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Judy Rebick's Blog
Judy Rebick is one of Canada's most celebrated and well-known feminist thinkers, critics and writers. She is the founder of rabble.ca.
in a wide swath of red, thousands upon thousands of people hit the streets in quiet Quebec City last Saturday with a cacophony of chants, drums and quiet conversations snaking through the tiny ancient streets of the old city emerging into a park. There organizers distributed large, square red construction paper. As one, we raised our voices and our red squares forming a giant thermometer as seen from the sky. A meme instantly appeared on social media under the thermometer: "We are reaching the boiling point, so has our planet." It was a combination of genius and good organizing.
It is traditional on International Women's Day to celebrate the advances we have made as women. As I began my on-again off-again career as a journalist in the 1960s, it is easy to look back and see monumental advances.
Violence against women was epidemic, but it wasn't until December 6, 1989 that the veil covering misogyny was lifted through an act of such fury and hatred it could not be explained any other way. That terrible act of violence allowed many of us to remember, to admit to ourselves or to speak to others about the violence we had suffered at the hands of men.
In that way, the aftermath of the Montreal Massacre 25 years ago had similarities to the unprecedented discussion of sexual assault and sexual harassment unleashed after the Ghomeshi scandal that we are experiencing now.
I first met John Greyson, now in an Egyptian prison, in the 1990s when he called me to ask if I would like to play a red blood corpuscle in his brilliant AIDS musical comedy Zero Patience. The shoot was in the pool of a downtown community centre. When it became clear that we would be in the pool for a few hours, I asked, "John, can I wear my glasses?" He put a finger to his chin, looked a little perplexed and said, "I don't see why a red blood corpuscle can't wear glasses?" Turning to one of his camera people, he asked "do you?" We all burst out laughing.
Flora MacDonald, a Progressive Conservative elected in 1972, tells a story that illustrates something of what women politicians faced:
"I worked twice as hard as anybody. You had to work hard. I had decided early in my career in the House that I would change the custom that only dresses were suitable, so one day I wore a pantsuit into the House of Commons. It was a beautiful pantsuit. I had bought it in France, and it was good quality. That became a front-page photograph right across Canada.
As an aging feminist I am often asked to speak about the progress we have made as feminists and how much is left to do. It gets depressing sometimes because of the persistance of violence against women and economic inequality. I am despairing of the deep gendered divide in children's toys and the heavy load placed upon young women expected to be beautiful, thin, successful, a great mom and too often chief cook and bottle washer at home. Not to mention daily viewing the old Reform party anti-feminists running the country.
I think we will look back at 2012 as the year that everything changed. The year began with what became a powerful strike of Quebec students against an intransigent government and ended with an historic movement of Indigenous peoples across the country declaring they will be Idle No More.