MISSING& MURDERED 582 documented cases of aboriginal women in Canada
What has been done? PLUS
Indiaâ€™s Lost Girls
How an entire sex is Disappearing in the country
The Beauty Pageant Debate
Two former queens stir up the stage
Social Media: The Great Gender Divide
How do men & women network online differently?
02| McClungs Spring 2012
Illustrations by LAUREN GATTI
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McClungs Spring 2012 |03
Canada does not have a good track record when it comes to how it treats its Aboriginal women. NWAC’s campaign Sisters in Spirit (which has lost funding) counted 582 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in its database. Those numbers are growing. Plenty knew these women, and knew them well. They have been taken from their homes, from shelters, and from the streets. They continue to go missing. They continue to be murdered. The stinging aftermath of their deaths affect their families in profound ways that will never go away. We ask what has gone wrong in Rhiannon Russell’s story on page 22. Canada is not alone in undervaluing its women. In India, there has been a long-standing culture of unwanted girls, and a preference to birth males, that is creating a shift in gender ratio that could have large, unfavorable implications. Otiena Ellwand explores the stereotypes, complications and controversies – of sex-selective attitudes on page 16. Also internationally in this issue we look at a new trend in the Netherlands that has seen an increase of women who have radicalized the housewife image, preferring staying in to raise their kids, to working full-time and sending the little ones off to daycare. These women redefine and stretch our parameters of womanhood and remind us that it is what we make it. Their perspectives are reminiscent of earlier days when women were expected to stay home. But their homemaking ways are nowhere near trite, and rather represent a group of women who know what they want – and how to get it. Nicole Clark offers her insight on page 11. In terms of what it means to be a woman, we target the health risks associated with cosmetics, and begin to question what really is in all of those products and whether or not we should be slathering them on day after day in our photo essay on page 25. Remember to check out our site www.mcclungs.ca, add us to Facebook (www.facebook.com/ mcclungs) and follow us on Twitter (@mcclungs).As always, we welcome feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Sincerely, Samantha Anderson and Niki Singh
EDITORIAL Editors-in-Chief Samantha Anderson Niki Singh Managing Editors Julianna McDermott Claire Prime Assitant Editor Jannen Belbeck Head of Research Elayne Teixeira-Millar Handling Editors Breanne Nicholson Olivia Stefanovich Rhiannon Russell Portia Favro Natasha Fonseka Gin Sexsmith Tashika Gomes Copy Editors Olivia Stefanovich Rhiannon Russell Victoria Nguyen Victoria Kuglin Fact-Checkers Erica Lenti Hana Shafi Tricia Strachan Veronika Latkina Khadija Khan Nora Meszaros ART Art Director Tammy Lung Assistant Art Director Michael Guo Illustrators Lauren Gatti Jessica Ku Christopher Rosier Ybb Villegas Photography Director Katherine Engqvist Assistant Photo Director Brian Batista Bettencourt Photographers Leila Reyhani Lucy Lu Nick Spector Nicole Witkowski Diana Duong ONLINE Web Designer Julie Tran Social Media Director Portia Favro Online Editors Roohi Sahajpal Lakshine Sathiyanathan BUSINESS Advertising & Outreach Director Catherine Nguyen Marketing & Promtions Directors Breanne Nicholson Angy Xi Circulation Directors Yeugenia Kleiner Julia Mei WRITERS Acey Rowe, Dawn Flora-Angue, Elizabeth Mudenyo, Eric Zaworski, Fatima Syed, Gin Sexsmith, Lisa Coxon, Nicole Clark, Otiena Ellwand, Rachel Phan, Rhiannon Russell, Roohi Sahajpal, Samantha Anderson, Shannon Clarke, Sinead Mulhern, Tammy Lung, Tashika Gomes SPECIAL THANKS TO:
04| McClungs Spring 2012
Photos taken by NICOLE WITKOWSKI, Cover names from SISTERS IN SPIRIT
Chris Kaufman, Oakham House, Point One Graphics, Jaclyn Mika, Jessica Chiu, Avery Lowell, Howard Davis, Katie Davis, Christine Walker, Nakita Singh Hans, Rebecka Calderwood, Portia Favro, Lynn Cunningham and Tim Falconer.
Q & A/
CHicks That Code
NELLIES P. 07 P. 08 P. 10
P. 11 P. 16 P. 22 P. 30 P. 38
Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s independence hero Aung San, is thrust into politics in 1988,
Benazir Bhutto is the first woman to be elected prime minister of Pakistan and becomes the first woman elected
Women in Politics: A TimelinE
INFOGRAPHIC/ Gendered Networks
She Said/She Said P. 32
Her Story/ Playing the V-Card
D-I-Y/ Bra Measuring
Susan B. Anthony becomes the
Photo Essay: Truth in Advertising
Competing for the Crown: Great or Not-So-Great
Going Dutch Lost Girls of India Missing, Murdered,but not Forgotten A Model City Feminism Across the Generations
MISSing the Music Giving “SLut” a New Name Sex & Dance
Indira Gandhi becomes the first female prime minister of India. She quickly becomes popular after India’s victory in the war of 1971 against Pakistan. Her politics, however, cause controversy in 1984 when she tries to resolve the political problems in the state of Punjab. In an attempt to remove Sikh militants from Punjab’s holiest site, the Golden Temple, Gandhi calls for an assault by the Indian military on
Q & A with Michelle Brock
Reviews/ Reviews Comic: Confessions at the Club
P. 40 P. 42
McClungs Spring 2012 | 05
By SINEAD MULHERN
These ladies are bringing a whole new meaning on the word ‘geek’
it a few keys. The codes are in. Ladies Learning Code is a non-profit group that teaches women about computer coding. Their first event was held in August 2011. Tickets sold out in a day. Since then, the group has held events monthly. Some women use the workshops to learn how to build blog sites or improve their communication skills. Founder Heather Payne sits confidently in the Xtreme Labs office on Yonge Street and explains the purpose of the group and the challenges facing women in the tech industry. Demand for the workshops is increasing, wait lists have
06| McClungs Spring 2012
lengthened. Every workshop sees around 80 participants with about 20 volunteers. While the workshops are geared towards women, there are often male participants and volunteers. “I like to show that this is supported by both sexes,” Payne explains. She says support for women in computer programming is important given the expanding field and the women in it being historically underrepresented. The idea started in May 2011 when Payne was on a business trip in Los Angeles. While looking to learn more about technology, she found a group called PyLadies who held a coding workshop for beginners. Realizing there was a need
for something similar in Toronto, Payne tweeted to see if anyone wanted to start a group. She received 12 replies and shortly after Ladies Learning Code began. At the workshop about 80 women attending finish a lunch of wraps and veggies and turn away from their large monitors to focus on the volunteer introductions. “I’m Kate and I’m here because I don’t work with any ladies at all!” In 2009, only 22.3 per cent of Canadian women worked in engineering, science and math. This percentage was up less than three per cent from 1987. The Waterloo region is home to more than 450 technology companies and with the University of Waterloo having one of the largest computer science programs in the country, the city has a knack for producing Canadian techies. In 1967, University of Waterloo’s Computing Centre grew into a separate faculty, which was the first in North America. However in 2010, only 6.2 per cent of the students who entered first year computer engineering at the University of Waterloo were female. Being a part of this minority motivated Waterloo graduate Kitty Shum to volunteer with Ladies Learning Code. “Technology and programming is not a scary thing,” says Shum, who encourages women to enter and stay in the industry, and prove that the field is not just for men. Payne agrees and says that women participate in the workshops for many reasons. “Technology has become quite sexy and they just want to learn more about what happens behind your screen,” says Payne. Jane Man works for a tech-savy company and while she knows some basic computer coding from work, she says she needed to expand her knowledge, and took the workshop. For the most part, Ladies Learning Code teaches women who already have careers. But this year, the group of volunteers introduced themselves to young girls interested in code. “Hopefully, if they stay interested in technology they will pursue it as a career,” says Payne. M
Illustrations by JESSICA KU
Iran doesn’t allow women to sing in public, but that doesn’t stop Maral Afsharian
nyone visiting Maral Afsharian’s home in downtown Tehran is greeted by 2 dogs: a large and friendly boxer, and an equally large Terrier-cross. The apartment has been described as “more East Village than Islamic Republic” and a giant tree, home to an Iguana (“baby dragon” to Afsharian) stands on one side of the main room. A coffee table outside of the bedroom boasts ornaments and other things from India. British trip-hop band Archive’s new album is playing. Afsharian, 25, is a female bass player and underground vocalist from Tehran. She was the first female rock singer to perform onstage in Iran in 2007. The same day, she and 230 other people were arrested by the Iranian police during an outdoor concert. Despite not being able to play music, sign a label or make any money with her music in country, she chooses to stay. For most of the past three decades since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iranian musicians have had to record abroad and women are not allowed to sing. But now, the music scene of Tehran is bubbling up, and young people are gathering together to perform their music. Afsharian is the only woman in this community, equipped with a powerful vocal range and political lyrics, such as these in ‘Autotomy’:“I had to dress like a clown just to walk around/ To have a room to feel safe in this fuckin’ town/I couldn’t run couldn’t hide couldn’t help myself/I had to not talk about the way I felt.” The former lead singer of Plastic Wave (an electronic/rock band that Afsharian started) says creating electronic music is new to her. After the U.S embassy rejected her and her bands visas to play SXSW in Texas, Afsharian became a solo artist. The musician has said that because she was the only girl in an Islamic country doing “unusual things,” she was ostracized. “I wanted to be strong and independent and guys didn’t like it,” she told Rolling Stone Middle East. Afsharian was not deterred, and wrote the song, “Autotomy” (her favorite), from the bottom of her heart, she says. Afsharian was 19 when she started singing, her voice heavy and hypnotic. Performing in public in her heavy metal band “Kraken” was not an option, so the then 19-year-old Afsharian and her two friends focused on improving their skills, mostly playing covers. “I was already playing bass guitar in a band and also attending music school and we had voice lessons at school and my classmate saw me practicing and he liked my voice and we started making songs together,” she says. Then she attended the Tehran Conservatory of Music. A dream since childhood, being a singer has always been on her mind. Afsharian’s mother is a traditional singer and when watching her mother perform at shows and rehearsals, Afsharian would imagine herself singing the same song. Eventually, she would win best mood melancholy song in the AVIMA awards, the Asian Indie Music Awards. She has performed in Armenia, Tajikistan, the UAE and the Netherlands. With her previous band, the young woman travelled to Kabul to meet other musicians and play four or five shows, after rehearsing together and crossing the border to Tajikistan in a very old
Photo taken by LEILA REYHANI
MISSING THEMUSIC By SAM ANDERSON & LEILA REYHANI boat, because they were refused permission to cross over a new multi-million-dollar bridge. To her, this was one of the best experiences as she and the others sang during the entire trip there, one of the men with an acoustic guitar in hand. They serenaded the Tajik border police with an impromptu jam, who then took over and played traditional Soviet songs for them. When the group reached the destination of their first gig – an Irish pub – Afsharian prompted the crowd to dance by taking the stage herself. With delicate features and striking brown eyes, she says she has found inspiration in many places, including bands such as Massive Attack, PJ Harvey and Nine Inch Nails. “I like trip-hop, especially when it’s rock influenced. I like minimal electronic music, sometimes little bit of alternative rock, post industrial, post rock,” she says. In her own work, Afsharian sings in English because it is a harsher sound that she prefers to accompany electronica. The musician says the most important thing that inspires her is life and her experiences with people. “I want to be able to have the connection I want with my listeners especially with my lyrics. I want to make it easy for them to feel what I feel while writing music,” she says. But working with people is not the only thing that inspires Afsharian – another big part of her life is dedicated to finding homes for stray cats and dogs found on the street. When asked if she has ever felt genuinely scared about being outspoken, Afsharian replies, “Honestly, I have. You never know what’s coming next. Sometimes I have to think a lot before talking about things to others.” She says young musicians should not give up on playing music, and that is the only advice she can give. M
McClungs Spring 2012 | 07
By SHANNON CLARKE
ast summer, Heather Jarvis went to a friend’s cottage for a day. She had no Internet connection, no cellphone service and no access to her email. It was the first day in four and a half months, her host noted, that she was not on her phone for SlutWalk-related matters. In the course of a few whirlwind months, SlutWalk Toronto had become her entire life and it is hard to imagine Jarvis relaxing in cottage country, hours out of Toronto. “What SlutWalk is now, is never supposed to be what happened,” she says. “It was so unexpected.” Jarvis has become a regular media figure in everything from CNN to alternative weeklies like The Grid. She’s been praised from renowned feminists Gloria Steinheim and Jessica Valenti, invitations to speak at universities across the province (including her own) and becoming the unofficial spokesperson for a movement that has spread to more than 100 cities. She has received death and rape threats and has had to defend her opinions to journalists, bloggers, classmates, and even friends. She certainly did not expect 3,000 men and women would show up at Queen’s Park on April 3, or that, in a year, her life
08| McClungs Spring 2012
would change so drastically. “I still don’t quite think I always believe what just happened or [that] my life is what it is,” she says. Jarvis, 26, first heard about Constable Michael Sanguinetti’s comments at York University’s violence prevention seminar on Facebook. He said that if women wanted to avoid being raped they should “avoid dressing like sluts.” The student paper, Excalibur, reported the story and Jarvis shared it with her friends. “I said ‘I’m so livid, I’m so furious, this makes me want to go down to Toronto police headquarters, bang on the door and tell them to do better.’” Jarvis’ friend, Sonya Barnett, suggested they do it and SlutWalk began. Feedback was unexpected and threw Jarvis off-guard. Her history of organizing around her campus and community did not prepare her for what was coming. In the six weeks between the development of the idea and the march, at least ten other cities picked up SlutWalk and it becoming a global movement. Activists began to contact SlutWalk Toronto for advice and guidance. And they were happy to give it, says Jarvis, until it became too difficult to watch over
every march, in every city. The decision, according to Jarvis, wasn’t easy. When cities felt they needed to change the name, Jarvis and the team acknowledged that “slut” did not work for every march. However, they did speak up when one city wanted to call their event “Not A SlutWalk”. “We really want people to do what’s best for their city,” she says, “But my concern, as always, is if every city changed their name to something different, then we lose our cohesion.” SlutWalk TO in particular, put between themselves and the other cities (though Jarvis is in touch with some organizers), the pioneering group has been the target of most of the criticism. Some were constructive, like the Open Letter to SlutWalk from the Black Women’s Blueprint in Brooklyn, and others, like the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente, were stubbornly dismissive. Many times Jarvis has considered quitting: when the criticism started to come from classmates and groups she respected. But still she remains, one of the original five SlutWalk organizers standing. M
Photos taken by DIANA DUONG
NELLIES How two women started the worldwide phenomenon of SlutWalk
f life has wandered off course for Heather Jarvis, Sonya Barnett has stepped into another universe completely. Barnett, a sex-positive art director, wife and mother, never considered herself a feminist and was not an activist. When she founded SlutWalk (the name was her idea) she expected the the rally to be the extent of it. However, last summer, Barnett, 39, posted a letter on the group’s website, announcing her decision to step back from SlutWalk Toronto. “The lead up to the event was so stressful,” she says. “I almost had a nervous breakdown twice. I couldn’t do it anymore.” The exhaustion started long before the walk when Barnett was in contact with the media and Toronto police. She was responsible for telling them how many protestors they should expect. Her answer changed as interest grew. Early in the event’s development, Barnett purchased a domain name, designed the logo that would be used in SlutWalks around the world, coordinated with her team to write a manifesto, recruited a researcher and prepared a speech to read to what she thought would be a small crowd at Queen’s Park. “I had worked on
my speech all night, not knowing if I was going to be able to get anything out,” Barnett says. “It was probably one of the best days of my life,” she adds. By the time the massive crowd began marching down University Avenue, the energy was infectious. Jarvis walked in front, Barnett in the back, and the protest picked up supporters along the way. People were hugging, roller-blading, dancing, some sharing personal stories. The crowd was loud yet peaceful. It was just the beginning. Jarvis and Barnett were doing two to three interviews a day, reading about themselves and the march in papers and online. By that time, they were in contact with women as far away as Australia. They tried to keep the common threads of the march together while other cities were adapting it. Barnett chose to leave her job at a design agency in Toronto. The time she was devoting to Slutwalk became too much to ask of her otherwise understanding employers. She recalls her son, then seven, saying “I don’t see you anymore.” SlutWalk was hit with criticism, threats, and scrutiny from every side. Though the unexpected demands, dangers, and
the time away from her family were hard, Barnett’s decision to leave came shortly after reading a blog post by a woman from South America made last spring. Aura Blogando accused SlutWalk of white supremacy and said, erroneously, that the region would never embrace the movement. SlutWalk Toronto has a mandate of only responding to criticism when they believe there is a chance for discourse, and so they took their time responding. “Being the person that I am, I’m ready to say ‘fuck off, this is not who we are. We’re not your enemy,’” Barnett says. They eventually did post a response on their Facebook page. The expectations were tremendous. “I don’t know everything about sex and gender [or] race and racial issues. I’m learning as I go. And it’s frustrating because people expect you to know everything before you do something,” she says. Barnett may not be a key organizer anymore, but she is still exasperated by the lack of progress with the Toronto police, the feminist-infighting that has hurt SlutWalk, and the representation of the walk as a bunch of women running around in lingerie. Colleen Westendorf, 27, contacted SlutWalk immediately after attending the march. A freelance writer, Westendorf contacted an Irish journalist earlier this year to address comments that made it seem as though the “provocative” clothing was a uniform. “It’s always the aim articles take, that this is a tactic Slutwalk is using … it derails the greater conversation,” Westendorf says. Barnett is “The Madame” of the Keyhole Sessions, a sex-positive art community in Toronto, and is currently writing a book about her experience with SlutWalk. She is proud of what SlutWalk has done. In her opinion, it has put slut-shaming on the minds of people talking about sexual assault. But she knows there is more to do, especially within law enforcement and discussions about consensual sex. “It was never supposed to go past April 3 and the fact that it has … that is the best thing that could’ve happened,” Barnett says. M
McClungs Spring 2012 | 09
Sex & Dance
Coco Framboise isn’t afraid to flaunt her sexuality
or nearly nine years, Coco Framboise, a dancer, has become a dominant fixture in the Toronto burlesque scene. Her signature large-scale props, which include a giant candy apple covered in holographic glitter is large enough to double as a loveseat help her to stand out among the sea of kick lines. But Framboise does not think burlesque is only about sexuality. Whether it is riding the giant apple or “shoving a sprig of peacock feathers in between my butt cheeks,” Framboise says her show is more about creativity than overt sexiness. “I am sexual, I hold that space and I take up those actions,” she says. “Sexual provocation and desire are fun to paint with. It makes us uncomfortable and it’s ridiculous [because] when you look at it, sex is just a lot of wobbly, jangly bits.” She adds, “I’m playing with the tension around this thing that we all kind of want. [And] I don’t mind the objectification as long as I’m doing the objectification and doing it subjectively.” When she is not performing, Framboise runs the Coco Framboise School of Burlesque, which boasts Toronto’s “most extensive dropin burlesque curriculum” for both beginners and experienced performers. “I initially wanted to be a writer,” she says. “I fell into burlesque because it combined being a writer and a dancer. I could tell a narrative.” While those narratives are fun and creative, Framboise also defies the typical North American beauty ideal. “If that [ideal] is tall, thin and blonde with blue eyes, I think it’s really funny that I’m so dissimilar from that,” she says. “I’m 5’2”, I’m curvier, I have that Jamaican bounce
10| McClungs Spring 2012
By RACHEL PHAN
– to be able to do a full show in Vegas, that rocks.” With large, expressive eyes and a coy, megawatt smile, it is easy to see why people come out in droves to see her shimmy her self-proclaimed apple bottom on stage. Burlesque lets Framboise exercise creative control while also being
able to alternate between hysterically funny and sexy roles. “I don’t have to wait for a role or an audition - I can just come up with an idea and do it,” she says. “There’s a short line between idea and execution that appeals to me.” While some female burlesque dancers may have politically charged performances, Framboise does not have a specific feminist manifesto. “I’m not really coming from a place where I feel that I’m oppressed as a woman, or even as a black
person, and I don’t feel thwarted by men,” she says. “If I had a different experience with racism or sexism, then maybe that’d be something that would come through in my work.” Framboise served as the co-producer of the Toronto Burlesque Festival and has had a hand in the successes of a number of up-and-coming burlesque performers. Miss dd Starr, Lady Phoenix, Miss. Pearl Petit-Four, Charlie Quinn, Lady Bona and others have all been her supporting dancers – also known as Coco’s Bonbons, a group in which she auditions and recruits new members all the time. Framboise says the burlesque scene in Toronto has steadily evolved in recent years - at the beginning of her career, she says there were only about two shows in the city almost every month. Today, there can be a few burlesque shows in one week. Framboise has been on stage across the world - her passport boasts stamps from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands. Her next tour will include Quebec City, Long Beach, and Australia. With an increase in burlesque performers, she says her shows have become more high-quality, as they become more polished and put-together. “Costumes have improved dramatically. There’s a lot more glam, a lot more show,” Framboise says. “People put more time and effort into their shows.” But Framboise still has to find ways to keep her burlesque show evolving. “It’s hard performing shows and trying to get to that level where your act is iconic enough and unique enough that they have to come to you to get it,” she says. “I have to show something that people have never seen before – I want them to remember.” M
Photo taken by CARL WILLIAM W. HEINDL
By NICOLE CLARK
A trend in the Netherlands has the majority of Dutch women working part-time
Illustrations by MICHAEL GUO
McClungs Spring 2012 |11
leid Borghardt works 12 hours a week so she can pick her children up from school and serve them milk and cookies when they come home. She enjoys working as a social worker in the mornings, but values spending time with her two young sons in the afternoon. While her husband is at work, Borghardt reads her children stories, makes them snacks and prepares dinner for her family. Some feminists may argue that she is reverting the progress of women by playing a smaller role in the workforce to fulfill a more traditional role as a mother and wife – but that’s not quite how Dutch women see things. “It’s great as a woman to be able to decide what life you want. You don’t have to choose to stay at home or be a career women, you can do both,” Borghardt says. “It’s empowering.” Borghardt lives in Utrecht, Netherlands, where parents drive their small children down cobblestone roads in rectangular wooden boxes placed on the front of their bicycles. Most of the time there are no seat belts in these contraptions, and other times the children just sit on the back of the bike or on their mother’s lap. As the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, Utrecht is everything one pictures when thinking of Amsterdam - canals, coffee shops and historic buildings but with far more families and fewer tourists. In this country, women tend to chose to work fewer hours to take care of their children or to spend more time doing other things they enjoy. In Utrecht, young women wear high heels and dresses to school, and black converse high-tops to the club. You won’t see them in very revealing clothing, but they openly speak about sex. They travel, study hard for university degrees and have the choice between part-time or full-time work. In the Netherlands, women have more options than other places and there are fewer stigmas about staying home to take care of children. Dutch society places such a high importance on family values and part-time jobs flourish because of that demand. The cost of daycare is
so high that women feel that their time would be better spent staying home with their children and working part-time, rather than handing over their paychecks to babysitters. Today it is estimated up to 75 per cent of Dutch women work part-time. This statistic is up from 2001, when nearly 60 per cent of working Dutch women were employed part-time, compared to just 20 per cent of Canadian women. Some Canadians may find these numbers astonishing, but if you ask a Dutch woman why she works part-time, she will laugh in amusement. Women working part-time isn’t new to the Netherlands. In the 1980s, labour participation rates by Dutch women were at a 40 per cent low, with 60 per cent of these women working parttime. During the 1980s and 1990s, policymakers began changing the way they looked at part-time work and saw it as a way to encourage women to join the workforce. Comparatively, 60 per cent of Canadian women had jobs in the 1980s, with 25 per cent working part-time. It is assumed that Dutch women are either forward-thinking reverting to a traditional lifestyle. The concept of working full time and sending your children to daycare is as foreign to Dutch women as working part-time and staying home is to North American women. “In Canada it seems like it’s all or nothing,” says Borghardt. She is one of many women who chose to work part-time in order to have a central role in the upbringing of her children. Borghardt says because she chose to have children, it would not be fair to send them to daycare every day. Instead, she sends her sons to daycare once a week to socialize with other children. Borghardt says she would feel guilty if she sent them every day. She does feel that women who work part-time miss out on having more ambitious careers, but she is
happier with her decision. She feels a choice has to be made when young children are part of the equation. Though Borghardt enjoys her career, she says things would be different if that token dream job
from university. Joelle Lafeber, 22, is a student at Utrecht University who likes to stay busy. She may choose to work full time, but she is also considering part-time work. She says women are no longer forced to live a traditional family life because the level of education is so high in the Netherlands. “If you make enough money and are happy financially, there is no harm in working part-time and doing other things you enjoy,”
“It’s great as a woman to be able to decide what life you want. You don’t have to choose to stay at home or be a career women, you can do both” - like owning her own business - came along. “A lot of women have more potential, but working part-time means you cannot be the boss of a company,” she says. “You have to choose a career that is not very ambitious. I’m sure that bothers some women, but not me.” Dr. Ria Van der Lecq chose to work part-time first, then once her children were older she further pursued her career. There is little room for professional development when women work as little as 12 hours a week and have to care for their children. Which is why, at 54, she returned to work full time and is now the director of the liberal arts and sciences department at Utrecht University. Van der Lecq stresses that older women do not have to give up their career goals because of their age. Both Borghardt and Van der Lecq say they made the right decisions by choosing to be both mother and worker. “For me, working part-time and being happy are connected because I have a feeling of freedom,” says Borghardt. “I enjoy myself far more than I would having to work 50 hours a week, with the work never being done.” In fact, many women now consider the possibility of working part-time upon graduation
she says. A feeling of freedom might be the secret behind the happiness of Dutch women, something discussed in Ellen de Bruin’s book Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed. The book may mystify Dutch women, but de Bruin is clear about her message, which she discuses in an article published in 2007 by the New York Times: “Personal choice is key: in the Netherlands people are free to choose their life partners, their religion, their sexuality, we are free to use soft drugs here, we can pretty much say anything we like,” she writes. “The Netherlands is a very free country.” Van der Lecq says she was happy working part-time and minding her children because it gave her an escape from the stresses of full-time work. She also saved money from not having to send her children to daycare. “If daycare was cheaper women would work more, but if you have to pay everything you earn for daycare your work better be very interesting,” says Van der Lecq. Dutch women may not be working to obtain high positions and assert their equality by gaining top jobs, but they appear happier anyway. “I would never be a housewife, but the combination of family and part-time work is great,” says Van der Lecq. M
Women and politics have a lon By ROOHI SAHAJPAL
1872 Susan B. Anthony becomes the first woman to vote, (albeit illegally), in a U.S. presidential election and is arrested. During her trial, she gains prominence for speaking for the women’s suffrage movement. She never pays the fine imposed on her for voting. Fourteen years after Anthony’s death, women are given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, by the 19th amendment to the Constitution.
1906 Finland becomes the first European country to give women the right to vote and 19 women are elected to the new 200-person Finnish parliament.
Indira Gandhi becomes the first female prime minister of India. She quickly becomes popular after India’s victory in the war of 1971 against Pakistan. Her politics, however, cause controversy in 1984 when she tries to resolve the political problems in the state of Punjab. In an attempt to remove Sikh militants from Punjab’s holiest site, the Golden Temple, Gandhi calls for an assault by the Indian military on the sacred temple. She is assassinated later that year by her two Sikh bodyguards, who claim to be avenging the assault upon their Sikh nation.
1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike makes history as the world’s first elected female prime minister in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon). Bandaranaike comes into power after her husband Solomon Bandaranaike is assassinated in 1959. Her time in power is not easy. She declares a state of emergency when a campaign is launched against her after she replaces English with Sinhala as the official national language. In 1964, her cabinet is defeated, but Bandaranaike comes back in power in 1970. She declares the country a republic in 1972, changing its name to Sri Lanka. In 1994, her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, becomes president and appoints her mother prime minister again, a position that Bandaranaike holds until her death in 2000.
1916 - 1960 Canada officially gives women the right to vote in most provinces by federal law in 1916, although women in Quebec and Aboriginal women were not given the right to vote until 1940 and 1960.
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Margaret Thatcher becom United Kingdom. Her cons ism.” She advocates for p utilities, reform of the tra social expenditures across ing inflation, but unemplo years in power. She serv winning re-election in 198 She is also the first woman Illustrations by TAMMY LUNG
RGED: A Timeline
ng history, or rather herstory...
Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s independence hero Aung San, is thrust into politics in 1988, after returning to her country from England to nurse her dying mother. She addresses a crowd of several hundred thousand people at a mass rally and calls for a democratic government. She soon becomes the general secretary of the newly formed National League for Democracy. She spends the next six years of her life in and out of military detention as she fights for the democratic rights of the Burmese people. She is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Benazir Bhutto is the first woman to be elected prime minister of Pakistan and becomes the first woman elected to head a Muslim country. Bhutto is removed from office 20 months later on charges of corruption. In 1993, she is re-elected, but is again removed in 1996. In 2007, she returns to Pakistan as a popular figure, likely to win the prime ministerial election once again. She is assassinated before the elections by Islamic radicals on December 27, 2007.
mes the first female prime minister of the servative politics are known as “Thatcherprivatization of state-owned industries and ade unions, lowering taxes and reducing s the board. Thatcher succeeds in reducoyment dramatically increases during her ves as prime minister for three terms – 83 and 1987 – before resigning in 1990. n to chair the G8.
Condoleezza Rice becomes the first AfricanAmerican woman to become secretary of state of the United States. In this role, Rice dedicates her time to create democratic and well-governed states around the world, especially in the Middle East. She also creates a high-level position, director of foreign assistance, to oversee how the United States distributes its foreign aid. Rice holds this position until 2009.
1993 Kim Campbell becomes Canada’s first female prime minister. Her appointment comes after Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces his retirement from politics. During her time as prime minister, Campbell creates three new ministries health, Canadian heritage and public security - by cutting down the cabinet from 35 ministers to 23 ministers. Campbell only serves as prime minister for five months.
2007 Senator Hillary Clinton is the first woman to be considered a top candidate for the U.S. presidency. She eventually loses the Democratic Party nomination to Barack Obama, but later becomes a top member of U.S. politics as secretary of state.
Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female speaker of the house when Democrats take control of the United States Congress. Pelosi becomes the third highest-ranking official in the U.S. government and the highestranking female in American political history.
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n the past three decades, up to 12 million girls have been aborted in India because of their sex, according to research done by a team at the Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR). The number of girls aborted has reached crisis proportions. According to the BBC, in 1961 there were 976 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven. In 2011 there were only 914 girls. “How can a country on one hand have the ambition and demonstrate the possibility of becoming an economic super power and on the other hand have incredibly serious problems?” asks Sonia Faleiro, an Indian writer and reporter. In India, boys are valued more than girls. According to the Hindu religion, which is followed by over 80 per cent of the population, men perform the last rites when their parents pass away. They also continue the family lineage, whereas when women marry, they assume the lineage of their husband’s family. But, women are considered to be an expense, whereas men are seen as an investment, largely because of a tradition called dowry. Historically, the dowry was a one-time gift given to their daughter, the new bride-to-be, as a form of insurance. But it has become something more than that—a competition, an obligation, a contract. The more luxurious the dowry is, the better the quality of the groom and the better the chance of upward status mobility. One ancient Hindu saying sums up the situation in India: “Raising a daughter is like watering a neighbour’s plant.”
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Photos taken by OTIENA ELLWAND
By OTIENA ELLWAND
Girls in South Asia are often unwanted or pushed aside in favour of boys. Otiena Ellwand takes a deeper look.
So, many families neglect, sell or abandon their daughters, if they don’t abort them first. “Parents sometimes try to deliberately infect umbilical cords, not feed them as much as their brothers or immunize them, so even after they’re born there’s still a long road ahead for that little girl to actually survive,” says Sandy Krawitz, a Chicago native who started the organization, the Society for the Protection of the Girl Child, two years ago. “I felt that if I didn’t do anything about it and we didn’t come together as organizations to do something about it, then very tragic things would continue to happen in India for a very long time.” Dr. Prabhat Jha is the director of CGHR and one of the study’s lead researchers. “The most surprising result was that the extent of selective abortions seems to have increased between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. It used to be concentrated in the North, but it has spread particularly into parts of the South and the West.” In India, under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, one can be imprisoned or fined if they reveal the sex of a baby. But of the 800 doctors charged with ignoring the Act, only 55 have been convicted. “The government knows that a small number of unsavoury doctors and providers are really the ones responsible for most of the illegal sex determinations,” says Jha. His research revealed that sex-selective abortion is most common among rich and educated families. The illegal sex-selective market itself is worth an estimated $100 million (USD) per year. “The government could clamp down and find the few bad apples that are setting up clinics and advertising,” he says. “The way it’s structured now is that these folks bribe the government officials to look the other way, but if you have enough public outcry you’ll get the government to actually enforce the laws instead of ignore them.” While the statistics are startling, Jha says it’s important to put the numbers into context. He says there is an average of 600,000 [sex selective abortions] per year. It’s a large number, but there are 26 million births a year in India, of which half are going to be female. So, Jha asserts that less than five per cent of the female pregnancies in India are actually undergoing this practice. “Ninety-five per cent of female pregnancies don’t end up in anything like selective abortion,” he says.
Sharada Srinivasan, a professor of social science at York University knows what it feels like when people misunderstand those statistics. While in the Netherlands completing her PhD, someone asked her if Indian people were getting rid of girls, how was it that she survived? “I was completely taken aback,” Srinivasan says, “because I don’t think I’d thought that somebody would think it’s a miracle that I, an Indian girl, am here and I’d survived.” Month old infant Veena was found abandoned at a train station in Mumbai. But Veena’s story, unlike so many other Indian girls, gets a new beginning. She was adopted by a Canadian family. Her mother, Nazneen Dayal is Indo-Canadian and thought that the adoption would be a good match. Had she not been adopted, Veena would have been kicked out of the orphanage at age 12, left to fend for herself, as the orphanage didn’t have the funding to keep children longer than that.
On her first trip to the grocery store, Veena was amazed by how much food there was. When Dayal started unloading the groceries onto the conveyor belt, Veena burst into tears. “The cashier said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know!’” Dayal says. “And then it dawned on me, she thought I was giving all the food away.” She saw what the children ate at the orphanage, “It was watered down lentils and rice and she’d have maybe one or two meals per day.” Of the 226 adoptions of Indian children that went through last year, only 84 of them were boys. This is not because fewer parents want to adopt boys, but because there aren’t as many boys to adopt. Since girls are the unwanted sex in India, they’re the ones who are abandoned and neglected the most.
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The Indian government has implemented programs, such as the cradle baby scheme that established centers to take in unwanted babies. The Hindu newspaper reported that 3,200 girls and 582 boys had been rescued. The government also passed the Right to Education Act in 2009 which states that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 will be guaranteed free and compulsory education. “Instead of 200 cases of female infanticide, you had 200 survivors,” Srinivasan says about the cradle baby scheme. But when it comes to the root of this problem - dowries the government has not really addressed the problem. In 1961, the government attempted to outlaw the giving and taking of a dowry under the Dowry Prohibition Act. But according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau there were 8,391 dowry deaths reported in 2010. “It comes back to changing attitudes. I’m not saying the law is useless, but it is only as good as it’s implemented,” Srinivasan says, “India does not have a good track record with implementation. We’re just sloppy when it comes to that.” Many families spend several years’ worth of income to pay for a daughter’s dowry and wedding. “So grooms think, ‘I need an Audi. In my lifetime, I can never buy an Audi, so I will ask it as part of my dowry.’ Where marriage is still the norm, parents are going to say, ‘You know what, it’s such a good match, I think we should try,’” Srinivasan says. But how many families can afford to give an Audi as part of the dowry deal? “Parents spend so much on daughters but feel like they never get anything back, but daughters may not be giving back in cash, but they do give a lot of emotional support,” she says. Krawitz and the Society for the Protection of the Girl Child is encouraging spiritual leaders to start talking to their followers about the importance of keeping girls healthy, safe and cherished in the family instead of abused and discarded. She is also working on establishing the country’s first crisis line for parents, for girls or for anybody experiencing distress or needing advice because a little girl has been born or is being neglected. It will be launched next January in Uttar Pradesh first because that state has a particularly distorted gender imbalance, she says. “It’s not
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an issue that’s just about India,” he says. “It’s a human issue; it’s an issue about humanity. It’s an issue about little children being given the right to live and grow up into productive human beings who are protected and safe in this world.” A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year stated that over the next 20 years, India and China may have a population made up of nearly 20 per cent more men than women. “I was watching trains go by from our [hotel room] and train after train after train I was looking into the windows of them and they were all men,” Krawitz says. “I didn’t see any women and I was thinking if it’s so apparent now, what is India going to be like in 20 years if we don’t do anything?” M
INFOGRAPHIC already know that everyone (yes, even Grandma) is on GENDERED You Facebook. You can follow celebrities on Twitter to see what they NETWORKS are doing when they are not, um, being famous. Or if you are
lucky, catch a play-by-play of a Kanye-style breakdown. Thanks to the prevalence and easy access to the web, more people than ever are tweeting, liking, and sharing all kinds of information on social networks. But the gender that comes out on top in terms of social internet use is women. By ERIC ZAWORSKI European women across all age groups spend more time on social networking sites than men, 5.7 hours per month compared to 4.1 hours for men.
In North America, the reach of social media among women is 91 per cent, compared to 87.5 per cent of men.
With professional women comprising a major presence on practically every social media network, surprisingly only 36 per cent of LinkedIn’s 90 million users are female.
Zynga, the company behind several mega-popular Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars, says 60 per cent of its players are female.
Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, has said that not only do women comprise the majority of Facebook users, they drive 62 per cent of the site’s activity in the form of messages, updates, and posts.
Women text about 30 per cent more than men, with an average of 717 text messages sent and received per month, compared to 552 for men. And yes, the survey included guys prone to the famous one-letter “K” texts. Speaking of cellphones, 55 per cent of mobile social network activity is done by women. Take note! IMVU, the world’s largest 3D chat and dress-up community, is the social network with the highest percentage of Englishspeaking female users.
68 per cent of women use social media to stay in touch with friends, as opposed to 54 per cent of men.
Illustrations by JESSICA KU
McClungs Spring 2012 |19
The founder of the organization, Hope for the Sold, Brock hopes to bring more awareness to the issues of sex trafficking. SAM: Do you think growing up in Africa and witnessing different forms of injustice and poverty have an effect on you and this project, Hope for the Sold? MICHELLE: Absolutely. Already as an eight-year-old I realized that not everyone is born into equal opportunity. Every day on the way to school, I experienced the internal struggle that comes with being approached by children begging for money. A white, middle-class existence is a bubble, and growing up in Ethiopia allowed me to see what ‘normal’ is for millions around the world. My family was even part of helping free someone who had been falsely imprisoned. I believe that my childhood in Africa began to develop and prepare my little heart for the work that I am part of now. SAM: How did you go about starting an awareness campaign? MICHELLE: After watching TRADE, my husband (then boyfriend) and I simply began to tell people what we knew. We kicked it off with an awareness banquet for about 150
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people, followed by loads of reading and research. I started an anti-trafficking club at the university of Guelph, where I was student. This eventually led to us making a documentary about sex trafficking in Canada and starting a blog about sexual exploitation at www.hopeforthesold.com. It all just started with one awareness event, pulled off with a bunch of friends! SAM: What was most challenging about the 11,000 kilometre trek across the country, to film a documentary on sex trafficking in Canada? MICHELLE: I thought we would have a hard time securing interviews, but almost everyone we pursued responded with a “yes.” The hard part was flip-flopping between the emotion of the issue itself and the more ‘normal’ parts of being on the road. Like the GPS losing its connection when we were already late for an interview, or me getting a massive cold while driving through Northern Ontario at 2 a.m. Losing important footage and/or audio was also very frustrating, though fortunately this only happened once. I was
Photo provided by SOURCE
so grateful to do it alongside my husband Jay, who had been part of this anti-trafficking journey since the very beginning. rward . If they’re going to survive in SAM: How was the first film received? Were people shocked to learn that this exploitation was happening here? MICHELLE: When we first started showing it, most people didn’t know this happened here at all. Now most people have at least heard the term ‘human trafficking.’ The response has been varied, but always powerful. It hits a father of a young child differently than it would a student, or teacher, or police officer. The beautiful thing is that we each have a role to play. SAM: You are at work on your second film, which addresses the legalization of prostitution and the implications of it. What inspired you to start work on this film? MICHELLE: The issue of legalization was the number one question we were getting wherever we spoke, and is in fact most likely going before the Supreme Court of Canada, so it is a pressing matter. We are very passionate about preventing sex trafficking from ever happening in the first place, and hope that our film can help reduce demand for paid sex. Obviously there will always be men who seek out prostituted women, but if the majority is discouraged from doing this, traffickers will have less monetary incentive to set up shop in Canada.
eral studies demonstrate that over 95% of women in the sex trade worldwide want out but have no exit strategy. Sweden also launched an awareness campaign about equality and women’s rights, and trafficking has become less profitable as a result of these efforts. SAM: Do people realize how young victims can be? Does this change anything? MICHELLE: Victims can be very, very young. Some are too young to even talk. Most sex trafficking victims would be in their teens and early 20s. I personally do not think that exploiting someone else is right, no matter what their age. Some people are less compassionate when a victim is over 18. But what if they entered the trade at 11? They never even had the opportunity to truly be children. M
SAM: Are sex trafficking victims considered criminals in some cases? MICHELLE: Unfortunately, many have slipped through the cracks of the legal system because police officers, lawyers, social workers, and judges have simply not been aware of what trafficking looks like. Many have been deported, only to be re-trafficked once they’ve reached home. Fortunately, we are now moving in the right direction, as people on the front lines are beginning to recognize warning signs and Canadians are slowly becoming more organized in their response. SAM: How would Canada’s laws compare to say, Sweden’s? MICHELLE: About a decade ago, Sweden decided that prostitution is violence against women. They criminalized the men who buy sex and decriminalized the selling of it, so that men would be held accountable for their actions. The fines they have to pay help fund exit programs for women who want out of the trade but have been unable to. Sev-
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By RHIANNON RUSSELL
There are 582 documented cases of Aboriginal women missing or murdered in Canada. What happened and why isn’t more being done?
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crowd of people stand outside Toronto police headquarters in the cold Valentine’s Day air. Snow falls gently, settling and melting on toques and hair. The placards some clutch in gloved hands bear silhouettes of a head and shoulders—these figures, identified only by name and date, represent the Aboriginal women who have disappeared, many of them murdered. Filmmaker Audrey Huntley stands near the middle of the gathering, her reddish-brown hair tucked under the black hood of her parka. She sings the welcome song with the women around her to call in their ancestors. Huntley is of European and Anishnawbe descent and is the cofounder of No More Silence, a Toronto coalition that raises awareness about and incites action for Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women—582 at last count. The date of the rally, February 14, coincides with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Memorial March, which has been happening for 22 years to honour all women who are gone. Huntley, a survivor of violence, says this rally is about taking the time to remember them, much like the other rallies, vigils and marches across the country. For years, activists have struggled to get the Canadian government to recognize what they say is a grave, systemic problem. Statistics show Aboriginal women are five times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to die violent deaths. As well, between 1997 and 2000, their rates of homicide were almost seven times higher, and they are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger. Activists argue the government is ignoring these women and the violence they face. Amid funding cuts and broken promises, activists do not think Aboriginal women are a priority for the Canadian government. The reality for many Aborigi-
nal women is not pretty. An article written by Huntley describes the case of Helen Betty Osborne, a girl from The Pas in Manitoba. Osborne was brutally sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death with a screwdriver by four young boys and the town stayed silent. Huntley writes that one boy’s mother simply washed his clothing, ridding it of any evidence. Now, Aboriginal women want their voices heard. In 2005, the Liberal government pledged $5 million over five years to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) for their highly publicized campaign, Sisters in Spirit to create a database to document Aboriginal women who went missing or who were murdered over the past 20 to 30 years. But in 2010, the federal government cut funding and the research and growing database came to a halt. Instead, the Conservative Party pledged $10 million over two years, $4 million of which would go to the RCMP to create a missing persons database. This money sounded impressive but Aboriginal activists say that in practice, the initiative failed. NWAC president Jeannette Corbiere Lavell commends the police database, but notes it is not specific to Aboriginal women as was promised. She estimates Aboriginal women’s advocacy groups only saw about $800,000 of the $10 million. Now, no one knows how many of the women are missing. The Sisters in Spirit database documented 582 in 2010, but this number has undoubtedly been surpassed. The lack of adequate action compelled NWAC and the Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), as well as the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and the Women’s Memorial March Committee, to appeal to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This committee
is a body that examines the track record of its signatory countries on their treatment of women. The committee, which once investigated 800 unsolved female homicides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has initiated an inquiry procedure into Canada’s missing and murdered women. The UN session began in February of this year, and FAFIA cofounder and Human Rights Committee chair Shelagh Day says if the UN determines “grave or systematic” rights violations are occurring in Canada, it will then decide to launch an inquiry. “We clearly do need help,” Day says. “We have a human rights crisis on our hands.” However, to enter the country, CEDAW must have federal consent. Though the Canadian government may not welcome an examination of its dirty laundry, it will risk looking bad on the world stage if it refuses. But, according to Day, “[CEDAW] can carry on the inquiry whether or not Canada says no,” she says. In that case, CEDAW would work outside the country, relying on documentation and statistics.
Huntley hopes CEDAW will take note of another inquiry happening in Vancouver (the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry) regarding the Robert Pickton case. Huntley, who lived in the Downtown Eastside at the time, says so far, that inquiry has failed. The lead Aboriginal lawyer resigned from the inquiry, citing a lack of adequate hearing time for Aboriginal panels, a focus on police evidence, and lack of input from Aboriginal communities. Critics and Aboriginal leaders have called the inquiry a sham. During the process, it came to light that the RCMP had Pickton, who was
convicted in 2007 of murdering six women but bragged of killing 49, under surveillance for three years before his arrest and had interviewed him after he stabbed a woman in the late ‘90s at his pig farm. Huntley says an RCMP officer warned Pickton about informants and even revealed to him who they were. Terry Blythe, Vancouver police chief from 1999 to 2002, recently denied police did not do enough to stop Pickton’s killing spree. A February 8 letter from NWAC and FAFIA to CEDAW expressed their desire for third-party intervention. It reads: “We have lobbied, written, spoken out, walked across the country, held hundreds of vigils for the disappeared and murdered women, intervened with police, appeared before Parliamentary Committees, and met with government officials, repeatedly.” The letter stated despite years of effort, Canada does not yet have a coordinated national plan with concrete measures to address the root causes and remedy the consequences of the violence against Aboriginal women and girls. But these women are not forgotten. There are online forums dedicated to the missing and murdered. This includes NWAC’s “We Remember,” a page describing a few of the countless women: Beatrice Sinclair, an elderly woman whose murder was never solved, Daleen Kay Bosse, who was studying to become a teacher before her remains were found in a rural clearing in Saskatoon and was awarded a posthumous teaching degree and Shelley Joseph, described as a “beautiful woman with long brown hair and many gifts.” A year and a half after her murder in Hamilton, Joseph’s eldest son killed himself. To get to the heart of the problem, one must ask some unsettling questions. Why women? Why Aboriginal women? Huntley, Corbiere Lavell and the women speaking at the
McClungs Spring 2012 |23
rally have answers: Aboriginal women are devalued in society, stereotyped and often seen as sexually available. Perpetrators know they can get away with kidnapping or killing Aboriginal women, because law enforcement turns a blind eye. The list goes on. The Indian Act of 1876 stripped women of their rights to vote and own property, and further enforced gender discrimination through matrimonial rights. For example, if an Indian woman married a non-Indian man, she would lose her status and so would her children, while an Indian man who married a non-Indian woman would retain his. Amendments to the Act in 1985 merely pushed the preferential treatment of men back one generation. In Sharon McIvor’s case, she was granted status but not her children. She took the case to court in 2006 and won, allowing the “second generation” to retain and reclaim its status. In 2010, she filed a complaint with the UN, arguing Canada’s eligibility requirements for Indian status were still discriminatory saying, “We’ve been relegated to a place in society that people don’t think they need to acknowledge us or respect us.” Yet the residual effects of the Indian Act aren’t the only things lingering. Residential schools, a byproduct of the Indian Act, continue to have lasting consequences. Domestic
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violence, alcoholism, depression and suicide have all made their mark. Corbiere Lavell says Aboriginal women in today’s society are vulnerable because of a lack of social resources and years of colonization. For women leaving their reserves to escape violence, she says, it’s difficult to integrate into big cities. Many end up on the streets. A 2009 report by Anette Sikka at the University of Ottawa found a disproportionately high number of Aboriginal women are involved in prostitution in Canada’s urban centres.
“We’ve been relegated to a place in society that people don’t think they need to acknowledge us or respect us”
own roles in this,” Lord continued. And not just our historical roles as forefathers and colonizers, she says, but our present role as people living on this land. “More awareness is occurring,” says Corbiere Lavell. “People are saying, ‘We can’t let this continue. Something has to be done.’” At the rally, women begin to sing and drum again. Yellow-jacketed police officers stand at the curb, chatting and keeping an eye on the peaceful gathering. The song is haunting, and the crowd, though mournful, is strong. These women are united and they are fighting to be heard. M
So where do we go from here? “It’s the question we’re all grappling with,” Huntley says. Jennifer Lord, strategic policy liaison for NWAC’s new initiative Evidence to Action, agrees. “It’s an easy answer, but it’s not simple,” she says, stressing Canadians must realize violence, sexism and discrimination against Aboriginal women are Canadian human rights issues. “We really need to see Canadians take responsibility for our
Photos taken by RHIANNON RUSSELL
Mascara has a SHORT SHELF-LIFE compared to other cosmetics. The FDA
recommends disposing of mascara EVERY 2 - 4 MONTHS since bacteria can build up in the tube. This bacteria can lead to
EYE INFECTIONS, such as
PHOTO ESSAY Photos taken by KATHERINE ENGQVIST, Illustrations by JESSICA CHIU Make-up by DELANIE BOURK, Styled by PORTIA FAVRO
McClungs Spring 2012 |25
26| McClungs Spring 2012
PHOTO ESSAY Photos taken by KATHERINE ENGQVIST, Illustrations by JESSICA CHIU Make-up by DELANIE BOURK, Styled by PORTIA FAVRO
Coal tar-derived colours contain
chemicals that have been linked to cancer like
and bladder cancer.
Less SEVERE and more COMMON short-term reactions to the product are
itching, burning, scalping, hives, and blistering of the skin
PHOTO ESSAY Photos taken by KATHERINE ENGQVIST, Illustrations by JESSICA CHIU Make-up by DELANIE BOURK, Styled by PORTIA FAVRO
McClungs Spring 2012 |27
Often perfumes have ingredients that are unlisted, such as phthalates.
are chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer and birth defects. Health Canada recently announced regulations
banning six phthalates
in children’s toys, but the same standards aren’t applied to cosmetics.
28| McClungs Spring 2012
is known to irritate the skin and is used in a variety of shaving creams. Other irritants in these creams are gases, isobutane and isopentane, which are used as propellants in aerosol shaving creams
McClungs Spring 2012 |29
By TASHIKA GOMES
Toronto may not be a high-fashion hotspot, but the city knows how to get real when it comes to body type
er sheer blouse drapes elegantly over her shoulders, stopping just short of her metallic skirt. Dozens of photographers throw flashes of light her way as she sways down the runway with pouting lips. Her inner thighs graze each other as she places one stilettoed heel in front of the other. She has a piercing gaze and a curvy body, one that some would say does not belong on a runway. Fashion is an industry built on thinness. From thin fabrics to thin models, sometimes the catwalk can be pretty homogenous. But an emerging trend in Toronto has the industry seeing more “real” sized female bodies. At the Orange Models Management office, Wiktor Trzaska, a booking agent, receives two calls from clients requesting models. One asks for “smaller body types,” anywhere from size two and six. In most markets, these sizes are generally accepted as “normal.” The other call is from a bridal show casting director, who requests models sized four through eight. To some, size eight is considered a plus size. “I think Toronto is looking healthy ...
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whether it is on the runway or in the commercials that are shot here,” says Trzaska. Toronto is primarily a commercial market, as opposed to its high fashion counterparts. In high-end couture fashion, sample sizes are zero to four. Measurements such as 34-24-34 are the norm, a standard that is applied across the board. However, most clients in Toronto are searching for average-sized models that appeal to the masses to sell or promote their products. This means models are literally given more room in terms of their measurements. The word “real” has become almost synonymous with the word “healthy.” The modelling industry has a bad reputation for the unhealthy methods some models adopt in order to continually fit the strict aesthetic criteria. In Toronto, the industry is saturated with commercial modelling, thus encouraging a healthier body image and, as a result, healthier models. Tatiana Lukic, 24, has been a model for almost a decade and works primarily out of Toronto, New York and Montreal. She says that although being in the industry has made her self-conscious of her body, it has also made her more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise.
Photo taken by KATHERINE ENGQVIST
This perspective is on the rise in the city. Industry forerunners are pioneering this shift. “I definitely feel like it’s more in the forefront here in North America. Toronto, Canada is more commercial so it’s a little bit more attainable,” says Jessica Biffi, a Canadian designer. Being outside the norm does not mean being outside of the industry. Edie started working as a model at age 17, at size zero to two. Today, she is 40 years old and models at size six to eight. She stopped modelling for a period of time because of the high standards agencies had for body size. “They accept plus size now. It’s more acceptable to be bigger,” says Edie. After being out of the business for years, Edie landed an ad campaign as a plus-sized model. She feels the fashion industry has definitely changed for the better. “I am bigger but I feel better about myself,” she says. Plus sizes on the runway have always been a hopeful signal of change in the industry. Voluptuous, a local fashion forward plus size boutique, has been widely successful with locations across Ontario, joining more plus size staple brands like Addition Elle and newcomer Allie Style. “The industry is just really starting to open up now,” says Biffi who is also a plus-sized woman. She is currently working on a new plus size clothing line to follow up to her previous line. No one seems to have a singular answer as to why the industry has developed this way. In a commercial market, the demand for more realistic body expectations offers an environment that does not pressure models to be unhealthy. Biffi says she would like to see bigger names on the international scene take steps in this direction and not just jump on the bandwagon when it suits them. “I think it takes a couple more people on board to kind of open people’s eyes to [real sized models],” says Biffi, “Boundaries need to be pushed.” At the Orange Models office, Trzaska makes a coffee run to Tim Horton’s and office receptionist and model, Olga, debated whether she should get a doughnut. She smiles sheepishly with
“I’ve known girls who have passed out or died abroad because they are trying to stay so thin, especially in markets like China, Japan, and India, where the girls are very young. There’s a lot of pressure on them, so they give into the pressure and they collapse,” says Lukic. For model Heather Jean O’Donnell, an industry that is more open to various body types is particularly important; she has been struggling with eating disorders her entire life. Even though O’Donnell is happy with her agency, Orange Models, she has had unfavourable experiences with other agencies in the past because of their policies on body measurements. “I don’t want to feel that pressure, that someone else is controlling who I am. I don’t think that’s healthy,” says O’Donnell.
her hands on her waist. She has a photoshoot later that week. Trzaska hands Olga her usual fruit explosion muffin and as she bites in to it, a smile comes across her face. She rustles through the bag and yells, “Where’s my doughnut?” It is not healthy, but with no pressure to stay thin, why not treat yourself? M
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By DAWN-FLORA ANGUE
Looking at me now, you would probably never think I am a pageant girl. Raised in a family with three brothers and seven male cousins, it was inevitable for me to try to fit into a “man’s world.” I was never the type of girl to play dress up or try on my mom’s heels. So, why did I compete in six beauty pageants over four years? Pageants were never on my bucket list. I could have lived my entire life not setting foot on a huge stage to be judged on how well I can flaunt a gown. But I was “discovered” in a restaurant and was asked if I wanted to compete in a local Filipino pageant, where I had the chance to raise money for those in need in the Philippines. My mom told me to take advantage of this opportunity. So, I put aside the preconceptions I had about beauty pageants and signed up. I joined my first pageant at 16 and like any other teen, I was awkward and still trying to figure out how to fit in without looking like a fool. Pageants helped me overcome this. I spent endless hours practicing to walk in four-inch heels. I memorized routines and choreography. I attended speaking lessons which taught me how to articulate myself eloquently. The amount of time I spent training and preparing for the stage helped me to gain confidence and get me out of my shell. Like so many other people, I thought that pageants were superficial. With this mentality, I was reluctant to participate in any pageants that involved me strutting around in a two-piece bathing suit with stiletto heels. I was selective with the events I would participate in. The pageants I joined had to meet my terms: at least 25 per cent of the girls’ total score
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had to be from their answers to a Q&A and there had to be a non-mandatory bathing suit portion. I competed to the best of my ability in every single pageant I took part in. I did my best in the several dress portions, but found my strongest skills were in the Q&A segments that usually tackled controversial issues such as feminism and religion. Until I competed on these stages, with a row of people judging me on how I look and spoke, I did not realize how much of everyday is like a beauty pageant. Think of it this way: would you go to a job interview in jeans and a t-shirt? Probably not. You would want to impress your potential employer with how you well you can present yourself. Beauty pageants are the same. Many of the girls who I competed with have a real message to promote. Pageants are a way to promote a cause that may not otherwise get attention. The makeup, the dresses, the big hair – some look down on these things and trust me, I did too. But after actually winning the title of Miss Maria Clara in 2006 and winning first-runner up for Miss Canada Tourism, I can personally say that pageants have changed me for the better. I am still not the true girly girl who spends mounds of time on my makeup and hair every morning. Rather, I can now hold my head high knowing I am confident in who I am and what I believe. And yes, I do thank the pageants for that.
Photos taken by NICK SPECTOR
SHE SAID Two former beauty queens share what they think of pageantry today
By SAM ANDERSON
I was 15 when I was crowned Miss Teen Klondike and Miss Teen Talent. Wearing my sister’s evening gowns and costume accessories I competed with nine other girls (know as delegates) for the elusive titles. I attended dance rehearsals with the local can-can dancers. I was coached in interviewing and make-up techniques. (Who knew the importance of penciling your eyebrows?), I was given lessons on how to walk. I was pampered and primed with mani-pedis, and a professional photoshoot. Lastly, my competitors and I walked through town in a parade, being encouraged to wave like Queens. I’ll admit my teenaged self enjoyed the attention. I felt like a role model. Young girls with muddy faces ran up to me and asked for my picture; I obliged. On pageant night, dancing to Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent” I felt I represented the song. But in reality, I, along with the other girls, were being judged on how we looked; my schedule not only told me what to do, it told me what to wear. An evening gown for the parade, “something respectable” for a gala. However, there was no swimsuit component. My pageant and others like it are, in part, a glossy competition largely based on image and how the judges respond to your looks. The Miss Teen Canada World Pageant states that on their finals night “contestants from across the nation come together for an incredible evening of inspiration, glamour and personal accomplishment.” But there is more to young women than how well they can walk across a stage, or how graceful they seem. I knew my family and friends were
in the audience that night. I also knew the judges were out there too. I was being showcased, in a sparkling blue gown and an up do, because ringlets were the thing to do. “We just performed a miracle on your hair” the hairdresser told me earlier that day. “Now go put on your make-up.” I went over to the mirror and made sure to pay special attention to my “problem areas”. My nails weren’t long enough for a French, the manicurist said, but she would do the best she could. I wasn’t perfect, but I figured I was closer to it than I had been before. I was pretty on pageant night. It was what I had been getting ready for all along. I only believed I was pretty when a female photographer took my headshot for our promos; “smile, you are beautiful,” she said. For some reason, it seemed she was the only one who meant it. In that picture, I didn’t need to do anything to change my appearance. Sure, pageants don’t have to be all that bad. I did raise awareness about the World Wildlife Fund and got to practice public speaking. In addition to charities, some pageants offer scholarships. But why should these good things have to be associated with good hair? Besides, it’s tough enough being a woman in this world. I’d rather not be pitted against my peers. On pageant night when we stood in a row under the stage lights in our gowns looking out into the audience I wondered if the omniscient judges would approve of us. Or, rather, of how we had presented ourselves. I still have my sash and tiara tucked away in a Princess shoebox somewhere. I think they’ll just stay there. M
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PLAY ING THE V-CARD 34| McClungs Spring 2012
Photos taken by KATHERINE ENGQVIST
By GIN SEXSMITH
Gin Sexsmith shares the story of when she lost her virginity and looks into what the big “V” means for young women today
t 16, I lost my virginity to someone on a damp, grassy hill beside our old public school. We were not dating, and by no means was I “in love.” Virginity, I thought, was overrated – sex was everywhere, and I wanted to know what all the commotion was about. I knew what I was getting myself into as I updated my MSN status to a cheeky line from my favourite Dragonette song: “I know your friends and you know mine too. You don’t tell on me and I won’t tell on you.” I did not care that losing my virginity was supposed to be some monumental moment. We continued things with no strings attached for the next two years. It was a fun adrenaline rush. It gave me the highest highs, but the lows would always kick in shortly after I sneaked back into my house. “That was the last time,” I’d say into my pillow. I always felt that he should love me. But this person never knew who I really was – our conversations went from small talk to sex. I had felt so secure in my decision, but as the years went on and his late-night advances never turned into flowers and chocolates, my anxiety grew. The shame that I told myself at 16 I’d never feel was catching up to me. By 18, I replayed every word we had ever said to each other, every late-night text, and was overcome by the need to make him love me. I’d always felt that if a man could have sex just for the sake of having sex, then I should be able to as well. Was that naive? Recently I was talking about virginity
with my boyfriend of the past two years. During our conversation, he innocently dropped a “I wish you would’ve been a virgin, that would’ve been awesome.” It was like he simultaneously slapped me in the face and punched me in the stomach. I balled my hands into fists to stop them from shaking and steadily replied, “But you don’t wish you would’ve been a virgin, do you?” His answer was what I expected: “No.” I tried to stay calm, but within moments, my body was shaking as the sadness and anger escaped me through hollow sobs. If losing my virginity nonchalantly was not the right choice – would waiting for love have been?
ed to gain some level of sexual experience and mastery beginning in adolescence and may be labelled as socially awkward or inept should they fail to acquire this experience before attaining adulthood,” Payne says. Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered clinical psychologist and Ryerson professor, relates these expectations to the double standard between men and women. “Anyone who thinks the double standard is gone is a fool,” he says. The way I lost my virginity was unconventional in the sense that I lost it to get in the game, but many girls feel pressure to be in love, or at least in a relationship, before they go all the way. This
I tried to stay calm, but within moments, my body was shaking as the sadness and anger escaped me through hollow sobs. Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, a Toronto-based sexologist, does not think so. “The bottom line is that each person is different and experiences a unique sexual evolution. Having sex for the first time is just one small piece of this personal journey,” she says. As women, we are either explicitly or implicitly faced with ideals, one of the major ones is that we should be in love with the person we first have sex with. But ideals can lead to stigma and confusion. “Stigmas over virginity are really just stigmas surrounding sex,” O’Reilly says, adding that these stigmas lead to a lot of irrational fear and judgement which shames men and women into sexual conformity. This conformity can negatively impact relationships, self-esteem, and overall health. Sex is everywhere, but women and men are still expected to play by the rules. “Over the years, the expectations on women have softened ... they are no longer expected to wait until marriage, but sexual activity is still expected to take place within the context of some relationship,” says Dr. Kim Payne, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. Men fall into the opposite extreme. “Men, however, remain expect-
was the case with Heather Brown, who, at 16, was anxious to have sex. When she started dating a guy four years older than her, anxiety shifted from who she would lose it to, to when she would lose it. “You don’t want to be the girl that just hasn’t lost her virginity yet,” she says, thinking back to grade 10 and remembering a lot of girls who were already having sex. The major decision maker for Brown was her boyfriend cheating on her. “Before we had sex, he cheated on me. I decided I’d do whatever he wanted so he wouldn’t cheat on me again. He never said that he cheated on me because we hadn’t had sex, but I always figured that. It wasn’t unfortunate at the time, but I wish I could take it back now,” Brown says, her voice quiet. “That relationship ruined my high school experience and probably ruined a lot of things about me – it’s probably why I’m so angry all of the time, potentially why I don’t like having sex ... definitely why I don’t like having sex actually,” she adds, her voice laced with resentment. Natalie Cole* ignored peer pressure throughout her teens and, at 20, recently lost her virginity. “If you’re 15 or16 when you lose your virginity, you’re thinking
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“Over the years, the expectations on women have softened ... they are no longer expected to wait until marriage, but sexual activity is still expected to take place within the context of some relationship” that everything that’s happening is normal, when it might not be. You don’t know yourself,” she says. But being true to yourself is easier said than done when you are young and bombarded with hyper-sexualized images. “I deal with clients and students of different ages, and I’m finding more and more these days that the stigma is that younger women, and [women] in their 20s, are feeling bad that they haven’t lost their virginity – that stigma used to be more for men.” says Dr. Amitay. But Cole says that she did not feel like her virginity was anyone else’s business and that waiting for love was the right choice for her. “I feel like a lot of people think that if you’re a virgin you’ve never seen a dick, you’ve never fooled around, but that’s not always what it is,” Cole says. “I experienced life, but for me losing my virginity wasn’t about taking that extra step when I was hammered, it was something more for me,” she says. Dr. Amitay agrees that, for older women, the concept of virginity is less
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traumatic because they have a better idea of what they want – but still many people are not willing to wait until they know what they want. “For most people, it’s not ‘I’m holding onto this precious thing,’ it’s ‘I want to get rid of this thing,” he says. But just ‘getting rid’ of it should be done with care. Dr. Amitay has hundreds of clients and has found that the stereotype of women clinging to the man they lose their virginity to, is still alive. “I didn’t want to get hurt after,” says Cole. “I have a lot of friends who say that after they lost their virginity, they got really attached to that person, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to be attached to any of these people that I’m hooking up with.’” Cole told her boyfriend she was a virgin two weeks into the relationship. “He was super awesome about it,” she says excitedly, flashing a grin. “We talked about it a lot and he was like ‘Whenever you’re ready’.” She knew it was time after three months of dating, when she felt like she really knew him. I can not help thinking Cole’s situation sounds perfect, but what is perfect for one person does not always cut it for
another. Brown, who now says she is in a healthy, loving relationship, is happy that she had previous sexual experience. “No matter what anybody says, if you’re a virgin when you get with somebody, you’re always going to be curious about other people,” she says, which jolted me back to my heated conversation with my boyfriend when I had said those exact words. Stigmas surrounding virginity should be put to bed. If you decide to wait or not, it does not change the person you are. Because of these stigmas, we all run the risk of over-analysis, says Dr. Amitay, and he has seen this manifest itself in extreme ways. “At worst it can come back as self-loathing; otherwise you can question yourself, doubt yourself, have anxiety over whether or not you did the right thing,” he says. To avoid regrets, Cole thinks that it comes down to knowing yourself. “When you know, you know,” she says seeming content with the choices she has made. Dr. O’Reilly cannot agree more. “You’re the expert in you, so you need to be true to yourself,” she says. M
*Real names were changed
Do it Yourself
By TAMMY LUNG
TOOLS Measuring tape
Hold the measuring tape parallel to the ground. Wrap the tape directly under your bust and record the measurement. If the measurement is even, add 4 inches. If the measurement is odd, add 5 inches. This is your band measurement. (i.e. Measurement = 28”, add 4, which = 32” band.)
Measure the fullest part of your bust. Round to the nearest whole number. This is your cup measurement. (i.e. Measurement = 33”)
Chart below shows you your cup size:
Subtract your band measurement from your cup measurement, the difference will be your cup size. (i.e. 33 – 32” = 1”, which = A cup) Your overall bra size is your initial band measurement and cup size. (i.e. 32A)
Illustrations by YBB VILLEGAS
0” – ½”
½” – 1”
DD or E
DDD or F
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Feminism across the Generations What does feminism mean to different generations of women? By LISA COXON
arah Fadel is a leader. She believes women have the right to pursue positions of power and influence, and understands the effect gender stereotypes can have on women doing so. This is quite impressive considering she’s only 17-years-old. Fadel attends Branksome Hall, an independent all-girls school in the Rosedale area of Toronto. Here, leadership is taught as a way of life, where young women learn that they are valuable and can be anything they want to be. To Fadel, a feminist is “somebody who believes in equal opportunity for everybody.” Fadel first learned about feminism in her early childhood. Her two grandmothers were among a handful of women in medical school in Egypt in the 1950s, which was a male-dominated field of study and place of work. “They both had to overcome gender stereotypes and work twice as hard as their male peers to be taken as seriously,” says Fadel. Because of her education at Branksome, Fadel aims to pick leadership roles wherever she can. She co-chaired the World Affairs Conference, which began in spring 2011 and continued into winter 2012, where controversial speakers debated topics such as the American election and the question, “is feminism dead?” She has also been part of Model UN, a simulation of the United Nations held in Montreal where committees debate different issues, and Ontario Model Parliament, where mock provincial politics are held at Queen’s Park. Of feminism’s popularity at the school, Fadel says, “I wouldn’t say it’s like a clothing item, but all of my peers are as eager as I am to find the opportunities in school, beyond school, in university, and just take them all.” These roles, as well as her subjects of interest, demonstrate Fadel’s independent thinking, uninfluenced by gender roles. Currently studying economics and applied mathematics, she eventually hopes to pursue a career in finance. Of feminism’s popularity at the school, Fadel says, “I wouldn’t say it’s like a clothing item, but all of my peers are as eager as I am to find the opportunities in school, beyond school, in university, and just take them all.”
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oey Villeneuve was a feminist long before she was an anarchist, but the two have become so inextricably linked for her that she can no longer see herself as just one or the other. Growing up with mostly male friends, Villeneuve, 25, often felt alienated. She would never go along with the sexist jokes they made. She began to read literature by Naomi Klein, a feminist who wrote about consumerism and capitalism. “I was kind of introduced to feminist politics through a broader analysis of systematic injustices,” she says. Villeneuve identified as a feminist when she was 17, and as an anarchist when she was 23. She became interested in liberal feminism, which maintains that women have the power to achieve equality, but that society itself need not change in order to meet the needs of women. After being exposed to liberal feminism, she began to read more about government and the oppression of women. For Villeneuve, anarchism and feminism quickly became two sides of the same coin. The feminist in her says the society we live in exploits women’s labour and bodies in order to accrue more profit, and anarchism has encouraged her to reject this capitalist society where a hierarchy of gender, class, ability, and race exists. While she believes liberal feminism is a vital stepping-stone for young feminists, her hope is that feminism will eventually move towards a more radical and socialist rhetoric, one that focuses on things such as the economic conditions that can force women into the sex industry. To Villeneuve, the most important thing feminists can do is to be non-judgmental. She believes anyone can be a feminist if they actively try to change their own sexist behavior. “It’s vital that we are not being critical of women for the decisions they make that are influenced by the patriarchy,” says Villeneuve. She feels we are not placing enough emphasis on ability, class, gender, race, and how these social constructions intersect.
Photos taken by LISA COXON & LUCY LU
ictoria Moreno was raised in what she describes as a “very macho” Latin-American household where only women were expected to clean. This, she remembers, is around the time she started to rebel. Moreno, 42, looked into feminism throughout her early teens, but her more formal introduction to the movement came in her first-year Women’s Studies course at York University. Now the owner of Toronto Women’s Bookstore, Moreno is in charge of ensuring the survival of a safe and comfortable space where women can come together and explore a variety of feminist literature. After threats of closure in 2009, Moreno took over the business. She was first hired in 1989 and worked part-time in her early years of university. This is a job that’s come to mean a lot to her over the years. “It built an experience I wanted to take with me wherever I looked for work,” says Moreno. “I need to identify with wherever I’m working.” Moreno feels particularly attached to feminist writer Bell Hooks for her inclusive approach to feminism, which focuses on community and love. Moreno also approaches feminism from a racial and class perspective. During her first year at the bookstore, Moreno remembers passing the Henry Morgentaler Clinic on her way to work, where she often saw the pro-life movement protesting outside. Referring to reproductive freedom and legalized abortion, Moreno says, “We have come a ways, but those sorts of things are threatened again under the Harper government.” In 2011, CBC reported that federal government funding for Planned Parenthood Canada exists only for projects that do not advocate or provide abortion. At such a threatening time, Moreno believes in recruiting a more diverse feminist movement, one that includes men. “I think it’s important to think and believe that men can be feminists, considering they’re half the population, and they’re in power.” Often the struggle lies among the terminology. Is a man “feminist” or is he “pro-feminist,” Moreno asks. “That might be where the battles lie,” she says. Although she does not feel society should “fight for that battle.” Moreno knows one thing for sure, it is that we cannot do it alone. “If we’re allies and we’re working together, then that’s the main purpose for me,” says Moreno. “We need more feminists, and that’s the most important thing.”
uring her time teaching at a Catholic high school, Sheila Kappler stood at the back of the gymnasium during school mass. The principal approached her and asked why she was not participating in the prayers. Her response was, “I’m a feminist. I don’t pray to God the Father.” Kappler, a 60-year-old woman says her feminism was strong enough to pull her away from her own religion, was raised a devout Catholic and, at the age of 20, entered a convent in Chatnam, Ontario. She began to discover feminism and the Catholic Church’s oppressive history towards women. It was in 1983, while she was living in Toronto obtaining her Master of Arts in Catholic theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, that she met academic feminism. “And then I got really pissed off,” Kappler says, no longer able to publicly identify with the Catholic Church, and much more solidified as a feminist. In 1989 Kappler left the convent. Ironically, she continued to teach within the Catholic school system. “A job is a good thing, so I kept it,” she says. Now retired, after working part-time as a professor of Catholic theology at Brescia University in London, Ont., Kappler has time to reflect on her journey as a feminist. She stresses the difference between ‘the’ and ‘a’ when it comes to feminism. Kappler believes there are multiple feminisms, aware that her own might be old-fashioned. Despite the inclusivity of today’s feminism, Kappler struggles with the notion that a man can be a feminist. Though she is more open to it than she was ten years ago, she admits that, “everything in me says no,” to the concept. “Male privilege is so engrained and so dominant… can a white person understand the experience of a black person? I can tell myself I do, I can read a lot, I can talk to a lot of black people, but I don’t know what it’s like to be in that skin. I know what it’s like to be in the oppressor’s skin,” she says. No matter how old-fashioned she may think her beliefs are, without feminism, Kappler says she never would have pursued academic training. Feminism changed her. “It gave me an intellectual home and a community of like-minded people, and an analytic framework to understand my experiences.” M
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Pink Ribbons Inc. by Léa Pool
You’ve seen the products. They are ubiquitous – scarves, stuffed animals, kitchen appliances, M&M’s and alcohol, all emblazoned with a pink ribbon. They are for breast cancer. We connect this automatically. Léa Pool’s documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. delves into the campaign to raise money for breast cancer research and shows how the push for pink is all about marketing, and, in some cases -- hypocritical marketing. Beauty products containing carcinogens bear the pink ribbon stamp. Ford’s Warriors in Pink campaign raises money for the cause, despite the fact that environmental factors such as pollution can be linked to cancer. Most despicably, Kentucky Fried Chicken raised money for breast cancer research by selling pink buckets of its unhealthy chicken. One risk factor for the disease is a high-fat diet. Pool juxtaposes the upbeat, cheering, pink-clad women at various Avon walks across the United States with a stage IV breast cancer support group and articulate female talking heads who condemn what the push for breast cancer research has become: in many cases – a money grab. The most striking moments of the film feature this stage IV support group. The women in it say they do not appreciate how the pink ribbon puts a pretty, feminine face on a disease that is anything but. Pool’s film also shares some statistics about breast cancer. One in eight American women will get breast cancer in her lifetime, up dramatically from 1 in 22 in 1940. Doctors still do not know what causes the disease, but the two greatest risk factors are being female and growing older. I have never had breast cancer, but women very close to me have. Perhaps that is why the film made me so emotional – I laughed, I cried, I got angry. But I hope that whether your life has been affected by breast cancer or not, you will not be able to help feeling angry that a disease and the women who suffer from it are being exploited by this “pinkwashing.” One thing is for sure – you will never look at a pink ribbon the same way again.
Family by Micol Ostow
Family by Micol Ostow is the captivating story of 17-year-old Melinda Jensen, who escapes an abusive and unstable home to find that the search for affection and acceptance often comes at a steep price. Set in the late 1960s and based on the Charles Manson murders which made headlines around the world, Melinda’s tale is one of self-discovery and a yearning for love. Melinda is isolated and hungry when she is found on the beach by charming Henry, the novel’s manipulative antagonist. She allows this mysterious older stranger to rescue her. He offers her coffee, a safe home, and most importantly, a family. Together they embark on a road trip to his San Francisco home, where Melinda is introduced to other adolescents—bitter Leila, friendly Shelly, and an all-American boy named Junior. What begins as freedom of sexual expression, a supposed ethical and minimalistic lifestyle, and mutual respect quickly spirals into a cult of hatred, violence, and danger. The novel defies the typical paragraph aesthetic of fiction, instead written in a stream of consciousness, free verse format. The flowing sentences, paired with a difficult subject matter, occasionally make it tough to read. However, Ostow effectively allows the reader to see into Melinda’s broken heart and troubled mind throughout the course of Family.
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By SHANNON CLARKE Writing The Revolution by Michele Landsberg
Growing up Jewish in a mostly Christian Toronto neighbourhood in the 1950s, Michele Landsberg always felt out of place. It was this feeling of otherness and her outstanding talent that landed an otherwise unqualified university grad her first reporting job at the Globe and Mail and eventually a gig as the “woman columnist” at the Toronto Star. Writing the Revolution is a sample of Landsberg’s articles covering the political, social and legal hurdles Canadian women have faced over the last 27 years. This Canadian perspective is a treat for anyone looking for more than a few paragraphs on how the feminist movement here compares to that of the United States. Writing the Revolution is a crash course in both the unique work and plight of women in this country. Readers are introduced (or re-introduced) to women like Dularie Boodlal, Gillian Hadley, failed by both the legal and justice systems and to activists Laura Sabia and Delphi Buchanan – among many others. Landsberg is honest and open about her experience in a mostly male newsroom, covering issues that occasionally made her unpopular. But she also writes about the women who trusted her to speak on their behalf, the beliefs she holds dear and the opinions she shed along the way. Her career has spanned a quarter-century, over 3,000 articles, three major publications, seven honourary degrees and many accolades. The future of feminism, she writes, is certain. Also certain: there will never be anyone quite like her.
By ACEY ROWE Visions by Grimes Clare Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes, makes pop music like a conceptual artist: her thematic concepts are as influential to her sound as her musical style. Born in Vancouver, the 23-year-old musician, producer and artist moved to Montreal in 2006 to study arts and science with a focus in philosophy at McGill University. She dropped out in 2010 to make music full-time and has since toured with Lykke Li and signed to the famed indie label 4AD. Grimes’ latest release, Visions, comes after three albums all released within the past 15 months: Geidi Primes, Halfaxa, and Darkbloom - a split EP with D’Eon. Her music is popularly referred to, and self-described as, ‘postInternet,’ a label which Grimes has now come to detest, but which effectively capture her complex relationship with technology. Grimes is an electronic musician who owns neither a cellphone nor an iPod. In fact, Visions centers around this theme of “era confliction.” Instrumentally, Grimes’ sound is contemporary, drawing on synthesizers, looping, and sampling. Her vocals reflect classical styles, and her concepts are rooted in the distant past. Conceptually, the clearest influence behind Visions is the 12th century German writer, composer, philosopher and nun Hildegard von Bingen, on whom Grimes wrote extensively while attending McGill University. Inspired by Hildegard’s monastic life, Grimes experimented with techniques such as fasting and vision seeking, all while writing the album. Visions is largely based on the work Grimes recorded during these experiments. Even the name of the album references Hildegard’s legendary prophetic visions. The album as a whole is fascinating and better still if the tracks are separated and listened to individually. The ultimate Grimes experience, however, is to see her live because she performs with an ornate delicacy that disguises the technical complexity of her music. Essentially, if you are into simultaneously star-gazing and navel-gazing, dancing with your eyes closed, and feeling like the coolest girl in the room, then Visions is for you. If nothing else, an electronic album influenced by the original singing nun is worth checking out.
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CONFESSIONS AT THE CLUB
christopher rosier 2012
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