The Right to Retreat and the Politics of Self-Care

Last week, Rebecca Godderis and Joanna Brant teamed up to write a powerful piece about activism, exhaustion and the call for self-care.

Self-care has been a constantly-arising topic since we began our work together. The concept of self-care is the idea that community advocates and activists, and those who work in the caring professions, must remember to take care of themselves if they are to continue to be a resource to others, including to their own families and friends. This depiction of self-care leaves us with many questions: how do we undertake “self-care” in a world that is bombarded with gendered versions of consumption as self-care? For instance, the idea of organizing girlfriends to do “shopping therapy” or going to the spa for a pedicure appears to be a common self-care theme. These versions of self-care reinforce highly gendered understandings of what women enjoy, what women are good at, and what women are valued for in Western society.

Read the whole thing here, at Guts Magazine.


Laurier students send an open letter to administration on gendered violence

Wilfrid Laurier University students Cassandra Mensah and Ethan Jackson, along with many of their colleagues, are worried about the campus and its students — and they really want the university administration to listen.

On December 6, Jackson and Mensah, with the support of current students and alumni, penned an open letter to the university administration and its student leaders on their concerns about sexual assault — and the university’s prevention measures — on campus. They addressed the notions around gendered violence, the gaps in the training and education of students and staff and their suggestions for the future in the letter.

“There is violence and trauma happening behind closed doors which needs to end. The violence we are discussing is the overwhelming instances of sexual assaults happening on and around our university campus,” the letter read.

Commenting on Laurier’s current policies and efforts to prevent sexual assault, the letter stated, “This is not enough in the active prevention of sexual assaults because it lacks the components of factual education and accountability.”

In an interview with The Cord, Jackson noted that he hopes the letter ignites an open discourse on campus about gendered violence and that new measures are put in place so that staff, faculty and students are well educated on the issue.

Read the whole story in The Cord.

Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection

Barnard College President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, recently spoke with with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today on the Dare to Use the F-Word podcast.

Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.

My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.

What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?

Read the full post here.

Check out the Dare to Use the F-Word podcast here.

“I’m not interested in teaching books by women,” says David Gilmour

I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

— author and instructor David Gilmour in “David Gilmour on building strong stomachs” in Hazlitt

For reaction, see:

“Memo to David Gilmour: Teaching only books by ‘heterosexual guys’ does a huge disservice to your students,” by Jared Bland, The Globe and Mail

“U of T instructor under fire for shunning female writers,” by Graham Slaughter, The Toronto Star

“David Gilmour does not love female writers, does love himself,” National Post

“The loneliness of the old white male,” by Holger Schott Syme, Dispositio

“Why David Gilmour’s advice to ‘go down the hall’ isn’t so bad,” by Lucia Lorenzi,

“Are you man enough for this dare, David Gilmour?” by Anne Theriault, Huffington Post Canada

“Feminist sandwiches and the professor who only teaches male authors,” by Adina Goldman,

“Woman down the hall responds to David Gilmour,” Dangerous Words

“U of T English department head ‘appalled’ at Gilmour’s comments,” by James Bradshaw, The Globe and Mail

“As a student of David Gilmour, and a feminist, I say put away the rope,” by Rachel Bulatovich, The Globe and Mail

“The Gilmour Transcript,” Hazlitt

Ottawans strut through the capital in third annual SlutWalk

The dress code for SlutWalk is wear whatever you damn well please.

Dress like a superhero, march in your undies, bundle up in an oversized sweatshirt or anything in between and you’ll fit right in.

About 150 people gathered at the Human Rights Monument in downtown Ottawa on Sept 7 for the city’s third annual SlutWalk.

The diversity of clothing choices underscored the participants’ message — no matter what women wear, they are often blamed when they are harassed on the street or sexually assaulted, but perpetrators, not clothing, are to blame for violence against women.

“People are sexually assaulted regardless of what they’re wearing,” says Fateema Ghani, addressing the crowd before the march. “Men are sexually assaulted, children. You can’t really go up to a kid and say, ‘Yo, you were dressed like a slut.’”

Ghani, who helped to organize the event and served as the emcee, called for an end to victim blaming. “By definition, no one can ask to be raped,” she says. “It’s not about sex; it’s about power and violence, and nothing can take away your right to consent.”

Read the whole story at DailyXtra.