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 niki.ashton.a1@parl.gc.ca and I hope to see you next weekend!

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The News Media’s Troubled Relationship with Canadian Women

Jarrah Hodge at the Women's Forum 2013 podiumby Jarrah Hodge

I had the honour of speaking at Niki Ashton’s second Women’s Forum des Femmes in Ottawa on Tuesday. I was part of an afternoon session on inequality in the media and was tasked with providing a big picture look at some overarching problems.

Rabble supported the forum and has posted audio of much of the day. I’m embedding the audio of my presentation in case anyone would like to listen to the entire thing, but I’ll also summarize below.

My talk was entitled “The News Media’s Troubled Relationship with Canadian Women”. I started off talking about a study that came out earlier this year from the UK, which found that Canadian women (as well as women in the other countries surveyed) consumed less news and were therefore less informed than Canadian men.

I pointed out the important critiques raised at that time by Equal Voice, which argued the study doesn’t necessarily capture engagement, only knowledge of specific “hard news” facts. But I also noted quotes from some reporters and commentators speculating on the study, including these:

Margaret Wente: “Men keep track of batting averages. Women keep track of weddings. Men are interested in facts, systems, sports, competition, status and keeping score. They use the common ground of sports and politics to bond with other men. Women are interested in relationships, gossip, health, education and their kids. They use the common ground of social information and mutual support to bond with other women.”

Shelley Fralic: “On the day the women-versus-news study was widely reported, the four newspapers in my purview — The Vancouver, Sun, The Province, National Post and The Globe and Mail — provided a glaring example of that masculine point of view, a veritable font of off-putting language, with headline after headline shrieking words like bomb, terrorism, plot, death, radicalization, ultimatum, defiant, pariah, risk, reforms, protests, shocking, target, hate-filled, killing, thwarted, turf, showdown, damage, embattled, savagery, casualties, battle, crisis, sex offences.” (I did note that other than this quote, the rest of the article was ok)

It won’t surprise you I don’t think the problem is women being too preoccupied with wedding news to pay attention. Nor do I think women can’t handle words like “death” and “reforms” (try writing headlines on almost anything without using words in Fralic’s list and you end up with something like “Local Man Gets Bad Boo Boo after Not Nice Encounter With Bus”).

But if women are tuning out the news, maybe part of it is they aren’t being well-represented. As the Vancouver Observer pointed out, women still aren’t equally represented in management of our major media corporations. And 2011 research found women who reach the upper levels are still paid less.

That may or may not be related to the fact that women still don’t get quoted in the news as much as men. Part of this is due to pressures to cut-costs and meet the demands of a new reading public that wants news online and up-to-the minute. This means it’s tempting for reporters to turn to the same sources again and again to save time, even if it’s the same pool of men.

But that doesn’t explain why, when women are quoted, it’s often in different contexts. For example, a 2012 report by Guardian editor Jane Martinson found within the context of front-page newspaper and tabloid stories in Britain, 79% of women were referred to as “victims”, while three-quarters of men were interviewed in the role of “expert”.

Three particular areas of problematic coverage I singled out were women in politics, women in sports, and violence against women.

Read more

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My Reality: I Was a Teen Politician, Part II

Another newspaper article, this time from the Vancouver Courier.

Another newspaper article, this time from the Vancouver Courier.

by Jarrah Hodge

Thanks to everyone who stuck with me from Part I. Here’s the second and final part of my teen political saga.

So after I lost the Quadra nomination I got a phone call. Glen Sanford was in Vancouver setting up Libby Davies’ campaign and he wanted me to come run the phone side of what’s called “voter contact” (mostly knocking on doors and cold-calling to talk to voters and find out who they’re planning to support).

You couldn’t ask for a better first campaign. Glen was a patient campaign manager and the rest of the campaign team was fun and hard-working. There was a steady stream of loyal, local volunteers, including an older couple of European women who drove in every day from their home in the Fraser Valley with home-cooked meals for us campaign staff, just because they supported Libby so much.

Our campaign office was right next door to an Italian bakery and down the street from Belgian Fries. I ate cake and poutine every day and still lost weight because I was so stressed and high from the campaign adrenalin. Not something you’d want to do long-term but it was awesome for a month.

And of course, working for Libby was fabulous. I admired how she trusted and valued the campaign team and volunteers, how she seemed to effortlessly remember so many names. Even though she would (expectedly) go on to win the seat by one of the highest margins in the country, she had time to really listen to community members on the doorstep and in the campaign office.

Lest I have to write a third part to this article, I’ll skip ahead to Spring 2005, when I was asked to run for another nomination, this time in Vancouver-Quilchena. Quilchena is an area made up of some pretty ritzy neighbourhoods, including Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, Southwest Marine Drive, and the slightly more middle-class Dunbar area. It was ranked the second-worst riding for the NDP. Read more

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My Reality: I Was a Teen Politician, Part I


Story about young candidates from the Vancouver Province during the 2005 election, with me pictured.

by Jarrah Hodge

Here in BC we’re getting ready for a provincial election in a couple of months and as I see building excitement around me I can’t help but think about how the various new candidates are doing.

See when I was 19 I ran in the 2005 provincial election for the BC NDP against then Finance Minister Colin Hansen. And even though I never had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, it was a truly unforgettable experience, at times fun, enlightening, exhausting, and surreal.

I should go back just a bit, to my Grade 10 Social Studies class in Courtenay, taught by none other than Don McRae, who would go on to become the BC Liberal government’s Education Minister under Christy Clark.

Even though our politics don’t align and I didn’t give him enough credit at the time, McRae was a one-of-a-kind, inspiring teacher. He used totally unique, fun, and creative lessons to teach Canadian history and politics. And the highlight of every class – at least for budding political nerds like me – was current events.

I feel like pretty much every day I’d bring in a news story to share with the class and more and more around that time (2000-2001), the stories were about the cuts and changes the new BC Liberal government was making.

I may have been a bit annoying.

But I just couldn’t get over this feeling I had that what they were doing was unjust. I was incensed when they refused to recognize the 2-member NDP caucus as the Official Opposition and when they declared BC teachers an “essential service”. I felt emotionally crushed when they cut funding to women’s centres and lowered BC’s child labour standards to allow younger kids to work tougher jobs.

I was an angsty teen but my angst came out in my politics as I lay awake in bed, wondering how Gordon Campbell and his Cabinet Ministers could sleep at night with the way they were hurting ordinary British Columbians.

So anyway, after one particular day of me bringing in a new list of cuts (much of this info came from my Dad’s copies of CCPA and Council of Canadians newsletters, as well as mainstream media), Mr. McRae suggested that I should look at joining the NDP.

He was teasing but it was the perfect thing to say. But I wasn’t ready to pick a party just based on them not being the BC Liberals. I went online and mailed away for copies of 2000 federal election platforms for the NDP, federal Liberals, and Greens.

I took them downstairs to my basement room and read through each one carefully. The Liberal party’s platform looked okay but I felt it lacked a strong connection to progressive values.  I thought I would probably end up joining the Green Party because I’d been involved with my parents protesting logging on Denman Island during elementary school, but the platform felt so limited to me. Again, the policies didn’t seem to come from any particular set of values except value for the environment.

Reading the NDP platform, it was like things fell into place. The next day I tracked down a membership form and sent it in. Then I waited.

And waited. Read more

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

Canadian Politicians Let Bullied Kids Down

Pink Shirt Girlby Jarrah Hodge

Despite more and more high-profile bullying cases being reported in the media recently, in the last few days we’ve seen two anti-bullying policies defeated in Canada. The first was a motion brought forward by the Edmonton Public School District to the Alberta School Boards Association to protect LGBT students and staff from bullying through requiring schools to develop a zero-tolerance policy.

Disgracefully, 62% of trustees voted the measure down, including representatives from the Calgary Catholic and public school districts.

“Our concern was that if you are appearing to promote one group preferentially over the other, that it’s not appropriate,” Calgary Catholic chairwoman Mary Martin said in the Calgary Herald.

ABSA President Jacquie Hansen echoed Martin’s remarks, telling the Edmonton Journal that the ABSA didn’t want a policy that only protected LGBT kids. At least that was a nicer way of framing it than Pembina Hills trustee Dale Schaffrick, who was forced to apologize after telling the CBC that kids should act less gay to avoid bullying:

“If children with a gay tendency appear a certain way, we know that we have to be vigilant to make sure they are not discriminated against,” Schaffrick told CBC News.

When asked if those students should try to be less identifiable, he said, “I think for their own benefit… it would be helpful.”

The idea that LGBT kids somehow ask to be bullied by acting or appearing a certain way, and that their sexual orientation is nothing more than a “tendency”, is obviously ridiculous and offensive. But let’s take a step back again to look at what the more mainstream folks said about why they opposed this motion: because it singled out LGBT students and staff for protection from bullying. Read more

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Speaking on the Feminist Generation Gap

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on a “Women of Distinction” panel as part of the BC NDP Women’s Rights Committee’s convention. The panel was made up of MLA Diane Thorne, anti-poverty activist Tish Lakes, BC Federation of Labour Director Jessie Uppal, and Anastasia Gaisenok of the Justice Education Society. The topic of the panel was a look at what the feminist movement has achieved and where we have yet to go.

I was tagged as the “young activist” on the panel, which irked me a teeny bit, but I decided to own it and talk about overcoming the feminist generation gap. The point I tried to make was about the need for intergenerational dialogue and open-mindedness about social media and new tactics for activism, rather than ageism and stereotyping from both sides of the generation gap.

Here is audio of my part of the panel in case you’re interested. FYI the references at the beginning are to the trailer of Miss Representation, which we’d screened just before the panel.

Note: if the embedded audio isn’t working in your browser you can also find the file here: http://www.gender-focus.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Memo.mp3.


(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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Challenging Agism in Politics with Laurin Liu

On October 14th, the NDP campus clubs from across the Lower Mainland got together to host an evening with Laurin Liu – the youngest woman in Parliament. The event was a head-on challenge to the agism that roared throughout the media in the months that followed the last federal election.

Liu was one of the five McGill students elected in Quebec last May, as part of the NDP near-sweep of the province. Liu made no attempt to hide the fact that when she signed up to be a candidate, she never thought she’d be elected. But now that she’s a Member of Parliament, Liu recognizes the extent of the opportunity: “I got involved in politics because I care about issues such as affordable housing, student debt and the environment.”  Now, she has a chance to make an impact.

In fact, Liu has been appointed the Deputy Environment Critic, a portfolio that suits her to a tee. Her responsibilities include fighting for legislative change, as well as fostering relationships with grassroots organizations. “If we lose our connection with the communities working on these issues outside of politics, that would be like losing our connection with the critic area.”

Laurin Liu and Moderator Rebecca Coad

Many of the people in the audience were young activists, so Liu addressed some of the challenges that come with being a young woman in the public spotlight: “The challenge is to get people to see beyond my age. I am more than just a young person.” With that said, Liu remains positive that there are plenty of advantages to her age: “Many people are looking for political change, and young people – whether we deserve it or not – symbolize that change for a lot of people. I’ve had a number of people come up to me and say ‘I see myself in politics now, because of you.’ It’s been very encouraging.”

As many of us are well aware, it is difficult to change social perceptions and biases. However, having people as poised and committed as Liu in the spotlight is a good first step to changing attitudes.




Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 1 Comment