Thursday, May 31, 2007

Negative Representations of the body???

I have been taking a very interesting Women's Studies class and we have bee talking about representations of the body. How do negative representations of the body effect young adult women? How do they play into our interactions in classroom settings and the workplace? What do you think?

'Good for her' Feminist Porn Awards...

Here's an interesting article about the Canadian feminist pornography awards. Now, pornography is a contentious issue within the feminist community but I think that what these awards are doing is a great thing. What they recognize is pornography that represents a multitude of desires and positionalities and which also rethinks and revises the ways in which women of colour are depicted (which in traditional pornography is usually in a highly fetishized and racist way).

Aren’t feminism and porn oxymorons? Good For Her is comprised of feminists who sell and rent porn. In 2006 they decided that it wasn’t enough to criticize adult films for not adequately representing women’s — and in many cases — male sexuality, and inaugurated the Feminist Porn Awards. This year’s celebration brings together a group of incredible filmmakers who are changing how women and people of colour are represented in adult films...

Anna Span is the UK’s first female porn director. She has an MA in philosophy, having written her thesis on women and pornography. Simone Valentino who starred in the first erotic film aimed at women of colour, directed by a woman of colour. Shine Louise Houston is the only queer woman of colour with a distribution deal for her erotic films. Peggy Comstock and her partner Tony are innovators of a new style of indie-documentary porn which features real life couples.

Directly due to the 2006 Awards, Good For Her’s porn sales tripled, proving that people are eager for an alternative. They want progressive porn that represents women differently, caters to a wide variety of tastes and offers relief from the mainstream porn aesthetic.

Good for Her believes that sexual representation is political, and that women deserve to have porn that shows sexuality in its fullness. They wanted to introduce the world to adult films whereby women have a voice in how sex is represented; a world where women experience authentic pleasure and are not reduced to tired sexual stereotypes. As 2006 winner and Village Voice columnist, Tristan Taormino says "Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography."

I recently did a project on pornography and I must say that I was truly disturbed by how much misogyny and violence is implicit within the genre. Feminist pornography is therefore ultimately very important. For example, I've seen a trailer for Tony Comstock's indie-documentaries and they are truly moving and aesthetically beautiful as they try to tell the real story of couples who have been together for years and truly love each other. His depictions of seuxality are truly revolutionary within the porn industry and help to refocus the discourse around sexuality to one in which women are equal partners and are loved and respected instead of exploited and used.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gang Rape in Darfur... I have no words.

There is nothing that I can say about this that can possibly contextualize it or explain it. I will therefore not say anything and let the words and stories of the victims speak for themselves. Here are some quotes from this story about rape in Darfur:

The seven women pooled money to rent a donkey and cart, then ventured out of the refugee camp to gather firewood, hoping to sell it for cash to feed their families. Instead, they say, in a wooded area just a few hours walk away, they were gang-raped, beaten and robbed.

"All the time it lasted, I kept thinking: They‘re killing my baby, they‘re killing my baby," wailed Aisha, who was seven months pregnant at the time.


The women said they set out on a Monday morning last July and had barely begun collecting the wood when 10 Arabs on camels surrounded them, shouting insults and shooting their rifles in the air.

The women first attempted to flee. "But I didn‘t even try, because I couldn‘t run," being seven months pregnant, said Aisha, a petite 18-year-old whose raspy voice sounds more like that of an old woman.

She said four men stayed behind to flay her with sticks, while the other janjaweed chased down the rest of her group.

"We didn‘t get very far," said Maryam, displaying the scar of a bullet that hit her on the right knee.

Once rounded up, the women said, they were beaten and their rented donkey killed. Zahya, 30, had brought her 18-year-old daughter, Fatmya, and her baby. The baby was thrown to the ground and both women were raped. The baby survived.

Zahya said the women were lined up and assaulted side by side, and she saw four men taking turns raping Aisha. The women said the attackers then stripped them naked and jeered at them as they fled.

No Period? period.

Hey ya’ll,

Apologies for the long hiatus. I’m now up in Prince George (northern BC) and having a blast finding cool crafters and activists :)

I get weekly updates from, a US-based feminist organization dedicated to research/action that empowers women economically, socially, and politically, and this news feed really jumped out at me:

5/23/2007 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that Lybrel, the first low-dose oral contraceptive that eliminates monthly menstruation, is now approved for use in the US. Taken daily, Lybrel continuously delivers lower doses of the synthetic hormones found in traditional birth control pills, which are usually taken for 21 days followed by seven days of placebo pills. According to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures Lybrel, the regimen is just as effective as other FDA-approved oral contraceptives.

Many women's health advocates welcome the FDA's approval of a new option for women. "This pill is safe and effective," said Feminist Majority Foundation Medical Director Dr. Beth Jordan. "In fact, many doctors have prescribed this regimen to patients -- and have used it themselves -- for decades. Now we have a dedicated product with years of safety data behind it."

Based on clinical research, Wyeth found that 59 percent of women taking Lybrel stopped bleeding after six months. Eighteen percent of participants, however, dropped out of the clinical trials due to bleeding and spotting. Wyeth also found that interest in the pill depended on a woman's personal approach to monthly periods. Fifty percent of women surveyed by Wyeth said they welcomed their periods as an indicator that they were not pregnant, while 25 percent said they saw their periods as a "natural part of womanhood," according to Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report. In all, about two-thirds of women surveyed were interested in eliminating monthly periods.

Now I, for one, consider menstruation a political event, especially when pharmaceutical companies are involved. What does everyone think about this new drug?

Using drugs to eliminate periods is hardly a new idea (e.g. Depo-Provera) and I am still not convinced they are a good idea.

I am frustrated that society keeps telling me that bleeding every month is something to be cleaned up and fixed. Why aren’t we brought up to celebrate our moon-times and feel connected to our power as females?

I am sure these drug companies are ONLY acting in the best interest of the environment because they KNOW that on average, a woman will throw out about 250-300 pounds of tampons, pads, and applicators in her lifetime (see for great alternative menstrual products). Thanks guys.

Of course I fully support women who need to use similar drugs to control dysmennorhea or other conditions, but I object that this product will now be marketed to all 12-59 yr. old women as the newest convenience that they cannot live without. I feel like I have to start creating provincial parks in my body to protect my natural functions.

Am I just being reactionary? Let me know!


Finding Dawn: The story of three murdered aboriginal women in Canada

This is a fascinating film about the murder of three aboriginal women in Western Canada which begins in Vancouver's East Side and follows different stories along the Highway of Tears and back to Saskatchewan.

Welsh's Finding Dawn takes a raw look at the lives and deaths of three women murdered or missing in Western Canada. The filmmaker dissects the factors that contribute to violence against aboriginal women, often leading back to the colonization of First Nations tribes.

The emotionally trying film begins on Vancouver's East Side, where Dawn Crey, a woman removed from her family and sexually abused as a child, used to live before she disappeared. Crey was identified as Woman No. 23 through DNA found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Welsh also travels on the "Highway of Tears" in northern British Columbia, where teenager Ramona Wilson was murdered on the same night of her town's high school graduation. The girl is one of many women killed in the area near the junction of the Yellowhead Highway and B.C.'s Highway 37. In Saskatoon, Welsh tells the story of mother and student Daleen Bosse, who went missing three years ago. Bosse is one of 17 aboriginal women classified as missing since 1964 in Saskatchewan -- Welsh's and Acoose's home province.

"Lots of people in our communities have gone missing, but how can you just miss a human being?" Acoose said.

With the number of aboriginal women going missing and being murdered or abused, I believe this is an incredibly important film and hope that you all have a chance to see it.

Women take Manitoba's elections by storm...

How could I not comment on this? A record number of women were elected to Manitoba's provincial legislature! Great work for these women and congratulations Manitoba for now leading Canada in the percentage of women representatives in their legislature.

A record number of women were elected to the Manitoba legislature in Tuesday's election — a change some say could affect the government's priorities.

Of the new MLAs elected Tuesday night, five are women. That gives female MLAs a historic high of 18 seats — nearly a third of the legislature's 57-seat total and double the number in the 1988 election.

Thirteen women are now members of the NDP caucus, while five hold office under the Conservative banner.

"I believe the legislature should look more like the people that elect us, and we look a little more like Manitoba today than we did before," said Jennifer Howard, one of the new faces in the legislature and the NDP MLA for Fort Rouge.

Wow! I'm so excited. I think a lot of credit does have to go to the NDP party and their commitment to including women within their ranks. But even in this excitement... we do need to point out that women still only represent one third of the legislatures ranks. It's a little sad that in 2007 we're getting excited about the historic nature of finally having women represent a third of a legislature. But enough complaining! Here's another great quote:

"[It's] a step forward for women, and it's a step forward for all Manitobans, because women are half," re-elected Seine River MLA Theresa Oswald, a New Democrat, said Tuesday.

"We don't see that yet represented in our legislatures across Canada, but we're making a real stride here … in Manitoba and I'm grateful for that."

Howard said she looks forward to getting to work — and to seeing more women elected to the legislature in the future.

"Manitoba was the first province where women won the right to vote, so we have a proud history of women being involved in politics, and I only think it's going to get better."

Gary Doer's NDP was elected for a historic third majority with 36 seats, compared to 19 for the Progressive Conservatives and two for the Liberals.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Grass Roots of a Woman's Campaign

My apologies for yesterday, my computer had decided that as it was summer it too could go on vacation. It seems to be working now, so I've got a few words of interest...

Some of the issues that we touch on in this Blog are recurrent, granted, in differing situations and climates, but, nonetheless, they just won't go away. This is one of them: Why must women learn how to 'play' politics?

An article on a Colorado News Archive chronicles the emergence of a political boot camp for women. The boot camp is labelled as an enabling forum for women where they learn how to campaign within their own communities. An interesting moment in the article is the observation by a young single mother that children and politics were not 'mutually exclusive.'

The 28-year-old wondered about how she could make the jump into politics — running for city council in Laramie — because the prime time for knocking on doors soliciting votes was family time.

She got her answer at a Denver political boot camp for women when Pam Anderson, clerk and recorder of suburban Jefferson County, explained how as a graduate student she canvassed neighborhoods with her two children in a little red wagon.

“Hearing they can come with me was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I can make it work,” said Walsh, who expects her children to be riding bikes by the time she runs in 2008 or 2010.

It would be interesting to examine the reactions from those she canvassed upon the recognition of her 'support.' That is, whether or not the presence of the children had a negative effect on her ability to earn votes. Politics, as it is usually conducted, does not accomodate playing 'house' outside of the house of commons. This Boot camp is an attempt to subvert the structuring of politics which works against overburdended women from a grass roots perspective.

Women who have been elected said they thought their gender helped them.
Democratic State Rep. Morgan Carroll told attendees she thought women appeal to the “anti-status quo voters” who are upset about corruption. Lola Spradley, a Republican and the first woman to serve as Colorado’s House speaker, said women can appeal to voters because of a “lack of arrogance.”

While I think this camp is an important step in the right direction for women seeking to enter politics, since it encourages women to work together, I do think there are a number of misrecognitions contained within its aims as well. I think the camp could be broadened to include men as well. This way, not only is it dismantling gender opposition within politics, but it would be a fundamental recognition of the socio-economic forces which dis'able' women seeking office in the first: the burden of care, and the perception of women as an 'alternative' to men--not as a primary option. The crux of the problem lies here:

Before she sent her students on to classes on fundraising and dealing with the media, MacDonald, a former teacher, noted how female interns she worked with on the Ritter campaign were more reluctant to speak out than the males. She said she thought women sometimes keep quiet until they think they’ve mastered something — but she said that won’t work in the “boys club” of politics.

I congratulate these women for taking a courageous in the right direction, but, I still wonder why women's campaigns must always begin at such a level. That is, the grass roots approach at campaigning advocated by this camp is somewhat worrisome--must women always be obliged make a personal connection with their potential supporters? Does their "lack of arrogance" hinge on their duty to 'out canvass' their male counterparts? We at Antigone advocate that politics is personal, certainly, but why only at the Grass Roots level?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blogging will Resume....

Sorry for the lack of posts this week! I officially graduated UBC yesterday, so my whole family has been in town and between spending time with them, working full time, taking night courses and feeling quite sick, blogging has been one of my last priorities. Don't despair... I will be back!

I promise blogging a plenty next week! Until then...

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's about time...

On another note, the government is (thankfully) poised to introduce Bill C-57. This bill, if passed, will eliminate the "exotic dancer" visa--which has contributed to the exploitation of hundreds, if not thousands of women as 'official prostitutes.' Canada was recently given a failing grade in its efforts to stop human trafficking by the Future Group. This bill marks the beginning of an improvement to our poor efforts (or perhaps even "the" beginning) in arresting the trafficking and subsequent abuse of young women.
An article on the "Life Site" (yes, I know, Amanda) illuminates Canada's poor performance in preventing the exploitation of women under the Liberal government, and discusses the bill.

'Strippergate' indeed. Sigh. Is it only alarming to me that such a policy (the 'exotic dancer' visa) was in place under our 'Liberal' government?

Can Women Run as Women?


The defeat of Segolene Royal repeats a pronounced trend in Western democratic practices. As an article in The Montreal Gazette demonstrates, there is indeed peril in "playing gender politics." (Although only for women it seems). Though Royal was running in France--where democratic practice occurs in a decidedly male arena--her defeat, and subsequent ridicule, are sore points for women everywhere.
Royal ran as a woman first and foremost, she hedged her bets on the belief that women would support a female candidate--they did not. Why? The difficulty for me lies not so much in the fact that she lost, which is reasonable given that she did, above all, stand for a party, but that she received next to no support. Though political sexism in France is notorious--and heavily entrenched in the national mentality--the scant amount of support she received speaks to an ominous reality. Women seeking to run must either adapt a mode of "Thatcherism," or risk defeat on the basis of (admittedly constructed) gender expectations. Or, as this article suggests, was even Thatcher's victory a result of circumstance and not behaviour? Are women only to be admitted into politics in times of dire need?
What is to be done about all this? I want to open this up to those who are perhaps more knowledgeable than I about European politics. Although I still think my claim stands (that the lack of support for Royal's position cannot be justified solely by party politics), perhaps others could shed some light on this phenomenon...
If women cannot run as women (for more on this see Amanda's post on Hillary Clinton) then what are we running for?
The article also notes:

The men Royal bested in November's primary were back for blood. Laurent Fabius, the former Socialist prime minister who reacted to Royal's candidacy by asking who would look after her children, sniped: "The left, it is about the 'we,' it is not about the 'I'. "

Royal has fought back, boldly claiming the party leadership, although it is unlikely the Socialists will hand the party to the woman who presided over its third consecutive presidential defeat.

For a party looking for a scapegoat, Royal presents a perfect target. Her campaign floundered over unsourced spending promises and a surprising ignorance of world affairs.

Are women to remain nothing more than political scapegoats? Must we be "desperate" in order to accept a female leader?
Royal's defeat echoes the defeat of Pauline Marois, who ran for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois and lost to a much younger Andre Boisclair. Marois will run again and is poised to win--are we desperate or is Marois's imminent victory a result of her increased experience?
Only 'gender rules' can tell...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I've been interviewed!

The UBC Insider profiled me recently on their blog regarding Antigone! Check it out!

I've been 'Pro-Lifed??'

Can that be made into a verb? If it can that would explain the strange things that have been going on in the comments section for a post that I made about abortion in New Brunswick over a month ago! Somehow it has been spotlighted as a place for pro-lifers to come and post about abortion. All the posts detail women's experiences with abortion and how much they regret having them.

I want to start this post then by saying how much I respect their experience and their drive to speak out about it. As a pro-choicer myself I don't kid myself into believing that everyone who has an abortion has a wonderful experience and never regrets their decision. Some of these women talk about being pressured into having an abortion and I feel truly sorry for them. But I think that the other side of the coin is just as true: not everyone who has an abortion has a terrible experience and regrets their decision. For some women having an abortion is the most wonderful thing that they have done!

Regardless of my own personal pro-choice beliefs though, I still believe strongly that there are some areas where pro-choice and pro-life people can potentially work together. Ensuring teenagers are given proper sex education and access to contraceptives is one thing that would help greatly reduce the number of abortions. Also, providing women, especially young women who are pregnant and want to keep their children, with the resources to enable them to support their children and to fulfill their own dreams. My main problem with some pro-lifers is then that as much as they seem to want to stop abortions, they also seem to want to punish women for having sex. Some pro-lifers are thus against comprehensive sex education and support for women who have children. I actually had one woman say to me that having a child at a young age that ruins your future dreams was something young women deserved if they had sex. I just think that's a really perverse attitude to the whole issue - and not a very Christian one!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I have a paper due tomorrow.

And I'm feeling lazy. Enough said. Here's a cool video! Guerrilla Grrls at the Feminist Future Symposium at the Museum of Modern Art.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SOS for Aboriginal Women's Shelters

The Montreal Gazette has a great article on Aboriginal women's shelters. Apparently, these shelters are massively underfunded, leading to problems in offering services:

Aboriginal women's shelters serve clients who are three times more likely to experience violence than their non-native counterparts but receive only one-third the funding of other shelters, Quebec women's groups said yesterday.

"How can we justify that because a shelter is in an aboriginal community, it receives three times less in subsidies? It's shameful," said Louise Riendeau, head of a provincial network of non-native women's shelters and transition houses.

Riendeau joined the Federation des femmes du Quebec and other women's groups in supporting an appeal by the Quebec Native Women organization, which coordinates the province's five on-reserve shelters, asking the federal government to correct the discriminatory funding situation that exists to similar degrees across Canada.

Aboriginal shelters in Quebec are funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. They receive an average $150,000 each per year vs. $487,000 for those funded by the provincial government, even though they offer comparable services and roughly the same number of beds, the groups said.

That level of funding has not increased since 1990, said France Robertson, shelter co-ordinator for Quebec Native Women.

"With the $150,000 they receive they have to offer services 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.

This is a truly terrible situation and something that needs to be rectified immediately. The article highlights this point:

Deirdra McCracken, a press aide to Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, said the federal government is consulting with aboriginal groups and shelter directors to develop a fair funding formula that is expected to be in place "soon."

It has also taken other steps to prioritize aboriginal women, like working to grant them equal matrimonial property rights, McCracken said.

The government "knows the needs," Gabriel said. "We don't need further consultation; we need action now ... to change this deplorable situation."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mother's Day... now let's actually do something to help women, huh?

Lana Payne in the St. John's Telegram writes a piece in time for mother's day in which she talks about how what's most important on Mother's Day is to treat mothers equally within society and the workforce:

In fact, the current debate around finding ways to keep workers working longer misses a few very key points, but that’s likely because the opinion shapers and decision makers have not consulted women. But then, what else is new? What they’d find if they did, generally speaking, is that women’s work is not only undervalued, but women are not getting a chance to reach their potential — to the detriment of the economy.

That’s because for too many women, the barriers to the labour market, to obtaining good jobs and breaking the glass ceiling are still plentiful. The fact that there are few supports — child care, for example — to support women in employment is another contributing factor. Women could be contributing a lot more to the country’s bottom line — to the nation’s gross national product (GDP) — if only they had the opportunity.

We still have about 20 per cent of women who work part-time because of family and child-care responsibilities. In other words, too many women still have no access to affordable, high-quality child care or other caregiving supports. Another 23 per cent, according to a recent study by Statistics Canada, worked part-time in 2006 because they couldn’t get full-time work, and yet every day we are inundated with complaints from employers that they can’t find workers, and so we need to keep people working longer or the economy will collapse. Not only are many women underemployed, but they comprise a fair number of the more than one million unemployed Canadians who are looking for work.

Child care. Child care. Child care. How many times do people have to talk about child care before the government actually does something about it that actually helps low income women? My niece was born the other day... perhaps her grandchildren might have affordable universal child care available to them? Or her great grandchildren?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

There are certain things I will not compromise on in a relationship. My name happens to be one of them.

Christy Clark has a great article in the Province about taking on (or indeed, in her case, refusing to take on, one's husband's last name). I must say that I love her article! To nobody's great surprise, I was one of those little girls who knew from a very young age that she would not change her name if she ever married. My name meant a lot to me - it carried a whole familial history and it served to identify me within my peer group and my community. Plus, the part of me that insisted on gender equality, never understood why the female always took on the male partner's name. I enjoy Christy's reasoning:

I didn't change my name when I got married. Nor did my husband want me to.

I used to joke that, if I changed it, I wouldn't be able to re-use my lawn signs in the next election. That explanation was accurate, but it was far from the whole truth.

The truth is I didn't change my name when I got married because changing it seemed to me like giving up part of my identity and adopting that of someone else.

I felt like I would lose some of my hard-won independence by bearing my husband's brand and telling the world that I belonged to him now.

And a tradition that requires women, but not men, to change their names seems to me patently unfair.

It is patently unfair isn't it? I still have a distinct problem with certain 'ceremonial' or traditional things about weddings and marrying that are accepted by brides (and grooms) without thought of their ceremonial and traditional significance. Just because everyone's doing it doesn't mean you shouldn't step back and examine exactly what you are implicating yourself in by participating in these traditions. The history behind most wedding rituals, including women changing their names, is very patriarchal and mysogynistic (and don't even get me started on the white dress! And the father giving the daughter away! Because I could rant for ages...). Anyways, apparently more women are opting into this tradition:

Among my friends who are my age, most have kept their birth names.
But for some strange reason, friends who are five or 10 years younger mostly have not.

Statistics on what seems to be a growing trend in Canada are hard to come by. Here, no one has to notify the government when they adopt their spouse's name.

But there is evidence of a changing trend among brides in the U.S.A 2004 study at Harvard found that 44 per cent of women in that school's 1980 class kept their birth names. For the class of 1990, it was down to 32 per cent.

I find this disturbing but what I find interesting is that whenever I have tried to discuss weddings and traditions like changing one's name with feminist friends (especially those who are getting married in the near future) they always get defensive about their personal choices. As such, I would just like to say how much I appreciate the difficulty that women and especially feminist women have in trying to negotiate a comfortable way to manouever through society's ceremonies and regulations!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Mother of Rwanda

The Toronto Star has a great post about the 'Mother of Rwanda' - which is in reference one woman MP who has been making a difference . What is she doing?

Call her The Mother of Rwanda.

When the 1994 genocide killed nearly a 10th of her country's population, Aloisea Inyumba found herself with an enormous task – arranging homes for the 500,000 orphans left behind. It was a job few people could ever imagine doing.

So Inyumba devised an elaborate countrywide program encouraging widows to adopt the children and even asking them to take in orphans from rival ethnic communities.

"Women went to the orphanages and took children home," she explained years later.

"(They) have all taken children, regardless of ethnic background. It was the first step in reconciliation."

Thanks to her program, more than 90 per cent of the orphans were able to find new homes

And the amazing thing about this story is that Inyumba is under 30! Talk about young women making a difference! And women have indeed been making a difference in Rwanda. Women currently make up 48.8% of their legislatures. What impact has this had?

According to a 2006 UN report, politicians like Inyumba "are among a pioneer generation, challenging traditional gender roles, taking on new responsibility, embracing high profile positions, and advocating for their rights."

The report said, thanks largely to these female MPs, Rwandan women have won the right to inherit land, while children's rights have been enshrined by law. Healthcare and education spending are also on the rise.

The country still has a long way to go. AIDS and poverty are rampant, forcing more than 100,000 children to live in child-headed households. Rural females lack many rights. Things are slowly changing though, and women are at the centre of it all.

More than just an inspiration, Rwanda's politicians serve as a lesson on what can happen when women play a central role in how a country is run.

So, what is Canada doing wrong? And how does our lack of women in politics adversely affect our governments and policies?

Despite making up more than half of Canada's population, women account for only one-fifth of our MPs – that's fewer than in Ethiopia, Iraq and Afghanistan. In a country that prides itself on social justice, this is a disappointing reality.

It's no surprise, then, that issues of importance to women and mothers don't get the attention they deserve. In the past year alone, the government has scrapped the national childcare program and slashed funding to the federal agency in charge of women's rights.

If this isn't a better reason for women to get involved in politics... I don't know what is!

Pamela Martin: Woman of Excellence

CTV News Anchor Pamela Martin spoke at The North Shore Outlook’s third annual Women of Excellence Awards which recognized the contributions of women in business, sports, arts and community recently. In her talk she highlighted her experience as a woman in the Canadian media.

Martin shared her story about walking into a newsroom in Victoria more than 30 years ago with no journalism experience to becoming one of the most recognizable faces on TV news in Canada.

She started as one of the few women in news but today is part of the growing majority, she said, adding recent statistics show 57 per cent of news anchors are women, and so are 58 per cent of news producers.

It’s been an uphill battle, and while much has changed because of the work by women news reporters and anchors, there’s still a lot of work ahead, she said.

“There was a question ‘Could women do the job?’” Martin said. “Would our voices have enough authority because it wasn’t deep?”

If the current trends are any indication, Martin said women have proved their worth in newsrooms across the country and people are beginning to recognize that.

In the U.S. one of the top news organizations, CBS, has become a pioneer after hiring Katie Couric as anchor of their evening news.

Canada is still a bit behind, Martin noted, adding the three national news anchors are currently all men.

“Lloyd (Robertson), Peter (Mansbridge) and Kevin (Newman)... they’re all friends of mine but I do have to say, they are still men,” Martin said, eliciting laughs from the crowd. “Can a women be 74 and still anchor the news?”

Good question! It would be lovely to have a female national news anchor in Canada. Anyone want to get into a pool as to when that might happen. I call dibs on 2010! Although, perhaps I'm just being too optimistic!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wanted in Montreal: Women in Top Jobs

Montreal's municipal government just got more friendly for women! Montreal will be instituting a protocol entitled “Promoting the Equal Involvement of Women and Men in the Montreal Community” in order to get more women in the ranks of upper administration.

Pierre Belec, who acted as secretary of the Summit, says Montreal has made strides in balancing gender equality within the municipal system, but that more needs to be done to include upper management, which is still dominated by men.

“If you look at the figures, it’s not bad for the second ranks where you have all these women bearing the title of director. They make up 39 percent of the directors. But if you go to the higher level [borough general managers and corporate services like police and transit], there is a lack of women there.”

There are seven female borough mayors out of a possible 19, and three women on the 11-member executive committee. Of the 19 borough directors, two are women.

As for the 1,177 high-level appointments made by either the city council or the executive committee to represent Montreal on various boards of directors, committees, commissions and political bodies, about 30 percent were women

The article goes on to say that in departments where women have been included in upper management, morale and efficiency improved! One woman though questions how such a policy can help women in general, and particularly women who are from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

However, the protocol did not impress Evelyn Calugay, one of a handful of people who attended the Snowdon meeting.

“It’s not realistic to me,” said Calugay.“What they are emphasizing is for more women to participate in politics. Realistically, how many women, even in the younger generation, do you think can afford to run for politics?”

According to Calugay, who also heads Pinay, a Philipino women’s organization based in Côte des Neiges, the draft policy does not address the plight of marginalized women, particularly immigrants. When asked if having more women in powerful positions could have a trickle down effect to help impoverished women, Calugay said she didn’t think so.

“Women who are in the upper economic status don’t really understand the situation of women who are in the lower economic status. It’s not about gender, it’s about class.”

Despite these relevant objections, I am very pleased with the effort to get women involved in upper administration in the municipal government! I hope more cities have or do make such an effort!

The Next Generation...

My feminist activism has always been driven with the hope in mind that the next generation of women will have incredible opportunities that weren't available to women before them. Yesterday, this next generation became more than a vague idea to fight for. I became an aunt for the first time! Layna Grace will undoubtedly be a strong and beautiful woman and it is my hope that she will be able to accomplish anything she dreams possible. Congratulations to her parents Candice and Steve!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Why Women Hate Hillary...

The Portfolio Weekly offers one feminist voice on why women hate Hillary. I've heard a lot of this phenomenon, but I'm not too swept away by it myself. Although I have some fundamental problems with some of her policies, i definitely don't hate her. Here's why one woman does:

Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. She seems above us, exempting herself from compromises women have to make every day, while, at the same time, leaving some of the basic tenets of feminism in the dust. We are sold out on both counts. In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.

One of progressive feminism’s biggest (and so far, failed) battles has been against the Genghis Khan principle of American politics: that our leaders must be ruthless, macho empire builders fully prepared to drop the big one if they have to and invade anytime, anywhere. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president in 1984, the recurring question was whether she had the cojones to push the red button, as if that is the ultimate criterion for leading the country. And while American politics has, for years, been all about the necessity of displaying masculinity, Bush, Cheney and Rove succeeded in upping the ante after 9/11 so that the sight of John Kerry windsurfing meant he wasn’t man enough to run the country. But now, with the massive failures of this callous macho posture everywhere—a disastrous war, a deeply endangered environment and more people than ever without health insurance—millions are desperate for a new vision and a new model of leadership.

Well, my obvious problem with this is that it presents the feminist movement as monolith - which we all know it most certainly is not. The author seems motivated by a very 'second wave' impetus to embrace the authentic 'female'. This always troubles me. I think there must be some middle ground between the first wave's assumption of masculine values and the second wave's embracing of 'feminine' values. And I have a problem with holding women up to a predefined idea of what women should be and judging them by how well they cohere to that image.

All of this frames many women’s reactions to Hillary. If she’s a feminist, how could she continue to support this war for so long? If she’s such a passionate advocate for children, women and families, how could she countenance the ongoing killing of innocent Iraqi families, and of American soldiers who are also someone’s children? If it would be so revolutionary to have a female as president, why does she feel like the same old poll-driven opportunistic politician who seems to craft her positions accordingly?

Maybe women like me are being extra hard on Hillary because she’s a woman. After all, baby boomer women couldn’t be "as good" as men in school or the workplace; we had to be better, to prove that women deserved equal opportunities. And this is part of the problem too. We don’t want the first female president to be Joe Lieberman in drag, pushing Bush-lite politics. We expect something better.

I think the questions raised in this section are very important but how are they intricately connected with Hillary being a woman? We need to stop holding women up and necessitating that they be 'better' than men to get into politics. It only effectively works to keep women and their voices out of politics. Perhaps instead we should just start expecting more from politicians - whehter female or male?

Canadian Women Thrown out of Saudi Arabian Education Fair...

The Globe and Mail reports on the recent Saudi Arabia incident in which women who were representing Canada and a post-secondary institution at an education fair were ushered out by 'Virtue' police.

George Chrysomilides, president of the Canadian Education Network, said there hasn't been an incident like this in the 10 years Canada has attended the event, and he plans to get to the bottom of it.

“From what I hear … the religious police were very rude. They shouted at them in a way that was disrespectful and they shut down the booth, the Canadian embassy booth as well as the LaSalle College booth,” Mr. Chrysomilides said in an interview Monday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Bernard Nguyen said he was waiting to hear details of the incident that took place last Wednesday.

But the Canadian embassy in Saudi Arabia put out a statement over the weekend, protesting against the actions of authorities in the region.

“Such unprofessional incidents are very damaging to Saudi Arabia's international reputation,” the embassy said.

“Prior to the event, we specifically inquired whether women staff would be permitted at the exhibition and we were told by the organizers, the Al-Harithy Company, that they would.”

Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to cover themselves in public and are not allowed to work in mixed environments in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

I think this is obviously inappropriate. By throwing women out for working in the fair, what kind of message does that send to young women attending the fair? Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Hahahahaha - that is all...

Oh, dear. Okay.... so apparently I'm not feeling serious this morning. But really, I can't help myself. This article is just too 'precious' not to mock. Terri Cummins from the News and Tribute wrote a column the other day entitled "The Male Species is Declining and it's Unfair'.

So, as you have probably surmised, I have a problem with the kneejerk reaction that some people have (men and women) whenever women advance. Even small advancements in women's rights are bound to make some people a red in the face. Oh, no! Women are getting 'power'. How frightening. The thought sends a shiver up my spine. I shall give you dear Terry in his own words:

Women have been pushing for an Equal Rights Amendment. Well, how about a Fairness Amendment for men. Go back to our forefathers, who established our country. What were the foremothers doing while the men were fighting for independence? And we’re still fighting for it. For over 218 years, men have guided our nation. Now it’s Nancy and perhaps Missus President, who won’t rely on male interns to alleviate her stress.

Women out number men in colleges and they’re taking over large corporations and rapidly increasing in professions, business and politics. Wake up, it may appear subtle, but it’s a hostile takeover. But if we lose total control, then maybe it’s just as well we go ahead and die young.

"What were the foremothers doing while the men were fighting for independence?" Did he just say that? Yes Reader, that he did. And women's advancement is nothing like the hostile takeover that he suggests. From his fear you'd think a bunch of aliens swooped down and tried to take over the world. Women are not that organized, nor that successful. Women might outnumber men in colleges, but studies show they are mostly concentrated in the Humanities departments and often end up with jobs that pay far less than men. And women still have yet to achieve anything close to 'fair' representation in corporate or political life. But our dear Mr. Cummins doesn't want you to think he's one of those 'sexist pigs'.

Please, do not think I’m a male chauvinist swine. I fully understand there have been and are inequities. It’s just tough on us seeing the other foot being fitted with a high-heel shoe.

I'm so glad that he acknowledged that there have been inequities! Especially in the diminutive and passing way that he did so. Which he then followed with a sexist remark. But he's no swine... no sirree. That was... well... someone else squealing earlier. Yes. Indeed.

The Onion Reports on a Shocking New Trend!!!

So, you know that society is screwed up when 'The Onion,' everyone's favourite satirical online news source, actually publishes a story that is so ridiculous, so absurd, so absolutely 'wrong' in every sense of the word - that it's true.

What is this truth that the geniuses at The Onion speak of? Empowerfulness. That's right kids. Toss out your Equal Rights Amendments and throw away your feminism! They're all just anachronistic symbols of former eras. This generation of women are empowered by marketing and capitalism, and the new corporate impetus to connect everything women do to their 'empowerment'. This is obviously what Gloria Steinem had in mind!

OBERLIN, OH—According to a study released Monday, women—once empowered primarily via the assertion of reproductive rights or workplace equality with men—are now empowered by virtually everything the typical woman does.

San Diego women empower themselves by eating dinner unaccompanied by men.
"From what she eats for breakfast to the way she cleans her home, today's woman lives in a state of near-constant empowerment," said Barbara Klein, professor of women's studies at Oberlin College and director of the study. "

As recently as 15 years ago, a woman could only feel empowered by advancing in a male-dominated work world, asserting her own sexual wants and needs, or pushing for a stronger voice in politics. Today, a woman can empower herself through actions as seemingly inconsequential as driving her children to soccer practice or watching the Oxygen network."

Klein said that clothes-shopping, once considered a mundane act with few sociopolitical implications, is now a bold feminist statement.

"Shopping for shoes has emerged as a powerful means by which women assert their autonomy," Klein said. "Owning and wearing dozens of pairs of shoes is a compelling way for a woman to announce that she is strong and independent, and can shoe herself without the help of a man. She's saying, 'Look out, male-dominated world, here comes me and my shoes.'"

Does this leave you thinking "Hmm... it seems like something might be wrong here?" Well, throw away those nasty doubting thoughts with your de Beauvoirs girls and meet me at the mall!

(Oh, and read the rest of the article. It's HILARIOUS!)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Out of the kitchen and into the Cabinet!

The Chronicle Herald has a great article about helping young women in Canada achieve leadership roles. The article's writer, President of Cape Breton University, emphasizes the need to encourage female leadership during high school:

Studies have demonstrated that issues of self-esteem for young females become increasingly prevalent upon their entry to junior high school. Their male counterparts certainly are struggling with their own adolescent matters, and this is not to be overlooked, but young women need to be reached, now, in a manner that is focused on personal growth and healthy development.

It is not good enough to wait until these young women enrol in our universities.
Universities can, and must, share sound theoretical knowledge and experiential learning practices with school educators and young women themselves, to foster the development of personal philosophies of leadership that contribute to healthy and productive lives. While women have come to occupy some outstanding positions in this region and country, there are simply not enough believing in themselves at a young enough age, not enough who visualize themselves as vibrant leaders in society.

Universities can support and offer education, mentoring and training for young women long before they enter our classrooms for post-secondary programs.
We need to work with school boards, administrators and teachers as they develop leadership strategies that will allow young women to enhance their self-awareness and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Collaboration with mentors who believe in innovative approaches to learning, health and education will also lead to stimulating and meaningful results directly linked to self-discovery and self-development which will strengthen our universities.

Great ideas! I agree that young women of the high school age can often have a difficult time developing self-esteem and self-concepts that allow them to visualize themselves as leaders. Thoughts?

Segolene loses... Royal Watch, Part 3

So, Royal lost the election for president to right wing candidate Sarkozy. But oh, how her loss supplied the press with a juicy crop of sexist talking points! It seems everyone has opinions on Royal, none of which could possibly ever be divorced from her gender. For your amusement and horror, I am inclined to post those comments here. I often say here that we have so much further to go when it comes to including women in politics. If you're unsure of this point, I entreat you to read these 'lovely' and 'erudite' comments.

Michèle Alliot-Marie, the conservative defence minister known for her taste in trouser suits, said recently: “We do not want a president who changes her ideas as often as she changes her skirts.” She later summed up Royal’s performance in the televised duel with Sarkozy on Wednesday by saying: “Being vague is fine for fashion, not for politics.”

“This country doesn’t need a mummy to give it moral lectures,” said Catherine Millet, controversial author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

Clémentine Autain, communist founder of the Mix-Cité feminist group, sounded more afraid of the “puritan” Socialist candidate than she did of the “macho man Sarko”. “Her praise of motherhood, her old-fashioned speeches about the family, her way of saying she does politics differently because she is a woman, her fight against pornography – these are not at all my cup of tea,” said Autain.

“Her ‘I’m beautiful, look at me, I’ve got four children’ might impress a supermarket check-out girl but we don’t use that card,” said Nadine Morano, an MP from Sarkozy’s UMP conservative party.

What distresses me most is that these comments come from women.... who are... in politics!!! One would think they themselves would be tired of being judged by these same stereotypes and not want to perpetuate them. Of course, if you read the entire article in which these quotes appear, it seems like the writer was implicitly going for a 'cat fight' angle to the piece, stating that Royal's loss was in part due to lack of trust among women voters. At least there was one person inclined to stand up for Royal:

“Attacks on women are always about their person, never about their policies or their actions,” said Edith Cresson, the country’s first woman prime minister. “It was true in the Eighties and it’s still true today.”

Friday, May 4, 2007

Facial Hair Prerequisite for Leadership???

Women in Turkey are making a statement... with fake mustaches. No, this is not a new fashion statement. Fake mustaches will not be coming to a catwalk near you. Instead, it is the tongue-in-cheek antics of the Kader organization protesting the lack of women in politics in Turkey where only 2.2% of deputies are women and not even 1% are mayors.

To convey their message, the activists do not hesitate to burst onto political properties, brandishing moustaches and chanting the slogan 'Do you have to be a man to get in Parliament?'In adopting this symbol of Turkish virility, they hope to attract the attention of the ruling bodies of Turkish political parties and awaken the consciences of their compatriots.

According to Hülya Ugur Tanriover, professor at the University of Galatasaray, specialist in the representation of women in the Turkish media, the gap between the sexes remains rigid. If nothing juridicial prevents the participation of women in politics, reality is there to dissuade them. The traditional vision of a woman supposes that 'even if she works in the big cities, she is still considered first and foremost a wife and a mother.'
In Turkey, Kader’s ‘women in moustaches' campaign seems to have achieved its goal and attracted attention to the issue of parity in Turkish institutions. The newspapers have brought the association’s main personalities into the media spotlight, and the political parties have not been able to ignore the appeal. The majority of coalitions have decided to react, even if the measures taken are not currently achieving the ‘33% of women on the list of representatives and the ease of candidature for women’ that Kader demands.

I love it. It's great. It's effective. It's irreverent. It gets people's attention. Too bad there is still resistance among men.

And as for their masculine counterparts, 'they have said ‘yes’ to human rights, women’s rights, education, health, economy and even gender equality in the civil rights code and the penal code. But they hope that politics stays theirs,' analyses Seyhan Eksioglu. 'It’s the final rampart that affirms their force and their vision of the hierarchy that remains men’s.'
However, it is undeniable that better representation of women in political bodies would have something of an impact. 'That 52% of the Turkish population would finally be politically represented. It would mean addressing the issues directly concerning them,' states Kader's president. Major problems such as domestic violence, girls’ education and honour crimes would finally be properly dealt with, as well as more subtle issues such as the number of nurseries, equality of salary, changing the image of women etc.

Hmm... I must say that this method is brilliant. I reminds me of the Gorrila Grrls and their Gorrila masks. I wonder what Canadian feminists could do as an equivalent? Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dispatches: Iraq, The Woman's Story

Here is an amazing documentary about women's experiences in Iraq. It is heralded as a "compelling story of the life inside Iraq that is rarely seen on news bulletins: stories of ordinary women whose struggles to survive have only worsened since the war." Watch this video. Now.

"Deliberately Barren" women not right for politics...

Well, isn't this lovely. I've heard of female politicians being criticized for having children and being involved in politics, and thus not playing their proper 'Mommy' role, but now in Australia female politicians are being attacked for chosing NOT to have children. I didn't know that one's procreational choices were matters for public debate. Silly me.

Bill Heffernan said Labor Party deputy leader Julia Gillard did not understand the public because she had no children.

He has since apologised for the "inappropriate" comments, first made last year but repeated again this week.

Analysts say the incident will be an embarrassment for his close friend, Prime Minister John Howard.

Mr Howard has made it clear he does not support Mr Heffernan's comments.
"The question of whether people have children, whether they marry and have children, is entirely a matter for them and I do not think it should be a matter of public comment," Mr Howard told reporters.

I love how this isn't the first time he's made such remarks. I think someone should start criticizing him for being a bad father since he's away from his children all the time for his political career. Then perhaps he'd understand the pressure female politicians (and women in general) face because they usually have to take on the burden of care for children.

"Do Your Homework" - Royal Watch, Part 2

Royal went up against Sarkozy yesterday in the French presidential debate. The winner? Well, that's apparently up in the air. Athough there was no clear winner, some reports favoured Sarkozy by a very small margin. Here's a rundown of the debate from the Times Online:

Dressed in a strict black suit that contrasted with her usual pale colours, she even suggested that Mr Sarkozy “do his homework” when the pair clashed over nuclear reactors.

Ms Royal and Mr Sarkozy sought to prove that each had the formula for pulling France out of its relative economic stagnation and sense of moral crisis, but the Socialist dwelt on her empathy for the people while Mr Sarkozy talked figures and policies.

“I want to be the president who creates a France where aggression and violence is receding, a France that will win the battle against unemployment,” Ms Royal said.

“You are in part responsible for the situation in which France finds itself,” she told Mr Sarkozy.

She accused Mr Sarkozy’s Government, in which he served as Interior and Finance minister, of failing to tackle unemployment and street crime. “Madame, do you want me to complete a sentence?” he asked at one moment, tripping over his words.
Ms Royal attacked him over his plans for heavy cuts in the civil service and cited the case of a policewoman who was raped last month as she returned from work at night.
“Under my presidency every woman police officer will be accompanied to her home after work,” Ms Royal said. She scored points when Mr Sarkozy denounced the 35-hour maximum working week, introduced in 1999 by the last Socialist Government .

“The 35-hour week was a complete catastrophe for the French economy,” Mr Sarkozy said. Ms Royal shot back: “Then why did you not scrap the law if it was such a disaster?”

Mr Sarkozy sought to depict Ms Royal as an old-school tax-and-spend Socialist, and gained the upper hand when he pressed Ms Royal on her plans for raising the incomes of the poor and pensioners with new taxes on business. “Give me figures,” Mr Sarkozy said.

She replied: “My tax will be at the level necessary for social justice.” He came back: “That’s a stunning piece of detail. Can’t you give us a figure?” Ms Royal replied: “No, I can’t.”

“I see,” said Mr Sarkozy, who began his career as a trial lawyer.
No winner or loser emerged at the end of nearly two hours, but the consensus was that she had performed better than expected against an opponent with superior debating skills.

“Ségolène Royal pulled it off well,” Stephane Foukes, a director of the Euro RSCG agency, said. “Sarkozy was no doubt guided by the fear of getting carried away.”
But commentators agreed that there was no knockout punch on either side.

Latest poll
53.5% Sarkozy
46.5% Royal

The Guardian's Madeleine Bunting also analyzes the debate, particularly Sarkozy's reaction to royal's forcefulness:

Sarko and Ségo head to head in a public debate for two and a half hours, watched by 20 million viewers, was a riveting piece of political theatre. And the flash point which encapsulated the entire debate was a fierce disagreement about Nicolas Sarkozy's policy on special needs education. But what made the exchange so intriguing was its blatant display of Gallic machismo: Sarkozy used, several times, the classic patronising put-down routinely fired at any woman when she is forceful: "Calm down! Calm down!"

It's a reference back to an era when women who had opinions or were assertive with their views were dismissed as "irrational" or "hysterical". A woman was expected to be seen not heard. Now, the phrase is a clever tactic to use in a heated discussion with a woman (men very rarely say it to each other) to infuriate and disorientate - and thus throw a woman off her argument. "Calm down" is a very effective wind up.

The woman is then not just defending her position in the argument, she is also having to defend her emotional stability. It's just one of many ways in which women get outmanoeuvred in debate, not because of the weakness of their argument, but because of the techniques of claiming and asserting authority are so culturally unfamiliar to women; they are bred into men from an early age, they are rooted out of women from an early age.

There has of course been some debate about whether 'calm down' was a sexist comment. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ruby Dhalla in a Pink Dress...

The Ottawa Citizen has an article about the dangers of being the political 'It girl' in Canada, in that everyone has an opinion on your political and sartorial actions and as much as you might be feted for being an attractive female, you'll just as soon be tossed out like yesterday's trash. The article talks about a feature on Ruby Dhalla's in Chatelaine entitled (I kid you not) Ms. Chatelaine, A Women of Style and Substance. In it, Dhalla has on (God forbid!) a pink dress that shows her... well... her breasts.

A month after Canadian feminist icon and former Chatelaine editor Doris Anderson died, the magazine she headed for 20 years featured a photo of up-and-coming Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla in its April edition under the heading "Ms. Chatelaine: A woman of style and substance."

Encouraging women to enter Canadian politics was one of Anderson's passions. Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to getting more women elected in Canada has even set up the Doris Anderson Fund in her memory, "to be used for Doris's most passionate cause -- achieving electoral reforms that will help more Canadian women gain political office."

So putting a spotlight on Dhalla -- who is not only the youngest woman but the first Sikh woman elected to Parliament -- a month after Anderson's death seemed like suitable timing.

Except for one thing: For the photo shoot the 33-year-old Liberal critic for social development was dressed in a pink ballgown. A very low-cut, bubble-gum pink ballgown. In fact, from the angle chosen for the shot, Dhalla looked like she was on the brink of wardrobe malfunction.

I have no problem with politicians showing their breasts. After all, I would like more politicians to have breasts. However, I do share a bit of the writer's skepticism. Who chose this wardrobe? What is the point of dressing Dhalla up in this fashion? And the writer wonders... is Doris Anderson rolling over in her grave?

Who knows? But it is worth asking whether the cause she held so dear is being undermined by Chatelaine's decision to portray Dhalla -- a chiropractor, businesswoman, activist and former actress, as well as an MP -- in an overtly sexy party frock. And whether that is just par for the course when it comes to the way the media, newspapers included, tend to portray female politicians in Canada.

As University of Alberta political scientist Linda Trimble warned Belinda Stronach -- the last "It Girl" of Canadian politics -- in a 2004 column, the media tend to "frame" female politicians.

"Why do they do this?" Trimble asked. "Well, female politicians are newsworthy because they are different. The novelty value of a young attractive woman playing a man's game has propelled you to the front pages, but there is a catch. Politics is framed to exclude women, and, if they insist on being included, to marginalize and trivialize them."

The article also features a quote from Dhalla herself who highlights how no matter what she wears it will inevitably make the news.

Dhalla, who is a friend of Stronach's, said she has been aware since she entered politics that women politicians are treated differently than men. "Every woman has to battle that to an extent ... It is one of the unfortunate parts of being female and being in political life."

"You have to look beyond it and be focused," she said. "If people choose to look at (your) esthetic qualities, so be it. At first it can be a little bit frustrating ... but then you get to know your issues and, at the end of the day, people start to look beyond all that stuff."


Judging by the number of articles mentioning Dhalla lately, she may be the latest "It Girl" in Canadian politics. And, as she has predicted, her clothes, hair and shoes will probably get as much attention as her political work.

Dhalla considers herself a mentor to young women and someone who sends the message that politics isn't just for old men in suits. And, she said, if she had dressed too conservatively in the Chatelaine photo, "even that would make the news."

Its unfortunate that we are so much more interested in what our politicians are wearing or in their hair colour (in Belinda's, the famous Blonde Ambition's case). I think Dhalla is particularly observant - women can't win in politics when it comes to fashion. I thus ask the very important question of why are we so obsessed with female politician's breasts? They're female. They have breasts. They may chose to show them or not given the clothes they wear. We should all stop being adolescents and get over it.

Pollitt on Abortion in America

I have a great love for Katha Pollitt and her columns for The Nation. Her column this week is no exception. Check it out here:

Sorry. I'm upset. For the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the health of an actually existing human woman doesn't matter, never mind Roe. Nor does a doctor's judgment. What counts, according to Justice Kennedy's majority decision, is that this particular method of abortion "devalues human life." Besides, the woman, confused little flower nodding her head in the breeze, needs to be protected from regret, the "grief more anguished and sorrow more profound" that might come when she realizes the exact nature of the procedure.

Regret! If that's a criterion, no one could ever decide about anything. Maybe we women should call up Justice Kennedy whenever we have a big decision to make. "Um, excuse me, Justice Kennedy, Bob just proposed, but what if he's not The One? And while I have you on the phone, the job in California sounds so great, but what if I never finish my novel? And what if I vote Republican because I'm scared of Osama, but then Congress tries to make me have a baby?" Numerous commentators have downplayed the significance of Gonzales v. Carhart--you can still get an abortion, just not with this method, which was only used in about 2,000 cases a year anyway.

But that ho-hum approach overlooks what is new here and where it's going. I've mentioned the paternalism and the Roe-disregarding lack of a health exception. But let's not forget the sheer useless moral posturing: A woman can wind up injured, and her fetus will be aborted anyway, but the tender sensibilities of Kennedy and his four brethren will be protected! What other procedures will they find "shocking" down the line? It's not as if the alternatives--dismembering the fetus in the womb and extracting it piece by piece; poisoning it and delivering it dead--are delightful to contemplate. Why shouldn't they find more and more abortions unacceptable--maybe even all of them?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Segolene Royal Watch Part 1

So, there are currently two female politicians running for leadership of their countries that are captivating the attention of the world. Most people have heard of Hillary Clinton and her current run for the Democratic nomination for president in the US, but fewer are familiar with Segolene Royal, who is running for president in France. Both women would be the first female presidents of their respective countries if elected.

A google news search of Ms. Royal reveals just how compelled the world is by her run: there are articles from India to Australia, from South Africa to Seattle about her campaign. Everyone wants to know how she is doing, how she is being treated and received as a woman and what this means for women in politics worldwide.

As such there has been a lot of fascinating articles written about her and women in politics in general. For this reason, I propose Royal Watch - a feature here that will be following the rest of her run and the media and theorizing that attends it. Today's offering? Its from Bulgaria:

Ségolène Royal, the left-wing finalist for the French presidency, appeared to acknowledge yesterday that she needed a near-miracle from a debate on Wednesday to save her from defeat next Sunday by the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. As opinion polls showed Mr Sarkozy maintaining a five-point lead over the 53-year-old Socialist, Ms Royal threw caution to the winds and said yesterday that she could appoint François Bayrou, the centrist who was eliminated on April 22, as her Prime Minister. Ms Royal needs most of Mr Bayrou’s seven million voters from the first round if she is to have a chance of defeating Mr Sarkozy, leader of the governing Union for a Popular Movement, on May 6.

On Saturday she held a friendly televised debate with the defeated candidate in which she appealed across party lines. She recognised the challenge facing her yesterday as Mr Sarkozy rallied 40,000 supporters in a show of strength at a Paris stadium. “It is difficult, because I think there have been 200 polls saying that Nicolas Sarkozy is going to win, but voters are free,” she said on Canal+ television. “He is going to have to accept debate and especially account for his past actions,” she added. The pair are to meet in their only debate of the campaign on Wednesday evening.

About 20 million people are expected to watch. French presidential debates, staged since 1974 in the days before the run-off, have a history of turning the tide.

Sounds interesting! I'm going to try to watch... if I find out how to do so - I will update that info here.