Gwendolyn Allen is my newest feminist hero. I was at Toronto’s Koerner Hall last October to hear journalist (and regular Broadview contributor) Sally Armstrong deliver her final CBC Massey Lecture on gender equality. During the question period, 12-year-old Gwendolyn bravely stepped up to the mic to ask Armstrong, in front of 1,000 people, for advice on how to get boys in her class to listen when she makes presentations about sexism. “They often kind of shrug and sigh and get angry that I talk about it a lot,” she explained.
I found Gwendolyn’s clarity of thought and confidence deeply inspiring. At her age, I’m not sure I was even aware of gender inequality or saw myself as someone who could effect change. My activism came later, in university, when I took my first women’s studies course, devoured issues of Ms. magazine, marched in Take Back the Night rallies and scrawled suffragist Nellie McClung’s famous words into my notebooks: “Never retract, never explain, never apologize — get the thing done and let them howl.”
International Women’s Day on March 8 offers a time to reflect on how far women have come and the long road ahead. Women are still paid less than men. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 202 years to close the pay gap. Violence against women is still prevalent. Every two and a half days, a woman or girl is killed in Canada — most likely by a man she knows. And women are still under-represented in media. According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, only 27 percent of those featured in Canadian news stories are women.
Given these statistics, Broadview is committed to raising awareness about gender inequality in order to challenge the status quo and possibly improve life for women — and men. As Armstrong told Gwendolyn, “Do you know how to get the boys’ attention? Just keep telling them how equality is good for everybody.”
In this issue, we’re tackling one form of gender-based violence that’s too often only mentioned in whispers, if at all: female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). This practice impacts millions of girls around the world in an attempt to obliterate women’s sexuality. Vancouver journalist Roberta Staley travelled to Kenya where Dr. Angela Deane, a Calgary medical resident who is advocating for better training in Canada, learned to perform clitoral reconstruction surgery. As well, Zahra Khozema, one of Broadview’s 2019 interns, writes about her own experience with FGM/C.
Both stories are not easy reads. But I hope you won’t shrug, sigh, get angry or turn away. They took so much courage to write, and they offer so much hope for the future.
This editorial first appeared in Broadview’s March 2020 issue with the title “Equal rights.”
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