Why celebrating women’s rights without an intersectional lens is meaningless

I wouldn’t go as far as meaningless, and I find intersectionality is too jargony to my taste but of course, one should not celebrate or discuss any group, whether men, women, specific religious or ethnic groups, without consideration and acknowledgement of that diversity.

Ironically, when I analyse economic outcomes of visible minorities compared to not visible minorities, the gaps are larger between visible minority men and not visible minority men than is the case for women as the example looking at second generation 25-34 year olds below illustrates (similar pattern for first generation):

Not that many years ago, four to be precise, a senior journalist was sincerely trying to explain how his newsroom was attempting to diversify its staff.

Job applicants could check one of four boxes, he said. Gender, race, disability and sexual orientation. What box would I check, I wondered out loud.

“Race,” he said. And just like that, he erased major parts of my identity, rendering everything beyond my brown skin invisible.

This was about 25 years after civil rights advocate and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe how people’s identities interact with power to create new forms of discrimination (specifically around Black women) when they overlap, and a few years after it had become a mainstream buzzword.

March 8 was International Women’s Day, a day that sprung from the women’s labour movement and began to be celebrated in many countries since the United Nations’ adoption of it in 1975. It gained a higher profile in recent years following important movements such as #MeToo.

But every day is every woman’s day. Celebrating the fierceness of the suffragettes who helped women win the right to vote doesn’t mean we forget that it was white women who won that right for themselves in Canada, Asians came decades later and that First Nations men and women didn’t have the right to vote until 1960.

If second-wave feminism looked at expanding rights beyond voting, I don’t know how we can celebrate representation in boardrooms and courtrooms without acknowledging that “diversity” initiatives have allowed white patriarchy to bend just enough to accommodate white women.

I don’t know how we can celebrate a narrowing gender wage gap without acknowledging that jobs traditionally done by women, often racialized women — health-care workers, daycare workers, nannies — are undervalued and underpaid. If full-time working women earned on average 75 cents to every dollar earned by a man, racialized and Indigenous full-time working women earned approximately 65 cents.

Women can use their own bodies however they choose, but I don’t know how we can celebrate Femen-type feminists and their topless protests without acknowledging that feminism is often reduced to sexual liberation or that sexual liberation is often reduced to the acreage of skin women expose.

For that matter, I don’t know how we think we’ve got anything close to liberation when women in the richest corporations are most valued when they show up to work looking thin, wearing tight clothes, tall heels and warpaint on their faces. And yeah, not in overly bright colours (too loud), not in overly short skirts (too slutty) or overly long ones (too daggy). Hair is ideally straight with a few waves permitted to flounce up at the bottom. While we’re at it, slow down those promotions if you must keep your hair grey, keep a ’fro or dreadlock or twist it, and heaven forbid you go home every time your kids are sick.

In other words, I don’t know how any reflection on the fight for women’s rights can be authentic unless it is intersectional. By that I don’t mean that we just include the voices of women who continue to be oppressed by identities of race, culture, caste, sexuality and disability.

To hell with “inclusion” and the paternalism inherent in it.

Inclusion is inviting a Black woman at a rally to speak about her experiences in a let’s-expand-our-minds sort of way. In this scenario, her experience — seen as a deviation from the norm rather than central to it — is still in service of non-Black women.

This kind of “inclusion” then allows organizations like the Toronto Public Library to claim diversity of thought and platform voices of those who reject trans women from the fold of womanhood.

On the other hand, true intersectional feminism means radically changing societal structures to put the most marginalized at the centre, making their concerns the first priority.

In this scenario, a discussion around sexual safety would yield not to more policing but less. In her book Invisible No More, Andrea Ritchie outlines how for white women, the concern around sexual assault and domestic violence is around police non-response. For women of colour, that police response is the problem, with too many experiences of officers responding to domestic violence calls sexually assaulting or otherwise violating the person who called for help.

The cases of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girlsare not a sideshow from “mainstream” women’s issues, but central to it.

Prioritize those voices and support structures around sexual assault might start to look more like transformative education for all genders at schools and highly trained, legally empowered social workers might be brought to the front line.

On reproductive rights, if issues such as the forced sterilization of Indigenous women or the dignity of the poorest women were at the centre, the discussion would go beyond condoms and abortion rights. It would lead to a revolutionary battle to keep governments away from our bodies, a fight for free services including legal and medical support, among other solutions.

International Women’s Day: With Shoes And Stones, Islamists Disrupt Pakistan Rally

Sigh….

Demonstrators belonging to Islamist groups attacked an International Women’s Day rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Sunday, hurling rocks, chunks of mud and even their shoes. The demonstrators, who were at a rival rally held by hardline Islamist organizations, were particularly enraged by one slogan the women’s day rally adopted: “mera jism, mera marzi” – “my body, my choice.”

Riot police set up large cloth barricades to dive the rival rallies, which flanked either side of a main road. But the police were also there to protect the women’s day protesters, after the hardline men and women threatened violence.

As the protest was winding down, dozens of men tried to push through the barricade, including a man who held a little girl aloft on his shoulders. According to a video uploaded to Twitter by a BBC reporter, police used batons to push them back. Still, for the next few minutes, they hurled projectiles that scattered the women’s day protesters, as journalists huddled behind concrete road dividers.

The hardline groups, their surrogates and conservative talking heads, took to the airwaves preceding the rally to condemn Pakistani feminists, accusing them of encouraging anti-Islamic vulgarity by raising a slogan that hinted that a woman had the right to do as she pleased.

The tensions even boiled over on a live talk show, where a screen writer swore at a prominent Pakistani liberal after she interrupted him by chanting the slogan. “Nobody would even spit on your body,” he shouted in a clip widely shared on social media.

Conservative lawyers petitioned the courts in Pakistan’s three cities to try ban the women’s marches. One prominent Islamist opposition leader, known as Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, threatened protesters on Feb. 29, warning them not to chant “my body, my choice.” “God willing, we will also come out into the streets, and we will destroy you,” he warned. And a senior teacher at Jamiat Hafsa, a hardline women’s seminary in the Pakistani capital, told NPR her students would halt the march by organizing a rival “modesty march.”

“This is a march to stop that march,” said the woman, who uses the name Bint Azwa (the women at the seminary often use first names or fake names to avoid being identified by security institutions that monitor their activities). “We are not going to let those women march the streets of our country, our neighborhood, with those vulgar chants.”

The violence underscored how hardline Islamist groups played upon conservative outrage over the slogan “my body, my choice,” to assert their presence in the Pakistani capital – and demonstrate their muscle.

The opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman has struggled to find a toehold in Pakistan’s freewheeling politics since his party was forced into opposition. The hardline Jamiat Hafsa was violently shut down in 2007, after a standoff that killed more than 100 people. The women returned to the seminary only this February, and have dared security forces to remove them again.

On Sunday, dozens of the seminary women turned up at the counter-rally, clad in long black robes, headscarves and face veils, segregated from dozens of men who stood in a nearby park. They stood in military-style rows, their fearsome appearance only jarred by blue, green and pink bows pinned to their shoulders, to identify which bus they should return on, explained one 25-year-old, who only gave her first name, Rubina.

“We don’t want women to make choices for their bodies. The choice rests with God,” she said. Nodding toward the women’s day march, she described the women there as “naked.” “These people don’t even wear dupatas,” she exclaimed, referring to the shawl that Pakistani women traditionally drape across their chests to signify modesty.

On the other side, at the women’s march, hundreds of men, women and transgender Pakistanis clustered. Some waved the red flag of a leftist party. Others held up signs, including “my body, my choice,” but they denounced so-called “honor” killings, where men murder their female relatives for bringing alleged shame onto the family. Some demanded to know the fate of female political activists who mysteriously disappeared.

“Pakistan is getting more and more divided over time,” said Ambreen Gilani, a 41-year-old development consultant, gesturing to the Islamists across the road. The opposition to the women’s march helped motivate another protester to turn up, Sukaina Kazmi, a chemical engineer. She gestured to her Muslim headscarf, “Our religion does not teach us any of the things they are standing up against, our religion actually does fight for women’s rights,” she said.

As the protesters regrouped and walked away from the dozens of men trying to assault them, one organizer, Anam Rathor, said the violence underscored why they were demonstrating. “This proves our point, and this movement is growing. And now we will have more people. The reason why they are throwing stones is because they are afraid of us and that makes us happy.”

Source: International Women’s Day: With Shoes And Stones, Islamists Disrupt Pakistan Rally

HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam

Some valid points (e.g., on polygamy, FGM), less so with respect to the hijab:

The usual gusto accompanied International Women’s Day on March 8, with enlightened people of both sexes commending the strides we have made. Women debated our roles in this day and age, and how our lot can be further improved.

Needless to say, even after decades of public conversations on women’s rights, their plight in undeveloped nations has not changed much. In fact, in this politically correct era there are some nominal Western feminists who say too little about the suffering of third world women.

As always, developed countries have fared better. The biggest news is the #MeToo movement, which has prompted public conversations on sexual harassment faced by women in various settings, but especially the workplace. Actions bring reactions, however; while the movement has raised awareness on these issues, some employers may now fear to hire women because they anticipate sexual allegations.

There were already issues specific to Canadian women, such as workplace discrimination and lack of comparable wages — an issue our prime minister addressed at Davos. Accounting for missing and murdered aboriginal women is an enduring problem, as are violence and abuse in these communities.

Radical ideologies also turn many Muslim women into victims, even in Canada. This is most offensive to me, as a Muslim woman. Feminist groups, who usually expound a leftist worldview, have often defended discriminatory practices in the name of a “new feminism.”

An opinion piece by Nakita Valerio on the CBC website states that “New feminism is based on the understanding that there is nothing inherently liberating about one expression over another. Rather, the liberation is in a woman’s choice and part of modern gender equality rests on the acceptance of diverse womanhood on her own terms, regardless of one’s background.”

Really? So, by extension, there is nothing inherently constraining in any expression of womanhood. Therefore, a woman who is self-assured, economically independent and capable of making career choices is no more liberated than one who lives her entire life according to the whims of her husband? A woman who “chooses” to let her husband take a second wife because her religion permits it, and then suffers all the consequences of a polygamous union, is as liberated as one who rejects such an arrangement as repugnant?

Let’s extend this argument. Submission to the requirements of one brand of Islam has convinced some women to support the heinous practice of female genital mutilation. Their understanding of religion has brainwashed them into considering this beneficial. Such a procedure subjects them or their daughters to pain and poor health. Are they more liberated because they have defined their femininity in these terms?

Clothing matters less than mutilation. The niqab and hijab may be “mere” pieces of cloth, but the expectation that women will wear them remains an important issue. The requirement is rooted in patriarchy, and it is hard to accept that any woman who “chooses” to wear these garments has somehow defined her womanhood in a liberated way.

The new feminists have regressed if they do not call out such practices with the fervour of #MeToo. Their silence endorses a way of thinking which keeps countless women in permanent submission.

Next International Women’s Day it would be encouraging if the women’s movement redefined some of its goals as universal rather than relative. Culture can never be an excuse.

via HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam | Toronto Sun

Canadian woman will be on next series of bank notes, Trudeau announces

One has to admire the choreography of this announcement on International Women’s Day with other related elements: the PM’s op-ed in the Globe ( Gender equality is an opportunity, not a threat) and the announcement of DM changes, which included four women (one of whom is visible minority) and one man – because its 2016?:

The image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, Prime Minister Trudeau announced today.

“A Canadian woman will be featured on the very first of the next series of bills expected in 2018,” Trudeau said.

“Today, on International Women’s Day, the Bank of Canada is taking the first step by launching public consultations to select an iconic Canadian woman to be featured on this new bill.”

The government and the Bank of Canada did not indicate which denomination would showcase the iconic female Canadian.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who stood alongside the prime minister with other members of the Liberal caucus and former Mississauga, Ont., mayor Hazel McCallion during the announcement, noted that it is “high time to change.”

“One of the very first things I had the honour of doing as the new finance minister was asking the governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, and his colleagues at the bank whether it’s in fact possible to put a woman on the bank note,” said Morneau.

The finance minister said he was told the central bank had been looking into the possibility for some time and was keen to support the initiative.

Source: Canadian woman will be on next series of bank notes, Trudeau announces – Politics – CBC News