still i stand

Submitted By: dante l. simonato

I am a feminist: proud, intelligent, and motivated to stop the male violence against women and children. When I was in my second year at the University of Windsor, another female student came up to me after our Women Studies class we were taking together. She noticed the passion and energy I had during our discussions in class that helped us students understand how oppression, inequality, patriarchy, injustice, social constructions, and language affects women’s lives. That same day my friend took me to the Womyn’s Centre in the CAW Building on the second floor in room 291. There, we met other like-minded feminists who believed that violence against women and children is unacceptable.  We all shared the same view: we will not stand by and allow this abuse to go on any longer.

Being an official radical cheerleader for the international annual event “Take Back the Night” has kept me focused on the goal of making our community aware of the systemic gendered violence that makes women victims of abuse. This violence is enacted not just by strangers, but mainly by known males in their lives: it could be a close friend of the family, a brother, uncle, father, or a husband.

My own personal experience with physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse started at the age of sixteen by one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends. When I told my mother about his advances she explained like many mothers before her had to tell their daughters to just stay away from him and avoid being alone with him. Well, I never knew what this was called, even though I knew he was wrong for what he tried to do to me that night when I was babysitting him and my sister’s child.  In my Women’s Studies class this was given the name “Not Quite Rape or Harrassment”, and the meaning sat with me from that day on. Many of us females have experienced that sexist, racist, male privilege that seems to give people with penises the right to make sexual advances at any female body without consequences or punishment.

I remember feeling disgusted in his behaviour, and still to this day I feel that betrayal and distrust of men in general. I have talked to my sisters about this incident and we were all able to think of a time that we have been violated by a man. What I do not understand is why do we women have more loyality to men than towards other women? I have been in the presence of women that have choosen to stay in an abusive marriage for the sake of the children. What is it about being a single mother that is worse than having your power as a woman stripped away from you day by day by a husband, father and love?

When I divorced my daughter’s father I felt that I would rather be alone with my three month old baby struggling than to put up with one more day with her abusive father. A man that puts his hands on a woman is a coward and I believe that it’s more harmful to the children to witness their mother being abused by father than to grow up in a single parent household. As time went on, I continued to educate myself because in that first marriage I was considered utterly stupid: I was unable to speak properly.  But, when he went racial on me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was a fat, black, bitch…I planned my escape from that moment on and have not looked back since. Today I fight for other women to escape when they are ready to leave this fucked up situation. I will fight to make sure that the resources are there for them to stand up and fight back against their oppressor. Sleeping With the Enemy was a movie I watched long ago and now I fully understand what it was like for the lead character to leave her husband.  And now, I am speaking to the females out there: if you are in that situation please stay strong, think about what life you and your children really deserve and remember that you are not alone.

I want to thank the sisters that have worked hard to produce this feminist blog because through writing about my experiences, these words heal the wounds created by the men that tried to destroyed me and still I stand, cheer, laugh, love and will conquer these chains and will break them with this energy. Be postive sisters because the movement is alive and well. She just marches to a different beat…

editor’s note: university of windsor’s women’s studies classrooms have been honoured with Dante’s passion, courage and determination that has touched and empowered many budding feminists to stand proud and speak loud. 

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bathroom blues

About a month ago, I was eating lunch at the Sunset Café on campus with some friends. This was the first time I have ever been to this restaurant, but it is conveniently located on campus so I decided to give it a try. After I finished my food, I had to go to the bathroom. I noticed that there was a men’s bathroom and a unisex/wheelchair accessible bathroom (which was occupied). This confused me. Where do I go to the bathroom?  I was always taught not to use wheelchair accessible bathrooms, as a sign of respect for those who need them. And the only remaining bathroom to use was clearly marked “Men’s.” I walked over to the woman at the cash register and I asked her where the women’s bathroom was. She told me there wasn’t one and that concerned me.  I went back over to my friends and they told me to just use the men’s bathroom…

I want a bathroom where I can feel comfortable being in. It’s bad enough that most public spaces are already male dominated!  What if I was on my period that day and I needed somewhere to dispose of my pad? There is no female disposal box in the men’s bathroom…and how awkward would that be if a guy seen me coming out of the stall with my dirty “sanitary napkin”? Yes – some people wouldn’t care. But most of our culture is socialized to act in specific and gendered ways every day.  All it would take would be for me to walk into the men’s washroom with my pad or tampon and have someone see me and all hell would break loose.

This blew my mind. How can people walk by these two bathrooms for so long, and not be outraged? Has society taught us that able bodied men deserve these types of privileges? Why is it okay for able bodied men to have their own bathroom, while everyone else is crammed together into another bathroom?

The course of action I took was contacting the HR office at the University of Windsor. They informed the Graduate Student Society (who own the Sunset Café) of my concerns and they have contacted me since. They have fixed the problem (they made both of the bathrooms unisex), and I am satisfied with the change. This was my first time taking action by promoting equal rights by myself, and I am very happy with the outcome.  I hope my actions have opened people’s eyes by showing them that things like this should not be tolerated, and not to be afraid to take some action if you don’t agree with something.

editor’s note: katie is a first year women’s studies and social work student and is the youngest member of the wssa.  she likes watching hockey and eating pizza for breakfast.

the wonderful world of women’s studies

My first impression of the Women’s Studies program was positive because I found the course material to be so vast and multifaceted.  For example, in the Women in Canadian Society course, we discuss subjects ranging from the environment, to economics, to the advertising industry’s misguided use of women.  I had some preconceived ideas of Women’s Studies, but for the most part, I did not know what to expect.  Although I have always considered myself a feminist, I realized upon entering Women’s Studies how little I actually knew about the women’s movement.  For example, I knew very little about the third wave movement, and I was not aware that there even was a current feminist movement!

My view of Women’s Studies has changed over time.  I can see now how it has caused me to grow as a person and has led me into critical self-reflection that other disciplines do not foster.  I find that pursuing Women’s Studies also helps me to understand concepts in other academic areas, like Social Work for example.  After taking Women’s Studies classes, it is clear to me just how useful and interdisciplinary this program is capable of being, as it brings together students from many faculties and draws on teachings from different academic backgrounds.

When I learn about the contributions and persistence that women in the past have committed to and for the benefit of future women, it makes me proud to be where I am today as a female university student.  Sometimes in class I feel emotionally moved when I hear about the courage and strength that was required of women who have made positive change in society that would benefit so many future generations.  Also, it makes me wonder why these amazing contributions to society are not taught at the public school level.

If the elementary and high school historical curriculum included teachings on more accomplishments of Canadian women, it may inspire teenage girls to aspire to great accomplishments in their own lives.  For example, this may encourage young women to get involved in politics at greater numbers.  This would be beneficial since Canada has far less female politicians than a lot of other developed, democratic countries.  In addition, I feel that it would be advantageous for teenage girls to learn more about women’s contributions to history because in turn, it may motivate them to feel better about themselves and explore their abilities and potential.

editor’s note: this piece was submitted by a second year women’s studies and social work major who enjoys being actively involved in women’s studies events across campus throughout the year.