IWD Events Roundup

The Japan Foundation is presenting a panel this Monday, March 4 at 6:30 on Gender, Diversity, and Tohoku Reconstruction: Challenges and Opportunities Two Years On. More details here.

Sheridan College Hazel McCallion Campus is hosting a Women In Film Festival for IWD. March 8, 5-10:30pm, 2 films with panels and discussions. One of the films is the internationally-acclaimed Miss Representation. More info here.

The Philippine Women Centre of Ontario will screen Status Quo: The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada at 6pm on March 8 at OISE. Details here

The NFB will also stream the Status Quo film for free on their site starting March 4, in celebration of IWD. www.nfb.ca

Hart House at UofT is celebrating IWD with its Breaking New Ground conference. March 8, 9am-4pm. Advance registration required.
Details here.

The WGSI at the University of Toronto is celebrating IWD with a number of events. Details.

Herstories Cafe is hosting a talk at the Bata Shoe Museum with Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack about the museum’s creation and the history of the high heel. March 6, 6pm.  www.herstoriescafe.com

At the CWSE, we’re co-sponsoring the Toronto Nepali Film Festival, March 8, 6:30pm, screening of Dasdhunga. Details here.

Toronto’s Strawberry Ceremony

On February 14th I attended the 8th Annual Strawberry Ceremony for our missing and murdered women. I attended as a settler and ally but also someone who has been moved by Idle No More. Hundreds of people gathered and filled the public space at the Toronto Police Department headquarters. Several participants in the crowd held signs in the shape of a woman’s profile with the name, age, and date of disappearance of missing or murdered women. I was asked to hold a sign of a woman who was 21 years old and pregnant when she was murdered. I was moved because I still consider myself young but have survived her by 6 years. A reader recited a list of murdered and missing Aboriginal women but she said there is not enough time to read all the names, and it is an incomplete list anyway.


There were numerous speakers at the ceremony, many of whom either had female loved ones who were missing or murdered or who were previously a missing woman themselves. One speaker stated that 18 women were murdered after Robert Pickton’s first release from police custody. The blood of those 18 women are on the police’s hands. These 18 women are also just one example of systemic racism that exists within the police force and broader society against Aboriginal women. Other speakers critiqued Canadian culture which degrades Aboriginal women to the point where they are killed with relative impunity.

 However, many of the same speakers talked about their vision of hope. Much of the protest involved songs and prayers in Indigenous languages. One speaker mentioned that a gathering like the Strawberry Ceremony would have been illegal in the 1970s. While the rights and treatment of Aboriginal women are slowly improving there is still much to be done. For the 600+ missing and murdered Aboriginal women it is already too late.

-written by CWSE GA Andrea

Links of Interest

Links of interest from Angela L., director of the CWSE’s Women’s Human Rights Education Institute:

Fukushima farmers to meet int’l experts to discuss seed, soil and food for future” — Vandana Shiva, who spoke at the CWSE this past November, is speaking in Tokyo today about soil rejuvination, as the two year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaches. eet int’l experts to discuss seed, soil and food for future

Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains” — an insightful discussion of the accomplishments of the women’s movement, and why some people still refuse to acknowledge feminist achievements.

The Michigan Women’s Justice and Clemency Project” — Despite the very real dangers that many women live with on a daily basis, there is evidence to suggest that women who kill in their own defense may face greater punishment than other defendants. A study conducted by The Michigan Battered Women’s Clemency Project of homicide convictions and sentences … showed that domestic violence victims had higher conviction rates and longer sentences than all others charged with homicide, including those with previous violent criminal records. Overall, a white female defendant with no criminal history who was convicted by a jury of killing a white person could expect an average sentence of 10 to 30 years. However, if the woman was a victim of domestic violence, her predicted sentence increased to life.

Sussex Hindu temple to allow equal marriage ceremonies” —  “… has said that gay couples are welcome to marry there, stating a need to “respect everyone” … [it] is the first non-Christian venue in Sussex to be granted a marriage license.”

Audre Lorde, Feb 18, 1934 – Nov 17, 1992

Audre Lorde, Feb 18, 1934 - Nov 17, 1992

CELEBRATING the 79th Anniversary of Black Feminist Lesbian Mother Warrior Poet Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992)

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.”
-Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

A Woman Out of Control

A Woman Out of Control - Roxana

The above picture was taken by Dr. Jamie Magnusson, colleague and friend of Roxana Ng. Note that Roxana is wearing tennis shoes and has bare legs, when about to ride a motorcycle 🙂

Roxana’s research interests were wide, emcompassing anti-racism, feminism, embodied learning, and eastern healing. One of the most popular pieces she wrote was “A Woman Out of Control”, in response to sexist students and administrations. You can read the article here (PDF): A Woman Out of Control.

Vandana Shiva follow up

Vandana Shiva gave a public lecture for the CWSE on November 12, 2012 (check out photos here, and video here). Vandana Shiva is an internationally-renowned ecofeminist activist and author. Her current work centres on issues of biopiracy and seed saving.  She has critiqued the patenting of natural materials, especially genes used in GMO crop production. She links this biopiracy to decrease global biodiversity and the growing indebtedness of farmers.


(photo credit: http://www.vandanashiva.org)

Shiva is a major advocate of seed saving and organic farming as a way to re-incorporate democracy and environmentalism back into food production. She has written several books on the subject, the most recent of which is Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also co-founded and partnered with several organizations, including Navdanya, as part of her work.

Since her talk for the CWSE, she has given numerous talks throughout the world. On December 18th of last year she gave an illustrated lecture called GMOs, Biosafety and Politics of Science in New Delhi. She also took part in a conversation with Satish Kumar on February 9th in London, UK. In April of this year Vandana Shiva and Ramin Jahanbegloo will release a book called Talking Environment: Vandana Shiva in Conversation with Ramin Jahanbegloo. Ramin Jahanbegloo is a professor at the University of Toronto who is writing a series of books based on conversations with leading Indian intellectuals.

To learn more about Vandana Shiva, check out the following links:



“Toxic Trespass”

The CWSE recently held the second session in our ongoing seminars series on “Women/Embodiment, Environments, and the Arts”, a series facilitated by Susan Aaron, a former CWSE Graduate Assistant.


“This latest seminar on January 28th was a screening of “Toxic Trespass”, a 2006 film in which artists, researchers, and educators dealing with toxins in children and environments in Ontario communities, primarily Windsor and near Sarnia, engage with citizens, governments, and environmental health scientists. Why are there residues and new toxic chemicals in these communities, and who is exposed to them and aware of them? Director Barri Cohen won the Writers Guilds of Canada award for her documentary writing in “Toxic Trespass”. The film is a co-production of the National Film Board (NFB) and If You Love our Children Productions.

toxic trespass

One of the executive producers of the film, Dr. Dorothy Goldin-Rosenberg was in attendance. She is an environmental health lecturer at OISE, an environmental health advocate, and the primary creator of the educational resources that accompany the film. Dorothy opened the discussion by explaining how the project began amongst environmental health advocates seeking to create a tool to aid education for social change. They wanted to focus on a  “cluster community” dealing with toxins. They approached the NFB, who suggested Barri as a director.

Dorothy encouraged participants at the seminar to inform themselves about the concerns of the film. She set out the popular education format of her resource material as the engagement of head, guts, and feet – notice, acknowledge need, and then become involved.

This screening at the CWSE featured the film’s writer and director Barri Cohen, who lead a discussion on the artistry and the film’s origins. She asked, how does the artistry of the film reveal how to better watch for and connect environmental and social engagements in a community?

Barri’s aesthetic is focused on investigation and participation. Encouraged by the NFB, Barrie immersed herself in the film’s community of concern, and uses of humor to make points of engagement for change more accessible. She used Michael Murphy as another example of this genre of director. She says,

“I wanted to ensure the film would engage audiences with humor and relation. We were able to therefore braid or weave the serious facts and figures and stories in with a tone that was attempted to be at times,  mordent or ironic. Rather than straight out shock and outrage – these feelings had to be couched in terms that were ironic in their disconnect with what the State says, what the State does and doesn’t do in terms of protecting our children, our human health, human health rights, and the environment.”

Barri participated to the point of testing her own and her daughter/s blood for toxins, which resulted in finding currently used and long-banned chemicals. She was welcomed into at least one of the communities as the first filmmaker approaching them.

As Barri noted,

“The 6 year old film dealt with many issues, but the overarching one being accountability around our industrial way of life –.how it implicates and affects local communities, native ones in particular, the air, water, and ground we live with – and most principally the developmental pathways of our physical development.”  

Barri’s creativity in her use of the film medium reveals these cultural frameworks at odds with health.  She also tried to be up to date over the year of filming in actions that were relevant to the film’s communities.

Barri appeared on screen traveling by car through the province’s green landscape to the cities, grounding the communities and their activists in their local environments. She began in Windsor amidst diesel truck traffic that crosses into Detroit carrying a large percentage of the province’s economy. There, a father and mother are dealing with cancers and lack of research. Barri then moved on to the Sarnia reserve of Aamjiwnaang, bordered by factories making products from oil in what is called Sarnia’s “chemical valley”. The film spoke to the large majority of the reserve children who need assistance to breathe properly. At that point literature had been published by community and scientists writing together about genetic mutations causing a percentage rise in female babies.Yet, the community activists and environmental scientists found a lack of regulation and testing of the chemicals.

Barri traveled accompanied by a carnival-like soundtrack. The humorous and macabre music distanced the viewer from the revelation of the sad norm in the children’s lives. Animation, both archival and newly created, shows the ongoing production of petroleum byproducts, and the chemical monsters disrupting genetics. Toxic scientific facts scroll across the screen, against for example a backdrop of an activist mother waiting impatiently in her kitchen for change. The landscape and the waters contrasts with the pink sky filled with black smoke from the factories. Two environmental health scientists speak about research revealing the toxins and their effects, and speak with Barri on screen about their research exposing gaps and disparity in Canadian research on poor air in cities and the effects on children.

Barri’s interactions with a Canadian health bureaucracy appear as repeated phone calls to Health Canada as she sits in her editing room. She cannot reach anyone about the film concerns. The ministry is presented by a Canadian doctor who left it as incapable of dealing with industrial momentum. However, as Dr. Devra Davis suggests, ours is not to finish what we start, but just to start. “Toxic Trespass” ends after revealing communities and researchers finding ways of starting government studies, publishing together, and creating bylaws banning pesticides.

The film is shown regularly in Toronto by the Women’s Healthy Environments Network (WHEN) and is available in the University of Toronto’s Media Commons library. Both have copies of the educational resource that covers how to learn more, network, and start to remove environmental risk in your own home. The DVD is also available at the Toronto Public Library.”

–Susan Aaron, Women/Embodiment & the Arts series facilitator

The film’s website: www.toxictrespass.com

Stepmothering: A Spiritual Journey

Jasjit Sangha, a Visiting Scholar at the CWSE, is launching her new book Stepmothering: A Spiritual Journey through Demeter Press. Congratulations Jasjit! The book launch will be Wednesday February 20 at the Gladstone Hotel (more information here).

From Jasjit:

This book, written in the style of a memoir, is about my journey as a stepmother and the personal and spiritual transformation I engaged in through this role. I show the pressure to be a “good mother” and “good step- mother” left me feeling inadequate, resentful and angry I negotiated loyalty conflicts and cultural differences in my bi-racial stepfamily. Rather than succumbing to this pressure, I describe how I restored my sense of self through nurturing my spirituality.

I worked on preparing this work for publication as a Visiting Scholar at the CWSE, and I am thankful for the support and encouragement I have always received for my work.

Links of Interest

CWSE Associates have been sending in bits of feminist news they’ve found interesting:

From Nora
Would the world be more peaceful if women were in charge? A challenging new book by the Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker says that the answer is “yes.”

A new study on violence against women conducted over four decades and in 70 countries reveals the mobilization of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians.

From Pam:

Anti-Feminist Ideals in 50 Shades of Grey:

“These books tell women that they want not only to be objectified, their bodies ravaged by objects and men for whom they will attach themselves to the rack to please, but also that they want to be dominated—in the bedroom and outside of it. It’s pornography in its purest form, and pornography thrives because men demand it. In this case, both Meyer and James are helping to the contribution of it, enabling the industry and patriarchy, and indoctrinating the idea that women want to be subjugated for the sake of love. One mom said to me, “This book has saved my marriage,” which proves that women now must bring handcuffs to the bedroom and assume the submissive and servile position in bed to keep the romance alive in their marriage. These books are not helping us form our own identities as women, or helping us locate our own sexual desires exclusive to what pleases men in bed…. Meyer and James have successfully “turned” the mainstream female reader into the housewife who can only save her marriage by putting on a school uniform while being handcuffed to a rack. There is nothing feminist in this. There is nothing empowering or progressive about these women writers, who reinforce stereotypical ideals of womanhood, and it is sad that we [not me!] are buying into it.”

Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way


On Tuesday, January 29th I attended a preview of the play “Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way” presented by the Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto. I saw it  as part of a course that I am taking at OISE about Aboriginal world views and education. The play was performed by its author, Monique Mojica, and Elder Gloria Miguel.

Throughout the 70-minute play I was taken through beautiful, intertwining stories of creation and contemporary experience that were highlighted by monologue “duets” by the two actors, beautiful banners, Aboriginal language, and movement.  Throughout the play the centrality of women was clear: the women in the stories had a moral authority and power that I had rarely experienced as a white woman growing up in Anglo-Canadian culture.

My understanding of specific events throughout the play rose and fell as it shifted between storylines and language that I was not familiar with. The production embraced a non-linear form of storytelling to decolonize traditional structured storytelling. It was not until the class debrief where someone asked, “so…what happened?” that I realized that many of my fellow students had a similar experience.

While the class was chatting in the lobby, the remount director Jill Carter (the original director was unable to come to Canada) spoke to us about the play. Jill explained to the class that the play was in part a reflection of the author’s experience of having parents from two different Aboriginal communities, and her partner being from a third Aboriginal community. The fact that the play moved between moments of understanding and misunderstanding meant that participants could continue to reflect on the play and learn from it hours, days, or even years later.  Jill also spoke to us about the challenges that the actresses faced in addressing transgenerational violence though re-learning their own language for the play.

“Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way” not only teaches the content of Indigenous stories, but it is an act of resistance and a celebrated reclamation of Indigenous language, healing, art, and ways of being.

–Andrea Weerdenberg, CWSE GA


Native Earth Presents

Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way

by Monique Mojica

A Chocolate Woman Collective Production

“There’s no one in the world like her (Monique Mojica), and you’ve never seen anything like Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way.” – Susan G. Cole of NOW Magazine

At Native Earth Performing Arts, we work to decolonize our artistic practice. This canrange from refusing to be content with contemporary labels, to incorporating spiritualritual in the creation and rehearsal process. Monique Mojica and Gloria Miguel are twoartists who have forged the path towards making this kind of conversation possible. Each woman defies the basic term “actor” or “actor/playwright.” These women arecreators, innovators, risk-takers and teachers. It is quite fitting that interwoven inChocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way is a creation story.

w w w . n a t i v e e a r t h . c a


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