Monday, March 25, 2013

Nishiyuu and the Colonialization of Feminism

As I write this, over 200 indigineous youth are arriving in our nation's capital after walking 1600 km since January 16th. The emotions I am feeling remind me strongly of those that were stirred in my adolescence when Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope went through my hometown of Brampton in 1980.

There is something distinctly Canadian, to me, about these epic treks. I engaged in my own personal version last September on my HarvestTrek2012 tour from Vancouver to St. John's on the Trans Canada Highway.  I felt so fortunate to join history as someone who was able to take in this country, from coast to coast, in a way that few have done.  In a short space of time I was able to move from the fresh raw mountains of Canada's Rockies over to the gentle older slopes of Newfoundland. I was able to do this fairly cheaply by using a drive away service that pays you nominal costs and you get the privilege of having someone else's car. I feel quite fortunate that the conditions in my life were ripe to avail of a cross country trek in a little sports car (with an epic stereo).

This summer my plans include seeing more of this fine country by getting to Labrador. I want my Canadian explorations to be expanded vertically now that I have seen the country along the East-West highway that mimics the historical Trans Canada Railway.  I quite enjoyed seeing the rail cars beside me as I drove along this summer.  I didn't like them so much when I woke up in the middle of the night to their horn blasts (one of the perils of guerilla camping along the TCH, fyi).

The reflections I have been making since my own personal cross Canada trek are still quite muddled and today I feel a responsibility to share some of them. Specifically the ones centred around my personal passion regarding wanting to leave the world a better place rather than just the bare minimum of leaving no trace (or leaving the world a worse place). This is what the Nishiyuu walkers are doing. They are leading by example so in my small tiny way I am hoping to pay it forward with these reflections.

This focus of my 'leave the world a better place' passion allows me flexibility of interests yet also has driven me to reexamine some things that I thought were personally sorted, long ago. One of the items under cross examination at the moment is feminism. Not if I am one (I am). But what that means, for me personally, and with respect to how I wish to leave the world a better place.

I am a woman. I am well educated in a field where few women are (math, engineering) and yet I feel like a novice to the subject of feminism. To be fair, a lot of that was by choice. After Daughter was born and I realized that the wholesale outsourcing of child rearing didn't match my value system, I no longer found any support in the feminist circles I was familiar with. This timed perfectly with the rise of the internet. Fortunately? Not for me.

In the early 2000s the loudest voices online were feminists telling me that I should be climbing that career ladder. They had fought for my right to do that. They had fought for the right for me to go to university and study math and engineering.  In fact, when one very well known Canadian feminist voiced her disregard for my thoughts on  her blog (when I was at my neediest) I turned all of the online feminists off and in real life conversations started to use the 'f word' as a phrase when discussions of feminism came up to soften my commitment on the issue. I was wounded. As a single mother I was exhausted. In isolation and in desperation I had reached out online to engage in discourse about what a young feminist single mother might want instead of climbing the career ladder (and how society could help support choices for all mothers and all families) and I was completely shut down. Part of me is still wounded by that action over a decade later.

But last summer's trek galvanized me into an awareness that makes me see that I have to go back and reexamine feminism. As the mother of a new adult daughter. As a human being. I am compelled and yet I enter cautiously. I recently waded into an online discussion of sex work/prostitution and was rebuffed, again. I was told that I wasn't a real feminist if I didn't have an opinion. This reminded me of that blog interaction. But I'm stronger now and wiser. I see the power of these misunderstandings and flare ups to educate and illuminate. And, tellingly, I was supported by others in the thread.  Differences allow variety. Variety is not the spice of life but biodiversity and evolutionary theory show us it is unequivocally the essence of it. All voices need to be heard. Not just the ones at the 'top'.

Feminism isn't owned by white woman who've climbed corporate ladders. Just like Canada isn't owned by white men answering to corporate mining interests.

As a feminist and as a Canadian, I am Idle No More.


  1. Hi Happy to find your blog and read your thoughts. Being a radical feminist, housewife (then...), mother, marginalized disabled half-breed (yes, that's my chosen term because it tells a tale) I can relate to much of what you've said. And I am and always have been from that first "click"...a radical feminist, a not-the-fun kind, a feminist who is both womanly, nurturing, dissatisfied with poverty and women's lot, disappointed in seeing so many call themselves 'feminist' when all they are is free love 60s variations, multi pierced male rights uphoders, supporters and activists. Oh, and did I say? I'm a Radical Feminist. "To the root".

  2. I have no idea what feminist sites you were on 10 yrs ago that did that to you. None of the ones I frequented. It was the other way around, we being too radical for the rest. Ahh wait yes, I can imagine which ones you might have been on. Congratulations, home from the wars.


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