Feminist Fare Friday: The Justice Edition

Equaility vs Justice There is a theme and perhaps a lesson in today's selection of posts from the femisphere. For some reason, this concept depicted above has always made sense to me when it comes to child-rearing. It has been especially driven home this week in regards to feminism and racism and the concept of true social justice versus the constant 'equality for all' rhetoric. So, go grab your afternoon latte and have a read.

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By now you've probably seen the video of Emma Watson's compelling UN speech launching the new #HeforShe campaign. It's pretty good. A young woman, using her voice, her fame, and her privilege, to bring light to the oppression of women all over the world, to bring feminism into more of the mainstream conversation. This is all good. There was something missing though... I did share the video on my social media sites and applaud Ms. Watson's efforts, but it wasn't until I read this article from Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous that I was finally able to put my finger on what that missing piece was.  Emma invites men of the world to "to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice…", and Mia points out why this is a flawed way of looking at the issues of equality.

The underlying message here is that women deserve equity and equality because of our relationships to men. Continuing to re-enforce the idea that men should respect women and fight for women’s equality because mother/sister/daughter/whatever perpetuates the idea that women don’t already deserve those things based solely on our status as human beings. It encourages men to think of women always and only in relation to themselves, as if our pseudo-humanity is only an after-thought of men’s real humanity. The truth is that women are whole, complete people, regardless of our status in the lives of men. This is what men should hear, over and over again. This is what everyone should hear, every day.

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As a white, cis-gendered, middle-class feminist woman, I have quite a few innate privileges in my world. And I am not going to lie, when I get told that I am doing feminism wrong, when I hear that I am just another white feminist spouting off from her position of privilege, I sometimes get defensive. My instinct is to scream my ally-ship to the four corners of the world, and say the dreaded words, #notallwhitefeminists!

But I don't.

Because of people like Brittney Cooper and her ability to take a complex topic like the future of feminism, break it down, and make me almost spit out my morning tea while reading her words. Words that somewhat mirror what I have said before about changing the game/playing field, but in a much more succinct and eloquent way. There is a reason her Twitter handle is @ProfessorCrunk, this woman is a capital E educator and I am the white girl geek sitting in the front row, mouth shut, ears wide open!

White women’s feminisms still center around equality [...] Black women’s feminisms demand justice. There is a difference.  One kind of feminism focuses on the policies that will help women integrate fully into the existing American system. The other recognizes the fundamental flaws in the system and seeks its complete and total transformation.

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Ever feel like you have the same conversation with people, over and over and over again? OK, I have a 5 and a 7-year old, so this happens daily in my life, and it is less of a conversation, and more of me reminding them of the basics like socks and teeth brushing and please don't put [insert disgusting thing here] in your mouth or on your sister/brother. In all seriousness though, how would you feel if every day you had to be the one to explain to people the basics of human decency? Anne Thériault of The Belle Jar and Lily Tsui of Scantilly Clad, two Canadian feminists (yes, Toronto Star, they do exist!), have come together to bring you a compelling post looking at the parallels between the oftentimes explanatory conversations about feminism and racism.

AT: I am tired of talking about feminism to men.

LT: I am tired of talking about racism to white feminists.

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That is some pretty heavy material for today, so I will leave you with your thoughts. Or you can share them with me in the comments too.

Have a great weekend!

N~

 

Feminism: A myriad of differences.

I was about to write "it's a tough time to be a feminist" as the opening line to this post and then I realized where I am, WHO I am, what year it is and I gave my head a good shake. In the past few months and weeks it has become very apparent to me what it means to wear the moniker of 'feminist' and truly embrace what this means in our modern society. And to be perfectly honest, it is not an easy road, or a pretty one, and more often than not, my heart and my mind hurt from the things that I read about or see in my daily life. It is enough that some days, I just have to turn off my phone/internet and remove myself from the hate that exists towards women and retreat back to my easy, pretty, and yes, fully-acknowledged, privileged, bubble of a life.

My bigger problem though is that I am a born 'fixer'. Not on the scale of say, an Oliva Pope mind you, but ask around and you'll know that in a crisis or in the face of problems, I am the level-head, the straight talker, the reality-checker and the one looking for a solution, having the tough conversations and trying to find actionable items that move everyone forward. So when I see a problem, big or small, and when I think I can somehow make a difference, I will more often then not try to fix it.

This explains why I get very invested in causes and peoples stories that may or may not have anything to do with where I live (ex: American politics), what colour my skin is (racism in North America) or whom I choose to love (equal rights for same sex couples). These issues may not be as prominent (or publicized) in my privileged middle class backyard here in Canada, but they are issues that in some way, shape or form, affect the greater world that I live in. Standing idle while these marginalized groups fight for rights so many of us take for granted just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like I am working at making this world a better one for my children and it doesn't feel right to be an example of complacency in the face of injustice.

I tell my kids all the time that if someone is doing something that they know is wrong or mean, to step up and say, "Hey, that's not nice, please stop doing that'. I also tell them that more often than not, they can accomplish much more when they are working together, than when they are fighting over the semantics of whose turn it is to do this or that.

Which brings me back to feminism.

I've said it before; having children was the turning point for my acknowledgment of my own feminism and the realization that yes, by golly, I am a FEMINIST. But I do understand that for a lot of women, young and old, even saying that out loud can be a tough thing to do. A quick google image search of the word feminist and you come up with four subcategories, Women, Angry, Stereotypes and Anti-Feminist, as well as image after image of protest signs, angry women and memes of "Man-hating, ball-breaking, hairy-legged feminists."  I can see how that can be a hard pill for some to swallow. Feminism isn't portrayed as being all that pretty and of course, as we all know, girls and women are supposed to be pretty and feminine and sugar and spice and all that NICE bullshit... RIGHT?

According to who? (That may be the bigger question here.)

Since the beginning of time, women have been portrayed in writing (and therefore in media) as the lesser of the sexes. I mean geez, according to some theologies, GOD even got it wrong the first time and had to replace Lilith (created from the earth as Adam's equal) with Eve, who was then created FROM Adam. And then Eve went and used her brain to question her surroundings and supposedly effed up that perfect utopia for all of us! Seriously ladies, our struggle for equality goes back way farther than we can even imagine!

And we continue to struggle. Only lately, there is something about feminism, especially within the online community that has me concerned. I have seen it before with the dreaded "mommy wars" and the "Breastfeeding vs. Formula-feeding" battles that erupt online and in the media. These so-called (and much baited) wars and battles serve only one purpose. They take attention away from the REAL problems in our society, they deflect any kind of blame or responsibility from the corporate or political culprits who in turn only benefit from this continued in-fighting. These word battles within our communities that are often fraught with emotion and personal investment rarely further any kind of real conversation about the issues at hand and become fodder for trolling and contribute to divisiveness amongst those that are seeking to make positive changes for the good of all.

We all come to our feminism through different paths and from different backgrounds, just as we do to all aspects of our lives. I can not, nor would I presume to understand the journey of a woman of colour on her feminist path, nor would I think I could know the thoughts of a lesbian or trans* woman on her path, nor for that matter, even the journey of the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman down the street from me. We are all different people, with different lives, loves and histories. I won't presume to say who has it rougher than anyone else. I also won't dismiss our differences, our histories, nor the inherent privilege that exists on my own journey.

What I also can't dismiss anymore is the fighting that is happening within the feminist movement. Especially within the online feminist community. I appreciate different points of view and I appreciate the education that I have received in the past few weeks, especially from and about WOC and feminism (Please go and read, Audre Lorde's essay, Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference, RIGHT NOW!). I have a backlog of blog posts and articles that I am reading every day and I while I have read some very awful, racist, anti-feminist writing, I have read even more incredibly insightful and beautiful posts, by some of the internet's best feminist writers. I have to say that I have also seen a little too much of the "Bitch Please!" kind of post where the point of our battle is lost in the mire of checking or unchecking one's privilege or lack thereof or lamenting how someone is not doing feminism 'right'. Isn't the point of intersectionality to acknowledge our differences and not judge them?

Late last year, my friend Zita had a line in a wonderful post that I feel once again, fits this situation to a T.

The greatest trick patriarchy ever pulled was convincing women that we are each other’s enemies.

Maybe I am naive in my activism. Maybe I myself am not doing feminism "right" and I'm too idealistic. The thing is, I am not sure we are winning anything right now. Audre Lorde's essay was written in 1980 (have you read it yet?) and it may as well have been written last week. In America, women's rights to bodily autonomy are being revoked in a dangerous state by state game of falling dominos. In the UK, a woman received death and rape threats because she successfully campaigned to have a woman's face on a banknote, in a country that has a QUEEN as head of state. There is a brutal and appalling thing called 'corrective rape' that happens to girls in Africa who are gay and in my own city, we have a men's rights group, with members who truly think that feminists are  "the monster that has had so much power and say in our laws, government, and culture."

We have to stop fighting each other. As you can see from the examples above, there are so many other things we have to combat. We have to embrace our differences and stand together. Black, white, asian, Latina, bi-racial, lesbian, gay, queer, trans, straight, and whatever else you want to add to that list... We are all in this together and our voices have more meaning and more impact when they are raised in unison and not against each other. Look at what happened when Wendy Davis stood up (literally) not just for the women of Texas, but for ALL OF US. Never in all my time on the internet did I feel so much a part of such a powerful, positive, and inspiring movement as I did that night! THAT is the kind of feeling and rallying and unity that is going to affect change in our world. If I could have bottled that feeling of hope and solidarity from that night and mass produced it, I would have!

Feminism is not going anywhere anytime soon. We still have a lot of work to do. I will continue to use my own 'fixer' skills as best I can from my end. I will stand up for the women in my community and beyond. I will do everything in my power to see that this world is a better one for my daughter and my son. I will work harder to see feminism from all its myriad of differences and perspectives. For as Audre Lorde said more than 30 years ago:

"The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference."

Honouring our differences and in solidarity with all,

Natasha~

 

 

 

 

 

hope > fear

In 2005, my husband and I took a trip to Tanzania. It was primarily to attend the wedding of one of his best friends and since we were half way around the world we decided to explore a part of the world we had never experienced before and booked a tour through Northern Tanzania and a safari as well. And while being 10 feet away from mating lions was indeed a highlight of the trip (ask me for the pics some other time), the experience that stood out the most for me was our friend's wedding.

Tanzania2005

It was the most amazing, joyous, vibrant ceremony of love that I have ever attended. It was also the first time that my husband (a first generation Chinese-Canadian) and I had to deal with questions about our inter-racial relationship. For the most part the questions were not offensive, just more curious and mostly from the younger crowd. How did we deal with people not approving of our being together? Do we hold hands and/or kiss when out in public? What did our parents think of our union? In those moments and conversations, the bubble of our privileged lives in Canada was effectively POPPED! We heard stories of interracial couples being spit on in the streets of Johannesburg. Of them having to leave places at different times so as to not arouse suspicion. Of not being able to share with their families their happiness in finding love. It broke our hearts to hear these stories and all we could offer these young couples was our hope that someday this would not be the case for them.

That somehow racism would cease to exist.

That trip was almost 6 years ago.

I am trying not to give up hope.

I am trying not to let it get over-run by fear.

A fear that is on television, in the news and in our faces EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That fear that feeds itself and grows exponentially in the wake of every incident of horror or injustice in our society.

This past week the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case fed this voracious fear one hell of a hearty meal. And once again, my heart was broken and my head hurt from trying to understand how this could happen in our world. I can't and won't speak for the millions of women of colour whose own fears for their sons were confirmed on the day Trayvon was shot dead and again on the day his killer was acquitted of his death. I refer you to The Feminist Wire to read Christen Smith's open love note to her son and to Ebony.com to read Asha French's A Time for Tantrums and to Heather Greenwood-Davis's post over at Embrace the Chaos. To read their words and too know that no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you imagine yourself in their shoes, you will likely never know that kind of fear for your child.

What the Trayvon case has done for me is make me question the things I haven't talked to my kids about. Specifically the topics of race and racism. We haven't really talked about our Canadian (and their Chinese) history and how we all came to be where we are today. And we certainly haven't come remotely close to discussing oppression in the Americas.

One of the many wonderful feminists that I follow on twitter had this to say the other day:

@DrJaneChiTweet

What followed was a great discussion about how to start this conversation with kids and a few others joined in to give ideas and suggestions on age appropriate books and materials as well. This was one of the posts shared, with links to some great books as well. I also picked up "If the World Were a Village" yesterday at our local library to start these conversations in our house.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/FtYjUv2x65g[/youtube]

And while we often hear parents saying things like, "Oh, they are just kids, they don't see the differences in skin colour, they just see another friend to play with" or some variant of the rhetoric of "colour-blindness" in children, I think that we need to help our children recognize and appreciate the differences in all their friends. Everyone is unique and special and instead of pretending that these differences do not exist, we need to teach our children to understand those differences and to accept those differences in each other. Because like it or not, at a certain point, they do see them, especially if they are the different ones. I have already started to notice that far too often there are not a lot of girls in stories and books that look like my daughter. Dark haired, dark eyed, slightly darker skin tone. And what pains me a bit every time it happens is that she chooses the books (and toys) with the girls with long blond hair over the ones that look more like her. One of her favourite movies is Disney's Tangled, but do you think you can easily find a Rapunzel doll with her great (and much more practical) AFTER hair cut? No, you can not. It is up to me to make sure my children see themselves as valuable and beautiful and worthy of their own stories and adventures.

I am not even going to pretend to understand the levels of hate and racism that continue to exist in our world. All I can do is teach my children to love themselves for who they are and to accept and love others for who they are regardless of size, colour, gender or orientation. And I will continue to work hard, and be an example in my life and as a parent and guide in my children's lives, so that one day, love and hope will drown out the fear.

Natasha~

Have you discussed the Trayvon Martin case with your children? How do you address issues of racism in your house? Please share any books or ressources you may have. Thank you.

**UPDATE**

Please read this post from Mahogany Motherhood with more links to the parenting community's conversations and posts about racism. Please read them to help you understand their stories and Trayvon's tragic one too..