By columnist Diana Pearson
This Thursday, March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). Beginning in 1908, IWD is a day to acknowledge women’s struggles, and celebrate their successes in all walks of life. Women have fought for, and continue to fight for, the right to vote, the right to own property, to have reproductive freedom (birth control and abortion), to go to school, to participate in positions of leadership, and to be safe from violence and discrimination in many ways.
In Canada women are still prey to sexual and physical violence: One in four experience sexual assault in their lifetime, and an estimated one in six of these assaults are reported to police. Some women feel the impacts of gender oppression more strongly than others, including Indigenous, trans, and disabled women, as well as women of colour and women in low socio-economic positions. First Nations, Inuit, and Metis women face sexual and physical violence in much higher proportions; at least 1200 (according to the RCMP) and as high as 4000 (as researched by the Native Women’s Association) Indigenous women have been murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012. Trans women face verbal threats, discrimination, harassment, and violence, making them vulnerable to mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, and suicide.
It is not all doom and gloom. There are lots of reasons to celebrate the success of the women in our lives. So, here’s a “to-do” list for International Women’s Day. Of course, these tasks can be done any day, not just on Women’s Day, but it’s a fun place to start.
In your personal life:
• Write a card, a letter, or tell a woman in your life how much you appreciate them.
• Cook them their favourite meal or drop off a treat at their doorstep.
• “We can’t be what we can’t see,” so thank the female role models in your life for being awesome.
• Set some time aside for intimate fun. If you have a female partner, pleasure her sexually or intimately in a way that they desire, when they desire it.
• Find a woman in your life who is of a different generation (mother, grandmother, aunt, friend) or geographic region from you, and compare your experiences of their upbringing. We can learn a lot from each other in this way, including hearing about how things have (or have not) changed.
• Take a mirror and look at your bits, and take time to “get to know” your vulva in all its uniqueness and beauty. Patriarchal porn exposes us too often to “one” type of vulva (neat, hairless, bleached, trimmed), but in reality, vulvas are varied and diverse, and unique in their beauty.
• Take a day off (or plan ahead to take a day off when you can). Overexertion in our lives can exacerbate our hormones, stress us out, and wreak havoc on our lady bits.
• The personal is political! Start a consciousness-raising circle—gather a group of women together to share your experiences as women, with the goal of raising awareness and addressing sex and gender-related oppression in your daily lives.
• Ask your professors to include more women-related material (cis and trans women) in their curriculum if they aren’t already doing so.
• If you’re a woman (cis, trans, and gender variant included), join VIUSU Women’s Collective. The Women’s Collective meets regularly, hosts speaker events, and provides support to women on campus. For more info, join their Facebook group or contact Chantelle Spicer at email@example.com.
• Learn about the Positive Space Alliance (PSA) on campus; find out about film showings, orientations, events, and initiatives they’re doing to make VIU a more inclusive campus for individuals who are LGBTQIA2+. Not sure what that acronym stands for? Attend an orientation and find out!
There are lots of ways to contribute to the well-being and safety of women in the Nanaimo community. Here are a few ways you can get involved:
• Donate items to Nanaimo’s Haven House. Their wishlist varies, but you can always donate non-perishable food items, bus tickets, gift cards for grocery stores, and new toiletries (pads and tampons). Visit havensociety.com/donate-to-haven for more info.
• Apply to volunteer with the Nanaimo Women’s Centre. They welcome all sorts of help, including skills we as students are learning at VIU (Media Studies student? Apply to host a photography workshop. Culinary Arts? Host a nutrition workshop. Business student? Host a basic budgeting workshop, etc.). For more information, visit nanaimowomen.com/volunteer-opportunities.
• 24 percent of Canadian women cannot afford or access birth control. MP Irene Mathyssen is urging the Liberal Government to pass a motion to work with all provinces to ensure contraceptive costs are covered nation-wide. Write her to show your support. Write to Sheila Malcolmson (local MP) and Terry Lake (Minister of Health BC) to ask for their support in this as well.
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One of Diana’s passions is to encourage sex-positivity and open, shameless conversations about sex and sexuality through her column, “Dirtyin’ The Nav.” Her future path includes completing a Masters in Gender Studies and Social Justice, and teaching pleasure-based sex education. She is a non-fiction writer and a musician. As a copy editor, she revels in making The Nav look pretty.