Tag Archives: women’s rights

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. 

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The “F” Word

21 Jun

I have many friends, acquaintances and even family members (I’m looking at my brothers) that will say “I believe in equality for men and women… but I’m not a feminist!”

So why has the word feminist become dirty? Why are people scared to call themselves feminists?

The first reason could be that the root of the word applies to females, and so males have trouble identifying with it. When we look back in history, the feminist movement was primarily women – because it had to be. Men weren’t going to just give women equal pay or the vote, so women had to stand up. But now the feminist movement has shifted, and it’s important to have male allies as part of it. Indeed, most feminists I know also realize that gender stereotypes adversely affect boys and men (“Be a man,” “Grow some balls,” “Boys don’t cry,” etc.) – males need feminism and can be feminists too.

The second, and probably most common, reason is that we are often shown a negative portrayal or representation of feminist. Many still see “feminist” as synonymous with “man-hater, angry and radical” – because that’s what people who keep females down WANT you to think. I typed “feminism meme” into Google Images, and these are some of the wonderful things that popped up (for more, just try it yourself):

anti-feminist1 anti-feminist2 anti-feminist3 anti-feminist4 anti-feminist5 anti-feminist6 anti-feminist7

Believe it or not, I chose some of the least-offensive.

 

But in reality, feminism is simply the ideology that advocates for the social, economic and political equality of the genders.

So do you think that men and women deserve the same rights? Congratulations, you are a feminist. Standing up for women’s rights is standing up for human rights, so be proud to be a feminist! The more people that proudly claim to be feminist, the more we can rid the word of negative connotations and actually work towards equality.

And for all of you who tell me that there is no need for feminism in our society (and for everyone interested), please check out Who Needs Feminism?  It is a great blog that shows the everyday realities of being a girl or woman.

 

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.”

The High Incidence Rate of HIV in Botswana

31 Oct

Botswana is an upper-middle income country with a strong push for education from the government. All students can attend a public, or government sponsored, school until Form 3 (equivalent of Grade 10) and then they write examinations. Students with passing grades are then sponsored by the government to go to Senior Secondary School for Form 4 and Form 5. Students may then apply to attend the University of Botswana, and successful applicants are sponsored by the government. The Government of Botswana spends 8.9% of its GDP on education (compared to 4.9% in Canada).

So why does this educated country with a strong economy have the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world? Even after both private and public sector attempts to educate the population and mitigate the spread of the disease, why is the incidence rate of new infections a staggering 2.9%? I asked “In your opinion, why does Botswana still have such a high HIV infection rate?” to coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. I tried to ask a mixture of both men and women, but I only felt comfortable asking a select few men, so only 3 of the 11 responses are from men. These are the answers I received:

  • “Our culture promotes cheating.”
  • “People, men especially, don’t feel guilty about cheating.”
  • “It’s almost like people have gotten so used to it that they’re proud of it.”
  • “Men rely on women to get tested – if their partner is negative, they assume that they are also negative. If their partner is positive, they just assume that they are positive as well.”
  • “The free condoms that the government gives out are crappy condoms.”
  • “Men don’t like wearing condoms.”
  • “Men take off the condom in the middle of sex.”
  • “Men are smooth-talkers and try to convince you to have sex with them because they don’t have HIV. If you ask them to go to the clinic, then they will just stop talking to you.”
  • “People will use a condom when they are having affairs, but they think that they don’t have to use one when they have sex with their main partner.”
  • “If a woman asks her boyfriend or husband to use a condom, then he will assume that it is because she is cheating on him. So she doesn’t ask because she is afraid she will be beaten.”
  • “Even if you go to the clinic with your partner, the test is 3 months old, so one of you might be positive and you wouldn’t know. Then you have sex with your partner and get infected,” (in Botswana, the HIV test given at clinics tests for the antibodies not the actual virus, which generally take about 3 months to become present in the blood stream).

The two trends I noticed in the answers were: people have multiple sexual partners, and women do not feel safe to negotiate safe sex. I have been told that both of these are “cultural”. Are they cultural, or is that just an excuse to continue the behaviour? How can this mindset (or culture, if you buy that) be changed?

I don’t have any of the answers, but I look forward to discussing this issue, among others, next week. I have the opportunity to represent Gantsi Craft at the forum for Reinvigorating the Gender Movement in Botswana. This national forum is a chance for organizations across the country to discuss and collaborate gender issues within the country. I am hoping to come away with a greater understanding of the issues facing Botswana and ideas on how to facilitate gender and HIV workshops within the producer settlements.

*Statistics on Education Expenditures from the CIA World Factbook

Vote NO to M312

20 Sep

I want to share the wonderful reply I got from Elizabeth May’s office to my e-mail about voting NO to M312. This motion, proposed by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, would essentially reopen the debate on the definition of a human being under the Canadian Criminal Code. This could affect many reproductive rights of women, including abortion, contraception, and rights throughout pregnancy. 

“Thank you for your letter regarding the debate of the legal status of abortion in Canada, which has been re-opened by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth in a motion called M-312. I am very disturbed by Mr. Woodworth`s back-door attempt to re-open an abortion debate in Canada.

The Green Party opposes any possible move by the Harper Conservatives to diminish the right of a woman to a safe, legal abortion. We fully support a woman’s right to choose.

Through our “pro-life, pro-choice” position, we are also committed to expanding programs in reproductive rights and education to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place and thus reduce the number of abortions in Canada. We have also advocated the expansion of supports for low-income mothers who wish to have a child, but may consider abortion due to lack of resources.

It is vital that safe, legal abortions be available to the women of Canada – and the world. We support federally-funded maternal health programmes to ensure access to family planning and primary health care, including access to safe, legal abortions.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada”

To read more about this motion, please visit here, here and here. See what Stephen Woodworth has to say about it on his website here

Encourage your local MP to follow Elizabeth May’s lead and vote NO tomorrow!

Masculism

20 Aug

As a self-defined feminist, I am interested in all gender issues and how societal norms affect both men and women. While I have mostly focused my attention on women’s issues, it is naive to think that men aren’t also harmed by gender stereotypes. This is why I loved this picture, posted by the True Lebanese Feminist on Facebook, and shared by my cousin.

Then, an old friend from high school posted the following comment: “Masculism is a counterpart and a natural extension of feminism.” I had never heard of masculism before, so I was intrigued.

A quick Google search gave me a few different views and definitions of masculism. The Wikipedia page gave a generic definition and not much else: “Masculism is the advocacy of the rights or needs of men and the adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men.” Masculism.ca‘s mission gave a little more insight into the movement, and highlighted the importance of respecting women’s rights, but seemed to misunderstand the goals of feminism. The second result on Google was a website called Gender Liberation Beyond Feminism had me intrigued, but then I started reading the article… I’ll let you follow the think and read it yourself, but here is one excerpt: “But what feminists forget to mention is that a prerequisite to be part of the feminist movement is that you accept the ideology that men as a group systematically oppress women as a group, and that women’s issues always take precedence over men’s issues.” Obviously I disagree with the author’s definition of feminism.

Then I found the blog Who Needs Masculism? and I found a definition that I could get behind: “Masculism is the controversial idea that just because one half of society has substantial problems one doesn’t have to ignore the problems of the other half. Unlike first-wave feminism, masculism doesn’t arise as a response to wide-spread institutionalized mistreatment. Instead, like the secondary and tertiary waves of feminism, it is a lens through which we can observe and hopefully rectify societal problems from the perspective of average men of no great faculty or status.” And I love the answer to the blog’s title: “We all do. True masculism needs feminism. True feminism needs masculism. For either one to deny the necessity of the other abdicates the common goals of both: Equality regardless of gender or sex, and dissolution of the patriarchy.”

So, my dear readers: have you heard of masculism before today? How would you define it? Would you agree that masculism and feminism are natural counterparts and need each other to truly fulfill their goals? Or could it be a dangerous ideology that some people use to act against feminism? I’m still very new to this particular topic, so I am interested to hear some opinions!