If you build her....


Where are all the feminists?


What was it that Kevin Costner heard whispered to him in that baseball movie? Oh, right. "If you build it, they will come."*

Well, apparently, according to Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star; Canada needs to get on with building itself a better, more prominent/famous** feminist. Because apparently, there are none, NONE, in this vast country of ours.

Now granted, earlier this week Heather sat in a sold out crowd, watching PROMINENT British humourist and feminist, Cailtin Moran, do her schtick and promote her new book, How to Build a Girl, hot on the heels of the best-selling success of her 2011 book, How to be a Woman. Heather's enthusiasm and desire for a loud, in your face, this is the best time to be a woman, empowerment for all, ra-rah feminist is not surprising, Moran's wit and humour can be very infectious. I myself have had a bad case of Moran-itis in the past and thankfully, so very, very thankfully, have developed an immunity to it.  So, I am going to give Heather a bit of a break, due to a possible fever and some delirium post-Moran, so to speak.

Because Canada does indeed have some very effective, and somewhat famous, feminists living and working and doing the hard job of actually BEING a feminist in our country and I have the great honour of being friends with some of them!

We have feminists like Annie from Phd in Parenting being asked to write for the NY Times. We have feminists like Lyndsay Kirkham, with her giant head, and outing of the continued misogynist culture in the tech world, being featured on The View. There is Danielle Paradis, whose a regular contributor at Policy Mic and whose writing has been published, well, pretty much everywhere (but, hmmm... not so much by many Canadian media outlets). We have feminists working to end violence against women, we have feminists working hard to pressure our government into making formal inquiries into missing and murdered indigenous women in our country, we have feminists who are raising the bar for everyone in the fight against street harassment.

What we don't have is a token "rock star" feminist. We don't have a Caitlin Moran telling/yelling at everyone, "If you have a vagina and want to be in charge of it, you are a feminist!" We don't have a Beyoncé with her glowing giant proclamation of FEMINIST behind her at the VMAs, we don't have an distinctively Canadian iconic feminist similar to Gloria Steinem, passing the torch to the younger generation and the next wave of feminism.

The thing is, I don't think we should have just one go-to feminist. That in and of itself is problematic. No one person can encompass all of the differences and intersections and individuals that make up modern day feminism. I can hear the critics now, "But Natasha, why not? Feminism just means equality for all and if we are all on the same team, why can't we have a team captain?" Because. We can't. No one person will experience and practice feminism exactly the same as the next. My white, cis-gendered, middle class feminism, is not the same as that of a person of colour or indigenous woman, it is not the same as a new immigrant's feminism and it is not the same as a LGBTQ person's feminism. It would be selfish, extremely self-centered, and irresponsible of me or any one feminist to claim to speak for or represent all feminists in Canada. What we can do though, is speak of our experiences and create a feminist collective. What I can do is speak about my life experiences, give my opinions within my frame of reference and when I can, amplify the stories of others to the audience I have and on the platforms that I have built for myself.

And that right there is the round about long way of coming by the simple answer to the question that Heather Mallick originally asked. "Why can't Canada build a prominent/famous** feminist?"  Because Heather, most of the mainstream media in Canadian, does not really care to bother themselves with us. Canadian feminists for the most part are doing their work, being advocates and activists, and getting the message out via personal blogs and Facebook groups and grass-roots, non-profit, academic and non-academic organizations. They are doing their feminist work by being an example for and influencing, either directly or indirectly, people in their families and in their communities (online and IRL), their groups of friends, their children and their children's friends too. And that kind of feminism is just not that flashy and in-your-face, it is not the firebrand-rock-star-famous-making kind of feminism and therefore not usually deemed worthy of any kind of serious media attention.

Just like there is no one way to be a feminist, even though many will try to tell you otherwise, there is no one Canadian feminist that can lead us to the great land of milk and equality. Collectively though, we are a force, we may not be a nationally or internationally recognized one, we many not have best-selling books and go around telling folks that "I literally couldn't give a shit about it" and have an I'll be as crude and ableist and transphobic as I please attitude about one's feminism, we choose the more polite, inclusive and distinctively Canadian way. We pick ourselves up by our bootstraps (we all have boots) and get to doing the work that needs doing in whatever way we can.  Not for the glory and the fame...

Because it is the right thing to do. And because as this GoodReads reviewer puts it in her analysis of How to Be a Woman,

Feminism doesn't need to be rock and roll, it's much better than that.


A not very famous Canadian Feminist doing her part.

(AND who would definitely consider a nationally syndicated column in which I could feature and profile our collective Canadian feminist voices. I'm just saying...)


What do you think?

Who are your favourite Canadian Feminists?

Please share your answers here and on Twitter with the hashtags #canfem and #BraveCanadianFeminist

*The actual quote from Field of Dreams is "If you build it, HE will come."

**The original title of the Toronto Star article was "Why can't Canada build a feminist?" and after much backlash online, the editors changed it to read, "Why can't Canada build a famous feminist?"