halloween hot topics

I hope everyone enjoys the podcast below in which Ella is interviewed by a London radio show about some hot Halloween topics.

Ella Halloween.wav

Written Post: Karly Van Puymbroeck
To continue with Ella’s podcast, I am not adamantly against celebrating Halloween. I do, however, have two “bones” to pick with the costume aspect of Halloween.

Firstly, I do see Halloween costuming as a conducive example of the performative aspect of our intersectional identities, specifically the gendered and racial aspects of our identities. While much costuming is done for a dose of fair fun, there are some costumes that I think speak to underlying heternormative values and beliefs. Cross-dressing (dressing as both the opposite sex OR a different race than your own) is perhaps one of the most common motifs in the Halloween costuming world, and tends to come off as

Some costumes border racial profiling…

parody of the sexes and racialized persons. However, through this act of parody, cross-dressing indeed becomes a larger representation of a heterosexist and cisexual society that sees crossing gender — as well as sexual and racial — boundaries as taboo. The fact that these costumes are comical I think speaks for itself – it shows that we live in a white heternormative society that is still heavily invested in maintaining a dualist gender and racial code. Also, I’ll take this point one step further and connect it with the fact that our gender and even our race is performed, in specific, predetermined ways on a daily basis. Halloween, thus, acts as a

Cross-dressing can be humourous, but what’s underneath it all?

night where we not only dress up for fun — we dress up as something not ourselves, and it is this difference that is highlighted, albeit in subtle ways. We are, perhaps, having an inward chuckle at the identities that are being portrayed because they are inherently different from any other ‘normal’ day. The sad part is, is that people who are, for example, cross-dressers, or for marginalized racial groups, any other ‘normal’ day doesn’t quite include them – no, for those whose identities are portrayed on Halloween for ‘fun’ and good humour, a normal day does not include them on the regular, heternormative agenda.

The second bone of contention I have to pick is inherent slut shaming that happens on Halloween. The phrase such as “Halloween is the only time girls can dress like sluts and get away with it” can be commonly heard in the context of Halloween. I do not come from a moralistic stance in terms of females dressing up in highly sexualized outfits, however, I do come from a feminist stance that has been trained to spot victim blaming and slut shaming underneath harmless conversation. Within this idea — that women can dress like sluts and get away with it— points to a highly problematic framework of

It’s okay to be a ‘slut’ – but only for a day.

women’s sexuality that has worked, for many centuries, to firstly spot improper sexual behaviour of women (aka “acting like a slut”), and secondly to punish them for it. Women’s sexuality has consistently been monitored by some abstract white, patriarchal police for so long that we have become completely unaware of how cultural events such as Halloween are saturated in a suffocatingly narrow understanding of women AND men. To believe such a phrase as mentioned above is to indeed suggest that women’s improper sexual behaviour, such as donning a sexualized nurse’s outfit or cop uniform, is not acceptable on any regular day, as well as suggesting that outside society (men) should be punishing these women if they step out of line. Furthermore, this idea also points to a subtle form of victim blaming in that the phrase itself clearly outlines that, if women were to act like this on any other occassion, they would be asking to be punished: therefore it would be the woman’s fault for any physical, verbal or sexual assault that may come her way.

– Karly

editor’s note: Ella Bradley is a fourth year Social Work/Women’s Studies double major at the University of Windsor. She is actively involved in the WSSA and adds liveliness and energy to any conversation. She has enjoyed being able to discover and come into her own feminist identity that is unique to her personal lived experience. She is an animal lover, an open-minded individual and a supportive, reliable friend.

editor’s note about the editor: Karly is in her final year of an English Literature and Women’s Studies undergrad. She is a feminist by day and a booklover by night. She is enjoying a practicum in which she is working to publish a book by a local author. She hopes to continue her studies in a Masters degree next year.


standing-upright woman

Submitted by: Candy Spencer

I was about eight years old the first time I saw the grave.  My friends and I had biked out to a farmer’s field, climbed over a cedar rail fence, tip-toed passed grazing cows, to this spot on the side of a gentle hill.  There were the remains of a rusted iron fence partially guarding the worn, moss covered headstone.  We whispered to each other, wondering: who is this forgotten woman? Why was she alone in this open field? Catherine Sutton, who were you? And yet, as so often happens, children go on with their lives, forgetting a long ago outing until the name comes up again.

NAHNEBAHWEQUAY (Nahneebahweequa, meaning ‘upright woman’; known as Catherine Sutton, née Catherine Bunch Sonego), Ojibwa spokeswoman; b. 1824 on the Credit River flats (Port Credit, Ont.); m. William Sutton, and they had seven children; d. 26 Sept. 1865 in Sarawak Township, Canada West.”

A simple entry in an article by Donald Smith found on a Grey County Museum website.  The memories flood back: memories of rumours about an Indian woman who went to see Queen Victoria.

Her story is more than a headstone. Catherine Sutton was an aboriginal woman who belonged to the Mississaugas, a group of converted natives who lived on ceded land by the side of the Credit River in Southwestern Ontario.  In 1837 Catherine accompanied her aunt, the English wife of Peter Jones, on a year-long trip to England. In 1839, a year after her return, she married William Sutton who had emigrated from England nine years before. They resided with the band at Credit River until 1846 when they and two other families moved north to the Newash reserve in Sarawak Township near Owen Sound.  Catherine taught and William ministered to the native children.  Catherine’s family was given 200 acres of poor farm land upon which they built a large house and barn, and they cultivated about 50 acres.  William and Catherine left their home and moved to Michigan in 1852 where they were missionaries to the Methodist Natives on reserves.  In 1857 they returned to their home, only to find that in their absence the land had been taken by the government, surveyed, and divided into lots to be sold.

       The Suttons protested and the Indian Agent responsible declared, “The chiefs having no power to dispose to private parties of land belonging to the tribe, could not give a title, and [the Suttons’] written grant was therefore valueless.” He also turned down Mrs. Sutton’s request for her share of the Newash band’s annuities, “on the ground of her having married a white man, and having been absent from the country during the time for which she claimed payment.”#   The Suttons were also denied the right to buy back the land because, “Indians could not purchase their ceded land.”#  Not satisfied with these rulings, the Suttons decided to take their case to a higher authority and Catherine, with the financial help of some New York Quakers, travelled to England where she was given an audience with Queen Victoria and she presented her case.  The result: the British government overturned the previous rulings and the Suttons were allowed to buy back their property.

       Catherine Sutton successfully continued to work for Aboriginal rights until her death in 1865.  One of the things she worked on was the attempt by the Canadian Government in 1861 to purchase Manitoulin Island, a land “– promised forever to the Indians in 1836.”#  One of our Distinguish Visitors, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell is from the Wikwemikong Band, Manitoulin Island and she has had to fight for her aboriginal status rights.

       The last time I visited the gravesite I climbed over that same cedar rail fence, crossed the quiet pasture with its’ grazing cattle, and walked to the sloping hill overlooking Owen Sound Bay.  The fence had been restored and paint white; the headstone had been restored, and there was a plaque with Nahnebahwequay’s story on it.  Little else has changed except she has a place in a museum and the children of Grey County are told of the woman who dared to claim her rights. I picture her gravestone proudly standing on the land that is rightfully hers. While there are still issues surrounding Aboriginal rights in Canada, her grave site represents a small form of justice. Someone placed you here overlooking Owen’s Sound.  Here, where you can watch over the land and the clear waters of the bay.

Georgian Bay, where Catherine Sutton’s grave looks out on. Photo credit: http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca


Donald B. Smith

Grey County and Owen Sound Museum (Owen Sound, Ont.), Journal of William Sutton. PAC, RG 10, vol. 2877, file 177181; RG 31, 1861 census, Sarawak Township; Keppel Township. PRO, CO 42/624, pp.355, 409, 428–29. UCA, Mission register for the Credit River Mission. Christian Guardian, 12 Jan. 1848; 2 April, 28 May 1862; 8 Nov. 1865. Enemikeese [Conrad Vandusen], The Indian chief: an account of the labours, losses, sufferings, and oppression of Ke-zig-ko-e-ne-ne (David Sawyer), a chief of the Ojibbeway Indians in Canada West (London, 1867), 119–37. Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby), History of the Ojebway Indians; with especial reference to their conversion to Christianity . . . (London, 1861); Life and journals of Kah-ke-wa-quo-na-by (Rev. Peter Jones), Wesleyan missionary (Toronto, 1860). Wesleyan Methodist Church in Can., Missionary Soc., Annual report (Toronto), 1845–46. Illustrated atlas of the county of Grey (Toronto, 1880; repr. Port Elgin, Ont., 1971), 17. Daily Sun Times (Owen Sound, Ont.), 30 Aug. 1960.

editor’s note: Candace (Candy) Spencer is a third year student, majoring in Political Science and Women’s Studies.  Her interest in higher education was instilled in her by a mother who had only attended school until the eigth grade. In 2010 she came to the campus and asked Student Advisory what programs were available for older people.  To her amazement there was something called Women’s Studies; to a long time activist, a proud 2nd Waver, this was  an opportunity to learn how a new generation of women were going to continue the struggle for women’s rights and equality.  50 years is a long time between high school and university but Candy would encourage anyone of any age to continue learning.

bring it on

My Experience With Take Back the Night 2012 and Radical Cheerleading

Submitted by: Amal Mohamed

To write about my experiences at the Take Back the Night Windsor 2012, and as my role as a Radical Cheerleader has been quite an interesting one. The reason is that while I am quite the talker, I feel like I can never really articulate myself in words; so bear with me on this as I try express my many feelings about my experiences.

The first time I came into contact with the whole Take Back the Night movement and Radical Cheerleading was when my dearest friend and soul sister, Ayan, introduce me to it. At that point I was two years into my studies as a Women’s Studies major and loving and questioning ever minute of it. I honestly didn’t even plan on attending the event and had gone because of my promise to her and the fact that I was bored out of my mind. However, my experience that night changed my life – so much that I remember every minute of it, as if it were engrained into my being. I remember the speakers and the countless faces, and the fact that no matter how close Ayan, her sisters, and I huddle we could not fight off the cold of that night. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of power; nothing I had experienced in my 20 years of life could ever amount to it. I don’t know what the feeling was particularly, but it felt like I was coming home.

TBTN Windsor 2012

TBTN marches are reknowed for their high energy and infectious electricity. Photo taken from http://www.LaurenHedges.com

And that night, I knew that whatever I did from that moment on would mean something for myself and every woman that came before or after me. The speeches left me humbled, sadden, and angry, but also hopeful. I was humbled for being privileged to those stories and lives, sadden and angry for all the women and children that were taken from us, and the many who were still with us, and hopeful that we could change as a society.

The moment the speaker introduce the Radical Cheerleaders, I was hooked. And that says a lot because to say I was very skeptical of cheerleading was a big understatement. I could rant and rave you into the next millennium on how oppressive I thought it was as an institution, and to have it be connected to my feminism was mind-blowing; but my God did those ladies rock that night. Their voices were so undeniable real, funny, and all shade of badass…how could someone not want to be a part of it? The march itself was validation of everything I, as a woman, had experienced. It was big ‘screw you’ to every moment that I had to hide within myself because I was scared and fearful of the threat of rape or violence. And I can’t even begin to explain how that can make you go insane as a person; to have to calculate every moment of your life from x to z because of that fear. Yet, fear was the last thing I felt that night. How come I wasn’t scared like I used to be? Simple: I wasn’t allowed. Those women, those survivors, those taken from us; none of those people would let me be scared anymore. I wouldn’t let me. So I screamed and screamed, for myself and for every woman I knew and for everyone woman I’ll never meet. And when my voice started to crack, I screamed louder because I would not be silenced. We wouldn’t be silenced.

And I am so thankful for that courage. By the end of that night (and every night since the first time I went), I was electrified. I felt unstoppable and it took everything in me not to fly out of my own skin from the excitement and the exhilaration of the chants, of the footsteps, as we marched to reclaim what was rightful ours. The basic right to walk our streets and to live life without the fear, threat, and reality of violence. I found home that night in the dark streets. I found home in all shades of pink and black.

Radical Cheerleaders 2012 dress in the TBTN traditional colours of pink and black, and are responsible for injecting energy into the march.

Since that moment, I have been going to this event with as much as enthusiasm as the previous year, and the last two years I have been a radical cheerleader and loving every minute as I cheer, kick, and pompom my way through the backwards maze of patriarchy. It is like I was destined to be a radical cheerleader as cheesy as it may sound, but the SHE inside me knew that I needed it. The morning after TBTN always feels different from any other day. I feel like a superhero, like Wonder Woman.

Radical Cheerleaders, 2011.

It doesn’t get any less awesome. The women and children who come out give me as much life as the previous year, as I run up and down the crowd yelling out chants. The honking and support is always welcomed and at times reduces you tears. It is so awesome to see our marshals out there as they keep us safe and go head to head with traffic. To see the faces of strangers, friends, family, professors, and doggies in solidarity: it is an insanely intense moment. To have women from off the street jump into the march and be welcomed by the voices and cheers of other women is beautiful. You need to live it, you need to see the lights, hear the voices, feel the energy in your bones and core; you will never, ever, feel the same way again, I promise you that.

UWindsor Masters of Social Work student Darrin Smith shows his support. Men are invited to line the streets with signs of support and lit candles in memories of those lost to violence against women. Photo courtesy of windsorite.ca.

So go out to your local Take Back the Night or even start one in your community. Beside the fact that it is all kinds of crazy fun, it has meaning and truth behind it. Because violence does not happen to one person, it happens to all of us. So use your voice to stop the cycle, to bring awareness to what has been happening and continues to happen. We are all accountable. We have lost so many and continue to lose so many: it is time we make it right. We need to have an honest dialogue. We need to look at how racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, ableism, colonialism and all other isms and oppressions have resulted in the violence against women and children that continues to mark the lives of countless individuals. We need to say that we will not take it any more and create the proper measures to eradicate it from all sectors of society.

While it is my last year, I don’t think I will be hanging up the pompoms just yet. I got some more cheer in me and the struggle is long and hard, but I know the fight is worth it. So I leave you with one thing:

What do we say ladies? Sisters Unite, We are Taking Back the Night!

editor’s note: amal is a fun, energetic and opinionated women’s studies/social work student in her final year. she is highly active in the WSSA (women’s studies student alliance). her vibrancy and energy is contagious, and she tends to light up the room every time she walks in late.