Sharing some old stuff I wrote

Hey guys,

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here, however I intend to get back into the trend of using this space to explore some more academic pursuits and using it as a space to ‘free write’ when ideas come to me – to remain in the practice of writing academically.

However, until that happens, I thought I would share part of a paper I wrote a while ago. So read on if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if this is a topic you are interested in, I would be happy to share the full document.

Creating the Body: Social Media and Sexual Violence

This paper will explore the intersections of the body as a sexed and gendered space through the lens of social and cultural construction and will view the concepts of sex and gender as inherently performative. Using the context of sexual violence and narratives surrounding sexual violence within North America this paper will explore if and how sexual violence (re)produces understandings of the body or (re)constitutes the body. Through this process, the paper hopes to explore whether narratives of sexual violence and victimhood can be understood through discourses of performativity and the body. Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that ’one is not born, but rather, becomes a woman’ is incredibly salient for the purposes of this paper as it is through performativity that one embodies the sexed or gendered body (De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). Through the process of ’becoming‘ woman, the body is marked as deviant from the male body and within the process of ‘becoming’ it is important to question the role of social media in producing normative bodies and of sexual violence in marking some bodies (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]).

In a sense, this paper operates on the assumption that the body does exist as a social space through which individuals can embody sex and gender, but also as a space through which performativity is read by an external audience through the lens of culture and society (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). By examining the body through these processes, I hope to understand the impacts that sexual violence has both as creating an imprint on the body but also in how performativity is read (Foucault, 1977 [1975]; Foucault, 1978 [1976]). Within recent media attention and within sexual violence research, we have seen a trend away from (re)victimizing those who have experienced sexual violence; this, alongside the extremely low instances of reposing sexual violence demonstrates there is something salient about how people are perceived if they are open about experiences of sexual violence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2008). I argue that the importance of these perceptions can be understood through an analysis of the body and of performativity in the context of sexual violence and social media.

To do so, this paper will follow some common experiences that occur prior to, during, and following  instances of sexual violence — particularly as represented through social media — using three  recent cases from North America;  herein referred to as the Ohio case, the Missouri case, and the Nova Scotia case — these cases will also be referred to collectively where inferences can be made. . .

Computer Chip Birth Control?

A contraceptive computer chip that can be controlled by remote control has been developed in Massachusetts.

The chip is implanted under a woman’s skin, releasing a small dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone.

This will happen every day for 16 years, but can be stopped at any time by using a wireless remote control.

My initial reaction to this is “AMAZING” because I’m thinking of how convenient and easy it would be to be able to self-manage your birth control over the long-term in this way. Imagine not needing to go to the pharmacy once a month or every few months, imagine one tiny cost that provides 16 years of not needing to worry, imagine how great it would be to have lower doses of hormones (if that’s what you wanted).

Then, I thought about the potential implications. Imagine having this inserted into people without their knowledge or consent, imagine having this inserted into someone without giving them the means to stop the hormones at a time of place of their choosing, imagine the potential repercussions of how this can be used to further limit the choice women have of their own bodies, fertility, and reproduction. 

Think on it. I’d be curious to hear thoughts/arguments and debates.

Revisiting old posts and reviewing search terms

I took some time today to read through some of my old blog posts, I find that as I hit mental blocks in writing my thesis it can be helpful to read through what has inspired me in the past. I wanted to take a few moments to draw attention to some of the most common search terms that people use to find my blog. A common thing that comes across is the question “What does it mean to be a woman?” or “What does it mean to be a girl?” and while my posts where I developed my own answer to these questions (Part One and Part Two) seem to be quite popular, they are not necessarily comprehensive. In fact, they aren’t even comprehensive to how I feel about the topic now – they were responses to very specific experiences that occurred over a set of days and weeks – hardly representative of my entire life or viewpoint on my gender. 

I find that I look up answers to those big questions too frequently, I’m constantly seeking approval or answers that someone else has experienced or wondered or asked the same things that I have. Why do I seek validation from other people? Why am I looking for some proof that my experience is not unique? Why am I looking for proof that I am the same as someone else, instead of embracing what makes me different? I’m curious about goal to be normal or to blend in, what does this even mean and why do we want it? 

Personally, I’m done with it. I’m tired of telling people what I do, or what I’m passionate about and feeling like I can’t share too much of myself for fear of sounding too different. I want to be different, I want to be myself, and I want to be able to celebrate the things that make me unique without feeling the need to shine a little less bright. 

So cheers to those who ask the big questions, who refuse to conform to the people we’re told we need to be, and to those who keep shining bright regardless of the response you’re met with. 

Our Breasts Are Deadlier Than Your Stones

I want to bring attention to a particular line from this: “Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women.” If a woman’s actions and ideas are so radical that they could give other women ideas and encourage new thinking, then there is a larger problem. If we are going to be so afraid of having women think and act independently then we need to have change.

There is nothing radical about a woman’s breasts when she’s in porn or performing for men, but yet men feel so threatened by breasts when they aren’t being sexualized.

Lysistrata's Daughter

Apparently.

Because while the threat of stoning is just that-a threat-breasts are on display throughout the world today in support of Amina Tyler, the nineteen year old Tunisian woman who posted pictures last month of her bare chest and the words “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor” in Arabic. A second photo, declaring “Fuck your morals” in English, was also posted.

Almi Adel,  who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, now known (ironically) as the Moderate Association for Awareness and Reform is quoted as saying: “The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100  lashes, but (because of) the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves to be stoned to death,” he said. “Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary…

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I can’t believe I still have to say these things

There are days when gender issues infuriate me and when people/problems just seem absolutely ridiculous. There are things/opinions that I actually cannot believe I have to voice or express. There are so many things that you would think would be common sense by now.

I can’t believe that I have to say I believe in gender equality.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I believe men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and receive equal respect.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that girls and boys should be able to go to school.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that every person should have access to family planning education, counselling, and support (through contraception, abortion, help with fertility, STD/HIV testing, treatment, prenatal and postnatal care, etc.).

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think men and women have the right to live free from fear of being assaulted (physically, sexually, emotionally), free from fear of rape, free from fear of being drugged, etc.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that all genders and people within genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, identity, religion, age, political beliefs, size, physical/mental ability or disability etc. are equal and should be treated equally.

Worst of all, I can’t believe that people think I’m radical for believing these things. Is it so radical to believe that all people (without conditions, no ifs, ands, or buts) are equal.

Period. All people are equal.

Vietnam considering paying cash to families with daughters

It seems that the Vietnamese government is contemplating paying cash to families with daughters in an effort improve the ratio of births by gender. They believe that providing economic incentives to families will reduce the abortion rates of female fetuses.

I personally believe that while economic incentives can have a role in developing gender equality, this is not the way to do it. Instead provide equal opportunities to girls through scholarships, free primary school, provide job opportunities for girls, provide pension plans so that parents are not reliant on their children to provide for them, fund educational programs on gender equality, safe sex, and reproductive health.

Do not give money to families that have girls – that division and distinction plays into the belief that girls are worth less than boys, that the funding is a consolation prize for having a daughter. Work to develop a society that values the inputs of its daughters and women as more than wives and mothers; value women as equal contributing members of society because they are. Raise women to be more than just someone’s wife and value them for their work both inside and outside of the home; value them for their ideas, minds, and the potential that they have.

Work to create a society where each child is valued.

On Entitlement and Respect

I’ve experienced a fair share of battles here regarding how men treat women, and today was no different.

While on the bus, the bus attendant announced to someone that he thought I was beautiful; someone disagreed and said I was ugly. This was followed by a fair amount of debate while pointed at various parts of my body and garnering a small attentive crowd. I turned around and announced that I understand Vietnamese and was met with silence.

People felt as though they had the right, ability, and freedom to openly discuss what they did and did not like about my body, while pointing to the body parts in question and when it became obvious that I knew and understood what was going on there wasn’t even an apology. Then on the rest of my trek home I had several men try to get me to sit and eat with them; what is it a joke or game to try to get the girl to sit down and eat or drink with you? Do people really expect that someone they have never met or spoken with is really going to want to sit down right at that moment to enjoy a meal with a stranger? I sure wouldn’t. But when I say no I’m met with someone who is shocked and offended that I don’t want to sit down with a strange man and eat whatever he offers just because he asked.

Just because I’m female does not mean I’m your property. Just because I’m different than you does not mean you have the right to discuss or debate my body. Just because you ask me to do something does not mean I have to say yes. I am human, I am not your property, I do not exist as a source of entertainment for you, and I deserve the same level of respect you want to receive.

You should never apologize for believing that humanity can be better

Lately I’ve seen some things online which have bothered me, but I have been guilty of them in the past as well.

I find that people are often apologetic when posting opinions online – particularly opinions supporting gender equality. Why should I apologize if my words offend you when your unapologetic actions offend me on a daily basis?

We have nothing to apologize about – there is nothing wrong or shameful about being opinionated and sharing that opinion. There is no need or reason to apologize when asking for equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities. If those actions should happen to offend someone, let it happen. If they are so easily offended that the notion of treating both men and women with a high level of respect and dignity offends them, then perhaps it may also educate them.

You should never apologize for believing that humanity can be better.

One in Seven

Originally written for the International Women’s Initiative. See the original post here.

In light of the recent media regarding sexual assault and rape in India as well as the information presented via social media in the past month, I would like to remind everyone that sexual assault is not only a problem in developing nations. In fact, sexual assault occurs in every country in the world and globally between 15-71% of women ages 15-49 have experience sexual assault (the statistic shows the range of national averages). Yet despite the remarkably high number of women affected by sexual assault there is still a stigma associated with it, a stigma that exists in every culture and society I have ever been, seen, experienced, read of or heard of.

Women around the world are raised and told to protect themselves; don’t show too much skin, don’t walk around alone at night, don’t walk around alone, cover your drink at a bar, and the list goes on and on. Women are taught these things from childhood and it seems normal; I remember being thirteen years old going to my first school dance and reminded to cover my water or pop, never put my drink down, and to be careful. It may seem insignificant because actions like that were probably normalized for you as well. Like many people I grew up in a society where I had to constantly be on guard, there exists a fear of being drugged, or raped, or beaten; women receive information every single day about how to avoid a sexual assault, how to escape a dangerous situation, and what life changes should be made to be safer. Does it still seem normal? Does it seem normal to have to change aspects of every single day of your life to be safe, to be able to life out the same rights and freedoms as the male half of the population?

Canada, like all but six countries, (United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Palau, and Tonga) has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women yet, like most countries, these policies have failed to result in significant societal change at this point in time. In Canada only 0.33% of sexual assaults result in convictions and many factors play into this; only 9% of sexual assaults are reported, only 33% of reported sexual assaults result in charges, and only 11% of charges result in convictions. Why is this? Canada, like many nations, places the responsibility and blame for a woman’s protection on the woman herself; why else would we be telling women to cover up and dress more ‘appropriately’? Women are regularly questioned regarding their conduct prior to the sexual assault and encouraged to not press charges, in many cases by the authorities tasked with upholding justice and the rule of law. Sound familiar? It should be, as this is the case in almost every country in the world.

When you read about sexual assault and rape do not ignore it, do not pass the information by, instead take it to heart and know that statistically a minimum of one in seven of your female friends have experienced sexual assault, although that number is likely much higher. So do not let this become a statistic, do not wave it off as something that will affect you because likely it already affects you and at least one person who is close to you. Make it personal and do something about it: you can be an advocate for women and victims of sexual assault, you can denormalize victim blaming, and you can do something.

Verbal Abuse

Have you ever had someone insult you?

Maybe you were called a bitch, a slut, a whore? Perhaps it was a one-time thing uttered by a stranger and the words stung a little bit but you never heard it again.

But maybe it wasn’t said by a stranger, maybe it was said by someone close to you, someone you believe. Perhaps you were called a bitch, a slut, a whore. Perhaps you were told you were worth less than other people? Maybe you were belittled and made to feel as though you were constantly doing something wrong?

Many people don’t realize that verbal abuse is still abuse; that words are not meaningless. Each word, each syllable has meaning and has the power and ability to affect another human being, another person’s life. Words are used as weapons, as tools to inflict pain, to harm others. Words are used to reduce people to less than they are. Words are used to convince people that their lives will never be better. Words are used to convince people to stay with people in situations or places that they have a right to life free of, this is done by either convincing them that everything they believe is wrong (no person will love you, take care of you, believe you) or that they don’t deserve better.

KAFA, a Lebanese organization, discovered that 50% of Lebanese women are victims of verbal abuse (statistically are not-surprisingly lacking for most nations) and they sought to show that words hurt and that verbal abuse is a devastating and harmful form of abuse.

The photos are extremely powerful and extremely triggering, so if you feel safe enough to check them out, please do so here; this also links to a Lebanese helpline for victims of abuse.

To find an agency in your country and/or language of choice offering support for victims of domestic abuse and verbal abuse click here.

Inequality will not be tolerated.

“This is the first time women have gathered to protest the kind of daily violence many of them put up with.”
Ravi Nessman

I find it both sad and empowering that this is the first time women have gathered to protest the kind of daily violence many of them put up with. Imagine putting up with sexual violence, harassment, rape, abuse, violence, etc. every single day and having no opportunity for recourse? No opportunity for justice or self-protection? Even worse, imagine having people tell you that it’s your fault you were raped? Imagine the very people who are supposed to promote justice and safety telling you its your fault you were raped?

It is empowering because this never has to happen again. It’s empowering because it is an opportunity for change – not only in India, but around the world. This is a chance to teach women and families that men and women are equal, that no person deserves to experience violence, and that such violence and inequality will not be tolerated.

Female Police Officers

Some officials of traffic police teams said that traffic policewoman regulating traffic during peak hours in the morning and afternoon at the major intersection would “create beauty and make the people more comfortable.” 

After the peak hours, these female police officers will return to the office.

A representative of the Road and Railway Traffic Police Agency said that the traffic policewomen standing on the podium to regulate traffic in rain or shine are beautiful images and some cities have used traffic policewomen to regulate traffic for years.

Why not have the female police officers act in full capacity like all police officers? Reward them for their ability and work, not physical appearance..

A woman is human

“A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”

Vera Nazarian

Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

Wonderful history for anyone wanting to learn more about colonization and the need for #Idlenomore

Behind the Hedge

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British Colonies along the Atlantic Coast and the newly conquered lands of New France.  Remember the Plains of Abraham?  Also, the Royal Proclamation declared clearly the Crown’s understanding of the status of the aboriginal people of the New World. To be clear, the Royal Proclamation is a statement of Canadian Constitutional law which remains in force today, both on its own and through the Constitution Act (1982).

The Royal Proclamation, together with the Quebec Act of  of 1774,  is the legal reason that Quebec continues to have a distinct Constitutional position as a Nation within Canada and as a Nation with distinct, constitutionally guaranteed legal institutions.

The First Nations are very clearly described in the Royal Proclamation as…

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#idlenomore

“Our government has a clear objective to focus on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. We take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada.”

What Canada has proven is that Canadians cannot count on Canada with regards to freedom, democracy or human rights. While Canada may reject its failing grade with regards to Human Rights, Canadians are standing up and demanding better.

“We find it strange that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs are devoting their scarce resources to countries like Canada, instead of countries like Iran and Syria where citizens do not enjoy rights and are subject to serious human rights violations at the hands of those regimes,” Rick Roth said.

And we find it strange that Canada isn’t focusing on the serious human rights violations in Canada that have been happening for longer than Canada has been a nation.

On December 10th, the world woke up and something long overdue happened. The Idle No More movement is unprecedented in my generation, this is one of the first times that I have seen people in Canada organize together and not only advocate for change, but demand change. The demand for change does not only affect Aboriginal communities in Canada, but all Canadians. Idle No More is advocating for better human rights, better environmental treatment and a wake-up call to Canadians and the Canadian government in general.

Despite the fact that I am currently in Vietnam, this is a movement what I will be a part of, I am committed to doing everything I can for the rights of my own people and the rights of Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities around the world. I cannot advocate for international development or development unless I can see that it is done in my own country. I can’t stand up for the rights of people around the world unless I’m willing to stand up for my own rights. I urge you, Aboriginal or not, stand up for basic human rights, protect the environment and demand change from the Canadian government.

The message is simple: respect treaty rights, stop federal legislation that could affect the environment and improve living conditions in Aboriginal communities. 

This is about more than Canada’s reputation, this is about more than money. This is about making right for decades and decades of injustice, this is about making right on our commitment to protect our natural landscape. This is not radical, it is not uncalled for. This is common sense, basic human compassion and necessary.

“Once the last tree is cut down, once the last river is dried up, once the last fish is caught is when Harper’s going to realize you can’t eat money.” – Melvin Wilson, Cheam First Nation

Learn about Idle No More

Read more:

Wake-up call to Canada – findingdevelopment

Idle No More protesters remember Oka crisis – CBC

UN envoy blasts Canada for ‘self-righteous’ attitude over hunger, poverty – National Post

Idle No More protest continues in Vancouver – Vancouver Sun

A peoples’ movement that is Idle No More – CBC

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike – Rabble.ca

Idle No More: Women rising to lead when it’s needed most – Rabble.ca

Chief vows to ‘die’ if necessary to improve the lot of Aboriginal People – Leader Post

We should not be scared of going out…

“We should not be scared of going out and we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves with cooking ingredients.”

-Kajol Batra, a 28 year old student in Delhi responding to a senior Indian police officer who told women to avoid rape by not going out at dark and carrying chili powder to throw at offenders.

Family planning, contraception, and pregnancy

While reading this article, I came across a link to an incredible tool used to map access to basic family planning, sexual health, and reproductive health impacts. It shows the impacts of unplanned pregnancy (which account for roughly 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the USA each year), demonstrates the factors influencing this high number, shows the outcome of those pregnancies, the cost to public funding, and gives state-by-state suggestions for how to improve these numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute also has information on abortion, contraceptionpublic funding for contraception, teen pregnancy rates,  sexual health education, and so much more.

It’s definately worth checking out and is an incredible resource for anyone interested in learning about sexual health and family planning in the USA.

If anyone has information on similar databases for other countries please feel free to link them here.

Gender-swapped Children’s Toy Catalogue in Sweden

So happy some companies are doing this! I actually remember the day I realized that I didn’t have to like the colour pink just because I was a girl. It was eye-opening and toy catalogues and stores did nothing to support that.

Women and Leadership

Image

The latest holiday catalogue released by Sweden’s toy retail chain Top Toy is making some buzz for breaking the gender-role stereotypes in its product pages, which features girls with Nerf guns and boys with doll houses and Hello Kitty. According to Jezebel, Top Toy’s gender-swapped catalogue may have been inspired in part by the widespread debate over the issue of gender equality that has been ongoing for the past few years in the Scandinavian nation.

here is a link to the entire article: [x]

I think it’s a great way to change social ideologies: start teaching the kiddies that it’s okay for a girl to use the nerf gun and the boy to use the vacuum!

What do you guys think?

*note* — I know that this doesn’t show women in leadership but it’s a start to changing what we see as typical gender roles, reminded me of…

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Contraception is a Human Right

We have found that there are no mental health consequences of abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. There are other interesting findings: even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.

That is a quote from the researchers who are two years in to a five year study abortion – specifically the first scientific study which looks at what happens to women who have been denied abortions. This study has been following 956 women who sought abortions, 182 of which were denied. This study takes place in the USA but I believe much of the information can be extrapolated to other nations.

I find it fascinating that less than halfway into the study researchers are already able to debunk many of the common reasons why women are denied abortions and protestors push for pro-life national agendas. Firstly, abortion does not cause mental illness. Secondly, abortion does not cause drug use. Particularly when combined with the emotional distress of carrying an unwanted child to term. In fact, the study found that giving birth to an unwanted child caused more physical damage than an abortion: “There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.”

What I also found interesting was that only 11% of those who were denied abortions put the child up for adoption and that there are higher rates of putting children up for adoption among those with a history of drug abuse. While there are plenty of people who desperately want to adopt children, particularly from within their home country, adoption is still looked down upon. Many people are discriminated against if they put their child up for adoption, there is a stigma associated with this that makes many people choose to keep the child.

Also notable is that this week the United Nations declared contraception to be a human right. About time, right? Family Planning is universally acknowledged to be critical for development; spacing children apart by a minimum of 2 years improves their health, developmental capacity, brain function, in-utero nutrition, and improves the health of the mother and ease of her delivery. Additionally, 82% of unwanted pregnancies could be avoided simply by increasing access to information and services regarding contraception. Who needs access? Women and adolescents as

Thai Minority Women in Dien Bien, Vietnam discussing the importance of family planning and maternal health (November 8-9, 2012)

those are the target groups and the people who need to be able to have control and power over decisions regarding their own bodies. This is a huge step forward for international development and a wake-up call for so called ‘developed’ nations to improve the dissemination of information and services regarding contraception. It also should indicate a need to not discriminate against such services on the basis of religion, funding, or personal beliefs.

Take a step forward with the United Nations and protect the rights and freedoms of people around the world by supporting family planning, improving access to contraception information and services, reducing the stigma surrounding adoption and abortion, and ensuring that women people are never denied the ability to live out their basic rights.

2012 USA Election

I’ve noticed an increased number of blog hits in the past while from people searching such things as ‘romney parental leave’ (or other variations of that) and ‘romney’s views on women.’ All I can say is that if you are taking the time to do your research, I commend you. Congratulations, an informed voter is my favourite kind.

Now all that being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have political representation that fights for basic human rights, and in my opinion, Romney is the farthest from that. Now, I’m not American, I am Canadian and living in Vietnam of all places. But I have seen first hand how American politics have the ability to influence politics and development around the world. No politician will be perfect, no one person or political party will meet all of your needs, but look beyond yourself and look at what is better for humankind in general. Do we want political representation that will force the world to take gargantuan steps BACKWARDS for womenkind? Do we want to regress (even more) on maternal health and gender equality? Do we want to spend money on ‘national defence’ that could be better used on health care and education? Not at all.

So I urge you, make the decision that is best for humankind, for people around the world, for the majority. Protect the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Protect existing human rights and women’s rights. Do not make the world move backward. We just can’t handle it anymore.

. . . seen and not heard

A few years ago, I had a professor explain the history of women’s inhabitations of space. We weren’t talking about outer space; stars, galaxies, and whatnot. We were talking about physical and intellectual space.

Historically, women’s outfits were designed to physically inhabit large spaces (think Victorian era ballgowns) and to draw attention to a woman’s appearance. These outfits took hours to put on and prepare and while they physically took up space (drawing attention to women), women were still restricted by them. These outfits physically restricted women and limited them to inhabiting physical space as opposed to intellectual space.

Sound confusing? It kind of is.. Instead think of it as that saying people used to (and sometimes still) say about kids; “children are meant to be seen and not heard’ and simply replace the word ‘children’ with the word ‘women’. Better?

I struggle with this idea because I find that these ideologies are still far too common in every day society. Women are expected to dress up, look pretty, look cute, wear this, wear that, talk, but don’t talk too much, speak up, but not too loud. We’re supposed to blend in, become a part of society, compliment those around us and not stand out too much; unless of course we stand out for being so beautiful, but even that can only occur in small doses.

I think it’s time for all people to feel comfortable inhabiting more space; we should all be comfortable and content in voicing our opinions and encouraging others to do the same, there should be no societal restrictions on my voice (or trust me, it will just get louder), and I should be able to define and inhabit whatever space I choose.

I will be seen AND heard.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Alright, by this point you should all know my stance on gender equality, women’s rights, human rights, etc. I’d say I’ve been pretty vocal. I have also been fairly polite about it (according to others).

This is going to change. I’m livid.

Women’s rights are human rights. Women do not spontaneously become pregnant, it’s really not a solo act. A man’s presence is involved in some way or another.

Do you believe in human rights? Do you believe that women are capable? Do you respect your mother, sisters, female friends? Do you enjoy making decisions about your life (i.e. what will I have for breakfast, do I want to read a book, should I wear a red shirt today, etc.)? Do you doubt the intelligence of the women you know?

If you say you respect women and if you understand what respect actually means, how can you promote actions or people who subsequently disrespect their autonomy, independence, decision-making abilities, and equality?

How is it that women are responsible for making sure they don’t get raped (don’t go out at dark, oh that skirt is too short, are you sure you should show that much cleavage) because ‘men can’t help themselves if you look available’ and yet our ability to make decisions about our bodies is threatened? Why is that we are held with the responsibility to make sure ‘men don’t stray or misbehave’ yet we are not responsible to make any decisions about ourselves? Why is it that regardless of how smart I am, how much I prove myself, how well I distinguish myself in my field I will still make 70-80 cents on the dollar in comparison to my male counterparts?

Why is this still so hard to wrap your mind around? Its been a matter of discussion for decades, centuries even. Why is it so hard to understand? Women are human, in fact ALL people are human. All people deserve equal rights under the law. Women and men have slightly different body parts, that does not mean they deserve unequal rights. Birth control is a human right – you sell condoms (mainly male condoms as female condoms are not common practice) over the counter, allowing men to control what goes on their penis, yet birth control pills/IUDs/NuvaRing/injections/implants/patch/etc. (the more effective forms of birth control) are still prescription only and significantly more expensive (and in the USA 18 states allow pharmacists permission to refuse to dispense medication that they don’t morally agree with). This removes control, independence, autonomy, it makes it incredibly difficult for women to have the same freedom of control over their fertility that men have. *Note, I’m not saying condoms (male/female condoms) are not effective, they are still the only way to protect yourself and your partner against STDs, they are just less effective (when used alone) at preventing pregnancies than other hormonal forms of birth control. When in doubt ask your doctor or google the success rates of different forms, and always be sure to get tested. 

Also, why is abortion a heated discussion in politics, aren’t we supposed to have separation of state and religion? Isn’t it religion that dictates that life begins at conception? Why does this have a place in politics? Nations are not assimilated cultures, nations are made up of inherently different people with different beliefs and different religions, even if there is no separation of state and religion there should be equal place for ALL religions to share their views instead of only the view of the loudest religion. In saying this, religion probably isn’t even the best word – how about beliefs? This allows for those without a ‘formalized institutional view of religion’ to be included. I don’t go to church (at this present time), does that make my views on politics any more or less valid? Nope.

If you are going to represent me in politics, I do not want to know about your religious beliefs, I don’t care what (if any) god you believe in. I don’t care if you grew up going to church, or mosque, or temple, or something else, or nothing. It shouldn’t matter. What matters to me are your political beliefs and how well you will represent me and my political beliefs, if you cannot justify your stance without using religion, you have no place in politics. Saying things like ‘if a women gets pregnant from rape, god intended it to happen’ should never come out of your mouth. Maybe a better thing to say would be “if a women gets pregnant from rape, the state will do everything in their power to support her in whatever decision she makes and to give her access to the things she needs to heal emotionally and physically from such a horrible trauma. We will also do everything in our power to ensure that the rapist is brought to court and tried for these crimes.” You are in politics, you do not judge, you do not demean people, and you do not treat anyone as less than human. You support the population you represent, you support equal rights, and you do what is in the best interests for everyone even if it goes outside of your religious beliefs (which you do not try to enforce on others).

I have never been in a situation where I have had to make a decision regarding abortion and I sincerely hope I’m never in a place where I have to. I hope that if and when I get pregnant (if ever), it’s by choice. I hope that until (and if ever) that happens/during that time/after that time, I’m granted  the right and ability to maintain 100% of my own authority over my body. This means never being in a position where sexual activity occurs without my express prior consent and if it were to ever occur without my consent, having the freedom and ability to pursue legal action in court without being judged, demeaned, or having my actions put on trial. This means having 100% access to whatever means of family planning I choose to use and having it covered by my health insurance (just like viagra is covered) without having to justify my actions/choices or having them refused. This means being able to access abortions without being judged or forced to justify my decision and having access to supportive counselling throughout the process if I’m ever in a position where I choose to have an abortion. This means being treated like a human being.

I can respect your decision if you are not a feminist, and if you are pro-life, believe religion has a place in politics, etc. I can respect that. I cannot respect when those beliefs infringe on the rights of the rest of the population. In saying I’m pro-choice, believe in access to contraception, believe in equal pay; I am not infringing on your right to never have an abortion, never use contraception or get paid less if thats what you want. If you are against family planning – great don’t do it. But don’t tell me I can’t.

I am human, nothing more, nothing less. 

International Women’s Initiative

Hello everyone!

Well if you didn’t know I’ve been quite busy, but I wanted to draw some attention to this wonderful organization called the International Women’s Initiative. If you want to learn about them you should check out their webpage or their blog. Myself and one of my classmates, Kyla, have been blogging for them and my first post is up – Development as Choice; Equality as Voice.

For a lot of people successful development can be summarized by saying ‘development is choice’. For people who work in the field of development, a lot of work is based on increasing the choices that people have and increasing their opportunities, which therefore results in decreasing their vulnerability. In many cases, this work is focused around women, as they are often the most vulnerable members of society. Having choices increase the options that a person has, changes in their life, be they personal, environmental, economic, or social. The most vulnerable members of society are those most reliant on the protection and advocacy of those who represent them.

This brings us to Canada. . . 

Click here to read the rest.

What does it mean to be a woman? (Part 2)

Being a woman means having immeasurable strength to deal with the many twists and turns of life. It means knowing when to continue and when to turn away and choosing to continue with the hardest but most necessary decisions. It means that you are the sounding board of life’s problems, the person who is able to see, hear, and experience everything that can go wrong but still be strong enough to remain unbroken. Despite all this, you must be strong enough to remember to put yourself first.

Being a woman means educating the world to share their voices and respect each person. It means being responsible for the first lessons in life that new generations learn. It means that through patience and time you will touch the hearts of those you meet and enable them to grow and learn. You have the power to teach others to love instead of hate.

Being a woman means creation. We can create opportunity; either existing or new. It means that despite the past, there is the ability to change and create new situations. It means that fate is not decided, but futures can be made. There will come a time where women are autonomous, independent, and respected, but until the time has arrived, we have the opportunity to create it.

It means creating.

What does it mean to be a woman?

Being a woman can often seem like every action and expectation is contradictory, regardless of where you live. You’re expected to be street smart, but vulnerable. You will be stereotyped as either helpless or stubborn. People will ask you questions, then smile, and look to whatever man you’re with for validation that your response was correct. Yet at the same time, women are supposed to be strong and independent. But not so independent that you don’t want to get married and settle down – preferably while you’re still young enough to have children.

Being a woman means that because of these stereotypes and expectations, simple actions can be shocking, surprising, and have unintended effects. It means that despite ‘equality’ you will still have to work harder to prove yourself as capable. Once you’re seen as capable, you may lose any association as a woman or feminine, because apparently capability and femininity cannot be synonymous.

Being a woman means having immeasurable strength and ability. It means moving past stereotypes and expectations and embracing yourself despite them. It means not letting the weight of the world bear down on your shoulders. It means growing to your full potential regardless of stereotypes and expectations.

It means defying society.