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Display until March 30, 2012
ARTIST EXPLORES GENDER AND DESIRE
JUST DON’T CUT IT
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 1
SEEING RED OVER PINK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
by Amanda Le Rougetel
CAMPAIGN UPDATES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
THE POET VS. THE PROFITEERS
AN INTERVIEW WITH MINNIE BRUCE PRATT . . . . . . 11
by Joy Parks
CONFESSIONS OF A RELUCTANT CRAFTER . . . . . . . . . 14
The knitting trend has hit Canada by storm. So what’s a
feminist to do: Join the rebel fibre movement or cast dire
warnings that women will soon be barefoot in the kitchen?
by Deborah Ostrovsky
BASTARDS AND BULLIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Dorothy Palmer’s debut novel, When Fenelon Falls,
features Jordan, a young girl who is adopted and disabled.
The protagonist reflects some of Palmer’s experiences
about what it is like to be adopted and disabled.
by Niranjana Iyer
THE LURE OF BONNIE MARIN:
LESSONS IN TRANSGRESSIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Visual artist Bonnie Marin freely mixes gender, race and
even species in erotic environments that are part middle
class 1950s normalcy and part spectacles of perversity.
by Shawna Dempsey
HOW FEMINISM CAN IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE . . . . 28
Two new books about sex and politics paint a provocative
picture of feminist dating 45 years after the personal was
declared to be political. Writers Samhita Mukhopadhyay
and Jaclyn Friedman take the theory to the next level.
by Mandy van Deven
FAMILY PORTRAITS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Julia Ivanova credits her outsider status as a advantage in
making documentaries. Born in the Soviet Union, she
immigrated to Canada in 1995 and has been drawn to
telling unique stories about families across borders.
by Brittany Shoot
RADICAL HOMEMAKER STIRS THE POT . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Shannon Hayes set out to create sustainable work that would
bring together her degrees in agriculture and community
development. Radical Homemakers maps her view that
domestic work can be an ecologically driven choice that
undermines consumer culture.
by Tina Vasquez
WINTER 2012 / VOLUME 25 NO. 3
2 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
VOLUME 25 NO. 3
MANAGING EDITOR: Penni Mitchell
FULFILLMENT AND OFFICE MANAGER: Phil Koch
ACCOUNTANT: Sharon Pchajek
BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Ghislaine Alleyne, Phil Koch,
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COVER: Bonnie Marin, Fishing Lure, oil paint and collage (2008)
HERIZONS is published four times per year by HERIZONS Inc. in
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The purpose of HERIZONS is to empower women; to inspire hope
and foster a state of wellness that enriches women’s lives; to build
awareness of issues as they affect women; to promote the
strength, wisdom and creativity of women; to broaden the bound-
aries of feminism to include building coalitions and support among
other marginalized people; to foster peace and ecological aware-
ness; and to expand the influence of feminist principles in the
world. HERIZONS aims to reflect a feminist philosophy that is
diverse, understandable and relevant to women’s daily lives.
Views expressed in HERIZONS are those of the writers and do not
necessarily reflect HERIZONS’ editorial policy. No material may be
reprinted without permission. Due to limited resources, HERIZONS
does not accept poetry or fiction submissions.
HERIZONS acknowledges the financial support of
the Government of Canada through the Canadian
Periodical Fund (CPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
With the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council.
Publications Mail Agreement No. 40008866, Return Undeliverable
Addresses to: PO Box 128, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3C 2G1,
Herizons is proudly printed with union labour at
The Winnipeg Sun Commercial Print Division on
Forest Stewardship Council
PENNI MITCHELL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
SUSAN G. COLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
JOANNA CHIU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
The Occupation of Women
LYN COCKBURN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Ethical Brew Erupts
arts & ideas
MUST-HAVE MUSIC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
12 by Dinah Thorpe and The Five White Guys;
The Mosaic Project by Terri Lyne Carrington;
Lucky Tonight by Romi Mayes; Light of Day by Amanda
Rheaume; Doing It For the Chicks by Kate Reid.
WINTER READING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote; Revenge by Taslima
Nasrin; Various Positions by Martha Schabas; Irma Voth by
Miriam Toews; Missing Matisse by Jan Rehner;
The Kid by Sapphire; The Odious Child by Carolyn Black;
King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes; The Love Queen
of Malabar by MerrilyWeisbord; Feminism for Real:
Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of
Feminism, edited by Jessica Yee.
FILM REVIEW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Blank City by Celine Danhier
Review by Maureen Medved
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 3
Well, the choice by Herizons to put Joanna’s Chiu column
[“Women’s Worlds Collide,” Fall 2011] at the front of the
magazine tells it all. I always suspected that the editorial
line of Herizons was pro-sex trade; now I’m sure.
I’m one of the co-coordinators of Global Fleshmapping/
Les draps parlent/La Resistencia de las mujeres, an aboli-
tionist art and politics project that we organized within
Women’s Worlds [international conference] that took
place in July. I’m amazed that no one, even from the or-
ganizing body of Women’s Worlds, took the trouble to ask
us how we felt when a group of women organized a sit-in
and made noise outside our venue during the last day of
our event at the July conference in Ottawa. I personally
felt unwelcomed during and, mostly, after the congress.
Where does that take us? How I feel doesn’t seem to be
taken seriously. Why?
We had 16 diverse women seated around our discussion
table for 90 minutes each day. We had women from
Bangladesh, Italy, Mexico, Haiti, South Korea, Nigeria,
Morocco, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and Japan repre-
senting organizations that are actively working against
commercial sexual exploitation. There were women who
have been in the sex trade, native women, racialized
women, and violence-against-women activists, academics
and students. And all of them agreed that prostitution is part
of the patriarchal set-up to keep women at men’s service
and that it is an industry that feeds on women’s economic
dependence and exploitation. These women’s credibility is
denied on a regular basis, and they are often simply told to
shut up. They are treated as being brainwashed, outdated
feminists, moralists or prohibitionists, etc.
We thought that Women’s Worlds was a place where
we could talk freely. A group decided that we didn’t have
that right. Are we going to talk about that? Respectful dia-
logue also means letting women decide for themselves
what they want to hear and letting them express their
views. Painting the feminist abolitionist position [regarding
the sex trade] as being harmful to women, violent or con-
servative does just the contrary, but no one seems to care.
If Herizons wants to play arbiter for the sex industry, it
would be nice to say it clearly like Joanna Chiu did in her
column…. Clearly at stake are two visions of women’s
equality. Can we talk about that?
The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation
sexuelle (CLES), which is, with Vancouver Rape Relief and
Women’s Shelter, the group that put the event together,
has a very lively and growing young feminists’ abolitionists
group. They are facing the same bashing and are told that
they do not represent their generation or have been brain-
washed by second wave feminists!
If Herizons’ readers want to know more about Global
Flesh mapping/Les draps parlent/Resistencia de las mu-
jeres, they can visit the Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
website http://bit.ly/oLxaZP or the CLES site at http://bit.ly/
EDITOR’S NOTE: Herizons publishes articles that reflect a
spectrum of views on sex work and prostitution and does
not have an editorial line on prostitution. Columnists are
freely encouraged to express their views within the par-
ameters of Herizons’ purpose as stated on page 2.
In the Fall 2011 issue of Herizons, we published the
article “Is Your Boss a Bully? ” by Barbara Janusz.
Near the end of the article, the following statement
appears and, due to an error on our part, gives an
incorrect impression. It reads:
“Within Canada, only Quebec has a separate
tribunal authorized to provide redress to bullied em-
ployees. Under its occupational health and safety
laws, employers who fail to diffuse a hostile work
environment are investigated and may be fined. ”
Barbarba Janusz pointed out that due to the
appearance of the word “its” in this context, read-
ers are led to conclude that she was referring to
Quebec’s occupational health and safety laws. In
fact, it was amended legislation in the provinces of
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to which the
author originally referred.
In the name of accuracy, therefore, the paragraph
“Within Canada, only Quebec has a separate
tribunal authorized to provide redress to bullied
employees. Under amended provincial occupational
health and safety laws in Saskatchewan, Manitoba
and Ontario, employers who fail to diffuse a
hostile work environment are investigated and
may be fined.”
We apologize for this error.
4 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
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HERIZONS WINTER 2012 5
If you’ve ever been part of a protest movement and won, you
know the feeling. It’s a sense of power that’s created when a
group of people joins together and nothing can stop you. It’s
a political high. You’re fearless and there’s a certainty that your
will is about to move the world forward.
Within a few short weeks of the Occupy Wall Street protest,
the feeling of change was already palpable. The leaderless oc-
cupiers who dug in at corporate America’s headquarters brought
with them a new idea and that idea flourished and grew inside
the Occupy movement’s tented incubators. After just two
months, that growing idea had already successfully pushed the
boundaries of human rights a notch further.
Almost overnight, it seemed like the idea that global capital-
ism must be held accountable to people began to occupy a
larger and larger territory. Even those of us who weren’t there,
and perhaps those of us who didn’t get it at first, started to find
ourselves in agreement with Occupy’s demand that capitalism
must be made work for people, not the other way around.
I was thinking about movements like Occupy when I picked
up Irshad Manji’s new book, Allah, Liberty & Love. Written
well before the Occupy Wall Street movement began, it is
primarily a book about the democratization of a religion, but
Manji’s observations apply to social movements, too. Manji
tells the story of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a 20th-century Muslim
reformer who inspired Mahatma Ghandi. Ghaffar Khan in-
spired his people to protest against British imperialism and he
embraced non-violence as a political strategy. Manji is saying
that humanity’s path to liberation, whether the events were
100 years ago or last month, is illuminated by the moral cour-
age of those who come before.
The idea that the philosophical DNA of reform movements
exists well before future protesters carry it into the streets makes
total sense. In fact, I can see how the 1968 feminist occupation
of Ladies Home Journal office was pre-figured by the lunch-
counter occupations by African Americans protesting
segregation in 1960.
More recently, the political seeds of the Occupy Wall Street
movement were sown before the first tents went up in New
York’s Zuccotti Park. The idea that citizens have a right to
expect accountability from corporations is, after all, what drove
the protests at Toronto’s G20 Summit last summer. It’s what
led to the Seattle World Trade Organization protest more than
a decade ago. And it’s the philosophy that informed Naomi
Klein’s No Logo, a corporate critique that was presciently called
a “movement bible” by the New York Times. Klein’s Shock
Doctrine is an even harder-hitting modern examination of
global capitalism. In it, she exposed corporate elites who ex-
ploited natural disasters and propped up their political cronies
who, in return, ensured economic reforms that perpetuated
even greater private wealth at the expense of the public good.
At first, Klein’s doctrine sounded like a nefarious plot—the
economic philosophy of Milton Friedman couldn’t be that bad,
could it? Gradually, however, after Hurricane Katrina, after
the sub-prime lending fiasco in the U.S. and the subsequent
bailout of the very corporations that profited massively from
unregulated banking practices and that partly inspired the
economic crisis, a shift in our awareness occurred.
Maybe it was because the perfect economic storm was brew-
ing for a long time. But it didn’t even seem surprising that we
saw Mark Carney, head of the Bank of Canada, wholeheartedly
agree that the Occupy Wall Street movement had legitimate
complaints about the unaccountability of capitalism.
When people as divergent as Carney and Klein start
preaching that the crisis of modern capitalism affects not
only protesters or bankers, but all of us, we’re seeing a huge
shift. Suddenly, it’s no longer fringe politics but responsible
economics to demand greater accountability from capitalism,
especially at a time when so many U.S. corporations record-
ing record profits refuse to aid the economic recovery by
It takes a village to create change and it doesn’t matter whether
the village is made of mud bricks or polyethylene. The movement
for global economic structural change will continue as long as
the momentum for change continues. A revolution can’t be
stopped with an ordinance, arrests or pepper spray.
“The world is evolving,” explained an occupier in Calgary
who was asked if removing the tents would harm the cause.
“We know now that money is not as important as human be-
ings,” he continued. “And we can’t unknow that. Removing
the tents will not change that.”
BY PENNI MITCHELL
6 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
A compelling exposé of the pink ribbon
industry, the newly released documentary
Pink Ribbons, Inc. delineates with clarity
where the battle against breast cancer
really needs to be fought—on the doorsteps
of corporate America.
Banks, car manufacturers, golf product
manufactuers, food companies that use
genetically modified growth hormones in
their products—the list is endless.
Corporations by the hundreds have pinked
their products (or developed a line of pink
fundraising items) to align themselves with
the most successful cause marketing
campaign in history. But all this pink
merchandising obfuscates some serious
issues, as the book, Pink Ribbons Inc.,
penned by Samantha King, revealed in 2006
“Pink washing” is a convenient and
profitable way for corporate entities to be
seen as doing good—by associating their
brands with a popular, emotional issue. Pink
Ribbons Inc. points out that this also
distracts consumers from the facts of
breast cancer, including the role that
industry plays in perpetuating the disease.
For example, cosmetic companies like
Revlon and Avon (and the vast majority of
personal care product manufacturers) use
ingredients associated with cancer in their
products (spend some time on
safecosmetics.org to learn more) all the
while participating heavily in the pink
ribbon industry for “the cure.”
Despite the billions of dollars raised
through runs for “the cure,” only a
miniscule amount is invested in research on
the causes of breast cancer. After three
decades, the vast majority of money raised
is spent on methods of detecting cancer
and on drug and radiation treatments.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
estimates that each week 445 women in
Canada are diagnosed and 100 women die
from breast cancer. Today’s treatments—
what breast cancer expert Dr. Susan Love
calls “slash, burn and poison”—are
essentially the same as those used 40 years
ago. Clearly, coming up with modified
treatments is helpful, but why isn’t more
done to rid our environment of toxins in the
Barbara Ehrenreich, a feminist social
critic and writer, says in the National Film
After winning the Alberta
Progressive Conservative leadership
race in September 2011, Alison Redford
became the province’s ﬁrst female
premier and vowed to restore millions
of dollars that had been cut from edu-
cation, and to hold a public inquiry into
allegations of queue-jumping in the
province’s health-care system.
She also became the fourth woman
now leading a provincial/territorial
government in Canada. Redford, a
46-year-old former justice minister,
joined B.C.’s Christy Clark, Nunavut’s
Eva Aariak and Newfoundland and
Labrador Progressive Conservative
Kathy Dunderdale. Dunderdale be-
came only the second woman ever to
become a provincial premier following
a general election in October. The ﬁrst
woman elected premier in Canada was
P.E.I. Liberal leader Catherine Callbeck
in 1993. Callbeck is now a senator.
Clark won the leadership race to
become B.C. Liberal party leader in
March 2011 and automatically became
the province’s premier. She is not
expected to call an election until 2013.
Aariak became premier of Nunavut
under the territory’s consensus gov-
ernment system in November 2008.
CANADA POST TO
DELIVER PAY EQUITY
It took 28 years, but the Supreme
Court of Canada has ruled in favour
of female Canada Post workers in
a pay equity case involving an esti-
mated 6,000 women.
As a result of the November ruling,
millions of dollars in retroactive pay-
ments for the mostly retired workers
must be paid by the crown corpora-
tion, which is subject to Ottawa’s pay
equity legislation but refused to pay the
workers a generation ago. In 1983, the
case was first launched by the Public
Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
The PSAC complaint was originally
decided in 2005 by the Canadian
Human Rights Tribunal, which
awarded $150 million in damages plus
interest. However, in 2008, a federal
court overturned the decision and
that ruling was later upheld by the
Federal Court of Appeal.
Patty Ducharme, National Executive
Vice-President of PSAC was pleased
Women have raised millions of dollars for the disease yet the environmental causes of breast cancer are not closely
examined. Photo: Courtesy Pink Ribbons Inc.
SEEING RED OVER PINK
BY AMANDA LE ROUGETEL
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 7
Board production directed by veteran
filmmaker Léa Pool, “We used to march in
the street [in anger]. Now we run for a cure
[with optimism].” This is not progress, as
Ehrenreich points out. Feminists know the
value of anger. The film’s message is that
pink campaigns placate women with
cheerfulness instead of encouraging a
political critique of the cancer industry.
Without narration or voiceover, Pink
Ribbons, Inc. allows the cause marketers,
corporate spokespeople, run/walk for the
cure participants, survivors (a problematic
term for Ehrenreich, who has had cancer)
and activists to tell, unmediated, this story
of the breast cancer movement.
Among the voices are members of the IV
League, who learn to live as women dying
from stage IV (metastasized) breast
cancer—no number of pink ribbons can
bring them hope or optimism in the face of
their diagnosis. Also in the documentary is
Barbara Brenner, former executive director
of Breast Cancer Action, an advocacy group
which refuses to take money from
companies that profit by or contribute to the
cancer epidemic. Brenner says people
should be more “pissed off.” Featured in Pink
Ribbons Inc. is the Plastics Focus group,
which is united by the fact that its members
are women who worked in the automotive
plastics industry; many have been diagnosed
with cancer or had miscarriages.
Breast Cancer Action educates women to
“think before we pink.” Don’t automatically
support corporate-driven pink campaigns.
Rather, do the research to understand who’s
getting the money raised and what they’ll do
with it. And know that no more than 15
percent of money raised for cancer goes to
any form of prevention research, and only
five percent supports research considering
“It’s an epidemic, it’s horrible and it’s got
to stop,” says Ehrenreich. Watch Pink
Ribbons, Inc. It will educate and inspire you
to think before you pink.
Find out when Pink Ribbons Inc. will be
coming to your community in 2012 by
checking out the NFB online www.nfb.ca.
at the outcome, but criticized the fact
that PSAC had to fight for nearly three
decades. “Canada needs a proac-
tive pay equity law that ensures that
women won’t have to wait decades to
be compensated for the value of their
work,” she said.
PORTAL FOR POLITICOS
Equal Voice and Carleton University’s
Centre for Women, Politics and Public
Leadership have joined forces to make
research about women and politics
Equal Voice and Carleton will work
with academics in Canada to develop
a user-friendly web portal to key
resources for women in politics. The
project was made possible by a grant
from the Bluma Appel Community
Trust in Toronto.
“It is our hope that a newly minted
female candidate or someone who is
seriously thinking about running will
be able to use this site as a valuable
resource as they prepare for a nomi-
nation or campaign as a conﬁrmed
candidate,” says Nancy Peckford,
executive director of Equal Voice.
The portal will feature several
themes: women’s experiences as
candidates; recruitment, nominations,
fundraising, leadership and elections;
the impact of women’s participa-
tion in public life; gender and voting
behaviour; and strategies to promote
increased women’s participation.
In the current House of Commons,
25 per cent of MPs are women. In
the NDP caucus, 39 percent of MPs
are women. Eighteen percent of
elected Liberals and 17 percent of
Conservatives are women. One in four
Bloc MPs is a woman, and Elizabeth
May is the sole Green Party MP.
For standing up to her
Liberian activist Lima
Gbowee was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize in October, along with
Liberian President Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf and Yemeni peace activist
Gbowee, a trauma counsellor
who aided women raped by Liberian
soldiers, went on to mobilize women
known as the “women in white” in an
Recipients of the 2011 Governor General’s
Awards in Commemoration of the Persons
Case include Sharon McIvor, of British
Columbia, who has devoted close to three
decades of her life to advancing equality for
Aboriginal women. McIvor is the face behind
the legal fight to force changes to the Indian
Act to prohibit discrimination against women
and their descendants.
Another feminist force honoured was Kim
Pate, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry
Society, and an internationally recognized
advocate for marginalized, victimized and
criminalized women. Also on stage was
Madeleine Boscoe, former executive direc-
tor of Winnipeg’s Canadian Women’s Health
Network, who has dedicated more than 30
years to women’s health issues, including
reproductive choice as well as campaigns
to remove faulty devices and drugs from
Nancy Hartling of New Brunswick, an
advocate for abused women, was also hon-
oured. Lucie Joyal, of Quebec, a leader in
her province’s efforts to eliminate violence
against women and children, received an
award, along with Amber JoAnn Fletcher,
a Saskatchewan advocate for equality and
In 1929, five Alberta women (Louise
McKinney, Henrietta Muir, Nellie McClung,
Irene Parlby and Emily Murphy) won the
judiciary battle to be recognized as persons,
therefore making them eligible for appoint-
ment to the Senate. The Governor General’s
Awards in Commemoration of the Persons
Case were established in 1979.
8 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
Proponents of the contro-
versial Keystone XL pipeline,
which would transport oil from
the Alberta oilsands region to
the Gulf of Mexico, claim that
Canada’s strong treatment of women compa-
red to that of Saudi Arabia is grounds to label
oilsands exports “ethical oil.”
Their strategy hasn’t worked. More than
100 protesters were arrested in Ottawa in
September for protesting against the pipe-
line, many of them women. In November,
thousands of protesters descended on the
White House to press U.S. President Barack
Obama to stop the proposed 2,673-kilometre
pipeline because they believe the oil isn’t
ethical. Many women, including Canadian
actor Margot Kidder, were among those ar-
rested. Aboriginal people are also among the
Bitumen extracted from the oilsands re-
gion, according to environmental experts, is
wreaking havoc on Alberta’s water and wil-
dlife while causing Canada’s greenhouse gas
emissions to escalate. Former U.S. vice-pre-
sident Al Gore called oilsands oil “the dirtiest
oil on the planet.” Producing and refining
oilsands bitumen is energy-intensive and
releases 82 percent more greenhouse gas
emissions according to the best estimates. It
also releases more poisonous mercury and
arsenic compared to conventional oil.
U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
has said, “Dirty oil is buying oil from some-
one who takes the money and sponsors
terrorism and tries to make the world a dark
and sinister place to live.” Venezuela and
Iran are examples of “dirty” oil producers,
he says. The U.S. does not, however, intend
to cut its oil imports from Saudi Arabia, a
country whose equality index is considered
bottom of the barrel by many observers.
According to Nobel Peace Prize laurate
Jodi Williams, “It is deeply disturbing that the
oil industry is exploiting the issue of women’s
rights in order to shift the discussion away
from fossil fuel and climate change. Neither
their tactics nor their tar sands are ethical.”
Says Williams, “There is no such thing
as ethical fossil fuel, regardless of geogra-
phical origin. The ethical choice is to move
as quickly as possible away from fossil
Female Nobel Peace Prize laureates
Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta
Menchú Tum and Shirin Ebadi, were among
those who wrote an open letter to Obama,
calling upon him to reject the proposal.
The U.S. State Department, charged with
determining whether the application is in
that country’s national interest, is expected
to release its decision on the pipeline by the
end of the year.
The appointment of female judges has
slowed under the government of Stephen
Harper. Only eight women were appointed
to the federal judiciary in 2011, compared
to 41 men. Figures for 2010 indicate that 13
women and 37 men were appointed. In the
last two years, 79 percent of federally ap-
pointed judges were men.
“Those are shocking figures,” said
Elizabeth Sheehy, a University of Ottawa law
professor, in the Globe and Mail. “The govern-
ment owes an explanation to Canadians and
especially to women in the legal profession.”
Because of an active decision by previous
governments to recruit women to the bench,
one third of the 1,117 federally appointed
judges are now women. In 2005, Liberal jus-
tice minister Irwin Cotler appointed female
candidates approximately 40 per cent of
the time. The federal government appoints
judges to superior and appellate courts, the
Federal Court of Canada, the Tax Court and
the Supreme Court of Canada. Provinces ap-
point judges to provincial court benches.
The Harper government recently ap-
pointed two Supreme Court Justices:
Justice Andromarche Karakatsanis was a
deputy attorney general of Ontario under
Progressive Conservative premier Mike
Harris, while Justice Michael Moldaver,
formerly of the Ontario Court of Appeal, has
a reputation as a critic of the proliferation of
cases brought forth based on the principles
of the Charter of Rights.
AUSTRALIA CRACKS GLASS CEILING
Australia’s post office, broadcasting agency
and other crown corporations and boards
will be required to appoint women to fill 40
percent of board positions. Federal Finance
Minister Penny Wong announced that the
quotas will apply to all government business
“A key element of these reforms is requir-
ing board chairs and responsible ministers to
focus on gender diversity when appointing
board members,” Wong told a Global Banking
Alliance for Women forum in Sydney.
Wong, Australia’s second ever female
finance minister, predicts the move will
anti-war campaign. Women picketed,
fasted and protested by the hundreds,
demanding government leaders and
warlords end the violence. Gbowee’s
efforts aided the toppling of Liberia’s
authoritarian leader Charles Taylor.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, ﬁrst elected in 2005, ushered
in a set of economic reforms and be-
came the ﬁrst elected female leader of
an African country. Sirleaf, jailed under
Taylor’s regime for opposing his rule,
was re-elected in November. Liberia’s
economy is making slow progress and
the Nobel Peace laureate has vowed
to create an inclusive government and
introduce democratic reforms.
The third Peace Prize co-recipient,
Tawakkul Karman, 32, imprisoned for
being an active campaigner against
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh,
is credited with mobilizing tens of
thousands human rights supporters in
her country to demand reforms. The
chairperson of Women Journalists
Without Chains is also a member of
the Islah Party, the country’s largest
opposition party, and one of few fe-
male public leaders in Yemen.
MEN AGAINST MACHISMO
A growing number of men in Argentina
are to helping to eradicate violence
against women by joining a campaign
called 260 Men Against Machismo.
Named after the number of women
killed by male intimate partners in
Argentina in 2010, the movement has
recruited well-known men in politics,
the arts, the labour movement and the
In 2011, more than two dozen
events were organized by cabinet
ministers, trade union leaders and
military and police ofﬁcers who ad-
dressed their colleagues about the
need to question machismo and what
it means to the lives of women.
Men are being asked to sign a
commitment to make a day-to-day
evaluation of their sexist attitudes, to
commit to changing such attitudes,
and also to promise not to be violent
“It was very interesting to see the
defence minister [Arturo Puricelli] call
together the joint chiefs of staff and,
in a room packed with military per-
sonnel, talk to them about machismo
and get them to commit themselves to
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 9
ﬁghting it,” said José María Di Bello,
one of the leaders of the campaign.
A protester from
the Ukrainian women’s rights group
Femen was detained in the Vatican
in November after holding a topless
protest against what she called the
Roman Catholic Church’s “misogynist
policies” under the balcony of Pope
Oleksandra Shevchenko slipped into
St. Peter’s Square to display a placard
that read, “Freedom For Women.” She
then chanted, “Freedom! Freedom! We
Are Free!” in Italian and removed her
shirt before being detained by police.
Shevchenko’s protest took place fol-
lowing the pontiff’s Sunday address in
the square. A statement by the group
said the speech was papal patriarchal
propaganda, which “imposes medieval
ideas about women on the world.”
Femen members recently protested
in front of the home of former IMF
Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn
in Paris, and in Rome they painted
their topless bodies in the colours of
the Italian ﬂag while calling for the
resignation of Italy’s Premier Silvio
Berlusconi, who resigned later in
November following the defection
of several of his ministers due to the
country’s ﬁnancial woes.
—Radio Free Liberty
Naﬁssatou Diallo, the hotel worker
who charged that Dominique Strauss-
Kahn raped her in May 2011, has ﬁled
a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court
in The Bronx, N.Y. seeking damages
from her alleged assailant.
Police dropped criminal charges
against Strauss-Kahn, who, at the time
of his arrest was the managing direc-
tor of the International Monetary Fund
and a leading candidate for the French
presidency. This followed a prelimi-
nary trial that saw the credibility Diallo,
a Guinean immigrant, undermined by
aggressive defence lawyers.
Diallo is seeking unspeciﬁed dam-
ages for what her suit describes as a
“violent and sadistic attack.”
see more women advance in the country’s
boardrooms. “It is my view that the govern-
ment should lead, rather than follow on
Australia’s Labor party promised during
the 2010 election to have 40 percent female
representation on public boards by 2015.
Private-sector companies will not be sub-
ject to the quota law.
Homophobic and transpho-
bic comments are heard on
a daily basis by nearly half
of high school students. This
is among the findings of
the first Canadian study on homophobia and
transphobia in schools, in which over 3,700
students participated, of which roughly 1,200
self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans,
two Spirit, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ).
Forty-eight percent of students who re-
sponded to the survey that forms the basis
of the report Every Class in Every School
said that they heard terms like “faggot”
and “dyke” used daily in a derogatory way.
According to the report, verbal harassment
was more widely reported among female
sexual minority students (55 percent) than
male sexual minority respondents (42 per-
cent). Sexual minority students are defined
in the study as “youth who did not identify as
exclusively heterosexual.” An even higher
rate (68 percent) of verbal harassment was
reported by students who identified as trans.
The report, commissioned by Egale Canada
Human Rights Trust with support from the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council, was led by University of Winnipeg
professor Catherine Taylor and Tracey Peter,
a professor at the University of Manitoba.
Disturbingly, 74 percent of trans students,
55 percent of sexual minority students and
even 26 percent of non-LGBT students re-
ported being verbally harassed about what
the researchers call “gender expression.”
Twenty-one percent of LGBTQ students
who responded to the survey experienced
either physical harassment or assault on
the basis of their sexual orientation. Even
“perceived sexual orientation” can pose a
danger. The study reports that 10 percent
of the students who reported experienc-
ing physical harassment based on “sexual
orientation or perceived sexual orientation”
did not identify as being LGBTQ.”
No one, it seems, is immune from
pressure, bullying and harassment. Twenty-
seven percent of youth who had LGBTQ
parents reported being physically harassed
about the sexual orientation of their parents.
They were also more likely than their peers
to be physical harassed or assaulted in con-
nection with their own gender expression.
Interestingly, students in schools with
specific anti-homophobia policies reported
a lower incidence of physical harassment.
While 67 percent of LGBTQ students from
schools with no anti-homophobia policies
said they had never been physically harassed,
80 percent of LGBTQ students from schools
with anti-homophobia measures said they had
never experienced physical harassment.
Sexual and gender minority students who
reported that their schools had anti-ho-
mophobia policies were significantly more
likely to feel that their school community
was supportive of LGBTQ individuals (58.4
versus 25.3 percent) and to report homopho-
bic incidents to teachers or other staff (58.1
versus 33.6 percent.
The report’s authors call on provincial
ministries of education to make the inclusion
of anti-homophobia (bi-phobia and transpho-
bia) policies mandatory in all schools. They
call on school divisions to develop policies
to make schools safer, more respectful and
more welcoming for all students.
SEX WORKER HELP AGENCY CLOSED
PEERS, a Vancouver agency that helped
women leave prostitution for 10 years, will
close its doors this spring because of the
B.C. government’s decision to combine all of
its employment programs under a consor-
tium that is not community based.
The province wants to set up one-stop
centres to move people from training into
jobs quickly. The centres are expected to
replace training provided by community
groups across the province.
PEERS Vancouver had the option to join a
consortium to bid for a government contract,
executive director Ty Mistry said. But staff
decided a mainstream system would not
help clients who have special needs.
Mistry condemned the move as “the Wal-
Martization of employment service” in the
province, referring to the observation that
when a giant Wal-Mart moves into a com-
munity specialized stores disappear.
Sex workers do not simply need a “new
job,” Mistry said. Rather, they “have to
unlearn everything they learned and then
relearn new ways of living.”
First Feminist Press on Motherhood
NEW FROM DEMETER PRESS
AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF MOTHERING
edited by MICHELLE WALKS AND NAOMI MCPHERSON
978-0-9866671-8-3 / Nov. 2011 / 260 pages / $34.95 Cdn/U.S.
The anthropology of mothering has developed fairly unnoticed
until the last couple of years, when an increase of research, at-
tention, and respect has suddenly appeared. This book draws
attention to recent anthropological research, focusing on
populations from Canada, the United States, Central and South
America, the South Paciﬁc, Australia, Asia, the Middle East,
Africa, and Europe. In relation to “mothering,” cross-cultural
research becomes enlightening to understand the practices of
so-called Others, but also to understanding ourselves.
“This anthology is a smorgasbord of contributions from dif-
ferent angles with great methodological variety. It would be a
very useful book for cultural anthropologists and comparative
sociologists, student midwives, and any health practitioners
encountering pregnant women and mothers from other ethnic
backgrounds and belief systems.”
—SHEILA KITZINGER, author of The Politics of Birth
THROUGH THE MAZE OF MOTHERHOOD
Empowered Mothers Speak
by ERIKA HORWITZ
978-0-9866671-4-5 / Nov. 2011 / 214 pages / $34.95 Cdn/U.S.
This is a unique book that argues that mothers who are critical
thinkers and who take a stance against social pressures to be perfect
mothers experience a sense of empowerment. The book is based
and expands on qualitative research that explored the experience
of mothers who resist the current discourse on mothering. Through
the Maze of Motherhood conveys what it is like to resist a strong
societal discourse and how some mothers have managed to navigate
the intricacies of the process of resistance.
“Through the Maze of Motherhood gives voice to women who
bucked the norm of good motherhood … and have no regrets.
They mothered their way, and, in doing so, felt challenged but
empowered. It is a must-read for independent-minded mothers
—SHARI THURER, author of The Myths of Motherhood:
How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother
NEW FROM DEMETER PRESS
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 11
When I worked as part of the collective that
published Feminary [subtitled A Feminist
Journal for the South, Emphasizing Lesbian
Visions], printers often refused to print mate-
rial produced by feminists and lesbians even
though we were paying them!
Many of the poems you’ve written in the
past have been about lives that happen
outside the mainstream. The poems in Inside
the Money Machine deal with these issues
as well, but they feel broader, larger in
scope. What’s different about living inside/
outside the mainstream in America today?
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT: I think that the crisis
in capitalism has called the question of who
the “mainstream” is. The last 30 years—and
more if we go back to the organizing of Black
communities in the l950s U.S. South—have
been about fighting to expand the public
space, and public acknowledgement, for
people who have been excluded in the U.S.,
not just from “citizenship,” but also from the
very definition of humanity. My struggle as
a lesbian mother—who lost custody of my
children simply because of my love for other
women—was part of that fight. The working
people of the U.S. have gained crucial les-
sons in solidarity with each other from the
struggles of the last half century.
Now the scaffolding of capitalism stands
starkly clear to more people, as banks and
corporations reap record profits and regular
working people have their homes foreclosed
and can’t get work. Money for health care
and education is siphoned off to fund mul-
tiple U.S. wars waged to make the world
secure for corporate investment!
In this context, the mainstream is the 99
percent of us who work for a living and have
only our ability to labour to support us and
our families.The “broadening” of the scope
in my poems reflects these broadening con-
nections. I am a poet writing from inside this
mainstream—the stream of working people
who create the wealth of the world, and
who can create a future in which we live.
What happens now? Where do we go
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT: People are already
answering your question as they occupy
hundreds of cities. All over, these occupations
of resistance are becoming rallying points
for those who now feel they have nothing to
lose. I was writing this world in the poems
of Inside the Money Machine. Now I see the
poems leaping off the pages into the cities of
Herizons’ review of Inside the Money
Machine is on page 45. The book is available
Poet Minnie Bruce Pratt whose sixth book of poetry is a journey through and beyond capitalism, is seen here at a
Syracuse University protest of Morgan Chase’s CEO as a commencement speaker. (Photo: Leslie Fineberg)
Essayist, theorist and poet Minnie Bruce
Pratt has written extensively on feminist,
lesbian and transgender issues in North
America for more than 20 years. Her sixth
book of poetry, Inside the Money Machine,
is a journey through and beyond capitalism
in the 21st century.
HERIZONS: Many of the poems in Inside
the Money Machine deal with issues and
situations that could have been taken from
yesterday’s newspaper. Did you consciously
set out to write about the effects of the eco-
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT: That reflects the
cycle of boom and bust that has recurred
under capitalism. I was very conscious of
this as I wrote the poems. I started work-
ing on them seriously in the late ’90s after
I started to study economics and read the
Communist Manifesto. I discovered how
beautiful was the language of [Karl] Marx
and [Frederick] Engels. If the economists
can write poetry, what would happen if the
poet tried to write their economics?
Do you still believe poetry is a viable politi-
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT: I think poetry is
the verbal art form best suited to this age.
Written poetry condenses thought, sensuality
and physicality, images, sound and energy
into a compact, quickly accessed communi-
cation that can have tremendous intellectual
and emotional impacts. We poets can post
our poems in cyberspace, bypassing the
gatekeepers of literature and going directly
to people leading their everyday lives.
What’s different about being a working poet
in 2011, as compared to 1981, when The
Sound of One Fork was released?
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT: In 1981, I would
send my lesbian poems off to mainstream
literary journals and get back curt little
rejection notes: “These are not for us!”
As lesbians we had to create not only our
literature, but the magazines, newspapers
and publishing houses to publish our work,
the distribution systems, the bookstores.
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT
The Poet vs. the Profiteers
BY JOY PARKS
12 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
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HERIZONS WINTER 2012 13
I’ve been following the first-degree murder trial involving
Montreal’s Shafia family almost obsessively. The case in-
volves the deaths of three teenage girls born in Afghanistan:
Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti,13, along with Rona
Air Mohammed, who had been married to their father,
Mohammed Shafia. The drowned bodies were recovered
from a family car in the Rideau Canal in 2009. On trial are
Mohammed Shafia, as well as the girls’ mother Tooba and
their brother Hamed, 20.
Evidence was presented that Mohammed Shafia believed
his daughters had betrayed Islam and committed treason.
Zainab, engaged to a young man of Pakistani descent, was
referred to by her father as a whore. The two youngest girls
appeared too interested in their adopted culture, with its pop
music, malls and all the rest.
In almost every news article published during the legal
proceedings, the deaths have been referred to as “honour
killings,” a term I’m beginning to loathe.
For one thing, it gives permission to the perpetrators to sug-
gest that there exist specific values that might excuse murder.
“Honour” betokens a higher power at work and suggests that
shame, not power, is the issue.
I might expect someone charged with murder to try to get
away with using such a term, but I’m tired of journalists do-
ing so. By using the term honour killing, they make it seem
that when male family members decide to kill a female family
member, it differs from any other lethal form of violence against
women. The term honour killings also sets such perpetrators
apart from others who attack women and girls, and it demon-
izes Islam in the process by suggesting that this form of killing
has a religious component to it.
There is no mention of so-called honour killings in the
Qur’an. These tribal constructs, designed to keep women in
their place, have no basis in the Islamic faith. Female family
members are not killed because they are Muslim, after all, but
because men in their families want to wield ultimate power
and control over them.
I had the same difficulty with Shelley Saywell’s documentary
In the Name of the Family, which played at Toronto’s Hot Docs
film festival in 2010. Saywell was moved to make her movie
after the murder of Toronto teen Aqsa Parvez by her father.
The filmmaker investigated the circumstances leading up to
her death and tracked several other stories of young Muslim
girls who were harassed, abused and sometimes killed because
they threw off their hijabs or resisted the strictures of funda-
mentalist Islam in other ways.
Viewers cheered the film, and the documentary took the
Audience Choice award. That made its Islamophobia even
more distressing. What was Saywell trying to say, I wondered,
by focusing on immigrant Muslim families? After seeing the
movie, you would have thought that Islam was dangerous to
women’s safety, even though the teenaged boys interviewed
for the film at a special high school session stated explicitly
that they thought the issue was not Islam but male power.
What these killings represent is patriarchal control cloaked
in the trappings of religion, especially in the case of the hijab,
which is also mentioned not a single time in the Qur’an.
And if religion is an issue in the oppression of women, it is
invariably of the fundamentalist kind. I’m constantly correcting
people who make broad, stereotypical statements about Islam.
“Do you mean fundamentalist Islam?” I might say.
“Yes,” is a common response, but the person is often per-
plexed, as if the phrase were redundant.
“He’s turned Christian,” is something somebody recently
said to me.
“Do you mean fundamentalist?” I responded.
Then say so. Spiritual affiliation does not a reactionary
make. There’s a powerful thread of progressive activism among
Christians, from the peace-loving Quakers to the Catholic
radicals the Berrigan brothers.
As for the Shafia family, you don’t have to go far to hear
racist comments about all those people coming to this country
with their backward values. Though the abuse and control
of women may be prevalent in households with conservative
religious values, it is not unique to them.
So don’t be fooled by the term honour killing. Violence
against women has no race, class or spiritual persuasion.
BY SUSAN G. COLE
NO HONOUR IN KILLINGS
14 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
’m standing beside the cash at a popular Montreal knitting
shop, and giant beads of sweat are rolling down my face.
No one else here looks like they’re about to combust
spontaneously in the feverish heat. Is it just me? Perhaps it’s
the pregnancy hormones that, for the last few months, have
kept me in a constant hyperthermic state. Or it could be that,
for the first time since kindergarten, I have actually set foot
inside a knitting shop.
I have come to inquire about knitting lessons, and I’m so
nervous that my hands start to shake as more sweat trickles
down my temples.
Let’s just say I’m far from my comfort zone in here. Stores
like these—knitting, embroidery and fabric shops, where (mostly)
women are drawn together to cast on, stitch and felt—give me
the impression that I’ve crossed the border into unfamiliar ter-
ritory without a map. I watch other female customers, ranging
in age from their early 20s to their 70s, as they scan the shelves
of brightly coloured yarns and fabrics. Some chat with staff.
Others roll nubbly, hand-dyed strands of wool between their
fingers with a concentration and expertise reminiscent of some
mystic, ancient ritual. Other women sit in the cozy lounge area
with its sprawling plush couches below a large poster advertising
a call for feminists, community intervention, rebel fibre, artists
and anarchists for a yarn-bombing event. “The Montreal streets
belong to the citizens, let’s take them back!” it says.
The women in the lounge are an eclectic bunch. Retirees
knitting bonnets for premature babies at L’hôpital Saint-Justine.
Some, like me, are pregnant and on maternity leave. There
are progressive parenting types learning how to make pint-sized
booties out of organic, fair-trade cotton—any kind of material
that isn’t, say, doused in toxic flame retardants. Young art
students with brightly dyed brush cuts sit discussing retro-style
knitting patterns for the video game Space Invaders. Their
needles dip up and down with each garter stitch and purl.
Everyone feels at home here, this intergenerational patch-
work of women exchanging creative ideas. So why do I feel
like I have just been parachuted into a strange, foreign land?
“How many lessons would you like?” the store owner asks,
smiling. “Five or ten? Or pay as you go. It’s relaxed here. And
you’re welcome to stay after your lesson as long as you want.”
“Five, please—that’ll be enough,” I respond curtly.
But I keep telling myself I won’t even complete five.
I come from a family of knitting women. But I was born
without the crafting gene and can’t cast on to save my life.
I’ve rejected all manner of crafts—sewing, knitting, quilt-
ing—since early childhood. I watched my sister work for
months on Fair Isle sweaters for every new boyfriend and my
mother develop tendonitis in both wrists. Still, I’ve decided
to give knitting a chance.
But mostly I am here to answer a question that has continued
to nag at me over the past few years as I’ve watched just about
every woman I know take up some form of do-it-yourself
(DIY) knitting or crafting activity.
Why are so many women—and it is mostly women—craft-
ing these days?
Like other parts of Canada, the knitting trend in particular
has hit Quebec by storm. The yarn shop on the corner of my
street has gone from being perpetually empty to constantly P
BY DEBORAH OSTROVSKY
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 15
Crafting has taken Montreal by storm, so what is a feminist to do?
16 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
full. The waiting list for lessons is so long that the owner
wouldn’t take down my name, which is how I ended up here,
at another store uptown. Meanwhile, many women I know
have started to sell their own knitting and sewing creations
on Etsy.com. I’m beginning to feel like my lack of DIY craft-
ing skills is denying me a creative outlet that other women,
and fellow feminists, are raving about.
I’m not even in some self-selecting, artsy group of crafters
(remember, I can’t cast on, let alone manage a garter stitch. Nor
do I know how to operate a sewing machine). And yet I, a
dweller outside the kingdom of the crafters, meet an increasing
number of neophyte embroiderers, patchwork quilters and knit-
ters in the various circles of women whose paths I cross.
Just what accounts for this growing trend? And is this trend
among women a good thing or a bad thing?
“It’s just knitting,” a male friend says, trying to calm me
down. “It’s like fishing or skiing, like any other hobby.”
But is it—really?
The Craft Yarn Council in the U.S. estimates that there
are around 38 million knitters and crocheters in that country,
many of whom are between the ages of 25 and 34. “Knitting
and Crocheting Are Hot!” the council declares on its site.
“Julia Roberts does it, so does Vanna White, Cameron Diaz,
Sarah Jessica Parker, Daryl Hannah, Hilary Swank.” Rowan,
a popular U.K. yarn manufacturer estimates that 11 per cent
of the British population regularly knits. While no precise
figures exist for Canada, it’s safe to say that an increasing
number of women are taking up the needles.
Elizabeth Anderson of the San Antonio, Texas, marketing
and communications firm Guerra, DeBerry, Coody reports that
crafting now means big money. Figures compiled from online
sites like craftster.org suggest that in 2010 online crafts sales
generated revenue of more than $29 billion in the U.S. alone.
This is not to mention the Etsy.com colossus, the hip online
international site where (mostly) female crafters peddle their
wares, with investors getting a cut of each transaction as well as
gaining access to seller and buyer information.
Etsy.com facilitates an estimated $10 to 13 million in sales
And yet, this may not necessarily mean it is lucra-
tive for producers. In 2009, blogger Sara Mosle wrote in her
post “Etsy.com Peddles a False Feminist Fantasy” that very
few of the female sellers (96 percent of all sellers are women,
including those in Canada) have been able to make much
money, let alone create full-time employment from their crafts.
The proportion of male users of the site was four percent.
Bust magazine praises the “female-led DIY revolution” on
Etsy.com and sees it as a positive movement for women. It
opens up the international marketplace for felted purse sellers,
say, from Winnipeg, to potential clients in Paris. With an
average age of 35, over 58 percent of female sellers have col-
lege degrees, while 55 percent are married and 46 percent
have children. Just 33 percent are employed full-time and 68
percent identify themselves as “part-time artist/artisan/craft-
ers.” The average household income is $62,000. It seems that
a huge number of these mature, educated women are not
gainfully employed and rely on a partner’s salary. In other
words, some may earn a living from crafting, but trying to
earn a living from it might also perpetuate economic dispari-
ties between men and women. With the Canadian Labour
Congress warning that the gender wage gap has been stuck
at the same level since the mid-1990s, describing crafting as
a “female-led revolution” might be overstating it.
Etsy.com’s regular feature, “Quit Your Day Job,” profiling
sellers who make a full-time living, may, in fact, be selling an
unrealistic dream to the very artisans who make the site lucra-
tive for its owners. The site isn’t responsible for the sketchy
financial security faced by an increasing number of highly edu-
cated North American women. But it certainly mirrors the
fact that for many women, income has become less secure.
I’m aware that not all crafting women do it for the money.
There are other arguments in favour of celebrating this revival.
Kirsty Robertson, a professor of museum studies and contem-
porary art at the University of Western Ontario and a
collaborator with the Viral Knitting Project, sees crafting as a
reaction to an economy that has decimated the North American
textile industry. In Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches,
Robertson describes it as a political act. “There is something
relevant,” she writes, “in the fact that workers from textile plants
in North Carolina found themselves marching alongside activist
knitters, environmentalists and anarchists at protests against
the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999.”
U.S. groups like the Austin Craft Mafia and books like
Faythe Levine’s Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft,
and Design also celebrate this revival, demonstrating how the
economic void has converged with environmentalism as well
as with a community spirit geared up to defy the nefarious
effects of a free-market economy. Any movement providing
the impetus to question the fragmented, unethical chain of
labour from which their food and consumer goods come—as
well as their scarves, mitts and toques—can’t be a bad thing.
Inspired by her North Carolina knitting circle, women like
Betsy Greer, who helped popularize the term “craftivism,”
have turned knitting into a powerful artistic and political act.
It is epitomized by stunning works such as Marianne Jørgensen
and the Cast Off Knitters’ 2006 Pink M.24 Chaffee, an out-
of-commission army tank covered in 4,000 knitted pink squares
and assembled in public to protest Denmark’s involvement
in the Iraq war. A growing number of artists, including Line
Bruntse, have created works using handicrafts traditionally
reserved for domestic objects. Bruntse’s public installations
of woven murals, dresses and blankets knitted with strips of
rubber inner tube highlight the ingenious skill typically
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 17
associated with the drudgery of women’s household labour.
It’s art and it’s definitely political.
Then there are books by knitting guru Debbie Stoller, whose
2003 Stitch ’n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook transformed popular
perceptions of knitting, an activity once associated with Victorian-
era domestic oppression. Along with embroidery and sewing,
women’s handicrafts had been viewed by many early feminists
as just another angel-in-the-house hobby that limited women’s
intellectual lives and as one of the main cultural symbols of their
fettered attachment to the world of unpaid labour.
Stoller, co-founder of Bust, formed the first stitch ’n bitch
group in 1999 and helped make knitting cool for a new genera-
tion. A promo piece that accompanies the release of Stoller’s
2010 Stich ’n Bitch Superstar Knitting Go Beyond the Basics quotes
her saying, “Many young people were interested in opting out
of what they perceived to be a global corporate culture that
cared little about the people who made their products and even
less about the effect their products had on the environment.”
Stoller makes no claim that crafting
is liberating, in other words. As she
stated in a 2005 interview with the
Guardian, “It’s just a fun thing. Our
grandmothers have always known
this, and we’re just learning it again.”
Some of our grandmothers did it
because professions in biochemistry,
medicine or engineering weren’t an
option. Still, I see her point.
But I also had what I like to call
my Barbara Ehrenreich moment, a
few years ago when I became increasingly suspicious of this
growing crafting trend. Ehrenreich, an American author and
activist, wrote a powerful Harper’s essay a decade ago, called
“Welcome to Cancerland,” in which she lamented the devolu-
tion of women’s feminist health activism. How, she wondered,
did marching in the streets for better health care turn into
selling pink teddy bears and runs for the cure? Once the realm
of grassroots women’s groups demanding answers from the
medical establishment, breast cancer, Ehrenreich explained,
became hijacked by pink ribbon kitsch, with patients and
survivors themselves frequently making and selling tchotchkes,
pink candles, stuffed toys and beading pink necklaces in
fundraising efforts. Sure, a portion of the proceeds goes to
research, but, as we now know, research money often ends up
in the hands of the very corporations responsible for spewing
carcinogens into our air, water and food supply.
Where, Ehrenreich asked, has the real activism gone?
A few years ago, I was part of a group of health advocates
who visited Montreal hospitals to discuss the need for more
medical and social support for bereaved parents, particularly
those who have experienced a perinatal or neonatal death. For
years, activists like scientist Sandra Steingraber have been
explaining the need for greater awareness about the environ-
mental links to obstetrical complications, including miscarriage
and prematurity. But administrators, it turns out, don’t want
to advertise for support services in the hallowed corridors of
their hospitals, let alone discuss the issue of environmental
risks for prematurity.
Putting up posters for a support group for bereaved parents,
we were told, would send the wrong message. Nobody wanted
to think that babies died or that fetuses were miscarried on
their premises. Instead, we were told by a couple of sympathetic
social workers that a few bereaved women they knew had
enjoyed scrapbooking or some form of crafting during the
grieving process—something they could do at home. It seemed
like the medical system was telling women to just shut up.
The DIY crafting craze may seem worlds apart from the
issue of Ehrenreich’s disdain for the cult of pink-ribbon kitsch
and reproductive health. But I think it is healthy to be skepti-
cal. If this craft revival is celebrated
by third-wave feminist magazines like
Bust and Canada’s Shameless because
crafting has finally shed its history of
female oppression, it’s worth looking
at the greater social forces that might
be trying to spoil our party. They may
be the same forces that trampled over
Ehrenreich’s breast cancer sisterhood
and turned it into teddy bears and
The surge in the popularity of
knitting has also reached its zenith at a time when Canada
has fewer women in Parliament than most of Europe, ranking
48th in the world (behind Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan,
according to equalvoice.ca). With statistics like these, I’m not
sure if we should be happy about having enough leisure time
to reclaim the hobbies granny used to love. And if circum-
stances for women in public life are forcing some of us—if
only subconsciously—to choose knitting and yarn-bombing
over shouting into the megaphone, occupying city hall or
sitting in the boardroom, it’s a form of feminist activism that
smacks of futility to me.
“Knitting, like so much of women’s work, can be deeply
satisfying,” says Carol Sector, a fellow Montreal feminist
activist who took up knitting again a few years ago. But, like
me, she also feels a little torn about this hobby and the reasons
behind its recent rise in popularity. “The resurgence in crafting
is as much about Tea Party values,” Sector says, “as it is about
adding value to a woman’s life.” I think she may have a point.
And, after seeing Vodofone cellphone ads about yarn-bombing
and hearing of Toyota-sponsored craft fairs, I fear this revival
might also go the way of the corporatized pink ribbon. As
“Along with embroidery
and sewing, women’s
handicrafts had been
viewed by many early
feminists as just another
18 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
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HERIZONS WINTER 2012 19
University of Hawaii at Manoa political science professor
Debora Halbert suggests in her work on women and intel-
lectual property, even the ownership of knowledge about
knitting, including patterns and design, has become invaded
by copyright issues and increasingly privatized.
“Still,” Secter adds, “there seem to be a good number of cool
women who are learning to do these things and enjoying both
the product and the company of the group they do it with.”
But then there are other disquieting trends. Popular classic
books from the late 1980s, like The Subversive Stitch (1989) by
feminist Roszika Parker, have been replaced almost seamlessly
by Kate Jacob’s sappy, chick lit 2007 bestseller The Friday Night
Knitting Club (which includes recipes for muffins with a reading
guide and knitting pattern). And it may be less than a coincidence
that crafting has hit an all-time high in popularity just as the
cult of domesticity and infantilized depictions of women are
back in style. Mommy blogs like Ree Drummond’s “desperate
housewife” site Pioneerwoman.com, TV reality shows like Keeping
Up with the Kardashians, plastic surgery and celebrity baby bumps
are colonizing the Internet, the airwaves and the newsstands.
In the 19th century, writer
Mary Lamb claimed that handi-
crafts like embroidery created
intellectual starvation among
women. The Brontë Sisters and
Elizabeth Gaskell claimed that
such tasks perpetuated women’s
subservience. Meanwhile, friends
of mine with whom I used to at-
tend street protests with are now
spending Friday nights eating
homemade brownies at stitch ’n
bitch parties. If this is some form of activism, it’s the very soft
and safe, feminine kind.
Elizabeth Groeneveld, a McGill lecturer who recently
completed her doctorate in literary studies at the University
of Guelph, doesn’t entirely agree with me.
“Knitting can be a soft intervention into the realm of the
political,” she says, “but it is still an intervention.” A published
author on the history of third-wave feminist magazines and
DIY culture, Groeneveld gently warns me about making
such hasty judgments. She’s also an activist who has balanced
both worlds, knitting socks and sweaters for enjoyment,
along with anti-war arm patches to protest against the military
incursion in Iraq.
“You could certainly argue that crafting is a return to do-
mesticity and the private sphere,” she admits, insisting that
“it’s a turn with a difference. The DIY craft feminist universe
doesn’t exist on some separate planet from mainstream culture.
They feed into and shape each other in complex ways. While
feminist crafting certainly comes out of DIY feminist zine
culture, it would be a mistake to discount the influence of
figures like Martha Stewart or Nigella Lawson. There is no
‘pure’ form of resistance politics,” she adds, “that will be un-
touched by the forces it seeks to critique.”
Kirsty Robertson tells me something similar. I ask her whether
the resurgence of crafting has something to do not only with
activism, but also a renewed glorification of domesticity. “I
definitely think they both work together,” she says. “I was
interested in activist knitting. There are certainly other com-
munities, a more conservative family-values one being a case
in point. There are also plenty of people who have been knit-
ting all their lives and would never self-define as a part of either
of these groups. Occasionally, these communities overlap.”
But, she reminds me, “They are often quite separate.”
It’s a few weeks after signing up for my first knitting lesson,
and I’m absolutely hooked. Knitting has an almost mathematical
quality; it’s a technical skill involving just the right amount of
creativity and repetition to be meditative while practising my
cable stitch or a simple intarsia. My obstetrician warns me that
my pregnancy is high-risk and that I should find activities where
I can sit for long periods of time.
Knitting is perfect, and I can still
waddle around enough to attend
my lesson every week. Here in this
cozy lounge, I’m meeting women
from around the world and from
all walks of life. My knitting in-
structor, who is from France, tells
me that her midwife knit beside
her as she went into labour, helping
her to relax. A knitting student
who works in a hospital explains
that knitting is being used as therapy for patients who have
suffered emotional trauma.
I’m happy here. I’m also happy that one of the instructors
is male. Crafting culture has fanned out to include a diverse
array of people. Any online search will produce reams of
websites like menwhoknit.com and announcements for queer
knitting circles like the Knotty Knitters in B.C. or QueerJoe’s
Knitting blog. These days, any attempt to imbue handicrafts
with any one specific set of values or beliefs or group identity
could send me running in circles.
But I’m still running in circles. I love my new hobby while
simultaneously feeling reluctant to embrace it unconditionally
as a feminist or an activist. Perhaps crafting can mean many
things to different people. But it will always be unlike fishing,
gardening or woodworking—productive hobbies that have more
potential to maintain at least a little neutrality in the face of
political and social change. Handicrafts will always be linked to
the history of women’s work, with its multiple meanings, em-
powering or oppressive—or both at the same time.
“Any attempt to imbue
handicrafts with any one
specific set of values, beliefs or
group identity could send me
running in circles.”
20 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
HERIZONS: Was writing a dream deferred, as it is for many women
who must choose between the demands of domesticity and art?
DOROTHY PALMER: For most of my life, writing wasn’t a
dream deferred that dried up in the sun—it never saw the sun.
While I had the typical double day in terms of managing any
job and the demands of home and children, I had a triple day
as an English and drama teacher and a union branch president.
I would typically have both lunch and after-school rehearsals
and then an evening union meeting, after which I would face
30-odd Hamlet essays. For the 23 years I was a teacher, there
was no dreaming to defer—between fatigue and insufficient
hours in the day already, there was simply no time to dream.
Tell me about the genesis of your novel. What did you set out
DOROTHY PALMER: Since I was a teenager, I longed to
see someone like me in a book, and never did. I wrote to hear
a voice I’d never heard, either in Canadian literature or later
in broader feminist fiction or academia: the modern
BY NIRANJANA IYER
DOROTHY PALMER GIVES VOICE TO VOICELESS
When Fenelon Falls is a tragicomic story set in 1969
in Ontario’s cottage country. It features a young girl,
Jordan, who is adopted and disabled. In this interview
author Dorothy Palmer talks about activism, feminism
and writing with fearless wit.
Dorothy Palmer taught high school drama for 23 years before her debut novel, When
Fenelon Falls, was published last year by Coach House Press.
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 21
doppelganger of Canada’s girl orphan icon, Anne of Green
Gables. I wanted to write a novel about a red-haired adoptee
who knows it’s more than hair making her angry, who does
far more about it than break a slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head.
When Fenelon Falls is about things that fall—Jordan, a girl
with a limp, Yogi, an entrapped bear, and all of the bystanders
who should have stood up and done something about the
falling they enabled and witnessed.
Your protagonist, Jordan, like you, was born in the 1950s, grew
up in Toronto and summered in cottage country. Like you, Jordan
is adopted and disabled. Could you talk about writing fiction that’s
based on your own life?
DOROTHY PALMER: Alice Munroe said some years ago
that she no longer liked the term “autobiographical fiction”
because it had the cast of being a smaller, somehow less au-
thentic kind of writing done by women. Not that I see this
in your question, but to my mind Canadian women writers
are still more often asked about and somehow tacitly dismissed
as writing “just autobiography,” which carries the suggestion
that autobiographical content is some kind of safe blueprint
or crutch. “Just” implies that fiction with less autobiographical
content is somehow a) the domain of real writers, namely,
men, and b) real fiction, a more pure or literary art form.
Obviously, many novels draw on autobiography, but nobody
ever suggested that Faulkner or Dickens wrote “just autobi-
ography.” While the settings are all real, When Fenelon Falls
has far too much fiction in it to ever be considered “just” a
memoir—its plot and commentary are larger than one life,
and certainly far larger than mine.
My novel is informed by years of working in my union and
school board against other oppressions, against racism, bully-
ing, sexual harassment and homophobia. My analysis and
practice was always as two things: as an adult adoptee who
almost passed as “normal” and as a disabled woman with a
disability that almost let me pass in the walking world. Jordan
makes many analogies between sexism, racism and what she
calls “bastardism.” She sees bastardism as systemic, as built
right into everything—language, children’s stories, television
and books—and she knows her brother doesn’t see it because
he’s a boy, because he’s privileged, “to the bloodline born.” He
never has to think about how painful it is to hear what you
are, a bastard, being used as a daily swear word.
Reader reactions to the concepts of bastardism have ranged
from exuberant support to disbelief, ridicule, scorn and outrage.
That’s fine. Women who speak out about any oppression face a
mixed public reaction. I’m not trying to set up a contest or scale
of oppression. I’m simply saying that including adopted oppres-
sions may help us to better connect and explore the intersections
and interweavings of many kinds of oppressions.
How do your gender and your disability influence perceptions of
DOROTHY PALMER: While I’ve recently heard more than
one Canadian critic arrogantly suggest it is passé to do so, I
take the issue of appropriation of voice very seriously. I’m not
a tourist adoptee or a tourist disabled person—both are my lived
experiences and deserve authentic hearings in literature. When
I was pitching When Felelon Falls to a well-respected editor, he
said, “You don’t look handicapped. I mean—it’s good that you
are, but it’s too damned bad you have such an Anglo name.” I
suggested that the essence of disabled and adopted oppression
is that both are always judged as second-place “bastardized
versions” of those who are neither; that, in fact, I had no idea
if I was Anglo or not, as adoptees don’t know this information.
He shrugged, “Yeah, but you’re still gonna look pretty normal
and pretty WASP on the back cover.”
The novel’s blurb says that the book “will take you to a time and
place that was never as idyllic as it seemed.” I love how fearlessly
your novel debunks myths—about carefree childhoods, about nur-
turing adoptive families, about cheerful orphans and, perhaps,
about Canada itself. Tell us about the act of creating art that is
unafraid to ask tough questions?
DOROTHY PALMER: I’ve spent over two decades being
diplomatic to teenagers, so I feel I’ve earned my niceness stripes
and don’t have to put up with any more guff. And beyond the
personal, fear and shame have silenced too many disabled and
adopted people for too long. Doris Lessing once said that a
writer is responsible to those who have no voice, and I feel
responsible to all the Jordans of the world to try and speak
the de-sentimentalized stories of their lives.
But of course I’m afraid to ask these questions. It terrified me.
Jordan comes out of the adopted/disabled closet and asks all the
“Since I was a teenager, I longed to see someone like me in a
book, and never did. I wrote to hear a voice I’d never heard.”
22 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
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HERIZONS WINTER 2012 23
kinds of questions that no good girl from the 1950s could ever
ask growing up. The answers she gets are inexplicably painful
for me. But that’s exactly why such questions had to be asked.
For all the weight of the themes, the book is funny with a very
sharp edge. And you’ve coached improv comedy. How do you use
humour in your writing and in your activism?
DOROTHY PALMER: George Bernard Shaw was bang on
when he said, “When a thing is funny, search it carefully for
a hidden truth.” As a coach of high school improv, I have been
an utterly gobsmacked witness to so many riveting moments
where teenagers used comedy to explore heartbreaking mo-
ments of their lives and did so with such empathy that it
transcended traditionally exclusive definitions of what is sad
and what is funny. That’s the kind of blending I hoped to
bring to Jordan’s voice.
I’ll give you one small example of humour in daily activism.
I believe able-bodied people should be able to make up all the
rules they want for each other, but they don’t have the right
to oppress me with them. For instance, it incenses me that
the able-bodied can decide whether or not to pay a nickel for
a plastic bag or carry a purchase in hand, but I don’t have that
choice. Yesterday in the grocery store, when asked if I wanted
a bag, I answered, “No thanks, just tie the bag of milk to my
crutch please.” The clerk burst out laughing and said, “You
know, I never thought of it that way, but of course you need
a bag. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?”
Your novel is set in 1969—a watershed year that saw a re-examination
of attitudes towards existing cultural and social norms—and your
new novel is set around another watershed event—last year’s protests
against the G20 summit in Toronto. Do you see another shift in at-
titudes crystallizing around these protests and their aftermath?
DOROTHY PALMER: Whether or not the G20 protests
represent a similar awakening on the part of the average
Canadian, it is simply too early to say, but my second novel,
Kerfuffle, is indeed one small fictional step in exploring that
possibility. It’s the story of a culturally diverse, five-member
improv troupe trying to make sense and nonsense during the
weekend of last summer’s G20, when Toronto was literally
burning down around their heads. The book is inspired by the
now-iconic photo of a boy leaping atop a flaming police car
and the story of a disabled protestor relaxing on the grass at
Queen’s Park who was ordered to remove his prosthetic leg.
Kerfuffle attempts to explore a question that has haunted me
all my life, asked in the 1960s by Carl Oglesby, leader of
Students for a Democratic Society: “When the house is burn-
ing down around the poet’s head, on grounds of what if any
dispensation can the poet continue the poem?”
Kerfuffle answers that question with the look, feel and
structure of an improv game, providing answers as diverse as
the troupe itself. Words work as fire and the means to quench
it. As a woman writer in Canada, I’m working to discover how
to wield them both.
WHEN FENELON FALLS
Coach House Press
REVIEW BY NIRANJANA IYER
It’s the summer of 1969, and 14-year-old Jordan
May March is figuring out her tenuous place in
her family, in society and in the world.
Jordan is adopted and disabled, and is thus
considered fair game for her family’s cruelty,
especially from the cousins who gather each
summer at the family cottage in Fenelon Falls.
Jordan’s fierce intelligence, while enabling
small acts of revenge, is also her downfall, for
she senses the true animosity that lies beneath
the teasing and is unable to fool herself into thinking that it’ll get
better. Jordan finds solace in guessing the identities of her bio-
logical parents (she records a hundred different scenarios of
her conception and birth in her journal), in listening to ’60s pop
on her radio and in hatching plans to save Yogi, a caged bear
who’s bullied by tourists and residents alike. As the summer
draws to an end, things fall apart under the
weight of truths unuttered.
Palmer’s writing is sharp and edgy, and the
narrator’s voice, driven by a palpable sense of
rage and betrayal, pulls no punches in its indict-
ment of a society that deliberately refused to
recognize the abuse of the weak. Twisting
through the story is a thread of humour that
leavens the narrative while highlighting the
unfairness of it all—Jordan, for all her intelli-
gence and wit, is essentially a child looking to
belong, in a world that repeatedly informs her
that she’s “a fluke of the universe/with no right
to be here.”
When Fenelon Falls is saturated with rich
detail about Ontario in the ’50s and ’60s—from the clothes, to
the music, to casual bigotry back then—and the narrative vividly
illustrates what a complex, problematic, fractured, fertile era it
was. If you know someone who insists that Canadian society
was easier to navigate before the advent of multiculturalism,
give them this book and then watch them squirm.
24 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
Broke Back Mountain, Bonnie Marin, 2008, oil paint and collage
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 25
t 6 a.m., Bonnie Marin begins another day cooking
over a hot grill. Breakfast orders pour in, but as
always her mind is elsewhere. She daydreams of
giant storks standing on wet floors. Pan-gendered hybrids.
Muscles and desire exposed for all the world to see.
If she’s lucky, she’ll be in the studio by 2 p.m.—the studio
where her other work takes place. Marin creates paintings,
sculptures and collages in the furnace room of the bungalow
she shares with her partner of 19 years. Narrow, winding steps
lead from her kitchen to this dark cavern of wonders below.
“Be careful not to hit your head,” Marin cautions.
She effortlessly navigates the labyrinthine paths of her
workspace with the knowing of a sleepwalker. This is her
domain, an impossibly small space filled with thousands of
artworks, some finished and other in-progress, a water heater,
a washing machine and a woodshop. Old magazines and oil
paints share a work bench. A lamp balances on the dryer. And
magic is made.
Marin’s artworks have been exhibited nationally and inter-
nationally, in artist-run centres, in regional galleries and recently
as part of Plug In ICA’s exhibition My Winnipeg at two
venues in France. They are part of the permanent collections
of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.
Her work has even entered the private collection of a minor
Hollywood celeb. Yet this somewhat reclusive Winnipeg visual
artist continues to work as a short-order cook five days a week.
Such is the economic reality for most artists in Canada.
Even though she hates getting up in the morning and is
often exhausted by the demands of two jobs, Marin’s
enthusiasm for art-making is undampened by circumstance.
When asked what her greatest achievement is to date, she
replies without hesitation.
“The ability to make art after all these years,” she explains.
“It isn’t easy, but I know so many people I went to art school
with who don’t. That I’m persevering is a huge accomplish-
ment. It took me a long time before I called myself an artist.
But working in the studio, even if I have already had a really
hard day, makes me happy. I can’t imagine not making things.
It is who I am.”
As a child growing up in The Pas, Manitoba, Marin was
very much a tomboy, always making things, moulding
Plasticine or building go-carts. Her carpenter-father was an
early influence and a ready source of tools. Then, in the
fourth grade, she discovered something that changed her
life: an art history book in the public library. She set out to
repaint every image it contained. Ironically, more than a
decade later, when she went to art school, the same book
was her first textbook. The professor asked her to memorize
the great works pictured. “Memorize?” she thought. “I’ve
already painted them!”
That four-inch-thick textbook, H.W. Janson’s History of
Art, contained no artworks by women. Such was the gender
bias in art education into the 1980s. The Old Masters were
men. Old Mistresses were not acknowledged, other than as
small-m mistresses and muses. In fact, Marin says didn’t know
she could become an artist until she was in her 20s.
“Looking at art history, I thought it was something people
had already done and was no longer an option,” she says. And
BY SHAWNA DEMPSEY
ARTIST BONNIE MARIN EXPLORES GENDER, DESIRE & CULTURE
26 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
so she decided upon becoming a lawyer. Luckily, outdoor
sculptures by John McEwen and visiting artists such as Jeffry
Spalding at the University of Lethbridge opened her eyes to
the potential of contemporary art, and reawakened her creativ-
ity. She found herself back in Manitoba at the University of
Manitoba fine arts program.
It was a circuitous journey from the northern Manitoba of
her youth. The Pas of Marin’s childhood was racially divided,
made infamous by the brutal killing of Helen Betty Osborne.
As a young dyke, it was understandably difficult at times.
“Growing up knowing I was gay, especially then, the ’70s and
’80s, was a lot harder than it is now. There were no role models
on TV. It was so narrow-minded. More than homophobia, the
racism infected everything and was one of the reasons I was
happy to leave. But, happily, it has changed. When I go home
now, I notice a lot more native-run businesses.”
Much has changed during Marin’s lifetime. Not only has
Canada become less racially polarized, gay people have won
rights unimagined 30 years ago. Artists like Marin have been
part of the social context that enabled such strides for gay and
lesbian people. Not only does she have a truly mixed media
practice, she also freely mixes gender, races, even species in
erotic environments that are part middle-class 1950s normalcy
and part spectacles of perversity.
Marin remembers spending long hours in her small-town
movie theatre, watching B movies and imagining entering the
proscenium. Her work is likewise theatrical and reminiscent of
bygone pop culture, but transgressively so. Perfectly groomed
pin-ups pose with rodents on mid-century furniture. Naked
men navigate Winnipeg’s Portage and Main intersection wear-
ing blindfolds. Flayed figures from vintage anatomy textbooks
pose as anatomical studies of both strength and vulnerability.
Often her work takes images that have traditionally been
objectified and places them in disquieting settings to upset
the usual power imbalance. Implicitly feminist and definitely
queer, her camp images and assemblages mix social commentary
and humour in ways that question history as well as traditional
expectations of gender and sexual expression.
One of her collages recently appeared in the international
publication Le Monde, and publicity about the exhibition in
France has been uniformly positive. Marin reached a wide
audience in her home city of Winnipeg in 2010 through her
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 27
illustration of a Winnipeg-specific tarot card deck produced
as part of a project that celebrated Winnipeg as the Cultural
Capital of Canada (see sidebar). Her work also graces the cover
of Chandra Mayor’s recent book of short stories, All The Pretty
Girls. Even the commercial art world has taken notice, and
Marin is currently represented by Mayberry Fine Art.
Marin celebrates each exhibition, major sale and commis-
sion with a new tattoo. She is literally inscribed with symbols
of her own accomplishment, each one designed with the same
care she takes with her artwork. The career of artist Bonnie
Marin is cooking, in more ways than one.
The piles of art in the basement may ebb and flow, sales
and exhibitions may temporarily dent the stacks, but Marin
keeps creating. Her life’s work—making—began in her father’s
shop, developed with an art history book at the kitchen table
and continues each day after the lunch rush is over. As Marin
says, “Even if I am not in the studio, I am thinking about my
artwork. How am I going to approach to it? “Thinking about
art, figuring out what I’m going to do, that part is hard. But
making, making is fun time. Making is playing. And besides,
I have no choice. It is what I have to do.”
A GREAT DEAL OF INSPIRATION
Visual artist Bonnie Marin’s paintings lavish the stunnin g
and wondrously queer Winnipeg Tarot Company tarot
deck. Even if you aren’t into card readings, you’ll want to
own this deck, in which each of the 78 cards features a
clever, Winnipeg-ish interpretation. The traditional fire,
water, air and earth suits are reimagined as lightning,
floods, blizzards and drought, and major arcana include
The Fool on Garbage Hill.
Masterminded by performance artists Shawna Dempsey
and Lorri Millan, who led tarot readings throughout the city
in 2010, the Winnipeg Tarot Company deck explores gender
and mythology with a signature Marin sensibility and wit.
Each deck comes complete with an interpretive guide
to the tarot. Available from the Winnipeg Tarot Company
for $30 plus $1.50 GST ($31.50). Email email@example.com to
arrange pick up in Winnipeg or to place your order for
shipments in Canada for an additional $11 ($42.50).
OPPOSITE PAGE (counter clockwise): The Boys in the Lab, Bonnie Marin, 2006, oil
paint and collage; “I hate doing couples!” Bonnie Marin, 2005, oil paint and collage;
Confusion Corner! Winnipeg Tarot Company, Bonnie Marin, 2010, oil paint and collage.
LEFT: Home on the Range, Bonnie Marin, 2006, oil paint and collage.
BELOW (left to right): “They hung up, it must have been a wrong number” Or was
it? Bonnie Marin, 2006, oil paint and collage; “I love how he goes with every-
thing!” Bonnie Marin, 2005, collage.
28 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
ecognizing a neglected niche, two contemporary
authors have entered the uncharted waters of femi-
nist self-help in order to help women find sexual
satisfaction and fulfilling relationships. Outdated: Why Dating
is Ruining Your Love Life by Feministing’s Samhita Mukho-
padhyay examines archaic notions that remain embedded in
modern romance and explains why media depictions of rela-
tionships lag behind the times. In What You Really, Really
Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety,
Jaclyn Friedman tackles the myths and realities of female
sexuality while providing activities that guide readers through
a process of sexual self-discovery.
HERIZONS: Why did you decide to write a self-help book for
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: Feminism has done an
incredible job of articulating all the different places where women
experience inequality, and there is a set barometer of what is and
is not sexism that is great for political interventions, developing
legislation and policy, and academic work. But creating the tools
for how to use feminism in your daily life, especially in your
interpersonal life, is a different project than creating feminist
analysis. That particular nuts-and-bolts piece of feminism hasn’t
been prioritized, and there is a gap in the knowledge of how
to apply feminism to your personal life in a way that takes into
BY MANDY VAN DEVEN
When feminists began identifying the gender dynamics that stifled them in their intimate relationships, it
opened the door for sweeping changes in the realms of dating, sex and love. As a result, many of the social
limitations that hinged on outmoded gender roles have been altered significantly over the past 50 years.
Yet the rules about how to create and sustain romantic relationships have largely remained stagnant.
Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s latest book, Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love
Life, encourages readers to view their dating lives in the same way they view their
Jaclyn Friedman’s latest book, What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-
Free Guide to Sex and Safety, can help women dismantle sexualization by developing a
strong, healthy sense of their authentic sexuality.
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 29
“This new version of patriarchy is so good at making it look like women
are free, and we’re in this moment where everything women do is
supposedly empowerment.”—Samhita Mukhopadhyay
account how patriarchy functions and also how we function as
individuals. We need to find ways to be in intimate relationships
and deal with all these complicated politics, too.
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: I’m not a huge consumer of self-help
books, but there have been a few that really influenced me, like
The Artist’s Way, The Courage to Heal, and My Gender Workbook.
These books gave me a framework that could actually be helpful.
The way the idea for What You Really, Really Want came to me
was actually very simple. A question was repeatedly asked during
the tour for my last book, Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual
Power and A World Without Rape, that basically went like this: “I
love what you’re talking about, and I love enthusiastic consent.
But how do I figure out what I want to say yes to?” In trying to
answer this question again and again, I realized that I know a
lot of answers to that question and that I know a lot of others
who can answer that question, but I wasn’t able to answer it in
five minutes. So, this book is really a framework to help readers
find the answer for themselves in a culture that sends incredibly
mixed messages about women and sexuality.
How does your identity as a feminist inform the ideas in your book?
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: A lot of my work has to do with
slut-shaming and sexual violence, which is stuff I’ve experi-
enced in my own life. A lot of mainstream culture has adopted
faux-feminist language and imagery and sold it to us as “lib-
eration,” when in fact it is just the status quo. I’m thinking
about how the riot girl slogan “grrrl power” became the slogan
of the Spice Girls, but those two things are so different. It’s
confusing to talk about the difference between our individual
right to express our sexuality however we want to, as long as
we’re not hurting anybody, and what is sold to us as sexual
empowerment. There is a difference between sexuality and
sexualization, and my book is a tool in the work to dismantle
sexualization, which can happen if enough of us develop a
strong, healthy sense of our authentic sexuality.
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: A big myth in the media
is that feminism killed romance because traditional ideas of
romance rely on an antiquated sense of relationships and gen-
der differences—such as that men are in charge or should be
the primary breadwinner in a marriage. The reality is that we
don’t even live in a world anymore where most households can
live off of a single income and for most couples, both people
in the relationship are working. Even though there are actual
changes in our behaviour, the story about romance doesn’t want
to budge. We are at an impasse where women not working
or getting an education isn’t realistic, or isn’t what’s best for
women. So what has to happen is that the over-reliance on
this nostalgic sense of romance needs to break down. That
story hurts people’s happiness, and I think we are going to
see it majorly shift in our lifetimes.
What challenges do women face in navigating love and sexuality?
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: A big challenge young
women face in their interpersonal lives is negotiating between
their politics and what they want. A lot of young women imagine
being in an equal partnership, or imagine the kind of wedding
they are going to have, but then it doesn’t really happen because
there are all of these larger systems that impact relationships.
The wedding industrial complex has a lot of say over the kind
of wedding you have, and its traditional underpinnings implicate
modern choices in ways that are difficult to circumvent.
Similarly, in interpersonal relationships there are all of these
assumptions about men being less emotional or not as engaged
in the relationship, but that is not necessarily true. There are
a lot of men who want to be in long-term, intimate relation-
ships and to do the emotional work. These social norms put a
lot of pressure on women to be the ones who have to do that
emotional work, and the tools we have to hold men accountable
are implicated in this larger system of heterosexuality, marriage
and monogamy. So it’s very difficult to navigate these things.
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: Blame, shame and fear are three
primary tactics used to alienate women and keep us from
determining our own sexuality. These tactics are very popular
and manipulative in their ability to keep us controlled and
contained. A lot of people participate in these tactics whose
intentions aren’t specifically about control, but that is the rea-
son those systems were built and what they’re ultimately for.
If people get nothing else from my book, the thing I want
them to get is that unless you’re hurting somebody else your
sexuality is okay. We get the exact opposite message every day
through advertising, all forms of media, friends and family,
religious leaders and people in government. The heart of the
book is about encouraging readers to accept themselves and
accept the limitations that society or the media lays on them,
because once you accept them you can start to build a sexuality
that works for you. As much as possible, I wanted to be sure
the book wasn’t prescriptive. Instead, I wanted to pose a set of
questions for each person to figure out what their own answers
are, because the way I’ve come to figure out the answers for
myself is through a lot of trial and error, practice and reading
about other people’s work.
Was it difficult to write a book to guide women through struggles
when those struggles aren’t universal?
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: It’s difficult in the sense
that my writing has come from women-of-colour feminism,
30 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
and I can only write about my community and myself. However,
I didn’t feel a particular need to speak to everybody. There is
obviously no universal experience in the specific, day-to-day
choices that women make, but the fear of being alone is defi-
nitely an idea that a lot of women are experiencing.
I have found more women of colour are interested in my
book because statistically many of them are single and strug-
gling to make ends meet. When we talk about the need to
redefine marriage to include LGBTQ people, nobody talks
about how working-class, single mothers aren’t benefitting from
heteronormativity, even though they may identify as straight. So
I look at the way heteronormativity
creates marginalized communities
out of unsuspecting people and
how assumptions about romance
and dating directly implicate our
lives in the sense of what resources
we have access to and how we are
protected by the government.
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: When
I sat down to write the book pro-
posal, I realized the scope of the
project would have been too great
if I had tried to write the book
for people of all genders, which
was my first intention. The subject matter was just too big
to cover in a practical sense. What I did was put out a call
for volunteers to give feedback on the book and wound up
with a group of 11 women with a wide range of experiences,
identities and backgrounds who ranged in age from 19 to 42.
They were sent a draft of each chapter every week to read
and complete all of the exercises. Then we’d talk about their
experiences. Telling me what worked and what didn’t work for
them really helped shape the book, and their voices are woven
throughout. I hope that will make the reader feel less alone.
There seems to be a ton of confusion about what is and isn’t feminist
when it comes to dating, sex and relationships. How can people
sort out their authentic desires from social influence?
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: The first thing is to accept that there
is no way to fully separate the two. You can’t ever un-socialize
yourself to the point of being a blank slate. There’s no possibil-
ity of getting to a state of pure authenticity, because we’ve all
been influenced. What I really encourage is to become aware
of the ways you’ve been influenced, and to make decisions
about which influences you want to turn the volume up on
and which you want to turn down. I’m really excited about my
book’s potential to help strengthen women’s ability to resist
sexualization and create a world where sexuality is a positive
force instead of something that’s used against them.
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: This new version of patriar-
chy is so good at making it look like women are free, and we’re
in this moment where everything women do is supposedly
empowerment. Having sex all the time can be empowerment
for some, but it’s also not empowerment when it’s done in the
space of abstinence-only education and lack of access to proper
reproductive health care.
Access to feminism, or the idea that you have the right to
live for yourself and determine what you really want, is the
first step in figuring out how to
decipher all the conflicting mes-
sages young women have coming
at them. People are really quick to
throw young women under the
bus and say they’re not good at
navigating the really complicated
terrain of sexuality, but I think a
lot of young women are navigating
it really well.
Does feminism make your love
JACLYN FRIEDMAN: If what
you want is to be sexually appealing to as many people as pos-
sible, feminism may not help you with that goal because it is
ultimately about satisfying other people, not yourself. What
feminism can do is help you become more confident in your
intuition about people, more appealing to people who appreciate
women who are complex and whole, and more likely to have
satisfying, soul- and body-fulfilling experiences with the people
you do decide to be sexual with.
SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: I’m 33, single and really
happy in my life. Of course, it’s constant maintenance to be
happy, but I’ve found that feminism helped me to be comfort-
able with the reality that I could be on my own. That sounds
so “cult of the single girl,” but it’s really one of those areas
where I faked it till I made it. For a long time I had “I don’t
need a man” on repeat, but I didn’t really mean it, and all of
my behaviour was reinforcing that I hella needed a man. Now
I’ve transitioned into this place where I truly do not need a
man, and it’s actually really peaceful.
It opened me up to the possibility of a completely differ-
ent life for myself. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to future
relationships. It’s just that I have the confidence to focus on
other things in my life that I find just as valuable, like writing
a book about dating!
“Blame, shame and fear are three primary tactics used to alienate
women and keep us from determining our own sexuality.”
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 31
Viewers around the world watched via live feed as police
dispersed and arrested hundreds of people protesting peace-
fully in lower Manhattan. A flank of police in riot gear
surrounded the camp of remaining protesters in Zuccotti
Park. As police encircled the huddled protesters to make
their final arrests, a woman turned to the camera and,
with grit and composure, implored viewers to support the
Occupy Wall Street movement.
After Occupy Wall Street began in New York in September,
the movement quickly spread to over 1,500 cities, attracting
hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets to pro-
test economic inequality and government corruption. When
police forced occupiers in Canada and the U.S. to leave their
sites in November using pepper spray and dragging women by
their hair, the protesters only grew stronger in their resolve.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement has been
criticized for not having clear goals, it has been powerful
enough to bring together people of different ages, back-
grounds and political affiliations in relative harmony. And
that is something to celebrate.
There is, after all, a tendency for movements on the left
to splinter into separate groups and lose momentum, but
this hasn’t happened so much with Occupy Wall Street. As
a participant and a media outreach volunteer for SlutWalk
marches, I saw how the SlutWalk movement divided femi-
nists. Even though most feminists agreed with the goal of
ending victim-blaming, I found it disheartening that many
critics who disagreed with reclaiming the word “slut,” or
who criticized SlutWalk’s racial and class privilege, did not
decide to join the movement to change it from within.
I have seen something different within the Occupy Wall
Street movement. Many feminists have had criticisms, but this
has not kept them from playing active roles within the move-
ment. And despite the mocking media coverage of protestors
as lazy hippies and disgruntled youth, many people have rec-
ognized the key issues occupiers are fighting against: extreme
economic inequality and the lack of accountability that comes
with the top one percent of the wealthiest people in society
wielding too much economic and political power.
Since I’m spending much of my time in New York City,
I went to talk to the protesters at Zuccotti Park. I saw
roughly as many women as men, and many of the women I
met were active members of subgroups such as the people of
colour working group and the safer-space caucus. I also saw
socialists, libertarians, religious leaders, veterans, seniors,
children and queer and transgender people—a picture of the
diversity that is usually absent in mainstream media depic-
tions of the protesters.
Is there sexism in the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Yes there is, and that’s partly because of the fact that sex-
ism exists in all the places around the world where the
Occupy movement has spread. Recently, there have been
well-publicized complaints of sexual harassment and even
reports of sexual assault at Occupy sites in Dallas, New
York and Ottawa. Interestingly, while critics pounced on
these incidents as a way to discredit the movement, many
feminists ramped up their efforts to improve the movement
from within. They have set up women-only tents, supported
women in obtaining legal and counselling services and es-
tablished safer space or anti-oppression caucuses. Women’s
presence is further seen in groups like Code Pink and the
website, OccupyPatriarchy.org, whose members are trying
to empower female occupiers to network and work together
to improve safety and feminist consciousness within the
Occupy Wall Street movement.
Feminists involved in the Occupy movement are also
raising awareness that women and minorities suffer dis-
proportionately from economic inequalities. Women make
considerably less money than men working the same jobs
with women of colour being paid even less; women are also
much more likely to do unpaid work such as child care and
elder care and to be single parents.
Movements with as much momentum and widespread
support as Occupy Wall Street are hard to come by. For
all of these reasons and many more, women and minorities
worldwide need to become more involved in the Occupy
Wall Street movement.
This is a teachable moment for all progressive activ-
ists. Rather than lobbing criticisms from the sidelines, we
should increase our involvement and educate and engage
others. Only by doing so can we make sure women’s voices
BY JOANNA CHIU
BRIDGING THE GENDER GAP AT OCCUPY
Ellen Bell /
Pamela Booker /
Mary Smirle Bruce
D. Lee Connell
Deborah L. Davis
Sonja De Pauw
Nina K. Herman
Don T. James
Lois Kamenitz /
Paula J. Scott
Sheila Kappler /
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34 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
rans-racial adoption in Russia. Dating tourism in the
Ukraine. Compulsory marriage in Canada. These
divergent, unrelated topics might seem like an odd
array of subjects on which to base a career. But for Vancou-
ver-based filmmaker Julia Ivanova, whose feature-length
documentaries tackle these diverse topics with generous
sensitivity, chronicling stories of love and connection across
borders is a natural impulse and one with which she’s
become increasingly skilled.
Along with her entire family—brother Boris, with whom she
frequently collaborates, and her parents, husband and daugh-
ter—Ivanova immigrated to Canada in 1995. As she tells it,
the Chechen war was going the wrong way politically, and after
the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the film industry. Though
she studied producing at Moscow’s Gerasimov Institute of
Cinematography, she had no luck finding film work in Canada.
Initially, she worked as an information officer at an embassy.
In 1997, after securing a job as an adoption coordinator,
Ivanova became interested in making a film about adoption.
In the Soviet Union, adoption was a secretive process.
“We never knew children who were adopted in the Soviet
Union,” she says, and people went to great lengths to conceal
their family makeup. “Families faked pregnancies and claimed
they had biological children,” she explains. When she began
meeting adoptive parents as part of her new job, she was struck
not only by the openness of the process but by the adoptive
“I was amazed by how wonderful and generous the people
were. Their ability to love a child who was not their biological
child was something I admired, and I wanted to tell the world
how great they are,” she explains.
Inspired by her discovery, she began work on her first film,
From Russia, For Love, which she wrote, directed and produced
entirely on her own. Following two Canadian families going
through the international adoption process in Russia, Ivanova
filmed their initial adoption journeys and later returned to
explore how adoption had changed the families’ lives.
One family had returned to Russia to adopt their daughter’s
BY BRITTANY SHOOT
Julia Ivanova has made several films about adoption and relationships across borders, including Family Portrait in Black and White, which was named best Canadian film at
Hot Docs 2011.
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 35
brother, only to find that the children had eight more siblings
divided amongst several orphanages. Without exploiting the
families’ difficulties or sensationalizing the adoptive parents,
Ivanova was able to capture the details of their stories.
Several friends helped her edit the film, and in 2001 her
work finally paid off. The film was picked up for distribution
and eventually shown on TV in 26 countries. At the time,
she had no understanding of her own breakthrough success.
“I had no idea it was such a glorious beginning,” she recalls.
Being a transplant herself, Ivanova credits her outsider
status as a huge advantage for her work. “When I work with
Canadian subjects, the people I film are never intimidated by
me. I speak English worse than they do. They can feel more
confident and comfortable because I never pose a threat.”
Working with her brother Boris, Ivanova went on to make
several more successful films about adoption and relationships
across borders. One of her recent works, Family Portrait in
Black and White, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
and went on to be named best Canadian film at Hot Docs
2011. The film follows Olga Nenya, a white adoptive mother
in the Ukraine who has 16 children; all of them are black. In
this predominantly white country with an unwavering fascist
stronghold, black children born to single mothers are often
abandoned or persecuted.
The film explores Nenya’s commitment to “the children no
one wants,” as well as the contradictions and limitations of
her stern, controlling parenting style. Social workers criticize
her cramped home, and families abroad offer to adopt some
of Nenya’s children. She steadfastly refuses to compromise,
and Ivanova again delivers a striking film about the complex
issues faced by intentionally blended families.
Further exploring the concept of family, Ivanova directed
Fatherhood Dreams, a one-hour documentary from 2007
about gay men seeking to become fathers. True Love or
Marriage Fraud? The Price of Heartache, a film about im-
migration and marriage in Canada, aired on the CBC News
Network in 2010.
The most entertaining of Ivanova’s films to date is Love
Translated, a controversial documentary that follows men
from Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Sweden on a one-week
dating tour in Odessa, Ukraine. The men and women who
take part in the week-long liaisons sponsored by Ukrainian
dating service Anastasia International often act like caricatures,
pandering to gender and cultural norms while trying to seduce
and take advantage of one another.
Trading in stereotypes as they seek out potential partners,
the men use tired tropes about companionship and Ukrainian
family values to explain why they’ve travelled to find love.
The women, dubbed “professional brides” by local skeptics,
are often shown running up bills on the men’s credit cards
before becoming mysteriously unavailable for future phone
conversations or dates.
Once again employing compassion for her subjects, Ivanova
makes their rather unpolished attempts at finding love seem
sympathetic, even relatable. “In a way, the film gives access to
the way many men look at women,” she explains.
Despite the success of her other films, Ivanova suggests
that Love Translated has not been more widely received
or accepted into festivals because of the objective way she
shows both sides of the story. “I made an honest film,” she
explains. “I have strong belief in good human nature. I
never have mean intentions. I would never exploit people.”
She believes that because of her uncensored look at dat-
ing tourism, some people misunderstand her intentions in
making Love Translated.
Regardless of her own discomfort with elements of the tour,
Ivanova explains that she was true to her role as an objective
observer. “I was upset that these men liked younger women
to wear short skirts and heels. I wear pants all the time,” she
says to explain her hesitation. But, she says, “It really upset
me when I realized those elements are that important to the
story. We can deny and rebel as women against the value of
age and sexy dressing. I am upset that it matters. But it does
matter. So as a filmmaker, I show that it matters, despite the
fact that it upsets me.”
Today, she sees a shortage of opportunities for new filmmak-
ers. Fewer outlets are available for selling documentary films,
and producers have to work twice as hard to be noticed. Back
when From Russia, For Love was released, Ivanova says, “It was
possible to make [and sell] one-off films,” meaning non-serial
documentary films. “Thanks to the people who worked back
then, especially at CBC’s The Passionate Eye, we got started.
There were many television stations that would show such
films,” she said. But today she believes the documentary market
has shrunk by 70 percent, focusing instead on reality shows
and series. “The way I started would be a highly unlikely way
to start your career today,” she laments.
In the future, Ivanova would like to return to subjects like
adoption and immigration and to make films about other
marginalized families. Because of her childhood in the Soviet
Union, she shies away from political films and says she’ll never
make anything that could be construed as propaganda. “I am
not interested in those things,” she says. “I believe documentary
is supposed to show the world the way it is.”
36 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
fter obtaining degrees in creative writing and sustain-
able agriculture and community development, Shannon
Hayes set out to make her career path work in a way
that was consistent with her ecological values. Today, Hayes
and her partner work, along with Hayes’ parents, on the family
farm in West Fulton, New York, where Shannon grew up.
Hayes is the author of The Grassfed Gourmet and Farmer
and the Grill. Her third book, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming
Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, is the result of research
and interviews with self-described radical homemakers,
people who embrace the simple principles of ecological
sustainability, social justice, community engagement and
HERIZONS: The tag line to Radical Homemaker is “Reclaiming
Domesticity from a Consumer Culture.” Given the ways domesticity
has been used to confine women to the private sphere, does domes-
ticity really need to be reclaimed?
SHANNON HAYES: This suggests that the home has histori-
cally been the sphere of the woman. In truth, this was not the
case. The home has historically been the sphere of both men
and women as domestic partners working together for the well-
being of the household. The notion of the home being a woman’s
sphere only came into play after the Industrial Revolution.
What is the end goal of this reclamation? The book makes it quite
clear how homesteading benefits local communities, builds social
capital and creates a life-serving economy, but how does it empower
SHANNON HAYES: Radical homemaking is not a woman-
only movement. It is a venture that all members of a household
are pursuing together. Sometimes the man works outside the
house, sometimes the woman, sometimes neither. Nearly half
of the participants in the study that comprises Radical
Homemakers were men. The end goal is to empower folks to
live lives that honour ecological sustainability, social justice,
family and community. The results from the interviews I did
showed greater economic stability—although not excessive
wealth by any means—than the typical American family.
Do you believe radical homemaking is a feminist movement? At
times, it feels as if the book advocates for women to stay home and
devote themselves to their family and their homes.
SHANNON HAYES: Yes, I see Radical Homemakers as part of
BY TINA VASQUEZ
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 37
deepening understanding of the values of feminism. The book
does not advocate that women “stay home.” It advocates that
men and women make the home a centre of production, rather
than a centre of consumption. This is a way to reduce their overall
cost of living, increase community self-sufficiency, enable our
culture to untie itself from multinational corporate domination
of our lives and improve quality of life. As the profiles in the
book suggest, there is nary a woman featured in the book who
is simply “staying home.” Most of them have myriad enterprises
that, while usually home-based—because, again, the home is a
unit of production—are contributing to the family’s income
stream and economic stability in a powerful way.
According feminist scholar and writer Elisabeth Badinter, in her
new book, Conflit, la Femme et la
Mere (Conflict, the Woman and the
Mother), the green movement is burden-
ing mothers with intolerable guilt unless
they stay at home. How would you re-
spond to this?
SHANNON HAYES: It doesn’t
sound to me as if Badinter has spent
time with those who are successfully
pursuing this path. A woman who
happens to stay home and buy organic
baby food while her husband works
as an investment banker is not neces-
sarily a radical homemaker.
In Radical Homemakers, you encourage
women to restore meaning to their lives
through education, work and community,
though it is your belief that all of that starts at home. Can you talk
more about that?
SHANNON HAYES: The home, or the choice to use it as
a centre of production rather than a place to house consumer
goods while everyone runs off to work, has become a symbol
of oppression when it was once representative of middle-class
independence and self-reliance. A lot of money gets spent,
and a lot of land gets abused, and a lot of people get to work
to make the rich richer. While we must have homes, the only
thing they become useful for is holding consumer objects and
heating up takeout.
It was sometimes difficult not to view the radical homemakers as
very privileged. To secure housing, child care, health care and other
resources, many of the homemakers featured in the book capitalized
on family resources, such as loans and land. How does race and class
factor in to radical homemaking?
SHANNON HAYES: The fundamental skills of radical
homemaking all stem from Indigenous traditions. It seems
strange to characterize the skill sets as attributable to white
privilege, when they are prevalent and, today, generally far
more effectively practiced in other races and cultures. The
homemakers came from a wide variety of backgrounds and
educational histories, from homeless high-school dropouts
who found their way, to others with advanced degrees.
One of the women featured in your book talks about how even the
“seemingly mundane” actions of her daily home life, like making
bread, makes her a part of something
bigger and tied to her to her children,
her community and the earth. Is it at
all presumptuous to think that cooking
from scratch and home schooling will
make a dent in the many problems
plaguing the country?
SHANNON HAYES: Americans,
as a whole, need to accept account-
ability for their own well-being.
We’ve had a tradition of allowing our
effluent to flow downstream—some-
one else will grow our food; someone
else will take care of our kids; some-
one else will scrub the toilets; some
other place can handle our waste and
pollution. Radical homemaking is
about starting a culture of accountability in this country and
that accountability builds self-reliance. Self-reliance builds
resilience in our families and our communities.
Quite frankly, I think we all need to accept some degree
of responsibility for producing for our well-being and our
communities’ self-sufficiency. I find the presumption that
someone else can do it for me if I pay them rather classist;
it’s also pretty dangerous.
We ju st got hit by a hurricane, and three of the villages
around my home have lost their grocery stores. Those who
are taking responsibility to produce for their needs have been
able to help a lot of others out. Plus, they didn’t get their asses
in a ringer when all the major roads were shut down. The idea
is important and imperative.
Author Shannon Hayes maintains homemaking can be a radical
step towards independent communities and healthy families.
38 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
DINAH THORPE &
THE FIVE WHITE GUYS
REVIEW BY CINDY FILIPENKO
Toronto’s Dinah Thorpe is a multi-instru-
mentalist, producer and writer whose
work defies definition. Seemingly endless-
ly creative, the smoky-voiced Thorpe takes
her expanding oeuvre into the realms of
jazz and country with the release of 12.
Favourably compared to Indigo Girls and
Beth Orton, it’s fairer to say that Thorpe is
her own woman. While there’s a certain
folksiness to her vocals, her music is more
sophisticated that that of Emily Sailers or
Amy Ray. As for Beth Orton? There are
some vocal similarities between the Brit and
Thorpe, but that’s where it ends.
Originally conceived as a song cycle
that featured a song per month, 12 took
on a life of its own and the results are
stunning. “Every Bit Hurts” buries the
echo-chamber vocals under a thumping,
oppressive bass line that acts to exacer-
bate the feeling of pain that comes with
lost love. The song then crescendoes into
a dance number that has Thorpe promis-
ing, “I’m getting over her.”
Never wimpy when it comes to speaking
her mind, on “G20” Thorpe examines the
police abuse that accompanied the Toronto
G20 debacle in 2010.
The genre-hopping Thorpe never fails
to delight on the 12 songs that comprise
12. The real surprises come in the form
of a dirge-like remake of Chris Isaak’s
painful “Wicked Game” and on “Weird,”
which is weirdly reminiscent of early
Well worth checking out.
TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON
THE MOSAIC PROJECT
REVIEW BY EVELYN C. WHITE
The Mosaic Project, arranged and pro-
duced by veteran jazz drummer Terri Lyne
Carrington, is a swinging, sensuous and
soulful release that features a multicul-
tural mix of the best female musicians in
Carrington writes in the liner notes that
the project “is cross generational, cross
cultural and, though jazz in nature, some-
what cross genre.”
In addition to Carrington’s always-in-
the-groove drum licks, The Mosaic Project
showcases the talents of artists including
vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, percussion-
ist Sheila E., pianist Geri Allen, clarinetist
Anat Cohen, Canadian jazz trumpeter Ingrid
Jensen and recent Grammy Award-winning
bassist Esperanza Spalding. On the opening
track, the haunting tune “Transformation,”
former Labelle (“Lady Marmalade”) singer
Nona Hendryx pays homage to the natural
ebb and flow of life.
Backed by Carrington’s artful arrange-
ment, Gretchen Parlato brings an arresting
Tania Maria-type twist to the Lennon and
McCartney classic “Michelle.” Jazz vocalist
Cassandra Wilson exhibits her glorious gifts
on “Simply Beautiful.” Written by Sweet
Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson
Reagon, “Echo” opens with eloquent com-
mentary by activist Angela Y. Davis. Then
Dianne Reeves lets loose with a smoulder-
ing testament on the impact of slavery.
Patrice Rushen, the first woman to serve
as musical director for the Grammy Awards
broadcast, lends her keyboard skills to sev-
eral tracks, notably “Mosaic Triad.” Vocalist
Carmen Lundy, violinist Chia-Yin Carol Ma
and guitarist Linda Taylor (who has toured
with Tracy Chapman) also offer their artistry.
Rapper Shea Rose closes the CD with a
funky hip-hop riff—“Sisters on the Rise (A
Transformation)”—that revisits the first track.
Conventional wisdom hails Wynton
Marsalis as the prevailing force in jazz
performance. With The Mosaic Project,
Terri Lyne Carrington advances the genre’s
history and honours the scores of women
who’ve dedicated their lives to music.
REVIEW BY CINDY FILIPENKO
The measure of a singer is how they come
across in a live setting. This has always
been the case, but in this age of Auto-
Tuning it’s an even more pointed indicator of
prowess. Winnipeg singer-songwriter Romi
Mayes proves she’s got talent in spades on
her fifth album, hopefully named. Mayes,
a musician and composer of considerable
strength, took the incredibly brave step of
recording a CD worth of new songs live.
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 39
The result is one of the best retro coun-
try albums I have heard in years, and that
includes Norah Jones’ work with The
Little Willies and Neko Case’s excellent
solo work. What makes Lucky Tonight
even more impressive is that this collec-
tion of songs is entirely original. Recorded
at Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre,
Lucky Tonight captures the intimacy of the
venue while delivering close to studio-
From warning listeners “You don’t want
to see my bad side,” on the bluesy “Don’t
You Mess Me” to the driving country rock-
er “Lucky Tonight,” Mayes’ vocals never
fail to impress.
Lucky Tonight proves once again that
traditional country music has a place in
contemporary music. More twang than
torch, this album shines with the efforts of
some of Canada’s best country players, in-
cluding Jay Nowicki.
Do your ears a favour and get your hands
on a copy of Lucky Tonight.
LIGHT OF ANOTHER DAY
REVIEW BY CINDY FILIPENKO
Light of Another Day is a very well pro-
duced country album that showcases
some pretty fancy guitar playing from
Ottawa singer-songwriter Amanda
Rheaume. Her first full-length CD of
original material, Light of Another Day is
a paean to the often tedious lives of inde-
pendent artists, from bargain-basement
tours to the impact the lifestyle has on
relationships that fail to survive the com-
mitment of time and distance.
While failed love is a recurrent theme on
Light of Another Day, there is definitely an
undercurrent of romantic hope. For exam-
ple, there’s “Open Door,” an upbeat number
that finds Rheaume promising to “find my
key and unlock your door for you.”
Rheaume’s style is reminiscent of the
crop of non-traditional country-folk artists
who made inroads in the mid-’90s, such as
Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Her well-constructed songs, 11 of which are
featured on Light of Another Day, pulse with
memorable musical hooks and hummable
choruses, making for a perfect soundtrack
for long drives outside the city limits.
However, the true depths of her abilities
can be found in the inspirational “Push
On,” an ode to Canadian soldiers who
fought in Afghanistan and must come
home to live lives that have been changed
forever. War trauma is a tough subject for
any song, one that could come across as
contrived and clichéd; instead “Push On”
reverberates with compassionate sincer-
DOING IT FOR THE CHICKS
REVIEW BY CINDY FILIPENKO
Lock up your daughters—lesbian folkie Kate
Reid is back with her third release, Doing
It For the Chicks. Reid is a decent guitar
player but, as usual, it’s her lyrics that really
shine. Never shying away from quirky top-
ics, Reid gives being gender queer its due
on three of the album’s 12 tracks.
“Captain Cupcake and the Cambie Hotel”
is a country toe-tapper about “a cross-
dressing, tug-boating, roughneck from
Nanaimo” whose feminine wiles win him
the heart of the female bartender at the
local watering hole. On “Closet Femme,”
another twanger, Reid outs herself as some-
one who, after work, likes to go home and
slip on women’s clothing—it’s a funny and
hummable tune. Rounding out the trio of
tunes is “When I Was a Little Boy,” a tender
ballad about the little boys that live inside a
lot of girls.
While she can skilfully hammer together
a ballad, Reid’s at her best when she’s being
joyously irreverent, as is the case with “My
Baby’s In The Beer Tent Again” and the title
track, “Doing It For the Chicks.” She is hi-
larious, whether detailing how a little liquid
courage can turn an introverted girlfriend
on to a game of naked Twister or suggest-
ing her ulterior motives for performing as a
singer-songwriter to a roomful of Christians.
HERIZONS Environmental Statement
Herizons is printed on Forest Stewardship Council-certiﬁed paper. The certiﬁcation
means that raw materials originate in forests run according to principles that respect the
environment, at all stages of production. By printing on a paper that contains 25 percent
post-consumer ﬁbre, Herizons is saving 10 trees, or two-and-a-half tonnes of wood, four
tonnes of water and 1,678 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. This paper is
also elemental chlorine-free and acid-free. Sure, it costs more, but we think the planet is
worth it. And we know you agree.
40 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
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HERIZONS WINTER 2012 41
IVAN E. COYOTE
Arsenal Pulp Press
REVIEW BY JOY PARKS
Do not attempt to read Ivan Coyote’s Missed
Her while riding on public transportation.
The loud outbursts of belly laughter and,
seconds later, sobs and accompanying
cheeks soaked with tears, indicate the kind
of swings in emotion you don’t want ex-
posed to strangers.
Within this relatively thin volume, Coyote
has once again managed to encapsulate
all the big stuff: love (of various kinds),
loss, death, desire, boots (yes, boots!), the
butch bro-hood and family connections. It’s
sneaky, powerful stuff.
Missed Her is, like most of her previous
short story collections, chockablock with
Coyote’s encounters with the gay youth and
the seniors she meets at readings and work-
shops and tales of her personal adventures
during visits home to Yellowknife, where her
butch demeanour is simply not an issue.
There’s the lavish way she writes of
femmes in “Hats Off,” the wonderfully funny
and useful “Uncle Ivan’s Lonely Hearts Club
Plan” (both versions!) and the crashing of
stereotypes in “Some of My Best Friends
are Rednecks.” But the best are the tender
and funny tales Coyote tells of her family.
She portrays her relatives as good people—
open-minded but slightly rough around the
edges—who raised her right. This may
explain the homey wisdom apparent in so
many of her stories and why she has the
confidence to tell them well.
In a little more than a decade, that in-
cludes five collections of short stories (plus
longer fiction and a co-edit of a recent popu-
lar anthology, Persistence: All Ways Butch
and Femme), Coyote has revitalized the short
narrative. The brevity of the form depends on
a precision of language, a depth of craft hid-
den by the author’s ah-shucks attitude. But
make no mistake: This is not talk committed
to a page. This is true storytelling, fictions
pulled from life, the elevation of everyday
encounters to art. It’s something Coyote gets
better at with each new collection.
The Feminist Press
REVIEW BY NIRANJANA IYER
When Jhurmur, a spirited Bangladeshi
young woman, weds her boyfriend Haroon
after a passionate courtship, she believes
she will be happy. She was raised to think
for herself, she is well-educated and she’s
sure of Haroon’s love and commitment.
A woman’s chance at marital happiness,
however, is always a gamble in a patriarchal
society, and Jhurmur learns she must be a
bou (daughter-in-law) first and a wife second.
Haroon was an ardent suitor who wooed
her patiently, but post-marriage he regards
her with suspicion for having succumbed
to his courtship. He isolates her from her
friends and family, refuses to let her go out
to work and tells her to concentrate on the
household instead. Financially dependent
on Haroon and fearful of the consequences
of divorce, Jhurmur acquiesces to Haroon’s
emotional abuse. But when Haroon denies
he’s fathered her baby and insists she have
an abortion, Jhurmur is roused out of her
complaisance and plots her revenge.
As with all of Taslima Nasrin’s books,
Revenge is primarily an indictment of the
patriarchal mores of the author’s native
Bangladesh. Education has often been seen
as the answer to such societal ills, but in
this novel Nasrin acknowledges a very ba-
sic truth: Education isn’t a path to women’s
empowerment unless it provides a chance
at economic independence. In Haroon’s
home, Jhurmur’s degree merely gives her
“a rather irrelevant superiority” over the
household’s other daughter-in-law, a girl
who finished secondary school. But when
Jhumur finally gets a job, she views it as a
sign that she’s finished with a life of submis-
sion and that her husband knows she “will
no longer stand for his cruelty.”
Jhurmur is a complex character, with
enough moral ambiguity to rise above
a caricature of a subaltern employing
Western-style feminism to attain liberation,
and the manner of her revenge poses an
interesting question for the reader—does it
truly count as revenge when the principal
target has no recognition of the act?
Jhurmur is delighted to comprehensively
betray her husband, who is oblivious of her
actions and content with his life. Perhaps
Nasrin is just being pragmatic here (if
Jhurmur’s secret were discovered, the social
consequences would be devastating). Secret
rebellions must suffice until the revolution
arrives. That we’re left feeling discomfited is
testament to Nasrin’s refusal to look for easy
answers to deep-rooted issues.
REVIEW BY KERRY RYAN
Of the worlds Martha Schabas explores
in her debut novel, Various Positions, I’m
not sure which is more volatile, stressful
or heartbreaking: the prestigious ballet
academy, where perfection is a crushing
prerequisite, or the mind of a 14-year-old
girl, whose obsession with meeting those
twisted ideals ultimately unravels her life.
The ballet school is itself a character
in the story, and Schabas’s description is
meticulous, mirroring the intricacy, formality
and tradition of the discipline. As the novel
opens, our narrator, Georgia, prepares for
the audition that will be her ticket out of pub-
lic school, away from the boys who ridicule
her small breasts and the cliquey girls who
don’t understand her passion for dance.
Georgia is an astute and articulate observ-
er, a trait that might not ring true in a young
42 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
teen, except that ballet has attuned her to
nuance. She’s fixated on both her own body
and the variations among her peers, though
whether that’s her age or a side effect of her
surroundings is unclear. Her constant use of
the words “boobs” and “bum” is a reminder
that she’s caught between childhood and the
sexualized domain of teens.
While Georgia spends her days in the
exacting environment of the ballet studio,
her parents’ marriage is eroding, and with
it, her mother’s mental health. As one of
her friends becomes consumed by an eat-
ing disorder, Georgia begins to take control
over her own life and body in an equally
Although she rejects the outward dis-
plays of sexuality among her classmates as
sullying the purity of their art form, Georgia
becomes convinced that a relationship is
blossoming between her and her handsome,
much-whispered-about dance instructor.
Schabas’s writing is at its electric height as
Georgia descends the rabbit hole that is a
teenage girl’s mind, her behaviour becoming
increasingly risky and disturbing.
With Various Positions, Schabas provides
an ideal backdrop against which to study
the sexualization of girls, and a protagonist
who is both wise beyond her years and
exasperatingly naive. It’s an explosive, com-
pelling page-turner, too.
REVIEW BY ALICE LAWLOR
In her fifth novel, Miriam Toews returns to the
theme of Mennonite communities, like the
one she so vividly evoked in A Complicated
Kindness. Irma Voth is a darker novel, set in
Chihuahua, Mexico, where Irma and her fam-
ily have relocated from Canada. The reasons
for the move are mysterious and, conse-
quently, the characters are a little lost, unsure
of their role in this unfamiliar land.
Everything changes when a film crew
rolls into town. The plan is to make a movie
about Mennonites, but the community
(and the weather) is less than cooperative.
Trilingual Irma is hired as a translator and
companion for Marijke, the film’s female
lead. As Irma is drawn into the world of the
filmmakers, her little sister, Aggie, takes a
decisive step away from hers, leaving their
troubled family home forever. Eventually,
the sisters flee to a life of new possibilities
in Mexico City.
Irma Voth is well-written, but the slow
pace of the first 150 or so pages makes
that section challenging to read. The
movie-making part of the story feels a little
disjointed, although this is likely a fair rep-
resentation of an actual experience (and
Toews would know—she appeared in the
Mexican film Luz Silenciosa in 2007). But it
is when Irma and Aggie make their great
escape to Mexico City that the narrative
soars. Suddenly, the characters are mov-
ing quickly and urgently; their new sights
and sounds are colourful and stimulating.
It’s not easy to put the feeling of first-time
liberation into words, but Toews succeeds,
painting the contrasts between the sisters’
current and former lives as significant but
Throughout the novel, it’s the female re-
lationships that move the plot forward. Irma
and Marijke form a bond that helps them
through the experience of filming. Noehmi
helps Irma and her sisters start a new life.
And, above all, Aggie is the driving force
behind many of Irma’s positive actions.
Sometimes antagonistic, often affectionate
and always very funny, their very genuine
bond is the most engaging and uplifting part
of the novel.
REVIEW BY MAYA KHANKHOJE
Jan Rehner is a feminist, lecturer, poet
and novelist who has won awards for
excellence in teaching as well as for two
previous novels. It will not be a surprise if
she wins a third award for Missing Matisse.
This novel is set in contemporary times
with incursions into World War II. It is locat-
ed in both Canada and France, and the main
characters are feisty and interesting wom-
en. And then there is Matisse, of course,
and his paintings. The author seamlessly
jumps from one scenario to another without
disconcerting the reader. In fact, each story
informs the others, as they in turn make one
another move forward.
The plot hinges on a missing Matisse
painting, one that may or may not have
survived the vagaries of the World War II.
Several parties are interested in having
it for sentimental or monetary purposes.
Chloe, our Canadian modern-day heroine
who happens to be an artist, wants to
find it because she has in her possession
a sketch of it with a possible family con-
nection. In her search, she puts herself in
harm’s way, falls in love and finds out the
truth, though it is not necessarily what she
expected to hear.
Lydia, muse and assistant to Matisse, is
both a subject and the narrator of the World
War II part of the story. And here is where
fiction intertwines with truth, because Lydia
Delectorskaya was one of the few models
Matisse named in his work.
Missing Matisse is a fast-paced novel that
moves relentlessly towards its striking reso-
lution. Yet it meanders enough to allow the
reader to live vicariously in Matisse’s world
and in World War II France. The characters
are very believable, with human flaws that
would have pleased a Fauvist like Matisse.
The sense of loss I felt when I put the
book down was compensated by the sense
of anticipation I felt at the urge to revisit
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 43
REVIEW BY EVELYN C. WHITE
Fifteen years after the release of her debut
novel Push (later adapted as the Oscar-
winning film Precious), Sapphire has
delivered a harrowing narrative about a
The child is Abdul Jones, the incest-
conceived son of the protagonist of Push.
“Abdul my daddy’s baby too,” Claireece
“Precious” Jones declares in the 1996
novel. “I don’t feel shamed—Carl Kenwood
Jones freak NOT me!”
In The Kid we meet Abdul, age nine, at
the funeral of his mother, who has died
from AIDS. Bereft and bewildered, he
ponders his “good” shoes while gazing
at Precious in her casket: “I got these
on today cause she’s dead. Not because
I’m going anywhere. Who gonna buy me
Readers track Abdul’s horrific jour-
ney as he bounces from foster care, to a
pedophile-plagued Catholic orphanage, to an
experimental dance company where he la-
bours to transform his nightmarish existence
into meaningful art. “If I hadda been left
alone, I woulda been a good kid,” the author
writes. “Maybe I would already be a dancer
like that girl in the paper … thirteen!”
Sadly, Abdul is betrayed at every turn.
Perpetually violated, he becomes a con-
fused, mistrusting and merciless young
man. Here, Sapphire details Abdul’s
encounter with a man who has solicited
him for sex. “I hit him in the face with my
fist, hard, all my weight behind it. I hit him
again and again, then snatch him up off
the bed and throw him on the floor. He’s
groaning, his face is covered with blood.
I kick him in the stomach. Wish I had
Riddled with profanity, inhumanity and
degrading (if not depraved) sexual liaisons,
The Kid casts a blistering light on society’s
failure to protect the most vulnerable. In the
chilling novel, push has definitely come to
shove. In that regard, Sapphire’s bold but
too often mind-numbing offering serves as a
Consider a closing riff: “Why was their
nasty asses out crawling in the gutter trying
to cream kids’ asses for ten dollars or a ham-
burger?” Abdul wonders. “That’s what one
guy asked me: ‘How about a Whopper?’”
THE ODIOUS CHILD AND
REVIEW BY SYLVIA SANTIAGO
Many of the characters in The Odious Child
yearn to make a connection: women with
men, mothers with children and, in one
case, a head with a body.
In “At World’s End, Falling Off,” a museum
employee ventures into online dating. As the
woman studies the profiles on the website,
she realizes that “the men looked like arti-
facts on display. This was comforting.” She
selects a man for his attractiveness and the
irony is not lost on her: “ I had never dated
a beautiful man, but I had never used my
credit card to meet one either.” When they
meet, the woman goes to great lengths to
ensure the date is a success. Their encoun-
ter takes unexpected turns, and the truth of
the woman’s home life is revealed.
“Serial Love,” which was featured in The
Journey Prize Stories 22, takes place at a
speed-dating event. The woman, Number
14, finds herself drawn to Number 29, a
criminologist whose conversation revolves
around serial killers. Despite this attrac-
tion, Number 14 accepts a ride home from
Number 29 when the event is over. Her
rationale: “in her thirties, she rarely meets
single men so has thrown herself at the
kindness of strangers, who could, for all she
knows, turn out to be serial killers.”
In “Baby Mouth,” a woman is guilt-ridden
about shaking her baby in a moment of
anger. Whenever she looks at the child,
“the unsmiling face of her baby gives a sign
that she is flunking as a mother.” The baby
is nearly a year old, well past the stage of
development when it should have smiled.
The mother fears that the shaking harmed
or stunted the baby’s development and
becomes obsessed with making the baby
smile or laugh.
Carolyn Black writes about her charac-
ters and their circumstances with subtle
humour and insight. Her skilful observations
of how people deal (or don’t deal) with the
uncertainty and impermanency of life are by
turns amusing and touching.
KING KONG THEORY
VIRGINIE DESPENTES (TRANSLATED BY
The Feminist Press
REVIEW BY DEANNA RADFORD
In King Kong Theory, Virginie Despentes
begins, with crystalline prose, to compose
a manifesto. In 136 pages, the French au-
thor continues as she builds a pithy book, a
harrowing book, a book replete with politi-
Susie Bright compares her to Valerie
Solanis, Inga Muscio and Sylvia Plath. I
would hasten to add Germaine Greer and
Jean Genet, as Despentes celebrates:
“The old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the
unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics,
the psychos, for all those girls who didn’t
get a look in the universal market of the
consumable chick.” Despentes voices that
she is “more desiring than desirable” and
writes that, “As a girl, I am more King Kong
than Kate Moss.”
With the strength of these contrasts,
the author dismantles myths about rape,
pornography and prostitution and illustrates
their intrinsic relationship to capitalism.
Her analysis is necessarily challenging and
44 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
when she writes, “Rape doesn’t disturb the
peace, it’s already part and parcel of the
city,” her case is a wake-up call.
It is underlined when she reminds us
of slavery’s lineage and reverberations
through time, as discussed by activist and
author Angela Davis. Despentes writes that
“Rape is civil war” and “Rape is a well-
defined political strategy: the bare bones
of capitalism, it is the crude and blunt
representation of the exercise of power. It
designates a ruler....”
In the chapter “King Kong Girl,”
Despentes outlines her relationship to punk
rock as catalyst for her independence.
In the final chapter, “Bye, Girls,”
Despentes marks feminism as a revolu-
tion with vision; it is alive and never more
necessary than it is now. The precision of
her arguments is breathtaking and King
Kong Theory is a compelling read. While
Despentes carefully maps her influences
and simultaneously embodies them, King
Kong Theory is galvanizing on its own and is
IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
EDITED BY EMILY W. UPHAM AND
Simon & Shuster
REVIEW BY AMANDA LEROUGETEL
Our age is a particular point in time, which
we celebrate more or less depending on
how our aging is going. But, like it or not,
prepared or not, we will age—some of us
more gently than others. Actively thinking
about aging and how we react and respond
to it is the theme of In the Fullness of Time,
a collection of writings by women aged 55
While the contributors, mostly of
Caucasian descent, are not representa-
tive of the North American demographic,
their pieces do address a wide range of
themes, including the fear of death; the life-
long impact of babies born, dead or lost to
adoption; the ongoing or lingering issues
of relationships with mothers and fathers;
issues of faith and life after death; the im-
portance of resilience in the face of life’s
challenges; the pleasure of solitude; and the
surprise of late-found love.
The most useful pieces, and there are
several among the 34, show self-awareness
without self-involvement, thereby offering
insight of value to others. Jane O’Reilly, a
founding editor of Ms. Magazine, writes of
the “skein of life”–a lovely image for life
that can be neat and ordered, yet come
unwound at the pull of a thread.
Helena Maria Viramontes writes mov-
ingly of the impact of the expected death of
her mother and the unexpected, shocking
deaths of her sister and her brother. She
describes her journey as “an apprenticeship
into [her] own mortality.” Several pieces ad-
dress looks and beauty and how these fade
over time–hardly the topic of feminist rev-
elation. Indeed, one piece is problematically
titled, “Even Smart Women Hate Losing
Their Youthful Looks.” However, Katherine
Weissman counters this by proposing that
we should strive to “grow old like trees,
without shame or loathing.”
I recommend this anthology for its impor-
tant essential message: Our old(er) age may
We’re excited to be able to keep readers
abreast of the latest feminist news and
commentary in between quarterly issues
of the magazine.
The Ms. Blog showcases the sharp writing and
informed opinions of a community of feminist
bloggers from around the nation
and the globe.
So please become part of this exciting new
community—a place where feminism takes
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 45
not include good health or good fortune, but
if we can muster resilience, we may survive
THE LOVE QUEEN OF MALABAR
Memoir of a Friendship
with Kamala Das
McGill-Queen’s University Press
REVIEW BY KRIS ROTHSTEIN
In 1995, Canadian writer Merrily Weisbord
was looking for a project to follow her
memoir about sexuality and aging. She dis-
covered Kamala Das, a poet from the south
Indian province of Kerala, an infamous,
divisive icon in her homeland and now in
her 60s. Weisbord suggested a meeting,
proposing that the women write about each
other. Against the odds, the women became
close friends, visiting in India and Canada
over ten years.
This book is a dramatic foray into the topic
of subjectivity, with a vibrant, charismatic
woman at its centre—an unreliable subject
extraordinaire. Early on, Weisbord sees her
project as a traditional biography and begins
gathering secondary sources, comparing
stories and checking dates. Kamala quickly
dissuades her, suggesting that dry research
is not the way to find truth. But when Kamala
starts craving an admiring biography,
Weisbord is left wondering which truths are
important for an honest book.
Weisbord’s prose is clear and her insis-
tence on emotional honesty is commendable
and unusual, even in this confessional era.
Kamala insists that she wants to bare all, not
just as a poet, but as a woman and a cultural
figure. But her stories change from day to
day—or perhaps Western narratives are
insufficient to tell the truths of her story.
Kamala was married at 15 to an older
man who was a homosexual. She endured
painful, unwanted sex during marriage but
remained devoted to her husband. She wrote
love poetry about other men but claims not to
have consummated affairs with any of them.
Weisbord, (who grew up in Canada during the
sexual revolution), finds it hard to reconcile
these stories with her own understanding of
physical desire and female freedom.
While the first half of the book provides
insight into women’s lives and asks and
answers many questions about culture and
subjectivity, the later chapters lose focus
as Weisbord becomes caught up in the
drama of Kamala’s life and her shocking
conversion to Islam. Ultimately this is a
story about freedom, love and female iden-
tity, and the details of Kamala’s life are less
important than the stories she tells.
Women and the New Psychology
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux
REVIEW BY CONNIE JESKE CRANE
For any woman ever stung by admonish-
ments to “Smile!” Bluebird offers welcome
In the U.S., the insistence on cheer can
be traced back more than a century. But
author Ariel Gore was initially attracted by
the late-1990s “positive psychology” move-
ment, with its focus away from “neurosis
and pathology and toward resilience and
well-being.” Slowly, though, as she explored
the work of proponents like psychologist
Martin Seligman, Gore saw a Twilight Zone
kind of weird. “Everyone in this strange
and smiley land, it seemed, was a guy,” she
writes, adding that “an intriguing number of
the movement’s critics were female.”
Gore resolved to remain open-minded. “I
didn’t need to live in some feminist ghetto,
after all.” Yet, after extensive research, she
eventually came to criticize a “psychologi-
cal field that had largely disregarded the
female experience.” Gore notes that “the
majority of the commonly cited studies rely
on male subjects” and that, historically,
women have been patronized, handed
mood-altering drugs or cruel blame more
often than healing (psychiatrists tagged her
grandmother for her son’s schizophrenia).
Gore then boldly convened her own
“study of living.” While supported by re-
search and historical context, she sought
fresh voices. “I interviewed hundreds of
women via email and in person, and then
I convened a council of experts—artists,
mothers, service workers, scholars.”
No mind-numbing psychological self-as-
sessment tools here. Gore prods her subjects
with piercing questions. “How heavily do you
weigh your own happiness when making life
decisions?” “What is your fondest memory?”
“Do you think you’re happier or less happy
than your mother was at your age?”
Her subjects, and Gore herself, share
generously. As you might expect, the
conclusions are far more complex and
beautiful than a scale of one to 10 can
reveal. Ultimately, Gore prefers Canadian
psychologist Paul T.P. Wong’s call to move
beyond “the comfortable confines of
American positive psychology” and toward
a more mature “psychology focusing on
contentment, humility, meaning, and accep-
tance—even in the midst of suffering.”
As one subject says, “Life sucks for a lot
of people on Earth. The whole make-your-
own-happiness ideal is a little sick when
you consider that.”
INSIDE THE MONEY MACHINE
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT
Carolina Wren Press
REVIEW BY JOY PARKS
In 1981, Minnie Bruce Pratt, then a found-
ing member of the feminist literary journal
Feminary, published her first poetry collec-
tion, The Sound of One Fork. This slender
chapbook introduced readers to a clear and
honest voice that relied on highly readable
but deeply moving language to explore the
46 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
experience of otherness—spe-
cifically, the experience of being
southern, lesbian and female.
Thirty years and several vol-
umes of poetry later, with Inside
the Money Machine, Pratt is
still dealing with issues of other-
ness, this time with being on the
economic periphery. But today,
being out of work, losing one’s
home and fearing the future has
crept beyond the poor and the
working class. She tells us it’s
getting harder to be mainstream
This collection is so much a
part of its time; the events that shape these
poems could have been ripped from today’s
newspapers. Too, Pratt’s voice has grown
even more self-assured; she speaks straight
to the matter at hand. In “All That Work No
One Knows,” she writes:
We’re not machines, you know. There’s
only so much we can take,
always more than we can, until we can’t.
Today I hold the weight
low in my belly and back, guts coiled tight
from work at my desk.
But there’s hope here, too, that people are
strong and resourceful, that we are more than
the work we do, that we owe it to each other
to stay compassionate, to dream. In “Waking
to Work,” Pratt is clear on a remedy:
How do we go on? Longing for something
bigger than us.
But not this now, not this buying and sell-
ing. If we could each
make what we can, take what we need,
and that be enough—
There’s greatness here. Like Allen
Ginsberg’s Howl or Cor Sandburg’s Chicago
poems, Minnie Bruce Pratt has captured a
time and place, setting before us stories of
the losses and triumphs of the victims/survi-
vors of this economic war and questioning
how we move on from here.
FEMINISM FOR REAL
Deconstructing the Academic
Industrial Complex of Feminism
EDITED BY JESSICA YEE
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
REVIEW BY JOANNA CHIU
Burned-out women’s studies students may
gravitate toward this book, but Feminism For
Real taps into the frustrations of challeng-
ing the status quo of feminism in academia
without discounting the value of changing
the system from within.
Jessica Yee writes in her introduction:
“It is not a hate-on of academia. It is not
a hate-on of feminism. In fact this book is
what I would call ‘truth-telling:’ truth-telling
about some uncomfortable truths.”
Yee presents pieces from contributors of
different ages, genders and sexual identities
who come from many communities across
North America. They engage with each
other in refreshingly direct dialogue about
topics that tend to evoke discomfort, such as
sex work, colonialism, racism and poverty.
Contributors had free reign to include
poetry, drawing or photography, or to use
conversational round table formats for writ-
ten submissions. The loose organization of
the book may disorient some readers, but I
found it enjoyable to open the book to any
page and start reading.
In Theresa (TJ) Lightfoot’s contribution,
she writes about how issues affecting
Native women are sometimes treated as
“separate, or pushed under the umbrella of
‘Native’ issues, not something that feminism
would be concerned about.”
Krysta Williams and Ashling Ligate’s co-
written piece presents thoughtful tips to
translate theory into lived experiences, to
engage in peer-to-peer education and to
become better feminist allies. Cassandra
Polyzou reflects on the shame she felt as a
feminist with an eating disorder and calls for
a “kinder feminism. One that considers each
individual as unique, flawed and beautiful,
and takes a step out of the classroom and
non-profit organization and into every per-
The personal stories are as absorbing as
they are diverse, but the message throughout
the book is clear: Feminist
classrooms, communities and
organizations need to be safer,
less oppressive spaces in which
more voices, more experiences
and more issues are respected
and reflected in the feminist
THE HUNGRY MIRROR
LISA DE NIKOLITS
REVIEW BY ANJANA
Lisa de Nikolits’ The Hungry
Mirror is a first-person narra-
tive about the daily stress of being bulimic.
Creeping into every inch of her life—be it
her perfect, convenient, loveless marriage,
her friends (or the lack thereof), jobs that
frequently change, or her struggle to live the
lie of having the perfect life—these pages
flesh out the protagonist’s constant dread
The unnamed protagonist, accentuat-
ing her fight for that elusive thin identity, is
clean in her denial of her condition when
we first meet her. But we are soon gurgling
around in the regurgitated contents of her
life—be it her diet-obsessed parents or the
picture-perfect world of fashion magazines,
where she works as an art director.
The refuge she finds in self-help books, the
reassurance that mythology provides and the
sanctuary of her office computer all turn out
to be temporary. Hiding behind loose clothes,
she is “Miss Joie de Vivre” to the world, but
to herself at one point she is “an elephant. An
elephant who is never allowed to eat again.”
The often two-, three- and four-paged
chapters build, for the reader, the panic of
someone who lives a life of planning and
counting calories to the point of starving
herself ahead of letting herself eat a meal in
The event that ties up the loose ends
for our protagonist is a cathartic “two-day
course on body-image, an expressive art
workshop” her sister Madison gifts her.
Redemption for this high-emotional-quotient
novel comes in the form of the last chapter,
titled “My happy-ever-after.”
This eating disorder is essentially about
binging and purging. How does one write an
entire novel about it and treat it with sensi-
tivity, while ensuring interest and integrity? I
would say like The Hungry Mirror does.
HERIZONS WINTER 2012 47
Directed by Celine Danhier
REVIEW BY MAUREEN MEDVED
Long ago, before MTV, before the World
Wide Web, before the proliferation of zillion-
dollar condos, New York City was home to
fledgling artists. They lived cheap and sur-
vived just enough to make art.
In her film Blank City, Celine Danhier
documents a time in the East Village and
Lower East Side New York during the late
’70s and early ’80s when artists gathered
like cowboys in the dirty Wild West, found
cameras, and shot their way into notoriety.
In the midst of the decay and the danger,
artists lived, influenced each other and took
risks. Danhier captures the vigour, the en-
ergy of that lost time.
Blank City, its title an homage to a Richard
Hell song, documents the underground film-
makers of that downtown scene. As with
punk rock, which happened simultaneously
and has been extensively documented,
these directors and actors lived by a do-it-
yourself philosophy: Neither a lack of money,
nor access to equipment, or lack of talent,
experience or training could stop them.
Those who wanted to, made films, and did
so unmotivated by the promise of accolades.
The object wasn’t a million hits on YouTube,
a million-dollar production deal or even a
million dollars. The object was to make art.
Fame was irrelevant. People did what they
had to do, often taking enormous risks. Some
of these films have also become important
works (Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens and
Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise are
two examples) in the cinematic canon.
During these years, women artists made
their films with as much drive as their
male counterparts. Just as these artists
challenged, and often smashed, traditional
forms, so they did with content and con-
text. Both men and women in this period
pushed the boundaries of the feminine,
exploring, transgressing, even shatter-
ing classical feminist politics as well as
traditional and non-traditional identities
by crossing the androgynous with the
waifish, the slutty with the virginal, the
innocent with the provocateur, making
way eventually for Madonna and Catherine
Breillat and all their musical and cinematic
children. Names recognizable to the cine-
phile include Beth B., Lizzie Borden, Bette
Gordon, Lydia Lunch, Deborah Harry, Steve
Buscemi, John Lurie and Vincent Gallo.
Danhier captures her subjects, with
abundant passion and research, through
collage-style interviews and archival foot-
age. Like punk itself, there is no glorification
of this period, no stars and no pretense.
If there is a star, it’s DIY. Anyone who
wanted it had a shot. Resisting the commer-
cialization of culture, Hollywood and the art
scene, this concept provided a movement
that felt new, audacious, guerrilla.
Danhier explores a short, vital time in
cultural history, a time when those who
discovered this art felt as much like explor-
ers into new territory as those who made
it. As this movie documents, the essence
of this era—for the spectators as much as
for those creating the spectacle—is that it
seemed to be a good time.
No Wave filmmakers Scott B. and Beth B., artist Diego Cortez, Lydia Lunch, Johnny O’Kane, Bill Rice and Adele Bertei of the Contortions. (Photo: Marcia Resnick, Blank City.)
48 WINTER 2012 HERIZONS
Kathryn Marshall, spokesperson for the oilsands lobby group
Ethical Oil, is no doubt pissed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s
announcement that he’s putting off a decision on the proposed
Keystone XL pipeline project for 18 months. The pipeline
promises Canadian oilsands bitumen to Texas reﬁneries.
Ethical Oil has put millions of dollars into lobbying and
marketing tar sands oil as a squeaky-clean source of oil. “It
clearly didn’t work,” said Michael Levi, senior fellow at the
New York think-tank Council of Foreign Relations. He pointed
out that Ethical Oil’s campaign mostly appealed to those who
already agreed with it.
That assessment is, I think, a triﬂe harsh. Marshall did her
best. She announced on the Hufﬁngton Post that Ethical Oil
is way ahead of women’s rights organizations in Canada when
it “stands up for the rights of oppressed women in conﬂict oil
regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
However, Marshall’s outﬁt, the brainchild of conservative
Ezra Levant that was founded by Alykhan Velshi, a former
aide to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, is a triﬂe
narrow and obviously needs to appeal to a broader audience.
In fact, some unthinking (not to mention childish) dissenters
have suggested it’s not enough to charge: “Our oil is better
than your oil because we let women drive and you don’t, so
nyah, nyah, nyah.”
Yet it’s obviously not sufﬁciently inclusive to simply talk
about oil in terms of ethicality since the windmill, solar and
natural gas people are sure to nod off after the ﬁrst sentence.
And those people who inexplicably insist on paying more at-
tention to social issues than to business will refuse to relate.
Then there has to be something for those who follow the Don
Cherry Just-Say-No-to-Pinko-Sissies approach to life.
In broadening the appeal of Ethical Oil, Marshall would
do well to start up Ethical Fisticuffs in Hockey and, after that
catches on, she may want to throw in a couple more tidbits to
the business community, such as Ethical Salmon Farming and
Ethical Asbestos. Also, the lobbyist needs to offer something
for intellectuals—Ethical Poverty would be a good title. As
a grand ﬁnale, she could go for a Hufﬁngton Post piece titled
“Ethical Sexism” to draw in women who, for some reason,
didn’t get the point of her ﬁrst piece.
So, let us take a closer look at the big three: Ethical Fisticuffs
in Hockey, Ethical Poverty and Ethical Sexism.
Ethical Fisticuffs in Hockey is a no-brainer, a mark of
Canadianness right up there with the maple leaf and being
polite. Of course, being polite does not apply when one is in
the NHL. Note that underprivileged countries such as Saudi
Arabia do not encourage anyone, especially women, to play
hockey. Worse, I hear they don’t have much ice. That sounds
the ﬁnal buzzer to that argument.
Ethical Poverty is certainly something Canada can be proud
of. Take Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as an example.
Known as the poorest postal code in Canada, its streets
house large numbers of those who suffer from mental illness,
work in the sex trade, have drug addictions or are homeless.
It is the concept of Ethical Poverty that successfully keeps
all these people in one place where they can be fed in soup
kitchens and kept out of areas inhabited by their betters. It
is a concept that has saved all levels of government—mu-
nicipal, provincial and federal—countless money over the
years by effectively keeping them occupied arguing about
whether or not it would be a good idea to provide affordable
housing, good medical assistance and accessible substance
Ethical Sexism is exempliﬁed by the recent sexual harass-
ment scandal in the RCMP, which began when Corporal
Catherine Galliford publicly alleged that she experienced years
of sexual misconduct . Since then, several other women have
come forward. Nonetheless, it is but rumour that the RCMP
has changed its mantra from “We always get our man” to “We
often get the woman, then promote the man who harassed
her.” Stack that up against the fact that there are no women in
any Saudi Arabian police force for the male ofﬁcers to harass.
In other words, Canada’s Ethical Sexism is far superior to the
sexism in places such as Saudi Arabia where women have to
stay at home to be harassed.
All of these concepts are sure to broaden the appeal of
Ethical Oil. In fact, I believe Marshall and the other people
behind Ethical Oil have already put them in play. After all,
it is the only possible explanation for the fact that Obama is
rethinking the Keystone pipeline project.
ETHICS CLAIM ON SLIPPERY SLOPE
On the Edge
BY LYN COCKBURN
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