Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bad Politics

Sorry, this is yet another blog that really isn't specifically about feminism or women or anything except politics.

Now, I am not American, but I have American family, and through my family, I have received this email, indirectly from the Democratic Party. Now, before I copy and paste the body of this email here, I want to say that, really, I do think that the Democratic Party is shitloads better than the Republican. But... this is really dirty campaigning.

And so, commence:

Dear 'X',
I've got something for you.

For a few months, we've had Democratic Party "trackers" recording hundreds of hours of Republican candidates in the field. From event to event, we've got footage of some pretty revealing moments. Some are regular Americans putting a candidate on the spot with a tough question. Others are blatant contradictions. A lot of it is just the standard candidate stump speech.

The footage isn't high quality, but it's straight from the field -- and there is a lot of it. Since there's more than my team can realistically process, we've decided to throw it up on the web and put the Party's most powerful asset -- you -- to work.

As soon as a tracker leaves an event in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or wherever they're taping a Republican candidate, they'll head to a computer and upload it directly to a special section of called FlipperTV. That means you'll have a chance to go through the latest video the same time we do.

Nobody has ever done anything quite like this before, but with the Internet giving ordinary Americans like you access to the tools you need to change an election with the click of a mouse, we need to make sure you have everything you need to do just that. The video is yours -- you can just let us know what you find, or you can take it, re-mix it, add music, and make your very own ad out of it. It's up to you.

Take a look:

Back in March, I told you about our program to hold the GOP accountable for everything they say on the 2008 campaign trail. We launched a website dedicated to the Republican presidential hopefuls, and created a rapid response group in PartyBuilder that people like you could join to get the latest campaign news.

This video is part of that program -- and part of the work that the Democratic Party is able to do because of your help.

Take a look at the video, forward your favorite clips to your friends, and make a contribution of $20 to keep this and other programs going strong through the 2008 election:

What are Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson telling voters in Iowa and New Hampshire?

I'll give you a hint -- it's not what they're going to say in tonight's Republican debate.

As the Democratic Party's Research Director, I spend a lot of time watching what the candidates say when they aren't on CNN or Fox News. Believe me, they're like entirely different people when they're speaking to just a few dozen people in Des Moines or Manchester and don't think the cameras are rolling.

But don't just take my word for it -- watch the video yourself, and let us know right away if you find something noteworthy:

People like to say that Democrats have a tactical advantage because we're better at using the Internet. Let's show them just how far ahead we actually are.

Let's get started,

Mike Gehrke
Research Director, DNC

P.S. -- Be sure you join the PartyBuilder group on that page so we can get you the latest clips everyone finds.

Now the thing is, although I do think that people should be aware of some of the things right wingers say/do... because a lot of them are much more hypocritical than all that. But to do so much intense smear is just... I don't know... immature.

And I'm not saying this to point a finger at the Democratic Party. The Republican Party is just as bad (maybe worse). At least in Canada, the further "right" a party gets the more it seems to feel it can depend on smear instead of intelligence. And unfortunately, in ad campaigns, the public seems to really go for that.

I don't know what to say or do about this. I really don't. I feel, looking at it, like I'm looking at some really horrid moment in a highschool movie. Or else one of the ultra-low points of the girl-politics that happened in elementary school (because as much as I hate to generalize, most girls were fucking vicious at the end of elementary). One way or the other, this is far too immature for any potential world leader to be engaging in. Any potential leader should be a little more grown-up than that.

That being said, I'm very tempted to watch through and snicker in horror at some of the shit that this big right-wing douche-bags have to say. I can't admit that I'm not sort of very enthralled at the very idea of actually catching the really shitty crap they're saying.

Which makes me a hypocrite, yes.

But currently, I am in my early 20s. I smoke weed, drink alcohol and mess around when I'm not busy with school work (which I currently should be). Still... I am not running for office.

Our "leaders" need to grow the fuck up. Like, really, guys. Get passed that stupid adolescent phase where it's cool to make fun of the other kid. Grow up. This goes for both American parties. And all the Canadian parties also. Elevating immaturity like this to such a powerful level is not "rad" or "awesome" or "killer" (well, maybe it's killer, but not in the "really cool" meaning of the word).

Now, if only the voting public would realize that also.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Voting and not Voting

"The Daily Telegraph carries the results of a poll which suggests that more young people have voted in reality TV shows than are likely to vote in the next election.

The paper says fewer than 42% of first time voters think they will vote for a political party, yet 46% have already voted for contestants in shows like Big Brother and Pop Idol."
Source BBC News.

That is disgusting. But I think you could make an easy comparison to the US and Canada both.

I am meaning to write something about how our electoral system isn't working. It's not that voting doesn't work. It's just that our candidates all have somethings in common, with few exceptions: They are either businesspeople or they are lawyers. They are all living well above the median. There is something wrong with that picture. First off: I trust a businessperson less than I trust a lawyer, unquestionably. Second off: most of the time businesspeople and lawyers have about the least "hard life experience" in that they are rarely from impoverished backgrounds, single mothers, visible minorities, etc. Thirdly: most businesspeople and corporate lawyers (social lawyers are sometimes actually quite wonderful people) have vested interests. Bias doesn't disappear because it's not right on the surface. Friendships don't end just because So and So doesn't work directly for the company anymore... Businesspeople are trained to have one thing prioritized: the bottom line, at all costs.

I think that if we ever want real results in our government, we need to start electing educated people who have lived among the majority of people (ie. low income bracket). I think that we also need to stop electing businesspeople, especially. I think getting real results in elected government would stimulate the interest in actually participating in the electoral process. I think it would also begin to stimulate positive change within our society - we have to start deciding what's more important: the fullness of people's lives or the fullness of our "GNP".

Speaking of which, there was a interesting segment on CBC's national about Bhutan wanting to remain under an absolute monarchy rather than move towards a democracy. I won't make much discussion about this... I really don't know much about Bhutan at all, but the latter part of the video talks about the king promoting "GNH" (Gross National Happiness) rather than GNP (Gross National Product). Now, of course, issues are always more complex than that, and much more complex than shown within the video. But the idea of promoting the happiness of the people rather than the average wealth (which isn't a very good way of calculating how well people are faring within any given country. Here is a link to the video, if you're interested. It's only about four minutes long, and it's definitely worth discussion and attention. And of course, if (I reiterate the "if", I know nothing about Bhutan, and that little video was suspiciously happy-go-lucky) the majority of people are happy with traditionalism, why modernize? I ask that question, because, as a modern state, we are constantly finding that people aren't very happy - that things like depression are more frequent, etc. Of course, that's hard to tell, and possibly lost within "are more people depressed, or a more people being treated for depression?". But that's a whole other discussion that will have to wait until some other day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Her Own Words: Artist Talk

This is a supplementary post in regards to some work I reviewed at Ladyfest back in September. I featured an albeit blurry picture of a work by Nicole Stoffman, but didn't really talk about it. Nicole, however, has left a comment on the review that I would like to partially re-post here. It's always interesting to hear an artist speak of her own work, in her own words.

I'm sorry I don't have a better picture. But hopefully, we'll see her work around in various spaces soon.

Here's Nicole:

[Regarding]the two matching gold frames full of tourist postcards is another piece called, "Snail Mail: New York, Toronto". It is my answer to Toronto bashers everywhere. I spent 28 days in each city respectively (no reference to the menstrual cycle intended) writing a postcard home to my family (who live in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood) everyday. I discovered that while New York is endlessly fascinating, Toronto is a progressive urban utopia that encourages individual expression and is dense with the living arts. I familiarized myself with it's British heritage and appreciated the fact that although Toronto is a cosmopolis, it is still very close to nature. Although I have lived in Toronto my whole life, I found many new things to write home about. As you can see, the Toronto frame overflows.

Thanks, Nicole!

From the Inbox:

Two Events Coming up in Toronto, Ontario:

Number One:
Toronto Women's Bookstore Presents:

book launch for
Unleashing the Unpopular:
Talking About Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Education(Association for Childhood Education International)edited by Isabel Killoran and Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez

toronto women's bookstore
73 harbord st.
partially wheelchair accessible
free admission

This amazing new publication is a unique teacher education resource that strives to improve understanding of issues related to sexual orientation, gender diversity, and education, and how they affect students, teachers, schools, and the community. These narratives and essays are offered as an invitation to make room for the questions and discussion that will hopefully lead to more equitable communities. The authors discuss barriers to successfully supporting LGBT students, teachers, and parents; and explore the reasons behind action or inaction, the effects of not having supportive policy around LGBT issues, and possible solutions to the concerns.

Readings by...
Tonya Callaghan
Dale Callender
Hilary Cook
Carter Cook
John Guiney Yallop
Celia Haig-Brown
Didi Khayatt
Isabel Killoran
Karleen Pendleton Jimenez
janet romero-leiva

Number Two:
Searching for the Islamic Feminist: Religious arbitration in Ontario

Kseniya Zaika
Visiting Scholar, Centre for Feminist Research
State University Higher School of Economics - School of International Affairs, Moscow
Tabassum Ruby
Ph. D Student, School of Women Studies
York University, Toronto

Monday, 26 November 2007
201 Founders College
York University, Keele Campus

I, of course, will be writing essays and finishing my art projects for the semester crunch. Sigh.

Art Progress Report

Ah, some pictures.

Also, clearly I have lied about keeping these posts short and readable. Whoops.

Right now I'm almost finished with the lithography element of the project. I've done lithographic editions of the elderly women (nine so far--but I'll be adding another three or four to the project in January) after which I will try to learn screen-printing in like ONE DAY and print their costumes (on separate pieces of paper to be either collaged or chine colled in some manner or the other).

Of course I should be doing the research for an essay right now instead of posting. But I figure that since this project is school-related, it's not too horrible of a distraction. Right? Fack, I'm totally the cause of all my own stress...

Here we go:

This is one of the litho presses we use at school. I totally own litho press #1. It's my favourite, and I'm superstitious so its the only one I use.

Meet some of my ladies:

This is Wonder Woman and Snow White, getting all ready to be printed. I should mention that in this project I did not reference any actresses who may have actually portrayed some of my figures...I am not interested in reproducing those faces as much as I was interested in aging the characters themselves...So don't expect Wonderwoman or Xena to look like Linda Carter or Lucy Lawless in their 80s. That isn't the point itself of this project.

Moving on...

Prints Galore!

In the tatami natural paper, I've made editions of ten of each lady, which will remain untouched as a lithograph. I've also made editions of five on this brown linen wrapper paper over which I will screen some text under each figure as well as collage on their costumes. Yep, that's the plan, anyway.

Snow White.

Wonder Woman.

Moving on...

Xena, Warrior Princess and Princess Jasmine. I had done some nice tonal work on Princess Jasmine, that I ended up over-etching, which I am totally disappointed about. At the point that I was working on this stone, I was feeling overwhelmed by a seeming lack of time so I didn't try to counter-etch and redraw (which I would have to do later with another stone anyway), which I now regret, as I have no intention of "whitewashing" these characters, but I think what I will do, when all twelve women are completed in January, is go back in and give some colour to every woman with some hand tinting. I'll either go with a pochoir or pastel technique or maybe some watercolour. I'm going to have to test how those mediums will work out with my paper first though.

Princess Jasmine

Xena, Warrior Princess.

A new stone, a new set of drawings...

Introducing Storm, Vixen and Pocahontas:

Once again, due to using a pencil that wasn't greasy enough, when I went to do a second etch, all the skin colour I did came right off. What a horrible limitation of an artist; who can't portray colours of skin! Bullshit! What a weird way for racism and art techique to collide. Calling myself on my own bullshit--this having happened before with attempts with tusches and cross-hatching--I decided to take a step-back, counter-etch, redraw and carefully etch yet again. There was no way I was gonna let this mistake go uncorrected.

So here I go again...

Time for a brand new etching...

And now, to introduce Max Gueverra (Dark Angel) and Foxy Brown:

Yes...I've been double-stoning...

Dark Angel

Foxy Brown.

I'll be printing off these two stones over the next couple of days, barring me running out of paper, anyway. The second etches on the last two stones seem to have come out okay so far, and my images look pretty stable, so I'm hoping for the best.

Because I've had some issues with the etching of skin colour (recently and even in past projects) I've also been thinking about how fucked-up it is that many of today's notions of race are predicated on skin colour, making it so monolithic with no nuances. Such an obvious observation, yes I know. But I can't help think that notions of "people of colour" is that...colour and not colours, not to mention all the politics, history and social practices that we attach to this notion...What scares me about this project is the potential for merely reproducing hegemonic notions about race, gender and age and how freaking easy it would be to do so...and I wonder for myself, how many people would really care to notice if all I did do was re-produce and not venture into something critical...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No Poppy for the Forgotten

The year that I stopped feeling comfortable wearing a poppy was 2001. My change in attitude towards the poppy had everything to do with the “Post 9/11” political drama playing out under George Bush. It might have also had everything to do with reaching a certain level of maturity which solidified my political sympathies.

Immediately after 9/11, like everyone else, I felt shocked that the US had been attacked. I was amazed that such a thing had happened in my lifetime. It took, however, maybe two days (tops) before I started returning to my regular sentiment about the United States: serves them right.

Now, lest there be some poor survivor or family of a victim reading this, I’m not saying “serves the people within the tower right”, because it doesn’t, and yes, it was very tragic for people involved. I’m saying “serves the United States right” because of the way that they have been bullying around in the world arena. Conversely, the media’s sentiment on the attacks was “Everything changes now” about the rolling-back of rights in the United States (and, yes, up here in Canada too, for wherever big brother Sam goes, we must stupidly follow…) and, once the blame had been assigned, then the lead up to the attacks in Afghanistan, followed the very soon after by the attacks in Iraq.

How this all relates to me wearing (or not wearing) a poppy is that around that November there was plenty of “still we must protect our freedom” and “we still stand strong against the enemies of democracy” and, then, most despicably, the whole “axis of evil” bullshit. I do support wearing a poppy in remembrance of the veterans who went away to the World Wars. I do feel that, in the western world, the two World Wars were an incredibly large turning point in our history (although in hindsight, they really were just one war, weren’t they?). I have, since learning about the Holocaust, felt that World War II, in particular was a “just war”, if such a thing exists. I’ll even support wearing a poppy in remembrance of veterans from the war in Vietnam to an extent – because in the end, they got fucked almost half as bad as the Vietnamese did, and a great number of them weren’t there by choice. But I must draw the line when “remembrance” is extended to the current wars that the US (and, by extension, Canada) are involved in. And the propagandistic mix-up of rhetoric about these “wars”, as unjust as the Vietnam “war” was, and the World Wars and the connection to “protecting democracy and freedom” just ruins the poor poppy. Add the bullshit of the entirety of the Cold War to the mix - where western nations supported numerous brutal dictatorships over democratic socialist or communist parties to keep a death grip on the world - and I'm about ready to vomit.

I don’t classify myself as a complete pacifist. I do feel that war, however, should be avoided at almost all costs, engaged in under two circumstances: the first being when another country attacks yours, the second being when another country is engaging in genocide or other serious human rights infringements.

That really wasn’t the case… you could argue that the Taliban or Saddam Hussein were spitting on human rights, but the wars that followed were quite obviously about profit for big business. And it’s not exactly like the western countries involved (for it really isn’t all just Uncle Sam’s fault, we’re all as responsible) were being subtle when they ran straight for the oil wells. The US even lied to its own citizens to get people to support the war. And it’s not like the United States and its gang of back-up bullies are respecting human rights any better than the previous regimes (women may/may not be doing a little better, but our media really couldn’t care less about the civilian livelihoods whenever one or two of our home boys get killed). The sexually-charged abuse of prisoners-of-war by American soldiers ought to prove that. The fact that torture is an ongoing occurrence at Guantanamo Bay ought to prove that (why hasn't there been any real international outrage here?). Consider the death count of every single war waged in the middle east right now – although the media mourns wildly when one of our good boys from home gets killed, it forgets to mention that five or more people from [read Afghanistan, read Iraq, read Palestine in the case of Israel, read Vietnam if you want to be historical]. These are not equal wars. Our veterans were fighting wars where they had about the same risk level as their enemies. Today, our soldiers are fighting wars where they are in a considerably safer place. And, yes, they do still get killed sometimes. And that is hard on their families. But what about the people they are killing? Have we forgotten that Afghans and Iraqis are people too? Remember: wars are made for killing people. One should not be surprised if someone gets killed in active duty. It's WAR. That's the way war works!

How can I wear a poppy, then, without a hint of irony, the symbol of “lest we forget” when we have completely forgotten any lessons we claim to have learned from the past wars? How can I honour the achievements of old veterans when new veterans are knocking them down unceremoniously? There is no "honour" in any war, let alone a war where one side has a "smart bombs" and much deeper pockets.

The poppy itself isn’t so innocent a symbol as I once felt it was, either. Although it is a beautiful symbol, the poem, Flanders Fields does not reflect any real desire to somehow avoid war. Nay!, in the last stanza it so clearly states:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. (McCrae 1915)

So, basically, the poppy is a symbol of a poem encouraging us to carry on the fight. And that distresses me. World War I was completely senseless. The only reason that World War II was not completely senseless was that it put an end to the slaughter of millions of people. Of course, however, not a single country stepped in on the behalf of the Jewish people, nor any other group victimized by the Nazis. Britain and France did not move until Poland, their ally was swallowed up by Germany. The United States, for all its flaunting ideals of “freedom” and “democracy” didn’t bother to lift a finger until it was attacked itself (and although the Japanese empire was not innocent of human rights violations, I do believe they were fully justified in attempting to take on the Americans at that time; the Americans were trying to bully them into submission).

Don’t tell me to remember the lessons you’ve already forgotten. The symbol of the poppy leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The hypocrisy of it. How dare we wear such a symbol when we attack innocent countries? How dare we wear such a symbol when we allow genocide and human rights infringements to continue on unabated around the globe for our own profit? How dare we? How dare we wear this symbol, sport “support our troops” ribbons and proclaim that we need an army for protection when we have not needed to defend our own borders (not since our dear neighbours the States attacked us at least) for almost two centuries? When we do not use our army for useful things? Sure, the Canadian army says that it is a “peacekeeping” army, but our mission in Afghanistan is no longer “peacekeeping”. How dare we, when we allow our “friends” to ignore basic human rights, for example, the United States’ “secret prisons” where they happily submit suspects to a witch-hunt torture system to prove terrorist allegations? How dare we look the other way when our own economic system is reliant on stomping other nations down, looking the other way as our very own corporations take away the sovereignty of other countries, violating basic human rights in the process? (Don't look the other way when the World Trade Organization and the World Bank are involved, because they enable these atrocities, as well as give us a bloody leg up.) And Israel, the most bitter of all ironies, which has proven the trauma of Holocaust survivors by allowing them to treat Palestinians almost as poorly as the Nazis treated them? How can we still hold our heads up, let alone wear a symbol saying “lest we forget”?

How dare we, again: we remember our veterans, but have not a word to say to the victims: the survivors of not only the Holocaust, but both victims and survivors of the nuclear bombs. Yes, we have memorial days, but on no such scale as that for the veterans. And no, still, I am not saying we should forget our veterans. I am saying we should also remember that every war has its civilian victims. Not only military victims, but consequences for the unfortunate, and truly innocent civilians who were not fighting the war. Yet they are forgotten.

The final thing that really bugs me about Remembrance Day is the unfortunate timing of it. Ironically, the armistice signed on November 11th was not a very good armistice. It was an unfair treaty, condemning Germany to poverty; creating the sort of situation that allows for an extremist leader such as Adolf Hitler rise to power. Consider how impoverished desperate situations leads to extremism in much of the middle east today, especially. Do you think people who are leading comfortable lives will turn to such violence easily? People who are content are not easily swayed towards violence. People who have little to nothing to lose because of desperate situations, however, will turn to violent actions because they know they cannot continue living as they are. If we are to remember something on November 11th, perhaps it should be the dooming sentence we forced down upon Germany that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War II.

I do not want to downplay the role our veterans played in our history. I do, however, want to separate the differences between the wars then and the wars now. There is a difference. I want people to remember that there are two sides to every war, at least, often more, and there are always innocent victims. In fact, the number of innocent victims in any war has been going up continuously since the advent of "modern warfare" (pretty much World War I and after). While we honour our veterans, we should not forget: World War II was won only when the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - a nuclear bomb on civilians, not soldiers. Today, we "remember" the lessons learned, but we still allow numerous countries to hoard nuclear weapons. We still look the other way in the case of genocides. We look the other way, for that matter, in the case of a much more mundane killer: the poverty that our own nations force upon many third world nations. We forget that "the other side" (and is there ever really an evil other side?) is being killed too. And we forget that in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we are the aggressors. Sorry, guys. We're not the heroes anymore. We're not liberating people from concentration camps, we're not helping anyone any more. We've simply torn down the existing political structure and now we wonder why there is chaos and anarchy.

Remember that war is much more complex than "Lest we forget". Even World War I and II, it is far more complicated than the good "us" and the evil "them". And until we can figure that out as a society, I won't be wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Angry Mulroney Rant

Ok, so I really should have posted this a few days ago when the article was in the paper, about how fucking "Right Honourable" Brian Mulroney swindled lawsuit money out of the federal government for alleging that he had a part in a fraud case that he said he didn't have a part in but turns out he did...

I really really want to start a petition to exile him. Like, force him to give up his Canadian citizenship and ban him from our country. He's a fucking traitor! He sold us out to the American corporations with the Free Trade Agreement. He swindles the government for his own monetary gain. At the very least he should lose the "Right Honourable" title granted to all Prime Ministers. I mean, GAWD, Jean Cretien started bar fights and is a more decent person! Stephen Harper is a fucking robot and scares the SHIT out of me, but I still hold more respect for him. (Well, respect in that we don't really know exactly what he's up to yet. He still really fucking scares me.) This is about as nationalistic as I will get: someone who so totally betrays his or her nation from a position of such power, should face consequences. But then again, I suppose it does not befit us to go up against someone who has so much money for lawyers, and therefore can get off of every charge thrown at him.

The other thing about this is the fact that if he was a liberal ex-PM and the Liberals were in power the press would be ALL THE FUCK OVER THIS. But here's a Conservative ex-PM doing fucking outrageous acts of ridiculous greed (he's already too rich for his own greedy-ass good) during a Conservative government and the media kindly turn head. I mean, this should blow up. Like, it should blow up like "Dumbledore's gay" big. 'Cause you know, what Dumbledore's doing in his fictional bedroom means more to us than what our Prime Minister is doing with our TAX MONEY. You know, the money that's supposed to somehow make its way to benefiting Canada. You know, our country.

FUCK. I hope Brian Mulroney regrets his life. Somehow, I hope he looks back and realizes: "Oh, I'm a greedy fucker. How terrible a person I've been." But we all know he has too much money for regrets.

So, instead, I hope he goes bankrupt and is forced to spend a miserable, lonely end to his life on welfare.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Art Progress Report

Okay, so that proposal was submitted some time ago, and this project is due in a couple of weeks. I have to admit I've stagnated BIG TIME with it, in part at frustrations with my drawing abilities but mostly due to ideological insecurity surrounding certain issues that I noticed as I was working on imagery. I decided to reach out to Carmen at Racialious for some help. She posted my email for me today on the blog, and it generated quite a response, so I'm re-posting my email here. I've also decided to use that email, and it's resulting comments as my artist statement for this project, since one of the aims of this project was to start a dialogue about the subject in question. I can only hope my final results will yield as much discussion as my email did over at Racialious.
Hi Carmen,

I am a visual arts/women’s studies student in Toronto, Canada. I am emailing you in the hopes of generating some advice or reference material about how to address some issues I am coming across with an art project I am working on.

My project is about the lack of visibility of aging women and also how in Western iconography of women, vitality and strength are directly linked to their attractiveness and youth. So my idea was to take fictional, iconic female characters, i.e. Wonder Woman, Buffy, Xena, Catwoman and so on, and age them with their costumes intact, and hopefully also, their dignity and the wisdom I like to think that comes with age. I have these subcategories: Film/T.V, Fairytales (which is really Disney depictions–which for some reason kind of irks me that as visual, recognizable icons they all come from there), Superheroines.

My issue is that many of the icons I am referencing are white (as am I), and while I am addressing the invisibility of aging women, I don’t want to in turn make invisible women of colour in my project. In my women’s studies degree, which informs most of my art, we talk often of how race/ism is made invisible or ignored or not properly considered in both canonical academic discourse and pop culture: I don’t want to contribute to that. I can actually come up with a number of Black-American icons to depict: Catwoman (who I am actually on the fence about after researching since there have been so many incarnations of her, far more of them white than Black), Storm from the X-Men, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) and so on. But again, I don’t want to address racial inclusivity as either token or as simply about black and white.

I have thought about including some more Disney characters as I am already including Cinderella and Snow White (particularly because of the idea of aging them potentially puts them on the same side as their stepmothers they so revile): Mulan, Jasmine from Aladden, Pocahontas–but this does not seem satisfactory to me. Particularly Pocahontas, as she is based on a real figure straight out of colonial history–there are many issues of racism that come attached with her that could not go without addressing. I thought too about the character of Miss Saigon but again I think there are political issues there too that I’m not sure how to deal with. I am adding text to these images that will describe these women’s lives as I have aged them–I could address racial issues there. But how? Who else can I use? How do I address why I am having trouble coming up with iconic characters of colour or the overwhelming whiteness of my project? How can I make the issues of gender, age and race/ism intersect in this project? Can you recommend to me some resources I can look into? Recommend some iconic characters even that I am just being blind to?

I’m sorry if I am coming across as ignorant but I really feel like I need to address this in my project, especially since it is about the visibility and iconography of (Western) women. I’m just not quite sure how to go about it.

Thank you for your time;


Pictures of the actual work I am doing will be up shortly as I finish up this project. I realize now that it will never be perfect, but I am making an earnest effort to make some art that is meaningful and that at least attempts to work through the issues I mentioned in the email.

Original Post Here.

Art Progess Report:Army of Age (Tentative Title)

It's my last year at York as an undergrad, and also potentially my last chance working in a print studio for an unknown time. So I've decided to document my process this year, as I work on my art projects, which are completely informed by what I learn in the Women's Studies portion of my degree.

Any other authors on this site should feel free to do the same =)

I'll try to do this in small-ish posts so they are readable and not too overwhelming. So I'll start with my artist proposal in this post, that I had to submit earlier this year.
Taking inspiration from pop culture images of women such as superheroes, fairy-tale heroines, villains and other icons, this semester I wish to explore both the invisibility of aging women in visual mass media, and the direct link to youth and sexual appeal that these iconic women of strength, like Wonder Woman and Xena, Warrior Princess must maintain for their popularity. What I would like to do then, is to dedicate my time in next few months, re-drawing these women, the Supergirls and Catwomen, in the image of my (or anyone’s) grandmother. I want to see what happens to the vitality of these sexy crime-fighters, fairy tale princesses and vengeance-seekers when I age them to about eighty years old. What becomes of their power when their youthful appeal slips away as they age like the rest of us? What becomes of their costumes, designed more to catch the eye than to meet the practical requirements of their work? Do these characters become ridiculous when they age? If yes, then why is that so?
It seems to me that we are surrounded by a cultural climate that does not like to see women age. We praise actresses and pop stars, as they get older, for their ability to keep approximating youthfulness. As well, actions that are seen as liberating in our youth become silly in old age. It seems like women’s strength, even in positive pop cultural images remains attached to the way women look, and the way that they look must always be appealing. What I would like to do then, is to take various well known characters from comic books (Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Sailor Moon), t.v./film (Foxy Brown, Charlie’s Angels, Buffy, Xena), fairy tales/legends (Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas) and so on and make various series of lithographic portraits of themselves as the elderly women of our society. I am interested also in how their stories must change as I age them. Will Snow White become the Wicked Step-Mother she spent her youth fleeing from? Will anyone want to see Wonder Woman in her halter-top costume when she is eighty years old? Will these new images I create be able to maintain any element of these women’s past feisty-ness?
I plan to print multiple images of these elderly women and superimpose their costumes through the stenciling process of pochoir. I would like to find a way to work some text, perhaps the continuing saga of these women’s lives into the work, though I am not quite sure yet how I will do so. Currently, I am reading Barbara G. Walker’s The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power in order to work out the direction I may want to take their stories. As well, I will be conducting further research into the stories and ideologies that already exist around these characters. I want to make large and varied editions of my elderly heroines and fantasy figures so when they are displayed, not only do they overtake the viewer’s visual plane, these older women are no longer rendered invisible.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ladyfest: Has Come and Gone...

And I realize I took forever to post about it...yeah, I'm over a month late with a post, but here we go, FINALLY, cuz I did take me a lot of pictures.

May I remind you, I'm a printmaker and not a photographer lest ye judge my photo-aesthetic sensibility. Cool?

Here we go:

While Ladyfest was set for four days of feminist fun, I was only able to attend the day that I was part of, despite all-access passes due to work and school obligations. So while I would love to be sitting here, writing about Allyson Mitchell's films and the many other performances and workshops I would have loved to be there for, this review is limited to the art show on Saturday, September 29th, 2007.

Yep, another post about me.


Nonetheless, I did stick around for most of the performances and checked out ALL of the art so I can speak of others as well as myself.

So initially, things were worrisome, due to a fire in the Kapisanan Centre, where the art show was supposed to have taken place the night before. Fortunately, we didn't set up our art the night before, so no one's artistic accomplishments parished in tragic fate, and we relocated to St.Stephen's. Not only were my often-naked images available to be seen by an all-ages audience, but I got to show my hairy girls installation, "The Electric Furr" in a freakin' church!

Hey, I've never made any claims to maturity...

Here are my ladies...

I know that as an artist, I'm supposed to always be confident about my work and never betray any misgivings about it. But I am weak, and of low self-esteem when it comes to art. I love these images, don't get me wrong. However, I have to admit, I'm not too crazy about how I ended up putting them together. I sewed black thread into some of the images, and that comprimised some of my prints so they looked crinkled, as well I feel like I never resolved properly the issue of display with my hairy girls that I re-drew from FHM magazine (as seen in the first two images above). Okay, I've aired it out, I feel better now, and I'm gonna do better this year.

That being said, I am proud of my stories in this piece.

And quite frankly, I'm actually pretty shocked that I have the nerve to call myself an artist in this post. Muahahaha.

The intent for this project was for people to read my narratives surrounding body hair, as told in lithographic form, but to also be able to move the velcro-text panels around to create their own. But alas, the new location forbade any nail-banging into the walls, so my panels had to be gingerly placed against the walls, disallowing the audience interaction I was going for. Fortunately, I still managed to get a response out of people, however passive it was limited to...

Now on to the rest of the show

Featuring the music of:


This was the first act me and the boy caught. We were late due to traffic on College St, making a normally 15 minute ride over forty minutes long. However, we were just in time for these ladies.

I have to admit, I was caught a little off guard by their style. Unpolished, yet totally fearless, initially this band had my boy, an experienced musician and performer, with his jaw dropping. Featuring pre-recorded sound, and three young women jumping and singing like Napolean Dynamite was their hero (probably amongst a pile of fierce women heroes too), 123TEN was probably the most creative musical display I've seen in a long time. I had stepped out for a minute to place a phonecall to my boss, and by the time I came back in, this band won my boy's heart with their infectuous tunes. I was surprised, mostly because of his usual musical snobbery. But 123TEN certianly owned it by the end of their set.

Rae Spoon

He stole my heart. I'm not usually one for country-folk, but his melancholy and sardonic flavour reeled me in. What a haunting voice! Here my music snob boy companion too was impressed by the prowess of Spoon's guitar skills; me, he just stole me away from my seat as he alternated between song and anecdote. Part of this festival as a transgender artist, Rae Spoon was my favourite act of the night, and I hope to see him perform again soon.

Forest City Lovers

This was a pretty tight band. Wonderful musicians with a sound that reminded me of Feist and Sarah Harmer. They were pleasant to listen to, and combined with all the musical acts that we managed to catch, were part of a power house lineup of Ladyfest talent. In fact, after this show, it makes me mad to still see the prevalent attitude of the music industry, wherein a lineup this gender-diverse is still not the norm.

And of course, the artists:

What I love about taking part in events like these is meeting other artists outside of the classroom, making connections both artistically and intellectually and sharing each other's work. I'm proud to say that so far, my [limited] experience in the art world has been collective rather than competitive. Here is where I also found a feminist politic more readily available.

Meagan O'Shea

She is an established Toronto-based performance artist who was participating not only in Ladyfest that night but also Nuit Blanche. Her work "Something Blue" featured a discourse about divorce; particularly from the perspective of women, culminating from her own recent experiences with it. Originally a performance piece, for Ladyfest, O'Shea had only displayed the wedding dress she had designed and made (from various women's dresses) for the show. Sewn into the dress were recordings of women's stories about their divorces for which O'Shea had provided a listening station so that the audience could hear them. It was a beautiful dress, and a moving piece. I wish I could have seen her performing this work, but I made due with the installation.

Nicole Stoffman

I actually spent a bit of time talking with Nicole. (It was a pleasure, and thank you for the song recommendation, if you happen to be reading this!) Her work is titled "The Topless Metropolis" and featured a series of postcards wherein the artist posed topless with some of Toronto's finest graffitti. I took quite a few home with me, so some people should be expecting some racy cards in the mail soon...muahahaha...I really enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek nature of these cards. While totally describing the cheesy nature of the cheese-cake city postcard, Stoffman's cards transformed them into a literally naked appreciation for her city, while owning the control of her body within it. At least, that's how I read it...

That is in fact me being a perv while browsing through Nicole's display...muahahaha...

Tamiko Winter

Winter's work featured a disruption of the nude photograph with splashes of paint. As such, it begs the viewer to make a closer inspection of the poses represented. Aligning her work with an examination of the performance of the model, Winter invites us into some pretty private, and potentially provocative moments. I think it would have been interesting to see how this work could be potentially transformed by a printmaking process such as photo-intaglio, and maybe some poignant text would have forced the viewer into understanding the performance aspect of it a little more, but I do appreciate the amount of herself that Winter put into this work. Definitely a thought provoking work surrounding the constantly contested issues of female nudity.


So that's my review. I had a great time, and it was definitely an important experience for me in terms of learning where my art fits in but also in collective activism. I didn't love how my art had to be displayed, but the circumstances were understandable (though my critical self also disallows me from ever loving how my art comes out totally anyway...all I do is pick out how some parts don't work out as well as others...sigh). Next year, whether I participate or not, I will definitely be making a more valiant effort to attend more of the planned events. Ladyfest forever!