Last Friday I had the honour of speaking at the Vancouver and District Labour Council’s International Women’s Day celebration, at a packed house at the Fraserview Hall, on the topic of intergenerational feminism. I was the second speaker following retired CUPW activist Marion Pollack, who shared her experiences fighting sexism in the labour movement in the 1970s and working with the labour movement to fight for equality and women’s rights in the broader community.
I followed up with a talk about building intergenerational bridges in the feminist movement and looking at the issues we are still battling, like pay equity, violence against women, and a range of insidious messages that tell girls and women how they need to look and behave in order to be considered valuable and legitimate.
If you’re interested in seeing part of my talk I’ve put a video online – note my camera had a glitch at the beginning so the actual video starts at about 0:50 and the intro section of my speech is partly cut off. I think it’ll still make sense though.
I’m also including the transcript here, after the jump because it’s quite long. You can’t see my Powerpoint in the video so if you want any clarification on what slides I was using to illustrate my points, just comment below. It was really exciting for me to get to speak at this event that I usually attend every year, and I was really pleased with the positive feedback I got from several people in the audience. Overall, it was a pretty great International Women’s Day.
In the late 70′s and 80′s feminists involved in BC’s labour movement launched “Union Sisters”, regular gatherings of union women who would share a meal, listen to a speaker, and organize on important issues.
This fall a handful of union women decided to re-launch these gatherings. Using only emails, Facebook, and social media they put the word out and attracted about fifty women to the first meeting in September, which featured Dr. Marjorie Griffin-Cohen speaking on the negative impacts of BC Liberal policy on women in BC.
I’m pleased I was able to attend the second “Union Sisters” evening in New Westminster earlier this week. The theme of the night was: “The Current Challenges to our Reproductive Rights” and included an oral history on the 1970s Abortion Caravan, as well as a presentation by Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
Addressing the current situation, Arthur put the lie to Harper’s claim that he doesn’t want to “re-open the abortion debate”, noting right off the bat by limiting funding to organizations that provide abortion and contraception in developing countries for the first time in decades, that’s exactly what the Harper government did.
Arthur also touched on the defeat of the anti-choice M-312 in Parliament this fall:
In working on my other Feminism F.A.Q.s videos I’ve argued that while women have made many advancements, feminism is still necessary because we live in a patriarchy in which women still experience inequality. Just one commonly-cited piece of evidence for this view is the existence of a persistent wage gap between men and women.
But for some reason despite the plethora of evidence on this point, certain sections of the population seem bent on denying there is a wage gap or if they’re forced to admit it exists, arguing it’s entirely due to “choices” women make to sacrifice career for family or to avoid higher-risk jobs. It’s not just me who hears this – we saw it played out in an argument on Meet the Press between Rachel Maddow and Alex Castellanos earlier this year. When I tweeted I was making the below video, I was referred to videos echoing this argument that any gender wage gap is due to women working less and moving in and out of the workforce over the course of their lives. Some commenters on previous videos accused me of “spouting ignorance” and one argued “women actually make more money doing the same job as men.”
I watched the videos and read their sources but they don’t explain the research and articles I read in writing this video, which are linked into the transcript below.