Thanks to Black Coffee Poet for creating and posting this interview with Deb Singh of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre about why we can’t forget indigenous women and other women of colour when observing the National Day of Action and Remembrance on Violence Against Women on December 6. It’s important to take into account Singh’s observations about why we can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach based on white women’s experiences in order to deal with violence against women across cultures.
On December 6, we remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte, who were gunned down on this day in Montreal, 1989, because they were women.
Last year I wrote an article for the Vancouver Observer about why we need to care about the Montreal Massacre, even more than twenty years after the fact. I was surprised by the vitriol the article received from people who opposed the long gun registry, which I mentioned supporting. Thankfully the opponents of the registry lost their fight in Parliament, but over the past year there’s been more reason for feminists to be concerned with violence against women than to celebrate victories.
In particularly, rates violence against Aboriginal women – part of our colonialist legacy – are still shockingly high. The Native Women’s Association of Canada identified 153 cases of murder of Aboriginal women between 2000 and 2008: a number which represents 10% of female homicides despite the fact that Aboriginal women make up only 3% of the female population. For more information and statistics, read NWAC’s 2010 Sisters in Spirit report.
December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Today remember the 14 women who died in Montreal, as well as other victims of violence against women, and those women in Canada and around the world who continue to live with the threat of violence every day. We also commit to taking action, keeping situations like the battle over the long gun registry in mind to remind us that when success is possible when feminists and other progressives stand united for equality.
First, I’m very honoured that Gender Focus has been named one of the top five finalists in the Feminist category at the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards, along with 4 fantastic blogs that I’d encourage you to check out. Placing the five finalists in each category will be done by a jury of bloggers over the rest of this month, so stay tuned for results in January! My thanks to all of our readers, commenters, and contributors for helping us get here.
Second, just wanted to remind folks that Gender Focus has an open guest posting policy and we’d love to hear from you. You can find submission guidelines here and as always feel free to comment here or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Finally, if you’re not already following me on Twitter you can find me @jarrahpenguin to keep up-to-date on the blog’s happenings and discussions about related issues that don’t always make it into blog post form.
The Anabell Foundation satirizes super-skinny dolls with their "Perfect Girl" ad
Reading the paper today the headline: “Young girls believe thinner is better” caught my eye. In an experiment similar to the famous 1954 Clarks’ doll study that found young children preferred white dolls to black dolls, researchers at Pepperdine University in California recently completed a study that found girls as young as three idealized thinness.
In one study researchers asked the girls to match 12 adjectives (cute, mean, ugly, etc.) to figurines made to look like a thin, average, and large woman. Participants ended up assigning 1.24 negative words and 2.69 positive words to the thin figure on average, while the largest figure received 3.09 negative and 1.24 positive words.
In another study where girls were asked to pick which of the figurines to use as a game piece in Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, 69% chose the skinniest one, 63% of whom refused to trade for a larger figure when asked.
It’s probably too easy to just blame Barbie. In one of my Women’s Studies classes 34/35 students had played with Barbies as kids and all were now supposedly feminists shunning body image ideals. But despite my feminism and the fact I volunteer blog for About-Face, whose mission is to raise awareness of girls’ and women’s body image issues, I still feel the pressure to watch my weight and I struggle not to feel bad about myself when I realize I’m not fitting into my skinny jeans as well as I used to. These pressures are insidious and this study shows they’re strongly inculcated at a very young age.
Refrain from making comments about your own or others’ weight or body shape. For instance, no talk of “My thighs look so fat” or “I shouldn’t eat that cookie, because it has too many calories” when around kids.
Compliment children on things they do, or their personality characteristics, rather than on what they look like.
Limit children’s exposure to mainstream media sources that emphasize thin models or put a high value on physical beauty
Model healthy eating habits and exercising for your children.
I’d add that we need to support groups like About-Face, who call out the worst offenders in sexist advertising and address the gendered beliefs that underpin the thin ideal, like the belief that woman’s primary function is to be desirable to men, and that she can only be desirable if she’s thin.
The ads are jarring and a bit disturbing, like the one featuring a woman passed out on a couch surrounded by liquor bottles and the tagline: “Just because she isn’t saying no…Doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.” But I’d argue there’s no other effective way to get the message across. The statistics on these types of sexual assault are alarming and we still hear the same disgusting exuses. Too often date and acquaintance rapes are treated as less serious offenses than stranger rapes. Too often women are blamed for “asking for it” and this campaign puts the onus for date rape back where it belongs: on perpetrators.
So my choir started rehearsing our Christmas set last night, and about half-way through we get to a version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” that has the following lyrics: “Johnny wants a pair of skates. Suzy wants a sled. Nellie wants a picture book: yellow, green, and red.” Wait a minute! The words I’d always known were: “Johnny wants a pair of skates. Suzy wants a dolly. Nellie wants a story book: she thinks dolls are folly.” It had never occurred to me how the original lyrics were reinforcing a common gender binary: boys as active, girls as passive. Though I guess kudos to Nellie for her small act of rebellion…
Sociological Images has more on this norm and how kids are socialized into it through toys, which I’m going to talk more about later this week. For now I just wanted to put together a list of other Christmas carol lyrics that have gendered aspects. For this post, I’m going to focus on secular carols, since I don’t feel I have enough religious knowledge to do justice to an analysis of sacred carols. Keep in mind I’m not saying the lyrics below are inherently bad or harmful; only that we should think about how they subtlely (and sometimes not so subtlely) reinforce gender roles.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” - I’m with Chloe Angyal on this song, which is about a girl who doesn’t want to spend the night with her guy, who keeps trying to persuade her to stay by ignoring her objections and offering her more alcohol. It was written in 1944 but by today’s standards it’s actually kinda disturbing.
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – We’re back to the passive/active split with these lyrics: “A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots/Is the wish of Barney and Ben/Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk/Is the hope of Janice and Jen.”
“Santa Baby” - Yes, this is trying to be funny and I don’t think anyone would mistake it for an instruction manual for girls, but it does reinforce the view that women are just out to get money and expensive things from men.
“Up on the Housetop” - More of the same, with “Little Nell” getting a stocking with a doll in it while “Little Will” gets “a hammer and lots of tacks/also a ball and a whip that cracks”.
So if you’re looking for something more alternative and funny, check out this Feminist 12 Days of Christmas at When She Speaks I hear the Revolution.