The Shameful Acquittal of Colten Boushie’s Murderer

murder is murder 2
“There should be an outcry”

A nation is angry right now. In Canada, dozens of rallies occurred this weekend to “prompt in reckoning across the country”. Many of us are ashamed – and we should be.

It was on August 6, 2016 that Colten Boushie, a 22 year old Cree man Saskatchewan, was shot dead by Gerald Stanley. Colten and his four friends, stopped at a farm house with a flat hire to seek help. Stanley shot Colten in the head at blank range killing him instantly. Stanley was accused of second-degree murder on February 9, 2018 he was fully acquitted by an all-white jury. The defense: “he brandished a weapon and it fired accidentally”.

Colten’s death was an “accident”. Stanley shot two warning shots into the air when he saw Colten, but the third, the one that went through the back of his head – that one was a misfire. If the jury believed Stanley intended to kill then he would have been found guilty, but they determined that the white farmer was simply careless in discharging the firearm.

But then, could Stanley have been found guilty of manslaughter? Afterall, Stanley ended the life of a 22 year old man. Colten’s death, beyond intent, should have warranted some form of justice. But, it turns out that the jury found him guilty of nothing. Thus, another white person killed an Indigenous person and was lawfully able to walk free.

This weekend, I witnessed Canadians finally see the institutionalized racism of which this country so often ignores. Those who were shocked asked, how could this happen?

The reason Gerald Stanley was acquitted for Colten Boushie’s murder was because the case was slanted in Stanley’s favour from the very beginning.

For one, the initial police report said Colten’s friend were taken into custody as part of a theft investigation.

Second, the RCMP officers who came to Colten’s home after the shooting were said to be insensitive and treated his family like suspects.

Third, the court alluded to Colten and friends being intoxicated during the time of the crime. Colten’s family members had to remind the court that it was Stanley that on trial, not the deceased.

Fifth, the trial took placed in a community plagued by a well-documented racist and colonial past that has always favoured white folks.

Sixthmany Saskatchewan people defended Stanley and presumed his innocence through initial online discourse. These opinions were posted alongside a floodgate of racist and derogatory comments connecting Colten’s indigenous identity to criminality, and so of course Stanley had the right to defend his farmland… They believed Colten’s death was justified.

Seventh, and definitely not last, was the fact that Colten’s case was examined by a judge and a jury of no visibly indigenous members.

Homogenous juries are flawed juries; they should represent the community of which the case takes place as a whole, and ultimately the white jury incontrovertibly taints the verdict. It was biased, plain and simple.

But, how can the case of an poor Indigenous man killed by a white farmer have garnered such a homogeneous cabinet? David Butt from The Globe and Mail explains that, “When the Crown and the defense lawyers select jurors at the start of the case, each side has a number of ‘peremptory challenges’, a number that varies with the offence charged. These peremptory challenges allow each lawyer to automatically disqualify potential jurors, no reasons required”.

In Colten’s case, the defense used the peremptory challenges to eliminate anyone who was visibly Indigenous.

all of them

The unjust death of Colten Boushie and acquittal of Gerald Stanley led to dozens of rallies throughout the nation. People wore T-shirts and buttons with the words, “Justice for Colten”. Indigenous folks are angry and heartbroken, believing the justice system, and the country as a whole, treats them unfairly.

It quickly became a trending topic of discussion on Twitter.

Colten’s family is distraught, feeling as though their son has been killed for the second time with news of Stanley’s acquittal. They have recently arrived in Ottawa to discuss the “the distrust and the injustices that we experienced as a family with the loss of Colten, and throughout the trial process,” and their lawyer is in discussing the matter with the Minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs. The family claims that people are finally listening.

justice for colten
Justice for Colten GoFundMe

In a moving article by Shree Paradkar from the Toronto Star, he states:

“Why is it that Friday night’s not guilty verdict in the young man’s death, which is a moment of national shame, does not shake you to your core? Why has the grief and outrage that led spontaneously to more than a dozen protests across Canada the day after the verdict not enraged you, not fired up your fears for your children’s future, and not driven you to speak up against repeated centuries-old injustice enacted under your nose?”

Indifference makes us all complicit, Paradkar concludes. But being aware, tweeting, sharing articles about Colten Boushie’s death are also not enough.

The first vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says, “It’s easy to send a tweet. We need to translate that into action, not just a handshake and a hug”.

“Justice for Colten” can only happen through systematic change. The Crown needs to file an appeal for Colten Boushie, and the only way that can occur is if people email the Attorney General of Saskatcheqan (jus.minister@gov.ska.ca) and Attorney General of Canada (jody.wilson-raybould@parl.gc.ca) and pressure them to file the appeal.

By reporting the GoFundMe started to support Gerald Stanley, the money can hopefully be returned and the man who killed Boushie can no longer be financially supported. Sadly, the campaign received  $41,000 in one day. However, the fund goes against its terms and conditions as its associated with crimes of “hate, violence, harassment, bullying and discrimination”.

Another GoFundMe campaign was started to support the Boushie family, and I encourage everyone to give donations to help a family in mourning. 

Clicktivism and “spreading awareness” are things we should no longer prioritize. You can like the status of an Indigenous activist, you can be angry just like everyone else, but it doesn’t matter unless you are willing to examine your own lives and families, and attempt to foster some change.

But really, for me what Gerard Stanley’s acquittal and Colten Boushie’s death has done was instill me with a seeing-red anger. This will forever stunt my patience with Devil’s Advocates, with the white folks who blindly defend other white folks, and casual racists who type vile through keyboards online.

I personally repent for any notions I’ve previously made that have emphasized virtues of “guilty until proven innocent” perpetuated by a flawed and biased system that presumes the innocence of guilty white people and criminality of others. It’s true: Canadians, its institutions, and myself – we all need to do better.

 

 

 

 

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Finding Resilience in a World That’s Breaking Down

I often envision myself in the middle of a history textbook, taught forty or fifty years from now to disbelieving high school students. I imagine that future youth reading the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes catastrophic histories with a better understanding of the events than I do now.

An infamous real-estate mogul and reality television star elected as President of United States of America; an ever-changing climate growing increasingly chaotic with each change of the seasons; racial disparities sprouting riots on the streets of cities; two imbeciles across oceans with hands over a red nuclear button. Wars leading millions of people to different parts of the world in the hope they can find a new home. The list goes on, and on, and on.


tumblr_owyt1nfNGC1qmp5efo1_500The future youth will have the luxury of looking back at a distance. Right now, it’s almost though I wake up each morning to an alarm on my phone, along a notification from the world’s most recent tragedy.

I am also studying it, analyzing the world and these intricacies in real time.

Professors who are there to prepare us for the real world, to make us productive citizens and fine attributes to the workplace, are simultaneously making us question every layer of society and the systems the expect us to work for.

All the while, our lives keep going. Classes still need to be attended, work still has us on the schedule. Friends are there, and then they are not. Family gets older.

Cynicism, despite my lack of trying, has seeped into my daily life. It’s hard to find motivation to keep going in a world that insistently tries to tell us not to.

And honestly, it’s difficult to envision a future. The one thing I know about the future is that it’s shrouded in uncertainty.

So, in the least preachy way possible, I’ve compiled a small list of things to do when that uncertainty seems to overpower everything else you’re doing in life. These things aren’t the typical “stay positive” or “eat healthy” advice on most “How-To-Be-Resilient” think pieces all over the internet. And, I say “least preachy” because my sermon would be like the sick healing the sick – I’m also doing this as a reminder to myself.

Look for someone wise words.

There might be someone in your life – an eccentric aunt, the old man next door, your old piano teacher, or a professor who moved you with her words – someone who seems to know a bit more about life than you do.

Reach out one of them.

At this age, we know so much about the things we are studying and using concepts that our parents haven’t ever heard of. But we might be coming home to dirty dishes in the sink, an unmade bed; you might have not called your parents in a while, or are in a fight with the person you’re dating; or you might’ve not been able to eat a home cooked meal since Thanksgiving.

Whatever it is, your twenties can give you a whole lot of life, but no credentials to know how to deal with it.

That person doesn’t have to have white hair and nearly a hundred years under their belt. it could even be your Mom – while she doesn’t understand some of the things you’re passionate about, I’m sure she could give you a hefty list of relationship advice, as well as an easy recipe to make from her Pinterest account.

Consider un-burning those bridges.

Perhaps it’s that little bit of Catholicism left in me from a lifetime ago, but I have found one of the keys to my inner peace has been forgiveness.

It could be a person, event or thing; some girls who bullied you in elementary school, a friend that turned sour and never figured out why, a neglectful parent…It’s amazing how good it feels to let go of the resentment. Hatred, regret, betrayal, all of these things that can sit in you like toxic lead.

There’s already enough happening in the world that can poison us, it’s unhealthy to harbour such feelings from our own lives. If you can let go, do just that.

And I know, somethings can’t be forgiven. You can forgive someone or something for the sake of shoving the weight off your shoulders, with no intention of letting them re-enter your life. Sometimes forgiveness isn’t a selfless act, it’s a selfish act.

Out of sight out of mind?

My parents may have read too many articles tying a connection to phones and the increase of anxiety and depression in college students.

They might be right, I’m often distracted by my cellphone, and find myself worrying too much about the content I chose to share and what people might think of it.

I’m consistently disappointed by the news I read and misinterpreting the things my friends text on a daily basis.

Realistically, turning off your phone just isn’t likely. It’s our main form of communication, professionally and personally. Getting a notification has the same psychological response as someone calling your name. You have to look.

Your phone is a window to the world, and even though it’s an amazing tool that to have access to, it doesn’t mean it needs to be used every waking moment. I’m not saying you should feign ignorance and look the other way at what’s happening in the world, because to me, ignorance isn’t bliss. I’m simply saying that, for a few moments of the day, it’s okay if you don’t look at your phone.

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Problems have solutions, look for one.

I know people who face troubles and their main solution is to not deal with it, to run away and never look back. I often wonder if that works out for t

hem in the end, because I question its long term effectiveness.

I mean, we could all pretend a problem doesn’t exist. But each problem can become a wound that festers.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve faced most conflicts with the desire to settle it. Not going to bed angry, as my Mother would say. Sometimes you have to 

re-break bones in order for them to heal properly.

But what if that problem is something that’s bigger than a falling out with a friend, or a class that you’re bound to fail? Something that seems so far out of your reach, that the only thing that can settle in 

the pit of your stomach is hopelessness?

Something like one of those things your professor mentioned that kept you up at night.

Every problem has some sort of solution, but not all solutions fix the problem. They heal it.

Finally, just take a deep breathe.

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[Source]
Our generation hasn’t been dealt a fair hand, but we’re often blamed for some of society’s downfalls. Our mid-life-crisis have become quarter-life-crisis, and then we are accused of not being resilient.

I think we are quite the opposite. Considering the hand we have been dealt, we are the first generation to finally address things past generations have been sweeping under the carpet. That should be proof of our resilience in itself.

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from something that hurt. I think I am resilient despite the fact that stress sometimes overpowers my life. I have to let everything that happens sink in, I need to feel it, so that I can move on and deal with the rest of the world.

Putting one step in front of the other, you focus on one thing at a time until you’re ready to move on to the next one, and know that not all things can’t be solved at once.

A People Person

 

I have come to realize that I am no longer an introvert, and perhaps I never was.

I like being alone sometimes, but not too much.

I need time, to recuperate, mend and think; a pause from the noise and filling it with my own music.

But I love people.

I love their faces, mind and bodies, all varying and authentic.

I love the words that pour from the mouths, some vulgar and others gentle and pleasant.

And my friends whose minds are like an open book,

Whose jokes make me choke with laughter

Whose closeness sometimes too close, I become irritable when I see their faces too often.

Even the people I do not know, with fluorescent signs above their heads reading:

“Enter with caution”

and

“Interpret gently”

They are a cog in a machine that begs me to ask how it works.

All of these people, and these people places.

Like my apartment, marked by the habits of those whom habit it

and marked by those who came before.

A lecture hall, with students dozing off, eyes glazed to screens

while their professor goes on tangents about their daughter.

Or at the back of a party in a cloud of smoke, hands grasping red plastics cups

filled with liquid that greases our gears, making it easier to open up.’

How I wonder what I could learn with their lips on mine, like my questions did their minds.

I am an extrovert.

A sieve, straining through people’s goodness and people’s badness, sitting on the shore of their lives

letting each wave crash over me.

~

Image: yannic_vom_kanal

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Sick with Age

My grandmother laid in her bed, curled up beneath a crocheted blanket, with plastic tubes connected a machine that loudly pumped oxygen. She had become so small I could wrap my hand around her thigh. I called to her a few times quietly, but her eyes were glazed to the TV like they had since I since I entered the room a few moments ago.

She was “the incredible shrinking woman”. Every time I had seen her in the last five years, it seemed as though she had shrunk a few centimetres. Since she had only peaked to 4’9 in her adulthood, her shrinking-ness seemed even more exaggerated. I outgrew her when I was just twelve years old, and towered over by the time I was fourteen.

My Grandma wasn’t sick, but she was sick with age. Her 92nd birthday had just passed not too long ago. She used to go to my house every Sunday evening as a sort of tradition; we’d turn on the TV to a golf game and pour her a glass of wine. She would eat a full plate of dinner, plus a little dollop of desert and end the night with a cup of tea. A few years back that tradition waned as her appetite decreased. Each time, her servings became smaller, her bites a little more conservative. And just over a year ago she had stopped coming altogether.

“Grandma,” I said again, coming closer to her bed.

Finally, she looked up and for a moment I thought she didn’t recognize me. And then a smile spread across her face. I saw a spark of something before she had gotten so small, like she had never started disappearing.

“Well,” she answered. “Look who we have here.”

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

IMG_2556Dorothy Link was born in 1925, just a bit younger than the Queen, just a bit younger than Betty White, and literally older than sliced bread. She orbited the sun 93 times, lived through the second world war, seen the moon landing on television, and to her demise, witnessed the creation of the cell phone.

I was born in 1996, and grew up on Sherry Lane, a few houses down from my Grandmother’s home. The same home my father and his siblings were raised in.

Sometimes I wondered if she would have ever expected to have had a granddaughter like myself. Throughout a good portion of my childhood, I switched between dressing Barbies, to looking at bugs through magnifying glasses in my basketball shorts. I put my elbows on the table, and talked back to my mother. And then, I hit my adolescence and got all of these opinions.

My Grandma didn’t grow up with much. She lived with her parents until she married my grandfather in her mid twenties. She was a mother and a wife, and then our family matriarch; sitting at the head of the table at each family gathering.

Topics of conversation never strayed too far from what was comfortable, but my Grandmother often asked my opinion about what was happening in the world and just the world itself.

We would often disagree but I think we both understood that it was because we had gained two different perspectives on the world – we were, after all, a product of our times.

While I was accepting of most things, she wasn’t accepting of all things; while she had seen so much, I had seen so little.

We were two women from two completely generations. But, almost every week before I moved away I’d go to her house with my Dad on Wednesday nights and share a pot of tea. As I got older she listened to me and my slightly radical opinions, toned down enough as to not give her a heart attack. And in exchange, I became less indifferent to her old, and sometimes repetitive, stories and started listening.

She told me…

She told me about her parents, who at times had barely enough money to feed their family as the result of the war, but did anything they could to give them the best life.

She told me about her father who used to drive down the county road to an apple orchard and load the back of his truck with baskets  of its red fruit, and sold it to the families in their neighbourhood.

She told me how the kids at her school would call her a skeleton because sometimes she didn’t have enough to eat.

She told me she would be scolded after playing with the only black boy that attended her school, and never understand why until she got older.

She told me she met my grandfather at a her best friends house, and they danced in the living room until her curfew.

She told me one morning she got frustrated at my teenaged father, and while trying give him a little kick, he caught her foot and fell right on her bottom.

Most things my grandmother told me were stories I heard before. Sometimes she say them out the exact same way she always had, word by word as if it were a script. Sometimes she’d add little details that I hadn’t heard yet, layers upon the layers I would get a little picture that was her life.

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“Bill always stayed up so late,” she said out of the blue, speaking of her late husband as she so often did – a grandfather who passed before I was born: “I’d always be asleep by the time he came to bed.”

Her speech faltered and paused, sometimes out of a daze and sometimes out of breath.

“Bill loved music,” my grandmother gushed. “I realized later, he stayed up listening to it… writing about it.”

I had spent the entire afternoon in her small room at the old age home, which had been more time I than in the last two years since I moved away to University.

Like with everything else – telling her to breath a little deeper, eat a little more, have one more sip of that drink – I pressed my grandmother for more; I hadn’t heard this story before.

The stories she told about herself, her husband and her kids now grown, felt like I was unlocking secrets about where I came from. Learning more about them felt like I was also learning more about myself.

I learned that something like the love of music could’ve been passed down from a man I never had the pleasure of meeting.

“Oh, he was such a good man,” my grandmother added. “A good husband.”

I smiled softly. I heard her say that many times.

Life and Death

In the time that I spent in her room, I thought about so many things. But I mostly thought about death.

And there she was still living. Clinging onto life in a body that was breaking down.

I cursed my pretentious adolescent self who thought she knew enough about life to have any idea about what happened after. Now, I felt like I know absolutely nothing.

I wondered if it was some sort of betrayal to have thought of her absence was she was still here. I tormented myself enough sadness for the weeks after I saw her that when she was actually gone I thought I wouldn’t have any left.

But that wasn’t the case. The news hit me a month later when I had reached some sort of plateau; enough time had occurred in between my last visit that my Grandmother was a worry I placed in the back of my mind.

I was at work and talking to a customer. I excused myself, let my heart unravel in bathroom.


Ironically, while experiencing her death, I thought about life. I thought of all the life she had lived in her 92 years and the small fraction of that I got spend with her.IMG_2557

She might’ve not done anything extraordinary, like win a Nobel Peace Prize or climb Mount Everest, but she impacted the lives of her loved ones in profound and subtle ways.

One thing about the “incredible shrinking woman” is that she was no small woman. Her personality, her snarky, hilarious comments and one liners filled the room. As did her laughter. But the biggest thing about her was her gratitude. Towards the life she was given, and the family that surrounded her.

Loss is an unfamiliar feeling to me, so while I figure that out, I’ll continue to save her seat at family dinners. And perhaps I’ll pour an extra inch of wine in my glass… in her name, of course.

My Response to Charlottesville

(Feature Photo: News2Share via Reuters)

Have you read the news lately?

To be quite honest, I was at loss for words when everything went down in Charlottesville this week. But one thing I wasn’t, was surprised.

Racism is as American as apple pie. The country was built by the sweat of slaves and the genocide of indigenous peoples.

Somehow, the moment Obama was elected in 2008 we suddenly existed in a post racial world. Racism ended. No one saw colour.

But, of course, we know that was far from the truth.

In Trump’s America, racism can be uncloaked and confident. It can spill into the streets carrying torches, bearing flags with mythical histories, and recycled symbols whose messages have murdered millions.

I’ve allowed myself to mull over everything the last few days; I’ve straightened out the facts as well as my anger over the entire debacle. I’m still angry, but now I can actually form some coherent thoughts.

1.Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Charlottesville was a domestic terrorist attack, by definition. A car sped into a throng of counter protesters, killing one and injuring nineteen others during a scheduled gathering called “Unite the Rally” by a group of white nationalists, supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and KKK members.

2. President Trumps rhetoric during the election empowered white nationalists and his ambiguous morality after the attack has empowered them even more. Neutrality helps the oppressor, and instead of calling terrorists for what they are, he claimed there was fault “on both sides”.

3. White supremacy is not native to America, it does not exist in a vacuum. It has existed since European powers started colonizing the world, and has left its prints everywhere they went. Charlottesville was not a solo act. It would not be surprising if we witness a rally on Canadian soil as our history is not as nearly as untarnished as most people would like to think.

My initial reaction to the news was a sense of hopelessness much like I had felt when Trump was elected eight months ago. It feels like we’ve been peeling back layers of the world and finally seeing its true colours. But I realize that I’ve been able to silently neglect this reality because of who I am, how I look, and where I grew up that has allowed me to live in a comfortable little bubble.

People of colour have been living this reality each and everyday, they have lived with constant disappointment, that the colossal disappointment that occurred in January wasn’t a surprise.

So I refused to let this surprise me and let the disappointment hit me full force. I spent hours the past few days, watching footage, reading articles, and personal accounts of what happened on that day. I’ve been flooded motivation to do something though I’m not sure what.

While we could all focus on pointing fingers, calling out the racists and problematic behaviours, we should have been doing this before.

I think what all of us, but especially us white folks, need to do more self reflection. Ask ourselves, why does talking about race feel political? Why is it so hard to say white supremacy? Why can’t I call white terrorists for what they are? Why is your response to “black lives matter”, “all lives matter”? Why do I let my friends and family continue to say and do problematic things?

And mostly, ask ourselves what more we could be doing.

It’s so easy for those with privilege to not look at the headlines, go for a walk and live your life just as you had been living it before.

There’s not more time for inaction. It’s time for us to see the broad spectrum of colour and do something about it.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something you could do, here’s a very helpful resource that can help you catch up on some very necessary reading:

 

Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves.

Life Updates from a Twenty-Something

Long time, no see.

When I started this blog I told myself that I would write one blog post a week. And I did do that… for a little bit. There’s no such thing as excuses, but life definitely got in the way the last two months.

This summer I planned to be as financially independent as possible. After moving to a new apartment, starting two new jobs, I realize that it’s really difficult. But, I knew it would be.

May and June were tough. My summer class in Stats was demanding in effort and time. Nearing the end of the course, I spent 5 hours in the Carleton library, my head inches from the screen of my laptop, attempting not to cry. I cursed myself for dropping out when things got hard in this same class during the fall. But, I asked around for some tips, and after receiving help from a few individuals I ended up with an A-. I most definitely surprised myself, and couldn’t have done it on my own.

On top of Stats, my two new jobs were demanding. Their schedules overlapped, and in late May I ended up with 45+ hours each week between both of them.

I hear about my friends working for the government, making double my wage an hour, getting weekends off, buying expensive things and going on trips. There’s been many times where I’ve felt kind of bitter about working full time on minimum wage. It’s hard not to be.

However, earning and saving my own money has been rewarding. While most days, I go home to my little apartment and all of its plants, I make dinner and keep mostly to myself. I still go out with friends, I still treat myself to dinner from time to time, I still buy what I need, and perhaps at times a little bit more.

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I find at the end of the day, when I do come home from work, my body and mind are too tired to write. While throughout the day ideas still flow through my mind, endlessly, about what I could write – from Bill Maher’s n-word debacle, to Philando Castile, to SZA’s new album that came out  a few weeks ago – by the time I sit down to actually say something about them, the stories are no longer newsworthy. In this age, writing isn’t just a challenge in itself, most of the challenge is found in the timing and relevancy of the things you choose to draw from. Being tired and overworked don’t go hand in hand with this.

In my free time, I’m still writing. I’m just focusing more on fiction, which surprisingly I find more personal than my own blog posts. Perhaps I’ll share a story when I feel as though it’s been manicured enough to put out into the world. But for now, it’s just for my eyes only.

On another note, in a matter of days, I’ll be turning 21. June 28th really crept on me this year, so I haven’t really had time to think about turning 21, or even time to plan something with my friends. 20 seemed like a much bigger deal. Now it feels as though just another year has passed.

Perhaps I’m being so nonchalant about this birthday because I’m kind of feeling a bit self conscious. Heck, the other day I was at a party where one guy was talking about his participation in a Think Tank, while the other was going on about his internship in Uganda. While they discussed world politics, I was left in my own head, thinking about my customer service position at this little natural food store at the mall near my house, dealing with grumpy vegans and picky customers with a gluten intolerance.

Excelling is overrated, I tell myself. But really… I think I’d rather go slow and steady, making my way up this ladder at my own pace so I don’t suddenly slip and fall down. As a plus side, I get to see what I pass along the way.

Anyway, if you are reading this, thank you for keeping up with my blog. Every reader is deeply appreciated. I hope to come up with a better blog post in the weeks to come, and by then I’ll be just another year older. But first, I’ve gotta figure this adult thing out.

[Feature Photo source]

 

 

 

In Light of International Women’s Day

As posted in the Charlatan Politics Blog:

In light of International Women’s Day last week, I have a few thoughts:

I think too often I’m afraid to call myself a feminist, not because I’m fearful of the reputation I might get when I defend the rights of women and encourage feminine liberation, but because the word is now being associated with something that I do not consider feminism.

Think of Lena Dunham, and her show Girls: four white women living in New York City off of the privilege and wealth their parents earned, and walking through life with the word “victim” written on their foreheads.

Think of Taylor Swift, who’s built her career off of being “America’s Sweetheart,” a victim of bullying by an “angry black man,” and someone who’s built a strange inner circle of thin, white, supermodels in a celebrity feud veiled by the name of girl power.

Think of Emma Watson, who has every right to defend her choice in sparing a bit of cleavage in a Vogue photoshoot, however failed to come to the defense of her female colleagues and women of colour, namely Beyoncé, when they have made that choice in the past.

But also think that because these women have put themselves on a pedestal, and allowed their names to be followed by the word “feminism,” they now experience incessant criticism that their male counterparts will never experience. And I am guilty of this criticism.

I am a white woman who has come from an upper-middle class family in Southern Ontario. Going to university was not something I necessarily I had to work for—it was expected of me. I fully understand that my fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes are seen as the epitome of Western beauty. I compare how people treat me to how they treat my friends of colour, and there is no denying that there is an exponential difference.

I believe I experience sexism, from boys not understanding what the word “no” means, to being cat-called as I walk down a main street in Ottawa, to having someone mansplain something to me at a dinner table. While some will stick with me for the rest of my life, most of them are just small annoyances. Annoyances I hope one day our future daughters won’t have to experience.

I do not believe I am oppressed, at least not to the extent of many women I know—women from other cultures and backgrounds and skin colours, to women who were assigned a different gender at birth, to even the boys who grew up desperately wanting to be feminine—and I refuse to walk with the likes of Dunham and Swift with the belief that I am constantly a victim of insistent oppression, when more often than not, my privilege makes my life a lot easier than most.

So, when it looks as though I am not coming to the defense of feminism, it is because the movement has changed in the blight of becoming mainstream, and it is something I find hard to associate myself with. I don’t think the movement should be funnelled down to putting aesthetically pleasing Redbubble stickers on the back of your Macbook Pro, or posting a poem from Milk and Honey on your Instagram. While the intention is great, feminism and International Women’s Day, are about so much more than that.

However, with the new president and the events that have taken place in south of the border, I think now more than ever it is important to defend feminism—even if you see flaws in the movement, and even if your voice shakes.

– Photo by Taylor Barrett