Thursday, May 27, 2010

Toronto Pride and the term Israeli Apartheid

I just found out that the directors of Toronto's Pride Parade have banned the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" at this year's parade. This is aimed at the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), which has been involved in the Pride Parade for several years. I think that it is interesting that Pride, a group that is all about inclusion (so much so that their theme is "you belong") is taking it upon themselves to censor a group who is making a political message that I think can be compared to the statement that Pride was making when they began 30 years ago.

Their argument is that some people believe that the name is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. I am by no means an expert on the topic of Israeli Apartheid (according to my spell check, I hardly know how to spell it), but I would like to make a few comments on this anyway.... and anyone with more knowledge who wishes to add/clarify/correct something is more than welcome to comment.

Let's start this very simply... from wiki, the crime of apartheid is "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime." United Nations reports seem to consistently show that the current regime is comparable to apartheid in South Africa (see here)

This is not anti-semitic. Antisemitism defined (again using wikipedia, which may not be the most reliable source, but I believe is useful for this purpose) is prejudice against or hostility towards jews, often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture and/or religion. I don't understand how being opposed to the oppression of a group of people based on their race/ethnicity can be confused with hostility towards a different group, some of whom happen to be part of the dominant group in one particular country.

I can only think of two explanations. First, is ignorance. Those who are confusing the term "Isreali apartheid" with antisemite do not understand the meaning of these terms or the living conditions of Palestinians in Israel. But the politicians do understand this, as do the organizers of Toronto Pride, I am sure.

The other explanation is financial. The current Israeli regime is backed by the American government. Just two months previous to this decision, the Ontario legislature passed a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid week, which is held at several universities. Last month, the federal government withdrew $400,000 in funding for Toronto Pride, a decision that is rumored to be connected to QuAIA. Now, the Toronto mayoral candidate motioned to deny funding to the parade if QuAIA is allowed to participate, on the grounds that it would be in breach of the city's anti-discrimination policy. Directors at Pride were concerned about the risk of losing this funding.

Queer Ontario founder and spokesperson Nick Mulé states
It appears Pride Toronto has opted to appease some City officials applying pressure based on misinformation regarding QuAIA and the use of the term ‘Israeli apartheid’, rather than work directly with the community in educating the City to develop a nuanced understanding of the human rights and discrimination issues at play.

I have heard it argued that Israeli Apartheid isn't a Pride issue, as it is not directly connected to sexuality or heterosexism. This argument is used to keep leftist movements separate, which means that they are containable. When organizers at Pride are separated from those at QuAIA, which are separated from feminist organizing and from socialism, it keeps special interest groups small enough that they cannot disrupt the status quo. I would like to applaud QuAIA for becoming involved with both groups, for building that coalition, as I believe it is only through these coalitions that change can occur.

Obama the socialist

I love how people often use graphs and charts to show humorous points... this one is found here, and depicts how quick we are to label Obama a socialist when, historically speaking, his policies are still quite conservative.

As suggested by the original poster, Since when has labeling anything you disagree with “Socialism” a substitute for political discourse?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Matt Groening on grad school

Love this comic by Matt Groening (the creator of the Simpsons), found here. Apparently it is more than 20 years old, but still rather true.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Facebook and the regulation of women's bodies

I have seen a trend in facebook groups lately that is meant to show that curvy women are beautiful too, but what they actually do is shame skinny women. Instead of trying to spread the message that all body types are beautiful, they have titles like

"Real women have curves... not the body of a 12 year old boy" and "Curvy girls are better than skinny girls"

Both groups contain photos of "plus sized" models that I believe prove that curvy women can fit in to dominant standards of beauty (complete with airbrushing to make the curves look as Marilyn Monroe-esque as possible).

The profile picture for the second group is of Kim Kardashian in a bikini. With a waist measurement of 26 inches and weighing 117lbs (according to skinny vs curvy), she hardly fits into the plus sized model category, but yes, she does have curves. This presents an image that even fewer girls can hope to fit than before, as the rarity of her curves is a large part of what has made her famous.

Also, the bikini shots change nothing about the way women's bodies are objectified within the mass media. The message presented within these groups is no different than the one that I grew up with... women are supposed to have curves, but with a thin waist... unless you are a runway model. Growing up with a very small chest, I got this message loud and clear beginning in sixth grade.

Both groups are rife with hate-filled content about skinny women. How we all whine about being fat all the time, how we never eat, how we cannot fill out clothes. The thin women that I know eat normal healthy diets (and sometimes even tons of junk food), and believe me when I say that women don't like shopping in the children's section to find clothes that fit properly. It seems to me that they are taking stereotypes about a real disease (anorexia) and assuming that every skinny person must have it, which is no better than saying that all larger women eat tons of junk food- it just isn't true. What about the role that genetics or a person's metabolism plays in all of this?

I would just love to see similar groups, but where one type of body isn't placed as better than the rest, one that values the diversity in women's shapes and sizes, and where women's bodies were not being regulated or on display for (male) viewers to criticize. Maybe that seems too idealistic or too romantic for the real world, but would it be a bad thing to actually accept women's bodies without needing to starve or operate on them first?

Although men are increasingly objectified in the mass media, I have yet to find a facebook group with so many hateful comments describing just how men are supposed to look.

I wonder how many of the 1,407,000 and 132,000 people who have joined or "liked" these groups has ever read any of that content...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Queer Ontario's response to the new sex ed curriculum

A few weeks ago, I posted about Ontario's new sex education curriculum. I thought it was one of the best sex education programs that I have seen. However, conservative and religious groups did not, and the provincial government pulled the program, and plans to consult with these groups in developing a new curriculum plan.

Queer Ontario has just released a statement about the curriculum that I will quote at length

Queer Ontario feels the Elementary Health and Physical Education Curriculum proposed by the McGuinty government back in January of 2010 was a step in the right direction that would have provided Ontario children and youth with up-to-date scientific information on human development, physical health, sex, sexuality, sexual behaviour, and gender identity. So it came as a tremendous disappointment to hear that McGuinty succumbed to the pressures that were created by sex-negative religious fundamentalists, moral conservatives, and misinformed parents, ultimately rescinding the curriculum just 54 hours after he had come out in strong support of it.

Given that the first round of consultations had already taken into consideration the concerns of parent groups and religious organizations like the Institute for Catholic Education – alongside public health organizations, sex educators, school boards, academics, and LGBTQ groups including Queer Ontario’s predecessor, the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), – the new curriculum was in no way under consulted and actually served to bring Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum in line with those of other, more progressive provinces like British Columbia. The new proposed curriculum is overdue and progressive respecting personal differences and individual uniqueness, much needed concepts that would have begun to be addressed in Ontario’s elementary school systems.

To this end Queer Ontario calls for:

The Province of Ontario to fully implement the proposed Health and Physical Education Curriculum and not to abandon important tenets regarding aspects of sex education dealing with sex, sexual orientation, sexual behaviour, gender and gender identity.

A balanced approach (as with the first rounds) should a second round of consultations be set up, albeit redundantly, by inviting all previously-consulted groups to the table to ensure – once again – that there is an inclusive, well-informed, and comprehensive review of the necessary changes.

The inclusion of Queer Ontario and other LGBT groups in the second round of consultations.

The Premier’s intention, be supported, to implement the new proposed curriculum across both the public and separate Catholic school systems throughout Ontario inclusive of the sex education components.

The media did not release information pertaining to how many groups were consulted in the development of the new curriculum; they made it seem as though the curriculum were developed privately by the liberal government and released, shocking groups and parents alike. The news stories that I read (and there were a lot of them) also failed to mention that a similar program exists in British Columbia; they made it seem as though this were first of it's kind and extremely radical. I guess we can see the mainstream media's stance on the curriculum in this omission.

If a new curriculum really is developed to replace both the existing and proposed curriculum, I really hope the government at very least includes Queer Ontario and other LGBT groups in Ontario in developing this curriculum. I think "protecting" children from information about same sex couples is a big part of what leads to systemic heterosexism.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

More cuts, this time to Pride funding

There has been a fair amount of coverage over the past few weeks on recent cuts to women's programs in Canada, and now the federal government announced that it is not giving any funding to Toronto's Pride Parade. In comparison, last year they received $400,000, which is estimated to have translated into $6 million in economic activity in Toronto that week.

Last year, conservative Member of Parliament, Diane Ablonczy, lost her position as tourism minister after approving funding for the Pride Parade, and other conservative MPs went as far as to apologize to "pro-life" and "pro-family" groups.

Tracey Sandilands, the festival's executive director, said “We believe this sends the message that queer events are not worthy investing in,” and noted that Pride was the only queer event to receive any support from the federal government in over two years.

It is not only access to abortion and funding to women's groups currently under attack in Canada. We need to foster solidarity between various leftist movements to protect everybody's rights. It starts with funding, but, if we don't speak out now, I fear that we will lose so much more of what activists have fought so hard for.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More on abortion in Canada...

Conservative Senator, Nancy Ruth, told international development advocates
We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until G-8 starts. Shut the f--- up on this issue [funding for abortions as part of G8 international maternal and family health].... if you push it, there will be more backlash... Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t make it into an election issue.

This statement really concerns me. Canadian women are being threatened by this senator; ignore what is happening to women in developing nations, or we will take rights away here in Canada.

I think women in Canada need to speak up about this. I, for one, refuse to "shut the f--- up" and be intimidated by threats from conservative politicians.