Feministe Feedback – Getting Beyond U.S.-centric Feminism

A reader writes in:

I’m a long time feminist who’s only recently got into action. I’ve been reading Feministe, Feministing, and a bunch of other blogs and activist sites… but so many of them are about American activism and action.

I’m Canadian. I have basic health care, a system that probably under incarcerates, no threat to the legality of abortion but problems with access (caused in part by threats from US anti-choice activists), pretty stable and easy access to legal help and funding for issues of employment, sexual harrassment and/or wage discrimination, and access to education that is generally more affordable. Women make up more than 50% of the university enrollment here, and we’re making great strides in graduating women in sciences and mathematics. We’ve had some movement with wage parity in recent years. We have up to 52 weeks of compensated parental leave available. We have 16 weeks of compensated compassionate leave to provide help in giving end of life care or critical care to any immediate family member, including in-laws.

So much of the English language feminist talk online is about the US. How do talk about it in a way that shows that we’ve worked hard, we’ve won victories, but we still have a long way to go with First Nations/Aboriginal women, with immigrant women, and with white, middle-class women. My cause is trying elect 1/3 women in 1/3 of the House of Commons here. I believe that a cross section of women elected to represent women in the legislature would do us a great deal of good, and very little harm. How do I talk about this in a way that shows that I’m sensitive to the needs of diverse groups, but that makes the case that election to the House of Commons isn’t just about white, privileged women.

Thanks from a neighbour to the North.


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21 comments for “Feministe Feedback – Getting Beyond U.S.-centric Feminism

  1. July 14, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Shameless is a great community for young Canadian feminists.

  2. Katherine
    July 14, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Ditto all/most of that for the UK…

  3. July 14, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I believe we do have a long way to go in feminism that touches on every part of the globe. When I first started reading feministing and other blogs I was very dissapointed with the lack of representation about Aboriginal/First Nations/Indigenous/Native Peoples. Having Ojibway Native American heritage and being very passionate about my heritage I decided to start a blog around this. The general focus of my blog is on women and healing but I will post anything in between that touches on Aboriginal/First Nations/Indigenous/Native Peoples. There are actually not very many Aboriginal/First Nations/Indigenous/Native Peoples blogs out there. I have several linked up on my blog roll. I periodically do new searches for blogs and I have not found any new Aboriginal/First Nations/Indigenous/Native Peoples blogs recently.

    Habladora-I love Shameless!

  4. July 14, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    i also love shameless, and the website i write on, kickaction.ca, is also geared towards young canadian feminists.

    but i have a couple of quibbles with your assessment of canada – the canadian prison sytem, while it may not be at the same level of enormity as the US one, since they’re quite a bit larger than we are, is still part of the prison-industrial complex and first nations & people of colour are hugely over-represented in the incarcerated population.

    also, bill C-484 is actually threatening the legality & accessibility of abortion in canada.

    check out the kickaction blogroll – but section15.ca might interest you, particularly.

  5. JPlum
    July 14, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    It’s so nice to see other Canadians!

    I find it hard to relate to the intersectionality of US feminism sometimes, as a lot of the intersections seem so…American. Our social safety is…well, it actually exists. We have universal health care. Our education system is pretty good, and that’s no matter the neighbourhood. If you want a university education in Canada, then you get a university education. Does this seem like a fair assessment, or is my privilege showing? Am I being blind to the reality, or am I just being Canadian?

    That said, fireeyed girl makes some good points-our incarceration rate for natives is skewed the way the US incarceration rate for blacks is. And bill C-484 worries me.

    I’ve been reading http://www.breadnroses.ca/rosesplace/ as it’s a round-up of other Canadian feminist blogs, but it’s great to hear other suggestions. Anything for the not-so-young feminist? The ones who can remember R v. Morgentaler, if nothing before that?

  6. Cedar
    July 14, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    there’s also Bill C-537, which “protects the right of health care practitioners and other persons to refuse, without fear of reprisal or other discriminatory coercion, to participate in medical procedures that offend a tenet of their religion, or their belief that human life is inviolable.” (taken from here.

    JPlum – speaking as someone who hauled her own ass up from a single-mom welfare family, to being ABT on my MA at the age of 32 – it’s doable, but it’s bloody effing hard. the welfare system isn’t designed to help people get off it, but to keep people dependant on it. once i was into the academic system, it was a little easier *for me* because my grades got me access to scholarships, which in combination with student loans & a working and supportive partner meant i didn’t have to work. not having to work (and being ruthlessly perfectionist) was one of the key factors in getting those grades. and i’m still, realistically, one paycheque and a bad break-up away from living on the streets.

    “Universal Healthcare” here means that yes, mostly you’re covered if you’re sick, but you have to have access to health care providers in the first place. that’s a difficulty for people in remote communities, and for some GLBTQ folks who face bigotry or simple ignorance from medical staff. a quick look at the wait lists (BC is especially bad) shows that if you have the money for a private clinic, you can get access to medical care not available to folks less financially stable.

    i mean, there is a lot of stuff we’re doing right as a nation, but (as the original email shows) we have a long way to go to address the issues facing First Nations women, childcare access for working (or studying!) moms, access to reproductive health services, and so on. so i think my advice would simply be to get the stories out there. talk about the things you see as being problems, find communities of like-minded folk to help with organising politically, and keep reminding people that if we want to pride ourselves on being multicultural*, we need to remember there’s more to the story that middle-class white women.

    (* secretly, i don’t think we do. i think we want to make ourselves feel good by pretending that we are, and ignoring the ugly realities faced by immigrants, people of colour, aboriginals, and everyone else that isn’t rich and white. that’s what my feminism hopes to shine a light on.)

  7. Cedar
    July 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    (wow. sorry, that was a book. i didn’t mean it to be.)

  8. Jenna
    July 14, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Fellow Canadian, here. :D

    Something to rally behind in an effort to get more woman and minorities elected is proportional representation. Some provinces have already had refferendums on this topic (BC, PEI, and Ontario come to mind), but it’s failed every time. I think a big reason why this happens is because people don’t understand how PR works. Hell, I’m a political science student, and there are some PR systems even I don’t understand (like the single transferrable vote system they tried to introduce in BC). First-past-the-post (or plurality) is easy to understand, and people are more comfortable with sticking to what they know, rather than change the electoral system to something they don’t understand. PR has been shown to get more women and minorities elected, though, so it’s worth supporting. If your province is considering implimenting a PR system, get behind it, and do what you can to educate others on how the system will work, and what the benefits are. If this isn’t being considered in your province, suggest it.

    Active campaigning against the current Conservative government under Harper would also be a good idea. He’s not exactly a champion of feminist issues, and his government has cut funding to a lot of services women use, including funding for women’s shelters. A really good book on domestic violence in Canada (which mentions Harper’s cuts) is Brian Vallee’s book The War on Women. Heavy read, but I highly reocmmend it.

  9. July 14, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    First-past-the-post (or plurality) is easy to understand, and people are more comfortable with sticking to what they know, rather than change the electoral system to something they don’t understand.

    Ok, off topic, but when Ontario voted for First-Past-The-Post vs. Mixed Member Proportional it became glaringly apparent that most voters couldn’t describe either. Ninety percent of the people I talked to about, just voted for FPTP because “current system” was written beside it in brackets. It was so damn sad.

    Anyways, I’m glad to see some Canadian places I frequent being posted up here. I run a blog that is really more Toronto focused but I tend to write quite a bit on social issues affecting Canada, feminist, racial, LGBT, health, and some First Nations as well.

  10. Jenna
    July 14, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    FPTP is still the devil we know, though. Maybe people don’t understand it, but it’s still simpler than PR systems, and it’s what people are used to.

    I really don’t see PR being introduced in Canada, this way. Individual provinces trying to set it up, and then holding a referendum, and then trying to explain the system? Ick. I wish there was an easier way. Maybe a PR senate? Some people don’t like the way senators are appointed, and so if senate reform were put into place, and senators were elected from, say, party lists (while still reflecting the provincial breakdown) to better reflect the popular vote of the rest of the House…

    Regarding multiculturalism, though? We suck. At least under Harper, we suck. Too many new Canadians with degrees from foreign schools have to start back at square one in order to get back into the profession they had in their country of birth. We’ve got doctors and nurses coming to Canada, and we make ’em do their degree over, again. Considering how badly we need these people, it hurts on every side. There’s the new Canadian, who must either pay tuition to go back to school and get a new degree, or find a new (often lower-paying) job. Then there’s the citizens who need these professionals, now. It’s horrible.

  11. The Amazing Kim
    July 15, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Ditto all/most of that for the UK…

    Ditto for Australia.
    Helloooooooooo from Brisbane.

    I remember, a few months ago, there was a post on Shakesville concerning Australia. It was very exciting to think that the community would be debating Australian issues for a whole thread. I was interested to read how my little island was perceived internationally.
    But most of the comments were variations of “I don’t really think about Australia”, and Australians expressing their gratitude.

  12. Dana
    July 15, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Not actually contributing anything here but as a NZer I get a certain amount of shit from my friends/family about almost exclusively reading/contributing to US sites.

    I have had a nosey round the internets for NZ feminist sites but there’s nothing really. There are organisations, but not sites like this. I did talk to a woman at the Rape Crisis centre about volunteering and she basically said it sounds like I’d be too triggered and maybe I need to see someone first :\

    So I don’t know, I just enjoy reading blogs like this and discussing it with people… and we don’t seem to have any NZ equivilents

  13. July 15, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Dana, if you check out Hoyden About Town, they do a Down Under Feminist Carnival that is Aus & NZ blogs. Lots of interesting stuff there.

  14. July 15, 2008 at 8:09 am

    The provincial political party that I belong to has a fund call WIL – Women in Legislature. One way of getting more First Nations Women and Women of Colour to run would be putting funding together to support and encourage women of colour in their efforts.

  15. July 15, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I have had a nosey round the internets for NZ feminist sites but there’s nothing really.

    Nonsense! Take a look at The Hand Mirror for starters.

    Anna mentioned the Down Under Feminists Carnival. The Carnival home page is here. There have been two editions so far, the first on Hoyden about Town, and the second on my blog, In a Strange Land, and both with plenty of NZ feminist blog posts.

  16. July 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

    ditto to Cedar’s points about ‘universal healthcare’ (which is not universal if you’re an immigrant or refugee) – i’m definitely grateful for what we have but if it’s not supported in a variety of ways then we won’t continue to have it.

    also ditto to the fact that GLBQ & trans folk face a lot of ignorance & lack of accessibility to healthcare.

    and also i’d like to second the assessment Cedar makes of ‘multiculturalism’ – it ultimately provides white canadians with a way of patting ourselves on the back, and an excuse for ignoring things like the way the bouchard-taylor commission gave a forum to a lot of racist & xenophobic bs in quebec this past year… i don’t think that quebec is the only province with these sentiments present under the patina of ‘multiculturalism.’

  17. July 15, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I agree with Cedar & fireeyedgirl. Shameless and KickAction are the two biggest online web resources I’ve found for Canadian feminist content. I’m not sure if this is entirely accurate, but I find that there is a lot more grassroots activism or organizations going on in Canada (at least where I live) rather than a widespread web presence that is from a uniquely Canadian perspective.

    There’s also the Miss G Project (http://www.themissgproject.org/) to get a women & gender studies course into Ontario curriculum.

  18. Dana
    July 16, 2008 at 3:51 am

    Hopefully this isn’t a double-up, I got an error :\

    I have had a nosey round the internets for NZ feminist sites but there’s nothing really.

    Nonsense! Take a look at The Hand Mirror for starters.

    Anna mentioned the Down Under Feminists Carnival. The Carnival home page is here. There have been two editions so far, the first on Hoyden about Town, and the second on my blog, In a Strange Land, and both with plenty of NZ feminist blog posts.

    Oo, thanks. I never said I searched that hard. lol All I found with a few Googles were a few feminist organisations/women’s groups, not blogs

  19. July 16, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Hey! I’m so happy to see someone mentioning Miss G! I’m the co-chair of the Ottawa chapter and we are making some serious headway.

    So yeah, shameless plug – SUPPORT MISS G!

    But I also echo that Shameless is great as are the discussion boards on Rabble.ca

  20. Cedar
    July 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Oh! and i just want to plug this petition in support of Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s appointment to the order of Canada. it’s not getting the traction it should in the blogosphere. please forward to friends, etc. the anti-choice folks have been getting way to much free air time in our press.

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