a thousand thanks

hello feministjuice readers and supporters,

i would like to extend a sincere thank you to those who helped make our annual bake sale and lemonade stand a smashing success last Thursday. whether you (wo)manned our busy table in the CAW, donated baked goods or gave some extra change, we appreciate your support.

most members of the wssa

most members of the wssa

at the end of the day, our lemonade stand and bake sale brought in a whopping $335.14.

with these funds, the wssa is able to sponsor another subscription to feministjuice. moreover, we have been able to donate $200 in the form of grocery store gift cards to the CanAm Indian Friendship Centre of Windsor. these gift cards will be able to provide relief to First Nations families in Windsor and help them celebrate the winter season.

to me, feministjuice and the wssa is an example of feminist grassroots communities who are able to band together in the name of feminist activism and support networking. while feminist juice may be a small blog and the wssa a small action group, both provide

our beautiful sign!

our beautiful sign!

followers and members with an outlet and a sisterhood that they may not have in their everyday lives. thank you for supporting the blog and the wssa. without your help, we would not be able to pursue feminist activism, whether it be through writing and social media or connecting to other like-minded grassroots organizations like CanAM.

thank you thank you thank you
peace, love and sisterhood

karly, blog editor and co-president of wssa
the wssa (women’ studies student association)

thankyouwssa

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feministjuice fundraising

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feministjuice bake sale and lemonade stand

the wssa (women’s studies student association) at the university of windsor has consistently been a supporter of feministjuice, whether by promoting the blog, finding student submitters or writing blog posts themselves. the wssa has also graciously allowed feministjuice to hold an annual bake sale under the wssa’s name. this gives feministjuice a chance to promote the blog, reach a large student population and fund the yearly cost of running the blog itself.

feministjuice would like to thank the wssa for always being a supportive partner in helping keep this blog on the map. as small as the blog itself may seem, there is a dedicated following that feministjuice is able to reach.

peace, love and sisterhood.

legislating what women can wear

Submitted by: Ayan Nur

editors note: The following post is a written portion of a speech given by Social Work/Women’s Studies student Ayan Nur. Ayan gave her speech at a Distinguished Visitor panel discussion on the ongoing N.S. v. Her Majesty the Queen et al case that has many layers, most notably the debate surrounding N.S.’s right to wear a niqaab in the Supreme Court while testifying. 

Legislating What Women Can Wear

I am honored and excited to be here today to address the experiences of Muslim women in Canada. As honored as I am today I would like to clarify that the opinions and views expressed by me, although shared by many Muslims do not in any way represent the thoughts and beliefs of all Muslim women. These views I share with you today are my own individual views. They are a culmination of my religious beliefs, my gender, my race, my personal experiences and me identifying as a proud feminist. Although I am a Muslim woman and wear the hijab, I cannot compare the experience of wearing a hijab with the experience of wearing the niqaab. Different women experience oppression differently.

Having said that. I would like to start off by thanking Dr. Forrest and the women studies department for valuing my views to have me speak at such an event. Thank you to my family and friends who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to show their support.

Before I begin, I would like to clarify some terms I will be using in my speech. The first word being, niqaab. The niqaab is a face covering or veil worn by Muslim women in public and in front of men who are not apart of their immediate family. The niqaab has been a hot topic not only in the western media but also amongst Muslim scholars and Muslim women.

A woman wearing a burqa.

Unlike the hijab, many Muslims are split when it comes to the niqaab being a mandatory dress code for Muslim women. Some scholars believe that there is not enough evidence stating the niqaab to be mandatory, while others point out there is clear proof of the niqaab being mandatory. Many people confuse the niqaab and the burqa as being the same thing when in fact they are not. The niqaab is a face covering, while the burqa not only covers the face but the entire body from head to toe.

Women wearing a niqab.

The case of N.S is not only a case that holds great interest only for Muslim women but for every women in this room today, for every women in this country, and for every women across the world.  This is a case not about a Muslim women’s right to wear her niqaab, but of victim shaming. Shaming or blaming the victim has been a technique used for many years by the criminal justice system.  I learned this through watching many episodes of law and order (hehe) and my second year Women and the Law class, which opened my eyes to the injustices and cruelty rape victims go through.  Society places women in a binary of the angel in the house and the temptress. Women are to neatly fall into either of these categories, and when they don’t, society makes sure they are put back in their place.

There is the initial shock and trauma of being raped then there is something called the second rape or second assault. The second rape is a process victims experience by the police force, the hospital personnel, the court system and society as a whole.  When these authoritative figures are insensitive to the needs of the victims, it places the victims in a vulnerable position and can trigger the rape all over again. Having to go through rape, sexual harassment or any kind of physical attack can be scaring, and to add to that nightmare the legal system uses victim blaming to fluster and to place these victims in a vulnerable position. Many times instead of placing the rapist on trail the victim is attacked with questions of their sexuality, the number of sexual partners they have had, what type of clothes the victim had on and so forth. These questions are specifically made to attack, undermine and degrade the dignity of the rape victim. These questions imply that the victim is some how to blame. In the case of N.S, she is not being asked to remove her niqaab because the prosecution wants the truth: she is being asked to remove her niqaab to use this ‘unveiling’ as a form of victim shaming. Since N.S would fit into the binary of “the angel in the house”, the prosecution is forced to resort to underhanded tactics to make N.S feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to attack.

I’ve heard many people wonder aloud why doesn’t N.S remove her niqaab in order to receive justice against her assault, while others have said it’s permitted in Islam that she abide by the law of the country she lives in. First I would like to speak to the reason why N.S chose to keep her niqaab on. Muslim women wear the hijab and the niqaab as an expression of their spirituality and devotion to their Lord.

To illustrate the discomfort N.S has experienced, I would like to give an example everyone can relate to.

Imagine yourself on trail, imagine the courage and conviction you had to acquire in order to face your assailants, then imagine being attacked and told to take your top off or to stand in front of the court room with no pants.  Seems a bit extreme right? Actually it’s not. I cannot imagine the embarrassment and the shame I would feel if someone asked me to remove my hijab. I would feel naked, uncomfortable: I would fidget and become flustered, stutter, not keep eye contact. All these acts are ways to detect if someone is lying. If someone does exhibit these acts, they are assumed not to be telling the truth or hiding something. 

I’ve been wearing the hijab since I was eight years old. In those, many years that I have worn the hijab I have never felt ashamed or oppressed. The hijab has been my source of

A woman wearing a hijab.

comfort and confidence; it has contributed to my path as a feminist and made me who I am today. What many people don’t know is that Muslim women wear the hijab not because they are victims of oppression and a patriarchal society, but simply as an expression of their faith, much like what a cross symbolizes to Christians. The hijab is not something that is between men and women, but rather it is about the spiritual connection with God and the personal connection a woman has with her body. So, when the prosecutors asked N.S to remove her niqaab, she was stripped of her comfort, her anchor and of her identity.

One thing I learned from Women Studies was to respect every woman’s choice. You don’t have to agree or support something you don’t believe in but you do have to respect their personal choice. To take away someone’s choice is to take away their rights.

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

References:

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.

artist paints a different picture of women

By: Karly Van Puymbroeck

Perhaps one of most organic ways to foster human connections and social change is through the vehicle of art.

Tracey’s art and poetry fuses the physical with the spiritual. Photo taken and reprinted with artist’s permission.

At least that is what Roxane Tracey, artist, poet and owner of Poetic Art, her Toronto studio, suggested Saturday afternoon during the bustling atmosphere of Windsor’s annual Art in the Park.

Tracey is an artist who blends two artistic mediums of communication – acrylic paint and poetry – to translate powerful messages that are not conveyed often enough to girls and women in our contemporary society.

“So much emphasis is placed on the physicality of women…I think when we are girls, we are faced with the separation of our body from our spirit, and as we enter into womanhood, we run the risk of completely losing our spirit.”

An artist for much of her life, Tracey’s main artwork and poetry speaks to the empowerment that can be found when women begin to fuse their bodies with inner spirituality.

Tracey captures the depth and spirit of sisterhood. “Sisterhood” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

“Her Layers” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

Tracey’s work paints a different picture about women than the ones plastered on billboards and magazine ads – her art tells a story about the inherent strength, independence and beauty that exists in all women.

Her paintings and poetry place specific emphasis on the power and strength that can be found when a woman becomes in-tune with her inward self, rather than when women focus solely on physical appearance.

“Carry Your Heart” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

“I very much feel that we are spiritual beings first, and that our bodies themselves are essentially the vessels for our spirits and souls. I try my best to speak to that and try to put spirituality first and foremost before other surface-like qualities,” Tracey tells me as she writes up a receipt for a customer.

“her world” by roxane tracey. photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

As we talk, customers float in and admire her work. A couple women are visibly moved to tears after reading the messages on her paintings.

“I like her art because it’s relatable and personal, while at the same time reflecting what it truly means to be a woman,” said Shelby Marchand, an avid fan.

When asked about her audience, Tracey says her art acts as a testament of her desire to touch and empower women from all walks of life.

“I want the universality of womanhood to be able to speak through the paintings, directly to any woman in my audience.”

Her paintings show different women, surrounded by a myriad of colours, celebrating the unique experience of womanhood, from sisterhood and independence, to courage and determination.

“I think because women face so many barriers in their life, especially during the process of evolving through girlhood into womanhood, I’ve always felt that there needs to be some kind of positive social reinforcement out there,” Tracey said.

“Fight Like a Woman” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

Tracey also spoke to the challenge of incorporating feminism into careers, relationships and every day life.

“Feminism has this contradicting definition and reputation in our culture. It gets to be hard to incorporate the strength people garner from feminist thought and womanhood into their everyday selves. I think depending on how it’s put forward, women and men are capable of interacting with their own feminist ideas and outside society. I think it’s all in the context and the approach.”

Tracey is also involved in various community events and organizations in Toronto, such as working with youth and in women’s shelters.

“Having art as a vehicle for social change is a really organic way to take part in our society around us,” she said.

Tracey’s work is perhaps a great example of how people can bring about change just by sending out positive, alternative messages in a creative way.

“Shades of Beauty” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

“The depth of her work reaches out and envelops the onlooker, almost as if the women in the paintings are inside of me. It mirrors the female experience so perfectly and makes me want to pass on the messages in her paintings,” said Sally Clements, a customer who bought three pieces of art.

“They’re not for me,” Clements laughs, “They are for my friends and family.”

As Tracey smiles and thanks her customers, an age-old cliché floats through my mind: it is clear her art is a representation of how becoming in-tune with the inner parts of our being can ultimately change our outer worlds.

Tracey’s work looks at how change starts with a single person. “We Believe” by Roxane Tracey. Photo taken from http://www.poeticart.com

Tracey’s work can be viewed at www.poeticart.com. All images printed with permission of artist.

walmart woes

About once a month, I usually find my cupboards empty, the cat food on it’s last cup and the toilet paper on its last roll.  When the shampoo is all gone and every sock is missing its pair, I start preparing for WW3 – War on Walmart in less than 30 minutes.

I head out, armed with a shopping list and a determined attitude to get in and get out of the  zoo as quick as humanly possible (a lofty goal, I might add). While the shopping experience at Wal-Mart leaves much to be desired (especially at the cheaply renovated Superstore Wal-Mart’s like the one on Dougall Ave), I’ll be the first to say it: I am a feminist, and I shop at Wal-Mart.

The contemporary fight against Wal-Mart is a rightful and necessary form of resistance. The concerns and issues surrounding Wal-Mart’s practices are long and dreary, ranging from discriminatory labour practices, exploitation of child labour, nasty globalization consequences (maquiladoras) and negative impacts on local economies (along with many others). Even Wikipedia had to create a new page on the problems of Wal-Mart. It’s safe to say, Wal-Mart is possibly our contemporary world’s most evil corporate enterprise. That’s all well and good – but I get a little tired of hearing feminists say they “don’t shop at Wal-Mart” and look to me for approval.

OK – I care about the issues listed above.  I know that as a consumer, I do have the choice to not shop at Wal-Mart.  I can boycott it until my face goes blue, but in the end, my financial situation dictates where I shop and what I buy.  Being a poor student narrows my shopping choices dramatically.  Even though I consider myself to be a more privileged student based on my upper-middle class upbringing, I still have to navigate a less-than substantial loan each new school year and have to figure out how to make ends meet for ten months.  I’m not exactly poor, but I don’t have money to throw around, buying all organic products or fair trade items every time I need a roll of paper towels.

Feminists shouldn’t look down on every person who shops at Wal-Mart or participates in such cultural practices that seem to perpetuate larger gender, race or class inequalities, especially when it is those very systems of oppression that force many people to shop at low-price stores like Wal-Mart.  It is a privilege for those who can afford to shop at stores that practice a more humane version of capitalism, but even then, can we ever be absolutely sure that a store does what it promises to do (fair trade, equal pay, green initiatives)?

Yes, it’s important to be critical of such stores and consumer practices, but I also think we tend to dismiss the larger external social/economic system that corporations like Wal-Mart participate in. We are in an era where we expect to pay the lowest possible prices with complete disregard for where our products came from and how they got there. But this is only half the problem. We exist in a cyclical pattern of consumerism, where we believe our  life experiences can be translated through the act of buying. Places like Wal-Mart thrive off their ability to provide items to the masses without incurring penalties for their inhumane means of production. So to me, it seems as if the choice to shop or not shop at Wal-Mart is only one side of the coin.  When we are critical about Wal-Mart, we have to also turn a critical eye on the larger social system that allows such a corporation to thrive off the exploitation of certain persons.

So, part of me wants to say to the non-Wal-Mart shoppers: back off. For people of low-income, it’s a matter of constrained choice, not ignorance. What happens when you want to resist, but you can’t? How can we activate for change when we ourselves are party to the deal, as de Beauvoir would say?

what’s the deal with gender reveal?

by: karly van puymbroeck, editor

Apparently, gender reveal parties are quickly overtaking the baby shower market as the parties to throw by parents-to-be.  At these parties, the gender of a baby is revealed to the parents and the guests.  This is usually done by way of giving a sealed envelope with a sonogram inside to a bakery, which then bakes cupcakes or a cake filled with either blue or pink icing inside.  After the parents and guests at the party have voted or bet on the possible gender of the baby, the parents slice open the cake in front of everyone, and –voila — gender revealed.

Photo taken from feministing.com

Gender reveal parties struck me as an odd way to announce the sex of a baby.  When I look at the parties from an academic feminist stance, I am struck (yet again) with our culture’s common mistake of seeing the biological sex of a person as their inherent gender.  Indeed, our culture has long since adopted the phrase “It’s a boy/girl” to describe the sex of a baby – but to go as far as actually appropriating gender as an interchangeable biological sex term is, well, wrong.  The sex of a baby is not the gender of the baby: so why the explicit push for assuming that gender pronouns can take the place of sex pronouns?

Our culture’s seemingly indifference between sex and gender has long been a focus of feminist advocates.  Gender itself is born out of the false biological essentialist view that the biological sex of a person (male or female) inherently creates one of two distinct genders: man or woman.  The dichotomous categories of “boy/girl” or “man/woman” dictate what feminists see as “gender roles”, where each gender assumes certain characteristics (usually what we see as “masculine” or “feminine”).  The problem with a biological essentialist point of view is that it ties culturally driven gender characteristics to biological sex, thus attempting to disguise any socialization process (or social construction, as feminists see it) that has worked for centuries to create a distinct power imbalance between males and females.  Thus, gender itself becomes misconceived as biological sex – a problem that is at the root of sex inequality.

I see gender reveal parties as a product of a patriarchal culture that is obsessed with eliciting and maintaining sex inequality.  Assigning a socially constructed category to a nonexistent human being (in Canadian law) seems to me to be a way of reproducing a cultural script that dictates how males and females will live their lives before their lives have even come into existence.  As Judith Butler argues, this script is historical: men and women have been performing a gender script for centuries. If parents-to-be are assigning a culturally produced script to their babies (which is a faulty script to begin with), they are buying into a problematic sex-gender system that is in place in order to uphold patriarchal power structures. By attaching a traditional gender to their unborn baby, parents-to-be are  helping perpetuate a social system that historically and presently places men above women.

Why this cultural push to reveal “gender” before the child is born? The only reason I can think of is the dominant class’ need to establish traditional power structures, to stabilize our long-standing sex-gender system.  The news is littered now with stories of parents opting for gender neutrality for their children, stories of transgender beauty queens, and with issues surrounding LGBTIQ rights.  Challenging the sex-gender system is all around us: indeed, it is becoming a part of pop culture.  As always, the fear of resistance and fear of change spurs long-standing power structures to assert their power.  However, as a feminist in a developed, Western country, I know that asserting power doesn’t necessarily come in the form of violence or direct intervention. It comes in a subversive form, a more subconscious littering of images and messages supporting traditional gender roles. And as Butler says, gender always conceals its roots;  well, gender reveal parties have yet to fool me.

editor’s note: karly is a fourth year women’s studies and english double major.  she is a teaching assistant who is an hbo fanatic. 

summer & editor position

due to extended hours of sunlight and natural cravings for ice cream and lemonaide enjoyed on porches and balconies, posting for feministjuice throughout the summer months may be sporadic. for readers, thank you for supporting the blog and leaving comments for our lovely contributors. for potential writers: if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, please consider writing a piece for the blog this summer. the best way to submit a piece is to email vanpuy@uwindsor.ca.

as this semester comes to a close, it is also time for feministjuice coeditor Nicole Beuglet to graduate. with Nicole moving off to start her Master’s, feministjuice will be in need of another coeditor to help Karly run the blog throughout the 2012-2013 school year. the job itself is voluntary and can be put on your co-curricular transcript. any interested parties may email Karly directly at vanpuy@uwindsor.ca.

thank you all for help make feministjuice a success in its first year. again, please keep checking for updates throughout the summer and consider becoming part of the only feminist blog at uwindsor.