Requiring a woman to wear high heels at work isn’t just sexist — but abusive.
Heeled shoes are painful. Despite how awesome they look and how powerful or pretty they make you feel, there is no scenario in which women will say, in relation to their heels, “these shoes make me feel like I’m walking on a cloud.”
Some women just don’t have the feet for high heels. They may have no arches, wide soles, or legitimate medical problems relating to feet or ankles, all contributing factors in not being able to squish into a narrow and pointy piece of plastic supported only by a skinny rod on one end. The result is blisters, sore callouses, and the potential of a sprained ankle.
Like I said. Forcing women into heels can be harmful. Personally, I only wear high heels to fancy events, job interviews, and sometimes on a night out — but only if those events, job interviews, and evenings out don’t involve a lot of walking. Honestly, I don’t even know why I bother half the time. I can’t imagine wearing heels eight hours a day, every day. Nor would I want to.
British Columbia parliamentarians have taken notice of this fact and are pushing forward legislation that will ban requirements for footwear dress codes based on gender, or more simply put, it would make it illegal for employers to force their female employees to wear high heels in the workplace.
Who wants to move to British Columbia? I can tell you my hand went up.
I am constantly disgusted by the mandatory dress codes in certain industries. When servers or restaurant hostesses are forced into skimpy dresses and clunky high-heel shoes, I always wonder about the safety factor — is it safe for these women to be balancing five drinks, a plate full of steak and potatoes, and a side order of fries, all the while wearing shoes that could be used as a lethal weapon if taken off the foot and thrown at a person’s head?
Or how about when a receptionist for a large law firm is sent home for not wearing the correct foot attire, as happened in the UK. Apparently, this offended the many people who actually stare at a person’s toes while they speak with them.
This is all getting a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Especially in 2017, as more women become decision-makers and obtain positions of power.
I agree that sometimes a dress code is necessary. But, can we also agree there is no job that can be performed better in 5-inch stilettos? What’s wrong with a simple black flat or a working shoe with a very small and thick platform? For goodness sake, what’s wrong with being comfortable AND professional in the workplace?
All of the other provinces in Canada should follow British Columbia and create legislation of their own. There is no need for ridiculous and sexist dress codes in the workplace. If legislation banning them is what’s needed for companies to change their policies, then so be it.
Although, it’s worth being said, that if we need legislation to mandate companies not to force their female employees to dress a certain way, Canada probably isn’t as feminist as it claims to be.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below and sign up for our weekly e-newsletter:
Over the last few months, I’ve slowly been re-watching one of my favourite science-fiction television shows — Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS). Little did I know that just as I opened the first episode of season five (thanks Netflix), I would be surprised by the following announcement.
It is the show’s 20th anniversary.
The 1997 television drama merges high-school comedy and supernatural horror into one successful package. The storyline follows Buffy Summers, “one girl in all the world, a chosen one”, who has the strength to kill vampires and demons and save the world from multiple apocalypses — the plural of apocalypse has never been confirmed, even in the show. “I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.”
Also, did I mention she is 16 and simply trying to get through high school in one piece without revealing her secret identity?
I realize this description may sound cheesy — and ultimately, the first few seasons of the show were just that. But, it was also good television. Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, knew how to merge all these great themes together in a way that made you laugh, cry, and yell at the TV with each plot betrayal. Many of the monsters Buffy fights are metaphors themselves for real-life high school issues. Inappropriate teacher-student relations, peer pressure, online dating, physical abuse, and, of course, teenage romance. All the while kicking serious vampire ass in high heels and a halter-top. Now, that’s female empowerment!
As Buffy grows older, the show introduced a lot adult themes like casual sex, employment, and the effects of alcohol. The characters viewers spent years getting to know started to change and grow. They went off to university, dealt with career transitions, and experienced intense loss. Buffy’s best friend Willow starts to build a relationship with fellow witch Tara in what was my first introduction into lesbianism as a teen. This exploration of sexuality was done in such a subtle and honest way that it just seemed a natural transition for the character, and for the viewers.
What does this all have to do with feminism, you may ask? The whole idea of BTVS was that a young girl, someone who is often overestimated in intelligence and strength, has the ability to conquer the worst evils the world has ever seen. She has boyfriends, sure, but usually she is the one doing the rescuing. As she tells her sister Dawn, “no guy is worth your life, not ever.”
In the end, Buffy becomes the idealistic female superhero. Sure, she has a few male sidekicks and a British father figure to offer guidance, but at the end of the day, it’s Buffy’s plan, her leadership, and her sacrifice that saves the world.
And then, there is the last season (note: serious spoilers ahead).
As Willow and Buffy work together to break the “one chosen one in all the world” curse, her strength and power is transported into all the potential slayers around the world. From the young teenagers fighting the ultimate evil to the six-year-old playing baseball in the park, that energy flows within them, making them stronger and more capable then ever before. Now, it’s up to all of womankind to fight the battle. Could there be a more perfect symbol for female strength and unity?
At the end of the series, she doesn’t get the guy. In fact, she is independent, standing among the rubble of the apocalypse she helped prevent, with her friends and family by her side. She is strong, stoic, and just plain awesome.
If I wrote an article about all the things I learned, and continue to learn, from this amazing 90s television show, it would result in an essay over 10,000 words in length. Every few years, I re-watch BTVS and find something I previously missed. I usually watch it when I need to rejuvenate my sense of purpose or when I’m feeling down after the end of a relationship. Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t just a quirky teenage drama with lovable characters and a few evil vampires to fill in the space. It is a coming of age tale that represented all of the good and bad elements involved in growing up. Underneath the supernatural magic of this television show, BTVS is able to accurately portray the effects of death and trauma on a group of young kids, while still instilling hope in those who were watching it.
Not many television shows nowadays can make that same claim.
All of this is to say, happy 20th anniversary BTVS! I have no doubt that, in another 20 years, people will still be talking about this iconic and empowering series.
Are you a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Let us know what the show means to you below!
March 8 is International Women’s Day. During this time, it’s easy to think back to all of the trials and tribulations women have experienced. Just last week, there was a tragic case in Halifax in which the victim of sexual assault was wronged thanks to an outdated definition of consent. There has been a large investigation into “unfounded” sexual assault cases by the Canadian police. And of course, there is the incredible sexism women are facing in the United States from their own politicians.
No, Women’s Post is not going to focus on that this March 8 (at least, not too much). Instead, Women’s Post is choosing to celebrate this important day by speaking with successful business women, gathering their advice for other women, and learning about who they invest in. Here is a teaser with some of the results:
“A drunk can consent.” This statement was said by Judge Gregory Lenhan following a sexual assault trial in Halifax in which he acquitted a man who was practically caught red-handed trying to have sex with an unconscious woman in the back of his taxi. Those four words have caused a public outcry, and a petition signed by 34,000 people is circulating asking for an inquiry into the judge himself.
Apparently, this whole idea of consent is rather confusing. So confusing that a judge, a man that has dedicated his life to justice and the law, thinks that sexual assault is something that can be decided be given without actually being conscious.
I know — I don’t get it either.
To help, let’s actually define the term consent.
Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied. Seems simple enough, right?
What people tend to forget is that consent is continually. At any point during a sexual encounter, a woman or a man may tell his or her partner to stop — and that partner MUST stop. That is the nature of consent.
Therefore, considering that very basic definition, a person who is incapacitated through alcohol or drugs cannot give true consent.
In the Halifax case, the woman was found unconscious in the vehicle vehicle. She was naked and the taxi driver was found stuffing her pants and underwear into the front seat of his car. His pants were undone. The woman had an alcohol level of 241 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. This would have severely impacted short-term and long-term memory. Staff at the bar where the woman was picked up said she was incredibly drunk and was turned away at the door. That is when she hailed a cab.
Did I mention that her DNA was found in the accused’s mouth?
All of those details together should have resulted in a guilty verdict. Instead, the judge said there was no way to know whether the woman gave consent prior to her losing consciousness, and therefore the man could not be found guilty.
In essence: “a drunk can consent.”
This verdict verges on the ridiculous and unbelievable — and yet, it does not shock me. It doesn’t shock me because, as a woman, I know the judiciary system is not on my side. I know that, in the event of an unwarranted and unsolicited sexual act, it will take even more persuasion to convince a police officer that it was not my fault. And that’s a real shame.
Using the above definition, it is clear, without a doubt, there was no continual consent in the Halifax case. Even if the woman in the taxi urged the driver to have sex with her, the fact that she was unconscious nullifies whatever consent was originally given. The consent, at that moment, cannot be continual as the woman is not awake to give it.
Let me run through a few other scenarios in which consent is implied, but not actually given:
A woman dresses provocatively, and that implies she is “looking to get some.”
A woman invites you into their house or hotel room following a date, she is implying she wants to have sex.
A woman asks a man if he has a condom. He puts it on. That means that sex is inevitable and what happens afterward is a consequence of that act. No one is allowed to change his or her mind at that point.
A woman is intoxicated and their judgement blurred. That means they are looking for a fun time.
In all of these scenarios, a woman – or a man for that matter – has the right to change their mind and say no. None of these acts should be able to prove consent in the court of law, as consent is continual.
However, in many of these situations, lines are blurred and the judiciary system falls on “implied consent” rather than actual consent. There is also a double standard when alcoholism is thrown into the mix. How many times have you heard the defence say the following: “He was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing. Let’s not ruin the reputation of this person based on one stupid choice.” The accused is then acquitted. When a victim of sexual assault says they were drunk, it is used to imply guilt and irresponsibility. This should not be the norm in our judiciary system.
That simple four-word verdict “ a drunk can consent” shows an ignorant and naïve understanding of the term itself. I am absolutely distraught and offended that a judge, someone who is in a position of power to determine whether or not a victim of sexual assault was in fact a victim, thinks it’s okay to make such generalized and harmful statements like this one.
Canadian women deserve better. They deserve not to be discriminated against in the court of law. They deserve to feel safe — and this can’t happen unless everyone is taught the real meaning of consent.
As a plus-size woman, I rarely read self-help books. I find them degrading and useless. They make me feel like I’m not good enough. The authors, most of whom are tiny celebrities that can afford personal trainers and in-house chefs, put an emphasis on weight and size. They suggest cutting our carbs, eating only low-fat foods, exercising seven days a week, and attending boot camps to ensure your body is “bikini ready.”
For plus-size women, these recommendations can cause anxiety and depression, and 90 per cent of the time result in fast weight loss and even faster gains after the fact.
Big Fit Girl is an exception to that sentiment. This book follows the personal story of author and plus-size athlete and personal trainer Louise Green on their journey towards athleticism. The book is full of body-positive messages and completely dismisses the idea that health is related to a number on a scale.
For example, did you know that about 40 per cent of obese men and women have healthy blood pressure and normal cholesterol? And yet, most of those people are judged by the size of pants they are able to squeeze into.
Green runs through how the fitness industry as a whole discriminates against size and fails to meet the specific needs of plus-size women. Athleticism, according to Big Fit Girl, doesn’t equate with weight or size. It is something that can be measured by ability, strength, and endurance. In essence — a healthy body doesn’t necessarily mean a bikini body and the fitness industry needs to come to that realization.
I’ve been struggling with my own health journey for a while, and reading this book gave me the inspiration I needed to keep going. It begins by shattering stereotypes and discussing the lack of body diversity in advertising, media, and branding. Green asks her readers to make a number of pledges, including avoiding companies that don’t provide options for larger body types and eliminating negative, body shaming messaging.
As encouragement, Green lists the social media information of a number of professional plus-size athletes who, despite their size, have become award-winners in their field. The book is slam-packed with stories and quotes from plus-size athletes, outlining their peaks and valleys, as well as their success.
Big Fit Girl is a wonderful combination of athletic and nutritional advice, motivational success stories, and myth debunking. In between the storytelling, Green includes a number of recipes, simple stretches, her favourite workout playlist, and a training regime for a 5k race.
Green wants her readers to succeed, but not only because she wants them to accomplish their personal goals. Instead, she wants to start a movement: plus-size women have a prerogative to prove to society that they can be healthy and active. The more people that see plus-size women on the racetrack, the more it will be normalized. “Whether you are an avid walker, a triathlete, a ballroom dancer, or an Olympic weightlifter, or if you aspire to be al these things and more, your presence as a plus-size woman working out in our society is creating a much-needed shift. And because we don’t see women of size as much as we need to in advertising, television, movies, or other media, it’s up to us – you and me – to inspire others to join our ranks.”
Ultimately, this book taught me a number of things, but these three stand out: Don’t be afraid of trying something because you think you will be limited by your size. Aim for health and fitness above weight loss and dieting. And practice self love, because you ARE an athlete.
There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle — whether its for ethical reasons or to inspire a healthy lifestyle — but avoiding meat and dairy may have other perks, including preventing chronic disease. Nutritionist, vegan chef, professor, and owner of Amelia Eats, Amy Symington, focuses on teaching individuals how dietary choices can actually impact overall health and contribute to saving lives.
Symington is a multi-faceted woman actively involved in the vegan health community. She is very warm and easy to approach and is intelligent in a non-assuming way. Symington started her career as a vegan chef seven years ago and now teaches nutrition and culinary classes at George Brown College. “There is a stigma to vegan food being not flavourful,” Symington says. “The other chefs try it and they are shocked at how good it is. I like to focus on converting people to a plant-based diet through food.”
Alongside teaching, Symington runs a business called Amelia Eats that does catering, nutritional consulting, and creates recipes for various publications and businesses. She provides vegan nutrition expertise through her website and will also provide deluxe vegan catering dinners at request.
Symington’s interests go beyond simple cooking. She is researching how plant-based fare can help people who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. “My mom had breast cancer. During her treatment, I focused on plant-based foods and nutrition,” Symington says. “During my mother’s treatment, I found there wasn’t an option for people with cancer to be provided with a nutritionist or dietician. It was more like an assembly line with pills. There is no tender love and care in our system when it comes to cancer. There are wonderful doctors and nurses, but when to nutrition there is a gap. Processed red meats in particular, sausage, and bacon is directly linked to an increased risk of cancer and also breast cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a statement that shook people last year.”
After learning more about these risks, Symington began a vegan supper club program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, and provides social and emotional support to cancer survivors. The program involves preparing and cooking vegan fare for cancer patients and their families twice a week. “Gilda’s program focuses on cancer survivors. There are 50 different cancer care affiliates in North America and the vegan supper club programming is very popular,” Symington says. “People were very skeptical at first and would jokingly ask for steak instead, but they came around to the vegan meal and now they love it. It is all about winning people over with really flavourful food.” She focuses on a menu with fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. “They are most nutrient dense foods out there with high fibre, healthy fats and high antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off ‘free radicals’, osteoporosis, and diabetes and help with chronic disease prevention in general.”
Symington’s mom focused more on a vegetarian diet when she was in treatment, and her doctor became concerned if this was the best choice for her health. This later inspired Symington to start a community guide about how plant-based diets can positively influence good nutrition if you have cancer. It is proven that fruits and vegetables are filled with phytochemicals, fibre, and health promoting nutrients and tend to be healthier than meat and dairy products. As an expert nutritionist, Symington is creating a plant-based guide to cancer nutrition for people who would like to prevent cancer, those going through treatment, and those who are in recovery from treatment. Symington received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) award to create the guide and this will help fund the project. “There will be three components, including a literature review on what to consume for cancer prevention, then large quantity recipes focusing on foods mentioned, and the third part will focus on how to run your own supper club programming,” Symington says. “The students at George Brown are helping create recipes and then we test the recipe at Gilda’s on Tuesdays.”
Along with her husband, Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the couple plan to raise their son as a vegan. “Generally. babies are vegan. You exclusively breast feed them, which is recommended. The first things that are recommended are cereals and fruits and vegetables. From there, use calcium-fortified tofu, lentils, and whole grains to get your complete proteins,” Symington says. “As a parent, you need to be informed about specific nutrients including vitamin D, DHA, probiotics, B12, iron, and calcium.”
When Symington isn’t working, she enjoys cooking on her own time and making delicious vegan food. Her guilty pleasure sounds absolutely delicious: “My death row meal is a good burrito or taco equipped with avocado and sweet potato with tempeh, and turmeric or tempeh tacos, always with hot sauce.” When she isn’t working, She also loves running and soccer, and is currently reading “Healing with Whole Foods” by Paul Pitchford.
Symington is leading the way in disease prevention with a compassionate approach to food and health. She is inspiring and her knowledge about vegan health foods gives people vital information about living a healthier lifestyle. Check out Symington’s recipes through Amelia Eats and if you get a chance, enjoy one of her vegan meals.
Valentine’s Day is as joyous as the winter holiday season for some, and as agonizing as Monday mornings for others. Celebrating love and affection between companions is a beautiful experience; however, there is a lot of pressure to live up to the standards society has set for couples. Expressing our love by presenting flowers, a box of chocolates, or cheesy greeting cards with dancing monkeys on them just doesn’t cut it anymore. In today’s day and age, a lot of other factors need to be considered to have the ‘perfect Valentine’s Day.’
I casually watched the build up last week as all my girlfriends in relationships questioned whether or not they should be expecting anything from their significant others on Valentine’s Day. As they prepped themselves with waxing sessions and had their lingerie on standby, one thing became clear very quickly. Even if they’ve been seeing each other for over a year, even if they were married, even if it’s only been a few months – the bottom line is women are always expecting something. That too, without the intent of initiating anything themselves.
Passive aggressive texts are sent and not so subtle hints are dropped to ensure that come Valentine’s Day evening, they will have some sort of plans with bae. So, to avoid any sort of disappointment and heart break, here’s a step by step guide to make sure your Valentine’s Day is barf worthily corny and envied by others.
Initiate it yourself
Ladies, it’s 2017. If you can’t ask your man or woman out on a date, you’re not doing feminism right. Take a stand against patriarchy and don’t wait around for the flowers and chocolate. Return the favour and make the gesture by getting him/her something nice too. Investing in a red, lacy number is thoughtful, but let’s be real: it’ll only be on you for a maximum of 3 minutes before it’s on the ground. Besides, it’s really more for you than them. Oftentimes, media lure men into getting something special for their partner by advertising jewelry or the perfect type of chocolates to give during the dinner that they too pay for. That sh*t gets pricey. So, if he can spend a good chunk of his pay-cheque to impress you — you can too. Even if you make less money than him. (But let’s sip tea about that another day.)
Lay off social media
Okay, Rachel – we get it. You’re feeling your new Pandora bracelet and the roses you got are redder than your cheeks during the great Canadian winter. But it’s important to say thank you to Carl and let him know you’re grateful for him rather than telling 756 of your ‘friends.’ In midst of all the likes and comments are hidden scoffs and eye rolls from people you barely know, in addition to people you might want to reconsider having any sort of friendship with. Besides, seeing what Richard got Anika may make you question and reevaluate your own relationship. Is your gift big enough? Is your selfie cute enough? Don’t bring that sort of negative energy into your life. Sure, sharing a selfie to commemorate your love is cute, especially on Valentine’s Day. You should be proud of your significant other’s face, and you have every right brag about with your favourite filter. However, one too many posts, and you will end up on the ’16 annoying couple posts’ Buzzfeed piece. And that’s not something to brag about.
Yes, every day should be Valentine’s Day. However, it’s important to make things a little more special sometimes. And if society sets out a special day for you to encourage you to do so, then by all means – take advantage of the opportunity. I’m not saying to go on top of the Empire State building and declare your love with a bouquet of $150 peonies (Thanks, Chuck!). However, if you have dinner with your significant other every night, have dinner with candles tonight. Skip the routine missionary and spooning, put on something sexy, and surprise your significant other with some spine chilling foreplay. If you want Valentine’s Day to be special, go out and make it happen.
Sometimes expectations for Valentine’s Day can be so high that you just can’t reach them. And while putting together the perfect night can take more planning than a military operation, what’s important to remember is that being with the one you care for is what should make it special. Trying not to conform under societal pressures to go big or go home is difficult, but keeping your partner in mind is the key to success. Don’t do it for the Instagram post — do it for bae.
And if you happen to be without a partner this Valentine’s Day, embrace it. No one will ever love you more than you love yourself. And if that’s not the case at the moment, start tonight!
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you find yourself trying to cover up when naked in bed with your partner? Are you racing to put clothes on after the shower? Is being in the nude nearly un-‘bare’-able? You aren’t alone.
Many women dislike being unclothed in front of their partners, and this is ultimately damaging to confidence in a relationship. Women are surrounded by air-brushed lingerie ads of women who are perfect looking, and this leads to damaging self-criticism. This discomfort needs to be destroyed. It is time to throw off the clothes and learn to love that naked body for exactly how beautiful it is. Feeling comfortable being naked in front of your partner will not only strengthen your relationship, it will ultimately make you feel better about yourself.
Embracing the nude isn’t a process that will happen overnight. It takes consistent effort and, if you work at it, slowly but surely it will become completely natural to hang out in the nude with your partner. Start by confronting your fear head-on, the dreaded mirror. After a shower, instead of avoiding your reflection, take a look. Instead of glancing at yourself with critical eyes, try to see what your partner sees. What is beautiful about your sexy body? What makes your feminine self desirable? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and self-criticism is not helpful. High self-esteem starts with yourself, and meeting that beautiful woman in the mirror for a post-shower ego-boost will adjust you to being naked and increase confidence.
Taking care of your body will promote a healthier relationship with your body. This does not mean develop a punishing regiment for daily exercise, but instead should inspire you to learn how to love your body without being fixated on trying to change it. How about a massage or even treating yourself to a manicure and pedicure? Treating your body as a temple will promote a sense of much-needed self-love. Exercise is important and creates a healthy self-image, so challenge yourself to move your body in ways that feel sexy and fun. Do you like to dance? Put on some music and bust a move! Do you enjoy hula hooping or swimming? Grab a hoop or jump in the pool! Moving the body in a fun way makes exercise enjoyable and will make being naked even more fun.
After some serious self-love exercises, it is time to test the waters and try to get naked with your partner. If you are still feeling nervous, enact a ritual to feel more confident like putting a bit of mascara on or putting coconut lotion on your body. If the lighting feels too bright, use a lamp, candles or softer lighting. It creates sexy mood lighting and will make your partner very excited. Remember, your partner wants to be there with you and your beautiful naked self. Men aren’t critically assessing your stretch marks or blemishes, but are simply excited to be with a naked woman they love. Good men are not looking at the flaws, but instead are looking at the woman beneath them. Try and see yourself through the eyes of desire, you will look pretty dang good.
Being naked with a partner will ultimately forge a more intimate relationship, with the added bonus of shaking up your sex life. Be brave, and love your naked body. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and that is precisely what makes women so beautiful. Embrace the body you were given and make it your temple — if only for your own benefit.
Showcasing diverse voices of girls and young women from North America, Tatiana Fraser and Caia Hagel shift the focus from media’s sensationalist stories to highlight real-life accounts of how girls are making positive change and shaping a new world. Girl Positive looks closely at topics from social media, sexual violence, hypersexuality, and cyberspace, and offers stories of struggle and victory, bringing to light where today’s girls are finding new paths to empowerment.
Girl Positive launches in Vancouver Thursday at the Historic Theatre. To find out more about this unique publications, Women’s Post caught up with co-authors Tatiana and Caia and asked them a few questions. Here’s what they had to say:
Can you tell us more about your new book, Girl Positive?
Tatiana: Girl Positive was published in September by Random House. It explores the political, social, and cultural realities facing young girls and women today. We cover a range of topics; from pop culture to the Internet, to girls and sexuality and we dive into topics such as poverty and racism. We talk about girls as leaders and changemakers. Girl Positive also takes up issues pertaining to girls, power, and relationships and unpacks issues around sexual violence. So, its quite broad in terms of the issues we tackle. We really intended to center girls’ voices and experiences; to hear from them about how they see their world and the issues that they’re dealing with. It was important to get a feel for their inspirations, actions and visions for change.
What was your inspiration behind the book?
Tatiana: As founder of Girls Actions Foundation, I was working with girls, young women, and organizations across the country for many years. It was very clear to me that the issues or the stories and the popular culture and the narratives about girls didn’t line up with girls’ realities. This misalignment was outdated. What we’re doing in the book is re-framing the issues that girls are dealing with in a more complex and holistic way.
Caia: Tatiana and I met when she was still acting director at Girls Action Foundation and I was—and still am—the co-founding creative director of Guerilla Pop Media Lab, an ethical media group. We enjoyed working together and the approach we took to creating a dynamic media platform for the voices of girls and young women and their messages, cross-pollinated in an exciting new way. I’ve been working my whole career in media creating space and visibility for the less visible and often most pioneering voices Girls are an emerging force. In Girl Positive, Tatiana and I merged our skills, our passion for girls, and our belief in their crucial role in co-creating our future, to provide a platform for them to speak from the truth of their experiences. We hardly ever hear from girls themselves about their own lives, even when the stories are about them. In our book, girls speak from their diverse realities. In Girl Positive, all the people who care about girls, including girls about each other, get to know them, get to understand their struggles, see their visions and learn about practical ways to support them in their leadership as they move in to their power.
What was it like to collaborate with each other?
Tatiana: It was a very creative experience for both of us. What’s unique about our collaboration is that by combining our backgrounds and expertise, we were able to make this work accessible to new and broader audiences. Oftentimes, the learning that’s happening around girls and young women is happening in the margins and on the fringe. We wanted to reach every parent and educator across the country- and everyone who cares about girls. That is what is really special about our partnership together.
Caia: We managed to create a holistic space where storytelling could be the means to seeing, hearing and feeling the issues that are at stake in our book, and in the world. We were able to do this because we brought culture and politics together through our backgrounds and complementary expertise. When ‘issues’ are made personal and heartfelt—and we love how the book is just brimming with girls voices, they’re all in there with us, navigating us through their worlds—big things like ‘activism’ and ‘policy change’ become tangible to everyone and like ‘wow, I really get this now and I can be part of it too!’ which is something we really wanted to offer all readers.
You speak about many problems that girls face on a day-to-day basis in your book. Can you tell us more?
Tatiana: We’re both parents. We both have daughters. And so, it was really important for us to focus on girls’ voices and hear their stories. The book weaves together many and diverse experiences that girls are living. Our role is to provide the context and draw on the analysis and the thinking that’s out there. In terms of experience, I can say for myself, that the inspiration for doing and creating spaces for girls and young women came from my own experiences growing up a young woman and a girl. I ended up in Women’s Studies by accident at university and it was transformative for me because I began to see that my experiences growing up with a single mom and seeing issues around violence that my peers were dealing with, or my family had dealt with, issues related to gender violence that often become internalized for girls and young women were in fact social and political issues that I could help change. So, I think we all have our personal journeys that connect to the many issues that we talk about in the book.
Caia: It’s a unique time in history to hear from girls and young women. Technology has allowed them to create a new space for their self-expression that is unfiltered, honest and real—and all over social media and mainstream media feeds, generating attention, noise, controversy and discussion. After having been left out for so long, girls are now able to speak up and push their agendas into culture on their terms. I would have loved to have had the same direct line to participating in collective dialogue as a girl! Tatiana and I both grew up with single moms who were feminists. We happened to have role models who could help us think critically about who we were and what we needed. Resources, mentors and good role models are a crucial part of a girl’s ability to actualize her dreams and the often practical and brilliant solutions she has to some of her own, her community’s and the larger world’s problems. Trusted mentors and resources are also necessary in helping girls live up to and back up what is said on social media, or what we see there because celebrity feminism is so hip right now. There is still a lot of progress to be made that requires all us. Structures can only shift to give these voices real power to lead if a lot of us are involved in supporting this movement, and the girls within it. We hear incredible stories of girls and by girls in our book, who are re-imagining social, cultural, political and economic issues from their unique points of view, informed by their diverse realities and their resilience. Our goal with Girl Positive is to celebrate this by bringing their stories together in one dynamic place. With this, and reflections from experts on some of the topics we cover, as well as our own analysis, we aim to give tools to all of us to support girls so that all girls can be part of shaping the future.
Do you have advice for girls who aren’t feeling so positive, especially in the wake of recent political events?
Caia: We were devastated by the election of Donald Trump. But the truth is that through his alt-right agenda, we are finally seeing and having to politically negotiate with what has always been there but bubbling silently (and violently) in the background. It’s easier to fight what is in the open. Girls, women and the many marginalized groups that are most deeply affected by this administration are feeling a call to action that is unprecedented, and an urgency about using their resources to organize, protest and build against these regressive forces. We see this time of darkness as a great opportunity for large-scale transformations lead by the people who are carrying the visions for a world that is innovative, inclusive and progressing because it reflects our true diversity. The Women’s Marches and the movements of resistance at the Dakota Pipeline and Val D’Or are a great start. It’s as if Trumpmania has opened the door for all of us to use our voices, to get our toolboxes together, and really organize ourselves to make change part of our agenda.
Tatiana: It’s definitely an opportunity. There’s momentum. It’s a unique time. A time for young women and girls leadership for change. It is a time to build on where we’ve come from and to really push for change on many levels. At the same time, it’s a calling to recognize there’s work to do. Part of that work is recognizing the intersecting realities girls and women experience from diverse locations and identities. Women who are coming from issues related to poverty, or women who are dealing with racism have an important perspective, experience and contribution to make to the change. There’s work to do.
What message do you hope to pass on with this book?
Caia: One of the simple ways of accomplishing the goals of the book that we’ve listed above, was to create a ‘survival kit’ at the end of every chapter that offers practical tips about the issues of that chapter to everyone from girls themselves to grandfathers, friends, mothers, teachers, political leaders and coaches—to support those issues and get involved in changing them to empower girls. You don’t have to be wearing a pink hat and a pussy riot scarf and be marching on the streets everyday to make change happen. You can do it in small and large ways, which are equally as meaningful. We took a very passionate and practical approach to creating a book that we hope becomes a handbook for everybody in our collective quest to shape a future that is sustainable, enlightened and populated with leaders who are, and were once, girls.
Your book launches today! What can we look forward to?
Caia: The Cultch theatre (hyperlink to https://thecultch.com/) has started a Femme February month and our panel will be the first event. We will host
an amazing line up of three generations of women who work in the arts, and we will link the stories from our book told by girls to the storytelling they do as writers, actors, activists and directors – and hear from them about the realities they face in the workplace where racism, sexism and ageism are still alive and well. We’re really excited to be participating in this event and having Girl Positive make a splash in Vancouver!
Girl Positive launches in Vancouver today at the Historic Theatre. To find out more about this unique publication, visit their Facebook page!
The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked anger, resentment, and hate — and people aren’t standing for it. In fact, they are doing even more. They are marching.
While 2017 is proving to be even worse than 2016, at least one good thing has sprung from it all. The continuous bigotry fuelled by American politics is bringing about a new age of activism.
As a millennial, I’ve never truly experienced the power of global activism. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed some powerful demonstrations over the last two decades. There was the Arab Spring, the lesser but effective Maple Spring and, of course, the Occupy movement. But, I’ve never seen so many people, from all walks of life — ethnicities, religious affiliations, and economic statuses — come together to condemn such a wide array of issues on a global scale.
On Feb. 4, over 5,000 people gathered in front of the United States Consulate in Toronto to protest the American immigration ban and Islamophobia. At the same time, thousands of people got together across Canada and overseas, all marching and chanting in unison: “No Muslim ban on stolen land.”
There were families with their children, students and seniors standing hand in hand, sharing samosas and taking photos of each other’s carefully crafted signs. When organizers asked the crowd to part so that the Muslim participants could be closer to the stage for a prayer, everyone did it. People smiled and opened their arms, leading their allies and fellow Canadians (or Canadian hopefuls) to the front, remaining silent while they prayed for those fallen in the Quebec mosque shootings a few weeks ago.
Above everything else, people were polite, inclusive, and tolerant — but also strong, powerful, and loud. It was truly something to witness.
In January, more than 60,000 people marched in Toronto — along with millions in the United States and throughout Europe — for women’s rights and to protest the inauguration of Trump, a man who has repeatedly used sexist remarks in speeches and disregarded the rights of women on the political stage. The march may have been the biggest demonstration in U.S. history.
I know what you are thinking. These are people who are just marching because “it’s cool”, right? They won’t actually work to enact change.
But this new age of activism is not limited to marching. Within hours of an executive order signed by President Trump, there are over a dozen Facebook events created for smaller, more pointed demonstrations indicating their displeasure over his political actions. American citizens are calling their representatives at every level of government, telling them what they think of the cabinet confirmations or a political document that was released. When the telephone voice mailboxes are full, people start using the fax machines to reach their political offices. A few people even tried to send their representatives pizzas with notes attached to them.
For example, so many people called their Senators regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the candidate for Secretary of Education, that she almost wasn’t confirmed. Two Republications changed their votes and the Vice President had to be the tiebreaker, a first in American history.
People are fired up. Normal citizens who never would have considered becoming politically active are making signs and marching to Capitol Hill. They are listening and they are informed. For the first time in my lifetime, people actually care. And not just specific groups of people — all people.
The west has forgotten the true meaning and functionality of democracy. Politicians are supposed to fight for their constituents, not for their own self-interest. If their constituents say they want them to vote against their party, technically, they should do it. That is how representative democracy works. A politician must represent the views of their constituents.
This concept has been lost, fuelled by the complacency and ignorance of a population willing to let other people run their country. But, with the rise of this new age of activism, that can change.
The Republicans (under the leadership of Trump) are forcing citizens to reconsider their own beliefs and be more aware of what they want of their country. Without meaning too, they are inspiring real democracy, a system in which the people decide what they want their politicians to do.
All I can say is this: stay strong my fellow democratic participants! Change will not happen over night. It will be a long process, and it will take a lot of screaming, chanting, marching, and phone calls to make our politicians remember that we, the people they serve, have a voice too.