Happy International Women’s Day!

Oh, the regina mom‘s been a busy woman this past year! Marketing a book takes time and energy in the planning and carrying out. Needless to say, this blog has fallen by the wayside.

However, I could not miss the opportunity to wish my readers a happy International Women’s Day and to share a piece I was asked to write for the Equity Issue the Prairie Dog published last week. The editor contacted me, requesting a rant and, of course, I could not say no. But, later that day, when I attended my meditation class and we talked about “wise speech” and were invited to practice it over the upcoming week I realized that I could not write this rant in my usual way.

It was a challenge, indeed, to say what needed to be said in a wise way. And so, I’m curious what you, dear reader, think.

And here’s the rant, as published in The Dog:

Beyond Despair

Women survive, against all odds.

Even though we women make up 52 per cent of the global population and we own only one per cent of the land, we survive.

Even though climate change impacts women around the world more harshly (try gathering wood, food, water in a drought zone or flood zone every day), we survive.

Even though we earn 73 per cent the wages of men and are over-represented in part-time, low-pay jobs, and even though the world economies once counted us as chattel and told us our work was not work, we survive.

Even though cooking, cleaning and caregiving, the three Cs of women’s work, are worth between $234 and $374 billion in labour that remains unpaid, and even though we never received the national childcare program we were promised and yet we still find time to fill the gaps when governments offload services onto communities and families, we survive.

Even though, right here in Saskatchewan, one child in five – a full 20 per cent – live without adequate food, shelter and clothing, and even though more than 43,000 of our children live in poverty and 60 per cent of children living in households headed by a lone woman live in poverty, and children around the world continue to live in deep poverty, we survive.

Even though governments dismally fail to acknowledge our inequality, respect our issues – or even hear our voices – and instead, privatize economic decision-making, grant corporations more rights and less taxes, doctor documents, cut funding to programs, close doors to our organizations, oppose same sex marriages, peel back our reproductive rights, ignore our human rights, spurn and deride us, tell us to “go slowly,” that we’re “too radical” and dismiss us as “dumb bitches” or “Feminazis,” we survive.

Even though violence against us is epidemic the world over – we are assaulted emotionally, psychologically, physically, sexually – even though 50 per cent of us will experience violence to our person in our lifetime and we have sisters, daughters, grand-daughters who are treated as illegal goods to be trafficked and sold into sexual slavery, and even though we are stoned to death, gunned down, disappeared or murdered, we survive.

Even though we live our lives in the global war waged against us right here and right now, as it has for centuries – even though we die daily, we survive.

We survive because we are strong.

We are strong because we are one community. We are one community with a diverse population: women of colour, Indigenous, Métis women, who have immigrated, emigrated, who are refugees, who are urban, rural, peasant, homeless women, are mothers, grandmothers, child-free, who are sex workers, waged workers, volunteer workers, who are lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, are religious, atheist, agnostic, spiritual, women with disabilities, healing powers, visions, who are older, younger, middle-aged…

We survive because we are coming to know the power of diversity, to know our power as women. And we know that our time to wield power is at hand.

c. 2011 Bernadette L. Wagner

Happy IWD!

Happy Birthday, Prairie Lilies!

A version of this article was published in Canadian Dimension Volume 43, Number 2.  Feel free to leave your greetings in the comments section, below.

Happy Birthday, Prairie Lilies!

by Bernadette L. Wagner

Last year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the Canadian Labour Congress and a collection of Saskatchewan’s labour organizations hosted an Equality Dinner in Regina. It provided opportunity for feminists old and new to come together with supportive brothers in a social setting. Those kinds of opportunities have been few in recent years. Feminism in Saskatchewan had taken a serious blow. The pseudo-progressive New Democratic Party of Saskatchewan targeted feminists working within the party. Feminist organizations struggled to keep doors open with incrementally less money. The once-thriving, Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of Women withered and died. The women’s movement in Saskatchewan seemed to stop moving.

Until last year, that is. At the dinner, after the food and speeches, an informal discussion began among those gathered. Sheila Roberts, a long-time activist, stood to raise a question. “Is there interest in starting a new women’s organization along the lines of Saskatchewan Working Women (SWW)?” she asked. SWW helped to put women’s issues on bargaining tables and made them known in the public sphere. My personal longing for organized feminist activity in the province made me stand up, speak in support, and call for a provincial women’s conference which would bring women together to share and network and speak to our issues.

Most women gathered liked the idea. Cara Banks, a feminist active in the Labour movement came up to me afterwards, saying we had to talk. Within six weeks we gathered a dozen women into my living room and brought to life the Prairie Lily Feminist Society. With an interim board of directors we decided to incorporate as a member-based non-profit corporation which would work to “promote an explicitly feminist analysis of issues, to educate and act in ways that are progressive and feminist and to interconnect with other individuals, groups and organizations who share our vision for change.” We also decided we wanted to be “a place where women could develop leadership skills, including public speaking, organizing, educating, agitating, and critically analyzing issues.” And, we felt it important that we “provide a place where we are free to debate issues from feminist perspectives and to develop policy responses as a collective.”

As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to plan a women’s symposium for Saskatoon in December 2008. To accomplish that would mean fundraising and organizing. Our connections to brothers in the trade union movement helped. Thanks to the support of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other unions in the province, we had a manifesto and a bank account of more than five thousand dollars. By the middle of May, less than two months after the idea of a new women’s organization had been put forward, we had part-time paid staff to begin organizing and mobilizing for the symposium. Because of a personal injury, I had to completely remove myself from involvement in all organizations but that didn’t stop the “Lilies.” I passed my files along to Ann McCrorie and she carried our dreams forward into being.

On December 6 and 7, 2008 the Prairie Lily Feminist Society held its first provincial symposium for women in Saskatoon. Almost a hundred women from many Saskatchewan communities attended. A cursory glance at the evaluation forms suggest it was a great success and certainly something long overdue in the province. Keynote speaker, Morningstar Mercredi, opened the symposium. The storyteller, actress, social activist, researcher and author of “Morningstar: A Warrior’s Spirit” delivered a powerful message: “Lilies, step into your power.” It’s precisely the message Saskatchewan women needed to hear. In many ways, we had allowed our power to be usurped by male privilege. And so, we not only gathered but we also learned, connected, and got excited!

In workshop sessions we learned about the work that’s gone on around women who are missing, about peace activism, and working women. We connected around our spiritual work, our right to be assertive, our planet and our children. And, thanks to an activist roundtable, where represen­tatives from women’s organizations shared with one another about their campaigns, we got excited! Stories from Oxfam, the Rebelles, la Fédération provincial des Fransaskoises, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition, Real Renewal.org, the Sask Eco-Network, Amnesty International, the Canadian Childcare Advocacy Association, the Prairie Women’s Health Centre for Excellence, and Nancy Allan who sold Fair Trade goods during our event moved us.

The symposium was deliberately planned for the weekend of December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. To mark the day the Prairie Lilies hosted a commemorative dinner, catered by Two Women from Burr. Those two women, Laurel and Marie, put on a fantastic spread wherever they cater with delicious locally-grown and organic foods. Following the dinner, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition hosted a formal ceremony to honour the women killed in the Montreal Massacre and all women who face violence in their lives.

As with all good events, they seem to end too soon. The symposium’s closing sessions saw agreement in many areas. Among other things participants agreed to walk in support with women in Saskatchewan who are organizing around the issue of missing and murdered women and raised money for workers walking the picket line. We recognized that our power together is strong and so we will organize, fundraise, and lobby for women and their families. Participants identified areas they’d like to focus: balancing work and family; women’s sexuality; media training; lobbying; writing and debating resolutions; chairing meetings; fundraising; and online organizing were but a few.

At present, the Prairie Lily Feminist Society is looking forward to its first Annual General Meeting scheduled for Regina on March 7th. It will be our contribution to the 2009 International Women’s Day celebrations with a dinner, a silent auction, entertainment and a social. And we’re donating a portion of our proceeds to the Sisters in Spirit Saskatchewan campaign.

Though feminist activism in our province had suffered a blow, it did not die. Feminism is a-happening here! And of course, it would be. The personal is political.

Isn’t it amazing what can transpire in a year?

Happy International Women’s Day

In celebration of the IWD, Canadian Dimension magazine featured several feminist articles and art in the current issue.  Happily, the editor has uploaded my article to their website.  An excerpt:

Eco-feminist action in the 21st century

Bernadette L. Wagner

Canadian Dimension magazine, March/April 2008

In early June, 2007, I was one of seven Saskatchewan women who made their way to Boston to record the vocal tracks for an ecofeminist recording project, My Heart Is Moved. In all, 85 women from ten different bio-regions of North America — many of whom had never before met — gathered to sing songs based on the Earth Charter, a global peoples’ document on sustainable living. All who traveled to Boston brought with them the breath and life of their local communities, the voices of all those in their singing circles, the amazing preparation and intention of the local group into the focused work of rehearsals and recording. The experience was profound and continues to shape me, much as the songs continue to take shape in community.

The Roots of Ecofeminism

Attempting to trace the origin of the word “ecofeminism” yields confusion. There are those who consider Francois d’Eaubonne, a French feminist and author of Le Feminisme ou la Mort (Feminism or Death), published in 1974 and translated into English in 1989, the originator. Others credit Susan Griffin’s Women and Nature or Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology: The MetaEthics of Radical Feminism, both published in 1978, as laying significant groundwork for ecofeminism, even though neither woman used the term in those works. Still others suggest that it could have been used by indigenous peoples or Black Americans working in their communities. What becomes clear in sorting through the literature is that no one woman can be crowned as originator, especially when the intricacies of oral cultures and realities of class are brought into the discussion.

Still, all ecofeminists can point to the work of Rachel Carson and her studies of birds and lakes as a significant root of ecofeminism. “Chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world — the very nature of life,” she said in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. That book rocked all of North America and much of the world, resulting in a backlash from the chemical industry and the scientific community.

Read the full article.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,669 other followers