Yesterday I went up the Grouse Grind with some people from my gym, and Su came along too. We went up the trail beside the Grind, the one called BCMC. It’s a bit longer than the Grind, less well marked, less built up, and a lot less busy than the Grind. We went up, then we walked down, too. Al and Christina went up three times (but only made the descent on foot once, the other two times they took the Gondola down — which was smart). I was nearly crying the when i finally reached the bottom. I will NEVER walk down that trail again. Good Lord. On the way up, all kinds of people passed me. I’m way less conditioned than I was when I first went up that trail with Joanna in 2010. She’s been gone now a year, a little more than that. Still hard to believe…
Anyway, those times, the times we went up the BCMC, I was a lot faster than she was, which gave me great joy. I would scamper up the hill, then make my way back down to her, and say, “Twenty years, Asthma. heheheh”. Which was what I had on her — twenty years older and asthmatic. She was good-natured about my teasing. Yesterday, though, EVERYONE passed me. Just about. Thankfully we started up early enough (9 am) that the families with small children weren’t making their way up yet. So the people who passed me were mostly 20-30 somethings, my team from the gym, and a few guys my age or older with light-weight shoes and walking poles (I used this grand walking stick i got in a second-hand store in New York — it’s a knotted, thorny wooden stick, looks like a shillelagh–beautiful). On the way down, Su waited for me at one point, but I was embarrassed about how slow and clumsy I was so I wasn’t having any of that. Quite a number of young, limber people ran past me, springing and slipping from rock to root like mountain goats in spandex. By the time i was making the treacherous descent, the mid-day people were climbing up — including people with very young children. I heard one small child refer to me as “that old lady” after they went up past me. I saw a young woman with a child strapped to her back who looked about half the size of her mom! The kid gave me a challenging stare as the woman struggled up the hill — I nearly told the kid to get out and walk, give her mama a break. But that glare she gave me was a bit scary. What’s with all these people strapping their children to their backs and walking up mountains? Looked like they were practicing to be refugees.
One delightful little girl was skipping up with her dad and a tiny sibling in a snuggly thing strapped to him. She was trying to tell him a Spanish word she knew. He said, “I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, honey, maybe we can find someone who speaks Spanish” I said, “Well, I’ve heard French, and I think Farsi, and Arabic, I’m sure you’ll meet someone who speaks Spanish today”. She asked if i did, and I said that no, I didn’t. She proclaimed that she knew one word — I think she said, “Si se puede” — “We can do it”, or “we will do it”. They were nearly at the top, and I agreed with her. She had me smiling for at least 73 metres. But then my shoes filled with stones and my knees were complaining and I was hungry. People do this kind of thing for fun. Other people, of course, more than we can count, do that kind of thing because they have to. They do have to leave their homelands and carry their babies on their backs, and tell each other “Si se puede” when they don’t believe it, not really.
Feminists are like that. We have to carry each other, and we have to tell each other that we will succeed, even when our faith is not strong.
We just returned from WoLFFest in Northern California. It was the second year, a weekend of Feminists in the Redwood forest. All women, a few kids, three resident dogs. We tented in woods surrounding a small meadow and a couple of little houses. It was COLD. In the morning and the evening. Daytime was hot. There were workshops on how to do menstrual extractions and early abortions, and a couple of herb walks around the land. There were workshops about how to do political graffiti using stuff that’s lying around your house, or easy to get. Max Dashu did three workshops based on her “Suppressed Herstory Archives” — women have always resisted patriarchy, always tried to protect each other, always tried to take up our share of space, and make a path for others. We’ve always been suppressed, too, and burned and hunted and raped — by men. Of course not all men — but all men do benefit. And women often betray each other in order to save themselves and/or their children. Or we keep quiet about what we know to protect ourselves and/or our loved ones. Or we go mad. But somehow our stories survive (even if only in fragments), and there have always been women they could not burn. There’s a slogan, Max showed a slide of a young woman’s back, and printed on her skin (tattooed?) were the words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches they could not burn”. There was a workshop by a woman from the Dominican Republic about male violence against women there, and women’s resistance. There were three tents — a Women of Colour tent, the Meadow Tent, and the Forest Tent. We talked about how to find each other in the age of social media (that’s often alienating), and how to understand each other when our own recent herstories are being erased or dismissed as irrelevant. There was a journaling workshop (I didn’t go to that, but it sounded cool), and there was a campfire circle every night where women went to smoke and talk — I didn’t go there either. We arrived Friday evening, Saturday I was on security duty, and Sunday everyone sat at the big fire for a closing ceremony. There were about a hundred women there, most of us were of European descent, but there was probably a third who were women of colour or Aboriginal. there wasn’t much music–I played my accordion a bit, and Sarah lead us in some Ali Bee songs on Saturday night — THAT was fun. Lierre started us singing rounds (revolutions!) on Sunday night, and other women taught us songs or chants they knew or had written. It was a grand weekend, full of feminist discussions, debates, trading strategies and imagining how to meaningfully intervene in the patriarchal juggernaut that is tearing through what women have tried to create (women-only spaces, access to abortion, women-centred health care, art, access to and influence in public space, music, lives of freedom from slavery, prostitution, male violence –). It felt to me like there is a possibility for movement, there may be a shift toward a female future. Maybe. Someone asked, at one of the workshops, “What about hope? Can you tell me, is there hope for us?” — I don’t remember if it was Lierre or Meghan leading the discussion that time, or even who answered — a woman in the audience, maybe? Anyway, she said, “Hope doesn’t matter. We don’t have to have hope in order to act, that’s an indulgence. We have to act in the face of no hope.” Not in those words, but that’s the meaning I got from her answer. Reminded me of when Chris Hedges said at a talk in Vancouver a couple of years ago, “I don’t fight fascists because I think I’ll win, I fight fascists because they’re fascists”. Similarly, we must organize as women, as feminists, whether or not we like each other, or whether or not we believe we will win — but because the women before us made this world where some of us do have some slack in our chain, and we can imagine something that looks like freedom — not wholly, but we are just beginning.
Then I got an email from the teacher education department of my university. The head of our department and the head of the teacher education office want to meet with me about the course I just finished teaching. The course is called “Teaching and Ethics”. Every year, i’m getting a bit bolder about providing some material that is critical of the institution of education’s promotion of trans-ing children. We had a discussion in that last class about this trans stuff, and one of the teacher candidates asked to speak to me one-on-one about our class discussion. She asked “what if there’s a trans student in your class?” I don’t remember what my answer to her was. Something about staying in the discomfort and finding a way to speak to each other. Not to agree, that’s not necessary — but to talk about what we think, and how we came to our decisions and which forces condition our choices– that’s what I want for all my classes. So, a week later, I get an email from the boss people that they want to speak to me. There is no one else who is providing a critique of this trans ideology, and the harms that ideology is doing to children (especially girls). There is no analysis of the political/social structures (especially sexism, but certainly racism/imperialism and classism) that this whole “trans inclusion” stuff is reinforcing and reproducing. I figure our meeting will be about that. About how i’m a bigot and all.
I am, of course, imagining the worst. But I’ll breathe deep, and pray to the ancestors, and believe in the good intentions of the people who disagree with me and hold some love for them in my heart. And I will tell the truth and maintain my integrity and composure. I know I am not alone, and I owe the feminists who lead me and those who are following me. Also, all the little girls who are like I was–fierce and active tomboys, who pledged to always remember who they are. I remember, when i was 8 or 9, and my friends and I were talking about our mothers. Most of the other girls said, “My mom used to be a tomboy.” And I remember thinking, “how could they have forgotten? I will always remember that i’m a tomboy”. Of course, none of those women ever forgot, but what could they do? I owe them, too, a debt for the space and opportunities I have.
I’ve got more to say, but this post is long enough now, it’s been so long since i wrote anything, I have a lot of catching up to do! Oh, while i’m here, update on the stowaway–i have an MRI in late August, I feel fine, I’m back at the gym, (of course), and remain on anti-seizure medication. I am always grateful, always.