Sunday, September 30, 2007

Attack on UBC Womyn's Centre Threatens Feminist and LGBT Community

In light of the recent druggings at the UBC Beta Theta Pi fraternity party, I’d also like to make mention of the attack on the Womyn's Centre which happened on September 19th. An individual tore down posters and graffitied anti-feminist and homophobic messages in the Womyn's Centre lounge and on its message board. For those like myself who are involved with the Womyn's Centre, the attack has left us threatened, demeaned and afraid. Because the attack happened on campus, it isn't very comforting that we go to school where individuals who are fundamentally against women's and LGBT rights coexist among us. Furthermore, the Womyn's Centre is a designated safe place. The attack threatens and undermines the function of the positive, liberal space provided by the Centre
and by the University. An excerpt from the official statement released by Erin Innes of the Womyn's Centre the day after the attack is as follows:

"Clearly this attack indicates what we all knew already -- that whatever the university would like to think, gender-based oppression and violence is alive and well on this campus, and the need for services and spaces to name and organize against gender-based oppression are vital to the safety of our community and should be supported in every way possible. For myself, this attack has left me feeling frightened and threatened in the one place on campus where I have always up to now felt the most safe, the most respected. I believe that the most immediate way that we can respond to this attack is to send a message that violence is not tolerated on our campus, that the people who use our centre are not a nameless, faceless, voiceless minority that can be victimized in this way with impunity."

Even though there was a small article (or, as I saw it, a "blip") in the Monday, September 25th issue of the Ubyssey reporting the attack on the Womyn's Centre, the paper made no effort to discuss what such an attack could mean for women and/or the LGBT community on campus. It could just be my bias, but I felt that an attack on a designated safe place on university grounds would take precedence over the headliner about VPD recruitment. As for solutions, the Centre has suggested putting up posters to increase awareness. I also encourage people to write editorials to the Ubyssey or other media. Don't be afraid to express your rights and opinions.

What I'd like to stress is that more attention should be drawn to incidents of bias motivated crime (and by no means am I suggesting that potential date-rape is any less of a crime). While UBC and the RCMP work to keep individuals safe, the question that arises is whether or not you can compare an attack on a designated safe place on university grounds on the same level as the recent drugging of girls at a UBC frat party. Can we go to a party and feel safe? Can we be Feminists (or women) and/or LGBT on campus and feel safe? Are we solely responsible for our own safety? It is unfortunate that there cannot be the same media coverage or attention paid to a kind of hate crime than there is to attempted sexual assault. In my mind, the two are interrelated. Both incidents attacked the safety of women and men and demand equal attention.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conference in Ottawa = Brief Hiatus

Well, Antigone is once again going on the road! I will be in Ottawa this weekend chairing a panel on women in politics. The panel will feature Equal Voice Founder Rosemary Speirs, former Minister Jean Augustine, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, human rights lawyer Marilou McPhedran and political scientist Emmannuelle Hebert.

Wow! I'm honoured and excited to be moderating a panel with such distinguished guests! I will post about it when I get back! I've included a description of the panel for you below.

Uphill Battle: Women in Politics

Erasing the Female Deficit in Canada’s Legislatures

In a country where women represent 52% of the population, currently only 20.8% of Members of Parliament are women. Of our 13 provincial and territorial legislatures, not one even comes close to having women compose 50% of their elected representatives. Although Manitoba leads the pack with 31.5% of representatives being women, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories trail with only 10.5%. Although women recently achieved record gains in politics, including appointment to 50% of Quebec’s provincial cabinet positions, such gains often disguise women’s losses. In Quebec’s last election the percentage of female representatives actually decreased. Worldwide, only 16% of elected officials are women.

This panel will address the deficit of female representation in politics, and more specifically the lack of female representatives in top political roles. We will explore the ways in which women are disadvantaged within and by the political system, including through media biases, systemic discrimination and antiquated public attitudes about gender.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

(Wo)man Speak Out!

On the theme of acts of violence against women, I wanted to link to this great e-zine and organization called (Wo)men Speak Out. (Wo)Men Speak Out is an organization dedicated to eradicating male/female violence against both genders. They seek to educate both men and women, cultivating healthy relationships and gender equity.

The e-zine and organization was founded by Christopher Dessert and his wife Ophelia-Dawn Shona Power-Dessert. Chris is an advocate for VAWM & Survivor of childhood sexual violence. Ophelia is the Director of Ophelia's Love & Director of Operations for the Angela Shelton Foundation.

Read the e-zine! It's absolutely fabulous!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is America Ready for a Woman President?

Blogging has been scant this week because UBC is having it's clubs days and we've been out there trying to get more young women and men involved in Antigone!

As an apology... I leave you with this fabulously satirical sketch from the Daily Show. Watch it. You will laugh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Corresponding with a Sports Writer about Homophobia

So... last week I did something I don't normally do! I wrote an e-mail to a sports columnist from about a column he had written about Breakfast with Scott (what some might call the Gay Hockey Movie) that I thought was homophobic.

Mr. Carefoot, the columnist, was very gracious with my criticism and responded to me twice, for which I thank him. Please note that I am not trying to attack him personally with this post, but only to look at the ways in which, journalists especially, must be careful with the language they use and with what that language and rhetoric suggests or implies.

What bothered me about the article was the way in which he contextualized the issue - which was to talk about it as though it were the worst thing that could happen and refer only to the controversy and anger that people would have because of it, instead of thinking about how this might also be liberating for some hockey fans. Here's a couple of excerpts:

Of course, there are those who believe that a very clear statement is being presented with this tacit approval from the NHL – such as the unironically-named "Americans for Truth" website, which wrote, "As a work of homosexual propaganda, the film is clearly meant to target the last vestiges of resistance to normalized homosexuality among Canadians."

Regardless of the intent of the film-makers, it's impossible to ignore the significance of the fact that the NHL and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment allowed their valuable brand to be associated with this film. To put it in perspective, imagine the response if somebody tried to get the Dallas Cowboys to allow the use of their iconic blue-and-white star in a similarly-themed movie.

If there was going to be a major sports league to make this leap first, it pretty much had to be the one with the most Canadian performers and consumers. Like it or not, this subject continues to be a significant difference in fundamental values between Canadians and Americans.

However you feel about the issue, it's worth noting that there has yet to be a player who is publicly "out" during his NHL career. And if there is a more macho sports environment than the average hockey locker room, good luck finding it. With that in consideration - however you feel about the NHL and it's involvement with this movie - this is a bold move.

"Breakfast With Scot" is scheduled for wide release in November. Have you seen it? Will you see it? Or will you burn your Maple Leafs jersey in protest? You know how to let us know...

I wrote the author telling him that I thought his article was implicitly homophobic. Although he doesn't say that homosexuality is a bad thing he implies that it is and only expects anger and outrage from the movie. Nowhere in his article did he quote a gay rights group, or the makers of the movie in order to give their perspective on the issue, and yet he quoted the 'Americans for Truth' website, arguably a highly biased and very homophobic institution.

He also uses some highly leading language and examples - by including the example of the Dallas Cowboys and then by asking in his final sentence whether the reader will burn their Maple Leaf jersey in protest. What about asking whether they will become a Maple Leaf fan in celebration and appreciation - which I'm sure many Canadian sports fans who also support the GLTB community will?

For some reason this article really upset me. At the end of our correspondence Mr. Carefoot pleaded out of resposibility saying he was a sports columnist and not trying to write a political article. But the everything is political isn't it? And jounalists have a particular responsibility for the words that they write because of how our culture magnifies their voices.

I will leave you with an excerpt from an article written by Amanda Sung that will appear in the next issue of Antigone Magazine. It's about the ways in which female politicians are portrayed in the media and how it impacts their credibility in very real ways. Here she talks about how what journalists write becomes an agent of normalization.

What Mr. Carefoot is perpetuating is that an angry reaction to a movie about a gay hockey player is normal, natural, and indeed the only reaction one can have. Whether he is just a sports journalist or not, it is my belief that he has a responsibility to not perpetuate prejudice and to be very careful about what he writes because of the fact that his words reach and influence such a great body of people.

Although millions of people read news on a daily basis, few of them are aware of the ideological implications embedded in what they read. The unawareness among the audience originates from Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy of hegemony, where social inequalities clearly exist but often go unnoticed. Hegemony stands for the notion that “the dominant classes exercise social and cultural leadership” over the subordinate groups without a trace of violence.

The way that hegemony functions in the news is through “representing opinions of the powerful”, such as the male politicians or the group of people that advocate normative values as well as what the public considers as consensus, and so on. Another reason that inherent social inequalities are often unseen is the ways the journalists construct news, which is the most common daily dose for citizens.

In the majority of mainstream news contents, the journalists compose their stories in the manner of what is considered objectivity. By subscribing to the characteristics of “objectivity”, mainstream journalists construct their news stories as if what is presented in the news is normative and how things “ought to be”.

Who has the access to be quoted, define an issue, or make a statement in a news story is chosen by the journalist in order to avoid being controversial and meet commercial logic. The hierarchical relations of whose voice is credible, acceptable, or representative of the dominant group embedded in the mind of a mainstream journalist results in marginalization of alternative, subordinate social groups, and depoliticization of important issues, in this case, gender equality.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The National Post's Woman Issue

On Saturday, I did something that I haven't done in a while... I bought a newspaper. What could have possibly caused me to do such a thing when the internet is such a wonderful source of news? Well, nothing but The National Post's Woman Issue (watch the slideshow on the main page - it's very interesting!).

Yes, that's right! The National Post devoted an entire issue to women! It was fabulous - chock full with statistics about where women are today as well as, with short interviews at the top of every page with a number of women about why they are happy to be women today. Well, I can't say all it was exactly what I would have created for a women's issue - there was definitely not enough articles talking about the current problems facing women around the world, or even non-white women in Canada- I must say it was refreshing to see a national newspaper taking women seriously as a subject and devoting their entire weekend issue to them.

Seeing as the paper that I bought was the last one in the streetcorner box on Saturday and it was only 10:00am... I think it probably went over well for them. I hope other newspapers will follow suit and devote more column space to issues that affect women!

Here's a round-up of some interesting articles:

The challenge of choice

Women's Problems with Infertility

Female Sexuality

How to balance work and kids


Friday, September 14, 2007

Legalising Prostitution...

There has been a lot of debate recently about the benefits of legalizing prostitution. An article from the Guardian though serves as a caution against those who are too optimistic about the benefits of the project, by exploring the underside of Nevada's legalized brothels. So what are the negative aspects of legalized brothels in Nevada? Well, the women are kept isolated in remote locations, fined for minor infractions, made to work 12-14 hour days, overly monitored by the government, and working under sometimes violent pimps. One slang term for the brothels is 'pussy penitentiaries'.... enough said? Here are some particularly troubling excerpts from the article.

A new book - Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections - makes interesting reading. During a two-year investigation, the author, Melissa Farley, visited eight legal brothels in Nevada, interviewing 45 women and a number of brothel owners. Far from enjoying better conditions than those who work illegally, the prostitutes she spoke to are often subject to slave-like conditions.

Described as "pussy penitentiaries" by one interviewee, the brothels tend to be in the middle of nowhere, out of sight of ordinary Nevadans. (Brothels are officially allowed only in counties with populations of fewer than 400,000, so prostitution remains an illegal - though vast - trade in conurbations such as Las Vegas.) The brothel prostitutes often live in prison-like conditions, locked in or forbidden to leave.

"The physical appearance of these buildings is shocking," says Farley. "They look like wide trailers with barbed wire around them - little jails." The rooms all have panic buttons, but many women told her that they had experienced violent and sexual abuse from the customers and pimps.

"I saw a grated iron door in one brothel," says Farley. "The women's food was shoved through the door's steel bars between the kitchen and the brothel area. One pimp starved a woman he considered too fat. She made a friend outside the brothel who would throw food over the fence for her." Another pimp told Farley matter-of-factly that many of the women working for him had histories of sexual abuse and mental ill-health. "Most," he said, "have been sexually abused as kids. Some are bipolar, some are schizophrenic."

Then there is the fact that legal prostitutes seem to lose the rights ordinary citizens enjoy. From 1987, prostitutes in Nevada have been legally required to be tested once a week for sexually transmitted diseases and monthly for HIV. Customers are not required to be tested. The women must present their medical clearance to the police station and be finger-printed, even though such registration is detrimental: if a woman is known to work as a prostitute, she may be refused health insurance, face discrimination in housing or future employment, or endure accusations of unfit motherhood. In addition, there are countries that will not permit registered prostitutes to settle, so their movement is severely restricted.

Those who support the system claim that the regulations may help prevent pimping, which they see as a worse form of exploitation to that which occurs in brothels. According to Farley's research though, most women in legal brothels have pimps outside anyway, be they husbands or boyfriends. And, as Chong Kim, a survivor of prostitution who has worked with Farley, says, some of the legal brothel owners "are worse than any pimp. They abuse and imprison women and are fully protected by the state."

The women are expected to live in the brothels and to work 12- to 14-hour shifts. Mary, a prostitute in a legal brothel for three years, outlines the restrictions. "You are not allowed to have your own car," she notes. "It's like [the pimp's] own little police state." When a customer arrives, a bell rings, and the women immediately have to present themselves in a line-up, so he can choose who to buy.

Sheriffs in some counties of Nevada also enforce practices that are illegal. In one city, for example, prostitutes are not allowed to leave the brothel after 5pm, are not permitted in bars, and, if entering a restaurant, must use a back door and be accompanied by a man.

So how did Farley gain access to her interviewees? Those in control of the women were confident that they would not be honest about the conditions, she says. "Pimps love to brag, and I know how to listen," she adds. Although left alone with the women during interviews, Farley noted that they were all very nervous, constantly looking out for the brothel owners.

Investigating the sex industry - even the legal part - can be dangerous. During one visit to a brothel, Farley asked the owner what the women thought of their work. "I was polite," she writes in her book, "as he condescendingly explained what a satisfying and lucrative business prostitution was for his 'ladies'. I tried to keep my facial muscles expressionless, but I didn't succeed. He whipped a revolver out of his waistband, aimed it at my head and said: 'You don't know nothing about Nevada prostitution, lady. You don't even know whether I will kill you in the next five minutes.'"

Farley found that the brothel owners typically pocket half of the women's earnings. Additionally, the women must pay tips and other fees to the staff of the brothel, as well as finders' fees to the cab drivers who bring the customers. They are also expected to pay for their own condoms, wet wipes, and use of sheets and towels. It is rare, the women told Farley, to refuse a customer. One former Nevada brothel worker wrote on a website: "After your airline tickets, clothing, full-price drinks and other miscellaneous fees you leave with little. To top it off, you are ... fined for just about everything. Fall asleep on your 14-hour shift and get $100 [£50] fine, late for a line-up, $100-500 in fines." (The women generally negotiate directly with the men over the money; what they get depends on the quality of the brothel. It can be anything from $50 for oral sex to $1,000 for the night, but that doesn't take account of the brothel's cut.)

Farley found a "shocking" lack of services for women in Nevada wishing to leave prostitution. "When prostitution is considered a legal job instead of a human rights violation," says Farley, "why should the state offer services for escape?" More than 80% of those interviewed told Farley they wanted to leave prostitution.

The effect of all this on the women in the brothels is "negative and profound," according to Farley. "Many were suffering what I'd describe as the traumatic effects of ongoing sexual assaults, and those that had been in the brothels for some time were institutionalised. That is, they were passive, timid, compliant, and deeply resigned."

"No one really enjoys getting sold," says Angie, who Farley interviewed. "It's like you sign a contract to be raped."

Meanwhile, illegal brothels are on the increase in Nevada, as they are in other parts of the world where brothels are legalised. Nevada's illegal prostitution industry is already nine times greater than the state's legal brothels. "Legalising this industry does not result in the closing down of illegal sex establishments," says Farley, "it merely gives them further permission to exist."

Farley found evidence, for example, that the existence of state-sanctioned brothels can have a direct effect on attitudes to women and sexual violence. Her survey of 131 young men at the University of Nevada found the majority viewed prostitution as normal, assumed that it was not possible to rape a prostitute, and were more likely than young men in other states to use women in both legal and illegal prostitution.

The solution, Farley believes, is to educate people about the realities of legalised abuse of women. "Once the people of Nevada learn of [prostitutes'] suffering and emotional distress, and their lack of human rights, they, like me, will be persuaded that legal prostitution is an institution that just can't be fixed up or made a little better. It has to be abolished." The prevailing attitude in Nevada remains as it was a few centuries back though - that men have sexual "needs" that they have a right to fulfil. Outside one of the legal brothels a sign reads: "He who hesitates, masturbates."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Post Women?

Here is something I have been meaning to address for several weeks now, pardon the delay.

During my brief respite at home in Toronto, I came across an interesting publication, which, until now, I had not been aware of. The publication is the "Women's Post," a weekly newspaper which claims to address "women's issues." The paper is catered to "professional women" and treats an admittedly affluent demographic. I find this odd, particularly given that the newspaper is free. (Though they do run a membership program through their website. May I direct you in particular to their page of "Quick Facts" on the demographics of their readership. Notably, only 5% of their readers are male...)

Although the paper fills a niche market and certainly attempts to think through the "business world" in a way that speaks to women, I think it to be an interesting study in marketing--rather than a serious publication.

Case in point, the ubiquitous pink boxes in which the magazine can be found. "Women's Post" is marketed as a magazine for women. That is, it is sold to them, rather than for them. The articles which address the "struggles" of women, and other social minorities, are few and far between. This paper is a bit of wolf in sheep's clothing. If ever one could coin the term "the Old Girl's Club," this paper is it.
This paper, to my mind, is simply another instrument of a consumer society which depends on continual consumption to sustain itself. I don't see the point of affixing the qualifier "women" to such a paper--not when we already have sufficient such publications...

The eerily large brand-name advertisements which litter its pages made me reflect deeply on Antigone's need to advertise in order to fund itself. It is to be hoped that we should learn what NOT to do from this paper.
Perhaps even more discomfiting was the nature of the advertisements found within its pages: diet programs, nutritional supplements, fitness outfits, spas, cosmetic surgery, and of course, automobiles. (The paper even has an "auto" section, which I will address in due course.) These advertisements by themselves write into so many scripts without even mentioning any more pieces from the issue I am reviewing (for the week of August 24-September 7th).

There are, however, some interesting and socially salient pieces in the paper. Notably, a piece by a literary critic on her emancipation relative to her mother, and some pieces on environmental threats.
I do not mean to discredit its writers, nor the information it provides on the business "world." Rather, I wish to illustrate how the paper panders to, and reinforces, pre-existing stereotypes and scripts which service a patriarchal order. (Likely because of its capitulation to marketing gimmicks and its emulation of other larger publications.) Case in point: the aforementioned "auto" section. Here we have a female columnist discussing the merits of a Ford pickup. What the heck is such a review doing in this paper? This isn't to say that trucks are not useful to some, farmers, ranchers etc, etc...But in a paper which services a demographic of working, URBAN professionals? Just what is this article doing here?

I don't know that we can hold journalists to analyze the phenomena they report on, but we can ask that they choose to stimulate rather than to reinforce. I'm not sure whether this paper achieves anything "new" or different from other papers. Is this to say that women are no different from men? That we need not differentiate ourselves as such, that we should play into the roles given us? Why call the paper a women's paper then?
A circular dilemma indeed...
It is also possible that I haven't given the paper a fair try, and I will return to a later issue in order to re-evaluate my criticisms. But, for the moment, I ask you to comment on the paper and who YOU think it is servicing...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

York University Rapes

Campus security heightened in wake of sex assaults

There is a frightening story out of York University about two predators who sexually assaulted and attacked two women while they were sleeping in their dorm rooms. The ordeal that these two women endured, as well as a third women who was unsuccessfully attacked, is enough to make me absolutely sick. What type of people would do this? How can we ensure that our campuses are safe from attacks like this?

Campus police have doubled patrols and authorities have posted alerts across campus advising women to be vigilant with their personal safety.

"I'm pretty sure it happened on our campus pub night when there are a lot of people around," student Jillian Owen told CTV News. "I guess they just slipped through."

According to authorities, two men entered Vanier College residence located on Keele Street near Steeles Avenue West in the early hours of Friday morning.

They sexually assaulted two 19-year-old women who were asleep in their unlocked dorm rooms, and made a failed attack on a third female within the residence.

University officials say they are reviewing residence security measures in the wake of the attacks.

"We do have porters on the doors who are supposed to make sure individuals sign in," said university spokesperson Alex Bilyx. "However, people are in a new environment and they may sometimes forget that."

Police confirmed two women were taken to hospital, treated and later released.

The suspects entered six rooms in total but were eventually scared off.

Police described the two suspects as both white and in their early 20s: one was medium height with short dark hair and a dark complexion, and wore blue jeans and white running shoes; the other was about six-feet tall, had short light-coloured hair and also wore blue jeans.

Detectives with the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit said the rapes were particularly disturbing because there were two attackers working together within a short period of time.

A spokesperson from the York Federation of Students said she is pleased with the way the institution is handling the situation.

York University, and the surrounding area, has been plagued by a number of sexual assaults in recent history. A woman was sexually assaulted in April while walking to her residence, and two women were raped in the same area of the city in 2006.

Two other women were assaulted in 2000 close to campus, while another woman was also attacked on campus within the same year.

"I think you should be locking your door when you go to bed," said student Karen Dias. "I would never sleep with the door open."

Last week, a 23-year-old woman was viciously raped and beaten unconscious in a Carleton University chemistry lab in Ottawa.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why Poverty is a Women's Issue (But not exclusively so...)

Just thought I would respond to a comment on my last post, just to clarify what I was indeed saying by suggesting that poverty is a women's issue. Schmengy writes:

How does this make it exclusively a "womens issue"?

Poor people come in both sexes, last time I checked.

Of course poverty is not exclusively a 'women's issue'. As Schmengy rightfully notes, poor people do indeed come in both sexes, and I never meant to imply otherwise with my post.

What I meant to imply was that poverty is an issue that overwhelmingly affects women and even more overwhelmingly affects immigrant women, women from visible minorities and single parent households headed by women and as such is an issue that all women should take account of and work to irradicate.

Poverty Issues for Canadian Women, a report that can be found on the Status of Women Canada website, gives some background as to how exactly Canadian women are affected by poverty:

  • Almost 1.5 million adult women were living in poverty in 2003 - the most recent year for which information is available. Among adults, aged 18 or older, women account for 54% of persons in low income.
  • Data from the 2001 Census, based on before-tax incomes in 2000, indicated 29% of visible minority women were living in poverty. While the poverty rate for all foreign-born women was 23%, women who immigrated to Canada between 1991 and 2000 had a poverty rate of 35%.
  • Women are much more likely to be poor if they are on their own without a spouse or partner. The depth of poverty of lone-parent mothers is a serious concern. For example, in 2003, the average income of the 208,000 women who were heads of lone parent families was $6,300 below the poverty line.11
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the after-tax low-income rate for female one-parent families fell from 53% to 34%. But it increased to 39% in 2002 and was down only slightly to 38% in 2003.
  • In contrast, the low-income rate for lone-parent families headed by men has dropped by half since 1996 - from 25% to 12.6% in 2003.
  • Just 8.4% of all Canadian families with two persons or more were living in poverty in 2003 and the poverty rate for non-elderly two-parent families with children was 6.6%

Poverty is a Women's Issue

As Red Jenny noted in her post last week, Barbarah Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed has been made into movie form as The American Ruling Class.

It talks a lot about poverty in America and what it's like trying to get by while living on minimum wage. As poverty is an issue that overwhelmingly affects women, particularly single mothers, I thought it was important to both present this issue to you and encourage you to see this film. Here is a fabulous clip!

And here is a wonderful quote for you to think about:

The ‘working poor’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

Thanks to Jennifer for the heads up!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dion, Women, Networking and Souvlaki! Oh my!

I had a fabulous time this Saturday eating souvlaki with Stephane Dion! A special thanks goes out to Jennifer Sweeney (pictured above), a dear friend of mine and a loyal Antigone supporter who invited me to the event and then was a networker extradinaire - introducing me to everyone and making sure that a copy of Antigone got into all the right hands and that I got an interview and photo with Dion (check out our next issue for that!). Whew! She was tireless!

Interestingly, we also got talking about how important it is that women support other women and mentioned a book that she had read entitled 'She Wins, You Win' . I really liked the description of the book when I checked it out and thought that I'd share it with you, as it sums up quite well what Jennifer and I were talking about. I find it interesting to look at your own liberation and success as tied in with that of other women. Instead of competing with other women, ideally you should be working with them.

In this follow-up to her Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, Evans advises women to trump the old boys' network by playing a "girls' game." Espousing a one-for-all, all-for one approach, Evans insists women must work together to "achieve a critical mass at the highest levels," concluding, "Every woman must always play on the women's team."

Speaking of women - I wanted to mention also how impressed I was at the amount of women candidates that the Liberals will be running in BC in the next election. Almost 40% of the candidates are women! Dion spoke at the event about how important it is for women to be involved in politics and business and I truly appreciated the fact that he is making women's involvement such a huge priority!

Anyways, check out the rest of the pictures to see the great time that I had! By the way, I would love to be an Antigone Ambassador at other political events for any party - so if you know of any going on in Vancouver, please invite me along! You can e-mail me at

Amanda and Liberal Candidate Briony Penn

Amanda and Janine Krieber, Stephane Dion's wife

Antigone Supporter Aliya and Janine Krieber

Friday, September 7, 2007

Muslim Women Do Not have to Show Faces to Vote...

There has been quite a lot of controversy recently about muslim women and their ability to exercise their democratic right to vote, while still following their religious or cultural tradition or wearing a burka and covering their face. Luckily, women will now be able to vote and observe their religious beliefs. This is obviously a good thing, because even if you disagree with the practice of wearing a burka, the last thing that will 'empower' these women is denying them their democratic rights!

Ottawa -- Muslim women wearing niqabs or burkas covering their faces won't have to remove them to vote in three federal by-elections in Quebec on Sept. 17.

Elections Canada spokesman John Enright says the women can bring a piece of identification with a photo or another document proving their identity when they vote.

However, the women wearing niqabs or burkas who don't have any documents would have to show their faces to allow their identity to be confirmed.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Violence Against Asian Women and Stupid Men's Magazines

Sorry for the erratic blogging! I've been sick, I've been busy, I've been wrapping up a job and trying to start school. Now that I've provided you with sufficient excuses for all my blogging inequities... time to blog about something interesting! Well, of course, there are just so many things that I can't decide which to blog about so I'm going to do a blogging round up of the two stories that I most wanted to touch!

The Things I Wanted to Blog About This Week But Didn't:

  • Asian women in Vancouver attacked: Apparently, Asian women in particular have been subject to violent attacks and muggings in Vancouver. This is an outrage, as are the apparent motivations behind these attacks.

Burnaby RCMP Const. Kalinda Link calls the attack "random, senseless and cowardly," but others say it points to a larger trend of violence against women and Asian women in particular.

"It's really not a single crime that has been committed, this is an epidemic," said Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer of Women Against Violence Against Women. "Are women not supposed to go out at certain times or to certain places now? This is a societal issue that hasn't been dealt with."

Tung Chan, the CEO of SUCCESS, told 24 hours that a rash of assaults on Asian women has the entire community concerned.

"They are preying on this group of people believing they are new to the country and won't report it to police," said Chan. "This type of targeting is big concern."
Chan says it's an issue that affects the entire region's livelihood. "An attack on the weakest element of society is an attack on society as a whole," said Chan. "No one should stand for it."

  • Australian Men's Mag Belittles Feminists with Contest: Okay, so it's not a shocker that a men's magazine is belittling feminists - especially since this magazine is of the horndog-Maxim variety. It's also not surprising then that the contest asking for Sexy, Man-hating Lesbian Feminists to pose seductively in it's pages is a satirical response to criticism from feminists of their Win a Boob Job for Your Girlfriend Contest (Oh, the novels I could write about the problems with such contests! Please feel free to rant in the comments... I give free reign). But did they really need to write this:

The lad's mag today revealed its new competition - a search "for the hottest girl in sensible shoes" - promising the winner a year's supply of deodorant and a sexy photo shoot.

"If you hate men, we want to see photos of you in sexy lingerie," the ad reads.

Thank god someone responds to them:

The message is simple – women are okay as long as they’re playing by the men’s rules (which basically amount to not putting up a fuss about being considered 'fuckable'). Dissent is possible, but only if expressed in a cutesy pie, not-really-serious, isn't-she-hot-when-she-pouts-I-just-want-to-bend-her-over-and-give-her-one kind of manner.

Stray from these strict guidelines all you want, but expect to feel the full force of derision - and often violent attempts at humiliation - wafting from the Smoking Room. Worse, expect to be told that your very valid objections are indicative of a complete lack of humour, a determination to 'spoil it for the boys' and a total absence of femininity and sexual attractiveness.

Indeed, "Feminist!" has become the rallying attack cry from the armies of men that refuse to acknowledge that a woman's greatest aspiration isn't uniquely connected to how much men want to fuck them. Its hissed utterance has become ubiquitous for a host of inaccurate and lazy ideas that only serve to crudely mask the speaker's own ignorance and disinterest in directly engaging with those he seeks to demonise.

Holy Fricken Yes!!!! That puts so much I've wanted to say for so long into such great words!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Is it 'Woman Time' in Jamaica?

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller is facing a tough re-election according to the BBC. Jamaica's first female Prime Minister, Simpson-Miller is fighting opposition from Jamaica's labour party, whose leader is thought to have won the TV leadership debates. There is also belief among some Jamaican's that Simpson-Miller is having an especially tough time because she's a woman. Still there are some suporters who aren't giving up... as you can see in the picture above of young women decked out in 'Sister P' support.

Large crowds of orange-clad supporters choked the roads as Portia Simpson-Miller's campaign convoy inched along the road in a village called Norwood on Jamaica's north coast.

More than 100 cars were also decked out in the orange of her People's National Party (PNP).

Supporters sat on tops of cars, on window sills. Huge trucks with speakers the size of small huts boomed out songs written for her.

Prime Minister Simpson-Miller stood up in her black van, throwing T-shirts and orange bracelets to supporters ahead of Monday's general election.

"You can't lose, Sista P," a shirtless men shouted at her. She beamed. They touched fists, a gesture to signify respect.

Ms Simpson-Miller is a grassroots politician through and through. To supporters she is Sister P. It was her popular touch among party delegates that won her the leadership of the PNP against the odds when the then prime minister PJ Patterson retired in March 2006.

But if love was in the air in Norwood, it was harder to find in the capital, Kingston.

Many saw Bruce Golding the winner of the TV debates

What many see as a refreshing lack of airs and graces, others regard as an embarrassing inability to communicate well.

All Jamaican politicians slip easily into the patois on the campaign trail. Ms Simpson-Miller does it better than most.

But Dwayne and Shelly-Ann, voters at an outside bar in Kingston, were not convinced she was polished enough to "speak for us at the United Nations".

The Jamaican political picture is more complex than that, of course.

Ms Simpson-Miller and the PNP have the support of many "uptown" educated Jamaicans. Main opposition leader Bruce Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party have strong support in some poor areas.

The thing that swung it for Dwayne and Shelly-Ann was Ms Simpson-Miller's performance in two TV debates against Mr Golding.

"She found a million different ways to tell us nothing," said Dwayne scornfully.

"A country is a reflection of its leader. I would simply vote Labour because of [how she performed in the debates]."

But some people obviously think that she's been given a tougher time because she's a woman... unsurprising isn't it???

One of Ms Simpson-Miller's campaign songs is "woman a go run dis country".

Ms Simpson-Miller is looking for a full five-year term. Beating men in the PNP to the leadership was a big achievement and her close supporters play it up.

Tiffany was dismissive. "I'm all for woman power but... I don't think she has the finesse to run the country."

Shelly Ann thought talk about "woman time" now was "ridiculous".

But there was sympathy for Ms Simpson-Miller at the patisserie shop, where three women were preparing a presentation on their laptops. They did not want to be named.

The first told me she was angry. "If it was a man in office, I am sure he would not get some of the criticism that Portia has faced."

She would not put it down to sexism, but it was still "too harsh".

"She's only been in office for 18 months."

Her friend, a junior lawyer, told me she was PNP through and through, and thought Ms Simpson-Miller should be given five full years to prove what she could do.

"She's the best person for the job. And she just happens to be a woman."