Culture  Advocating for advocacy

“Another Word for Gender” puts the spotlight on social issues and how to act on them

Over the next two weeks, the 2110 Center for Gender Advocacy will be hosting their annual back-to-school series of activities and workshops entitled, “Another Word for Gender: An Intro to Feminist Action and Organizing.” The series is unique as it seeks not only to educate participants about a myriad of topics surrounding gender and sexuality, but also to provide an introduction to the practices of advocacy itself. In this self-reflexive manner, “Another Word for Gender” strives to increase awareness and in turn, transform this awareness into material change through social activism.

Rather than discussing issues of gender and sexuality as isolated topics, the 2110 Centre seeks to find intersections between different forms of social justice. In an interview with The Daily, Programming and Campaign Coordinator Bianca Mugyenyi noted, “gender can’t be extricated from anything.” “Another Word for Gender” offers numerous workshops, activities, and lectures on a wide range of subjects that connect to ongoing campaigns at the centre including reproductive rights, sexual assault awareness, and trans issues.

Another campaign that is highlighted in “Another Word for Gender,” is that of “Missing Justice,” which addresses the overwhelming number of murdered and missing native women in Canada. Mugyenyi described how “native women have really born the brunt of Canada’s colonial legacy,” as they continue to suffer injustices that remain grossly under-reported in mainstream media.

In an attempt to counter these injustices, Centre 2110 has organized a bus that will bring participants to Ottawa for the Walk4Justice rally on Parliament Hill. The supporters will join a number of indigenous women activists who have walked all the way from Vancouver to raise awareness about missing and murdered native women. The series also includes a lecture by Andrea Smith, a Nobel Prize- nominated, Cherokee, feminist activist, who will discuss systemic violence against native women.

Another problem that remains particularly ignored in the public consciousness and media is the issue of sexual assault on university campuses. Due to these high sexual assault rates, “Another word for Gender” offers a student-focused exploration of some of the issues surrounding gender and physical safety. The series includes a walking tour of Concordia campus that teaches participants how to be self-aware in an urban environment, and promotes gender-inclusive access to public spaces.

Mugyenyi also noted that campuses are sites of immense potential for activist movements, and that these “contested spaces” can enable social change. Workshops are also being held in partnership with Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) and Sexual Assault Centre of McGill University Students Society (SACOMSS) regarding the experiences of student-led organizations that address sexual violence.

Much of the programming in “Another Word for Gender” goes beyond discussion of gender issues, and addresses the practice of activism itself.  In particular, “Direct Action Training” informs participants how to create strategic action plans. A second workshop, “Media Social Issues,” informs participants on how to utilize mainstream media in order to help one’s cause.

As these two workshops demonstrate, “Another Word for Gender” stands apart from other similar projects as it does not simply promote awareness of feminist issues, but provides additional information as to how such awareness may be translated into action.

Accessibility is also an issue that “Another Word of Gender” seeks to address as Mugyenyi described the ways in which “repressive dynamics can emerge in any setting.” Centre 2110 encourages people who may have been marginalized to partake in activism regardless of their race, educational, or economic background. A discussion entitled “Activism and Alienation” also addresses how elitism within a group working for social change can lead to the group’s downfall. “People are often intimidated and that’s sad,” Mugyenyi noted. “Activism and Alienation’ exists to create greater solidarity.

“Another Word for Gender” promotes an understanding that activist movements should not only work towards inclusivity in the broader community, but should also strive to embody this inclusiveness themselves.

Mugyenyi emphasized that although Centre 2110 is based at Concordia, all of their activities are free and open to the public. She says the ultimate objective of the series is to “trying to increase the number of people who are active rather than talking amongst ourselves. That’s what social change is.”