Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Baaaaack

Back from L.A. and Toronto and happy that the weather has taken a turn for the warmer. It was a pleasure to see the trees in bloom and daffodils beaming in their full glory on the drive in from JFK airport.

The Toronto events were lovely and I had a wonderful time with friends and family. Here are pictures from the Toronto Women's Bookstore event, featuring Zetta Elliott on the left, myself in the center, and Vivek Shraya next to our moderator, Annmarie Shrouder:

Blogger Niranjana Iyer has a great post on the panel and her thoughts on self-publishing here.

One of the more interesting conversations I had at the Saturday book-signing at Chapters/Indigo-Yordale was with a teen. We got onto the topic of bullying and harassment in school and she said that the worse type of "bullying" she ever experienced (her school is predominantly people of colour) was in the form of verbal and sometimes physical harassment from male peers. The terms most often used to denigrate young women are the same ones that were used when I was in high school - "slut", "bitch", "whore", etc.

And just today, Teen Voices posted this article about teenage domestic violence which points to the same type of harassment targeting young women. Here's an excerpt:
Ask a group of teenage girls how many terms of abuse are directed at them in school on a regular basis and they struggle to answer. Every week, they say, boys and young men in their peer group add a new phrase to their lexicon of disrespect.
"At my school we hear three words, slut, sket and slag, every day. It's got so it's not worth challenging it, it is not worth arguing about because it just doesn't change anything," said Bea Larby, 15 [... ] 
"Sket" sites, where pictures of girls are posted by vengeful ex-boyfriends, often in compromising situations, are set up on Facebook and other networking sites, or the images are circulated on smart phone messaging systems, along with a request to give marks out of 10 for the "sket" or "bitch".
'One girl, her ex posted naked pictures of her and sent them around the school,' said Larby. "She left school because everyone thought she was a sket, she used to get bullied in corridors. People would say, look there she goes that sket, but no one did anything to stop it."
The one thing that struck me from my recent visit to a high school in L.A., the conversation in Canada, and the above-linked article was that many things--like this sort of bullying and harassment--have held strong since my days in high school. And as long as power imbalances remain the same in the larger world--with media images depicting young women as racialized and sexualized objects, this type of bullying will keep a stronghold on each new generation of young people.

Raising awareness among young people is important, but equally important is working for change on a larger, systemic level. I think that's why the publishing panel at the Toronto Women's Bookstore was so important to me. What Zetta, Vivek and I were talking about was exactly that - grassroots change, putting power back into the hands of creators, and offering different depictions of young people for young people. All three of us spoke of wanting to create the type of work we needed to see when we were young readers. It is the work of offering alternative visions and representations for young women, queer teens, working class folks, differently-abled teens . . . doors and windows into new possibilities.

If you missed the livestream of that event, you can watch it here. But I don't know how long it will be up, so catch it while you can...

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