Archive for the 'Canadiana' Category

Racism in the bathwater

Background: Canada funds two school systems: the public and the separate (Catholic) in both official languages, French and English. Incidentally, there are private Fundamentalist Christian schools, a Mennonite school, and an Islamic school in the local community that receive no government support. Parents whose children attend these schools are still required to pay taxes to support either the public or the separate school system.

A friend’s (former) employer revealed to her that he sends his kids to separate school (Catholic) because the students there are all white children. He doesn’t want his kids around people of colour and so even though they are not Catholic they’ll go to Catholic school to get away from “those people”.

This should be reason enough to cease funding to separate schools – something I’ve never supported. The last thing the school systems should be doing is facilitating racism! Because there are multiple choices, parents can choose to segregate their kids. On the surface we can say that Canada is diverse and multi-cultural but the reality is that we are pockets of isolated communities. Individuals do not have to encounter, accept, understand or empathize with anyone who is not the same as them.

I have heard all kinds of reasons for why people send their kids to Catholic school: to be taught immersed in their religion (if they are Catholic), to learn morals and values (if the family is not Catholic), because the special needs programs are superior, because the school is closer than the public, because we want to access insert special program offered at the separate school nearby – French immersion for example. I’d argue that none of these are enough to warrant public spending either but I digress.

I hate that this man is filling his children with these ideas of hate. No matter what teaching happens in the classroom, these kids are growing up with a racist father. I would hope that nothing in the school or the teaching would further the seeds that the father is planting, but I know back when I was a kid in small town Ontario, the only people of colour I ever saw were on the collection boxes for Unicef. I certainly needed my brain stretched to realize the racism surrounding me and that I was complicit in as I grew up. This happened when I left small town Ontario and entered the larger world and even more so when I entered the Women’s Studies program. I hope the teaching in elementary school is better these days. Given my kids’ experiences so far I really really doubt it.

Thinking about next year: Breast of Canada calendars

breast of Canada calendar photo of women lounging in a tub outdoors

Sue Richards of The Calendar Girl Blog, My Menopause Blog, and The Breast of Canada Calendar is an amazing woman. I met her at BlogHer 2006 in San Jose but I’ve known of her for years. I have (somewhere in my house) the very first Breast of Canada calendar and framed on my bedroom wall, is the photo for November 2002 of a woman with a baby on her shoulders. I love her asymmetrical breasts, as though one is full of milk and the other just emptied.

What I love about the calendars is that at last women’s breasts are positioned in a way that is realistic, non-sexualized, and beautiful. I love the diversity: skin tones, sizes, colours, ages, shapes, settings. This is how women’s bodies look and they are beautiful.

Breast of Canada guitar photo

Here are three great reasons to own a calendar, from

One. The Breast of Canada calendar is educational. Being proactive and self educated about your health is an important step to take. The 2007 calendar helps you take that step.

Two. The Breast of Canada calendar is about health. Maintaining and improving your health and cultivating a positive body image stimulates a higher quality of life.

Three. The Breast of Canada calendar raises profile and funds. Net proceeds for the 2007 edition will be directed to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.

Yay Canadian BlogHers!!!

Hooray for Kate!

After BlogHer 2005 (which I could not attend) I got really keen for bringing it to Canada. I talked with the team at BlogHer and they put me in contact with Alexandra Samuel. Unfortunately my house was robbed right as the excitement was building and with no computer it was a challenge to keep up the momentum. Then the new semester began and here it is April…

Luckily Kate has started up with the idea and there is interest! I’m so excited – it will be a great way to meet other bloghers, and a fabulous way to share the work of planning.

We Will Not Be Silent! Media Violence Against Women Must End!

This text was written collectively by Actiongirls, a student and community group based out of the University of Windsor in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. This action has consumed us for the past month and we need your help. Please read through to the end and help us in our campaign however you can. There are some ideas to get you started at the end of the post.

Thank you from Candace & Actiongirls


In recent weeks, posters could be seen all over Windsor, Ontario, claiming that three women were Missing. The posters included photographs of three local women, along with their names, ages and identifying features, but were not in fact a Missing persons report or alert and instead were an advertisement calling for a mock ‘Search Party’ at a downtown nightclub to ‘celebrate’ a local band’s single and video release there.

missing women poster

The three women featured on the Missing poster are actually actors in the band’s video. Both the poster campaign and video were created by a media consultancy company in Windsor, Mimetic

video poster for Held Back

The video featured at the release party, is made in the genre of a snuff film – the women featured in the Missing posters are each violently kidnapped, and held captive, bound and gagged in a basement. Each woman represents a former girlfriend of the lead vocalist, and he blames each for his present mental state. He attempts to possess them, stroking and fondling them while they are terrified and physically captive and restrained, unable to defend themselves or escape. Following this torture, he leaves and a heavy steel door slams. He leaves the women to their fates – death from starvation and dehydration. As he leaves, we see the man carrying a rose for his next victim.

An awareness campaign was launched in Windsor soon after discovering this Missing poster marketing gimmick and its association with a violent misogynist video. This campaign – launched by a local feminist collective Actiongirls – aims to highlight the reality of missing women and the role of media violence in perpetuating the victimization of women. This reality is callously disregarded in this advertising campaign and video.

end media violence against women signs

Actions so far have included a march at night through Windsor’s nightclub district, with a small group of women activists carrying noisemakers and signs protesting profit from tragedy, media violence against women and calling for ethics in advertising. This march was met by a small counter-protest. Two women from Actiongirls were also interviewed on local CBC television news (Friday, 10 February, 2006).

The backlash:

Activists from Actiongirls have been continually harassed since their campaign against these fake Missing posters and the video began. Continual attempts are being made to intimidate us and silence our protest – whether in the form of letters to the University of Windsor hierarchy (the group is based on campus) alleging that protest activity is slanderous and calling for Actiongirls to be reprimanded; or in the form of derogatory online anti-feminist backlash; or ingenuous and insulting plays at placation – for example, coffee and cake with the director of the video! We do NOT take candy from strangers,



The kidnapping, beating, rape, torture, and killing of women is a real horror – one that should not be exploited for profit by anyone. With more than 500 Aboriginal women missing in Canada alone, and thousands of women kidnapped for use in the sex trade or worse, the use of an advertising campaign depicting women as falsely Missing is a dismissal of real pain and terror. Depicting this pain and terror in a music video goes further to justify the continuance of violence against women and especially to justify this kind of treatment of women by men.

image of fighting woman


What can you do to support this activism against media violence and the use of missing women as a marketing tool?

  • Contact the company and tell them what you think of their Actions:
    Mimetic Productions:1677 Albert Road, Windsor,
    Ontario, N8Y 3R4; Fax: 519-254-3904;
  • Contact MuchMusic and voice your concerns about the gratuitous depiction of violence against women in this video before the video is added to their rotation:

    Craig Halket, Senior Music Programmer,
    Much Music, 299 Queen Street West,
    Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2Z5; Fax: 416-
    591-6824; email:

  • Contact your local media outlets to alert them to our awareness campaign and the subsequent attempts to silence it, or contact The Windsor Star, who continues to support this company and refuses to publish community complaints:
    The Windsor Star Group Inc., 167 Ferry
    Street, Windsor, Ontario, N9A 4M5; Fax:
    519-255-5515; email:
  • Come out and join us for a march to express community solidarity in opposition to media violence, violence against women and profiting off REAL missing women!

    We will not be silent!

    Saturday March 25th, 2006
    Dieppe Park
    (corner of Riverside Drive and Ouellette)
    Windsor, Ontario

  • Create anchor text on your own site or blog that links Mimetic Productions to this post. Use this code if you want a quick and easy cut and paste:

    <p>Media Violence Against Women Must End! What you should know about <em><a href="" title="We will not be silenced">Mimetic Productions</a></em>.</p>

For more information contact:

Please let this be true: The FemINist INitiative of Canada

It’s cold. And snowing. Sitting in Harper’s Canada, I’ve just been given something to hope for. INtegrity – INclusiveness – INnovation – INvolvement – who could ask for more?

It started in May 2005 and the time has come to go national. A new political party is taking shape: The FemINist INitiative of Canada and there’s nothing yet on Snopes saying it’s a hoax.

Please let this be true. Read more »

Am I a bad person?

This past weekend I was in Ottawa for a conference. Ottawa is part of Canada. Canada is cold. And snowy. Especially in the winter time. Like the third weekend in January.

Even if the instructions say: “dress warmly and bring boots” there will be variation in how people interpret “boots”. My roommate for example had mukluks: very warm, and very dry, as well as reflective of her culture. I had above the ankle hiking boots (they were seconds at Columbia earlier this winter when my 11-year-old daughter shockingly grew into and confiscated my wonderful Sorels). Because of a killer blister on my heel that just won’t get better I alternated boots outdoors with birks and socks indoors.

Wondering where this is going?

On Saturday it snowed. All day. The sidewalks were covered in snow. Read more »

“Feminism for Sale”

THIS magazine, “the leading alternative Canadian magazine of politics, pop culture, and the arts” still says that Heath and Potter’s article “Feminism for Sale” will be online soon. Harumph. I’m about ready to give up. I’ve been waiting since at least November for it to go public to put up this post. How can we have a thorough discussion of the article and its issues until the editors make it available? I read the print article and was blown away by it – there’s no way that these two can be taken seriously. With this week’s Carnival of Feminist being about Feminism and Pop Culture I figured now was the perfect time to post it – maybe the article will still make it up someday. Or maybe THIS Magazine has changed their mind following the backlash in their letters section. john_d at the THIS Magazine blog says, “I don’t know if any THIS Magazine article has ever received more letters of complaint than Feminism for Sale.”

So in case you haven’t read it: Heath and Potter provide a superficial overview of the second wave feminist movement. Although they make reference to some ‘big names’ and a partial agenda of the 1960s and ‘70s women’s movement, they do not give credit to the depth of issues interrogated, the progress made, the personal empowerment of large numbers of women and the impact second wave feminism has had around and beyond the American borders.

It is hard to have a neutral reaction to this piece. Whether or not a reader believes that feminism has lost its steam and that the women at the forefront of the second wave have sold out to the technocracy (THIS Magazine, September 2005, p. 220), readers will definitely find themselves engaging in (and I hope vehemently objecting to) the writing of Heath and Potter.

Within any activity or organization, there are always pieces to criticize, feminism and feminists of yore included. However, Heath and Potter hardly present both sides of the story, preventing readers from drawing their own conclusions. Perhaps because this piece was written for publication in a magazine it draws more heavily on emotional persuasion through its chosen topics and the style of language used. Its purpose is not to present facts or inform but to persuade, challenge, and even enrage. THIS Magazine’s focus is alternative pop culture and political issues and certainly feminism and the second wave fall into these categories. Unfortunately, because their approach is to enflame rather than methodically critique the second wave it is difficult to accept their article as a legitimate critique of contemporary feminism.

The first question to ask regarding this article is who are Heath and Potter? What authority do they have to speak of – and comment on – feminism? Whose voice do they represent and whose interest do they protect? Further, whose voices do they present? The authors do not provide first-hand experience with either the second wave or third wave women’s movement. To truly understand a movement or a perspective it is necessary to enter it and participate. Heath and Potter show no indication of actually having spoken to today’s feminist activists. There are no personal anecdotes of third-wavers, no quotes, nothing. Where are the women????? Again and as always, they are hidden beneath the voice of patriarchy, the very voice Heath and Potter represent. Their failure to situate themselves weakens their credibility.

And another thing! Where are the Canadian voices? THIS Magazine is a Canadian publication yet the feminists Heath and Potter discuss are all American. Everywhere we turn, Canadians are subsumed by Americana: culture, technology, politics, and the arts. Here, in this counterculture magazine of all places, an effort be should made to include Canadians and Canadian content, whether or not the authors support or recognize their activism. Given that the majority of Canadians will never pick up a copy of Herizons, where will they ever read about their Canadian foresisters? Heath and Potter do their best to make sure it is not going to be in THIS Magazine. Canadian women are alive and kicking and it is time that this is recognized.

Regarding the issues discussed in Heath and Potter’s article, I want to address these that I think are especially significant: women’s self-esteem, rape/pornography, and the thrust of the second vs. third wave movement:

Heath and Potter claim that women have easy confidence, and are taking over universities and preparing to dominate the job market (214). Many women that I know struggle with their self-confidence and feel an incredible pressure from their surrounding culture to look and act a certain way. Where are the women to whom Heath and Potter refer? The rates of eating disorders among young women in Western society show that self-esteem hardly comes “easy” to women. Although there are increasing numbers of women enrolling in universities, these enrollments are hardly spread equally across all disciplines. Men still dominate engineering, science, math, graduate and doctoral programs, and higher positions of administration. To say “women are taking over universities” (214) is a gross misstatement. The same is true in the job market. Women continue to dominate the pink-collar ghetto and experience the phenomenon of the glass ceiling. Struggles to find the balance between career and family responsibilities prevent many women from “dominating the job market” (214) as Heath and Potter suggest. Perhaps including some statistics would help their position here – if there were any.

Heath and Potter should also back up their statement that “despite some vague claims about matriarchal societies in the distant past, most of the available evidence suggested that all major cultures throughout history were patriarchies” (216). This is pre-history. There are no written texts from this period. Modern archeologists have to interpret artifacts without any input from ancient peoples. I will concede that research supporting matriarchies is impossible to confirm but it is equally difficult to disregard what has been uncovered. To suggest that the evidence favours patriarchy over matriarchy when there is no way to confirm either is unacceptable.

Further disturbing is Heath and Potter’s discussion of rape. They claim that an “entire generation of young men is now entering adulthood, having come of age in an environment that is completely saturated with pornography” (219). Heath and Potter claim that according to MacKinnon’s work, this saturation should have led to the “ultimate nightmare scenario” (219). Heath and Potter fail to recognize FEMINIST campaigns regarding education about sexual consent (e.g. No means No), the emergence of porn/erotica without scenes containing violence against women and other sexual forms of expression that continue to grow (e.g. online instant messaging and chat rooms). But even given all of this, men still rape. How much rape per capita are Heath and Potter willing to accept? Feminists say NONE. If one woman is raped it is a sign that men still feel the power, desire, and ability to dominate women and this is a problem. Moreover, regarding their claim that we have not entered a sexual apocalypse: there are many signs that this is indeed upon us. Sex, that is, women’s sexuality, is commoditized and enlisted to sell anything and everything. Sexual harassment is a reality in the workplace, in schools, and in society-at-large, and little girls’ clothing is sexualized to the point where lingerie stores have storefronts which cater to girls who have not yet hit puberty. Children are being exploited as sexpots! To me, this bodes apocalyptic.

Heath and Potter suggest that at the core of the second wave movement was women’s “collective victimization” and this contrasts with the third wave focus on “personal responsibility and individual achievement” (220). They criticize third wavers of culture jamming the second wave’s critique of culture (220). What Heath and Potter do not recognize is that the second wave accomplished much more than a critique of “beauty culture, sexual abuse, and power structures” (220). These activists made progress for women in the workplace, in sexual liberation politics, and in the culture of the day. The result of this is that third wavers have a greater public visibility than previous generations. And yes, since there are more women with independent lives and resources, there will be more *stuff* created by them and for them. Art and business can go hand-in-hand and it was never the intention of the second wavers that women take a vow of poverty. What they asked was that women make conscious choices regarding their consumption. Creating and owning property does not make today’s women sell-outs to their forerunners. It means that we have had progress. Before the second wave, it was still difficult for women to have earnings to invest in their own enterprises. Now they do. This is good.

Activism never ends. For each goal that we reach many more are discovered along the way. Feminists are in the struggle for the long haul, whether the issue is the beauty/cosmetic industry, sexual abuse, gendered division of labour and equality in the workplace, etc. Heath and Potter do not give any credit to the extensive achievements that were made by the second wave women’s movement. Perhaps this article has been effective in jarring people from any impending complacency and inciting them to action before mass society has the opportunity to believe what they read in This Magazine.

So pardon me Heath and Potter: this is OUR revolution and while you are welcome to join us, until you talk to the women doing the work here, we will speak for ourselves, thank you very much.

December 6 Memorial: Fourteen Not Forgotten

Yesterday was December 6. It was the sixteenth anniversary of the Montréal Massacre that took place at École Polytechnique in Montréal, Québec, Canada. On this day, 14 women were massacred by a man with a semi automatic because he believed they had taken what should have been his place as a student in the faculty of engineering. Thirteen of these women were engineering students. One was a staff person in the budget department. Other people were injured and there were suicides in the days that followed. It was tragic.

Have you heard about this before? Does anyone else mark this horrible happening?

I remember when it happened. I was a high school senior and I remember being in shock. I remember hearing that women had been killed but I don’t remember really understanding the killer’s reason – that they were all FEMINISTS and for that they would be murdered. I don’t remember making the connection that there was more to this murder – I live near Detroit, I heard about murders all the time – or – so – I – thought. Nobody explained it to me. No one talked about it. All we said was holy – oh – my – uggh – wow – awful – NOOOOOO and then carried on. It was just another murder, right? What was feminism and what did it have to do with dying?

Shortly after this I changed my plans from aerospace engineering (I had wanted to design rockets until I hit grade 12 and discovered Art…. ) but I wonder if the Montreal Massacre was an influence on that decision. When I think back, I can’t remember that well, but I know I certainly didn’t want to be in a position of danger. I had never thought of non-traditional choices as being life-threatening but this was proof that life as a woman was dangerous. Really really dangerous.

It’s important to me to remember these women and this event each year now, since becoming more educated about the interlocking issues of what happened that day. It’s not just about women in engineering. It’s not just about men’s anger and frustration about losing privilege and power. It’s not just about women being victims of violence. It’s not just about women’s access to the World. It’s about all of these.

So this week I participated in a drive to raise funds and donations for a grassroots women’s homeless shelter as they work toward ending violence against women. In one of my classes I listened to The Wyrd Sister’s This Memory , and last night I went to the vigil on my campus.

I don’t know what happened with the planning this year because I don’t know the organizers but I’d really like to make a couple of points that I believe are very very very important regarding this event.

  • Please say the women’s names correctly. This is very important.

You dishonour them by not learning their names. If you are not able to pronounce the French, please find someone who can. If no one can be found then please do your best but don’t laugh when you stumble over them. It’s not funny. Please practice.

  • Please include a moment of silence. This is very important.

Yes it’s cold here – that’s why it’s called Canada – but to stand outside for one minute of silence out of respect to these and all the other women who have died in senseless murders because they are women is what makes the ceremony a memorial. Please don’t turn this event into a show without substance.

After the reading of names outside at the memorial we returned to the reception. Walking back, the group I was with figured the moment of silence must be planned for indoors – and that an error had been made on the program. When we finally realized that the moment had been forgotten we pulled a group together and returned outdoors to the memorial for an improptu vigil. We made a circle between the 14 pillars representing these 14 women and held hands while one woman read the list of names. We had a minute of silence and then went on our ways, sad, but warmed.

  • Please – and this is very important, so very very important you wouldn’t believe – please don’t say his name.

Four times in the service they said his name. The women’s names were read once. By saying his name you immortalize him. What he did was wrong – so very wrong – don’t do him the honour of allowing his name to be remembered. Let him be forgotten and let the women be remembered. And don’t you see that saying his name presents this massacre as a random act? Like he was one psychopath with a gun who did something awful but that it could never happen again? He said on his suicide note that he knew what he was doing, that he was not a mad killer. Do you see that it could have happened anywhere, those women could have been any of us? Women are victims of violence every day. Women are at risk in their own homes, from their supposed loved-ones. This is NOT an isolated event. This man killed these women but violence against women happens every single day. This is gendercide.

I’m glad there was a memorial held and that I was able to attend. Some of the speeches were well spoken, particularly Brian Masse who pointed out that Canada still has much progress to make in terms of making itself safe for women. It seems that these criticisms overshadow the positive aspects of the service. It is only my intention that the critique help with planning future memorials.

The women’s names are below. Please read them as best you can, and please take a moment to reflect on why they died, and the potential that has been lost, now going into what would have been a second generation. Consider also those 13, including 4 men, who were injured but survived the massacre, and those women who attend the École Polytechnique’s engineering program today. Think about the families and friends that were also affected, and the community, and the country. Think about your own life, and the violence you have experienced or been witness to and think about what you can do so that it ends. And then, please, do something.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

Michèle Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Podcasts for Learning

I went to a session today on the how-to and why university faculty should incorporate audiocasts into their classrooms. What better way to share this info thought I then by creating an audiocast covering the major topics of the workshop. Read more »

Rating Internet Content

The American Civil Liberties Union article “Fahrenheit 451.2: Is Cyberspace Burning?”[1] illustrates how mandatory rating of Internet content will lead to blocking of information, create barriers between information sharing, and will result in an Internet dominated by big business. I agree with the ACLU’s position that rating Internet content compromises the free speech of individuals.

Libertarianism holds that individuals should be allowed complete freedom of action as long as they do not infringe on the freedom of others.[2] Libertarianism advocates that individuals’ negative right to freedom from interference includes freedom from government interference. When making the choice whether and how to rate Internet content the ACLU takes the moral position, as do Contractarians,[3] that considers whether individual rights may be at stake. The Libertarian position is that mandatory ratings coerce individuals to apply pejorative labels to information they wish to publish. This infringes on individual freedom to be left alone. Read more »

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