Adapted from Eileen Atkin’s 1994 play of the same name, Vita and Virginia is based on the real-life romance between aristocratic socialite and author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf. With a scandalous romance, the glamour of the 1920s, and famous works of literature, Vita and Virginia’s story in the right hands could have been a very special film. Unfortunately, despite some strong acting and beautiful cinematography, this film is an uneven mess that never quite comes together.
When we first meet Vita (Gemma Arterton) it’s hammered into us that she’s a thoroughly modern woman; she drives her own car, wears pants, declares proudly that “Independence has no sex.” When Vita goes to a party hosted by, as her mother (Isabella Rosselini) describes, “bohemian communist socialists” that she meets the elusive Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki).
It’s made clear from their first meeting that their relationship will be a sexual one; Vita observes Virginia dancing from across the room with a decidedly male gaze. Virginia, as the object of desire, acknowledges that gaze and welcomes it.
Arterton and Debicki do what they can to save the film with their performances. Arterton is more than capable of showcasing the charm and insatiable lust of Vita, who while in an open marriage, had affairs with both men and women alike. And Debicki (who should have broken out after the criminally under-seen Widows) gives the strongest performance in the film. She is so good here she makes you forget all about a certain Australian actress who won an Oscar for portraying the same woman.
But despite these performances, the film falls apart under the direction of Chanya Button. While the melodic electro score (by Isobel Waller-Bridge) is beautiful and perhaps meant to show these women were not of their time, it takes you out of the story. The same goes for the decision to have the women read their letters to each other aloud while looking directly at the camera. It’s overly stagey and completely unnecessary.
And then there’s the magical realism that’s thrown in to show Virginia’s increasingly unstable mental state. If it had been used all throughout the film perhaps it would have made more sense, but only used a few times it doesn’t work. Not to mention that Debicki is a more than capable performer who could have showcased Virginia’s bipolar disorder without a scene where a flock of birds who aren’t really there attack her.
The real-life Vita and Virginia continued a friendship long after their romance fizzled, until Virginia’s death in 1941, which for some reason, Button decided not to mention in the final title card was a suicide, although Virginia talks about death throughout the film.
Their relationship inspired one of Virginia’s most popular books, Orlando. If you’re curious about these fascinating women and their influence on each other, I recommend you read that book (or see the 1992 Tilda Swinton film adaptation) instead.
November 20, 2018, can be seen as a sad day in the US and for women around the world in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). A US federal judge Bernard Friedman ruled against banning a practice that harms millions of young women globally.
His ruling found a 1996 US federal law banning FGM unconstitutional, allowing the two doctors charged under it to go free. This can only be seen as a great defeat for the millions of young girls and women who have suffered due to this harmful act.
Female Genital Mutilation is the act of changing or altering the female genitals for non-medical reasons but rather cultural ones. However, it is seen across the globe as a violation of human rights against girls and young women alike .
FGM, or Female Circumcision as it is also called, is a practice that goes back thousands of years in many countries, communities and in many cultures around the world. When it started is unknown, but the root of it is to control female sexuality, conception and to continue to build a strong inequality between both sexes.
FGM/C may differ depending on the countries and regions but the results are still the same. Women are subjected to a lifetime of problems regarding their physical and mental health. Many lose their desire for sexual pleasure, have complex deliveries often resulting in Cesarean section; along with a number of different medical problems, that may arise from the use of unsterilized equipment. This practice can have serious complications leading to the death of some young girls and women as a result.
There are many types of FGM/C; but there are three forms most often practiced:
The first consist of the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the prepuce. The circumciser pulls the clitoral glans with her thumb to remove it.
The second form is complete or partial removal of the inner labia and clitoris. The clitoris is the organ that allows the female to enjoy pleasure during sexual activities.
The final form, which is considered to be the most severe of the three, is the removal of the total female genitalia. Once done, the vagina is then sewed closed with the exception of a hole often the size of a pencil tip for the passage of menstruation and urination.
Not only is the act rather harsh, but girls and young women are more likely to get infections and countless other problems because of unsterilized equipment. They are often faced with diseases such as fistula and numerous other disorders and infections.
It is estimated that between 125-150 million young women have been subjected to this practice. It happens all over the world, though predominately in African countries.
Although, FGM/C can be harmful to a women’s health not all women would like for this practice to end. Some people in many countries and regions where this act is practiced consider it a rite of passage or a celebration of coming of age for young women.
FGM/C is sometimes compared to male circumcision. Male Circumcision is the act in which the male foreskin that is covering the head of the penis is removed from the male penis.
Both of these customs can cause physical and mental pain and a lifetime of complications. However the female version of this custom is deemed, by many, to be much more severe because, unlike their male counterparts, many females who have this procedure done never experience sexual pleasure or any sensation other than pain in their vaginal area.
The males that are circumcised can experience sexual sensation and any pain they feel usually dissolves after a while. Whereas many females who have experienced the procedure have a lifetime of pain and complications. Some women who experience this procedure feel as though they are missing part of their body.
In many countries and regions where the act of FGM/C has become illegal, there are classes and lectures on the consequence of FGM/C. When young women attend these classes, they are becoming educated on the severity of this practice.
Unfortunately, not all young women have a choice in this matter. This is why the recent US ruling on FGM/C can be seen as a sad one and as a step backwards especially since organizations such as UNICEF, Plan Canada and numerous others are working tirelessly to educate communities where FGM/C is still practiced about the effects on young girls and women around the world.
* Featured image by World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr Creative Commons
It is utterly disgusting that in 2017 we still need to have conversations about the unacceptability of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Though our laws guarantee equality of the sexes and freedom from discrimination, the fact that so many Canadians shared the hashtag #MeToo indicates that sexual harassment and assault are still very much a problem.
For those unfamiliar with the #MeToo movement, it started with reports that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted the women he worked with. The hashtag was used to show the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and assault, the idea being that if every victim shared it on their social media feed, society would finally understand how vast the problem is.
This article is a primer on sexual harassment and assault in Canada.
Sexual harassment is a form of harassment based on the person’s sex. According to the Quebec Institut National de Santé Publique, legally a victim must prove three things in order to prove sexual harassment:
“Unwanted sexual behaviour
That manifests itself repeatedly, and
That has adverse effects on its victims.”
The behavior can be anything from words to actions to posters, but for the victim it has to feel “targeted and unwelcome” with adverse effects. In Quebec the behavior has to be repetitive and harassment can manifest itself in being denied raises or promotions in retaliation for refusing sexual advances, or sexual behavior in the workplace that creates a hostile environment for the victim(s).
Legal recourse for victims of sexual harassment can consist of filing a complaint against your employer with the Commission des Normes de Travail (CNT), filing a civil liability suit against their harasser, or lodging a criminal harassment complaint which could get the offender up to ten years in jail. The employee could also, where applicable, file a complaint for psychological harassment with the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CSST) and request compensation if the harassment is so severe he or she can no longer work.
Now let’s talk about sexual assault and consent.
Sexual assault is any application of force to another person that is sexual and without the other person’s consent.
Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It can be withdrawn at any time, and there is no consent where the victim was coerced, incapable of agreeing to the sexual activity due to their age or, for example, because they’re unconscious, or if someone agreed to the activity on their behalf.
There is also no consent if you abuse a position of power or trust, or of course, if the person expresses lack of consent. Passivity does not constitute consent.
Without consent, there is sexual assault. The penalty for sexual assault in Canada is a maximum penalty of five years, or if a weapon was used causing bodily harm, a maximum of ten years.
That said, we need to debunk a few myths:
MYTH: A woman’s behaviour or style of dress provokes sexual assault
The argument goes like this:
“If she’d been more modest (in dress or behavior) this never would have happened.”
No behavior or manner of dress excuses sexual assault.
Arguments about behavior and dress shift the blame from the assaulter to the victim, and reinforce toxic gender stereotypes against men and women by claiming that sexual assault is a woman’s problem, and that the reason assaults happen is because men are horny aggressive beasts who can’t control themselves and women provoke them.
Here’s a wakeup call: conservatively dressed people get assaulted, as do less conservatively dressed people. Quiet, modest people get assaulted, as do the bombastic and loud. Men get assaulted, as do women. To quote the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centers:
“Offenders are solely responsible for their own behaviour.”
MYTH: Sexual Assault is over reported
Less than ten percent of all sexual assaults are reported.
There is a huge stigma associated with reporting assaults, making harder on the victim than on the offender. This is likely because our culture still lacks a proper grasp of what constitutes consent. As a result victims are often interrogated and dragged through the mud about their behavior before and after the assault, rather than their attackers.
MYTH: It’s not Sexual Harassment if the victim does not complain about it
The unequal relationship that often exists between employees and their harasser will often lead to silence for fear of causing conflict that could jeopardize their job.
MYTH: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault are Women’s Problems
Men are often the victims of sexual harassment and assault, though it is likely that the available numbers about it are a modest estimate due to under-reporting.
The stigma associated with males reporting their victimization is likely because our society still adheres to notions of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity pushes a narrow and repressive notion of what it means to a man, specifically that any display of stereotypically feminine traits, such as emotional vulnerability or even being victimized makes you less of a man. According to a 2015 article in Psychology Today, the men most likely to be victims of sexual harassment were those who deviated from stereotypical notions of masculinity by being members of a sexual minority or being involved in feminist causes. Men who challenged traditional gender roles were also more likely to be victimized.
It should be said that even if sexual harassment and assault were strictly women’s problems, it does not lessen importance of fixing the problem. If we as a society recognize that women are fully human, a problem that affects only them must be recognized as a problem that hurts us all.
It should also be said that gender segregation is not a solution because it puts the onus of avoiding harassment and assault on the people who are victimized. This encourages and exacerbates a culture of victim blaming.
So what is the solution?
We need to teach people about consent as early as possible, that means teaching kids about the importance of personal physical boundaries and evils of sexism and unwanted touching. The lessons should be taught to all genders and not just to girls as they generally are now.
Schools should have a zero-tolerance policy about sexual harassment and assault and even something we used to think of as a common joke – snapping bra straps – should be recognized as a form of assault and punished accordingly. Our education ministries would be wise to consult experts on sexual harassment and assault to better develop these policies and education programs.
The rules in Quebec about sexual harassment need to change.
Under our current rules, isolated incidents of sexual harassment are not considered as such, and they should be, particularly if the actions or words of the offender are significant enough to make a work environment hostile for the victim. A boss who tells a female employee “fuck me or you’re fired” and does not pursue it further should be seen as just as much of a harasser as one who regularly makes sexist jokes around his or her coworkers.
Last but not least, we need to better screen judicial appointees and law enforcement to ensure that, for example, people like former superior court judge Robin Camp are NEVER allowed to decide a rape case.
Law enforcement needs to be better trained to treat the victims like victims so they’re not so scared to come forward. Anyone lacking proper knowledge and empathy to deal with issues of sexual violence should be made to undergo sensitivity training and pass an exam to secure their position. Those who fail should be denied employment.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are problems that affect us all. There’s no avoiding it, and there’s no denying it.
I get it, the logic behind a male birth control pill makes sense. The contraceptive burden shouldn’t fall entirely on women, men should have a more substantial stake in family planning, the more available and accessible options, the better. Makes sense.
In a perfect world, where gender-parity means more than Trudeau’s gender-balanced cabinet — a largely symbolic move that attracted more applause than it did actually address gender inequity in Parliament — male contraception might even translate into fewer unplanned pregnancies, safer sex, you name it.
But the problem with the conversation around contraception for men is mostly frustrating: it ignores the power imbalances and patriarchal structures that make legislation and policy around women’s health so important in the first place.
Don’t let our lack of statistical analysis fool you, Canadian women are certainly still accessing contraception. Last year alone, the sexual health clinic at the Middlesex-London Health Unit provided nearly 28 000 low-cost contraceptives, including upwards of 500 doses of emergency contraception. But despite widespread usage, provincial health plans still do not fully cover birth control, because Canada remains the only country in the world with healthcare that does not cover pharmaceuticals. Most women access birth control through supplemental health insurance, provided by employers.
The Public Service Health Care Plan provides coverage for federal employees through Sun Life, but only covers oral contraceptives. The same plan provides up to $500 in reimbursement for erectile dysfunction drugs. Several plans omit birth control coverage altogether, including the supplemental insurance for employees of Save on Foods. For women without supplemental health coverage, especially women with precarious immigration status, the cost of unsubsidized birth control can be preventative.
The male birth control pill won’t do much to change that.
Why? Aside from the obvious legislative and policy implications, the real reason is that financial obstacles don’t just exist on the demand side of the equation. Birth control methods are expensive to research, develop, and test through clinical trials. And Big Pharma, an industry that spends over $635 million lobbying the United States Congress (which exceeds the amount spent by Wall Street and the oil and gas industry combined), hasn’t developed a new contraceptive method for women in decades.
Most of the new birth control methods available, like the IUD, were developed outside of the commercial sector and eventually bought by Big Pharma companies, who spent their money on marketing. In other words, the companies with the resources and finances to invest significant sums in women’s health prefer to sit back and wait until something pops up on the market that they can buy to expand their portfolios.
This is all to say that when healthcare in Canada finally provides some sort of comprehensive pharmacare plan, when Big Pharma starts spending more on developing better, more effective, and safer birth control options for women, when the Federal government starts to fully cover birth control, when all hospitals and schools are required to provide women and girls with access to birth control, then maybe we can start worrying about a male option.
Until then, the male birth control pill seems like just another way to put on our blinders, shirk our responsibility to ensure women have access to contraception, and, like always, turn our attention towards men.
The world has lost a true unbridled talent. Candye Kane was literally The Toughest Girl Alive!
Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Candye knew she was a lovely and genuine spirit. She was an amazing friend, mother, performer, and mentor. She spent her life running uphill in heels, there were topsy turvy tribulations, but she never succumb to the hard times.
Candye used her artistic talent and voice to fight for sex workers rights, to end violence against women, was part of the body and sex positive movements, and co-founded United by Music, an organization that mentored developmentally disabled musicians. She was also openly bisexual and championed LGBTQ rights and headlined many pride events worldwide.
In her over thirty year career, she traveled the world spreading love positive energy. Candye played between 200 -250 shows annually despite battling cancer. She is a Super Hero!
Upon her death she knew her popularity would again rise. We must remember her for the real talented activist that she was and celebrate her spectacular sunshine through the screen of sensationalized lies.
It is important to know her as more than just a sex object. Even years later gross dudes would recognize her tattoos and say lewd things to her. Have some respect!
Yes, Candye was a pinup model, she did play the piano with her breasts, and she was in pornographic magazines. She tucked away that part of her life and did not let it define her. She found success through hard work and touring.
She had a brain under all of that beauty and the voice of a true diva. Her music was her soul. She sang original songs about accepting your body and celebrating your social status.
She wanted to bring light to the women who came before her, some of which were forgotten in the male dominated industry. Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thorten, Bessie Smith, and Etta James were her main inspirations. Performers like Devil Doll, Imelda May, and The Horrorpops have a lot in common with the retro-inspired Rockabilly vibes that Candye personified during her tumultuous career.
Adversity causes the most profound art. Candye started life with her abusive mother, who taught her to shoplift. Then she became a mormon, only to be kicked out when she became pregnant at 17.
She then moved on to punk music, living with a Mexican Cholo gang, and adult entertainment. Her voluptuous body evolved and left her vulnerable. She used the short stint in the adult industry to support herself and her child. She did like to party, but was always a classy dame.
Candye’s son Evan was her drummer for many worldwide tours. Her son Tommy is also a musician. Evan and Laura Chavez performed with Candye in the play that was written about her called The Toughest Girl Alive (after Candye’s song Toughest Girl Alive from the album of the same name).
She raised her kids in San Diego and it was very important for her to be an effective parent. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but still kept on trucking. Her best friend and collaborator was Laura Chavez. They met while wearing the same shirt and eventually became artistic soul mates who toured constantly.
Laura was Candye’s best friend, amazing guitarist, co-song writer, and producer. She lived at the hospital and was by Candye’s side though out her many stints in many hospitals in the US and around the world. Laura was even there by her side when Candye passed away.
Candye’s physique changed as she got sick. The cancer took away her curves but did not eat away at her raw loveliness. She always embraced her big beautiful body and was actually self conscious during the transition.
Candye briefly studied to be an opera singer. She loved classic standards and punkabilly music equally. Her close friend, Marika remembered a beautiful moment where Candye was singing Dream a Little Dream and Honeysuckle Rose while getting ready for a show.
Candye is a true inspiration, she never gave up, performed through sickness, and probably would have been happiest if she had died on stage. I was always amazed that even through her pain and hard times she still held her head up high and wanted to march on to the next town. She shared herself with the world in such a way that her legend will live on forever in the hearts and future artistic performances of all who knew who she was.
Candye Kane shall sparkle in the collective memory of us all, she will live on in the hearts of her fans, friends, and all of the women she inspired to be themselves and take pride in their beautiful bodies. Award winning Delta Blues diva punkabilly swing superstar feminist icon super hero, you are now singing with the angels.
You inspired a generation of women to not give up, you didn’t allow yourself to be discredited or shot down, you rose up and showed the world that there was no room for self doubt. Thank you Miss Candye Kane, the world will not be the same without you.
On April 17th Donald Trump will be at The First Niagara Center in Buffalo NY… lovely.
All of the hair on my body stood up, I had heard rumors that he was coming, I was ready for it, but still a wave of fury coursed through my body when I read the date.
I suddenly feel like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, I want to start setting boobie traps to catch this man in the act like the Wet Bandits. What do you do when you know evil is about to knock on your front door?
I have never been more angry about a politician in my entire life, and believe me I am not a fan of politicians, in the current system we have in the United States they are pretty much all bad news, with very few bright spots (#FeelTheBern). Donald Trump is a black hole of stupid comments and even stupid-er faces, his hate filled agenda and ignorant stance on every topic that means anything to me is enough to make me want to scream. I am disappointed in the American people for allowing this to go on as long as it has, even most Republicans dislike him.
I am a calm and loving person, not wishing harm on any creature but like most people I want to charge and tackle him, shave that stupid comb over off his head, and tar and feather the pompous sonofabitch. He degrades women, supports racism and xenophobia, loves violence, wants to build a wall around us, and has no intent of doing anything but glorifying himself and big business.
He is a media king, he knows how to get the headlines, and stupid people support him, the same people that watch Nascar and hope for a crash, the same people who passed around the baby dolphin to take selfles with it until it died, the same people who don’t lend a hand to someone who has fallen into a subway but would rather take a video of them getting hit by the train, the same people who spit on those who are not like them, the ones who bash gays and blacks, the ones who watch Fox News, the people who date their cousins and expose themselves to kids at playgrounds, the same ones who drown puppies and put their grandparents in terrible retirement homes. These assholes have power in numbers too.
I would love to set up fake polling stations in U-Hauls in all of the Wal Mart parking lots across the country that say Vote for Trump Here, this way all of the Trump supporters will just cast their votes there and think that they done good. Any person who says they like Trump because he “speaks his mind” is a true idiot, sure he speaks his mind, but every word sucks! There is nothing good in there.
We cannot fight hate with more hate, life is about loving one another and spreading positivity. In order to make the world a better place we cannot feed the snarling monster.
I want to be the first person to hug him when he gets off the airplane, because honestly I feel sorry for anyone who harbors that much hate. He must have been abused as a child, people just don’t come out evil like that, it takes some wrong doing.
The only way to protest this event is to be peaceful, anything but non-violence and positivity will be counterproductive. We are not like him, we don’t want to incite a riot.
Blocking roads and being disruptive will do nothing but fuel the fire, we cannot egg on or even engage the antagonists. We must make signs and artistic displays that show our dedication to community and freedom in general.
Like other Trump rallies I am sure there will be a designated area to protest, which I still think is ridiculous. I want to go inside, because I know I can as white person. Racial profiling at the gates and blatant abuse of anyone who “defies” Trump is rampant at these events. People are getting pepper sprayed and physically harmed due to the color of their skin or the clothes they are wearing.
This is the point where my white privilege can be allow me to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, I would love to dress in full drag and burst in with a super soaker full of fake blood and shower ol’ Donny with a Gwar style Buffalo welcome, but again we have to be smart about things.
We have to have power in numbers and create a positive environment of peace, tell him NO, this is not going down in my city, my country, my planet! Together we can stop him. Stay safe and stand together! Love is the only answer.
Feminism is more than burning bras and not shaving your armpits. Being a feminist means demanding equal pay for equal work, taking charge of our bodies, gender freedom, ending domestic violence and rape culture, and crushing the all powerful patriarchy.
No, it does not mean we hate men, in fact many feminists actually are men! Yes, it does mean standing together with our sisters and trans sisters, but it does not mean bullying other women into thinking how we think and pushing our ideals on others.
I was offended when Gloria Steinem, a famous voice of the feminist movement, and Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of the state, said that any woman who doesn’t back Hilary Clinton is not a feminist. They went on to say that girls were just voting for Bernie Sanders because he was popular with men.
Albright said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has famously used this phrase for other more appropriate situations in the past. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.
In 1996, when Sanders faced Republican Susan Sweetser in a bid for re-election to the House, he found himself up against a female candidate. Then Gloria Steinem went to Vermont to endorse Sanders, saying in jest that she’d come to dub him “an honorary woman.”
Even though Bernie Sanders is a cis gender white male he is more of a feminist than Hilary Clinton. I feel the Bern because I did my homework, not because any boy told me to do so.
Hilary Clinton responded to the female criticism by saying “I have spent my entire adult life making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices—even if that choice is not to vote for me.” If Hilary does win the democratic nod I will still vote for her over any Republican, I do agree with her on some things and definitely don’t think she is as evil as the other side.
Feeling The Bern is a movement that will improve the lives of women. He supports paid maternity leave, calls on men to join in fighting the gender wage gap, and has always supported gay rights.
She stated that she would have supported the Defense of Marriage Act if she was in power and then only “evolved” to support gay marriage later in her career. I do not agree with her corporate strand of feminism and believe that in order for women or anyone to succeed in this country we need a democratic revolution and socialist overthrow.
Clinton has even accepted donations from countries that treat women terribly, while Sanders is being funded by the everyday people. Ideology is more important to me than gender.
I remember being 18, my first time voting. Candidates in the primary included Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, a woman and a black man, holy shit. I stood in the booth and cried because I knew what kind of moment this was.
People fought for ME and that there was so much more to be done. Change is still brewing. There was a time where both women and people of color could not even vote let alone run for president. I thought of all the suffragettes and civil rights activists that fought for this basic human right.
Barack Obama got my vote that day just as Bernie Sanders will get my vote this coming election. I will never understand why so many young voters don’t show, every voice counts. We must educate ourselves and join together to take charge of our own future while fighting oppression. You can’t complain if you don’t vote.
There is no answer to why humans judge others based on the color of their flesh, age, sex, orientation, or presentation. We must accept each other’s differences and appreciate unique beauty. Be the change you want to see and never tolerate ignorance or hate. Strive for peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love. Sexism infiltrates all parts of life.
I was bartending last night and a man came in with two of his grown sons. He said to me early in the conversation ” Are you married?” I said no happily, still smiling, and told him that wasn’t in my cards. He then asked me if I wanted children, I laughed and said NO, “Oh that will change when you find the right man.”
WHAT? The smile was gone. No, I do not need to find the right man to complete my life, I don’t need anyone. I am perfectly happy with my cats and independence.
It was so ignorant for him to assume anything about my sexuality and throw his values on me. He was obviously religious and has money, he mentioned that he had eight children and it was the best thing in his life, especially now being older. I told him that over population was a real thing and I would have no part of it.
A moment later a man playing in the band said to two women sitting at the bar (who were obviously on a date with each other) “Why are these two lovely ladies sitting alone at the bar? Come on men! Take care of these lonely girls!” They looked at each other and said,”No, thank you!”
No woman should ever feel judged or unsafe. Protest the propaganda and spark inspiration and change. Stifle hate with beauty and truth. Be a feminist, a humanist, an informed voter, and a person who stands up for what is just. Make the world a better place to live in by taking an active part in its reconstruction. Choose your candidate based on their history and credentials, not their gender. Of course I want a female president, but it must be the right woman!
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Andrea Dworkin’s death. On September 26th, 2015 she would have been 69 years old. Opening on September 17th and running until the 27th, Montreal Theatre company Waterworks will be presenting a world premier full staging performance of Aftermath.
Based on a text written by Andrea Dworkin after her drug-rape in Paris in 1999. Her life partner, well known author and activist John Stoltenberg, found the original document on her computer.
“…what I discovered was a 24,000-word autobiographical essay, composed in twelve impassioned sections, as powerful and beautifully written as anything Andrea ever wrote. It was searingly personal, fierce and irreverent, mordantly witty, emotionally raw. It was also clearly not a draft; it was finished, polished as if for publication.”
The piece was edited and cut in half to about 90 minutes and directed by Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s longtime friend and collaborator Adam Thorburn. It was performed as a staged reading in New York by Maria Silverman in May of 2014. “At each step in putting this theater project together, I have wished I could talk with Andrea about it. I would want to tell her how the words she showed no one are now reaching and affecting audiences in live performance,” Stoltenberg writes.
The Montreal production is being directed by Waterworks artistic directors Tracey Houston and Rob Langford and being performed by Montreal actor Helena Levitt as Dworkin.
We’ve heard of this type of story before, more recently with the Bill Cosby allegations and Jian Ghomeshi spectacle where the victim’s creditability was brought into question. “If she can’t remember everything, then maybe it didn’t happen.” It was so long ago, maybe she’s a little sketchy on the details” ad infinitum.
In the text, Dworkin refers to the drug Rohypnol and GBH. “This isn’t an aspirin in your drink. It’s not like getting drunk. It’s not like getting high. This is so easy for the boy. This is so simple for the boy. This is foolproof rape. The gang who can’t shoot straight can do this kind of rape. You can do this hundreds of times with virtually no chance of getting caught. I think how easy this evil is to do.” She goes on to describe how powerless one is to fight back from this kind of rape even after the fact, when there is no memory to report or very little if any evidence left behind.
Aftermath is a very passionate, personal account of Dworkin’s life, family, work and thought process that very few people not familiar with her writings have yet to see or be aware of. Stoltenberg explains, “[Dworkin’s] stirring writing ranges dramatically over many themes—her aspirations when she was young, her erotic and romantic relationships, the marriage in which she was battered, her understanding of the connection between Jews and women, her take on President Clinton’s behavior, her deep commitment to helping women, her critique of women who betray women. And the fact that Aftermath is acted means audiences get to hear an emotional dimensionality in Andrea’s voice that in life she shared only with me and her closest friends—trenchant and oracular, as the public knew her, but also tender, sardonic, sorrowful, vulnerable, funny.”
Rob Langford and Tracey Houston, founders of Montreal’s The Waterworks Company (Palace of the End, Gidion’s Knot, Glory Dazed), a troupe committed to staging the best of contemporary playwriting by women, found out about Aftermath last year from Stoltenberg’s Twitter feed, Langford contacted Stoltenberg, proposing to give Aftermath its first full staging here in Montreal.
Aftermath runs September 17th to 27th, 2015, at the Centre culturel Georges-Vanier, 2450 Workman, Little Burgundy, a couple of blocks northeast of the Atwater Market. METRO: Lionel- Groulx.
A special première takes place on September 17th at 8pm; the show runs over the next two weekends Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm. Post-show talkbacks, with special guests, will take place throughout the first weekend.
Admission is $18 / $13 (buyer chooses price). Tickets are available, via Eventbrite, at waterworksmontreal.com, or at the door.
Sometimes when you write opinion pieces, you spend time trying to argue why something is a bad thing. Every now and then, though, you can just lay out a few facts and that pretty much proves your point.
Daryush Valizadeh aka Roosh V is professional pick-up artist (PUA), Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and touring speaker. Oh, one more thing: he wants to decriminalize rape on private property.
He’s in Montreal to give a talk and if you don’t see a huge problem with that or with what he argues for, then there’s something wrong with you. You’re part of the problem.
According to a blog post on his site Return of Kings (no, I will not link to that site, Google it if you must), Roosh argues that legalising rape on private property will force women to take “greater responsibility for their own safety and security.” He goes on to say that “if rape becomes legal, she will never be unchaperoned with a man she doesn’t want to sleep with.”
There’s misogyny, really bad misogyny and then there’s Roosh V.
Response Gets A Response
This is Montreal, a city that doesn’t stand for the type of crap that Roosh V is spewing for a ticket price ranging between $47 and $87. Understandably, response started with a petition to block his entry into Canada and a protest planned if that petition failed to achieve his goal, which, sadly, it did. On Thursday, reports surfaced of him being spotted in the Plateau and on Friday he confirmed to a Quebec City radio station that he has been in Montreal since Monday.
Protesters successfully got his intended venue to cancel the event. Now, though, Roosh and his troll army are fighting back.
Their first move was to post the names of those who signed the petition. Let that sink in for a moment. If you sign an online petition, you are already agreeing to your name being posted online endorsing what the petition does. To copy those names, repost them as people supporting the petition and thinking that you are somehow outing those people takes a special type of ignorance.
The next move, though, this time by Roosh himself, is considerably more vile and dangerous. He asked his followers to Facebook stalk the women who started the petition against him as well as a Journal de Montreal journalist who published the venue info, which presumably led to the cancellation.
He wants info. He wants to make their lives hell by contacting their employers, friends and family. Now what he hopes to accomplish with this can only be one thing: intimidation.
I can only guess that the reaction of friends, family and employers of people who are against legalizing rape would be one of support for their friends, family and employees and utter disgust at the person contacting them to somehow shame their acquaintance.
The thought of this contact being made, though, can be jarring.
Making His Opponents’ Case for Them
With these actions, Roosh is proving that he much more than just a hypothetical threat to people in Montreal. He is effectively making the case for those who want to keep him out of the country.
Not only has he advocated for legal rape, he has directly encouraged stalking and harassment of specific women. That’s grounds to call him a threat as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he is a terrorist.
One of the first Roosh sightings came courtesy of St-Denis café L’Artiste Affamé on their Instagram page. Roosh had stopped in for a coffee and someone snapped a pic and posted it with this caption: “Girls your main man is here. Roosh V! In the flesh. Should be here til 9 if you wanna show your undying “love” for the dickbag. The door’s open. Make it count MTL!”
Now, it appears his minions are targeting their Yelp page with fake reviews. Meanwhile, others are throwing them support online and promises of “throwing money” at them when they get the chance.
They also seem to be the inspiration behind the #findrooshv hashtag. Now people who encouter him have a mission: let people know where this unwanted guest is so they can watch out or speak out.
Not Ready for Montreal
Roosh encouraged his supporters to take over the protest event page. If you look at the comments his supporters posted, or just take my word for it so you don’t have to read that bile, you’ll see that only one of the trolls who actually commented pro-Roosh was from Montreal.
That makes perfect sense. We Montrealers may have our differences, but one thing is true of almost all of us: we don’t put up with the kind of horseshit Roosh V spews. Not only are we social media savvy, but we’re also, at the core, progressive. Feminism isn’t a dirty word here.
Whether a public rejection of Roosh V in Montreal only helps him has yet to be seen, but regardless I think it’s important to show him that he’s not welcome in this town. He also makes me and my fellow men look bad. I hope he crawls back under whatever rock he came from and disappears.
If anyone reading this was planning to go to his talk, just know that everyone knows what he is about. He can’t teach you anything about picking up women, only how to hate them. If the sheer bile that this individual spews doesn’t turn you off right away, you should probably get help. But, for the time being, just know that showing up may end your chances of getting laid in this city forever.
Earlier this month, social media exploded when pop singer Ariana Grande posted an empowering essay she wrote about male and female double standards, following her highly publicized breakup from rapper Big Sean. She took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to talk about one of many examples of double standards, whether a woman is in a relationship or just dating someone. She says: “If a woman has sex, she’s a s**t. If a man has sex, he’s a stud, a boss, a king.”
In today’s world, it is unfortunate that society still looks down on women for a number of reasons. We are constantly being judged about our looks, being assertive, and the main one, having too many ‘sexual’ partners. If only I can count the number of times I’ve heard men referring to women as being loose because of how many guys they’ve been with or dated, but yet they want to marry a woman who has been untouched.
If we thought the same way that men think, we wouldn’t marry 90 percent of them in this world. If they’re allowed to have an active sex life, why aren’t we allowed to do the same?
Grande also mentions that she’s tired of living in a world where the girl is known as a guy’s property or possession. Why must we be seen as a prize or a trophy? So they can show us off and brag about us to their buddies?
Speaking from my own personal experience, that is just disrespectful. After her split from the famous rapper, the songstress was known to the media as Big Sean’s ex’ She responds to that by saying she does not belong to anyone but herself.
She’s focused on making good music and is having the best time of her life while being on tour. Did I happen to mention she’s only 21 years old?!
I’ve got to hand it to this girl! Being in the spotlight and having people watch your every move is tough as it is. Obviously fame comes with a price and public figures need to accept that, but not many have the courage to speak up.
Ariana did just that but in a more polite and mature way, and expressing her feelings through social media was a good way to go. She even got the support from fellow artists Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez who both tweeted about the topic.
If you ask me, I give this essay a well deserved A+.
I first picked up Adeena Karasick’s book of poetry (one of her nine books), Dysemia Sleaze, back in 2006. I picked it without even knowing what the book was about or who it was written by.
I liked the title, though. I knew I was reading something next level. It was like mathematics in words and symbols. It all made some intuitive sense before I could actually make sense of it.
Almost a decade later, in the quest for knowledge of self and existential liberation from Babylon, while working on a farm in BC, I sought the opportunity to build with the Kabbalist, mystic, scholar, international poet and multi-media artist.
I had just read her her latest book titled This Poem. I wanted to learn some science from her about language, technology and the Kabbala. As I anticipated, Karasick dropped that knowledge.
Jesse Chase: You’re a feminist poet so I want to ask: does language have the ability to combat patriarchy? And would you make a distinction between feminism and a radical feminism?
Adeena Karasick: This Poem (Talonbooks, 2012) is a deeply ironic, self reflexive mash up re-inscribing subjectivity as a kind of contemporary archive of cultural fragments: updates, analysis, aggregates, contradictory trends, threads, webbed networks of information, the language of the ‘ordinary” and the otherness of daily carnage.
The self becomes a kind of euphoric recycling of information (shards, sparks) and thus speaks to how we are continually reinvented through recontextualization, collision, juxtapositions of defamiliarity as we process and re-process information.
Is this radically feminist? Perhaps in the way radical poetics is, in the tradition of the avant-garde foregrounding fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as other or outsider, a distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers — As per “radical” i think its useful to think about it as a radical number, which is both rational and irrational, relational. And if radical comes from the Latin radicalis “of roots” I am committed to a writing where roots are re-routed, detour and “dangle”…
I’m particularly interested in ways language can both express and alter meaning; how we use language, masage its affect, shapes the way we think, breathe, behave. Thus, most of my project engages language in a way that undermines, questions or problematizes any kind of patriarchal premise – that there is a message, that can be clearly communicated, transmitted, that there is some truth outside of language, structures of logic, borders, orders, laws, flaws, codes— rather my work opens up a space that celebrates slippage, ellipses; all that is unsaid through veiling and unveiling, a multiplicitous heterogeny of ever-increasing otherness.
So yes, a highly feminist act – of intervention, disruption dissent where the discourse is all rapturously fractured and fraught with fission, elision. Not marked by censoring but by sensors, a re-sensed sensorium of incendiary sonorities.
What you say in ‘memewars’ of “read backwards or forwards, it re-interprets itself in an infinite process of self-replicating metastability through a virally multiplicitous linguistic praxis…Mem…signifies a hermeneutic process through its name.” Can we abstractly play ‘deconstruct the name’ as a sort of activity? Infinitely re-interpreting itself ‘through its name’. Do you care to riff off this? Is it a thought provoking device or activity? Like the Kabbala?
Whether you call it Kabbalistically-infused semiotic analyses or deconstructive investigations, meaning is always hiding in the words themselves. So, I don’t know if it’s a device per se, a methodology, a hermeneutic practice, but I can say that I spend an inordinate amount of my life recombining the alphabet, wearing it as a series of labyrinthian veils, inhabiting it as an ideological emporium of self replicating metastability that houses all potential meaning.
As evidenced per se with the 231 cycles of meaning in the Sefer Yetzirah:
Everything is connectable, dissectible, detectable. So, yes through the work, there is nothing I love better than the explosive jouissance of simultaneous reference whether it be cycling through dictionary definitions of words etymologies, phonetics, graphic resonances, social, political and cultural traces cycling through webs of knowledge structures, naming and renaming through synonymy, ignonymy homonymy, hymnonomy, anonymy…
Take my 1994 title Meme wars. Mem (or mayim, (water), referencing all that flows, is the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, appears in the middle. Kabbalistically read, (joined with the first and last letters of the alphabet), Alef Mem Tav, spells out truth:
Mem shows how truth is always constructed in process. And moreover as the center of the alphabet, it highlights how it’s always found in the middle of language; en medias. And if the medium is the message, Mem stands in for the Law of the excluded middle, that center is always a myth, is a process of dissent, and speaks to ever-shifting perspectives.
Another linguistic echo comes through the French word, mêm(e). Meme is the self same. The same and the same is always other. This referencing a meme as a unit of culture energy virally replicating itself in and through language.
Though I must say, in 1994, when I wrote Meme wars, in no way did we know what the explosion of the internet meme as we now know it would be. All to say, that even the word itself (in whatever language) inscribes how we can never fully replicate anything but infinitely interpretive and re-generative. Re-invented. Made new. In a complex of simulacric echolalia.
Do you think the Kabbalistic logic of ‘creative misreading’ effectively challenges the ‘frame’ in a way that can be applied to a “new art” — a(e)s(th)et(ic)?
Well, like in Derridean deconstruction, which is not so much an anarchic free play of signification but questions the foundations of thinking praxis, reading from specific lenses, perspectives, codes, acknowledging we are never separate from them, Kabbalistic hermeneutics isn’t exactly “creative misreading”, as there is a system of reading called PARDES (paradise) where one spirals through the literal, metaphorical, analogic and secret/hidden layers of interpretation. Cycles through syntactic axis, gates of entry and resistance.
Does it offer a frame that can be applied to art? Absolutely. Endless analysis, interpretation begets further interpretation, re-visitation provokes different readings, spurring new understandings of the wor(l)d. For Kabbalists, Creation was enacted through the letters. The Midrash describes God “looking into the Torah to Create the World,” and with every reading, we re-enact this process of creation or re-framation as the case may be.
And as such, it becomes a highly political act as it combats any reductive settling into an overarching unsubstantiated mode of reading, and instead points to ways we may enter into a fluid space of ever-generative explosive meaning, acknowledging the ideological codes and lenses from which we are actively interpreting from, however slippery and elusive and shifting they may be. And perhaps this is where aesthetics / ethics elide —
Would you have any suggestions as to how we could redefine what’s generally not considered technological, i.e. logic and language, and invent an activity that would itself be the redefining exercise, like the Kabbalah for example. Something that techno-poetically redistributes aesthetic values and disrupts technopoly. In other words, do you think we can use the seemingly negative attributes of a ‘technopoly’ to our advantage? And if so, how?
For me, language is a technology and at bottom is a prime mover in the re-distributes of aesthetic values. But, with that said, digital media allows me certain other freedoms and axis of entry. Unbound, it foregrounds the materiality of language in a virtual arena of eroticism, a freedom of acoustic and image and visual fragmentation bifurcation foregrounding the slipperiness of meaning.
Increasingly I am playing within this field — whether it’s the construction of videopoems (lingual Ladies, I got a Crush on Osama or incorporating filmic projections in my recent Salome project (where in collaboration with Abigail Child, mashed up the 1921 Charles Bryant film with my text overlaid), or my recent obsession, pechakuchas:
Incorporating voice and text and image and animation, gifs and sound poetry, is an analytical meditation on the relationship between technology and spirituality in contemporary media; highlighting how the mystical and the machine are not oppositional, but that “all media are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes and transform our environment” (McLuhan) and opens not a physical vs. metaphysical, but ‘pataphysical space reminding us how language and thereby all knowledge is spectral, virtual, simulacric. Technopolis. A virtual city to live in.
Harper stood up in the house this past week and said with great conviction that the Niqab “was rooted in a culture that is anti-women.’’ This statement was the climax of the ludicrous debate about the Niqab that this country has been engulfed in for the past few weeks. Another chapter in the ongoing saga of the usage of demagogic discourse, fear, xenophobia and the intermingling of three that certain Canadian political parties have promoted for the past few years.
Just to clear the air, because tension has been ripe about this issue especially within our beautiful province of Quebec, the Niqab isn’t a ludicrous debate because of the nature of the debate itself, it’s ludicrous because of the political recuperation it has been a victim of. And the ridiculousness of this whole debate can be summarized in two simple questions: Since when has our prime minister become an ardent defender of women’s rights? Since when has feminism been the motto of the Harper administration.
In an ideal world, this Conservative government would have called an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women the minute they took office. They would have put in place a framework that made sure that economic and social inequality between genders would be addressed in a serious manner and not just hyperbolically. They would have put an emphasis on tackling violence against women in all of its forms, in supporting women’s shelters Canada-wide and organizations that fight for women’s reproductive rights.
In an ideal world, Harper would have made reference in one of his crown speeches to the plight of single working mothers and created initiatives to make sure no single mother and no child would live in poverty in this country. In an ideal Canada, Stephen Harper would’ve put an end to the deportations of mothers without status and call for “regularisation” of all mothers without status.
But that’s merely an ‘ideal’ world and unfortunately the Canada of Stephen Harper is the polar opposite of that ideal. We live in a country where more than 1200 aboriginal women are missing and murdered while the Canadian government defacto institutionalized violence against women by stating that it wasn’t a priority. We live in a country where inequality between genders is growing at a rampant pace, where violence against women is on a steady rise even though “this Conservative government has been the most for women in the history of the Confederation.’’
So we must ask ourselves why all of a sudden this call to defend the cause of feminism? Has Harper finally come to realize that deep down inside he’s truly a feminist? Has being the father of a brilliant, beautiful, daughter finally made him come to that conclusion?
Nah… scrap that! This is part of Harper’s new little scheme to build on the heritage of the Charter of Values, a strategy of using the supposed fight against discrimination as a Trojan Horse to promote another form of discrimination.
This strategy has been used by different political parties in past few years. First it was the Front National in France. The most homophobic party in France supposedly did a 180 and “became” the valiant defenders of the rights of the French LGBTQ community against Islamic fundamentalism, while still being against Gay marriage. In Quebec, all of a sudden, a Parti Quebecois that had imposed austerity measures that affected women most became the ardent defender of feminism against, once again, Islamic fundamentalism.
And now, in Ottawa, the Conservative government has used on several occasions the argument of feminism to promote its xenophobic agenda. The most ironic thing is that we are supposedly fighting for women rights and human rights in the Middle East but can’t even uphold them on our own soil.
I won’t get into the whole orientalist and neo-colonialist dimension of this Conservative fear-mongering, although it is an important aspect to consider when dismantling the Conservative jigsaw. I will emphasize the fact that many more women, many more single mothers, many more women in precarious situations, many more working-class women, many more indigenous women, racialized women, more women in general are affected by the austerity and the neo-liberal agenda imposed by this Conservative government than they are by the Niqab.
Economic fundamentalism is as detrimental to the stature and the well-being of women through this country as is religious fundamentalism.
TIME magazine recently included “feminism” in their “Which word should be banned in 2015?” poll. The suggestion was supposed to be meant as joke, but looking back at some of the major news stories from 2014 shows that there’s no joke about it. Feminism is a movement that has not been fully realized and is very much still necessary.
Every day porn actors give willing consent for the world to ogle their naked bodies, and the internet literally gives one millions of options to choose from. The hundreds of mostly female celebrities whose nude photos were leaked in August meanwhile did not give their consent.
Despite this disturbing attack on privacy, after the photo leak celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence were slut-shamed. As Lawrence described in her October 2014 Vanity Fair article, the photos were meant as a private gift for her long distance boyfriend, NOT for the world to dissect on 4chan. One of the drawbacks of being a modern day celebrity is that the public wants to know the most intimate details of your private life. Now that demand for knowledge seems to extend to their most intimate body parts as well.
Another important online story this year was GamerGate. The events surrounding GamerGate may have begun as a protest against corrupt journalism, but it eventually devolved when women who spoke up about issues in the gamer community where harassed and threatened.
Gamer and “Feminist Frequency” author Anita Sarkeesian was one such woman. Sarkeesian had to cancel a speaking appearance in Utah after she was sent an email which threatened a “Montreal Massacre like attack” if she spoke. Thankfully Sarkeesian escaped without incident, unlike the six victims of Elliot Rodger. Rodger’s California shooting spree this past May was allegedly about seeking retribution against women who sexually rejected him.
Not all feminist hate came from men this year. Women Against Feminism got a lot of press in 2014 with their stated mission being “women’s voices against modern feminism and it’s toxic culture.” Besides the few inane WAF posters who insist they enjoy living in a patriarchal society, most declare they want equal rights for the sexes. Many also correctly point out there’s unfair standards out there for both men and women. So why then do they prefer to be labelled as egalitarian as opposed to feminist?
Perhaps because even in the third wave of the movement, feminism for many still equals angry, man-hating lesbian. “The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating…For the record feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” Emma Watson (recently appointed feminist of the year) said during her eloquent speech at the UN in September.
Some believe that celebrities like Watson standing up for feminism in fact negatively impacts the movement. In her articleEmma Watson? Jennifer Lawrence? These aren’t the feminists you’re looking for, feminist writer Roxane Gay worries celebrity culture has muffled the meaning of the feminist movement. She also argues that there’s no need to make feminism more accessible to men.
Gay’s arguments are worth analyzing. Are celebrities who tweet selfies of themselves with signs saying #HeforShe or #BringBackOurGirls making a big difference? Probably not. But it’s impossible to deny that famous face gives global attention to causes that need it.
And if feminism ever hopes to truly achieve its goals, it does needs to work side by side with men to make it happen. How incredible would it be if male and female feminists could inspire men to be less like pick-up artist Julien Blanc and more like Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai?
Yousafzai is the father of this year’s Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai. In March Yousafzai gave a TED talk (see video below) about misogyny and the patriarchy in developing and tribal societies. By not “clipping his daughter’s wings” and by teaching her as a girl she too had the right to go to school, Malala has inspired a generation of women to stand up for their rights.
Brave families like the Yousafzai’s are the most important reason why feminism still matters. Long after Hollywood has moved on to its next cause du jour, charities like The Malala Fund will still need support. Twitter may have died down with its #BringBackOurGirls intensity, but it’s important to remember most of those girls are still missing. Women in Saudi Arabia are receiving prison sentences for driving cars. Gang rapes and lack of police interest in the crimes continue to plague India.
So the haters can spout all the nonsense they want about how feminism hurts women. But the rest of us are going to remember that feminism isn’t just a word that Beyoncé calls herself. It’s an important movement that affects all women on the planet, and still has a lot of work ahead.
This fall, I began working tangentially in the tech industry coordinating volunteers, who inspire and empower kids by teaching them to code, for a local non-profit called Kids Code Jeunesse. In light of recent and troubling events making headlines and spreading like wildfire over social media, I thought it necessary to speak with local #WomenInTech and hear about their perspectives and to discuss gender in the Tech and Gaming industry, and mostly, to learn from them, for myself and my work, and to share that knowledge with others.
Firstly, I spoke with Carolyn Jong, who is an organizer at the Mount Royal Game Society and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre. Jong has been involved in many projects including making games of her own, and looking at intersectionality in gaming cultures. She is also an active member of Montreal’s indie game community.
A few days before we met for the interview, Jong hosted a discussion on recent events, including threats of a massacre at a feminist speaking event on the topic of gaming that would be given at a school, and about the “hate and harassment campaign,” also known as #GamerGate, with its persecution of game designer Zoe Quinn and others. Jong felt that there was a need for local collective conversation about what had been happening.
According to Jong, in terms of discussing issues affecting women in tech and games, there is a whole gamut of reactions. Some people recognize the issues and work towards addressing them while, on the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be two types of reactions: one of dismissal (“There are no issues!”) and another of a more aggressive nature.
Jong noted the irony of the dismissive response, which forces those seeking to address gender issues to keep close tabs on research and statistics, in order to demonstrate the “realness” of an issue that they may have experienced first hand. On the other hand, the more aggressive reaction is linked to power, privilege, and fear: “It’s complicated and part of a much bigger trend. This is a reactionary response.” In her blog post, “GamerGate and the Right,” Jong explores the disturbing nature GamerGate and its relationship with other movements and politics more in depth.
There are many initiatives aimed at bringing women in the industry together (such as GAMERella) along with initiatives aimed at getting young girls interested in tech and games (Girls Who Code, Ladies Learning Code). Jong has been involved with some of these groups, including the local group Pixelles, and has found meeting others with similar experiences and looking to address similar issues has also been a validating experience.
“For my own experience at least, it has been inspiring,” Jong explained. “These spaces have kind of given me, this sounds corny but, the strength to keep pushing on [addressing gender issues]. It would be really hard to do that kind of work because it’s not something that tends to be rewarded in other places.”
“I’m hoping,” Jong emphasized, “that the sort of push to get girls and women involved in games is going to branch out to include other people that have been marginalized or minoritized in circles. Current movements tend to be inclusive and aware of these issues but I’m hoping other initiatives specifically addressing these groups will emerge.”
Second, I chatted with Julia Evans, a Montreal-based web developer and data scientist, who organizes monthly events for programmer women with the Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. She also co-founded the local chapter of PyLadies Montreal.
“My daily experience in this community is mostly of super wonderful people, but for lots of women (and other minorities), it’s not like that. They work with people who routinely don’t take their work seriously or sexually harass them or just exclude them in a series of minor ways every day,” Evans recounted. “The more friends I make, who are women who work in this industry, the more I hear about [how] super competent wonderful technical women regularly get harassed and threatened. There’s a lot of really blatant sexism.”
These incidents of blatant sexism range from the microaggressive and discriminatory, to flagrant misogyny. Evans cited the blog posts of two women, Cate Huston and Julie Pagano, who publicly left the tech industry or community as an example of the types of issues women face. Evans also cited as evidence of blatant sexism how Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, dismissed women’s abilities to write security exploits. Recently, the CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, responded to a question for advice for women who might be nervous to ask for a raise with a statement that they should not ask for a raise but trust in the system to pay them what they should earn. Problematic to say the least. There exists, and Evans pointed to it, a timeline of sexist incidents at the Wiki for Geek Feminism which includes the École Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
For Evans, who is used to the kinds of environments that welcome a diversity of programmers, it comes as a shock to attend conferences where 98% of the people in the room are men. “What went wrong here? This is not what a developer community is,” Evans recounts thinking in these situations. She finds it really upsetting that it would be considered normal to have a conference with an overwhelming majority of men when there is a considerable and established presence of women in programming already. Moreover, Evans nods to the magazine Model View Culture as highlighting the already existing diversity in tech whilst addressing and offering solutions to some of the barriers present.
Evans, like Jong, pointed to the importance of spaces which recognize these issues and aim to make change. Initiatives like AdaCamp, a women-only conference around open technology and culture, and workshops like Hacker School where, Evans explained “people work incredibly hard on making sure everyone is taken seriously and that everyone is given an equal chance to learn and grow.” Evans recommends reading a post by fellow Hacker School attendee Sumana titled “Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test” which highlights the diversity of women and their conversations in tech spaces.
Forget The Box would like to thank Julia Evans and Carolyn Jong for their time and for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us.
According to canadianwomen.org, half of all women in Canada have been assaulted at least once, either physically or sexually, since the age of 16. Half of all women. At least once.
The website also goes on to explain sexual abuse (for those who are unfamiliar with the term, which seems to be the case here) as “Using threats, intimidation, or physical force to force [someone] into unwanted sexual acts”.
So why, then, is it so easy to blame the victim? She was going home too late. She had drunk a few too many beers. And, of course, she hailed the cab right off the street instead of calling it in, so she was obviously looking for trouble.
The real problem with victim blaming, though, is not one of petty sexist allegations. The biggest problem remains that many women are so afraid of being judged, that they cannot even admit that they were raped, primarily because of the sexist statements leaving the mouths of police commissioners themselves.
How are women supposed to feel safe in a world where they are taught how not to get raped, instead of being insured true security over their own bodies and their minds?
One young woman, Desiree Armstrong, recently came forward to the media about her own assault story, but only after it was revealed that the police were investigating 17 similar cases. When she had reported the assault to the police, they wouldn’t take her seriously, because she had been drinking. While the police went on to say that they may ask an intoxicated person to file a report the next morning, Armstrong maintains that she was not told that, and has since moved to British Columbia.
Leading my own mini-investigation, I took to Facebook to ask my 363 ‘friends’ if any of them had any personal experiences with taxi-driver assaults. Thankfully, not too many people responded, save for two girls – one of them had a friend who had been raped by a taxi driver two years ago, and the other mentioned that she once rode in a cab with a nab who refused to take payment from her and instead insisting that “if [they] kissed/fucked, [they]’d be even.” She then went on to leave the cab without paying since the driver had refused to take her money.
I myself, on the other hand, remember one particular night a few months ago. It must have been around three o’ clock in the morning. I was dying to get home after a long night out. A cab driver saw me standing on the sidewalk and motioned at me to come over. I entered his car and told him I needed to get home, but had no money. I had, indeed, been very intoxicated that night and had definitely not been thinking straight, so it sounded normal to me when the man said “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” My idea of the world being full of good people rooted firmly in mind, I replied with, “Really? Wow, that’s so nice of you. Are you serious?” Then he said “Yeah, yeah,” in his weird accent and kind of pointed towards his pants, or something. I don’t remember this part with too much detail, but I remember him saying “You know?” And then I realized that he was suggesting that I pay him in some type of sexual “favor” in return for my “safe” trip home. I suddenly got scared and left the taxi, feeling quite shaken.
While I wouldn’t call my story abuse, because I was obviously given the opportunity to say no, it did leave me feeling extremely paranoid. I can only imagine what these women have been through, but what I can’t imagine is what type of “men” these cab drivers must be in order to abuse a woman in her weakened state, especially when she is intoxicated or tired after a long day, and itching just to get home safe. I am wondering why we are investigating the type of women in these stories instead of the type of men conducting these crimes. I am wondering how it is supposed to be encouraging, at all, for a woman to be told not to take a cab home if she is intoxicated (what else is she supposed to do?), or that she is now expected to always take a photo of the taxi driver’s badge to maintain her own security.
Expecting a reality where women are totally and completely precautious of everything they do is not only unrealistic but completely hypocritical. We can secure ourselves behind bulletproof glass, but that doesn’t stop people from still shooting at us. And sometimes the bulletproof glass isn’t so bulletproof. And sometimes women get raped, no matter how cautious they are. Conditioning women to believe that they are the problem takes the limelight away from the real problem, that is, the assaulters themselves. Causing fear can induce more self-built security, yes, but it is the blindness towards inequalities that will continue to perpetuate the problem, time and time again.
* This post was submitted by an anonymous 15 year old writer.
This summer, I came down from Canada to California to see my aunt, uncle and cousin for the third year in a row. Over the past three summers, I’ve babysat my cousin both in their house and outside in public.
I get looks from tons of people, just passersby, average people. Although the looks I’ve been getting aren’t average. These are dirty, nasty; terrible looks.
It took me until now to realize what they were for. A teenager walking with a child. People are so quick to assume that it’s mine. That I’m a teenage mom.
This never occurred to me as I had no idea that of the stereo types faced by teenage moms. I looked the topic up on twitter and as I refreshed my newsfeed, I read tons and tons of people talking down on teenage moms. I don’t understand why it’s so wrong but its peoples own opinions, I guess.
I was walking back to their house and I was thinking: what if this baby was really mine, if she wasn’t my cousin, what if she were my daughter? I wondered if the looks would affect me more than they do now.
In fact, at the moment they hardly make me turn my head because not only am I used to it, I also know that they’re for the wrong reason. I’m saying this from the prospective of a teenager with their baby cousin in public; what I’m curious of is what it would be like from the prospective of a teenage parent. I’d assume that it’s painful to know that people are so against what you think is right.
Being the summer of 2013, the gay rights movement is all over the news. The state of California has now made it legal, there are marriages going on and more and more people are supporting people’s personal choices for their sexuality.
If someone were to down talk gay rights or being homosexual in any way, there would be someone there to act back, to tell them they’re wrong. But there’s not really anybody there to stand up for any teenage parent who’s chosen to keep their child.
While having a child is an option or a choice and homosexuals are born that way, having children at a young age can be fate as well.
My point in all this is there’s nobody to stand up for the teenage parents and as wrong as it may sound to you; I support them. It was their choice to accept the life change that they encountered by having a child at a young age and not yours.
People need to stop being judgemental and accept. Things happen. Remember; Live and Let Live.