You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t cringe at some of the unsightly portrayals of our fellow sisters infiltrating screens and magazines these days. You and I know there’s a lot more to life than mixed drinks and skinny jeans, and it totally sucks that our brains and brawn aren’t adequately represented at times. However, there certainly are lots of reasons to celebrate being female in this free country of ours. Canada’s history of feminism has manifested in many forms across the years, and continues to hold a prominent scene of its own. To me, this is exactly what International Women’s Day is all about.
Toronto is a big city with all kinds of people – including a few sketchies- but I feel safe here. I’m thankful that I can hail a bus anywhere at any time of night. I’m glad I don’t have to sacrifice all the nightlife this city has to offer just because I recoil at the thought of trudging down Landsdowne in the dark. As you’ve probably heard the automated subway voice say, women travelling alone between 9 PM and 5 AM can use the request stop program. That is, you can get off and on the wherever heart desires. The TTC can be an enduring source of anguish for those of us who have made the good decision to use it, but the request stop program makes life more comfortable, especially in those late night scenarios when you decide to be a good kid and leave the party early. Leaving alone doesn’t mean you have to be punished for your responsible decisions!
I’m also thankful that our health care system makes it easy for us to be responsible. Medical developments are constantly being made to help women specifically. Earlier this year, I got a chance to interview a scientist / endocrinologist at the Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto. Talking to Dr. Lipscombe, I learned all about the cutting edge growth that’s going on at the hospital downtown, which is devoted exclusively to women. The hospital was created based on interviews of 1,000 women, and continues to operate according to their diverse health care desires. I was shocked to learn that 76% of the women interviewed said that they felt uncomfortable in hospital environments. How is being stuck in an anxiety producing environment conducive to healing? The Women’s College Hospital makes sure there are no communication barriers between patients and doctors, and makes the most of their time there, priding itself on its status as a one stop shop for health care. I’m so glad to see such an efficient organization serving women for everything from eating disorders to sexual health, and always looking for new ways to improve.
After a close friend of mine (who has never had unprotected sex in her life) was diagnosed with HPV, I couldn’t help but become a bit of an HPV awareness activist on her account. I was outraged (and totally terrified) to hear about such an injustice, especially when so many people I know don’t practice safe sex. The kicker is, HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact, so you don’t even have to have intercourse to catch it. HPV is so easily spread, it’s scary. Hence, along the line of medical advances I humbly thank the goddesses of sexual health for is the Gardasil vaccine that recently came out. It’s the only HPV vaccine to date that protects against 4 types of HPV, two of which cause 75% of cervical cancer cases. If you’re under 26 and want to protect yourself 100% against HPV, take advantage of it this small provider of peace of mind offered to us by our health care system.
If the vaccine wasn’t talked about around my school, I might not have found out about it. I’m happy Toronto has an open dialogue about sexuality and safety, and embraces a be-yourself attitude. Tourists applaud Toronto’s vibrant gay and lesbian scene, which is one of the largest in any Canadian city. From parties like Snakepit at Henhouse and Granny Boots at the Gladstone, to the long list of magazines and blogs we host (xtra.ca, superdyke.com), we’re out-and-about in a major way. The Toronto’s Women’s bookstore (73 Harbord St.) advocates for these resources (in a long list of links on their website along with the works of other female First Nations, Jewish, and disabled female authors. The representation of these groups is so important because often, mainstream lit doesn’t even assume they are a part of their readership. The bookstore struggled hard this year, as other indie bookstores like Pages died around it. After a few rocky stops and starts, TWB still with us, continuing to promote its wide range of alternative female literature.
I’m thankful to live in a country that places such a high value on the arts, and Toronto’s willingness to fight for indie bookstores is just one example of that. Furthermore, Canada is so proud to call itself home to so many talented and real female artists. Feist, Emily Haines, kd lang, and Jully Black are a few international icons who, just by being their bad selves and making incredible music, have shown the world that female talent is an imperative part of music on a global scale. I’m pretty sure “Money Jane” was my high school anthem before I even realized the meaning of “buying brothers ice” (I went to high school in a small town, ok?) I wanted to scream with feminine pride when I first heard Emily Haines belt Glass Ceiling, a slick jam referring to the discrimination women in our generation are still subjected to in the workforce. Emily’s signature badass style just makes me think of her rocking a leather jacket and kicking sand in the faces of meathead dudes on the beaches of Toronto.
… Not that there’s anything wrong with a little meathead here and there. They too have their due place on the Jersey Shore and fist poundin’ up in the club. I just think being female is bomb, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Look around you today and notice the things that make it awesome to be a girl. Crank some Aretha while you’re getting ready for work, or make a collage of women who inspire you and hang it in a place that you see every day. I hope you have a love-filled International Women’s Day, and give all your righteous female friends a well deserved high five for being an invaluable part of your life!