Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute [Rebecca West]

I'm generally not one to spend much time on feminist thought... I'm more likely to be interested in issues of poverty and unequal access to resources than I am in gender inequality... I personally can't think of a time where I've felt as though I have been disadvantaged by being a woman, other than occasional hesitations about walking by myself at night or travelling alone (which I by no means think is an OK state of affairs). However, I noticed something today that made me wonder about more subversive forms of gender inequality, and who is playing a part in it.

Today I was at a training session that was attended by around 30 professionals in the mental health and addictions field. As you might be able to guess, in a room full of social service workers, there were about 22 women and 8 men. At one point we were asked to split up into 5 groups and then within our group appoint a representative to speak for us. Four of the groups had at least one male member and in all four of those groups a male acted as the representative.

As I noticed this I took note of how it had happened in my group. There was one male in my group and when we were instructed to pick a representative he was the first to ask "who wants to talk". When the women in the group all looked around in silence he said, "I'll do it". I pointed out what I noticed to a male friend who had been the representative for his group. He replied, "No one else offered to do it".

In both these instances, he wasn't taking the lead away from the women, they were giving it to him. Why didn't any women take the lead (myself included)? Why did we passively sit by and let the men do the stepping up?

Now, being your group's representative at a small workshop is hardly important in the grand scheme of things, but it made me wonder... if women were giving up their power and influence in this environment (a room full of counsellors is probably the safest place you could dream of for putting yourself out there), what other arenas is this playing out in? And as it plays out in arenas with bigger consequences, what effect is that having on our gender and on the world?

As I work with a population of young women, who regularly give away much bigger parts of themselves than their chance to lead a group, these questions are gaining more and more importance for me. What do we need to build up in our young women in order to empower them to be strong and be seen?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations -
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.
                                                             -By Mary Oliver

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sleep, don't weep, my sweet love...

We all have ways of self-soothing.
Babies can not self-sooth, they are developmentally incapable and rely on their parents to provide the soothing they need. As we grow up the goal is to find appropriate ways to calm ourselves when our emotions threaten to get out of control.
The youth I work with have unhealthy ways of self-soothing. They depend on drugs, alcohol, self harm, and promiscuity. One of the goals of counselling is to help them find healthier ways.
My methods of self-soothing are apparently healthier. My main tactic is watching TV or movies. This week, as I've attempted to give up TV during Lent, I've been forced to find other ways to self-sooth like eating, reading, journalling, or cooking.
But I started to wonder, are these methods really so much healthier than what my clients use when really I should be getting my comfort from God?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On my bedside table: ROOM by Emma Donoghue

At the end of a year there are always a lot of "best of" lists floating around and at the end of 2010 I noticed that this book, ROOM by Emma Donoghue, was near the top of many best book lists. This was enough to peak my interest and after a quick read of the synopsis I knew I had to read it!

ROOM is told in the voice of 5 year old Jack who lives in an 11x11 room with his mother, a young woman who was kidnapped 7 years ago when she was 19 years old. The idea for the story was triggered by this case.

I stayed up reading this book until 4 am last night! Its been a long time since a story captured me so strongly. Having the story narrated by Jack and exploring a unusual life and major changes in circumstance through his eyes definitely increases the interest level of the story.

However, what really stood out to me is what a great mother he had! It blew my mind how she was able to be so present with him and worked so hard to approximate a normal life through routine and creativity even in the midst of such horrifying circumstances. Although I know this is a fictional story, it created negative feelings in me towards mothers with freedom and access to resources who do not work as hard to create security for their own children. I suppose in the book she had no other priority because Jack was all she had, but shouldn't all children be treated as number one by their parents?

This is definitely a book I recommend :)