Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your Call.

Hello again, Athenites. I'm back after a long hiatus - a little worse for wear, but with a very important message for all of you lovely girls tonight. This one is a big one, and although it is in a relationship context in this post, there's a more general meaning to it that I will emphasize at the end of the post. So read the whole thing.

Here it is, a lesson I have learned the hard way and am now eager to pass on to you (I hate to think of you guys making the same mistakes I did) : DON'T MISTAKE FAMILIARITY FOR HAPPINESS. For real.

We women have shown over time our uncanny ability to adapt to conditions, treatment or situations that may be hurtful, unhealthy or oppressive to us. Obvious. If it weren't for all those women who finally decided enough was enough and stood up to fight for women's rights, well, to put it simply, we'd be much worse off. Also obvious. But here's the rub: those ass-kicking awesome women fought for US - they fought for the women before them, the women of their time, and the women of the future, and I can guarantee that none of those women thought fondly of a future where we continue to allow ourselves to be oppressed.

That said, it may be easy in North America to not appreciate the freedom we have as women, but we CANNOT take it for granted, and that is why it is so important for every woman and every girl to have enough self-respect to say "enough is enough."

So if you find yourself in a relationship that you are unhappy with, you need to ask yourself if the problem is one that can be fixed, and if not, you need to GTFO. It may be hard sometimes, if you (like me) are the attached type that likes to hang on and work things out, but DON'T FOOL YOURSELF. At some point, you need to re-evaluate the situation and ask yourself if you are really getting what you want. More importantly - are you getting what you deserve? Never, never, NEVER settle for less than you deserve. Never let anyone treat you in a way you don't like being treated because you're afraid to let go, or because you're "used to it." Fear of loneliness is no excuse to allow anyone to treat you badly. Here is my solemn promise to you: something better will come along. Until then, learn to be comfortable with independence. You are a strong woman, and you don't need anyone to hold you up.

Outside of relationships, obviously the same goes. You need to respect yourself, and be strong enough to change anything that is negatively affecting you if you have the power to do it. Just remember: Your life, your time, your call.

Peace and love,

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worldwide Wednesdays

Hey Artsy Athenians!

As promised, I have attached the article I wrote on a photography exhibit by Palestinian-Canadian artist, Rehab Nazzal, entitled "Divide".



In a topic as divisive as the conflict in the Middle East, one Ottawa-based artist puts politics aside in her photography, attempting to show in her exhibit the injustices in the occupied territories that she said can no longer be ignored.

“I’m focusing on, in this exhibition, the dividing of the Palestinian people from one another and from their land and their living resources,” said Palestinian-Canadian artist Rehab Nazzal of her fourth solo exhibit entitled, “Divide,” now showing at Gallery 101 on Bank Street.

Nazzal is a Palestinian-born artist who works in visual art, film and photography. In 2005, Nazzal was able to return to her country for the first time in two decades. She said she decided to begin taking photos of the images of the occupied territories.

It was through walking through the neighbourhoods, amid the cement blocks, watchtowers and checkpoints, that Nazzal said she reflected on the act of walking.

She said when she saw her homeland after being away for so long, she was shocked.

“ ... you come home and you see it divided and wrecked,” said Nazzal. “I mean, settlements all along the top of the mountains ... The shock. The pain. You see how people are living.”

She said the response to her exhibit has been positive. Employees of the gallery said over 200 people attended the show’s opening on March 5. Nazal said that more than anything, she found that people did not know a lot about the occupation.

She said one visitor pointed to the photo of an Israeli soldier kneeling with his gun pointing towards the ground, asking why he was doing that. She said the photo represented the fight for land between the two peoples.

She has another photo of a group of men of all ages, from young boys to grandfathers, standing among olive trees, facing a group of Israeli soldiers in protest. At their feet are prayer rugs. Nazzal said she stood with women behind the men. She said after the photo was taken, the soldiers descended upon the group, shooting tear gas.

But she said she avoided using images of violence. She asserts she is not a photojournalist.

“I have a lot of violent footage,” she said. But she said the goal of her exhibition was “not to catch a moment of death.”

She added she is optimistic about the future of the plight of her people.

“Because it’s a just cause -- that’s the power of it,” said Nazzal.

At the same time, Nazzal said she does receive criticism from those who say her exhibits are too one-sided. In the guestbook near the door, one visitor wrote: “This is a lie ... Try to look at the other side for it wouldn’t hurt.” Nazzal laughed as she read this. She said she feels nothing when she reads these comments and said this is not a matter of sides.

“When apartheid ended we didn’t say let’s try to be balanced,” she said. “No, there is injustice ... Even silence in a time of injustice is a form of oppression.”

The exhibition runs until April 3.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Harper ain't no help in healing

In 2008, the Stephen Harper government drafted a nicely-worded apology to Aboriginal people for the government's funding of Indian Residential Schools (IRS). Those of us who follow government action on Aboriginal issues were appreciative of the symbolic gesture, but skeptical. And for good reason, it turns out. Just two years later, the government is making massive cuts to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. 134 AHF organizations will lose their funding as of this Wednesday, including (most locally to me) the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal. Many will simply have to close down, leaving no similar service available for people in the region, and others will have to cut programs to the bare minimum (the Sexual Assault Counselor position at the Montreal shelter is set to be cut, for example).

There will be rallies today on parliament hill demanding that the government live up to its promise to Aboriginal peoples. I encourage you to join the protests, if you are in Ottawa. Are you outside of Ottawa? Write to your MPs, the government, and sign this online petition at the Missing Justice Website .

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm still not a feminist but..

Article written for class on an event I attended.


It is a word that many women are said to shy away from due to its connotations, but on March 8, a coalition of women’s and human rights groups came together, with over 400 people in attendance, for an event to celebrate that word and the 99th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

“I’m still not a feminist but...” followed last year’s successful, “I’m not a feminist but ...” Held at the National Archives , it was an event organized by a coalition of local, national and international groups including Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada, Women Against Slavery and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW). Representatives from the groups saw this not only as a night to celebrate women, but also an opportunity for groups to network.

“It was a success,” said Lindsay Mossman, from Amnesty International. She added the event achieved its goals, which were “to raise awareness on feminist issues that allowed for dialogue that was also fun, funny and engaging.”

Just after 6 p.m., visitors trickled into the foyer, where tables from the various organizations displayed posters, buttons, pamphlets and fact sheets. It was a diverse crowd of men, women and children, some who claimed to be lifelong feminists, while others said they were new to the movement. While people mingled, servers zigzagged through the crowds with plates of hors d’oeuvres from sushi to mini fajitas.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff made an appearance. He said he was there to celebrate women and show support for International Women’s Day because, “human rights are indivisible; if you don’t have rights, I don’t have rights.”

Erin Williams, executive director for OCTEVAW said the purpose of the event was to be fun and relevant for people.

She said she wanted to, “engage women who might not be using that word.”

The word to which Williams is referring is “feminist,” a dirty word for many because of its negative connotations according to Reuban Folkema, an attendee.

“Feminism is not about hating men,” he said. “To reach equality you have to work with men and women.”

Stephanie McBride, an attendee and member of Amnesty International, said those who avoid using the word are afraid of what she calls “feminist backlash.”

“People assume you’re a fat, hairy, lesbian--not that there’s anything wrong with that,” said McBride. “Women are afraid to claim the title.”

At 7 p.m., the crowd gathered in the theatre. MC’s Joanne St. Lewis, law professor at the University of Ottawa and Maxime Turcotte, theatre teacher at L’ecole sécondaire publique De La Salle, kicked off the event, getting the audience to cheer in celebration for the 99th year of International Women’s Day. Every seat was filled, with many standing against the wall.

It began with a traditional song from Isabelle Meawasige, an Ojibway Grandmother, traditional helper and healer.

St. Lewis and Turcotte also recognized the winners, Rayna Farr-Dutchin and Sarah Lavoie, of the event’s youth essay contest, for their pieces in English and French respectively on feminism.

Being accessible for all was important for the organizers, said Mossman. The event was presented in English and French. While last year the main event was a debate about feminism, this year, the organizing committee took a humourous and satirical approach, hoping to bring more hesitant feminists to the event.

Mossman said she wanted to “get comedy to raise issues and get people to think about them and engage.”

The evening followed with a short film which toyed with the idea of a world where men faced oppression in the form of a newscast presented by a “Petra Womansbridge.” Following this, two all-women improv troupes presented a series of skits, a satirical take on women’s issues. The Ladies, a group from Toronto, presented in English, while the Ligue d’improvisation étudiante universitaire (LIEU), from the University of Ottawa, presented in French.

Stéphanie Desrosiers, from LIEU, said she believed improv was a good way to discuss issues since it is an effective communication tool which is accessible to all. She added that when they do satire, the audience laughs, but is also forced to think.

Although attendees and organizers had different views on what feminism meant to them, most agreed that the term could be divisive.

One attendee Ed Petch said that he is neither a feminist nor a “manuist” (a term he used for pro-men advocates), but rather a “cooperative.”

While some attendees were hesitant to describe themselves as feminists, the organizers understood the irony in the title, “I’m not still not a feminist but...”

“This was a phrase we had heard in our lives,” said Mossman. She said women will begin with, “I’m not a feminist but...” and then will fill in the blanks with phrases such as “but I believe that women should have rights.” She said this event is about breaking down stereotypes, recognizing that historically, the feminist movement has made mistakes and not being afraid of the word

Attendee Ali Yasin, 11, suggested that men also needed a day for themselves.

“Men need a day to sit back, relax and enjoy steak and motor oil,” said Ali.

Ali added that although he respected the choice for a day celebrating women, he said he would like to see a “human’s day.”

The Ottawa poet Oni the Haitian Sensation brought the event to a close with a presentation of the Femmy Awards, recognizing outstanding feminist achievements in Ottawa. The winners were Andrée Coté, Erin Lux, Jane Stinson, Anna Besch and Awatef Rasheed, for their roles in women’s rights organizations, to educators, to organizers of self-defence workshops for women.

Elizabeth Van DenHanenberg, an attendee and member of one of the organizing groups, Peacebuild, said she is still learning what it means to be a feminist, but is learning that times are changing: “feminism is in the title but it seems like common values.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Worldwide Wednesdays

Dearest Atheneristas,

Super short post this week, as I am slammed at school. I am currently writing an article about a Palestinian-Canadian photographer on her latest exhibit on the occupied territories called "Divide". Hopefully I will post that next week.

But for now, I have this short video about women in Laos detonating "bombies". It's pretty amazing, so not much analysis on my part much is needed. Take 10 minutes to watch this thing. I know it made my tiny stresses of today about a zit or a history quiz seem trivial.