best laid plans · feminism · politics · winter

Planning for the Holidays, Holidays for Planning

I’m seven working days away from my first vacation in a year and a half. All of my time off from work in 2016 was used to go to the MLA, teach at DHSI, and finish and defend my dissertation. All good things, but none of them a vacation. And I’m tired. Bring on the holidays.

But I’m also mad and scared and sad. I’m not terribly good at being mad and scared and sad. I grew up in a family with only two emotional temperatures–everything is great, or nuclear. I love my family dearly, but being raised by them has left me with, as Hermione Granger would say,  the emotional range of a teaspoon when it comes to the less cheery feelings. And so my natural tendency is to shy away from strong negative feelings because my body and mind don’t quite know how to distinguish between “kinda, and justifiably, angry” and the nuclear option of my childhood and adolescence. But I’m learning. (Guts’ new “In the Cards: Ask a Feelings-Witch” column was super on point this week–subject: anger–and super helpful). I’m furious about a lot, including how little the Canadian government is doing, diplomatically and otherwise, to intervene in Syria, and so I spent last night in a righteous rage, calling and tweeting and pulling out my credit card. It turns out that I’m pretty okay with being angry when the alternative is feeling impotent and helpless

What does all of this have to do with the holidays, you might ask? I love a good plan–see, as evidence, the fact that I never go anywhere without my Hobonichi Techo planner, or my way over-the-top first week post-PhD schedule–and while I’m planning for the holidays, I’m also going to use my holidays for planning. I’ve got a long list of things I want to do, for fun and self-care. I want to finish reading all of the Miss Fisher novels. I want to work on my novel every day. I want to go shopping in Kensington Market and cook an amazing anniversary dinner with my partner. I want to finally figure out what the hell to do with that stupid corner cabinet in the kitchen. I want to finish crocheting the giant blanket I’ve been working on. I want to go to the movies. I want to take my godson on his first trip to the art gallery. I want to spend time feeding and hugging and listening to my people. I want to sit in front of the fire.

But I also want to use my holidays to do some research and learning and planning toward a more sustainable approach to anger and advocacy next year. I’m pretty sure–Rebecca Solnit’s hope for a miracle aside–that 2017 is going to be a crappy, crappy year. It’s going to be full of all of that fear and rage and sadness that I’m working hard to get good at. And I need to figure out the most useful and sensible ways to channel those feelings into sustainable, mindful, planned action. And so I’m going spend part of my holidays planning for 2017. What local organizations can I get involved or more involved in that support the work of intersectional feminist joy-killing, combatting climate change, helping refugees? What organizations, local and international, most deserve my money and do the most impactful work with donations? What and who should I add to my reading list to help me be a better advocate and ally? What’s the contact information for the most powerful and responsive people in local, provincial, and federal governments? How can I better connect and collaborate with the amazing people in my life who share my concerns and goals? What does sustainable activism–a steady blaze, not a flash fire–look like for me, in good balance with work, research, creative, and family life?

Obviously, I’m not going to be able to do all of things I want to over the holidays, but in planning for both self-care and activism, I’m hoping to head into 2017 feeling recharged and ready to keep working and fighting. This is likely our last post of 2016 on Hook & Eye, and so from all of us, wishing you a restful and rage-filled winter break. Let’s burn down the worst parts of the world and make s’mores while we’re at it.

feminism · personal narrative · shifting perspectives · women and violence

My radically sexist father

Disclaimer: this is a very personal post, and sort of breaks with our normal format here at Hook & Eye. Trying out something new before breaking for the holidays. Hopefully you’ll get something out of it anyway. Thanks for reading! xx

Anyone who knows me well knows that I had a very complicated relationship with my father, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest in 2006. Memories of him have been resurfacing for me recently, partly because of Trump (more on that below), partly because the holiday season often has me sorting through old papers and feeling nostalgic. A text conversation prompted me to search for his name through the Fordham library databases website, and the articles that produced were like slaps in the face, serving as stark reminders of the childhood he had made so difficult for me. 

From Alberta Report, Nov. 22, 1999
I had posted these on Facebook but removed them after becoming frustrated at the expressions of sympathy in response, which seemed so inadequately linked with the complicated reality of my memories. How could people know, without any context, what these fragments really represent? 
My dad was a self-proclaimed radical environmentalist, and fought for a number of important local causes, such as clean air and sacred land rights. But he also believed that all of Alberta was going to be wiped out in a flash flood originating from the Bennett Dam a few hours northwest in British Columbia, and his conviction that the oil & gas industry in Alberta was destroying the local ecosystem transcended peaceful protest and dissent. He would charge into my junior high school and remove me from class because he’d determined that the local oil & gas flare was particularly bad that day. He routinely posted signs on our lawn expressing incendiary statements in support of Wiebo Ludwig, the cultish local rabblerouser who was associated with vandalizing oil rigs and on whose property the sixteen-year-old girl mentioned in the article was killed. Dad had a fierce case of bipolar I disorder which he refused to treat, and would stay up all hours of the night sending alarmist faxes about pressing but sometimes invented environmental issues to local, provincial, and federal politicians and allies. The small, rural community where I’m from did not like his inflammatory rhetoric and the affiliation with the Ludwigs which he actively maintained (as seen above: “Long Live the Ludwigs!”), and on two different occasions, strangers threw rocks through our windows, once above the bed where my younger sister was sleeping. In response, he boarded up the windows of our house, rendering ever more visible the divide between our family and our town, and consequently spurring more fear and distrust from both sides. That was a horrible year for me, in 9th grade and thirteen years old, dealing with the aftereffects of puberty and just starting out on teenage life–and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. My schoolmates were acutely aware that my dad didn’t like their dads’ occupations, and were sometimes not allowed to spend time with me. 
Dad was a source of humiliation and shame for so much of my childhood, and his sudden departure one morning in the spring of 2000, ostensibly as a result of growing antipathy between him and the community, had a positive impact on my family. My mom, with whom he had not slept in the same room for years, seemed to grow younger over the next six months.
I didn’t see him too often over the final few years of his life. My attitude toward him in those years oscillated between pity and revulsion: penniless and destitute, he had retreated into the forest as is befitting someone who devoted twenty years of his life to environmentalist causes, living out of a Boler trailer on his friend’s property. Rarely he would call, more frequently he would mail me conspiratorial articles from questionable publications with scrawled notes at the bottom. Once he resigned himself to the fact that I was pursuing an English degree in university rather than physics or engineering, he gifted me a charming copy of W.W. Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language which he must have picked up at some local thrift store. During this time I could see him reaching out in what can be understood as oblique acts of affection to close relatives (such as me and my sister, and children from his first wife) whom he hadn’t treated well when it really mattered. Yet his paranoid interventions occasionally resurfaced: during my first year in college, when I played piano on the worship team for a local church, my dad replicated his old routine of showing up to organizations I was a part of and dragging me out of them, humiliating me further by accusing the youth pastor of having an inappropriately intimate relationship with me. 
Moving to New York has gotten me away from this past in many ways. Ten years after his death, I have enough distance to begin to see him more as a flawed, bitter man who led a complicated and sometimes destructive life, and whose primary mistake may have been his persistent refusal to medicate his serious mental disease. His life and his legacy are becoming important for me to process from a more distanced stance– in this post-election world, it seems more important than ever to think through what it means to espouse radical beliefs in a healthy, productive way, rather than a way that incites fear and violence from all sides. I’m haunted by the thought that the #noDAPL protests at Standing Rock are very much in line with much of what he stood for, but my father would also, in all likelihood, have greatly admired and celebrated the rise of Donald Trump. 
Indeed, the two men are not unlike each other. Like Trump, my dad was a man of contradictions–a performer, trained in provocation and wild bandying about of contradictory ideas, an “entertainer” as the article above claims. He believed the world was rigged against him, a product of his deeply ingrained victim complex. He sometimes displayed horrifying racism and applauded Wiebo for shaving his daughters’ and wives’ heads as a visible sign of their inferiority  (though, to his credit, he did try to convert my sister and I to his causes and encourage us to follow ‘manly’ career paths). He liked to lord his power over people close to him, to make incendiary remarks based on negligible evidence, to recklessly ally himself with anyone who was nice to him and uncritically reject anyone who wasn’t. He probably would have seen in Trump someone who stands up to the respectable decorum of the political establishment, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and caters to populist concerns. My dad didn’t care about business ventures or money-making, but devoted himself to overturning existing structures and stirring shit up. 
Perhaps my reflections on his story have no place in an academic blog. All I know is that for a long time, academia helped me get away from anything that reminded me of him, and now I’m becoming pushed back, through the ghosts stirred up by the election and the ensuing environmental catastrophe it might engender, and the dire current need for as many modes of anti-Trump activism as possible. So I guess I’m here to reassert my dedication to activism, to environmentalism, but also to feminism and other anti-oppression -isms–to the things my dad fought for as well as the things he couldn’t see his patriarchal ideology was working to unravel.  
advice · chronicle vitae · feminism

Ladies, Let’s Negotiate

Did you know that Hook & Eye is now on Chronicle Vitae? We’re excited to be able to expand our audience, and Erin, Aimée, Boyda and I have posts up over there.

My first, on negotiating while female, discusses what the research says about the best strategies for negotiating as a woman, strategies that help to counter the unconscious bias that has contributed to the gendered wage gap.

I was annoyed at negotiating advice that just told women to ask for more, as research suggested that asking for more in the wrong ways could have significant negative social and financial impacts for women. But what I didn’t know at the time–for new research has just come out–is that women do ask. In fact, they ask as much as men–they just don’t get what they ask for. You can check out that study from the University of Warwick here.

I still stand by my advice about how to ask in ways that may get you what you want more of the time. But the fact that asking more doesn’t seem to be part of the issue at all makes me even more angry than I already was.

You can read the full post over at Chronicle Vitae.


Image: vintage photo of women boxing (via Creative Commons

academic work · feminism · guest post

Guest Post: Bad Faith and Bad Habits

A few years ago I outed myself as a church-goer to some graduate students and colleagues over drinks at our campus pub. My students reacted with a predictable mixture of shock, bewilderment, and thinly-veiled contempt. Confessing to my church habit was like admitting I had an addiction, with a twelve-step program that included weekly church attendance and a cannibalistic ritual of eating a dying man’s flesh and drinking his blood.

One of my colleagues tried to salvage my reputation as a reasoning post-humanist by informing me and everyone who was listening that my church habit was “more cultural than religious, right?” In other words, the only way to explain the anomaly of a church-going academic in a Humanities department in the twenty-first century was through the safety valve of “culture” –colourful foods and folkways that fulfill the “ethnic heritage” requirement and are somehow okay to want to preserve. The problem is that the ethnic culture I belong to is also and inescapably a religious culture, rooted in the church.
A long time ago, in graduate school, I mentioned my religious/ethnic identity to another student who jokingly responded, “Well, you’re doing a good job of hiding it.” Either I was being accused of hypocrisy, or I didn’t match their stereotype, or I was being complimented for concealing something shameful or at least distasteful. Or maybe it was none of these, but I came away feeling that a significant part of who I am was something to withhold. No one wants to hear about it.
It’s hard to be a professing, feminist Christian in a secular institution whose modern history goes hand in glove with the rise of liberal individualism. It’s hard, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t suffer from the delusion that I am persecuted because we have a holiday party in our department every December. It doesn’t bother me when colleagues or students openly criticize the church, or the Christian tradition. I do it myself in lectures all the time. My specialization in Victorian literature means I’m constantly teaching texts that were authorized by discourses of Christian imperialism and the civilizing mission and I make sure my students recognize this and have language to critique it. The thought of using the classroom as a place to profess my religious beliefs practically gives me hives. I have never tried to “save” anyone. I have never tried to fool myself that my faith gives me some kind of special glow.
But the main reason I don’t talk about church when I’m at work is because our lives outside of work are irrelevant there. I know this because of feminism. In the same way that the work of social reproduction done by women on the second shift is hidden when we are at our “real jobs,” so too is my secret life as a church-goer. Just as the hours I spend raising my children “don’t count” (and are an impediment to my productivity at work), neither does the work I do for the church. And I’ve done a lot. In the past ten years I have served on numerous church committees, taught faith formation classes to children and adults, been appointed as the church librarian, attended countless evening meetings in other people’s homes, written articles for my local church newsletter and our denomination’s national paper, planned and led worship services, delivered sermons (or whatever you’d call them), organized women’s retreats, cooked meals for congregants who are ill or facing death, and a bunch of other things. I have taken on this unpaid work willingly and even joyfully. I have spent most Sunday mornings in church when I might have been writing articles and book chapters. I have sacrificed work time (evenings and weekends) to Sabbath time.
At work I often feel guilty about my modest research record. At church I feel proud to talk about my teaching and research. Calling myself an academic at church brings me social capital; calling myself a church-goer at work diminishes it. So much of what I do at church (teaching, writing, committee work, organizing, community building) are skills that I transfer from my job, but investing those skills at church isn’t recognized by my job. In fact some of my colleagues would see it as a contemptible waste of time that could be better spent being “productive” at work. So I do a good job of hiding it. If I try to make visible the work I do for the church, I am in danger of being branded a lunatic–of being, quite literally, a bad faithacademic feminist.
 And while my feminist colleagues make visible the kinds of socially reproductive labour we do as women (through blogs like Hook and Eye), there is very little room for talking about—confessing to—the other kinds of work we do when we’re not being productive in the narrow sense of fulfilling tenure and promotion requirements and achieving metrical excellence.
It feels scary to admit this because of the pressure to “love” my work—to sacrifice my leisure time, and often my family’s time—to work time. The Do What You Love mantra has been thoroughly internalized by academics; we have put our faith in our work because we believe in it; we believe it is worth doing even when the rest of the world doesn’t recognize its importance, and even when many of us don’t receive a living wage, job security, or the respect of our employers. Our emotional vocabulary about our work—love, sacrifice, faith, belief—is the same vocabulary we use in church.
But the difference between unpaid academic work and unpaid church work is that while my employer can invite me to leave at any time if I don’t conform at least minimally to the market-driven academy’s ever-increasing demands on my time and my love, (or even if I do), my religious faith and the church that gives it expression and coherence will never ask me to leave. My employer is not interested in me or my family, only in the value it can extract from me. It wants only my excellence. Church is interested in all of me, and will take as much or as little as I give it. It sees even my faults and failings—my bad habits—as something to be loved. At its core, church is a rejection of precarity.
Jan Schroeder goes to church in Ottawa and works at Carleton University.
commute · feminism · running

Experiments in Walking While Feminist

Earlier this year, I read about Beth Breslaw’s experiments with walking in public and male entitlement. Breslaw decided that she would stop moving out of the way when a) she was walking down the appropriate side of the sidewalk, and b) someone was not walking down the appropriate side of the sidewalk and directly in her way. I decided to take her up on the challenge of doing the same on my twice-daily walks to and from the office, and during my weekend errand runs around the Annex and down to Kensington Market (which is packed with pedestrians). 
Here’s what will come as not even a little bit of a surprise. Entitlement is alive and well on the sidewalk. When I don’t move–and I can’t do this every day, because it’s exhausting–I get slammed. Repeatedly. When another walker and I are on a collision course, I apparently become invisible and my personal space completely disappears. And it doesn’t matter how much or little of my side of the sidewalk I’m taking up. I can be essentially on the curb and I still get body checked. Women also fail to yield, but men are much (much) more likely not to move over. A number of snarky articles took offense at New York Magazine’s decision to call this “manslamming,” and called into question the legitimacy of Breslaw’s experiment. Hers (nor mine) stand up to any kind of rigorous examination as scientific experiments, but they don’t need to–at least one of the many walking studies in the 1970s demonstrated exactly what we both experienced: “when two pedestrians passed closely to another, the majority of women turned away from the other walker, while the majority of men turned toward the opposing pedestrian.”
What gives? Breslaw makes the connection between failing to yield and manspreading, or what we might think of more generally as the male entitlement to fully bodily inhabit public space, and I think she’s right. One of the reasons that I was so desperate to give up my subway commute was the back pain it was causing me–men felt entitled to sit fully back in their narrow seats, shoulders spread, and I was getting chronic back pain from squeezing between them and having my shoulders pushed forward the entire hour-long ride. When I did attempt to take up my full allotted amount of space on public transit, I experienced the same pushback, subtle and unsubtle, that women continually report in every story about manspreading ever written. The same pushback I get on the sidewalk. 
What I really wonder is how I failed to notice for more than thirty years of my life that my seemingly straight-lined walks were actually continual feints, dodges, and weaves. When I’m not refusing to move, I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy moving, repeatedly, multiple times a minute, for people who have decided that my half of the sidewalk is their rightful space. The distance between my starting point and destination on a map does not equate with how far I actually walk, because all of my weaving adds up to a significant addition. Interestingly, the same is not true for when I’m out running. Perhaps its simply because I choose not to run during rush hour, or on streets that I know will be crowded, but my GPS tracker normally lines up with the distance on the map at the end of a run–I haven’t feinted my way to an extra half kilometre. I wonder, though, if it’s because “athlete” registers differently in public than just “woman.” 
Despite how frustrating, and sometimes painful, keeping up this experiment sometimes gets, I still refuse to move on at least a few of my walks a week. I really doubt that the men who bash into me are learning anything from the experience, although I hope they might. But mostly I do it for the same reason that I do power poses before an interview–to remind myself that my body is entitled to its share of space in the world, and that to step aside or hunch my shoulders or compress myself into a smaller space does make me smaller, does disempower me, does change how I experience being me in the world. And I’m not down with that. 
best laid plans · change · CWILA · feminism · writing

Setting Intentions to a Soundtrack

Just before we took a hiatus for the holiday season Margrit noted that it is something of an unofficial Hook & Eye imperative tradition to create lists. And she’s right, of course, to rethink the ways in which those lists become tools not for tracking goals and accomplishments, but rather for self-flagellation later in the year. When the high of being well-rested, fed by time with loved one (or just time away from the quotidian routine) has been worn down by a demanding term that drains that energy despite our best laid plans, well, we tend to focus on what we didn’t accomplish. Indeed, part of what we do here at the blog in our own individual ways, is to be public with our struggles as well as our successes.

It makes sense, really, that we are so list-oriented here. Several of us have noted year in and year out that in the education system we are afforded not one moment for setting intentions, but two. Whether you’re a tenure-track professor or permanent college faculty, a graduate student, a post-doc, a contract worker, a sessional, an alt-ac worker, or working in the library or university press (& the list goes on) September is the “New Year,” January is for resetting intentions, and May is for lofty goals in both research and refuelling.

Except, of course, those different engagements with the education system I just listed are not the same, are they?

As you may remember, the end of the regular term last spring marked a substantial transition for me. For the first time in six years I went from full employment (either as a sessional teaching a 4/4/2 load, or as a contract employee on a salary) to virtual unemployment. It was, as I have alluded here, a blow both emotionally and financially. There’s much to say about how the Canadian political and social systems are messed up, certainly, but lucky for me I qualified for Employment Insurance. Though, for the purposes of this blog we need to consistently remember that very few precariously employed sessionals, recent graduates, and postdocs rarely qualify for EI. Anyhow, what I am getting at is this: I have lived, trained, and worked in the post-secondary education system for thirteen years now. Put differently, the impulse to reset intentions in January runs high. But it is different this year. I find myself thinking about how to positively set intentions (ok, write lists. I love a list.) without hanging on to the injustices, disappointments, devastations, and distractions that keep me from really moving forward?

Let me give you an example by looking at what I did with my time in the fall. In August my partner and I moved back to Halifax where he took up a two-year contract. I team taught a really cool course that I designed with my co-teacher a few years ago. Neat, but it also only took up a small bit of my time. What else did I do? Well, a lot as it turns out. CWILA launched its third annual Count which was 80% larger than ever before. As Chair of the Board it was my responsibility to work with the Board, the Count Director, and all the incredible volunteers to make this data public. I worked with essayists, a translator, and teams of editors. And when the narratives of abuses of mentorship in the Canadian literary community began to surface I wrote an essay on mentorship. And then the dam broke. #GamerGate didn’t so much as happen as it continued to occur and became more and more public. Anita Sarkeesian was threatened again and campus police in Utah pleaded inability to do anything about it because gun licenses trump women’s safety. Ghomeshi tried to spin Canadian’s reception of his abuses through his preemptive and manipulative Facebook post. Then Lucy DeCoutere showed us what bravery looks like. Then more women followed. And then, just before the winter break, very close to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, news of the Dalhousie Dentistry “Gentlemen’s Club” broke. What does any of this have to do with me? Well, like many of you this onslaught was triggering. It consumed my thoughts. It was–and is–distracting and distressing. As Chair of CWILA it also meant that I had people asking what we as an organization were going to do. And so, we consulted, asked, and are now putting the final touches on a crowd-sourced project we’re calling Love, Anonymous. The project required a privacy officer–someone to receive, edit, and make anonymous all the submissions that narrativized experiences of gender-based violence and discrimination. That person was me. So for November and December I spent many many hours reading people’s stories of abuse, writing to them, and developing trust.

I also did some freelance work for another university, co-organized a conference, presented at another conference, and applied for a few jobs. Actually, I obsessed over the need to find a job more than any other thing I did (except work with the anonymous submissions). I fretted. I paced. I gnashed teeth and tore garments. I spent more time on worrying about needing a job, not having a job, where-will-I-ever-find-a-job-style-wailing than I did writing. And friends, writing is what I had wanted to do this fall.

So here is my intention for 2015: I am going to, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, work to shake off the all-consuming ennui of finding a full-time job in the academy. No, I’m not ceasing to look. I’m just going to try to let that fretfulness go. I want to write. I want to find things besides teaching that nourish me and fulfill me, because I don’t have much teaching at all. I want to focus on things other than what I don’t have.

And so, to start this new year, I give you a catchy soundtrack for your Monday. Here’s to you all, readers, and especially to those of you who, like me, have bits of 2014 to shake off.

being undone · coming out · family · feminism · politics

Identity Trouble

Have y’all read this? It’s long, but oh-so-good: Jordana Rosenberg’s captivating essay-cum-personal memoir on making sense of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble as a young lesbian whose conservative mother cannot accept her sexuality. It’s a tale of abandonment, grief, confusion, and self-doubt, and anything I say about it here cannot really do it justice. Beyond the sheer pathos and engagability of her story, I think it admirable that Rosenberg deploys the notoriously jargony pages of Butler’s prose as an element in her life-narrative and struggle, thus challenging the artificial divide between critical and personal we as scholars tend to maintain. Further, she opens a space for “unknowing” as a crucial political and academic act, urging her students and her readers to embrace texts and situations that we don’t understand, which would allow us to internalize the value of risk, of humility, of un-understanding the world. Only once we learn to extend ourselves into unfamiliar situations will we learn to truly become ourselves and enact political transformation. The idea of empowerment as rooted in our own epistemological undoing is, I think, highly radical.

Rosenberg got me thinking about the issue of how open we should be to our parents, family, nonacademic relations, people we love: not just regarding our sexuality, but also regarding such potentially objectionable things as feminism, atheism, leftism, advocacy for reproductive rights, whatever. In making this kind of comparison between Rosenberg’s coming out and other kinds of coming out, I in no way mean to imply that the different forms are equal: sexual politics hold a particular transgressive valence for most conservative folk, and emerging LGBTQ people often meet with more violence than emerging feminists. Personally, I will never be disowned for my political beliefs, though I might still be faced with the pain of wounding people I love and possible subsequent alienation. Outing oneself is something we tend to applaud and support at all costs, and I am often ashamed to admit that I have not expressed to eveeyone the extent of how much my beliefs and convictions have evolved in the last few years. Interestingly, however, Rosenberg expresses an at least initial sense of regret after having come out to her mother: she claims that she “decided the whole project of coming out had been bankrupt – that [she] had been misled by identity politics into a contraction of the political field to the microuniverse of the bourgeois family.” She never mentions whether the clashing of these two very different worlds in the name of identity politics is something she ultimately supports, but her lifelong struggle with communicating with and forgiving her mother may give us some indication of how she felt. We are not left with a sense of redemption and self-discovery here; her story seems to answer the question of “Does it get better?” with a resounding “….not really.”

Perhaps, then, honesty is not always the best policy–especially involving cases that might incur irreparable damage upon your relationships and your future, and lead family members into believing you may be a lost cause, or into fearing for your soul. For me, it is an ongoing challenge to negotiate my identity as scholar and daughter, and deciding when it might be appropriate for my various selves to be made available to my various worlds at various times. So to the broader question: how do we ethically maintain our pursuit of feminist politics within the academy while minimizing emotional damage and trauma incurred upon people we love (who actually may believe we’re going to hell if they knew the extent of it! Can you imagine believing that about someone??)? How do we cultivate our identities as ethical scholars and loving daughters? What selves and what bodies should we exhibit to the different communities of which we are a part?

These questions do not have easy answers, just as Gender Trouble commits itself to refusing (or troubling) easy answers as well. As Rosenberg observes, Gender Trouble “has to be hard” because you

have to subject yourself to the difficulty of its language in order to begin to unstitch the only-seemingly coherent logic of gender, order, and discourse that you have grown accustomed to, that has been made natural to you – no, through which you, your gender, has been made to seem natural. 

And so we are back to an issue I’ve blogged about before: the issue of committing ourselves to difficult language and struggling through our complicated networks of desires, relationships, and responsibilities. Reading Gender Trouble for the first time has to be hard–and so does composing our intersecting identities as scholars, daughters, wives, partners, mothers, teachers, and feminists. I’m trying, and good lord I might be failing in all sorts of ways, but that is all part of the impossible quest to discover the evasive and forever deferred “I.”

And I wonder if other readers have similar struggles.

celebrity · feminism

Defining Feminism

Lately I have been thinking about my definition of feminism.

As an early 20’s female, I find that it is constantly evolving and changing shape. I am actively searching for role models who exemplify strong, independant women who are able to have a family, children, even the white picket fence and still hold true to their feminist roots by being change makers and front line drivers in their career and society.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to look much beyond Hook & Eye as most of the women who write or read these posts are exactly that.

When I found the following photo online, I knew I needed to share it in my next post.

I loved these quotes and I greatly admire the women who spoke them. I have added them to my growing stack of literature, quotes and figures who are influencing my view of feminism.

What are some of your favourite quotes on feminism? Who are some of your female role models?

feminism · politics · resolution · saving my sanity

Remind me I’m a feminist

A few weeks ago, I completely forgot about the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. My forgetting was of course short lived as my numerous social media feeds started trending with memorial posts, but the point is, for a very brief few moments, I completely forgot about the anniversary, about the event, about violence against women…

In discussing this with friends, a few of them joked that what every good feminist needs is an email reminder that they are a feminist. Maybe an online service [www.remind_me_i’m_a_feminist.com] that would compile all of the important dates and events and send out email alerts and news digests.

The darkly comical element here is that one shouldn’t need reminding. Our feminist consciousness should never be that far away. And yet, sometimes we will it into the background. I am sure I am not the only feminist out there that has had her friends complain about a propensity to make every social event/pub night/movie outing into some kind of “feminist thing.” My powers of feminist observation are never far from being unleashed at any given time and place. However, I have also learnt to choose my battles, and that not every event welcomes such politics. This has been a hard lesson to learn, and I’ve definitely alienated a few friends and family members who – for their own reasons – are not particularly enthused by feminist politics.

What I am trying to come to terms with is the difference between “choosing my battles” and forgetting them. There is a certain social convenience that comes with overlooking our feminist politics. What dates like December 6th (or horrific events like the shooting of Malala, or protests like Chief Spence’s hunger strike) reinforce is that the personal needed to become political for very good reasons. Our feminist foremothers knew what they were on about. It may seem easiest at times to push aside our politics for the sake of our everyday sanity, but it is in the everyday that these politics are most profound – in the fight to go to school, to walk the streets unharassed, and  to live with dignity in a safe, warm, and permanent home.

I’m resolving to re-engage with my everyday feminist politics. To remember more forcefully that the personal is political.

feminism · public humiliation

On Surviving Public Humiliation

Recently I went to a guest lecture by an Internal Medicine Doctor that promised to examine the latest treatments, remedies and aids for cancer.

I situated myself on the inside of the second or third row and expected a long evening of power points but instead I got a personal dose of public humiliation.

The doctor took the stage and proceeded to lament lifestyle choices that lead everyone to cancer and searching for an audience scapegoat, let his eyes land on the young blonde student on the inside of the third row.

He left the stage, walked to where I was seated and proceeded to critique everything about my health from my nail beds, to the fold of flesh on my abdomen, to my thighs, my tongue and the circles under my eyes until he had rendered me a walking cesspool of disease without my consent.

Now, I would not hold myself up as exemplary, but I ran 4 years of varsity cross country, eat my vegetables and try and grab a good night of sleep here and there so I have been doing a lot of thinking of why he chose me. There were plenty of gentlemen my age and health level in the audience, fitting the description I am sure he was looking for. Why did he feel that a female fulfilled his agenda more sufficiently than a male audience member?

As he left me to return to the stage, I sat there with a burning face trying to decide what was the best reaction to something like this: was leaving the lecture a weaker decision than staying in my seat? By staying, was I supporting his actions?

I chose to remain in my seat, burning with indignation. I have a sister who has struggled with a life threatening eating disorder for the past decade and have watched many friends deal with the same insecurities, so WHY is it considered admissible for a male doctor to publicly pick apart a young female in a crowded room in front of complete strangers in the name of science? In a presentation where a simple power point example would have been sufficient, I was left wondering how some of my feminist heroes would have responded (including my mother, who I am sure would have given this doctor the finger shaking of his life.)

I step off my soapbox for the moment to ask you, Reader, how would you have reacted?