Action Over Indolence

Though my soul may set in darkness,

it will rise in perfect light.

I have loved the stars too fondly

to be fearful of the night.

(excerpt from Sarah Willams’ “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil”)

Shelley Fralic’s article advises women that they shouldn’t go out at night because “the night has always belonged to the diabolical and demonic, to the Jack the Rippers and Willie Picktons, to the blackguards and predators, to those for whom evil is their human nature.”

What would be your response, if you learned that 60% per cent of sexual assaults occur in a private home? (D. Kinnon, “Report on Sexual Assault in Canada,” Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Ottawa, 1981).

Furthermore, I reference a recent sexual assault, when I argue that sexual violence is not an exclusively nighttime affair.  This recent assault occurred at 5:30 p.m..

So, Shelley Fralic, when you say that you “learned to avoid the dark corners of the world”, you’re suggesting that women should learn the same complicated lesson??  Thanks, for the advice…

Contrary to popular belief, the recent sexual assault at UBC are not about lessons that young women should learn about their personal safety and the dangers of going outside.  Like Fralic, women know that going outside at night could be dangerous.

Instead, the recent sexual assaults shed light on the lack of preventative justice within the Canadian Justice System, which is a lesson that authorities need to learn and an issue that needs to be fixed.

Fralic refers to her own realization, while simultaneously giving the vintage advice:

“I learned that, sadly, there are no safe streets, and there never have been and that, after all these years and all those Take Back The Night marches, evil never goes away and that it’s up to me, as much as anyone else, to do everything I can to avoid becoming a victim”.

This isn’t anything new, nor is it helpful.  It’s not a matter of realizing that the world is an unsafe place, and then simply accepting it.  To quote Celia Haig-Brown, “people rarely comply fully and easily to the introduction of oppression”, and the oppression within this ever-going advice, that women should stay inside at night, is no exception.

So yes, Fralic, police forces, and all of those other wise individuals who assume that staying inside will equate to the demise of sexual violence against women, you are right to say that the “dark corners of the world” are unsafe.  However, what separates the active from the idle, the oppressed from the liberated, the passive from the active, is resistance, and not sitting back and letting injustices happen to half of the world’s population.

End rant.

Review: Bonita Lawrence and Indigenous Identity.

Bonita Lawrence’s explanation of identity is one that is very important to me.  I identify as a non-status Métis, and I have been struggling with my family to retrace back to my roots.  My papa (my mother’s father) is Métis, but he will not admit this.  As a child, my papa’s mother dropped him off at, what he recalls to be an orphanage, when he was about seven years old.  After listening to his stories, doing my own research on Indigenous identity, and comparing these to my papa’s rejection of his Métis identity, I am very certain that my family is a representation of colonial success.  At present, my family identifies as French-Canadian and Scottish, and Lawrence’s work continually explains to me that his is because of the government’s regulation of identities.

Lawrence’s discussion about the colonial legislation’s regulation of and control over First Nations’ identities connects to that of trans identities.  Lawrence notes that, “the numbered treaties were thus crucial to the project of forcibly identifying and segregating ‘halfbreeds’ from ‘Indians,’ regardless of how individuals saw themselves.” (Pg. 11)  In addition, Lawrence says that Indigenous peoples were often classified by colonial legislation, taking identity out of the individual’s hands.  This is similar to the regulation and control over trans people.  One cannot fill out a government document without checking off one of the ‘male’ or ‘female’ boxes.  Again, for another demographic of marginalized people, the legislation is regulating other people’s identities.

Although Lawrence does an impressive job at discussing the regulation of Indigenous identities, she definitely missed the mark in some areas.  It is troubling that Residential Schools, the massively misunderstood and often unknown pieces of Indigenous history, are not brought up in the article.  Lawrence claims that, “identity is […] about how history is interpreted and negotiated, and about who has the authority to determine a group’s identity or authenticity.” (Lawrence pg. 4)  This claim is interesting because it is exactly what she is doing when she misses such pivotal events in First Nations’ histories.  Residential Schools, which were absolutely centered around the regulation of Indigenous identities, get zero attention in this piece, which shows Lawrence’s authority, whether conscious or not, over how histories are discussed in this piece.

Given the focus on gender inequality and the time in which the work was written, one would think that a discussion of the Missing Women’s case would be a significant topic of interest.  However, aside from noting the “unimaginable levels of violence, which includes, […] sexist oppression” (pg. 5), Lawrence barely touches upon violence against women, let alone missing Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.  Neglecting a discourse on violence against women in a piece that aims to discuss the intersections between race and gender, does a serious disservice to First Nations women.  I’m not sure whether or not it would be worse if Lawrence consciously chose not to discuss violence against women in a more in depth manner, or if she overlooked it.  It is possible that Lawrence chose not to discuss violence against women in an attempt to focus purely on the regulation of First Nations identity.  However, I would argue that violence against women is in fact a form of regulating Indigenous identities.

Bonita Lawrence, “Gender, Race, and the Regulation of Native Identity in Canada and the United States: An Overview”, Hypatia, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2003: 3-31