When Discrimination is About More Than Gender: The Village Bloggurls Tackle Race and Gender-Based Violence
The Village Bloggurls program is a weekly girls’ leadership, media literacy, and media production program based in the Lotherton Village and Westminster- Branson communities of North York, Ontario. The core program provides girls with creative opportunities to address issues including systemic violence, representation of women in the media, and societal expectations. Activities like writing a blog, producing a zine, and creating social media posts provide a platform for expression, connection, and support.
The Bloggurls were recipients of the 2014 Landsberg Community Award and are current grantees of the Canadian Women’s Foundation through North York Community House – they’ve received a grant of $160,000 over 4 years (2016-2020).
The following post, by Bloggurls Vivian and Vanessa, describes moments when they experienced race- and gender-based harassment. Here, Vivian and Vanessa reflect on the concept of intersectionality – that is, the ways in which racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and more intersect and overlap in their lives.
When I was thinking about intersectionality and what it meant, I realized it was related to an experience I had. I realized that I faced discrimination on both my gender and my race in elementary school during gym class playing dodgeball.
Usually in class, there are two teams – each with one captain (most of the time a boy) – and the captain selects who wants to be on their team. I was always the one chosen last or second last. When being chosen last, it would make me feel bad and question myself. Why was I being chosen last? Am I not good enough? With those questions in my head, I asked the captain why he chose me last.
He said that I was a girl, and girls are not good at playing sports. He even asked if I knew how to aim and throw a ball. He also mentioned something about my race. “Chinese people can’t even play sports,” he said. “All you do is do math and eat rice. Can you even see the ball when it comes to you?” He started to laugh as other people joined in giggling and I got really offended.
What does my gender and race have to do with “being good” at dodgeball?
A moment when I experienced discrimination for my gender and race was when my friends and I were catcalled. We were all on our way to my friend’s apartment and as we entered the elevator at the last moment two men jumped in as well.
One of the men said some things to us, but we ignored him. Then he looked at my one friend and started making comments about her body, and to make things worse he compared her to Asian cuisine. My other friends and I were frozen in fear and all looked the other way. This man continued to laugh and berate us with comments until it was his floor – only then did we feel safe.
To this day, I still think about this memory, and I wonder if things would have been different if we had a male friend with us, or if we weren’t young women of colour? I hope that one day boys will grow up knowing that this type of behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated, and if they see it, that they know to step in and stop it.
What can we do to end race and gender-based violence? Here are a few ideas:
- Know the facts, and share them. There are many other forms of social inequality that can compound abuse and violence, including racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, ableism, and religious persecution – read more here.
- Research shows that high school violence prevention programs are highly effective. Even years after attending one of our programs, students experienced long-term benefits such as better dating relationships, the ability to recognize and leave an unhealthy relationship, and increased self-confidence, assertiveness, and leadership. If your local school doesn’t offer a teen violence prevention program, ask it to start one.
- Let your elected representatives know that you think violence against women and girls, especially women and girls of colour, is a serious problem in Canada. Ask them what they are doing to end the violence – find your MLA’s contact information here.
- Village Bloggurls: The Male Gaze and the Media
- Why Girls’ Voices Matter
- “Never give up,” says Saara Chaudry, star of The Breadwinner
- Why I’ve Spent my Life Dedicated to Women and Girls – and Why You Should do the Same