Archive for the 'Women’s Studies' Category

SSHRCing

I’m working on a sshrc funding proposal. For those who aren’t familiar, funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canad makes the difference between attending and not attending graduate school. I’ve decided to pursue the PhD and working on the proposal is both exciting and frustrating. I’m working with vague ideas about women, violence, and the internet but since we know that this is a huge issue it’s taking a long time to get a focus and research question.

I’m kicking around ideas about why gendered violence occurs online, cultures of resistance against the harassment, why certain individuals become targets/victims and their agency, Lessig’s four pillars of internet governance (norms, laws, architecture, market), the role of the internet in constructing women’s bodies, identities, consciousness (this taken from Romano’s piece below), and of course what to do about it all, but first understanding it from a philosophical perspective.

Maybe I’ll come back and link these up later but if you’re curious about any of them I advise select text > right click (control+click on mac) > search in google.

On my desk with highlighter poised I’ve got:

  • Alison Adam: Cyberstalking and Internet pornography: Gender and the Gaze
  • Adam: Gender and Computer Ethics
  • Chat Garcia Romano: Beyond Tools: Technology as a feminist agenda
  • Leslie Regan Shade and Barbara Crow: Canadian Feminist Perspectives on Digital Technology
  • Barbara Crow and Graham Longford: Digital Restructuring: Gender, Class and Citizenship in the Information Society in Canada

I see history, philosophy, and com studies in this.

Also in the mix is Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women because you can’t talk about women and technology without the Cyborg Manifesto. How I missed the Cyborg Manifesto. It’s probably been two years since I last tried to get through understand read it.

It’s been a long day and I ran out of food hours ago. Even though I’m not done I have to leave for food and rest. I’ll be back early or work late at home or something because I need a draft for my letter writers in the morning.

If anyone has any great ideas let me know. I could use one before 9am tomorrow.

Uzma Shakir Quotes

Last week Uzma Shakir, GTA activist, visited Windsor to talk about activism, feminism, Islam, immigration, community, and violence against women, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, Sharia law, and the imperiled Muslim woman. I kept a running list of quotes from the talks I attended.

Here they are:

  1. “Kids don’t drop out of school, they’re pushed out because the knowledge is not meaningful.
  2. Multiculturalism is not just food, music, and dance. I call it Sari and Samosa Syndrome. We’re not talking about power — let’s talk about my right to wear hijab, about power and privilege.
  3. Activism is not about convenience. I cannot be antiracist all day and then go home at 5 o’clock, put my feet up and be a bigot.
  4. As a white person you can walk away when you get tired about talking about white privilege. A person of colour cannot walk away.
  5. Not all rappers are about guns and bitches.
  6. I can speak English. The gift of 200 years of colonialism: you come out of your mother’s womb speaking English.
  7. I had an arranged marriage. I arranged it myself.
  8. My family turns into a nuclear family by virtue of Immigration Canada.
  9. I was liberated in Pakistan, based on my class and family support. In Canada I feel very oppressed, marginalized. Here I had no daycare and all I can get is a shitty job.
  10. Contract work is precarious employment. It is contingent, temporary.
  11. Mothering [as a new immigrant] is about going through hell and having no one to talk to.
  12. I do parenting workshops to deconstruct the other parenting workshops.
  13. Social justice is hard work and messy work.
  14. Language is not neutral. Language is political.
  15. The Sharia Hysteria: if you want it you’re a Neanderthal, if you don’t want it you are a liberal.
  16. Muslims do not have a monopoly on oppressing women.
  17. I don’t get offended anymore. If I’m continually insulted I am frozen into inaction.
  18. If I am the standard and you are different from me then I have the power.
  19. When you get tired of anti-racism and social justice, remember those who cannot walk away. You’ve got to stand with them.
  20. I don’t mind being an immigrant. But my children were born here — their imagination of home begins and end in Canada. I can go home to Pakistan but this is home to my children.
  21. Pakistan has been colonized for 200 years but the colonizers went home. They left behind their cronies to watch over us. But in Canada, the colonizers never went home.
  22. I didn’t know I was being a feminist until I came here a week ago. I thought I was just a woman who liked to fight.
  23. We have to fight together. We have been marginalized and oppressed and if we’re not careful we’re going to marginalize and oppress someone else.
  24. Everyone wants to save the muslim woman. Some want to put the hijab on me and save me; some want to take hijab off me and save me; some want to bomb us and save me. Just give me a break man! I can save myself! I don’t need Western imperialism to save me or Western feminism riding on the coattails of Western imperialism to save me. I can save myself.
  25. Just because we are doing social justice does not mean we are socially just.
  26. We [immigrants and refugees] don’t come here to live in poverty. We don’t come for the weather and we don’t come for the food – we bring the food! We come for the democracy.
  27. To hurt someone is to sin. To watch someone else get hurt and do nothing is a greater sin.
  28. If you are a man you can be a feminist – if you are a man you
  29. must be a feminist because if you’re not you’re part of the problem.

  30. I wish all I had to worry about was [my son's] baggy pants and who he dates. I have to worry if he’s going to get arrested, if he’s playing basketball, out with his Black and Arab friends. This is part of mothering for black mothers, aboriginal mothers, and now it is true for Muslim mothers.
  31. My children keep me grounded and I keep them political.

More about Uzma’s visit here:
Sari and Samosa Syndrome

and here:
Uzma Shakir is Spending this Week in Windsor

Sari and Samosa Syndrome

“Sari and Samosa Syndrome.” Coined by Uzma Shakir and shared at one of the stops on her visit to Windsor this week , this is what happens too often when people attempt to organize multicultural events. People are invited to wear their “traditional cultural dress” and serve “ethnic” food. There’s music and dancing and before you know it we’re all diverse and tolerant and there’s no more racism. Right?

Shakir argues that these are not transformative, anti-racist events. Without a discussion about power, equality, and social justice — real issues — what are we changing?

Windsor is guilty of this. Multiculturalism is more than Carousel of Nations. Multiculturalism is not a weekend field trip. Who at Carousel talks about poverty? About discrimination, violence, about a woman’s choice to wear or not wear hijab? What about forced marriage? Having years of education rejected, being unable to transfer skills and training? About being both an engineer and a cab driver?

Two years ago, when I sat at a table at a social justice conference with a bunch of high school teachers this is exactly what I witnessed. In attempt to deal with their frustrations with racism in the classroom at their school and a desire to recognize the diversity in the school’s population they set out to plan a Sari-and-Samosa event. I’m sure it was very successful too. So-and-so was a dancer, so-and-so could bring food — it’s so delicious, you know! — but the event was planned to be entertainment not issue focused. Ah well, who doesn’t like a samosa now and then? And at a elementary school last year the local grade school sent home information about their multicultural fair: bring in an ethnic food to share and to tell about your “culture”. Sorry, but culture is a lot more than food. Food is something we share, a point where we can recognize similarities, not a place to emphasize difference.

Why are we so afraid of the dialogue people?

New Research Methods Book by Alison Jagger

Alison Jagger is professor of philosophy and women’s studies at University of Colorado, Boulder. Her latest book looks great and useful: Just Methods: An Interdisciplinary Feminist Reader .

From the description:

Feminist research is a growing tradition of inquiry that aims to produce knowledge that is not biased by inequitable assumptions about gender and related categories such as class, race, religion, sexuality, and nationality.

Just Methods is designed for upper level undergraduate and graduate students in a range of disciplines. Rather than being concerned with particular techniques of inquiry, the interdisciplinary readings in this book address broad questions of research methodology. They are designed to help researchers think critically and constructively about the epistemological and ethical implications of various approaches to research selection and research design, evidence-gathering techniques, and publication of results.

A key theme running through the readings is the complex inter-relationship between social power and inequality, on the one hand, and the production of knowledge, on the other. A second and related theme is the inseparability of research projects and methodologies from ethical and political values. [emphasis mine]

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.

Locavore Me

Coming up on Sunday July 27, 2008 at John R. Park Homestead is a new (hopefully annual) event called the Lakeside Locavore Lunch. From the Essex Region Conservation Authority calendar:

The Lakeside Locavore Lunch is a new special event taking place at the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area on Sunday, July 27th from noon – 2:30pm. This event highlights ‘locavore’ opportunities in Essex County.

Enjoy an afternoon by the lake tasting locally grown foods and fine wines. ‘Food for thought’ will also be provided as local farmers and food producers share their specific knowledge about the delicious bounty that our region offers.

To enhance the experience ‘Fiddle and Friends’ will be providing traditional celtic and folk fiddle music. Admission is $15.00 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-16. Preregistration is required and spaces are limited.

To register phone: 519-738-2029 or email: jrph@erca.org.

I’d like to go but it crosses over with a family reunion obligation. If I can figure out a way to do both you can be sure I’ll be there. I’m surprised I haven’t seen any promotion for the event (I found the ERCA calendar when I was looking for information about local trees which I eventually found at the Ojibway Park website).

ecofeminist Vandana Shiva speaking with mega phone

In my opinion, it’s an important event for local feminists. Women’s oppression is closely linked with the degradation of nature. Both have suffered under a system of patriarchy. The world around us — nature — just like women, is not passive, waiting for rescue or waiting idly to be made useful. We are both contributing, functional, important, integral parts of the planet. Neither women nor the planet are here to serve. It’s ironic when you start thinking about the connections in the English language between words we use to describe both land and women: think of terms like barren, fertile, and rape. Each can describe a woman or the land. Ecofeminists bring the philosophies of environmentalism and feminism together in efforts to liberate both from oppression. Maybe someday. Respect for nature, respect for women.

photo credit to leenback. Click on the photo to visit its page on flickr.com.

I Will Teach You

Last night I attended a talk held at the University of Windsor given by Dr. Shahnaz Khan. The topic of the presentation was entitled: Veil Talk: Examining the Many Facets. Dr. Khan is the author of Aversion and Desire; Negotiating Muslim Female Identity in the Diaspora and a professor in Global Studies and Women’s Studies at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

woman wearing hijab riding a scooter

As she was discussing how the veil takes many forms and waiting for some technology to catch up with the presentation she took questions from the audience. A man criticized her for confusing all these Westerners. He said that what she was showing the group were not in fact veils, that there was a difference between veils and head coverings. He told her that He Would Now Teach Her That Difference.

It was an unbelievably arrogant and dismissive comment. Dr. Kahn is an expert in her field. She has written and lectured on this topic for many years. She had just finished describing and showing pictures of some of the many ways women veil and explaining that where a woman lives has much to do with the form the veil takes and that there are many reasons why a woman veils. She showed pictures of hijab, niqab, burka, obaya and chador and as all are used to cover a woman’s body they come under the category of veiling. She discussed the relationship between veiling and class — in the past, veiling beyond a head covering for protection from the sun — worn by both men and women — was practiced by upper class women. Those involved in physical labour were unable to work effectively with their movement restricted. We were much too polite to him. Instead of telling him where to go we rolled our eyes at each other, grimaced, and groaned. The idea of waiting for one person to finish talking before speaking should have been replaced with heckles and boos.

A few minutes later another man criticized her for not taking the talk to a different level — that we need to go beyond the talk she gave. Her response was that his idea is a different talk than the one she gave — an idea for another day. Judging by the number of people in the room who turned up for her presentation I’d say there was an interest in the talk that was presented. Not to say there isn’t more to say — but we have to start somewhere.

The first man tried taking the floor a second time at the end of the presentation but the moderator cut him short with her closing remarks — several times. This man did not want to stop — he was determined to re-educate the group. Dr. Kahn handled it all beautifully. It looked as though she’d dealt with this before.

Some of us were saying that it was really wonderful that these men turned up to tell us how to talk about women’s bodies. Because, you know, how could women do that on their own?

flickr photo by aymanshamma

Make a Difference this Valentine’s Day

Want to know what to do for your Valentine this year?

Call Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Minister of Education and ask when the already promised Women’s and Gender Studies course will be added into the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum.

Kathleen Wynne’s Office: 416.325.2600
TDD/TTY: 1-800-263-2892

Today, February 14th 2008, between 9 and 5, pick up the phone and help stop sexual harassment.

Touching, grabbing, gang-style rape. These are just some of the incidents revealed in the Falconer Report. Sexual and gender-based violence is reaching epidemic-levels.

According to the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

“four percent of males in grade 11 admitted trying to force someone to have sex with them, while 10 percent of males and 27 percent of females admitted being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to. Not surprisingly, the data shows that girls are feeling this pressure more than boys, with 15 percent reporting that they had oral sex just to avoid having intercourse.” Is this okay with you?

Here’s more from the Miss G_ Project for Equity in Education:

******

Please join us in our most crucial campaign yet!

“No More Miss Nice G__” is a phone calling campaign taking place on February 14, 2008. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! We are asking all supporters of the project to call the Ministry of Education expressing that we cannot afford to wait any longer for a Women’s and Gender Studies course to be added into the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum.

**** Calling the Ministry of Education is absolutely not as stressful nor as intimidating as it may sound. In fact, you are a citizen and it is the Ministry’s job to listen to you and to take your calls.

PHONE #s:
Kathleen Wynne’s Office: 416.325.2600
TDD/TTY: 1-800-263-2892

WHEN: between 9am – 5pm Thursday, February 14 (If that doesn’t work for you, anytime is better than never).

WHAT TO EXPECT: This number will take you directly to Kathleen’s office, where her assistant will either pick up, or you will be put through to her assistant’s voicemail. You can leave a personal message or voicemail recording for her assistant to pass on to Minister Wynne.

WHAT TO SAY: Identify who you are and where you are from. State that you are leaving a message for the Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, and express your support for a Women’s and Gender Studies course being implemented into the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum. Ask when Minister Wynne will honour her promises and policy-commitments to introduce WGS into the provincial curriculum. (There are more ideas for things to say below.)
—> Bonus points: Talk about a personal experience that proves to you why addressing this issue is so important and urgent.

WHAT TO REMEMBER: You are fabulous and intelligent, you have an opinion, and your voice needs to be listened to!

If you have any questions or need any encouragement, do not hesitate to leave a post or to contact themissgproject@gmail.com.

*************************************
JUST THE FACTS MA’ME
(or, why would I want to do this anyway?)
*************************************

FACT: The recently released “Falconer Report” found that sexual assault and sexual harassment are alarmingly prevalent in Toronto schools and the authors recommended that the Toronto District School Board should “develop a sexual assault and gender-based violence policy” and partner with community agencies to provide services for women and girls experience violence. (http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/292869)

FACT: All students, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, deserve to go to school in a safe environment. In fact, government policy guarantees “all students… a safe and secure environment so that they can participate fully and responsibly in the educational experience.”

FACT: In response to the Falconer report, Minister Wynne stated, “we know prevention is better than reaction,” and speaks frequently in support of “inclusive learning environments.”

FACT: A women’s and gender studies course in high schools — which the Miss G Project has been working with the government to implement for the last 3 years — would be one highly effective way of creating that inclusive learning environment and preventing sexual assault and harassment THROUGH EDUCATION. From the experiences of teachers and students taking locally developed WGS courses across the province, we know that opening up a space for dialogue and providing information on issues of gender-based violence and harassment is an effective and desperately needed way of addressing and PREVENTING injustices occurring in schools.

FACT: A Women’s and Gender studies course would address issues of sexism, homophobia, gender roles, violence and harassment as well as infuse information about women’s history, writing and experiences into the curriculum (which it is now sorely lacking).

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT WGS, visit…
“Why Women’s & Gender Studies in High Schools?” and
“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about WGS”

No More Miss Nice G__!!!

************

The Shameless blog has put together a bit of a script to help:

RING THE MINISTRY’S BELL: Some ways to have your say.

The best message is one straight from your heart (wink), but if you’re like many of us and prefer a prepared message, may we suggest some of the following:

“Hello, my name is____, and I’m a [student, parent, teacher, concerned citizen, etc.] from ____, and…

… I would like to leave a message for Minister Wynne asking when a WGS course will be implemented in the Ontario secondary school curriculum.”

… I am getting tired of waiting for a WGS course to be introduced to the provincial curriculum.”

… I wish that i had had WGS when i was in high school, and hope that future generations will have the knowledge to make better decisions and oppose oppressions.”

… I am tired of the gender-based injustice that goes on in schools and believe a WGS course would be an effective form of prevention.”

History that Matters

No need to ask, I’m still not all that engaged in my school work. At least I’m crying less this term.

I had to present a statement of my research project this week. (For those who forget or are tuning in mid-journey, I’m looking at something about childbirth on Pelee Island in Southern Ontario in the early twentieth century. Think isolated, no hospital, women all giving birth 30+ kilometres over water by boat or plane by 1950.)

This week, we were required to draft a one-page statement describing the research focus/question and discuss one relevant historiographical work on the topic. I had a really hard time with it. I keep changing my research question, trying to tune it into something that will be useful to me after this degree is over. I also need it to be something very interesting (to me) so that I can keep with it for the next half a year or so. And it must be feminist. Once I’ve begun it will be difficult to change and a very large number of words will need to be written about it. I’m finding it hard to do something history (maybe since my background is Women’s Studies?) that will translate outside the academy afterwards. Assuming I will be leaving the academy afterward. If I stay in, I don’t know what discipline I’ll land in. I need something with some transferability.

So, still playing with my general topic of childbirth on Pelee, I thought, instead of looking at the physiologic/medical process of childbirth and how that changed maybe I could look at the communities of mothers on the Island, and how that changed. Maybe something about women and community and the influence of a patriarchal medical model of childbirth on the larger community of Island women/Islanders.

The thing that ties me to this project is the anticipation I have of talking to the women about their lives. There are a handful of these mothers who are the age my grandmother would be if she was still alive. Women who have had incredible lives and their history is unrecorded. I presented a research statement on this idea but it was lousy. My heart is obviously not in it and it’s hard to be passionate when you aren’t really present. I fumbled for words to talk about it, the interest from others was poor, my own interest weak.

So now I’m thinking back to what it is that gets me excited about a project. I realized that it’s when I believe in the purpose of what I’m doing. When there’s learning involved or sharing, or building connections. When I believe that what I’m doing is important on a larger scale, when it goes beyond myself. When I believe that what I’m doing is going to make a difference.

I don’t believe that writing a 40-60 page paper is going to make a difference in anyone’s life. I think it’s important history that deserves recording, but to have it sit on a shelf in the university library? What’s the point of that? Is this merely an act in methods and discipline? /sigh/ For many, that answer is yes. It’s a stepping stone to a PhD program or to a job in government policy or else teacher’s college or ?? History is too often done in isolation, buried in the archives, with findings published intermittently in journals. Not always, but this is the way of the Ivory Tower.

I want to make a connection. I want what I want to do to matter. I have another idea now — and maybe it could work. It bridges History and Women’s Studies/Activism but what did they expect from me, really?

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

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