TRANSgressing York 3 GaGa: Not Born this Way 7 Rendezvous of Victory 4 De-Gendering Body Parts 9 Judith Butler at IAW 4 Sex: Getting Anything? 9 Family Reunification Program 5 Not Celebrating IWD! 14
Winter Issue 3, 2011
ARTS & CULTURE (19-22)
Response to Bill C389 15 Meaning of Consent 16 Gadaffiâ€™s Mercenaries 17 Global Food Crisis? 18
Black Swan 19 Iranium: A Call to War 20 Creating Spaces 20 Incendies: Lebanon Burned 21
Your Alternative News Magazine at York
Bodies of Identity Issue
Volume 3, Issue 3
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Editorial “If one really thinks about the body as such, there is no possible outline of the body as such.” − Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak The YU Free Press is pleased to introduce our ﬁnal issue of the 2010-11 academic year: ‘Bodies of Identity.’ What is a body? What can a body do? What kinds of relationships do we have with our own bodies and those of others? As the above quote from Gayatri Spivak suggests, there is no body as such that we can successfully conceptualize without prioritizing a particular kind of body, no body that can be represented that is not, at one and the same time, a politicized body. The types of bodies that continue to be the most privileged in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy such as ours are those which reﬂect its dominant ideologies about gender, sexuality, racialization, ability, and class. When it comes to representations of non-normative bodies (and our desire for those bodies) in the culture industry, there is indeed a degree of truth to those who say that we should be celebrating the increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) musicians, actors, and characters. From the enormous support of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, to Degrassi’s introduction of a trans character, to the popularity of shows like Glee, more overt forms of heterosexism appear to have fallen out of fashion in mainstream entertainment. But as Leo Bersani pointed out about America in his 1995 book Homos, the bitterness and hatred expressed toward homosexuals “increased in direct proportion to the wider acceptance of homosexuals” in the public sphere. One need only recall the reason for the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, which was the epidemic of queer teen suicides in the United States.
And the story isn’t much different here. According to a recent survey by Trans PULSE, an estimated 77% of trans people in Ontario have seriously considered suicide, with 43% having attempted suicide. Egale Canada’s major 2009 survey of Canadian high school students, entitled ‘Youth Speak Up about Homophobia and Transphobia,’ found that 75% of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students feel unsafe at school, with 60% of LGBTQ students reporting being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation. In terms of gender, 90% of transgender students, 60% of LGB students, and 30% of straight students report being verbally harassed because of their expression of gender. With a critical eye on bodies and gender assumptions, our Features section brings together a collection of works that challenge oppression and highlight struggle. A number of articles in the section tackle the contested nature of the body directly. In ‘Do You Get Anything from Sex?’, Samantha Walsh makes a public commentary on the intrusion of the private body while also discussing the intersectional identity of women with disabilities. Liam O’Ceallaigh confronts the biological determinism lurking within Lady Gaga’s hit song, Born This Way, through his rebuttal, ‘We Weren’t Born This Way.’ Dean Spade looks to dispel the compulsory gender assignment of body parts, and rejects the notion that binary gender is ‘natural’ in “Purportedly Gendered Body.’ In ‘Penetration: the Hierarchy of sex,’ Andrea Sevigny challenges the prescription of the heterosexual active/passive dichotomy between partners, and disputes the ways in which heteronormative reproductive sexual behaviour often trumps other forms of human connection. Moving from the gendered body to manifestations of injustice and resistance, Daniel Faranda’s ‘Forget
Land, Bodies, Self-Determination (2011) This piece represents our struggle
In our News section, Amy Saunders gives readers an account of the Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association’s (USSA) Second Annual Symposium in ‘TRANSgressing the Boundaries at York,’ where students and activists gathered to discuss their joys, concerns, and curiosities about sexuality and gender. In ‘Rendezvous of Victory,’ Amil Shivji describes the sold-out lecture by Norman Finkelstein that took place at York on Feb. 16, and provides us with an account of Dr. Finkelstein’s views on current developments in the Middle East. On a similar topic, we also feature ‘Judith Butler Speaks During Israeli Apartheid Week’ by Sean Braune, which details renowned American philosopher Judith Butler’s recent visit to Toronto, where she spoke on the cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Our Comments section showcases Lisa Kadey’s article about Bill C-389, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against people based on their gender identity and make
such discrimination a hate crime. Kadey explores the effects of institutional repression and labeling on bodies that are not recognized as ‘normal,’ and questions the reasons behind the vehement opposition to the passing to the bill by some parties. In ‘Rethinking Safety: Sexist Police on York Campus,’ the Centre for Women and Trans People respond to the recent statement by Constable Sanguinetti and construct a community alternative for making safety a reality on our campus. In ‘The Global Food Crisis,’ Jenelle Regnier-Davies offers a critique about the globalization of our food system and examines recent political uprisings within this context. On that note, Troy Dixon speculates about the negative impacts of Gaddaﬁ’s use of Black African mercenaries on the local ‘dark skinned’ population in Libya, and how state propaganda is shaping the lives of future Libyans. In our struggles against capitalism and colonialism, culture has always been one of the most important battle ﬁelds as it is where the hearts and minds of the people lie. Our Arts and Culture section in this issue is dedicated to ﬁlm – one of the most accessible and powerful media of social change. Reviewing three very different ﬁlms – the Hollywood Black Swan, the propagandistic Iranium, and the Canadian saga Incendies – the
articles converge on unpacking the very same notion of violence. In the article ‘Black Swan, Feminism, and Desire,’ Shaunga Tagore refutes the ﬁlm’s idea that violence and desire are interconnected. Vida Setoudeh explicates on how such propaganda ﬁlms as Iranium serve as a call to violence. Victoria Moufawad-Paul courageously tackles the emotionally taxing Incendies about the violence of memory, history, and war. As the rise of capitalism leads to the erosion of public spaces where people can gather to exchange ideas, develop new forms of relationships, put visions into practice, and be free from capitalistic values of consumerism and competition, we are in need more than ever of such cultural/ social/intellectual centres as a women’s centre, a union hall, a gay community centre, a progressive bookstore, or an artist-run centre. Beit Zatoun, a culture and art venue from downtown Toronto, is one such space. We thus also dedicate some of our newspaper space to celebrating Beit Zatoun’s one year anniversary. The YUFP would also like to introduce our newest Editorial Collective members: Gordon Shean, our new Photo editor; and Simon Granovsky-Larsen, our new Features editor. YU Free Press Editorial Collective
Public Statement about Israeli Apartheid Week Room Cancellation at YorkUniversity
Artist: Erin Konsmo Title: Land, Bodies, SelfDetermination
Erin Konsmo is a young Métis Indigenous feminist from Innisfail, Alberta. She is currently the Alberta representative on the National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV/ AIDS and an intern for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. As an Indigenous artist, she focuses on art forms that incorporate traditional knowledge while telling stories of struggle, resistance, selfdetermination, identity, and sexual and reproductive justice. She has a speciﬁc interest in the sociology of compassion and the role of social entrepreneurship in society today. She is currently pursuing her Master’s of Environmental Studies at York University, and works on several projects as a communitybased researcher on HIV/AIDS.
Singing, Just Slushie’ describes recent homophobic attacks in Toronto’s Church-Wellesly Village, and their connection to the musical comedy-drama series, Glee. Anastasia Mandziuk and Christine Hakim express their outrage at the incessant inequalities faced by Canadian women in a critical look at International Women’s Day in ‘What Exactly are we Celebrating?’. Climate Justice Montreal discuss the environmental injustices inherent in capitalism in ‘10 Indigenous Struggles,’ while also highlighting varied forms of community responses across occupied Turtle Island. Finally, Sean Starrs reports back from the streets of Madison, Wisconsin with a photo essay on the creative mobilization against labour restructuring that has brought more people out to the streets – and into the halls of legislative power – than ever before in Wisconsin’s history.
Identity Disorder by Mukti Alamsyah (wikicommons)
Bodies of Identity
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA-York)
as Indigenous Peoples to have self determination not only over our land but also our bodies. Borders put on our land are borders put on our bodies.
Vol. 3, Issue 2
In the article 'The African Liberation Film Guide' by Hadiyya Mwapachu, in the paragraph about Death of a Prophet (1992) and Lumumba (2000), the second last sentence should be 'However, Death of a Prophet depicts Lumumba through a discussion based on multiple perspectives, hence creating a more nuanced representation.'
On Thurs., Mar. 3, 2011, less than one week before the beginning of the Seventh Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the administration of York University informed the IAW organizers of a change to a room booking which had been made over one month in advance. The message from the administration was clear – the room will be cancelled unless the group pays “security fees” to hire police to be present during the event. This decision was based on a Security Assessment by York University. Despite repeated requests from the IAW organizers, York administration refused to explain what the security considerations involved, and did not share any information as to what or who is the source of the security threat. Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA-York), the organizer of the
event, refused to pay the security fees for the following reasons: 1) Accessibility: These fees will put a signiﬁcant strain on the very limited budget of the student group. 2) Unreasonable demand: SAIAYork does not see any need for police presence. IAW activities took place on York campus for the past three years without incident, and there is no basis to believe that this year will be different. This is especially the case given that the three speakers at the event are two professors, one of whom teaches at York, and another is a York student. Furthermore, it is unjust for SAIAYork to be asked to pay to protect itself from harassment done to its members and supporters by outside aggressors.
This last minute condition imposed by York administration is consistent with the recent pattern where Israel Lobby groups pressure educational institutions to raise the costs for holding Palestine advocacy events. Last month, Mohawk College presented a similar condition for allowing a lecture by Dr. Norman Finklestein to proceed as planned on its campus. Unfortunately, by imposing the security fees and putting a price tag on freedom of speech and inquiry, York University has become the most recent institution to use this silencing tactic. This of course comes as no surprise. As demonstrated by a number of incidents in the past, documented by publications and reports, York University’s commitment to freedom of speech is almost always limited when it comes to Palestine.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
News in Brief Evan Johnston
Campaign against Peter Munk On Sun., Mar. 6, members of the ‘Munk Out of UofT’ initiative staged a banner drop at the future home of the Munk School of Global Affairs. Peter Munk, the chairman and founder of the world’s largest gold mining company, Barrick Gold, had his foundation pledge a historic contribution of $35 million to the University of Toronto, which paved the way for the establishment of the Munk School of Global Affairs. The banner, which read “Gang Rape is a Cultural Habit – Peter Munk,” is a statement made by Peter Munk in response to Barrick Gold security personnel being implicated in the gang rape of local women in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. The ‘Munk Out of UofT’ initiative is calling for the cancellation and renegotiation of the contract signed between Munk and the UofT administration, citing growing concerns about the effect the contract might have on academic freedom. Mayor Ford Continues Attack on Public Sector Toronto mayor Rob Ford has appointed Case Ootes as the solo interim director of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) following Ford’s ousting of the previous board of directors. Ootes, a former Imperial Oil executive and deputy mayor under former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, will lead the TCHC until May, and will receive more for his three months leading the TCHC than the board’s former chairman earned in a year, the Toronto Star reports. The move comes following a series of right-wing attacks on public services in Toronto, which includes Ford’s push for the privatization of garbage pick-up, the stripping of the right to strike for TTC workers, and other proposed cuts to bus routes, community programs and emergency shelter services. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) leader John Clarke has described the Ford administration as a “re-run of the Mike Harris agenda.” Canadian Military Spending Highest since WWII According to a new study by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the Canadian military will spend $22.3 billion on
its military forces this year, which represents a 54% increase in spending since Sep. 11, 2001. According to the report, “Twelve years of budget increases have left Canadian military spending higher than at any time since the end of the Second World War.” The report also notes that these numbers are expected to continue to rise, as the Harper government’s 2008 report The Canada First Defense Strategy promised that Canada’s military spending would continue to grow by an average of 0.6% in real terms (adjusted for inﬂation) per year from 2007-08 to 202728. Black Canadians, Immigrants Paid Less than Whites A new study released by Statistics Canada earlier this month conﬁrmed that Black Canadians get paid on average less than white Canadians, revealing a 10% to 15% wage gap between Black and white Canadians. However, the report also looks at visible minority immigrants, and as the Toronto Star notes, “On average, the children of visible minorities earn less than children of Canadian born parents who are not members of a visible minority group... even though they are more likely to live in large centres and have a higher level of education.” Statistics Canada cites the 2008 study done by UofT professor Philip Oreopoulos as part of the reason for why such a disparity exists, which found that job applicants with English-sounding names were much more likely to be called for an interview (all other job and personal characteristics identical) than applicants with non-English sounding names. Earthquake Japan
On Fri., Mar. 11, Japan was struck by a 9-magnitude megathrust earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan’s history. The quake triggered a 10-metre-high tsunami wave that reached as far as 10 km inland in some parts of the country, and has caused great damage to Japan’s infrastructure, including its nuclear plants. Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex – a plant 270 km northeast of Tokyo – shut down when the tremors were felt, which has spurred a
widespread evacuation of the surrounding area. At the date of publication, the Japanese National Police Agency has ofﬁcially conﬁrmed 8,450 deaths, 2,701 injured, and 12,909 people still missing as a result of the ongoing disaster. Elections in Haiti Haitians took to the polls on Sun., Mar. 20, to determine the country’s next president. The two main candidates are Michel Martelly, a 50 year-old pop star who supported the 1991 military coup against the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide; and Mirlande Manigat, a 70 year-old academic. On Fri. Mar. 18, on the eve of the election, Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned home from South Africa where he had been living in exile since the second coup that overthrew his presidency in 2004, which was organized by US. Both Martelly and Manigat claim to welcome Aristide’s return after previously opposing it, which some critics attribute to their desire to appeal to Aristide’s base of support. Final results of the election are not expected until mid-April. Protests, Uprisings Continue in Middle East The uprisings that began last month in Tunisia and Egypt continue to spread and intensify as protesters in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya draw inspiration from the former and push for changes in their own countries. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh ﬁred his cabinet on Mar. 20 amid continuing protests against his rule. The move came after tens of thousands of people attended funerals for dozens of protesters shot dead on Fri., Mar. 18. In Syria, protesters in Deraa set ﬁre to several buildings during the third consecutive day of protests, which follow calls for an end to Syria’s 48 yearold emergency law. The protesters are also calling for the dismissal of government ofﬁcials involved in the crackdown on Mar. 18. In Libya, a US-led coalition of forces began their attacks on Mar. 20 against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaﬁ’s forces. The Pentagon says the US and the UK have ﬁred more than 110 missiles, while French planes struck pro-Gaddaﬁ forces attacking rebel-held Benghazi. Many journalists and activists, including veteran journalist Robert Fisk, have expressed grave concerns over the consequences of the Western intervention, citing fears a long term occupation and an escalation of civilian casualties.
TRANSgressing the Boundaries at York Amy Saunders The room ﬁlled with activists, students, and other individuals interested in expanding their minds and crossing the boundaries of their understandings of the human body and the human experience. A certain buzz and electricity ran through the air and bounced off each individual in their seats in the audience, eagerly awaiting our ﬁrst speaker to begin. Mike Jolly’s artistry seductively hung in the background, depicting femme-male bodies, masculine ideals feminized and sexualized trans and cis-gendered bodies, as the executive members of Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association milled about the room, all dressed in black, indulging in conversation with guest speakers, artists, and guests. Around 6:15 pm on Jan. 26 at the Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Second Annual Symposium, Daniel Faranda took the stage and the room fell silent. With the introduction of our feature guest of the evening, Dr. Bobby Noble, the room ﬁlled with an electric energy.
The evening began with Dr. Bobby Noble discussing the hauntings of cultural and institutional ghosts: “ghosts that act as seething presences that remain invisibilized even as we fetish the hypervisual belief that all that can be seen has been seen…though we have not seen all we can.” Dr. Noble legitimizes trans bodies to be ghosts of bodily rhetoric, always seen as being in the process of becoming or unbecoming and haunting our deﬁnitions of our physical selves. As the room was full of individuals who identify as queer or ‘queering,’ discussing issues of a trans nature seemed a step ahead in the process of the de-gendering of our world. Dr. Noble suggests “it is time we start transing our world – queering our world worked for a while but it has now come time for trans to be a method rather than an identity.” Aniska Ali of LGBTYouthline followed Bobby Noble by opening a conversation about her work at the youth line, which is integral to
CONTINUED ON PAGE 6
The YU Free Press is a free alternative monthly newspaper at York University. Our principal objectives are to challenge the mainstream corporate media model and provide a fundamental space for critical analysis at York University and wider community.
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CONTRIBUTORS Francesca D’Angelo, Sean Braune, Centre for Women and Trans People at York, Climate Justice Montreal, Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians, Troy Dixon, Daniel Faranda, Christine Hakim, Evan Johnston, Lisa Kadey, Katherine Lapointe, Anastasia Mandziuk, Kevin Moloney, Victoria Moufawad-Paul, Liam O’Ceallaigh, Shozab Raza, Jenelle Regnier-Davies, Amy Saunders, Vida Setoudeh, Andrea Sevigny, Amil Shivji, Dean Spade, Sean Starrs, Students Against Israeli Apartheid York, Shaunga Tagore, Samantha Walsh.
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WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Judith Butler Speaks During Israeli Apartheid Week Sean Braune This past Wed., Mar. 9, Berkeley professor Judith Butler spoke at the Bahen Centre at the University of Toronto. Butler, most famous for Gender Trouble – a text which by all accounts has given rise to the ﬁeld of Queer Studies – spoke about the necessity of a one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine crisis. Butler herself identiﬁes as Jewish, which lends her pro-Palestinian stance even more credence and credibility, precisely because she denies that to be pro-Palestinian is to be anti-Semitic. On the contrary, she correctly points out that international human rights can be partially attributed to the Jews after the Nuremberg trials, leading her to suggest that to be Jewish is to be in support of international human rights and the ethical treatment of refugees. Therefore to be in support of Israel (a country that repeatedly ignores international law and engages in the usurpation of Palestinian lands) is to be antiSemitic. This is not Butlerian sleight of hand; rather, she strongly supports The Universal Declaration of Human Rights put in place by the United Nations in 1948. She supports the “law of refugee status,” according to which any ethnic group that has an Aboriginal land claim has the right to return to that land. This perspective is the Jewishness to which Butler subscribes, leading her to conclude
“[S]he correctly points out that international human rights can be partially attributed to the Jews after the Nuremberg trials, leading her to suggest that to be Jewish is to be in support of international human rights and the ethical treatment of refugees.”
that to not support international human rights (including the rights of the Jews and the Palestinians) is to be anti-Semitic. The conﬂict itself, she humorously pointed out, is constructed as a “football game” where each side is easily demarcated and divided. She repeatedly argued that the truth of the situation is far more complex. She spoke of pro-Palestinian groups within Israel and of the Palestinian intellectuals and professors who have been refused travel.
The solution that she was carefully suggesting was to support the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) whereby there is a public boycott of the companies that manufacture weapons that contribute to the killing of Palestinians, a public divestment of the support of these companies (such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, HewlettPackard, and BAE Systems), and ﬁnally sanctions against Israel so that a bi-nationalism can slowly be created.
Butler pointed out that she has some reticence with the term ‘binational’ and is trying to ﬁnd a better word for the one-state solution. She pointed out that whenever a border is created there has been an occurrence of “illegal land conﬁscation.” Further, the border created by Israel is famously malleable (after the expansion in 1967), which delegitimizes the purpose of a border. Butler suggested that the border itself reinforces a relationship of complementarity with the Palestinians based on the logic of a neighbourly relation. The Palestinians and Israelis are neighbours, and she suggested that the border does nothing but reinforce a connection with the Palestinians rather than a dispossession, which is what the border was initially meant to accomplish.
Judith Butler, Berkeley professor, speaks at IAW event.
The audience itself responded very warmly to Professor Butler’s talk, and the show of support was quite large – many waited in line for three to four hours to get into the venue. The overall atmosphere of the event was that of a rock concert where the audience began to get
annoyed by the lengthy delay: the talk was supposed to start at seven pm, but did not start until 7:45 or so due to technical issues relating to the crowdedness in the room. The lack of overhead projection, slides, or any kind of visual aid gave the talk the tonality of a
political manifesto. Butler’s calm and compelling delivery captivated the audience, and one can only hope that the atmosphere of her manifesto that ﬁlled the room that night continues to inspire us all to reach toward human rights for both the Palestinians and Israelis.
So the question is why is Israel so scared of a new Egypt? Contrary to many of the rumors in the media, it is not an attack that Israel is afraid of (since they have clearly demonstrated their capability in warfare) but it is a leader who shall lead the people to an independent, self-determined, modern, Muslim Arab world. This will disable the war option that Israel fully depends on, since the Arab masses and the new Egyptian leaders will not accept it. According to El-Baradhei, who is a potential candidate for Egyptian President, days before the revolution he called an Arab audience in a theatre ‘dead souls.’ But after witnessing the demonstrations, he retracted his statement and joined in on the protests. On an end note, Finkelstein quoted the late Professor Edward Said: “there is room for all at the rendezvous of victory,” but you have to be reasonable, Finkelstein added. Even a Zionist should ﬁnd it unreasonable that children in Gaza have to sleep hungry at night.
club was expecting disruptions and protests (the Zionist lobby attempted to shut down Dr. Finkelstein’s event in Hamilton, and petitions against York’s event were distributed), the talk went smoothly. In response to why MESA chose to host Finkelstein, Rizvi emphasized the importance of bringing awareness to the York community regarding the Middle East. MESA recognizes the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and believed that Dr. Finkelstein, “who can relate ﬁrsthand to what inhumanity and evil is and share it with our fellow York students,” would be the ideal person to talk about the conﬂict. Rizvi highlighted that MESA’s ultimate goal is unity and he felt that was achieved after seeing a full auditorium where “people of all identities sit in one room listen to one speaker under the banner of MESA.” Rizvi said that York should expect more from the club including a rally in solidarity with the people of Libya, Bahrain, and Algeria next week.
Rendezvous of Victory Amil Shivji
On Feb. 16, Dr. Norman Finkelstein was at York University giving a talk about the Israel-Palestine conﬂict and the Muslim world. The talk was well attended, having all 500 tickets sold out. The event was hosted by ISAYU (Iranian Students Association at York University) and MESA (Middle Eastern Student Association). The talk was supervised by CJPME (Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East), who initially approached MESA to host the talk at York University. Dr. Finkelstein, whose own parents were holocaust survivors, arrived to a standing ovation and after a few words from the organizers he began his talk. He addressed four issues in different degrees of depth: the occupation of Gaza, the attack on Mavi Marmara, Lebanon, and the prospects of a new Egypt. His talk about Gaza was similar to what he has already been saying at other talks since the Gaza massacre in Jan. 2009. What was interesting however was the insecurity factor that Dr. Finkelstein suggested Israel is facing after losing to Hezbollah twice (once in May 2000 and again in Jul. 2006). He said that the reason Israel’s offensive measures against Gaza were so brutal was so that they could show the world their strength. Their decapitation of Gaza served as a reminder to the Arab world of what Israel is capable of. Statements from Israeli soldiers that can be accessed online
“On an end note, Finkelstein quoted the late Professor Edward Said: “there is room for all at the rendezvous of victory,” but you have to be reasonable, Finkelstein added. Even a Zionist should ﬁnd it unreasonable that children in Gaza have to sleep hungry at night.”
have similar conclusions: “Israel used [unreasonable] amounts of ﬁrepower in Gaza” and not a single battle was actually fought during the massacre; there was no war. Regarding the Mavi Marmara, Dr. Finkelstein started by calling the Gaza blockade illegal according to international law, since it is a form of collective punishment. He also referred back to his point about Israel’s succession of defeats, since they used army helicopters, live ammunition, and commandos against passengers armed with “knives, ﬁre axes, slingshots, and glass marbles.” Finkelstein highlighted the obvious hypocrisy in the Israeli reports on the ﬂotilla attack and suggested that their need to restore their ‘prestige’ is at an even greater point now – hence the re-branding campaign. Dr. Finkelstein did not talk much about Lebanon, though he did mention that Hezbollah (Party of God) is prepared for a war with Israel. Israel constantly warns of war with the Party of God, though
Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said that they will ﬁght if they have to and they will win. Finkelstein suggested a possible collaboration with Iran and Syria against Israel and possibly America. However, the collaboration with Iran and Syria would be more out of fear of being the next target, rather than out of solidarity. Dr. Finkelstein began with a few historical facts about Egypt starting from the desire of the Egyptian ofﬁcers to modernize Egypt in the 1950s. Sadat, The Egyptian President before Mubarak, only consented to sign a peace treaty with Israel if Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula. Israel did not accept this; even though Sadat warned of war with Israel, for two years he did not do anything. Then, in 1973, Egypt and Syria joined forces to attack Israel, but ended up losing the war. A peace treaty was ﬁnally signed in 1979 in which both countries (Egypt and Israel) recognized each other and Israel gave up the Sinai Peninsula.
Marcus McCann (Xtra!)
The Q&A section was interesting, though due to a lack of time only a handful of questions were asked. Krisna Saravanamuttu, YFS (York Federation of Students) President, was one of the students in line to ask a question. After thanking Dr. Finkelstein for coming and giving a great talk, he asked about how to address the ‘anti-Semite’ label for any pro-Palestinian activism. The response was succinct – there has to be international solidarity whatever the case. Shawn Rizvi, president of MESA, was very pleased with the turnout at the event, and even though the
Miguel de Icaza (Wikimedia)
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Unraveling the Hypocrisy of Canada’s Family Reuniﬁcation Program Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians The Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians (CPFC), a national alliance of Filipino Canadian workers, women, and youth organizations, is not surprised with the announcement on the increase in immigrant visas approved by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2010, numbering 280,636, as well as with the CIC’s announcement to cut-back on visa approval for family sponsorship and skilled workers categories. The increase in visa approval for one immigration class and the decrease in another has been a regular practice at CIC in order to ensure that the numbers of immigrants coming into the country does not exceed their limit or quota for each year. Indeed, while Canada may appear to have opened its immigration doors for immigrant applicants in 2010, it has simultaneously closed and slammed any opportunity for immigrant families in Canada to genuinely settle and integrate by hindering their reuniﬁcation with other members of their families, particularly with their parents and grandparents. Minister Kenney’s honest admission at the House of Commons that “we need more newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to our health-care system” is a concrete revelation that Canada’s immigration policies are tailored to meet the labour demands of the country. Canada’s immigration doors are kept open only to those who will directly contribute to the country’s economic and social growth, keeping it consistent with its immigration history where immigrant and racialized communities remain welcome as long as they are deemed to be economic assets, and as long as they remain to be part of the country’s reserve army of cheap labour. CIC’s statement that visa approval for family sponsorship, particularly for parents and grandparents of immigrant families, will be decreased in the coming years, is a clear message that, even though Canada is in dire need of workers who will provide cheap and proﬁtable labour, it will carefully select and deny applicants who are a burden in the country’s economic and healthcare systems. Hence, despite the fact that the majority of immigrant and racialized families have relied on the help of parents and grandparents to provide childcare for their family members, and to some extent, to other members of the community, their contributions in Canadian society are not recognized as signiﬁcant, painting them, simply, as a group that will drain the country’s resources. With the population of Filipino Canadians close to over half a million, our community has contributed and continues to contribute to the economic and social growth of the country for nearly 40 years. Bryan Taguba, a member of SIKLAB Canada, a Filipino Canadian worker’s
organization, and the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC/ FCYA), asserts: “our community’s struggles for economic survival have left both parents to work longer and to take on numerous jobs in order to make ends meet. As a result, our families have turned to our grandparents for help in providing childcare and in helping maintain the household.” Coming from the concrete experience of the Filipino Canadian community, CPFC strongly contends that when families are struggling economically, as most immigrant families are, putting kids in daycare centres has never been considered an option because of its high cost and also because most immigrant parents do not have the regular eight am to ﬁve pm work shifts. CPFC further asserts that CIC’s move to limit family sponsorship is another step in putting up structural barriers in the settlement and integration of immigrant and racialized communities. Cecilia Diocson, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), states: “it is a known fact that for the majority of newly-arrived families in Canada, both parents have to work. It is also a known fact that Canada does not have and refuses to implement a universal childcare program that will beneﬁt all families in Canada. Therefore, the presence of parents and grandparents bring signiﬁcant support and contributions to immigrant families - ﬁnancially, culturally and socially. For CIC to deny these important contributions is a major blow to the future of all immigrant communities in this country.” As such, contrary to CIC’s statement alluding that the approval of parents and grandparents of immigrant families will pose a burden to the economic and health-care systems of Canada, the move to increase the denial of family sponsorship applications is an outright attack to the efforts of these families to genuinely settle, integrate, and fully participate into the Canadian society. CPFC maintains that the announcement that family sponsorship of parents and grandparents will not be in CIC’s priority list, unravels the hypocrisy of its own reuniﬁcation program. Diocson contends that “it is hypocritical that the Conservative government talks about family values in its political platform, but when it concerns immigrant families, preserving family values and immigrants’ desire to reunite with immediate family members becomes of no importance.” Kenney’s mandate to cut-down visa approval of this particular group of people is a clear indication that CIC is not genuine in its efforts to implement its own program of family reuniﬁcation. Instead, it serves as the very institution that promotes family separation, further perpetuating its negative impacts and leaving immigrant communities to deal with them.
“Canada’s immigration doors are kept open only to those who will directly contribute to the country’s economic and social growth, keeping it consistent with its immigration history where immigrant and racialized communities remain welcome as long as they are deemed to be economic assets, and as long as they remain to be part of the country’s reserve army of cheap labour.”
Thus, as Canada, through CIC, continues to implement its neoliberal agenda of privatization, liberalization, and deregulation, we, at CPFC, will continue to expose the hypocrisy of the current Conservative government. We will remain steadfast in opposing the ongoing backlash on marginalized and racialized communities in Canada that strip us of our full participation and entitlement in Canadian society. We are also determined to remain vigilant against the implementation of neoliberal policies that will, further, push the working-class people in Canada at the very end of the economic margin.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Anti-Berlusconi Protest in Italy: Citizens Tired of Premier’s Antics take to Streets in Bologna Francesca D’Angelo “Scendiamo in piazza” (roughly, take to the streets) was one of the many slogans chanted by the thousands of participants and repeated by the host speakers at the protest for the dignity of women, ‘Se non ora quando?’ (meaning, if not now, when?), in Bologna, Italy. And Piazza XX Settembre, located near the Bologna Train and Bus Station, is where the multitude of women and men of all ages gathered with their families, friends, parents, children, and from all social groups, like the arcilesbiche of Bologna, to begin their march for the dignity of women. The march was set to begin in Piazza XX Settembre and was expected to run a course of roughly 2 km, to conclude again in Piazza. The march was to avoid Piazza Maggiore as clearance was not granted to enter the square. But by a divine stroke, police barricades magically lifted on Via Marconi, and we strode with ease right up to Via Ugo Bassi and then made our way into Piazza Maggiore. The host speakers set themselves up right on the steps of San Petronio. It was a mystical experience.
“BASTA” (stop) was another one of the many slogans waved on the ﬂags in piazza on Sunday. Many of the slogans were political satires, listing names of politicians who were also accused of political abuses. And there were numerous more, carried by both young and elderly women and men, loaded with sexual undertones aimed at the Premier’s own sexual exploits in his infamous Bunga Bunga room.
mandate did not leave the pulpit. We immediately began taking steps altogether. People chanted “vergogna” and “dimissioni” (shame and resignation, respectively) echoing the protests begun on Sat., Feb. 5 in the hopes that the Premier would hear the plea and resign. The dimissioni campaign launched by Libertà e Giustizia, at the Palasharp in Milan, gathered important representatives from all over Italy to reﬂect on the current state of political affairs. The slogan for the campaign was, “dimettiti, per un Italia libera e giusta” (which means, roughly, resign for a free and fair Italy). The program was aired the whole weekend on Repubblica TV. The protest continued through the week and maintained its momentum throughout the demonstration of women this past Sunday. It seems as if Gianfranco Fini, Presidente della Camera, may have heard the protesters’ cries as well when, during his own campaign convention, he dared the Premier to resign and that he too would join him.
“The march was without a doubt a political request, as all the people gathered to protest against Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s relentless abuses of political authority and abuses against the dignity of women.”
It was made clear by organizers and reiterated at the beginning of the demonstration that there was to be “no bandiere di partito” – this rally was clearly not meant to be a political campaign. But, the march was without a doubt a political request, as all the people gathered to protest against Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s relentless abuses of political authority and abuses against the dignity of women. The campaign got underway near the beginning of February, when the
The demonstration got off to a bit of a rough start, as the organizers had planned for all the women to walk together ahead of the line, and for all male supporters to walk immediately behind. There was a bit of tension as the crowd began shouting, “We already begin divided. We are one. We walk together. In ’68 we walked together. In labour strikes we walk together…” An elderly frustrated husband shouted out, “Let us just get on with it. If we already begin voicing objections, we will never get in to parliament this way... Let us recognize the effort of the organizers and strive to stay united in whatever way.” That seemed to have settled it. The organizers also stood strong on their point, but this
TRANSgressing CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3 the LGBT community in Toronto and at large in Canada. Being a part of such an important organization, Aniska voiced her passion for her job, frustration with the systems of oppression she works tirelessly to eradicate, and her hope for a homophobic-free future. Dan Vena suggested the audience re-organize their thoughts and conceptions about gender representation, offering critical insight into Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Dan set out to perverse ideas of femininity through the investigation of the character of Alice by asking “how is the androgynous hero articulated in the ﬁlm?” and, “how does this add or effect cinematic representations of queer culture and spectatorship?” Last, but most certainly not least, Queen’s University’s own Molle Dorst, also known as Billie Rector, the public speaker, poet, spoken word artist, fat activist, feminist, and public nudist extraordinaire dazzled the crowd with her intense
and in-your-face nude activism. Her thin black panties lined with markers, Molle asked the audience to write and grafﬁti her body. Audience members wrote words such as ‘butch,’ ‘human,’ ‘woman,’ ‘whore’ all over Molle’s naked, beautiful body. Molle discussed the words in relation to her body and the inscriptions we as citizens and as a whole society place on the bodies of other individuals, whether fat, female, lesbian, or other. With the stains of a pleasurable experience at TRANSgressing the Boundaries, still fresh in the minds of York U’s memories of
Maurizio Cevenini, Regional Councilor of Bologna, was present at the demonstration and in my personal interview with him he noted that “the demonstration is particularly important because it is a call for democracy. This is a demonstration promoted primarily by women for women, but it is also to reclaim a new road that we are all looking for. It is not exclusively directed to a Presidente del Consiglio that has lost credibility, but it is to establish a new start for our country.” A young couple held
Roberto Gimmi Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi their daughter up high with a sign, “Mia ﬁglia NO!” (my daughter, no). One female protester wore an Italian ﬂag on her back with the inscription from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto VI: Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello, nave sanza nocchiere in gran tempesta, non donna di province, ma bordello! (Ah slavish Italy! thou inn of grief, Vessel without a pilot in loud storm, Lady no longer of fair provinces, But brothel-house impure!)
the demonstration meant for her the possibility to say in public what many think in private, which is that Italy is not this! The demonstration ended with a chorus of women singing traditional folk songs, ﬁlled with tears, laughter, and a multitude of people dancing. For a period of four hours, the women, men, and children took over Piazza Maggiore, sono davvero scesi in Piazza!
With tears in her eyes she said that
desire, USSA’s Second Annual Sexuality Studies Symposium was an intimate success, working as a launching pad for discussions around sexuality and trans issues, queerings of gender identity, and a great source of companionship within a tight-knit and very special community. From the bottom of our hard-working, tired hearts and our moist, delicate panties, the executive team of USSA would like to thank you for embracing us in the York community and supporting us with your love, skilful tongue, and ever-lustful political activity.
What will you do now?
Amy Saunders is the Director of Communications for the Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association. www.freeimages.co.uk
now famous Ruby case exploded in the media. Women responded with numerous appeals. They had enough. And on Sunday, their collective spirit spread through all the major cities in Italy and the world.
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WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
We Weren’t Born This Way: A Critique of Lady GaGa and the Politics of Biological Determinism
his February at the 2011 Grammy Awards, Lady GaGa (Stefani Germanotta) began promoting her new album and single, Born This Way. She arrived at the Grammys carried in an egg by horned slaves/servants atop a cruciﬁx-like contraption. Musical talent and performance at the Grammys aside, there is a gigantic problem with someone who claims to be on the side of social justice stating that we are all just “born this way.” This isn’t a small issue; culture matters should not be beyond our criticism. The song is already the fastest selling single in iTunes history. If you check out the Born This Way hashtag on Twitter (#BornThisWay), there have been nonstop posts by excited fans literally every couple of seconds for weeks. The criticism outlined in this piece is straightforward: rather than merely being “born this way,” differences in human identity are largely the result of environment, socialization, and choice. I argue that what is called ‘biological determinism’ is dangerous and should be rejected, while the politics of social construction and choice is vital for human freedom and must be defended.
Ideas and Theory Matter Lady GaGa claims to be a supporter of LGBT equality. Though her recent actions cast this into doubt (e.g. participating in an advertising campaign for the anti-gay, antiimmigrant, union-busting US corporate giant Target), anyone who knows her work knows she at least makes the claim. It’s obviously positive when an artist or public ﬁgure claims to have fairly progressive ideas and is vocal about them. But while intentions matter (and I’m sure, if we ignore the desire to make a ton of money, Lady GaGa had good intentions in making the song), the primary issue we should always focus on is the message that is being conveyed, the actions that someone has taken, and any resulting implications. This article focuses on the central position, which is now being blasted through millions of speakers around the world, that people are born a given way and that’s just how it is.
Though people who think it conveys a message that afﬁrms sexual diversity are praising the song, Born This Way is about a lot more than sexuality. It also talks about class, race, and gender, and it implies that we are born a particular way in relation to a bunch of different human attributes. Why does this matter? If we are really interested in social justice, then truth and the pursuit of knowledge are things that matter. Ideas matter. Theory matters. Incorrect ideas matter too. Ideas aren’t neutral. They have implications for how we organize ourselves and whether we think changing society is even possible in the ﬁrst place. Songs and culture aren’t neutral either. It can’t be considered ‘just a song,’ especially when it is heard and memorized and repeated by millions of fans and non-fans alike. Ideas and culture are weapons in the struggle for freedom and selfdetermination. We should treat
them as such. We Weren’t “Born This Way” “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” – Karl Marx, Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy Although I understand the comfort
“born this way,” then racial, gender, sexual, and religious differences are innate and immutable. This is in contrast to the view that our consciousness is socially determined and constructed by our environments and by the systems of power in which we are raised. Biology deﬁnitely determines the outer limits of how our (unaltered) bodies can work; there is deﬁnitely a human nature in the broadest sense of the word. Humans aren’t rocks, and neither are we pigeons. There’s a human nature just like there is a pigeon nature, as a good friend of mine likes to say. But most often the term human nature is used in an extremely narrow fashion to justify the most horriﬁc and reactionary forms of exploitative, oppressive, and hierarchical systems of power. Similarly, the biology of an individual is most often abstracted from the social ecology in which it dwells. You can’t have biological beings like
“All of the supposed determined-atbirth attributes mentioned in Born This Way aren’t actually determined-at-birth or ﬁxed at all, and we should reject the notion that they are” in thinking you were “born this way” – especially in a society that condemns our choices and makes the idea that you were “born this way” seem a deﬁant and righteous defense – we should reject the politics of biological determinism, the notion that our biology is the primary factor determining differences between individual human beings. In short, if we were
humans without their social and ecological environments, and it is almost never useful to ignore the interrelation between the individual and the social or ecological or to try to understand the biology of an individual organism in isolation from its surroundings. To consider even human biology immutable is to profoundly misunderstand biological entities and systems. Using biology either as a reactionary excuse to limit freedom or as a liberal defense against reactionary moralization constitute what I mean by biological determinism. Many people have defended biologically-determined sexuality. Though it is true that feelings of attraction have physiological pathways, it is simply ridiculous to then make the logical jump that sexuality is naturally and wholly one way or another. Take the high rates of same-race sexual and romantic relationships. Is this ‘natural?’ Were we just “born that way?” Were we born to be attracted to people wearing pants rather than dresses, or vice versa? Is pink naturally more attractive than blue? It isn’t that Lady GaGa is saying any of these things, but rather that her song will be used to apologize for all these pre-existing notions by millions of people. “Cause baby I was born this way” will be used as an excuse for all manner of backwards and reactionary ideas and will only serve to reinforce oppression and domination. Which way were we born, exactly? Are people born gay, bi, or straight, but not homophobic? Are they born male or female, but not sexist or anti-sexist? What norm exactly are we to agree is determined by biologically and what are we to agree is determined socially? Why are the former things (sexuality and gender) inherent while the latter (homophobia and sexism) are molded through upbringing and environment? Moreover it just isn’t true that we are born male or female. We are socialized into those gender roles – babies aren’t born wearing pink rather than blue or pants rather than dresses. Those labels change across history, geography, and cultures. As gender is an important part of how people deﬁne sexual attraction (and whether they believe that attraction is ﬁxed by birth, or ﬂuid by choice and circumstance), the resulting sexuality isn’t ﬁxed or biologically determined either. They are both forged by the material conditions in which we are raised and the
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WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Challenging the Hierarchy of sex Andréa Sévigny
f losing your virginity were based on the pleasure or the orgasm obtained during your sexual interactions, the world would be a much better place.
the love that happens between two or more individuals. As in the well known analogy of ﬁrst, second, third, and home base…you only really score when you copulate.
With the number of things that enter and exit a woman’s vagina, why is it that a man’s junk is the only thing that can take away the grandiose title of virgin? Fingers and dildos (god knows that these come in ridiculous sizes) have the potential of being more pleasurable than an underdeveloped or inexperienced boyfriend.
Even as a lesbian, one cannot escape the discourse around sex that saturates the relations within the community. Gold star – you haven’t lost your virginity to a man; platinum star – you haven’t touched or seen a penis (apparently a huge honour). This star system reinforces the dichotomy between heterosexual and homosexual behaviors, consolidating them as opposite sexualities. It smoothes over the differences in human sexualities asserting that you can only be either one or the other. As Foucault says in his History of Sexuality, “sex is placed in a binary system: licit and illicit, permitted and forbidden” and ﬁxes your sexuality as unchanging: straight or gay, white or black, good or bad.
The fact is that penis/vagina intercourse is categorized as superior to other sexual acts; it is the tip of the pyramid on the heteronormative hierarchy of sexual behavior (which values phallic power and reproductive sex over recreational sex). In this regard, any other form of sex or love is discredited as secondary to the ultimate reproductive act that takes away virginity (and innocence) through penetration. It disavows foreplay, the teasing, and
choices we make, and both change over time and in different historical circumstances deﬁned by different social systems. Even sex, which is often deﬁned in biological terms, isn’t a binary or ﬁxed category nor can it be limited to differences in genitals, hormones, etc. Intersex individuals who are born with the physical features of more than one sex defy such categories, as do transgender individuals. Anyone who knows the history of race relations in the United States knows how racial categories were artiﬁcially created to divide the working class and to put down cross-ethnic working class rebellions. All of the supposed determined-at-birth attributes mentioned in Born This Way aren’t actually determined-at-birth or ﬁxed at all, and we should reject the notion that they are. While some argue that it is more defensible to claim that people are born gay, etc. than to say people are born into other identities (speciﬁcally in the context of rightwing moralistic attacks), Lady GaGa’s song isn’t just talking about
sexuality. For example, the line in her song which says “whether you’re broke or evergreen” is followed a few lines later by “rejoice and love yourself today cause baby you were born this way.” This is a profoundly backwards apology for class inequality. Yes, some people are born poor while others are born rich, but to say that’s ‘just how it is’ “cause god makes no mistakes” only serves to re-enforce the hegemony of the ruling, capitalist class. Anti-racist educator Tim Wise once criticized the bumper sticker “shit happens,” pointing out that “shit doesn’t just happen…shit gets done. By people, to people.” Things happen for a reason. Some people are rich because others are poor. Some people are ‘underprivileged’ because others are overprivileged. We weren’t “born this way.” We should reject claims that we were.
The Dangers Inherent Biological Determinism
feel the need to hump one another, while lesbians strap on dildos to imitate heterosexual intercourse. So why is it that subcultures of gays and lesbians feel the need to imitate and thus integrate themselves into the system that persecuted and marginalized them for so long? To me, it is disquieting that they seek to ‘break free’ through inclusion such as law making, marriage, and adoption. This phenomenon not only seeks to imitate the valourized heterosexual lifestyle, but also breaks ties with other marginalized sexualities. In trying to imitate appropriate citizenship (through family-orientated lifestyles), they erase the voices of those who refuse to follow this model of gender and sexual normativity; individuals such as queer and trans folk, S&M lovers and those who embrace fetishes.
“...any other form of sex or love is discredited as secondary to the ultimate reproductive act that takes away virginity (and innocence) through penetration”
We Weren’t Born This Way CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7
Even if gays and lesbians are considered perverted and so excluded from heteronormativity, they are not necessarily protected from their own systems of values. Hierarchies of sexual behavior
The idea that we were all born “this way” isn’t a neutral idea in a society that is infected with
within queer communities do exist and are arranged around normative coitus – indicating that the highest level of intimacy can only be achieved through phallic penetration (although it does not award the same degree of respect as the biological/traditional male and female union). It encourages the gender performance of heterosexual alliances and creates unequal power dynamics between ‘tops’ (penetrator) and ‘bottoms’ (penetrated) partners. Therefore, many, although not all, gay men
“Our consciousness is socially constructed by our environments and by the systems of power we are raised, but Lady GaGa’s Born This Way will only serve to reinforce oppression”
bourgeois and oppressive ideology: nationalism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, heterosexism, rigid, and binary notions of gender, false class consciousness, Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, sexism, and so on, all run rampant.
example, whatever Lady GaGa’s intention, the imagery she used at the Grammy Awards is identical to popular imagery of servants and slaves carrying rulers, monarchs, and popes. There’s nothing progressive about this sort of imagery.
Were racists “born that way?” Were misogynists “born that way?” Were homophobes “born that way?” It doesn’t take much thought to see the extreme danger in this line of thinking.
Defending Choice Determination
One fan commented that Lady GaGa wouldn’t defend the notion that misogynists, homophobes, racists, and the like were “born this way.” That’s great. I would hope not. But that isn’t what I’m saying here. Lady GaGa isn’t present for the millions of conversations that happen every day to explain what she ‘really means.’ That’s the job of people interested in social justice through the processes of education and consciousness raising. It is also important to point out that even when someone does not explicitly support oppressive or exploitative ideas, their actions can still serve to uphold them. For
“We need a sexual politics that defends the freedom to choose… not a sexual politics that deﬁnes us as powerless and without the freedom to explore and choose.” – Lonnie L. A good friend pointed out that he was brought to tears when he heard Lady GaGa’s song being blasted in his hometown. Others have made similar comments. Hearing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people being positively afﬁrmed on the airwaves and through music is deﬁnitely something that should be celebrated. None of the above is meant to diminish that, nor is it meant to say people can’t use “I was born this way” as a defense. People have the right to defend themselves
Therefore I suggest that instead of privatizing our bodies into reproductive machines, we must recognize the ﬂuidity of our bodies and embrace all forms of love or lust. This requires the abolition of the status of virgin that not only gives an unrealistic duality to sex acts but is also misleading in terms of sexual infections and transmission. We must also examine the relationship standards that prescribe a heterosexual active/passive dichotomy between partners, and work toward a higher calling than penetrative sexual acts that entail power dynamics. All inhabitants of this world, of all sexualities, must work together in dismantling institutions such as marriage, adoption, laws, etc., that create the need to accord more importance to reproductive sexual behaviors than other forms of human connection. Andréa Sévigny is the External Director of Communications, Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association.
in any way they see ﬁt, so long as they don’t do other immoral things in the process. The right of self-defense is a fundamental right: everything from people denying their sexuality to people violently defending themselves against bigots, are all morally justiﬁed options in an oppressive and exploitative society. We don’t get to deﬁne the rules of the game, and under the currently acceptable standards of right and wrong these are all acceptable options. On another note, we should recognize who opened up the space for Lady GaGa to be able to get this song on the airwaves in the ﬁrst place: the multi-million person LGBTI and women’s equality and liberation movements. If we are interested in a long-haul struggle to eventually end the systems of oppression that cause our suffering – if we are interested in overthrowing the capitalist order – then we need large numbers of people to unite around questions of where oppression comes from and how to stop it. Rejecting biological determinism and the notion that we are just “born this way…cause god makes no mistakes” is one step in that process. Liam O’Ceallaigh is a socialist organizer, activist, and writer from New York. His writings can be found on his website, Diary of a Walking Butterﬂy (www. walkingbutterﬂy.com). He can be reached at butterﬂywalking@ gmail.com.
About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts pathologize bodies that defy those norms.
have been thinking about how much I would like it if people, especially health practitioners, exercise instructors, and others who talk about bodies a lot, would adjust their language about body parts that is heavily associated with gender norms. Lots of people who identify as feminists and allies to trans people still use terms like ‘female-bodied,’ ’male body parts,’ ‘bio-boy,’and ’biologically female.’ Even in spaces where people have gained some basic skills around respecting pronoun preferences, suggesting an increasing desire to support gender selfdetermination and release certain expectations related to gender norms, I still hear language used that asserts a belief in constructions of ‘biological gender.’ From my understanding, a central endeavor of feminist, queer, and trans activists has been to dismantle the cultural ideologies, and social and legal norms that say that certain body parts determine gender identity and gendered social characteristics and roles. We’ve fought against the idea that the presence of uteruses or ovaries or penises should be understood to determine such things as people’s intelligence, proper parental roles, proper physical appearance, proper gender identity, proper labour roles, proper sexual partners and activities, and capacity to make decisions. We’ve opposed medical and scientiﬁc assertions that afﬁrm the purported health of traditional gender roles and activities and
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
As feminists and trans allies, we continue to work to dispel myths that body parts somehow make us who we are (and make us ‘less than’ or ‘better than,’ depending on which we may have). But feminists and trans allies sometimes (often inadvertently) prop up these sexist and transphobic ideas just by using language that is shaped by biological determinism. I have heard language used by many smart trans people and allies that I would like to suggest as an alternative to language that is invested in the myth of biological binary gender:
during this procedure.” 2) The term ‘internal reproductive organs’ can be a useful way to talk generally about ovaries, uteruses, and the like without calling them ‘female reproductive organs.’ Example: “The doctor might think it is necessary to have some ultrasounds of the internal reproductive organs to ﬁnd out more about what is causing the pain.” 3) We can use ‘people who menstruate’ or ‘people who are pregnant’ or ‘people who produce sperm’ or other terms like these rather than using ‘male,’ ‘female,’ or ‘pregnant women’ as a proxy for these statuses. In this way we get rid of the assumptions that all people who identify as a particular gender have the same kind of body or do the same things with their bodies, as well as the mistaken belief that if your body has/does that thing it is a particular gender. Examples: “This exercise is not recommended for people who are menstruating.” “People who are trying to become pregnant should not take this medication.” “People who produce sperm should be warned that this procedure could affect their fertility.”
“Our bodies have varying parts, but it is socialization that assigns our body parts gendered meaning” 1) We can talk about uteruses, ovaries, penises, vulvas, etc. with speciﬁcity without assigning these parts a gender. Rather than saying things like ‘male body parts,’ ‘female bodies,’ or ‘male bodies’ we can say the thing we are probably trying to say more directly, such as ‘bodies with penises,’ ‘bodies with uteruses,’ ‘people with ovaries,’ and skip the assumption that those body parts correlate with a gender. Examples: “Unfortunately the anatomical drawings in this book only represent bodies with penises and testicles, but I think this picture can still help you get a sense of how the abdominal muscle is shaped.” “People with testicles may ﬁnd this exercise easier with this adjustment.” “Some people may feel a sensation in the ovaries
4) When we want to talk about someone and indicate that they are not trans, we can say ‘not trans’ or ‘non-trans’ or ‘cisgender’ rather than ‘biologically male,’ or ‘bio boy,’ or ‘bio girl.’ When we talk about someone trans we should identify them by their current gender, and if we need to refer to their assigned gender at birth
we could say they were ‘assigned male’ or ‘assigned female’ rather than that they are ‘biologically male’ or ‘biologically female.’ These ‘bio’ terms reproduce the oppressive logic that our bodies have some purported biological gendered truth in them, separate from our social gender role. Our bodies have varying parts, but it is Kenji-Baptiste socialization that assigns our body Socialization assigns our body parts a gendered parts gendered meaning meaning. If we know we’re going to be talking about bodies, taking the adjectives ‘male’ and ‘female’ or ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ out of our vocabularies for describing body parts or systems can help us avoid alienating or offending the people we are talking to. This may help improve access to whatever we are offering for people who are often alienated from much needed health services. As we all know, lots of people’s bodies do not ﬁt the rigid story about ‘biological sex,’ including trans people, genderqueer people, people with intersex conditions, people who cannot or choose not to reproduce, non-trans women who have had hysterectomies, non-trans men who do not have testicles, etc. Many people will beneﬁt from our efforts to dismantle gendered language about bodies that enforces harmful norms. Taking these gendered framings off of medical intake forms, and making sure that the ‘gender’ question on such forms
is a blank space where people can write what they want rather than check a box, are also important steps for improving access. I’m sure that depending on the context in which we’re talking about bodies, other phrasing might be useful, but I believe that we can talk in ways that get out of compulsory gender assignment of these body parts and reﬂect our rejection of the notion that binary gender is ‘natural’ or pre-political. I would love to hear other people’s examples of good use of language to move away from these assumptions. Dean Spade is an Assistant Professor at Seattle University School of Law and the founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a non-proﬁt law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of colour.
“Do you get Anything out of Sex?”: Public Commentary on the Private Body Samantha Walsh
hat is disability?
This article will explore the intersectional identity of women with disabilities, especially when questions arise regarding their sexuality. The experiences of women and people with disabilities are comparable. When we think of women’s experience of marginalization, often the roots of their oppression are pathologized to their bodies. In the same way women’s bodies are often taken up as public space or a site of work, the disabled body is often taken up as a public space, a site of work, a site of change, and a site of public inquiry. This is exempliﬁed in the common perception of disability as strictly a medical or bodily experience. In actuality there are components of social construction and cultural experience that contribute to a disability experience. For example, the body that can walk continually and with steady cadence has guaranteed access to all spaces, whereas other bodies may not. This phenomenon is often
“while I desperately want to be understood as sexual, I want that understanding to be assumed, something that goes unsaid, something that is intimately quiet”
blamed on things like old structures, or ‘just forgetting.’ I still question why no one ever forgets the ablebodied male washroom, while it is often difﬁcult to ﬁnd a bathroom that I could get my wheelchair into. Disability to this extent is a constructed experience because we use it as a reason to legitimize exclusion. I am not saying there is no bodily experience associated with disability, but rather highlighting the social positioning of disability. The manner in which disability is positioned socially leads to a cultural experience of disability, which, when reﬂected on, allows for a telling discussion of how society functions and the taken-for-granted power dynamics at play. Disability is largely conceived as an individual tragedy, which relegates a person to the margins of ’normal,’ and thus the
margins of being human. This can be recognized in the everyday interactions of individuals. The contemporary understanding of disability is that of a problem in need of an explanation. If disability is not a character trait worthy of existence, the disabled body becomes something to be interrogated at large for all who wonder. As a disabled woman, I have struggled with the tension of illustrating my disability as a valid intersection of my identity by navigating the stigma placed upon me, versus preserving my own personal dignity and privacy. “Do you get anything out of sex?” I was sitting among friends and acquaintances, including ‘Steve,’ whom I had met only once before. Crass sexual jokes were made within the group. As the laughter
died down Steve turned to me and asked, “Do you get anything out of sex?” I replied, “What?!?!?” Steve loudly repeated himself, “Can you feel anything during sex?” “Ummm yeah.” The woman across from Steve made a face signaling disapproval. The woman on my other side, my twin sister (who is also disabled), piped up, “That’s not a cool thing to say.” Steve, looking both shocked and offended, countered, “It’s a fair and good question!” I, not knowing whether this was some sort of ﬂirtation gone awry or a poorly timed question, tried to produce a subtle topic change by making another crass joke, then asking who wants another round. Steve, sensing that I was uncomfortable with his question, pressed on, “It’s a fair question and one I assume you have to answer often, so?”
Explaining the Incident
This is a social interaction I have experienced often and in many different contexts: the sense that my bodily experience and the logistics of it were to be public as well as scrutinized by others. In other public spaces, I am occasionally stopped by strangers who often have personal queries such as “What’s wrong with you?”, “What happened?” or, in the case of having a twin with the same disability, a shocked, “The two of you are sisters, wow, how’d your parents manage?” Occasionally these are prefaced with “excuse me,” but very few people act as if these questions are inappropriate. These interactions all exemplify the production of the sense that the disabled body, my body, is open to public inquiry with little thought paid to my dignity or comfort. The disabled body, regardless of the setting, is public space. In his 1999 work Exile and Pride, Eli Clare expands on this experience of the disabled person’s body being
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WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Forget Singing: Just Slushie! Daniel Faranda
lthough the media is losing grip of the long-ended series of homophobic attacks and deaths within the school system, a new story has come to light fringing around homophobia. In early February, media reports brought attention to slushie attacks in Toronto’s ‘gay village.’ This issue created uproar, not just within the queer community, but throughout the entire GTA. The alleged attack/s involved students from the Jarvis Collegiate Institute, a school located near the heart of the gay Mecca. Reports have stated that the attacks have employed everything from verbalized ‘gay slurs,’ to physically using shoes and slushies. Once again, everyone feels the school system has let us down. Shall we examine why these attacks are occurring? What inﬂuences are at play? Who is to be blamed, if anyone can be put to blame? My friends and I have watched and do watch the new stereotypically ‘gay’ television show called Glee. It displays how an outcast can overcome the hardship and barriers of high school, ﬁnd love, and even sing a song or two along the way. This all sounds amazing and wonderful, yet within the show, an almost customary and ritualistic act is displayed: the ‘jocks’ of the show attack the ‘gleeks’ (the outcasts, for those of you who haven’t watched Glee), by hitting them with red and blue slushies. Let us set aside the American Nationalism and patriot symbolism that is represented in these colours and look at the acts themselves. Within this gleek community, we ﬁnd a person who is living with a disability, a homosexual, a woman of colour, a ‘nerd,’ and other marginalized individuals, all of whom are slushied, because of their lack of identiﬁcation with normative and hegemonic ideals. As to my previous point, I remember
watching these ‘slushie attacks’ and telling my friends, “I swear it will only be a matter of time before students start doing this.” I spoke too soon. Television shows like Glee not only problematize the issue, but also create a culture of systematic desensitization around bullying and inappropriate behaviour. I, like many individuals, can turn to television and pass blame for the hatred, bullying, use of guns, and rape that happen within the school system...yet I believe there is more to this. Yes, students and youth are inﬂuenced by television, and we are growing up in a media-inﬂuenced world, where the majority of our interactions happen electronically. Students are obviously inﬂuenced by television shows like Glee, especially when these shows are considered representations of ‘reality’ and the true lives of teenagers in the West. We must be sceptical of what is being showcased through television and the media, and realize that what we are watching is not reality, nor
is it truth. Systemic homophobia, transphobia, sexism and every other –ism that exists, is more than calling someone a ‘faggot,’ or using slushing as a form of bullying. The problems lay in the embedded assumption that youth feel it is okay to grab what they see on television and replicate it in reality. It is embedded in the schooling system, that there is an inadequate amount of staff trained in equity and diversity training. It lies in the homes of these youth, who are growing up thinking it is okay to bully without consequence...to overpower, and make others feel inadequate. If you are still with
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I feel irritated that Steve’s question has been uttered. I feel violated that it has been asked, and I am annoyed that he is correct: this is a question often asked. Yet, his assumption that “I have to answer often” is up for debate. Do I have
There have been countless times that I have heard of animosity being projected onto speciﬁc individuals or communities, and each time my blood boils. When something like slushing becomes okay for youth to do onto adults or other youth, or even strangers, there are regrettably hidden issues at hand. We should reﬂect on the discussion at large about the deaths of gay teens in high schools several months ago, and realize that when homophobia is considered acceptable behaviour, so too is the act of bullying, period. I will project a little bit of nerd into this article and connect this back to what Judith Halberstam argues in her book, In a Queer Time & Place. Halberstam looks at the distinction between urban and rural space, and the ways in which small towns are considered hostile toward queers, while urban environments are cast as the queers’ natural environment; this frames and forms perception
“The problems lay in the embedded assumption that youth feel it is okay to grab what they see on television and replicate it in reality”
Anything out of Sex? something to be objectiﬁed. He says, “Our bodies [the bodies of disabled people] are seen so often simply and entirely as medical conditions. These textbooks objectify us, not sexualizing the body, but by medicalizing it.” In my experience, I am all too often understood as just being a medical condition or biology gone wrong. Steve’s question, as well as his insistence that the question is fair, suggests that he cannot imagine my disabled self as having a sexual self, or, that if I do it is one intersected with absence. His demand to know suggests that he understands me on some level as a medical condition, not a valid being.
me, THIS IS AN EVERYONE PROBLEM; NOT and I repeat NOT only a ‘gay problem.’
Tom Kidron (Flickr) to answer? The short response is, no. However, what is the meaning produced in answering his question? Do I answer it how I have interpreted it in my mind, a question of “Can you have sex, and moreover, do you like it?” Or, do I counter with a discussion of “What does anyone get out of sex?” or, “Are there different experiences of sex?” While taking apart the wording of the question is a process in itself, my curiosity and irritation come in the form of questions such as:
in a multitude of ways. Many reactions toward the slushing attacks have been “how could this happen in our community?” As someone who focuses on space and place, I wonder how we can conceive the idea that speciﬁc spaces are safe, liberating, or even equal. Let us look at York University, a place seen to be full of activists, and has many ‘positive spaces’ for individuals on campus. We are deemed to be one of the leading liberal schools in Canada, yet everyday, cases of sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia among others happen on campus. So I ask you…what is wrong? How is it this can be taken up as a fair question? Why is it able to be asked? Why is my bodily experience something that is assumed to be public? Further, do I protect my dignity? Or, do I display myself in the hopes of gaining access to social resources, and an improved cultural capital in Steve’s perception of me? I want access to social interactions, I want Steve to understand me as sexual (although after this interaction I am not so sure) and I want to be understood as whole. As disabled erotica star Loree Erickson says, “I want it all.” I feel as though I must exploit my disability to gain access to perceived sexuality. If Steve’s perception (the common one) of me is not sexual and if sexuality is not imagined as inhabiting space with disability, then what is my recourse? Do I insert myself as sexual into this interaction? Does “Do you get anything out of sex?” become a question I must answer? I am caught between wanting to be read as whole, sexual, worthy of another, and my discomfort with the need to openly illustrate my sexuality for the curiosity of a stranger. I am torn: while I
We believe many times that the spaces we occupy, based on our identity or collective knowledge, will keep us safe. Have the countless pride marches kept these individuals in the village safe? Have the countless protests on campus prevented women from being raped? Have the countless history courses on Nazi Germany kept swastikas off the bathroom stalls? The answer is a big fat NO. Bullying, hatred, segregation Keshet (Flickr) and oppression can happen “Our ‘homo-love’ will not serve to erase homophoanywhere at any bia within the cosmopolitan” time, because of the embedded assumptions and stereotypes that schools due to a lack of support are enmeshed into our culture and within their communities. How can we expect youth to behave in society at large. a ‘well-mannered’ fashion, when I ask myself, am I surprised this they experience a lack of support happened in the gay village: a and awareness? How do we expect place of same-sex hand holding, youth to behave when negative clubbing, coffee, and hipsters? media messages have created a No, I am not. Just because the culture of inequality? Who is to ‘gaybourhood’ is presumed to blame, I ask; is it really the youth? be one of liberation and positive space, our ‘homo-love’ will not In the end, Eoin McManus, 21, serve to erase homophobia within and Benjamin McCall, 21, both of the cosmopolitan. We must all work Toronto, have each been charged together, on-campus, off-campus, with two counts of assault and everybody, and everywhere to one count of mischief. They made start combating hatred, bullying, a courthouse appearance on Feb. and oppression within our society. 16 with no media follow-up. This We need to start asking the right case is TBA. Within the queer questions, instead of segregating community, Ward 27 Councillor communities and their members in Kristyn Wong-Tam had planned retaliation of the marginalization a Church-Wellesley Community Safety Audit on Feb. 13, yet again, they have faced. with a lack of media attention or These slushie attacks should be publicity. I leave you with this a refreshing slap in the face, and note: how can we all be angry for awake us to the prevalent issues that a day, and sip on our slushies the exist and need attention. Everyday, next? youth are transferring to different
desperately want to be understood as sexual, I want that understanding to be assumed, something that goes unsaid, something that is intimately quiet. I do not want Steve to ask if I get anything out of sex. I want him to assume based on my social performance (my dress, my ﬂamboyant conversation, the movement of my body) that I do. But Steve’s question suggests that despite my performance of myself as sexual, disability somehow repositions my sexual self as something that is questionable. In this moment I am able to move the many layers of the fabric of this interaction back to think about how was it that this moment came about. The moment could very well be made sense of by dismissing Steve as impolite, and perhaps vulgar. However, Steve must be understood as a product of his culture, as am I. Through this lens, one begins to understand the interaction with Steve as a microcosm of the cultural norms Steve and I share. In our shared Western culture, Steve is able to read my body as female and disabled, but becomes confused as to whether I am a sexual being or not. Disabled women are often
The cultural rules shape my performance of my gender as expressed through my dress. The cultural rules allow for the disparity between Steve and myself. He reads my body as not fully woman and therefore not in need of the usual polite reserve of bodily curiosity. I understand myself, intersected with my disabled identity, as being of value and in need of respect. It is in this cultural disconnect that the question, “Can you get anything out of sex?” exists. The issue is not whether Steve is polite or impolite, but rather about the disconnect between the commonsense perception of disability, and sexuality. How do we as a culture bridge the metaphorical intellectual gap? The onus exists not just with Steve as an individual but with our culture to re-think, re-shape, and re-create spaces to imagine sexual selves for all. Walsh identiﬁes as a disabled person, disability scholar, and disability rights activist.
Climate Justice Montreal
n 2009, Indigenous communities throughout the world called for a global mobilization In Defence of Mother Earth, reclaiming Columbus Day and transforming colonial holidays into days of action in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Responding to this call and the demand for a day of action for ‘system change, not climate change’ issued by the global movements gathered in Copenhagen last year, Climate Justice Action has organized a day of direct action for climate justice. With increasing droughts, ﬂoods, natural disasters, and the hottest summer on record behind us, ever more Canadians are realizing the
Indigenous Struggles Everyone Should Know About present and future peril of climate change. Yet at the same time, our political-economic system has locked us into dependency on inﬁnite economic growth. It produces elites whose vision is shortsighted, rarely extending beyond the next ﬁnancial quarter or electoral term. So rather than scaling back, as we know we must, Canadian elites are presiding over a ﬁnal stage of colonial resource pillage – a frantic grab for the dirtiest and hardest-to-extract fossil fuels and minerals in ever-harderto-reach geographic zones. These new mines, oil wells, pipelines, swathes of clear-cuts, and hydro-dams are almost always on or near treaty-provisioned Indigenous territories. Such sites of extraction have thus become sites of resistance – because living and depending on these lands,
Indigenous peoples are their ﬁrst and ﬁercest defenders. And in the face of resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and climate chaos, their struggles are taking on vital importance.
The Grassy Narrows First Nations take their message to Queen's Park
Lubicon Lake (Alberta): The First Nation in northern Alberta has seen their lands overrun by massive oil and gas exploitation, which has destroyed both their lands and their traditional way of life. To protect their fragile boreal forest homeland from even greater depredation, the Lubicon have fought back to defend their land and lives by patiently building a global network of organizations and individuals to support their legal battles, boycotts, lobbying, negotiations with the Canadian government, and – when all else failed – blockades. Despite 20 years of condemnation by United Nations human rights bodies, the right of the Lubicon people to maintain their culture and rebuild their society is still not respected by the federal and provincial governments and industry. They have been subject to economic sabotage and draconian internal interference. Even more destructive forms of development – including oil sands extraction – are planned for the future. www. lubicon.org
“rather than scaling back, as we know we must, Canadian elites are presiding over a ﬁnal stage of colonial resource pillage – a frantic grab for the dirtiest and hardest-to-extract fossil fuels and minerals in ever-harder-to-reach geographic zones”
Indigenous communities are resisting because their opposition protects and embodies alternatives – for sustainable resource management in Haida Gwaii, for conservation of watersheds in Gwich’in, for sustainable forestry in Barriere Lake, for imagining different relationships to the land from coast to coast. Where polluting and carbon-emitting projects have been halted or delayed, minimized or regulated, we can usually thank Indigenous peoples. During these struggles, they have won a unique set of tools – Supreme Court precedents, constitutional rights, and international legal instruments – that establish a framework for self-determination and land restitution in Canada.
Rainforest Action Network (Flickr)
Grassy Narrows (Ontario): Mercury contamination of their river system in
the 1960s by a paper mill upstream devastated their economy, plunging the community into extreme poverty from which it has never fully recovered. After decades of petitions, letter writing, speaking tours, environmental assessment requests, and protests failed to halt the destructive clear-cut logging of their traditional territory, grassroots women and youth put their bodies on the line and blocked logging trucks passing by their community. The blockades are the longest running in Canadian history, now in their 8th year. To date, three major logging corporations have bowed to pressure and committed not to log against the wishes of the community. In fact, logging has been suspended on Grassy Narrows territory as of July 2008, but under pressure from corporate lumber giant Weyerhaeuser, the province appears ready once again to give the green light to logging in the fall of 2010. The community is determined to prevent this. www.freegrassy.org
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Pimicikamak (Manitoba): Five hundred kilometers north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Pimicikimak Cree have been struggling against the consequences of hydro-electric damming on their lands. The dams have turned pristine rivers into power corridors, ancient lakes into holding tanks, and a sacred homeland into an industrial complex. Manitoba Hydro Company promised clean and green development when they and two levels of government signed a 1970s agreement with Manitoba Indigenous communities. Pimicikamak is now ﬁghting to force Manitoba Hydro to live up to its treaty commitments and to restore their lands and waters. The community is teaching us that hydro development, far from being a panacea for climate change, harms lands and Indigenous peoples and also destroys the boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial carbon reservoir, causing the release of globalwarming methane gas. www.pimicikamak.com
If these political victories are implemented on the ground, this could mean the reshaping of our geography. We need to encourage and welcome it. After all, who else is proposing to set up multi-generational institutions of responsible land stewardship? Certainly not our corporations. Who else is conceiving of human and environmental welfare in terms of the next seven generations? Not our politicians. What this means is that supporting Indigenous struggles will not just pay off Canada’s enormous moral and legal debt: it is also our best hope to save entire territories from endless and senseless extraction and destruction. Where should we look for the courage and tenacity to save our burning and broken planet? Not in parliament, business chambers, or universities. You’ll ﬁnd it on the blockades in Grassy Narrows,
where they watch over the longest running blockades against clear-cut logging in Canadian history; on the waters of Big Trout Lake, where they daringly maneuver boats to prevent company planes from landing to prospect for minerals; and on the international campaign trail with Fort Chipewyan, as they shame Canada for the poisoning of their people. These ten Indigenous struggles, to which one could easily add 20 or 30 others, are challenging the status quo of fossil-fuel addiction and resource pillage in this country. Standing up to governments and corporations, struggling for their mountains, waters, and climate, Indigenous communities deserve the support of everyone who cares about the health of our planet. As these communities battle to regain control over their lands, they struggle for us all.
Wet’suwet’en (British Columbia): Located near the town of Smithers in central interior British Columbia, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation is currently engaged in a struggle to stop several oil and gas pipelines from being built across their territory. Grassroots community organizers have taken a stance against not only the pipelines, but the entire tar sands giga-project, working in solidarity with other frontline communities and solidarity activists against “reﬁneries, terminals, tanker trafﬁc, and the systemic scope that is Carbon Marketing, Offsetting, and REDDS.” http://on.fb.me/bekx2K
Gwich’in (Northwest Territories): The Gwich’in, whose territory overlaps with the Peel Watershed Region – a 68,000 square kilometer stretch of land near the Northeastern edge of the Yukon – are ﬁghting mining corporations and the provincial government for total protection of their traditional territories. Mining companies currently hold over 8,400 mining permits in the watershed, ﬁve tributaries that make up North America’s largest network of Mountain Rivers. The Peel Watershed Planning Commission has called for 80% protection that maintains grandfathered leases, but local communities are working for the full protection of their lands. http://www.thebigworld.org/act/peel
Baker Lake (Nunavut):
Baker Lake, a mostly Inuit community in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, has a long history of struggles against uranium mining and exploration. In the late 1970s, legal action was taken against the Canadian Government and a variety of uranium exploration companies. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they successfully fought against a proposal to mine uranium from the Kiggavik ore body, located on the post-calving grounds of caribou herds. But the Aveva mining company still wants this ore, and ignoring community concerns about impacts on caribou, health, and nuclear weapons development, have launched an aggressive public relations campaign. Feeling their views are not represented by the Inuit Organizations, Inuit from Baker Lake and elsewhere in Nunavut have formed Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit (Nunavummiut can rise up).
Barriere Lake (Quebec): The Algonquins of Barriere Lake continue to hunt, ﬁsh, trap, and harvest on more than 15,000 square kilometers of territory north of Ottawa in north-western Quebec, which they have sought to protect from clear-cut logging through a landmark conservation agreement. The 1991 Trilateral agreement undermines the Canadian government’s Comprehensive Claims policy, which forces First Nations to extinguish their title to the land in exchange for paltry sums of lands and money. For this reason, the federal and provincial governments and multinational industry have conspired to avoid implementing the agreement, instead criminalizing the community and attempting to abolish their traditional governance system. The community attributes the strength of their Algonquin language, their culture, and their protection of the land to the endurance of this governance system, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin. CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
Popular Uprising in America Sean Starrs
March on Capital Hill
What a year 2011 is turning out to be, with protest movements exploding across Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain…and Wisconsin? While of course the Middle East and the Middle West are very different, make no mistake about it: even without the coverage it deserves in the corporate media, a popular uprising is fermenting in the heartland of American cheese. The past month has seen the largest and most sustained labour demonstrations in the United States since the 1930s, and they are only getting bigger. Also, despite over 30 years of Republicandriven vitriol toward ‘Big Government,’ these are the largest and most sustained rallies in support of the public sector in American history. The numbers are astonishing. On Sun., Feb. 13, 150 people demonstrated in front of the Capitol in Madison. This ballooned to 1,000 the next day, then 10,000 and 20,000 over the following two days, and doubling to 40,000 people by Friday. On Sat., Feb. 19, after less than a week, 70,000 protesters ﬁlled the Capitol Square. A week later, 100,000 people showed up in -11 degree weather during a blizzard. By contrast, the largest Tea Party rally ever held saw just 70,000 people gather a full nine months into the movement. Two days before I wrote this, a record 150,000 people rallied in Capitol Square on Sat., Mar. 12, making this the largest demonstration in Wisconsin state history. Not content with just demonstrating outside, an occupation of the Capitol building itself began on Tues., Feb. 15 and lasted until a court order ﬁnally kicked the last of the sleep-in’ers out on Thurs., Mar. 3. This had turned into what was probably the longest Capitol building occupation in US history, attracting 200-500 overnighters and 3,000-6,000 occupiers by day.
150,000 strong on Saturday March 12
Cops for Labour
For over two weeks, the Capitol building was turned into an activist village. Every inch of the walls was covered in political messages of all kinds, and various areas had been converted into special purpose spaces such as a day-care centre, a medical centre, a lending library, a food area with donations pouring in from around the world (including Egypt!), a People’s Mic where anyone could express whatever they wanted to whichever crowd gathered, etc. And while the occupation was shut down, the movement continues to grow and is spreading to other states. Across Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, and 14 other states, tens of thousands of demonstrators are rallying both in solidarity with Wisconsin and in protest of their own government’s policies. So what are all these people protesting? Most directly they are protesting the wave of austerity measures being pushed by newly elected Republican governments. They are also protesting other local issues – from the privatization of utilities in Wisconsin to the privatization of entire towns in Michigan – as well as the attempt to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions. But as the weeks progress, more and more people start to see this not just as a Republican attack on unions, but as a further attack by the super-rich on the rest of us. In other words, more and more chants, speeches, signs, and discussions centre around that word so rare in American political discourse: class. For the ﬁrst time in decades, class-consciousness is on the rise in the United States of America. The sleeping beast – the working people of the heartland of global capitalism – is awakening on a scale not seen since the Great Depression…and no one knows where it will lead. One thing is for sure: Wisconsin’s most important export is no longer cheese. For the best hourly updates on what is happening in Wisconsin, check out www. defendwisconsin.org. For the best local news, see host.madison.com/ct. And as always, great coverage on www.democracynow.org. Or better yet, go down there yourself! It’s about a 20-23 hour bus ride from Toronto. Yours truly has done it twice, both times ﬁlled with unforgettable experiences. In the meantime, here are some pictures.
Despite being exempted by the cuts, even cops are out protesting for labor! They join the ﬁreﬁghters, prison guards, sheriffs, and Iraq war veterans.
Thousands converge inside the Capitol rotunda on the last unrestricted day of the occupation
Indigenous Struggles CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11
Innu (Quebec/Labrador): The Innu have for years been struggling against the exploitation of minerals, hydro-power, animals, and timber on their lands, and military low-level ﬂying exercises and bomb testing. Today, some Innu communities are facing proposed plans to build the Lower Churchill Hydro Project, which would mean the construction of two hydroelectric dams on their territory, causing vast environmental devastation. The project is slated to ﬂood 12% of the Lower Churchill Valley, increase mercury levels in the water, and destroy some of the most diverse wildlife habitat in Labrador – home to black bear and caribou, among other animals. Since the traditional Innu way of life is based on hunting and ﬁshing, this project, if not stopped, will also affect the ability of the Innu to live their lives freely and choose their own ways of living. http://www.indigenoussolidaritymontreal.net/struggles/fep
Tsilhqot’in (British Columbia): The Tsilhqot’in people have a long history of ﬁerce resistance and independence. In 2007, they set an important precedent in the British Columbia court by proving their Aboriginal title and rights to 2,000 square kilometres of their lands, potentially supplanting provincial jurisdiction over land-use planning, but the federal and provincial have ensnared them in legal appeals. Today, they are confronting a proposal for an enormous open-pit, gold-copper mine on their land. The mine would turn a lake that is sacred to the Tsilhqot’in and that holds 90,000 unique rainbow trout into a tailings dump, replacing it with an artiﬁcial lake. Some community members have pledged their life to stop it. http://teztanbiny.ca
A little New Orleans-style street theater: Death by Governor Walker, with the nurses protesting in the background
Signs of the Times
Bear River (Nova Scotia): The First Nation has their own vision for a food and livelihood ﬁshery, based on a long historical relationship to the natural world that is premised on respect and self-sufﬁciency to avoid hunger and sickness for all people. This relationship is known in the Mi’kmaq language as ‘Netukulimk.’. But the commodiﬁcation and privatization of the commercial ﬁshery sector continues unabated, leaving no room for community sustainable practice and knowledge. It has become clear to Bear River that these ﬁshing agreements serve only to integrate First Nations into a commodiﬁcation process, watering down their treaty rights. Bear River has chosen not to sign any ﬁshing agreements with the federal government, continuing instead to pursue its vision of a small scale food and livelihood ﬁshery by aligning themselves with other local non-Indigenous ﬁshermen who have also been affected by privatization and commodiﬁcation, and by continuing to learn and practice netukulimk. http://www.defendersoftheland.org/bear_river Defenders of the Land (National): This network of First Nations
in land struggle working with urbanized Indigenous people and non-Native supporters in defense of Indigenous lands and rights was founded at a historic meeting in Winnipeg from Nov. 12-14, 2008. Defenders is the only organization of its kind in the territory known as Canada – Indigenous-led, free of government or corporate funding, and dedicated to building a fundamental movement for Indigenous self-determination and rights.
"If you want a Republican to care about you remain a fetus"
Climate Justice Montreal is a collective of organizers and concerned people dedicated to building community resistance to the root causes of climate change. We are part of the working committee to establish a Climate Justice Co-op. Find out more at http://climateactionmontreal.wordpress.com and www.climate
About 500 sleeping in every nook and cranny of the Capitol on the last unrestricted night of the occupation yeimaya from (Flickr) The Gwich'in Nation peace march against drilling on their land
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
What Exactly are we Celebrating Anastasia Mandziuk & Christine Hakim
E ach Mar. 8 marks International Women’s Day, a global day of celebration to honour the achievements of women and girls in the economic, political, and social arenas, both past and present.
This year, I’m not celebrating International Women’s Day. The sad reality is, there is very little to celebrate. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to look back on what we’ve achieved, and it is important to commemorate those milestones and to honour the brave women who have come before us, blazing a trail. There would not be women reading this right now, in a university newspaper, if it wasn’t for those women and their brave ﬁghts. Certainly, we’ve come a long way. But looking back at our achievements also shows us how very far there is still to go. Despite 100-plus years of ﬁghting tooth and nail for women’s rights, the ﬁght for full and substantive equality is still being fought inchby-inch, battle-by-battle, issue by issue. And in many countries, our achievements are being dialed back. This generation’s women are having to re-ﬁght, re-litigate, and re-push for gains that our mothers won years ago. We don’t have to look further than our own country to see that this is true, that access to rights and services we’ve already won, like maternal and reproductive health rights, are being rescinded by governments. In the United States, the recent revocation of federal funding to Planned Parenthood will mean that hundreds of thousands of women across the US, especially low-income women and women students such as ourselves, will no longer be able to access low- or nocost breast cancer screening, HIV testing, sexual health counseling, and birth control. This is not, as it has been represented, a ﬁght over federal funding for abortion, because federal funding for abortion has always been prohibited through the Hyde Amendment. Why, in one of the most industrialized and socalled developed nations in the world, women still have to ﬁght to get access to affordable life-saving pap smears, mammograms, and family planning services is beyond me. It’s certainly not cause for celebration. I’m not celebrating because I know, and you know, that the glass ceiling still exists. Women have made great strides in getting themselves onto boards, into corporations, and into ﬁelds of work that were previously thought to be men-only. Yet the higher up the employment chain you go, the fewer women you ﬁnd. In Canada, women hold 11% of the seats on corporate boards, 17% of top ofﬁcer positions in the major Canadian companies, and 21% of the seats in Parliament.
I’m not celebrating because of the well-known but little-discussed and never-admitted environment of sexual discrimination that still exists in many law ﬁrms and legal organizations today. What is there to celebrate when, in 2011, I’m still being told that I’m better off wearing a skirt to my interviews because, “off-the-record,” many male partners prefer “pretty” female associates? I can’t celebrate when women are still afraid of being out at night. Statistics Canada reported in 2006 that 58% of women feel worried while waiting for or using public transit alone after dark, and 16% felt unsafe walking alone after dark. Only about a third (29%) of men share the same worry. And speaking of StatsCan, the feds’ axing of the long-form census and removing questions on unpaid work means that women’s reproductive labour is going to be even more, not less, devalued in our society. There is nothing to celebrate when I still have to ﬁght to be believed when I report a sexual assault or rape. I still don’t get the beneﬁt of the doubt provided to victims of other crimes. It’s not cause for celebration that media will report on the clothes I was wearing or the party I was at prior to my alleged attack, and will interview people who don’t believe me because I am a slut. I still have to ﬁght the attitude that what I was wearing, whom I was with, or what I was doing in any way implies that I deserve it or ask for it when I am assaulted. What is there to celebrate if so many of my sisters continue to face violence from their boyfriends and husbands and from men they meet? Here’s what isn’t celebratory: every time I go out, I have to monitor who buys and who touches my drinks, making sure they aren’t left unattended. I have to know exactly how I’m getting home and who’s going there with me. When I go out to meet someone I don’t know, I have to make sure someone knows where I am, just in case. I have to be aware of the dangers of taking my house-keys out of bag too early, and also of the dangers of taking them out too late. These are the “common-sense” tips I am given to “protect myself” from unscrupulous men who simply can’t control themselves – because that’s what people still believe rape is. That’s what a Manitoba judge believes rape is, as stated in a ruling last month. Where’s the celebration in hearing, as I do every goddamn day from my own male contemporaries, that uptight women just need a good banging to relax; that if I don’t want to go home with you, I’m a bitch; that if I haven’t slept with you I’m a prude, but if I have, I’m a whore; that when I speak up and
assert myself, when I ﬁght against your assumptions regarding my gender, it means I’m a maneating Feminazi (as if ﬁghting for women’s rights could be equated with the Holocaust). I’m not celebrating because even after William Pickton has been convicted, even after the total lack of concern on the part of the RCMP toward Native women has been
and we are only now hearing that the RCMP is paying attention. There’s nothing to celebrate in knowing that one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime; that women and girls are far likelier to be harassed at work than men; that women are mainly the victims of violence in their home; that young girls are the most likely to be victims of sexual
“I’m not celebrating International Women’s Day. I’m too busy ﬁghting for the rights we’ve gained and lost, for the rights we have but can’t use, and for the ones we’ve yet to gain.”
exposed, Native women still have to ﬁght to have the crimes committed against them investigated. More than 30 women, most of them Native, have disappeared along the so-called Highway of Tears in northern BC over the last 30 years, and over 500 Aboriginal women are missing or have been murdered in Canada over the past two decades,
assaults (54% of female victims of sexual assault are less than 18 years old); or that about a quarter of women students have been physically or sexually assaulted by a male date or boyfriend. There’s nothing to celebrate if I cannot be sure I’m safe even in my own apartment. That’s just one of the very many problems
Kaight Taylor (Flickr)
with the not-so-helpful “safety dialogue” offered by the police, state, school administrations, and other institutions – because statistically women are most likely to be attacked in their own homes, whether in a single incident or over years of devastating partner abuse. I’m not celebrating because after all the work we’ve done, somehow the gains we have made are perceived today as a denigration of boys. The Globe and Mail saw ﬁt to run a special multi-day newspaper exposé on the ways in which helping girls is leaving boys behind. But helping girls to overcome the systemic and institutionalized sexism they face from a young age – sexism that prevents them from attaining their full rights and substantive equality in society – does not mean we are failing boys. Rights and opportunities are not zero-sum, where women can only gain if we take from men. This, in case you were wondering, is an excellent example of how patriarchy works. I’m not celebrating because in 2011 I can still only expect to make about 70 cents on the male dollar. Racial minority women can only expect 64 cents; Native women earn 46 cents. Women make up 53% of the world’s population but own only 1% of the world’s wealth. I’m not celebrating because women in Canada contribute on average 4.3 hours EVERY DAY of unpaid, uncompensated, and unrecognized work to the informal economy by washing your clothes, feeding and raising your kids, and maintaining your household. I’m not celebrating because in Canada, formal equality doesn’t always translate into substantive gains. Our laws don’t single out women, yet everywhere, supposedly neutral policies have disproportionate effects on women that remain unstudied and unremedied. Consider access to unemployment beneﬁts: these are available to (gender-neutral) workers who have 420-700 hours of insurable employment. But because women make up a disproportionate part of the parttime and non-standard workforce, because women (not men) overwhelmingly take parental leave and caregiver leave, women are statistically less able to access Employment Insurance. That is the difference between formal and substantive equality. We must continue to honour the women who have come before us and the gains they have provided us. We must continue to celebrate the links and partnerships we have made among ourselves, that at the very least we women recognize the power that we have to effect change. We must continue to honour those who have lost the ﬁght against violence, because they inspire us to continue pushing for change, for our human right to safety and security. But no, I’m not celebrating International Women’s Day. I’m too busy ﬁghting for the rights we’ve gained and lost, for the rights we have but can’t use, and for the ones we’ve yet to gain.
Nadia Chadhury (Flickr) Top: Clara Zetkin, founder of International Women’s Day, 1910. Bottom: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood currently under threat due to devastating reform laws.
Christine Hakim & Anastasia Mandziuk are Osgoode Hall Women’s Caucus co-chairs, 201011.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
COMMENTS Response to Bill C-389 Lisa Kadey In February, the loud debate surrounding Bill C-389 brought trans rights into the public eye. Throughout the course of the ugly ﬁght against its passage, pro-family groups dubbed it “the bathroom bill,” and constantly invoked specters of pedophiles and rapists hiding in washrooms, poised to attack unsuspecting children. These alarmist attempts at a reductio ad absurdum tried to link sexual assault with trans people in the popular mind, and actively encouraged the public to view all trans people with suspicion. In a video posted last November, Campaign Life Coalition President Jim Hughes entreated his viewers to imagine their young daughters
and make such discrimination a hate crime. Amid rumors that the Conservative-held Senate will kill the bill, pro-family groups are well aware that this is their last chance to prevent it from becoming law. Because “the bathroom bill” makes for a sensationalist, attentiongrabbing headline, plenty of major media outlets have reported on this aspect of the opposition. But this is far from the only argument conservative Christian groups have marshaled against Bill C-389. Some have also attempted to position trans identities as mental disorders and have argued that such an abnormal condition should not be legally recognized. The resulting collision of ableism and transphobia has not been pretty.
across our n a t i o n ” ) picked up this argument and inserted it word-for-word in their Easy Mail Letter, a form letter designed to be mass emailed to Members of Parliament, urging them to vote against the bill. Unsurprisingly, Jim Hughes also had something to say on this subject in his anti-Bill C-389 video. Although he claims to have empathy for trans people, he argues that, “the American
“The boogeyman-style rhetoric has only been amped up since Feb. 9, when Bill C-389 passed in the House of Commons with a vote of 143-135. It now moves on to the Senate, and if it passes there, it will legally prohibit discrimination against people based on gender expression or gender identity, and make such discriminationa hate crime.”
or granddaughters seeing a man in a washroom and being unable to tell whether he is “a peeping Tom, a rapist, a pedophile, or merely transgendered!” Donna Miller, an issues specialist with the North Carolina branch of Concerned Women for America, took it upon herself to warn Canada against passing the bill, by demonstrating her profound ignorance about SRS and her enduring commitment to sexism and transphobia. In an article posted on right-wing Catholic website LifeSiteNews, she is reported as having said, “Guys aren’t always modest, and whether they are feeling feminine or not…they don’t have the same sensibilities as women do, as far as modesty. Many of them don’t go through the sex change operation. They are often still male from the waist down.” The boogeyman-style rhetoric has only been amped up since Feb. 9, when Bill C-389 passed in the House of Commons with a vote of 143-135. It now moves on to the Senate, and if it passes there, it will legally prohibit discrimination against people based on gender expression or gender identity,
Although homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders in the 70s, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is still found in the current version. Its continued inclusion is a sore point for many trans activists, but issues surrounding its removal are far more complex than the removal of homosexuality was. Since many trans people choose to medically transition, a framework needs to be put in place to ensure that those who want sexual reassignment surgery will still have access to it once GID is removed from the DSM. The ﬁght for GID reform is an ongoing process. In the meantime, religious and conservative groups continue to weaponize medical deﬁnitions of GID in order to deny trans people their rights. In an article on their website, the Catholic Civil Rights League notes that the DSM-IV “lists gender identity questions as a disorder,” and goes on to distinguish trans identities from so-called “objective states” such as race or creed. The Association for Reformed Political Action (an activist group whose tagline is “shining God’s word
College of Pediatricians treats gender confusion as a mental illness, meaning Canadian law would recognize a mental disorder as normal… [It] could make it even harder for children and others who struggle with Gender Identity Disorder to obtain treatment. Therefore, this bill even lacks genuine compassion because it cooperates with mental illness.” At ﬁrst blush, his statement that Bill C-389 will limit access to treatment seems nonsensical. How could a bill designed to create legal protections for trans people prevent them from seeking medical treatment? Disability is already listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and one never hears arguments that its inclusion in that piece of legislation has prevented people with disabilities from gaining access to medical care. But of course, Jim Hughes is not talking about access to SRS, or even therapy to treat gender dysphoria. Jim Hughes does not care about legitimate treatment at all. What Jim Hughes is talking about is correction. After all, Jim Hughes is a compassionate,
empathetic man. He just wants to help trans people understand just how misguided they really are. Therefore he wants trans people to undergo treatment that will line up their gender with their biological sex, in the way that God intended. He wants to treat trans people just like the ex-gay movement treats homosexuals.
nothing new. But in order for this argument to work, Hughes must have already committed to ﬂawed and ableist beliefs about disability - and must assume that his viewers and readers share this view. There is an underlying assumption here that those with cognitive or intellectual disabilities are not worthy of full respect or basic legal protections.
Obviously, Hughes and his like are overly concerned with the behaviour of others. They tell people what they can do, how they should behave, and what identities are legitimate. Perhaps they need to take some time off from making ill-informed online videos and sit down to read their Bibles. There are plenty of biblical passages that make reference to their condemnatory attitudes. Luke 6:37 - “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” Matthew 7:4 - “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
In an article titled, ‘Disability, Identity, and Representation,’ disability activist Rosemarie Garland-Thompson writes about the relationship between ablebodiedness, perceived normalcy, and power. She quotes Erving Goffman’s description of the “one compete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a recent record in sports.”
Maybe it was the plank in Hughes’s eye that caused him to incorrectly read the bill, and conclude that a mental disorder would be deﬁned as normal under Canadian law. No such thing can be found in the proposed text of the bill, which is barely 300 words in length. But Hughes’s argument will not be unfamiliar to disability activists, who are accustomed to hearing the word normal bandied about. His argument relies upon the idea of an imagined normal body that does not and cannot exist, and his attempt at devaluing trans people by creating an equivalency between their identities and mental disorders is
Although Jim Hughes is Catholic instead of Protestant, and information about his sports record is not readily available at this time, it’s interesting to note how closely he matches up with Goffman’s description of normalcy. When watching his video, a question immediately comes to mind: why is Jim Hughes so threatened by trans rights, and what power does he stand to lose? What, exactly, are these all people shouting down this bill so afraid of? Contact information for your senators can be found at http:// trans.egale.ca. Please write to them and state your support for Bill C-389.
Rethinking Safety: Sexist Police on York Campus Centre for Women and Trans People Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti’s statement given at Osgoode Hall on Jan. 24 is powerful evidence that supports the need to remove any police presence at York University, and why the administration must urgently rethink its approach to the alarming number of assaults that happen on campus. There is serious and destructive negligence taking place on the part of the administration and we are calling for a commitment to a shift in the
culture of how York University’s administration deals with sexual assault and police presence on our campuses. The campus safety audit written by The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC), found that a full third of students feel “unsafe” or “very unsafe” at York University. This isn’t hard to understand considering it was only last year that Daniel Katsnelson
was sentenced for his 2007 double rape in Vanier residence, and a year since York’s Director of Media Relations, Alex Bilyk, responded by telling the media: “The message here is to always lock your doors,” – a comment akin to the Toronto police service’s most recent advice to women, “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” There are many reasons why students don’t feel safe at York; here are just a few. Last year, York students saw a high number of sexual assaults on and around campus, including at least one in
the Scott Library and one in the Village at York University. Yet, no changes were made to make the library a safer study environment and the Go-Safe budget cuts, which eliminated much needed door to door service for students living in the Village, remained in place.
to strangers. Since the METRAC safety audit, when reporting on sexual assaults to the Community Security Council, security services described each assault in depth, detailed each one, and, moreover, described non-penetrative assaults as less serious.
Amid security’s attempts to catch a sexual assault assailant, a woman called to notify security of seeing someone who ﬁt the published description of a wanted perpetrator and to report being harassed by this man. Security dismissed her concerns by advising she not talk
It is clear that the biggest factor which contributes to making the campus unsafe is the way in which safety and assault is addressed by York administration and security. Despite having a safety audit with
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WINTER ISSUE 3 2010
What Constitutes Consent? Anastasia Mandziuk & Christine Hakim International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to shine a light on sexual and genderbased violence. In recent weeks, both locally and in national and international media, we’ve seen some disturbing stories about sexual violence that suggest there may still be confusion out there about what constitutes rape and sexual assault and what consent really means. In a further effort to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence and ensure that everyone knows both their rights and the legal boundaries, here is the law of sexual assault in Canada, in plain language. Please note that this article may be triggering for some, as it contains frank language about sexual assault. Sexual assault is any form of touching, for a sexual purpose, the body of someone else, either directly or indirectly, either with your body or an object, without the person’s consent. This means, among others, kissing, fondling, touching, petting, ﬁngering, licking, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex; it means through their clothes or directly on their body; it means with your ﬁnger, tongue, penis, elbow, knee, foot, or any other body part, and any object whatsoever. It is a crime every time it happens; it is a crime even if it is the ﬁrst time you do it. It is a crime to coerce or force your partner into a sexual act to which they have not consented. Previous consent never equals current consent. Even if you have done it consensually before, if your partner
does not consent or the consent is vitiated (read: legally invalid), it is a sexual assault. Consent is needed for each new, different, or subsequent sex act, or for a change in the sexual activity. If your partner agrees to oral sex, either performed by you or by them, you need new and separate consent for vaginal intercourse or anal intercourse, and vice versa. There is no such thing as an ‘implied agreement’ such that if you perform oral sex, it will be reciprocated, or vice versa. Consent is legally deﬁned as voluntary agreement in words or conduct. Practically, the best and safest practice is that only enthusiasm and a ‘yes’ equals consent (as opposed to the absence of ‘no’).
concrete suggestions to address safety concerns on campus, the police services, an institution that systematically perpetuates violence on many of our communities, was asked to speak on safety. This talk on ‘safety’ effectively made the campus more dangerous and unsafe for everybody by perpetuating the sexist and anti-woman notion that survivors of sexual violence are to blame for being assaulted. Organizations like Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line and the Centre for Women and Trans People, as well as the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, and importantly, METRAC, all have great proposals to address and ﬁght sexual violence – why weren’t these organizations approached to talk to students in January? Most importantly, all these organizations address the real concern at hand: how to prevent sexual violence and create a safer feminist space for all students and community members. Thus, they lead us to the only question relevant here: how do we stop men from feeling like they have access
There is no such thing as ‘implied consent’ - consent cannot be inferred based on dress, behaviour, demeanor, ﬂirtations, previous consent, or attitude. Consent must be explicit - many things other than the word itself can mean ‘no,’ including no response at all. Practically speaking, only ‘yes’ means yes. Consent is invalid, even if she or he doesn’t say the word ‘no:’ If the person is under 16.
to women’s bodies, NOT how can women protect themselves from rape. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that calling women ‘sluts’ only perpetuates sexist attitudes toward violence against women and perpetuates violence itself. Not only is Sanguinetti’s advice extremely problematic in its implication that women are responsible when they are assaulted, the use of the word slut is itself inherently violent. ‘Slut’ is a word that is used to police women’s sexuality, implying that women
If the person changed their mind. If they said yes, and then later said no, and you proceeded anyway, this is sexual assault. If consent was not given by the survivor but by someone ‘on their behalf.’ Where the perpetrator is in a position of power, trust, or authority over the survivor. Where the person was incapable of consent. You are incapable of consent if you are intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated. If the person is drunk or high, they have not consented. You are incapable of consent if
they ask you to stop and you hold them down, it is not consent. If you exert constant pressure, i.e. through pleading, begging, or nagging, that is coercion. If you guilt the person into it, by saying ‘if you really loved me, you would…’ that is coercion. If you manipulate consent through
“There is no such thing as ‘implied consent’ - consent cannot be inferred based on dress, behaviour, demeanor, ﬂirtations, previous consent, or attitude. Consent must be explicit - many things other than the word itself can mean ‘no,’ including no response at all. Practically speaking, only ‘yes’ means yes.”
Rethinking Safety CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15
Where there were words or actions that indicated no. Once the person says no and/or acts like they don’t want to, even just one time, you must stop.
you are unconscious. It remains the law that there can be no advance consent, and consent must be ongoing; any previous consent given is ended by loss of consciousness. You are incapable of legally giving consent if that consent has been gotten through threats, pressure, coercion, or force. So if they say no and you shove them, or pull their hair, it is not consent. If they don’t want to and you say, ‘I’ll leave you if you don’t,’ it is not consent. If only be safe if they practice their sexuality within patriarchal norms, and that violence is a reasonable response for those who fail to do this. This places women’s sexuality in the hands of male partners and of course brings about an endless number of problematics, not the least of which is that most sexual violence happens within intimate relationships. So while we strongly support the movement lead by amazing and empowered women to reclaim the word ‘slut’ and celebrate it, as well as celebrate their sexuality, we condemn its violent use by patriarchal ﬁgures. York campus is facing an unnecessary increase in police
“It is clear that the biggest factor which contributes to making the campus unsafe is the way in which safety and assault is addressed by York administration and security.”
ought to be chaste, and when they are not, they are necessary sexually available to all men. When women express themselves sexually and take control of their own bodies and desires, they are either called back to patriarchal ideals of virginity or are shamed into only being sexually available to a (male) partner by being called a slut. By suggesting women can stay safe by “not dressing like sluts,” this constable is telling women that they will
presence and, evidenced by Sanguinetti’s advice, this presence is putting the student population at risk. Despite his apology, Sanguinetti obviously believes in the truth of his advice or when giving it he wouldn’t have admitted to his audience “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this” as though he was sharing some great wisdom political correctness was trying to censor. There are many good reasons we
the silent treatment, name-calling, belittling, or other forms of ‘silent’ pressure, it is coercion. If you threaten, either with physical force or through threats such as ‘I’ll leave you if you don’t,’ or ‘I’ll tell everyone you’re a frigid bitch,’ or ‘I’ll tell everyone we did it anyway’, or ‘If you don’t sleep with me now, it gives me the right to sleep with someone else,’ that is coercion.
don’t want to see police on campus or in our communities, and this is certainly one of them. Security and police forces, structural changes to physical environments (such as more lighting), telling women how to stay safe, or training staff on how to respond to sexual assaults are minimal in creating a safer campus, if they do so at all, and in the case of police presence, make campuses much less safe for many people. What increases the safety of everybody on campus is a cultural shift that protects and values the safety of all community members. If we are invested in making York University a safer campus, we must actually create an anti-sexist environment where everybody is treated with dignity, everybody is allowed to express their sexuality or gender identity however they wish, and any assault receives a meaningful and timely response that is followed by the administration seeking to make preventative changes to the campus culture. This means the administration must take a strong stance against assault on campus, and put resources and actions behind this stance. This does not mean creating a committee, with no power nor budget, to discuss sexual assaults. It means instantly problem-solving the dangers of the Village at York University; it means disciplining
If you give false promises, such as ‘Just this once,’ or ‘I’ll never ask for anything again,’ or ‘I promise in exchange I’ll do x,’ that is coercion. If you use physical intimidation, such as barring the door, blocking their path, physically invading their space, using your physical size to intimidate or implicitly threaten violence, that is coercion. Any form of coercion, not limited to those listed above, means that consent is null and void, even if they didn’t explicitly say ‘no’ and/ or didn’t try to stop you. To wrap up (the safe sex way), physical intimacy and sex can be fun, enjoyable and downright amazing when both partners are enthusiastic participants and are committed to respecting each other’s boundaries. Sexual assault and rape are not sex, they are not intimacy, they are not love. They are crimes of power and control, and they are against the law - every single time.
and apologizing for employees who make sexist comments; it means believing women when they report violence and are asking for emergency shelter; and it means making a commitment to making all students responsible for the safety of all community members. Only a feminist stance against sexual assault and a commitment to creating an anti-sexist, profeminist culture on campus and in society at large will work toward creating a safe environment for everybody. In the spirit of taking positive steps towards changing cultural attitudes toward sexual violence, we would like to share a couple of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape’s list of 20 things you can do to transform rape culture: 19. Remember: rape culture is one for which we’re all responsible, but don’t blame the victim. 20. Dare to dream of a culture free of sexual and all other forms of violence...a rape culture transformed. List available at http://www. trccmwar.ca/drupal/articles/20_ things_you_can_do.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
How might Gaddafi’s use of Black African ‘Mercenaries’ Affect Future Race Relations in Libya? Troy Dixon In an increasingly desperate attempt to maintain power of the North African country of Libya, the Gaddaﬁ regime has employed numerous, and often contradictory, messages to frame the current uprisings as a product of external interference, as opposed to being inspired by the sheer will and courage of the Libyan people themselves. The depiction of external forces stirring up disunity among the Libyan population is of course in stark contrast to trends spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, whereby the young and old; male and female; Muslim, Christian and secular; and, in some cases, Shiite and Sunni, have come together in unison to ﬁght for their basic human rights. Whether attributing the uprising to hallucinogenic drugs, the West, or, most recently, AlQaeda, the leader has essentially been throwing propaganda at a wall to see what sticks. A growing number of reports coming out of Libya suggest one discursive strategy that has been gaining resonance with both sides of the battle. This confusion relates to the mysterious presence of Black African ‘mercenaries’ who have been carrying out some of the most gruesome forms of repression against the Libyan people at the command of the Gaddaﬁ family. The question of exactly how many ‘Black African’ soldiers are being brought into Libya or how much they are being paid is open to interpretation. Their small and scattered numbers are far outweighed by those Libyan soldiers who have chosen to maintain their allegiance with Colonel Gaddaﬁ, and thus carry out deadly brigades against their own people; yet amidst the
ongoing chaos the overriding fear of coming into contact with ‘dark skinned’ individuals has undeniably had an impact on the psyche of the local populace that cannot be ignored. According to initial reports from Al-Jazeera, it has been documented that many ‘dark skinned’ individuals – who either were born in Libya itself or migrated to work in oil reﬁneries from elsewhere in Africa – are being attacked by rebel forces based on an implicit assumption that they are paid mercenaries. When asked by AlJazeera’s David Frost, “Of all the problems that face you right
now what is the most difﬁcult or challenging?”, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, unequivocally stated that his greatest concern pertains to the safety of those dark skinned people still trapped in Libya. This concerns the hundreds of thousands of African workers who had, as of Mar. 4, yet to show up at the nearest Tunisian border. An attempt was made to help explain why there has been a lack of migration on the part of Black Africans, based on numerous communications that the United Nations has received from within Libya. Commissioner Guterres mentioned how dark skinned people are afraid to leave their homes in fear that they will be mistaken as mercenaries. One
Lybians in Dublin March in Solidarity against Gadafﬁ and his army. Saif El Islam Gaddaﬁ maintained his ambivalence, denying the regime’s role in fostering an Arab/ black divide. He even went a step further, purporting that to assume so is discriminatory in and of itself because based on his own estimates, “half of the Libyan population is [B]lack.” It is true
protesters. With that said, if I, a non-Arab, were to put myself in the same shoes as somebody living in the frantic streets of Tripoli or Benghazi, it goes without saying that I would be in fear of all elements around me. Such unknowns have only been
expect that the Libyan people and its foreign workers, whether Arab or non-Arab, ‘light skinned’ or ‘dark skinned,’ Muslim or nonMuslim, know what Gaddaﬁ is capable of, and therefore know that the few mercenaries brought in to join his last standing armies do not represent ‘Black Africans,’ or for
“Still, by structuring the discourse as a ‘civil war,’ this puts the power back into the hands of the Libyan people to recognize that they are the ones who will ultimately determine their own futures. Hence why, in interview after interview, Saif Gaddaﬁ refuses to utter the words ‘civil war’ nor admit that a civil war is actually taking place.”
former oil worker claimed on AlJazeera, “I am no longer accepted in Libya.” In a Mar. 2 New York Times article, Fleeing Migrant Workers Pile Up at Libya’s Borders, Sharon Otterman chronicled the plight of two migrant workers from Guinea and Ghana, who had been severely beaten based on an inaccurate assumption that they were hired mercenaries. nMar. 2, Horace Cambell, Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, spoke with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. He addressed the fact that as part of Gaddaﬁ’s arsenal of propaganda, he has deliberately tried to stir up xenophobic and anti-Black sentiments as a way of trying to unite his predominately Arab citizenry against foreignperpetrators. On a Mar. 4 interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Saif El Islam Gaddaﬁ, Colonel Gaddaﬁ’s second eldest son, denied the existence of such tactics, saying, “show me one mercenary?” Amanpour responded by referencing several indications of their manufactured presence, including two Libyan airline pilots who had recently resigned because they didn’t want to ﬂy mercenaries into the country based on the regime’s demands, and testimonies from captured mercenaries themselves. To this
that in comparison to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, Libyans are by and large dark skinned, but 50% seems rather outlandish to say the least. Why would Saif Gaddaﬁ attempt to inﬂate the overall number of Black Africans living in the country? One can only contend that this particular talking point is meant to feed into his claims that “all is peaceful” and “nothing has changed.” Paradoxically, in a Feb. 20 address on Libyan State Television, Saif Gaddaﬁ went the opposite route in acknowledging the presence of foreign Black soldiers, but instead attributed their existence to ‘illegal’ immigration. He also insinuated that hundreds of Black Africans are being armed by outside forces in order to inﬂict violence on loyal Libyans while working alongside Arab Libyan rebels. So, when speaking to a foreign audience, Saif Gaddaﬁ denied the existence of Black foreign mercenaries; but when speaking to his own population through state television, he acknowledged that they do exist, but are being brought in by outsiders to aid rebels against Gaddaﬁ supporters. These two contradicting logics are quite different from the reality on the ground. The very same soldiers, however few, have been found to only inﬂict violence on rebel forces as well as peaceful anti-Gaddaﬁ
exacerbated by Gaddaﬁ’s concerted media crackdown that, in many respects, distinguishes Libya from a more media accessible Egypt. What impact will Gaddaﬁ’s use of Black African mercenaries may have on future Middle Eastern, North African, and Continental African race relations? At a recent University of Toronto Political Science roundtable discussion, organized by the newly formed Middle East and North Africa Working Group (MENA), panelists brought up several reasons for optimism. Hicham Saﬁeddine, a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, cited encouraging reports that have shown Arab Libyan rebels providing protection for Black Libyans and Africans who are being mistaken as mercenaries. Moreover, as Professor Mohammad Fadel from U of T’s Faculty of Law explains, one can only expect that Gaddaﬁ’s ousting will not be a matter of if but when. Once this transition takes place, his frivolous use of outside distractions could be easily forgotten amid the jubilation the people will feel from being freed from his forty year rule. In other words, even though current tensions are high, one can hopefully
that matter ‘dark-skinned people’ as a whole. To help re-frame the conditions of Libya in a manner that is least likely to lead to xenophobic outcomes, I believe that it is important to continually frame the turmoil as a civil war. This is not to say that no outside funding or inﬂuencing is taking place on either side. Nor does it excuse the deplorable actions of the African mercenaries who claim “they didn’t know what was being asked of them.” Not to be forgotten, if the leaders of any African country are found to be complicit in enabling the use of their own citizens to carry out the commands of Ghaddaﬁ, those leaders should be held accountable to the fullest extent by independent criminal courts. Still, by structuring the discourse as a ‘civil war,’ this puts the power back into the hands of the Libyan people to recognize that they are the ones who will ultimately determine their own futures. Hence why, in interview after interview, Saif Gaddaﬁ refuses to utter the words ‘civil war’ nor admit that a civil war is actually taking place. By framing the unstable conditions as a civil war, this should encourage local and foreign observers to expose the contradictory narratives of state propaganda.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
The Global Food Crisis: More than ‘not enough for too many’ Jenelle Regnier-Davies Countries around the world are experiencing growing uncertainty as the cost of food reaches its highest point in over 20 years. Riots and revolutions have been sparked across the globe as more people begin to demand their govern-
occurred between 2006 and 2009) have reduced investments in local family farms in favour of foreign industrial agriculture. Despite the fact that the small-scale family farms of these regions are better equipped to feed local communities a variety of healthy nutritious food, governments are attracted to foreign investment. Land grabs not only impair people’s ability to
farmers have carried many families into overwhelming debt. Families faced with debts to banks and other unofﬁcial ﬁnancial sources have resorted to suicide to ﬁnd relief from the burden of ﬁnancial stress. Over 17,000 small farmers of India had committed suicide in 2009 alone. This Americanized
“The present food crisis is less about scarcity than it is about power. Since the globalization of our food system, the power and control over food for the masses is held in the hands of the few.”
ments express concern over their nations’ food security needs. Often described as an epidemic of food scarcity, the current global food crisis is more than a crisis of ‘not enough food for too many people,’ but rather, a crisis of disproportionate wealth convoluted by environmental and socio-political tribulations. The laissez-faire approach in which food and agricultural products are traded has contributed to the widening gap of wealth across the globe. The goal of this system, often credited with the liberal philosophical principle of ‘freedom,’ is wealth extraction and concentration. One of the many negative aspects of this system is that the states are uneven in their capacities to protect themselves if problems arise in the market. Egypt, for example, relies to a large extent on food imports to sustain its citizens and as a result, is highly vulnerable to ﬂuctuations in food prices. Last summer’s banning of exported wheat from Russia had tremendous consequences for Egypt, and was one of the triggering factors in the recent political revolt. Beyond the liberalized trade of food and agricultural products, ‘land grabbing’ is another trend that dovetails the global food crisis. Foreign companies have increasingly been investing in international land for the purpose of large-scale industrial agriculture. Under the guise of feeding a hungry world, companies have been utilizing the majority of the land for biofuel. It is estimated that only 37% of the cultivated land by foreign companies is being utilized for food production. By allocating agricultural production toward biofuels, the prices of food products become distorted and rise, and as a result impede on nations’ ability to import grains. This distortion contributes to the projection of food ‘scarcity,’ even in times of high production. Governments of sub-Saharan Africa (where 70% of land grabbing
secure sources of nutritious food, but also displace communities and impinge on their cultural traditions. In North America, proponents of the local food movement promote the ideal of food sovereignty, however we should recognize that food sovereignty is not possible in every nation across the globe. Environmental instability is the primary contributor to this incapability. With declining water tables, rising temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, and growing populations, now more than ever there is growing worldwide food insecurity. In 2007, the UN declared water scarcity the leading environmental cause for food insecurity, rather than lack of arable land. Declining water tables, due to urban and industrial expansion, will be a major threat to food productivity over the next few decades. In 2008, the world experienced a crisis in food prices, brought on in part by drought in major food exporting countries such as America, Australia, and parts of Europe. The current drought in China also demonstrates the impacts of water scarcity on the food system. After eight of China’s key grain producing provinces had been hit with several months of drought, wheat production dropped signiﬁcantly. The major exporter of wheat suddenly became an importer, drastically affecting the economic sphere. As a result, the market value of wheat increased, spurring food security anxiety across borders. One of the major contributors to declining water tables is land clearing for development. As global populations reach the seven billion mark, more than half the world’s forested areas have been converted to serve the needs of growing populations. Indeed, 90% of annual tropical forest losses are due to growth in industrial agriculture (to increase national exports), having huge implications for not only regional water cycles and precipitation, but also the global climate. Since the 1960s, India’s agricultural sector had adapted the ‘Americanized’ method of high input/high yield grain production as an alternative to the traditional mixed crop method used for centuries. The importer nation gradually became an exporter of grain, contributing signiﬁcantly to the national GDP. Over the last decade, water tables and soil fertility have dropped by insurmountable proportions, forcing farmers to invest further in chemical fertilizers and drilling for new water sources. The investments made by Indian
agriculture, known as the ‘green revolution,’ did little to alleviate poverty and hunger, its explicit intended purpose. Rather, it contributed to the widened gap between rich and poor within the nation. The green revolution not only took many lives, but also devastated soil and water systems. The environmental harm, cultural displacement, and ﬁnancial burden placed on the communities of India for the sake of competing in the liberal international market system were highly preventable. With the
encroachment of the ‘new green revolution’ (the use of large-scale biotechnology) to solve the current global food crisis, we may witness similar devastations across the globe in the years to come. The present food crisis is less about scarcity than it is about power. Since the globalization of our food system, the power and control over food for the masses is held in the hands of the few. Almost one billion people go to sleep hungry, and an equal amount wake up malnourished. Conversely, nearly one billion people in the ‘western world’ are obese and experience diet related chronic disease. The effects of the globalized food system are felt across the globe, albeit to a signiﬁcant difference in degree.
We can ﬁnd inspiration in the recent revolutions of Tunisia, Egypt, and the many nations seizing their agency and ﬁghting for the needs of their communities. By bringing attention to the injustices, the cultural and environmental displacement, the lost lives, and the hunger felt, we are able to witness that the global food crisis is not necessarily one of scarcity in the dawn of growing global populations; rather it is a crisis of disproportionate wealth. Given the importance of food as an essential need for survival, it is time we take control of our food systems once again. To gain more insight into the international realm of food systems visit http://www. foodforethought.net/ and sign up for monthly newsletters.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Arts & Culture Black Swan,Feminism, and Desire Shaunga Tagore
lack Swan turned out to be one of those ﬁlms that captivated me: it is visually stunning, and the acting and dancing are both superb and at times breathtaking. It was fun in that it had some genuinely creepy, jump-out-of-your-seat moments. Plus, the experience of most epicly losing your shit? Not so much an unfamiliar feeling here…
“... embracing desire does not inevitably lead to violence... sexual violence is not about sex - it’s about power. Desire alone does not make a decision to violate another, and more so, desire has every capability to respect and consider another. The decision to treat another person like they don’t matter is what creates violence. That is about power, inconsideration, arrogance, entitlement... it’s not about desire alone (or sometimes, at all). ”
But it’s another story to look at this ﬁlm through a feminist lens, or rather, all the meanings, messages, interpretations, silences and erasures that make themselves known while a particular story is told from a particular perspective. This ﬁlm is a story about desire. Main character Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) desires to be perfect in her portrayal of the Swan Queen in her ballet company’s production of Swan Lake. This desire is what drives the entire story. The problem is, the part requires Nina to play two roles with opposing character qualities, the ‘white swan’ and the ‘black swan.’ The struggle Nina undergoes to capture both characters becomes a struggle within her own psyche, identity, and sense of self. Slowly the sensual, passionate, wild, and seductive parts of herself overtake her, ﬁguratively and, perhaps, literally killing the parts of herself she was always taught – as well as forced and manipulated – to be: disciplined, pure, innocent, and controlled. It’s really a classic story of good girl versus bad girl. Not only is this a story about desire, but it’s also about the relationship between desire and violence: the ways in which desire consumes and destroys a woman. The ﬁlm shows us many moments where it is clear that Nina’s desires (for sex, for food) and her instinctual emotions have been hidden, repressed, controlled, and violated: by the male director of the ballet, by her mother, as well as by the gendered, classed world of ballet in which she is immersed. This ﬁlm then becomes a story about what happens when a woman embraces those hidden, repressed, controlled, and violated parts of herself and allows them free reign. In many ways it’s a cautionary tale – don’t unleash your desires, girls, or else you’ll end up in a hospital, bitter and insane, stabbing yourself in the face (enter Winona Ryder). In the process this ﬁlm leaves no room between desire and madness, masturbation, self-mutilation, queer sex, murder, death, suicide, and destruction – where all seem to be extensions of one another. So yeah, can i buy a vowel? Because I know in my heart, mind, and body that more space needs to be made for us to tell and hear different kinds of stories about desire. So here it is. To me, desire is one of the most
assault counsellor: sexual violence is not about sex – it’s about power. Desire alone does not make a decision to violate another, and more so, desire has every capability to respect and consider another. The decision to treat another person like they don’t matter is what creates violence. That is about power, inconsideration, arrogance, entitlement…it’s not about desire alone (or sometimes, at all). After I got home from watching this ﬁlm, I realized my therapy was to read Audre Lorde (one of the great anti-racist queer feminists of all time), speciﬁcally her essay: The Uses of the Erotic. Here, she talks about ‘the erotic’ as a powerful and often unexplainable place of joy, inspiration, and strength found in all women. Although the erotic has been commonly abused (for a strong woman is a dangerous woman), she argues that to embrace our erotic feelings in all aspects of our lives is to be in touch with our strongest feelings of satisfaction: whether this be through our lust and love for work, friends, creativity, activism, food, as well as for sex. We begin to realize we are capable of living our most rewarding lives in the moment, instead of waiting for them to come through “marriage, god or the afterlife.” She says, “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, selfdenial.”
A classic story of good girl versus bad girl, Black Swan requires the main character Nina Sayers to play two roles with opposing character qualities - the disciplined, pure, innocent, and controlled ‘white swan’ and the sensual, passionate, wild, and seductive ‘black swan’. deep and un-nameable feelings within all of us. We can’t logically explain it, yet we know it undeniably. We have no language to dissect it, yet it communicates with us unwaveringly. Within us, it is our sexual and creative life-force; our dizzying wind, our smoldering ﬁre.
sexual education. As an extension (especially as women), we’re not taught to value, respect, or be curious about our bodies and desires, or that it is a beautiful thing to seek pleasure from our own bodies. Rather, we are taught to deny, negate, and be ashamed of our sexualities – so much so that it can be a struggle to know how to
So many women have some kind of complicated and difﬁcult relationship to food. Along with being taught to be ashamed of our sexualities, we are taught to be ashamed of the shape, size, colour, abilities, and hair off/on our bodies. We’re taught to be ashamed for our hungers – whether that be for food or for sex.
“[Audre Lorde] argues that to embrace our erotic feelings in all aspects of our life is to be in touch with our strongest feelings of satisfaction: whether this be through our lust and love for work, friends, creativity, activism, food as well as for sex. We begin to realize we are capable of living our most rewarding lives in the moment, instead of waiting for them to come through “marriage, god or the afterlife”
There is as well a social and historical context to the relationship between desire and violence. Sexual, emotional, spiritual, and physical violence, as well as power and oppression, have always worked through controlling people’s bodies without their consent. Through colonization and war, rape has been and continues to be used as an essential tool to conquer entire groups of people by dehumanizing women and those who possess variant gender or sexual identities. Sexual violence is not only about rape; it’s about systemically denying groups of people access to information that would allow them to make decisions about their bodies. Most of us are taught racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist versions of
ask for what we want sexually, or to refuse what we don’t want. In this way, sexual violence is about the social suppression of desire to keep groups and individuals docile, confused, and submissive. The controlling of bodies through power and oppression works in so many ways: through exploitative labour where bodies are forced to work and produce within a system that is ﬁnancially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally depleting. Through war, displacement, forced-migration, deportation, poverty, as well as racist/classist/homophobic/ transphobic/ableist policing of institutions and neighbourhoods – bodies are displaced without having the chance to make their own decisions about where or how to live.
Further still, I think about how often the desires of youth are punished, regulated, and repressed. How often are children shut up and shut down if they’re crying too much, or if they’re too angry, excited, scared, or aroused? Often youth have valid reactions to what they’re experiencing, and the way their emotions are repressed is of course a very gendered, racial, classed process. Unfortunately the emotions we were taught to suppress as children can often create confusing needs that we struggle so hard to have met in our adult lives. Although Black Swan shows otherwise, I want to stress that embracing desire does not inevitably lead to violence. The ﬁrst thing you’ll learn if you ever get training to become a sexual
Moreover, she talks about how important and valuable it is to share our eroticisms – our joy, inspiration, and strength – with others. Whether we share our deepest, most unexplainable pleasures through our bodies, words, work, or laughter, it is the place of the erotic that opens us up to loving another as much as we love ourselves; it is the place that sustains and fuels our growth and empowerment as people, lovers, friends, and communities. Without our desires we don’t have the spirit to challenge what we believe is unfair, or to ﬁght for what we know is right. Without our desires we don’t have the capacity to decide who we want to love and how. It is our desires that strengthen us to live fully and beautifully in the world, and that compel us to share our lust, love, and joy with one another. No wonder the repression and control of desire is so rampant – it is all part of the same tired, centuries-old project of trying to take away our choice, breath, love, and freedom. But all I wanted to do today is tell a different story – about how we didn’t die at the end of the movie. Read this article in its original form on www.shaungatagore.com.
Arts & Culture
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011 the Iranian regime openly supports the Palestinian cause.
r a W o t l l a C A : Iranium Vida Setoudeh
n Thurs., Feb. 10, 2011 Hasbara, a Zionist group at the York University campus whose aim is to advocate the well-being of Israel, went ahead with the screening of the controversial documentary Iranium. This short documentary discussing the dangers associated with Iran’s nuclear ambitions was to have its Canadian premiere at the Library and Archives Canada building in Ottawa, but cancelled twice due to the discovery of two letters which were later determined as non-threatening complaints from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Embassy. Following the Heritage Minister James Moore’s intervention, the movie was ﬁnally successfully screened with a heavy police presence at the Library and Archives Canada on Sun., Feb. 6. While the controversy off campus created a huge publicity success for the makers of Iranium, Hasbara@ York decided to promote this movie on campus. You could not walk through Vari Hall or Central Square and miss the big Iranium poster, which is a picture of Azadi Square exploding into a mushroom nuclear cloud. Once again the originally scheduled screening at Vari Hall was cancelled because of “unspeciﬁed threats,” but on Feb. 10 at 5:45 pm inside CSE A, the highly contested documentary was screened. Although the President of Hasbara, Adir Dishy, made a speech prior to the screening stating that this movie was in no way a depiction of right wing politicians, the numerous clips taken from Fox News and CNN made that difﬁcult to believe. The list of sponsors on the black board was just a slight indicator of what was to come: Hasbara@York, Hasbara Fellowships, Human Rights at York (a group whose legitimacy is still under serious investigation), and the York U Conservatives and the Jewish Law Association. Iranium is produced by the Clarion Fund, an organization that is suspected of having direct ties with Aish Hatorah, a self-described apolitical group dedicated to teaching Jews about their heritage.
The two groups are headed by two brothers Raphael and Ephraim Shore, one of whom is responsible for producing Iranium along with other controversial movies such as Obsession and Third Jihad. Obsession, which was massively distributed at no cost by mail and through newspaper supplements exclusively in swing states back in 2007, directly targeted Islam and blatantly likened it to Nazi Germany. The movie contained ‘expert’ commentators such as Walid Shoebat, a reformed Muslim
the last days of the Shah of Iran, it not only criticizes Iran’s regime but also blames the US for being too lenient at times when tough action was required. As Bernard Lewis put it: “the ﬁrst major American mistake was in the handling of the hostage crisis; the response was, to put it mildly, feeble”. Iran’s Islamic revolution was explained through quotes by President/Prime Minister/ political leader Ahmadinejad: “the message of our revolution is a global message and it cannot be restricted at any time or place.” The commentators then investigate
“death to America” or “down with Israel.” What seemed quite interesting to me was a quote by Mr. Rafsanjani shown following an interview in which he denied Iran’s interest in nuclear power: “We should fully equip ourselves both in the offensive and defensive use of chemical, bacteriological, and radiological weapons.” The quote is from 1988, a year in which a newly revolutionised Iran saw itself in a deadly war with Iraq. Iranian soldiers were constant victims of chemical weapons and it wouldn’t be terrible for Iranians
“What should be remembered is that while free speech is a democratic right in which we as Canadians take pride, it is not always about enjoying the right to voice your opinion but rather it is about broadcasting viable, reliable facts. The only thing the screening of Iranium managed to accomplish was to deepen the pre-existing tension between the Jewish and Muslim communities at York University.”
terrorist who had converted to Christianity and was quoted as stating that “Islam is not the religion of god- it is the religion of the devil.” The next production Third Jihad was simply a more focused and updated version of Obsession. As critic James Davis stated, it took “the same track taken by the Red Scare purveyors of the 1950s,” periods of strong anticommunism in the United States. The anti-Islamic movie was said to have been shown to NYPD ofﬁcers as part of their training on multiple occasions and initiated a strong criticism among many ofﬁcers who referred to it as “straight propaganda.”
the dangers associated with the Islamic Republic’s close ties to Venezuela and other countries in the Western hemisphere, likening these associations to the relations between the Soviet Union and Cuba during the Cold War. By building quite a believable scenario, the documentary depicts the Iranian regime as as Islam-spreading, terrorist-supporting cult whose mission to “annihilate” the US and Israel is demonstrated daily through school children’s chants of
It seems as though the Clarion Fund is at it again, spreading propaganda once more; this time not targeting a religion but rather a state and its regime! The documentary begins by asking the question, “what happens when a regime that openly desires the destruction of nations obtains nuclear weapons?” The 60-minute documentary uses every means possible to instil anxiety, panic, and terror in its audience. With a history lesson that dates back to
to want to attain the same kind of weaponry that was terrorizing and traumatizing thousands of innocent young men on a daily basis. But the ﬁlm cannot help but focus on the “death to America” chants on playgrounds. It would be helpful to mention that Iran was the ﬁrst Middle Eastern country to achieve democracy back in 1939 when Mossadeq became Prime Minister and nationalized Iranian oil. It is also good to know that the American CIAorganized a coup d’état and toppled his government shortly after, returning the Shah back to power and destroying the newly brought democracy. During the Iran and Iraq war, the Iraqi military was directly supported by the US with weapons and it seemed as though it was a proxy war between Iran and the US. So, it wouldn’t be too difﬁcult for the regime to ﬁnd substantial reasons to promote their antiAmerican campaign and have children and adults alike chant slogans against America or Israel. As a Muslim state, Iran considers it a responsibility to protect its fellow Muslims. In the seemingly never ending dispute between Israeli settlers and the Palestinians, it should be no surprise that
Creating Spaces: A Year in the Life of Kevin Moloney
ne of the challenges for activists is the creation of permanent spaces – spaces where we can feel at home, where we can begin to develop new forms of relationships, where we try to put our visions into practice. Very few such spaces exist: a women’s centre, a union hall, a gay
community centre, a progressive bookstore perhaps, but most of our events take place in temporarily borrowed space on a campus or in a library. We go listen and watch and then leave. Just over a year ago Beit Zatoun (House of Olives) opened its doors. The aim was to create a cultural/ social/intellectual centre, a place where activists could feel at home. A place where events took place
in a broader social/ intellectual context – where after an event people would stay, mingle, chat, brainstorm, make connections, and plan. The focal point of Beit Zatoun is to support Palestinians’ struggle for freedom. Those of us involved had been active in this area and had
met through work with Zatoun, the Canadian non-proﬁt organization that brings you fair trade olive oil and much more from Palestine; and Project Hope, a CanadianPalestinian NGO which works
All in all, it seems as though this documentary is using the classic Red Scare tactics to promote war as the only way to protect American interests against communism. The proposed solutions near the end of the documentary call for less negotiation, since this will only buy time for the regime to continue working on building nuclear weapons, according to Bolton. Sanctions need to be a lot more severe whereby only necessitates are allowed into the country, and countries like Russia and China who continue to do business with Iran need to be given an ultimatum so that they must choose sides. Frank Gaffeney brings up the military option and claims that “the question is not simply ‘what are the risks associated with acting militarily’ but ‘what are the risks associated with not acting.’” Woolsey suggests that Obama follow in the footsteps of Reagan rather than Carter in choosing a deﬁnite position and supporting the Iranian people’s Green Movement “so that this regime will be changed.” In the end Shohre Aghdashloo, the Iranian actress who was the narrator in Iranium, calls on the free world and America to make a choice and either “stand idly by or to stand up and take part in Iran’s new revolution.” The movie clearly assumes that Iran has gained nuclear weapons or that it is close enough that something must be done, but you won’t have to look very far to see the result of false propaganda and the devastation it can cause. The US’s attack on Iraq was initially justiﬁed by accusations of nuclear ambitions, which were later proven to be completely wrong. Today as Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch stated in a recent report, Iraq is no closer to democracy and “eight years after the US invasion, life in Iraq is actually getting worse.” Many have openly criticized the Iranian Students Association at York or even the Iranian community at large for opposing the screening of this movie due to its biased, pro-war message. What should be remembered is that while free speech is a democratic right in which we as Canadians take pride, it is not always about enjoying the right to voice your opinion but rather it is about broadcasting viable, reliable facts. The only thing the screening of Iranium managed to accomplish was to deepen the pre-existing tension between the Jewish and Muslim communities at York University. It would be best to further investigate the source of a documentary, how it is funded, and who it is proﬁting before signing up to freely publicize a ﬁlm as a means to ‘educate students’ and to exercise our freedom of speech. West Bank. We had long dreamed of a downtown cultural centre/ meeting place with a focus on bringing people together to learn and have conversations about the history and struggles of Palestine and the Palestinian people. We wanted a place where ﬁlm, art, music, song, poetry, photographs, workshops, book launches, and talks would help provide a better understanding of the issues facing Palestine and of the solidarity work that is necessary.
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Arts & Culture
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Incendies: Lebanon is Scorched, Burned and Blistered Lebanon. License plates on cars are from several countries. The protagonist is modeled after Souha Bechara, a famous Lebanese freedom ﬁghter who was in prison for assassination and sang through her solitary conﬁnement. Unlike the character Nehal, the historical ﬁgure of Souha did not have children. Obscuring, renaming, and deliberate obfuscation are perhaps the historical equivalent of mythological strokes in narrative structure. The lack of geopolitical speciﬁcity is perhaps what allows the ﬁlm to breathe the symbolic into the Lebanese situation. Make no mistake – some things are obscure, but the important details situate the ﬁlm with utter literalism in Lebanon over the last few decades.
o say that the Middle East has been scorched, burned, and blistered by war is an understatement. In Incendies – a ground breaking diaspora ﬁlm, set in both present day Canada and in Lebanon in the recent past – we get to see in painful detail the intricacies of how the war burned many families into horriﬁc mangled messes. The ﬁlm is traumatic to watch and perhaps cathartic too, especially for anyone from the region. I sobbed at least six times. The ﬁlm allows a ﬂood of memories to return, and stimulates after-ﬁlm conversations about things people have repressed for years. The idea of return is common among diaspora ﬁlms of the last few decades. Usually the protagonist of the ﬁlm returns to their family’s place of origin and discovers the rubble and ruins that have been vacated by their parents’ generation. Usually we do not see the atrocities that happened, but we are told that they are too terrible to talk about or to show. The protagonist walks around looking traumatized which, I have to admit, despite my devotion to these ﬁlms, is part of the growing pains in the development of a genre. Where Incendies distinguishes itself is in the crafting of a story that really is too terrible to tell and too terrible to witness. And then it makes us witness every terrible moment of it. The brilliance of Incendies is not simply in the visceral moments of violence – the shock of a child being ripped from her mother’s arms before the mother is burned alive – it is in the crafting of a story that makes visible the back and forth of retaliation: like an equation where each variable, each action has a predictable and increasingly despicable reaction. Details were planted early in the ﬁlm and later revealed their terrible signiﬁcance. At the same time, the ﬁlm avoids didacticism, and instead reaches for and ﬁnds mythological resonance.
In Incendies the protagonist is modeled after Souha Bechara, a famous Lebanese freedom ﬁghter who was in prison for assassination and sang through her solitary conﬁnement. The ﬁlm is based on a play written the intersecting oppressions is a good example: we are ﬁrst told and directed by seasoned writer, on the protagonist’s life do not through dialogue that it is going to actor, and director extraordinaire, simply come from the war planes happen. We see the woman sitting Wajdi Mouawad. He is of Lebanese overhead – which are never named, in a chair and then see the rapist origin and has received the highest but are likely from Israel. The enter the room. The camera cuts accolades for his creative work old world familial relationships to a close-up of her face as she is in Canada. The Incendies stage that are what could loosely be waiting, then cuts to a close-up of play has traveled the world and referred to as pre-capitalist are the rapist’s face as he looks at her. has received It cuts back rave reviews. to her on “The ﬁlm asks us to think about whether their Mouawad the ground lives were ever really free of violence, even directed a crying. ﬁlm in 2004, though the violence may have been displaced and The editing Littoral, that implies unnamed. Traces of violence and the reality of was also an the act of unknown origins haunted them.” adaptation rape, and of a script he reduces had written and directed for the further entrenched rather than the voyeuristic impact on the stage. His initial transition to ﬁlm displaced by war. The political, audience. Instead, we share in the was bumpy. Littoral was similarly religious, and gender divides, as victim’s anticipatory fear and in a story of returning to Lebanon well as ideas about honour and her pain afterward. to bury a parent. Unfortunately, group loyalty, are part of the web it was heavy in dialogue and the that entraps the protagonist. The The press releases claim that the emotional tone of the ﬁlm was story is written with non-identical ﬁlm is set in an unnamed Arab forced. This time, Mouawad’s twins, a boy and girl, returning to country. The ﬁlm itself evades story has been better cinematically Lebanon to search for their father realist details that would pin it to served by teaming up with director and brother while uncovering their an exact location: the cityscapes Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve has mother’s past. Each child is able are not Beirut, because they were spent the last decade working to search in different spaces based shot in Jordan. The prison which on the project of cinematic on their respective genders, further is referred to as “in the South” representations of violence. Even revealing a splitting in the already is undoubtedly modeled after the notorious Khiam prisons in with an Oscar nomination in fractured narrative. Lebanon, but in the ﬁlm it is given the Foreign Language category, Incendies is doing far better than The violence we witness in the ﬁlm a new name. The Nationalist party is shot and edited with emotional and its leader are ﬁctional, although its distributor had expected rawness and, importantly, respect they occupied a similar position Seen through a feminist lens, for women’s bodies. The rape scene in the ideological landscape of
the door – would people come? Could Beit Zatoun work?
However, we also wanted a space open to broader issues of social justice both within Canada and internationally. We wanted to see if we could build links between various struggles, and in doing so, to build a greater understanding of the importance of the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine.
At ﬁrst, just a few, then in a line-up outside the door. They came, they stayed; some wept, and everyone applauded. Afterward, they stayed around to chat, sampling what has become Beit Zatoun’s signature refreshments of cardamom coffee, sage tea, and bread dipped in Zatoun zaatar and olive oil. And they talked, and met, and argued, and proposed other events. We had to ease people out of the door at midnight.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 20
In November 2009, with the help of some seed money from Zatoun, we rented a wonderful space at the corner of Bloor and Markham, near Bathurst subway. In January 2010, after frantically cleaning, painting, and furnishing the place, Beit Zatoun opened its doors for its ﬁrst event: Seven Days in Gaza, a performance piece of voice and music based on the diary of a young woman during the recent invasion of Gaza. We waited anxiously at
In the last 12 months, over 80 events have been held at Beit Zatoun, ranging from anarchist punk to book launches, from classical Oud music to feasts, from workshops to ﬁlms, from art installations to poetry. While our focus has been Palestine, we have also been the venue of First Nations’ ﬁlms, discussions and a variety show, a brilliant art installation by Philipino
women, Bolivian wall hangings, queer activists, Latin American Harp music, Persian New Year celebrations, Bengali poetry, ﬁlms about Nicaraguan workers, Jewish women activists, Yoga for Amnesty, and much more. Our focus has been Palestine and we have attempted to explore some of the history, culture, and struggles
of the Palestinian people, including in the diaspora. Beit Zatoun has celebrated the life and work of the poet Mahmoud Darwish, marked the anniversary of the Nakhba, commemorated the massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, launched a Palestinian graphic novel and a host of other books, shown ﬁlms about women in Palestine, held discussions about queer Arab issues, held fundraisers for the Boat to Gaza, featured poetry and music, hosted a panel for the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, and again much more.
Always, people stay to drink tea, eat zaatar bread, and discuss and plan. This January we held a ﬁrst anniversary party with an incredible variety of performers with Persian music, First Nations drumming, Suﬁ poetry, Middle Eastern song, and Oud music. Again Beit Zatoun was packed and hopping with life. After just over a year Beit Zatoun has become the kind of space we in our most fevered dreams envisioned. There’s more to do of course. We still have teething troubles. And we need to do more to make connections with other threads of
the social justice movement. We’re beginning to do this – we have events for International Women’s Day, around labour issues for May Day, along with a host of others. We also need to do more to make sure Beit Zatoun can become ﬁnancially self-sustaining.
In one of these conversations someone asked why the mother would bring the memories of violence onto her children. “They live in Canada, they don’t even speak Arabic, why do they need to unearth a painful and terrible history? Why not live in ignorant bliss,” she asked. What are the assumptions operating here? Do those in diaspora ever really live in ignorant bliss, when they are raised by parent(s) who have been through trauma, and war trickles down through their actions onto the children somehow? In Incendies, the children were raised without a father and without an extended family on either their paternal or maternal sides. The ﬁlm asks us to think about whether their lives were ever really free of violence, even though the violence may have been displaced and unnamed. Traces of violence and the reality of unknown origins haunted them. The ﬁlm suggests both that there is violence implicit in the return of the exile and the inevitability of that return. In this story, the boundaries between ‘here’ and ‘over there,’ past and present, families and strangers are found to be more permeable than many would like to think. Reprinted from http://allkillers. blogspot.com.
We’d like to invite you to become part of the Beit Zatoun community. Check out our events on our website and bring some friends along. Our space can be rented – for book launches, ﬁlms, concerts, art exhibitions, talks, readings, and so on. This is a vital source of income for us so please tell your friends. We also co-sponsor events. Link to Beit Zatoun facebook to help spread the word. Help to build an alternative space in downtown Toronto. We also have a small shop where we sell Zatoun Fair Trade products from Palestine, including olive oil, zaatar, olive oil soap, and embroidery. For more information: http:// beitzatoun.org/cms/Home.aspx Phone 647-726-9500; email info@ beitzatoun.org
Arts & Culture
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
Excerpt from Fences in Breathing Nicole Brossard
About the Author
Stay alive says the voice also applies to all girls whoever you are stay alive because of the smooth wind through the roses and through your raptures stay alive show yourself with your syllables and your images don’t be afraid to touch your melancholy stay alive despite the ﬂies and the burns the little decorations everyone’s closed armoires stay alive arms open like pages of a dictionary breathe high and loud between the signs the mirrors the little sketches don’t forget your grisgris and Latin grammar stay alive despite your mother in her bathtub terrorists and liars stay alive in the moon’s axis and touch go ahead touch your mirrors
Nicole Brossard was born in Montreal in 1943. Since 1965, she has published more than 30 books, including Museum of Bone and Water, The Aerial Letter, and Mauve Desert. Her contributions and inﬂuence to Quebec and francophone poetry are major. Brossard has twice been awarded the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, ﬁrst in 1974 and again ten years later. In 1965, she cofounded the literary periodical La barre du jour and, in 1976, the feminist journal Les têtes de pioche. That same year, she codirected the movie Some American Feminists. She was also awarded the Prix Athanase-David, Quebec’s highest literary distinction. In 2006, she won the Canada Council’s prestigious Molson Prize for lifetime achievement. Most of her books have been translated into English and Spanish and many other different languages. Her collection Notebook of Roses and Civilization was shortlisted for the 2008 Grifﬁn Poetry Prize. Her most recent book is an anthology of her work edited by Louise Forsyth, Mobility of Light. Nicole Brossard lives in Montreal. Her work can be found in both the York Bookstore and the Scott Library on campus.
in the right places before watching yourself leave stay alive like somebody who is not you
What is it in my head that makes me think I am someone else who cannot truly resemble me or maybe the opposite it is frightening this carpet of words the scroll of images and nothing to explain if we are here if we are pretending to be here if we are with someone inside ourselves whom we love or who splits our head in two so that our thoughts scatter deep into the cosmos and that at last we may cry fully emptied of our breathing.
Sometimes I question my mother mere mortal though somehow she shouldn’t be using words allowed in the
Blood Branches (2010)
foreign language and not all necessary in mine where does this taste for immortality come from which always becomes more complicated once one’s mother is dead once one has scrubbed and scrubbed her closely with sweet oils and voluptuous silences that always open onto the same landscape with a lake in the middle who’s depth is so unconceivable that we need to keep repeating this is no dream to keep reminding ourselves we are truly of woman born and will need to take our time to comprehend all of this and no longer think about fences in breathing.
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As Indigenous Peoples, our spirits grow within the sacred parts of Mother Earth, including the trees. This is a representation of how those spirits grow and ﬂourish within the forests of this land.
The painting depicts the relationship we have with Mother Earth, which can be destructive. Capitalism, imperialism, and colonization produce ailments. They speciﬁcally reproduce HIV, and hurt Indigenous communities.
WINTER ISSUE 3 2011
EVENTS MARCH Mum’s The World WHEN: Mar. 26, 10:30pm - 1:30pm WHERE: 519 Church Community Centre, Toronto CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org DETAILS: Drop-in program for queer mums, grandmas and caregivers of kids from birth to six years. Fundraiser: Musical beneﬁt to support J4MW & the MNLSC WHEN: Mar. 26, 7:30pm WHERE: St. Simon’s Church, 252 Bloor St. E. CONTACT: 416-410-5022 Cost: Adults $25, Students $20 DETAILS: A musical beneﬁt for Latin American immigrant families and migrant farmworkers. Presented by Common Thread-Special Guest: Provecto Altiplano. Please join us and support Latin American families and migrant farm workers through the important advocacy work of Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) and the Mennonite New Life Support Centre. Chevron Found Guilty of Massive Contamination in Ecuador WHEN: Mar. 27, 3:00pm WHERE: 2981 Duﬀerin St. CONTACT: www.barrio-nuevo.org DETAILS: On Feb. 14, a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador ruled in favour of the residents of the Amazonian rainforest who have spent the last 18 years trying to force Chevron to clean up their deadly mess. This movie shows the struggle that let to this ruling. Followed by presentation and discussion featuring Santiago Escobar, Whistle blower about the corrupt activities of Chevron. Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume II WHEN: Mar. 28, 7:00pm-9:00pm WHERE: Of Swallows, their Deeds & the Winter Below, 283 College St. CONTACT: email@example.com COST: $160 DETAILS: Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume II is perhaps the least well understood of a trilogy that suﬀers overall from rampant misunderstandings. This is an eight-week workshop continuing on Sunday evenings. Dr. Rita Palacios Lecture: Humberto Ak’abal and New Indigenous Literature in Guatemala WHEN: Mar. 28, 4:00pm-5:30pm WHERE: 305 Founders College (Senior Common Room), Keele Campus CONTACT: Shana Lino @ firstname.lastname@example.org DETAILS: Contemporary Maya poet Humberto Ak’abal produces a uniquely Maya literature that contests dominant Latino culture and advances the Maya cultural project by locating his poetry outside of the Western canon and drawing from Maya culture, language, and oral tradition. Trans Film Screening Series: Madam Sata WHEN: Mar. 28, 6:30pm WHERE: The Centre for Women and Trans People U of T, 563 Spadina Ave. CONTACT: womenscentre.sa.utoronto.ca or 416-978-8201 DETAILS: Loose portrait of João Francisco dos Santos, also known as Madame Satã, a sometime chef, transvestite, lover, father, hero, and convict from Rio de Janeiro. Everyone welcome. Allies welcome. Tourism, International Development and the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender WHEN: Mar. 29, 12:30pm-2:30pm WHERE: 140 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus CONTACT: http://sites.google.com/site/raceseminarseries/ home DETAILS: This talk will explore the intersection of discourses on race, tourism, and the environment, particularly looking at the racialization of local and transnational spaces. Questions address transnational tourism, the consequences of human traﬃcking on the social environment and the impacts of ‘development’ and neo-liberalism on sexual violence, the international sex trade, and inequality. Dwight A. Mcbride WHEN: Mar. 29, 4:30pm WHERE: University College, Rm. 140, 15 King’s College Circle CONTACT: 416-978-3160 DETAILS: The African-American cultural theorist lectures on Baldwin and the new Black studies. Forum: Criminalizing Dissent WHEN: Mar. 29, 6:00pm WHERE: Ryerson, Engineering Building ENG103, 245 Church Street CONTACT: email@example.com DETAILS: Democracy and the Security State – A discussion forum with activists. A panel will discuss the shape of the security state and the forms of resistance that are emerging to oppose it. Film Screening: I’m Dangerous With Love WHEN: Mar. 30, 6:30pm WHERE: The Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West, Toronto. CONTACT: torontoharmreduction.org COST: $10 DETAILS: Screening of a ﬁlm about addiction, rehabilitation,
activism, and shamanism and a Q&A with the ﬁlm’s subject, Dimitri Mugianis. Film Night: Movies from the Diaspora WHEN: Mar. 30, 6:00pm WHERE: Trane Studio, 964 Bathurst St. CONTACT: 416-913-8197 COST: TBA DETAILS: Here I Stand – documentary on activist Paul Robeson. The evening’s program includes a panel discussion with special guest Lee Lorch. No Health in Occupation, No Health in Apartheid WHEN: Mar. 30, 6:30pm WHERE: Fitzgerald Building, Rm. 103, 150 College St. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org DETAILS: In solidarity with Palestinian struggles for justice, individual health professionals and groups have attempted to articulate and practice a politics of health that confronts the occupation as a social disease in Palestinian society. We invite you to join us and our panelists in a thought-provoking discussion on the type of relationship we must develop as a public health community to the politics of occupation and apartheid. Against the wall: The Art of resistance in Palestine WHEN: Mar. 31, 7:30pm WHERE: Sandford Fleming Building, 10 King’s College Road, Blue Room #1105 CONTACT: www.cjpme.org COST: $5 DETAILS: Join us for this tour as British writer and photographer William Parry discusses the signiﬁcance and symbolism of resistance art in its various forms across the occupied Palestinian territories.
APRIL Kinnie Starr in concert WHEN: Apr. 1, 9:00pm WHERE: 25 Cecil St. CONTACT: email@example.com COST: $10-$25 DETAILS: Rosina Kazi from Toronto electronic crew Lal and the amazing theatre artist Sedina Fiati will be hosting this fabulous, politically charged, all women and trans performers event, where partial proceeds go to Turtle Island and African Reparations Funds and No One Is Illegal. Queer Urban Space: Imagined, Created, Lived WHEN: Apr. 1, 6:30pm-8:30pm WHERE: Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre, 220 Cowan Ave. CONTACT: Jaclyn Isen @ (416) 879-7954 DETAILS: Young queers from Parkdale discuss politics at art show. March on the McGuinty Government WHEN: Apr. 1, 12:00pm WHERE: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W. CONTACT: (416) 925-6939 DETAILS: It has been 16 long years since Mike Harris cut welfare and froze disability. Now as the economy continues to slump and the need is greater than ever, this government is destroying the vital Special Diet Allowance that has enabled people to survive. UNITED WE EAT, DIVIDED WE STARVE. Slutwalk Toronto WHEN: Apr. 3, 2:00pm WHERE: Queen’s Park, Toronto CONTACT: slutwalktoronto.com DETAILS: Walk to protest police, judges, and ministers’ labelling of women and people at risk of sexual assault as “sluts.”. Up Against the Temp Shop: May Day Assembly on Immigrant Rights WHEN: Apr. 4, 6:30 pm WHERE: 350 Victoria St. CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org DETAILS: Details: In the face of cutbacks, privatization, and forced displacement around the globe, and anti- immigrant policies in Canada, this assembly is a space to build a communitylabour vision for immigrant rights and justice, and ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable and precarious parts of the working class continue to be fore-fronted during May Day, and within all struggles for justice. Green Screens presents: The refugees of the blue planet WHEN:Apr. 6, 7:00pm-10:00pm WHERE: 150 John St. CONTACT: (416) 973-3012 DETAILS: Each year, millions of people the world over are driven to forced displacement, and the disturbing accounts of people who have been uprooted are amazingly similar. The enormous pressure placed on rural populations as a result of the degradation of their life-supporting environment is driving them increasingly further from their way of life. Followed by a panel discussion. Noam Chomsky Talk WHEN: Apr. 7, 1:00pm WHERE: Hart House Great Hall, 7 Hart House Circle
CONTACT: www.harthouse.ca Cost: Students $10, General $20 DETAILS: The political activist/author talks about the threat to freedom and survival posed by the state-corporate complex. Our City, Our Services, Our Future! WHEN: Apr. 9, 1:00pm WHERE: City Hall, Toronto, 100 Queen St. W. CONTACT: http://www.socialistproject.ca/events/ DETAILS: Since taking oﬃce in November, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s style of “aggressive conservatism” is designed to usher in a new wave of Harris-style cuts across Ontario. Toronto should be a city that everyone can be proud of – one that serves all its residents regardless of income, which celebrates its diversity and plays a leadership role in crucial areas like climate change and social equality. Teach-in/Forum on colonialism, national oppression and youth uprisings – a left perspective WHEN: Apr. 10 WHERE: TBA CONTACT: http://www.newsocialist.org DETAILS: Post-colonial Sri Lanka has witnessed three major armed uprisings of the youths in which two in the Southern Sri Lanka, predominantly by Sinhalese youth; the third and the prolonged one from the Tamil youth of Northeast Sri Lanka. The speakers will provide a detail background about the role of colonialism and the national oppression which pushed these young women and men towards uprisings. Free Favourites at Four: Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance WHEN: April 13, 4:00pm-6:00pm WHERE: 150 John St. CONTACT: (416) 973-3012 DETAILS: On a hot July day in 1990, an historic confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Québec, into the international spotlight and into the Canadian onscience. Director Alanis Obomsawin endured 78 nervewracking days and nights ﬁlming the armed stand-oﬀ between the Mohawks, the Québec police and the Canadian army. PEACEFLICKS! presents TEACHING PEACE IN A TIME OF WAR and RAISED TO BE HEROES WHEN: Apr. 13, 7:00pm-9:00pm WHERE: 150 John Street CONTACT: (416) 973-3012 DETAILS: Teaching Peace introduces us to the students and teachers at Vasa Pelagic School in Belgrade, Serbia, where Hetty van Gurp helps teach the language of peace to a generation of kids who have known only war. Raised to be Heroes uses the unforgettable experiences of Israel’s Refuseniks to inspire an essential dialogue about peace, democracy and personal responsibility. Toronto Anarchist Bookfair WHEN: Apr. 15-16 WHERE: Steelworkers’ Hall, 25 Cecil St. CONTACT: email@example.com DETAILS: The Toronto Anarchist Bookfair will provide a space for the presentation of new theories, ideas, and dreams, and an avenue to kick-start them into practice with a weekend of workshops, actions, speakers, conversations, new friends, festivities, books, and zines. Constance Hamilton: A Rebel with Many Causes WHEN: Apr. 17, 3:00pm-4:30pm WHERE: 285 Spadina CONTACT: (416) 392-6910 COST: $12 DETAILS: Enter the 1920s through the story of Toronto’s ﬁrst woman councilor. Ann Macdougall presents herself as one of the many immigrants helped by Constance Hamilton. Alderman Hamilton was elected in 1920 in the ﬁrst civic election in which women could vote or hold oﬃce. She was a trail blazing reformer and advocate for women, refugees and artists. Motorcyle Diaries of Free Tibet World Tour WHEN: Apr. 25 WHERE: TBA CONTACT: www.freetibetworldtour.com DETAILS: My name is Lhakpa, and I am Tibetan. I was born in exile, and my parents escaped from Tibet after Tibet was illegally occupied by China. During eight months I will ride my motorcycle through 22 countries promoting awareness of the history and plight of Tibet.
MAY 6th Anual May Day of Action When: May 1 Where: Parkdale Toronto Contact: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/MayDay Details: On International Workers Day, join the 6th annual May Day of Action for Status for All to help push immigration enforcement out of Toronto, ensure full status for temporary and undocumented workers, and to join the ﬁght against cuts to public services and increased policing and militarization.
Compiled by Stefan Lazov SEND YOUR EVENTS TO: firstname.lastname@example.org
+ Maps to gender neutral bathrooms on campus
The Centre for Women and Trans People is a pro-choice, anti-racist, queer-positive, trans-positive, feminist organization.
We are committed to: + Breaking the social isolation that women and trans people face on campus through programming, social and networking events + Individual and collective empowerment through esteem building, education & decolonization + Providing a resource base for education and community organizing for and by those affected by gender violence or transphobia
Services + Confidential and non-judgmental crisis intervention, peer support counseling, referrals and advocacy + Access to temporary emergency housing for anybody fleeing violence in their home or other threatening situations + A supplementary on-campus foodbank and local foodbank referrals + A lounge with couches and chairs, a free phone, computers and internet access, a resource library including a zine collection -, a fridge and a microwave + A space that can be used for after hour meetings, workshops or gatherings
Trans Resources We offer trans specific resources to help trans folks on campus negotiate what can be a tricky and alienating bureaucracy. The services and events we organize always depend on membership and volunteer interest if you don’t see something you would like, get involved and help us start it! Services and programs we offer can include: + Cross gender clothing swaps + A support and advocacy group lead by and for trans people + Trans specific peer support
We host various events and working groups throughout the year and are always open to proposal for new events or groups and new energy to help us pull them off! Events of the past have included: + Beautiful We: a discussion group for black women and trans people + Queer life: a social group for queer women and trans people + Wen Do self defense classes + Film screenings + Feminism is my Girlfriend dance party + Tenant’s Rights workshop + International Women’s Day conference + Community Kitchen
Get Involved We are always looking for new volunteers and collective members! If you want experience in a not-for-profit, if you have a great idea for an event or a group, if there is an issue on campus you would like to gather support around, if you want to meet like minded people and build community at York, come check us out! Volunteer and collective applications can be downloaded off our website or picked up at the CWTP.
Contact 416.736.2100 x 33484, www.yorku.ca/ywc Facebook: Cwtp AT York 322 Student Centre 4700 Keele Street Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3 We Are Open Monday - Thursday: 10am - 5:30pm We are also available outside of these hours by appointment :)
Published on Mar 21, 2011