DOXA Festival Ticket Giveaway: Casablanca Calling

Still from Casablanca Calling, showing a Morchidat teaching a class of students

by Jarrah Hodge

Rosa Rogers’ new documentary Casablanca Calling takes viewers to mosques, schools and prisons across Morocco, where a “quiet revolution” is occurring as approximately 400 women have started to work as Muslim leaders or Morchidats for the first time. Their goal is “to liberate women by sharing the true teaching of Islam, freed from misogynist interpretations.”

The film follows three Morchidats as they travel around Morocco, actively campaigning against arranged marriage, domestic abuse, financial exploitation, and female suicide.

Casablanca Calling is just one of many awesome movies that will be screening at Vancouver’s DOXA Festival, coming up from May 2-11, 2014. If you’re in town I highly recommend checking out their full program, especially the films related to women’s rights.

Gender Focus is very pleased to be the community partner for the screening of Casablanca Calling.

To enter to win a set of two tickets to the screening of Casablanca Calling at Sunday, May 11 at 6 p.m. at the Vancity Theatre (up to two entries per person):

  • Comment below or on the Gender Focus Facebook page and tell us your favourite movie of all time.
  • Tweet “I entered to win tickets to Casablanca Calling from @jarrahpenguin and @doxafestival” 

I will randomly select a winner next Wednesday, April 23. Good luck and hope to see you at a DOXA screening in a few weeks!

For more information on DOXA, check out the interview I did last year with Director of Programming Dorothy Woodend.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 5 Comments

Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic Forced To Close. How You Can Help.

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Jarrah Hodge

Today the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick announced it will be forced to close its doors at the end of July, after a 20-year long battle with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding it should be entitled to under the Canada Health Act.

This will seriously jeopardize the already limited access to reproductive health care in New Brunswick and PEI, putting lives at risk.

Activists are already starting to organize to call on the provincial and federal governments to save the clinic and deal with some of the larger issues that have led to this situation. Here at Gender Focus we know how important these services are to people in Atlantic Canada and we’ll keep you posted on how you can show your support.

Here are three things you can do right now:


  1. Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
  2. Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
  3. Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase  in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.

4. (Added April 11) Take a picture of yourself with a message of solidarity for the NB Pro Choice Tumblr.

And keep checking back to our website for updates and more ways to help. Another good resource to stay up-to-date is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada site.

Here is the press release from the clinic with more of the background:


From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts.  The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.” Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats.  He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.  The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay.  The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.

The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:

  • It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
  •  Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.


Note:  The federal government or the courts have never defined what ‘medically necessary’ means, other than the circular definition in the Canada Health Act – “medically necessary is that which is physician performed”.  The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are then automatically deemed medically necessary.  With respect to abortion it does not mean ‘only if there is a threat to the mother or the foetus’.  New Brunswick acknowledges that abortion is a ‘medically necessary’ procedure by permitting abortions in some hospitals.  The same definition applies to clinics.

The practical consequence of this regulation is that, unlike in any other Canadian province with stand-alone clinics, abortions provided at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton are not funded by Medicare. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

Filmmakers Shed Light on Gertrude Bell’s Hidden Historical Legacy

Title picture for Letters from Baghdad documentary

by Sabine Krayenbühl & Zeva Oelbaum

Images courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archives, Newcastle University 

Letters from Baghad is our film about British-born Gertrude Bell, also referred to as “the female Lawrence of Arabia.” She was an adventurer, spy, archaeologist and powerful political force who travelled into the uncharted Arabian desert and was recruited by British Military Intelligence to help reshape the Middle East after World War I. She drew the borders of Iraq, helped install its first king and established the Iraq Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad that was infamously looted during the 2003 American invasion.

As female filmmakers, we’ve always been interested in telling the stories of women, and we are fascinated by the choices that trail-blazing women almost always have to make. How do circumstances and personality come together to create a woman like Gertrude Bell, who turns her back on comfort and privilege in exchange for power and the potential to make a difference? Bell was a hugely successful woman in an all-male arena, but her contradictions make her a complex, intriguing and compelling subject for our film.

We first met while working on Ahead of Time, a film about another remarkable woman named Ruth Gruber. During a conversation one day, Gertrude Bell’s name came up and we realized we had shared the same feelings after having read Janet Wallach’s engrossing biography ‘Desert Queen’: amazement and fascination for Bell’s extraordinary story, and shock that we had not heard of her before. How is it that a woman of such extraordinary accomplishment and significant influence on the shaping of the modern Middle East could be practically missing from history? Read more

Posted on by Sabine Krayenbühl & Zeva Olebaum in Feminism Leave a comment

Geek Anthropologist Marie-Pierre Renaud on the “Fake Geek Girl” Debate

Photo of a group of fans at Star Trek Las Vegas

by Jarrah Hodge

A longer version of this article was originally posted at Trekkie Feminist

For anyone not familiar with the “fake geek girl” issue, it flared up online in 2012 after two articles were published. The first was by Tara Tiger Brown at Forbes telling supposedly attention-seeking “fake geek girls” to “please go away”. A couple months later. Joe Peacock wrote an article for CNN called “Booth babes need not apply”, in which he took issue with: “pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.”

Example of the "fake geek girl" memeThe debate spiralled out from there, leading to a couple of different memes including the “Idiot Geek Girl” meme. It touched a nerve with a lot of female geeks (like me), who felt we were having our “geek cred” policed unfairly based on gender and appearance.

So I was excited to see an article about a study on the “fake geek girl” debate by Marie-Pierre Renaud. Renaud is a graduate student of sociocultural anthropology at Laval University in Quebec and is one of the founders of the fabulous blog The Geek Anthropologist.

In the intro to her research, Renaud says she was surprised that she kept encountering an assumption that women were historically rare in geek culture.

“In the rants against ‘fake geek girls’, a lot of the arguments that were invoked was that there didn’t used to be so many women in geek culture, and now that it’s becoming more popular, there are a lot more women. A lot of people who responded to the rants…wouldn’t really contest this idea that it was new for women to be involved in geek culture,” Renaud explained to me in an interview.

She said overall there isn’t really research or hard data to support that argument.

“The fact that there are more women who are visible doesn’t mean there are more women than the past…we don’t have a census of geek culture. ‘Geek culture’ keep changing…it’s not something you can clearly define,” she said.

Renaud got into geek culture at a young age by watching Star Trek with her dad, and her experience with the Trek fandom reinforced her feeling that the idea that women weren’t involved wasn’t necessarily correct.

“I would always be thinking back to documentaries like Trekkies I and II and documentaries about Firefly fans and fans of other franchises, and my experience would always be, well, there are women out there.”

“I titled the foreword to the series, ‘As Always, it Started with Star Trek’ because as a Trekkie, I know, like a lot of Star Trek fans, that one of the reasons the show was saved from cancellation in the 1960s was that Bjo Trimble started this campaign – with her husband – and she’s remembered as the woman who saved Star Trek,” Renaud explained.

“We have to ask ourselves were women really absent? Were we ignoring them? Were we making them more invisible? And if they were really present in less numbers than men, then why was that the case? We can’t just assume if there weren’t women there, they were not interested.”

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Celebrate Young Feminists in Vancouver on April 13

Event photo for April 13 event with Niki Ashton

by Jarrah Hodge

It’s  not uncommon for me to hear older activists express a combination of relief and disbelief when I openly identify as feminist. There seems to be a feeling out there that my generation, the “millennials”, aren’t embracing feminism. While there are certainly women of all ages who don’t identify as feminists and there is work to be done to bring more people into the movement, I think there are a lot  more young feminists than you might think. Just check out the “Feminists of Generation Now” Pinterest board for a collection of examples.

Young women who embrace feminist principles are also working hard on the front lines of related social justice movements like movements against colonialism (like #IdleNoMore), the environmental movement, the anti-poverty movement, anti-racist and immigrant rights movements, even the labour movement.

NDP MP Niki Ashton is the Status of Women Official Opposition Critic and she’s organized an evening in Vancouver on Sunday, April 13 from 7-9 p.m., to celebrate some of the work young feminists are doing in our communities. I’m thrilled to be speaking as part of the program along with Lily Grewal, activist and candidate for the Vancity Board of Directors; and Hawa Y. Mire, storyteller, writer and strategist.

Come out and join us for a fun evening of conversation at the Fairview Pub. See the Facebook event page for more info, RSVP to and I hope to see you next weekend!

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Queen’s University Faculty Statement in Support of Feminist Activism

Photo of Douglas Library at Queen's UniversityNote: the following is a statement signed by more than 80 Queen’s University faculty members in support of  “Feminist Enquiry, Association, and Activism”, released after the attack on student Danielle D’Entremont, a feminist activist who had been involved in protesting men’s rights activism on campus.

Thanks to Mary Louise Adams in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies for sending this in.

Faculty Statement in Support of Feminist Enquiry, Association, and Activism


We, the undersigned faculty at Queen’s University, believe in and strongly support feminist enquiry, association, Feminism has a long and complex history. It, like other political philosophies, has many variants, traditions and streams. Feminists rarely speak with one voice, and they are certainly not only female. But what we have in common is a commitment to equality of all kinds and an abhorrence of violence, both individual and systemic.

We see the marginalization of women as complex and intertwined with racialization, colonization, class inequalities, sexual orientation, and global location. Feminists agree that education is key to changing cultures of physical, emotional, and sexual violence and to maintaining hard won rights that must actively be protected.

We are outraged at the recent attack on a female Queen’s student, as we are at all acts of violence. We write to show our support for feminist students and feminist work at Queen’s and for everyone who speaks out against violence, discrimination, and injustice. We are proud to have the chance to work with students who are committed to social justice and equality.

  • Annette Burfoot, Department of Sociology
  • Petra Fachinger, Department of English
  • Mary Louise Adams, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
  • Asha Varadharajan, Department of English
  • Samantha King, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
  • Karen Dubinsky, Department of Global Development Studies/Department of History
  • Eleanor MacDonald, Department of Political Studies
  • Susan Lord, Department of Film and Media Studies
  • Ellen Goldberg, School of Religion
  • Katherine McKittrick, Department of Gender Studies
  • David McDonald, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Frank Burke, Department of Film and Media Studies
  • Dia Da Costa, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Stevenson Fergus, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
  • Kip Pegley, School of Music
  • Beverley Mullings, Department of Gender Studies/Department of Geography
  • Kim Renders, Department of Drama
  • Ishita Pande, Department of History
  • Geneviève Dumas, Dept. of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
  • Kathleen Lahey, Faculty of Law
  • Elaine Power, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
  • Natalie Rewa, Department of Drama
  • Paritosh Kumar, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Dorit Naaman, Department of Film and Media Studies
  • Gabrielle McIntire, Department of English
  • Audrey Kobayashi, Department of Geography
  • Scott Morgensen, Department of Gender Studies
  • Brigitte E. Bachmann, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Lynne Hanson, Faculty of Law
  • James Miller, School of Religion
  • Jan Mennell, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Sylvat Aziz, Department of Art
  • Joyce Davidson, Department of Geography
  • Lynda Jessup, Cultural Studies Program
  • Jeffrey Brison, Department of History
  • Roberta Hamilton, Professor Emerita, Department of Sociology
  • Geoffrey Smith, Professor Emeritus, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
  • Jane Tolmie, Department of Gender Studies
  • Richard Day, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Gary Kibbins, Department of Film and Media Studies
  • Marcus Taylor, Department of Global Development Studies
  • John Freeman, Faculty of Education
  • Marc Epprecht, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Elizabeth MacEachren, Faculty of Education
  • Mark Hostetler, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Monika Holzschuh Sator, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Robert Lovelace, Department of Global Development Studies
  • Ariel Salzmann, Department of History
  • Mark Jones, Department of English
  • Patricia Rae, Department of English
  • Clive Robertson, Department of Art
  • Laura Cameron, Department of Geography
  • Alex Da Costa, Department of Global Development Studies/Cultural Studies Program
  • Sam McKegney, Department of English
  • Roberta Lamb, School of Music
  • Christine Overall, Department of Philosophy
  • Allison Morehead, Department of Art
  • Matt Rogalsky, School of Music
  • Margaret Little, Department of Gender Studies
  • Janice Helland, Art History
  • Cathy Christie, Faculty of Education
  • Jane Errington, Department of History
  • Caroline-Isabelle Caron, Department of History
  • Melissa Lafrenière, Department of Geography
  • Cynthia Levine-Rasky, Department of Sociology
  • Elizabeth Hanson, Department of English
  • Leela Viswanathan, School of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Emily Hill, Department of History
  • Karen Frederickson, School of Music
  • Jacqueline Davies, Department of Philosophy
  • Shehla Burney, Faculty of Education
  • Beverley Baines, Faculty of Law
  • Susanne Soederberg, Department of Global Development
  • Studies/Department of Political Studies
  • Sharry Aiken, Faculty of Law
  • Allison Goebel, School of Environmental Studies
  • Laura Murray, Department of English
  • Leda Raptis, Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Patricia Peppin, Faculty of Law
  • Adèle Mercier, Department of Philosophy
  • Harry McCaughey, Emeritus Professor, Department of Geography


(photo of Douglas Library at Queen’s University in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 8 Comments

Top Chef Canada “Battle of the Sexes” Begins

Posters for Top Chef Canada

by Jarrah Hodge

I am a sucker for cooking competition shows. Usually (with occasional exceptions) as a feminist the main thing I notice is the general underrepresentation of women and visible minority contestants and judges. But then I got the heads up that Top Chef Canada’s Season 4 was being marketed as a “battle of the sexes”.

Ugh. The fact that we were finally going to get 50% women contestants on the show didn’t feel like such a victory anymore.

The posters (above) were harshly criticized around the blogosphere because of the overall grossness of the marketing ploy, as well as the difference between the captions on the two posters. The women’s poster reads: “Is that all you got boys?”, which is seemingly directed at the men in the competition, challenging them to step up their game. It’s gendered but not as bad as the men’s poster, which says: “This kitchen is no place for a woman”, attacking women as a group.

Huffington Post Canada said it wasn’t sure what the show was trying to accomplish: “They may have been trying for tongue-and-cheek, but for the most part, it’s widely known there is a huge imbalance between the number of male and female chefs in professional kitchen. On top of that, suggesting a place for a woman is in the kitchen is one of oldest sexist jokes around — and was never really funny in the first place.”

Sarah Ratchford at Vice explains her issue with it: “The imagery suggests that the kitchen is too fierce, too dangerous, too competitive for a woman. She better stay out, where it’s safe!”

Top Chef Canada unsatisfactorily defended its marketing choice with the following statement (h/t Eater):

The fourth season of Top Chef Canada showcases the Nation’s best chefs and, for the first time ever, an even number of men and women face off in a culinary battle of the sexes that challenges them mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Food Network Canada’s marketing campaign plays on this year’s theme by using two opposing posters. One showcasing the male competitors and the other featuring the female competitors – both teasing the battle of the sexes angle. The competition may start with men vs. women, but in the end the person with the strongest kitchen skills will be named Canada’s Top Chef!

The response doesn’t really acknowledge the deep concerns people had with the wording on the posters, as well as the overall idea that it’s in any way meaningful or productive to pit “the sexes” against each other. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment
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