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Category Archives: feminism

Chapter and Verse

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April is poetry month.

Still with me? Okay, good. I appreciate that most people don’t “do” poetry. They enivision enamoured young men penning verse to a radiant beauty, or a angsty young woman weeping over a notepad, The Bell Jar at her elbow.

For me, poems are like cats: if I come across one, I’ll pat it on the head, spend a bit of time, then send it on its way.

This does not mean I don’t recognize poetry’s importance. On the contrary: Poetry is distilled and direct. Poets have been persecuted, jailed, and killed for their words.

And yet, they persist.

Why? Read Eliza Griswold’s 2012 piece for the New York Times Magazine, “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry.”

Meanwhile, here’s a rubaiyat (Arabic for “quatrain”) written by Lima and addressed to the Taliban:

You won’t allow me to go to school.
I won’t become a doctor.
Remember this:
One day you will be sick.

Pinko

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Many of my feminist friends who have little boys have given in to the reality that their toddlers love things with wheels. While they will provide their children with a wide array of choices, wheels win out. This, of course, is perfectly fine. Wheels needn’t be branded; they just move and occasionally make noise. If it keeps the little darlin’ quiet and out from underfoot, all the better.

Only a few of my friends have little girls, so their propensity toward certain toys remains uncertain. If the daughters who squeal through my store on any given Sunday are anything to go on, however, then animals are the go-to item. Anything pink also seems to grab their attention and if it has glitter, well, the battle for gender neutrality seems lost. At least this is the sentiment some mums have when they reluctantly purchase very pink glittery books (often featuring Barbie) for their wide-eyed children. Mum grimaces at the book, looks down at the cherub, confirms that this is in fact what she wants to read, sigh, and hands me $5.24 with tax. This transaction is completed with what appears to be an apologetic look to me as if to say, “I tried and failed to raise a non-stereotypical girly-girl. I’m a bad mum.”

I’m sure my mum had the same expression once upon a time when I announced I wanted a pink bedroom—and got it. Oh, how I loved princess books and Barbie—and I got those as well (driving the children’s librarian at Bendale library nutty, I’m sure.) I even wanted to be a ballerina. Mum drew the line there, correctly convinced it was too expensive, would ruin my feet, and that my interest lie in tutus not pirouettes.

When I admit my childhood love of pink and princesses, I tell them that I grew out of it, that it won’t last forever, and that dinosaurs, bicycles, and playing the mud took over at about age six. In other words, stay vigilant, Mum, and be ready for grass stains and bruised shins.

Yes, pink is for little girls. Not for grown women. Sadly, some adult females and those who market to us need reminding of this. For many, shopping is a chore, not a hobby. While I like pretty clothes and shoes, they don’t define me. I’d like to think my character is more dynamic than that. Yes, I enjoyed Sex in the City, but if I were to pick a female character to emulate it would be Gwen Cooper from Torchwood. She has much more going on than any of the stick-like stereotypes from the hit rom-com. And I would wager she likes her beer brown not pink.

Globe and Mail columnist Katina Onstad seems to agree. In her recent piece, ““What Women Don’t Want: Pink Beer, Pink Cars, a New Pink Ghetto,” she argues against the infantilization of women by marketing execs. Apparently, we won’t buy a smartphone or a hockey shirt or a beer unless it’s pink.

Bollocks.

Why would an adult woman want to be treated like a child when she can, in fact, birth one? Why would she buy into the cult of pinkness in order to combat a very adult disease such as breast cancer? You want me to buy your phone, tell me about what it can do, not how goddamn “cute” it is. You want me to buy your beer, leave the inflate-a-babes out of the ad campaign.

Honestly, it’s not that hard.

Playing with the Boys

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Women and girls are still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to athletics. According the the Globe and Mail only Manitoba and Ontario allow girls to compete on boys’ teams. Some argue that allowing a girl to leave a girls’ team diminishes that team. Hmm. In Toronto, girls’ hockey teams must still struggle to get prime ice time over the “traditional” boys’ teams. (Women have been playing hockey for more than a century, so it seems there’s another tradition at play, but I digress.) So if they aren’t allowed to play, they aren’t allowed to flourish. If they can’t flourish, they can’t make a living out of it. Take a look at the Olympic Gold–medal winning women’s team; most them play on men’s teams. Yes, women’s and girls’ teams can only improve when the skills improve. And their skills can only improve when they get to play more often at higher levels that are often denied to girls’ and women’s leagues.

What year is this again?

No Means No

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Canada is committed to the Afghan mission till 2011. Meanwhile, President Karzai is considering laws that are repressive to women, which includes one that sactions rape within marriage. Canadians are rightfully outraged, but remember that in Canada:

  • women have only been considered persons since 1930;
  • women have only had the vote in Quebec since 1949;
  • in 1968 it became illegal for a husband to beat his wife;
  • in the 1970s, women had to have a male family member co-sign loan and credit-card applications; and
  • in 1983, rape within a marriage became illegal in Canada

We rolled up our sleeves and changed the law here. Now, women in Afghanistan are doing the same thing. Correction, it isn’t the same: They are literally taking their lives in their hands for human rights. After being shot, killed, pummelled, set on fire, burned, had acid thrown at them and otherwise, Afghani women are STILL standing up and crying out: No means no. Weaker sex? Not bloody likely.

When Canada leaves the region, it is imperative that we not forget these women and their supporters. Women’s rights are human rights.

The Globe and Mail ran a good piece on April 18 that’s worth a read:”Plight of Afghan women prompts fresh debate over war,” by Sandra Martin.

Rolling Up Our Sleeves…

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>A great example about how when women are pushed to the brink, we push straight back. In this case, in Maraba, Rwanda.

From the Toronto Star:

But the secret to success here has had far less to do with the idyllic climate and volcanic soil than with a group of people who have emerged as Maraba’s – and Rwanda’s – most potent economic force: women. In the 14 years since the genocide, when 800,000 people died during three months of violence, this country has become perhaps the world’s leading example of how empowering women can transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty

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The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children’s education, officials here said.

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Officials at Vision Finance, the microloan arm of World Vision International that launched a program in 2005 in this town of 40,000, said that while women make up the majority of borrowers, four out of five defaulters are men.

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As important was an acceptance at the highest levels of government that women would need new legal status to help rebuild the nation. By 1999, reforms were passed enabling women to inherit property – something that would prove vitally important to female farmers. At the same time, women began rising to higher ranks of political power. Today, women hold about 48 per cent of the seats in Rwanda’s parliament, the highest percentage in the world. They also account for 36 per cent of President Paul Kagame’s cabinet, holding the top jobs in the ministries of commerce, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs and information.

Success in economics mirrored the rise of women in politics. Today, 41 per cent of Rwandan businesses are owned by women – compared, say, with 18 per cent in Congo. Rwanda has the second-highest ratio of female entrepreneurs in Africa, behind Ghana with 44 per cent, according to the World Bank.

Red Card

>I get rules. I understand the need for them. So here’s a rule: dumbasses are forbidden to officiate at kids’ soccer matches.

According to the Globe and Mail, eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour was about to play her third game of a tournament in Laval, Quebec, this past Sunday. The referee—who is Muslim (huh?)—pointed at her and then to the bench. The kid had been expelled for wearing a hijab, a Muslim head scarf.

After her expulsion, her coach, Louis Maneiro, was shown a memo from the Quebec Soccer Federation saying the hijab and other religious headgear were forbidden. His team forfeited the game in protest.

Good for the coach and kudos to the team.

Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec federation, said in an interview it wasn’t a religious matter and that her organization is just enforcing the laws of FIFA, the sport’s Zurich-based world governing body, which bans dangerous equipment.

Uh huh. I saw the World Cup. Heads outta be banned. Ah, but the plot thickens:

However, FIFA officials have been promoting the game in Muslim countries by saying that it is all right for female players to wear the hijab.

The FIFA website even has a 2006 article praising the Iranian women’s national team, with a photo of a hijab-wearing player taking a free kick.

And, reached in Zurich, a FIFA official said the game laws allow “non-basic equipment” as long as it isn’t dangerous.

Oops.

“We are bound to FIFA [rules],” Ms. Frot said yesterday, explaining that Quebec officials have in the past ordered the removal of jewellery in piercings and medical bracelets.

The 2006 supplementary FIFA guidelines, aimed at clarifying the game laws for referees, say that “non-basic” gear made with soft, light and padded material is allowed, such as some knee braces or goggles.

While made of fabric, the hijab could still be dangerous because the player could strangle herself, Ms. Frot said.

Amazing. And if you click on the FIFA link above, you’ll see a whole team of hijab-wearing footballers! Mind you, they look friggin’ warm with the long pants and shirtsleeves…

Apparently, the people who let the girl play two games of the tournament were “at fault.” No, mesdames, I think the fault lies elsewhere

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby Part 3

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Perhaps I should subtitle this: That Ain’t Cricket, Mate!

On one hand, the fact that Pakistani women get to go see their much-loved cricket match is a great thing. At least when they show up, they won’t be considered the equivalent of “puck bunnies.” They can yell and cheer as much as they want. Fabulous. The players are all women, too. Good stuff.

But no men are allowed except for player’s families and the officials. This is to be a segregated event.

Ok, but it’s a baby step, right?

“The decision proves that women’s cricket is progressing in our country and through this event we would promote a softer and moderate image of Pakistan,” said Shamsa Hashmi, secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board women’s wing.

What nonsense! That’s like the no-bodychecking rule in women’s hockey. For crying out loud, women aren’t fragile. If we can push the equivalent of a ten-pound turkey out a hole the size of a loonie, we can handle a little shoving in the rink or on the pitch. And if you think female sports fans are all warm and cuddly, you wait till their side is losing.

Don’t get me wrong: support for women’s sport is good. But women being allowed to openly attend and support any sport regardless of the gender of the players is better.

Ms. Hashmi, there are far better ways of promoting a “softer and moderate image” of Pakistan.

from Al Jazeera, photo by GALLO/GETTY

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