So first things first: What is ElleBeaver?
Basically – I love reading blogs and websites like xojane.com and Jezebel. They curate interesting, fun, informative articles about current issues, celebrities, fashion, beauty, sex, relationships, personal stories, and anything else you can think of – all from a feminist perspective. The sites aren’t academic, but they offer more than just YouTube videos of cats and “Who Wore it Best” articles. Not to mention, these sites provided myself and others with an inclusive space to read, share, learn and feel connected with other like-minded individuals.
I love these sites, but can’t help feeling like something is missing. I read story after story of debates in the US over abortion, birth control, same sex marriage, LBGTQ rights and other important issues. I read countless articles discussing prominent news articles in the States that affect women – recently was the recent coverage of the Steubenville rape case.
Like I said, this is great, and I’m glad that sites like these exist as a space for dynamic, truthful conversations where writers and commenters are truly free to express their own opinions. Missing, though, was a space for me. A space where issues from my own country are discussed. Mainstream newspapers here are (supposedly, though obviously problematically) unbiased. There isn’t room for real opinions or real discussion and serious issues don’t make it to light.
Sure. In Canada, our debates about abortion, birth control and same sex marriage aren’t nearly as prominent as they are in the States, but they do exist. We don’t exactly live in some kind of enlightened society in which women are truly treated as equals to men. Far from it.
Sure. Canadian newspapers will report on issues relevant to women, they just don’t offer any real variety of perspectives. We need a space for discussion. We – Canadian feminists – need a public space where we can share our very real problems and not just talk about everything on a fluffy, surface level.
When I sat down to read the news and to write this ‘Intro to ElleBeaver’ piece. I was thrown off by the number of articles I read that day that made me realize more than ever why we need this website.
Canada can be pretty fucked up sometimes, and we need to stop pretending it isn’t.
- The Toronto Star posted a warning about a recall of Alysena 28 – casually mentioning that Health Canada waited 5 days after learning about the ineffective birth control pills to issue the recall. The recall was hardly publicized.
- The CBC reported that, apparently, if you lose your job just after returning from a pregnancy leave, you do not qualify for EI. They had a quotation from an employment lawyer who called the law “extremely discriminatory.” They had a story from a woman who this happened to. The mentioned that the same rule doesn’t even apply to convicted criminals, just new mothers and fathers.
- The Toronto Star had an article about Dr. Stanley Bo-Shui Chung, who is accused of sexually abusing, and performing unnecessary pelvic examinations on at least 19 of his patients. The article mentions that these charges are not criminal, but merely part of a disciplinary hearing by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. They don’t mention that this type of hearing rarely results in actually taking away a doctor’s license.
- There were articles about Kelly Davidson, a brave and beautiful breast-cancer survivor from Ottawa, who posted photos of the gorgeous tattoo she has on her chest, only to have the photos removed from Facebook.
- There was this despicable and confusing article in the Toronto Star describing the sexual assault of a 19-year-old boy by four, 30-something year old women. The author insults the fact that the definition of sexual assault includes “merely unwanted touching” something she (yep) refers to as “annoying for an adult woman” – clearly not something we should actually complain about. She also has killer lines such as “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s sexual fantasy come true.”
She manages to make fun of both the victim and the attackers (calling them a “fat and butchy doll crew”.. seriously.) and completely removes the severity of the situation by calling it a “bizarre anomaly.” The article ends with this gem: “Wanted: Bad girls in black minidresses and stilettos, approach with caution.” As if the sexual assault of a man by a woman is just some kind of bad joke.
- Finally (not at all finally, but the last that I’ll mention here) – we read about Rehtaeh Parsons. A young girl from Nova Scotia who committed suicide after she was allegedly raped by four of her peers, and bullied constantly and viciously for the next three years because a photo of the incident was circulated around her school and community. We read that Rehtaeh’s mother started a Facebook group because the RCMP told her that there was “insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.” She feels the Canadian justice system has failed her daughter.
Rehtaeh’s story is the only one of these that has “legs” – the only story that the news media has decided to continue looking into, and continue reporting on. The case has been reopened and there is an independent investigation looking into it. That’s great – but I can’t help but wonder how much of that would have even happened if it weren’t for the previous publicity of the Steubenville rape case. If journalists learned about Rehtaeh Parsons before Steubenville happened, would we be reading about it today? Would it have been considered “newsworthy” enough for our national papers to pick up on? The Steubenville gang rape case was “complicated” by an American blogger who took screen-grabs of the Twitter feeds from the attackers and their friends.
We shouldn’t need to wait for young American girls to be gang-raped before anyone starts to care about the same thing happening here.
Our newspapers provide us with facts. We need a place to honestly and openly discuss what those facts mean, what they tell us about our society, and what we need to do to change that. We need a place to share real stories – the everyday sexism and sexual assault that the news media won’t report on.
We can, as women, as men, as Canadians – carve that space out for ourselves. We have to.