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A discussion with Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran

by Grace Lore

Women remain under-represented in politics the world over and Canada is no exception. While municipal politics was once thought to provide a better opportunity for women to enter into and participate in politics, it is far from certain.  According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, less than 25% of all city counselors are women and women comprise a mere 16% of all mayors.

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Is there a rape culture in politics?

by Grace Lore

‘Rape culture’ is the social practices, public and private discourses, and beliefs that enable us as individuals and a community to ignore sexualized violence against women and fail to attribute appropriate blame and punishment to perpetrators.   Rape culture at its most innocuous passively enables sexualized violence and at its worst reproduces, condones, or encourages it.

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Notes on The Women’s Forum, Yangon, Myanmar, December 6 -7, 2013

by Kathy Mezei

The Women’s Forum was held in Yangon, Myanmar, December 6 and 7, 2013, an event unimaginable a couple of years ago. Drawing 400 participants from 27 countries, the Forum was located at the midtown Chatrium, a now bustling 5 star hotel facing the scenic Kandawgi Lake, where 4 or 5 years ago, you could count the number of foreigners and tourists on one hand, with the occasional German or French tour group. This was a strikingly glamorous and incongruous event, sponsored by the French Embassy (which has been active in Myanmar for a number of years),* organized, for some odd reason, by a Yangon Modeling Agency (which explains the lineup of beautifully made up and costumed Burmese women who seemed flummoxed by our queries at the registration desk), and “partnered” by corporations such as PepsiCo, Total, ACCOR, BNP Paribas, L’Oréal.

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Canadian 2013 By-elections: Porous politics, vote-splitting, and women’s presence in politics

by Grace Lore

On 25 November2013, voters in four Canadian ridings went to the polls to elect a new Member of Parliament in mid-term by-elections.  The seats were left empty when four MP’s resigned: namely Manitoba Conservatives Vic Toews and Merv Tweed to join the private sector, Quebec Liberal and former interim leader, Denis Coderre, to become mayor of Montreal, and former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae to serve as negotiator for the Matawa First Nations in Northern Ontario. While two races (Toronto-Centre and Brandon-Souris) were highly contested, after the vote count there was no change to the status quo; the Liberals retained seats in Toronto and Montreal and the Conservatives theirs in Manitoba.

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Finding Balance: Enabling women to protect themselves or the perpetuation of rape myths and sexualized violence

by Grace Lore

With four reported stranger attacks at the University of British Columbia from Spring to Fall 2013, sexual assault has been in the spot light. The University and RCMP responded with a series of public messages, signage warnings, and safety campaigns, yet the bulk of these responses reproduced gender bias.  Specifically, solutions overwhelmingly targeted women’s behavior and attitudes, rather than those of the perpetrators.  The result supplies yet one more example of the “victim blaming” that so often pervades public culture.

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News Media Coverage of Elections Contributes to Women’s Political Under-Representation

by Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant

Why do women make up 50% of Canada’s population, but hold only 25% of seats in the House of Commons? Explaining this disjuncture is no small task. Political parties could be doing more to identify, nominate, and support electorally-viable female candidates. Deeply-ingrained gender norms hinder women’s perceptions of their own qualifications for office, decreasing the number of women who ever consider running. The list of reasons why women do not have equal voice in Parliament is long.

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Understanding The 2013 Global Gender Gap Report

by Grace Lore

Annually, since 2006, the World Economic Forum [WEF] has released a report that seeks to quantify persistent gender inequality the world over.  The Report, the WEF says, is aimed at generating awareness about existing gender inequality and facilitating policies to reduce gaps between men and women.

The Report measures gender equality gaps in four key areas – education, health, economics, and politics. Education considers ratios of boys and girls and men and women in primary, secondary, and tertiary education as well as relative literacy rates.  Health gaps compare the sex ratio at birth and life expectancy.

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‘Leading Compromise’: US Women Senators Confront the Political Impasse in October 2013

by Veronica Strong-Boag

Since the suffrage crusades, both scholars and popular observers have debated whether women would make a difference to ‘old boy’ agendas. Given many women’s subsequent identification with partisan politics, the discipline imposed by party whips and other pressures to toe the line, not to mention the multiple loyalties (of class, race, etc.) they share with other groups, and not always with one another, skepticism is understandable. There are nonetheless enough instances of political ‘sisterhoods’ that cross party lines to hearten the hopeful.

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Women Immigrants and Social Justice: the Perspective of Lily in the Snow by Yan Li

by Huai Bao

In her novel, Lily in the Snow, Chinese Canadian author Madame Yan Li portrays a mélange of women immigrants from ethnic minorities in Canada, observed by the narrator of the story, Lily. While these immigrant and visible minority women, who struggle near the bottom of the ethnic hierarchy, voice concerns about the hardship in the new land and express depression about exclusion from mainstream society, none is depicted as politically engaged. Such lack of engagement seems to coincide with the concerns of political scientists that such newcomers have neglected “an important element in their overall integration into society” (O’Neill, Gidengil and Young, 2012, 185).

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