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Our Intern Blogs!

Welcome to Danielle’s blog on GirlSpace!  A bit about me - I am student of social work at Ryerson University in Toronto and I’m excited to be doing a field placement at YWCA Canada.  Being an intern here has given me a great chance to view the feminist movement from a national perspective and to see the unique ways that girls and women support each other in different areas of the country.

I’ve always kept a journal, but this is my first blog.  I’m passionate about female reproductive & sexual health, protecting our environment, and social justice.  I’m also pretty keen on food, books, and music, so I’ll post about cool stuff like that if it relates to girls.  I’m interested to hear your thoughts too.  Share your ideas on one of our forums and discuss the topics with girls all over Canada!

January 27, 2011

I might be stretching the timeline for 2010 reviews a bit, but I’m going with the rule that it is acceptable until the end of January.  Plus, I think it’s worth noting some of the incredible ways that frustrated girls have been fighting sexism and discrimination in 2010.  So, I have put together a short list of brave girls’ awesome actions of 2010.  Check it out:

  • These Connecticut teens felt their cheerleader uniforms were too revealing and hurt their self esteem.  So in September they took it to their school board, and now these young women have a uniform they can feel comfortable wearing to support their school teams.  Now that’s something to cheer about!
  • Along the vein of cheering, a young woman in Texas was kicked off her high school cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for a basketball player who raped her.  The young woman was urged by her school to “keep a low profile” by avoiding the school cafeteria and sports events.   Like a savvy young woman, she dismissed the idea that she should hide for having been sexually assaulted by another student.  She remained on the cheerleading squad and attended games that her attacker played in, but drew the line at cheering his name, and that’s when she was kicked off the squad.  So far, an appeals court has dismissed her freedom of speech claim , but she’s taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court!  Way to go.
  • Constance McMillen’s story is another drawn-out affair, but it goes to show how far girls are willing to go to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.  Constance asked the Mississippi school she attended if she could bring her girlfriend to the prom and wear a tuxedo.   The school said no.  So with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, she took it to the school board.  Sadly, instead of making the prom more inclusive, the school board cancelled the prom altogether, leaving students to pin blame on Constance.  She sued the school board for discrimination and received a $35,000 settlement.  It’s so refreshing to see the law on her side.
  • In a similarly disturbing case on the other side of the planet, an Australian teen was also banned from taking her girlfriend to the prom.  Hannah Williams, 16, had meetings with the principal, put up posters around the school, all to no avail.  Hannah and her girlfriend seem to have great parents who supported them through switching schools and Hannah has now filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.   As upsetting as this scenario is, her actions brought international attention to the school’s discrimination and turned up the heat on them!
  • Jamie Keiles is the bright and creative 18-year-old who started the Seventeen Magazine Project.  The sassy young woman was shocked at how “stupid” the magazine is and decided to put Seventeen’s advice for girls to the test.  For thirty days, Jamie followed every tip and suggestion in the magazine, from hair & makeup, to exercise, and ‘guys’.  Then she blogged about it.  The results?  Insightful, disturbing, and witty.  Check it out!  http://www.theseventeenmagazineproject.com/ 

 Using social media, fantastic support communities formed around these girls to show they believed in the causes.  Here’s a Facebook page that was created to support Constance, with almost 400,000 ‘likes’.  This one supports the cheerleader who was kicked off her squad.  Social media is an increasingly important part in public awareness of social justice issues and it’s an easy way for young women to get involved and keep on top of these kinds of stories. 

I know there are a ton of other girls who are doing awesome stuff in the face of sexism and discrimination.  Are you?  Are your friends?  Share your stories on one of our forums  or on our Facebook page and spread the good word!


September 27, 2010


B.C. rape reminds us of the importance of Week Without Violence™

Two weeks ago, a 16 year old girl was allegedly raped by seven boys and young men at a rave near Vancouver.  Less than a day later, photos of the incident were posted on multiple websites, including Facebook, by others who stood by and watched.  The girl was quickly blamed by her fellow students and teenagers who went to the rave.  Facebook groups and pages were created and promoted hateful, victim-blaming messages.  Some boys were featured in the news saying: “I don’t think she was raped” and “It just sounds like she's more embarrassed about it so she's trying to turn it to make it sound like she's a victim of something, rather than to say that she did something and that she knows that it was incredibly idiotic."  These kinds of comments show how violence against women is not taken seriously among young people.  Victims are blamed for inviting sexual assault, “asking for it”, or lying when they say it wasn’t consensual. 

This rape and people’s reactions to it are strong reminders of why it’s important to recognize YWCA’s Week Without Violence each year in October.  They’re also a reminder that girls and young women are often victims of violence.   Young women are getting involved in anti-violence work through Power of Being a Girl conferences during Week Without Violence, at YWCAs across Canada.  Young women are experts on issues affecting our lives, and our input is needed! 

As disturbing as these negative Facebook groups and pages are, there is one inspiring page, whose creator shows her support for this 16 year old girl, and invites other Facebook users to do the same.  The description of the page says:

I think it's important that the 16 yr old girl who was -allegedly - drugged and sexually assaulted - gets some positive support from everyone out there who cares. 

If you wish to give a message that gang rape is NOT OKAY, then say so here!

And that drugging somebody is NOT OKAY.

And that sexual assault of any sort is NOT OKAY.

Thanks for sending your support to this young woman and her family.

How are you getting involved during Week Without Violence?  What kind of attitudes about rape and violence have you encountered at school or among your friends?  Share your ideas and activities in our forums!


May 6, 2010

A world-wide voice for girls at the G(irls) 20 Summit!

Finally a chance for girls to speak about global issues that affect them!  The G20 is a group of leaders from 20 powerful countries around the world.  In June this year they are meeting in Toronto, for a G20 Summit to talk about ways to create a healthy world economy.  They’ll be discussing the ways we trade food, water, energy, and jobs around the world.  Believe it or not, these decisions can have a major impact on girls and young women.

In order to remind these leaders how important girls and young women are, there’s going to be G(irls) 20 Summit in Toronto ten days before the G20 Summit.  The G(irls) 20 Summit will be made up of 20 girls – one each from the same countries as the G20 members.  The idea is that G(irls) 20 will draw attention back to the Millenium Goals created by the United Nations in 2000, and remind the G20 leaders of commitments that were made to eliminate poverty and disease; and improve access to education, gender equality and health care around the world.  Poverty and poor access to education and health care affect girls and women more severely than men and boys.  The G(irls) 20 summit creates an opportunity for girls to put their voices in global conversations that affect them.

The G(irls) 20 website says: “Global leaders have set impressive goals. We need real ideas for how to provide universal education, improve child and maternal health and eradicate poverty so that girls and women can fully realize their potential and contribute to the economic prosperity and stability of their communities and countries.”  What better way is there to get these ideas than to ask girls themselves?  Do you have something to say?  Apply to be a part of the G(irls) 20 Summit!


March 10, 2010

GIRL GAMERS GET NOTICED

It may be surprising to hear that 40% of video gamers are female, although it’s hard to tell based on the content of popular games.  Many of us are furious about the way that women are portrayed in video games.  Women are often background characters, and when they do appear, they are usually portrayed as stereotypical male fantasy objects in tight, revealing clothing.  Grand Theft Auto is particularly notorious because the player can choose to have sex with a woman, and then kill her.  A quick search of YouTube reveals many videos uploaded by fans that demonstrate how to do this in the game.  This type of female representation is alienating to female players and creates the understanding that gaming isn’t for women.  It also reinforces negative stereotypes and attitudes about girls and women for anyone who plays.

So, I was quite glad to read that developers are starting to take notice of women in the gaming market.  Since only 1 in 10 game developers are women, it’s not surprising it took so long.  Perhaps developers started noticing that there are tons of girls’ gamer sites out there.  For example, Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers, or PMS Clan, is a women’s community of developers, designers, and gamers who love gaming and make a point of standing up to men who harass girls in online games.

Feminist Gamers is a site for video game lovers who are also feminists and actively question the content of video games.  It’s awesome.  Then there’s Women Gamers.  It doesn’t take a terribly critical approach to gaming, but it does recognize that sexism is rampant throughout the industry.  The website has a great section for critiques of female game characters such as Lara Croft.  Overall, this website is more for women who just love gaming – and that’s great too.  (You can also check out Game Girl.)

Gaming doesn’t have to be alienating to girls!  If you play video games, check out one of these sites and join a female gaming community!



Feb. 24, 2010

Up and coming high school gender studies courses in danger before they begin

The Miss G project was started by two young university students in order to get women’s and gender studies as a course in Ontario high schools.  When asked “why”, they’ll ask you: “why not?”  In fact, they’ve got a whole list of reasons.  They explain that teens go through high school without ever learning the difference between sex and gender. (Sex refers to the biological differences between boys and girls, while gender refers to the way society tells us girls and boys are “supposed” to look and act.  For example, girls are ‘supposed to’ be caring, have long hair, and like shopping; while boys are ‘supposed to’ be tough and good at building things.)  Miss G also tells us that girls start to lose confidence once they are old enough for high school, and that sexism and sexual harassment are big problems in high schools.

While our provincial government is in charge of education, it’s helpful to talk about gender courses with our friends and teachers too.  According to folks at the Miss G project, the conversation about high school women’s and gender studies courses is happening in a few provinces. Some courses are popping up in schools, but they are not yet widely offered in any province.

In Ontario, a “Gender Studies” course is going to start as an elective for grade 11 and 12 students in September 2011 across the province.  The official course description explains that it helps students to understand femininity and masculinity, and to see how they are affected by television and video games, and play out in our relationships with each other.  This course is an exciting new part of high school in Ontario, no doubt due in part to the great work of the Miss G project. 

I hope this course will continue for a long time, but not surprisingly, people are already against it.  Life Site News reports that a group of bishops in Ontario have recommended that Catholic schools do not offer the course because it goes against the views of the Catholic Church, namely reproductive rights and “homosexual adoption”. 

I know it seems like these courses are necessary and make sense, and it seems obvious that people should learn about gender inequality when they are young.  I mean, many Canadian universities have had Women’s Studies programs for decades.  But lately, even university women’s studies programs are under attack.  Last year, they decided to cut the University of Guelph’s women’s studies program.  A couple weeks ago, the National Post printed a horrifying editorial accusing women’s studies and feminists of ruining our families and destroying relationships between men and women, among other things.  If they’re so upset about women’s and gender studies in university, you can bet they won’t be happy about them in high school.  As far as I’m concerned, the editorial is a great reminder of why we still need women’s and gender studies around.

The best way to support women’s and gender studies is to start talking about it and raise awareness.  Let’s keep our politicians on their toes.  If you’ve heard talk about a high school women’s or gender studies course in your province, bring it up in one of our forums.  Write to your MLA (or MHA, MNA, MPP) about it.  Let’s start a national dialogue about how we need women’s & gender studies courses in our public school systems!

 



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