RECLAIMING OUR SPACE

by Lexi Justice
I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely tired of men’s opinions and ideas being prioritized over women’s. This isn’t new, of course, but it is frustrating, especially in progressive politics, where people are theoretically more aware of power differentials and marginalization. Of course, the recent Women’s Convention and Bernie Sanders’ original place as a keynote speaker there has been on my mind and has brought up a number of personal experiences in which this has also been the case.

Inviting a man, specifically a man who has been as dismissive of women’s issues as Sanders, to speak at a Women’s Convention, seems on the surface a rather baffling choice. But upon further reflection, it’s not a huge surprise. We continuously allow men to be the arbiters of policy, make political decisions, and support them because they’ve had more experience. But they gain more experience by being louder, by talking over us, and by changing plans without consulting us.

Bernie Sanders is not the first man to tell women that their reproductive rights are not as important as other issues, that we must just sit back and wait until some other Important Problem is solved. This includes trans women as well- access to empathetic healthcare is critical to trans health. Women of color have been told throughout history that their rights come secondary to everyone else’s, even other women’s. In fact, other women are often the ones to tell women of color, trans women, and non-binary femmes that they are next on the list, just as soon as the smallest of first steps is accomplished.

It is important that we as women do not fall into the trap of defending men who do this, or of giving them space that women should be occupying. The response from the Women’s Convention organizers was to state that they tried to find someone else, that Sanders was a “champion” of women’s rights throughout his career. But what we’ve seen in the past couple of years has been Sanders’ continued insistence that we must first address economic issues before moving on to identity politics, a term he uses with clear disdain.

I saw a lot of arguments online about how Sanders is one of the most “popular” politicians among millennials, and that he would be a draw for the convention. But politics shouldn’t be a popularity contest, and women are smart enough to discern between what is popular and what is beneficial to them. But Sanders himself seems to treat politics as a popularity contest. He should never have accepted the invitation, and there were several ways he could have declined respectfully. Stating that he would prefer women’s voices be centered at their own convention would have been a good start. Instead, he waited until people were upset, then decided to go to Puerto Rico to…do his actual job as a Senator. Thankfully, a woman took his place.

The silver lining in all of this is that women have been using our voices more.

We’ve been speaking up more in solidarity, as a collective. We are slowly but surely affecting change. It starts with us continuing to carve out a place, to maintain our spaces when men attempt to intrude, to continue to use our voices against the men who would silence us. When it’s all of us together, we have a chance.

CROSSING THE BORDER

by Liberty Laine

This August I found myself doing something extraordinarily bizarre, and once you read through, you’ll understand why it was weird.

I was going through my laptop files, deleting and backing things up I wanted to keep to a backup hard drive. I had already done this exercise on my phone – going through pictures and deleting them on my device, assured they were backed up and not showing in the cloud.

You see, I was getting ready for a trip. Where? Why delete things off of your devices? you might ask.

This is the bizarre part – I wasn’t heading to Egypt, or the Sudan, or even the Philippines or China. I was going to the United States of America.

Canadians have, since last November’s election, heard stories and news accounts of Canadians being denied entry into the USA at the border for not handing over their cell phones and passwords to their social media accounts. This is “terrorist safety” rhetoric which has flourished since 9/11 run amok.

I didn’t think I was travelling to a dictatorship, and yet I was concerned that my Facebook profile, belonging to Pantsuit Nation, Strong Women’s Action Group and even ExPat Resistance might mean that a Border Patrol agent could look at my phone and a) demand my passwords or b) go through my photos and decide that one JoeBama meme was treason against the incumbent President, or tantamount to a plot.

Anyone else think this is insane? Let’s unpack this a bit.

In 1783 when the Treaty of  Paris of 1783 was signed, the United States and the Provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and St. John’s Island (Canada would not become a country until 1867) have enjoyed a mostly harmonious relationship along the border, excepting of course the War of 1812, and the Fenian Raids from 1866-1871. It was argued then that the British were very generous with the terms of the treaty towards the United States, likely with a view to establishing close economic ties and diplomacy.

As technology and fear have made its way into the international psyche, new border measures were implemented for “improved safety”. As a child, I remember piling into the car to go to upstate New York or Michigan for a day of shopping, or leisure, and my parents having a drivers license and saying “yes those are our kids”, and being allowed to cross into the USA. During prohibition, the City where I am from was renowned for rum running and bringing booze to guys like Al Capone.

Let me stop there – I think the right measures and the requirement of a passport was absolutely the right move. That I have to prove that yes, that is my son to cross into a different country or to prove that I am not on an international database of criminals and truly just want to get on my plane to go visit friends.

Why then was I so worried about the JoeBama memes on my phone? Over 200 years of mostly peaceful border coexistence on the longest “undefended” border in the world? 5.525 million miles, 119 crossings, nearly $1 billion USD per day in daily trade between our countries, and 65% of US exports going to Canada alone?

Simply put – America, you’ve changed.

Okay, maybe not changed, but you’ve allowed the worst parts of yourself to succumb to fear, division, bigotry, and hate. Why else would your border agents be seeking to detain in Canadian airports, claiming that area is considered “American land”? Why else would you want our Government to agree that its citizens must give you our passwords and social media handles “for safety”. We are being told that we must hand them over, and that is not illegal search and seizure. Patrol officers do not need to have any reason. So there I was, deleting things off my devices, thinking I was not traveling to “the land of the free” anymore. Thinking about how much worse it would be if I were not white and English speaking.

Now I know some are going to argue about the radicalization of people from ISIS and this is how you fight terrorism. But is it really? The goal of a terrorist is to disrupt your way of life and make you afraid where you live. And America – I love you – but you’ve been running for nearly 20 years, with a  bit of a glimmer of hope in there that you allowed to be thoroughly squashed.

You can do better. Promise.

 

 

THE ONE WHO WILL WIN

by Lexi Justice

I thought I was done talking about double standards from the 2016 Democratic primary campaign. But, much like Theon Greyjoy, I’m learning that what is dead may never die. And, honestly, I should have been prepared for this, considering the left is no better than the right when it comes to misogyny. So let’s dive in!

If you hadn’t heard that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had books coming out this week, I want some real estate under the rock you’re living under. What you may not have noticed is the way those two books are being covered, though I doubt much of this will come as a shock.

First off, let’s talk about how Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever nominated to an American major party’s presidential ticket, isn’t allowed to stop talking about how much she screwed up, ever. Even if she acknowledges that she screwed up (a thing she does with great frequency), unless she stops there, unless she refuses to point out that there were other factors related to her election loss, she’s “blaming everyone but herself,” she’s “dividing the left,” she “can’t just quietly accept her loss and move on.”

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Women are always expected to quietly accept that they weren’t good enough and then gracefully back out of any space in which they might try to talk about that loss while ruffling as few feathers as possible, especially if those feathers happen to be male. Men get to lose, men get to look bad, they get to say the wrong thing an infinite number of times, and somehow their words and actions remain valid, they are heard, they are welcomed back.

Which brings me to Sanders’s coverage in this whole thing. He, too, wrote a book about how we’re currently living this bizarre Cheeto-encrusted nightmare. The difference is it’s being touted as a way to somehow unify the left in America. Let that sink in. A man who can’t even openly state that abortion rights should unequivocally be part of the Democratic platform, who has spent decades trashing the Democratic party for not being left enough, is going to unite a party he wants no part of and doesn’t believe in.

A man who has worked in Congress for the past three decades, who owns three homes, whose wife is currently under investigation for misuse of college funds, is going to bring young, disenfranchised people back to the Democratic party. He’s going to lead the revolution. He’s not really sure how, but he knows he’s going to!

And meanwhile, every woman who has ever sat through a staff meeting or tried to introduce a new idea or, hell, get hired for a job she knows she’s qualified for, is watching this and having it reaffirmed yet again that even when we are trying to turn our losses into teachable moments, no one wants to hear from us.

We are having it reaffirmed, daily, as hard as Hillary Clinton is still going to bat for us and fighting for us to be heard, that we will not be. That we will be told that we lost, that we should get over it, that we don’t matter because we failed, and a failure is the worst thing a woman can be. There is no learning from a woman’s mistakes, there is only an opportunity to mock her, distrust her, and use her as a cautionary tale for all the women who come after her, lest they forget their place.

It would be so easy for us to let that happen yet again. It would be so easy to sit down and let it go, breathe it out like so many previous sighs of disappointment. Because we’re tired, and we’re fed up. But we owe it to all the women who came before us and all of the women that will come after us not to. We owe it to them to keep trying, to keep loving, to keep fighting. Because one day, maybe, in the not-so-distant future, we’ll nominate another smart, competent, experienced, ambitious, tireless woman to the presidential ticket in the United States of America.

And that woman is the one who will win.

WOMEN RUNNING

by Liberty Laine

A lot has been said over the last few years about why more women don’t run for office. On average, we know it takes about six or seven times for a woman to be asked to run before she says yes. This is also true of television appearances, and most instances where that woman is the “expert” or best person for the job.

Some people surmise that most North American women have been conditioned to demur to men as they are the “weaker” sex, and to some extent sub-consciously I think there is merit to this. But her hair might not look great, or there could be child-care issues or other barriers to participation.

What I see more of where I live is that the women who run are largely conservative, and vote against the interests of women. Why is that?

The answer lies in three parts. Part one is that conservatives on both sides of the border have done a better job of knowing their morals and framing the debate. (Please, go seek out George Lakoff for more on this topic). Part two is that much more money has been spent on conservative think-tanks and publications. Conservatives out-publish Liberals nearly 4:1. This is particularly true in the United States, but there is a gap in Canada as well.

Conservative pundits seem to be louder, less factual, and more emotional, and this is how they have framed the debate. A woman being approached to run is likely to make that decision based on emotion and morals, and the right does this much better than the left.

Strides were made in my city, and in 2014 an unprecedented five women were elected to our local Council, out of sixteen positions. In recent progressive policy votes, the nays were all the women but one. Except for the outliers, in recent history in this city, most of the female elected officials have leaned right, and been known to be no-nonsense bitches who got things done.

In 2014, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals put a call out for more women to run. Although he did appoint a gender-balanced cabinet “because it’s 2015”, fifty-three of one hundred and eighty-four seats are women. That’s right – 28% of the seats won were won by women. Out of 338 candidates nominated by the Liberals, only 105 nominated candidates were female. Not exactly parity, and not much of a change from the 50 seats previously held by Liberal women.

Equal Voice, a non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to increasing women’s participation in politics, said it’s “thrilled” with the progress but noted that at this rate it will take “another 11 federal elections to reach anything approximating gender balance on the ballot. Forty-five years.”

According to Equal Voice, 33 per cent of the candidates of the five main parties are women.

The NDP leads the pack with 43 per cent women, followed by the Greens with 39 per cent, the Liberals with 31 per cent, the Bloc with 28 per cent and the Conservatives with just 20 per cent.

The question that isn’t being asked is – what are the barriers are running for office?  I know plenty of women with the experience and passion to run. I’m not sure how many would open themselves up unreservedly to ask for money, volunteer time, harassment and internet deep searches, oh, and someone’s vote.