Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Treat Yo' Self! A Body Positive Shindig

Wednesday March 6th, 3-6 PM in 201 Founders
The motto for this day of indulgence...

fb event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131079957067714/?fref=ts

Join us for a bonanza of body positivity and self-love. This event is about embracing and loving who are shamelessly in a society that dictates unattainable and whitewashed, heteronormative, beauty standards. All bodies are beautiful and and no body is better than another! FUCK fat shaming, slut shaming, and body policing. No one can tell you how you should look, dress, act, love, ect! Our bodies are ours and no one else's.

Join us in some real talk about beauty, health, body image and identity. Let’s learn to practice Radical Self-Love- let’s work towards being unapologetic about loving ourselves, especially when we don’t fit into the accepted beauty dichotomy- loving all of ourselves, especially those love handles and naturally hairy legs!

Wear whatever makes you feel fabulous- PJs or ball gowns while you chow down and foods that satisfy- complimentary cupcakes, hot chocolate, popcorn, cookies, fruit and more!

As part of this event there’ll be:

- BODY POSITIVE ACTIVITIES like writing a love letter/ poem to yourself/ that part of your body you have trouble accepting and self portraits! A space for people to talk positively about their bodies, to share different ideas about "beauty” and societal norms. 

- A DISCUSSION CIRCLE focusing on topics related to body image and body standards. How society dictates beauty and gender roles, how family, friends, and peers can police your body and choices, the pressure to live up to standards. Open dialogue on what you love about yourself, how to practice radical self-love and overcome standards. Discussing how to love ourselves without the expectation of change or improvement.

- A DIY BUTTON MAKING SESSION where we can let loose and fashion our very own Body Positive, FABULOUS, non-conforming, In-your-face-beauty-standard-queering buttons, to stick wherever a safety pin can fit. We thoroughly enjoy DIY activities and figured what better of a springboard to get YOU in the creative-expression-y mood than buttons!

-images, craft supplies, button-making supplies, and mirth will be provided by Feminist Action. 

This event is wheelchair accessible and a positive space. All bodies welcome. 

For more info or ways to get involved in planning/ set up- email: thefeministaction@gmail.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Issue of Increasing Sexual Assaults at York University

Two Sexual assaults occurred on Keele campus on July 5th. The security bulletins were posted thursday night online and some were posted around campus on friday. The majority of the population at York did not know about the assaults until it went viral and the news started broadcasting about it (over the weekend). Only after this did York send an e-mail to students regarding the assaults. The effort to notify students online should have occurred earlier. The opening line of the letter is positive:
“you may have heard about the four reported incidences of unwanted physical contact at York’s Keele Campus that occurred last Thursday. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the University.”

This is something that hasn’t been seen in letters of bulletins from York before; this message needs to be at the beginning of every security bulletin, the sentiment that sexual assault is unacceptable behavior and that it absolutely will not be tolerated. While this is a positive change all of  the victim-blaming language that appears below those lines pretty much makes the message moot. To make matters worse, in a later release from York they downgraded the attack from sexual assault to “inappropriate physical contact”. 

This language is diminishing and trivializing what happened. It should say four women were sexually assaulted. Full stop. What happened was sexual violence perpetrated against women. When someone is mugged we would never call that “inappropriate touching”. That would be moronic and insulting. This downplaying is no different.

The increase in sexual assaults and acts of violence at York University’s Keele campus is hard to deny. York administration is not taking the situation seriously, nor taking the proper steps to change safety for the better.
 Instead they perpetuate the rape culture we live in through the use of victim blaming language and attitude, and generally, an attitude of apathy. (what is rape culture?)

Take a look at the July 5th bulletin as well as York security safety bulletins from the last few years.

Notice anything similar in them? They are worded so that it always sounds like the victim’s fault instead of the perpetrator’s. She was walking alone at night! She wasn’t aware of her surroundings. It’s your duty to be aware of “suspicious individuals”, so ladies and gents, it is your fault if you get raped. Why does York continue to use these words, this exact same letterhead, over and over and over? 

Then we get news stories with reporters and cops telling us that women should walk in pairs (even if the assault they are reacting to took place at 4 pm in a public space, for example this assault at Seneca which York never acknowledged), to call security if they see anyone suspicious (any male apparently). Oh and don’t forget about 31 division’s Const. Sanguinetti telling a room full of York students at Osgoode that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”, which started the Slutwalk movement. Why are we constantly barraged with the mesage ‘don’t get raped’, instead of ‘don’t rape’?  

There are many steps York University could be taking to make Keele a safer campus. Take a look at this METRAC safety survey from 2010. METRAC is a third party who performed a safety audit on York’s safety and how it can be improved. The survey lists many faults and ways to improve them. Changes like faster report times by security, more blue light boxes, more cameras, clearer signage around campus, and even trimming overgrown vegetation can result in greater safety. Some of the suggestions are as simple as adding more streetlights on campus, and even changing to a higher wattage of light bulbs. Any student who has been on campus after 9pm knows how dark it is outside of the colonnade/ bus loop. It’s dark and isolated and students have to walk through these areas to get to their residences or homes in The Village. It doesn’t help that York security avoid these areas, preferring to stay where it is brightly lighted.

Basically when at the bottom of security bulletins York Admin says:

York Community members are reminded to exercise personal safety by:
- Being aware of your surroundings and the people around you
- Reporting any suspicious persons or behaviour to York Security Services
Should you have any information about any incident you are asked to contact Toronto Police Service directly at 416.808.2222. York Security responds to all community calls at 416.736.5333.
York University provides the following campus security services:
-24/7/365 campus security patrols
-goSAFE foot patrols
-Transportation - Campus Shuttle
-24/7/365 Monitored CCTV coverage
-Network of Emergency "Blue Light" Telephones

What they really mean is:

York community members are persuaded to think it’s their responsibility to stop assaults themselves and not the rapists responsibility through exercising "personal safety" by:

- if you are a female do not walk by yourself, stay indoors, don't go out after sundown, don't dress in anything but a snowsuit because then you are obviously "asking for it"
- Report all men who look like criminals or behaviors (young, black, low income etc)

Should you have any information about this sexual attack please help by only contacting Toronto Police Service at 416.808.2222

York Security responses to some community calls for service, but not all crimes, and can be contacted at times at 416.736.5333

York University seemingly provides the following campus services, WHEN THEY CAN BE REACHED:
- Typically security provides TWO guards in the evening to patrol the whole campus of 60,000 students.  These guards have to work in tandem rending them to one group, in most cases you will find these guards hanging out in Founders, or in York Lanes buying lottery tickets.
- goSAFE Transportation service comes once every half and an hour and picks up some but not all students. This service would be amazing, but it only runs down Sentinel road forcing students to have to walk through the dark village by themselves in most cases.  Also, this service no longer runs to The Kinsmen Building leaving these students stranded to walk down the dimly lit Chimney Stack Road.
- Escort Service - Foot Patrols are provided by the university however, they will only walk you to the edge of campus (Pond Rd) as the York University Village is not in their jurisdiction.
- CCTV coverage (closed circuit television) is normally stated as one of the university primary defenses against assaults.  While there are over 4000 camera's we wonder how ONE security guard on FOUR screens can effectively monitor the whole campus....so much for 24/7/365 coverage.
- York provides us with a Network of Emergency "Blue Light" telephones, most of which do not work. So cross your fingers if you are trying  to use one!

York has taken very few steps to comply with METRAC’s suggestions. The administration seems to prefer to do the bare minimum when it comes to protecting its staff and students. They find excuses if an attack happens at Seneca or in The Village; York refuses to acknowledge these places, claiming it isn’t their property.

On November 28th of 2011, Instead of releasing a security bulletin concerning a man who had his throat slashed in a hate crime at Seneca @ York ,York admin released this bulletin, about a man who almost had his iPod stolen in a non-violent attempted robbery.

On May 5th 2011, a woman as was attacked and sexually assaulted twice by a man inside the Seneca building at 4 PM. No York security bulletin was released for this, nor was it addressed by York admin. 

     Seneca @ York is in the middle of Keele campus and what happens there affects us all. The Village is property bought by York and sold to private owners. No they don’t own it, but it exists to provide housing to York students and is inseparable from the Keele campus. Students deserve to be informed when attacks such as this occur. Secrecy, ignorance, and apathy is detrimental to safety.    

Join us in pressuring York administration into making positive changes Let your voice be heard- be active. Write letters, sign petitions, stage protests, rallies, and other acts of activism. Do not be silent.

We will keep you updated on upcoming protests and campaigns. For up to the date info check out Feminist action on facebook, and on tumblr. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Feminist Action Discussion: Bromance

Feminist Action Discussion Space!

Bromance: These interesting homosocial relationships both break and comply with normative gender expectations... Whether you've heard of them, are in them, or are just plain curious about what 'bromance' means, swing by to discuss!

When: Thurs, Jan 19th, 12:00pm - 1:30pm

Where: Founders Senior Common Room (FC 305)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Feminist Action Discussion Forum: Hair!

Feminist Action Discussion Forum!
Hair: a symbol of power. We grow, treat, embrace, and define our hair.  Come out to Feminist Action's discussion space to chat about the ways that hair holds power in every culture.  This is a positive space. 

When: Thurs, Nov 24th @ 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Where: Ross South 101

Monday, October 31, 2011

Discussion Forum: Discrimination

Feminist Action Discussion Forum!
Come out and chat at Feminist Action's Discussion Forum.  This week we will be talking about the small ways people both resist and reinforce discrimination in everyday life.
When: Thurs, Nov 3rd @ 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Where: Ross South 101

Monday, October 17, 2011

Discussion Forum: Dominance and Submission

Feminist Action Discussion Forum!

This Feminist Action discussion forum will revolve around "Passive & Dominant Roles in Sex & Relationships".  Come chat about how these roles have an impact on our social landscape, heterosexual or LGBTQ2!  This is a positive space.  Hope to see you there!

Thurs, Oct 20th @ 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Ross South 101

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Chalk Saved Me from the Belly of the Political Machine

By the end of this summer I was unemployed, but flush with OSAP cash. Eager to mark an item off my bucket list I volunteered for an NDP campaign in the provincial elections. I really dove into this head first, and so most of my waking hours in August and September were spent standing on the front porches of North York voters. Yesterday we finished picking up 15 thousand dollars worth of campaign signs, and today as I sit at my computer, eating an ungodly amount of cold pizza scavenged in the waning hours of the campaign party, I feel disoriented by both the lack of daily linear goals, and the sudden inpouring of free time. I guess I feel the need to reflect on this experience

Above all, I will miss the sense of community which was fostered on the campaign. Every night the core team would gather around a cheap plastic table piled with wrinkled maps, and swap election battle stories. Someone would suggest that the Liberals had stolen an NDP campaign sign, and we would unanimously agree that the only appropriate response would be to slash their tires (for the record, we never did!). We coalesced around a shared affinity to the NDP banner, and strengthened the bond by painting the Liberals into boogeymen. When we sat around telling these stories I felt a deep sense of belonging. This is what kept me coming back.   

Most voters with whom I spoke to fell into the broad categories of the staunch traditionalists, who always vote for the same party, or the apolitical apathetic, who have given up on politics altogether. While knocking on doors I shocked myself with how quickly I was able to throw away my youthful idealism and simply say anything to lock up a vote. When I was standing in front of a Conservative I would deliver my rehearsed spiel on strategically voting NDP to block a Liberal seat. If a Social Conservative launched into a creepy racist tirade filled with code words like, “the immigrant problem” or “the moral decay of the country”, I would frantically mask my discomfort by shifting the conversation to fiscal policy, or garbage removal (even though garbage is a city issue). Ultimately, the experience became a numbers game with layers of strategy.  I was constantly dancing from one side of the aisle to the other, hoping to appease whomever was listening.

Honestly, I got really burnt out near the end. The first signs of frustration surfaced while I was helping out with the creation of a piece of artwork. The piece was a large scale chalk drawing, and I vividly remember colouring in a portion and feeling really excited because I was free to choose any colour I wanted. It felt as if the NDP was some controlling mistress who was letting me watch the hockey game because I behaved myself at a party! I guess I was very accustomed to calibrating my actions relative to the singular goal of winning the election, and somehow the creativity of the chalk drawing tapped into an expressive freedom which I had suppressed. From that point on, instead of reading Huffington-post election clippings, I would spend my mornings scanning web comics. In the evenings, rather than volunteering to stay late and enter voter data, I would sneak off to read comics, re-watch old movies, and toss around ideas for short stories. It was pretty clear that the thrill of the campaign was fading.

I think these reflections connect in interesting ways. For one thing, my feelings towards both the party fundamentalist and the apathetic shifted from frustration to understanding. Over the last two months I definitely took a few sips of the NDP Kool-Aid, and so I can understand how holding a party so close to your sense of identity can develop into irrational, unconditional supportIt is pretty easy to start thinking of politics in terms of “we are the righteous, and they are from the depths of hell! On the other hand, by the end of the campaign I felt a certain kinship with the apathetic constituent (I mean screw it, I’m in my early twenties, if there’s ever a time to go through a nihilistic punk rock phase it's now!). The time I spent saying almost anything to get votes probably shows that there is a kernel of truth to the argument that “politicians are all the same”. The representatives on our ballet have each been processed and packaged through a massive machine designed to produce the person who will appeal to the most voters and generate the most campaign dollars.

 I understand the appeal of the apathetic position, but please do not understand this as an endorsement to not vote. Young people today have incredible challenges ahead of them, facing down a collapsing economic system as capitalism takes its last, wheezing gasps of life. If we ever hope to achieve true change and start the healing process, it won’t be through apathy or blind partisanship, it will be through people. People with different viewpoints, ideas and dreams, gathering and doing things both inside and outside the political machine. I will continue to support the NDP, because for the time being their platform correlates the closest with my personal ideals and convictions. However, I will now seek to balance my involvement with action outside of formal politics – in this sense I am very thankful to be a part of Feminist Action.

    Oh, I should probably mention that we lost the election, but I feel ok with this. I met inspiring people, and had some great experiences! When McGuinty’s minority falls you will probably see me helping the NDP again, but my activism will no longer begin and end on the front porch of North York voters.       


Monday, October 10, 2011

Well. What Did You Expect?

A comic Kate Beaton posted to her twitter account recently really caught my attention. Beaton is a cartoonist hailing from Nova Scotia, Canada, and is the author of the hilarious web comic Hark! A Vagrant. The comic she posted is called What Did You Expect, and is a revealing autobiographical cartoon depicting a situation that arose during her time working in the Alberta Tar Sands.

Click here to see the full length comic.

Beaton’s experience is teeth-grindingly familiar. As she tries to nervously laugh off her humiliation I found myself twitching and grimacing just as I’m sure she did in the moment.

There are so many different layers of sexism at work in this one comic: the kind Kate laughs off (“you shoulda worn those pants that make your arse look good”), the kind she unhappily swallows (“I can’t be giving anyone special treatment”), or just plain ignores (“you in trouble doll?”). Tellingly, the only other woman depicted in the comic is a voiceless receptionist.

Her boss’s attitude is classically dismissive. He assumes that if she isn’t being directly threatened by the men then it isn’t anything serious. She is the one not being a team player and it is she who is causing problems (by merely breaching the subject). Beaton is the one who ends up apologising for herself, in a plea to keep her job. The boss claims he can’t give her any special treatment… because not getting judged like a country fair hog by her male co-workers would be special treatment right? He ends up sending her back to the U+O box, and Beaton helplessly thanks him. Uaghagh.

The comment Beaton writes below the comic is: “been a while since I made a comic about working in the Tar Sands no? But I feel like I hear ‘what did you expect’ all the time, all the same.” This kind of treatment is not exclusive to women working in the tar sands, or in any male-dominated trade. This kind of attitude is everywhere. When a queer person is bullied, it’s because they were in the wrong place with the wrong people. What did you expect? When a woman is raped it’s because she was wearing the wrong clothes and out too late. What did she expect? Whenever someone is belittled because of their skin colour, well, they just should have been born whiter. What did they expect?? Why should the perpetrators ever have to change? The victims should stop putting themselves into situations where they can be victims.

I wish I could provide some sort of profound solution or answer to this problem here. But I can’t. All I can do is stand, up to, and against, these inequalities as I face them, just like you can. I think that ongoing education, activism, and awareness is key for these kind of attitudes and limits to be destroyed. One thing I really desire is the teaching feminism in Canadian public schools, which I really feel would help. How come they don’t do that yet btw?...never mind though, that's another tangent.

On a happy note, Kate Beaton is pretty hot shit right now, one of the most in-demand cartoonists in the world; her book Hark! a Vagrant has just hit the top of The New York Time’s graphic novels best sellers list. This is a pretty BIG deal for lady cartoonists, who have always had a rough go of it in the male dominated cartoon industry. I am really looking forward to seeing her feminist-lens-filtered comics infiltrate mainstream publications, and more postings of personal, thought provoking pieces such as this.

Beaton will be in Toronto October 29th and 30th for IFOA, BTW. I highly recommend checking that out.