International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day is dedicated to making the world a more balanced place. Part of celebrating is acknowledging that there’s a problem that needs to be corrected. The 2019 theme #BalanceforBetter challenges each one of us to improve the gender balance. It’s important that I share this post today because Saskatchewan is Canada’s hotspot for intimate partner violence. There are a lot of reasons why our province should be named #1, but this is one title I would be happy to lose.

‘I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

Anaïs Nin

The quote above acknowledges that men play a critical role in the empowerment of women. The man Anais chose reinforced how she viewed herself and solidified her individual identity. I envision this person to be supportive and encouraging, while helping to challenge the often monumental beast of self-doubt.

Today, I’ve decided to share a short writing prompt on the state of feminism in the media. I wrote it nearly five years ago as part of my Communications Degree in early part of 2014. At the time, pop artists I admired such as Beyonce and Katy Perry were actively avoiding identifying with the word “feminist”.

Fast-forward only a few years later, and both women came out with clear statements that affirmed their feminism. This shift has taken place over a relatively short period of time. Beyonce and Katy admitted they had no idea what the word meant before the media began asking them whether or not they identified with it.

So, what does “feminism” mean anyway?

Coming from small-town Saskatchewan, I relate to having no prior understanding of feminism before my post-secondary education. How can you identify with something that has never been defined for you? In case you’re curious, I’ve included my favourite definition of feminism below.

‘Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. (…). Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”   

―     bell hooks

Internalized oppression is a daily battle for women

During my undergrad capstone research, I discovered how a woman’s own internal voice is developed to oppress her from her date of birth. My life and identity were the subject of this study. I’ve been passionate about living as a feminist since leaving school.

You may or may not have thought about internalized oppression before. Let me explain: from a woman’s perspective, it whispers about what you’re wearing as you strategically hold your keys when you walk home alone at night. It nods at you while you’re hissing insults at yourself in the mirror. It tells you to keep quiet when you’re too afraid to speak out against harassment. And it’s the disguise your friends wear when the conversation goes back to feeding self-hatred (i.e. diet culture).

Moving society in a positive direction

The mainstream popularization of feminism is doing something to transform the way we, men and women, live out its ideals. Flipping negative messages, behaviours, and beliefs from the current realities to a new, positive movement.

Empowerment of an entire gender is a big effort. Start with something small and practical, such as paying a woman with the same qualifications and skills as her male colleague the same salary or hourly wage. Or have a willingness to pay self-employed women the rates they command. Or support a woman’s choice to be a stay-at-home mother without penalizing her when she wants to rejoin the workforce.

International Women’s Day: The state of feminism

As I said earlier, the following prompt is what I thought was going on with feminism in the media back in 2014. It’s slightly more difficult to read than a typical Do Sask post, but it gives a good snapshot of how far society has come over the past five years.

“The truth is that we have not reached the point where sexism, sexual oppression and exploitation have become history and yet most young women denounce the term feminist when describing their image. Strong, female role-models (especially Beyonce) have avoided answering the question when asked directly. This may be due to the media twisting the definition of feminism to mean the ‘men-hating, radical, bra-burners’ of the second-wave. The main foundations of feminism are either represented inaccurately or not at all by the media, leading many to believe contemplation of the term to be outdated.

Feminism allows women to share their experiences in hopes that they can individually and collectively revolt against the patriarchy. It is about becoming an inclusive body for women to work towards the goal together, not a system to alienate ‘real women’ from ‘real feminists’. The problem is that ‘fourth-wave of feminism’, the new generation of young, liberated, post-feminism, Generation Y women and men, are unsure of how to categorize their stance on the issue. There have been so many sub-categories added under the umbrella of feminism (race, class, sexuality, gender) that its aura has been diluted. Instead of these groups rallying to continue the struggle to end patriarchal oppression, the hierarchical culture of feminism has torn women apart to scrutinize which group makes better feminists.

In a post-feminist media context, popular discourse actually reinforces the powers that have been holding women back for eons (Foucauldian internalized oppression, self-monitoring). The most repressive aspect of feminism is to deny that young people care about the term, which can lead many to believe that the time has come to silence the topic entirely. Extraordinarily, Miley Cyrus may be the most famous young woman to publically declare herself to be the “biggest feminist in the world”, while Katy Perry says she is “not a feminist, but believes in strong women”. In most cases, the media is acting as a repressive force by choosing the victim as their scapegoat while perpetually representing women as damaged, manipulative and promiscuous.

This leaves every day women perplexed as to how to identify with feminism at all. On one hand, young women should be able to wear whatever they choose without fear of harassment. On the other, revealing costumes, hyper-sexualized lyrics, and pastiche-porn performances reinforce the idea that women are sex objects.  Strident feminists who criticize Miley Cyrus for her behaviour should realize that she has outwardly supported feminism, albeit in her own way, while other female stars have shied away from it. Cyrus understands that in order to make money for herself and her record label, she needs to capitalize on the systems created within patriarchy. After all, the type of sex Miley is selling is atypical; aggressive, confrontational, masculine characteristics. The trouble is the audience lacks the ability to observe the thin line between parody and acquiescence.

Popular media figures such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Lena Dunham, and Pink are other examples of celebrities who have taken a public stance in affirming feminism. Their individual representations have been showcased by creating art from their own experiences. Joseph Gordon Levitt challenged damaging labels of masculinity and femininity in Don Jon, a mainstream movie about porn addiction and objectification. Lena Dunham writes about her realistic and relatable experiences as a 20-something in New York with Girls. Pink has constructed her image by speaking out about the patriarchal demands of the record industry and being a strong woman. These artists have gleaned inspiration from the movement as modern individuals.  

When celebrities choose to bring feminism to the forefront of their work, they also bring it back into the spotlight of the public sphere. Strides are being made by social media to unite women around the world by having real-time discussions about ongoing cultural issues like slut-shaming, violence and the gender gap. Women are still dealing with issues that were being tackled by second-wave feminists (sexual harassment, rape, reproductive rights, etc.). When celebrities dismiss feminism as something to be ashamed of, it makes the continued mistreatment of women (and all of the other categories of feminism) right. As more prominence is given to feminism in the media, the term will become less about isolating it to academics and more about making it accessible to women and men from all walks of life.”

Happy International Women’s Day!

January 30 is #BellLetsTalk. This is my mental health story.

10 years ago, I started seeing a counselor after I was laid off from my job. Prior to that moment, I had only been taken to counselling for a short time as a child. I didn’t know how to open up as an eight year old girl, so it didn’t lead to any results.

My first regular adult counsellor took the time to understand what was going on. As it turned out, there was more to unpack than the feelings associated with job loss after the economic crash of 2008.

Since then, counselling has become a regular part of my life. Just like seeing the dentist, doctor, or RMT. It has given me the skills and ability to change my perspective of the world and to catch my thoughts before they start slipping into darker territory.

I tell people: without counselling, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That job I lost was a gift because it’s the reason I started doing it at 21 years old instead of waiting until it was too late.

I may not have been diagnosed with chronic mental illness, but I understand that being proactive about my own thoughts can help reduce my chances of acquiring one in the future.

On a serious note, I’ve personally witnessed what depression can do to someone if left unchecked. It can contribute to much more serious diseases such as dimentia/altzheimers and psychosis.

When my thoughts spin and I ruminate, I know it’s a good time to reach out for a hand to help me out of it. It’s also a good idea to have an annual mental health checkup to catch things you may not have even been aware of before it’s too late.

Mental therapy is a form of self love. It’s meant to help you when you can’t help yourself.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s taken a lot of nerve to write this post, when it should be as banal as telling someone you went to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. That’s why I need to share. For the people who are suffering silently.

End the stigma.

Edit: I want to add that counselling would not have been financially feasible for me at the time (2009) without support of the employer who laid me off and the counselor herself.

Even though I was working full-time, I barely made enough to cover my essentials. My severance package covered 8 sessions and I was able to add a few extra at no charge. Another centre I used in Calgary offered hourly sessions on a sliding scale based on annual wage.

Counselling is a service everyone with a provincial health card has equal access to in Saskatoon. I wasn’t aware of this at the time I began my counselling journey.

Free counselling resources in Saskatoon:

This post was originally published to the Do SASK Facebook page on January 30, 2019.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Feature Your Prairie-based Art in an Online Exhibition!

Do Sask is a regional lifestyle brand featuring the best of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. This post announces a special online exhibition for local prairie female artists to showcase their work to our audience.

WHO SHOULD SUBMIT

Do you design empowering/uplifting/inspiring creative pieces? Do you call the prairies home? I would love to showcase your work in an online exhibition.

This opportunity is open to emerging and established prairie-based female artists.

WHAT TO SUBMIT

Illustrations, graphics, typography, fibre, photography, calligraphy, etc. These works have a strong message or theme to be featured in a blog post, along with the artist’s bio.

Subject matter encompass relationships, love, community involvement, food and drinks, entertainment, fashion, environmental responsibility, loneliness, resilience, confidence, and social justice.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT

The Do Sask blog sees upwards of 20,000 page views per month and this number is climbing. It’s also home to an active social community offline which encourages people to step outside of their comfort zones for new experiences.

At worst, it’s a chance to get thousands of eyeballs on your projects. At best, you’ll have more local fans coming your way.

If interested, please send me a message with a few of your samples.

WHEN TO SUBMIT

How about now?! But seriously…

Entry Cost: FREE.99
Maximum Items: 5 -files should be saved in .jpg or .png format
Accepting Submissions until: August 31 2018 11:59 pm

Not an artist yourself, but know someone I should know? Tag them in the comments below.

I want to use Do Sask as a medium to lift up other creative women in Saskatchewan and the prairies.

Let’s stand together.

SCHEDULE

June 3, 2018 Submissions open.
August 31, 2018 Deadline for submissions.
September 3, 2018 Applicants informed of publication date.
Sept 22, 2018 Exhibition begins at www.dosask.com.
December 31, 2018 Last day of exhibition.

SUBMITTING INFORMATION

Do Sask reserves the right to reject submissions that are in direct violation of copyright law. The artist retains copyright of their work and grants Do Sask permission to use their images on the website and social media platforms. Poor quality images will be declined. Please crop your image appropriately before submitting. Please include a 1-2 sentence description along with each image.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY: Catching up with a speed dating match one year later

Speed Dating Match success story

“It’s a crapshoot. You never know what’s going to stick!” – George, past attendee and speed dating match

On April 18, 2017, the first Do Sask Saskatoon Speed Dating event took place on the third floor of the Hose & Hydrant Pub.

In celebration of my first anniversary, I invited attendees from the very first speed dating event to share their success stories. With 11 people in attendance it was an intimate crowd. Fast forward twelve months. Speed dating has had more than a dozen successful events, hundreds of matches, and lots of singles ditching their smartphones for some real face time.

Do Sask began with a goal to help people get connected on a deeper level to the community around them. With all the buzz, I’m sure you’re just as curious as I am about how speed dating has an impact on attendees once the event is over.

This week, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from two of my very first attendees, a lady named Kate* and a gentleman named George*, who are now in a long-term relationship.

Kate and George have been seeing each other since meeting at speed dating last year. When I asked them if they would let me interview them on their experience, they agreed. I talked to each interviewee separately and encouraged them to give honest answers.

Read on if you’re interested in learning about how a real speed dating match develops into a relationship.

GEORGE SAYS

“Speed dating for me was far better than using POF or Tinder, it was a lot more personal and allowed for a better chance at a good first impression.

I matched with Kate and we’re still together. We were friends for the first little bit and then started dating later in the year. I think the benefit of speed dating is putting people together in a room and taking away the ease of making a quick judgment call and moving on, it forces a bit of conversation and getting to know the other person a little bit more than you would see on a dating profile.”

KATE SAYS

“I am happy to say that George and I (whom I met that night) are still together. It was 7 months of being in a relationship as of April 1st. We wanted to be friends for a little bit once we met and he asked me to start a relationship on September 1st at the fireworks festival.

I’m so happy I took a chance and went, took a chance and checked yes and I have you to thank 🙂 so Thank you! I hope that mine and George’s relationship continues to bloom and see where this adventure takes us :)”

What did you think about speed dating before you came?

George: “I heard about speed dating from the movies, but I didn’t know what to expect going into it. I was going in with an open mind.”

Kate: “Honestly the first thing that came to my mind was the scene in the movie Hitch when they have speed dating at the end of the movie. I knew it was meeting someone, you talk for a couple of minutes, then you go on to the next one. Check yes, or no. And if you match ‘yes’ you exchange numbers. I didn’t know what to expect as far as the kind of people I would meet, or anything like that.”

What did you want out of speed dating?

Continue reading “FIRST ANNIVERSARY: Catching up with a speed dating match one year later”