Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has launched a survey to get people’s opinion on their ban on blood from men who have sex with men (MSM), which is up until Friday. Please take the time to fill out the survey and circulate it to your contacts.
The Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian AIDS Society and EGALE call for a behaviour based questionnaire that takes into account what sexual acts people engage in and if they practice safe sex, and doesn’t make assumptions based on someone’s sexual orientation. More information can be found at www.endtheban.ca
Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’
The Booker prize-winning novelist on her political activism in India, why she no longer condemns violent resistance – and why it doesn’t matter if she never writes a second novel.
Personal highlight: I want to talk more about Mary Roy – and eventually we do – but there’s one important point to clear up first. Guerrillas use violence, generally directed against the police and army, but sometimes causing injury and death to civilians caught in the crossfire. Does she condemn that violence? “I don’t condemn it any more,” she says. “If you’re anadivasi[tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”
Her critics label her a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? “I am a Maoist sympathiser,” she says. “I’m not a Maoist ideologue, because the communist movements in history have been just as destructive as capitalism. But right now, when the assault is on, I feel they are very much part of the resistance that I support.”
WHERE: The Vogue Theatre (Granville Street), Coast Salish Territories
Tonight, January 21st, queers and allies are coming together outside Dan Savage’s live speaking event at the Vogue Theatre on Coast Salish Territories. Currently, dozens of us are outside this pricey event, shit-disturbing and making a ruckus! We are here to form an un-welcoming party for Dan Savage noted for his ableism, ageism, classism, misogyny, racism, rape-apologism, serophobia, sizism, transphobia and, oh yeah, that column.
“We are here to express solidarity with glitter bombers in Eugene, Oregon and Irvine, California. Dan Savage is GGG – Going to Get Glitter-bombed!” - Lavender Menace
“We refuse to band together behind a man or a movement that fails to acknowledge the realities of poverty, racism, colonization, ableism, criminalization, transphobia, and other forms of violence experienced by queer communities.” - Fister Limpwrist
Examples of Dan Savage’s oppressive speech and behaviour are far too numerous to outline in their entirety, but here’s a few to mull over: Dan Savage has a shameful history of relying on abelist, transphobic and fat-phobic language. During the Proposition 8 debate Dan repeatedly placed blame on Black and Latino communities for the success of the homophobic legislation, despite being called out by queer people of colour for the racism underlying these claims. As well, Dan has described HIV positive people who have unprotected sex with HIV negative people as “deadbeat infectors,” advocating for mandatory drug-support payments from people who transmit the virus. We seek to join our voices with all those calling out Dan Savage, his apologists, and a broader culture of oppression that legitimizes his words and actions.
“We’re joining together to tell Mr. Savage that he’s not welcome in our city, in our hearts, or in our bedrooms. We’re fed up with him being held up as a spokesperson for sex-postive, GLBTQ politics and we want to make it clear – to him and to everyone else who will listen – that Dan Savage doesn’t speak for us.” - Lotsa Sparkle
PBS Frontline Documentary: Going Undercover in Syria is a terrifyingly moving look at the violent oppression facing Syrian opposition groups as they organize, and the courage of activists resisting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
My reactions to the images in the documentary were more visceral than I expected, and it took some time to process before I decided to share this documentary (perhaps, because unlike other countries experiencing violent repression of resistance, I’ve actually been to Syria and walked these streets in safer times). When reporting hits me on a deep, emotional level I have a tendency to gloss over problematic content, sharing, reblogging or posting in and effort to provoke this same emotional reaction within others. Sharing journalistic content online can imply an endorsement of the content in it’s entirety, so I’m going to qualify my endorsement.
I don’t endorse the simplistic narrative the documentary presents of the Syrian resistance, and I am uncomfortable with how it highlights Russian involvement in Syria without also acknowledging how the history of American and French imperialism also plays into the violent suppression that is happening today.
I don’t endorse the way in which Ramita Navai’ narration uses words like “freedom” and “democracy” to describe Syrian resistance. This discourse plays into the self-validating narrative constructed by mainstream media and most western governments in their reaction to the complex paths of resistance that have taken shape throughout the Middle East. I don’t support the narrative that the entirety of the Arab Spring is about Arab populations pursuing Liberal-Democratic versions of democratic representations “like us” when the reality is much more complicated.
Democratic tendencies intersects with a range identities, ideas and histories in the Middle East that can differ from the Western Liberal-Democratic tradition; framing the resistance of these activists within a Liberal-Democratic discourse performs a double function of both erasing Arab identities and histories, and limiting the available ways the western audience can conceptualize and react to the exposure of revolutionary actions, images, and slogans that have come with western media coverage of the Arab Spring. If the western audience engaging with revolutionary actions and images are made to believe that the only major revolutions happening in the world today are in pursuit of the same ideas, institutions and democratic methods they already have, this can absorb the revolutionary potential of the west’s exposure to the Arab Spring.
This framing of resistance and revolution within the Liberal-Democratic discourse that gives words like “Freedom” its particularly American meaning serves only to validate the oppressive relationship that Western Liberal Democracies maintain in much of the Middle East and Syria particularly. Clearly there are ethical issues that must be addressed regarding this representation of Syrian resistance and the intentions of those who risked their lives to participate. I cannot endorse the entirety of this documentary, or the narrative it presents for these reasons.
However, in a somewhat contradictory way I do endorse parts of this documentary because of the extreme danger that so many Syrian activists put themselves in to just to contact, house, and inform western press members within Syria. Their courage is inspiring, and humbling, and I respect their decision to engage with western media. Theirs is a story that needs to be told, and it is out of deep respect for their decision to tell it that I have suggested a critical viewing of how it has been retold in this documentary, so that we do not undermine its telling.
Students vow to remain in sit-in for twelve hours to represent the twelve weeks that Society’s Board has locked out its unionized staff, stage non-violent civil disobedience action to demand end to lock-out
[Burnaby, BC] - At approximately 1pm, a group of eight students entered the office of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors and launched a peaceful occupation. Outside the office, the hallway is filled with student and campus supporters. Students organized the non-violent act of civil disobedience independently to show their dissent against the Board’s decision to lock-out its unionized workers, members of CUPE 3338-5.
Twelve weeks ago, after having put forth an unacceptable offer that would have introduced a two-tier wage structure, rolled back hard-fought benefits, and virtually eliminated job security, the Board resorted to one of the most extreme anti-worker tactics — a lock-out. The students inside have vowed to occupy the office for twelve hours, one hour for each week that SFSS services have been cut back due to the lock-out.
Women, queer, and trans campus community members are among the most detrimentally affected by the lock-out. The Women’s Centre and Out On Campus, both necessary safe-spaces at SFU for marginalized students, have been closed for the past three months due to the lock-out. “I am supporting this student occupation because my fellow queer, trans and women students need those services and spaces. Services like those are exactly why we need a student society,” said undergraduate student Neem Maness.
The volunteer Board members voted to double their own honoraria for the lock-out’s duration, supposedly covering their overtime incurred from the workers being barred from doing their jobs. That brings the Executive Board members’ honoraria up to $3500 per month.
“It means that each of the directors have a high personal financial stake in preventing these services from resuming,” stated Chelsea MacKay, one of the student participants in the occupation. “We elected the Board to run the Student Society, but now they’ve turned around to dismantle it. It’s time the Board stops avoiding its responsibilities and returns to bargaining”.
Students participating in the action see the lock-out as an ideological attempt by the employer to break a union under the rhetoric of cost-cutting. The Board refuses to budge on wage cuts, including those that would slash student workers’ current living wage down to a poverty-level wage.
“The Board’s primary justification for the lockout is that they don’t have the money to pay the workers their due wages. Meanwhile they have just spent tens of thousands of dollars on yet another pub renovation and gifted themselves a shameful raise,” said student participant Maria Persdotter. “All these locked out workers provide vital services that only student societies can. It takes incredible gall and malice to argue that new booths and cheaper beer are somehow more important than providing real services to students, and paying these workers fair, living wages.”
Students occupying the SFSS Board office have promised future actions if the Board continues to shirk its responsibility to its members through its mismanagement, and calls on the Board to immediately end the lock-out and return to the bargaining table in good faith.
For further information and to arrange interviews, contact: Maria Persdotter, SFSS member and SFU undergraduate student
Chelsea Mackay, SFSS member and SFU undergraduate student
For background on the lock-out, see: sfulockout.blogspot.com