- by Alyson Shane
Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that the march I'm discussing was held on Treaty 1 territory.
I mention it because it's important for me to acknowledge that I marched for treatment, rights, and freedoms that many Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women and girls, still do not receive despite the fact that we marched on their traditional lands.
I also want to preface my post by saying that as a white cisgender female, born in Canada to a middle-class household, with a post-secondary education, I understand and accept my privilege. I do my best to be aware of that privilege and to be respectful and accepting that there are gaps in my perspective, knowledge, and understanding. I want to be clear that my perspective can't (and shouldn't) be representative of, or exclusionary to, others. I also apologize in advance if I unintentionally exclude a specific group from this post - it's not my intention to do so, I am just going to write what I can from the heart in the best and clearest way that I know how.
Without further ado.
Why I marched
I marched because I believe in equal rights. I believe that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, place of birth, skin colour, mental or physical ability, and religious beliefs should have a place within our society. Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected, and I support a movement which makes equality one of its core principles.
I marched because I stand as an ally behind the LGBTQIA community. I recognize that there are struggles and issues that I can't possibly start to understand due to my privilege as a white cisgender woman, but I stand behind these groups as an ally because I believe that we should be able to love whomever we want, and to have our sexual and gender identities respected and supported by our families, communities, and governments.
I marched because I value our sexual and reproductive rights. I believe that everyone deserves to have access to medically sound, high-quality sexual information and counselling, reproductive care including birth control, and access to safe, legal abortions regardless of their income, sexual and gender identity, race or religious belief. I support helping individuals make well-informed and medically sound decisions about their bodies and sexual and reproductive health.
I marched because I stand as an ally behind minorities and POC. As a white woman I accept that there are struggles that I will simply never face due to my skin colour. With that in mind, I do my best to be an ally to movements like Idle No More and Black Lives Matter. I acknowledge that it is not my place to fight on behalf these groups, but to express my support in the ways which are appropriate.
I marched for our planet. I believe that we have a responsibility to take care of our planet, and to stop putting our convenience and comfort before tackling issues like climate change. We need to end our dependency on fossil fuels and transition to green, renewable energy sources which won't cause further damage the planet and put the future of our species and the rest of the life on this planet at risk.
I marched because I have made mistakes. Opinions grow and change over time, and I know that in the past I have made thoughtless and hurtful comments, and have acted in ways which could have been more kind and well-informed. I am continually doing my best to learn to be an ally, and to learn from my past missteps and do better moving forward.
I marched for my future children. I want to bring children into a world where they don't have to feel ashamed of who they are, what they look like, what their mental or physical capabilities may be, and who they love. I want to be a part of a movement which encourages the best in our society, and which is pushing for a future that I can be proud of.
What can we do now?
Naysayers on the internet and elsewhere have tried to downplay the importance of this movement, saying that it will "die out", "go nowhere" after the initial march has ended, but don't believe them. The cause will only die out if we stop caring about each other and putting in the time and effort to make our voices heard, and that won't happen.
Here are some ways that we can do our part to keep this movement alive:
Acknowledge our privilege
It took me a lot longer than I care to admit to come to terms with my privilege. It's hard and uncomfortable to look critically at yourself and realize the ways in which society treats you differently than other people, but being able to is essential to being an empathetic ally to other groups.
If you aren't sure what any of this means, BuzzFeed has a handy and easy to understand quiz which breaks down some ways in which you may be more privileged than others.
Speak out + listen back
Talk to the people around you about politics and issues that you care about. If you don't feel like you care about any issues, read a few news articles and make a list of the things that you agree and disagree with. Now, google those points and learn as much about them as you can.
Next, ask the people around you what their thoughts are on those topics. Don't be afraid if they're different that yours: instead, look at it as a chance to learn about a different perspective than your own. Ask questions and be curious and respectful, even if you disagree.
Don't be afraid to be wrong, or to admit that you don't know something. Everyone is learning all the time, you and me included.
Get out there
It's easy to be an armchair activist, but until we start getting out from behind our computer screens and showing up to events in our community we can't really begin to understand what other people are thinking and feeling.
Show up to town hall meetings, political debates, free lectures and rallies when you can. It's okay if you don't feel comfortable, and don't know what to say or do. Just showing up and listening is more than a lot of people are willing to do.
If you live in Winnipeg and want a friend to come with you, let me know and I'd be happy to join you.
Did you attend any the Women's March rallies? What were your experiences like? Tweet at me or tell me in the comments, because I'd love to hear from you!
- by Alyson Shane
Somehow on a random Wednesday I found myself wide awake at 5am. As I was lying in bed cuddling Toulouse and listening to John snore softly (it's adorable, seriously) I started thinking about community, how important it is to make the time to make your values known, and to support causes that you believe in.
This past weekend I volunteered at #MBCouldBe, a policy summit put on by Manitoba Forward. I volunteered with John and Luke Jacob, and we spent the day listening to various speakers and panel discussions and tweeting from the Manitoba Forward twitter account (as well as our own, of course).
(All of us setting up for a busy day of Tweeting.)
When I arrived I wasn't sure to expect; what sorts of people would be there? What would their views be? Was I just walking into a giant, one-sided political discussion?
What I found surprised me: I met a diverse group of individuals and speakers who were all interested in actively discussing ("actively" is putting it lightly in some cases) the ways in which Manitoba could work towards being a more successful and vibrant province. I was impressed at the variety of speakers at the event: some were obviously very centre-right, some much more liberal in their views, and the discussion that took place was positive and informative.
What impressed me the most, though, was the sheer amount of people that came out on a warm June afternoon on a Saturday, while events like Jazz Fest were going on and patios were abound, to sit in an event centre and discuss Manitoba's future.
This was important to me for several reasons, the largest of which is that as a Manitoban I was raised with a very healthy sense of self-deprecation, which I've written about before. Manitobans can be snarky and we can be cynical, especially about our own hometown and our province. We're raised with the belief that Winnipeg, and Manitoba on a larger scale, simply isn't worth the energy. Why put time into improving our local economy or starting a small business here when we can just run off to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver?
I used to have that mindset. Not so long ago I was dead-set on moving to Toronto, where I have some family. I was going to leave Winnipeg in my dust and make it big in Ontario. Then something changed: I took a class at the University of Winnipeg called (appropriately enough) "The History of Winnipeg" which completely changed my views.
When I started spending time getting to know the complexities of the city and the province where I grew up, I started to develop a deeper understanding of why our issues were unique, and for the rich, beautiful history we have here and the strong, creative, interesting people decide to spend their lives here. I fell head-over-heels with Winnipeg, and decided that I wanted to stay and invest my time, my business and my life to helping make it a better place.
Many Manitobans still have that negative mindset, unfortunately, but among the people that I spoke to and who participated at #MBCouldBe I didn't hear a single dissenting voice. Instead I heard a ton of local pride, and even when we discussed ways in which we could be better, it was always with hope and with a fierce sense of dedication to making Manitoba an even better place to work and to live.
Another way I experienced local pride this weekend was the following day, when I marched in the 2015 Pride Parade. New Media Manitoba sponsored a banner in the Pride Parade and I tweeted about it and marched with my friends in support of the LGBT community.
There were over a thousand people who showed up in costume and with banners and floats, and the outpouring of love and support for the LGBT community is what makes Pride one of my favourite annual events - I've been going since I was allowed to start taking the bus downtown from the suburbs where I grew up.
Someone once said to me "we march in the Pride Parade so that one day we don't need one." As in, by raising awareness and support got the LGBT community with the parade, eventually they hope that society will become accepting of those individuals to the point where a parade is no longer necessary. The whole point of the annual Pride week is to mobilize support for the LGBT community and to show people that there are people who support the rights and freedoms of others to express themselves and to be who they are, regardless of what (if any) gender they identify with.
This morning, while watching the dawn creep into my bedroom it struck me that half of showing your support is simply showing up. It's very easy to play Armchair Activist (and we all do, to some extent) but by taking the time out of our daily lives to physically show up and show support for our local communities -be they political, social, sexual, whatever- we help make the world a better place because we add our voices and our bodies to causes that matter to us.
I spent my past weekend, almost in it's entirety, lending my time and my energy to causes that I believe in and it felt amazing. It was a terrific reminder that, really, all we need to do to start making our communities a better place is show up and get involved.
Have you attended any local events in your community lately? What were they for? I'd love to hear about them!