Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RE: Student Award. (from Venus Envy Ottawa)

Hi Shelley, 

I’m just writing to express a concern regarding your bursary application. I am very much appreciative and supportive of the equity efforts your business promotes throughout the city of Ottawa including your scholarship program. However, I find myself at odds knowing that a progressive business like yours would adhere to traditional gender construction within its own practices.  The eligibility criterion states that the application is “open to all women and trans people studying in Ottawa at any level of education.”

This is problematic for many reasons. Foremost, I believe the structural approach to education is one that we have seen fail time and time again. Identifying ‘problem groups’ and providing them with support is only a band-aid solution for the greater issue of systemic inaccessibility to post-secondary education. In truth the most discriminated against students are those who are not Canadian citizens. International students pay 3-5 times the tuition fees of a domestic student and are not covered by Canadian healthcare; albeit, this is not the crux of my argument.

Education in Canada is one of the plains on which we are nearing gender (well sex, but stats can is a whole other kettle of fish) equality. Though men and women students seem to continue some aspects of traditional division of labor, women do make up the majority of persons granted degrees in Canada since at least 2005. (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100714/t100714b1-eng.htm)

It too must be noted that students come from diverse backgrounds and may face compounding and intersectional disadvantages in attending college or university. It is for this reason that I argue gender should not be a point of criteria in your application.  Rawls’ second principle of justice posits that a society’s level of justice must be measured by the conditions of the poorest member. This member existence is pervasive of gender, religion, race, place of origin and all other categories constructed to divide us.  Adapting the application to be open to all gender identities achieves the goal of moving away from the use of gender as an organizing principle and allows the award to be given to the most deserving applicant.

I would like to take time to again thank you and your business for all your social justice efforts, and to implore that you re-examine your award eligibility for future postings.

Sincerely,

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