The Toronto Women’s Bookstore needs your help! The 36-year-old non-profit, feminist bookstore, which is committed to anti-oppression, risks having to close its doors if it doesn’t raise $40,000 by January. The store has issued a letter to the community asking for donations so that it can remain afloat while the current managers and staff take time to devise strategies to make the store more sustainable.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, it’s more than just a bookstore. The TWB offers workshops, courses, readings, and other events that foster a sense of community. It is an organization that offers a safe space where women of colour, aboriginals, queer people, transgendered individuals and many others can find books and community resources. Interested in how privilege operates within our society? The TWB has offered a course called “Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Community: Unpacking and Unlearning Privilege.” Ever wanted to learn some hot burlesque moves? The bookstore has a course in that, too.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s been a serious decline in women’s bookstores (and independent bookstores) worldwide over the past 15 years. In 1994, 125 women’s bookstores existed across the globe. Wanna know how many there are now? A meagre 21.

So, please, pretty please, if you’ve got a few extra dollars in your wallet, make a donation to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore. You can do it in person at the store, or visit their website and make a donation via PayPal. And, if you need some more convincing, you can find interesting facts, details, history and information here, here, and here.

{ 1 comment }

The Copenhagen meeting is almost over. We need to put pressure on Stephen Harper to quit screwing around and pandering to the interests of Alberta oil. Avaaz, a reputable organization, has organized a petition and is aiming to get 500,000 people to sign it. Please–we’ve got to try to do something before Canada completely embarrasses itself and Harper is responsible for developed countries doing little to fight climate change.

POSTER_SAFE_LRGThere is a lot of talk these days in health circles about evidence-based decision-making, i.e. developing policy based on strong research, rather than on ideology, “anecdata” or economic expediency. Unfortunately, a lot of the talk is just that — talk. Take, for example, some recent Canadian developments in the world of midwifery.

The research into the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of midwifery is well established (though you might not know it from the Little House on the Prairie image it still has in popular culture). Researchers have amply demonstrated that babies born with the assistance of midwives (at home, in hospital or a birthing centre) fare just as well as those born to mothers cared for by obstetricians (see this recent study by Eileen Hutton on the study she conducted into midwifery in Ontario). In fact, among women with low-risk pregnancies, a home birth with a midwife might actually be even safer. Data collected by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care indicates that women cared for by a midwife are subject to fewer obstetrical interventions, such as C-sections and episiotomies. And the cost? The ministry has itself indicated that midwives save the healthcare system between $800 and $1,800 per birth.

Even though the evidence shows that the outcomes for mama and baby are just as strong for women receiving midwifery care than not, obstacles remain to women who want to be seen by a midwife during their pregnancy. For example, availability of fully funded and publicly regulated midwifery services across the country is patchy, and there are three jurisdictions in Canada that don’t offer publicly funded, provincially regulated midwifery at all: the Yukon, New Brunswick and PEI. In New Brunswick, it can cost a woman anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 out of pocket to have a midwife provide care.

Another issue is that the demand for midwives outstrips their numbers–though the growth in the profession over the past few years is considerable. Right now, there are about 500 registered midwives working in Ontario, but this is about 150 more than just a few years ago. (A personal aside: The demand for midwifery care is so intense that, when I told my doctor I was planning on having a baby, she responded, “When you find out you’re pregnant, don’t phone your husband, don’t phone your mom–phone the midwife.”). There are only 6 places in Canada where midwifery education programs are available, but the good news is that the programs are graduating larger numbers of students than ever before.

A third and very significant problem for women seeking midwifery care is the issue of hospital privileges. Obtaining hospital privileges for midwives has proven, in some cases, to be difficult. Take the case of two registered midwives who recently opened a clinic in Orangeville, Ontario. After months of providing midwifery services in the community, they still cannot get privileges to practice at a local hospital. This forces women in their care to have to drive 30 – 60 minutes away to get care from a midwife in a hospital setting. The restriction of hospital privileges completely goes against the philosophy of evidence-based decision-making in healthcare.

With fewer and fewer doctors delivering babies, midwives are prepared to step into the breach (no pun intended). But the demonstrated advantages of midwives for the entire healthcare system can only be fully realized with a coordinated effort among provincial health ministries, midwifery working groups and organized patient/consumer groups. Recent developments, such as Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care permitting new midwifery registrants to find work immediately upon graduating, is one such positive step. Canadian women need more steps like these to ensure universal, quality maternity care for all.

Picture 16I recently had the pleasure of attending the annual fundraising breakfast for the Canadian Women’s Foundation. This is an organization that I had only heard of recently, but has actually been around for almost 20 years. The mission of the CWF is to raise money to “research and share the best approaches to ending violence against women, moving low-income women out of poverty and empowering girls with confidence, courage and critical thinking skills.” A foundation that focuses on helping women and girls? At the grassroots level? And influenced by research and best practices? CWF, where have you been all my life?!

Getting acquainted with the Foundation has been, for me, a matter of finding out about an exciting, pan-Canadian organization that is actually really doing something for women and girls. Of course, a national organization serving women that is charity-based is a completely different kettle of fish from the publicly funded (and now dead as a doornail) NAC (National Action Committee on the Status of Women). The expectations are different, the politics are different, and the accountability is different.

Yet the criticisms that one can make of charities in general don’t really apply, I think, to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Sure, you can make the blanket argument that charities prop up our current unequal social and economic system by plugging–and therefore sustaining–gaps that are actually inherent in the model. But in the absence of signs that that system is on its way out (and I mean sooner rather than the long, slow, troubling economic times we’re living in now), it seems to me that throwing my support behind an organization like CWF only makes sense.

After all, they are actively working towards that vision of the future that I have–the kind where women would no longer be the face of poverty, where girls didn’t start the body-loathing campaigns by the time they were seven, where violence wasn’t a reality of the daily lives of so many Canadian families.

Although it is a foundation–an organization that raises and distributes money–and therefore has the appearance of being merely a charity, it’s clear that it’s not. It’s actually a change agent, leading the way in helping Canadian women’s organizations do their work of improving the lives of girls and women. It’s concrete. It’s real. And if you’re looking for a place to put your money where your politics are, I’d suggest CWF might be the place.

Picture 15Confabulous readers know that we are supporters of Antigone Magazine’s Dreams for Women project. And now, we’re happy to spread the word that you can enjoy the project every day by buying a fancy new 2010 calendar! This year, Antigone decided to do something different and feature postcards made by some of Canada’s female Olympic athletes. Check out some of their postcards here. Your non-profit can sell the calendar as an awesome fundraiser. And if your business is stocking up on calendars for next year, you can buy in bulk and get a discount.

Picture 14It’s just been reported on the Ms. Magazine website that the BC Appeal Court has released its written report explaining why there will be no Olympic ski jumping event this winter–for women, at least. The report reads:

The British Columbia Appeal Court provided written rationale for it’s ruling that will allow Olympic organizers to hold a men’s ski jumping event, but not a women’s event in the upcoming Vancouver Olympic games. According to the Associated Press, the Court wrote in its decision that “It is a case in which a non-governmental body (VANOC) is brought before the court as a result of policies which neither it nor any Canadian authority has the power to change,” the justices wrote in the ruling…VANOC simply does not have the power to determine what events are included in the 2010 Olympic program.”

After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the 2010 games, fourteen athletes brought the issue to court as a sex discrimination case. They argued that the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is subject to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore should not allow sex discrimination in the Olympic events it will host. The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in July that while the exclusion of women’s ski jumping is discriminatory, only the IOC has the authority to determine which events are included.

Now, what’s the rationale here, you ask, for the exclusion of this event? Could there be some kind logic at work here that would not point to good old sexism? Sadly, no:

The IOC says it will not stage a women’s ski jump event because there are not enough women competing at the highest levels of the sport. However, men’s ski jumping also does not fully meet the IOC’s criteria for inclusion but has been an Olympic sport since 1924 and was grandfathered into the 2010 games. Even if the current case is appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court, it will not be heard prior to the 2010 Olympic Games.

Do you have a dream for women? These folks do:












Share your dreams for women with the world. Send them to:

Antigone Magazine
Box 61 – 6138 SUB Blvd
Vancouver, BC Canada
V6T 1Z1
OR antigonemagazine(at)

{ 1 comment }

Woman are Persons by ShantaYesterday was the 80th anniversary of women in Canada being recognized as persons under the law (the law at that time being dictated by the British North America Act). This was as the result of a real struggle on the part of the group of women now known as the Famous Five. The state did not simply hand over this victory to women; it had to be fought for by a ballsy bunch of old broads.

It’s an important history lesson for all Canadians, especially Canadian women, to know about. But it does also need to be studied in conjunction with the darker side of Canadian women’s history, like Emily Murphy‘s fondness for eugenics. She, Nellie McClung and Louise McKinney all agitated for the successful implementation of the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act, which resulted in the sterilization of over 4,700 people deemed to be mentally disabled (and that includes, according to the Wikipedia entry, epileptics, alcoholics and prostitutes–plus sexual perverts, which one can only assume includes gay men).

This is a complicated aspect of Canadian history. The women who fought so boldly for the simple recognition of women as persons–persons!–really only had a certain segment of women in mind: those that matched their own white, middle-class demographic.

Adding to the mixed feelings is the story this week that saw the Famous Five becoming posthumous senators, long after they’re able to kick up any fuss in the Senate. But even if they could, whose interests would they be fighting for?

{ 1 comment }

Last week, I read an article about a gender discrimination complaint filed against Toys R Us.  The complaint was launched by a bunch of Swedish 6th graders who found the Toys R Us 2008 Christmas catalogue offensive because it reinforced stereotypical gender roles by featuring boys in active roles and girls in passive ones. According to the class’s teacher, the complaint brought forward by these children is the result of more than 2 years’ work on gender roles.

This story makes me want to jump for joy. To see an example of young people recognizing and trying to actively combat sexism and outdated gender roles gives me hope that today’s youth really can effect change in the world. One of the students even stated that children of either sex should be able to be whoever they want to be even if “guys want to be princesses sometimes.” How could I not swoon?

And then I read the online reader comments that followed the story. And I wanted to cry.

Although I’ve been around the block enough times to know how attached people are to the idea of gender and gender roles, I somehow am repeatedly shocked at how essentialist some people get. Several readers who posted comments seemed to confuse the Swedish children’s complaint as a desire to obliterate sex/gender altogether and homogenize all human beings, and many argued that there is a distinct, innate difference between boys and girls. Seriously, people, it’s the 21st century and you’re still trying to peddle that nonsense?

There’s really too much to address on this topic in a simple blog post, and, frankly, this whole discussion is so old that I can’t believe I’m even writing about it. But after having researched and written many an undergraduate psych paper on gender roles, I do know that an array of reputable psychologists and sociologists have studied gender and gender roles in children and have pretty much determined that gender is largely socially constructed. The types of toys children are given to play with, the types of clothes they’re dressed in, the types of activities they’re encouraged to pursue, and even how adults interact with boy babies versus girl babies: all that stuff makes a mark on a kid.

I don’t think the Swedish kids are calling for a complete erasure of sex and gender. I think the point is that we all need to be more mindful of how boys and girls/men and women are treated and represented and what kinds of expectations we have on each. The point is that difference shouldn’t be based on biological sex. Boys can be princesses and girls can be knights in shining armour. Get over it.