Tag Archives: gender equality

How to be an Ally

31 Jul

I am a female feminist. I am also white, heterosexual and cis (my gender matches the sex I was assigned at birth), and I recognize the privileges that come with those attributes – not to mention being from a middle-class Canadian family. I strive to be an ally for people of the LQBTQQ community and for people of colour, and navigating the best way to do that can at times be difficult. Michael Urbina wrote a fantastic article titled 101 Everyday Ways for Men to be Allies to Women. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, especially for my male readers, but I am going to highlight some of my favourite points that I think are applicable to anyone who wants to be an ally to women, people of colour, and the LGBTQQ community. I added some personal comments in italics.

  • Recognize your privileges, especially your male privilege (and white privilege if applicable).
  • Make a daily effort to acknowledge and then challenge your privilege.
  • Recognize that your male privilege (among other privileges) may in fact blind you to others’ experiences.
  • Stop catcalling. Seriously, just stop! 
  • If you’re going to be chivalrous (on dates) or in everyday life, do it for everyone out of kindness, not just for women or people you think are not capable of doing things themselves. Also known as: be a kind and respectful person.
  • Monitor your use of words.
  • Never force your opinions on other people.
  • Be conscious of your words and the effects it could have on others.
  • Be pro-choice.
  • Acknowledge the lived experiences of women and LGBT-identified people. (And I will add people of colour to this).
  • Support same-sex marriage. Given.
  • Challenge everyday sexism in your life.
  • Call out your friends on oppressive behaviors, jokes, or comments. This can be difficult; I cannot count the amount of times I have argued with my brothers over their usage of “That’s so gay.” This can especially be difficult if safety is at risk. Last weekend a white male called my black friend a n*gger at the club very quietly and I called him out not at all quietly – it nearly ended in a brawl. 
  • Support musicians and artists that do not degrade women (or others) in their music and lyrics. – Have you read the lyrics or seen the video for Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines?! 
  • Claim the feminist label. Read my post about why this is important here
  • Don’t be the hero, savior, or knight in shining armor. Allyship isn’t about rescuing people from their oppressors, as if they couldn’t do it on their own. Allyship is about standing in solidarity and working together to collectively tackle a social problem.
  • Support other people who advocate for gender equality (and all forms of equality).
  • Be willing to listen and know when to refer people to other resources.
  • Be an active bystander. If you witness harassment, do something about it.
  • Learn and use appropriate vocabulary.
  • Advocate for more inclusive policies, rules, or procedures in your school or workplace.
  • Be proud to be an ally.
  • Seek out children’s books for your kids that challenge traditional gender roles. (My amazing mother read The Paper Bag Princess to me soooo many times, and my wonderful self-identified feminist father was always there to act it out with me! For other titles, go here.)
  • Challenge entitlement (read my previous blog post and personal experience about this here.)
  • This might go without saying, but be conscious of other social problems and issues! All oppression is connected.
  • Support and vote for political candidates who advocate policies beneficial to women, LGBT people, and other marginalized groups of people.
  • Travel to unfamiliar places.
  • Ask questions (but not too many)!

What are your thoughts on being an ally? What other ways can someone be an ally?

Stigmas Against Breastfeeding in Public

17 May

Throughout my time in Botswana, I saw and experienced many stigmas, including surrounding breastfeeding. It was expected that all new mothers should breastfeed and that if she did not breastfeed it was assumed that she was HIV-positive. Therefore, mothers would proudly breastfeed wherever she was – at a shop, on the bus, or at a restaurant. 

In Canada, we still have the expectation that all mothers should breastfeed. However, it is stigmatized whenever a woman does it in public. I worked as a lifeguard at a public pool and since it is legal in Ontario for a woman to be topless (regardless of if she is breastfeeding), we could not ask a woman to not breastfeed. But, if another customer complains about it, then we were instructed to tell the breastfeeding mother that she was making others uncomfortable. I have heard similar stories of this happening in many public areas.

So while society expects women to breastfeed, women are shamed for doing it publicly. They are expected to breastfeed – but only in private or with a scarf or blanket covering their breast.

Why does this stigma exist?

Please read the rest of this post, originally published on the International Women’s Initiative Survivors’ Blog

Video

The Impossible Dream?

16 May

At training for my new job, we spent an afternoon exploring gender issues and gender analysis strategies. This animated video from 1983 by the United Nations was played for us to generate some discussion.

I think that it highlights the double work-load that many women face, and how some women may feel like they are stuck with an impossible dream. It also made me realize two things:
1) How far some families have moved from her reality, and;
2) How many families’ reality is still the same as the video.

What do you think? Can we achieve the impossible dream in our lifetime?

Bride Price in Botswana

22 Mar

This is an excerpt from my original post for the International Women’s Initiative’s Survivor’s Blog. To read the full blog, please follow this link

“At the most basic understanding of lebola, paying a bride price turns a woman into a commodity that can be bought and sold. The meaning and the implementation of the lebola has changed and been molded over time and current practices do not necessarily represent the tradition of a lebola in Botswana. In theory, the lebola is supposed to be a man’s way of showing appreciation and recognition of the woman’s value to her parents. However in practice, the lebola often limits a woman’s control and decision-making power in her marriage.”

Marriage can help further your career – but only if you’re a man

28 Jan

My youngest brother was born with health complications that made it necessary to have one parent caring for him full-time. My mother assumed this role, and never returned back to work full-time once her maternity leave was finished, in order to care for my brother. This decision made sense because although my mother had a great career as an equine researcher at a university, my father had a higher earning potential as a software engineer. But even if my mother had returned to work, she would have been years behind on the career track compared to a counterpart that never took time off.

Alexis Coe wrote an article in The Atlantic which discusses the role that gender plays in the promotions of professors. She writes that female historian professors who had never married were promoted from associate to full professor in an average of 6.7 years, while their married counterparts took an average of 7.8 years to be promoted. On the contrary, their male counterparts who had been married were promoted in 5.9 years, while unmarried men took slightly longer to advance at 6.4 years. So why does marriage help further the careers of men while slowing down women’s careers?

Read the rest of this post on the IWI Survivor Blog

Image

Vagina.

25 Jun

Vagina.

Does the word “vagina” make you feel uncomfortable? Does it feel weirder to say than “penis”? Should the word be banned in the State House of Representatives? What other word should representatives use when discussing female reproductive issues? Are there any negative connotations associated with the word? Why?

Sexism at UW

16 Mar

Sexism and gender inequality is still a huge issue around the world. Women make less money, women are convicted for being victims of rape and sexual assault, and women are discriminated against simply for having a vagina (or for identifying herself as a woman). We all hear stories about the sex trade in Asia, about the oppression of voices in the Middle East and even the lack of access to contraception in the United States. But I am going to talk about what happens here, on the University of Waterloo campus.

As hopefully most of you know, last year there were posters put up around campus. These posters had a picture of Marie Curie, a mushroom cloud, and the words “The brightest woman this Earth ever created was Marie Curie, the mother of the nuclear bomb. You tell me if the plan of women leading men is still a good idea!” These posters covered those of all women running for student government. Following this was an e-mail sent out by a hacker pretending to be Feridun Hamdullahpur (UW’s President). The e-mail said that he was against women in leadership and against women attending university. Volunteers from the Women’s Centre were also harassed and received threatening e-mails.

I wish that I could say that our campus has learned from this incident. But following the shenanigans of last week, I’m afraid to that there are many who want to hold women down while the majority of the student population remains silent.

The following is information I collected after speaking with a Women’s Centre volunteer. I attempted to speak with SLC Management regarding last week’s incidents, but never received a reply.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Women’s Centre (a FEDS service) had planned several events and workshops to run throughout the week. These workshops were designed to empower women and to continue a discussion about the posters from last year.  The volunteers booked space approximately 2 months ago to hold all of their events. As per regular booking procedures, the Centre had some communication with SLC management about times and rooms, and the bookings were agreed upon.

Three of the Women’s Centre’s events went smoothly in the spaces that were booked. However, for three other events (held in partnership with WPIRG), the Centre was denied access to the spaces they had booked.  No concrete reasons were given by SLC management for this, and the spaces went unused. After being denied access to the multi-purpose room (MPR) for a self-defence workshop, one woman attempted to speak with SLC management. This manager told author Inga Muscio that she should be ashamed of the book she had written (Cunt: a declaration of Independence). Her book was carried in Dana Porter library until very recently.

In an act of peaceful protest, all attendees for the workshop formed a Congo line in the SLC. They danced around singing “Cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt!” (You know the tune). They handed out flyers with definitions from Inga’s book to passersby. In essence, the workshop on self-defence turned into an act of self-defence. (On a side note: someone didn’t like this and called the Regional Police who of course couldn’t do anything because there was nothing illegal happening.)

That evening Inga Muscio spoke, and the event went well with a great turn-out. However, Inga told the women’s centre volunteer that she felt much more welcome at other universities compared to Waterloo (including Pen State! Yes, that Pen State, with the covering up of a child molester and rapist).

The Women’s Centre volunteers also had a difficult time with marketing for their events. For example, after chalking the words “Cunt Love” onto pavement, a Campus Police officer hosed down the word “cunt” and made some volunteers feel intimidated. Additionally, many of the posters hung in Uptown Waterloo were torn down or had the word “cunt” cut out of it.

The volunteer I spoke with said that “by shutting us down, we formed a community.” The people who witnessed this happen became mobilized, and are only more encouraged to promote equality on campus.

Last year after the Marie Curie posters went up, a [female] friend of mine told me that my outrage was an overreaction and unjustified. This is bullshit. Sexism on our campus exists and it’s appalling and it makes me angry. Here is my call to action for all of you:

  • E-mail Feridun Hamdullaphur and tell him why this behaviour won’t be tolerated by students (we all pay for FEDS Services after all)
  • Call, write, or e-mail SLC Management – call them out on denying access to the Women’s Centre and WPIRG
  • Attend workshops held by the Women’s Centre and show your support

We can all use this to mobilize and show that sexism on campus should not and will not be tolerated.