Tag

equality

Browsing

Former PM Kim Campbell denounces sleeveless anchors

In a tweet on Feb. 13, former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell made a comment about television news anchors and their choice or wardrobe. “Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas,” she said in the social media post, referring to female broadcasters who choose to wear sleeveless outfits.

The article Campbell references is a blog post written by Dr. Nick Morgan, a speaking coach, on his own private website. According to Morgan, a sleeveless outfit for women or a casual looking t-shirt for men will mean people won’t think you are as smart as you are. “We humans are pretty simple creatures,” he writes. “If you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body.  If you’re wearing lots of clothing, we’re going to think about your mind.”

The blog post goes on to suggest people should spend “real money” at “a high-end fashionista place” prior to an interview or speaking engagement. Morgan mentions a study that compares photographs of naked and half-naked women and asks people about how competent they think they are. Ironically, the article was then tweeted out by Informed Opinions, a handle that aims “to ensure diverse women’s perspectives and priorities are equitably integrated into Canadian society.” That is how Canada’s former PM found the piece.

Let us first address the research — wearing a sleeveless dress is different than wearing a bra and nothing else. Therefore, I don’t think the study referenced in the original article provides enough context for the statement made by both Morgan and Campbell. To do so proves that society objectifies women to such a degree that showing shoulders or your arm is essentially equal to a woman being stark naked while presenting the news. Most people would agree this is a ridiculous statement.

The public response to Campbell’s support of this statement was mixed. While it is true that most women are judged 60 per cent by how they look rather than what they say, that way of thinking is not something that should be perpetuated.

What interested me the most was the response from television stylists, who actually urge women to lose the traditional blazer or pantsuit for something more personal. There were others who argued that blazers and long-sleeve shirts were more professional, but the general consensus was that clothing wasn’t an indicator or success or capability. Here are some examples of the response:

Featured Image: Kim Campbell poses nude behind robes in this Barbara Woodley photograph from 1990. (Barbara Woodley/Courtesy Museum of Civilization)

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Gender parity could add $150 billion to Canada GDP

Pushing for gender equality in Canada could add $150 billion in incremental GDP in 2026, or at least that is what a new report released by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) is saying.

The report, entitled The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada, was released earlier this June and outlines a number of things Canada has to do in order to take advantage of this $150 billion opportunity. This includes being more than just a vocal supporter of gender parity.

Too often, companies outline goals for gender diversity on boards or make promises to consider more women in the hiring process — but there is no follow up or accountability. Seventy-five per cent of companies do not track female recruitment or reward leaders for fostering gender diversity. This means there is less accountability and goals of gender parity may actually never be achieved.

The report also indicates only 14 per cent of businesses have “clearly articulated a business case for change” when it comes to considering gender diversity.

Canada is ranked in the top 10 countries of 95 when it comes to women’s equality, but as the report says, “progress towards gender parity has stalled over the past 20 years, and Canada must find anew ways to keep pace.”

More importantly, women should be hired in “high-productivity sectors” such as mining and STEM-related industries. Currently, women only hold 29 per cent of political seats and hold 65 per cent of unpaid care work.

Canada’s GDP growth has slowed to approximately 2 per cent a year, according to the Canadian government. The report shows that unless Canadian businesses make a significant investment in women and continue to grow this rate will remain stagnate.

“A significant part of the solution is for Canada to tap into the vast unrealized potential of women. Accelerating progress toward gender equality is not only a moral and social imperative; it would also deliver a growth dividend.”

In order to see this GDP growth, businesses will not only have to hire more women (create 650,000 more jobs), but they also will need to raise the number of hours worked by female employees and raise productivity levels. The analysis found that the structure of each province’s economy had little factor into the state of gender inequality. Rather, it was formal policies that mandate quotas for women on boards of Crown corporation and universal child-care programs that determined economic gender inequality.

Women, the report says, are willing to work. Unfortunately, there are a number of barriers that either prevent them from doing so, or prevent them from growing in their role.

“This research highlights best practices in Canadian companies that others can emulate. But initiatives need to be implemented holistically and effectively, and measures to tackle gender imbalance in companies only work if they are considered to be a true business imperative. Changing attitudes takes time, and persistence is vital,” says Sandrine Devillard, a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Montreal office, in a statement.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take too much time to change. Gender parity within the workplace is vital to both the social and economic success of this country — and yet, there are still gender gaps when it comes to positions of power, both in the private and public sector. How many reports like this are necessary before those with the power to do something actually change?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below! 

Ontario tries to empower women, but ends up with stale report

Engaging empowered women in Ontario is getting more political airtime, with more focus on the “status of women” in legislature. But will it have the desired impact of actually helping women in Ontario?

The province released an engagement paper on June 9 that describes the ways in which the government wants to increase women empowerment and close the wage gap. The paper includes a survey with questions about youth, economic opportunities, social attitudes, and leadership. These are significant issues for women and addressing them is important — as long as it is for and about the women in Ontario, instead of an election issue to win votes with no real purpose.

The survey asks Canadian citizens what they believe is the most important component to women’s empowerment via a series of detailed questions. The issue with the survey is that it offers several reasons why women don’t have complete equality in Ontario and doesn’t mandate the survey-taker to choose which issue is the most important on every question. This allows the people taking the survey to choose every issue and not specify what subject matters should be tackled first. It is fairly obvious that each of the four goals specified in the report is important, but asking if all of them are important is redundant. This is often seen in government surveys and makes a democratic and potentially helpful questionnaire essentially pointless.

Though Ontario is making strides with women, the efforts thus far is limited. For example, the province has committed to help 100,000 children obtain licensed child care over the next five years, but the subsidy waiting list in Toronto alone is 18 months long. There are also efforts to help 1700 low-income women gain financial literacy training, but there are thousands of women who still need help to gain education and training to move up in the world. Needless to say, more is needed and it shouldn’t be based on fulfilling commitments five years down the road, but should be fulfilled now.

The report is well-minded, but still lends itself to words such as “encouraging women to explore different careers”, and “supporting continued career progression”, but lacks specific goals with targeted language. Though it is important to “encourage” and “support”, women need action and specific goals with a ready-made budget instead of a tentative report and survey. Often, talking about women empowerment is seen as enough action when credible and supported goals need to be met to actually close the wage gap and promote women equality.

Women’s economic empowerment is a primary concern in Ontario and needs to be addressed with affirmative action as soon as possible. Between reports, surveys, and loosely mandated changes, there remains a gap on giving childcare to all women who need it so they can work. Pay wage gaps must also be addressed immediately, and board positions should be mandated to have 50/50 representation.  The engagement paper is yet another shining example of the government using ‘status of women’ to appease female voters — what will it take to get the real support and action women need?

What to take away from the Women’s March on Washington

It started out as a mere Facebook event created by a few, ordinary women looking to voice their opinions following the unpredictable 2016 presidential election back in November. What arose  in the next few months turned into a record-breaking global demonstration, with an estimated five million people, with confirmed numbers yet to be announced, taking part throughout the U.S alone.  Although it was generated as a response to the incoming Trump administration, it exceeded all expectations in turn-out and universal messaging. Almost 700 rallies took place in all 50 states of the US, including our very own city of Toronto, in addition to every continent in the world. 

What started off as a march intended to protest on women’s issues quickly expanded into a human rights movement, highlighting key issues pertaining to people of colour (PoC), the LGBTQ community, immigrants rights, economic participation, the criminal justice system and disability rights, to name a few. As stated by many speakers at the march, women’s issues cannot be compacted into the stereotypical bubbles of reproductive justice or sexual violence. Although these are incredibly important issues, they are not the sole focus of a complex and diverse gender. Whether  you were at home watching powerhouses like Angela Davis,  Alicia Keys, Van Jones and many others speak and perform, or on the streets marching, rest assured that the Women’s March on Washington and seven continents over is currently being deemed the largest U.S-centric protest in history

And while that is a huge reason to celebrate the solidarity and unity of humanity, particularly sisterhood, it is equally important to look at the steps that need to take place following this historical movement, as well as to reflect on the history of peaceful demonstrations and the array of responses they receive.  So, as a sister invested in the movement and a proud WoC, I have a few friendly requests for fellow sisters and transwomen and other allies who want to see positive change going forth from this historic uprising.

Ground your work in understandings of intersectionality and the dynamics between privilege and power. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of pink “pussy hats’’, bold posters and  empowering chants. There is more to solidarity than just showing up for one day. Unfortunately, despite the physical unity and solidarity that was witnessed by hundreds of thousands over the weekend, marches such as this cannot deem us as sisters – at least, not yet. In order to identify as ‘sisters’, we’re going to have to respect the long and sometimes violent history of fighting for justice. A fight that it seems minority groups have taken on by themselves. The fact is, women of colour and other marginalized folk have faced challenges long before Trump and his cronies came into power. The oppression that we hear about goes beyond any one president.

The need to start having real conversations about institutional violence and where other women come in to further the oppression of other sisters, even if it’s unintentional is more important than ever. It is something that needs to be acknowledged. Yes, there were millions on the streets and it’s about damn time, but ask yourself this – where were these crowds when black and brown bodies were being murdered and abused in broad daylight? Where were these protests when Indigenous lands and waters were being threatened and destroyed? If it’s one thing that this march showcased, it’s that the strength isn’t in the numbers, but in listening and respecting stories of the many issues and forms of violence that affect all of us.

It’s just a matter of paying attention.

I’m going to take a moment to specifically speak to my white sisters who are just joining us in the fight for equitable justice: your solidarity and intentions, while sincere, are not always going to be trusted, at least not right away. As stated by the New York Times, ninety-four percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Sixty-eight percent of Latina women did so. But 53 percent of the white female voters in the United States voted for Donald Trump. Your white privilege has offered you many cushions against racial, economic and law enforcement violence. There were no arrests at the women’s march, barely any suspicion on the motivations of the attendees from security personnel.

If this needs to be made any more clear, all we need to do is look at the #J20 protests that took place on inauguration day. Protesters, mainly people of colour, were tear gassed and confronted with military-style interventions during their marches. Be critical of what it means to be a true ally – show up not just when your rights and values are threatened, but when other communities’ existences and humanity are questioned and attacked, as well. Help us. But, before jumping into action, please take the time to ask other groups what they think is the best way forward. Don’t just assume what they need. 

To everyone else; remember, protests look to make a statement. It’s not a trendy activity that you do on a Saturday afternoon. Sure, #womensmarch was trending worldwide on social media, but a movement does not take place overnight. Do not let the hashtag die down. Using hashtags as a buzzword, which is what happens with a lot of other movements (i.e #BLM), undermines the meaning and power behind it. A hashtag is not to be used for the benefits of retweets and shares, but to bring forth hard conversations, not just virtually, but in your daily lives. A hashtag, a representation of the greater movement, let’s voices be heard – often those voices which are systematically silenced.  

To show true solidarity, it’s important to remember that resistance looks very different to many women across the spectrum. Sometimes it isn’t just about the right to make choices over our bodies, but for many others, it is a constant fight to survive. This fight didn’t start with the Women’s March on Washington – but for many generations. It’s time to propel ourselves, together, into the next stages of true intersectional feminism.

My sisters and I need you. Are you here for us?

What I want to tell my child on International Day of the Girl

Yesterday I watched my five-year-old daughter trek through a field of long grass almost as tall as her, marching valiantly with her walking stick and determined to forge her own path. It hit me how strong women really are, even when we are small girls. She may be mini, but she is mighty and I will protect her with everything I have to give.

Unfortunately there are some girls in the world today that don’t have the opportunities that my daughter has in this world. Imagine a small girl with no healthcare, education, or parents to protect her. This nightmare exists and isn’t just the stuff of some grim horror movie. Looking at my daughter, I am confounded that things such as child marriage or female mutilation are realities. It is a good first step that International Day of the Girl was launched in 2011 to recognize the importance of advocating on behalf of girls everywhere. It is a day that has made me realize how lucky my daughter is that she was born into a country where she has opportunities. Why would any little girl deserve less than another simply because of her nationality? Her ethnicity? Her gender?

International Day of the Girl was declared on December 19 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN adopted Resolution 66/170 to make October 11 a day that recognizes girls’ rights and the importance of advocating on their behalf. International Day of the Girl also focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a series of objectives on behalf of the UN to make the world a better place.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 focuses on achieving gender equality and empowerment for all girls and women. A few of the Goal 5 targets include ending all forms of discrimination for woman and girls, ending violence, eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, giving equal access to government roles, and providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health.

The percentage of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before 18 years old dropped from 32 per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent in 2015. Marriage of girls who were younger than 15 also dropped from 12 per cent in 1990 to seven per cent in 2015. Female genital mutilation has dropped slightly, but it still continues to be a relevant problem in certain countries — there is unfortunately limited data. In 30 countries that had data available, one in three girls have undergone the practice as compared to 1 in 2 girls in the 1980s. More information is needed on this issue to truly understand the scope of female genital mutilation though.

Another statistic: globally, women speakers in national parliament accounts for 18 per cent of all speakers as of January 2016, with 49 out of 273 posts globally.

There is clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to create a safe world for girls everywhere. International Day of the Girl is a step towards highlighting the importance of these issues, but world leaders need to take more than one day to recognize the challenges, obstacles, and atrocities these young girls deal with every day. I can only hope that I will one day be able to tell my daughter that child marriage, female genital mutilation, child marriage and unequal representation in parliament are things of the past, and that we can finally live in a world of equality for girls around the world.

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

 

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

An exploration into the world of Pansexuality

“Gender identity is diverse and there are no binaries. Look into the etymology of “gender” and the word itself means nothing more than genre or kind,” says pansexual and transgender advocate, Sabbina Gibson. “This kind of binary perspective on it has been opposed and imposed on us. As a pansexual, all genders are embraced, not both. It is not one or the other.”

Gibson is a transgender woman living in Toronto. Taking a break to talk to me from personal training at Pursuit OCR, an adult obstacle course located at a converted industrial building in Parkdale, I begin to understand the hurdles Gibson and other pansexuals have to climb to help others understand their sexuality.

“Pansexuality is something that people are becoming more aware of, that more people will be able to identify with, and as a result they will not keep it in the closet. Then it will be able to be discussed openly,” says Gibson.

The first step to discussing pansexuality openly is understanding exactly what it means to each individual person within the context of their lives, and what the word means as a sexual label.

“I think sexual labels need to be defined by the communities and people who use them. We can’t define other people’s identities. In my health research I use a definition of pansexuality that draws on the etymology of the word (“pan” means “all” in Greek),” says PhD researcher for indigenous health and sexuality, Margaret Robinson.

Pansexuality is defined as a sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender. The term is becoming increasingly recognized in modern society, but still confuses many people. Understanding the label is a primary step to embracing this type of sexual marker and allows people to further identity with it.

Gibson says that heterosexuals look for a person with particular character traits, similar to a pansexual, but the physical aspects that a person looks for can be very superficial.

Gibson adds, “Someone who is pansexual may have an attraction to physical traits, but an attraction in someone’s personality becomes much more overarching than just a person’s appearance or a specific focus on someone’s genitals.”

Gibson also notes that her experience as a transgender woman has played a part in her identity as a pansexual because it can be difficult to find a partner.“Being pansexual, I don’t have gender preference as a way to increase my odds of finding somebody,” she says. “At this point, I don’t care who it is in terms of their gender as long as I mesh with them on an emotional and personal level.”

Logan Facette, a practicing pansexual from Calgary, AB. agrees with Gibson’s definition of pansexuality. He places emphasis on a person’s personality rather than their gender.

“My sexuality happens with the changing of the seasons. I never know who I’m going to be attracted to at any specific moment,” says Facette.

Facette is an open and outgoing person and is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, having suffered from epilepsy himself. His favourite saying is “the only disability is a bad attitude,” and he is confident in his identity as a pansexual, demonstrating how irrelevant the need to justify sexuality really can be.

“I really don’t know why I’m pansexual.  I don’t need to justify it. I need to be confident in what my mind is telling me,” he says. “This person is hugely attractive and I don’t need to know what their gender is.”

Facette is also married and monogomous. “My partner is female. She has the same attractions as I do. I am very free-flowing with my sexuality and is something I really wanted in my partner,” he explains. “There needs to be total honesty and communication in the relationship. I quickly learned I wasn’t comfortable with being “bi”. I kept looking and I came upon pansexuality.”

University of Toronto professor of philosophy of sexuality, Ronald De Sousa, emphasizes the importance of drawing the distinction between bisexuality and pansexuality to further understand the meaning of “all” in the Pan identifier. “Pan requires thinking of people without bringing in their gender. Bisexuals may be distinguished because they may not be open to people that are in-between genders,” says De Souza.

Bisexuality is defined as an attraction to the same and different, but is often termed as an attraction to two specific genders rather than all genders. That being said, Robinson notes the difference between the two types of sexual labels leads some people to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, which is not the case.

“There’s been a tendency in some circles to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, but that ignores the reality of bi communities, our trans-inclusive history, and it ignores the trans people who identify as bi. I’m bisexual because I have attraction to people with the same gender as me and also to people with genders different from my own,” says Robinson. “Identity is contextual. Identifying as bisexual connects me with specific communities, particular histories, and particular values. I fit the definition of pansexual, but I don’t use that label.”

Pansexuality also attempts to overcome the common correlation of gender and sexuality, rather than specifying sexual orientation towards genders in any way.

Gender is defined as “the state of being female or male, with reference to cultural differences rather than biological ones.” Sexuality is defined as “a person’s sexual orientation or preference”. Too often, gender and sexuality are blended into the same meaning.

“How absurd is it to filter all of your sexual partners within the criteria of gender,” says De Souza. “Freud said, ‘Heterosexuality is much in need of questioning.’ I agree because people’s sexuality should be free. It shouldn’t be bound by heterosexual monogamous relationships. Gender and sexuality have nothing to do with humans in any way except by these ideas about what you are supposed to do as a woman and a man.”

Gibson agrees. “Gender and sexuality is too intertwined for people to distinguish what the difference is. Even in the LGBTQ culture,” she says. “There is not just one gender or the other, and there is no distinct boundary. Gender becomes a grey area and an expression of a much more complex human nature.”

Over the last century, the discursive space to discuss different types of sexualities and labels across the spectrum has increased substantially. With the wake of feminism in the 1970s, sexuality became a prevalent topic and though homophobia still persists, heterosexuality is no longer seen as the only mode of sexuality in western society.

Robison further explains there are a few generations of women and men interested in enforcing gender binaries, which opens up the space to more gender fluid expressions of sexuality. Potentially, the next possible wave of change in the world of sexuality of understanding is the eradication of the need to label sexuality into a category at all.

“The point here is not about whether you are hetereosexual, bisexual, homosexual or pansexual. The reality is that if you are human, you are just simply sexual,” says Gibson. “How you categorize it and contextualize it is your individual decision.”

Ireland Says Yes!

More than half of the country voted yes to same sex marriage last week, making Ireland the 20th country to legally embrace homosexuality.

“Today Ireland made history,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said at a news conference, adding that “in the privacy of the ballot box, the people made a public statement.”

“This decision makes every citizen equal and I believe it will strengthen the institution of marriage,” Mr. Kenny said.

To celebrate, here is a list of the 20 countries that has legalized gay marriage:

The Netherlands (2000)

Belgium (2003)

Canada (2005)

Spain (2005)

South Africa (2006)

Norway (2009)

Sweden (2009)

Argentina (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Portugal (2010)

Denmark (2012)

Brazil (2013)

England and Wales (2013)

France (2013)

New Zealand (2013)

Uruguay (2013)

Luxembourg (2014)

Scotland (2014)

Ireland (2015)

Finland (effective 2017)