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Feminism needs to move beyond Twitter, expert

March 27, 2018 Kim Dewar, ATA News Staff
Gender consultant Cristina Stasia speaks at the ATA's Political Engagement Seminar in Edmonton on March 16.

Women’s movement belongs in workplaces, churches and council chambers

How can men support women in becoming more politically engaged? They can start by doing the dishes.

Small daily actions are the key for creating large-scale social change, according to gender consultant Cristina Stasia.

“Even the smallest actions today can have a huge impact on the future,” she said.

Fostering women’s sustained political engagement was the topic of Stasia’s keynote address at the annual Political Engagement Seminar hosted by the Alberta Teachers’ Association in Edmonton on March 16 and 17.

There is a link between political involvement and housework, Stasia said. Before marriage, single childless women spend 10 hours per week on housework compared to eight hours for men. After marriage, childless women almost double their hours of housework while men do less.

“That means that men gain an extra couple of hours every week to attend the constituency association meeting, to review the new party policy — to network,” Stasia said.

Time constraints are just one of the many reasons that Stasia cited for the low number of female political party candidates throughout elections in Canada. For example, Edmonton and Calgary combined have only five women serving on their city councils. Before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his first cabinet, Canada was ranked 20th among nations for gender parity in ministerial roles. Canada is now ranked fourth.

Other factors that dissuade women from entering politics include workplace harassment, unequal pay and even assault, Stasia said.

Stasia pointed to the anti-sexual assault and women's empowerment movements #MeToo and Time's Up that have brought gender issues into the public conversation recently. She noted that although 4.8 million people marched around the globe to support gender equality after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, only one million marched in support of the #MeToo movement this year.

“Anger at the increasingly visible injustice against women should be sparking from one person to the next,” she said.

“We need to take our activism off Twitter and move it into our workplaces, our homes, our communities, our churches and our council chambers.”

Feminism is often said to occur in waves because of the movement’s tendency to swell and then recede, but Stasia cautioned that “we cannot afford to let this wave recede.”

“Feminism isn’t a trend. It’s consistent, daily hard work,” she said. “Feminism is the zombie of political ideologies — you can try to kill it, but feminism is coming for you!" ❚

Engaging weekend

The Political Engagement Seminar took place on the evening of Friday, March 16 and throughout the day on March 17.

The Friday portion featured a keynote address on women and politics. The Saturday agenda featured a panel of provincial government ministers that included David Eggen (education), Marlin Schmidt (advanced education) and Christina Gray (labour and democratic renewal).

Another Saturday panel reserved for opposition politicians was attended only by Stephen Mandel, the recently elected leader of the
Alberta Party. (Alberta Liberal leader David Khan could not attend due to a late-developing illness, and the United Conservative Party didn’t send a candidate because education critic Mark Smith had another engagement).

Rounding out the agenda were updates from Jonathan Teghtmeyer, associate co-ordinator of communications for the ATA, and Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

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