Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assasinated....




It's a sad day for women in politics. Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today by a suicide bomber. The Middle East's first female leader and one of the leaders on Antigone's current cover page, Bhuto was a powerful force in Pakistanian politics. She had just returned to the country from exile and had already been a target of attacks. Already, there is talk that her death is the result of neglect by the current Pakistanian administration to provide her with proper security to keep her safe. Fox News has a biography of the leader:




Pakistani politician became the first female leader of a Muslim nation in modern history. She served two terms as prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996.


Bhutto was the daughter of the politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was the leader of Pakistan from 1971 until 1977. She was educated at Harvard University (B.A., 1973) and subsequently studied philosophy, political science and economics at the University of Oxford (B.A., 1977).


After her father's execution in 1979 during the rule of the military dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, Bhutto became the titular head of her father's party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and endured frequent house arrest from 1979 to 1984.


In exile from 1984 to 1986, she returned to Pakistan after the lifting of martial law and soon became the foremost figure in the political opposition to Zia.
President Zia died in August 1988 in a mysterious plane crash, leaving a power vacuum at the center of Pakistani politics. In the ensuing elections, Bhutto's PPP won the single-largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. She became prime minister on Dec. 1, 1988, heading a coalition government.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Vacation...

There I go again taking off and not telling anyone where I have gotten to. Sorry for the lack of recent blog posts but I returned home to Windsor for the holidays and was absolutely delighted to spend time with my 7 month old niece... and the rest of my family. That is until I got the flu and was then quarantined from them all!

I'm on the mend and looking forward to leaving the house again... but I probably won't get a chance to post much here over the holidays. I'll be back as of the 7th of January! I hope you all have a great holiday season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Olympics could lead to increase in human trafficking


The Epoch Times has a fabulous article about how 2010 will likely translate into an increase in human trafficking in Vancouver. They talk about a recently released report by the Calgary based Future Group which suggests that the Olympics will simply exacerbate the problems that Vancouver is already experiencing relating to human trafficking. The worst part of this story? The fact that, try as I might, I can't find another news outlet that has covered this important story. So, let's do their job for them and pass it on!



Big sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup soccer tournament are known to generate an increase in prostitution, which in turn leads to a rise in human trafficking.


A recent report by the Calgary-based The Future Group, an anti-human trafficking NGO, said that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, authorities implemented a wide range of actions to combat human trafficking during the event, with relative success.


The result was that, while there was an increase in prostitution, authorities did not detect a rise in human trafficking.


However, when Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, the measures adopted were not as extensive as those in Germany, and a 95 percent increase in human trafficking was recorded for that year.


Human trafficking—the biggest money spinner for organized crime after drugs and firearms—has been steadily increasing in Canada and around the world.



Canada is apparently particularly bad for human trafficking, as is Vancouver:



Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of The Future Group, says the number of people being trafficked to or through Canada each year could be as high as 16,000.
In the international human trafficking trade, Canada serves as a destination country and a transit country. It is a source country as well, with Aboriginal women, mainly from Winnipeg or rural areas, being the most likely victims.


"Women from reserves are even being taken away and trafficked, either within the country or across borders," says Sullivan.


Globally and nationally, the majority of those trafficked are women and children, including boys, and many are forced into the sex trade. It is estimated that up to four million are sold world-wide into prostitution, slavery or marriage.


Vancouver was singled out in the U.S. State Department's 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report as being a destination city for trafficked persons from Asia. The report also stated that a "significant number" of victims, particularly South Korean females, transit Canada before being trafficked into the United States.



So what do we do about it? NOW's NYC chapter is currently tackingly this problem and is doing so with great energy and sophistication. They might make a good model for action in Vancouver:



Launched in the Fall of 2006, NOW-NYC's human trafficking campaign set out to get a state law that recognized trafficking as a crime, increase public education on this modern-day slavery, collect trafficking victims stories, access how state agencies are identifying, tracking and prioritizing this issue, and shed light on how the trafficking industry is a part of the local economy and identify the legitimate businesses that do business with traffickers.


It won’t be easy. Much like the Domestic Violence movement 25 years ago when this phenomenon didn’t have a name, much less cultural understanding, it will take the dedicated work of activists and the NOW-NYC team to raise awareness and convince legislator, law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts, this issue deserves to be a priority for civil rights.

Robert Pickton gets life... but is eligible for parole?



Good news... well, kind of. Robert Pickton, who was convicted on Sunday of the murder of 6 women, has been sentenced to a life sentence without being eligible for parole for 25 years, apparently the mazimum sentence. Now, this is good because he could have been eligible after 10 years. Still, it seems a little odd that after MURDERING and being convicted of murdering six women there isn't an option in Canada for life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

Of course, for Canada's most notorious serial killer, there are still 20 murder charges yet to be heard against him. Also, let's remember that the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, believing that the murders were not planned. How do you murder that many people and not plan it?

Anyways, the AP reports on the family's victim impact statements. They're heartbreaking:


The family members had cried and prosecutor Michael Petrie choked up as he read victim-impact statements at Tuesday's hearing. Prosecutors are pushing for a maximum 25 years in prison before Pickton can seek parole.

Staring directly at Pickton, Lynn Frey read a statement from her granddaughter Brittney, whose mother Marnie Frey, was among the victims. Part of Marnie Frey's jaw bone was found on Pickton's farm.

"Mr. Pickton, why did you hurt my real mother and those other women?" the teenager wrote. "I have to go through each day. I ask myself. 'What would it be like if my real mother were here?' Mr. Pickton, why did you do that?"

"When you took her from me, it was like ripping out my heart."

Karin Joesbury wrote that her daughter Andrea was a "lovely, creative girl who wound up in a freezer, cut into parts."

Rick Frey, Marnie's father, smiled as he left the courtroom.

"That's great, that's good, that's what we wanted," said Frey. "We didn't think we'd get that but, yeah, it's perfect."

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury found Pickton guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charges, finding that the killings were not planned.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Liberals Release New Policy for Women in their Pink Book

The Federal Liberals took last week on Dec. 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, to release the Liberal Women's Caucus' volume two of its Pink Book: A Policy Framework for Canada's future. The Toronto Star looks at the announcements:

Among the new policies announced were:

Amendments to the federal Divorce Act that would make it far more difficult for partners with a record of violence or abuse to have custody or access to their children;


Changes to the work-permit system to give overseas workers more freedom to change employers and still work in the country. At present, permits are granted for these 3,000 to 5,000 workers on the basis of the employers' permission, which "creates an unequal power dynamic." A "national housing strategy" that specifically focuses on women's difficulties in obtaining adequate and affordable housing;

More research into the problems raised by rural poverty, which can leave women more cut off from access to social assistance and proper health care and employment;

More resources for aboriginal women



In another section of the Star, the release of the Pink Book is seen more critically:

It doesn't help that the Liberals themselves don't have all that much credibility on women's poverty, work, security and safety considering their inaction on violence against women and femicide, their dithering throughout the '90s on daycare, their inattention to the concerns of sex workers who require better conditions in which to ply their let's-face-it-it's-always-going-to-have-a-market trade, the wage gap, how women have been penalized by the rules on collecting unemployment insurance, nausea ad nauseum.

[...]

Yet it's difficult to disagree with Harper when he accuses Dion of not committing to these Pink Book recommendations, which are, for the moment anyway, "policy proposals.''(Emphasis mine.)

The Liberals, you see, aren't exactly married to them.

So for now, these proposals are very pretty in pink.

But they should be set in stone.






Monday, December 10, 2007

The Death of the Glass Ceiling?

In an article on The Globe and Mail website Margarent Wente puts forward what, to me, is an extremely inaccurate agument. Wente claims that the glass ceiling is no longer the problem faced by women--in fact to her it is part of the now fantasy of "the patriarchy."

Wente argues that women's equality and our gradual, but, according to her, current 'equality' of access and success in all the fields where men previously dominated means that the glass ceiling does not adequately explain women's inequality in the work world. I would disagree that women have "penetrated" all the bastions of Wente's imaginary patriarchy, politics being a case in point.

Furthermore, I don't know what kind of experience Wente has had in her own life, but I would disagree with her argument for women's willingness to 'trust' and compromise. In my experience, women, when placed in 'team' environments tend to compete with each other as much if not more than men. To me, this derives from the teachings of a patriarchy that has taught us to compete with each in order to gain their privileges and rewards--as defined by them. Wente's insecurity of Manhood is projected into the female world precisely because the patriarchy is not dead--and may never die...

Thus, it is important women inform themselves because our equality lies in our action. Reaching the top and choosing to leave is one matter, never aspiring to it because of complacency is an entirely different one.

While I can't contest her academic's findings, I find Wente's argument problematic on many counts, and will refrain from summarizing it here because I think it would become an extended analysis. I encourage you to read it. For me, it was highly provocative.

I agree that men do tend to aspire to the Alpha Male position; but, I don't think we can exclude women from aspiring to the same--although perhaps for different reasons. Women's quest for power is most often a quest to legislate their own equality, since more often than not, the other sex will not do it for them.

While Wente attempts to refrain from gender essentialism she does not succeed: indeed, the crux of her argument lies in the fact that, for women, taking chance is "reproductively stupid."
All those who feel like a womb please raise their hands.

It is high time women became the heroes of their own stories...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Women Around the World Beaten and Abused...

Given that yesterday was a Day of Action and Remembrance for Violence Against Women and that we are currently in the middle of a UN world action campaign to end violence against women, I thought I would bring your attention to these articles and statistics about rape and abuse of women around the world, starting with our own country:

From Canada:

In the seven years between 2000 and 2006, the number of women killed by their partners and former partners was 500 -- more than 70 a year and five times as many as the total number of Canadian frontline military and police deaths in the same time.

Dec. 6 still matters because women in Canada still experience violence in appalling numbers. Not only are women killed in shocking numbers but tens of thousands more are battered and beaten, emotionally abused and sexually assaulted -- 100,000 women and their children use battered women's shelters every year in this country.



From Niger:

The news that 70 percent of women in parts of Niger find it normal that their husbands, fathers and brothers regularly beat, rape and humiliate them came as no surprise to human rights experts in Niger.

"Women here have been indoctrinated by their families, by religious officials, by society that this is a normal phenomenon," said Lisette Quesnel, a gender-based violence advisor with Oxfam in Niger, which produced the statistic from a survey of women in the remote Zinder region of eastern Niger in 2006.

The frequency of the crimes and the impunity granted to the attackers partly explain the broad social acceptance of it, activists say.

Rape is not illegal under Nigerien law and according to Oxfam it is "increasingly common" in the capital Niamey.

Beatings and mental and physical abuse are "frequently" part of life in a typical Nigerien polygamous family, Oxfam says.

And women are often made destitute overnight when their polygamous husbands throw them out on the street. Divorces are passed by judges without even hearing "one word" from the women involved.



From Iran's We Change coalition of women working to garner one million signatures to encourage their government to create more equitable laws for women.

Political party members! Parliament members! Artists! Athletes! Keyhan Newspaper! University Professors! Leftists! Conservatives! Government Supporters! Opposition groups! Gather around so I can tell you what happens to your sisters and mothers in the backrooms of their homes because of the law of Obligatory Sexual Obedience (Tamkin). I want to tell you that when your daughter was 9 months pregnant and her husband forcefully slept with her and she had to go to the hospital, she couldn’t tell you and she couldn’t tell the court because she had to be sexually obedient.


From Palestine:

Female victims of domestic violence here have little chance of escaping their situation or bringing the perpetrators to justice as they face a legal system stacked in favour of the accused. Moreover, many women who have been raped are killed by family members in "honour killings" for having "brought shame" to their family.

A Human Rights Watch report released last year said: "Palestinian women in violent or life-threatening marriages have two legal options available to them: pressing charges for spousal abuse or initiating a divorce on the basis of physical harm." However, "neither Jordanian nor Egyptian penal codes in force in the West Bank and Gaza recognise sexual violence within marriage," HRW said. -



From China

Domestic violence is widespread and on the rise in China, where complaints of abuse soared 70% last year, state media says, citing a women's advocacy group.The All China Women's Federation received 50 000 complaints last year, and the "number of cases (has increased) in recent years", the China Daily quoted Jiang Yu'e, head of the group's rights and interests department as saying.

"The increase indicates that domestic violence is widespread in China and women's awareness of safeguarding their rights and interests has been improved with reinforced publicity by relevant institutions," Jiang said. Women in rural areas, especially those who had gone to work in cities, were particularly susceptible.

"Female migrant workers are restricted in accessing legal assistance as they are constantly on the move," Jiang said. Rising domestic abuse had also resulted in more women "fighting violence with violence". A recent study of provincial prisons showed that about 46% of female inmates had been past victims of domestic abuse.

"Police and government agencies have begun to make joint efforts to address the problem," Jiang said. Police needed to do more to encourage women to speak out in China, where traditional ideas about keeping family problems private remained strong.



From Iraq

At least 27 women have died in so-called "honour killings" over the past four months in northern Kurdish Iraq. Aziz Mohammed, human rights minister in the Kurdish regional government, said 97 women had attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation during this time.The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has regularly highlighted "honour killings" of Kurdish women as among Iraq's most severe human rights abuses.

Most of such crimes are reported as deaths due to accidental fires in the home.Aso Kamal, a 42-year-old British Kurdish Iraqi campaigner, says that from 1991 to 2007, 12 500 women were murdered for reasons of "honour" or committed suicide in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq.

Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region runs its own affairs and has enjoyed relative peace and growing prosperity since the US invasion of March 2003, while Arab areas of Iraq have been plunged into sectarian warfare.Crimes against women continue despite campaigns by human rights activists and regular denounciation of the oppression by the three women ministers and 28 female MPs in the 111-member autonomous Kurdish parliament. - Sapa-AFP




From the United States

More than 300 000 children are being sexually exploited in the United States, according to a new study.Many of them end up in Atlanta, which authorities say has become a hub for prostitution. Many are lured into prostitution by pimps who exploit the fears and low self-esteem of young girls who often come from dysfunctional families.

Now Atlanta law enforcement intends to spur new efforts to crack down on child predators.Prosecutors have started to bring felony rather than misdemeanour charges against men who use child prostitutes, and a 52-bed centre for sexually exploited girls will open this year to help girls emerging from prostitution. - Reuters



From Singapore

More than half of those queried in Singapore believe family violence is a private affair that will eventually stop by itself. And experts have called for increased public education campaigns.Those interviewed represented 1 015 people of all races in the city-state between 18 and 64.

A third of the respondents still believed that most family violence will stop on its own and that an abused spouse had a duty to stay in a marriage for the sake of a young child. About one in five said physical violence was a part of married life. Ten percent said they would not report an abusive spouse to authorities. Violence against children and the elderly was seen as unacceptable by nine in 10. - Sapa-DPA

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ottawa Senators (and their wives) Support Pro-Life Charity...

I have a huge problem with so-called 'Crisis Pregnancy Centres'. It's less what they're promoting than the fact that they're terribly deceptive. Young women who are experiencing a 'crisis' pregnancy need real counselling regarding their options and that's what many of them expect from a place that says it deals with 'Crisis pregnancies'... but in fact these organizations are pro-life and often very manipulative.

So, it also bothers me when an organization like the Ottawa Senator's wives organization, called Better Halves, raises money from unsuspecting hockey fans and then gives that money to a crisis pregnancy centre. Given the fact that the money donated is being matched by the Ottawa Senator's foundation as well, I find this even more problematic. Heather Mallick explains on Rabble.ca

The Better Halves are giving a third of the proceeds of this year's $50,000 Christmas Tree raffle to First Place Pregnancy Centre, an Ottawa anti-abortion group run by Pentecostal Christians.

Planned Parenthood told me it frequently talks to women who went to these apparently welcoming places for counselling on the three options — abortion, adoption and parenting. The group says women report feeling badly treated.




A Crisis Pregnancy Centre just opened up near where I live and everyday that I drive by it I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I hate thinking of the young women who get ambushed there. But it is worse that just that. These organizations are often not just anti-abortion, they are anti-birth control.... as Heather Mallick finds out....

I had an initially cheerful phone interview with Sens Foundation president Dave Ready, who said the Better Halves, when asked to choose three charities, chose:
• First Place.• Kids Help Phone.• Harmony House (a women's shelter).

First Place was “in line with our mandate,” he said. “We did due diligence and checked that it's a charity.”

“You went to the website?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Did you check on the links?”

“No.”

We went through the First Place site links together. There's a standard disclaimer but First Place hopes we'll find them “helpful.” I told Ready that some of the news headlines appeared to be libellous, particularly the ones linking corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and one drug itself to Nazi death camps. Others were grotesque: “One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion” turns out to be an absurd, unsubstantiated anonymous “news story” in a British entertainment magazine.

You're also guided to a donation page for the American Life League, a hardline group based outside Washington. There's a shop, admittedly very funny, that sells “Abortion is mean” T-shirts for two-year-olds.

They offer booklets explaining that abortion is wrong even in the case of incest. They tell members to scare away raped children outside abortion clinics. They call RU-486 “the anti-human pesticide.” They offer sample letters to the editor to send to outlets that employ, I imagine, columnists like me. One begins: “Planned Parenthood is not 'a good guy.'”

Ready gets more and more quiet as we track this. Soon he is desperate to get off the phone. He will not let me talk to a Better Half, who might well explain that she hadn't known that First Place is financed by the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa and its mission — declared on the Bethel website but nowhere on the First Place site — is not just anti-abortion but anti-birth control.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Carole Taylor is stepping down...

BC Finance Minister Carole Taylor has unfortunately decided not to run for re-election in 2009! As one of the highest profile female members of the BC Liberals it is unfortunate that she will not be running again. But apparently there are rumors that she might be running for Vancouver's mayoral office. Sounds interesting...

VICTORIA - B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor, one of the provincial Liberal government's highest-profile members, has decided not to run for re-election in 2009.

Rumours she would make her exit from provincial politics after just one term had been rife for weeks when Taylor formally announced her decision Friday during her quarterly update of the province's books.

Premier Gordon Campbell stole some of the thunder in an telephone interview with The Canadian Press early Friday from Hong Kong, confirming Taylor had given him her decision last week, before he left on a trade mission to Asia.

"Someone of Carole Taylor's talents will be hard to replace," Campbell said of the woman he lured away from her job as chairwoman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to run in the 2005 election.

Taylor gave no specific reasons for deciding not to run again and deflected rumours she could be a candidate to be mayor of Vancouver, a post once held by her husband, Art Phillips.

"I'm getting calls and letters and meetings from people who wish that I would consider running for mayor," said Taylor, a former journalist and two-term Vancouver city councillor in the late 1980s. "I am saying to them in private what I am saying to you in public, which is at this point my only concentration is in trying to present a good budget."

She felt that she would remain as finance minister at least until that budget is introduced in February.

But Taylor added she would not be surprised to see Campbell do some rearranging to take a new cabinet into the election campaign scheduled for May 2009 under British Columbia's fixed-term regime.

Taylor also made it very clear she is not stepping down for so-called personal reasons.

"I would say it actually has nothing to do with it; I'm in a very good space personally," she revealed.

She said she catches up with her husband as he heads off to tennis or golf and her children are grown up and settled.

"I have time, and energy, to choose what I'd like to do next and I just simply haven't decided what that is yet," she said.

Taylor also played down suggestions her star status as a finance minister who had delivered multibillion-dollar surpluses and settled scores of B.C. public-sector contracts without mishap made her a natural to someday succeed Campbell as provincial Liberal leader.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cool Feminist Art Project - Dreams for Women


Antigone Magazine is launching a Feminist Postcard art project and fundraiser, inspired by http://www.postsecret.com/. But instead of asking what your secrets are, we want to know what your Dreams for Women are.

What are your own dreams for yourself, your friends, your sisters, your daughters? Paint, draw, write, sketch or decoupage your dreams on a postcard and send it to the address below

Antigone Magazine
C/O WILLA UBC
Box 61-6138 SUB Boulevard
Vancouver, BC, Canada
V6T 1Z1


With your postcard submission, we ask that you make a donation to Antigone Magazine for anywhere from $1 to $10. You can send your money along with your postcard or donate on our blog: http://www.antigonemagazine.blogspot.com/ . We will be posting postcards every second Saturday starting in January on the blog!

We want submissions from all over the world - so forward this on! Post it on your blog! Or link to it!










Thursday, November 29, 2007

Misogynistic Hatred for Hillary...

If you dislike a male politician, then there is something wrong with that particular politician. If you dislike a female politician then you often find something lacking in the entire female sex. This article in the Seattle Times talks about misogynistic hatred for Hillary Rodham Clinton on the internet. I vomitted a little in my mouth reading this article.

Facebook, popular with high-school and college students, has dozens of anti-Hillary groups, many of which take great delight in heaping abuse on Clinton as a woman, imagining her reduced to a subservient role, and visiting violence upon her.

One is "Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich," with more than 23,000 members and 2,200 "wall posts."

Another Facebook group, more temperate in tone and with about 13,000 members, is "Life's a bitch, why vote for one? Anti-Hillary '08."

Is this merely some adolescent "guys gone wild" (most but by no means all Hillary haters are male)? The rank rituals of the rec room revealed for the whole world to see?

The proprietors of the Facebook group "Hillary Clinton Shouldn't Run for President, She Should Just Run the Dishes," with 2,159 members, offer a pre-emptive disclaimer to offended visitors.

Daniel Jussaume, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Southern Maine, was not among the creators of "Just Run the Dishes." After he joined, however, he volunteered to chair its "Feminist Liberal Complaint Dept."


Is it so surprising that this is being tolerated? Let's remember one of the most evocative moments in the presidential race so far...

At a campaign meeting in South Carolina, a woman of patrician bearing asked Arizona Sen. John McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?"

A surprised McCain laughed along with the rest of the small crowd.

"That's an excellent question," McCain said after regaining his stride. He proceeded to explain why he could beat Clinton.

Viewed nearly 1 million times on YouTube in the week afterward, "How Do We Beat the Bitch" has entered the lore of the 2008 campaign, but with barely a hint of soul-searching.

"Can you imagine if that woman had said, 'How do we beat the "n-word"?' " asked Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics.

For McCain, or at least for those who think the nation might have benefited by examining why that woman felt so free to say what she did so publicly, "it was a terrible missed opportunity," Walsh said.



Thoughts readers? How can we make people see their own misogyny in a culture that seems to have accepted it as normal and allowable?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arab Women Face Barriers in Politics....

Women around the world face barriers to participate in politics but the percentage of female participation is particularly low in the Middle East. The Daily Star from Lebanon has an interesting article that examines what women in that region have to deal with when entering political life. Here are the statistics:

The results of the recent elections in Morocco brought the debate on female political representation back into the political arena there. Only 34 women won seats in the legislature's lower chamber, compared to 35 in the previous elections, a mere 5 percent of all representatives.

In Turkey, women won 50 out of 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament. Although this is still only 9 percent of the total, it is an encouraging sign since the number of elected women more than doubled from the last parliamentary elections. This percentage of female representation is the second largest in the region after Iraq, where there are 70 women in the 275-member Iraqi Parliament.


These statistics are obviously terrible, but I think that the article is particularly insightful in its analysis of why this is the case:

Women are also often seen as less experienced in public affairs, and as a result, voters - both male and female - are less likely to vote for them. Consequently, women either refrain from running for political office or drop out early from a lack of local support. This usually helps explain why only a small number of female candidates run for public office. For example, of the 800 candidates in the October 27 Omani elections, only 25 were women.

In addition, there are other factors that serve as obstacles for women to run for political office. These include varying and often unsatisfactory levels of democracy, freedom of expression, pluralism, respect for diversity and open dialogue.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

UN Works to Eliminate Violence Against Women....

Well, it's about time that someone make this a priority! UNIFEM is launching an online petition to get people's signatures so that they can show governments around the world that this is a political priority. Please go sigh the petition!

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The United Nations women's agency launched a campaign on Monday backed by actress Nicole Kidman to gather signatures on an Internet petition rejecting violence against women and urging action to stop it.The launch of the petition titled "Say NO to violence against women," (www.saynotoviolence.org), is part of a 16-day U.N.-backed campaign to raise awareness about the issue and urge governments to make eliminating such violence a priority.

Joanne Sandler, acting head of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, said she hoped for hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of signatures to add weight to calls for concrete measures to be taken by governments.

Kidman, an Australian who is a goodwill ambassador for UNIFEM, did not attend the launch at U.N. headquarters but said in a statement she was among the first to sign, calling violence against women, "an appalling human rights violation."UNIFEM said statistics indicate that as many as one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime, whether it be domestic violence, genital mutilation, human trafficking or systematic rape in conflict zones. (Written by Claudia Parsons; editing by David Wiessler)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Woman's weight becomes the isssue... agian

I was flipping through my guilty pleasure, People Magazine, which is usually my own one-way pass to completely turning off my mind. However, it wasn't the inane celebrity articles or fashion glorifications that stopped me short, but an ad for milk. Part of our generation like MTV and Rollerblades, the 'got milk?' campaign is a series of ads featuring well-known celebrities with milk mustaches. The theme is usually related to whatever the celebrity is well known for (i.e. milk helps the Williams sisters stay in top tennis form, and Sheryl Crow play music well). However, this particular ad has Grey's Anatomy star Sara Ramirez talking about how in "show business your figure, well, shows".

Poor Sara Ramirez. A talented actress and singer, she is known as the 'curvy one' on the hit show Grey's Anatomy. Recently, her character was dumped for the white, blond and thin Izzie (Katherine Heigel), during which much comparison of exterior was made throughout the story arc. This was not unexpected on the show, as we all know how Hollywood tends to treat its women. What bothered me is that the milk campaign decided to go the same route. The ad plays on the fact that Ms. Ramirez is on the the hit show, in which she plays a doctor, specifically a bone doctor. If I remember my grade two science correctly, milk may do something good for your bones. On relying heavily on fan's knowledge of the show (the tagline was 'Great anatomy') there was a chance here to play up the professional accomplishments of the character that Ms. Ramirez plays. Nope, this was a chance to showcase the fact that all eyes are on her weight at all times.

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Day at the Vancouver Sun...

I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to job-shadow Valerie Casselton, Executive Editor of the Vancouver Sun on Thursday! As part of the Minerva Foundation's Follow a Leader Program, an initiative that pairs female 'emerging leaders' with female 'community leaders', I was able to be a fly on the wall at the Vancouver Sun's offices. The very gracious Ms. Casselton told me all about her job and included me in Sun editorial meetings where I got to see first hand how editorial decisions were made!

We also had an amazing 'power lunch' with national political columnist Barbara Yaffe, and Sports Editor Bev Wake, where we talked about women in the newsroom, discrimination that they experienced early in their careers, and feminism!

One of the most interesting experiences was talking to Sun Editor-in-Chief Patricia Graham, one of Canada's few female editor-in-chiefs, about feminism and the future and the history of the feminist movement. She had some fascinating stories to tell and we talked extensively about the biased coverage that female politicians sometimes receive.

Particularly interesting was a story that both Valerie and Patricia mentioned to me that truly put into context how I have felt about the need for women's voices in the media. Apparently, when a sexist headline was run accompanying the story of the success of a female politician, both took note of the sexism and proceeded, not only to point it out, but to insist that such an oversight not happen again. It is so incredibly gratifying to know that the people in power at the Sun are cognizant of such things and passionate about creating news free of the sexism that other news outlets are prone to.

I must say that I am deeply indebted to Ms. Casselton for her time and attentions, as well as, to Ms. Graham and all the other people at the Sun who showed me around and shared their time with me. I am also particularly grateful to the Minerva Foundation, who made this opportunity possible. I encourage you to look into the Minerva Foundation, which is a phenomenal organization and to consider applying for the Follow a Leader program in 2008!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

CONNECT Follow Up and Thank Yous!



Well, Antigone Magazine's CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch was a great success! Thank you to everyone who participated, helped, attended, sponsored and supported our event!

The event specifically featured UBC groups that support women and we aspired to involve young women and men in these causes. Our goal was to get young women involved in political and social issues that affect them. We feel that it is crucial to facilitate connections between young women and groups that work for women. Approximately 100 students attended the lunch and were able to make important connections with women’s organizations and politicians in attendance. These connections will continue to make a difference for UBC women when CONNECT: A Women’s Online Network is launched in March.


Politicians

Senator Jaffer
Deborah Meredith
Suzanne Anton (Vancouver City Councillor)
MP Don Bell (North Vancouver)
Kim Capri (Vancouver City Councillor)
Heather Deal (Vancouver City Councillor)
MP Suhk Dhaliwal (Newton-North Delta)
MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South)
MP Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre)
MLA Sue Hammell (Surrey-Green Timbers)
Judy Higginbotham (Surrey City Councillor)
MP Kevin Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)
Joyce Murray. (Liberal Candidate)
Maxine Wilson (Coquitlam Mayor)
MLA Valerie Roddick

Women's Groups!

Canadian Women’s Voter’s Congress
Women’s and Gender Studies Undergraduate Association
BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC)
STAND
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Oxfam UBC
Grassroots Women
Womyn’s Centre
Vancouver Rape Relief
Pride UBC
The Safe Choices: Support and Education Program
Sexual Assault Support Centre
Vancouver Women’s Health Collective
Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT)
Women’s Enterprise Centre
Access & Diversity
Oxfam Vancouver

Sponsors:

AMS
Women's and Gender Studies Undergraduate Association
Linda Reaume

Access and Diversity
Zellers
Safeway


Organizing Committee!


Kaitlin Blanchard Kristen Myres Sarina Rehal
Jillian Gordon Kat Sorfleet Kristina Welch
Kelly Lau April Tam
Amanda Reaume Joanna Chui

Thank you for your help and your support! If you're interested in subscribing ($12 for one year) or if you're interested in advertising in our magazine e-mail antigonemagazine@hotmail.com.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CONNECT Lunch and Blog Hiatus

The CONNECT networking lunch was phenomenal! Thank you to all the fabulous people that attended and helped to organize the event! I will be doing a far more formal report from the event in the next week but I am currently back in Windsor to receive an award and taking advantage of this opportunity to spend quality time with the family... who I apparently love more than my loyal blog readers!

Apologies! It is not a matter of loving anyone more really, but I do get to communicate with them far less than with Antigone's readers. So, I guess this and the expected announcement of a super cool feminist art project will have to be put on hold until I get back to Vancouver... I'll give you a hint though... do you notice the new donate now button on the left? It may or may not have something to do with the cool feminist art project/fundraiser....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CONNECT Wrap-Up Party and Debriefing Announcement

Hello Antigone Readers!

The CONNECT wrap-up party and debriefing will be held Tuesday November 20th from 6-8 pm at Jillian's house. Address and directions will be emailed. To be included, please send a message to antigonemagazine@hotmail.com. Thank you and see you Tuesday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Antigone Magazine Featured in Windsor Paper...

Well, Antigone was featured in the below article printed in the Shoreline Week, a paper from my hometown in Windsor that I happened to have worked as a coop student for in high school! I'm going back home next week to accept and award and they were gracious enough to publish a little something about the work that I've been doing with Antigone.

For those who stumble upon this blog from that article, I wanted to include subscription information for the magazine if you are interested. If you e-mail antigonemagazine@hotmail.com I can also send you a sample copy of the magazine!

We hope that you will consider purchasing a subscription ($12 for one year). Thank you in advance for your support and your help in empowering young women politically. Please send questions about subscriptions to antigonemagazine@hotmail.com or cheques (made out to Antigone Magazine) and the below form to
Antigone Magazine
C/O WILLA UBC
Box 61- 6138 SUB Boulevard
Vancouver, BC
V6T 1Z1


Please send in this info along with your subscription:
Name:
Address:
E-mail:
Phone:
How you found out about Antigone Magazine or who referred you:



Reaume to receive Athena award
St. Anne grad founded magazine about women and politics in 2006

By Bill England

Amanda Reaume has enjoyed her Athena experience.The St. Anne High School graduate learned in March that she was one of three recipients of the Athena Scholarship Fund in Windsor.

The honour, which included a trip to Chicago to attend the 2007 Athena International Conference in April, will culminate on Nov. 16 when Reaume will be honoured at the eighth annual Athena Scholarship Luncheon.

“I’m really honoured to have been chosen,” she told Shoreline Week in a telephone interview from Vancouver on Monday. “It’s very exciting to be recognized for the work I have done in my community.”

Reaume will share the local award with University of Windsor student Catharine Dishke Hondzel and St. Clair College’s Antonietta Verardi. Selection criteria for the Athena scholarships, valued at $3,000 each, include community involvement, potential for leadership, demonstrated excellence, and academic standing.

Reaume, who completed her high school co-op program in journalism at Shoreline Week, founded Antigone Magazine in November 2006. Antigone is a semi-annual magazine focusing on women and politics. As founder and editor, Reaume has interviewed the likes of former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell as well as federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Although it was initially intended for students at University of British Columbia, where Reaume attends, the publication has expanded in its first year to include subscriptions from across Canada. Her work with Antigone has led to various activities and events in her community, including a networking luncheon this Friday at UBC.

“(It’s) all about connecting young women’s groups and causes,” she explained.“Because of funding cuts, women need to work together.”

Having graduated from the University of British Columbia with an English Honours degree, she is currently working on her Masters in English Literature. Her thesis, “Canadian Women’s Political Biographies”, will focus on the likes of Campbell, former Liberal MP Sheila Copps, and former federal NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin.

The local Athena Scholarship Luncheon will be held next Friday, Nov. 16 at St. Clair College for the Arts. A reception will begin at 11:30 a.m. The guest speaker will be former Michigan First Lady Paula Blanchard Stone.

If you are interested in attending, please call the Windsor & District Chamber of Commerce at 519-966-3696 or visit WindsorChamber.org

Monday, November 5, 2007

CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch - THIS FRIDAY!

Well, the blog will be on a bit of a hiatus this week as we prepare for our big event this Friday and for the release of the Fall edition of the magazine! We hope to see you at the CONNECT event!

Stay tuned next week for the announcement of a really cool feminist art project!



Dear Friend,

Please forward the information about this event to your networks and listservs! The women of Vancouver (and their allies) unite! We want to invite you to Antigone Magazine's and WILLA UBC's (Women Involved in Legislative Leadership Association)...

CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch
Friday, November 9th, 2007
11:30-1:30
UBC's SUB Ballroom
FREE for UBC students and $7 for the public


The event will feature women's groups from UBC and across Vancouver, as well as, politicians who support women's issues. In attendence will be Adrienne Carr, MP Don Bell, MP Hedy Fry, Vancouver City Councillors Heather Deal and Kim Capri, Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson and Liberal Candidate Joyce Murray. Members of the public can reserve their tickets today by e-mailing antigonemagazine@hotmail.com or calling 604-730-0264!

Celebrate Antigone Magazine's First Anniversary at the event and get the Fall issue of Antigone Magazine entitled 'Women World Leaders'. Antigone Magazine is a non-profit, non-partisan magazine about women and politics that started at UBC with the help of WILLA, but whihc has since expanded nationally. For more information about Antigone check out our blog at http://www.antigonemagazine.blogspot.com/.

Sincerely,

Amanda Reaume
Editor
Antigone Magazine

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Apply for a Bursary for the Women's Campaign School!

This is a great opportunity! That I hope some of you will take up! The Canadian Women Voters Congress is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization, dedicated to encouraging all Canadian women to become strong, effective voices at all levels of government. Their purpose is to:
  • educate women about political and organizational systems
  • encourage women of all backgrounds and political persuasions to participate in the political process
  • encourage and inspire women to assume leadership roles

The Canadian Women Voters Congress is holding the Women's Campaign School, November 16-18, 2007. There are several bursaries available for women interesting in learning more about politics and ways to get involved. The bursary committee will be meeting on Saturday, November 3, so get your applications in!

For more information on the CWVC and the campaign school, visit:http://www.canadianwomenvoterscongress.org/or contact by e-mail: congress@telus.net

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Criticism of the Media Giving Legitimacy to Sexist Tripe...

Australia's The Age has a great article about how news outlets cover the ridiculousness that is Maxism's recent poll of the World's Five 'Unsexiest Women'. Because women's sexiness or unsexiness is obviously their defining feature. And their can't possibly be anything to women besides whether they are considered 'Do-able' by young Maxim men...

According to the editors at Maxim, Spears scraped in at number five because she carried excess "pudge" following the birth of her two sons. Madonna featured following her "rapid post-nuptial deterioration" and appearances in "pharmacy menopause aisles". Sandra Oh, star of the TV drama Grey's Anatomy, made the list for her "cold" manner and "boyish figure". British singer Amy Winehouse sported "translucent skin" and a "rat's nest mane".


Former Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker must be thrilled to discover that she topped the poll. The magazine editors thought her a clear winner, whose presence in a show with sex in the title was apparently inexplicable given the fact that she has a head like a horse.


So this is how I see it. Giving birth is not sexy. If you used to be sexy, but now carry a bit of healthy post-pregnancy weight, you're also out of favour. If you don't strut around with your breasts on display or are an otherwise prickly character (which means, I think, unwilling to get said breasts out for the boys at Maxim), you're a sure bet for the list. Best of all, if you display the natural signs of ageing or are experiencing natural bodily processes like menopause, then you're fair game.


Perhaps buoyed by the knowledge that celebrity sells, the results of the Maxim poll have done the circuit as a news item — yes, a news item — over the past week. I saw the list on at least one commercial network's nightly news bulletin and it has been news in India, the United States and Britain. It even made its way onto The Age website, which is where I first read about it. All this comes on the back of a recent Esquire poll ranking the sexiest women alive. That too, it seems, was newsworthy.


In calling this kind of vicious, sexist rubbish "news", the poll is given a smidgen of legitimacy. The media implicitly support the notion that it is OK to scrutinise and rank women on the basis of the most superficial and degrading of all criteria — their appearance.


In the past three decades, as women have made advances in public life and steps have been made towards greater equality between the sexes, the scrutiny of women's bodies seems to have gathered pace. Take politics as an example. In Media Tarts, Julia Baird's excellent book examining the media's treatment of Australian female politicians, Baird argues that women in politics are rarely judged on their merits. Media commentators are far more interested in women's hairstyles (Bronwyn Bishop, Julia Gillard), sexual histories (Cheryl Kernot), polka-dot dresses (Joan Kirner), sexiness (Julie Bishop, Natasha Stott Despoja) or unsexiness and weight (Amanda Vanstone) than their policy stances or the contributions they might make to the fabric of our nation.


Indeed, in many respects, women are still seen as less the sum of their parts and more the sum of their "bits".


I can hear the naysayers: if you don't like lists like these, don't read them. And I agree. But even if — like me — you don't actively seek out polls like these, assessments of women permeate every aspect of our culture. Ask any woman and she'll tell you that such images are the reason she spends hours in front of the bathroom mirror, worrying about her every blemish or ripple of cellulite.


Media outlets need to be much more reflective about the role they play in fostering this kind of self-scrutiny among women. They must abandon the practice of uncritically promoting sexist material about women, of the kind we see in the Maxim poll. Because, as a woman, I can only do so much to avoid such harmful nonsense.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chile's Bachelet Institutes 'Quotas' for Women in Politics

Chile's Michelle Bachelet is working to help women achieve equal political power in her country according to this article by the Santiago Times. She's just signed a bill that aims to double the current number of women participating in politics by doubling the number of female candidates in the general elections. It has specific percentages of women and men that must be run in the next election and that must be part of the political leadership of parties. The bill still needs to be debated but I think it's wonderful that Bachelet is taking steps to address the underrepresentation of women in her country's legislatures.

Although quotas are a controversial step, I think that there are some real advantages to them. It changes the political climate for women. Women know that they are welcome in that realm and that it will not be a struggle against sexism to put themselves forward and run. It allows women of real quality to be appreciated for that quality. Anyone who thinks that quotas simply allows unqualified women to lead, has a very low opinion of women and their leadership. As someone who engages with female leaders, in and outside of politics, I must say there is so much incredible talent and passion that countries need to make use of.


The bill also gives new responsibilities to political parties. According to the proposed legislation, party leadership must not be more than 70 percent male or female, and the same rule will apply to the lists of candidates that parties turn in before general elections. There will also be economic incentives favoring female candidates, in order to better support women who get elected.

These incentives will be available to parties that incorporate more female members and candidates than the legal minimum. “We are creating a law that will promote equal political participation by men and women,” said Bachelet. “We are taking another step to guarantee and strengthen the rights and opportunities of women in civic, political and institutional life, and in public service.”Party for Democracy (PPD) members expressed support for the initiative. Deputies Ximena Vidal and Laura Soto said Monday that the percentage requirements in the bill will help enact “changes to strengthen democracy that we need so badly.”

The Christian Democratic Party (DC) and the National Renovation Party (RN) also backed the bill. Members from both parties were especially pleased with the measures involving percentage requirements and economic incentives. “The President’s promotion of incentives to motivate political parties to involve and promote women that are elected is a RN proposal, so we absolutely support all of those parts of the bill,” said the party’s general secretary Lily Pérez.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Argentina's Next President?




An Article in the Globe and Mail discusses the impending victory of Argentina's Christina Fernandez de Kirchner in the presidential race.

Kirchner is the wife of outgoing president Nestor Kirchner, and she also served as his chief advisor during his four year mandate as president. Kirchner is credited with pulling Argentina out of a dramatic economic slump, and renewing the country's job stability.

Kirchner is leading her opponent by a ten percent margin. Interestingly, her chief rival is also a woman, Eliso Carrio.

If the official tally confirms that Ms. Fernandez has more than 45 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent with a 10 percentage point lead over Ms. Carrio, she will win the presidency without facing a runoff election next month.

Ms. Fernandez, 54, ran on the record of her husband, leftist President Nestor Kirchner, and she would take over from him in a highly unusual transfer of power between democratically elected spouses.

Many Argentines credit Mr. Kirchner with pulling the country out of a dramatic economic crisis in 2001-02 and using growth of 8 per cent a year to create jobs, raise salaries and expand pension benefits.



Kirchner's victory, however, is marred with questions. A virtual non-entity in the debates, and less than explicit about her policy plans, she may be riding on her husband's success (which she arguably engineered anyway). While Kirchner is the second female political leader to be elected president in the last two years (after Chile's Michelle Bachelet), I am curious what exactly lead to her election.

Her campaign seemed effortless. Handpicked by her husband and chosen by a faction of the Peronist party without a primary, Ms. Fernandez avoided debates and was vague on policy.

Rivals have criticized the Mr. Kirchners as being authoritarian and treating the election as the beginning of a political dynasty to tighten their grip on the presidency and Congress.


If her campaign was so "effortless," as this reporter describes, then why is she farther ahead of her female rival? Is the Argentinian public aware of her role in her husband's success, or are they simply voting on a "sure thing?" And why hasn't someone discussed Carrio's plans? Is she further left than Kirchner--might that account for her realtive unpopularity? Or is she simply 'unbolstered' by a male counterpart? All very interesting questions to me--any answers?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Conservatives' Plan to Get Rid of Women's Groups?

Upon reading this article on Rabble.ca, I almost expected to hear the Conservative Party laughing evilly amidst the smoke of cigars. Tom Flanagan had this to say about the Conservative's cuts to Status of Women...

Tom Flanagan, one of Stephen Harper’s closest advisors and three-time national campaign manager, is currently doing publicity for his new “insider’s” book on Harper’s government and rise to power.

If equality-seeking groups are paying any attention to Flanagan, it is unlikely they are doing so for political advice. Yet recently Flanagan, on CBC Radio’s The House, provided such groups, including progressive women’s organizations, with some of the most useful insights on how to advance an equality agenda and a women’s agenda under the Harper government.

Flanagan calls funding cuts to Status of Women Canada and the elimination of the Court Challenges Program a “nice step,” asserting without equivocation that Conservatives will “defund” all equality-seeking groups – with feminists at the top of the list. He goes further, clarifying that Conservatives also plan to choke-off these groups’ supposedly privileged access to government by, for example, denying “meetings with ministers.” But for strategic reasons, Flanagan notes, this will all happen incrementally. To avoid the perception of mean-spirited retribution, he says, “incrementalism is the way to go.”

Given 'Canada's New Government's' track record on women, I am not surprised that this is potentially the game plan.

For example, the Conservatives decisively eliminated the budget for NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) and with this move eliminated its effective and focused policy-based campaigns for such issues as pay equity, legal aid, and economic rights. Yet groups that may be perceived to have a more nebulous or international focus remain funded (for now) in the government's Status of Women budgets. Groups like this need to interrogate their own role in facilitating the death by a thousand cuts that Harper is perpetrating on equality-seeking groups – those of us that Flanagan calls client organizations or "Liberal outrider organizations."

Equality advocates have a distinct choice to make here between being incremental and being oppositional, which in the current context means being effective. To make this choice wisely, women’s organizations should take a further cue from Flanagan by playing strategically. Stop being the nice guy, so to speak.

The article has a lot more details about the authors suggestions for how women's groups need to combat Harper's strategies. Read it!


P.S. After publishing this post I realized that there was something that I forgot to add. Ah, yes.... They can take away our funding but they can't take away our feminisms! (and the political pie will wind up on their face!). That was my idea of a war cry. Let it reverberate through the blog0sphere!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Antigone at Media Democracy Fair on Friday!

Antigone is going to be at the Media Democracy Fair this Friday and we encourage you to drop by! It's going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to support your favourite independent media!



Media Democracy Fair:

Come to the FREE Media Democracy Fair and meet representatives from your favorite local independent media outlets. 4:30pm – 7pm Friday October 26th at the Concourse in SFU Vancouver (Harbour Centre) 515 West Hastings Street.

The Media Democracy Fair is FREE. Admission is open for everyone. Bring your friends and family to the Media Democracy Fair and stay for the discussions.


To stay in the loop join the local media democracy Announcement Mailing List

If you represent a local media group and would like table space at the MDD please email (stephenaATsfu.ca)

For press information please email (faizakATsfu.ca)


Exhibitors

Who can you find at the Media Democracy Fair?

Adbusters
Amnesty International
Antigone Magazine
Beyond Robson
ICTV
Canadians for Democratic Media
CCPA
ChangeEverything
CITIZENShift
Community Media Education Society (C.M.E.S.)
COA News
Columbia Journal
Common Ground
Co-Op Radio
CJSF 90.1fm
CiTR
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Epoch Times
FreeGeek Vancouver
FreeNet
NowPublic
Only Magazine
Our Paper
People's Voice Newspaper
Rabble.ca
Straight Goods
Submedia
SFPIRG
The Tyee
The Vancouver Community Television Association (VCTA)
Vancouver's Anti-Poverty Committee
Vancouver Observer
VIVO Media Arts Centre
Work Less Party
Xtra West

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Provincial Internship Oppurtunity

This is a great oppurtunity to learn more about government and how it works. Check out this link sent to us by Kristen Myers for more information.

Corinne Maier: La mort de la Merdeuf?


Sorry this should have been yesterday's blog.

However, I've been meaning to write something about Mrs. Maier for a while now. In September the Globe and Mail ran a column on her in their focus section. Maier is a french writer--who lives in a self-imposed exile in Belgium.
The phrase of choice from her article is: "I really regret it, I really regret having children."


It is a combination of tart sisterly advice ("What hope is there of having a fulfilling sex life when a woman is forced to turn into a fat, deformed animal decked out in sack-like dresses?") with shock-tactic social analysis ("More murders and child abuse happen within families than outside them. Every family is a nest of vipers - all the reason not to add to your own").

Maier's sentiments are shockingly progressive for a French society consumed with what she calls "baby mania." However, Maier's antagonism is that of the overburdened French woman who carries the weight of the nation on her back--a vestige of imperialism if ever there was one. In France, the maintenance of the idea of 'nation' and certainly, then, the ideals which sustain that Nation depend entirely on a high birth rate in order to maintain the 'purity' of French blood. If motherhood didn't already include enough burdens of care for the woman, in the French formulation it carries the weight of not only childcare, but of National identity itself. Maier has certainly made her burden audible.

There's a loud and expensive national crusade to have as many children as possible and valorize motherhood. It is a nation where the winner of the President's motherhood medal (what other country has those?) makes the cover of Paris-Match, a place where people follow the fertility rate the way Americans follow the Dow Jones Industrial Average and where a national celebration with distinctly racist overtones erupted last year when that fertility rate reached the stable-population point of 2.1 children per mother, making France the continental European leader in fecundity. Upon the loins of the Frenchwoman, the weight of a nation.

o counter this, Ms. Maier has used her little book to place a new word in the French vocabulary, a word that has entered the popular lingo in much the same way that "soccer mom" entered North American English in 1993 - and for the same reason, because it defines a new category of person who is instantly identifiable.

The word is merdeuf. French speakers recognize it instantly as a contraction of mère de famille, the traditional phrase for a full-time mother, a housewife, a woman who makes mothering her career. But the contraction turns it into something that sounds like a combination of merde and oeuf, carrying the implication that these patriotic mega-moms are "egg-shitters."

She explains: "It means, 'a woman who has children, so she no longer cares about anything else.' " With this word, the French image of the full-busted Baby-Bjorn soldier is transformed from Marianne, the patriotic ideal, into something more tragicomic, a victim of that patriotism.

The merdeuf has become a symbol for what Maier calls a France of "infantophilism." And the women in France carry the weight of a nation obsessed by its own maternalism. Maier's point is that women are not, and should not be, defined by their ability to have children. To contextualize this one needn't look any farther than French political rhetoric. Examining the last french election campaigns retrospectively, French politics did not seem to have any other understanding of women except as the crudely apt "egg-shitters" for a nation.

"I just say that when you are a woman, the fact of having children doesn't provide the meaning of your existence," she says. "So you can have a meaningful existence not having children. And of course you can have a meaningful existence having children."

It is, she says, a means of shattering a national delusion, one that is damaging the lives of women, preventing them from progressing in their careers, keeping them from being creative and intelligent. It is a feminist argument, though one also aimed at the "essentialist" feminists who believe that femininity and motherhood are the essential distinguishing characteristics of women.

Ms. Maier tends to agree with those French feminists who see the country's generous maternity-leave provisions (16 weeks at full-time pay) and its healthy cash payments for additional children (1,000 euros a month for each child after No. 2) as tools of oppression: By rewarding motherhood, the state is preventing the success of women, keeping them out of the work force, trapping them in a prison of domesticity. And allowing women to believe that children are the answer.

While I don't agree that maternity leave is a tool of oppression or that children destroy the liberty of the woman, I do agree that the ability to have children does not define a woman. As a woman whose father speaks of her legacy to him as if she were a womb alone, I think I understand Corinne's frustration. What Corinne misses is that it is a nation consumed by a patriarchy that supports capitalist notions of progress and feminine identity, which gives her her woes. I'm sure were she able to balance her desires with the needs of her children, she might paint a different picture-- though perhaps not. But, until the French nation is no longer a vestige of patriarchal notions of progress, and women cease to be the economic trump cards of a nation consumed by racism and sexism, I will not discredit her. Who wants to be an egg-shitter, or even the English equivalent a soccer mom? Blech. Not me.

I leave you with Mrs. Maier's verdict on children, which is eerily similar to one pronounced by one of my professors: "The child is a kind of vicious dwarf, of an innate cruelty."
Hmmm I don't like the future of reproduction--do you?



Sunday, October 21, 2007

The F Word - Vancouver's Feminist Radio Show


Congratulations to Nicole and Alana from the Vancouver Feminist Action Project, who launched their new radio program 'The F Word' this Saturday! These fabulous radio hosts are going to be on Vancouver's Coop Radio 107.2 FM every week talking about feminist issues, playing great music by female artists and talking about feminist happenings around Vancouver.

The two were absolutely fabulous this weekend on their debut show and I should know! I was honoured to be their first guest and interview! What a great opportunity to take part in such a wonderful show and to also promote Antigone Magazine and CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch on Friday, November 9th from 11:30-1:30 in UBC's SUB Ballroom. Thanks to the F-Word girls for the opportunity

Tune in here for more details about the day and time of their weekly radio show! These girls rock!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Women of Vancouver Unite!

I'm doing an interview with the lovely girls from the F-Word radio program today (a new initiative from the Vancouver feminist action project) on Vancouver Co-op Radio 102.7FM. For those who hear about CONNECT or Antigone Magazine from that appearance - here's some details about the lunch! We hope to see you there!
CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch!
Friday, November 9th, 2007
11:30-1:30
UBC's Student Union Building Ballroom
Free to UBC student - $7 for the general public
to reserve your tickets today!


It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since Antigone first officially launched it's magazine... but indeed it has! Which means we need to celebrate and further our mandate of connecting young women with other women, women's groups and politicians who work for women's causes. That's why we're holding CONNECT: A Woman's Networking Lunch!

The lunch will bring together women and men of all ages who support women's causes. Primarily we will be targetting women's groups from across Vancouver, UBC students and politicians who support women's causes. We believe that it is crucially important to bring these groups together to help encourage collaboration and faciliatate the work that they are doing.

We still need tons of help with the event - so feel free to sign up to volunteer during the event, or help promote it!

Please forward this info on to any other people you might think would be interested in this great event!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Feminists Have More Fun... and More Stable Relationships.

For years people have been declaring that feminists are simply ugly women who can't get a date. Or they don't have any fun. Or 'insert negative stereotype of feminists here' This article in LiveScience tells us that feminists are actually more fun and more desirable. Read it and weep anti-feminists (Thanks to Jennifer for the link!):

Feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, a new study suggests.
Busting stereotypes that peg feminists as men-haters, a new study shows that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic heterosexual relationships.

The study, published online this week in the journal Sex Roles, relied on surveys of both college students and older adults, finding that women with egalitarian attitudes do find mates and men do find them attractive. In fact, results reveal they are having a good time, maybe a better time than the non-feminists.

Both men and women are prone to holding negative views of feminists, the authors say. Along with the sexually unattractive stereotype, some women also view feminism as a movement for victims, or for women who aren't competent enough to achieve success on their own merit, according to the Rutgers University researchers.
Psychologists Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan carried out a laboratory survey of 242 Rutgers undergraduates and conducted an online survey of 289 older adults who had an average age of 26 and typically had been in their current relationship about four years.

Older adults have more life experience "and thus may be more likely to show an incompatibility between feminism and romantic relationships," Rudman and Phelan write. While younger females likely grew up with the attitude that "women can have it all," the researchers note older women may have come of age in the era following U.S. women's suffrage (1919) or during the women's movement that emerged in the 1960s.

The researchers looked at people's perception of their own feminism, their partner's feminism and whether they had positive views of feminists and career women. Other survey measures included overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.

For example, relationship quality was measured with questions such as: How often do you and your partner laugh together? And how often do you and your partner quarrel? For stability measures, participants answered how often they considered terminating the relationship, as well as how often they thought their romantic relationship had a good future.

Among the findings:

College-age women who reported having feminist male partners also reported higher quality relationships that were more stable than couples involving non-feminist male partners.

College guys who were themselves feminists and had feminist partners reported more equality in their relationships.

Older women who perceived their male partners as feminists reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction.

Older men with feminist partners said they had more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction.

Overall, feminism and romance do go hand in hand, the scientists say.

While they aren't sure how feminism works to enhance relationship health, the researchers have some ideas. Feminist men might be more supportive of their female partner's ambitions than are traditionalists. Men with feminist partners may enjoy the extra breadwinner to share the economic burden of maintaining a household.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"We've come a long way, we've a long way to go"

In today's editorial of the Vancouver Sun, Shari Graydon reminds us that although women's causes have advanced greatly since the early 20th century, there is still a need for feminism. It is easy, for women as well as men, to take for granted the rights and possibilities afforded to women living under Western privilege. Graydon writes that perhaps, because of these privileges, we are "the kind of [women] who people point to as evidence that the women's movement is no longer necessary."

On paper, in law, women's equality has come a long way. But many women have yet to realize the same opportunities afforded me, and many inequities remain.

But, as Graydon also points out, it is crucial to remember that much of a woman's experience becoming a woman is still inherently dominated by exploitation and oppression; for example, the sexualization of young girls, violent crimes and the underrepresentation of women in politics. Obviously, I'm taking a very homogenized, Western view of women. This kind of a perspective is also indicative of the need for feminist analysis and discourse today -- we have to take into account women outside of Western feminist political discourse who may not be as privileged and incorporate their and our understanding of what it means to be a woman or political or a feminist (and at the same time allow these women their own political and historical agency). But for now, Graydon makes some good points about the sort of changes Canada still needs to consider. The anniversary of the Persons case in Canada celebrates the historical advancement of women's rights in North America but also serves as a reminder of what still needs to be done.

We'd like the picture of Canadian power to look more like us, in all our diversity...When women are educated, given genuine choice around child rearing and employment, treated with respect, paid fairly and protected from violence, the entire society benefits. We all have a vested interest in making it happen.