New Year, New Possibilities

2011 is in full swing. for some of us it has started out not so well, for others it is more tragic than the last, for others it's the same old shit, and yet for some of us it is shaping up to be a great year. Whatever the circumstances surrounding our ringing in of a new year, we have each other to share our joys, our sorrows and everything in between. I just want to take this opportunity to tell my mafia sistahs that I love them. no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing, you are always with me and I am always with you. Despite the ups and downs, we are family. love always

New Year, New Possibilities

2011 is in full swing. for some of us it has started out not so well, for others it is more tragic than the last, for others it's the same old shit, and yet for some of us it is shaping up to be a great year. Whatever the circumstances surrounding our ringing in of a new year, we have each other to share our joys, our sorrows and everything in between. I just want to take this opportunity to tell my mafia sistahs that I love them. no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing, you are always with me and I am always with you. Despite the ups and downs, we are family. love always

A critique of Academic Feminism

Not all feminists have the same view and within our circles that goes without saying. Every fall Women's Studies at the University of Windsor welcomes a feminist activist (distinguished visitor) onto our campus and into our community to talk about the work they do and their politics and perhaps inspire young (and older) feminists to find their niche and do what they can to promote women's rights and to help out in the social justice movement. Over the years there have been some very inspirational women who have done amazing things visiting us and sharing their stories.

One of the resulting issues about these visits is that some students find it hard to situate themselves into to the politics and passions of these distinguished visitors. I am not disregarding the importance of one's own individual social reality and one's own politics; however, this individualist stance in trying to figure out how "your" politics affect "me" reinforces the individualistic ideologies that I have come to believe is contrary to feminist ideologies. Even in our courses we are geared toward thinking as individuals rather than as a part of a collective. Many of our assignment in various course reflect this.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in an effort to achieve solidarity, we should not necessarily focus on this MY/YOUR dualism (that really does not exist) instead, perhaps we should value the politics of others because they are feminist issues (even if they do not directly affect us).

We do a lot of academic and theoretical learning in the classroom (and i suppose that that is what university is built upon) but, outside of the Women's Studies Student association and various other student groups on campus, there isn't very much community based activities attached to the women's studies program. Perhaps that is what we need in order to build solidarity within our generation's women's movement. The 3rd wave is about identity politics, yes. However, I think we are losing our sense of community in our quest to situate ourselves. As a result we create this I/YOU dichotomy that serves to weaken OUR movement and fragment OUR solidarity.

My feminism is complex and I am not quite sure how it works on a broader scale. I see the value in trying to situate one's self. However, it should not be done at the expense. This process should not be done in a way that promotes devaluation of someone else's feminism

A critique of Academic Feminism

Not all feminists have the same view and within our circles that goes without saying. Every fall Women's Studies at the University of Windsor welcomes a feminist activist (distinguished visitor) onto our campus and into our community to talk about the work they do and their politics and perhaps inspire young (and older) feminists to find their niche and do what they can to promote women's rights and to help out in the social justice movement. Over the years there have been some very inspirational women who have done amazing things visiting us and sharing their stories.

One of the resulting issues about these visits is that some students find it hard to situate themselves into to the politics and passions of these distinguished visitors. I am not disregarding the importance of one's own individual social reality and one's own politics; however, this individualist stance in trying to figure out how "your" politics affect "me" reinforces the individualistic ideologies that I have come to believe is contrary to feminist ideologies. Even in our courses we are geared toward thinking as individuals rather than as a part of a collective. Many of our assignment in various course reflect this.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in an effort to achieve solidarity, we should not necessarily focus on this MY/YOUR dualism (that really does not exist) instead, perhaps we should value the politics of others because they are feminist issues (even if they do not directly affect us).

We do a lot of academic and theoretical learning in the classroom (and i suppose that that is what university is built upon) but, outside of the Women's Studies Student association and various other student groups on campus, there isn't very much community based activities attached to the women's studies program. Perhaps that is what we need in order to build solidarity within our generation's women's movement. The 3rd wave is about identity politics, yes. However, I think we are losing our sense of community in our quest to situate ourselves. As a result we create this I/YOU dichotomy that serves to weaken OUR movement and fragment OUR solidarity.

My feminism is complex and I am not quite sure how it works on a broader scale. I see the value in trying to situate one's self. However, it should not be done at the expense. This process should not be done in a way that promotes devaluation of someone else's feminism

Education Today

(cross posted on my other blog, Mad Girl in the Attic)

Lately on YouTube a video by Dan Brown has sparked a lot of discussion. His video An Open Letter to Educators can be seen here. Also one of my favourite responses can be seen here.

Now this video and subsequent responses have got me thinking about a lot of things about the Academy today. To me the Academy should be focusing on teaching critical thought, constantly questioning norm, pushing boundaries to create new knowlege, not just consuming pre-made knowledge wholesale.

I feel like, especially at my own university, that the focus of the upper admin is to make as much money as they can. They no longer care about the quality of scholar they turn out, they care only about the bottom line. This means cutting jobs, having less tenured professors, having larger classes and tutorials, all in search of the almighty dollar.

This is especially apparent within the Humanities. Programs are being cut left right and centre. It is hard enough to get into classes that are needed and once you are in them they are often too large to be run effectively.

It has also extended into the library system. There is a large push for e-material over paper material. Jobs are being cut and retirement packages offered over and over again. More space is being allocated as “study areas” and less and less space is being allocated for books.

The worst part about the whole thing? Is that the university isn’t allowing the students to know what is on the agenda. They only release information to the student body once the mechanism has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

With this in mind I have an urgent announcement for all McMaster Students. It has been recommended that Innis Library be closed.

This would mean that all of the Innis collection would be moved to Mills and there would be even fewer service points for all students. Business students would have to go to second floor Mills for research help from librarians who may or may not have experience in the area of business research. This would mean that the Research Help at Mills would be used by at least 3 extremely diverse faculties.

Even more people would be going to Mills for reserve material. This would lead to longer lines and less time for the student assistants to help each patron.

As both a student and employee of McMaster University I find it disheartening that all that really seems to matter to the upper admin is the bottom line. I feel as though they forget that without students, without employees, there would be no University, just empty buildings.

The bottom line isn’t the be all and end all Mr George and associates. Nor is the quantity of students who can be pushed through the system on a diet of memorized facts.

The quality of education is what matters. And your budget cuts will only hinder our growth as learners in the future.


The Oh-So-Scary “Princess Phase”

I know that in my blog I’ve been a little hard on Disney. There is a reason behind that though. I don’t think that anything should be taken at face value. I like to question things, always have in fact. But I do think that the Disney Princess hatred can go a little too far.

As I was meandering around the internets… as I’ve been known to do and I stumbled across an article entitled “Is It Possible to Avoid the Princess Phase“. It caught my eye so I read it. Basically it’s this mom who is afraid that if she “[introduces her] kids to traditional Disney fare like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast would be a surefire way to turn them into tiara-wearing maniacs”. These girls aren’t even three yet! She goes on to compliment Dora… apparently this mom hasn’t seen Dora’s new look (also included in that link: Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brights new looks). She also details her own childhood fascination for princesses and that she didn’t end up worse off for it. But yet she doesn’t want that for her girls.

For me, she goes too far.

I consider myself an ardent feminist, but for the record I loved (and still love) the traditional Disney films and I was never a “tiara-wearing maniac”.

The worst I ever did was watch the VHS of Cinderella so many times I wore out the tape (Even now I can remember all the songs).

For me those stories weren’t about waiting for your prince to rescue you … they were about hope that no matter what the situation things could change, that magic does exist. And yeah the magic bit is kind of naive (and I’m now a bit of a romantic) but as a child it’s fun to use your imagination.

I also wholly believe that if you talk to your child about the movies they watch it is helpful. Little kids understand more than they are given credit for.

I think I’m going to watch Cinderella now… just because I can. Just as soon as I finish Sleeping Beauty.


Book Review: Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Trumpet is one of the books I have to read for my theories of Gender and Sexuality class. Overall it was an easy read and part of me didn’t want to put the book down. Not because I liked it though, but because I found this book frustrating and infuriating.

The book follows the life of the wife and son of a famous jazz trumpeter Joss Moody after his death. He has a secret though, a secret that not even his own son is aware of. Joss Moody was born Josephine Moore.

I know that there are people who aren’t accepting of queer and trans gender people but I felt like there was little critique of that. It was just kind of accepted as the way things were. Those who did accept that Joss was who he was are presented in a way that they are some how separate from society at large but that their words can be used against them to continue the anti-acceptance diatribe that is present through out most of the book.

I found it hard to like any of the characters. I wanted to like Joss but there wasn’t really enough about who he was for me to feel an affinity towards him. Millie seemed bland and consumed by her husband’s death, which, though understandable, made it hard to connect with her as well, as she did not seem to express her feelings short of living in her own little world. The son and the reporter were infuriating individuals, even though the son is slightly redeemed at the end.

Also, the whole use of pronouns through out the book really got on my nerves. Maybe it’s just me but there is something so disrespectful about using ‘she’ for someone presenting as male, especially after their death. Or assuming that someone is trans because it gets them off or that they were just hiding.

As I always learned it sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears and the two don’t have to “match” in the way society thinks they should. In fact I believe that gender is not a static thing but is in fact fluid and can change.


Please help save the Toronto Women’s Bookstore!

The Toronto Women’s Bookstore needs your help! The 36-year-old non-profit, feminist bookstore, which is committed to anti-oppression, risks having to close its doors if it doesn’t raise $40,000 by January. The store has issued a letter to the community asking for donations so that it can remain afloat while the current managers and staff take time to devise strategies to make the store more sustainable.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, it’s more than just a bookstore. The TWB offers workshops, courses, readings, and other events that foster a sense of community. It is an organization that offers a safe space where women of colour, aboriginals, queer people, transgendered individuals and many others can find books and community resources. Interested in how privilege operates within our society? The TWB has offered a course called “Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Community: Unpacking and Unlearning Privilege.” Ever wanted to learn some hot burlesque moves? The bookstore has a course in that, too.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s been a serious decline in women’s bookstores (and independent bookstores) worldwide over the past 15 years. In 1994, 125 women’s bookstores existed across the globe. Wanna know how many there are now? A meagre 21.

So, please, pretty please, if you’ve got a few extra dollars in your wallet, make a donation to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore. You can do it in person at the store, or visit their website and make a donation via PayPal. And, if you need some more convincing, you can find interesting facts, details, history and information here, here, and here.

Categories: Advocacy, Women
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Canadians, we need to tell Harper NOW that enough is enough

The Copenhagen meeting is almost over. We need to put pressure on Stephen Harper to quit screwing around and pandering to the interests of Alberta oil. Avaaz, a reputable organization, has organized a petition and is aiming to get 500,000 people to sign it. Please–we’ve got to try to do something before Canada completely embarrasses itself and Harper is responsible for developed countries doing little to fight climate change.

Categories: Advocacy

Midwives: They don’t just call for hot water and towels anymore

POSTER_SAFE_LRGThere is a lot of talk these days in health circles about evidence-based decision-making, i.e. developing policy based on strong research, rather than on ideology, “anecdata” or economic expediency. Unfortunately, a lot of the talk is just that — talk. Take, for example, some recent Canadian developments in the world of midwifery.

The research into the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of midwifery is well established (though you might not know it from the Little House on the Prairie image it still has in popular culture). Researchers have amply demonstrated that babies born with the assistance of midwives (at home, in hospital or a birthing centre) fare just as well as those born to mothers cared for by obstetricians (see this recent study by Eileen Hutton on the study she conducted into midwifery in Ontario). In fact, among women with low-risk pregnancies, a home birth with a midwife might actually be even safer. Data collected by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care indicates that women cared for by a midwife are subject to fewer obstetrical interventions, such as C-sections and episiotomies. And the cost? The ministry has itself indicated that midwives save the healthcare system between $800 and $1,800 per birth.

Even though the evidence shows that the outcomes for mama and baby are just as strong for women receiving midwifery care than not, obstacles remain to women who want to be seen by a midwife during their pregnancy. For example, availability of fully funded and publicly regulated midwifery services across the country is patchy, and there are three jurisdictions in Canada that don’t offer publicly funded, provincially regulated midwifery at all: the Yukon, New Brunswick and PEI. In New Brunswick, it can cost a woman anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 out of pocket to have a midwife provide care.

Another issue is that the demand for midwives outstrips their numbers–though the growth in the profession over the past few years is considerable. Right now, there are about 500 registered midwives working in Ontario, but this is about 150 more than just a few years ago. (A personal aside: The demand for midwifery care is so intense that, when I told my doctor I was planning on having a baby, she responded, “When you find out you’re pregnant, don’t phone your husband, don’t phone your mom–phone the midwife.”). There are only 6 places in Canada where midwifery education programs are available, but the good news is that the programs are graduating larger numbers of students than ever before.

A third and very significant problem for women seeking midwifery care is the issue of hospital privileges. Obtaining hospital privileges for midwives has proven, in some cases, to be difficult. Take the case of two registered midwives who recently opened a clinic in Orangeville, Ontario. After months of providing midwifery services in the community, they still cannot get privileges to practice at a local hospital. This forces women in their care to have to drive 30 – 60 minutes away to get care from a midwife in a hospital setting. The restriction of hospital privileges completely goes against the philosophy of evidence-based decision-making in healthcare.

With fewer and fewer doctors delivering babies, midwives are prepared to step into the breach (no pun intended). But the demonstrated advantages of midwives for the entire healthcare system can only be fully realized with a coordinated effort among provincial health ministries, midwifery working groups and organized patient/consumer groups. Recent developments, such as Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care permitting new midwifery registrants to find work immediately upon graduating, is one such positive step. Canadian women need more steps like these to ensure universal, quality maternity care for all.