Thursday, 31 March 2016

Locating Hope: Women’s Activism in Post-Uprising Egypt

Dr. Nermin Allam
Twitter: @nerminallam

Among the memorable moments of my field trip in Egypt was attending a participatory theatrical play on the issue of female genital mutilation in Fall 2014. The play was among a number of grassroots initiatives launched to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The initiative is part of a growing wave of women’s activism that emerged following the 2011 uprising. The show narrated the life and daily struggles of Hania, a young middle class Egyptian girl as she confronted harassment and gender discrimination at school and home. The story reached its climax as Hania’s parents decided to circumcise her. The play closed with Hania’s emotional cry as she is pushed to the floor, strangled by her mother and the midwife approaching her with a knife.

“And everything froze,” I wrote in my field notebook, “the silence seemed so loud in the crowded room where over 200 people were watching the play”. The heavy silence continued as the director took the stage asking for the audience’s reactions as well as what they thought Hania should do.

 The first to speak was a middle age Sheik. Speaking in a confident voice, he insisted that female genital circumcision is a religious obligation rooted in Islam and dictated in its teachings. Before he could finish his sentence, the majority of the women in the room raised their voices in dismay, shouting that the practice was inhumane. Some women even outright challenged the Sheik’s religious view, insisting that female circumcision is rooted in systems of discrimination, oppression and patriarchy.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Conflict, Memory, and Gender: Commemorating Silences

Dr. Rebecca Graff-McRae
Twitter: @PoliScIrish

Nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998, the past is still omnipresent in Northern Ireland.

This Easter weekend, nationalist communities in the North and many in the Republic of Ireland will commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising – the failed insurrection that provided the latent catalyst for both independence and partition. The Good Friday Agreement will have no parade for its eighteenth birthday: it is easier, somehow, to remember violence (“theirs” and “ours”) than to celebrate the painful compromises of an incomplete peace.

It has been called a “permanent ceasefire”, and a “peace without reconciliation”; the paradoxically named “peace walls” divide more communities today than at the height of the Troubles, and political attitudes remain polarized.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gender Parity in Canadian Federal, Provincial and Municipal Politics

By Dr. Angelia Wagner
Twitter: @Angelia_Wagner 
Gender parity has yet to be achieved in Canadian legislatures despite decades of activism to address the material, institutional and psychological barriers to political candidacy. Although women comprise half of the country’s population, they make up just a quarter of its elected politicians. Women occupy 26% of the seats in the House of Commons and 27.9% of all provincial legislative spots, ranging from a low of 9.1% in Nunavut to a high of 37.6% in British Columbia. Women are also just 28% of all municipal councillors and 18% of all mayors in the country.

Monitoring the descriptive representation of women according to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation is more difficult because of the limited data available, but results from the 2015 federal election suggest a gender gap also exists within various social groups. Both Indigenous women and visible minority women, for example, are half as likely as their male counterparts to be MPs in the 42nd Parliament.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Refugee Crisis and the Ghosts of Fascism Past

By Dr. John McCoy and Dr. W. Andy Knight
Twitter:  @WAndyKnight1

A once-in-a-generation refugee crisis. The largest forced migration since the Second World War. Yet another failure of the international “community”. These all too familiar refrains describe the aftermath of the now five-year travesty that is the Syrian-Civil War. Indeed, despite a recent tentative cease fire, over the past year this conflagration is only heating up in its intensity. Many now question whether we are not dangerously close to a regional, perhaps even global war. 

Russia joined in the bombardment of Syrian targets in the fall of 2015 and has greatly increased its contributions of military equipment to government forces. Unlike the United States and its coalition, the Russian intervention seems squarely aimed at shoring up the beleaguered Bashar al-Assad regime by exterminating as many of the Syrian opposition fighters as possible. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

On International Women’s Day, I Remember Rosemary Brown

By Dr. Linda Trimble
Twitter: @trimblePoli
 March 8, 2016

On International Women’s Day, I remember the bravery and achievements of the late Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman to be elected to a Canadian legislature and the first Canadian woman to run for the leadership of a national political party. Her memoir, Being Brown, continues to move and inspire me.

Consider Brown’s reflections on her first speech as an elected representative of the people:

When I spoke, I could feel the presence of women–Black women, Native women, slaves, immigrant women, poor women, old women and young women. I could feel their support, encouragement and hope envelop me, sending a surge of energy through me, empowering my words and my voice.

In these recollections, Rosemary Brown clearly articulated and supported the vision underpinning the electoral project for women: the goal of electing more, and more diverse, women to Canada’s parliament, legislatures and municipal councils. Brown’s vision of authentic and empowered representation by and for women is reflected in the 2016 theme for International Women’s Day, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for gender equality.”

Still Making Space for Indigenous Feminism

I came to Indigenous feminism not only because of pain
but also to make sense of the world around me

The past decade has seen a growing body of research that focuses on various aspects of Indigenous peoples’ politics. However, few studies openly engage with Indigenous feminism(s). Although important, these contributions turn away from the everyday realities confronting Indigenous women including violence, exclusion and unequal access to resources and, instead, emphasize forms of political actions directed at larger systems of domination.

Indigenous feminist scholars note that colonialism was and continues to be a gendered process, which has had powerful yet distinctive effects on Indigenous men, women and LGTBQ people. These scholars argue that gendered, sexualized violence, discrimination, and unequal access to natural and material resources are relationally produced and naturalized through social, legal and political processes. They also question the tendency to uncritically emphasize the needs and aspirations of a homogeneous collectivity as it reproduces the naturalization of violence against Indigenous women and LGTBQ2-S individuals. Indigenous feminism simultaneously aligns with and often contests Indigenous self-determination and Indigenous women’s activism embedded in this paradox.