Posts tagged: feminism
When I came back from New York, I felt like I had been away for a month since I packed so much into my trip. When I came back to Toronto, I had to hit the ground running and it already feels like a month has passed. So much can happen in two weeks!
I went to this workshop over a week ago.
It was titled, “Innovative Practices to Combat Cultural Norms that encourage VAW”
This workshop was hosted by a group of Chechen women who all work in NGOs like shelters and community centers that focus on empowering women.
This group of Muslim women was lively and vivacious. While the civil wars may have taken a toll on their personal lives, it clearly had not broken their spirits.
They started by sharing what the reality is for women in their country:
1. Polygamy, early marriage and honor killings are some of the greatest issues affecting women
2. 13 women in one woman’s village (population 300) in the last 5 years have been murdered via an honour killing
3. The number of honor killings and gender selective abortion (femmecide, gendercide) has been on an increase
4. Old Islamic traditions are returning such as stoning, female genital mutilation (though- these are not practices that actually are condoned in the Quran)
5. Infertile/barren women are divorced or forced into childcare for their husband’s new wives’ children
6. The mother-in-law is one of the main perpetrators of violence against women. As the husband is at work during the day, the wife often becomes the personal servant of the mother-in-law who carries out old traditions and bars her daughter-in-law from going to school or work.
As in all countries, poverty or not having access to proper resources is the main obstacle for leaving domestically abusive relationships. As in many countries, the constitution protects the rights of women but it is not enforced. As in many countries, women are afraid to appeal to the law because they are either not believed, blamed for the violence committed against themselves or the perpetrator is given impunity.
There are terrible things that happen in Chechnya that aren’t so different from things that happen here in Canada.
There are some things that are quite different.
When asked “Do widows have rights?”
One of the women answered - “The best case scenario is that she gets to leave with the clothes on her back”.
Unless she has a son. Of course.
They also showed a clip of youths dancing together at a co-ed party. The clip is only 20 seconds long, but in the midst of the bodies coming together and moving apart, a group of men run in, snatch a woman up, throw her over their shoulders and run out. They were taking her to be married, that night, against her will.
It gave me chills. I could not believe my eyes. It’s one thing to hear people talk about, and another to see it actually happen.
These Chechen women have a number of ways that they reach out to others. However - the most remarkable is their use of “Forum Theatre”, which they played out for all of us attending the panel.
They use skits and role playing with the attendees of their workshops to build confidence and educate women about how they can change their situations. Of course, this isn’t meant to put the onus on the woman to be responsible for the crimes committed against her - but it is meant to empower her to at least be able to say “No” and to know what her rights are.
The example they used was a panelist who played the mother-in-law and another panelist who played a young woman.
The young woman was trying to leave home to go to work and what the woman said is loosely translated to
“Where do you think you are going? To work?! You can’t got to work. You will bring shame on the family. It is your duty to stay here and take care of me. You need to care for your children, cook food and do the laundry. And take that scarf off! You are a married woman! It is far too bright. What’re you trying to do, be a slut? And look at this jewelry…”
The young woman tried to resist, but the mother-in-law tore off her head scarf and jewelry. The young woman then submitted to her mother-in-law and went inside.
They then invited women from the audience to try and change the scene - but they were only allowed to take the place of the young woman.
The first woman tried, and got very flustered even though she had approached with a lot of confidence. She failed to change the mother’s mind.
The second woman said “Mother, you know I love you. And I will always be here to take care of you. Just because I go to work does not mean you will be forgotten. In fact, because I have an education and can work, it means we can both have a better life. By adding to your son’s income, we can have more than just bread on the table. I am a human being, and I have rights. I need to go to work not just for myself, but for you too.”
They hugged, and the mother let her go off.
Now - this is an ideal situation. Not the reality of most. But through education, we can see incremental changes that can end up being quite monumental. Changing cultural norms takes a long time, but things like this give women courage.
When the two women embraced - they cried. They stayed together for what seemed like a long time for two strangers.
The room was buzzing with energy and hope. They did not even speak the same language but shared something incredible. Hope.
I’m in New York City this week for the 57th CSW. I’m so excited to be here! It’s an incredible opportunity to meet women from around the world to learn about the work they are doing. I’m also excited to meet lots of male allies and hear about what initiatives they’re involved in. I’m going to be attending around 5 workshops/round tables/panels a day. It’s going to be a lot to process, so I’ll be chronicling everything I’m learning by posting updates in the evenings.
*These are the women I went with - top left: Brenda Mann; top right: Linda Irwin and sitting: Torie Hogan
I arrived early afternoon - easy quick 1hr flight from Billy Bishop Airport - and got settled at the Hilton at 42nd and 2nd. If you don’t know Manhattan well, that’s the middle east side. We’re just a 3 minute walk from the UN. Which is quite a sight, especially after the (mostly) dull architecture in Toronto.
We got our grounds passes, photos and everything. Had a bit of an issue trying to convince the officer behind the desk that I wasn’t deceiving him with my height, and that I was just wearing heels. He wouldn’t look but found me to be trustworthy enough. Must’ve been because he had my Canadian passport ;) Just kidding! Canadians can be such filthy liars!
We had dinner and went to Timothy Keller’s church - but he wasn’t speaking. A tad bit disappointing but that’s okay! It was nice just to relax in the calm before the storm. And by storm I mean fury of women’s knowledge and AWESOME.
Only 1000 delegates have registered today, so that means 5000 are coming tomorrow.
I need to get my act together!
I know this is small but you can click “Hi Res” at the bottom of the post to open it in a new page and zoom in! This is a facebook thread with a number of reactions to this article:
which is about the website - Seeking Arrangement .
It’s controversial, no doubt. Which is why this wonderful and meaningful dialogue about it took place.
Facebook is often a place where dialogue is impossible - people get offended more easily because tone cannot be communicated. People also are empowered by the anonymity Facebook offers.
However, sometimes there are these little gems.
“Man Prayer” - by Eve Ensler
So I made a bunch of white Disney characters into WOC.
Just for funzies :D
Merida, Snow White
Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel
Aurora, Ariel, Meg
Jane, Jessica Rabbit
Walk A Mile in Her Shoes was the first White Ribbon Campaign event I was a part of, and I was a part of it in a very intense, tangible way. Despite being in leadership positions before, this was the first time it involved activism. It was exhilarating! If I’m passionate about something, I have no problem devoting all of my time to it. I spent hours making posters, handing out fliers, and endearing my fellow “strutters”.
© Char Loro www.lovehard.ca
However, I spent most of my time encouraging my boyfriend and father, who were excited to walk, but were still struggling with what it really meant for them - straight white and black men - to be walking in heels.
© Char Loro www.lovehard.ca
My father, who is mainly a playwright but really involved in all things showbiz is used to the idea of costume. He really will wear anything. Unsurprisingly the sight of him in heels walked the very thin line of education and entertainment. The Toronto Walk a Mile event is held downtown during the work day, so it’s mostly the white collar 9-5 crowd that participates over their lunch hour. 9-5 white collar my father is not, and neither is the majority of the population so he made it his mission to represent. A 6’2, bald and bearded man dressed in a Canadian Tuxedo is a fearsome thing to behold. Compared to the clean shaven, suit wearing participants and uniformed officers, it is sufficient to say he stood out.
The looks he got went from what looked liked horror, to amusement, disgust to ambivalence. The courage it took to look like what some people might peg as a person who is ignorant, or maybe even violent - destroys preconceptions about who women matter to.
In my boyfriend’s case, there were a whole lot of other intersections that made his experience very different. Age for one thing - chirping from friends was not an issue whether lighthearted or not in my father’s case. There’s also the whole experience of doing it as a black man. Of course being a man in Canada gave both my father and him shared experiences, but we all know society is not post-racial and there are cultural expectations that clash heavily. More on that from the boyfriend’s perspective in part 2- to be posted tomorrow!
Despite being caught up in walking the walk, I came face to face with the boundaries and social norms that keep men in a tight - albeit, slowly changing - box of machismo. I saw men struggling with these boundaries to prove they could do it and to show the women in their lives they cared.
All the men who participated showed vulnerability, they made room for failure, embarrassment and possible emasculation all for the sake of those women who are and will become victims of violence. This act also encouraged men who feel so trapped by limited masculinity to seek help. Their support of the White Ribbon Campaign proved being a man does not necessitate aggression, and does not exclude strutting in heels.
All the cool kids are doing it. Why aren’t you? Join numerous campus groups and our biggest Ryerson team yet as we walk to end violence against women.
Inequity in Current Fashion and Media
New Topman shirt promotes taking advantage of women with a list of no consent excuses, and insinuating women are pets.
JC Penney had a shirt out (they have taken out of production) which was quite blantantly saying women are stupid. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a young woman pretend she didn’t know something talking to a guy, that I knew she knew.
JC Penney Shirt - an article
How about lingerie for little girls- as young as 4!? This French retailer thinks it was a great idea.
And - if you haven’t seen this Nivea ad, it’s pretty self-explanatory if you consider the historical perception (which continues in various degrees through to present time) of Black people.
And FINALLY: What exactly is the problem with shoulder pads?
Think back to when shoulder pads were brought into fashion, originally. The 1980s - which is also when women first started to really make their way into the corporate, professional, executive world and wore suits. The purpose of shoulder pads is to make them look bigger, more square. More like a man’s shoulders. Something to think about as they’re reappearing.
Some questions I keep thinking about, with answers I’m trying to discover -
How can women be in leadership roles without relinquishing their femininity?
How can a woman be assertive and not be called manly? Or a bitch?