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Can Fraternities Change? October 28, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, LGBT, racism.
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Fraternities have been in the news a lot recently, publicized for promoting sexist chants and racist parties. College and University campuses should be safe places for students, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, but some people feel frats inherently compromise campus safety. University of Victoria students recently upheld their campus ban on fraternities and sororities, with 63% of over 500 students voting against frats. Arguing against frats, organizer Jaraad Marani said they’re “counter productive to the university’s mandate and the University of Victoria Student Society’s mandate on creating inclusive and safe spaces.”

I went to school at UBC, which has fraternities and sororities. When a student club I belonged to wanted to hold an event in a frat house, I objected, arguing frat houses don’t constitute safe spaces for women. Historian Nicholas L. Syrett estimates that as many as 70 to 90 percent of reported campus rapes are committed by fraternity members. My argument didn’t get a lot of support in the club and I ended up sitting out the event, but the more I read the more I believe it’s no coincidence we’ve seen the following reports associated with frats (not even close to an exhaustive list):

1. In 1988 an 18-year-old freshman at Florida State University was gang-raped by three frat members who scrawled fraternity symbols on her thighs and left her unconscious in a hallway.

2. In 2001, an edition of Dartmouth’s Zeta Psi newsletter promised: “Next week: [Brother X’s] patented date raping techniques!”

3. In 2007 a Texas State University frat’s MLK party on Martin Luther King Jr. Day devolved into a celebration of racist stereotypes with “some fraternity members and others eating fried chicken, drinking malt liquor from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags and dressed in faux gang apparel.”

4. This September, two women reported being date raped in two weeks at a University of Minnesota frat house, with one 20-year-old woman being trapped in a bathroom by a male frat member. The following weekend a 19-year-old also reported being raped at a different U of M frat party.

5. Earlier this month Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon frat became infamous as videos went viral of frat members marching while chanting, “No Means Yes! Yes Means Anal!”

6. Two weeks ago a Harvard Sigma Chi “Conquistabros and Navajos” party drew criticism for romanticizing genocide of North American Aboriginal peoples, forcing an apology from the frat.

7. In March 2010 a 19-year-old University of Kentucky student was charged after wrapping a frat pledge in toilet paper and lighting him on fire.

8. The University of Alberta suspended one fraternity chapter this week after hazing allegations surfaced, with frat members accused of forcing pledges to eat their own vomit and confining them to plywood boxes.

9. This month the University of Kansas suspended a fraternity’s rights after allegations of hazing, including forcing pledges to wear women’s costumes such as “Fairy Godmother” in order to embarass them.

Fraternities have been plagued with these types of news stories because they tend to promote a vision of elitist hypermasculinity that has to be constantly proven through rituals that reinforce the exclusion of “others”, usually women, gay and trans men, and non-whites. Even though these are extreme cases, they’re just magnifications of the types of things that go on every day on North American campuses. I remember at UBC being told that one of the big Greek fundraisers for the year was a musical revue put on by the sororities and judged by the fraternities. “So we basically just fight to see who can come up with the sluttiest number,” a friend in one of the sororities told me.

At the University of Michigan, student groups complained about fraternity shirts picturing sperm racing toward an egg with the slogan “Only the Strong Survive” and banners with Playboy bunny logos on them. Syrett’s research also found homophobia ubiquitous in fraternity culture, despite a seemingly contradictory level of homoeroticism in many frat rituals.

But some people think fraternities can change to become safe and inclusive spaces. If society gains greater acceptance for racial, gender, and LGBT equality, will frats begin to mirror that acceptance? Amanda Hess has reported on frat boys at George Washington University taking steps to eliminate rituals associated with aggressive masculinity and eject members who spread homophobia and sexism.

I’m sure there are other fraternities attempting to take similar steps and I applaud them, but I’m skeptical about the possibility of meaningful change. Fraternities are, by nature, gender-segregated. To some extent, you can’t maintain that segregation without policing the masculinity of participants. Historically, fraternities have also been white organizations, and the continuing examples of racist frat parties shows fraternities are still having trouble shaking their legacy of racial exclusion. Why would they have any more luck with their gender issues?

-Jarrah

Halloween Costumes for Feminists October 21, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture, racism.
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I was so close to not writing another Halloween costume post this year because the problems I talked about last year with racist and sexist costumes haven’t changed a bit.  Saw this “Cheyenne Wig” at Value Village the other week and yesterday I noticed a “Chinese Lady” wig, which looked an awful lot like generic “Geisha” wigs, at London Drugs.  It’s gross. In addition to the fact that I’m assuming most actual Cheyenne wouldn’t appreciate being told they all have hair like Morticia Addams, appropriating the identities of racial minorities and perpetuating stereotyping isn’t cool at Halloween or any other time.

And we’re still seeing women’s costumes hypersexualized. Yes,  dressing up in a sexy costume can be fun, but it’s not a pre-requisite for a good time. And the trend seems to be pushing the envelope to apply to younger and younger girls. For  one costume with both sexist and racist yuck factors, check out this “Harem Girl” costume for kids profiled at the Ms. Blog.

The new weird thing I noticed this year was quite a few people being directed to my blog by Googling how to dress “homeless” for Halloween. Here’s someone’s actual question on Yahoo Questions:

Im going to be a homeless person for Halloween. Any Suggestions on my Poster? Okay, So i have decided to be a homeless person for Halloween. I’m going to get a shopping cart and funny props for it, including a cardboard sign. (you know how hobos stand on the side of the road asking for money with a cardboard sign?) …And im trying to think of sayings to put on it. I would like something common that homeless people say, but also a funny one.

Dressing “homeless” is in really poor taste (as one responder points out before she quickly gets over it and suggests a “Will Work for Treats” sign as a prop). Homelessness isn’t a joke and trivializing the issue and trying to make it funny does absolutely nothing to help stigma against people living in extreme poverty.

Luckily one thing that has changed this year is I’m hearing a lot more good costume ideas for feminists and other people who don’t think that wearing a costume has to reinforce social inequalities. Here are some of the best suggestions I’ve seen this year. Leave yours in the comments below!

1. Member of the Rockford Peaches

Honour the history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by dressing up as one of the members of the 1943 Rockford Peaches, as profiled in the movie A League of Their Own.

2. Group idea: Beekeepers and Bees

Yesterday at the weekly Twitter She Party (Wednesdays from 3-6 Eastern, hosted by the Women’s Media Center) someone mentioned she and her spouse were going as beekeepers and their kids were dressing up like bees. I thought the idea was really cute and you can find instructions for DIY beekeeper costumes here.

3. “Sexy Nurse”

I read a comment on another blog by a woman who’s an actual nurse planning to go out in scrubs and sneakers with a large name tag reading “Sexy Nurse”.

4. Ellen Ripley from the Alien Movies

From the list of suggestions at Bitch.

My Sculpey tooth necklace

5. Tooth Fairy/Evil Tooth Fairy

This is going to be my costume this year. I made teeth out of polymer clay to make a necklace and headband and will match those with a white shirt, tutu and tights, white store-bought wings and a black wig. To make it an evil tooth fairy costume, make the tooth jewelry more disgusting and slap on some gory makeup. It also might be cool to carry around a pair of large pliers.

6. Add “zombie” in front of any of the following:

Suggestions: Zombie Sarah Palin, Zombie Suffragette, Zombie Margaret Atwood, Zombie Jane Austen character, Zombie Pundit of your Choice.

7. Your Google Alter-Ego

Use Google or Facebook to find someone with the same name as you and dress as them. I borrowed this idea from feminist blogger Shelby Knox, who suggested she might go as Shelby Knox the cheerleader.  This works best if you look completely different from the person your imitating. The best would be if you could get them to dress as you too.

8. Safe-Sex Pusher

This is from NOW’s list of feminist costume ideas. Wear sunglasses and a trenchcoat lined with condoms and birth control packets.

9. Carmen Sandiego

Because she’s a woman of mystery.

10. Women’s firefighter costume that includes pants and flat shoes.

I’m talking firefighter hat, jacket and pants with reflective strips. Because, let’s face it, it’s really, really dumb to run into a burning building in fishnet stockings, a miniskirt, and stilettos.

Just a quick follow-up on yesterday’s post about the Canadian Blog Awards. The CBAs have belatedly decided to add the category of Best Feminist Blog just for the final round of voting and we’re nominated with some other fantastic Canadian feminist blogs. You can vote in the Best Feminist Blog category here and remember you can still vote for us in the Culture and Literature category. You can vote once every 24 hours until Tuesday, October 26. Then I will at least temporarily stop annoying you all.

-Jarrah

Thursday Thought: Thanksgiving October 14, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Politics, racism, Thursday Thoughts.
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On our Plymouth-bound vacation, my sister Amy, my nephew Owen, and I visit the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, a stone’s throw from Foxwoods…We sit in the museum’s theater and watch a film – a dramatic reenactment of the massacre at the Mystic fort. Owen is seven. His knowledge of seventeenth-century New England derives entirely from what he learned in his school’s Thanksgiving pageant the previous fall and repeated viewings of Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost

When the film shows the Pequot clashing with the Connecticut settlers, Owen whispers, “I don’t get it. Why are they fighting? They eat together on Thanksgiving.”

Cut to the Pequot fort, where we have already seen a little girl around Owen’s’ age playing with a cornhusk doll while being teased by her brother. The reenactor playing Captain Mason yells, “Burn them!” As the wigwams catch fire, Pequot kids are shrieking and holding on to their mothers. The English shoot at the Pequot who flee the flames. Horrified, Owen tugs my sleeve, demanding, “Aunt Sarah! When do they have Thanksgiving?”

“The one with the Pilgrims?” I whisper. “That happened sixteen years earlier.”

Owen closes his eyes and refuses to watch the rest of the movie. When the lights go up, he asks his mother, “Who won?”

“The English,” she replies.

From The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.

Dexter and Feminism September 29, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture, racism.
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So my friend and I got together to watch the Dexter premiere on Sunday and we got talking about whether Dexter is a feminist show. Our consensus was that it’s definitely not all bad for women, but isn’t really feminist by any stretch of the imagination.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Don’t get me wrong, there are smart and tough women characters on Dexter, but the ones on the good side usually end up falling for Dexter’s deceptions, while the evil ones are punished. None of the women characters are especially original and some, like Season 2’s femme fatale Lila are downright archetypical. My friend pointed out what bothered him most was the storyline involving Lt. Esme Pasquale in Season 2, who goes pretty crazy about the possibility that her fiance is cheating on her, basically arguing we can’t trust women to keep personal and professional lives separate. As Valeri 365 points out, “It only took a handful of episodes before Pasquale’s paranoia over her fiance’s fidelity cost her a job and set women in the force back 20 years.”

So I was kind of surprised when I started doing research and found a ton of positive reviews on feminist and anti-racist blogs. Now none of them are actually arguing Dexter’s a beacon of feminist hope, but it seems like I’m not the only one with a bit of a love-hate relationship to the show.

Merq at Racialicious took issue with the first episode (“So, less than ten minutes in, we’ve already got a spicy Latina [LaGuerta] lusting after white-guy Dexter and an East-Asian geek lusting after white-girl Debra”) but noted that LaGuerta, Masuka, and the vast majority of the other characters of colour gain tons more depth as the series progresses, allowing them to surpass stereotypes. As stated earlier, the whole Lt. Pasquale thing was kind of a mess and I think her portrayal was both sexist and racist. And I’m not sure I’d agree about Masuka being a particularly non-stereotyped character, but overall I’d agree with Merq, especially when it comes to LaGuerta and Angel as positive, multi-faceted depictions of strong Latino cops.

Juliana at Bitch loves Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan, saying she’s tough without being asexual, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. All true, but I’d like it even more if character realized how tough she is, instead of always needing validation from men like Dexter, Lundy, and Quinn. She’s also constrained by the fact that, no matter what a crack detective she is, she’s always outsmarted by Dexter. I get that this is crucial to the plot, but it kinda sucks. Then there’s the way that practically every guy she dates ends up being killed or tortured. The whole thing with her and the ice truck killer? Yes, it was gripping, but it was also a pretty classic way to rein in the character. In Manhunting: The Female Detective in the Serial Killer Film, Philippa Gates argues “the most effective strategy to contain the agency of the female hero is to place her in the position of victim, or potential victim” so that she can be rescued by the hero, despite her strength (page 12). Debra is a cool character, so it’s disappointing when she ends up being little more than a typical damsel in distress.

Feminist bloggers seem pretty split on Rita’s character. Feminist Spectator thinks she’s great, while I’d tend to agree with Michelle at Bitch Magazine that her constant obliviousness is kinda irritating. By Season 2 I felt just like jtul at Pixie Lit who said, “I started getting uncomfortable here because I wanted Dexter to successfully deceive Rita so they could stay together…whilst also being disgusted that their whole relationship is based on a lie”. You could argue Rita became empowered by escaping her abusive ex-husband and that she got a lot better at voicing her own needs over four seasons, but in the end like everyone else she’s just another person who fell for Dexter’s lies and became (indirectly) one of his victims.

But now that Rita’s dead, it’ll be interesting to see if things change at all in that respect. Will Dexter’s lies start to unravel, and will it eventually be a woman (like Deb) who brings him down? Will they manage to make Julia Stiles’s character a more original female nemesis than Lila was? A recent NYT article indicates that’s likely how the show will end, even if it’s not going to be this season. No matter what, it’ll be exciting to watch and debate.

-Jarrah

FFFF: Margaret Cho September 17, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, FFFF, Pop Culture, racism.
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Rockin’ your Funny Friday Feminist Film with some Margaret Cho (starts at 0:45):

Stanley Park: What’s in a name? July 10, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, Politics, racism.
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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.

-Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

How little the Bard could’ve predicted the ado around the idea of changing the name of Stanley Park. Earlier this month, the Squamish First Nation and Tourism Vancouver proposed changing the name of Stanley Park to Xwayxway, the name of a Squamish village which was once located there.

After a few days of outcry from those opposed the Harper government stepped in and killed the idea, but it hasn’t stopped the debate.

I don’t really care much about place names. Stanley Park or Xwayxway? As long as I can still walk the seawall, it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me. My initial reaction was if the Squamish Nation thinks it’s important, I’d go for it. Symbolic change can be meaningful, so it might be worth doing as a sort of olive branch. Renaming could be a step in the right direction to combating internalized racism. But the danger would be if re-naming things became the be-all and end-all of Aboriginal policy.

That’s why I agree with Bill Tieleman’s take on the issue: “Let’s do something truly significant, as opposed to paying lip service by a name change that won’t change reality for First Nations students or people but will make lots of people angry.”

He’s right: if the only point is for the government to make a gesture that pretty much says: “I can’t possibly be racist: some of my best friends are Aboriginal,” it’s not going to do much to address the real material inequalities facing First Nations people.

That said, I did take a bit of issue with Tieleman’s assertion that the naming debate is all about “feeling guilty for bygone colonialism that none of us were remotely involved in.” I might not have personally dispossessed First Nations people from their land but I live comfortably in a social order that validates my history and culture, teaches my language as the standard, and where most of the schools, monuments, streets, and parks ARE named after Europeans. There is reason, if not to feel guilty (which tends to impede taking action), then to reflect and act on our privilege.

But obviously Tieleman isn’t suggesting we just sit back: his argument is that we need concrete action to resolve land claims and dealing with the drop-out rate among First Nations high schoolers.

In other words, a far more rational and less offensive position than the editorial in the Vancouver Sun from Wednesday, which basically argued that we’re all immigrants with equal right to enjoy Stanley Park, and so politicians should stop pandering to First Nations and trying to “obliterate the heritage of others”.

That’s pretty rich given all the times Europeans actually did try to obliterate Aboriginal heritage, through residential schools and other assimilationist policies (If you want to see evidence of racism still alive and well, check out the comments on this story at the Province website). It hardly compares to potentially re-naming a park.

Lord Stanley: The guy who gave us the Stanley Cup. Also a GG and avid fisherman.

And what exactly is this “heritage” they’d be “obliterating”? I just looked up Lord Stanley because I didn’t know much other than that he gave us the Stanley Cup. A quick and totally unscientific survey of white friends and acquaintances revealed no one who knew much more than I did. Turns out he was a Governor General, an avid fisherman, close friends with Sir John A. Macdonald, and had a wife who founded Ottawa’s first nursing school. My point is that it’s not like Canadian children of European descent sit around the fireplace learning the great tales of Lord Stanley of Preston. I’m sure he was a great guy, but you can hardly make the case that dropping his name from the park would leave some unfathomable hole in our culture. Anyway, we’d still have the Stanley Cup.

So a nice gesture? Sure. Worth the hassle/expense? The jury’s still out, in my view. At the very least, it shouldn’t just be used as a token gesture to disguise a lack of real commitment to rectifying material inequalities.

-Jarrah

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New About-Face Post: Dance on Broadway July 6, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture, racism.
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I’ve got a new post up at About-Face about the character representations in Dance on Broadway for Nintendo Wii. Here’s an excerpt:

Fun for the Whole (Skinny, Female) Family

“Instead of the single, abstracted avatar in Just Dance, Dance on Broadway lets you pick from four pre-determined characters per song, which are supposed to be true to the musicals. Both the box cover and game trailer are filled with pictures of people dressed in musical theater costumes, demonstrating how you can put yourself in the characters’ shoes.

On the one hand, having four characters to choose from (each with slightly different moves) lends more variation to the game, but the downside is that there are a lot of people who won’t find themselves represented in the character choices available.

The truth is, the Dance on Broadway trailer says it’s “fun for the whole family,” but it seems the game is primarily targeted to skinny, white women and girls.”

So head on over to the About-Face blog and check out the article.

On a partially-related note, I was browsing the archives at Sociological Images and came aross this article called “Toy Website Shows Girls Playing with ‘Boy’ Toys”. I really liked how it dealt with the issue of how boys continue to be discouraged from taking on “feminine” activities even while girls are increasingly being encouraged to participate in traditionally masculine activities:

UPDATE: Commenter Alyssa nicely summarizes why see this difference:
Unfortunately, we don’t see boys as being treated as unfairly when they don’t get to do “girl things” because girl things are considered inferior. It seems natural to people that girls and women want to do boy/men things because we see these activities as worth while. But a boy or man doing girl/women things is seen as somehow deviant because they are seen as wasting their time doing something useless.
But the truth is things that are usually labeled as feminine, are worthwhile. Boys certainly are disadvantaged when they are discouraged to learn how to take care of themselves. They are disadvantaged when they are discouraged learn empathy and social skills. Our view of all things feminine are inferior hurts both boys and girls.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with that for today. Hope everyone’s week is going well and stay tuned for some exciting stuff coming around as my one-year anniversary writing this blog approaches!

-Jarrah

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Rookie Blue: I’m Not Impressed June 25, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, LGBT, Pop Culture, racism.
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Sometimes people say to me, “So Jarrah, what do you look for in a TV show?”

Ok, nobody actually says this to me, but if they did, until recently, I probably would’ve answered: “At least one strong woman character, intelligent plots, preferably a crime drama.”

From the previews, the new ABC/Canwest show Rookie Blue would seem to fit those conditions. But boy did the pilot episode, which aired Thursday, fall flat on the intelligent plot front.

**caution: spoilers ahead**

In case you hadn’t seen the previews, Rookie Blue follows a group of rookie police officers as they start on the force in an unnamed city (it’s shot in Toronto). The main character is Andy McNally, played by Missy Peregrym. She starts out her first day on the job making a huge mistake, for which she gets called a “Bambi” by a male superior. When she tries to fix it, he calls her a “Girl Guide”.

Because if there’s one thing we want in a role model for girls its the willingness to suck up sexist criticism from condescending men in the workplace.

Then there’s the writing, which is pretty weak. Entertainment Weekly notes one of Peregrym’s worst lines: “[A suspect] is out there…with a gun!”

But in spite of that I could’ve given it another shot were it not for the ream of stereotypes they’ve used to create the female characters. For starters hey’ve got the devious blonde (Rookie Gail Peck) and the sporty and earnest brunette (McNally). In the department of racial stereotypes, the African-Canadian (American?) character Rookie Traci Nash (Eunuka Okuma) is described on the Global website as a “tough-talking party girl and [single] mother to a six-year-old son.”

Believe it or not, even that representation was more subtle than the appalling portrayal of a transgendered woman.

The scene starts when Rookies Gail Peck and Dov Epstein are asked to deal with a woman who’s been arrested for stealing drugs. In the process of interviewing her, Peck finds out that she’s transgendered. Peck goes to talk to Epstein, convinced that he’s now the one who should search the suspect.

“She’s a chick!” he protests.

“No, she’s not a chick, she’s a man!” retorts Peck.

“I’m not a man, I’m transgendered,” the woman interrupts politely.  Epstein then asks her what that even means, like she’s some kind of freak. He tells her  she’s either a “chick” or a “dude” and whichever one she is determines which one of the rookies searches her. At that point, the rookies’ supervisor steps in, grabs the woman’s driver’s license and notes that it states the sex as “M”.

“I forgot to change it,” the woman protests lamely as the supervisor hands the latex gloves to Epstein for the search.

Where do I even start?

First, there’s the fact that when we have so few representations of trans individuals in pop culture, Rookie Blue had to go ahead and make their first one, in the first half of the show, a criminal and a drug addict. Many trans people face discrimination partially due to these types of images that stereotype them as deviant.

Second, there’s the whole idea that you’re either a chick or a dude and that any questioning of that binary makes you a freak. As soon as the rookies aren’t sure of the suspect’s gender they challenge her, with Epstein demanding she pick a gender so they know what to do with her. And instead of any acknowlegement that maybe the problem is with the police procedures, as they’ve tried to do on other shows like SVU, it seems like the Rookie Blue writers decided to let the audience off the hook by having the supervisor defer to the driver’s license.

Third, it’s disturbing, but I actually think the writers thought this was a funny scene. It seemed like the point was to show Epstein, in particular, having to endure an uncomfortable and embarassing situation. There was absolutely zero acknowledgement of the humiliation that might be faced by a trans woman being searched by a cisgender male police officer simply because her ID hadn’t kept up with the police manual.

The scene wasn’t funny, nor was it entertaining or necessary to the plot. The only purpose it served was to perpetuate transphobia.

So sorry, Rookie Blue, but next Thursday night if I’m bored, I’m going to read a book.

-Jarrah

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Who is this Canada? July 19, 2009

Posted by Jarrah H in Politics, racism.
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Ok, time to back up and explain the other stuff that’s been happening in my career planning class.

So on day one we all get a binder with 2 pages in it: one to record the careers you’ll choose to consider and an essay called “An Australian Definition of a Canadian – Written by an Australian Dentist.”

I’ll spare you reading the entire thing but here are some excerpts so you get the gist of it:

“A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish…Pakistani or Afghan…A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk…or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian’s religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist…[but] in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses.”

“The root of [a Canadian’s] prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which recognize the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.”

“A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return…They also welcome the least – the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected.”

So basically this guy is saying that Canada looks like this:

__placeholder

Now in case you don’t know many anti-racist feminists, being asked to read this type of propaganda is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

First, let’s consider the history of racism in Canada. How well have we “welcomed the rejected?”  Well there was the head tax on Chinese immigrants and the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the continuous journey regulation that resulted in the Komagata Maru incident . In World War II, Canada had one of the worst records of accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Europe and we interned Japanese-Canadians in camps. And those eurocentric attitudes persist in the way we continue to treat migrant farm workers and live-in-caregivers today, as sources of labour with limited workers’ and human rights.

In addition to totally ignoring the history of racism in Canada and current statistics that show job discrimination based on race/ethnicity, it was obvious just by looking around the class how unequal opportunities are for visible minorities. By the time we had finished introducing ourselves, we had met two recent citizens who had taken menial jobs because of lack of foreign credential recognition and a Vietnamese-Canadian woman who felt she had a hard time getting called for interviews because of the difficulty people had with pronouncing her name.

Yes, the almighty Charter of Rights and Freedoms may give us theoretical rights to equal pursuit of happiness, but systemic racism (more on sexism later) persists and should not be ignored.

On the surface Canada sort of does look like the picture above, but when you think about who holds the power it looks more like this:

club-photo-1959

Let’s stop pretending that race isn’t an issue in career planning, and in our society in general.

UPDATE 5:00 PM July 19:

This story was on the Globe and Mail website today, reporting on a study that shows that “North American customers are more likely to be satisfied with their level of service if it comes from a white male instead of a woman or minority, says a new study.” Just thought I’d throw that in there.

UPDATE 1:40 PM July 22:

Thanks to Chris, who found this Snopes article that shows the essay wasn’t written by an Australian, or a dentist, and was originally written about Americans: http://www.snopes.com/rumors/america2.asp

This possibly makes it even less true 🙂