Feminist: Adjective – of relating to or advocating for equal rights for women; advocating for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
Noun – An advocate for such rights; a person who advocates for equal rights for women.
I, Sharyn Carroll, call myself a feminist. Not an equalist or humanist. There is a lot of nostalgic admiration contained in this word for me although at times the word is hurled at me as an insult. I hear gen-z asking if it is not time to change it to something that speaks to all gender variations. This may be a question to consider but first it is important to look at its relevance.
The use of the term feminism speaks to the systematic injustices that have been historically put into place, to make women lesser than, or unequal, globally. Being a feminist does not mean that I only stand on the side of equal pay for equal work, or lobby against domestic violence in the place that I live, it means speaking up for the right of all woman to breast feed whenever their child is hungry; I lend my voice to young woman and girls who are forced into marriages with men old enough to be their fathers; I advocate for all girls to get educated; I speak out for girls and young boys who are forced into sexual slavery; and I express my concern that everyone understands what consent means.
To call myself a feminist means that I understand that we are all in this together — women and men. To live in a world where women are liberated means that men are also free. Free to live in a world where self-expression is not confined to gender roles. Free from having the weight of the world put on their shoulders, because they have to “man-up” and handle it all. It means transgendered persons are just that, people. I would rather live in a world where acceptance of any human trait is seen as just that. A recent report by United Nations states that in the twenty years since it set out to achieve gender equality not one country has been able to achieve this.
Calling myself a feminist means I pay homage to those who have come before me and speaks to a history of advocacy for a struggle that is unique to women world-wide. It also means that I understand the next generation will probably do things differently. Holding onto this word may make me nostalgic or even old fashioned, but when I use it I don’t have to really explain where I am coming from. I embodied this word long before I knew what it meant and will continue to do so for the rest of my existence because it is who I am.
By Sharyn Carroll, R + R Facilitator
SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow
It has been said that “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” Kurt Cobain.
When I saw this quote I was heartened to know that one of my childhood musical influences was outspoken on a subject, which has long driven me to work in the violence prevention field. As I have said before I have known many women in my life affected by this most egregious form of gender-based violence. The basis of all violence is a lack of empathy, concern, entitlement to harm, and lack of consent.
Of course we know that there are thousands of missing women in this country, many of who may be being held against their will. They are kidnapped each year by men and are of course likely being subjected to rape on an on-going basis.
What makes me feel more outright rage though are the vast numbers of women and girls being trafficked each and every year. When I mention human trafficking in circle work, people often think I am referring to women and girls being brought in from Eastern Europe, Africa, or Asia. In fact, the majority of victims in Canada are Canadians. The average age of a girl is trafficked is 13, and the reason that girls are vulnerable is because they have left home because of violence. Violence begets violence. I can scarcely think of a crime other than murder, which is more horrendous for a young girl to experience. Rape is torture. For girls and women confined against their will by pimps, daily life is surely hell. Many become addicted to drugs to soothe the pain of the on-going violation of their bodies.
Globally there are nearly 30 million people being trafficked and held against their will, through more than 460 known trafficking routes. 58% of trafficking globally is for sexual slavery. 75% of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls. 98% of victims for the purposes of sexual slavery are women and girls. 99% of the pimps are men, and in Canada they are profiting to the tune of $280,000 per female in their possession. There are over 2,000,000 children enslaved sexually globally, and the global sexual slavery trade is a 99 billion dollar industry.
So, what can we do? We can teach men not to rape and that women are not property. But how is this going to influence a swiftly spiraling out of control problem? As Ghandhi said with regards to peace, we must start with the children. We must inspire the next generation to become activists against this most terrible of human rights abuses. We must educate about systemic global violence, and there can be no better place to start than with human trafficking.
By Kevin Vowles, R+R Facilitator
Technology use is now intertwined with our lives so much that we live in a culture where we are constantly being bombarded with messages from the media at an alarming rate. Our love of media is not a new one. According to the Halifax Insurance Digital Home Index, youth are now spending more time interacting with technology than they do with their families. But youth are not the only ones. The adults in their intermediate soundings are modeling this new behavioural trend. We use the media for various reasons: to entrain, distract, gather information, educate, socialize, advocate and to connect with others.
Media literacy in this new way of life means being able to deconstruct the messages, not just for ourselves, but also for others in our lives. By deconstructing the messages we understand the influence media has on culture and society and gain insight into the methods marketers employ to get our attention. It is then that we can recognize misinformation and ‘spin’. When we are able to achieve this we can better evaluate these messages, advocate for change and create and distribute our own messages. How do we get there? By asking a few routine questions:
- Who was the message created for and does the value system of the intended audience match the values conveyed in the message or is there a disconnect?
- Can you easily identify who is the creator of the message?
- Who is left out of the message?
- Who else other than the target audience stands to be influenced by the message?
- What are they trying to sell, inform or educate you about? Or simply put: what is the message telling me or leaving out?
- Can I easily verify these messages?
- What values or lifestyles are being portrayed or deleted in the message?
- In the case of TV advertisement, is the time of day fitting to the target audience?
- How does the message reinforce stereotypes?
- How can the message be interpreted differently by different segments of the population?
- How is the message constructed?
- And most importantly: do you agree with what you’re seeing? If not, ask yourself why and talk to people that you are connected to about it.
It is important, in the case of youth, that we take the time to help them critically analyze what messages they are receiving and how media can easily set trends for healthy and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
By Sharyn Carroll, R + R Facilitator
SWOVA – empowering youth for a better tomorrow