Friday, October 8, 2010

Jacob Says Goodbye to (Some) Airbrushing...and vote for us!!!

A quick hit today: Jacob, one of Canada's clothing retailers, has adopted a new company policy against some forms of re-touching. Ad developpers will still airbrush some models to even out skin tone and/or remove tattoos, but Jacob has taken a stance against re-touching to alter body size or shape.

A good move, Jacob! Thanks for speaking out against some of the near-impossible beauty standards women face today - standards that WIN wants to combat, so make sure to vote for us!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big win for sex workers in Ontario!

The Superior Court of Ontario has declared Canada's prostitution laws unconstititional!

Prostitution is technically legal in Canada, but there are so many barriers to being able to legally sell sex that it might as well not be. Prostitutes and their clients can't "communicate for the purposes of prostitution," can't work together in a house of prostitution/brothel/bawdyhouse, and can't make a living off their wages from sex work.

What this means is that prostitution is legal, but there is essentially no way to actually successfully initiate and enact a money-for-sex transaction. There is no way to obtain a business license for a sex house or sex agency (which confines the industry to the black market); prostitution can not be a person's primary "job" (which means that unemployed or irregularly employed persons who are most likely to need the money are the same individuals who can't legally acquire it that way) and, perhaps the most ridiculous of the prohibitions, can't be initiated from either the sex worker or the client (which basically translates into both prostitute and client needing ESP to conduct a legal sexual transaction). So even though prostitution is legal in Canada, there's no way to legally work as a prostitute or hire one. Prostitution might be "legal," but in practice, prostitution is ultimately against the law.

What the Ontario court has done will open the door for protections for prostitutes. Workers will be able to get hired or contracted to operate in a licensed brothel, keeping the industry out of the black market. Workers will be able to freely report abuse from a client without fear of prosecution from the police. Workers will be able to talk freely about what they do. Workers will be able to rely on prostitution as a source of income.

This is great news for sex workers in Ontario - let's see the rest of our country follow suit! Regardless of your feelings about the morality of prostitution, it's important to keep the industry safer for the men and women within it. Ensuring that workers have legal rights is a crucial first step.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quick Hit: Worst Anti-Abortion Ad

Via This Is Hysteria!, one of our followers:

The Worst Anti-Abortion Ad I Ever Saw

Check it out!

New law proposed to allow victims of abuse to leave

There is a new law being proposed that would allow victims of abuse to break their leases early in order to flee their abusers. Normally, a tenant must give 60 days notice before leaving - and that's after the initial lease period has expired. Under the new law, an abuse victim would be allowed to break the lease early, giving only 28 days notice to their landlord in the form of a letter and proof of the abusive situation (ie. a letter from police stating that a domestic violence investigation is taking place, or a restraining order or peace bond).

Some are saying this still leaves the onus of responsibility on the victim. I think that is true in part, but I think this law gets much closer to a real solution than most. Rather than longer jail times, new procedures for police or what have you, this gives a victim of domestic violence a much greater chance of escaping the violence. Punishing the abuser will only get you so far, especially if they are only convicted on minor charges such as uttering threats or forcible confinement, for which the maximum penalty is 18 months imprisonment. There need to be more systems in place to help victims escape their situations; it's very difficult to launch a full criminal investigation, as it can be hard to prove that violence or abuse take place at all (especially in an "ungrateful woman just lying to get revenge!" society), so other avenues need to be available.

If passed, this law isn't going to change the world for victims of abuse. But it will give them more hope, and a greater opportunity, of escaping that abuse, and that's a big step in the right direction. We just have to make sure we keep walking.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Date rape drug test to hit store shelves

Here is yet another product that puts the onus of responsibility for "date rape" (or just rape, if we're being honest) on the victim rather than the rapist. A new date rape drug test kit - which is already on sale in Quebec - will be available in pharmacies across Canada in the next few weeks. Women use the kit to test a drink they suspect may have been drugged by dropping a few drops of the drink onto a test sheet, which changes colour depending on whether the drink has been spiked and which commonly-used "date rape drug" is detected.

I have mixed feelings about this. First and foremost, if this product helps prevent women from being raped or assaulted - or worse - by alerting them to a spiked drink before they drink it, no one with a shred of humanity can argue with the fact that that is a good thing and the product has served its purpose.

However - and this is a big however -
the date rape test kit is a superficial fix to a deeply rooted societal problem; it is the equivalent of using a band aid to cover a bullet wound. It will contain some of the bleeding for a little while, but the real threat to safety is still there.

In order to prevent the crime from happening, we need to address the root causes, and those root causes do not involve women not being careful with their drinks in bars or at parties. They involve, among other things, a society that still largely sees women as property and something to gain control over; that encourages a primitive ideal of masculinity with no room for variance from the norm; where, for some reason, the idea of consent seems to be hazy and difficult to navigate (tip : the only thing that means "yes" is a clear, emphatic YES); and, last but not least, that does not punish rapists for their actions, and instead rationalizes and explains them away as somehow being the fault of the victim.

To be clear, I'm not saying society is solely to blame for rape. Rapists must also be held responsible for their actions, and that just isn't happening. But I think to effect real change we need to work more towards a societal shift, towards a mindset devoid of victim-blaming, rape apologist attitudes. We will never be able to get rid of rapists altogether, just as we will never be able to get rid of murderers or thieves altogether, but we can do away with the attitudes that allow rapists to continue raping women with little or no consequences.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GET INVOLVED: Protesters Respond to Recent Sexual Assault Victim Being Turned Away from the Ottawa Hospital

In case you are itching to get involved after the recent incident wherein a sexual assault victim was turned away from the Ottawa Hospital, there is more you can do.

Today, at noon, there is a rally at the Human Rights Monument to voice our collective outrage.

If you can and are so inclined, go and support the protest, which is imperative to have the government understand how unacceptable these recent events were.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

UPDATE: Ottawa Hospital to start offering 24/7 treatment for sex assault survivors

The Ottawa Hospital has reconfigured their staffing practices to ensure that a trained nurse will be available 24/7 to administer the collection of evidence and treatment of sexual assault survivors.

It sure didn't take long, yet they waited until after who knows how many sex assault survivors were either sent home to wait around for hours or days, or were sent to a hospital 2 hours away for treatment, before they did anything about this obvious problem with both the health care and justice systems.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sexual Assault Survivors Deserve Better: Calling Out the Ottawa Hospital and Sun Media

Here in Ottawa, in Ontario, and nationwide in Canada, we are used to waiting for certain hospital procedures. For some things, this is acceptable. I had a months-long wait time for my IUD consultation, for example, but that didn't bother me; I had enough birth control pills to last me in the meantime, and the IUD insertion wasn't a pressing matter that I needed handled right away.

But if I were sexually assaulted in my own community? I'd be looking for a snappy reaction. I would want to know that the evidence would be gathered in a timely, efficient manner, and that my case was being handled seriously.

Read this. Read it now, and ponder it, and then read it again. This is wrong. It is wrong for so many reasons.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This Week...

Gloria Steinem and Jessica Valenti continue to eloquently clarify feminism's tenets to those confused by recent politically-motivated appropriation.

The construction of virginity erases queer experience.

Into Fat Acceptance and Health At Every Size? Check out these two podcasts. Or you could just enjoy some writing on the matter.

Sexism got you down? Don't know where to turn? Feminist Hulk is sure to inspire!

*Bonus: this ain't recent but it sure is funny.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poll says a majority of Canadians disagree with Harper's anti-abortion stance on the International Maternal Health Initiative

Less than 2 months after the largest pro-life rally Ottawa has ever seen (according to the Toronto Star), a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid shows that approximately 56% of Canadians are against Harper's anti-abortion stance concerning the international maternal health initiative. The results were published just two days before Canada's initiative is to be presented at the G8 summit in Toronto.

Without more information it's a little hard to say what exactly this means. However, one thing that comes through loud and clear is that more than half of those surveyed realize that abortion is a necessary component of a comprehensive approach to improving maternal health. The WHO said as part of its Global Strategy on Reproductive Health in 2004,

As a preventable cause of maternal mortality and morbidity, unsafe abortion must be dealt with as part of the MDG on improving maternal health and other international development goals and targets.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Welcome to the Women's Independence Network Blog!

Welcome! We are the Women's Independence Network, an Ottawa-based, non-profit organization dedicated to raising women's rights issues to the public consciousness in and around the National Capital Region - and hopefully across Canada one day. We were initially inspired by the American organization the Younger Women's Task Force, and decided that we wanted to create a Canadian equivalent. Thus, the Women's Independence Network (WIN) was born.

Now, to get a few things out of the way. First: we are a feminist organization and we wear that label proudly. Before you go thinking that we hate men and want women to rule the world, we'd like to clear that up. Contrary to popular belief, feminists do not hate men. We are not seeking to create a new world order where women are all-powerful and men are our slaves. The purpose of our organization is to promote gender equality, create dialogue, and to change society's attitudes towards the contemporary women's movement.

One of the most often-heard arguments against modern feminism is that it isn't needed. However, gender equality is still surprisingly lacking, even in 21st Century Canada. This shouldn't be the case. It's been 91 years since all women in Canada were granted the vote (70 years in Quebec). It's been 41 years since life-saving abortion was legalized across Canada, and 22 years since the historic R. v. Morgentaler case, in which the provision that the pregnancy must be a threat to the woman's life or health was necessary in order for an abortion to be approved. Despite all this progress, we still have a mess of pay equality laws, which are not enforced universally across Canada; women are still seen as second-class citizens in the eyes of many; and Ottawa women's shelters are overcrowded and have to turn away a number of women every day. This is not to mention the pressure placed on women to be perfect, whether that refers to how they act, how they look, or even how they think, or that disordered eating is a widespread, serious issue for Canadian women. Women make up less than 20% of our federally elected politicians, despite making up slightly more than half the population in Canada, and too many media representations of women are, to say the least, unfavourable.

This isn't a pity party. This is a wake-up call to women and men in Ottawa that feminism is, in fact, still relevant and necessary. In Canada and around the world, a new generation of feminists is working to inspire change in the law and in the global consciousness. We're ready to take on Ottawa, and we hope you are, too.