Thursday, June 28, 2007

Australia has an All Women's Political Party...

This is definitely an interesting story! Australia's Justine Caines and Anne Bousfield helped launch the 'What Women Want' Australia Party in Brisbane yesterday. Why did these women feel the need to come together to start a party based around women's needs and desires?

Justine Caines said women needed better representation and were sick of being paid lip service on key issues.

These included paid maternity leave, post-natal services, access to child care, education and the environment.

Ms Caines, a NSW senate candidate with a background in maternity services, said a looming, tight election made the timing right for the party's launch.

She said there was a lot of talk about women taking a greater role in politics but little was being done.

More women in parliament would bring a sense of the "real world" into politics, she said.

"We are seeing our policy makers saying that they want greater participation from women and yet it is seemingly only on their terms because talk to any woman about doing the juggle and it's bloody hard and it doesn't need to be that hard," she said.
"If our participation is truly valued then where is the support?"

One woman will run for the party in the Senate in each state and territory, and a handful of women will run in key marginal House of Representative seats.
Formed in April, the party has about 650 members and is seeking registration with the Australian Electoral Commission.

Wow. I think this is a courageous step for women in Australia. I'm not too sure how I feel about a women's only party. First of all, I would like to think that issues like parental leave, post-natal services and child care were family issues and not just women's issues. Unfortunately, though because the burden of care often falls on women - they're still seen that way. Secondly, in making it a 'women's only' party this might alienate potential male allies for the cause, which is unfortunate.

But ultimately, I think it is a great way to get women's issues into the news and to ensure, in a tight election campaign, that women's issues are at the forefront of the debate. Women in this newly formed party might not get elected in this election cycle, but they will increase the visibility of women involved in politics, encourage other parties to include women and hopefully help move public debate towards a serious consideration and addressal of the isssues that affect women.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Afghanistinian Female Journalists Targetted...

This article is a well written and frightening evocation of the situation in Kabul where a female journalist was recently assassinated by gunmen. After arriving home from her colleague's funeral, another journalist also received death threats.

"'Daughter of America! We will kill you, just like we killed her,'" she quoted the man on the phone as saying as she stood near the maimed body of Zakia Zaki, the owner of a radio station north of Kabul.

Part of Zaki's face was blown away by three attackers who entered her home and shot her seven times with pistol and automatic rifle fire in front of her 8-year-old son this month.

"'At least people can recognize her from one side of her face. We will shoot your face, and nobody will recognize you,'" Nekzad quoted the caller as saying before she hung up on him.

The lives of Afghan women and girls have improved vastly since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, who stripped women of most rights and made them virtual prisoners in their own houses.

In cities and some rural areas, women can now go to school and work outside the home. But this month has seen a rising number of attempts to quash these advances with threats and violence.

Manizha Naderi, director of the rights group Women for Afghan Women, believes the recent attacks reflect a Taliban resurgence and spike in militant violence across the country. Afghan women in general, and journalists in particular, are being targeted because of their high profiles.

"They want to make news, and targeting the journalists is a way to make news," Naderi said. "They're showing the world, 'We're here and we're still in charge of this country.'"

That is disgusting how these women's violent deaths are being used as symbols. Why are women in particularl being targetted? May I suggest that is it because they have crossed the thin line from being non-existent in public society to taking a visual part of it.

Women have played a large role in the country's media advances the past six years, and several women work on TV news programs as reporters and newscasters. They are typically modestly dressed, with their hair and necklines carefully hidden under scarves.

Still, some Afghans think it is inappropriate for women to appear before the public.

When Afghans talk about Shaima Rezayee, a popular music video show host shot to death in 2005, they speak in hushed tones - about the racy, un-Islamic way she dressed and behaved on TV, as if this justified her death.

And it appears Zaki may have been targeted because of her radio programming.

The radio host had been critical of warlords who warned her to change the programming on her station. Two suspects being held for her slaying are connected with the militant group Hezb-e-Islami, officials said.

In a second killing of a female journalist this month, Shokiba Sanga Amaaj, a newscaster for private Shamshad TV, was shot in her home in Kabul on June 1. Two family friends have been detained in the case.

Authorities say they do not know the motive for the killings of Zaki or Amaaj. Threats in this war-torn and corrupt country are not uncommon.

Nekzad, 29, who works for the news agency Pajhwok Afghan News, forwarded an e-mail to an Associated Press journalist that warned her, "We will kill you as soon as possible, INSHA ALLAH" - if God wills it.

The message, dated June 8, accused her of sexual impropriety and of working for NATO. It was signed "Habib from Hezb-e-Islami," the same militant group authorities suspect in Zaki's death. The authenticity of the e-mail could not be verified.

Nekzad said Afghans began paying attention to her fears only after she told foreign journalists, who took the dangers she faced seriously. She said she wondered if her own role as a journalist could somehow have saved Zaki

Meanwhile, these courageous women are living their lives in fear:

Meanwhile, Nekzad has begun changing her work schedule each day so potential attackers cannot track her routine. She sleeps in a different room of her house every night. She goes without sleep for days, and her speech is punctuated by a cough that she says is caused by stress.

"Maybe they will kill me after six months, after six days, after six minutes," she said. "We know that one day we will leave this world, but if you are informed that you will be killed, it is very, very bad. Every second kills you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

ways to be political: #42


I really meant to write this last night but I had a good excuse!
I was lucky enough to attend a felting workshop at the local ‘Spinners and Weavers’ guild in Prince George. WOW. If you want to get political, refuse to buy anymore underwear and shirts (and everything else) that are made in Bangladesh, Taiwan etc. etc. I’ve been increasingly more involved in the DIY (“do it yourself”, don’t laugh, I didn’t know what it meant for a long time) craft revolution and felting is my new love. Did you know that it is the OLDEST fabric of all time? This is because you don’t need any tools, just wool, your hands, and a bit of water (basically you work animal fibers down with water and friction and the fibers mat with eachother). Felting came out of Mongolia originally (apparently they used to/still insulate their yurts with it and use it for lots of clothing) but there are many eastern European techniques as well. There are some pretty interesting legends about how felt was started (such as that Noah’s ark was lined with fleece and the combination of urine and the trampling of the animals left behind a felted wool carpet—from Wikipedia ‘felt’) Yum!

The reason I am going on and on about felt is that women and textiles have been often involved with each other since humans have existed. I’m really enjoying reconnecting with this old art. Each time I make something, it feels more ‘REAL’ than anything I’ve bought at a store that is made overseas. As leaders and feminists, I think we have to question what we are buying and indirectly supporting (don’t drive yourself crazy because it’s easy to feel hopeless!). Just start thinking about it. What clothes are you wearing right now? Where were they made? Where did the materials come from?

I would highly recommend checking out a textile guild or catching a workshop. It’s pretty neat to realize how much effort can go into clothing. I could talk about art for hours and hours and I haven’t even touched on the women activists that are doing radical things with traditional mediums such as quilting and knitting.

Happy crafting!

(the easiest way to find workshops is to google it, or you can check out the BC Crafter’s guild) (in Vancouver, a super place to start for all things wool is

Well Wishes for Belinda

I just wanted to express well wishes to Belinda Stronach during her fight with breast cancer. My mom had breast cancer and this year celebrated her 10th anniversary of being cancer free! I hope in ten years Belinda will have a similar milestone to celebrate and that she'll be doing so from a position back in the thick of Canadian politics! Anyways, here's an excerpt from a great article in the Toronto Sun:

I do know Belinda and one thing's certain, she definitely doesn't want you to feel sorry for her. In fact, she wants you to challenge her more than ever before.

Allow me to offer some advice to people who are supporting family members or friends through treatments. There's nothing more infuriating than being treated differently because you have cancer. We are the same people we were prior to our diagnosis. Cancer simply magnifies our personality, dreams and aspirations. Stronach is a generous person; she wants to make a difference, an impact on the world. She wants to save lives in Africa, help educate women in impoverished countries, help champion the rights of women and to make a difference in the lives of Canadians. She wants to have great fun while working hard. Her cancer intensifies those goals and traits, making them more evident and real

Good luck to Stronach with her treatments and her fight! We will definitely be thinking of her.


This is a great article that ran in the Washington Post about the team of women that Hilary Clinton has assembled to help her lead her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. I love that she is working with a lot of powerful women in order to run her campaign!

The seasoned Hill aide knew what she was getting into when she agreed to become Hillary Clinton's chief of staff. The woman was quite prepared for all eyes to be on the biggest celebrity arriving in Congress, the first lady of the United States, who was expected to use her Senate seat as a springboard back into the White House.

But what caught Tamera Luzzatto unawares was the full force of the Hillary machine already in place and making decisions.

All of a sudden, I had the equivalent of a board of trustees -- an infrastructure that was integral to how she did business," recalls Luzzatto, who continues as Clinton's top Senate aide. "They knew what made her tick, how she thought, how to present advice to her -- with everyone united in a determination to see her do well. It was certainly a new experience."

Fifteen years after Clinton first brought these women together at the White House, the "board" has officially reconvened to help map her unprecedented effort to follow in her husband's footsteps. They are acutely aware their work is making history.

Once seen as a tight little sorority, today the group -- happily self-described as "Hillaryland"-- is at the center of a front-running presidential campaign. Never have so many women operated at such a high level in one campaign, working with a discipline and a loyalty and a legendary secrecy rarely seen at this level of American politics.

Older and tougher, they have formed a closely knit Praetorian Guard around Clinton that plots strategy, develops message and clamps down on leaks. But their extraordinary protectiveness also contributes to an ongoing perception of insularity around the candidate and the campaign.

Patti Solis Doyle, 41, Clinton's very first hire in 1991, now oversees the national campaign. Veteran Democratic activist Ann Lewis, 69, along with Capricia Marshall, 43, a Clinton White House social secretary, is leading an aggressive outreach to the female voters who are critical to Hillary Clinton's success. Neera Tanden, 37, who started as a brainy junior White House policy wonk, is the campaign's policy director.

Huma Abedin, 32, Clinton's omnipresent traveling aide, started in the White House as an intern a decade ago.

Even those not on the payroll are back. Evelyn Lieberman, 62, once a deputy chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and now an official at the Smithsonian, achieved cult status among the disciples for firing Monica Lewinsky before her affair with the president was known, and she remains a trusted adviser. A favorite joke in Hillaryland: If Lieberman invites you for a walk, don't go. It means you're fired. Maggie Williams, 53, the first chief of staff for Hillary Clinton, whom colleagues consider a soul mate to the senator, is a strong voice guiding outreach to African Americans.

I love the way in which she has brought women that she admires together to help make her presidential nomination happen! I encourage you all to read the rest of the article - it's about five pages long but well worth it!

Special thanks for the link to K.... one of Antigone's 'Mysterious Informants'

Monday, June 25, 2007

What a Day!: An Interview on CBC Radio One, a Workshop with the BCCIC and Speed Dating...

Okay, so maybe there was no 'speed dating' per se... although there were a couple of jokes regarding speed dating because of the set up of the room where I did my workshop... But back to the things that actually happened. Like being interviewed by CBC Radio One's 'The Coast' about Antigone Magazine and the workshop that I gave last night for the BC Council of International Cooperation. My workshop, entitled 'Texts and Cybertexts: Zines, Blogs and the Politics of Change' went over great! I spoke about the history of zines and blogs and some steps on how to create them and then we all worked together to make a collective zine.

Can anyone say cool? Honestly, what a great day! Check out the pictures from the workshop and the one at the beginning of the post from CBC's studios (that's me attempting to take over the airwaves). Now that I have a program put together for this workshop and for the talk that I did about women and politics, I'm more than willing to do workshops for any interested organizations. Just contact me ( or you know go through my media people (I'm kidding).

For anyone who heard about Antigone from the CBC, here's some more information about our magazine and blog:

Antigone Magazine is a semi-annual magazine about women and politics at the University of British Columbia. Founded by Amanda Reaume with the help of WILLA UBC (Women Involved in Legislative Leadership Association), the magazine was launched in November, 2006. Antigone seeks to be a publication about women, politics, women and politics and the politics of being a woman and has interviewed the likes of Kim Campbell and Elizabeth May.

Antigone is currently seeking to expand to other universities. If you are not a UBC student and would like to buy a yearly subscription ($12) please e-mail

Special thanks to Kate (my media tutor), Caro (my understanding boss who let me run off to the CBC in the middle of the workday), Meredith (my secretary/cheerleader), my mom (who taped the interview), Gillian (the cool woman from the CBC who tracked me down) and Kaitlin (my one and only Assistant Editor/Underling).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Aboriginal Women Hold Summit to Combat Violence

The Western Star reports on the National Aboriginal Women's Summit, which met to detail a ten year plan to combat violence. Sounds like these women are doing some great and necessary work.

The summit is being co-hosted by the Native Women's Association of Canada. Beverley Jacobs, the association's president, said the goal is to come away from this conference with an action plan that will improve the lives of aboriginal women in Canada.

"Other Canadians in this country need to understand the situation we are in and that governments need to act responsibly," said Jacobs. "I appreciate the governments that are here at this summit to address this crisis we are facing. It must be made aware to the public that the issues of violence and homelessness and extreme poverty are the result of the detrimental impacts of colonization and that aboriginal women have taken the brunt of this."

In Corner Brook for the summit are three other premiers, including British Columbia's Gordon Campbell, the Northwest Territories' Joe Handley and Nunavut's Paul Okalik. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer had intended to also come, but a flooding crisis forced him to stay home.

Jacobs said it is up to aboriginal women themselves to make sure their messages get through to government and the rest of the Canadian population. Part of that process, she added, is providing honest and straightforward advice and direction via this summit.

"We know the socioeconomic gap is getting wider and wider for aboriginal women," she said. "The crisis is growing larger and time is of the essence if we hope to save our children and grandchildren from a life of misery and despair. We know, as mothers and grandmothers, that we don't want them to grow up that way. We don't want them to grow up in violence. We want them to be happy and safe. We want to have safe communities and it's going to be up to the women to make sure that happens."

Williams, meanwhile, said he's not the only premier eager to hear what Canada's aboriginal women have to say in Corner Brook."The premiers are with you on your issues - very much so, and I hope, over the course of the next 48 hours, to learn more and get more detail," Williams said to Jacobs. "We believe in the issues. We need to make a difference. We have some huge problems across the country and it's about time the voices of aboriginal women are being heard across this country. And I guarantee you, at the end of this conference, they will be."

I think it is faboulous that the government and the premiers have made the effort to go to this event! It's a very important summit and one which I think the premiers can learn a lot from. But, I hope they actually do something with what they learn. It may be up to aboriginal women, as Jacobs says to get their message through, but it is up to all of us to listen to those voices and ensure that their advice gets headed. Let's keep pressure on our governments to do what's right for aboriginal women!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Abortions Hard to Get...

The Mercury News has an interesting article about the difficulties of getting an abortion in Canada. Although abortion is no longer a criminal offense, it is however a labourious undertaking, and one fraught with frustration and complication at every turn.

It's just as difficult to access abortion services at Canadian hospitals, researcher Jessica Shaw learned as she called all 718 facilities across the country, posing as a pregnant woman.

Instead of helpful information or referrals, she was hung up on, laughed at, told no one would talk to her, given misleading information or greeted by a long silence on the other end of the phone line.

In one hospital, Shaw was referred to the psychiatric ward.

"I can only imagine what it does to a woman when this is their first contact person," she said yesterday at the 29th annual Guelph Sexuality Conference, hosted by the University of Guelph.

Shaw did her polling of hospitals for a report recently released by Canadians For Choice, a charitable organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive rights.

Instead of focusing on clinics, Shaw chose to concentrate on hospitals -- the entry point into the health-care system for many women.

When a woman wants to have an abortion in Canada, it's not as easy as one might think, she said

Wow! What a harrowing experience for a woman who is already distressed.

From her calls last year, Shaw found 15.9 per cent of Canadian hospitals provide accessible abortion services -- a drop from 17.8 per cent in 2003. She found wait times could be as long as six weeks, and said abortion services across the country were poorly dispersed.

"A woman in northern Manitoba may have to travel 20 hours to get an abortion. . . . There is a lack of access for rural women and certainly northern women," Shaw said.
One of the barriers is the expense of travelling to the nearest location offering an abortion, she said.

Andrea Grant, a counsellor at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre who attended yesterday's session, said many of the women who come to Alberta for an abortion are from the Maritimes, where even fewer hospitals offer the procedure.

For example, no hospitals in Prince Edward Island perform abortions.
Beatrice du Prey, Grant's colleague, said travel is a deterrent for women, especially if they're teenagers.

Anti-choice organizations and judgmental gatekeepers at hospitals are another barrier for women, Shaw said.

In one instance, she called a British Columbia hospital and was told if she had an abortion and later decided to have a baby, her cervix would have to be sewn shut and she'd be confined to bed rest for nine months so the baby wouldn't fall out.
Among other myths she heard from anti-choice organizations was that an abortion would draw her into an abusive relationship because she would subconsciously feel she deserves punishment. She was also told abortions cause drug and alcohol addictions.

A lack of funding, insufficient facilities and a lack of training are not helping to improve access to abortion services, Shaw said.

Shaw said she'll deliver a report card to every hospital based on her report. Canadians For Choice will redo the report every three years and put together a supplementary clinic report.

The organization will put together a national directory of providers

Canadians for Choice sounds like a cool organization - the work that they are doing is very important and I would love to see that directory - a great resource for women! I'm glad that someone is taking hospitals to task for their dismal treatment of women seeking abortions. Perhaps the hospitals given failing grades will be shamed into improvement!

Gardasil and the Right Wing Controversy...

Here's an article from the Windsor Star about Gardasil, the vacine for young women that is meant to help prevent a number of strains of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection that leads to Cervical Cancer. Great thing right? One would think that a vaccine for cancer would be heralded as a breakthrough with people lining up from all over to ensure that they were innoculated... Well, not so much - at least not in the US where many religious conservatives see this vaccine as a message to their daughters (this vaccine is best given to girls aged 12-26 before they become sexually active) that it's a free for all for sex.

I'm continually shocked and disturbed by how stupid people think young women are. I'm sure most young women know that there are other concerns when having sex and will continue to use condoms if they do so. I'm similarly shocked and disturbed by how religious conservatives think abstinence works and like to hold onto their scary statistics and diseases in order to scare teens from having sex - even at the expense of their health. But here's my issue with this article: it talks mostly about a problem that isn't really an issue here in Canada. There just isn't the same resistance to the drug as there is in the US... so how does this article possibly encourage and create resistance to it that doesn't already exist? The article focuses primarily on debunking ideas that Gardasil is a bad thing...

Although some are concerned that giving girls the vaccine may lead them to believe they can safely have sex, medical officials say the benefits far outweigh any such concern.

"There's a kind of hysteria about the drug especially within the religious right in the United States, but for me it's a public health issue," said Samantha Brennan, head of philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.

Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death in young woman, and in most cases results from exposure to HPV. Gardasil is most effective when given to girls and young women before they have sexual activity, but studies are being done on its efficacy in older women who have had sex and have even been exposed to the virus which in most cases clears up on its own instead of leading to cancer. The vaccine also guards against genital warts caused by HPV. It is not recommended for boys or men, pregnant women or girls under nine years.

Officials agree that even if a person has an HPV infection, getting the vaccine can still be protective because Gardasil works against the two strains that cause cancer, and two that cause genital warts.

"When you put a helmet on your kid to ride a bicycle, you're protecting them," Murphy said. "We know that abstinence does not work."

Local health officials are firmly on side when it comes to innoculating girls. "If I had a teenage daughter, I would definitely provide the vaccine," said Dr. Allen Heimann of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit which provides Gardasil in its clinic.

"No woman in Canada should die of cervical cancer," he said, adding that all women still should be screened for the disease on a regular basis. The vaccine is not yet covered by provincial health plans, and the three necessary injections - given over six months - can cost up to $400. The federal government has set aside $300 million for provinces to fund the vaccine, but the national protocols have not been established, a spokesman for the Ontario health ministry said.

"To my mind there isn't a moral argument," said Guy Grenier, a London, Ont. psychologist and author. "We should be educating our kids about sex."

Stephanie Driedger, a nurse practitioner at Windsor's Teen Health Centre, said the vaccine is offered to every eligible client who comes in for a physical.

"We have noticed an increase in interest," Driedger said. Most of the recipients are between 16 and 25 and many of them are sexually active, she said, but she said most of them do not view the vaccine as a carte blanche to have sex.

"I don't think that's the impression they're under. It's the word, cancer. The benefits outweigh the risks," Driedger said.

"It's just a new thing for me," said Cathy, a Windsor-area resident with two daughters aged 19 and 13. "I have thought about it. I'm not 100 per cent informed.

"It's been sitting on the back burner. I'd like to open it and discuss it with them," she said, adding that although Garadasil may be effective, she still leans towards encouraging her daughters to be careful about having sex.

So... the article isn't THAT bad... although it doesn't mention the other vaccine that will be coming out for cervical cancer in the next few months. Nor does it talk about another debate that is currently going on - which is whether to also innoculate young boys, in order to save them from penis cancer (admittedly rare) and help create herd immunity, by preventing them from spreading HPV to their partners. If I had a son I would immunize him against HPV!!! Also, what man would want to be a carrier for a disease that might cause cancer in the people that he loves? Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Apparently, I like my men wearing dresses (or so this article suggests)

Apparently, I like girly men. Well, that's what this article about the 'surrendered wife' seems to suggest. That's right... the SURRENDERED wife!!! Even the name of the movement points out its perversity and ridiculousness. The whole thing makes me want to vomit really.If one is surrendering... one would assume there had been some 'war' going on, no? The war in question is apparently about who wears the 'pants' in the household. Apparently, many women have found that their marriages are soooo much happier if they abnegate all their desires and defer to their husband - not only doing everything for him around the house, but agreeing to never refuse his request for sex - no matter how much they might not want it.

PETER HARVEY: Welcome to the world of the surrendered wife — sisters who have come out of the kitchen but now they're going back in. Here in America's Midwest, women like Crystal and her two-year-old daughter Catherine, who's already in training.

CRYSTAL: We talk a lot about Jesse's, 'He's your daddy and you're supposed to obey your daddy and we want to honour him and we want to respect him'. And just talking about why we are cleaning. We want to have a clean house so that we can honour Daddy because Daddy likes the house to be clean. Put it right there. Do you know why we're making the fruit pizza? We're making it for Daddy. We want to please him. We want to do special things for him. Daddy's the king of our home, isn't he? You said that you wanted me to do the ironing.

PETER HARVEY: And does Daddy Jesse like being king of the castle? You bet he does.

JESSE: I think obedience is a good quality to have in a wife. An obedient wife does have a quality of being submissive and yielding her rights to the needs of her family and the desires of her husband. Okay. Gotta go.

PETER HARVEY: In their household, 26 year-old attorney Jesse literally lays down the law — written instructions for every moment of Crystal's day.

CRYSTAL: Jesse, he really likes for me to do things like this. It makes him very happy, because I'm being productive. Because I'm doing it for my husband, it's not just for myself.

The whole issue about sex as well is very troubling, because the language the couple uses really enforces a lot of unhealthy sexual stereotypes and beliefs that lead to a culture of rape. When women say no.... they mean no. They do not mean... continue to coerce me and maybe we'll have sex. Men should be taught to respect that 'no'... and not try to turn it into a yes. This myth that women want to be pursued is a nasty and pernicious one. FUTHERMORE, what kind of man who loves his wife would force her or coerce her into having sex with him if she doesn't want it!!! That's not love... that's seeing your wife as an object for your pleasure. To be used. As some sort of masterbation aid (I'm just saying...).

PETER HARVEY: But these rules don't stop at the bedroom door, no, sir.

SKYE: One of the basics of surrendering is that your husband always takes the lead when it comes to sexual intimacy. And another thing is that the woman always says yes to sex. And sometimes you might not feel like it but then when you start being together and kissing and hugging and just being together and getting that closeness, then, generally, I want to anyway.

PETER HARVEY: Oh, that's okay then, isn't it, Frank?

FRANK: Right now when they say, 'No', that might be true. But women are very much in the moment and what is true right now might not be true two minutes from now.

SKYE: He knows he will just keep pursuing me, you know? And he knows I'll give in eventually.

FRANK: Nowadays guys are kind of like — they'll bump up against a little bit of resistance with their partner and if there's a little bit of resistance they back off. And that's not what she wants, she wants me to pursue her to the end of the planet.

All these 'self-help' revolutions for women are so troubling, especially when they tell them that the way to have a healthy marriage is to give into your husband all the time. What about what the women want? What about their desires? Apparently, giving in is easier. There is one voice of reason in the interview though... Thanks god!

PRU GOWARD: There is no such thing as an adult who can entirely subvert themselves to another person. That's called slavery and I think we abolished that several hundred years ago.

PETER HARVEY: Feminist Pru Goward can't believe some of this stuff. Now a Liberal MP, she was the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner. She knows it when she sees it.

PRU GOWARD: If you have to lie to your husband and tell him you're being obedient when you're actually just running everything, well, you do have a problem. I mean, we live in the modern age and I think men are actually quite grown-up and they do know that this is a partnership.

Yay Pru! Voice of reason! Here's the problem of being in a society that emphasizes equal partnerships while not entirely enforcing them. The equal partnerships are difficult to have, especially when one member of the partnership has some ingrained idea that they are better than the other member and that their opinion should matter more. I'd personally rather get divorced from a man like that and spend the rest of my life alone (and happy) than stay with someone like that. But then, I like my men in dresses apparently....

PETER HARVEY: But it comes to price. A century of women's struggle for equality with men has to be set aside the moment you walk in the front door. And, inevitably, some men will seize on that.

FRANK: I think it's hard for women in general just to stop the talking for a minute and allow their men to be men.

SKYE: I've discovered through experience, doing it for three years, that usually if I had done it the way that I was going to do it, it wouldn't have turned out as great as it did when he made the decision. He wears the trousers, absolutely, without a shadow of the doubt. I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't want a man who wears a dress.

So, there we go. I personally like equal partnerships because I would never abnegate my own desires for someone elses but that's because I don't consider myself a second class citizen and there are certain compromises I'm not willing to make in order to keep the peace. Until I meet someone who won't make me make those compromises, I'm very happy alone. Of course, any men who wear dresses feel free to apply.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Antigone's Editor (that's me) is Doing a Talk for the BCCIC!

I will be doing a workshop at the BC Council for International Cooperation next Monday from 6:30-9:30 about the history of zines and blogs and how they have contributed to social movements! This is the cool poster that the BCCIC have put together to advertise the event. I'd love to see some of the blog's readers out there so please RSVP asap as there are only about 10 spots left!

Zines, Blogs and the Politics of Change"
*With Amanda Reaume, Antigone Magazine Founder and Editor
Presented by BCCIC’s Across Generations MDGWorkshop Series*
Date: Monday, June 25th
Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Location: 2150 Maple Street (SPEC building, between6th – Maple in Kits)
Cost: FREE! /Light refreshments and snacks will beserved./
Everyone is welcome to participate in the workshop.Space is limited please RSVP with Carly Teng at and or call 604-899-4475.
Visit for more information.

Here's a description of my workshop:

First zines and now blogs have become cornerstones of progressive social movements. The backbone of their appeal is the inherent democracy within their self-production. Almost anyone can create a zine or a blog – and through subversive use of these mediums one can communicate and advance politics and beliefs that are not part of the mainstream.

Indeed many past and present social and cultural movements have zines as part of their history for this very reason. Hippies, beatniks, punks and riot grrls have written and self published zines. The punk and riot grrl movements are particularly invested in self publishing because of their do it yourself (DIY) ethic. But even as ‘zines continue to flourish as alternative and subversive publications in online and offling forms, blogs have also created communities that have been coopted to offer alternative ideas.

From her role as the editor and artistic director of Antigone Magazine, a feminist zine and blog about women and politics, Amanda Reaume will speak about her own experience writing a zine and working on a blog. This workshop will discuss the history of ‘zines and blogs and give practical advice on how to go about making your own. In fact, the attendees will work together to actually put together their own zine!

World Refugee Day (Wed.June 20)

I’m on the BC/Yukon regional Amnesty International list and they always send out great events. I won’t be in Vancouver for this one, but check it out if you can! (check out the international website at to find your local group).

Celebrate World Refugee Day - Wednesday, June 20

The Canadian Red Cross and Vancouver Refugee Council present "TAKING REFUGE
AMONG US" ... a series of activities and events throughout the day to help
people explore refugee experiences in Canada, and Canada’s role in offering
them protection and assistance. Vancouver Public Library, 350 W. Georgia
. For more information, contact Jenny Moss (604) 709-6662 /

12:00 – 2:00 pm – How do refugees come to Canada?
Learn from agencies and refugees themselves how Canada protects refugees
through government assistance, private sponsorship and the claimant
process. Library Concourse.

5:30 – 6:30 pm – A day in the life of a refugee claimant: a simulation
experience for yourself, what it is like to arrive in Canada and request
protection. Discussion to follow simulation. Alice McKay Room (downstairs).

7:30 – 9:00 pm – Facing facts: myths and misconceptions about refugees and
protection. Participate with speakers from the refugee community, legal and
community services and government agencies who together will outline the
legal, humanitarian response to the refugee reality and help us explore how
we can all contribute to a positive start in Canada for refugees fleeing
persecution. Alice McKay Room (downstairs). Admission is free.

To celebrate this day, I wanted to find out more about refugees, women, and Canada.

I found this article:

“Gendering Canada’s Refugee Process” by Catherine Dauvergne, Leonora C. Angeles, and Agnes Huang. The research and publication was funded by the Status of Women Canada. Here is a link to the pdf file (it’s really long).

I can’t do the article justice by summarizing it, I would really recommend checking it out though, there are some very interesting issues raised. There are great stats tables at the end (e.g. p.117 Appendix B for the gender break-down of refugee claim outcomes 1989-2003) as well as 79 recommendations to the Canadian government in areas such as conducting gender-based analyses of the Canadian refugee process (changing guidelines aren’t enough! We need to push for follow up).

Here is a brief sample of the concluding paragraphs. Please look at the article when you have a minute though, it’s fascinating!

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act makes an unprecedented Canadian legislative commitment to include a gender-based analysis in annual reporting of actions under the Act. This report considered how this is being carried out in the area of refugee determination. Our conclusion on this point is that while planning is underway to begin a gender-based analysis, the analysis phase has not truly begun.

The IRB’s Guidelines on Gender-Related Persecution were the first in the world. They are important for women seeking refugee protection, and are well institutionalized at the IRB. However, they are only relevant to one aspect of a woman’s experience seeking refugee status in Canada. This process begins when she first says she would like to make a claim, and ends when she is a permanent resident reunited with her family, or when she leaves Canada. There are policies, procedures, rules and processes along the way. Few of these take gender-related persecution into account. We have some recommendations about making the guidelines, or their use, better. Most of our recommendations address other things: what happens to a woman before she enters the hearing room, and after she leaves it. The guidelines alone do not settle the issue of gender in refugee determination.

Happy reading, let us know what you think!

Edith (who feels way more passionate about refugee rights after going through that article!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Help Find a Cure for Cancers Below the Waist

I feel very passionate about finding a cure for those cancers that occure in the underwear region
as my one Grandma died of uterine cancer and my other grandmother had cervical cancer! The Underwear Affair is currently looking for volunteers for their event in Vancouver on June 7th so I just wanted to forward this e-mail along:

My name is Leah, I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for this year’s Underwear Affair benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation! This is our 2nd year in Vancouver and the event is already shaping up to be even bigger and better then last year! The Underwear Affair is a one of a kind 5km Walk or 10km Run to raise money for cancers below the waist. Unlike most events of this kind, the race starts later in the day, includes an EXPOsed after party with DJ Supalfy, and there is even a prize for best costume! It is an event not to be missed!

We are looking for volunteers for this incredible event, and energetic and committed people like yourself are essential to making this a memorable Affair!

We need people to help with Check-In, Start/Finish Line, Course Marshals etc. Once I get your request you will be scheduled and hear back from me with confirmation of your shift approximately two weeks prior to the event. Please remember that flexibility is key as your position may change come the day of the event or during the event itself—as to accommodate the needs of the event! So when you respond, the most important piece is the time you are available, followed by your preferred position. Please e-mail if you are interested!

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding and I can’t wait to have you join us…in your underwear!!

Also, if you have any family or friends who you think would also like to be apart of this event, please pass along this information or have them sign-up online!!

Again thank you for your interest, and I’m really looking forward to having you join the 2007 Underwear Affair Race-Day Team!

Cheers; Leah

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Foreign Correspondent in Saudi Arabia

Megan Stack from the LA Times has an interesting article about being a foreign correspondent in Saudi Arabia. It's an interesting take on her experiences there as a woman and about being a Western woman grappling with cultural differences.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — THE hem of my heavy Islamic cloak trailed over floors that glistened like ice. I walked faster, my eyes fixed on a familiar, green icon. I hadn't seen a Starbucks in months, but there it was, tucked into a corner of a fancy shopping mall in the Saudi capital.

After all those bitter little cups of sludgy Arabic coffee, here at last was an improbable snippet of home — caffeinated, comforting, American.I wandered into the shop, filling my lungs with the rich wafts of coffee. The man behind the counter gave me a bemused look; his eyes flickered. I asked for a latte. He shrugged, the milk steamer whined, and he handed over the brimming paper cup. I turned my back on his uneasy face.

Crossing the cafe, I felt the hard stares of Saudi men. A few of them stopped talking as I walked by and watched me pass. Them, too, I ignored. Finally, coffee in hand, I sank into the sumptuous lap of an overstuffed armchair.

"Excuse me," hissed the voice in my ear. "You can't sit here." The man from the counter had appeared at my elbow. He was glaring."Excuse me?" I blinked a few times.

"Emmm," he drew his discomfort into a long syllable, his brows knitted. "You cannot stay here." "What? Uh … why?" Then he said it: "Men only."

He didn't tell me what I would learn later: Starbucks had another, unmarked door around back that led to a smaller espresso bar, and a handful of tables smothered by curtains. That was the "family" section. As a woman, that's where I belonged. I had no right to mix with male customers or sit in plain view of passing shoppers.

Like the segregated South of a bygone United States, today's Saudi Arabia shunts half the population into separate, inferior and usually invisible spaces.

What I like about Stack's article is how it tells a complex story about many women wanting very different things. Check it out! It gives you something to think about.

One afternoon, a candidate invited me to meet his daughter. She spoke fluent English and was not much younger than me. I cannot remember whether she was wearing hijab, the Islamic head scarf, inside her home, but I have a memory of pink. I asked her about the elections.

"Very good," she said. So you really think so, I said gently, even though you can't vote?

"Of course," she said. "Why do I need to vote?" Her father chimed in. He urged her, speaking English for my benefit, to speak candidly. But she insisted: What good was voting? She looked at me as if she felt sorry for me, a woman cast adrift on the rough seas of the world, no male protector in sight.

"Maybe you don't want to vote," I said. "But wouldn't you like to make that choice yourself?"

"I don't need to," she said calmly, blinking slowly and deliberately. "If I have a father or a husband, why do I need to vote? Why should I need to work? They will take care of everything."

Through the years I have met many Saudi women. Some are rebels; some are proudly defensive of Saudi ways, convinced that any discussion of women's rights is a disguised attack on Islam from a hostile Westerner. There was the young dental student who came home from the university and sat up half the night, writing a groundbreaking novel exploring the internal lives and romances of young Saudi women. The oil expert who scolded me for asking about female drivers, pointing out the pitfalls of divorce and custody laws and snapping: "Driving is the least of our problems." I have met women who work as doctors and business consultants. Many of them seem content.

Whatever their thoughts on the matter, they have been assigned a central, symbolic role in what seems to be one of the greatest existential questions in contemporary Saudi Arabia: Can the country opt to develop in some ways and stay frozen in others? Can the kingdom evolve economically and technologically in a global society without relinquishing its particular culture of extreme religious piety and ancient tribal code?

The men are stuck, too. Over coffee one afternoon, an economist told me wistfully of the days when he and his wife had studied overseas, how she'd hopped behind the wheel and did her own thing. She's an independent, outspoken woman, he said. Coming back home to Riyadh had depressed both of them.

"Here, I got another dependent: my wife," he said. He found himself driving her around, chaperoning her as if she were a child. "When they see a woman walking alone here, it's like a wolf watching a sheep. 'Let me take what's unattended.' " He told me that both he and his wife hoped, desperately, that social and political reform would finally dawn in the kingdom. He thought foreign academics were too easy on Saudi Arabia, that they urged only minor changes instead of all-out democracy because they secretly regarded Saudis as "savages" incapable of handling too much freedom.

"I call them propaganda papers," he said of the foreign analysis. "They come up with all these lame excuses." He and his wife had already lost hope for themselves, he said.

"For ourselves, the train has left the station. We are trapped," he said. "I think about my kids. At least when I look at myself in the mirror I'll say: 'At least I said this. At least I wrote this.' "

'Honour' Killings in Canada...

The Vancouver Sun reports about the problem of honour killings in Canada but does so in such a cursory and muddled way, that they might as well have not said anything at all! The article starts off well, citing the issues...

A 14-year-old female rape victim is strangled to death in March 2004 by her father and brother because she has supposedly tarnished the family name.

In April 2004, a man brutally kills his wife and daughter after finding out that his brother had previously molested them.

A teenage girl with a Turkish background has her throat cut by her father after he learns she has a Christian boyfriend.

These are frightening stories that I personally would like to have more information about. My problem with the article is 1) It's a very short and cursory exploration of the issue (apparently the issue does not merit attention?) and 2) I have some problems with what the authority (Dr. Amin Muhammad at Memorial University) who is cited in the article says.

Muhammad's report contains statistics from the United Nations Population Fund which reveal that more than 5,000 women are victims of so-called "honour" killings each year.

"In different cultures, they can get away without being punished -- the courts actually sanction them under religious contexts," he said.

Along with extreme traditional beliefs, there are deeper mental health issues that need to be considered, Muhammad said.

Quite often, people who are willing to kill members of their own family to restore some notion of honour are doing so, not just because they believe it to be right based on culture, but also because they are mentally ill in some way.

"Somehow, it gets ignored," Muhammad said, citing a lack of understanding in the West and the lack of mental health personnel in developing nations as part of the problem.

I'm not trying to denigrate mental health issues, or contend that they are not contributing factors to honour killings but who else is scared that such thinking will simply allow people who commit such acts to use a mental health defense? Also, 5000 women each year seems to be a lot of women to be killed by male relatives with mental health problems. It seems to me that much more is going on here and that this article acts to dismiss the larger cultural problems with the way in which women are valued or devalued in order to lead to such situations. But that's just me.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

free Betty!

Hey everyone,

I just finished reading Betty Krawczyk’s book ‘Clayquot: Sound of my heart’. Betty is a well known (and in many circles, very well loved!) 77 yr old grandmother who has fought for the environment for most of her life. She was most recently in the news for protesting the Eagleridge Bluffs Sea-to-sky highway expansion that involved bulldozing an old-growth arbutus forest as well as wetlands for the 2010 Olympics (I’m sure I will rant about the Games in a future post, they make me so angry!). She was arrested (along with a number of concerned citizens) 4 times and finally sentenced to about 10 months in prison, just outside of Vancouver.

The reason I am talking about her is that I am desperate for strong female role models at the moment. I NEED to believe that I can make a difference and I think we need to be aware of these women warriors who are changing the world RIGHT NOW.

Please check out Betty’s blog ( , she is dictating her posts from jail. There are some very interesting topics to consider. She talks about the conditions in prisons, rights for incarcerated women with babies, the (BAD) food, and of course the environment. Although Betty fully knew the consequences of repeatedly protesting at Eagleridge Bluffs, I still find it extremely painful that she is in jail. Yes, technically she should be there, but ARG, she did the right thing. We all have an obligation to protect what is precious.

While what she is fighting for might not be everyone’s first interest (but it should be!!! This is obviously my own bias, but come on, this planet is in serious trouble), Betty is an extraordinary example of standing up for what she believes in, even with serious consequences. We have to find ways to ACT on these issues we are talking about!

I urge everyone to call up your local assault centre and see what they need, donate your clothes to a shelter, volunteer at a food bank, wake up each day and think about what you can do to change things.

Let us know what initiatives you are involved in/have heard of, lets light some fires under policy makers’ butts and get some CHANGE going on here.

In solidarity,


Friday, June 8, 2007

The 'W'horrible Truth

Oh dear.

There was an extremely provocative article in yesterday's Globe and Mail on sex in marriage. The author, a female writer, came up with the brillant title "Sex, or he's your ex." I think I just experienced a minor blackout. I encourage everyone to read today's ensuing discussion in which she claims that woman can own the word "Whore." I got all teary, really I did...

When an article begins with "The Penis Rules" and finishes with "Be a lady in public and a whore in the bedroom" one starts to wonder whether we aren't just going in circles. Or maybe we are. In my Theory course yesterday we were (appropriately) discussing Freud, who as we all know, had a minor obsession with the Phallus. Apparently this writer is a closet Freudian (excuse the poor metaphor--Freud was anything but in the closet). Anyway, to return to my course, my professor made the astute observation that the discussion of sex tends to take a circular route--we precede/progress so far only to recoil. This article is a 'recoiling' of the most banal sort--back to the primitive ties of a medieval patriarchy, if you ask me. I am sceptical, to say the least, of the claim that women should have to perform two separate patterns of behaviour--why is it we're always doing more work than men? Why, oh why, do some men, (and women apparently) not realize that the discourse of masculinity that creates the 'universal' male sexuality (which informs the male psyche to which this writer refers) is just as constructed as the word whore? When I think of 'whore' I think of poor Desdemona and her role of the scapegoat for the fragile male psyche. To me whore has been, and will always be, demeaning; indeed, as we're all aware, language has a history, whore is a 'label' for a reason. You can write on a label, but you can't undo its origins, and sadly, it seems, its propensity to 'stick' to the wrong surfaces...

I don't know, am I being too demanding here? Is it possible, perhaps, that the Penis should not rule? While I don't disagree that sex is an important part of any relationship and should be discussed, the suggestion that it is "emasculating" to men not to cater to their sex drive really, well, annoyed me. What year are we in now? 1350?

The penis rules. Or should, anyway. “If men don't feel respected or loved, if they don't feel like a man, if they have to walk around on eggshells when it comes to their sex drive, if their horniness is treated like an inconsiderate act of selfishness – like typical male behaviour – then they will reassert themselves with another woman,” says a man I will call Mr. Multiply Divorced.

People who make coitus their career understand this. Ask Lou Paget, sex therapist and best-selling author of books about orgasms and helpful tips on giving blow jobs, among other bedroom matters. “There's no other time in a man's life when he is more connected to his masculine self than when he is making love or having sex with the woman or partner of his choice,” she explains.

“And men know this. … It's a huge part of the male psyche that he be acknowledged for what his efforts are, and he will go elsewhere to get it if his partner doesn't give it to him. He will get it through sports. He will get it through work by the accumulation of money. I can't tell you how many men I know who are massively successful but who have crappy marriages. Or they will get it from another woman.”

Furthermore, in today's discussion the author made this mind-numbing observation:

That said, I do think that child-rearing really takes its toll on women, much more so than on men. We worry about the children, and how they turn out is very much a reflection of us as mothers. It's just not the same for fathers.

So I do think women, once they become mothers, have a whole new load of considerations to take on, and their energy, and ability to give out to others, shifts. Men can counteract this loss of self, this self-sacrifice every mother understands, with a little love and consideration - like allowing her time off or agreeing to be more involved. I don't think many men understand what motherhood is like, and the husbands who do, or at least try to, are more likely to be fully and generously loved, if you know what I mean, by their wives.

"It's just not the same for fathers." Hmmm this stinks of essentialism to me. Men cannot be nurturing because why? Please note the use of the term "loss of self"; this does imply, dear writer, that the woman had an identity before she became a mother...

It's children that change the sexual energy of a marriage. I remember an acquaintance of mine complaining about her husband's expectation of sex. She had two young sons at the time, and she was a wonderful hands-on and attentive mother. There were lunches to be made, laundry to finish, dinner to make, homework to help with, errands to run, and just before she passed out from exhaustion, a husband to do. And she did, because if nothing else, she is highly responsible. (And still married, by the way.) The whole yummy-mummy trend is really a statement of denial, if you ask me. Most young mothers will tell you that after having their bodies taken over by pregnancy, and then the demands of breastfeeding and constant monitoring of a baby, what they would really like at night is to be left alone for a bit, untouched. They've overdosed on closeness for the time being.

But husbands still want their wives to view them as the primary relationship. Another man I know – okay, we can call him Mr. Former Boyfriend – told me that in his marriage of 20 years and three children, his ex-wife, who gave up work to devote herself to the care of their offspring, denied him sex so often he had to beg for it. And when she relented, he felt it was out of pity or obligation.

Such a dynamic is common and emasculating, notes Esther Perel, a New York-based couples therapist and the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic, published last year.

“It's not healthy for men to feel pathetic about their urges and shame about their desire. It's not just their masculinity they are expressing through sex but also their lesser masculine qualities, their tenderness, their vulnerability, their desire to give pleasure and receive it,” she explains.

Their 'lesser' qualities? Who said anything about lesser?

A wise commentator in today's discussion observed that using the word 'whore' was actually disempowering to women in so much as it insinuates sex is owned by the male of the species in order to be 'placed upon' women. The author's response:

As for women owning their sexuality and their bodies, I think we do. That's why I, as a female columnist, can write that we should be whores in the bedroom. We can make fun of the labels and use them at our will.

I don't know that women own the word whore--and neither do I think we should want to. Not that I'm suggesting women should be 'priggish,' but rather, that I don't think re-appropriating demeaning terms is actually a way out of our 'disempowerment.' Thoughts?

Monday, June 4, 2007


Here is a photo of hope (from 1940s, it is her Government Photo, from wikipedia). This was one woman who stood up for what she believed in and really made a difference in this world.

Her name is Rachel Carson (1907-1964). She’s an American biologist who wrote ‘Silent Spring’ and many credit her with launching the global environmental movement. Her book was published in 1962 and especially highlighted the impact that pesticide use (DDT) was having on the environment. She explored the idea of environmental connectedness: many larger animals and humans were devastated by DDT (by both direct contact and the disruption to the food chain).

She definitely caused some waves, to put it mildly.

Time Magazine (1999) wrote:

Carson was violently assailed by threats of lawsuits and derision, including suggestions that this meticulous scientist was a "hysterical woman" unqualified to write such a book. A huge counterattack was organized and led by Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid - indeed, the whole chemical industry - duly supported by the Agriculture Department as well as the more cautious in the media.

She would have turned 100 this past May 27, so lets celebrate her memory! Stand up for what we believe in even if it is HARD!

I’ll leave you with a couple of her quotes.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe around us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

“[We are] challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.”

Thanks for reading!


(who has seeds of inspiration sprouting in her brain and hart)

east van porn collective

In short response to amanda's previous posts, I had to let you all know about this rad collective!

I will let their website/blog/and amazing doc speak for themselves, but check out these revolutionaries that are confronting/tackling/engaging/ and challenging traditional porn and making their own badass films :) Knowing that people like this exist fills me with hope and constantly make me smile when I’m walking down the street.

(for those of you in van, you can find a copy to rent at alpha video on the drive)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Female Sexuality...

I apologize for the picture but I had to post it to illustrate the following argument. Please note that this does not look like a very comfortable position for these girls to be posing in!

I'm very fascinated with the debate in the feminist community over women and 'sexiness'. I have no problem with sexuality or with women embracing their sexuality, but I do have a problem when female sexual behavior becomes a mimicking of very rigid categories of what is considered sexy... to someone else... namely 'men' and pop/porn culture. I put men in brackets because I'm refering here to the stereotypical construct of the male and of male sexual desire... which is not always the reality and which is very much a rigorously policed construct.

This really hit home for me in the last few weeks upon going home and finding a Hooters poster on my 13 year old brother's wall. These images of very deliberately posed scantily-clad women with ridiculously dramatic 'sexy' expressions whose bodies conform to the uniform female ideal (impossibly large breasts and an impossibly thin body) was very disturbing.

First of all, it's so oppressively ubiquitous! Secondly, it reinforces and constructs 'sexiness' as something that is a product of the body alone. How absurd! For me being 'sexy' has never meant posing my body into someone else's idea of 'sexiness' or dancing like women in music videos or pretending to lesbianism to grab the attention of a man. Being sexy is about intelligence, it's about wit, it's about confidence in oneself and about concern and respect for others. Its about moving one's body the way one wants to, about laughing at the ridiculousness of the performance of 'sexiness' and about following one's true desires.

The pin-up, for me at least, just reinforces the idea that women must fit into a very limited role to be sexy and that sexiness is only skin deep, that sexuality is just an image, a pretense, a performance.

The subject of female sexiness as performance was dealt with in Levy's Female Chauvenist Pigs. It was also addressed in this article. The article points to some of the downsides of this sexiness and it's effect on women. I can't say I agree with everything it says (I think its a tad too traditional and doesn't properly address young women's desire, plus, I'm not a huge Suicide Girls fan because of some of the company's business practices), but I think it is an interesting read. Thoughts?

"As a high school teacher, I see 14-year-old girls dressing in a way that makes
me shake my head. Where do they get that?" asks Dennis Brown, an educator and
parent in Huntley, Ill., outside Chicago.

Recently, he says his own 5-year-old daughter proclaimed, "Daddy, I look fat."
"And I thought, 'Oh my gosh, here we go,"' he says. "Now I have to start deconstructing that mind-set."

It's a big topic of discussion among researchers. A 2007 report from the American Psychological Association compiled the findings of myriad studies, showing that the sexualization of young women and girls, in particular, can hurt them in many ways. Problems can include anything from low self-esteem and eating disorders to depression and anxiety.

Simon, the California therapist, has seen those symptoms in several of his young female patients.

While boys tend to seek out porn for their own sexual pleasure, he sees a sexual disconnect with girls who exhibit provocative behavior they're not ready for -- from undressing online to performing oral sex on boys.

"It doesn't have anything to do with their sexual pleasure," says Simon. "It has to do with pleasing somebody else -- the grasping for attention.

"As a parent, it makes me want to cry."

And while they tell him they feel empowered, too often, he says they end up getting pegged as "sluts."

Julie Albright, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has noted that dynamic in her research. She's working on a book about "players," men who juggle more than one sex partner and earn a title of esteem for behavior that much of society still frowns upon for women.

"If you 'act like a man,' in that sense, you're trying to grab hold of that same kind of power, that same kind of lifestyle -- and claim male privilege," Albright says.
"The problem is, you're still female and it's still a man's world."

Anna Stanley, a 25-year-old in Madison, Wis., knows all about that double standard. She also wonders if she and her peers place too much importance on the power of sexiness.

"It seems like it stems out of the 'Girl Power' thing of the '90s gone awry -- men objectify us, so let's objectify ourselves and get something out of it. It's not really progress," she says. "But it's something I have mixed feelings about -- because sometimes I do it, too.

"Sometimes you do dress up to get noticed and attention, and you do feel more confident when you do that."

She wishes there was more focus on helping women develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality.

Missy Suicide -- founder of the "Suicide Girls" pinup Web site -- couldn't agree more.

"I think that women shouldn't be afraid of their sexuality. It's a part of who we are. You shouldn't be embarrassed and ashamed of your body and yourself," says the 29-year-old entrepreneur, who lives in Los Angeles. But, she says, it shouldn't be the sole focus.

She and the women on her site are known for challenging the stereotypes of beauty, with their tattoos and piercings and varying body types.

"I get messages from girls all the time saying they never felt beautiful before because they never saw girls like themselves in magazines or on TV. Then they saw a girl like them on 'Suicide Girls,"' she says of the site, an online community that attracts a worldwide audience of both admirers and women who want to become nude pinups.

Victoria Sinclair, the lead anchor on "Naked News," also sees herself as a role model. She left a job in the corporate world to join the show as lead anchor in 1999 -- and never looked back.

]"Sometimes, there are moments when I think, 'Oh my goodness what am I doing?'" says Sinclair, who recently turned 40. "But I'm really OK with it."

She says it works for her because she has control over what she des on the show and has been allowed to age gracefully, without plastic surgery.
Still, many skeptics remain.

"To be sure, it can make you feel powerful to know that you are arousing strong feelings in other people, that you have their attention and admiration," says Eileen Zurbriggen, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who helped compile the APA report.

"This is the same sense of power experienced by charismatic rock stars and politicians. But politicians also wield other kinds of power. They can make actual changes to the legal, economic and geopolitical landscapes -- changes that have far-ranging impacts.

"Women," she says, "might be better off developing other sources of power."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Fund the Child?

And not the system?

A controversial article in today's Globe and Mail highlights a cornucopia of interesting statistics around Canada's childcare systems. The author's argument revolves around the way Canada's proposed childcare system could potentially keep some families/single-mothers below the poverty line--instead of providing the 'relief' of child-support.

The author is quite clearly not an advocate of universal daycare--and is also clearly opposed to Bill C-330, a New Democrat private member's bill. This bill, if passed, would force any future money given to provinces to be used towards Federal funded daycare. However, the bill's survival is unlikely given it will probably not have completed three readings before the next election.

What I find curious is the analogy this author makes between the Canadian experience with universal daycare, and the American, as she insinuates 'failure.' I am not well-read on the particulars of the American experience, but given the vast differences in how our countries collect taxes and distribute them, I would think the analogy is somewhat unfair. Canada's provinces have vastly differing revenue collecting capacities from their state counterparts, and to disregard (as this author does) this inequality is to ignore a crucial 'argument' for Universal daycare.

The author does, however, highlight some alarming statistics:

One would think that if parents saw the offer of heavily subsidized daycare as the poverty-alleviating solution it is purported to be, Canada's poor mothers would be beating a path to its door. Clearly, they are not. Each parent is so unique in their life circumstances that although daycare may be a solution for one, it may be the defeat of another. That parents are in the best position to determine this should be the basis for all child-care policy in this country and should be a guaranteed right for all parents. To not do so is tantamount to promoting a monoculture.

Indeed, it was truly liberal U.S. feminists such as Anna Quindlen and Barbara Ehrenreich who saw their country's "welfare reform" for what it really was — workfare — and correctly predicted that many lives would be the worse for it.

While Canada's daycare policies are not yet workfare, poor mothers do receive a massive and disproportionate amount of state benefits only if they fit themselves and their children into the market economy. Toronto will pay the full $18,000 daycare fee if a mother goes out and earns the same. Will it pay $36,000 if she has two children? If we follow Sweden's lead, it will. It was reported that a mother in that country along with her truck-driver husband requested a small subsidy to lift them above the poverty line while they looked after their own children. City officials said no, offering two $20,000-a-year daycare spots instead.

The author concludes her argument with the suggestion that perhaps universal daycare is not the only solution.

The sight of two eloquent witnesses, a Christian minister from Ontario and a home-schooling mother of five from Alberta, arguing for diversity, choice and inclusiveness while never once criticizing daycare or a family's right to choose it was something to behold, especially when compared to the intransigence of the federal parties still supporting this bill.

Perhaps we need a 21st century update of a classic liberal doctrine. "The greatest choice for the greatest number" should be our country's new mantra. Family policy would be a wonderful place to start

Indeed "choice" is crucial, but how such choices should be worked through our complex and multi-tiered federal money transfers is an outstanding question. Perhaps 'universal' is the place to start. Only after something has been established can that thing be changed. I think it best women advocate for something rather than nothing. Imperfect as 'universal' may be, let's not imitate the parliamentary process--childcare is an urgent reality, in some form or another...