Category Archives: Feminism

Dystopian and Utopian fiction suggestions wanted, please?

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I’ve been away from my blog for awhile. I graduated, and was unemployed. I’ve been trying to figure out stuff in my life, and, despite my awesome friends’ best efforts, I spent a few weeks mostly in bed. I am a depressed person, particularly in January and February. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to get a job. It’s nothing to do with either of my degrees, but it’s not nothing, so I guess I can’t complain in this shitty job climate.

While unemployed, I started writing a feminist dystopian novel. I want to do more  research, so I can continue this project. If anyone can suggest any dystopian or utopian novels or series, I would be most appreciative. Marge Piercy is basically my writing idol, but I’ve been trying to read any feminist and YA dystopian fiction that I can get my hands on (and I’m interested in ANYTHING related that people suggest). Tell me what I should read/ what I’m missing out on! Please?

 

 

When you see yourself in a book for a moment…

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Being with him did a number of things for her. Mainly, it saved her from the strain of responding to other boys or even noting the whole category of Men. This was worth a great deal, because she was afraid of men–and was always afraid until she was taken under the wing of whoever wandered across her defenses to become–in a remarkably quick time–her lover. This, then, was probably what sex meant to her; not pleasure, but a sanctuary in which her mind was freed of any consideration for all the other males in the universe who might want anything of her. It was resting from pursuit.

Alice Walker, Meridian

Wow. Meridian is my pleasure read right now, but I sure could have used it when I was 16. I obviously have no experience with most of the things Meridian dealt with in her life, but wow, that just was so perfectly articulated to what I know. I may be late to reading Alice Walker, but I’m glad I’m doing it now.

I would love to hear about excerpts that made people think the author was writing about their lives.

Thank you, Dr. Morgentaler

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IMG_0202A great man died yesterday. Dr. Henry Morgentaler clearly understood the horror of the loss of power to make decisions over one’s own body (not a surprise considering he survived concentration camps). Not only did he seem to know what it was like, he put himself in danger and struggled for decades to provide safe, accessible abortions for women in Canada. It isn’t possible to know how many lives he’s improved, but his work will continue to impact women’s lives positively.

There are a lot of people who have written in remembrance of Dr. Morgentaler who are much better writers and more qualified to write about him than me, but I want to add my thoughts. I have never had an abortion, but I promise that it would be my first choice if I ever got pregnant. I do not want children, I do not want to carry children, I don’t feel comfortable bringing a life into this world, and there are already too many unwanted children compared to the material resources and potential adoptive and foster parents. Abortion would be my first and only choice. Dr. Morgentaler has helped make this a realistic option for women.

This is not the only reason why safe and accessible abortion is important to me (we still have lots of work to do to make it equally accessible, even in Canada, and the constant threats to what we have now through private members’ bills, etc., is frightening). I know what it’s like to have someone take away control over decisions about my body. For me, this loss was part of a very traumatic experience that completely destroyed my value system and personality (I like these about me now, but it took a long time).

For someone who appreciates the value of making decisions about my own body–and has knowledge of what it’s like to lose that ability–Dr. Morgentaler is an important, admirable, and inspiring person. We take for granted that we are in control over our bodies, never thinking that this can be taken from us. But it can. We can be forced, we can be coerced. But we can also fight to remain in control of this little piece of the world that actually is ours.

Thank you, Dr. Morgentaler. You will be remembered.

Psychiatric criticism, a pro-choice demonstration, and a delightful surprise!

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Free comic book day; the first sandal, beer and bbq weather; transcribing my own (filmed) description of my psychiatrized past (cringe); a pro-choice demonstration tonight; and finally, a surprise Tegan and Sara ticket in my mailbox this afternoon (!!!) Wow, it’s been a hectic week! Where to even start?

First, I need to talk about how pleasantly surprised I was at the second discussion meeting I went to about the review of the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act (I’ve written about my bad experience at the first meeting, as well as the subsequent reservations I had about attending this one). I was much more comfortable this time around. There were a number of people who identified as having experiences within the psychiatric system, with a diverse range of views, and with more critical questions about the Act itself. These were people I could really relate to, regardless of whether we agreed on the Act more generally, and people whose input I believe is invaluable when we’re talking about forced psychiatry. Right from the beginning, a woman challenged how long people could be held involuntarily. Another man spoke with emotion about how hard it is to speak back to the political system when the political system doesn’t try to listen to us. He was pretty amazing.

I didn’t feel the need to cry when I left. I felt much lighter than I had in awhile, actually. Not that I expect that the review will speak at length about our thoughts or feelings, but I was more comfortable and less isolated, at least momentarily. I sorta felt like the universe had given me a hug, or at least put its arm around my shoulder.IMG_0197

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The weather’s been beautiful, making tonight’s pro-choice demonstration that much more enjoyable. Background info: it is the eve of the national anti-choice “March for Life” in Canada, and here in Halifax anti-choicers had a prayer vigil for the “pre-born children” (their term, makes me shudder) outside the hospital that provides abortions. They took up the entire sidewalk and walked in a circle with some candles and … basically shamed women. We stood at the other end of the block with signs that showed our support for women’s reproductive choices and literature about constructive ways to reduce abortion, you know, with things like comprehensive sex ed, affordable child care, and support for women who have actually made the decision to have kids. We were a small group, but we got so much love and support from passers-by. Some people even took our picture and told us how brave we were, and as usual, I got a little emotional. It feels really good to be able to show that there is a pro-choice presence in Halifax that wants to defend our right to reproductive choices. IMG_0204

And the biggest surprise of the day/week/year/since I can remember was receiving a card in the mail from my friend who lives a few blocks away. Why wouldn’t she just walk it here? Because it was a ticket to Tegan and Sara, you guys! In a card with a cat in a top hat. I can’t even express how awesome I felt to get this as a birthday gift from 2 good friends. The show is 2 nights before my birthday, and I have been freaking out all day, almost to the point of hyperventilating. I had the vibrating excitement happening! I love Tegan and Sara, and my friends got my ticket so I could go with them, and they got standing tickets because they know I like to dance (flail, really, but still…)  Seriously, I really do have the greatest group of friends in the entire world. I am really fortunate and grateful to have all of them.

The “ultimate paradox” of neoliberalism

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The ultimate paradox of our neoliberal times is that the historically unprecedented human capacity to enhance and secure human wellbeing, locally and globally, should generate such degrees of precarious existence for the vast majority of humanity, indeed for all things living.

-Janine Brodie, Reforming social justice in neoliberal times

I was reading an article today and I wanted to share this excerpt. It’s a succinct summary of complex ideas. I’m going to keep it in mind for times when neoliberalism comes up in conversation. It’s happens so infrequently, but it would be great if it happened more.

Who are we supporting?

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For the past week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about Rehtaeh Parsons, the pain she went through, the importance of having ongoing discussions about rape culture and consent, and the lack of supports for people who have been raped and otherwise assaulted. I really can’t make everything that is going on in my head into something coherent. I basically just feel horrible about this story. The only positive points that I can pull out of this mess are:

1) People are talking a little more about what rape culture is and its consequences.

2) People seem to be talking with a little bit more sensitivity/less victim blaming than usual.

3) Rehtaeh’s family seem amazing. This post from her father reminds us that a loved, compassionate young woman was lost because there is not adequate support for victims of rape. The compassion she exhibited seems to extend to the rest of her family. Her mom has spoken out against vigilantism, asking for people not to spread rumours, release names, or react with violence.

A couple of days ago, posters went up in my community demanding support for the boys involved in her rape. I hope I don’t see one of these, because I honestly think it will make me break down in public. Just looking at one online gives me a knot in my stomach. I believe, as members of Rehtaeh’s family have suggested, that these posters amount to harassment. Some of the posters were put up in her parents’ neighbourhood!

It is horrible enough that Rehtaeh’s family have to deal with these. But another group of people who are negatively affected are women who have been raped, or might be in the future. These posters contribute to a climate where speaking out about assault can cause more harm than good. It seems that Rehtaeh chose suicide to escape the fallout of her own rape. She was shamed, harassed, and silenced into suicide. The message on the posters, “There’s two sides to every story, listen before you judge, the truth will come out” did not apply to Rehtaeh’s perspective while she was alive. How can the truth come out when Rehtaeh’s no longer here to speak her truth? Women who are raped are often silenced and judged, sometimes lives are ruined through no fault of their own, but this apparently doesn’t matter to the people distributing these posters.

I understand and accept that the boys involved have supporters. I don’t think that anyone should harm them. I also understand that men do not need to be monsters to rape when we live in a world that encourages boys and men to think of women’s bodies as objects of their own pleasure. These posters do not help teach boys that sex without consent is wrong. I just wish that whoever was distributing these posters would have the same level of respect and compassion that Rehtaeh’s family has shown.

Reclaiming space

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Yes.

Yes.

This is a sign I saw while walking home the other night (yes, after drinks, in the dark) from the same neighbourhood where the rape took place that I talked about here. Such a nice break from the more popular attitude that blames people (particularly women) who are out walking late at night for any violence they encounter. People should feel safe, at any time, and women should not be told that we have not done enough to protect ourselves when something bad happens to us. This makes us less likely to talk about our encounters with violence (sexual assault especially).

I don’t have a car, or money for a cab from my friends’ homes each time I go to hang out with them. Sometimes I return home after dark. I hate the feeling that I have to look over my shoulder constantly or pretend to be on my cell just because as a woman I am apparently completely responsible for managing my risk of violence. The mainstream media is much too focused on minimizing personal risk factors/ maximizing personal responsibility instead of emphasizing and openly discussing issues of violence, rape and consent. I think  about this all the time, and I know I’m not alone. I don’t expect freedom from these feelings anytime soon, but I would appreciate knowing that if something is to happen to me, I would be offered support and compassion instead of judgement.

I have no idea who posted this, but thank you for brightening up my late-night walk home.

Electroshock: shaping my life for over a decade

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Today I feel accomplished. A thesis proposal meeting doesn’t sound like something that could be very exciting, but after getting my research approved, I actually feel like I’m doing something. I feel pride (maybe a little too much, gotta keep that ego in check), and such a strong sense that I am where I belong. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate my self-doubt and start to give myself more credit.

My thesis focuses on accounts of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Full disclosure: I have had shock, I think about it a lot, and I want to keep learning about it forever. I want to learn about so many other things, too, like neoliberalism, Foucault, feminist theory, politics, cross-stitch… the list is basically endless. But ECT is my thing, you know? It has shaped my life, and I can’t see that changing.

But I’ll write about my experience of shock and the fallout another time. I want to soon, but it takes a lot of preparation (emotional and intellectual) to talk about it, and I’m reading/writing about it so much as it is (again, it’s my Master’s thesis topic), and today is a day for celebration! I got such valuable feedback, and it seems like people are genuinely interested in my research. I have been working so hard and pouring my heart into it, that it’s a relief to see that people care!

Some advice for people writing a thesis: choose your advisors thoughtfully. I absolutely believe that I have the best thesis committee ever, and they, along with so much love from my friends and family, have made emotionally-tiring work possible and enjoyable.

I’m getting my wisdom teeth out tomorrow, so I won’t be able to ride this natural high where everything just feels right for very long, but I’m going to enjoy what’s left. I picked up these comics to celebrate, and so I have something to read while I’m in bed the next couple of days:

fairesty the last man

I hope everyone else had an equally excellent day!

Reflections on being a woman and a feminist

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Happy International Women’s Day 2013!

Shitty things happen to everyone. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to shape my reaction to the shitty things that have happened to me into something more like resistance than depression. Admittedly, I can become a little self-absorbed as I’m trying to work through this stuff. But I’ve learned that this is valuable (as long as I’m not only trying to make things better for me), because the personal is political.

A long time ago, I wondered why I had to suffer through different forms of abuse, why I could be used as an object of pleasure with no desires of my own, why I was so “crazy” there was nowhere for me to go but the hospital, why my values and brain had to be destroyed by treatment, why I couldn’t get a decent job, why anger was pouring out of me but my feelings and frustrations were diminished or ignored altogether …

I eventually realized that yeah, I’m not alone, but being a woman certainly made it more likely for specific types of shitty things to happen to me. I’m not sure exactly when I began to identify as a feminist, but it was definitely around the time that I was making the connection between these things and my gender.

Now, in this weird atmosphere where post-feminism and feminist-as-consumer messages are so prevalent, my feminism and the feminisms I learn about from others are more important to me than ever. Feminisms are diverse, we complement, challenge, and learn from each other, but we all try to draw attention to and resist gender-based shitty things. Watered-down, cultural messages appropriated from social movements that tell us that feminist politics are no longer necessary, that now we’ve come so far that things like purchasing makeup are somehow “empowering” are not helpful. Not when the gender pay gap still exists, women still do the majority of unpaid labour, conservative politicians try to sneak in anti-choice bills disguised as anti-discrimination policy. Not when women are harassed and abused and raped and blamed for it, and then are reminded continuously that we must always protect ourselves and take responsibility for our own “bad choices”.

I’m sick of being treated like I’m asking for too much when I’m really just asking people to question things, or consider a different perspective. My arguments have been dismissed and I have to work hard for basic respect at times just because I am a feminist. Women deserve respect, equality, understanding, love. Everyone does.

My words, my body, my mind, my pain, are important. This is why feminism is necessary, and why I reflect on and celebrate my feminism on International Women’s Day 2013.

Leftover Anger

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I have considered starting a blog for awhile, but I’ve been intimidated by the thought of creating a first post. Where do I start? The internet already has everything, what can I possibly add? Well, I have finally concluded that I don’t care if I have nothing new to add. I’m going to write stuff here because sometimes I really need to say something and there’s no one to say it to.

Here’s the thing: I’m still dealing with leftover anger from over a week ago. Just to be clear, I do get angry fairly often, but I can usually let it go and move on, because there are just so many other things I have to learn about that also deserve my anger. This particular situation really got to me, though.

So, last week I got home from a V-day event that was in celebration of how far we’ve come in the struggle against violence against women, but also to reinforce the idea that we still have so much work to do. While skimming facebook, I came upon a news story about a rape that had taken place in my neighbourhood the previous night. For whatever reason, the news outlet refused to call it a rape, and instead called what had happened “forced intercourse” (they also said that stuff like this never happens, which is completely untrue). The article had a comments section (how come I can’t resist reading these?) and I was not surprised to find that most people who commented focused on the woman being out late at night instead of the real problem (rape!)

Of course, this sort of victim-blaming is a regular occurrence, and the site quickly closed down the comments section when the arguments got out of hand. But I was pretty riled up already, and I ended up getting into a heated debate with someone who thought it was a matter a “personal responsibility” (the woman’s, to not get raped I guess). He basically discredited my argument as too feminist, and probably didn’t even listen to what I had to say after making his judgment about my politics.

Two days later, there was another violent incident in the same area, but this time it was committed by a bouncer, against a drunk young man at a bar. The outrage was overwhelming! There was never any suggestion that by drinking late at night, this young man may be “putting himself in danger” of becoming a victim of violence. In fact, the community rallied around him and wanted the bouncer fired.

To clarify, I feel bad for this man, what happened to him is totally shitty. But why the disproportionate support for him, and complete disregard for the woman who was raped?

Ok, so I know that this sort of stuff happens all the time, but this scenario was just such a perfect illustration of the double standards concerning who needs to be responsible for their own safety, and what sort of violence is expected, and basically passively accepted. Women are, more often than men, responsible for what happens to them, because violence against women is a mundane, everyday occurrence that we, as women, are supposed to protect ourselves from. Arguing against this understanding makes someone overly feminist (apparently wanting “more than equality” or “going too far”), and therefore irrational and not worth listening to.

What’s the deal? Why is it ok to blame women for being raped, but freak out when a drunk young man gets beat up? Why isn’t this more of a discussion?