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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

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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.

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):

FFFF: Wanda Sykes August 26, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, FFFF, Pop Culture.
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Bringin’ you your Friday Feminist Funny Film on Thursday night, hoping the earliness might make up for the fact that I failed to post one last week.

Some language NSFW

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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Orientalism in Cairo Time June 21, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Pop Culture.
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I missed seeing Cairo Time when it showed at Monday Movie Nights in New West, so I jumped at the chance to watch it when I saw it on the free Shaw on Demand video list this past weekend. After all, I figured, it’s a Canadian movie, written and directed by a woman, Ruba Nadda, so it’s the kind of thing I usually get into. I’d also seen that it won Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF 2009.

Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig

So the basic plotline is this: Patricia Clarkson plays Juliette, who’s gone to Cairo to meet her husband, who is working for the UN in Gaza. He’s kept away by work and she ends up spending a lot of time with his former colleague, Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or Tareq for the purposes of this movie. Not at all shockingly she begins to realize she’s developing a thing for him.

Unfortunately, Cairo Time really disappointed me. I was less than ten minutes in when I was started noticing the Orientalist feel of the movie, which I’ll talk about in more detail later. But the movie was also just plain bad. The plot and shots were so slow and disjointed that at times I wondered if the video stream was broken. The whole thing lacked any real dramatic tension and the static characters drove me crazy.

But it’s really the Orientalism I wanted to write about. I’m taking Said’s definition of Orientalism the defining of the Orient by Westerners through imperialist experiences and prejudices. To start, the whole atmosphere of the movie is geared towards showing Cairo as exotic and beautiful. Interviewed about the movie’s concept, Nadda talks about a family vacation to Cairo when she was 16: “It was just beautiful, it was ancient, it had so much history, it left a visual imprint on my brain, and I thought I had to set a story in this beautiful, beautiful city.” The problem is Cairo Time never gives us the history so all we get is a romanticized, exoticized representation.

In addition, Cairo Time fits Said’s description of contemporary Orientalism towards Arab cultures pretty much to a tee. Here are the stereotypes we learn from Cairo Time:

1. Egyptian men are dominant and aggressive. Early in the film Juliette ventures out of her hotel by herself and is followed by a slew of random creepy Egyptian guys acting as though they’ve never seen a white lady before. From then on she realizes she needs Tareq to take her everywhere. There’s a clip of this scene in the trailer, which I’m including here:

2. Egypt is dangerous and Egyptians hate Americans. Aside from the random creepy stalkers, Tareq also feels the need to warn Juliette that “under the facade, Cairo is still a dangerous city.” He mentions that 2 Americans were murdered outside their hotel, simply for being Americans.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. The US State Department does warn American tourists to be vigilant as some have been the victims of terrorist bombings at tourist attractions, but admits, “U.S. citizens do not appear to have been targeted in any of these incidents.” I know it’s fiction, but making up this incident really doesn’t help Western stereotypes of all Arabs as dangerous anti-Americans.

3. Americans are workaholics; Egyptians are hedonists. Tareq gets Juliette to admit to working 12-hour days and then brags about how Egyptians get off work at 3 every day and then go home to relax and prepare for the evening’s fun.

4. Egyptian women are oppressed. Now I’m not saying there’s complete gender equality in Egypt, but Cairo Time dramatically oversimplifies the issues, which ends up making invisible Western gender inequality. For example, Juliette frets over some girls she sees working rather than being in school. Tareq informs they don’t go to school because their families are saving for their weddings. While there is a significant gender gap in education and literacy in Egypt, 92% of primary-school-aged girls do attend school.

5. Egyptians don’t have a social conscience. The intrepid Juliette, who  runs a magazine on women’s and social issues, mentions to Tareq she wants to write about Egyptian street children. She elaborates, “Many of these children fend for themselves and no one seems to care.” All our hero Tareq can muster as a defense is to say it’s complicated. Yes it is, but we the audience members are just left up on our high horses with Juliette on this one.

Now, to be fair, there are a couple points in the film where Tareq criticizes Juliette for her Orientalism. In response to her discussion of girls involved in child labour he says sarcastically, “Between you and your husband you may yet save the entire Middle East.” But it’s never a serious challenge and it’s really overwhelmed by the rest of the film’s content.

Soha Bayoumi has an excellent analysis of the other ways in which the film reinforces negative stereotypes about Arab people. I encourage you to check out her post, as she’s done a great job of documenting the film’s factual errors about Egyptian culture and Arab language.

The big problem with depictions of cultures like the one we see in Cairo Time is that, being geared to a white Western audience, the factual errors and stereotypes may be accepted as fact. All in all, I’d say don’t make time for Cairo Time.

-Jarrah

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Women Behind Bars May 22, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
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For many of us, what goes on within Canada’s prisons is a mystery – out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, earlier this month a report revealed some disturbing trends regarding women in prison. It indicated that the number of women starting federal prison sentences in Canada has increased by more than 50% in the past decade; this is compared to a 15% increase for men.

In Canada, it is women who represent the fastest growing segment of the inmate population.

Incarcerated women share a particular profile. Many, prior to incarceration, were poor or homeless, under-educated, and suffering from addictions & mental health problems. In addition, the Elizabeth Fry Society reports that 82% of women incarcerated in Canadian prisons have a history of sexual or physical abuse. This stat rises to an alarming 91% for Aboriginal women.

While not downplaying the criminal behaviour of female inmates, my intention here is to argue that the dichotomies often invoked within our society in reference to criminals, such as good/evil, victim/offender, right/wrong – are not clear cut. The reality is much more complex.

This report clearly illustrates that in addition to committing crimes, the majority of women behind bars are also victims. They are victims of continued cuts to health and social services which provide the resources, materials and support required to build lives, communities and futures. In addition, unacceptably high numbers of these women are also victims of sexual and physical violence – horrific crimes which can destroy lives.

Aboriginal women make up 33% of Canada’s prison population, but only 3% of the general population. Many of these women’s experiences with racism and the legacy of colonialism are inextricably related to their experiences as offenders. 28% of Aboriginal offenders were raised as wards in the community, and 15% were in residential schools.

And the discrimination continues in prison, with the Native Women’s Association of Canada reporting that Aboriginal women are more likely to be housed in higher security facilities than their assessed risk requires, inhibiting their ability to access programs and services while incarcerated.

The way I see it, Canadians pay when cuts are made to essential services and individuals cannot get the help and support they need to build their lives. Canadians also pay, to incarcerate individuals when they break the law. Finally, no matter how good the rehabilitative efforts may or may not be within prisons, Canadians pay when inmates are released back into the same dismal conditions which led to their incarceration in the first place and as a result re-offend.

I strongly believe that as a society, before we sentence women and men to spend large chunks of their lives in prison – isolated and caged like animals; we have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent individuals from entering lives of crime.

More can be done and a crucial component is restoring and investing in social programs and health based services.

-E.Cain

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Err-izona May 16, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Politics.
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There’s an old guy who lives in my neighbourhood. He stops anyone who’ll listen to his racist rants about how we give immigrants too many rights and how “they” are taking “our” jobs and taking over the country. I don’t think the people he talks to ever seriously wondered what would happen if we gave him his own state to run.

But over the last few weeks we’ve found out, thanks to the craziness going on in Arizona.

Sarah Palin with Jan Brewer, supporting the "papers, please" bill

It started when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that allows police to demand “proof of immigration status” if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be in the country illegally.

No one has convincingly been able to argue that this “papers, please” bill won’t lead to racial profiling. When asked what she thought an illegal immigrant looks like, Brewer stated, “I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” As the Philadelphia Daily News said: “Want to bet these “people” think illegal immigrants look like Latinos?”

Despite numerous cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, moving to boycott city business dealings and staff travel to Arizona, other states are predicted to jump on the “papers, please” bandwagon as anti-immigration activists help them write clone laws. Already a Michigan state legislator is set to introduce her version of the law in the next couple of weeks.

As if “papers, please” weren’t a big enough move in the wrong direction, now Arizona has again made history by passing legislation that attempts to ban public school classes that “are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.”

I guess I just heard that headline in passing, because initially I thought, “Oh my God, they’re shutting down the entire school system!” But then I found out that apparently they don’t care if courses and curricula are geared to white students; they’re mostly targeting ethnic studies classes geared towards Mexican or Chicano students.

Apparently Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne says these classes foster race resentment, hence the portion of the legislation that goes on to ban classese that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people . . . and advocate ethnic solidarity.”

Since passing these bills, Arizona has been called out by a group of 6 UN human rights experts for potentially violating international human rights standards (the “papers, please” bill) and denying individuals the right to learn about their cultural and linguistic heritage.

Talking Points Memo notes the politically expeditious timing of the legislation for Horne, who is currently locked in a heated Republican primary battle. And Michael Yaki at the San Francisco Chronicle has a great analysis of why the ethnic studies bill’s terms are so incredibly suggestive as to make it unenforceable, and why the intent behind it is so wrong.

-Jarrah

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All I Want for Christmas is for Margaret Wente to Take Some Time Off December 11, 2009

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
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When it comes to Margaret Wente’s columns in the Globe and Mail, my usual attitude is ignorance is bliss. Back when I still got the Globe for the crossword puzzles,  I read most of her columns, from her forays into racism against Aboriginal people, including a column in October, 2008 that prompted widespread calls for her to be fired, to her frequent lambasting of feminists. Eventually I decided for the sake of my mental health I shouldprobably abstain from Margaret Wente consumption altogether.

But every once in a while I catch wind of something ridiculous she’s written and I can’t help it; I have to respond. So it was with her column of Monday, December 7th, entitled “Montreal Massacre Death Cult”, where she complains about the “overheated nonsense” and “fevered breast-beating” she says she sees every December 6th as feminists try to mobilize against gender-based violence.

Now last week I wrote about December 6th and linked to a Star article Wente refers to, saying: “How much sophistry can you stuff into one small space?” There is a saying about a pot and a kettle that’s highly applicable here, but because I couldn’t let it go, here’s what I think about some of her arguments.

1. Wente contends that “women in Canada have never been safer than they are today,” arguing that most victims of violence are men and that society no longer tolerates spousal abuse.  While it may be technically true that most victims of violence are men, the type of violence they suffer and its cultural significance are different.

Margaret Wente ignores a) that violence against women is underreported and b) it is experienced differently given the gendered power dynamics in our society. Violence against women is often perpetrated by people they know and sometimes love. In relationships, women are more likely to experience severe violence than men. And in a society where women are still unequal, violence against women is a tool for reinforcing gender-based power dynamics.

I’m not saying any violence is okay, but there are many legitimate reasons for treating violence against women as a separate issue.

2. In the column Wente gets up on her Eurocentric high horse to try to make her point, taking pains to point out Marc Lepine’s “deeply troubled background” as the “son of an Algerian-born businessman.”

She continues expressing her view that we don’t have an equality problem in Canada at the end of the column where she points out gender inequalities in Afghanistan and India, then says, “in Canada, it’s time to get a grip and move on.” Wente conveniently ignores that much violence against women in North America is perpetrated by white people.

For example earlier this year in a situation eerily similar to what happened in Montreal 20 years ago, a man named George Sodini went on a shooting rampage in a Pittsburgh gym, where he killed 3 women and wounded 9 more before killing himself. Lousie Marie Roth has a great Huffington Post article about how the shooting relates to Montreal and to misogynist violence. Like Montreal, he singled out women because they were women. On his blog he ranted how he planned to kill women because they wouldn’t date him.

These types of shootings are extreme, but as Roth points out, our society plays a role by creating a masculine sense of entitlement that can clash with women’s push for equality. Race is not a causative factor and white Canadians shouldn’t get let off the hook.

3. Wente argues women don’t have to worry about equality because women now make up most PhD students in Canada. Conveniently she ignores the continued gender wage gap and the fact that women still only make up 22.1% of the seats in the House of Commons, among other markers of inequality.

I’ll leave it at that for this week and with any luck I can make it through this holiday season without having to read any more Margaret Wente.


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