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2003

So hard to say goodbye

par Michele Landsberg, journaliste






Écrits d'Élaine Audet



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DANS LA MEME RUBRIQUE


Burkini Is a Feminist Issue Too
The notion that it’s ok for disabled men to pay for sex is rooted in misogyny and ableism
Egyptian doctor living in Zurich produces educational videos about health and sexuality for the Arab world
Amnesty International and Prostitution : Not in Our Name !
Open letter to rabble.ca - Support Meghan Murphy suffered a misogynist campaign by the sex industry lobby
"Insectual - The Secret of the Black Butterfly", by Barbara Sala
Canada’s New Sex Trade Law
Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism
“Harm reduction” is not enough to appropriately analyze prostitution
True Progressives Encourage Women’s Equality, Not Their Prostitution
Sexual mutilations outside Africa : new report and new denial except the Iraqi case
FGM slowing down ? The UN asserts it, the Indonesian case contradicts it
Prostitution, STRASS and the senator - When opacity becomes relevant
Is equating prostitution and rape ‘intolerable violence’ ? Really ?
Obama, Madonna and us
After Ontario Courts rule on Bedford : a rant
Comparing Sex Buyers and Non-Sex Buyers July 2011 (Boston)
Sex resistance in heterosexual arrangements
Abolitionists of the prostitution system : who we are, what we want !
Women Living Under Muslim Laws Statement on Libya
Prostitution is a Threat to Humanity
Prostitution - Call for Australia’s prostitution laws to be tightened
Violence - An Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers
Nothing that is sexual can be considered criminal : hidden sexual violence in the DSK case
The Truth about Global Sex Slavery – A Book by Lydia Cacho
Why reproductive rights and prostitution are not the same thing : A response to one decriminalization argument
Prostitution - The abolitionist project within the conference Women’s Worlds 2011
Montreal - The Turcotte jury got it wrong
Reasons I Will Not Go On the Slutwalk
International Sex Industries and their Accomplices Hamper the Autonomy of All Women
Ten Critical Reasons for getting rid of Harper’s Conservatives
Real solidarity with prostituted women is in the fight for abolition of prostitution
Decriminalize prostituted persons and criminalize those who exploit them (‘johns’ and pimps)
Polygamy in Canada Should Remain Illegal
My fears of the push for indoors prostitution
We cannot be satisfied with the simple harm-reduction model
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is Worried About Himel’s Judgement on Prostitution
Ontario Court Decision Abandons Aboriginal Women and Women of Colour to Pimps
Response to the VPD review in the cases of the Pickton Murders
Speech - The effects of globalization of political Islam on Women’s Rights, the question with polygamy, the Niqab and Honour Killing
Quebec Forges Enlightened Trail on Burkas
Breast Cancer a Disease, No a Marketing Opportunity
The International Campaign To Closedown Iranian Embassies
Violation of rights in Iran, a window from my experience to a broader picture
"Sex worker" ? Never met one !
The Prostitutors
The One Million Signatures Campaign has been awarded the prestigious Global Women’s Rights Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation
Prostitution - Feminist Perspectives, a book
Prostitution : Violating the Human Rights of Poor Women
More than 1 000 american historians call for equity in the stimulus package in open letter to Obama
Order of Canada Awarded to Dr. Morgentaler - Acts of intimidation should not rule Canada
Femaid report on Afghanistan, May 2008
Time for Quebecers to be more open : Bouchard-Taylor report
Canadian Bar Association supports strengthening equality in the Quebec Charter
Zero Tolerance for Johns : How the Government of Sweden Would Respond to Spitzer
Politicians are responsible for toxic, misogynist environment facing girls
Spitzer - The Myth of the Victimless Crime
Goodbye To All That (#2)
The freedom to never prostitute oneself
NO legalized brothels for the Olympics 2010 - Aboriginal women’s Action Network statement on prostitution
CLES says NO to the violence of prostitution
Does Porn Make the Man ?
A Trip Into the Absurd
Mothers File International Complaint Against United States
Prostitutes are victims, not criminals
Anthology of Québec Women’s Plays in English Translation, Volume I (1966-1986)
The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (CLES) intervene during the upcoming provincial election
Prostitution - Three Women and a Debate
Men Favour the Apolitical Discourse on Prostitution
The Whole Truth Must be Told : Sylviane’s testimony on her experience of prostitution
Democracy and Religious Obligations : an Impasse ?
What is liberation ? Feminism past, present and future
Books by Andrea Dworkin
Globalization, Militarism and Sex Trafficking
Muslim Groups Denounce the Cultural Relativism of a Certain Left
Canadian Muslim leader alleges her veil views sparked vandalism
Prostitution : CATW’S Post-World Cup Statement
NOW to denounce so-called parental alienation
Prostitution : for an Abolitionist Bill
The dimensions of trafficking for purposes of prostitution
"Charm is a Guise ; Batterers Belong in Jail, Expert Says"
Interview with Catherine MacKinnon : Are Women Human ?
Danish cartoons - Doing away with the Enlightenment ?
It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers
Green Light for Pimps and Johns
Buying Sex is not a Sport
Prostitution is Violence Against Women
The Ideal Site for the Crime
Tell me, what does "gender" really mean ?
Gunilla Ekberg : « The best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them to get out of prostitution »
Interview with Catharine A. MacKinnon : « They haven’t crushed me yet. »
Decriminalizing prostitution, a magnet for pimps and johns
Lovesick
Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law
Prostitution : Towards a Canadian policy of abolition
Prostitution inseparable of violence against women
The need for a public debate on prostitution and its social consequences
Prostitution of First Nations Women in Canada
270 000 $ granted to Stella for a four days event on sex work
IN MEMORIAM : Andrea Dworkin or The passion for justice
Decriminalizing prostitution will not improve the security of prostituted women
Dworkin - Taking Back the Night
Backlash and Whiplash : A Critique of Statistics Canada’s 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization
Helping the prostituted women or promoting prostitution ?
The Need for a Public Debate on Prostitution and its Social Consequences
The legalization of prostitution and its impact on trafficking in women and children
Prostitution Links, Women’s Justice Center
"If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits"
Sweden Treating Prostitution as Violence Against Women
Forced marriage as crime
Why Women Must Get out of Men’s Laps
International Campaing Against Shari’a Court in Canada
Decriminalize prostituted women, not prostitution
Canada Contributes to the Sexual Trafficking of Women for Purposes of Prostitution
Fathers’ Rights Groups in Australia and their Engagement with Issues in Family Law
Women Rage Against ’Rape’ in Northeast India
Sexual domination in uniform : an american value
Tribunals Will Marginalize Canadian Muslin Women and Increase Privatization of Family Law
The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war
Queer theory and violence against women
The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment
Globalization and the Sex Trade : Trafficking and the Commodification of Women and Children
Will Paternal Paranoia Triumph ?
Ode to Survivors
Court confirms any woman’s human right to organize with peers
Program produces motherless kids
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part One)
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN International Labour Organization Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part Two)
Elisabeth Badinter distorts feminism the better to fight it
Prostitution : Rights of Women or Right to Women ?
The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax : Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes
Hormone Replacement Therapy, the "Magic Bullet" Ricochets
For the sake of the children : the law, domestic violence and children contact in England
Friendships between women good for health
Children of divorce need our protection
Divorce Bill’s flaws inadvertently aid abusers
Problem isn’t little boys, it’s little minds
A report from Status of Women Canada about the discursive denial of gender inequalities
Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution
Poem for Peace
Peace Rally Speech of a 12 year old American Girl
Good clone, bad clone ?
Canadian Women’s Health Network







This last column is the hardest one to write. A rush of memories (battles won and lost, battles ongoing) tangles with hopelessly mixed emotions. Happily, I’ll have time to write those books a patient publisher expected two years ago, or even, for once, to mulch my garden before spring thaw sets in.

And yet, although I’ll be returning to these pages from time to time with freelance pieces, it’s so hard to turn my back for good on the steady framework of my working life : the office, the colleagues, the tick-tock of deadlines, the power and pay of a staff column in the country’s biggest paper, the chance to sound off on subjects dear to my feminist soul.

Just last week, during a series of lectures at the University of Windsor, I repeatedly heard the old refrain : "I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men," or "I don’t say I’m a feminist because I don’t want people to think I’m a man-hater." I first tackled that one back in 1978, when I began writing daily for the Star’s Family section.

In our culture, now as then, claiming equal rights and power with men is deemed to be the equivalent of hating them individually. It’s an idiotic fabrication, but an effective tactic to shut up girls and women who would rather be gagged than risk social isolation.

Even women who actively fight sexism may back-pedal furiously for fear of being called feminist. One of my early columns lamented the doubletalk of a 20-year-old female security guard who was fired from her job at Queen’s Park because she got pregnant. "I’m not a women’s libber," she said, using the put-down lingo of that era, "but I do believe in equal pay for equal work...."

I’d been hired by the late editor-in-chief, Martin Goodman, after he tutored me, during an interview in his spacious office, in what he meant by "the women’s column."

"You see the CN Tower out there ? Now, if I look out and see a man climbing that tower, that’s front-page news. If I look out and see a woman climbing that tower, that’s women’s news," he explained solemnly.

I smiled and took the job. And the Star, buoyed by a hugely positive reader response, never once, in all these years, faltered in its strong support for my activist writing.

Those were heady days for the newly vigorous women’s movement. We were knocking down unjust laws like bowlers on a roll. Governments yielded to public pressure and began to fund our activist, research and lobby groups.

When Canada’s Supreme Court crystallized the injustice faced by women in the infamous Murdoch divorce case of ’73 (the prairie wife was denied any share in the ranch where she had worked equally beside her husband for 25 years), the public outcry was so great that almost every province promptly reformed its matrimonial property laws.

Writing five columns a week, I had space to be goofy, have fun, write personally and still analyze the news with a beady feminist eye. I delighted in winkling out the woman’s "side" of a news story that was being hostilely commented on by every other columnist in town.

Feminism, to me, embraced everything in a woman’s self-determining life, from chicken soup recipes to the Nestlé boycott to fighting like a banshee to save female refugees from being deported back to murderous husbands or governments.

The Star got behind many of these battles with extra space, photographs and even editorials - and we often won. There are women alive today because the Star helped me fight for them.

Readers often thought, because of occasional critical letters on the letters page, that I faced a daunting wall of opposition. The opposite was true. From the beginning, women and many men responded to the message with buoying affirmation.

Some of my toughest struggles were internal. Indignant readers taught me to stretch my empathy to include all sorts of previously ignored sensitivities. I learned that my writing only got better and richer when I forced myself to feel the impact of other people’s ugly sufferings (incest, emotional battery) that I would rather have ignored.

It was a continuing, often reluctant, education of the heart.

There were weeks when I had to open several hundred letters and, poring over them, learned rare lessons about the lives of welfare mothers, the disabled, the racially marginalized. I crammed those letters into overstuffed files, unwilling ever to part with these trustingly offered testaments of life.

In the early days, the feminist and grassroots movements had such momentum that readers responded in the thousands, and even tens of thousands, to Star-led campaigns.

I called on readers to save threatened drop-in centres, shelters, children’s services, theatre groups, libraries - and you responded magnificently, personally, with money and passionate letters to governments.

What a privileged life : I never had to cover an issue I didn’t care about or write a word I didn’t wholeheartedly believe.

There were, however, toxic stories that took up habitation in my inmost being and never left. I was haunted by the horrors inflicted on raped and assaulted women. Sometimes, the damage done to little sexual abuse victims - and their frequent betrayal by the criminal injustice system - kept me from sleep at night. I know the true names of dozens of doctors, ministers and psychotherapists who sexually exploited women and children and were never held to account. I know the stories from their victims, who had to tell someone who would listen.

People frequently ask me why, despite past successes, the women’s movement seems so dormant now, and why young women who are heir to feminist-won freedoms seem to be so in thrall to the wedding industry, the sex-as-fashion business, and all the other retro enterprises that trap women in an anti-feminist time warp.

I think I know why. Feminism surged into the mainstream, forged new freedoms and rights, and, by naming hidden crimes and dragging them into the light, established a panoply of services (shelters, rape crisis and feminist counselling) that are still absolutely vital. But the backlash - men’s fears of women’s empowerment - fuelled the triumph of right-wing governments. Now we’re drowning in crude gender stereotypes generated by pop culture media, all of them owned by a few ultra-conservative corporations. Above all, women’s activism was kneecapped by government cutbacks. Under conservative prodding and Paul Martin’s knife, women’s activist lobby groups lost their core funding and fell silent.

All the movement’s energy goes into preserving the women’s services we created with so much hope and now sustain with such exhausting effort. This fall, for sad example, the overworked staff of a local sexual assault centre spent overtime hours baking 175 apple pies to raise charity money.

I’m confident that women will turn to feminist activism again when hard-won rights are visibly threatened. We know what injustice looks like. We have named the oppressions that were once invisible, from unequal pay to sexual harassment. And we have the legal and constitutional tools to fight back. Young feminists, and there are many, will drive the issues forward in new directions. The movement is global now ; we have to keep pressuring media to reflect that reality.

So long, Star readers, you who have been "my secret sharers" through my years of writing about the raising of three children, my struggles with weight, cigarettes and breast cancer, my garden mania, my long and happy marriage, and political passions and imbroglios too numerous to list. I’ll miss that nourishing contact with so many of you, more than I can say.

PS : Don’t send flowers - vote David Miller instead.

The "Toronto Star", Nov. 1, 2003.

On Sisyphe Nov. 4, 2003


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Michele Landsberg, journaliste

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Photo : Toronto Star


Michele Landsberg est columnist principalement dans The Star Saturday et le Sunday.



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