Shutting Down Gender Focus

Tie-Dyed clothing: one of the items to look for in Hornby Island Bingo

April Fool’s Post: It’s with mixed feelings that I write this post to let you know about my plans to stop writing/editing for Gender Focus. The site will remain up but I won’t be adding any new content after this post.

A couple of weeks ago I visited my family on Hornby Island, a popular BC summer vacation destination, where I came up with the game Hornby Island Bingo, where you get points for finding things unique to Hornby, in a twist on the classic road trip game.  My siblings and I played it mostly on Twitter, under the hashtag #hornbyislandbingo, taking pictures of items like tie-dyed pajamas and murals of environmentalists.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but just a few days after coming back to Vancouver I was approached by Toronto-based Village Games, who said they might be interested in paying me to develop actual materials for a physical version of Hornby Island Bingo, with the potential for this leading to other projects in boardgame design.

If you’ve followed the blog for a while you might know that I’ve been really into board games for the last couple of years. Getting this offer made me realize that I have the opportunity to be more than just a casual game player and feminist game critic; maybe I could change the masculine board gaming culture from the inside. And have some fun while I’m at it.

So while I’ve really enjoyed working on Gender Focus and sharing my thoughts and opinions with you and hearing your perspectives for the past year and a half, I know enough about myself to know I can’t keep both balls in the air. I’m going to have to concentrate on the game designing in my spare time, and I’ve already got some ideas I’m really excited about.

First I’ll be building a website to help publicize my efforts, tentatively to be called These Foolish Games. I’ve also got an idea for a children’s game involving stacking hedgehogs, and a feminist trivia game for teenagers.

I’ll miss running the blog but I hope you’ll understand. I’ll still be checking comments on here if you need to reach me. And if you’d like to follow my progress on my game designing projects, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @jarrahsgames.

In sisterhood and solidarity,

-Jarrah

P.S. I’m still following through on this week’s book contest. Will announce the winner this weekend.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 4 Comments

Click, Anti-Click, Click: Moments That Shaped my Feminism

1. I spent most of high school being bullied, feeling like a fat freak who was destined to be alone for life. In retrospect, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. A kid I knew got beaten up for being Greek. One group of guys spent lunch hours in the cafeteria joking about starting a “Gay K.K.” to lynch LGBT students.

Eventually I figured out that I was never going to be able to just be quiet and suck up the bullying and the toxic atmosphere. I started speaking out in class and I joined the NDP and got involved in politics.

Click! In grade 12, two things happened that led to me calling myself a feminist. The first was that our school’s drama teacher decided to put on a community theatre production of The Laramie Project. I went to see it twice, both times crying through most of it but leaving with a new sense of purpose.  Seeing The Laramie Project made me realize how screwed up things were in the world at large, not just in my little world.

It also made me realize that it these conflicts weren’t just about actions – like the BC Liberal government closing women’s centres – they were also about ideology. I needed tools to fight back. That’s where I had my 2nd feminist click moment: during a Grade 12 English assignment. Picking a philosopher to research I drew bell hooks out of a hat, so I went to the library and picked up a copy of Feminism is for Everybody.

bell hooks’ definition of feminism is: “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” By “oppression” she’s talking about multiple types, including homophobia and racism. hooks was clear: feminism isn’t about hating men or playing the victim; it’s a foundation from which to fight for equality. I had decided it was going to be my foundation.

2. Anti-click! When I did my degree in Women’s Studies in University, I was introduced to the idea of privilege, but it’s hard to get too deep into the analysis when your class is made up of privileged people – people privileged enough to go to University, at any rate. I knew that I had privilege by being middle-class, white, straight, able-bodied, and cis-gender, but looking at the academic idea of privilege wasn’t what made me realize I was living it.

I came across an article in my local paper about a request by the Tsilhqot’in nation asking that Begbie Square in New Westminster (named for the infamous “hanging judge”) be renamed and the statue of Begbie replaced by one of Tsilhqot’in hero Chief Ahan., who is believed to be buried under the Square. We learned about Begbie in Grade 4, but never about Ahan, or how Begbie sentenced him to death. Seeing the story made me realize just how incomplete and biased my education had been.

My whole life I’ve been walking around my neighbourhoods and unquestioningly accepted the fact that practically every landmark name comes from European history. My whole life I happily took off my ancestors’ Christian holidays from school while never questioning if other people’s traditions were accorded the same recognitions. I realized I couldn’t quite imagine what it would be like to live in a society where I wasn’t seeing  me reflected wherever I go.

The “anti-click” happened when I realized it had been comfortable for me to start a “feminist” blog while taking for granted the legitimacy accorded to my traditions and history over those of First Nations people and people of colour. I was reinforcing the way in which the mainstream feminist movement has and continues to exclude women of colour in favour of changes that will benefit elite, white women.

It’s not good enough for me to just say the blog is “anti-racist”. By not discussing race and racism, I’m just reinforcing the unequal status-quo and promoting feminism’s reputation for exclusion and silencing. Same goes for integrating analysis of ableism, class, and poverty into my writing.

Part of this is the concern that I don’t want to be “speaking for” marginalized groups. But if I don’t try to address these issues at all, is that really respectful or just allowing problems to continue as long as they don’t impact me? It’s not fun to realize that even though you might not have directly caused a situation (be it Residential Schools or the racial pay gap), you have been complicit by benefiting from the results.

3. My other anti-click came in 2006, when I became keenly aware of the generation gap in the feminist movement and the domination of many mainstream feminist organizations by older white women (which I’ve written about previously).

But overall I’m optimistic about feminism and its capacity to change and grow and address divisions, as long as there is commitment to work from a definition similar to the inclusive one proposed by bell hooks. Here’s what keeps me hopeful:

Click! I went to the 2010 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. and met feminists in high school and college, starting up new feminist clubs on campus and taking action on issues like health reform.

Click! 9 and 10 year-old-girls are using new technology to take on sexism in hip hop: http://www.gender-focus.com/2011/03/07/little-girls-vs-lil-wayne/

Click! I get some extremely racist, sexist, and homophobic commenters arguing with my blog posts, so I figure I must be doing something right.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 2 Comments

The Round-Up: Mar. 29, 2011

-Jarrah

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The Awakening & Book Giveaway #2

It’s time for another edition of the highly informal Gender Focus book club, where I read & review books suggested by you, and sometimes give away copies.

So far I’ve looked at Forbidden Passages: Writings Banned in Canada, and Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women.

This month’s book is Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, recommended by two readers, Em and Jessica, on our Facebook page. Em says The Awakening changed her life.

I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Chopin’s book revolves around Edna Pontellier, an American woman married to a Creole man, living in Louisiana. Originally published in 1899, The Awakening was shocking at the time for its portrayal of Mrs. Pontellier’s independence, unhappiness with her marriage, and desire for an extra-marital relationship with Robert, a man she meets while at a summer cottage with her family.

Mrs. Pontellier’s “awakening” is exemplified in a conversation she has with her friend Madame Ratignolle while at the beach that summer: “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

Although Mrs. Pontellier’s eventual level of infidelity would hardly be shocking by modern standards, the overall message that loveless relationships born of social obligation are tragic continuese to be relevant, and Mrs. Pontellier’s struggle for self-actualization through questioning societal conventions is poignant.

Chopin turned to writing after her husband died, pressured to support her family. She died five years after The Awakening was published, ostracized for writing it. It took a few decades before the book was rediscovered and recognized for its significance.

I’m having my 2nd book giveaway this month. Enter by 5 PM PST on Friday, April 1st for a chance to win a copy of The Awakening plus some cool feminist buttons, stickers, and bookmarks.

If you live in Canada or the US, you can get two chances to enter this giveaway:

To enter once, comment on this post and tell me your favourite woman character from fiction (books, TVs, movies, etc.).

To get a second entry, post the following on Twitter:

I entered to win Kate Chopin’s The Awakening & feminist swag from @jarrahpenguin and http://gender-focus.com. RT to win!

Good luck and happy reading!

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Feminism 7 Comments

FFFF: Super Sexy Slo Mo


-Jarrah

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Save the NB Advisory Council on the Status of Women

This week, the New Brunswick government introduced its 2011 Budget, which abolishes the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women, effective April 1.

The government says the ACSW provides the same services as the Women’s Issues Branch. However, the ACSW argues their work does not overlap and that it’s crucial to have an agency like theirs that has objective distance from the government in order for them to evaluate government programs critically. Because of its direct relationship with the government, the Women’s Issues Branch can’t have the same independent influence.

The ACSW’s budget is only $418,000, a paltry amount compared to the overall provincial budget, and compared to the good work they do on issues like pay equity, child care, poverty, women seniors, violence against women, and many more . The ACSW is arguing that the Alward government is cutting their funding not for financial reasons, but for ideological ones.

Across Canada, we’ve seen similar attacks by right-wing governments. Here in BC we’re still losing women’s centres partly due to loss of government funding under the Liberals. One silver lining is that Canadian feminist activists are more prepared to take action and show governments that these attacks on organizations dedicated to women’s equality are unacceptable.

Here’s what you can do to support the ACSW:

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

The Round-Up: Mar. 22, 2011

  • Check out the reporting on this survey of over 4,000 people in the UK, which found that a clear majority felt movies rely too heavily on sexist, racist, and homophobic stereotypes when portraying characters.
  • Send a message of support to Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in the class-action suit of women suing Wal-Mart for sex discrimination in a case which is coming up before the US Supreme Court.
  • Queerty asks why parents of intersex children choose their child’s gender at such an early age.
  • Georgia at the Ms. Blog talks about why people who claim to stand for “family values” should support gay rights and the repeal of DOMA.
  • The Advocate covers a new initiative from the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network to challenge homophobia in K-12 sports.
  • Had to share this post from Monica at TransGriot, who manages an extended Star Trek/Maryland marriage equality analogy.
  • Thanks to Shakesville for discussing and taking a screencap of a truly offensive Maclean’s article “jokingly” comparing escorts to hookers.

-Jarrah

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