roxanna bennett

Contributors Pick the Best of 2013

photo of pink and white fireworksEach year I ask the Gender Focus contributors about some of their highlights from the past year. Here’s what they came up with for 2013:

Favourite Movie:

Chanel Dubofsky: I never go to the movies, but I did see American Promise in the theatres. It’s about two middle class black families who send their sons to an elite school in Manhattan. It was spectacular and troubling and all of the good things.

Jarrah Hodge: I saw a lot of good movies this year and I’d have to say it’s a tie between two amazing movies by and about women. The first is Wadjda, a movie about a 10-year-old Saudi girl who pushes the boundaries of her society with humour and joy, directed by Haifa Al Mansour. The second was a fabulous documentary that showed at DOXA: Anne Braden, Southern Patriot. Gender Focus was a community partner for the screening of this inspiring film, which uses one woman’s remarkable life to teach us about interconnections between racial, gender and class equality.

Jessica Critcher: The Heat had a few hang-ups with intersectionality, similar to my critique of Catching Fire (which I also loved). But seeing a female buddy cop movie was a rare treat. I want more of that, with a woman behind the camera as well. Baby steps, I guess. Did anyone else pretend it was a sequel to Miss Congeniality? I want more Sandra Bullock FBI agent movies. I’ll write them myself if I have to.

Roxanna Bennett: 12 Years a SlaveHarrowing but crucial film, based on the real life account of  Solomon Northrup, a free-born Black man in pre-Civil war America who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Directed by the inimitable Steve McQueen.

Cover of Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonFavourite Book Read in 2013:

Jenni Podolski: I love Morrissey, so I devoured Morrissey’s Autobiography in a weekend. It’s exactly what I expected; witty, smart, and so eloquent. The first 100 pages or so where he describes his upbringing in Manchester were incredibly evocative and real.

Roxanna: Life after Life by Kate AtkinsonCaptivating. The premise of the book, “what if you could live your life over and over again, until becoming conscious of the smallest events that change your destiny” at the outset seemed as though it would make for tiresome prose but instead is riveting. I mulled this book over in my mind for weeks after reading.

Chanel: Remember How I Told You I Loved You? by Gillian Linden. It’s very slim- about 100 pages, I think? It’s gorgeous and reminds me why I write fiction.

Favourite Band/Song:

Jessica Mason McFadden: Annie Lennox wins for this year; she is a politically and humanistically-conscious musician whose work evolves in surprising ways. She’s truly both an artist, a model of compassion and authenticity, and a mentor for civilization.

Chanel:  Lucy Wainwright Roche made a new record called “There’s A Last Time For Everything,” and I’ve been listening to it day after day after every day since it came out.

Jessica Critcher: Kings of Spade are my favorite local band from Oahu, and this year they released their highly anticipated second album with help from Kickstarter backers (like me). They’re urban funk mixed with rock and roll. Their lead singer has a flourescent pink mohawk and ovaries of steel. I can’t wait until they come my way again on tour. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Panel: On Cynthia Nixon and Choosing to be Gay

Cynthia Nixon

The other week Cynthia Nixon caused quite a stir when she told the New York Times:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not. … Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive.”

Here’s what Gender Focus contributors had to say about the remarks and ensuing controversy:


I don’t think the idea of being gay as a choice hurts the gay rights movement. I find myself talking about gay rights pretty frequently, and even among people who are against homophobia and bigotry, I’ve heard people say things like “It’s not even like they have a choice about it!” I understand that is meant to be nice, but it could actually be understood as pretty condescending.

That line of thinking sounds to me like, if homosexuality were a choice, then it would be fine to discriminate against homosexuals, which is absurd. It also puts heterosexuality on a pedestal, with the idea that if they had a choice, obviously they would be straight, right? It’s not their fault they’re gay, they can’t help it! If they could, they’d be straight like us, poor things. Like it’s some sort of disability. I understand that not everyone feels this way, that many people never chose to be gay the same way I never chose to be straight. But if someone wants to choose to be gay, it shouldn’t matter. They are still be entitled to human rights. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, LGBT, Pop Culture 2 Comments

Panel: Vancouver School Board Controversy

This is our second Gender Focus panel post, where we get responses from different contributors on pressing issues and news. The events we’re looking at in this post revolve around the Vancouver Board of Education’s homophobia policy, and specifically the appearance in controversial videos for anti-same-sex marriage groups of two Vancouver School Trustees, Ken Denike and Sophia Woo.

According to the Georgia Straight:

The Vancouver School Board passed a motion Monday (January 16) to re-affirm its support for the district’s anti-homophobia policy, as it voted to censure two NPA trustees for their comments that surfaced in controversial videos last month[...]

Bacchus said the censure motion arose from what she called the “mis-representation” of the board’s anti-homophobia policy through comments made by NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo.

The first video that surfaced last month featured Denike and Woo speaking about their concerns with an anti-bullying booklet for teachers published in 2006. The second video was filmed at a Christian Social Concern Fellowship gathering, and featured Denike and Woo speaking about possible changes to the school curriculum involving LGBT issues, and implying that Vancouver only has a general anti-discrimination policy, and not a specific anti-homophobia policy.

The part of the issue that bothered me most is that the footage was filmed before last November’s election (when Denike and Woo were re-elected) but it didn’t surface until after. This had people like me questioning whether they still would have been elected if it had. In nearly Burnaby the homophobic Parents’ Voice party was routed at the polls in the same election.

But others accept at least Denike’s insistence that he is not homophobic or opposed to anti-bullying measures. Xtra reports Denike told them “his intention was to ensure that parents get a choice in what their children are exposed to in schools. He noted that parents can remove their children from personal health classes as long as the curriculum aims are fulfilled elsewhere.” But the GF contributors weren’t as forgiving. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in LGBT, Politics 1 Comment