Conservative senator Nancy Ruth told a meeting of international women’s rights groups to “shut the f–k up” regarding maternal health initiatives in developing countries. In response to recent controversy surrounding the government’s plan to omit funding for abortion from its maternal health policy for developing nations, Ruth advised women’s groups that pushing the abortion policy was not the right strategy.

Many women in third world countries die obtaining back alley abortions. Many of these women became pregnant because of lack of available birth control and in many cases, because of rape. Often the parent(s) cannot provide for the children they already have. If maternal health is the issue, then maybe keeping women alive to raise their children should be a top priority.

Nancy Ruth said “To deal with more altruistic things, even though I think we should, is perhaps not relative and not a seller right now.” Basically, while the Tory government wants to appear to be altruistic with their maternal health initiative, they won’t discuss anything that won’t benefit them at the polls.” They won’t discuss how safe, accessible abortion in third world countries could prevent suffering and death for many women.

Posted by: ae | April 4, 2010

The G(irls) 20 Summit, June 2010

What an amazing opportunity for young women, ages 18 to 20 (sadly, not me).

The G(irls) 20 Summit, modeled after the G20 summit, will invite one young girl from each G20 country to participate. The purpose of the summit, which happens in Toronto, June 2010 is to put the economic economic empowerment of girls and women on the agenda at next years G20 summit in France.

Why this is great?

Besides the obvious reasons, the G(irls) 20 summit looks for grassroots’ solutions to global economic and social challenges regarding girls and women.

Online: People are encouraged to sumbit solutions to the challenges that the G20 summit should address. They ask: “What specific actions or initiatives should be put in place to fully maximize the prowress of girls and women?”

One week prior to the summit: twenty girls from the G20 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK, USA, and the European Union) will gather together to provide G20 leaders with recommendations about the direction they need to take to realize the goals set out.

What are they looking for?

Young women who are passionate, forward thinking, and solution oriented. Applicants must be 18-20 years of age, representative of the transitional years between girl and womanhood.

Learn more at www.girlsandwomen.com

Avon's Empowerment Ring

Avon donates 100 percent of the net profits from the Empowerment Ring (and other empowerment products) to the Avon Empowerment fund to end domestic violence. The fund supports the end to violence against women through education, awareness, prevention, and direct service programs.

The Women’s Empowerment initiative was launched in 2008 to raise awareness about the need to speak out against violence that affects women around the globe. The first empowerment product, the bracelet contributed $1 million to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)- managed UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and funded UNIFEM projects in 13 countries.

Awareness and conversation is critical to end violence against women. Women and girls need to feel empowered and safe in their own lives. They need to know that it is unacceptable to be abused: physically, sexually, mentally, or emotionally. The Empowerment ring is an excellent gift for the women in your life. It begins a conversation that should be shared amongst women around the world.

The Pink Gang

The Gulabi Gang, or the Gang of the Pink Saris is a group of Indian women who exact revenge on men and officials for their intolerable behaviour against the Dalits, or the untouchables.

Symbol of rural women's changing roles

Indian women born into the Dalit caste are often subject to abandonment, rape, and domestic abuse at the hands of upper-caste men. Police have failed to protect these women, who have taken their community’s safety into their own hands.

From BBC News: “Nobody comes to our help in these parts.The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers,” says Sampat Pal Devi [Leader of the Gulabi Gang].

Gulabi women with lathis

The Gulabi women carry lathis, a stick-like weapon, which they use to stand up for themselves and others. They are not fighting for a handout, but to earn dignity and respect from officials. They want to challenge the dominant gender and class roles, which are oppressive to the Dalits. For women, leader Sampat Pal Devi says that education is the most important path to women’s independence.

Read more: BBC News, India’s ‘Pink’ Vigilante Women

Posted by: ae | March 20, 2010

Review: The Vagina Monologues

When: March 13 & 14

Where: Capitol Theatre, Toronto

Written by Eve Ensler; Directed by Daphne Simone

About: The Vagina Monologues is based on the interviews with over 200 women about their memories and experiences of sexuality. The play is a humorous, revealing, and inspirational set of stories that celebrate female sexuality, in all its complexities.

The Vagina Monologues has represented and revealed the female mind and body in ways they have never before been portrayed.

From Eve Ensler: “At first women were reluctant to talk,” Ensler writes. “They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them.”

The Effect: The Vagina Monologues stimulated v-day, the international campaign to end violence against women and girls.

Verdict: A must see for both women and men – all will be enlightened and entertained.

Posted by: ae | March 13, 2010

Love Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler is the inspirational woman behind the Vagina Monologues and V-day, the campaign to end violence against women and girls everywhere.

Watch her talk about embracing your inner girl. Ensler argues that all women and men have a group of girl cells – cells, which have been suppressed and oppressed.

Here is one of my favourite moments from Ensler’s talk:

“And then let’s think how compassion informs wisdom, and that vulnerability is our greatest strength, and that emotions have inherent logic, which lead to radical, appropriate, saving action. And then let’s remember that we’ve been taught the exact opposite by the powers that be, that compassion clouds your thinking, that it gets in the way, that vulnerability is weakness, that emotions are not to be trusted, and you’re not supposed to take things personally, which is one of my favorites.”

V-day is a global movement to end the violence against girls and women. Learn more at http://www.vday.org

Posted by: ae | March 10, 2010

Belated Oscar tribute to the leading women

Another belated post. I got a wisdom tooth out on Monday, so give me a break! If you know me, you probably know that I love (okay, am obsessed with) the Oscars. What a better way to share my love than a tribute to Oscar’s wonder women. Here are some of the characters that inspired me this year:

Meryl Streep as Julia Child

Meryl Streep lit up the screen as food legend Julia Child. In Paris, 1949, Julia Child, the wife of a diplomat, wonders how to spend her days. She tries hat making, bridge, and then cooking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu. There she discovers her passion. The only woman in her cooking class, Julia discovers that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.

Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy

Of course any Oscar tribute wouldn’t be complete without homage to the Oscar winner for best actress, Sandra Bullock.

Sandra portrayed real-life wonder woman Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took in a struggling young man, Micheal Oher. The Tuohy’s gave Micheal a chance at a good life with the love of a good family. Of course, what would the American dream be without a little football?

Gabourey Sidibe as Precious Jones

Gabourey played Precious, a young mother of two, with big dreams, who struggles to overcome years of abuse at the hands of her parents.

Carey Mulligan as Jenny

I adored the character of Jenny in An Education, a young schoolgirl seduced by the charms of an older man, David. Her parents are enthralled by the prospect of Jenny’s relationship with a seemingly well-off man. It is only Jenny’s teachers who are disappointed that Jenny is ready to give up her academic talents and a certain chance of higher education. Although Jenny is ready to throw away her chance of going to Oxford for the wonderful life that David has shown her, it causes her to question the purpose of the education of girls in the 1960s: “It’s not enough to just educate us any more. You have to tell us why.”

Let Wonder Women know the Oscar women who inspired you this year.

Posted by: ae | March 9, 2010

International Women’s Day

Yesterday, Monday, March 8, was International Women’s Day. Around the world, individual women and womanhood were honoured, celebrated, and remembered. Yet it is also a day to acknowledge that millions of women worldwide continue to be socially, economically, and politically oppressed and that the fight for equality, justice, and peace has not ended.

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world. In some countries, such as China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, International Women’s Day is an offical holiday.

In Canada, Metro News, in partnership with CARE, distributed 30,000 strings to readers across the country.

If you missed Women’s Day, there are still ways to get involved and on many different levels.

1. Show a woman in your life your appreciation and admiration.

2. Get involved with global organizations, such as CARE at http://care.ca/main/index.php?IWDactions

Posted by: ae | February 21, 2010

The Good Hearted Whore

Last August, I completed my Masters in Canadian history. I was interested in feminist and gender histories and became completely fascinated with the second wave feminist movement. Consequently, I wrote my thesis on how the female body was another site where feminism was practiced and enacted upon. Drawing on articles published in Chatelaine magazine from 1965 to 1969, my paper explored links between feminism and the female body, specifically the sexualized body, in a Canadian context. Sexuality and sexual acts are behaviours that essentially differentiate male and female and have structured inequalities. I suggested that biology has been used to construct visions of ideally femininity, which included women’s sexual role. Women were essentially polarized into a virgin-whore dichotomy, which limited the sexual behaviours they engaged in and also enforced a position of passivity and submission. This construction of ideal femininity, coupled with its ‘natural’ sexual output, heterosexuality, was deconstructed and challenged by second-wave feminism in North America’s sexual revolution using novel ideas about the female body and sexuality.

In the 1960s popular discourse on female sexuality shifted from Freudianism to Feminism. Sex research by Alfred C. Kinsey and Masters and Johnson provided a bridge between Freudian ideals and feminist realities. Freudian sexual discourse linked proper femininity and ideal womanhood to women’s sexual role. This discourse, which was mobilized in the post-war years by psychologists, doctors, and marriage experts, was distinctly anti-feminist. Freudian experts argued that women’s sexuality was bound up with having children and was dependent on the male partner for physiological pleasure. This type of heterosexuality wedded the sex act to the marriage bed; it linked female pleasure to male penetration and created female dependency. Normal female pleasure, and consequently normal heterosexuality, was also linked to the vagina. Ideally, the sex act culminated in simultaneous orgasm achieved through penetration. Within this framework, the vaginal orgasm, which was very difficult for women to achieve, was an important proof of womanhood. Sex manuals, better known as marriage manuals, stressed the necessity of achieving orgasm and its total dependency on male effort. Female orgasm and bodily pleasures were, however, always peripheral to the main goal of sexual intercourse, that of having children.

The sex research of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson challenged much of Freudian discourse. Most significantly, their research showed that reproduction had little to do with women’s enjoyment of sex. Rather than viewing women as mothers or as mothers-to-be, a new generation of sexologists saw women as having the same rights to sexual pleasure as men.

In the late 1960s, Chatelaine had begun to report on the sex research of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson and consequently re-wrote female pleasure with an emphasis on women’s agency for its mass audience of Canadian women. Writers June Callwood and Mary Van Stolk encouraged Chatelaine readers to take a more active role sexually. They dispelled myths of frigidity, sexual passivity, and vaginal orgasms. The vaginal orgasm was detached from women’s sexual agency. In comparison, clitoris was seen as having an increasingly important function in women’s sexualized bodies and within heterosexual sexual behaviors. Both Callwood and Van Stolk used feminist language to write about female heterosexuality. In contrast with articles about birth control and abortion, “Sex and the Married Woman” and “Canadian Women are Masochists” acknowledged a changing sexual climate in North America, which was related to the availability of birth control and abortions.

The topic was also expanded to include research on birth control, abortion, same-sex relationships, and sexual deviancy.

More to come.

Posted by: ae | February 12, 2010

The Girl Effect

What is the girl effect?

The girl effect is a powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in society. Driven by the notion that young women are likely agents of change in the developing world, but largely invisible to society. It’s simple: Investing in girls is the key to eliminating poverty and creating a better world.

The reality of the lives of girls and women in developing countries is often quite troubling. Here are some facts:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls and young women worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are out of school; that’s 70% of the world’s out-of-school youth.
  • Girls with little to no schooling are more likely to marry and have children before the age of 18.
  • Sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and gender-based violence are a reality for many young girls and women.
  • More girls have been killed in the last half decade, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century.

But, there’s hope:

  • When a girl in the world receives seven years or more of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990).
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man (girleffect.org).
  • Just one extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10 to 20%. An extra year of secondary schools, 15 to 25% (girleffect.org).
  • There is a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers (girleffect.org).
  • The economic growth in Asia was, in large part, due to the economic empowerment of women. East Asian countries took young women who previously had not contributed to the GNP and injected them into the economy, hugely increasing the labor force.

For more information and to find out how to get involved in the opportunity to better the world, visit:

http://www.girleffect.org

http://www.becauseiamagirl.ca

Or read:

Kristof, Nicholas D. and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. (Knopf, 2009)

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