Happy anniversary, Joyeux anniversaire, Parleuses!Saturday, March 8 2003
Happy anniversary, Joyeux anniversaire, Parleuses!
March 8, 2003, marks the 8th anniversary of the founding of PAR-L, one of Canada's first and longest-lived feminist online forums. on this day in 1995, we started off with 8 members in 2 countries; today we have over 1,400 in at least a dozen. Those of us "behind the screens" at PAR-L (Wendy, Michele, Jenn, Julie, Nicole, and Robin) want to wish you all a happy International Women's Day, and also to thank you for keeping our 8-year conversation pertinent and meaningful.
Huit ans de travail, d'échange d'information, de discussions (parfois enflammées) sur l'action et la recherche sur des questions de politique qui touchent les femmes au Canada. C'est grâce à nous, qui travaillons derrière l'écran, et surtout grâce à vous, qui nous appuyez par votre présence en ligne au jour le jour, que PAR-L peut aujourd'hui fêter son huitième anniversaire.
Insight, analysis, and action from feminist perspectives have never seemed more urgent: on PAR-L we are connected to the world's critical war-and-peace debate. Some say that the world has not just one superpower, but two: the US and us-- world public opinion. We have also defined and shaped our own homegrown issues in the approximately 2,100 posts on PAR-L in the past 12 months. Here is a sampler of some of the main "threads."
Status of Women
The "regressive" situation of women in Canada was powerfully documented in a March 2003 UN report about Canada's commitments under CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which Canada signed in 1981). The CEDAW Committee "expressed both their congratulations to Canada for its leadership in the international arena, and their dismay about the situation of women in Canada." They are sharply critical of our government's lack of progress on such issues as Aboriginal women's rights, poverty, pay equity, childcare, family legal aid, and proactive measures to increase women's participation in the political process. The UN report recommends that Canada systematically do gender-based analysis of all law reform and program initiatives--something that was promised at the time of the Beijing conference in 1995. one or two PAR-L messages went further than this, calling for a new Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada and the re-invention of a Women's Party.
Canada Research Chairs
The lesson that "herstory" is more likely to be cyclical than linear is underscored in another series of messages posted on PAR-L concerning the discouragingly low percentage of women appointed under the $900-million Canada Research Chairs program. To date, only 15% of these prestigious appointments have gone to women. Of equal concern is that no data at all are available about other equity groups. Sharing information and strategies on PAR-L, a group of eight academic women from across Canada organized to request that the Canadian Human Rights Commission set up a Special Inquiry, or, failing that, file a human rights complaint against Industry Canada.
Important decisions upholding women included Nancy Olivieri's vindication as a clinical researcher with a conscience and a commitment to university research for the public good, not corporate profit; and, in Quebec, Micheline Montreuil's claim to the right, as a transgendered person, to change official documents to match her identity. Out of court, Ursula Franklin et al negotiated a landmark academic "pension gap" settlement with the University of Toronto.
Other legal matters posted to PAR-L concerned women's tragic deaths: the inquest into the death, while under house arrest, of Kimberly Rogers, pregnant and convicted of welfare fraud for receiving student loans while on social assistance; and a poignant petition to the federal government to conduct an investigation into a shocking number of missing and/or murdered Native women. Some other important policy "threads" in the past year focussed on sexual diversity, women-only spaces, and same- sex marriages. Legal differences governing the division of property amongst married versus common law couples were raised, as was NAWL's work on the "provocation" defence, and subjects as diverse as proportional representation, spousal homicide, the Kyoto agreement on the environment, gun control, adoption, the homeless Woodwards squatters in Vancouver, and Manitoba's removing its sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
Annual events posted as action items on PAR-L regularly are "Take Back the Night" marches, vigils on the December 6th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, and performances of The Vagina Monologues around February 4th, V-Day. Many other notices concern speakers, conferences, local actions, and job vacancies. News items ranged from the Native youth movement, to women and homelessness, to genetically modified food. on a personal note, we learned of the death of pioneer feminist American artist, Irene Peslikis; and we toasted Phyllis Grosskurth on her winning the Order of ontario.
Women in International News
International news that literally involves "women's liberation" this year included announcements of the release of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, the sparing of Safiya Yakubu Hussaini from death by stoning in northern Nigeria, and the granting of a three-year stay in Canada to Lucy Lu, who had sought sanctuary from deportation in a church in Kingston, ontario. These victories, clearly influenced by women's world public opinion and often brought to our attention over the Internet, are balanced against the haunting tales of women such as Amina Lawal, currently facing death for bearing a child out of marriage in Nigeria, women stoned in Pakistan, and the struggle of the "Daughters of Afghanistan," far from over, as documented by Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong.
One of the most original news items this year concerned anti-war activism over Iraq; it suggested we all take to our beds, rather than the streets, to voice our "non serviam." Posted in February as temperatures plunged to record lows in several parts of Canada, this action call seemed to have particular merit!
Men in the News
For the first time, we heard reports (they could not be remotely related, could they?) that Penthouse is going bankrupt, and that men, feeling beleaguered, are calling for an International Men's Day!
Second and Third Wave Feminism
A passionate and informative interchange about second and third wave feminism gave us a working example of research-in-action, revealed a spectrum of views, exposed the stereotypes of the "bitch" feminist of the seventies and the "complacent" Gen Xer, shared deep feelings about the sheer work involved in feminist activism, and led to that famous Canadian middle ground. Quoting Erin Graham: "Yes, celebrate the work of vibrant young feminists. And celebrate the work of the vibrant old feminists. We need one another."
Feminist Thought / Women's History
Discussions of "herstory" were plentiful, with inquiries and information about courses on the history of feminist thought and news about books, from the current book about singles, Alone in Canada, back to possibly the first book in English on the subject of women's rights, the recently discovered, anonymous, 17th-century "Woman's Worth. A treatise proveinge by sundrie reasons that women do excell men." We were informed about Web sites exploring 4000 years of women in science, Canada's early women writers online, personal testimony about the last 30 years of the women's movement in Canada, the origins of Women's Studies in Canada, a planned International Museum of Women in San Francisco, and the dream of a Women's Museum of Canada (an online one is at www.coolwomen.ca -- Canada's largest women's history Web site).
PAR-L continues to share information about the research produced by organizations that have joined us as Partners. You can find the research bulletin NIOUZES amongst the regular PAR-L messages and also archived on the PAR-L Web site at: http://www.unb.ca/PAR-L/bulletin/bullindex.htm.
The most unlikely research noted on this feminist listserve concerned the alleged -antidepressant properties of semen [sic]. one of the most promising research articles focussed on women's reponse to stress: not fight or flight but tend and befriend.
PAR-L'S Second Survey
In the Spring and Fall of 2002, we posted a questionnaire to the list, with two main objectives. First, we wished to assess the effectiveness of PAR-L as a tool for feminist activism. Second, wanted to get feedback from you to help us improve the service we provide to the community of feminist activists and researchers in Canada.
Many thanks to the 87 Parleuses who took time from their busy schedules to fill out the survey. Your feedback about what you find valuable in PAR-L is heartwarming! Your comments about what you find frustrating (e.g. technical problems, the tone of some exchanges, uncertainty about and inconsistent enforcement of list guidelines, overposting and cross-posting, etc.) and what could be improved will help us make the list a more effective and convivial tool for social change. The results of the survey will be posted to the PAR-L Web site very shortly. We hope to get more feedback from you through our Web-based Strategies forum.
Une liste bilingue ou les défis de la diversité
Le nombre de messages en français a presque doublé sur la liste, passant de 5% l'année dernière à environ 9 % cette année, grâce au travail acharné de quelques abonnées (les filles de Cybersolidaire, entre autres). Le questionnaire envoyé à la liste a permis de mettre en lumière les défis associés au fonctionnement d'une liste bilingue. Plusieurs d'entre vous, anglophones et francophones, avez mentionné comme un avantage le fait que PAR-L permette aux deux communautés linguistiques du pays de rester en contact. Pour d'autres, par contre, qui sont unilingues ou qui travaillent avec des femmes unilingues, le nombre de message en français (ou en anglais) est vécu comme une difficulté de plus dans le déluge quotidien que nous apporte Internet. Cela rejoint une des conclusions plus générale de l'enquête, à savoir qu'il existe, dans une liste de discussion comme dans le mouvement des femmes, une tendance centrifuge, qui nous renvoie à nos particularités, et un besoin d'échanger au-delà de nos différences au sein d'un forum plus large.
Women and Technology
We shared in researching feminist listserves; read news from "rabble," Brigit's Notes, and the hot peach pages; and heard about womennet.ca and Web sites for young women. Something that increasingly finds its way into the PAR-L moderators' inbox, but not onto the list, is that ubiquitous pornographic spam. (While it still is targeted at men, the current spam has more ads for bigger penises and fewer for naked female celebrities or lonely married women.)
As part of its growing pains, PAR-L was threatened, for the first time, with being shut down, when the list, housed on a UNB server, was used by a radical student group, the UNBSRI, to goad the administration over inattention to women's safety on campus.
Boast: With great pride we brought you news of two long-time PAR-L contributors, columnist Michele Landsberg, who became a grandmother, and technical consultant Jenn Brayton, who completed her PhD in Sociology at UNB.
Roast: Although the grant money from the now-cancelled SSHRC "Women and Change" program that has supported PAR-L for the past three years officially ends this month, we have "husbanded" (now where did that word come from?) our resources well enough that we can operate both the list and the PAR-L Web site for another year, with the able assistance of the student women we employ part-time. Like so many other women's organizations, we realize, however, that the financial future looks bleak.
Toast: All in all, an e-record of a year worth pondering.