We’re tabling today at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair! You should come by!
Two new zines! Freelance as Fuck about how freelance work is the worst and on (not) being queer (enough) on queer identities and privilege.
We’re tabling today at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair! You should come by!
Two new zines! Freelance as Fuck about how freelance work is the worst and on (not) being queer (enough) on queer identities and privilege.
Next week, I will leave Halifax and head to Ontario to be employed in my first full-time, permanent job, ever. I will be a union member with a living wage and benefits. For the first time, I can dream of paying off my large student loan. I’ll get my teeth cleaned and get my eyes checked. I’ll save some money. While these might seem like very minimal successes, they are out of reach for many, if not most, of my peers.
I have been working part-time, precariously, on contract, and/or freelance since I was 15. Still, I am a lucky one. Having just turned 25, I spent all of my time in the demographic from 15 to 24, albeit about 8 months while in my first year of university, employed or being paid enough employment insurance to get by. In Nova Scotia, where I live, unemployment, including involuntary part-time employment, for youth age 15 to 24 was 31.9 per cent this June, up from just 17.2 per cent in June 2008.
Most of my friends work freelance. They’re writers, editors, researchers, designers, illustrators, photographers, even university employees. But none of them have consistent, secure work. And while the right would have you believe that the BA is a bee-line to being a barista, it’s more about what our society has come to value. There are increasingly fewer secure jobs for teachers, artists, designers, writers, journalists, social workers, youth workers, and librarians. This is not because we have a lesser need for quality education, research and ideas, cultural projects and institutions, critical media, or social services – it’s because current governments, the corporate elite, and the growing right in Canada is ideologically opposed to these elements of our society.
This attack is not only an attack on the middle class, or on those of us who are university educated. For people like me, who come from low income families it means that social mobility is a myth. In Nova Scotia, many low income folks have university educations because of more substantial assistance programs that existed for people in rural communities, single parents, and people with disabilities. The erosion of these programs along with massive tuition fee increases since the early nineties leave education out of reach of many Nova Scotians. For workers not looking for more education, but simply a job that offers a decent wage and benefits, the contracting out of services, and the union busting practices of corporations have meant that it is difficult for those with a high school diploma or less to get decent, well-paying jobs. When a hospital outsources its laundry or its food services, the labour cost savings comes on the backs of low income people.
Governments (even Nova Scotia’s supposed social democratic government) have also been unwilling to take a stand against the corporate agenda. Creating a fair tax system, where corporations pay their fair share would create revenue for our social programs, including expanding medicare, instituting fully-funded post-secondary education, and ensuring all families have access to high quality childcare. Instituting card check, so that it is easier for workers to organize unions in their workplace would help workers fight for better and safer working conditions, decent wages, and benefits for them and their families. These changes would vastly improve the lives of all working people, including those precariously employed in the service sector.
Also, despite anti-poor rhetoric and stereotypes held by people on the right and left alike, poor people like art and culture too. Publicly-funded art, music, theatre, and sport programs in our schools and in our communities are the ones that kids from low income families have access to. The rich will always be able to put their kids in private programs, in private schools with the best of this or that, but the rest of us rely on public funding to access facilities to learn everything from ceramics to swimming, cooking to woodworking. We should be sharing our collective resources for programs and spaces for people, no matter their income, to share and learn skills, build relationships, and spend time with people from their communities. We should dedicate resources to museums and art galleries, and we should provide the time and space for teachers to take their students to them, and the resources to eliminate admission costs (let’s start with once a week) and programs that get seniors and people living with disabilities to these important institutions to look at art, to learn about history, to hang out with people.
If we built schools, community centres, libraries, and community health centres, expanded public transportation across the province, created better community services for people living with mental health issues and addictions, and funded more museums, public art, and art galleries, we wouldn’t just create jobs for artists or teachers or social workers, but also for construction workers, cleaners, clerical staff, aid workers, kitchen workers, drivers, and more. All the while, creating healthier, more vibrant, and stronger communities.
If I could, I’d stay in Halifax. I’ve lived in Nova Scotia 7 years, and I love the place. I haven’t moved apartments in 5 years. I have a collection of political projects I love here, I have great friends. I like being able to ride my bike for a half hour and get to a lake. I love being next to the ocean. I wasn’t really looking to leave, but I’ll trek the 1800 km back to Toronto, where I grew up, because a job is there. People in Nova Scotia understand the pull of work. People throughout this province migrate west for work. Unemployment in some regions of the province is 15 per cent. I have been travelling between Toronto and Halifax over the past 7 years for a bunch of reasons, and these days, every plane I get on westward is Halifax-Toronto-Calgary. But don’t think for a moment that there can’t be strong public institutions, better community supports, and well-paying jobs with benefits here in Nova Scotia and everywhere. Jobs that don’t put our families at risk of death or dismemberment; services that are supportive and empower people to be able to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives; vibrant arts and cultural institutions and programs, and communities filled with happier, healthier people; these are all things worth fighting for.
Emily and I have been busy with various projects and work! Emily has been working on a solo show at the Khyber (a local artist-run centre). Her show, Educate, Agitate, Organise, opened last week and is running until May 30. It is one of the events of Mayworks Halifax, a festival organised by the Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council to celebrate workers and the arts.
Here is a description of the show:
In her new work Agitate, Educate, Organise Emily Davidson investigates the problematic relationship artists have as both producers and workers. Agitate, Educate, Organise depicts vignettes of women’s labour history from the mid-nineteenth century until the early twentieth century with an installation of letterpress printed wallpapers. Drawing on William Morris’ decorative work from the late nineteenth century, Davidson repurposes the anti-industrial aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement to show the radical social history of women workers.
The show’s catalogue is a go it alone (together) publication, and includes a sheet of each of Emily’s five prints, a description of each scene, and an essay I wrote for the show. Emily and I have included the essay below.
Photos from the opening by Bredan, Dan and Rebecca.
In April, I gave a talk on prisons for a monthly series of political discussions on issues from an anti-capitalist approach called Living Theory.
Some of the people who attended wanted a copy of the presentation I gave, so I’ve posted it. It borrows from the first issue of our Papers for the People series.
Yesterday, I read this piece on the viral video, “Shit Girls Say.” It reminded me of this article I read a couple of weeks ago on the ways that women are constantly subjected to socialization that tells them they are crazy, so much so that women make these allegations towards themselves.
In both articles, the point is that women’s actions are constantly under watch. Women are constantly scrutenized for our actions – from what we’re wearing when we’re assaulted or raped to how political the music we make is and a million things in between.
Two personal experiences in the past week hit the daily reality of this scrutiny home.
Last week, I got on a metro train in Montreal on my way to a friend’s house for the night. I sat down and pulled out a knitting project I’ve been working on. Immediately, a man in his late twenties or early thirties said to me, “You’d be a good one to marry.”
This isn’t the first time someone (usually an older woman), has made this kind of statement to me in public. Usually, though, they express interest in what I am doing, say hi, ask me how my day is going, before making a statement about how my aptitude in needlecraft makes me good wife material. Usually it offends me. I’m not a fan of the institute of marriage. I don’t take lightly to being presumed straight and looking for a husband by my choice of passtime.
But last week on the subway, there was no greeting, no inquiries into how I was, or any interest in exactly what I was doing. Simply, my knitting, makes me a good spousal candidate, and that is the only information that is necessary. I was tired and alone and in a city that isn’t my home, so I just looked at the floor, not making eye contact or responding to the comment. When the man got off he told me to have a good night.
Then yesterday, I went to see Fucked Up, one of my favourite bands, play at a benefit for the COUNTERfit Harm Reduction Program, and the Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund. I was tired after having dinner and drinks with a friend earlier in the night.
I yawned and the next thing I know, some guy comes up to me to say that I “need to stop yawning because yawning is really contagious, and we all have to work in the morning.” He then apologized (not), by saying, “I’m sorry to have to call you out on that, but I’m trying to keep the atmosphere going, you know.”
To set the stage, we’re at a show, watching a hardcore band with hundreds of other people, and this guy is telling me I shouldn’t yawn because it will ruin the atmosphere. I wish I was making this up.
Again, because I was tired and kind of shocked, I didn’t say anything. But all I could think of was what if I was a young mom who was up all day running around with my kids or if I was caring after an ailing parent or if I was working two jobs and going to school or a number of other realities young women like me take on all the time and now some shit was telling me not to yawn.
Both of these experiences, though, were reminders about how perfect strangers feel like it is totally ok to not only judge and scrutinize the most banal of women’s actions, but also comment on them. These are some of the everyday ways that women’s behaviour is judged and regulated in our society.
I wish in both cases I’d shot back with some witty statement, but I stayed quiet. I’m going to try to get better at that.
But for dudes, specifically, if your friends pull this kind of shit, call them on it. Ask them who they think they are to assume that girls want to get married, or that telling someone not to yawn is a jerk move. And if you find yourself feeling the need to scrutenize or comment on the behaviour of perfect strangers, maybe just consider keeping your mouth shut.
Things have been pretty busy around here at go it alone (together)! We’ve been doing a lot of things (mostly apart).
In March, Emily did a residency with our friend Susan in Seattle as part of Project Space Available and then went on a little West Coast adventure. I’ve been wandering aimlessly in the Northwest, taking a little vacation, and talking to people about rad projects on the go in this part of the world.
But… we’re still working on go it alone (together) stuff and there are some exciting things to share!
Next month, we’ll be tabling at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair and presenting a workshop on struggles for reproductive autonomy.
As well, we’re working on some wider distribution of our stuff, so watch out for some announcements about that!
We’ll also be posting some new work in the next couple of weeks – including a poster series in support of some comunity groups we’re stoked on, and some new swag (pins/patches/etc).
Also, we’re still accepting submissions for the sisterhood zine #2. Check it out here.
That’s all for now!
Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. As usual, the mainstream media will be filled with programming about whether women have achieved equality. There will be stories about women in business, and women in the military, and women trying to balance careers and families. Some will say that the struggle is over; they will say that the project of feminism is complete. There will be images of women and girls in classrooms in the global south, and of women in various positions of power. Maybe there will even be another debate about whether Sarah Palin is the face of a new conservative feminism (for the record, she is not: see here).
There won’t be stories about male soldiers raping their female coworkers. We won’t hear about how Barrick Gold denied that women were being gang raped near one of their mines in Papau New Guinea. We won’t hear outrage about Barrick Gold chairman and founder Peter Munk’s comment that “gang rape is a cultural habit” in Papau New Guinea. There won’t be images of Canadian Border Service Agents busting into women’s shelters and crisis centres looking for women without immigration status to deport.
Today is International Women’s Day, and today, women will get raped. Women will be sexually assaulted and harrassed. Women will face intimate partner abuse. There will not be a ceasefire in the war on women today.
Tomorrow, there will still be judges that think that what a woman wears causes her to be raped. There will still be people who would rather criminalise sex work than support sex workers in their communities. There will still be those who refuse to believe that someone can fight to expose injustice and still be a rapist. There will continue to be legislators who want to control women’s bodies, whether by criminalising abortion and sex work, or denying same-sex marriage rights, or criminalising trans women and denying them access to health care or other public services, or restricting access to safer sex education to girl. My list could go on, because there is so much farther to go.
Today, the hundreds of women incarcerated in prisons across the country, will continue to be isolated from their families and communities.
So, today, on International Women’s Day, support the women and girls in your communities. We will need to find hope and strength in each other in the times ahead. The struggle continues.
PS: Coming soon: new posts in my blog series on rape culture/updates from go it alone (together)/new stuff!
The other day I read this post by zinester maranda elizabeth who I met when she did a residency at Roberts Street Social Centre. The post deals with how the words “crazy”/”insane”/”nuts” are often applied to things that don’t have anything to do with mental illness or mental health issues. Recognizing the way that language influences how we think about people, how people are treated, and how we act towards one another is important to me.
Awhile ago I wrote a mini zine “10 words I wish you wouldn’t say” about oppressive language out of the frustration of being blamed for being the language police (I can’t even begin to talk about how invoking the image of the police to try to make criticisms illegitimate is frustrating). I stll use the word “crazy” all the time though.
It’s something I’m going to work on.
Here at go it alone (together), we love sisters, our sisters specifically. We love how are sisters are the same and different from us, how we agree and disagree with them, how we fight with them, for them, and, sometimes even against them. Our sisters aren’t perfect, but neither are we, so we’re into supporting our sisters when they do awesome shit.
We wrote a zine called “Sisterhood, our sisters specifically” about our own sisters, and how they are constantly surprising up with radical and feminist insights, even though neither of them would necessarily say they are feminists. We wanted to show people all the important things we’ve learned about feminism from our sisters.
We’re looking for stories about how your sisters teach you things about feminism, even if they don’t identify with feminism or as feminists. We’ll compile these stories into Sisterhood # 2 and contributors will get a free copy. We’ll also exhibit the mail art in a show at the Roberts Street Social Centre.
Mail art submissions can be artistically inclined (or not) and are required to be sent through the wonderful postal system! Submissions will be returned with a copy of Sisterhood # 2.
Send your sisterhood mail art to:
go it alone (together)
2151 Gottingen Street
PO Box 47002
Halifax, Nova Scotia
DEADLINE: May 15, 2011 (we need to receive things by this deadline).
The following article was written for the Dalhousie Gazette by Emily questioning the presence of police at Take Back the Night marches across the country. This is a particularly poignant issue this year because of several events in Canada including reports of sexual assault and harassment by police at the G20 summit in Toronto, the release of information indicating that the police were aware that Robert Pickton was kidnapping, raping, and murdering women long before his arrest, and the growing concern with missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Each year on a fall evening in Halifax, a group of women protesters and their allies gather to march and rally as part of Take Back the Night. The aim of Take Back the Night is to provide a safe public space for women to demonstrate in the streets, speaking out against all forms of gender-based and sexual violence. Take Back the Night is about reclaiming the right for women to be out after dark without the fear of sexual assault or rape.
It’s about our right to safe communities. Over the past three years I’ve attended Take Back the Night here in Halifax, but for the first time I’ve joined Dalhousie Women’s Centre (DWC) volunteers and other community members to help organize it. Being part of the organizing of this event has brought into focus for me some of the roadblocks standing in the way of creating a safe public space for women to rise up against sexual violence.
Take Back the Night can dredge up some pretty contentious debates, but I’m particularly interested in discussing the presence of police. In Halifax, the police usually lead the Take Back the Night march with squad cars and mounted officers.
The police don’t have a very good track record when it comes to preventing sexual violence or helping survivors of sexual assault and rape. In fact, the entire criminal justice system seems to be biased toward blaming victims of sexual violence. Rape and sexual assault continue to be some of the most underreported crimes in Canada, with an estimated 88 per cent of incidents going unreported. Barriers preventing women from reporting incidents of sexual violence to the police include: fear of the dehumanizing process of the judicial system; fear of escalated violence from the perpetrator; fear of not being believed; and fear that the police will also perpetrate sexual violence. Women who are at high risk for sexual violence, such as sex workers, often can’t access the prevention and protection services that police are supposed to provide to everyone. The laws under the Canadian Criminal Code criminalize sex work which not only adds to stigmatization, but also forces sex workers into dangerous working conditions. Many sex workers can’t report sexual violence perpetrated against them for fear of arrest. The Halifax Regional Police continue to use rhetoric that place blame on women in cases of sexual violence, instead of blaming the perpetrators.
The police, along with other parts of society, tell women not to get raped, instead of telling perpetrators not to rape. Elise Graham, VP external at the NSCAD student union, witnessed first-hand what message the Halifax Regional Police are delivering to students during the NSCAD Orientation Week police presentation. The officer warned female students to cover their drinks, not to drink too much, not to wear revealing clothes, not to hang out in or around bars, and not to walk through the north end at night. He “created an overwhelming sense of fear among the new students,” says Graham. “It would have been refreshing to hear ‘rape is wrong’ instead of putting all the onus on what potential victims shouldn’t do.” According to the Global News article published on September 20, the Halifax Regional Police released another warning about the “sleep watcher” stating that the break and enter incidents had “escalated from previous cases, whereby the victim was touched for a sexual manner.”
Female students were warned to “take caution at night by locking their windows and doors, and walking in groups.” The police have been releasing similar fear-mongering statements about this case through mainstream media and Dalhousie University communications since 2008.
While these warnings are made in the name of ‘public safety’, they continue to place the blame on the women who didn’t lock their doors or who walked home after dark alone, instead of blaming the man who has been perpetrating the sexual violence. We still haven’t seen any constructive action from the police to better deal with the problem, or provide services to survivors or potential victims.
What makes Take Back the Night an important event is that it provides an opportunity for women to take collective action to reclaim the night. There needs to be an event that stands against the constant barrage of messages that it’s a women’s own fault if she get raped or abused. Part of what makes Take Back the Night an effective safe public space for women is that it is lead by women. Each year, the DWC does a great job training women volunteers to be marshals for the march.
The marshals act to ensure the collective safety of the group by helping to control traffic, explaining the protest to bystanders, and helping to maintain the women’s only space that leads the march. Seeing women in these leadership roles provides comfort and security for many protesters.
The inclusion of police at Take Back the Night marches is not unique to Halifax. The American-based Take Back the Night Foundation, which provides organizational resources to groups planning Take Back the Night events, recommends liaising with police forces as part of risk management procedures. The Newfoundland & Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis & Prevention Centre (NLSACPC) recommends that Take Back the Night organisers “put in a request to local RCMP detachment for a female officer to lead [the] march in a patrol car.”
According to the NLSACPC website the reason for police presence is to ensure safety and promote visibility of the participants.
Neither the Take Back the Night Foundation or the NLSACPC provide resources on how effective volunteer marshalling can promote safety at marches.
The problem remains that the police are perceived as being in a leadership role at Take Back the Night because they are the pervasive authority in our society. For many women including sex workers, women living without immigration status, domestic abuse survivors, formerly incarcerated women, queer women, women of colour, and Aboriginal women, police forces are the perpetrators of violence in their communities. In this light, the police presence in the march actually works against the march’s aim of creating safe spaces for women to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence in their communities.
At a demonstration aimed to reclaim public space as safe space for women and survivors of sexual violence, it is frustrating that we engage with a force as oppressive as the police. How can Take Back the Night fulfill the mandate to empower women if we continue to work with a system that blames women for sexual violence?