Tag Archives: sexism

What the Internet Thinks of Women

23 Oct

There is a lot of hype surround UN Women’s new ad campaign. It utilizes Google Search’s autocomplete feature and takes a screenshot of what happens when you search “women cannot”, “women should”, “women shouldn’t” and “women need to”. They are very powerful images, and it places the screenshot of the search over a woman’s mouth.

Something to note is that Google Search has different results for different people – Google personalizes your search results based on web history.

So, I typed in the above searches for both men and women, and these were my results (click to image to view full-size).

women cannot

 Not only is this a brilliant ad campaign, but it shows just how entrenched patriarchy and sexism are in our society. When we do the same searches for men, we can see how patriarchy negatively affects men as well. “Men shouldn’t cry” and “men need to man up” are some examples of how patriarchy is a human problem, not a woman’s problem. “Men cannot be feminists” shows us how much we really need men in the feminist movement.

What happens when you do these searches? What are your reactions?

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Where’s the line on street harassment?

30 Sep

Women face street harassment all the time – even on a daily basis. So, where’s the line?

Feminist Philosophers

Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:

Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him.  [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment.  What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the…

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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?

Sexism, Power and Entitlement

15 Jul

This post is about an incident that happened to me Friday night that absolutely infuriated me and that I cannot stop thinking about. 

Friday night, I went out to a club with some friends. While there, one of my friends (let us call him J) introduced me to someone he knew (let us call him M). J is from Senegal, we had a few mutual friends, and we bonded over my ability to communicate with him in his first language – and I also liked hanging out with him. M is from Sudan, loved to show off his wealth and was very physically imposing (if I had to guess his height I would say 6″8, and a BIG man too). 

All night M was flashing his money around (literally opening his wallet and showing it to people), annoyed every single one of my friends and was progressively getting belligerently drunk – I saw him get into at least 2 arguments with mild physical contact before my incident with him. 

We eventually left to another club, but unfortunately M was there too. I was talking to J when M came over and starting hitting on me – very, very persistently. I kept saying no, I wasn’t interested, and J also told him to back off and leave me alone. Then, M says to me “Look, I am a very wealthy man and I want you tonight. How much do I have to pay you to have you for the night?” 

I was so taken aback. I didn’t even know what to say. If I wasn’t genuinely concerned that he might hurt me (and was somewhere where I knew 100% that security would back me up), I would have slapped him across the face. I just walked away, stunned, to my other friends. 

The more I think about it, the more infuriated I get. This man felt so entitled that he thought he deserved my body. I was not a person with feelings, rights, and power over myself to him. I was just another object that he wanted and assumed that he could buy for the right price. I have never felt so objectified in my life. And while this behaviour is the most extreme sexual entitlement I have ever encountered, it is by no means the only. I have had my butt grabbed by strangers in Canadian clubs. I had a man call me a bitch for saying I wasn’t interested in Botswana. When my friend and I ignored two men’s catcalls from their car in Ethiopia one of them called me a fat slut. An American man with a high status put his hand down my friend’s pants against her will and I was the only one outraged with her. When I called him out for being disrespectful he laughed and said “I like power, but don’t worry I’m harmless.” 

This male sexual empowerment is one part of the rape culture we live in all around the world. Male sexuality is valued and is seen as inevitable and sometimes uncontrollable, while female sexuality is seen to exist for male pleasure. 

I am still worked up about this incident and don’t know how to put my thoughts into proper sentences, but I recommend reading a few other posts about sexual entitlement here, here and it’s follow up here

To put everyone at ease though (Mom, I know you won’t be happy when you read this!) I do have some wonderful friends here that would never put me in those situations, and indeed would help me out of them. For the record, my friend J was also visibly very upset and I saw him yelling at M for a solid 20 minutes before forcing him out the door to go home. 

I do not intend this post to be a criticism of all men. It is a criticism of the culture we live in that allows some men to think and behave in this way and for the majority of people to accept it as normal. 

Correction: Inga Muscio’s book is still in circulation at UW!

21 Mar

In my post, Sexism at UW, I mentioned that Inga Muscio’s book had been de-shelved from Dana Porter Library. This was an error.

A friend of mine at the library informed me tonight that she had taken it out a couple weeks ago to read, and she assures me that it is still in circulation.

While this does not make up for the events surrounding International Women’s Day, it does show that there are those with integrity at our school. Universities are a hub of learning and experience, and our materials should not ever be censored. If the time ever comes where our reading materials are censored, then I hope that there is a swift and loud outcry from the entire student population.

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.