Is it an epidemic?

thereginamom has continued to read the Twitter hashtag, , and so much more.  She remains deeply moved by the outpouring of experiences shared and the conversations that are happening within various local communities, in the mainstream media, and online.  Though the number of tweets has decreased, the sharing continues.  Never has trm ever been involved in such a powerful online action — and she’s been involved in many, as some of you dear Readers know.

sex assault stats ywcaThis infographic from YWCA Canada startled trm.  It clearly demonstrates the urgent, immediate need for change.  From what trm has read on Twitter we need to change the way reports of rape are handled by police and the justice system.  In order to do that, we need to change the way our culture looks at rape.  We need to end rape culture.

Rape culture was not a term familiar to trm until her daughter went away to university and shared posts about it on Facebook.  trm has learned how her experience of rape is a result of a culture that not so subtly condones rape.

How do we change this, dear Reader, and quickly?

Demand an Apology from Senator Dagenais

the regina mom is pleased to see that at least the NDP are taking the misogynistic and ageist personal attack by Senator Dagenais against MP Charmaine Borg seriously.  In the House of Commons on Monday, MP Charlie Angus asked if the PMO was involved.  Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, MP Paul Calandra, gave a  non-response. [Beginning at 1:00]

MP Charmaine Borg, who is regarded as a good and hard-working MP, has lodged a formal complaint with the Speaker of the House.

In the letter, which was copied to all MPs, senators and their staff, Dagenais characterized Borg as a whiny, ignorant, useless Quebec MP who was elected by fluke and stands little chance of being re-elected.

Dagenais’ letter was sent in response to a flyer Borg sent out in her riding advocating the NDP’s long-held belief that the Senate should be abolished.

Borg says she was particularly insulted by Dagenais’ suggestion that she should get some books from the parliamentary library to inform herself about the Senate before criticizing the institution.

Borg, who is just 23 years old, says that’s the kind of “old-school mentality” that discourages young women from entering politics.

“The overall tone of this letter suggests that I am simply a little girl who does not take her work seriously,” Borg told the Commons on Monday.

Ms Borg also spoke out to reporters today:

“I think if I was an old, white man, he would not have attacked me,” Ms. Borg, 23, told reporters. “We’re not doing any favours to young women who want to run in the future by having this type of behaviour in Parliament.”

Ms. Borg said the letter was “condescending,” pointing out that she took political science classes at McGill University and is well-versed in constitutional matters.

“If his letter contained real facts, had a real debate about ideas, then I wouldn’t be here having a question of privilege in the House,” Ms. Borg said.

She added it’s “very ironic” that the attack originates from an unelected senator.

“He was a failed candidate, and then a year later, was named by the Prime Minister as a senator,” Ms. Borg said. “I don’t think he has any place to challenge my legitimacy.”

And, Ms Borg appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics.

trm was very happy to see that; it takes a lot of courage to stand up to a bully!  trm particularly loves that Ms Borg challenged Dagenais to step down from his Senate seat to run against her in 2015!  Oh, that young woman has spunk! trm looks forward to more from Ms Borg!

Demand an apology from Senator Dagenais!

December 6

Today is the 24th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, that day in 1989 when 14 women were gunned down because they were women. Today, we make a point of remembering:

dec6

Remember the women

Today is Remembrance Day, the day that the regina mom learned was set aside to honour our war veterans, those who fought so we could have peace.  What no one mentioned during her upbringing was the hundreds of thousands of women who suffered as a result of gendered power during times of war.  No one taught her that rape is a weapon of war.

Warring groups use rape as a weapon because it destroys communities totally, says Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men.” Adds Cammaert: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

Rape has been a dishonourable camp follower of war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the 20th century, perceptions of rape in war have moved from something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods to an actual tactic in conflict. The lasting psychological harm that rape inflicts on its victims has also been recognized: Rape is always torture, says Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yes, rape is always torture.  The Amnesty International report, LIVES BLOWN APART, explores some of the horrors experienced by women and girls in war-torn regions

In most of today’s wars, civilian casualties far outnumber those of armed combatants. Women and men both suffer human rights violations in conflicts, such as unlawful killings and torture. However, the particular ways in which women are targeted for violence, or are otherwise affected by armed conflict, are usually overlooked.

Women and girls are more likely to be the target of sexual violence, especially rape. Women face extra, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles to obtaining justice, because of the stigma attached to survivors of sexual violence, and women’s disadvantaged position in society. Whether civilians or combatants, refugees or displaced people, the impact of war weighs particularly heavily on women.

In this report, Amnesty International shows some of the ways in which conflict affects women, and the many different roles which women play in conflict. Women are not only victims and survivors, but also activists, negotiators, peace-builders and human rights defenders. Attempts to address the human rights consequences of conflict, including its particular effects on women, can only be comprehensive and long-lasting if women play an active part in rebuilding society at all levels.

Last month, more than 100 countries agreed  to endorse the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The declaration holds that sexualized violence in conflict is in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and declares that the perpetrators should be pursued and arrested no matter where they are in the world. The declaration also calls upon signatory member states to do more than raise awareness to the issue and to provide better support not only to the victims but to national and international efforts to prevent and respond to sexualized violence in conflict.

80 nations refused to sign the Declaration, including Burma/Myanmar.

The international community, eager to praise these reforms, has neglected to call Burma out on its sexualized violence problem, ignoring the ingrained culture of impunity that has allowed sexualized violence to flourish for decades. The military regime that came to power in a 1962 coup has used rape, particularly against women in the ethnic and border regions, as a way to quell opposition movements and retain control. A weapon of war, the practice is typically employed to keep communities compliant by sowing fear and humiliation and punishing and interrogating those who would support opposition groups. Sadly, the Burmese military junta’s campaign of widespread and systematic sexualized violence continues unabated today.

And, shortly after that, the Government of Canada spoke out about violence against women in times of war.  But, the government refuses to provide funding through its international development program to help women who survive the atrocity and find themselves pregnant as a result and seek to terminate the pregnancy.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How much does the regina mom despise her country of origin right now?  As one who has experienced rape, survived it and come out the other side of it, even though it did not take place in a war zone or a time of war, you can bet it’s more than a little.  The multiple impacts of rape are horrendous, without war thrown into the mix.
AI notes that the consequences of sexual violence experienced by females include “serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, and stigmatization and/or rejection by family members and communities.” Few victims of sexual violence have access to health care in their time of need.
We must do more to end the global war on women.

Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 2

Further to the regina mom‘s Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 here is part 2, detailing the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.

 

trm knew of Kate Braid’s work as a poet, having been introduced to her Georgia O’Keefe poems at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago.  She did not know that Kate Braid was also a nonfiction writer and so listened intently during the presentation about her latest nonfiction work, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s Worldtrm knows women who work in trades and technologies.  In fact, when she first became active in the women’s movement, she met many women involved in Saskatchewan Women In Trades and Technologies (SaskWITT), women who, like her, were part of the women’s coalition that came about during the end of the Devine years.

 

But back to Braid, who said that memoir writing is not the same as autobiography.  Rather, it tells part of a life.  She said she struggled with finding the stories that mattered and added to it as she went along.  Wisely, she had kept a detailed journal and was able to reference her notes.  Her first draft took more than 25 years to write and was over 1,200 pages!  Eventually, it was carved to a book, thanks to her editor who was able to see the narrative.

 

She said her intent was to be emotionally honest about her experience in the construction trade, about that time in her life, and found that the tense she chose to use, present tense, afforded her the best means of doing so.  The past tense tended to pull her away from the story.  She also said that a memoir’s success depends on the author showing what s/he has learned and referenced Myrna’s opening remarks about memory being like a computer.  “Memory is a backseat driver who wants control,” she said.  Truthtellers, of both emotional and literal truth, she added, are essential to credibility.

 

Her advice, which comes from Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, is what the regina mom tries to do, that is to “write as though no one is ever going to read this.”  Easier said than done, but doable.  Still, Braid knew people would read her book and so she changed some people’s names to protect them.  She asked herself if names were essential to the story and, in instances where they were, she sent out chapters to those named and sought their feedback.  trm is thinking she may well have to do that with her Sask women’s movement essay, presuming it ever gets written, that is.

 

Braid spoke about her fear and how it stopped her from writing over and over again.  At one point she was paralyzed for years and it got even worse after she submitted the manuscript to her publisher!  But once she was able to figure out who she was writing the book for, the tradeswomen who went through what she went through, it was easier.  She decided she was providing a baseline of what it was like to be a woman working in the trades.  She knew the book wanted to be written, knew it had to be written.  She wrote various versions of it — scholarly, lighthearted, for example — and finally got it written.

 

trm can’t help but wonder about the women who, when she worked at the YWCA, were apprenticing in the trades and remodeling various locations in the building.  How many of them faced ridicule and insult once they completed their training?  How many even completed the training?  Certainly, working as part of an all-women crew would be very different from working as the only woman on a construction crew!  And trm bets they’d love to hear Braid read from her book, so she’s going to do what she can to get Kate Braid to Saskatchewan for a reading in the near future.

 

That’s done!

A month can zip right by when one is engaged in community and writing!  As of Saturday, the regina mom completed the in-person requirements as writer-in-residence at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre.  A great Regina Beach and area crowd turned out to the launch of TALES FROM THE LAKE so if you’re interested watch for more about that over at This hot place.

Over the month, a couple of young friends I worked with on the Ryan Meili campaign have given birth and, thanks to a Facebook conversation about diapers, the regina mom remembered this poem, posted here in honour of the new babies, Thomas and Sasha.

Clothesline chat

    for June

She is not ashamed to hang
her toddler's diapers on the line, even
though neighbouring lines boast
like‑aged children are potty‑trained.

She smiles to the other mothers
shakes and clips moist white flags
to the wire despite decades old decrees 
children be free from diapers at precisely age two.

She visits another mother, helps 
move a table to the basement where 
on a wooden clothes rack 
diapers drip dry.

c. Bernadette Wagner

(And posted with gratitude that the times have changed.)

And the attacks on our rights continue…

the regina mom is getting rather sick and tired of the anti-abortion crowd’s attacks on women’s reproductive rights.  They don’t have a leg to stand on, and they know it, so they come out with backdoor attempts, overloaded with emotion, to restrict our access to a basic medical procedure.

This from MPs Vellacott, Benoit and Lizon, which really digs into the glurge, is the latest attempt. The Sixth Estate takes it down quite handily.  Vellacott’s attack follows a long string of attacks including the recently defeated Motion 312, the oft-introduced, many-named and always-defeated Bill C-537 as well as the also-defeated Bill C-484, to name a few, from the “pro-life” extremists recent years.

And now, the National Post’s Jon Kay propagates on their behalf, spreading misinformation to Canadians, breeding confusion and forgetting entirely that the Canada Health Act exists. Fortunately, bloggers like DAMMITJANET! are ever vigilant, not only calling him on his lies and mistruths but also following publicizing his conniving on Twitter and blogging that, too.

Lest we think bloggers and tweeps are the only ones following this, note that Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett was in on the tweeting and now has a blogpost challenging Kay’s misrepresentations.  And here’s NDP MP Niki Ashton’s statement in the House of Commons from earlier this week.

the regina mom is grateful for these strong women in the House of Commons as well as for those who, like the good folks at DAMMITJANET!, keep her apprised of the situation around women’s reproductive freedom in Canada.

Celebrating Imbolc: A Poem in Progress

Horoscope: Ground Hog Day

Brighid, the ancient hag of winter, kindles
sacred fires to melt earth’s white blanket

transforming you as she did Galatians and Brigantians
long before Patrick danced green among the Celts

Her healing waters wash away toxic patterns that tax and consume,
erase attitudes that build you into what you are not.

Old Brighid, young Maiden-Mother-Crone cum
Christian saint blesses houses on her feast day, the Cross-Quarter Day

when winter passes halfway through, when once
candles made sacred at Candlemas lit houses and villages,

morphed into the Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
until St. Brigit’s decanonization. Her fire, snuffed.

A ground hog rippled across the ocean.

 

c. 2013 Bernadette Wagner

A Bad Law and A Bold Woman

An excerpt from an essay-in-progress.

A Bad Law and A Bold Woman

1985. I’ve always called it the worst year of my life.  A series of unfortunate events tripped me up the summer I turned 23.  In no particular order: sex, a really bad boss, unemployment, and a 1968 Buick.

The sex: great! One of my first orgasms.

The job:  itself, not bad.  Great pay for typing and answering phones.  But when I lost my only pair of glasses I couldn’t work. The boss I had considered to be nice convinced me to quit.  She suggested that missing a week of work while I waited for new specs to arrive would “let down the team.”  Fine, I thought. I didn’t really love the job.  I’d had great student placements there in the past; this one wasn’t one of them.  Earlier that year another boss aka The Dragon Lady had hauled me into her office and tried to guilt-trip me into taking fulltime hours during the summer months.  I told her I couldn’t.  She shouted.  I cried and insisted I was taking summer classes.  Had I known then what I now know about collective agreements and workers’ rights, that meeting would have gone differently!

So, when the nice boss started in on me, I quit.  Unemployment meant spare time.  On my way to my dad’s for coffee one summery day, a teenager failed to yield as posted.  His hot red car smashed into the rear driver’s side door of my blue Buick. My car spun counter-clockwise through the intersection, up onto the sidewalk, and stopped abruptly when the passenger side door hit the solid steel light post.  Police eventually arrived to take my shaky statement.  An ambulance hauled me to the hospital where my dad met me. I was diagnosed with sprains and whiplash and sent on my way with a back brace and painkillers.  Flexoril, a painkiller, became my friend.

In Canada in 1985 Madame Justice Bertha Wilson had not yet played her role in striking down Canada’s abortion law, the law that created regulations so strict it was nigh on impossible for women to access the procedure.  It required women to secure the approval of a doctor and the local hospital’s Therapeutic Abortion Committee (TAC) if she wanted to terminate a pregnancy.  In Saskatchewan, only two hospitals performed abortions, Regina General and Saskatoon City.  Few women received the necessary approval in Regina.  Some sought services elsewhere.  My friend traveled nine hours to a private clinic in North Dakota and experienced severe complications afterward.  Wealthy women and those who could find the money to do so, flew to Toronto where the Morgentaler clinic operated.  Still others tried to induce their own abortions by various means.  Knitting needles, coat hangers, and onions were a few of the methods I’d read about.

My injury had me back-and-forth to the doctor’s office. I’d been thinking that having unprotected sex with a friend was probably not wise.  So, on one of those trips I told my doctor I wanted to try The Pill.  During his process of figuring out which one would work, I learned I was pregnant.  I immediately knew I’d have the pregnancy terminated.  I did not want, and was not ready for, parenthood.  Adoption was out of the question, along with traveling to Toronto or anywhere out of province for that matter.

The friend who’d had post-abortion complications told me about an underground network she had learned about.  It led to my first visit to the Regina Women’s Community Centre, an organization to which I would give volunteer time in the future.  The woman who offered counsel, Abby, counselled many women like me over the years.  She shared the options available to me.  I took a chance on the one doctor in Regina who occasionally supported a woman through the TAC’s hoops.

His office was an ordinary one for older buildings in the downtown core.  The lobby, lined with rows of black vinyl and chome chairs, had white walls and dark-stained wood trim.  Three of us, in various stages of pregnancy waited.  A faint quiver ran through my body.  My face felt flushed.  He made me nervous.  After the physical exam he confirmed my pregnancy. I then explained why I needed an abortion. I told him it had been the first time this man and I had had intercourse, that I was studying to be a teacher and wanted to finish my degree, that I couldn’t afford parenthood. Before I could finish the doctor turned and walked away from me shouting, “I will not be a welfare doctor!”  What the hell that meant, I did not know.  I can suppose, now, that he meant he wouldn’t terminate a pregnancy in order to keep a young woman off welfare.  I’ll never know for sure.  I didn’t stick around to quiz him; I left, in tears, more determined than ever to put an end to the pregnancy.

The TACs operated under a residency restriction regarding which hospital could treat which woman.  Davidson divided the province.  Women living to the north were to use Saskatoon; south, Regina.  I lived in Regina and the underground network informed me that Dr. John Bury, sympathetic to women’s rights, would perform abortions on women who could provide a Saskatoon address.  My meeting with a woman from the underground network informed me of another option, one that didn’t sit too well with me, one I’d rather have avoided.  But I knew beyond a doubt that this road would be the only one available to me.  It meant I’d have to tell more people about my pregnancy.  I could live with that.  But could I live with lying to officials to secure the procedure?

I pulled Lesley, my former room-mate and friend living in Saskatoon, in on my plan, made an appointment and traveled to Saskatoon.  My official identification had me living at my dad’s house in Regina, but I offered up Lesley’s Saskatoon address to the intake worker at Dr. Bury’s clinic.  She did not ask about the address discrepancy.  Per the advice I’d received, I added that my studies at the University of Saskatchewan brought me to live here in Saskatoon.  Until then, I’d believed my capacity as a liar lacked a certain strength of conviction, but in that moment I surely could have convinced anyone of the veracity of my statement.  That said, I held my quivering nerves in check from the time I arrived through until I left.  My resolve was firm.

I thought she’d bought my story, along with my very real concerns about the consumption of pain medication during my early pregnancy.  She informed me that the doctor’s office would call the first week in September.  I had a long, sweaty month ahead of me.  What if they discovered I’d lied?  What if the TAC denied my request?

never again

Save the date! #SWF13

the regina mom is so very excited! As you regulars are aware, she attended the Women’s Forum des Femmes in Ottawa in October and had a fantastic time.  So, she brought the idea home and is happy to invite you to save the date!

—–

Saskatchewan Women’s Forum 2013

 

If you are interested in women’s rights, in connecting with individuals and organizations who have been working on women’s issues recently and through the decades, and in spending a weekend learning, having fun, and moving a women’s agenda forward in our province, then:

 

Please set aside Friday, January 18 (evening) and Saturday, January 19, 2013!

 

We are a coalition of women and organizations who have come together to plan a Saskatchewan Women’s Forum taking place at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. For too long, we have been having conversations in isolation from each other about the current context that women and women’s organizations find themselves in. So we are creating this opportunity to collectively develop how we can move forward on the issues that we care about.

 

We are currently finalizing our program, which will be centered on women’s stories and respectful of intergenerational, intercultural and diverse experiences. If you are interested in attending, please respond back to us (at michelle.beveridge@oxfam.ca, 306.242.4097)) and we will ensure you receive the program and registration package by mid-December.

 

In the meantime, please save the date! And get in touch with us if you would like to be part of the planning, to volunteer at the forum in any number of capacities, or have other ideas for us.

 

Registration is $50/person. (Please let us know if you are in a situation where you would only be able to attend with a reduced rate, or conversely, if you are able and willing to donate  money to assist in covering a portion of registration for others.)

 

Sincerely,

Michelle Beveridge and Katelyn Jones, Oxfam Canada, Saskatoon

Sue Delanoy, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon

Diane Fletcher, Vadis Group, Saskatoon

Lori Hanson, U of S, Community Health and Epidemiology, Saskatoon

Laura Hopkins, Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition

Lori Johb, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Regina

Audra Krueger, U of S, Centre for the Study of Co-ops, Saskatoon

Darla Leard, Canadian Labour Congress, Saskatoon

Barb Macpherson, YWCA Saskatoon

Adriane Paavo, Prairie Lily Feminist Society, Regina

Priscilla Settee, U of S, Native Studies, Saskatoon

Lenore Swystun and Samantha Mark, Prairie Wild Consulting, Saskatoon

Laura Westman, Saskatoon

Bernadette Wagner, Regina

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,005 other followers