leaders, Governor, President, what-have-you, and most important, your local newspaper. Even if the issue isn’t part of the addressee’s portfolio, a surge of letters will still have a necessary impact.

Dear / To the Honourable….

In light of the devastating slayings of 26 women in Vancouver, another 20 in Edmonton, and 5 in Ipswich, England, (and any others you can think of in your area) your government must do more to protect women. If one woman is in danger, none of us are safe.

It’s unlikely that legalizing prostitution would be favourable to the voting public at this point in time, but there are several other useful alternatives that will guarantee you laurels from many fronts.

Let’s stop making perpetrators. All the men who commit these types of heinous crimes are found to have been raised in abusive homes. What is necessary as a solid foundation of any society is easy access to help of any kind for all parents of young children. No child should be living in poverty in a country as wealthy as _________. Any parent or child being abused should have easy access to a safe house they can live in for as long as needed. Teens abused need safe places to stay and be nurtured for extended periods.

In _________(city), there is / isn’t a safe house for abused women, but it only holds ______ women and children, and they can only stay ___________before they have to find someplace else to go. The theory is that they need to learn to fend for themselves. The reality is, if they’re there in there in the first place, they likely don’t have other supports. Imagine having no access to your husband’s bank account, no money of your own, small kids, and the only place available for you to live is run by an abusive tyrant. You’re stuck.

This should not be anybody’s fate in a compassionate country where it could be so easy to solve this problem by placing a priority on funding for safe house space, trained counsellors (emotional, career, and financial), affordable housing, and daycare spaces.

And to stop perpetrators in their tracks, we need stronger legislation around sexual abuse and violence against women, domestic and otherwise. If a rapist gets two years, it sends a message to all men that women and children are not valued by our country’s legal system. Don’t you believe women and children deserve a life free from abuse?

We’ll look forward to hearing your proposal to address this emergency before the next election.

Sincerely,

*****

Please folks, do this tag. Let’s get our voices heard on this. I tag everyone who reads this post. Short of that, I tag Marc Andre, Aulelia, Max, Lulu, L>T, Renegade, Geo, Pinko Julie, Ruxandra, Winter, Belledame, Pragya, Marcella, Laverne, Daniela, and Aspazia. I know, I’m being really demanding this time – but dammit, this is important! If we don’t tell our politicians what we want them to do, they will do what THEY want to do – and that hasn’t exactly turned out so hot. So flex those democratic muscles and get going!

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Children of Men

I went to see this movie last night. It was great. GREAT!

**********If you want to see it, there’ are many spoilers in what I’m writing below, so I’d stop now if I were you. Go and see it for yourself, then come back and talk to me about it.***********

I’m sure most of you know the story: it’s 2027, and humans have stopped reproducing. (Actually, women have stopped reproducing.) Nobody knows why. The world’s youngest person, a sort of celebrity because of this status, has just been killed, at age 18. The world is in mourning – loss of the youngest person seems to be equated with a loss of innocence, of hope.

Clive Owen (*sigh*) plays Theo, a sort of anti-hero. He’s steady, cynical, complex, stand-up. He’s been solicited to help his ex, Julianne Moore (fabulous as always, the most underrated actress in Hollywood to all of our detriment), in getting a young woman out of highly militarized, bombed-out, overflowing-with-refugees London. The kicker – the young woman is pregnant.

Oh the implications of this movie, the political discussions and issues it tackles! The imagery, the devastating landscape that is London!

First, this young woman, Kee, is a refugee. There are no more immigrants into UK – only refugees, and they are locked up in cages like animals, sent to camps where violence and chaos reign uninhibited. So the first baby to be born in 18 years is a refugee.  A black refugee. And what’s more, she has kept her pregnancy a secret – which means she has successfully reproduced without medical assistance or supervision. Is this a statement about women’s reproduction and how perhaps medicalization of reproduction and fertility is the wrong way to go?

Second, Kee’s baby seems to mean different things to the people who are helping her. For some, it is power – power to start a new discourse about refugees. For some, it offers hope of a brighter future without so much violence and hate, a renewal of innocence and peace that must be protected, a clean slate, redemption. For some, it seems to represent the fragility of life. For others, the resiliency of the human spirit. For her, it is her baby, and she loves it. Is this a commentary on the public/private meaning of women’s pregnant bodies? To whom do such bodies, and the children who are the products of such bodies, belong? What do children represent to society? Whose are they? What do we expect of them? What do they want? Are we all stewards of children – “it takes a village”? Should we be?

Third, the goal is to get Kee to the Human Project – a kind of mythical group who is trying to find out why humans are not reproducing anymore. Nobody is sure if they really exist. But the faith of those taking Kee to them is very strong. Kee and her baby are a kind of sacrifice to them, an offering. What will happen to them both once they are there is unknown, and unclear – left unaddressed by the film. But many seem to think she will be safe there, protected. Whether this will be true is left to our imagination. It crossed my mind that she would be the subject of much prodding and poking and testing, but also that left to her own devices in society, she might become victim to rape, since she is seemingly the only fertile woman on the planet capable of carrying a fetus to term. Who knows, she might have started up a surrogacy business and become very rich! In any case, all of this feeds into imagery of woman as the mother of the nation, imagery that is entirely problematic. Would Kee’s baby be a sign of national unity, and for whom since she is not a British citizen? Would the urge to protect the delicate life of Kee’s baby mean more war, more violence? Would Kee’s baby put an end to war, or create more nationalistic tension?

Kee’s baby is born in a refugee camp, amidst a great deal of violence – and without medical assistance. There is a scene that is just as moving as any scene in any movie, I think, that follows. Kee and baby and Theo are in a building that is under heavy gunfire and bomb attack. They are trying to escape to the Human Project. The baby starts to cry, and everyone gathers around as they descend a staircase – they want to see the miracle, the first baby born in almost 20 years, touch its little feet and hands. They’ve forgotten what a baby is. The soldiers call for a cease-fire as the trio leaves to walk out the front door. Everyone seems to be filled with hope at seeing this beautiful child, hearing its cries. Just as they leave the building, the warfare begins again. Who only knows what they’re fighting for. I think a vision like that, seeing a whole brand new person for the first time in 20 years, would make me put down my weapons. but that’s just me, the pacifist.

Incidentally, the miracle baby, the first baby in 20 years, was a girl.

So why Children of MEN? Why make it women who are infertile?

Is the overall message that we – women in particular – have to continue having babies or the world is going to hell in a handbasket? That the only hope we have rests with our children?

Anyway, such a stimulating movie, really. I welcome any discussion about it.

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… is up at Girlistic!

It’s great this time – a medley of miscellany. My post, the Personal IS Political, made it in.

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In Vancouver, Robert William Pickton is about to stand trial for the first 6 of 26 murder charges. (A date has not been set for the remaining victims.) All of the women Pickton is charged with killing were sex workers. Their remains were found on Pickton’s farm in Port Coquitlam. The first 6 victims for which Pickton is being tried are:

  • Sereena Abotsway,
  • Mona Wilson,
  • Andrea Joesbury,
  • Brenda Wolfe,
  • Georgina Papin and
  • Marnie Frey.

The remaining victims are:

  • Jacqueline McDonell
  • Diane Rock
  • Heather Bottomley
  • Jennifer Furminger
  • Helen Hallmark
  • Angela Jardine
  • Patricia Johnson
  • Heather Chinnock
  • Tanya Holyk
  • Sherry Irving
  • Inga Hall
  • Sarah de Vries
  • Tiffany Drew
  • Cindy Feliks
  • Diana Melnick
  • Debra Jones
  • Wendy Crawford
  • Andrea Borhaven
  • Cara Ellis
  • Kerry Koski

The total count of missing women in the Vancouver sex trade is 60.

Same thing is going on in Edmonton, by the way. Did you hear?  Probably not. 20 women have been killed in Edmonton within the last 20-odd years. Again, mostly sex workers. One man has been arrested for 2 of these killings. His name is Thomas George Svekla. Most of these murders have not been solved, and police think there is more than one murderer involved. The victims in Edmonton are:

  • Bonnie Lynn Jack
  • Theresa Merrie Innes
  •  Dolores Brower
  • Ellie May Meyer
  • Charlene Gauld
  • Rachel Quinney
  • Katie Sylvia Ballentyne
  • Debbie Lake
  • Melissa Munch
  • Monique Pitre
  • Edna Bernard
  • Ginger Lee Bellerose
  • Kelly Dawn Reilly
  • Cara King
  • Jessica Cardinal
  • Joyce Hewitt
  • Joanne Ghostkeeper
  • Elaine Ross
  • Lorraine Wray
  • Mavis Mason
  • Bernadette Ahenakew
  • Georgette Flint
  • Melody Joy Reigel
  • Gail Cardinal

Back to the Pickton Trial. This is the largest serial killing in Canadian history. It will be heavily monitored by the media.  Pickton will be the focus of hundreds of in-depth profiles, speculation, disgust. The women he killed will be grouped together in bunches, their identities a blur. The character at the centre of this trial is not any of them. It is Pickton. The public will want to know how his mind works, why he killed all those women, why he targeted prostitutes, how he killed them, how long it took him to amass such a collection of killings, how he managed to elude the police for so very long, whether he hates women.

this is a problem.

In my mind, the real story is not this man. It is the story of the women. The story here, really, is that 80 women have likely been killed. In two cities alone. In Canada, a country that doesn’t have that high a crime rate. And all of them were prostitutes. No one will ask how they ended up as street-level prostitutes, what drove them to leave their homes and families, what their lives were like. What happened to these women? They were all killed by Pickton, yes, but they all shared something else, and they shared it not just with each other but with millions of women across the world, whose only resource is their body, their sex, in a world where if that’s all you’ve got, nobody is there to help you, but a dozen are there every night to exploit you. The story is about why it took almost 30 years to find out who was making these women disappear, why nobody noticed that 60 women were slowly going missing, slowly ending up on Pickton’s farm. These women were not people – they were prositutes, throw-aways, easy prey for Pickton, for Svekla, for other men. No one would notice they were gone. No one would care.

This is how we treat our women.Read about the Vancouver Murders here. Read about the victims here. Read about the Edmonton Murders here.

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This week, it came out that a Saudi national , Taher Ali Al-Saba, who had been accused of sexual assaulting two minors, has left the country, despite not having a passport.

The Saudi Embassy has confirmed that Al-Saba has left Canada, but won’t say anything further, about how or when this occurred.  Because Canada has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely that Al-Saba will ever return to be tried for his crimes.

Great to know the justice system works so well.

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where I live, in Nova Scotia, we have provincial representatives called Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs for short. They get together to do their work in Province House. We have two people of colour who are MLAs – one is black, the other is Indian.

Monday, the black MLA, who is called Percy Paris, spoke at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish in honour of Martin Luther King Day. He spoke publicly for the first time about experiencing racism amongst the group of MLAs he works with at the House. He has cited increased levels of heckling when he speaks before the assembly, as well as receiving the silent treatment/cold shoulder from many of his colleagues, who refuse to eat lunch at the same table as him in the lunchroom and who refuse to speak to him in the hallways. He has said that the House is the lonliest place he’s ever worked.

The Speaker of the House took it upon himself to look into the charges made by Paris. The Speaker is like the moderator, and is chosen from the party in power politically (in this case, it’s Cecil Clarke, from Cape Breton, and he’s PC – Progressive Conservative).

Yesterday, TWO DAYS after the allegations were made by Paris, Clarke declared that Paris’ allegations of racism were groundless.

He’s just not used to the banter that goes on between political party members when one rises to speak, that’s all – since he’s a newcomer to the House, it might take him a while to get used to the way things work, says Clarke. Meanwhile, premier Rodney MacDonald is saying things like, “there’s no room for racism in Nova Scotia.”

So, how is it that within two days, a white man can declare that a person of colour’s experience is NOT racism? Isn’t it amazing that a white man can even declare himself fit for the job of judging whether the actions of other white men are racist or not? How can a white man, in all his privileged glory, who will never experience anything like the oppression of racism, who has been raised in a climate rife with racism, where racism is the air that we breathe, consider himself impartial enough to be in a position to judge a person of colour’s experience of racism? Considering the long history the white western world has of exploiting, oppressing, and marginalizing people of colour (and benefitting handsomely from it), a history that is still being written, I seriously doubt that a white person is capable of being an impartial judge regarding his or her own actions and those of his compatriates in matters of racism. At least not in 2 days. Maybe never.

This declaration by Clarke only furthers the white cause of marginalizing people of colour, of making people of colour seem overly sensitive and looking for things that aren’t ‘really’ there (because the white world gets to decide what is legitimate or not, after all), and of placing white people as the victims in scenarios like this where a person of colour speaks out against racism. When white people are the ones deciding what is and what isn’t racism, is there any wonder that no ‘evidence’ of racism is found?

White culture is all about racism. A friend today said, we are taught from the start that there is something different about people of colour. We’re supposed to notice it – we’re jsut not supposed to say anything about it, or do anything about it, or treat people of colour differently. We’re supposed to notice the difference, and then forget we ever noticed anything. White culture stinks of racism – racism is the bread and butter of capitalism, it is the backbone of interpersonal relations, it is the basis of the way we think about ourselves and about others, the basis of our political policies, the basis of the very way we think and speak and write. To think we could get away from it would be a mistake. I don’t think white people can ever really stop being racist. And the first rule of being a racist is to deny that you’re a racist. Keep on telling yourself that, and you never have to look any deeper.

you can read about it here, and here.

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lift up your voice

today is the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one leader of the american civil rights movement, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, and one of my heroes. His vision for a peaceful society where every person truly was equally valued is one I hold very dear. I wish it was here already, but for my part, I am committed to upholding his vision in my life, my studies, and my work.

Stanford University has a great website devoted to the works of Martin Luther King, Jr., and many of his papers and speeches are available there.

I can’t say too much about him that hasn’t already been said, and better. So I’ll leave you instead with some of his words, exceprted from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, given in Oslo on December 10, 1964.

…I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

[…]

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

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not my day

today is not my day. Got up bright and early to go to class (this was a struggle, I can’t be anywhere reliably before 9:00) – a class I really wanted to take, called Women and Aging – and the instructor refused to give me permission to register, despite my pleas that I was trying to graduate in May and needed the credit! Her words were, “I know, that must be difficult for you.” (Usually professors are really good about letting people in from the wait list, especially when the quota for the class hasn’t been filled, especially when you play the “I’m graduating and this is the last class I need!” card – but not this one!)

Then, I had to go and see another professor who had given me a terrible grade on a paper that really wasn’t such a terrible paper. He refused to give me any more marks that would actually make a difference in the letter grade on the paper, so now I have to go through a formal appeal process (which, like everything else you have to do at university, costs money). This makes me very cranky.  I know he only gave me a poor grade because he didn’t agree with my position, because he is not at all sympathetic to social and feminist ways of thinking.  I hope the next prof who grade the paper leans more in that direction – otherwise I’m stuck with a bad grade overall, which doesn’t exactly look good to law school admission committees.

Also, we’re expecting a whole pile of snow today/tonight, and I have a group presentation tomorrow that will require people to actually show up to class! AAAH!

Why did I want to go back to school again?

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I received this email yesterday from one Catherine Conover, associate editor at New Moon magazine. They’re spearheading a campaign to get young women across america writing letters to congress about the things that they feel are important politically. Here’s what Catherine had to say:

Dear Thinking Girl:

I thought you might be interested in the efforts of a group of girls ages 8-14 are undertaking to bring girls’ voices to Congress. The Girls Editorial Board of New Moon Magazine is urging girls everywhere to write to Congress before March 1, 2007. For more info, please see the press release below and our “Letter to Congress” website, www.newmoon.org/congress. Also, please check out one girl’s response to President Bush’s Jan. 10th address.

Any help you can provide in getting the word out would be greatly appreciated!

Best,

Catherine Conover
Associate Editor & Communications Coordinator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Girls Across the Nation Write to Congress
New Moon Leads Campaign

DULUTH, Minn. (January 2007) – Instead of asking for submissions to the magazine, the Girls Editorial Board of New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams is asking girls to send them letters to Congress. The Girls Editorial Board plans to bring girls’ voices to Congress this spring.

“This is an exciting movement,” said former Girls Editorial Board member Clare Dougan, 15. “Girls across the country have a chance to be one united voice.”

The 14 girls on the New Moon’s Board already published their own letter to Congress-the January/February 2007 issue of New Moon Magazine. Themed “Letter to Congress,” the issue features contributions from 67 girls from around the nation. The girls write about the political issues that
affect their lives, addressing everything from animal rights to the war in Iraq.

The Girls Editorial Board hopes their “Letter to Congress” will inspire thousands of girls to write their OWN letters to Congress. Girls can go to www.newmoon.org/congress to find out who represents them in Congress,get letter-writing tips, and download special postcards. New Moon will collect girls’ letters to Congress through March 1, 2007.

The Girls Editorial Board hopes to hand-deliver the letters they collect-along with copies of the magazine-to every member of Congress later this spring. They’ll ask Congress members to read the issue and respond to girls’ concerns.

“It’s exciting that Congress is (hopefully!) going to hear what we have
to say!” said Girls Editorial Board member Selene Emad-Syring, age 12.

Celebrating 14 years of publication, New Moon is a six-time winner of a
prestigious Parents’ Choice Foundation Gold Award for “Best Children’s
Magazine” and 2006 winner of the Golden Lamp Award from the Associationof Educational Publishers. New Moon’s Girls Editorial Board-a revolvinggroup of girls ages 8-14-chooses the theme, articles, artwork and coverdesign for each issue. Girls from around the world contribute 80 percentof the magazine’s content.

How great is that? I for one LOVE IT. I’ll keep my eye on this to see what issues young girls are concerned about. Getting girls thinking about political issues, and getting involved in the political process, is a wonderful thing. Girls need a voice in a society where they are growing up amongst all sorts of increasing pressures that detract from their girlhood and train them to be certain ways.

On that note, I want to refer readers to Packaging Girlhood, a wonderful blog that discusses the patriarchal-capitalist manipulation of young girls, based around the book of the same name. It’s super – great deconstructive analysis of marketing campaigns and products aimed at young girls.

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