Feminism & Activism

by Naomie Tat on Mai 16, 2017 - 1:47am

When volunteering at the Women’s Center of Montreal, on April 28th, I attended a discussion with 27 people of various age groups, with 23 of them being female, on how to integrate women immigrants into our community. As I have been writing about sexual violence as well as various women’s issues for the past couple of months, attending such a discussion has really helped me open my eyes and truly realize how important those issues are. Those are not light issues which only affect certain people. They are present right now, right here in our community and all around it. As 27 of us talked, you could see our common goal: make our community as welcoming and comfortable as possible for female immigrants. We talked about many interesting things such as how feminism is being more and more popular, how that may facilitate the integration of women immigrants in the community compared to a few years ago, how those women may be further targeted for sexual assault and how that could be prevented. 

 

In The New York Times’ “March, Huddle, Fight: Why Feminism Is Back in a Big Way”, published on March 31st, 2017, by Katha Pollitt, the author talks about the concept of feminism, its evolution since the 1950s and how the United-States election of Donald Trump fueled a new form of activism (Feminism & Activism), such as the recent Women's March and the many different protests fighting for gender equality. Despite being famously known for his “misogynous insults, sexist statements and gross behavior”, as well as the well-known fact that he wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act, Trump won the vote and support of 53 percent of white women. However, the women’s movement was also motivated by Hillary Clinton’s loss as well as the sexist discriminatory remarks and threats she got for her campaign to become the first-ever female president in the White House. A few years ago, being a feminist was looked down upon and only a small number of feminist activists admitted to being advocates of women’s rights and gender equality. For the past few months, people have finally realized that “Feminism is cool […]”. Issues like campus sexual violence and various celebrity role models, such as Beyoncé and Emma Watson, demonstrated to young adults the importance of feminism in today’s society. The concept of intersectionality, which understands that people can belong to multiple societal boxes, has also helped bring millions of women together and is solely the solution to some of many various issues which can be identified. 

 

Today, feminism is better understood and accepted by people of all genders, origins, religions, etc. For the longest time, people thought it was only advocating women’s rights and stomping on men’s rights. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, people are understanding that despite its name being “feminism”, the concept is all about gender equality, fighting for equal opportunity and equal rights. Despite the rise of feminism in the past years, the issue of sexual harassment is still extremely present and the lack of reports is on-going.  Women almost never report sexual violence cases. Most cases happen in the workplace and the victims are threatened to lose their jobs and careers if they filed a complaint, which is why nothing is reported. According to “It’s Not Just Fox: Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment”, an article published on April 10th, 2017, written by Clair Cain Miller, only a quarter to a third of people who have been harassed at work report it to a supervisor or union representative, and only 2 percent to 13 percent file a formal complaint, according to a meta-analysis of studies by Lilia Cortina of the University of Michigan and Jennifer Berdahl of the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business.” Women are made to believe that no other companies would want to work with them if they complained because they will certainly lose their jobs. They also believe that if someone has been getting away with sexually assaulting people, it must mean that the company does not care to do anything. Miller, in her article, lists different actions, suggested by commission and researchers, which can be taken to make women feel more at ease with reporting their cases to the Human Resources department of their companies whenever they have been sexual harassed.  It is all about “company culture”. First of all, she suggests that companies authorize dozens of people throughout the organization to receive complaints. By doing so, people become more comfortable in their environment and can choose, by themselves, which of those people is most reliable and who they want to complain to. Other suggestions listed in the article include to promote more women to positions of power, to train employees to be active and responsible bystanders by being civil colleagues, to “put in proportional consequences, so that [smaller cases] can be handled with conversations instead of firings or legal action”, etc. 

 

The integration of women immigrants in our community has to also be done when finding those women jobs. When moving into a foreign country, it is very difficult to find back your voice and feel comfortable in your new environment. The fact that not only women but also transgender people, handicapped people, and foreigners/ immigrants are more likely to be sexually assaulted, it becomes a very important issue to discuss when wanting to welcome new female immigrants into our country as they are part of the most targeted group of people and are more vulnerable to being attacked. We want them to feel included in the community and not in danger of being sexual violated. The question is: Will we ever do enough to help integrate women immigrants into our community?

 

Here is the link to the short video I have put together to depict the definition as well as the evolution of the concepts of "feminism" and "activism": https://youtu.be/4-dhsag_gt8

 

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Here are a few links to the works cited:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/us/march-huddle-fight-why-feminism-is-back-in-a-big-way.html

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/upshot/its-not-just-fox-why-women-dont-report-sexual-harassment.html?_r=0

http://en.centredesfemmesdemtl.org/mission/

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About the author

Naomie Tat currently studies Digital Arts & New Media (2D & 3D Animation) at Champlain College Saint-Lambert. She is a Montreal-born International Baccalaureate program high school graduate.