Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RE: Accessibility at #GGGS


This past Saturday I attended the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale. While, I didn't find the Scrabble board I was looking for, I enjoyed the ambience and the food! I write to you today because I witnessed several instances where the event failed patrons in wheelchairs.

Observably, parking infractions and the encroachment of sale tables onto side walks were the main culprits on Saturday. In response to these concerns, I implore the Glebe Community Association to create and enforce an accessibility guide for participant vendors when planning 2014’s edition of the Great Glebe Garage Sale.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Gendercide Awareness Project

Yesterday, I attended an Evolving Topics in Reproductive Justice panel and lunch hosted by the University of Ottawa Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession and Canadians for Choice. It got me to thinking that, with Thursday's March for Life quickly approaching, I should probably turn my little corner of the internet toward a serious topic in reproductive justice. Thus, I write my case of how feminist language has been flagrantly misused to support causes calling for an end to sex-selective abortion.

The theme of this year’s shamelessly anti-choice March for Life is: 

a thinly veiled attempt to appropriate feminist language to justify constricting reproductive freedom! 

The March for Life and their righteous concern for female gendercide couldn't be further from “the feminist agenda”. Point one: the creators of the campaign entirely conflate sex and gender (Sex is the biological body we’re born into, and gender is the social identity we perform). The notion of fetal female gendercide uncritically pairs a cis sex-gender designation onto an unborn subject incapable of intelligible gender performance. Based on their pre-social definition, the unborn are only possibly subject to discrimination by biological understanding (sex); thus, gendercide in a fetal context is an impossibility, by definition. 

An accurate tag line would read: “End Fetal Sexism” or "End Fetal Femicide" (if you like alliteration), but neither option sounds enough like genocide, the pre-eminent theme anti-choice groups invoke to shame abortion seekers. We should also be critical of how the March for Life's approach serves to ignore and erase the possibility of children that will grow up to self-identify as trans or gender variant. 

What’s mortifying about this particular theme is that sex-selective abortion is gender policing's most extreme iteration. Inflexible expectations about the specific performance of binary gender place carrying some pregnancies to term outside the realm of possibility for some child bearers. Motivated by the economic rationale that a girl couldn't possibly meet the social or economic value of a boy, gender discourse is reshaping demographics in China and India to reflect “missing women”. While sex-selective abortions aren't anywhere near statistical significance in Canada, their existence alone has conjured outrage. 

Anyway you spin the rhetoric, it means the same thing; anti-choice advocates don’t want Canadian citizens making decisions over their own bodies. They think laws that would deprive child bearers the sex of their unborn, information about their own bodies, and tougher access to abortion will help Canada resist heathen ways.

Why is it that controlling reproduction and limiting individual freedom are the response to the injustices that created the reality of sex-selective abortion? We should be asking: why do we permit poverty, patriarchy, and cis-hetero-normativity to coalesce in this way that (re)produces injustice? 

The Bible doesn't say anything about sex-selective abortion, but it’s pretty clear about poverty. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Integrating Youth & Technology Into #NDP Policy Making

This Winter, I had my first partisan policy proposal experience. The venue: Ottawa Centre NDP Electoral District Association’s (EDA) pre-convention policy meeting. It was something; that's for sure. Fact one: I was the youngest person in the room, at 25. Fact two: this wasn't exactly a place where people went out of their way to include outsiders (especially when you’re a vocally pro carbon tax New Democrat).

Anyhow, I got to talking to another NDP member at my table, and we exchanged our frustrations at the limitations of the policy process. There is too much ego and not enough substance; people constantly fail to recognize their positions of privilege, and my own observation: a stark disengagement from youth.

An old fashioned policy process is conduct unbecoming of a party with such a vibrant young caucus of MPs. If the NDP are to form government, we’ll need to be the party of awareness and change. Policy making needs to be dragged (kicking and screaming if need be) into the 21st century, with all the bells and whistles of tablets and smartphones.

The traditional policy process was created as a structure that could produce legitimacy for policies written and supported only by a disparate fraction of the total membership of a political party. Policies best represent a membership when there is an uninterrupted two-way flow of information between party leadership and individual members. The removal of barriers to this ideal is an ongoing process for partisan bureaucrats.

As Gen Y ascends to the political helm, we must ask how the technological collapse of space via internet communications can be embraced to improve the process whereby policies are democratically legitimated. We’ve already seen leaders elected online, so when will the policy process catch up?

The shift to OMOV (one member, one vote) during the 2012 leadership convention that crowned Thomas Mulcair removed a barrier to participatory democracy. For the first time, technology allowed party members to transcend standing institutions of power within the NDP (unions, EDAs, internal party structures) that had the capacity to distort democratic opinion within the NDP’s previous delegated leadership contests.

Delegated conventions severely restrict who can participate in policy decisions. It makes no sense that a whole membership is consulted on a leader but not for the formation of the policies that leader is tasked with championing. Policies enacted through an OMOV live online voting system would be a far superior representation of the membership's will.

Let’s ask ourselves: why can policy proposals not be nominated directly to convention by member petition? Are the institutions of EDAs, unions, and established commissions adequate means to reflect the policy agenda of an immeasurably diverse membership? Why doesn't the NDP policy process recognize issue-based self-organized digital communities as legitimate sources for policy proposals?

Beyond embracing OMOV live voting for policy making, EDA’s can also benefit from digitizing elements of their policy process. Moving even part of the conversation online engages many more people, especially youth, in the important discussions that define New Democrats. Policies submitted to EDAs by members could be posted to an online discussion board for a period of debate preceding the policy meeting. This accommodation would facilitate meaningful exchange of complex ideas and supporting sources beyond what is possible at a physical meeting. Hosting a digital debate also allows for participation from persons with scheduling conflicts, accessibility concerns, discomfort speaking in public, child care requirements, etc.

Our unfortunate reality is many interests vested in the maintenance of youth apathy, and the traditional policy process is as relatable to today’s youth as a 3.5 inch floppy disk. The NDP has an opportunity to embrace youth, but we’ll need to do it through the platforms that enable their digital lives.