Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Feminist SOS

Audra Williams' article in the new issue of This Magazine made me want to jump up and down and scream yipppeeee. (Unfortunately the article is not online yet, so I will give you a taste).

Audra muses about whether or not young women should revive the near-dead National Action Committee on the Status of Women, especially in the face of Harper and his cronies. She describes young feminists this way:

We don’t join. We’re not sure if we should, and we can’t seem to navigate the movement as it is. Some of us have tried to get involved with established groups, and it has not gone well. We’ve almost always been the only “young” person present and have then either felt too much pressure to speak for Young Women Everywhere, or have been expected to be silent until we’ve somehow accrued enough credibility to be heard. So most of the young feminists I know don’t belong to a feminist organization.
I couldn’t agree with her more. Most of the kick-ass women that I know are involved in some form of activism, but none of this activism takes place under the auspices of any formal feminist structure. And since NAC has been gasping for air since before the Internet age, there isn’t one unifying body to help harness the energy of the young women who have the potential to move feminism forward – whether or not they identify as feminists. With a Justice Minister who is beholden the religious right, and upcoming vacancies on the Supreme Court, we could be treading the same ground as the feminists who came before us. But without any outlet for mentorship and knowledge-sharing, how could we possibly take on the fight?

Also, as Audra points out, activists in their 20s and 30s have a lot to teach older feminists. We don’t necessarily accept binary notions of gender, and we welcome our trans sisters into the fold. We have been influenced by the DIY culture of independent music producers like Kathleen Hanna and Ani Difranco. Many of us reject the notion that traditionally feminine roles like cooking and sewing are by nature oppressive (although I can’t even sew a button). We take our activism seriously, but we know that a round of radical cheerleading is the best way to pump up any crowd. And we understand that to be truly effective, feminism needs to get back to its roots in the streets, so we can support the more exclusive world of lobbying and legislative change. We know that activism works best when it’s fun, and when there’s actually something for people to do.

But we are not going to advance women’s rights in Canada though an endless series of Stitch and Bitch sessions. We aren’t na├»ve enough to think that we can go it alone, without the wisdom and experience of the women who came before us.

That’s why we need to revive NAC (or something like it) RIGHT NOW. There’s no time to waste. We simply need a national voice to help advance the rights of women, or we are going to see our rights slip away piece by piece.

Now, Audra’s article touches on one of the problems with NAC – to be a member of the national body, you need to be a member of a local organization that can then appoint you to be involved in NAC. She suggests that young women should start forming new organizations between now and May, so we can have a strong presence at NAC’s AGM this spring …

Sounds like a good strategy to start shaking things up, but it might prove to be a difficult barrier for some women (with lots of other things on their plates) to undertake.

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