To call what happened to me "rape" would be dishonest and disrespectful to survivors of rape. I was, however, a prime candidate for rape twice in my life, and escaped by the skin of my teeth both times. Our society seems to think it's rape or bust: minor sexual assaults are tragically unreported, and this is why I'm writing this piece: I want to change that. If every woman who's been a victim tells her story, we can start to stitch together a narrative of sexual violence, the understanding of which is the first step towards eradicating it. I know it's difficult to tell people about experiences where you weren't in control, but think of it this way: by speaking about your experiences, you're giving a voice to other victims, past, present and future.
The children of these women are almost forgotten. Our half-hearted national conversation on the ongoing racialized violence against stolen indigenous women barely acknowledges their existence. If there is even an estimate of the number of children affected, please let me know. And yet, the surviving children's loss is unimaginable. They lost mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins. You don't need to be a psychiatrist to understand that the grotesque violence aboriginal women suffer affects the mental integrity of the children they leave behind.
As a culture, we have a weird obsession with women being "selfish." Mothers especially are prone to accusations of selfishness any time they make a choice that doesn't directly and obviously benefit their children. Even when mothers are encouraged to practice self-care, it's often approached with the idea that feeling happy and rested will make them better partners and parents.
The heart of #meninism might be valid, but it doesn't remotely reflect the kind of struggle that women throughout the ages have gone through. Let's work a little less on spitting on the real issues and work more on making sure that we're making the changes necessary to ensure that we never have the meninist/feminist conversation again.
Theories of why Wikipedia remains a male-based platform also abound. Some correlate it to the combative exclusivity of an old boys' club mentality that is repeatedly evidenced by women contributors submitting articles that are judged to be not substantive enough and immediately expedited for removal. The edit-a-thons came into existence as a counter measure to the aforementioned persisting pattern.
On February 12, Harper vowed to appeal a federal court ruling that would allow Muslim women to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. Speaking to the press about the matter, Harper said, "That is not the way we do things." He added that, "This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that offensive." This is a classic example of opportunistic feminism, which so many white men like to make use of from time to time.
Much has changed for women. The fact that we have International Women's Day, or that many organizations host Women in Leadership events to empower women, or women feel they can mobilize to effect positive change is testimony to progress.
This year's IWD is themed "Make It Happen." And I think for every woman who is a part of celebrations, this is a goal to which we are ready to commit. For women who cannot just "make it happen" on their own, we must help "make it happen" for them.
It is clear that even in 2015, there is a lot of work to be done both at home and abroad to advance the rights and equality of women. Let's take a peek at what the federal political parties in this country are doing to make a difference.
Wage inequality continues to be an ongoing issue here in Canada, where women, on average, earn only 80 per cent of what their male counterparts earn. The wage gap varies significantly between occupations; the largest gap being in health-related occupations, where women earn just 47 cents for every dollar earned by men--a figure which has not changed since 1986. But determining why this wage gap exists in the first place can garner impassioned appeals from all sides. While some argue the wage gap is symptomatic of society's bias towards women, others say women themselves make concessions in their careers for the sake of their family.
I looked at our home in that moment and stated, "Now THIS is what we should put on Facebook. Welcome to our real life. Our insane, loud, crazy, messy, mucky, happy, shouting, crying, cooking, cleaning (at some point) real life. Take it or leave it -- this is how it really is."
Perhaps some fearful women will want to hold onto the idea that a man will only want them if he doesn't have to respect them, but hopefully they'll see that it's better to be loved as well as respected by the men in their lives. Feminism is not a dirty word, anymore than love is, or respect, or compassion or consideration.
With International Women's Day quickly approaching, I felt it was important to shed a light on why some women in today's society are still feeling held back by barriers that seem to be embedded in professional environments, specifically in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
The Harper government continues to fail Canadian women who suffer violence. Both financial and policy commitments are utterly inadequate -- Status of Women Canada spends a meagre $9.5 million annually on ending violence against women. It is time the government seriously invests in ending the violence.
I don't believe a feminist world view requires me to unsubscribe from that which is feminine. I love pole dance for the same reason I love pinup art and vintage clothing: an ability to express playful, exaggerated femininity. I can make shapes and perform movements that accentuate that which I see as feminine about myself. I consider the base architecture of a spin to be a glorious celebration of curves.
Canada's colonial reality means Aboriginal people here face challenges where non-Aboriginal people enjoy opportunities. But I believe that through the hard work of many activists, leaders, and thinkers, Canada is slowly decolonizing. In the spirit of optimism that rings in a new year, I'd like to focus on some of the events that signal this gradual shift, even while recognizing that, in the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this work will not be completed in our lifetimes.