Being a feminist has long been a part of my identity. And while I was a late bloomer when it comes to claiming the word itself, I have always cared about gender advocacy. Now that I passionately claim both the word and the identity, it has become a part of everything I do… including dating.Read More
Manchester Attack and Violence Against Women and Girls: The bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena left the world in shock as the number of deaths and injuries continued to rise in the days following the attack.. The attack is also being called highly gendered by many feminist outlets, with Ariana Grande’s fan base being overwhelmingly comprised of young women and girls, but the perspective is receiving backlash as it has been seen by some to "promote an agenda" following a tragedy. The majority of the identified victims so far have been girls under the age of 18 and ISIS's gender specific violence is well-documented, so a gendered connection is far from reaching. As Gretchen Gales writes in Ms. Magazine, "violence toward women isn’t just the product of random terrorism. It is, unfortunately, a part of the fabric of our lives." Grande, who initially responded with a heartbroken tweet, has since written a letter describing her feelings, offering her condolences, and detailing plans for a benefit concert to raise money for the families of the victims. In it, she describes her vision of the Dangerous Woman tour: "this show, more than anything else, was intended as a safe space for my fans. A place to escape, to celebrate, to heal, to feel safe, and to be themselves. To meet their friends they've made online. To express themselves." Grande's tour was designed to include themes of female strength, same sex love, and body positivity, and such ideas are always under attack, if not always as literally. You can donate to support the families of the victims of the Manchester Attack here.
Source: The Guardian, Twitter, The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, Bust.
G7 Embarrassment: Trump did a number of inappropriate and bizarre things at the G7 Summit, but one of the most egregious was his decision to be the sole leader who did not reaffirm his nation's commitment to the Paris climate-change agreement, with all six other leaders vowing to do so. Trump has previously called man-made climate-change a hoax and vowed to pull out of the Paris agreement, so while this stance is not exactly a surprise, it was particularly striking to see him standing alone on the issue.
Source: The Globe and Mail
New Conservative Leader, Oh Joy: Canada has a new leader of the Conservative Party and it is neither Kellie Leitch nor Kevin O’Leary (who pulled out of the race before voting took place), so we guess it could maybe be worse? While we don't have our two most Trumpian candidates in a position to take over the country anytime soon, surprise victor Andrew Scheer, a former house speaker, has been voted in and despite his relatively young age, he is definitely not a breath of fresh air in the Conservative party. Scheer is pro-life and while he supported the party's decision to strike the opposition to same sex marriage from the Conservative handbook, he has stated that his decision to do so was not based on, you know, human decency, but rather based on his recognition that most of the country has moved past his outdated prejudices. Another sexist homophobe in Conservative leadership? What else is new?
Cowboys and Indians grad party: A graduation party at Chinook High School in Lethbridge, AB chose a Cowboys and Indians theme this year. The party was not affiliated with the school and an emergency assembly was called as soon as photos came to light in order to address the racist practice of cultural appropriation. First Nations students voiced their pain and disbelief in response to the event and some students made a formal apology to them and the First Nations communities of Alberta, while others argued back. Linda Many Guns, a professor in the department of Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge, has responded to the situation by saying there needs to be better education about these issues in high schools, with many students only receiving education on cultural respect and historical trauma in university, and usually only in the humanities. We could not agree more that education on these issues must be present in schools to avoid causing further pain and degradation.
Source: Global News, CBC, CTV
Victoria Girls’ Hockey Teams: Vancouver Island has introduced a controversial new motion to encourage girls to play on girls hockey teams that is actually a bit more complicated than it initially sounds. The motion would require Vancouver Island leagues to form a girls team whenever there are enough female players registered for hockey in a given age group. All girls would be placed on the girls team first and would have the option of also playing for a co-ed team without any extra cost. The motion is receiving understandable pushback, as most human rights cases regarding girls hockey in recent years have been concerned with allowing girls to play on boys teams, and gendered segregation in sports is generally a hot button issue. However, the concern on the other side is that girls who do specifically want to play on girls teams have nowhere to go. Dozens of girls turn away from playing at all each year in Vancouver Island because there are not enough girls to make up a team in their age bracket.
Source: CBC, Toronto Star
Wonder Woman Screenings: Men are getting their dicks in a knot once again over women-identified-only spaces. Yawn. This time, it’s a screening of the new DC Wonder Woman movie. The "controversy" started with the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, a theatre that has previously held screenings solely for military veterans and other specific groups, announced that they would be offering women-only screenings of the film. After backlash from some adult men who are having a tantrum about the fact that they can't go to one screening of one movie, theatres across the country responded by adding MORE women-identified only dates and a few theatres are donating the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Yesssssss.
Source: Twitter, The Guardian
I will argue with anyone about why feminism is important and tell you why you are wrong if you are not a feminist (it is one of my more charming qualities). But I would rather rip out my own tongue than respond to the statement, ‘Explain feminism to me’.Read More
- Mama’s Bail Out Day: Flowers and cards are great, but this year Black Lives Matter groups in the United States gave a much greater Mother’s Day gift to incarcerated mothers. Friday was Mama’s Bail Out Day. Organized by more than a dozen groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter and working together with Color of Change and Southerners on New Ground, Mama’s Bail Out Day raised a huge amount of money, most of which went to directly to paying the bail for incarcerated mothers who can not afford to buy themselves out. The rest went to providing services for those mothers and their children. As Pat Hussain, Co-founder of Southerners on New Ground, said of the mothers who were bailed out, “Money kept them in. Black love got them out.”
Source: TIME, Black Lives Matter, Twitter, No More Money Bail, Human Rights Watch
Cultural Appropriation “Debate” Blows Up Canadian Media Scene: If you’re Canadian and you like to read the news, you may have noticed that this week has been a big giant clusterfuck for many of our primary news outlets. The trouble started when Hal Niedzviecki wrote a flippant and bizarrely out-of-touch editorial for Write, the magazine for the Writers Union of Canada, in which he argued that he didn’t believe in cultural appropriation. How convenient when you’re a white man! He further argued that the fear of cultural appropriation is at fault for CanLit’s predominance of boring, white voices, bafflingly failing to acknowledge that perhaps CanLit’s whiteness might have a little something to do with, I don’t know, systemic racism? Oh, and did I mention that this was in the Indigenous Issue of the magazine? Facepalm. Niedzviecki was swiftly reprimanded, resigned from his post, and the article was taken down, but not before a bunch of other white dudes jumped on board from basically every major media outlet we have. In the original article, Niedzviecki, who does now seem to recognize the seriousness of his error, called sarcastically for an appropriation prize which would award the best representations in literature of a culture that is not one’s own. Other white media dude bros decided to actually, seriously propose money towards this prize which was an admittedly stupid but definitely tongue in cheek reference in the original article. Still no mention of money for, I don’t know, writers of colour? First Nations Writers? Poor writers? LGBTQ+ writers? Hmm.
Source: Twitter, Toronto Star
Transphobic Vancouver Crisis Centre is Back at it Again: The name of this organization, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, might jog your memory. You might remember the Kimberly Nixon incident. Kimberly Nixon is a trans woman who was rejected as a volunteer for the organization on the grounds that she had been socialized as a man and thus did not possess the necessary life experience to provide support to female survivors of rape. Hilla Kerner, a collective member, used such blatantly ignorant and unfeminist arguments as the following to justify their discrimination: "We know the embarrassment of having our clothes stained with blood from our period, the anxiety of facing an unwanted pregnancy and the fear of being raped, and we know the comfort of grouping with other women,” as if physical experiences that many cis women do not experience are the definitive features of womanhood and as if trans women are not just as and often more vulnerable to cis male violence. Nixon filed a formal human rights complaint against VRRS which eventually went all the way top the Supreme Court. VRRS is consistently transphobic and is frequently protested by feminist groups. Now Kerner and her organization are “concerned” that a federal transgender right bill that seeks to be passed may threaten the existence of women-only spaces (and by women, she means people assigned female at birth). Bill C-16 would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression. It’s nearly impossible to imagine how any person who calls themselves a feminist could possibly find fault with protecting the lives and access of trans people, but Kerner, despite admitting that the bill is unlikely to affect her day-to-day operations, apparently has managed to find a way. Fortunately, more informed activists like Devon MacFarlane, the director of Rainbow Health Ontario, and Marni Panas, a badass trans activist from Edmonton are batting down her arguments fairly easily because, you know, they actually know what they’re talking about. Let’s hope this example of the very worst parts of second wave feminism doesn’t prevail this time. If you are in the Vancouver area and require support, some alternatives to VRRS are listed below. Both of these organizations have confirmed that their doors are open to trans people who need to seek their services or who wish to volunteer or find a career with them.
Battered Women's Support Services: www.bwss.org
Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre: www.wavaw.ca
Source: CBC, Vancouver Media Co-op
- Record Number of Trans Candidates in BC Election: In better BC trans news, a record four candidates in the recent BC provincial election are transgender, representing each of the three major political parties. NDP candidate Morgane Oger of the Vancouver-False Creek has been particularly successful. While Oger lost her race narrowly, the margin was so small that the NDP have filed for a recount. Oger faced one discriminatory incident during her run, with a flyer distributed in her riding that argued against her based on her gender-identity, but the response from her riding and the other parties was swift and firm in its dismissal. Oger fortunately says that the incident was a huge exception to her general experience running, saying, "The reality is, in this constituency, nobody cares that I am transgender.” We love that more trans candidates are running for office in Canada and we love even more that they feel they are being considered based on their policies by the majority of constituents.
Source: CBC, Vancouver Courier
- Ontario Government Continues to Push for Better Labour Laws: The Ontario Liberals are pushing for some pretty sweeping labour reforms, from a long sought after $15.00 minimum wage to better rights for part-time and temporary workers to easier paths to unionization in key low-wage careers, including many "pink-collar" jobs. This article by the Toronto Star might seem a bit boring (I have been known to yawn at the word “budget”, like it's some kind of deeply engrained Pavlovian response), but it’s definitely worth a read if you’re in Ontario and you work!
Source: Toronto Star
- Nicki Minaj Continues to Pay Tuition for her Fans: In pop culture news, Queen of Rap Nicki Minaj has started paying her fans’ tuition en masse and is now in the process of setting up a foundation in order to better respond to the high number of requests. Her response came after the singer promised to fly fans out to her concert from anywhere in the world as a part of a contest and a fan jokingly asked if she could pay their tuition instead. Within a half hour, Minaj had selected thirty fans who proved their good grades and college admissions with scanned paperwork and sent the money, not just for tuition, but for textbooks and student loans too, promising to do so again soon. Minaj is all set to start a foundation to support her fans in their quest for higher education. Nicki not only speaks up for women and feminism on a regular basis, but she is now putting her words into action in a way that will make a huge difference in her fans lives.
Source: Twitter, Instagram, Toronto Star, Mic
- May Day, May Day!: On May 1, May Day protests against economic inequality and in support of the rights of immigrant and migrant workers took place here in Canada and around the world, taking on a new intensity in 2017 given the current political climate. May Day protesters in Montreal rallied for 15$ minimum wage and in the United States, protesters threw cans of Pepsi at police, in an obvious mockery of the universally despised Kendall Jenner advertisement. One of the most memorable images of the day came from Brno; photographer Vladimir Cicmanec captured 16-year-old Czech Girl Scout, Lucie, facing down a member of the Workers Party of Social Justice, which, contrary to its name, is against migrants and the European Union. Lucie held her own and stayed true to the Girl Scouts’ long-lasting commitment to diversity and peace. (Source: Montreal Gazette, Global News)
- Ontario Doctor Accused of Sexual Harrassment/Abuse, Under Review: Dr. Martin Lee, a practicing specialist in Mississauga and Ontario, is under review for accounts of sexual harrassment, sexual abuse, and professional misconduct after a series of disgusting violations against his patients. These violations include, but are not limited to: asking questions about patients’ sex lives that do not pertain to their condition, sharing, unprompted, details of his own sexual proclivities, showing porn to his patients, and rubbing his groin up against a patient. This is Lee’s second hearing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, but alarmingly, none of the actions he has taken are grounds for mandatory revocation of his license. Audience participation time! At this time, if you would like to swear loudly, we encourage you to do so. If you’re shy, we’ll do it for you: What the actual FUCK? Despite the fact that technically, somehow, sexual abuse only merits a suspension and chaperoned appointments with women clients, the medical regulator’s lawyer is arguing that the College’s panel should revoke Lee’s licence. (Source: Toronto Star)
- New Canadian Guidelines for Requests for Refuge from LGBTQ+ People: The Globe and Mail recently spoke with 5 LGBTQ+ refugees about their experience in Canada. These interviews were taken in light of Canada’s brand new guidelines for handling asylum requests from LGBTQ+ refugees, who have in the past been asked to immediately prove their sexuality in order to gain refuge. This process is invasive and often fruitless when many come from nations in which they were forced to completely erase their LGBTQ+ identities and relationships for fear of violence and oppression. The process is still far from perfect, but the guidelines, which attempt to guard refugees against Canadian stereotypes which may skew perceptions of how a queer person should behave or what their relationships should look like, are a step in the right direction. (Source: Globe and Mail)
- Liberals set to target mandatory minimum sentences: A relatively quiet issue during the Canadian federal election, sentencing reforms brought in by the previous Conservative government are set to be reviewed by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Stephen Harper (remember him? No? Blocked him out? Understandable) implemented mandatory minimum sentences that were a) much longer than many judges (aka experts in their field) would normally choose to give and b) failed to take the individual characteristics of the actual human beings who committed the crime and the details of the crime itself into account (for example, likelihood of re-offence, first time offences, non-violent crimes, etc.). Criminologists and lawyers across Canada are hoping that the Liberals will allow for more discretion on the part of the judges, but worry that the response to the problems with Canada’s justice system will be either too hasty or too light-handed. (Source: CBC)
- Macron Wins, Le Pen Defeated: Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has won the French Presidential Election by a fairly high margin above his far-right, europhobic opponent, Marine Le Pen. With this vote, France has not only elected their youngest president, but has also bucked the recent trend towards xenophobia and racism marked by the Trump election and Brexit. (Source: The Guardian)
- Pledge of Liberation: The organizers of the Women’s March have announced new resistance measures to be enacted on Monday, May 8, in order to mark the 6 month anniversary of the Trump election. They have organized a pledge and numerous sit-ins and other demonstrations at congressional offices across the country in partnership with ACLU People Power, United We Dream, Hollaback!, National Lawyers Guild, and The Gathering for Justice. While there are currently no protests planned in Canada, you can sign the pledge here and get information about other ways to resist on May 8 here. (Source: Refinery29, Women’s March website)
- Activist Arrested and Now Charged After Laughing at Jeff Sessions: And somehow we're the special snowflakes? Desiree Fairooz, an activist associated with Code Pink, was arrested last January after laughing in a Senate hearing during which noted white supremacist Jeff Sessions made several, well, laughable, claims about his commitment to equality (lol). Fairooz has now been found guilty of two charges, but the case is a real mess, with multiple jurors expressing that they felt their hands were tied because of the broad phrasing of the law. While the jury says that Fairooz was not arrested for the laugh itself, but for the disruption she made while being escorted out, many of them felt she shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place (meaning her later actions would not ever have occurred). Once she was arrested, she had virtually no chance of avoiding sentencing and the jury was forced to give a guilty verdict despite serious misgivings. (Source: Huffington Post)
- AHCA. So That Happened: Although you have undoubtedly already read all about it, we have to talk about the fact that the Republicans just passed a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and usher in the American Health Care Act, known affectionately in some circles as the Hot Garbage Fire of Bad Ideas. While there are many, many, MANY problems with AHCA, one of the biggest topics of discussion following the vote was the fact that the bill weakens protections for those with pre-existing conditions. It turns out that the list of things that count as a “Pre-existing Condition” and as a strike against you when you apply for health insurance is long and alarming. Under the new bill, states can allow health insurance companies to refuse to cover patients or charge them significantly more for having a pre-existing condition, something which is currently banned under the Affordable Care Act. The massive list of preexisting conditions that could cause health insurance providers to deny coverage is so extensive that it’s almost hard to think of many people in your life that don’t currently have at least one of these conditions. Not only are many mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, you name it, we’ve got it!) on this list, but so are many conditions that people are literally born with, meaning they may never qualify for insurance.
The list sparked understandable outrage. #IAmAPreexistingCondition trended worldwide, with people taking to Twitter to talk about what their world would look like if this bill passes and they lose their access to health care. The rich get richer and the sick get sicker under Trump’s proposed plan, which still needs to pass in the Senate in order to become the law. We, and many others, couldn’t help but notice how glaringly anti-woman the list is. With things like pregnancy, c-section, menstrual irregularities, and surviving sexual assault (?!) listed as pre-existing conditions, women will undeniably be affected disproportionately. Oh, and don’t forget that just BEING TRANSGENDER counts as a preexisting condition: the absolute definition of the trending hashtag. if this bill becomes the law, it's going to kill people. It just is. A huge percentage of them will be children and adolescents, trans people, poor people, people of colour, and women. If you compare the list of people most affected by the bill to the people pictured smugly celebrating their vote to strip people of their healthcare below, you can play a fun little game of spot the difference! (Hint: the difference is that the people in the first list aren’t dementors.) (Source: Twitter, Huffington Post Canada, CBC, New York Times, the collective consciousness)
- Peggy the Seer: Grande Dame of CanLit, Margaret Atwood, was on everyone’s minds this week as the long-running comparisons of America under the Trump administration to her dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale became waaaaaay to0 real. With the new Hulu series currently airing, many people used images and gifs from the show to express their despair and outrage following the vote. (Source: Twitter)
One thing has become very clear this week: between Sessions and Trump, Margaret Atwood’s words have been prescient beyond the scope of The Handmaid’s Tale. Arguably her most famous feminist quote has proven eerily and blatantly true this week:
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
ToFemCo is excited to announce a new blog series called "Is This What a Feminist Looks Like?" This series will explore how we navigate feminism in all aspects of our lives: what it looks like when it goes well and what it looks like when we struggle. Being a feminist is hard work and it can often be difficult to know the next step to take. We believe that showing the struggles that we have as feminists will make people feel less alone and strengthen our community. Feminism is a process and how it interacts with one's daily life is always changing. The intent of this series is to showcase some of the many ways to be feminist and to be honest about the growing pains we all experience.
Our aim is to have this be a weekly series where anyone can contribute a snapshot of feminism in their life. The posts will be personal reflections, and are only meant to represent the unique experiences of the author. The posts may describe missteps, but the goal is to be inclusive and to limit any oppressive impacts. The main contributors will be the regular contributors to the podcast, Underwire, but anyone can make a submission, and we will work with you to include it in the series.
If you are interested in contributing, please email us at email@example.com. Also, we would love to encourage discussion, so please let us know what you think in the comment section down below!
- It has been 100 days since Trump was elected to the office of the President of the United States. Make of that statements what you will. As is customary, this occasion was marked by the White Correspondents’ Dinner and this year it was hosted by Hasan Minhaj. He slayed. Seriously, his jokes were so fire that I was disappointed not to see Trump’s reactions. Trump decided to shirk tradition by not attending the dinner because he doesn’t care and he is very sensitive. By sensitive I mean, he is concerned about his self image, not really the lives or feelings of others. Also, Samantha Bee killed it in Full Frontal’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. As is customary for her and her writers, the jokes were on point and the $200,000 in proceeds went to a great cause, the Committee to Protect Journalists. Also, she had a special segment for us Hillary fans which particularly warmed my heart. If you are a fan of satirical comedy that skewers rich, old, white men, check out both events. (CBC, YouTube)
- Trump and his band of merry men decided in their infinite wisdom to cut all funding from a State Department bureau that promotes women’s rights around the world. In cutting this funding, this group of misogynists have once again severely damaged the lives of women, only this time it will impact women the world over. Unfortunately for one woman in particular, Ivanka had to defend these actions while she was at a summit in Germany and she failed. Although Ivanka had the awkward experience of defending her sexist father in front of the world’s most powerful and influential women, I think the real victim here is Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has stoically watched as a buffoon has held the highest office in the United States and now, she has to share a stage with his daughter whose internalized sexism is unbearable. (The Independant)
- Guess what? It is budget time! The provincial Liberals have released a balanced budget (take that fiscal conservatives!) with some interesting developments. They have put massive funds into healthcare and have managed to create a pharmacare plan for people under 25. Not to be out done, the NDP have proposed a plan that would include all Canadians and cover 125 of the most common drugs. The Liberals also invested in education in an attempt to reduce class sizes and increase co-op opportunities for high school and post secondary students. However, there is no funding set aside to create new affordable housing units nor anything for transit. (CBC)
- Basic income is here! Ladies and gentlemen, we have basic income coming to Ontario! Now, to be fair, this is a pilot project that is only being rolled out in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay. In this project, 4,000 people will be selected at random to participate. One group will receive $16.989 as a single person and $24,027 as a couple and the other will receive nothing, as a control group. Basic income programs have been shown to reduce poverty and improve people’s health, education, and employment options. If you want to learn more, the Globe and Mail broke down the basics of the program and explained Wynn’s proposal. (CBC)
- A report by Carl James, a researcher at York University, found that black students are twice as likely to be in applied courses and more likely to be suspended. He found that there was a pattern of this happening in schools across the GTA and the issues are, in large part, structural. The recommendations of the report include, mandatory race-based data collection, alternative discipline measures, more diverse teaching staff, more policies to address anti-black racism, and an end to streaming (applied vs academic courses). (The Toronto Star)
- Parliamentary nerd alert: this article is boring but you should read it. The Liberals want to make some changes in the House of Commons and they are important. They want to expand question period, change standing orders to prevent abuse of omnibus legislation, and reforming the process to review government spending. These are all areas of the parliamentary process that have be subject to much controversy and abuse from current/past administrations. The Conservatives and the NDP have joined to stall these changes and are concerned that the reforms may be rushed. It is important to note that Trudeau is making these parliamentary reforms in lieu of the electoral reforms that his party promised during the election. (CBC)
- The Atlantic examines a theory proposed by Peter Temin, an MIT economist, who suggests that America has a two-class system. Income inequality is a major issue in the States and it has been growing, especially since the Mortgage Crisis, much to the detriment of its citizens. The article outlines the problems in greater detail and explores how to solve this problem. (The Atlantic)
- Bonus article for the laughs: BUST did a great piece on ‘Mancrimination’. For those of you scratching your head, Mancrimination is a word made to describe the oppression that men feel as a result of gender inequality. Luckily, the oppression that men experience can be expressed in simple three line haikus which is perfect for their new ad campaign. Therefore, there is a simple way to solve this problem and it will just take a bit of work on our part, ladies. Based on this ad campaign, it appears that men are demanding, that doors be held open for them, that sex be had with them, that their dicks be treated with the respect they deserve. Thankfully, there is already a well-established and hearty system that has been implemented to protect men – the patriarchy. Equality means divesting your power, ladies, so for the sake of these long suffering men, roll back those rights. (BUST)
- France election results are in for the first round and it will be Macron and Le Pen headed to the runoff. If you don’t know why this is important, check out the John Oliver’s piece about it on Last Week Tonight. Basically, Macron boring policy nerd guy and Le Pen is like Trump in a woman’s body. The New York Times is a tad more eloquent than me, I just find that white supremacist politicians send me into a blind rage at time. Anyone relate? (The New York Times)
- There is an ongoing human rights crisis in Chechnya as reports of LGBT men being detained, tortured, and killed continue. Putin and the Chechen leader Kadyrov continue to deny these claims but the evidence is mounting. Many countries, including Canada, have put out statements condemning Chechnya’s treatment of the LGBT community but there is little talk of any real intervention. One man who escaped the jail said that they were beating him and torturing him to get the names of other friends who are gay men. (The Independent)
- After 20 years of abuse, Fallon Aubee hopes to become the first federal inmate to be placed in a prison of their gender identity. A new policy prompted by Trudeau, seeks to place federal inmates in the prison of their gender identity and not their biological sex (often correctional officials will only consider a transfer request if the person has had genital reconstruction surgery). As with many transgender inmates, Fallon Aubee was held in segregation for six months after coming out to advising officials. Trans* inmates experience harassment, abuse, sexual assault, and physical assault when they are in prisons that do not align with their gender identity. In her words, "I wake up in the morning, the first thing I say to myself is 'Oh it's going to be a beautiful day, I'm a woman. Then when I step out of my room I'm realizing that I'm living in a prison for men and I have to face all of those challenges all day long, all over again." (CBC)
- Next month, British Columbia will be the second province, after Ontario, to create a law that requires post-secondary institutions to create a sexual assault policy. While it is disturbing that this is not common sense for all institutions (who am I kidding, welcome to the patriarchy!), it is a positive step that student can now challenge the schools should they fail to take sexual assault claims seriously. Although, there is still a long way to go, as stated in this article by the CBC’s Lori Ward. But hey, better late than never, right ladies? Ladies? Oh right, I guess for some of you this may be a day late and a dollar short. We need every institution to take sexual assault seriously. We all need to be protected from sexual assault and have survivors’ voices brought to the forefront of this discussion. It is a travesty that we have to continue saying it but one more time won’t hurt, ‘I believe survivors’. (CBC)
- The March for Science! On Earth Day! Marches happened all over the world, including right here in Toronto, to protest the Trump administration’s new crack down on the environment and science. Basically anything that is too complicated for a tiny man with tiny hands to understand. As you know, he has basically removed any environmental protections, gutted the budget for the EPA, and generally had a war with facts since he has started. In these moments of strife and heartache, fear not my gentle feminists and instead hold in your heart that we were right, not crazy, for believing what that horrible man said. (CBC, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star)
- The Ontario Liberals finally decided to do something about the housing crisis in Ontario. The rents are high, the vacancy rate is dangerously low, and landlords have all the power. This crisis has been most evident in the GTA but it is already expanding to surrounding areas. Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan is an attempt to protect tenants who have been most hurt by the crisis. There is some question about whether it will really make rent affordable but steps to implement rent control and creating a standard lease are definitely steps on the right direction. Unfortunately, while this is happening, Toronto Community Housing Corporation is making it harder for Toronto’s poorest residents to secure housing. They have been closing and selling off properties to address the massive backlog in repairs. Units have been degrading so heavily from lack of repair that TCHC is deciding to cut their losses and sell. But it is not that simple, many of these units are people’s homes and the wait list of rent-geared-to-income housing is already 18 years long. People with lower incomes have been put on the back burner long enough. We need a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the city’s most vulnerable. Closing down their homes with no intention of replacing them is simply not good enough. (CBC, Toronto Star)
- The Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Staff Sgt. Baljiwan Sandhu was discriminated against because of his race by the Peel Police. When he was passed over for a promotion, in spite of his exemplary 28 years of service, Peel Police stated that it was because his work was not considered real police work. (The Toronto Star)
- York Regional Police arrested over 100 men in connection with child sex trafficking in a four-year long operation, Project Raphael. More details about the operation can be read here, but it is important to understand that this brings to light a much larger issue. Human trafficking is something that has been happening in Canada and is largely ignored. Although occasional headlines pop up, what is actually being done to help the women and children affected by this issue? Organizations like Canadian Women’s Foundation created a task force designed to create programs for survivors, to create awareness campaigns, and to work with community stakeholders. (The Toronto Star)
Earlier this year, the spoken word piece “Nasty Woman” blew us away. Performed by Ashley Judd at the Washington Women’s March, the poem – originally written by Tennessee teen Nina Donovan – filled us with fire, rhythm, rage, and tears. Just days after Trump was elected as President of the United States, the piece functioned as a succinct, rallying cry against racism, voting, women’s reproductive rights, and what it means to be an outspoken woman today.
Without a doubt, poetry and spoken word have been vital to activism. As forms of self-expression, they’ve always revealed uncomfortable truths, and it’s no wonder so many poetic works have been banned throughout history.
That’s why we’re celebrating National Poetry Month. We want to share with you some of our favourite writers, which we’re certain will inspire you to live your life in various stanzas, meters, lines, and rhymes.
Canadian poets to read
If you're feeling the need to turn your world into an intersectional literary salon (and who doesn’t?), we recco reading the works of the following Canadian poets.
Rupi Kaur: “Milk and Honey” was the first book of poetry we read for our book club, and we’re glad we did. This Toronto-based Punjabi poet powerfully writes about violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity.
Stevie Howell: An Irish-Canadian writer and current poetry editor at This Magazine.
Aisha Sasha John: A writer, artist, dancer and performer born in Montreal. Her new book “I have to live” came out last week.
Damian Rogers: The former poetry editor at The Walrus recently wrote about striving to maintain “gender parity” in the industry, mentioning that the cliché is true – men submit more than women, and are more likely to submit again after rejection.
Souvankham Thammavongsa: A poet born in a Thai refugee camp who wrote the wonderful book “Light”, among many other gems.
Vivek Shraya: A transgender musician and visual artist living in Toronto, who wrote a book of poetry titled “even this page is white.” (Loving the title!)
Brecken Hancock: An award-winning poet based in Ottawa.
On our Women & Weed podcast
On our latest podcast episode, we featured the piece “Blk Girl Art” by poet and singer Jamila Woods. The poem is a reinterpretation of the piece “Black Art” by Amiri Baraka. We found Jamila’s poem in Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana, Nate Marshall and Kevin Coval.
We discovered the poets Fatimah Asghar, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Mahogany L. Browne, Krista Franklin, Kristiana Colón, Nadia Sulayman, Tarfia Faizullah, Angel Nafis among so many other amazing writers in this anthology. Pick it up from your local library or buy the book and support the artists!
We know, we’ve barely scratched the surface here, so let us know about your favourite feminist poets in the comments below.
Hot Docs is one of our favourite times of the year where we get to learn about different cultures and movements through film. Not to mention, it’s probably the most intersectional film festival in Toronto. Our guide is by no means exhaustive — check out the Hot Docs schedule, where we pulled these descriptions from, for more films, screening dates, times and details.
1. FOR AHKEEM
Surrounded by poverty and violence, a Black teenager in north St. Louis discovers she’s pregnant as the tragedy in Ferguson erupts, leaving her to question her family’s future in a racist system so stacked against them.
Meet the fierce and inspiring “Lethal Ladies” of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a dynamic step dance team battling the odds to make it to the championship and become the first in their families to go to college.
Often overshadowed by her United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta was a powerhouse activist who defied 1950s gender conventions as she unflinchingly fought to protect women and people of color in her push for social change.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is one of the most misunderstood and intriguingly powerful female political figures in modern history. Her rise, reckoning and legacy as “the mother of the nation” are detailed in this compelling film.
5. A BETTER MAN
Attiya’s years as a counsellor shape her radical approach to confronting her own decades-old past as a victim of domestic violence. Sitting across from her abuser, they together delve into their turbulent history, uncovering its root causes with compassion.
6. MAMA COLONEL
For 15 years, a determined female colonel led a unique brigade against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Relocated to a new city, she must now grapple with the unexpected horrors women faced in a long forgotten war.
7. THE FRUITLESS TREE
Married but childless—an unacceptable circumstance in Niger—Aicha draws from personal experience to delicately address the taboo of infertility, and the private suffering and public stigma that women like her endure.
8. SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN
Toiling for a pittance in the shadows of Hong Kong’s glittering façade, colourful and confident Filipina workers use their only day off to reclaim their dignity, exercising grace and beauty in a pageant unlike any other.
With a fierce and haunting persona, lauded majestic chanteuse Chavela Vargas was an out lesbian songstress who revolutionized music in Mexico, challenged cultural norms and played lover to legends like Frida Kahlo.
10. REBELS ON POINTE
Follow “the Trocks”—the world-famous drag ballerinas with a cult-like following—on their tour to meet adoring fans in Japan, Canada and across Europe, and get to know the talented men behind the makeup and tutus.
The Redux Program
It was so hard for us to choose our favourites from this program, but if you’re overwhelmed, the Redux program this year is a great place to start and features classic CanCon docs that still hold up. We recommend Mohawk Girls for its story on indigenous female friendships, Forbidden Love about the unashamed stories of lesbian lives, and Sisters in the Struggle which features the voices of black Canadian women who reflect on racism, sexism and the patriarchy.
Focus on Maya Gallus
This year, Hot Docs is presenting a Focus on Maya Gallus, honouring her work by showing some of her best documentaries, all of which challenge stereotypes about women by exploring gender, identity and the “female gaze.” She’s directed documentaries on various topics including roller derby girls, erotica, waitresses, trans people, and women in literature, and we couldn’t recommend her as a filmmaker enough.
Pride Toronto Update: City councillors are threatening Pride’s funding due to the recent decision to not have uniformed police officers participate in the parade. Luckily the new executive director of Pride Toronto, Olivia Nuamah, is not intimidated. She plans to move forward and include people who have previously felt alienated by Pride. Even Chief Saunders is on board saying, “It is not our parade, it is the Pride Parade and we are guests. So at any point in time they can invite us. Moving forward, I really do think the focus should be on the relationship building.” So who is upset about this decision? Well if the councillors calling to withdraw the funding give any indication, it is white, straight, cis-men. No surprise.Protest spotlight of the week: Queer and trans immigrant activists, Trans Queer Pueblo, halted a Pride parade on the weekend with a large banner saying No Justice, No Pride. They were protesting Bank of America’s sponsorship and the inclusion of the police in the parade because of their links to immigration detention centres. They would like Pride to use it’s influence to support immigrants’ rights during this difficult time. No justice, no pride!
- The fight for equal pay has been long and fraught. This turmoil has often been caused by the warriors of truth who feel compelled to enter every conversation by shouting that the wage gap doesn’t exist. It does. You will note that I have declined to provide any proof supporting my claim (this is on purpose). This article makes a strong case for the inclusion of the Fight for the $15 in the fight for wage equality. Women dominated industries are often lower paid sectors and tend to be paid minimum wage. Minimum wage is a feminist issue. Poverty is a feminist issue. Fight for $15!
- British PM Theresa May went to meet with Riyadh, the Saudi crown prince, and made the choice to not wear a headscarf. She proclaimed that this was a purposeful choice to empower the women of Saudi Arabia who must keep their hair covered by law. Though this empowering self-proclamation was likely made with the best intentions, it shows the privilege of foreign white women who visit Saudi Arabia. While it is true that women in Saudi Arabia must wear a headscarf by law, it is not true that a single article of clothing is inherently oppressive. Also, oppressive laws that have a more significant impact are ones that dictate how and where women can go. More importantly, Saudi women are empowering themselves. This past week they protested against male guardianship and for the right to drive by walking silently in the streets without male companions. Saudi women don’t need our white saviour complex – they need to have their voices amplified and supported.
Mining Watch has investigated Canadian mining industries political contributions and has found that British Columbia’s provincial government might be too close for comfort. They are calling for a provincial review into the ties between the mining industry and the government. The concern is that the mining industry remains severely under-regulated and the political contributions may have or currently are contributing to it. Read the full article for a more in depth analysis as well as, a review by the CBC. This is not the first time the Canadian mining industry has come under fire; they have also been linked to human rights abuses overseas including the death of Berta Cáceres. Berta Cáceres was recently inducted into our League of Extraordinary Women and if you want to hear more, check out our episode on Ecofeminism.
Johns Hopkins University is facing a $1 billion lawsuit from over 800 plaintiffs because of the university’s role in deliberately infecting hundreds of Guatemalans with STIs for a medical experiment. These experiments happened in 1945 and 1956 and were revealed by Professor Susan Reverby in 2010. The program did not publish the findings nor did they inform the participants of the consequences of the experiment. They targeting and infected children in orphanages, people who were incarcerated, and people with mental health issues. Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation gave meaningless statements where they admitted no guilt in the program and said that they would defend themselves in court. Well, let’s hope the survivors of this horrific crime will get justice and every single penny.
CW: Ableism, sexual assault, abuse
In other grim news, students who attended W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford are suing Ontario for horrific abuses that took place on their watch. This article from the Toronto Star outlines the appalling behaviour from staff who committed acts of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. One day before court, the province made a $8-million settlement with the students who are relieved that it did not have to go to court. The suit covered students who attended the school from 1951-2012. Yes, you read that correctly, this was happening five years ago in a Canadian school for children with visual impairments. The goal of the suit was justice for the survivors of this abuse and to right the wrongs of the past.
CW: sexual assault
Dr. Larry Nassar has been charged with sexually assaulting hundreds of young girls and women. He was the doctor for the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University and has treated women for the past 20 years. While this case has been extensively covered within the gymnastics community, barely a whisper has been heard amongst the mainstream sports media. This article attempts to answer why.
- City officials, in Duncan, B.C., are ringing in the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge by evicting homeless people from a park. It’s no secret that the rent in B.C. is out of control and leaving many people stranded. But who cares about that, there is a party happening! Bombs are dropping! Bullets are flying! Canadian flags are raising! If there is one thing you can say about the Harper administration, their legacy of glorifying the military (while simultaneously leaving veterans stranded) lives on.
- The struggles of indigenous youth in remote northern communities has been well documented. One such young person has a message for her peers and that is that ‘we matter’. Tunchai Redvers and her brother started a campaign called, We Matter. They use messages from First Nations people and public figures to start a conversation about mental health and suicide. To learn more and support this campaign, check out We Matter and donate to the cause. (CBC)
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ response to misogynistic and racist comments made by her white, male colleagues went viral for many reasons. Namely the chord it struck with other working women of colour, these comments are nothing new. Dr. Avis Jones-Deweever outlines these struggles in her powerful editorial piece, You Mad? Black Women, Work and the Normalcy of Disrespect. In her words, “It happens because they must attempt to diminish who you are in order to even have a chance at outshining you. But in spite of all, keep doing you, Boo. In the end, the cream always rises to the top.” (NBC) If you want to read about more about the powerful work of black women, here are eight black feminists you need to know about. (NBC) Also, check out Dr. Jones-Deweever’s book, How Exceptional Black Women Lead.
- This week in the military-industrial complex, the military is facing a couple PR issues. The Royal Military College of Canada issued a 227-page report investigating the cause of low morale amongst the cadets. They cite various administrative and institutional causes but fails to mention the culture of bullying and sexual assault. Gen. Jonathan Vance even goes so far as to say that there are no systemic issues with the institution regarding suicide and sexual misconduct. This is in spite of the report released in 2015 that investigated issues of sexual misconduct and found that sexual assault was an ever present risk. But hey, we all know that structural issues can be cleared up in a couple of years. (CBC)
- Luckily, the Canadian Armed Forces had a chance to prove this in 1992 when LGBT members were allowed to serve openly. I’m sure by 1994 all of the people who were wrongfully terminated were given their jobs back and were compensated generously for loss of livelihood. Well actually, here in 2017, lawyers are working on three separate class action lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of military members and civil servants who were fired due to their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. They are currently building a case and looking for plaintiffs who were affected. The lawsuit is seeking punitive and moral damages for the violation of charter rights. (CBC)
- It’s that time of year again, Federal Budget time! With that budget, comes an opportunity for every news talking head and journalist to show their stripes by telling us Canadians what this all means. There are some excellent budget analyses by the CBC and the Globe and Mail. I’m not going to pretend that we at ToFemCo have all the answers but we are hopeful about the spending dedicated to First Nations peoples, child care, affordable housing, and infrastructure. Although, there is a notable lack of taxation on the very rich. Time will tell how PM Trudeau’s budget stacks up and who ultimately benefits. (CBC and Globe & Mail)
- The Sunshine list is here again; this annual report publicizes the salaries of public sector employees who make over $100 000 a year. In spite of the controversy that surrounds this report and the public ire it is meant to inspire; there is another lesson we can learn. The wage gap is alive and well. Only four women made the top 20 spots and the most common names are traditionally white, male names. It is important to note that income inequality has a greater impact on women who make less money, women of colour, and transwomen, in other words, the women this list leaves behind. One lesson we can take from this list is that transparency is a valuable tool to fight the wage gap. Women need employers to be transparent about the salaries of their employees and themselves. (CBC)
- Trump (Drumpf, if you’re nasty) is at it again, plotting the destruction of the world. This time he takes aim at Mother Earth by slashing President Obama’s administration’s efforts to fight climate change. He signed various executive orders to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantle the Clean Power Plan, approve the Dakota Access Pipeline/Keystone XL Pipeline, rollback fuel efficiency standards, and remove scientific thought from the scientific community. That last point is key because Canadians can recall the scientific gag order imposed by former PM Harper and its effects. Trump is attempting to do the same by removing all talk of climate change from the government and trying to clamp down on scientists. Although, lest we forget, scientists will keep on fighting the good fight as long as they have fingers to type with and an ocean that is still rising. (National Geographic)
- This week in radio highlights, the CBC did a story about the increased number of people attempting to claim refugee status in Canada. They are crossing the US-Canadian border outside of legal ports of entry in an attempt to circumvent that Safe Third Country Act which requires refugees to make a claim in the first country they land in. The CBC’s The House investigates the impact this Act is having on refugees, small Canadian towns, and law enforcement. Side note: shout out to the welcoming people of Manitoba who are starting groups to support incoming refugees. (CBC)
- Amy Bleuel was a strong mental health advocate and survivor who founded Project Semicolon. She has recently passed away at the age of 31 although her profound legacy and work will continue. In 2013 she asked those affected by mental health struggles to draw a semicolon on their wrist and post to social media. In Amy’s words, “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Her goal was to give a voice to people and show others that they are not alone. Moreover, this movement educated society by publicizing the impact of mental illness and how people cope each day. Amy wanted to start a conversation that cannot be stopped. You did. Rest in power. (CBC)
- Success! We're happy to report the House of Commons passed M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia and religious discrimination. Liberal MP Iqra Khalid had presented the motion in response to the mosque shooting in Quebec City late January and escalating levels of Islamophobia in Canada. Despite semantic arguments in response to the motion, it passed 201-91, calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia, racism and religious discrimination and begin a committee study into "reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia." (CBC)
Zehra Doğan, a Turkish and Kurdish painter and journalist, was sentenced to two years and nearly 10 months in prison for painting a scene of destroyed buildings with Turkish flags. She was arrested by authorities that claimed "her artworks proved that she was connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government." In her own statement, Dogan says she has been punished, "not the one who destroyed the town, […] not the one who shot the photo, but the one who painted the photo. They made this painting, not me." (ArtNet News)
- Taking inspiration from a similar movement behind promoting black-owned businesses, 26-year-old Brittany Chávez launched Shop Latinx, an online directory of Latinx-owned businesses recently profiled on Remezcla. Now, she works with a team of seven others to curate the Instagram feed and create editorial content on the dot com with the goal of creating a network of Latinx owned businesses and inspiring the community to rally behind them. (Remezcla)
This week a group of Texas women walked into the state Senate dressed like characters of Canadian author Margaret Atwood's dystopian novell The Handmaid's Tale. Many are distressingly turning to the book in response to the current American regime. The women were protesting several anti-abortion bills, like Senate Bill 415, which essentially bans a safe method for second trimester abortions. Unfortunately SB 415 passed and will be presented in the House. At least these women expressed their opposition loud and clear. (Huffington Post)
- On March 24, Catherine Benton became the first Mi’kmaq and First Nations woman appointed to the the bench in Nova Scotia. Judge Benton said the following about her own appointment, which follows 22 years spent working as a lawyer: "I believe it's vital that the Mi'kmaq community and non-First Nation communities alike see Mi'kmaq people as competent, of value and respected for our contributions and perspectives." (CTV)
On Monday the committee on the status of women released a report calling for all judges and RCMP officers to "go through mandatory training on gender-based violence and sexual assault." Committee chair Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said, "Addressing the issue of harassment in public places and the victim blaming-and-shaming that occurs throughout the reporting and judicial system will be key to prevent violence and to ensure that survivors do not suffer further at the hands of the police, the RCMP and the judiciary." (CBC)
- Artist Jamie Black has unveiled the largest installation to date of her project REDress, over 100 floating red dresses hanging at the University of Toronto's Philosopher's Walk. Launched in Winnipeg in 2010, Black created the project to call attention to the 12,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women across Turtle Island. (University of Toronto)
- Thank you to 29Secrets and writer Kait Fowlie for including us among 7 other local feminist organizations--like Ladies Learning Code, We Talk Women and Shameless Magazine--that you can support now!
Keep breaking rules, barriers and ceilings.
- On Thursday, March 16, our latest League of Extraordinary Women inductee Roxane Gay blessed us with her presence in Toronto. She was in town for an event promoting her latest book Difficult Women, as hosted by radio host Garvia Bailey. A few of us from TOFemCo were lucky enough to snag tickets, which sold out in a record breaking 88 seconds. Needless to say, we were so inspired by the words of wisdom Gay had to share, with topics ranging from feminism to romance to black writers to guilty pleasures. Twitter was alive that night, if you'd like to check out some of her quotes, or find a similar interview with CBC's Q here. One of our favourite quotes of the night was when Gay discussed transgender women, stating: "Women are women are women." If you were there with us, let us know what your favourite moment was!
- Oxfam Canada has released a “feminist scorecard” to evaluate Trudeau’s record as a self-proclaimed feminist, noting that his rhetoric has not translated to "tangible spending decisions" or policies. Largely seen as somewhat of a feminist hero internationally, Trudeau still has a ton of work to do here in Canada, including keeping his promises to Indigenous peoples and lowering the costs of childcare. Here's hoping Trudeau is listening and will make concrete changes and improvements to the lives and safety of women, especially Indigenous peoples. (The Guardian)
- Last week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) cracked down on the illegal purchase of abortion pills. Several items were taken in a series of raids, but no arrests were made. "Abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal in almost all circumstances unless a doctor is acting to save the life of the mother, as the Abortion Act 1967, which allows greater access to terminations for women in the rest of the UK, was never applied there." Abortion pills are considered safe by the World Health Organization, but their lack of availability in Northern Ireland forces women to either travel to England or, for the most vulnerable women, seek other unsafe options. (BuzzFeed)
- On Tuesday, sexual assault survivor Mandi Gray held a protest in Toronto calling to light the financial implications associated with being attacked. She and more than 150 other survivors have compiled $7 million worth of invoices to send to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the costs, from legal and tuition fees to medication and transportation. "Often we talk in terms of trauma, emotional harm, but we don't think about the actual logistics of, 'Can I actually afford to be sexually assaulted right now,'" said Gray. The same day as her protest, her own attacker Mustafa Ururyar, appealed his guilty conviction to the Superior Court of Justice. (CBC)
- Brazilian soccer player Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was previously convicted of brutally murdering young woman Eliza Samudio, has been released from prison by Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello. Just days after his release he was signed to a two-year contract by Brazilian soccer club Boa Esporte. The move has incited rightful anger and protest among several Brazilian communities, including The Popular Feminist Front of Varginha. (National Post)
- We highly recommend two new interactive pieces by top Canadian newspapers Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail. The first by Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star examines Canada's treatment of refugees, with hundreds of undocumented immigrants in jails across the country without crimes or charges. The second by Robyn Doolittle at The Globe & Mail compiles the stories of folks who have reported sexual assaults to the police in Canada. Although 90% of sexual assaults go unreported, Doolittle found 54 people who did and were willing to share their stories. Of those, only "eight had a positive experience, 11 said they were not updated about the investigation, 12 felt blamed or shamed during the police interview and 25 had their allegation dismissed before going to court."
- We love the photo and video series, HOODED, by 19-year-old artist Myles Loftin, "which deconstructs stereotypes of black teenage boys." After noticing the different Google results that come from searching "four white teens" and "four black teens," with the white teens looking like happy kids in stock photos, and the black teens looking like criminals, Loftin decided to do something about it. The photos are bright and feature young black men in hoodies looking positively joyful. (Vice Creators)
- Last but not least, thank you to writer Terri Coles and editor Arti Patel for including us in a Huffington Post Canada article about how Canadian women feel about the word "slut." Anne wrote:
To me, 'slut' is a powerful word to reclaim from the patriarchy who use it to degrade and dehumanize us. Slut is used to shame women who express their sexuality outside of the extremely narrow and often contradictory ideals dictated by the patriarchy. It is used to objectify and commodify us so that we can be dehumanized. It is used to excuse the rape, incest, and violence that women experience. Therefore, in taking back the word from those that would oppress and harm us, we are rejecting the meanings that lead to our demise. When I say 'slut,' I am taking every negative experience I've had with that word and telling it to fuck off. I'm saying I'm a person and I have sex.
In light of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s remarks on transwomen, we at ToFemCo wanted to offer our thoughts. Chimamanda has been a prominent feminist voice and we have long admired her work. However, her initial statements and her subsequent statements are transphobic and cissexist, and completely ignore the fact that transmisogyny is possible and exists. Just because someone has experienced male privilege at birth, does not mean they have not been oppressed by the patriarchy. In her statements, Adichie fails to recognize that the discrimination suffered by trans folks stems from their failure to live up to the social norms of their birth gender. And despite the fact Adichie has lived every day of her life as a ciswoman and has no idea what it is like to be trans, she felt the need to comment on the lived experiences of transwomen. Although it appears that she is attempting to apologize or reflect on her statements, I cannot help but notice that it lacks one particular sentiment: Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women. Once more for the people in the back: transwomen are women.
How do I know? The same way I know that I am a woman. I know it from the indescribable feeling in my heart. My womanhood has never been completely about my breasts, my vulva, my uterus, my period, my clothes, my hair, or my makeup. Although those can make me feel like a woman, I would still be a woman if I was stripped of all those things tomorrow. In Whipping Girl, Julia Serano explains that gender identity can be complicated because two ideas are at work: the gender we consciously choose to identify as and the gender we subconsciously feel ourselves to be. Julia Serano calls the latter our subconscious sex, which is something even ciswomen experience. Cis-folks’ privilege often blinds us to this concept, but there are ways to understand this feeling. At numerous talks Serano has given, she asks the audience members if they would live as the other sex for the rest of their lives for ten million dollars. The vast majority of people say no thank you to the ten million dollars. To be honest, I’m with them. I wouldn’t give up being a woman for anything.
Though it is difficult to figure out at times, we know deep inside who we are. What is often easier to figure out is whether that person will be accepted. Oppression is cruel in the ways that it isolates, dehumanizes, and destroys people. Ultimately, that is what is at stake in this conversation. We cannot stand by and contribute to the same toxicity that ends trans lives in horrific ways. Trans lives are not up for debate. Seven transwomen have been murdered this year already. Transwomen are women. Transmen are men. Gender is not binary.
Below I have listed the women who were murdered because of their trans identities. The list is not complete because of the various ways in which the justice system fails to track and investigate their deaths. Say her name!
Transwomen Killed in 2017 alone (Unites States)
- Mesha Caldwell – 41 – Canton, Mississippi
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow – 28 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Jojo Striker – 23 – Toledo, Ohio
- Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond – 24 – Chicago, Illinois
- Jaquarrius Holland – 18 – Monroe, Louisiana
- Chyna Doll Dupree – 31 – New Orleans, Lousiana
- Ciara McElveen – 21 – New Orleans, Lousiana
Transwomen Killed in Canada Since 2003
- Rose Rebut – Edmonton, Alberta
- Shelby Tracy Tom – North Vancouver, British Columbia
- January Marie Lapuz – New Westminster, Canada
- Cassandra Do – Toronto, Ontario
- Deanna Wilkinson and Shawn “Junior” Keegan – Toronto, Ontario
- This week we were thrilled when we were invited to speak on a feminist panel to celebrate International Women's Day on CTV's national show Your Morning. However, after asking a few questions, we quickly learned they were looking for an anti-feminists vs. feminists debate to spur ratings. Not only that, but the two women confirmed to appear on the panel were affiliated with hateful MRA groups. As a result, we decided to decline and sent a strongly worded response (below) to the producer. It is our understanding that they cancelled the segment as a result of feedback from feminists. Later on, we heard on an episode of Canadaland that prominent Toronto writer Septembre Anderson was also asked to be on the panel. We've reached out to her to discuss the incident, so stay tuned for our conversation on an upcoming podcast episode.
- For International Women's Day, women around the world organized and celebrated in several ways, including striking for the day or wearing red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman. (The Guardian)
- Also on IWD, investment group State Street Global Advisors debuted their statue Fearless Girl, who faces down the iconic Charging Bull on Wall St. in New York City. The statue is seen as a symbol of hope for the advancement of women in the workplace. Unfortunately, rape culture persists and this weekend, photos of a man humping the statue (which depicts a roughly 6-year-old girl) went viral. (Toronto Star, Mic)
- Back in Canada, 338 women took over the House of Commons for the day, as organized by Equal Voice Canada. The organization works to encourage and enable women to enter politics. The women represent each of Canada's federal ridings and were chosen from 1,500 candidates. The delegates were diverse, smart and driven, and a quarter of them were Indigenous women. (Flare)
- Also this week, Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak thought it would be a good idea to defend the residential school system that tore apart families and contributed to generations of trauma in Indigenous communities. Beyak, who is a member of the Senate committee of Aboriginal Peoples, took a moment to recognize the "good deeds" of those who ran the residential school system, despite the very different findings from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After a six year study, the Commission found that children who were a part of the residential school system suffered physical, sexual and mental abuse, and 6,000 of those children died from malnourishment or disease. (Toronto Star)
- In a historic move, Iceland became the first country in the world to require all private and public organizations with more than 25 staff to prove they offer equal pay regardless of gender. (The Globe & Mail)
- Former Justice Robin Camp has resigned from the bench following the Canadian Judicial Council'S (CJC) ruling that Camp "showed obvious disdain for some of the characteristics of the regime enacted by Parliament in respect of sexual assault issues." While presiding over a rape case in 2014, Camp asked the victim why she couldn't "keep her knees together" and continuously called her the "defendant". (CBC)
- Following up on last week's post, the crown has appealed the verdict in the rape case against Bassam Al-Rawi in which the presiding Judge Gregory Lenehan said "a drunk can consent." The appeal is based on at least six grounds, all on the issue of consent. (CBC)
- We tried to end the week on a high note with Friday's 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Our latest episode of Underwire pays tribute to the feminist hero, discussing the impact Buffy had, good and bad, while also acknowledging several other more diverse and intersectional She-roes.
Keep slaying, feminists.
- We were horrified to learn defendant Bassam Al-Rawi was found not guilty by Judge Gregory Lenehan in a rape case in Halifax. Al-Rawi was accused of rape after a inebriated woman was discovered partially clothed and unconscious in the back of his cab. This follows other sexual harassment and assault complaints from two different women. Despite admitting what the court heard was "very disturbing" and "there's no question" the victim was intoxicated, the judge still ruled in favour of Al-Rawi and said, "This does not mean, however, that an intoxicated person cannot give consent to sexual activity. Clearly, a drunk can consent." University of Ottawa law professor Elizabeth Sheehy said Lenehan's verdict sent a dangerous message about consent. (CBC)
In response to the case, and the dramatic rise in sexual assaults in Halifax cabs, Alana Canales has started #HailLadyCabs. Using the hashtag, her goal is to find women on Twitter who can pick up others who feel unsafe for free, including women-identifying and non-binary folks. So far, at least six women drivers have added the hashtags to their bios on Twitter. Volunteer driver Corinne Gilroy says more action needs to be taken, like late-night buses in Halifax. (Metro Halifax)
- In 48 hours, two transgender women were murdered in New Orleans. Ciara McElveen was stabbed to death and Chyna Doll Dupree was shot and killed. McElveen's death is the sixth reported murder of a transgender woman in 2017. In response to the news, transgender woman and Tulane Drop-In Wellness Centre coordinator Syria Sinclaire said she was afraid to leave her home: "Trans women don't want any special privileges. We should have the right to live our lives open and free and not be taunted and traumatized by the general public if they don't approve." (Mic)
- Last night, Canadian actress Wendy Olunike Adeliyi was denied entry at the Kingsway Theatre because she was carrying her backpack. Staff asked her to leave her backpack at the front counter, but she refused since she had a laptop and other expensive items inside. After offering to allow staff to go through her bag to ensure there was no food or alcohol, owner Rui Pereira called the police and claimed "a black woman woman is threatening us." This appears to be a pattern of abusive and belligerent behaviour by Pereira, who has numerous complaints against him online. This story is continuing to develop. (eBoss Canada).
- The Oscars took place on Sunday night and though there were several great moments and speeches against racism and xenophobia, Casey Affleck still won the award for Best Actor, despite the sexual harassment allegations against him. The only thing comforting us is that Canadian actress Brie Larson, who had to present the award to Affleck, seemed as displeased with his win as we were. Larson, who won her Best Actress award for playing an imprisoned rape victim in Room and has advocated for victims of sexual assault, refused to clap for Affleck. (BuzzFeed)
- John R. K. Howard, a 19-year-old white man, was given no jail time despite being found guilty of "kicking a coat hanger up the rectum of a mentally disabled black teammate." Howard was sentenced to probation and community service, and may even have his conviction dismissed, in what supporters of the victim are calling a slap on the wrist and yet another example of white privilege. Despite the judge's sentencing, the victim's family is continuing to pursue a federal civil case. (NPR)
- February 26th marked the five-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's murder and March 2nd was the one-year anniversary of the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. Black Lives Matter remembers Trayvon, whose death sparked a global movement against anti-black racism and violence. Berta was a member of the Indigenous Lenca group who was targeted for her fight to protect Indigenous lands and communities. Eight suspects have been arrested for her murder, including two who were reportedly trained by the United States, but no one has been brought to justice. (Medium, CNN and Democracy NOW!)
- This week we celebrated #WorldBookDay by learning more about Marley Dias' #1000BlackGirlBooks drive, which the 12-year-old New Jersey native started after growing tired of only reading books about white boys and their dogs. So far, she's collected over 9,000 books and recently gave away 1,000 books to a school in St. Mary, Jamaica. In February, she landed a Scholastic book deal for a "keep-it-real" guide to activism. (AJ+ and Elle)
Speaking of books, we've recently updated our Book Club page if you'd like to see some of the titles we've read so far. We'll continue to update it with our monthly selections. And let us know which books you think we should read next!
Last but not least, thanks to everyone who attended our Galentines event on February 10th! With your support and donations we were able to raise $250 for the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape! Find your photos and tag your friends on our Facebook page.
· On Wednesday evening, Trump and his administration withdrew protections for transgender students in public schools that allow students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. In an intensely difficult time in the U.S., Gavin Grimm is one of the many individuals that inspire us all with his fight for basic human rights in these dark times. With the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gavin and his mother filed a discrimination complaint against the Department of Justice and Education for unconstitutional rulings in his high school that disallowed him to use the boy’s washrooms. This week, Gavin interviewed with Teen Vogue on his upcoming case in March of this year. (Teen Vogue)
· The Feminist Voice in China account on China’s social media forum Sina Weibo has been put on a 30-day suspension after posting an article responding to Trump’s racist, sexist and homophobic policies. The article was translated from US-based feminist academics in The Guardian, which urged an international strike to protest male violence and reproductive rights on March 8th. The Feminist Voice in China started in 2010 and has over 80,000 followers and includes several influential feminist voices such as Xiong Jing and Li Maizi. (The Guardian)
· The award winning film Lipstick Under My Burkha has been denied a release certificate from India’s censorship board for its use of “contaminating sexual scenes” and “audio pornography”. Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, Lipstick Under My Burkha is centered on the lives of four Indian women that assert their personal and sexual rights. After the letter went viral, Shrivastava tweeted, "Ironic. Film wins gender equality award, gets NO certificate." It is believed that the imagery of lipstick alone alludes to the sexual desires and fantasies of women and has no place in India’s film entertainment. (Hollywood Reporter)
· A Spanish nightclub is under extreme (and deserving) fire for offering women free admission, drinks and money if they go commando. Posters were found in various places in Barcelona, which prompted local women’s rights group Dones Juristes to file a formal complaint to authorities. The unnamed club promoter has since spoken out saying that it was a direct ploy to attract media attention, though stories of female participants have already been publicized. (Express)
· Somali-American model Halima Aden, who recently made headlines for wearing a hijab on the runway, graced the cover of CR Fashion Book this week. The issue also included a conversation with Somali supermodel Iman where Aden reveals what wearing a hijab means to her, the many misconceptions she has faced in her career, and the pride they both feel for being Muslim women. (Huffington Post)
· The world’s biggest annual street party in Brazil began with an unexpectedly political pre-carnival parade. This year, organizers and protesters sought to fight against sexism, homophobia, and the workings of Donald Trump in what became an anti-government, Occupy Carnival event. Several symbolic messages were made through the use of costumes, such as sombreros with mock-ups of the proposed border wall, and female groups dressed up as the pampered wives of corrupt politicians. (The Guardian)
· Marriam-Webster hit twitter on Friday to remind the world of its definition of the word Feminist. After Kellyanne Conway stated that it is difficult to call herself a feminist because she is “pro-man” and “anti-abortion”, searches for the definition of the word ‘feminism’ drastically spiked online. It is certainly no question that this brand of rhetoric contradicts what Feminism truly represents, such as equal rights, equal opportunity, equal choice, equal say, equal access, etc. etc. etc. (Marriam Webster)
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Love, ToFemCo ~
- At the infamous meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and Trump this week, both white and questionable men sat down with 15 plus business women to talk politics. As the stereotype goes, Trudeau was polite and avoided direct conflict with Trump regarding his blatant misogyny – but we are not happy about it. Trudeau in many ways gave Trump the opportunity to appear like he cared about women.Trudeau, there is a time and a place to be kind, and this occasion was NOT one of those times. (Metro News)
- We are continuing to put you in the hot seat, Trudeau. In November 2016, Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a statement (that largely went unnoticed) informing Canadians that a ‘gender-based analysis of budgetary measures’ would be completed to shape financial decisions in 2017, and now in Ottawa, commitments are being deliberated. Portions of the budget are said to be specifically assigned to initiatives such as childcare, gender-based violence, and participation in the workforce. (Global News)
- If you weren’t tuned in on Sunday night, the 59th Grammy Awards sent Adele home with album of the year above Beyonce’s masterpiece Lemonade. Adele’s speech proved to us all that she was just as shocked by her win as we were, saying, “I can’t possibly accept this award.” Although Adele’s album 25 was certainly award-worthy, Lemonade’s loss leaves many questioning the racist panels behind the Grammy’s. (The Guardian)
- Last weekend Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven led a delegation to Iran where Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warmly greeted her upon her arrival. However, back in Sweden, she was heavily criticized for following Iran’s law that every woman wears a hijab. Critics of Lofven argue that female garb such as the hijab and burka are inherently oppressive (or anti-feminist), however for millions of women, the hijab is a proud symbol of their beliefs. (Washington Post)
- A “Lass War” protest has been organized in the north of England to picket a male-dominated powerhouse conference later this month. Out of 98 speakers presenting over a two-day period, only 13 are women. Protesters plan on sporting hard hats, hi-vis jackets and men’s suits on the day of. (The Guardian)
- A story was released this week on the Prerna Girls School in India and how it works to serve disadvantaged girls living in turmoil. The school teaches simple life lessons such as personal hygiene, but also goes beyond the basics and empowers student’s with feminist values. Sadly India is ranked 130th out of the worlds 155 countries in gender equality and schools such as Prerna are a rare and extraordinary find. (NBC News)
- A school in Sierra Leone is encouraging alumni and volunteers to participate as mentors to prevent female students from dropping out. Once a refugee at the age of 12, Moiyattu Banya returned to Sierra Leone and was inspired to create the Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone (GESLL) to provide workshops and leadership programs for young girls. Today, support offered from volunteers is inspired by GESSL and is said to work against the difficulties of poverty and the patriarchy. (News Deeply)
- Vogue made headlines this week after releasing a diversity issue that undeniably appropriated Japanese culture. White model Karlie Kloss later apologized for her portrayal as a Geisha in the magazine, but the cover itself featured women with all similarly fair complexions. Clearly Teen Vogue needs to teach their Grandma a thing or two. (CBC)
Have a lovely long weekend and take care of yourself <3
Love, ToFemCo ~
· Lady Gaga started the week off on a high with a badass and nostalgic performance at the Super Bowl half-time show and the announcement of her World Tour for Joanne. (Instagram)
· A flight attendant in the U.S. saved a girl from human trafficking by picking up on unusual behaviour. Sheila Frederick noticed a much older man accompanied by a frightened looking young girl which prompted her to leave a concerned note in the bathroom for her to find. She later responded with “I need help”. (Independent)
· A crowd of around 100 gathered at Patterson Park in Thunder Bay on Sunday evening to protest in solidarity with Indigenous women. The gathering was in support of First Nations woman Barbara Kentner, after she was struck with a trailer hitch by an 18-year-old male. (CBC)
· Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party Women’s Assembly launched a ‘NO’ campaign for the upcoming referendum on Turkey’s constitution to launch a One Man Rule. A powerful declaration was conducted that includes a list of NO statements:
Say NO to put a stop to rape and violence
Say NO to put a stop to violence against women
Say NO for our labor, our body, and our identity
Say NO to the mentality of ‘obey and be comfortable’
Say NO for equal representation, equal life
(Left Foot Forward)
· The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) of New York is sponsoring a series of events that will celebrate the history of Asian-American Feminism. The first event will be held at New York University on February 12th and will act as a Women’s March debrief focusing on reproductive rights, politics, and Asian American Feminism in the ‘Age of Trump’. (NBC News)
· After a lengthy hiatus from the political limelight, Hilary Clinton attended the women’s empowerment conference on Monday evening to show her ongoing support for women’s rights. As per usual, she received quick criticisms from conservative political voices such as Charmaine Yoest, who argued that the ‘catch phrase’ The Future is Female is anti-male, reminiscent of those who deem BLM a racist movement towards non-black individuals. (NBC Washington)
· Elizabeth Warren was silenced during a debate regarding Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Warren read Coretta Scott King’s letter on Sessions failed judicial nomination from 30 years ago, and was abruptly silenced by Republican Senators. (Fortune)
· Chinese feminists have coined the term “Straight Man Cancer” as way to denounce Trump’s sexist and misogynist policies. Prominent Chinese feminist Zheng Churan has been active on twitter stating, “just like cancerous cells, straight-man cancer spreads everywhere damaging feminist movements and undermining social equality. It is pervasive.” Churan believes Trump is bringing Chinese feminists together and that as collectives begin to form, they will be stronger than ever. (Telesur)
ToFemCo is back with our first episode for Season 2: Galentines! We talk femme friendships, frenemies, friends we have crushes on, and more. Click on Underwire at the top of the page to check it out <3