Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feminist and Grateful to Be So

Looking back over the past few classes I can see that the women in the class are sincerely seeking out material that addresses womens rights and explores the topic of feminism; primarily the objectification and hypersexualization of our gender.

In this post my goal is to draw some parallels between the videos we've watched and discussions we've had, while throwing in my own two cents about what it all means to me and my personal experience as a feminist.

Today in class we watched a video called 'This is What a Feminist Looks Like'. I really enjoyed it and so thought I'd add another photo to the collection:

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

The word feminist is very strong and highly stigmatized. I had this to say in my Gender and Leisure class with Diana Parry last semester:
The film ‘My Feminism’ rocked me (Personal communication, Gender and Leisure, January 18, 2010). Upon reflection, I’ve associated myself with the term feminist for close to 17 years. I’ve wrestled with it throughout, finding out the hard way how the rest of society reacts. Not nice. Just the word, never mind the woman (or man) associated with it is enough to shut people down. They purse their lips tight, you realize you’ve ventured into the same conversation realm as religion or abortion and it’s over. Through either silence or verbal‘disagreement’, it’s over. For me most times the word doesn’t even have to be spoken. All my audience needs to see is a flash of a hairy leg, or a glimpse at underarm hair; all I have to do is be me, to talk as I think, to say what I mean, and it’s clearly evident that I am a (Lesbian? That MUST be it…look at her…) HUMANIST. I’m not convinced that they’re not the same thing, the feminist and the humanist, and I’m not convinced that they’re both found to be nonthreatening to the patriarchic trained citizens of our society, either. Unless, of course, you’re a fellow humanist; then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And even if you’re not shut down quite as quickly as those of us who do not bow to the pressure of the razor, you may have found yourself in an embarrassingly awkward moment of silence when (creating awareness, advocating,taboo-busting, challenging stereotypes, praying, grieving, celebrating) on behalf of women around the world with someone who ‘didn’t know’ and ‘can’t believe’ that women were (paid, able, forced, told, capable, skilled, dreaming)of doing that! And we are as amazed at their ignorance as they are of our awareness and depth.

It feels very satisfying to be verified in my opinion that a feminist and a humanist are the same thing. I'd never heard anyone refer to feminism as such, until today. An act of the collective consciousness at work in the universe.

We also spoke about men as feminists and if they're willing to acknowledge themselves as one. There wasn't much of a consensus. However, on Tuesday we watched a video that inspired me immensely because it was written by a young man and it was certainly hard core feminism at work. I strongly encourage you to watch the link. Thank you Adriel Luis and the student who brought it to our attention, S.

So, my thinking is that if it's the label that's turning you off, you should either change it (ie. humanist) or drop it and instead really focus on the underlying context of the words:

Feminism: Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes; the movement organized around this belief.

Humanism: A system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth; concern with the interests, needs, and welfare of humans

This is essentially what it all boils down to and who's going to be ashamed at adopting that as an overall outlook? However, I do challenge you to wear the label of feminist's very liberating and empowering, the first video I mentioned had this to say:

"Acknowledging you're a feminist is an act of gratitude for the people who went before you and who fought for the rights you're now enjoying"
That really hit home for me. Feminism as an act of gratitude. Wow. And I am so very grateful.

And so I say THANK YOU from the very bottom of my heart for the feminist trailblazers that went before me and had the courage to fight for all that I am capable of achieving in the here and now. Thank you for debunking the patriarchal systems that are at work all around me. Thank you for believing in my worth as a unique human being. Thank you for making the personal political. Thank you for your amazing influence that has me absolutely convinced that every interaction I have with another human being needs to be honoured and intentional. Thank you for advocating for respect and equality on my behalf.

With so much Love & Gratitude I am overwhelmed by it all,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

White Privelage as My Experience: I See it Now

The course is really starting to take shape and I'm being asked to look beyond my current reality into what lies underneath. This week we were asked to read Peggy McIntosh's 'White Privelage: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack'.

It is a shadowy place, looking at the country from this perspective; Canada as founded on colonialism and white privelage. But I believe that by casting light onto it, I can turn this knowing into something positive. For instance, I am now aware of white privelage as my personal experience: in the here and now I am comfortably middle class, attend university, own a house in a decent, mature neighbourhood, am in a loving, heterosexual marriage, I have three square meals a day, am fully able-bodied and have the freedom to go wherever I like in my everyday surroundings with no fear of discrimination (except, perhaps, for being a feminist).

With this understanding, I can now strive to relinquish my 'unearned power' in all of my day to day interactions with other beings (children, youth, elders, people of different ethnicities, people of GBLT sexual orientation, people of various abilities, animals, the environment). This is big. This means being absolutely present in my interactions with others...and I suspect it will bring increased happiness via authentic encounters and relationships into my life. It will take practice, self-monitoring and reflection. And I will do it because I'm committed to communitarianism. I know I've got lots to learn along this path...I'm up for it.

McIntosh (1988) asks, when all is said and done and we come to see that oppression is an active and embedded entity hidden in an invisible system with silence and denial as key political tools for perpetuation, what will we do with that knowledge? (p. 6)

What, indeed? Feminist theory posits that we need to join in, stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, know their stories, and work beside them to shed this oppression. And I agree. But first I think we should be very clear about who's actually oppressed and who we as caucasion's view as oppressed. I think we would be suprised to find that many ethnic groups aren't actually oppressed or underprivelaged at all...they simply don't long for the lifestyle that we've come to label as desirable and normal. I think we need to stop trying to identify those that are thought of as underprivelaged, and instead recognize ourselves as overprivelaged....and unwilling to give anything up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tim Horton's and Canadian Identity


Being as this is my first reflection piece, I want to start by saying that when I offer my perspective on an issue, I'm not trying to make anything out to be either good or bad, positive or negative. Rather, I strive to draw from my personal experiences and just say it like I see it without getting too caught up in what's right or wrong.

We all come from different places, externally and internally and I respect where others are at in their views and opinions. I welcome your comments and questions.

Personal Reflection

We read a fascinating article during the first week of class entitled 'True Stories' of Canada: Tim Horton's and the Branding of National Identity' by Patricia Cormack (2008), and I'd like to share my reflection of this article and the class discussion that followed.

In class we watched this
Tim Horton's commercial and we were asked to think about how new immigrants to Canada might reflect on the video and what it means to be Canadian. I also found this commercial and I found myself moved. From my perspective, these 'True Stories' are Tim Horton's way of trying to appeal to Caucasians, tug at their heartstrings a little bit and make them feel as though we embrace all cultures one and the same. And perhaps they've succeeded. But what do they say to new immigrants? Could it be that to be considered truly Canadian, to fit in and make friends, (as in the first video as seen in scenes of the son playing road hockey or the grandfather sneaking into his games and meeting the rink custodian) one must assimilate (and that means drinking Timmy's coffee and playing hockey, eh)? Drinking coffee and hockey may seem like harmless things, but they're not every Canadians past time or interest. I'm not sure Tim Horton's have got us all pegged, especially those of other cultures, but they're everywhere, all the time, and they're a powerful influence.

I question the face of Tim Horton's. I see Sydney Crosby playing hockey as a child, Asian's drinking coffee, retired couples hitting the road, and there's the Timbits leagues and children's camps to consider, too. The franchise racks in billions of dollars annually and so SHOULD give back to their communities via recreational activities for children. But I believe these programs are meant to be the face of Tim Horton's. Happy, smiling children is what Tim Horton's wants us to see. Through this face they can de emphasize consumerism and make the customer feel as though their mindless spending is going towards a greater good. Another pull at the heartstrings.

But what I see when I walk into a Tim Horton anywhere I go, is a much different face. I see women. Mostly middle aged women, but lots of young women, too, working for minimum wage. And did you know that not every store offers free uniforms, advancement opportunities, benefits or incentive programs. Nope. These are offered at participating locations only.

These women are given menial tasks, are on their feet all day long and are expected to do it with a smile. And talk about a glass ceiling. You could go as far as
store manager, you know. How about creating a commercial showcasing a regular workday for a 55 year old woman who's helping to raise her grandkids and fill the financial gap that her husbands pension can't? We see the "true stories" of the customers who patronize Tim's...why not the stories of the women who make it all happen for the franchise?

I also see an incredible amount of waste in the form of paper cups. On Earth Day this year I went down to the riverside trail I frequent with my dog and picked up garbage. Believe me when I say that Tim Horton's has a strong presence amongst nature, and it isn't pretty. Partially decomposed cups were to be found everywhere; hidden in the long grass, along the banks of the river and tramped into the earth. I guess real Canadians can't even go for a walk without a coffee in their hands, eh? Too bad they can't find the friggin' garbage cans spaced every hundred feet or so along the trail....

So what do you think? What is your experience of Tim Horton's and how do you think new immigrants in Canada relate to their commercials?

Thanks for tuning in...


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cultural Resources in Guelph

It is a goal for me to explore the Guelph cultural scene because for as long as I've lived here now, I've been a commuter (and, admittedly, a bit of a homebody, too). I don't actually participate in many of the cultural events offered or utilize the resources found here. I think it's a damn shame, really, and, having been challenged to attend or visit as many cultural experiences as I can this summer by my professors, it's time for me to dig in. So I did a quick search and found some interesting places to start...all of them accessible by foot or bike from my house, an important consideration for me.

Here they are:

The MacDonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC)
358 Gordon St., Guelph

noon 'til 5pm

The MSAC permanent collection features work by recognized regional and national artists. A major thrust of this collection is to provide a rigorous, in-depth survey of contemporary art practice in Canada.

MSAC also provides a balanced program of temporary exhibitions of contemporary and historical art, craft and design drawn from regional, national and international sources. Currently there are three temporary exhibits featuring the work of Cheryl Ruddock, Shane Krepakevich, and Jeff Tutt.

MSAC is also home to
an internationally recognized collection of Canadian Inuit Art and The Donald Forster Sculpture Park.

Alma Gallery
133 Wyndham St. N, Guelph Tuesday-Saturday noon 'til 6pm

Located in the heart of Downtown Guelph, The Alma Gallery features a diversity of fine art work focusing on contemporary art. While the gallery represents the artists of the region, it also promotes artists from across Canada as well as international artists. The Gallery exhibits art in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and collage. The Alma Gallery has numerous exhibitions throughout the year.

The Barber Gallery
167 Suffolk St. W, Guelph

The Barber Gallery carries an extensive collection of traditional and contemporary paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics by prominent regional artists as well as original artworks and reproductions by nationally recognized artists.
Gallery carries an extensive collection of traditional and contemporary paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics by prominent regional artists as well as original artworks and reproductions by nationally recognized artists.

Guelph Civic Museum & Children's Museum
6 Dublin St. South, Guelph
Open daily 1-5pm
$3 for students

The Civic Museum has a collection of over 30,000 artifacts including 4,000 photographs, in addition to archival materials. Collections relate to the history of the city of Guelph and are used in the permanent and temporary exhibitions that relate the City's social, cultural and industrial history.

Current Case Exhibits include:
  • This is the Way We Do the Chores
  • The Victorian Photo Studio
  • Sports In Guelph
  • As Time Goes By: Pocket Watches
  • You Press the Button, We Do the Rest. A look at Kodak Camera from the first half of the 20th Century.
  • Rythmic Roots in the Royal City

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upcoming Cultural Events in Guelph

A simply stunning weekend-long event held at a variety of sites throughout Guelph. What's really great is that, for the performances being held outdoors, they're asking that you Pay What You Can (PWYC) or $10-$15. Very reasonable!
Contemporary Indian Dance and Afro Modern Dance workshops are also offered to the public for the low fee of $15.

The 2010 Guelph & district Multicultural Festival
June 11, 12 & 13
Riverside Park
FREE admission & parking

Every year the festival showcases an
International Marketplace featuring different cultural food vendors and crafters, and a large variety of ethnic performers from around the world. There is also a community tent, a children's tent and youth games and activities are offered. This event sounds like fun for everyone, and is absolutely affordable and accessible. I'm in!

8th Annual Art Exhibition & Sale
Art on the Street

Saturday, July 17
10am-5pm Quebec St., Guelph
(Rain or shine

Occupying all of Wyndham Street, Quebec Street and St. Geoge's Square, the arts event will include an art exhibition and sale as well as several performance areas featuring music, theatre, dance, and spoken word. Participants will have the opportunity to join in a variety of arts workshops and children's activities. There will also be an information area where local arts groups will be able to promote themselves.

July 23-25 Guelph Lake Island (Rain or Shine) $49-$99/person Children 12 and under are free

Unfortunately this event sells out fast! People camp outside of the box office the night before kind of fast. However, you may be lucky enough to score a day pass ($69) or a Friday evening pass ($49). The play list is excellent this year and features artists such as Los Lobos, Sarah Harmer, Gord Downie & The Country of Miracles, Stars, Corb Lund, Calexico and many, many more. If you've never been, it's a pretty incredible weekend featuring not only great music but workshops, a children's tent, an enormous and mouth watering Food Pavilion, artisans, swimming, camping, etc...

Why I'm Here

I'm new to blogging but have started Committed 2 Community for a university class about Culture and Recreation and am very excited to see where it may lead me, creatively. I'm a deeply reflective and conscious woman and I think blogging will come naturally. I am thankful for this push to getting started...

I am very curious and committed to exploring the city I live in (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) to better understand what recreation and leisure pursuits are available to all of the unique cultural groups, families and individuals who live within it.

I strive to identify a lack of opportunities for some populations, as well as potential community partnerships that may benefit each other. Comments, thoughts and ideas that arise due to inclass readings will be included. A word of caution is advised: I have strong opinions! (but I am open to those of others, as well:)

Join me on my personal cultural journey through Guelph this summer. I encourage you to participate in some of the many cultural events and programs I am bound to dig up, attend, and share my opinion about. I already look forward to looking back and discovering how I, personally, grow through this experience.