Advocating for equality as a unified voice at the International Women’s World Conference held in Ottawa
There’s a funny rumor going around that it is summer. For those of us living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, it is easy to understand why this seems like a cruel joke. After just getting back from Ottawa, I can tell you: I appreciate it!
Why would anyone go to Ottawa the first week of July, with that gosh dang horrible humidity? To hang out with 2,000 other women from 92 different countries is why! I was at the International Women’s World conference . I will warn you now this article is saturated with hyperlinks. I would encourage you to have a look at all of them–there’s a wealth of knowledge in them.
I think award-winning throat singer Tanya Tagaq said it best in the opening ceremony: “I was wondering if I was nervous or if I was exhilarated because I feel so safe. I am safe here with you guys right now” (WATCH THIS: Her singing at the end is nothing short of otherworldly beauty; in video at 1:50min)
Here, with you women. Safe, because of who is not here.
Not a judgement, a truth. A lived reality. Listen to the story she tells in the video. Safe was not something I felt often, and it became the common theme of the conference.
I have taught my son it’s about perspective. When he and his friends are at a bus stop and there is a girl walking toward them–even if he knows he would not harm her, nor would his friends–she does not. She is taught from birth that groups of men are dangerous. So my son and his friends create a safe world by moving back from where she has to walk. Always look at her perspective, I tell him.
May my son be a man who lives life profoundly aware of the space he takes up in the world and what he can do to make women feel safer in it.
A friend and ally Erin Graham submitted a panel discussion that was accepted (Title: From Harm Reduction To Liberation: Feminist Alternatives) so I was a part of that amazing panel, as well as being a part again ( I was a part of the first Fleshmapping in 2008) for three days of the amazing dialogue that happened around the table with global women leaders like Sigma Huda, Lee Lakeman, the feisty and funny Youngsook Cho from Korea. There was wise and passionately anti-militarization Suzuyo Takazato from Okinawa, Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz from Mexico and Clorinde Zéphir from Haiti. The list is a veritable who’s who of global feminists who have made lasting impacts and contributions to women’s equality and naming and challenging patriarchy.
What did I learn?
This struggle is a global struggle with solutions that look different from region to region but also looks similar globally.
Somehow, some way, men actually have to be held accountable for their actions.
Women are beautifully resilient. No matter what our circumstances, we can truly bring out the best in each other.
What killed me to learn (although it wasn’t a totally new analysis) was that the church/religion is patriarchy’s greatest weapon and is used globally to oppress, marginalize and undermine women’s equality. This was sad for me to hear. In fact, it is my biggest struggle right now.
How do I undo my love for God, for Jesus, from the tyranny of patriarchy?
I am made in God’s image, so why would men use the God who made me, to oppress, saying women are less than them? A brilliant woman from Africa also said about the Church (church, Christians, Catholics, Missionaries, etc are all all referred to as the big “C” Church): We do not want your stuff (meaning the things westerners take to Africa to give out). We want you to come here, empower US, listen to US and OUR ways of doing things. Stand beside US and CHANGE things.
Isn’t that what God wants us to do? Fight powers and principalities? Shouldn’t we just stop doing business with warlords, er, diamond sellers until they are produced ethically? I say this as an Apple user; shouldn’t we not buy new electronic gadgets until the minerals needed for them can be mined safely?
I know, I know, I’m simple, seems to make sense though.
Of course it’s that whole Western world standard of living and comfort thing, not rocking the boat and Capitalism being the ultimate destroyer of not only our earth but of human rights and our responsibilities to one another thing.
My God, what has happened to your message of love? To love our neighbours as ourselves?
Some of my dear friends–allies and women I have learned many wise things from–would say until we abolish religion we will never have freedom. The big “we.” Humanity “we.”
BUT we must keep faith.
Keep relationship with Creator. I often ponder how do we mere mortals tell the story of a God so loving, so compassionate, so kind? How do we explain that it is not God that does these atrocities but rather man (man as in humanity here, not just men), we all have free will, we demand it. How someone uses that though can have dire lifelong or life taking consequences for another, but that is not God.
I’ve said to God, “Uh, I’m not one to tell you what to do, but I am fairly sure we are some of the worst PR people you could have created”. But then, I hear beautiful stories that come out of the rubble DEMANDING to be heard, and I hear Jesus. In the words of Arundhati Roy:
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”
I think women will lead change, for we look at the world very differently. Women have suffered since the beginning of time under patriarchy and you cannot tell me that was God’s divine plan. Women (or at least this one, and most feminists I know) do not want to rule, do not want to switch places with our oppressors. We want equality.
Simply put: we want to feel safe with men in the room.
Trisha Baptie is Executive Director of Honour Consulting and founding member of EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating). In 2008 she won BC’s Courage to Come Back Award for her bravery in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, for giving the murdered women of Vancouver a voice through her trial coverage of Vancouver’s serial killer and for her ongoing activism. Follow Trisha’s tweets at @trisha_baptie or friend her on facebook. She recently founded EVE (formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating.)