Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading this week:

Local organization wants national debate on abortion.

Some coverage and photos of last week's rally.

My latest piece at Abortion Gang.

The criminalization of abortion is an abuse of state power.

Feel free to share in comments.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Young Feminists

As a response to shit like this, I wanted to say:

Dear young feminists,

Thank you for existing. Thank you for being strong, driven, compassionate and empathetic. You are the heralds of a better world and the only reason I can continue to believe in it.

I could never have learned anything about privilege, intersectionality, or being an ally without the guidance, writing and action of the feminists of my generation. There is so much I would never have been able to discover without the help of feminist blogs. Thank you, young feminists, for being bold and bravely talking openly about oppression.

Thank you for organizing, promoting, and participating in actions - as big as Occupy and as small as a local clinic defense. Thanks for picking up the torch of the second wave and burning it much brighter, in more directions. Thank you for marching when there has been marching to be done.

Thank you for expanding feminism, for making it bigger, more inclusive, and more radical. Thank you for teaching me how my whiteness makes my feminist lens different, and how all the power imbalances I experience and participate in are interconnected. Thank you for dreaming big.

Thank you for believing that a woman is more than her body, and that there is more to life than woman/man. Thank you for believing people when they say what they are - man, woman, genderqueer, bisexual, asexual, trans, polyamorous, survivor, victim, queer, fat, ok, not ok. Thanks for creating a movement full of people, not labels.

Thank you for carrying on and fighting in the face of people who think the fight is over. Thanks for being active feminists while people say you don't exist. Thanks for reaching out across generations while casting aside the harmful beliefs of the second wave. Thanks for pushing beyond white liberal feminism.

Thank you also for your mistakes, your infighting, your sellouts and fuck ups. Thanks for not being perfect. Thanks for trying to fix it.

Young feminists do not just exist. We are shaping the world whether the old guard likes it or not. We are building new understandings of old issues. We are broadening our scope and for better or for worse, creating the revolution. If you haven't noticed us, perhaps you can't see the forest for the trees.

Thank you, young feminists, for teaching me something new every day, and giving me hope.

Love your friend,

"Je ne les crains pas. C'est pour cela que je suis nee." - Joan of Arc

Photo credit: John Bonnar (

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Reader

Not much to read this week, I'm afraid.

A reminder to enter the ARCC Video Contest

A lovely obituary for the abortion pioneer Dr. Robert Kinch

And from the horrifying typos department: does Canada think abortion providers are terrorists?

Mom mad about school's anti-abortion event

Joyce Arthur on why abortion must be fully funded

What have you all been reading?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tomorrow's Rally and Reproductive Justice

Those of you in Toronto may have heard about the "Defund Abortion" rally being planned for tomorrow at Queen's Park at 1pm. You may have also heard that there is a pro-choice presence/counter-rally being planned; I hope you are planning on attending!

I will be there, as part of the Reproductive Justice Coalition of Toronto. We felt it was important to have a presence there, even though we do talk a lot about the reactive nature of the movement, and how frustrating it sometimes feels to be doing actions like this. Another thing we often discuss is the domination of the movement by the talking points of an older generation, and an older focus. We are pretty tired of talking about "choice", especially since it is most often coming out of whiteness and a more privileged class. That is why I think it is important to note that while the RJT is in solidarity with OCAC and other groups regarding opposition to defunding abortion, we will maintain a distinctive presence at the rally tomorrow (and any like-minded or curious folks are welcome to join us!).

For me, "choice" and the other established goals of the pro-choice movement like access to abortion have become much less important than this more reproductive justice-focused worldview I am slowly learning about and adopting. I love the idea of being radical in the sense of tracing back to the root, and an RJ approach encourages that kind of analysis. What is important to a younger generation of RJ activists is not so much the defunding of abortion as the decolonizing of our bodies, particularly the bodies of racialized women and trans people and other marginalized folks. That is where these contentious issues come from. We also care less about lobbying and legislating than we do about teaching and learning to know and care for our bodies. Sure it worries me that abortion might be made illegal, but quite honestly I'm more worried about how few young women know how to masturbate.

Anyway, I'm just sort of skimming the surface of reproductive justice right now, but it's something I will continue to talk about, for sure. And if you come out to the rally tomorrow you will see from the diversity of our signs that there is a lot more to this than abortion.

If you are interested in being part of the RJT presence, please contact me at pedgehog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading about this week:

More Conservative nonsense around IPPF funding.

When abortion restrictions backfire.

Healthy women are women with choices.

Anti-choice "memorial" taken down

Why Alberta should start funding Essure birth control

Catholic school gives credits for attending anti-abortion protests; then revokes them.

Dr. Garson Romalis's challenge to Canada's assisted suicide law is rejected

What have you been reading?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Corner: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

I know, this is another one that I'm years behind on. However, like The Handmaid's Tale, it's a better late than never kind of situation; if you've never read The Cider House Rules, you really ought to pick it up because it is quite frankly amazing.

I have always been a John Irving fan; my father's favourite book in the whole world is A Prayer for Owen Meany, and as a little book nerd of course I encountered it (earlier than I probably should have). I think Irving has a lovely style and a real knack for characters - he takes his time with them, letting the stories sort of unfold naturally. I have read a couple of his other books, including the horrifically under-rated, laugh-out-loud hilarious The Water-Method Man, which I recommend more highly than anything. It's a relatively short read and seriously, you will be crying with laughter from about page three.

Anyway, Cider House. A friend of mine has been telling me to read this for years, insisting I will like it because "it's about abortion". I knew one of the characters was an abortion doctor, but didn't think it could possibly be more than a subplot. But she was right - it is about abortion. Partially, of course. Really what it's about is rules: the rules we make for each other, the rules we find it acceptable to break, and the way the rules change in different situations, for different people. The story challenges a lot of rules - from social norms to laws - in a powerful but simultaneously gentle sort of way. Irving forces his characters (and readers) to examine the reasons for rules and for breaking them.

The book is, in short, about an orphanage run by the aging Dr. Larch, who takes in pregnant women overnight to deliver "an orphan or an abortion" - their choice - before sending them on their way. One of the orphans, Homer Wells, has a hard time getting adopted and soon accepts that he belongs at the orphanage, learning medicine from Dr. Larch. But the two men differ on their opinion of abortion (or "the Lord's work" as Larch calls it) and Homer eventually rejects the destiny Larch has set out for him, and leaves the orphanage with a beautiful young couple to work in their apple orchard and learn the rules in the outside world.

I can't really tell you any more about the plot - anyway, the plot is kind of beside the point. It's meandering and strange and really just background for Irving's true strengths as a writer: characters, themes and setting. This book could not have taken place anywhere other than coastal Maine, and the descriptions are totally evocative of that strange place. I'm telling you guys, this book is amazing. If it wasn't about abortion, they would teach it in high school writing classes. It is both technically perfect and emotionally strong.

Most of all I loved how Irving dealt with the abortion issue. His characters are sometimes preachy, but the story never is. It ends about twenty years before Roe v. Wade but the legality takes a back seat to the morality of it; the arguments and situations could easily apply today. I loved how the story even had sympathy for the back-alley butcher, whom Larch goes to see (and condemn) for her shoddy, life-threatening abortions. "At least I'm doing something!" she says. Indeed.

Larch's simple philosophy - that it is best to be of use - is probably a bit utilitarian for some people to accept as an argument backing up the availability of abortion. But I think the stronger driving force of Larch's character is his shameful early life, and his idea that he himself once made a bad sexual decision, and therefore it is not his right to judge the sexual decisions of others. The doctor is a humanizing element in the orphanage. He is simply a flawed person trying to do what is best - as is Homer Wells, whose experience with a young apple picker who has been the victim of incest neatly mirrors Larch's own awakening, in the back alley doctor's waiting room, with a young woman who has been impregnated by her father. A lifetime has made no difference in the demand for abortion, the reasons, the desperation. Irving gently, implicitly reminds us that the need will always exist - it is up to us whether we "play God" by making that decision for a woman.

I loved this book - in case that isn't clear. I think it is not only totally compelling, I also believe it provides some of the best arguments for abortion provision I have ever encountered. Not just legal abortion, mind, but actively providing abortions or ensuring women have access to them. This one gets ten fetus cookies out of ten.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your Good Deed for the Day

Oh hello! Let me tell you what I put up with - a lot of the things detailed in this post.

You know what would make me feel better? If you nominated me for this.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Event: Rock for Reproductive Justice

Saturday, October 22 · 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Victoria's Spirit Square (in Centennial Square)

Created By

On Saturday October 22nd come out and Rock for Reproductive Justice!

Rock for Reproductive Justice will include creative activism, music, and speakers. Come learn more about reproductive justice and showcase strong community support for access to reproductive health services. ASL interpretation and bus tickets will be available ( for bus tickets)

Music will include Witch Baby, Medusa and Claire Mortifee.

Joyce Arthur from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, UVic Political Science Professor Janni Aragon and others will be speaking on a wide-range of topics related to reproductive justice.

This event is in response to the presence of "40 Days for Life" in Victoria. Come out and support the ability of individuals to make choices about their bodies, sexuality, and families!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Corner: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

So. I realize I am about twenty-five years too late on this review. However, I actually think this book might be more relevant now than it was when it was written, which is a mark of success, however bittersweet, for the author of a dystopian novel. And for my money, Atwood is the master of dystopia - I honestly think she is some kind of strange prophet or soothsayer. This shit is terrifying, and it’s terrifying because it is so real.

First let me say it does damage my Canadian feminist cred a bit to have not read this book until now, but hey, we all have flaws. I feel like coming to it later in my feminism is maybe a bad choice; I still loved it, but there were a lot of revelations and ideas that would have been revolutionary to me about five years ago. Stuff I had to find out on my own, without Atwood. That is sad, because I think I would always rather learn through Atwood.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, it is set in the not-so-distant future in the Republic of Gilead (formerly the USA). It is a theocracy of sorts, where women have narrowly defined roles and are marked by different coloured clothing. The story is told from the point of view of Offred, a handmaid, whose purpose is to produce children for a rich man and his wife. This new society is in its infancy and Offred (and the people in her life) can remember what it was like before.

Atwood apparently based the society (in part) on Iran, but there is nothing in the book that hasn’t happened somewhere, at some point. Her descriptions of the transition are particularly chilling because they are so believable. Looking at the politics in the USA right now (and to a lesser extent, Canada), yeah, the ideas are there. Thank goodness for the progressive voices speaking up. But when the narrator describes executed political prisoners hanging in public with signs denoting them as abortion providers, or “gender traitors”, it does not seem so far from our own world - the only difference is in our real life, it’s the citizens who do the killing; the government only offers politically expedient disapproval (depending on the government!).

I could take every single thing from the book and show a parallel with our current society, but that sounds painful. Instead I will just highly recommend that you read it - or if it’s been a long time since you’ve read it, give it another look. I think you’ll be surprised/horrified at how much more real it has become.

Also, I really want a “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” tattoo.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time to Overshare!

Things that are crappy when you have your period*

Reading about (and remembering) pinch-y cervical implements (damn you Irving!)

Being on transit

Being in hot and sweaty situations

Having to go in to the mess fingers first (whether for pleasure or on an emergency rescue mission for an adventurous tampon)

Synching up with someone you spend time with and suffering twice the crankiness

Things that are nice when you have your period*

Showers. Dear lord, showers.


Finding -and having access to - a method that works for you, whether it's tampons or catchers (for me it's reusable cloth pads).

A sympathetic housemate - especially when they are of the non-menstruating persuasion and enjoy watching DVDs of Frasier with you

Fresh clean sheets and a good night's sleep

How about you?

* Obviously my experience and preferences are not universal.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Reader

I haven't been able to accumulate enough material for a reader for a couple weeks sorry some of this is a little old! Regardless, here's what I've been reading:

The National Posts asks: is the abortion debate really about religion?

The odious Show the Truth was in Ottawa.

Barbara Kay et al. continue to be awful.

Kelowna, BC issues an anti-abortion proclamation.

Canadian pro-lifers are taking a page from the Tea Party book.

Regina, SK docs fear abortion restrictions.

Planned Parenthood Canada's funding has been renewed, to Brad Trost's disapproval (among others). In fact, Trost says this essentially reopens the debate. IPPF counters that Canada is helping to prevent abortions.

What have you been reading?