Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teach a man to fish....

Well, first, let's pretend that this old saying says "teach a person to fish"..... but all that aside....

Otherwise, I'm watching Secret Millionaire right now and thinking about what these millionaires are trying to do. It is definitely pretty darn inspiring - especially looking at the "average" person who doesn't have the kind of time and money to go to a new community and spend some time getting to know new organizations but those who volunteer in the communities in which they work, live, play, sometimes struggle and try to make ends meet. These volunteers (like the volunteers on the show today) have so much less than so many others (like the secret millionaire on the show) and yet they give what they do have to help make their communities better places for their children and their neighbours.

Now, I think that what they're doing is absolutely beautiful, particularly when there's so much trash (that I enjoy watching.... is this a full disclosure moment?) on TV. And I think that private charity is a beautiful thing also (the "secret millionaire" just gave away $40,000 to a very, very deserving charity). He said, when he gave away one of his cheques, that good things do happen to good people. And I think that good people like him should help make that happen.

That said, I remember learning once that the idea of the very right-wing way that the United States were put together was that the government's role wasn't to help out the people who needed that help the most: that private charities are more apt to help these people out.

Back to the title of this post - I was thinking that, yes, if we teach people to help themselves they will be better off than if we just help them. And that's not saying that these wonderful gifts that these "secret millionaires" and everyday philanthropists shouldn't share what they've been blessed (or whatever word suits you) to have.

I guess my question is, "is it working"?

I don't live in the US, and I think that Canadians are considerably better off than our neighbours to the South (so I really don't know), but maybe it's time to look at making some changes. Doesn't it seem fair that at this point, every citizen should have effective, affordable (or free), accessible health care?

I guess that really what I'm thinking is that sometimes what was a good idea "in the beginning" (even though many would argue that point) may not be a good idea later. I read somewhere recently (I think it was quoted in Transforming Power by Judy Rebick) that neo-liberalism (but this could apply to my thought as well, I think) is like a train that is speeding along tracks and the conductor has fallen asleep with his/her foot on the accelerator - so the train is still speeding ahead but nobody is steering it. I think that's an appropriate metaphor for this - that someone needs to re-evaluate the course of where we're going.

Again, I'm not sure if I came up with any kind of theory or consistent thought, but these were the thoughts going through my mind while watching random Sunday night TV and trying to kick this fever.

Hopefully something to think about.


Friday, March 4, 2011


I'm just finishing up the book Manifesta, by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards. It is an absolute inspiration. It has made me think a lot about who I might be as a feminist. And I realize that it's been two months since my "so what" post about how I won't give up (I gave up for a bit, I realize), but I guess I'm just finding my way a little bit right now. I definitely feel like time is a-wasting though, if I'm ever going to really do something to be who I want to be.

Naomi Wolf would have been 29 when The Beauty Myth was published. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards were both 30 when they wrote Manifesta. Jessica Valenti was 29 when she published her first book. And these, of course, were not any of their first tastes of activism. I feel like I'm behind already.

In a few months, I will be a quarter century old. And, of course, that is still really young. But I feel like I'm just beginning to find out who I am or who I'm becoming and I have little direction. Or at least little real direction.

The other day, reading Manifesta spun me into a bit of a thought-tornado (or something less cliche-sounding). As much as this is probably unwise, I'd like to share some of these raw, unresearched, completely personal thoughts.

Firstly, feminism is a movement. For me, there's no doubt about this. It always has been and it always will be (for me). However, at this point, I don't know what direction this movement is going in. I suppose that it seems that it's going in many different directions. While I think that this is fantastic, because it means that feminism has become more of an every day reality that touches many parts of life for far more women and men than it maybe has in the past. However, it also opens up the movement for a lot of critique (from both inside and outside the movement, in my opinion).

Also, I was thinking about voting. I don't think that many people my age voted in the last election at all, but do women and men vote equally as often? I also wonder how many women still vote the way their husbands or boyfriends do (although that, like many of the comments in this post, have no basis in fact whatsoever).

Another totally random thought that popped into my head was the whole notion of choice. I realize that feminism is very, very anchored in this idea of choice. My take on feminism is that it has always been about being able to make our own choices - independent from our parents, spouses (maybe even brothers, should we have any), communities, political parties, etc. Not just going along for the ride but really taking part in choosing the course of our journies. One might argue that women and girls are at a point where we are more able to make our own choices than ever (and I would agree in general). But do we feel that we are really free to make these choices (e.g. no pressure from outside sources to stay home and take care of children or work harder than men do at paid work (to compensate?), etc). How can we help others feel free to make their own choices, support one another in it, and then take responsibility for those choices. I don't think that means that we can or should ignore our environments' role in the choices we make (of those that are available to us) but that we can still be conscious of what is expected of us (whether actually or given our perceptions).

When regular women look back on their lives (so far) having identified as feminists, what do they think? Did they do what they wanted to? Did they do it how they wanted? What helped them or got in the way? WHO helped them or got in the way?

Who are some Canadian feminists? I answered this question a little bit from an Internet search. I started following Judy Rebick on facebook, but I know that (or, hope?) she is just the tip of the iceberg and that there are a lot of really radical, cool things going on in Canadian feminism. It does raise the question for me, like in many instances, what is the role of the United States on Canadian feminism? Are we all in the same boat? Is there something counterproductive for Canadian feminists (or women in general) in American Cultural Imperialism?

Really my last random thought/set of questions was about where the girls of my generation fit into this whole big picture. When Manifesta came out, I was 13. I was one of the teenage girls that was sometimes referred to in those amazing pages. If the third wave belongs to Gen-Xers, can we take part as well? Are there enough of us (post Gen-X feminists)? What do third wave feminists (Naomi Wolf's "contemporaries") think of us? They're not that much older than we are, they certainly aren't our "mothers" like second wavers were their mothers (in most cases). Second wavers are our mothers too (my mother would have been 14 when Ms. was first launched in 1971). How does it all fit?

Anyways, hopefully I'll have the guts to post here a little bit more often. I think that for people my age, blogging gives us an opportunity that generations before us obviously didn't have - being self-published extremely easily and for free.

The summary to this terribly disorganized post really is this: who am I as a feminist? How can I fit into this movement?

If anyone ever reads this, comments are very, very welcome. One of my favourite people in the world, my friend Meg, once said something like if you want something, throw it out there. Tell the world, sort of, even if nobody ever hears you. This is my plea: help me find my way in this whole thing. Help me become who I want to be. And help that person help the world: the planet, women,