Thursday, January 7, 2010

Letter from the Toronto Women's Bookstore

I'm re-posting here a letter for help from the Toronto Women's Bookstore that they released over the holidays. Thought I'd put it up here any case anyone still comes across this blog and can offer a helping hand to a struggling but important independent bookstore in Toronto. See the TWB's plea below:

Dear TWB community,

The Toronto Women's Bookstore is in crisis and we need your help!

Independent businesses and bookstores have been closing their doors this
year, and after 36 years it is possible that we will have to do the same if
we are not able to raise enough money to survive. TWB is one of the only
remaining non-profit feminist bookstores in North America, but despite all
of the events, courses, workshops, community resources and additional
services we offer, the fact that we are a store means that we do not receive
any outside funding and rely entirely on sales and the support of our
customers to stay in business.

Over the past few years, our sales have not been enough to sustain us and
this is why we are coming to you, our community, for help. If every one of
you donated $10 we would raise enough to keep going for 3 months, $20 each
would keep us in business for 6 months, and $30 each would be enough for us
to keep our doors open, hopefully for good. All donations will go directly
towards covering the bookstore's costs, and are a part of a larger plan of
action and structural change to make the business sustainable in the current
economy.

In the past, when feminist bookstores were closing down all across North
America, the support of the community is what kept TWB alive. You are the
reason that we are still here today, and we believe that with your help we
can once again work together to save this organization where so many of us
as readers, writers, feminists, artists, and activists have found a home.

You can make donations over the phone, on our website
www.womensbookstore.com (paypal link available soon), or in person at the
store. As a non-profit store we are not eligible for charitable status and
cannot offer tax receipts, but we are hoping to be able to offer tax
receipts for donations over $100 in collaboration with a non-profit charity
who shares our mandate, and we will have that information available on our
website and in store as soon as possible.

You can also help by spreading the word to your friends and community,
contacting us if you know of any funding we might be eligible for, promoting
this fundraising drive in your paper or on your blog, website or radio show,
organizing your own save the bookstore fundraisers or just passing the hat
at your holiday parties, giving a TWB donation as a gift, and of course,
coming in and bringing all your friends to the store for some holiday
shopping!

Thank you all for your support,
The Toronto Women's Bookstore Board, Staff & Volunteers

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Orgasmatron: No longer just a Motorhead song

No, really: the Orgasmatron is now a bonafide treatment-in-development for the brand-spanking-newest woman's health issue: FEMALE SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION!!!

My sister just directed me to a doc that's right up my alley (I am very interested in Big Pharmaceutical Ploys, and, well, sex is always awesome): Orgasm Inc. I'd like to direct any curious *Canadian* (sorry, I really doubt that this streaming works outside of Canada) eyes to this video about the (erm) treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to finish watching the documentary. So far, most of the criticism of the pharmaceuticals is applicable to many topics other than women's health - the creation of a new "disease". Not that maybe women aren't as encouraged to do things like ...masturbate... like men are. Or that the media really misrepresents women's sexuality... it's a medical problem. No, really. A disease. A dysfunction.

Apparently the only conclusive thing that drug trials for these new female sexual dysfunction drugs have found are: actually women, in general, DO like porn.

Also, I learned a new term for orgasm: "hysterical paroxysms". Sounds sexy, no? It dates back to the time when rich Victorian women who were having hysterical fits would go to their doctors and be stimulated with a vibrator as a cure.

Anyway, this doc is very interesting if you're interested in female sexuality... but also if you're interested in the creepy ass techniques of pharmaceutical corporations and how they really make themselves some cash moneys.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Keep Sex Safe

Abstinence-Only produces results.

I just went through a brief obsession with the early years of the AIDS crises. As far as STDs go, HIV/AIDS seems to be the ultimate one. It was first noticed as a mysterious rash of illnesses such as Kaposi's Sarcoma striking young men, causing them to suffer and die from ailments that were usually associated only with older men (from CBC Archives).

At this time, we have many ways of treating HIV/AIDS. We have drugs that control it for many years, and allow people who have contracted it to live fulfilling lives, so it's not the death sentence it was in the '80s. We're even making major advances as far as prevention goes. But a CONDOM remains the only way to really contain the virus.

We all make stupid decisions sometimes when we're drunk. Or young and easily bullied. Or whatever. I think most people who are sexually active have slipped up at least once and had unprotected sex. At least we're usually vaguely aware that it's a BAD idea.

But listening to the different bits about the early years of the AIDs crises on CBC's archives was frightening. How terrifying it would have been, to be a young person, hearing about this virus. Or to contract it. And yet, the easy assumption that it was a "gay" or "junkie" disease - made bitterly obvious by people saying, as I've heard very occasionally today "Oh, I don't sleep with people who hang around people like that".

I suppose the rash of musicians and celebrities dying from AIDS at the time helped make people feel frightened and worried about the virus.

And, it seems that the advent of HIV/AIDS at least helped to push people towards a more public and more comprehensive sex education, even with all the shock that sexuality was even mentioned on public media.

I've been ranting about this a lot lately, it seems. One reason why I cannot bring myself to ever support religious world charities, especially if they're working in Africa. The movement for abstinence as a solution to the spread of AIDS (which isn't just a crisis in Africa, it affects many developing countries, Africa is just the most publicized) is, in my opinion, a crime against humanity. The consistent blocking of Sex Education, in the face of the AIDS virus (as the US government spearheaded under George Bush, as the Catholic Church strongly supports, and many other Christian charities) is a fucking travesty. But hey, it's making LOTS of money for the big drug companies!! (Go team "morality"). Condoms are cheaper than life-long drug treatments - but what is it we invest in?

But it's frightening that people are talking about Abstinence-based sex education. Even though, everything suggests that Ab-Only is a BAD idea - at least in the States it has been. It's bad enough that many religious groups like to make people feel guilty for wanting or having sex. How fucking sinful it is to have a libido. But to willingly deny people the information and ability to take care of themselves, is criminal. It worries me that Obama hasn't done much to repeal the mistakes of Bush in that arena. And it worries me that Canada often likes to follow the US's mistakes like a lost and stupid puppy. Our current prime minister has a hankering for more Christian "morals" in our government and school systems (think about some of Alberta's more questionable policy shifts lately. We're not as well-educated as we should be already.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fuck You, Roman Polanski

Few things have annoyed me as much as the recent outcry about Roman Polanski's arrest. After I bit my lip and didn't say anything to a customer who was ranting about how Polanski deserves to not go to jail, (13 year olds, back then, they weren't really children the way they are now [forgot to mention the bit where he drugged her first, I guess]) etc, I picked up (by chance) the Globe and Mail from last Tuesday (September 29th). They published some in-support-of-Polanski quotes.

I am going to take this time to respond to them.

Emphasis is added by me.

Debra Winger: "Despite the Philistine nature of the collusion that has now occured, we came to honour Roman Polanski as a great artist ... We hope today this latest order will be dropped ... It is based on a three-decade old case that is all but dead except for a minor technicality"
* By "minor technicality" I suppose you mean the bit where he actually drugged and raped someone. A someone who was still a child. And then, he fled from his sentence? That's called breaking the law. It's not a "minor technicality".

Harvey Weinstein: "Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time... I hope the US government acts swiftly because filmmakers are looking for justice to be properly served".
* Mr. Weinstein, I am going to deduce, from your statement, that drugging and raping a child is not a crime in your eyes. And he certainly has served a good 30 years, partying, living the good life, travelling, ...oh... wait. That's NOT the same thing as serving time.

Frederic Mitterand (call me English swine, I have no idea how to insert the proper accents to his name): "To see him like that, thrown to the lions because of ancient history, really doesn't make any sense. There is an America that we love ... There is also a certain America that scares us
* Your analogy doesn't make any sense - unless you count pedophiles brought to justice as martyrs. And this isn't crazy wingnut America. This is actually - at last - America, the democracy in play.

Bernard Kouchner: "A man whose talent is recognized aroudn the world, recognized especially in the country that arrested him, that's not nice. This story, frankly, is a little sinister
* Oh, Monsieur! That last sentence, I almost agreed with you! This story isn't just a little sinister, it's really sinister that a rapist is so soundly defended after he drugged and forcibly shoved his dick into an unwilling 13 year old girl.
You know what's even less nice than Polanski being arrested? RAPING A 13 YEAR OLD GIRL.

*The following two "quotes" are from petitions, and the people they are "attributed" to are merely people who signed the petition, not wrote it.
Pedro Almodover: "Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision."
* Well, I'm thinking that if filmmakers feel that it should be their right to commit heinous crimes, such as raping a child, they should quit beating around the bush and just say it.

Salman Rushdie: "Apprehended like a common terrorist... Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison." "We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States" (Globe and Mail attributes this one to the Huffington Post).
* No, Polanski is not apprehended like a common terrorist. He is apprehended like a common criminal. Which, by the way, he is. And it is actually totally appropriate for two modern, enlightened democracies to apprehend a child molester. It's truly unfortunate that other "modern", "enlightened" democracies (*cough* France) wouldn't do the same.

Seriously, I understand that the man's a great director. I understand that he's a holocaust survivor, that he lost his wife in a traumatic way, that he's a European citizen, and he's had a very hard life and blah blah blah.
That does not excuse the act of drugging up a person and forcing your penis inside of them while they tell you NO.. Sorry. It just doesn't. Polanski deserves to go to jail for it. He's a rich white man, and a celebrity, so he's not exactly going to be dumped into jail the way any other pedophile would be. He's going to get special treatment, and a very short sentence if he even goes to prison.

So, basically, what I'm saying is GET THE FUCK OVER IT. Polanski deserves a hell of a lot worse than whatever he's going to get. He is a PEDOPHILE. Even if she wasn't still a child, he is a RAPIST. He could have accepted his sentence in the '70s, which would have undoubtedly been a comparable slap-on-the-wrist, since the world doesn't take rape seriously when it is committed by rich white men.

Oh, and really, if I run into anyone wearing a "Free Polanski" button, I'm going to ask them, straight up: "Do you support amnesty for all pedophiles, or just the ones who've won an Oscar?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When A Man is the Victim...

In part procrastination of my own essay-writing but also because this is important to consider and also extremely thoughtfully written, I'm directing everyone to this post about the interlockings of race and gender and other sociological factors in considering sexual violence and rape in general as well as sexual violence against men when it perpetrated by women. It is taken from Racialicious, and was originally posted at the Curvature. I can only hope to write as intellegently and accessibly about such an important issue as Cara does here:

When A Man is the Victim

I never liked that movie 40 Nights (or whatever it was called) with Josh Hartnett because it pretty much played off a rape scene between his character and his ex-girlfriend as something that was supposed to be funny, as well as something that damaged his current relationship with Shannon Sossoman's character not because he was raped by his ex, but rather because it was constitued as him cheatingon his new girlfriend. I read no reviews that brought this up even when they shot down the film, and I only had ONE conversation with someone who also saw this as rape. So I think this article is important, as it rightly points to masculinized norms of sexuality and assault in the downplaying of sexual assault (whether cross-gender or same-sex) towards men, an issue of gender, that crosses race, the normalizations of sexuality and violence and other sociological factors, that feminists and anyone concerned about social justice should think about.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hello Hello

Well, I guess this is the first post of the year over here. Been awhile...but I guess that's what's sort of appealing about blogging in the first place...picking up and leaving when and where you can...

Grad school has been a blur of emotions, tensions, egos (mostly deflating), and struggle, some good and some bad, most of them necessary, but often a bit soul-crushing...It's like finally lifting your head out of the sand to feel the world better, then desperately wanting to sink it back in only to find the sand is now glass.

I'm sure I'll feel differently once I'm distanced from the day to day experience of it, and when I look back at the people I've met, and the knowledge(s) I've both gained and problematized (hopefully, anyway) I'll think it worth it in the end (I just hope for the end to come real quicktimes). Its just hard to see clearly when you're too close, I guess.

At any rate, the point of this blog was not to indulge so much in my grad school anxiety as much as it was to send out love on International Women's Day. I've spent this weekend attending conferences, alternating between art collaborations and feminist theories of the state. I got to spend my Women's Day weekend hearing Gita Sen from DAWN speak, and put out the call for a feminist interrogation/action in regards to the financial crisis (of which so far have been few) as well as a plethora of intelligent, relevant and heartfelt discussions on welfare, compensation, and the interlocking oppressions that gender and race and class bring into this world...and here from a perspective of hope.

To Hope. Everyday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Masculism (or what the hell are men so scared of?)

Lately I've been noticing (more and more) sources of "Men's Right's" Groups. It's a really disturbing trend.

The first time I ever heard the term "masculist", it was through a friend, who said that it was being used to describe men who wanted gender equality - but didn't want to be called feminists because they weren't women. Even then, that entire argument has never been a very good one for me. First of all, it's feminism, because the movement is to equalise the rights of women and men. And women are the group that has been systematically disenfranchised for about as long as we've had recorded history; and probably since before. Secondly, the "dirtying" of the word feminism has been going on for far too long. Trying to use the word "masculist" for a so-called feminist man is simply avoiding a coherent connection with the movement one claims that they support. Thirdly, if all men have to be "masculists" and all women have to be "feminists"... well.. doesn't that just reinforce the "traditional" gender structures we've always had? Oh, yeah, it also disenfranchises everyone who isn't specifically male or female.
Not long after hearing the term for the first time, a friend and I were chatting to a few guys about philosophy, and it was mentioned that we were feminists. One of them immediately said something along the lines of "Oh, you're a feminist? Well I'm a masculist." When asked what that meant, he couldn't define it. But the use of that word as a antithesis to feminism simply made me angry. If he was pro-feminism, why couldn't he simply say so? If he was trying to make a joke, it was incredibly misplaced. If he was "masculist" as in "men's rights advocates" then I'm truly sorry I didn't tell him off in very strong words. One way or the other, his attitude towards feminism ended the conversation for me - how do you argue with a fool? You either drop down to their level and scream and shout and repeat and shout and scream and use profanities until someone's completely drowned out, or else you walk away because you're not going to change the attitude of someone who doesn't care what you think, but just wants to out-yell you.

Lately, however, the term masculist has had a much more chilling definition to me: the group of men who seem to think that the goals of all feminists are to disenfranchise the rights of men. According to some guy's (really really crappy geocities webpage): "Definition of Masculism: A men’s movement ideology that advocates for the abolition of political and cultural assumptions of equality between sexes. A realistic approach to sex differences that attempts to identify those differences and how they are best expressed in the social and political melieu. Supports the establishment of a modern partriarchy and assumes that we are now living in a matriarchy." (Spelling and grammatical mistakes copied-and-pasted direct). In the case of this website, I don't really want to take it too seriously, because, well... really it's an amazingly poorly done website - which means that a) due to spelling and grammar errors, I have to assume the author isn't really all that bright" and b) he doesn't have much of a support group. But then there's this, which tries to suggest that men must be relieved of parental duties if the pregnancy was undesired or accidental.

Now, the issue of paternal child support is really fucking big. Women are paid less. Any way you paint it, any country: women are paid less. In Canada, on average, including all salaried jobs, women generally get 70.5% of what men in the same positions make. Oh, yes, I'm sure there's a few power-suited women in corporations making bucket loads more than your average man. But on the whole women are paid less. Women also generally end up taking care of the children in a marital breakdown. (This is an issue that should be addressed separately, but I think that parents should be getting joint custody far more often, and I believe that the court systems have a bias towards giving women the children to care for that should be removed - whichever parent, mother or father, is best able to care for the children should be caring for them). Wait a second, 1+1 = Oh yeah, women, especially single mothers, tend to be under the poverty line more often than men. So, seriously, a man, living on his own, with no significant expenses (other than the children his estranged wife has been caring for) should fucking pay his child support. (And I added "fucking" there to emphasize, this is an issue very near and dear to me - as a child who's grown up with a single mother. No... my father wasn't deadbeat, but he came pretty close sometimes). It doesn't matter if a child was accidental or not. If you bring a child into this world, you'd better be helping to raise that child. If you don't want to do that... well, wear a condom (and know who you're sleeping with).

I titled this entry as I did because, a few weeks ago I followed the link to This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me through Feministing. I loved the campaign (wish it was happening here too), and then I read the discussion board. The numbers of guys who took major offense at the ad campaign was ridiculous.
First and foremost was the assumption that the ads somehow label all men as rapists. (Ok, but if that's how men react to those ads, good thing the poor muffins aren't treated the way women are treated in advertisement...). Nevertheless, maybe not all men are rapists, but most girls (including myself), have been told to watch out for men who are: strangers, relatives, boyfriends, husbands, acquaintances; the last four being the most likely men to rape you, according to statistics. No, I don't think every man in my life is a potential rapist, but the point here is rape is such a common crime that girls (especially) are always told (with a certain amount of good reason) to be really careful. No, I don't want to label all men as rapists, but maybe there's a little bit too much ...well... social support for a guy who's committed a rape.
And then there was the reaction of "Well, women yell 'rape' all the time, they must be lying!". So maybe that happens once in a while; it's a big world, I'm sure someone somewhere has done so. But what about how many women get raped (1/3 in most Western countries). "But men get raped too!" And if men get raped, they should come forward about it. Luckily for them, men don't get raped nearly as often (1/22). So yeah, although I'm sure there is the very odd woman who's willing to get herself subjected to all sorts of abuse through the police, through the court, through the lack of support of relatives and friends... etc, etc, more often than not, I'm pretty sure if a woman comes forward about a rape, she's not kidding around. She's going through about as much (or more) social exclusion as the rapist.

In the end, what masculism appears to be (to me) is a frightened yelp of an over-enfranchised group who must learn to share. It's like a child who's always had exactly what s/he wanted, and suddenly s/he must share with another child. Feminism has never been about disenfranchising men. It's never been about hating men either. Feminism has accomplished great things, and will continue to accomplish great things. Enfranchising women (just like enfranchising any other group) has done amazing things: most importantly, allowing large numbers of incredibly intelligent and amazing people to participate fully in society, free of numerous social inhibitions. Women are still on an unequal playing field with men. But women don't hate men for it (It's funny, but most of the "boys are dumb" or "guys smell" stuff [in my experience] comes from women who wouldn't call themselves feminists). As a feminist, what I want is neither a "patriarchal" or a "matriarchal" society - those are lofty and foolish goals. I want a society that will accept anyone regardless of gender, race, creed, nationality, etc, etc etc, on an equal level. I don't appreciate a bunch of frightened "masculist" men (that very group that has been in power for so many centuries) trying to overthrow or protest that ideal because they're scared of having a level playing field - and unhobbled competitors.

Guys, you've had millenia to control the world. Yes, losing small amounts of that control is a very big, frightening change for you. But it's time to simply MOVE OVER.

Post Scripted: And everything I wanted to say is summed up very quickly, astutely and beautifully right here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Naomi Klein Talks About Coalition

Naomi Klien: We Can't Lose

Some key points in this interview with Naomi Klein: understanding what "Liberal" actually means and what histories and legacies it points to, holding the Coalition accountable in this very exciting moment, challenging our political process and the borders around democracy. She's right, talks of this coalition being a political coupe is bad Tory PR spin on the situation. Let's talk about the ways this exciting moment potentially opens doors for a truly progressive change in politics and nation-states like Canada. I don't think Harper even represents most conservatives (much less anyone else) in Canada--he's just their only choice.

The Article Here:

Kim Elliott: As you outline so well in your book and in various interviews in the U.S. media, the current financial crisis holds the possibility of being one of those moments when the shock doctrine can best be applied. Can you comment on both the Harper government's economic and fiscal statement introduced last week, and on the Opposition's response to that - that is, the formation of a coalition - in the context of the shock doctrine?

Naomi Klein: Yes, absolutely. What I think we are seeing is a clear example of the shock doctrine in the way the Harper government has used the economic crisis to push through a much more radical agenda than they won a mandate to do.

At the same time we are seeing an example of what I call in the book a "shock resistance," where this tactic has been so overused around the world and also in Canada that we are becoming more resistant to the tactic - we are on to them - and Harper is not getting away with it.

What I think is really amazing about this moment is whatever happens next - whether we end up with this coalition or not, we will have an extremely chastened Harper. So the attempted shock doctrine has failed. I think we can say that decisively.

Just to be clear, what I mean by the shock doctrine, as you know, is the use of crisis to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies. This bundling of a whole package of policies: denying the right of public sector workers to strike, the attack on public financing of political parties, with the economic program - that is what failed, and people were offended by the opportunism of it.

This is what so many of us were worried about during the election - the context of a Tory victory in an economic crisis, because we know that there is this pattern of using an economic crisis to push through policies that were nowhere during the campaign.

KE: This coalition gives us lots of opportunities, but it also poses some risks if it is successful. I'd like to ask you about that. In an interview you had on Democracy Now!, you said that part of the reason that Obama was appointing a host of neo-liberal economists was because there was a lack of "intellectual honesty" among progressives about the real legacy of the Clinton years. Does the Canadian left, in a Liberal-led coalition, risk losing our understanding of the neo-liberal legacy of the Liberals, who during those same Clinton years were ripping up Canada's welfare state, cutting social spending etc?

NK: I think it is really important to remember, and I've written about this in the book, and Linda McQuaig has written about it extensively, that it is the Liberals who actually implemented what I'm describing in Canada.

They were elected on an economic stimulus platform in 1993, with a huge mandate. The Tories were wiped out in those historic elections. And then they caved to pressure from Bay Street, from the corporate media and from the right-wing think tanks in the face of the debt crisis. They turned around and broke their election promises when it came to NAFTA, when it came to job creation, and the famous 1995 Paul Martin budget came down which did so much damage to unemployment insurances (which makes it particularly interesting that a key piece of the agreement for the coalition is about strengthening unemployment insurance). So we need to have long memories about the Liberals, because they have done exactly what Harper has just done, in terms of using an economic crisis for a neo-liberal about turn.

That said, what I find most exciting about what is going on right now - beyond just getting rid of Harper, which is exciting in and of itself - is that we have this opportunity to show what proportional representation (PR) would look like, because all of this talk that this is a coup is a joke.

What is being proposed by this coalition is much closer to representative democracy than what we have right now, which is a government that has [slightly more than] 35 per cent of the popular vote in a turnout that was historically low, of 59 per cent of Canadian voters, which means that even though the Tories won more seats they had fewer actual votes than in the last election.

I think it is really important to talk about democracy, about what it actually means in this period. In some ways I think it is even more important than talking about the policies, because our electoral system is broken. Because of the Tories' extraordinary opportunism and terrible calculation we now have an opportunity to see a better version of democracy and see more people represented in government.

To me the best case scenario that could come out of this is, one, you get the coalition, and, two, the NDP uses this moment to really launch a national discussion about why we need PR and that that becomes one of the things that comes out of this crisis.

Now, they don't have the mandate for that right now, but we could come out of this with a national referendum on proportional representation. People might actually like it, which would be really, really exciting.

KE: That is a very exciting possibility, and I wanted to ask you, if this coalition is successful, what are the two or three key issues that the NDP should focus on, the kinds of issues that were not covered in the agreement?

NK: They've put in writing what they've agreed to. I think it is going to maybe be up to the NDP to make sure that the EI improvements are protected.

KE: I'm thinking of those issues that were not in the agreement like PR, or like withdrawal from Afghanistan - those issues that were not nailed down in the agreement.

NK: Those issues weren't nailed down because there isn't agreement on them, and that I think it is not really about whether the NDP holds the line on these issues, but about how the NDP uses this platform. It is a historic opportunity, I think, to be very bold, not just because of what is happening in this country, but because of what is happening globally.

Another important role for the NDP, beyond putting proportional representation on the agenda, withdrawal from Afghanistan, is also the terms of the bailout. The bailout for the auto industry is part of their agreement, but we don't know what the terms of that agreement are going to be, and that is going to be really important in terms of negotiating a progressive automobile industry bailout - a green auto industry bailout, if such a thing is possible. So that is a very important role that the NDP could play.

I think the best analogy, in terms of the kinds of concerns you are raising in regards to the Liberals and neo-liberalism, of being the party that continued and deepened Mulroney's neo-liberal economic program, is to look at Gordon Brown. He was finance minister for Tony Blair, really the face of neo-liberalism in Britain. He is now overseeing what many are calling the death of New Labour, and the return to Keynesian economics in Britain. That is because he is fighting for his political life. That is because he was going down, until he started talking this way. That is really what is at stake for the Liberals, I think.

This is also why I think the issue of political financing for political parties is so key. The reason there is a little more latitude in Canada on these issues is because our political process is not massively owned by corporations as it is in the United States.

The way in which public financing for political parties has been presented in the press is "oh the politicians, they just got mad when they went after their money," right? This is another key point that I think is somewhat related to the issue of proportional representation. We need to be talking about our political process here, and the issue of public financing for political parties in elections is key to protecting and deepening democracy in Canada, and for keeping it out of corporate control. It is not for nothing that the Tories are attacking that. They see attacking public financing of political parties as a way to entrench their power.

KE: Should this coalition become government, what should we as progressive movements be doing in terms of using this as an opportunity to promote these kinds of progressive agendas, to support the NDP in a predominantly Liberal caucus?

NK: I think it is PR, I really think that is the way in. By pushing PR then it is not just about this one crisis. It is about leveraging this situation to have a more democratic system. It means that if the NDP does deeply disappoint us in this moment we could still end up with a better political system.

KE: Should the coalition happen what do you see as the long-term fall-out in terms of western voters in Canada?

NK: I really think that we need to fight back this strategy. We know what the talking points are from the right and from the West, and it is about playing up this idea of making a coalition with the Bloc, "with the separatists."

What to me is so extraordinary is the temper tantrum being thrown in Alberta right now at the prospect of having to be ruled by a majority - by a coalition of parties representing the majority of the people in this country. I really do think it is worth asking who the real separatists are, because of course the undercurrent of everything they are saying is that they will take our oil. So who are the real separatists?

KE: Do you agree then that we should be out there supporting the coalition? Attending rallies, mobilizing letter-writing campaigns?

NK: Absolutely. Listen, we've been given a second chance, after these elections. What is exciting about it is that a lot of people did get involved in the election to try to beat the Tories. Maybe it started a little bit too late. We were surprised a bit by how quickly the election happened, but you saw a lot of people getting involved in things like voteforenviroment.ca and the Department of Culture.

That was very much the spirit of it, it was anything but the Tories and it was kind of building a PR system without the cooperation of the political parties that got a lot of people excited during this election. It was about just doing an end-run around the political parties who were not cooperating to try to keep out the Tories.

So, what is exciting about this political moment, and how people can get involved, is that this is building on that. The political parties caught up with the grassroots movement that was happening anyway with those initiatives like voteforenvironment.ca, Department of Culture, and people like Murray Dobbin who have been making these arguments pretty steadily outside of the political parties. Now it is happening, and it is happening thanks to Stephen Harper and his extraordinary arrogance and over-reaching. We can't lose this moment.

I just want to emphasize this point: If even through smart tactics, Harper pulls this off, if he prorogues Parliament; if the Governor General lets him get away with it; if the Liberals lose their nerve over Xmas, then the Harper we will have in January will be a deeply chastened Harper.

What everybody agrees with is that he made a massive error, that he massively overreached, and his own party, his own base agrees with that. Worst case scenario we dodged a bullet here. Best case scenario, we leverage his overreach, his attempt to use a crisis to push through his ideological pro-corporate agenda to have a deeper democracy in our country, and to prevent forevermore a situation where a party with 35 per cent of the vote is government.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Remembering Violence Against Women

I just wanted to take a moment out to add to Medea's post, especially since today also marks a national day of rememberance on violence against women.

Violence against women happens under various conditions but what we know of it and how we know of it gets mediated by the fact that we live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, able-ist society--so only certian kinds of violence against certain women gets acknowledged, and paints a particular, limited picture of the issues, when the reality is that there are an abundant. So many histories and conceptions of what we think is a 'liberal'* (read: our) society drastically change when we bother to look under the rug.

So while we remember importantly the Montreal Massacre, let's also remember to read Andrea Smith,Sherene Razack,Angela Davis,Melissa Wright. Let's remember to watch Finding Dawn and The Sterilization of Leilani Muir. Drop by The Centre for Women and Trans People (University of Toronto) and have an important conversation.

There's so much more out there.

Note how many of those few sources I listed point to a Canadian history--including the Massacre. Let's look under our own rug.


*a big problem is understanding just what exactly we mean and politically support when we say 'liberal' in the first place...