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Uzma Shakir is Spending this Week in Windsor

This year’s Distinguished Visitor in Women’s Studies at the University of Windsor is Uzma Shakir, a Pakistan-born community activist making a difference in Scarborough, Ontario. She is the 2003 recipient of the Jane Jacobs Prize and was recently awarded the Atkinson Foundation’s Economic Justice Award in recognition of her work on behalf of immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area. She works on issues related to immigration, social equity, the racialization of poverty, and the future of multiculturalism in Canada.

The events are open to the community but some require an rsvp. Details are below.

This is the schedule of events from the Distinguished Visitor website:

Week of Events 2008

Women, Knowledge and Activism, Class Visit
To be truly empowered, Uzma argues, women must do more than consume knowledge; they must use their own understanding of the world as a basis for knowledge. Uzma’s experiences with the feminist movement in Pakistan under a military dictatorship taught her that solidarity among women is built through directly engaging issues of complicity and marginality.
Date: Wednesday 22 October
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Place: Chrysler Hall South, room 162 (University of Windsor)
Course: Women in Protest
Instructor: Prof. Nancy Gobatto

Public Announcement to the Press
Date: Thursday 23 October
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Place: Toldo Health Education Centre, room 203 (University of Windsor)

What Does an Inclusive Feminism Look Like?, Class Visit
Speaking as a woman of colour with a history of feminist activism in Pakistan, Uzma argues that mainstream North American feminism has not served women of colour because it has been slow to question its own complicity with the imperial agenda of the state, inside Canada and outside. Uzma believes that feminist solidarity with white/western women is possible only with those who understand the difference between appropriation and solidarity and who commit to deconstructing white privilege.
Date: Thursday 23 October
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Place: Toldo Health Education Centre, room 203 (University of Windsor)
Course: History of Women’s Movements in North America
Instructor: Dr. Renée Bondy

The Veiled Woman as Social Outsider, Class Visit
Uzma will show how Canadian state and public discourses have pathologized certain communities since 9/11, and how these
discourses frame Islamic women as “oppressed” in contrast to “liberated” white/western women.
Date: Thursday 23 October
Time: 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Place: Toldo Health Education Centre, room 203 (University of Windsor)
Course: Women, Race, and Social Justice
Instructors: Dr. Anne Forrest and Dr. Jane Ku

Islam, Women, and Canadian Law, Class Visit
Uzma will discuss the consequences for Islamic and non-Islamic women of the Ontario government’s decision to exclude Shari’a law from the arbitration process for resolving marital conflict, and of Elections Canada’s decision to permit veiled women to vote.
Date: Thursday 23 October
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Place: Vanier Hall, Winclare A (University of Windsor)
Course: Women and the Law
Instructor: Prof. Amanda Burgess
This event is co-sponsored by the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair, Centre for Religion and Culture at Assumption University.

New Canadian Mothers: A Delicate Balancing Act, Class Visit
Uzma will discuss the dilemma of immigrant mothers who are responsible for transmitting the “home” culture to their children while negotiating a new cultural environment on their behalf. She will examine the burdens that racialization and criminalization impose, in order to show how race and marginality complicate the mothering process.
Date: Friday 24 October
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Place: Toldo Health Education Centre, room 203 (University of Windsor)
Course: Mothering and Motherhood
Instructor: Prof. Jacqueline Bobyk-Krumins

What Can Women Do Together?, Community Organization Luncheon
Uzma argues that social agencies must actively connect with other community groups for social change. Otherwise, they will leave unchanged the society that produces the social problems the agencies have been created to solve. Panelists will describe the very real barriers to moving beyond the service delivery model.
Panel Discussion with: Uzma Shakir, Patricia Noonan, and Gisèle Harrison. Rachel Olivero – moderator.
Date: Friday 24 October
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Place: Club Alouette, 2418 Central Ave.
If you or your delegate plan to attend, please R.S.V.P. to wsvisitor@uwindsor.ca or 519-253-3000 ext. 3727.

Take Back the Night March
A Call to Action: Identifying the Pressing Issues for Women
Take Back the Night is a world-wide event protesting male violence against women and children. All are welcome to the rally; however, the march is for women and children only. The march is symbolic of women’s right to reclaim the night without the need for a male escort.
Keynote Speaker: Uzma Shakir
Date: Saturday 25 October
Time: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Place: Memorial of Hope, University of Windsor (between Essex & Dillon Halls)
Rally begins at 8:00 p.m., march to follow. For more information, please visit www.uwindsor.ca/takebackthenight.

In Conversation with…Uzma Shakir
Please join Friends of Women’s Studies for an afternoon of friendship and conversation with Uzma Shakir.
Date: Sunday 26 October
Time: 2:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Place: Betty Wilkinson Room, Art Gallery of Windsor, 401 Riverside Dr. W.
Tickets: $250 (this event is free for members of 250 for $250 and major donors)
R.S.V.P. by telephone at 519-253-3000 ext. 3727 or by e-mail at wsvisitor@uwindsor.ca by October 17.

“We are here because you were there!”, Class Visit
Uzma will examine connections between local and global conditions for women, in particular, how the growing disparity in wealth worldwide makes women in Canada more and more reliant on the undervalued labour of women in the global south.
Date: Monday 27 October
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Place: Odette Building, room 104 (University of Windsor)
Course: Women in Canadian Society
Instructors: Prof. Nancy Gobatto and Prof. Daniella Beaulieu

Re-scripting the National Narrative: A Woman’s Perspective, Class Visit
Uzma will illustrate how certain commonplace words and phrases obfuscate gender, race, sexuality and economic inequalities. She will deconstruct terms such as liberal democracy, multiculturalism, reasonable accommodation, diversity and tolerance.
Date: Monday 27 October
Time: 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Place: Dillon Hall, room 361 (University of Windsor)
Course: Language and Women’s Place
Instructor: Prof. Nancy Gobatto

Beyond Sisterhood: Race, Immigration and Solidarity, Community Dinner
Keynote Speaker: Uzma Shakir
Date: Tuesday 28 October
Time: 5:30 p.m. Reception, 6:30 p.m. Dinner
Place: G. Caboto Club, 2175 Parent Ave. at Tecumseh Rd. E.
Tickets: Individual: $60
Students: $15
Table of 10: $600
Sponsor a table: $600 ($600 charitable tax receipt)
Sponsor a student: $60 ($60 charitable tax receipt)

R.S.V.P. by telephone at 519-253-3000 ext. 3727 or by e-mail at wsvisitor@uwindsor.ca or you may register online.

Please note that the office will close at 12:00 p.m. on October 28, 2008. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

For more information, e-mail wsvisitor@uwindsor.ca or call 519-253-3000 ext. 3727.

What is it you’re trying to do?

I have a few sticky notes around my monitor to help me stay focused when I’m writing essays for school. One of these says, “Why is this important?” It reminds me that every bit of information I include in a paper needs to be relevant to the thesis. It helps me cut down a long paper or focus a paper that’s wandering.

I just added another one and realized that I can apply it to life, not just to writing. This one says, “What is it you’re trying to do?”

I’m finding that I’m trying to take more of a position in my work this semester. I’m trying to be less neutral about what I read and how I respond and it’s been difficult. I feel like I can sort out an author’s argument but I hesitate to judge it. At some point I have to make this leap and determine if I agree — not just question if the author has argued well, or justified their claim sufficiently.

But beyond school assignments, I’m nearing another crossroads and wondering where I’m going to turn next. “What is it you’re trying to do” suggests we need to evaluate what our choices mean. If I keep heading down a path of post secondary education, whether that’s in history or another discipline, eventually that’s going to lead me somewhere…but is that where I want to go? What is it I’m trying to do? If I leave academia that will open and close other opportunities. What is it I’m trying to do?

I think the same applies to parenting, gardening, cleaning the house, relationships and more. What is it you’re trying to do? What is it you do each day and do these things point to the same goal? I don’t really know that I’ve been concrete about having goals but it’s come to my attention that it’s time to attend to this part of my life.

I think it’s about conscious living. Making choices because it’s what we want, it’s the road we want, not because it’s the easiest one, the one we “should” take, or the one directly in front of us. Eventually we will arrive somewhere and if we haven’t given any thought to where we want to be, we may find that getting on track will require some heavy duty detouring. Or we may find that we’ve made a big mess of things. Either way, I’ve got to pay more attention to the little things as part of a bigger picture.

Another Reason Divorce Sucks for Kids

Every time my kids go to their dad’s they ask me to take care of their Webkinz gardens. At xmas time they ask me to loot the NeoPets advent calendar for them. I do my best but times three kids it can add up to a considerable amount of time.

I try hard to get my kids comfortable on the computer, whether it’s through gaming, making their own levels on kGoldrunner, designing title pages and drawing pictures, writing stories, blogging, accessing the home network, troubleshooting, researching, and programming. I know how lucky they will be if they can understand and maintain their own computers and how important technology mastery will be as they grow up.

webkinz garden under snow title=

It doesn’t help the developing computer-love if they come home from their dad’s and their Neopets are dead and their Webkinz gardens have all withered and the food is rotten before it can be harvested. In this case the computer is just another thing that makes them sad. They see their investment as wasted time. They don’t have Internet access at their dad’s and we won’t get into what hardware he must have but there was this project my daughter brought home on a floppy disk. She’s saving for her own laptop but it’s going to be awhile still and that won’t help with the dying frogs and ponies.

Given that after school time is busy with homework and chores these online games should have an option for kids who only really have access to them every-other-weekend. (And that goes for games that offer a paid membership like Runescape). Neopets does have hotels and such where you can park your animals when you’ll be away but the cost adds up. As more and more kids face a double life with often a discrepancy in access to technology how will the technology adapt?

flickr photo by polar bots member mascott girl

How to Procrastinate

When did a B become a bad mark? (omg I hope I don’t get a B on my assignment.) It seems this is what happens moving up into graduate studies. Everyone is stressing over grades. Nothing below an A is good enough and a B is required to pass a course. I hate having that kind of pressure. I did well in my undergrad but even though I stressed over my grades I don’t remember this kind of dread. In my undergrad I wanted high marks but I didn’t need them in the same way I do now. Knowing that good work is a fail and that very good is barely a pass I am paralyzed for fear that my work will be mediocre – or worse — adequate.

There’s been some weird power flickers here today and my desktop keeps shutting down. If it wasn’t happening to the clocks on that side of the house as well as to Rob’s desktop I might wonder if my power supply has finally given up. Since the machine is off anyway I’ve decided I should let things cool down and take this opportunity to replace that power supply. I bought my new one – a 430W Seasonic – at Canada Computers when I was in Toronto last weekend for Mitch’s birthday shindig. The visit with K & Mitch was wonderful, the staff at the computer shop helpful, the curried vegetables at King’s Cafe were amazing but the stress from almost missing the train home because I miscalculated how long the Spadina street car would take to get to Union Station…gulp…that I could have done without.

So anyway, can you tell when blogger-students have papers due? There’s always a flurry of posts. Instead of writing the assignment, we blog. Or maybe blogging is the warm up? To prove to ourselves that we can still put words together and we may as well write the ones our professors want to read instead of the ones that make our significant others/friends/families wonder if we’re/they’re really going to survive our education.

Always a Decision to Make

I hate limbo. I like to have a general idea of where I’m headed, what’s next, where the groceries will come from next week. So I’m getting anxious because I haven’t heard yet if I’ll receive the funding I applied for to finish my master’s. I had planned to do this degree in one year but when all hell broke loose last fall I had to rethink that timeline. Now I’m sitting here, in need of two more courses and a major research project but funding for only one more semester. There are no courses offered in the summer so if I really and truly don’t receive funding I need an alternate plan. I’m considering taking a leave of absence, gearing up, and finishing everything in the fall somehow (umm, just as my daughter begins high school. Sounds like fun). It would be nuts — more work than I’ve probably ever attempted to tackle. School at this level just doesn’t mix with family. Or at least it hasn’t for me yet. Generally I feel like I’m barely keeping up so the thought of adding more school responsibilities on top of what I had these past two semesters really worries me.

The challenge then becomes how to support my family this summer — oh right, while finishing up my incompletes from last fall. Aarrgh… This degree has certainly not worked out like I thought it would. I dream of a simple life where during the day I go to class, go to the library, think about Big Ideas and write with clarity and grace. Nights are filled with deep films and philosophy and sangria. I go to the gym and eat salad with blueberries. On the weekends I code amazing and tidy projects that combine all of my diverse interests so that when school is all over I have a career path to pursue. A few months like that and everything is caught up, my soul is richer than it’s ever been, and the degree is complete. Sweee-eeet.

Of course, maybe a letter will come today saying I’ve got the funding and I can just keep on going as I’d planned. Then there’s no decision to make.

Some Keys to Blended Family Happiness

These may be obvious to others but I’ve recently discovered a few things that are making life a lot easier. Rob and I blended families last fall and it hasn’t all been a picnic. Some of it’s because of the craziness of our own particular situations but some of it is just because it’s hard when one family moves in with another.

Here’s what’s working right now:

  • I signed my kids up for swimming lessons on Wednesday nights. Every Wednesday we go out and Rob’s got the house to himself. I hadn’t realized how rare an occurrence this was until we started a few weeks ago. I have time here alone during the day because I mostly work from home but when he’s home usually I’m home and/or there’s some combination of our kids here. Given that it’s his house we live in it’s been a big change from it being usually quiet to now, usually loud. I also went away to Toronto for a long weekend while my kids were at their dad’s and it gave Rob some time alone here with his daughter. For years it was just the two of them on the weekends and I think it’s been hard on both of them having me around all the time. They need their space and the chance to be together without a third wheel hanging about.
  • Video game time for chore time. For the past month, every Tuesday night Rob and I go out for coffee/chai at a local independent coffee shop. We play World of Warcraft for a few hours and it’s lots of fun. I make time for this with him and on Saturday mornings we do housework together (specifically cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the stairs). These are the two biggest things that get me down when they’re dirty. If the bathrooms and stairs are clean I can mostly keep up (or overlook) the rest of the house. It’s become a great routine and the date night is wonderful. We’re actually having fun together. ;) Having fun is important for making a blended family work. If we’re not happy, then what was the point?
  • A grocery list on the side of the fridge. There are way too many people here for me to keep track of who is out of what favourite food. Each kid is responsible for adding to the list if they finish off a food. If it’s not on the list it doesn’t come home from the grocery store. This goes for the grownups too.
  • Rules that apply to everyone. This is something we’re still working on and will probably continue to struggle with. One of these rules is that school bags and other gear needs to go into bedrooms and cannot be left in the entranceway. For the size of the house I’ve always been frustrated with how tiny the entrance area is. Bags that get abandoned become tripping hazards and it looks awful. Unfortunately we’re all guilty of coming in and getting distracted. One reason is that the kitchen and computers are upstairs and the kids bedrooms are downstairs. Usually the habit is to come in, come upstairs. Later, when they’re ready to go down, they walk right on past the bags. My excuse is that usually I’m carrying in more than one load so it takes me a couple of trips to get everything where I’m going and I get distracted before I’m done putting everything away. Hopefully now that winter is over I can put the boots away and that will clear up a bit of space.

I hope I keep finding more things that I can add to this list.

Getting Good Smileage

I first discovered Smileage at BlogHer 2007 in Chicago. I’m not sure where I picked it up or who put it there, but I came home with a tube of it in my swag bag. I have dry and sensitive skin and have tried a lot of different lotions, creams, and lip balms and I know a good one when I find it. And it’s 95% organic and has a great name too. I loved my Smileage.

But about six weeks ago I lost it. I always kept it in the same spot and never put it anywhere else. For over six months it was always exactly where it was supposed to be. /sigh/ Well, it tumbled out of my purse when I was driving on that fateful night six weeks ago but I’m sure that when I picked it up I put it right back in it’s pocket. I guess I didn’t. Or it fell out again. or something. ’cause it was gone.

I whined. I cried. I went back to my old lip balms…which all now sucked because they were old and they weren’t as perfect and they just didn’t feel like the Smileage. I searched online and found out how expensive they are (10$ each!) and that they don’t even sell it in Ontario. I found a couple of places in Michigan but nowhere near anyone I know and the shipping charges for online ordering were half the price of the lip balm. I resolved to being sad forever.

But then. Valentine’s Day. Rob surprised me with the best Valentine ever: 2 tubes of Smileage! I was shocked – thrilled – astounded – and my lips were so happy to be all soft and balmy again.

Now it needs to last forever because you see, I’ve discovered that my smileage is directly linked to my Smileage. As long as I have some I should be happy forever. :)

Happy Family Day

Today is Family Day in Ontario. It’s a government initiative to help families with the crazy pace of life by giving everyone the day off so they can spend time together.

Except Family Day isn’t retrospectively applied to court orders signed before today. If your kids go to their dad’s on Mondays you are out of luck. Unless you want to go back to court…(Hah!)

And for the many people living in border towns and working in Michigan and other states, Family Day doesn’t apply to you. Get the kids to the sitter and get yourself to work already!

And if you work in retail, hospital, or at the university library you and some of your co-workers will be at work today.

And if you work for the school board and your contract was negotiated before Family Day was announced, you cannot go to work today but you will not get paid. You’re not entitled to any more days off this year. Sorry!

And if you’re a student, you’re busy preparing for mid-terms and writing major papers so keep in mind, if you take the day off today, you will probably FAIL!

But I’m not bitter.

Nominate a Hero for the Order of Canada

Please cast your vote to support the nomination of Henry Morgentaler for the Order of Canada.

Henry Morgentaler is a Holocaust survivor.* He survived Auschwitz, and after the war he accepted a United Nations scholarship that was being offered to Jewish survivors. With this, he went to medical school in Germany. He came to Canada and set up as a general practitioner in Montreal. In 1967 he told the Government of Canada that he believed that any pregnant woman should have the right to a safe abortion.

He was first arrested in 1970 for performing illegal abortions and the process of arrest – appeal – acquittal continued until 1983. Finally, in 1988 the Canadian Supreme Court declared the law he was convicted under to be unconstitutional in the case of Morgentaler et al. v. Her Majesty The Queen 1988 (1 S.C.R. 30). This ruling essentially ended all statutory restrictions on abortion in Canada. In 1993, he challenged provincial abortion regulations and won again before the Supreme Court.

image by tattingstar2

Morgentaler received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario and the 2005 Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership for his efforts on behalf of women’s rights and reproductive health issues.

In 2008, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of this legal decision, a campaign has been launched by a group of pro-choice activists to nominate Henry Morgentaler for the Order of Canada.

Morgentaler has been nominated twice already, and passed over both times. He has recently suffered a stroke and his health is failing. The Order of Canada cannot be awarded posthumously.

The Globe & Mail is conducting a poll on the question of whether Morgentaler should receive this award. So far, the ‘no’ side has received overwhelming support. (SC: 86% no at 2:30 pm)

Please cast your vote.

Anti-choice activists tried to stop the University of Western Ontario from conferring the honorary doctorate but were unsuccessful. Here’s hoping that this anniversary of Canadian women’s right to choose can be celebrated with recognition of the doctor who advocated for us.

*biographical data from Wikipedia

My Sons Learned to Dive

We went to the pool last weekend. My daughter has always been a fish. She’s been swimming since she was an infant and has always loved it. I don’t think I ever taught her to go underwater, she just always could. She wowed the lifeguards with her butterfly stroke and I just wondered where she ever learned that and when did she get so strong?

My youngest decided he was going to learn to dive. He’s a decent swimmer — but better underwater than above. He’s so skinny that he doesn’t float very well. He set himself up on the side of the pool and tipped forward — a lovely beginner’s dive. He then walked around the pool and after just a little bit of encouragement jumped off the diving board. He was so proud (so was I) — and his older brother was jealous!

Moments later the middle one was on the edge of the pool, trying to convince himself to dive in. He was scared but didn’t want his little brother to be able to do something he couldn’t! Watching his brother going into the water head first just a few more times was all it took. Within fifteen minutes they looked like they’d been doing it all their lives.

As tough as life is, I have to remember that these are amazing kids. They are strong and healthy and can do incredible things. That makes me pretty lucky.

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