Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reading - The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service

Right now I am reading The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service.  I began to learn about Jane a couple of years ago while working with the SMU Women's Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia where I was finishing up my undergraduate degree.  A woman named Jane, ironically, recruited me to participate in a play called Jane: Abortion and the Underground.  Jane was a collective of women in the late 1960's early 1970's who wanted to participate in the women's movement in a way that allowed them to take direct action.  They weren't interested in writing letters or changing laws, members of Jane wanted to help one woman at a time from start to finish.  The group began as an abortion referral service, referring women to local underground abortionists in the Chicago area (abortion was not legal in the US until Roe V. Wade in 1973).  Eventually, the women of Jane took their power back and learned to perform abortions themselves.  In their four years of existence they performed 12,000 safe illegal abortions. Amazing.  The book is easy to read and gives the reader a good picture of what the women's movement at that time (not that I was there to verify!).  If you have any feminist leanings at all I highly suggest you pick it up.    

To learn more, please go here.  The Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU) Herstory Website has a wealth of information about Jane.  

Trust Women

On this date two years ago, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was brutally assassinated while attending his church in Kansas.  To honour his memory, visit this website.  Tiller's motto was Trust Women, a motto that the women's centre I volunteered with took on when the language of choice began to be debated once again.  I love the motto in its simplicity, trust women, for that is what we must do.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

To Walk or Not to Walk

That is the question.  Montreal's SlutWalk is happening this Sunday (May 29th) from 2-5.  Since the appearance of SlutWalk on the scene a few months ago following a Toronto police officer telling women at a York University gathering they could avoid sexual assault by not dressing like "sluts", I have been contemplating whether or not to attend.  The word slut felt heavy in my mouth and it seemed difficult for me to rally around it as a vehicle through which women can combat victim-blaming and violence.  I rally around the word feminist and I am not sure how the two go together.  One of the most thoughtful commentaries I've seen was written by Aura Blogando entitled SlutWalk: A Stroll Through White Supremacy.  She points out that, in essence, the event has become an exercise in white supremacist hegemony as it has located its discourse around the word slut, as opposed to discussing how institutional racism and violence is leveled against women of color.  Blogando points out that immigrant women of color who report sexual violence are at risk of being deported, and that black sex workers are criminalized.  She says, "The event highlights its origins from a privileged position of relative power, replete with an entitlement of assumed safety that women of color would never even dream of.  We do not come from communities in which it feels at all harmless to call ourselves "sluts".  Aside from that, our skin color, not our style of dress, often signifies slut-hood to the white gaze."  The organizers, by assuming that women can spontaneously "reclaim" a word that is used to stigmatize and shame continue only to further the myth of meritocracy so prevalent in our society.  The organizers want women to be free to call themselves sluts, forgetting that women, and women of color in particular, are not free from that word when it is used as a vehicle for hate.  Although I am positive the event coordinators have good intentions, a horde of scantily clad women does not necessarily challenge sexist culture and ideas.  Aside from that, one of the organizers, Sonya Barnett says she rejects "man-hating, hairy-legged, Birkenstock-wearing" feminists.  She proudly proclaims that she takes "no feminist stance".  Besides being annoying, her comments divert the walk from its awesome feminist origins (anti-victim blaming) and turn it in to a sort of watered down, "mainstream" feminism which is cool for dudes who can call women sluts because its empowering!  Why be ashamed to call yourself a feminist?  Those hairy-legged women are the reason we made it here.
In conclusion, instead of suiting up in my sexist lingerie to march through the streets of Montreal, I think I will stay at home this Sunday, sit myself on the couch and indulge in Jessica Yee's Feminism FOR REAL.  Or maybe just watch some oh-so feminist Disney movies with my kid.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Comic Review of Morning Glories

I've just finished the first Morning Glories book, a great comic by Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma and Rodin Esquejo. I bought it at 1,000,000 Comix here in Montreal and in suggesting it to me the (amazing) man working there asked me if I had liked Lost. This comic beats Lost hands down, it is up there in my top 5 favorite comics. As suggested by The Amazing Comic Man, Morning Glories has a clear story arc; Lost seemed to get off track near the end, pulling ideas from all over the place. The series grabs you right away by introducing the teenage characters in an interesting way, giving you just enough info to gauge who the characters are while not overwhelming the reader. You come to like most of the characters right away (except for the evil spawn that is Ike); they don't come across as too stereotypical. There's even one from Toronto!
While the story opening has you thinking these teens are about to journey through a normal life event, going away to school, you find out quickly (sneakily and suspiciously) that their journey to Morning Glory Academy is more dangerous than it seems. I rapidly read through the first book and found the storyline filled with enough danger and suspense to keep me on my toes, and enough answers to keep the story flowing. Although, as soon as you answer one question, you have three more. I highly recommend the series to comic veterans (which I am not sadly, yet) and new comic readers alike.

You can find my favorite comic shop (and The Amazing Comic Man) at 1418 rue Pierce.

Picture taken from:            

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All The Silence Is Worse Than All The Violence

This video is an awesome break from all of the ass-shaking (the girl in the video is actually wearing a LONG SKIRT?!). It hearkens back to Tupac's lyrics, offering social commentary on everything from Jersey Shore to the War on Terror. The video speaks to the discourse in the West right now, the constant consuming of crap, and the fear we as citizens experience when critiquing social and governmental institutions. I watched Lupe Fiasco speak on a latenight talk show, and he offered genuine sentiments of protest and concern for the state of our world. It seems to be more than just a hipster bent for publicity's sake. Check out the video, and let me know what you think.


Activism At It's Finest

Today a lot of activism takes place on the internet, effectively spreading the word about social movements and rallying people who otherwise may not become involved, or who now are able to be involved in new ways. Even so, it is awesome to see examples of some good old-fashioned protesting. In the video posted below, a gay rights advocate poured glitter all over Newt Gingrich's head during a book-signing. Gingrich, a former Speaker and now Republican Presidential Candidate for the 2012 election, is also avidly anti-gay. Feministing.com sums up Gingrich well saying, "Our boy Newt is well-known for his bigotry, most recently it being discovered that he secretly funneled $350, 000 to anti-LGBT hate groups last year." As the protester poured the glitter on Gingrich's head, he exclaimed, "Feel the rainbow, Newt. Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics. It's dividing our country, and it's not fixing our economy."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harper Announces New Cabinet

Harper announced his new cabinet today. Many of the same Ministers got the same portfolios, like Peter MacKay (barf!) who is still Minister of Defense. Mr. MacKay and his father have held the same riding in Nova Scotia, where my parents live, for many years. I have never voted in that riding, as I moved away before I was old enough, but I can tell you that it would have been fun to vote for Elizabeth May in the last election. My hometown riding did not do her justice then; BC elected her to the House this time around, the only Green Party candidate to make it that far.
Another Minister who kept his portfolio is Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. That is a damn scary portfolio in the hands of a Conservative. He ordered sections about gay rights removed from Canada's citizenship study guide for new immigrants, although he denied any such involvement, stating that someone at the Minister's office made such demands on his behalf. And that's only the beginning, you can find many more scary facts about Jason Kenney if you look around.
Minutes after Prime Minister Harper finished answering media questions about the Cabinet shuffle his office sent out a release announcing that three defeated Conservatives were awarded seats in the Senate, thus avoiding addressing the issue in public. An article in the Globe and Mail offers an interested take on how these Senate appointments will play in Jack Layton's favor in 4 years. Another article found on Yahoo News suggests that the appointments may have been illegal, if the Senators were given assurances on Senate appointments if they lost the election. We are in for a crazy next few years...

"Black Women Are Less Attractive" Finding Showcases Racist "Science" In Action!

Today I was reading up on the controversy over the Psychology Today article written by Satoshi Kanazawa entitled Why Are African American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women? which was eventually retitled by Psychology Today "Why Are African American Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?"
This issue is particularly relevant for me as I am currently doing a Masters in Counselling Psychology; I also did an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Criminology. As part of my degree I have to complete a research project, and submit it for publication. So for the past few months I have been reading about ethics and the research process as I prepare to send out into the world my own (hopefully not shitty) research. Mr. Kanawaza obviously must have failed his ethics courses (I don't even want to think about how he did in multiculturalism...). It is troubling to me that this shoddy "science" has been given a forum on Psychology Today. It is even more troubling to me that all of this publicity, negative as it may be, has people talking about Kanawaza (including me). Our first responsibility as researchers is to ask the all-important first question, Is this research really fucking important? And I don't mean important to me, as the researcher, because I know any research will push careers forward and add lines to a CV. I mean, important to the group that is being researched. Because if it is not, we are unethically wasting people's time for our own selfish gain, and furthermore, we may be harming them. What do you think African American women think? It is nuts to me that we give people tenure and they have the audacity to use that platform to do research that is racist, damaging, and just plain stupid. My favorite deconstruction of Kanawaza's shitty research is over at Colorlines by Akiba Solomon called, The Pseudoscience of "Black Women Are Less Attractive. You can also check out Latoya Peterson's piece at Racialicious called, How To Debunk Pseudo-Science Articles About Race In Five Easy Steps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy International Day Against Homophobia!

Book List Challenge

I am an avid reader. As such, I am almost always intrigued by the "Best Book Lists" or, the, "Even though you like to read, this list will make you feel like you don't read enough!". Also known as the, "List that makes you feel terribly guilty for that Sophie Kinsella book you read last summer!". This time, the BBC Book List Challenge showed up on Facebook, where you could click the number of books you had read (21/100) from the list and show it to all your friends, hoorah for hierarchies! (One friend on my newsfeed had 63). Anyway, the list always leaves me itching to read, and I start searching my local library for each book, picturing the epic summer that lays ahead of me, full of literary genius.
This time, though, I was left wondering. After attending the book launch of Feminism: FOR REAL edited by Jessica Yee, I am left wondering what titles are missing from that list. Is this a list full of authors that are mainly White males, a sort of colonialistic standard existing out there telling us what is great literature? As I'm reading I'm looking for Three Day Road by Joseph Boydon, or anything at all by bell hooks.
This search draws me to a list of Best Feminist Books I found online. The list has many books with female leads (Carrie by Stephen King) and many books written by self-proclaimed feminist authors. But, it also has books like The Feminine Mystique (at number 3) by Betty Friedan. Betty Friedan was a leader of second wave feminism in the United States, head of the National Organization for Women (NOW), with a blatant anti-lesbian stance. She eventually left NOW as she felt the organization was getting too involved with "lesbian issues", resulting in distraction from the larger, more important, goals of pay and employment equity. This list, I think, is not altogether feminist after all.
I'm not stating anything new here, really, and you can find information about much of what I'm saying in other, more prominent, feminist blogs/websites all across the internet. What I'm really asking is what a list of great reads would look like if it included all of the incredibly important but less well-known books written by or about women of color, lesbian women, etc.
My summer goal has changed from reading every great book the BBC says I should read to reading every great book I can find that is NOT on that list, and is either written by a woman who doesn't typically get much air-time (read: is not White/straight/able-bodied, etc.), or is written about feminism (and not White feminism either!). I'm staring with Jessica Yee's book.

What book would you include?

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Post Jitters

This adventure in blogging has been spurred by my partner who has recently taken up her own blog. (She's a great writer and you can find her at http://ladala.blogspot.com). I tried to write a blog a few years ago and found myself lacking in motivation to continue (read: my shit was boooring). I think I was trying to write not as myself, but as someone who wanted to please an audience, and had no idea what that (non-existent) audience wanted. So here, I say to you (my second non-existent audience) that I will speak only what I know (read: mothering, doula-ing, reading, feminist-ing, loving), and hope that is interesting to all of you! (If it's not, check out my partner's blog, she wrote a great piece called Growing Up Homo).