Mothers in the Women’s Studies Quarterly

The Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly (Volume 37, Numbers 3 & 4) is called Mother. Victoria Pitts-Taylor and Talia Schaffer describe the issue this way: “This special issue, titled Mother, aims to present a complex picture of the categories of mothering, motherhood, and mothers. Through our own personal experiences of negotiating academic career paths as mothers, we have become acutely aware of the intensely controversial issues affecting the politics of motherhood. The term “mother” is steeped in cultural and historical meaning, but it is also semantically unstable. Today women find themselves affected by powerful, contradictory expectations that mothers will be stay-at-home caregivers and also, paradoxically, that they will be well educated and have meaningful careers. They face intensive judgments of their parenting from friends and strangers alike and participate in passionate debates about everything… ” I’m thinking of writing something about parenting as an academic (personally I resist the gendered version “mother,” just as I do its spousal equivalent “wife”) and this looks like a great place to start.

LGBT rights removed from Canada’s Citizenship Guide

When Canada’s latest Citizenship and Immigration Guide was created, it originally had a section on LGBT rights. But Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney ordered those sections removed. CBC says “Internal documents show an early draft of the guide contained sections noting that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969; that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation; and that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2005. But Kenney, who fought same-sex marriage when it was debated in Parliament, ordered those key sections removed when his office sent its comments to the department last June. Senior department officials duly cut out the material — but made a last-ditch plea with Kenney in early August to have it reinstated.” According to the facebook group “Put Gay (LGBT) Rights Back In Canada’s Citizenship Guide!”: “This issue spans across political parties; it is about the equal treatment of all Canadians. It is the job of the Immigration Minister to teach new canadians what the laws and culture ARE, not what they wish they were. Kenney is training the next generation of Canadians to hate by removing this information. Let’s stand up and make sure that the government knows we want all Canadians to be part of our diverse community!”

Another facebook group called “All I Want For International Women’s Day is Jason Kenney’s Resignation” has 780 members.

Canada’s National Anthem

Canada’s national anthem looked like it was up for a rewrite. The Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Wednesday’s Throne Speech that it would ask Parliament to “examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem.” That’s opposed to the current, non gender neutral version. The problem with the current version is with verse two–for those unfamiliar with the English words, see verse two in the you tube clip below. For years some feminists, this one included, have taken to singing “in all of us command” instead of “in all thy sons’ command.” Queen’s University philosophy professor Adele Mercier weighed in the dispute in the Globe and Mail saying it’s about time the lyrics were changed. “The national anthem should reflect its population and Canada consists of 51 per cent women,” Mercier said. “Women soldiers fight in Afghanistan alongside the men and die alongside the men, and they hear that Canada is under the guy’s command.” See the Globe story here. There are now two further wrinkles. The first is a very Canadian problem: What to do about the French lyrics which are very different than the English? They have a different problem, not sexism but an endorsement of Christianity. The original French words to Ô Canada were the first verse of a poem penned by the conservative, staunch Catholic, French-Canadian nationalist judge, Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. For a discussion of the French version, see the story in the Globe and Mail here. The issues around the French version have to do with whether the Catholic imagery is appropriate for modern multicultural Quebec. Second, the Harper government has now back pedalled and says it won’t raise the issue of rewriting the national anthem to do away with its sexist language after all. By Friday the government said that strong reaction had poured in from across the country about the government’s proposal to modify the lyrics to “O Canada.” The Harper government now says it will not go forward with a review of the song’s lyrics after all. Cowards. But perhaps not surprising from a government that just removed all mention of of LGBT rights from our Citizenship and Immigration Guide.

Hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood

Yarl’s Wood is one of the notorious immigration detention centres where migrants are held, sometimes for months, before being deported from the UK. People are held in unsanitary, prison-like conditions, sometimes without proper access to food and healthcare. They face violence and racist abuse from the guards, especially during ‘removals’, when many are beaten on the way to the airport, before being put aboard planes with no chance of bringing the perpetrators to justice. Many of the women who seek refuge here are rape survivors, and UK policy is that rape survivors should not be locked up in detention centres. In practice, though, many are imprisoned. The government has finally realised that detaining children in these conditions is detrimental to their well-being. But this has meant that many mothers are separated from their children, as they are detained whilst their children are taken into care. Contrary to what the tabloids would have us believe, it is very difficult to receive leave to remain in the UK. Many people who come here, fleeing war and persecution, are sent back to countries where it is patently unsafe. The ‘Fast Track’ system means that certain asylum applications are fast-tracked so that people from certain countries that are deemed to be safe have little time to gather corroborating evidence before submitting an appeal, which is consequently rejected. This is despite the fact that countries on the ‘safe’ list are ones where female genital mutilation, honour killings, sexual slavery, rape and severe domestic violence affect many women.

Women in Yarl’s Wood have been on hunger strike in protest at these issues. The All African Women’s Group has more information here. You can also read a Guardian report here.

There is more general information about refugees available from this site.

“Free to choose normality”??

This has to be one of the wackiest feminism-blaming articles I’ve read. It’s by Charlotte Raven, herself a feminist. She argues that feminism has let women down over the last 2 decades. How?

We’ve been too busy spending a fortune on power-dressing and talking about how to make feminism fun and sexy. We’ve totally ignored actual inequalities and oppression in the world because, well, we’ve had our heads up our own arses. As examples, she offers up her own lifestyle and those of her London journo friends. And doesn’t bother too find out whether other feminists might possibly have done something else. Nah, that would require, like, actual reporting. (And taking our heads out of our arses.)

What do we need to do now? Start talking about inequality and most of all vicitimisation. Stop pretending we just love everything about our lives. UNLESS we’re mothers. In which case we need to stop our whingeing and put the baby first.

Oh, and “recover our desire for the missionary position with the person lying next to us. In every sphere of existence we’d be free to choose normality.”

Yup. That’s the vision. Thanks, Guardian.