Coop radio show "The F Word" on Bill C-38, the state of feminism in Canada
In 2006, co-founder Nicole Deagan traveled to Edmonton for a national feminism conference on feminism with a group of women from Capilano University. The group soon became friends, but was also brought together by a sense of isolation. The women felt that feminism itself had somehow become so disjointed that it was hard to find real points of connection within the community.
The sense of isolation lingered even after the group hosted a national conference on feminism, so Deagan set onto her next project to bring feminists together over the airwaves, rather than in conferences.
Drawing on a tongue-in-cheek reference to femnism, she co-founded The F Word radio show with Vancouver’s Cooperative Radio Station. Since 2007, Deagan and a team of radio hosts have been discussing current topics that affect the value of women in society such as Slutwalk and Bikini Hockey. In addition to the weekly radio show, The Meghan Murphy posts blogs on its website offering a more in-depth look into society’s marginalization of women.
VO: Bill C-38 was recently passed into law. What concerns you the most personally about the bill from a feminist perspective? Why?
ND: There are multiple problems with Bill C-38. Negative impacts on the environment, food safety, and workers' wages and rights will all be felt by women and their dependants - pushing a capitalist agenda necessarily leaves the most vulnerable suffering disproportionately.
Hard-won progress will be set aside through several of the proposed changes; but some sections are blatantly regressive, such as amendments to the Employment Equity Act which will effectively remove required protections for groups that have experienced discrimination. This includes women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities.
VO: What can people expect to hear from The F Word radio show?
MM: We’ve done a lot of different things. We usually pick a topic or more, interview people with feminist perspective. Topics range from the media, to TV shows, current topics that can use a bit of feminist critique.
VO: Where to interviewees come from?
MM: All over the place! I’ve interviewed people from Australia, UK, Egypt, and lots of people from the U.S., Canada, tons from Vancouver of course.
The title “The F Word” is quite witty – it shows that Feminists can have a sense of humour too. But why does it seem that feminism needs to be humanized in order to be taken seriously?
MM: That’s a side of feminism that doesn’t get a lot of exposure. We do like to joke around, even though it’s a serious endeavor. It’s pretty hard to counteract that impression that people have – that we don’t have any fun.
VO: You touched on this feeling of isolation – it seems to be an issue for women everywhere.
ND: There’s a lot of work that has to be done on forming coalitions with between women’s organizations, between feminists to work on specific issues instead of making so that we agree on everything. Within the feminist movement there’s a real tendency to be like, “here’s my position on issue”.
We have to line up on all four of those issues, or else, we’re going to fight against each other. And one of the things that I really wanted to promote on the show and through our organization of working together – we’re allowed to disagree.
We do have some basic principles in common, and one of those are that we believe feminist discussion should be happening in the media, so that people who able to go to university, people working in the field, or people with interest or desire to learn what are the conversations and debate within feminism. On the other hand, there’s a lot more feminists online, and a lot more feminist writing in online papers.
I think the internet has really changed the ability for people to express themselves as feminists. You don’t have to get a job at a newspaper to be able to write from feminist perspective.
VO: There’s a lot of negative stigma with being labeled a feminist. Why does this happen?
ND: There’s a pretty effective backlash against feminism. I would say if people were more open, a more balanced presentation of feminism was out there with more accessibility. People tend to be hesitant to identify as feminists.
One of the main goals of [The F Word] show was to disrupt those associations. Here’s what "real" feminism is: for example, here’s a woman who works in the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter and these are some issues come up in health groups for women who go to this service. Here’s a woman who works in a women’s shelter and these are the legal challenges they face.
By interviewing people who work as feminists in the world, we naturally educate people on what feminism really is in practice.
MM: In terms of women being afraid to call themselves feminists ... the fear is once you start asking questions about your surroundings with feminist critique, things will be harder -- which they are.
Once you start to see things through a feminist lens, its hard to unsee them. It means that things get more complicated. You’re going to have difficult conversations, relationships may change, but in the end it’s very empowering to understand how systematic oppression works.
I remember feeling in my early twenties before I got into women’s studies, I got really angry all the time but didn’t know why: “This is wrong and I don’t like it, but I don’t know why.” Finding the words to articulate why I felt so alienated was empowering, but scary at the same time.
VO: Are feminists in Canada unified despite the geographic distance?
ND: No, I think we’re very disconnected. I think that the national connection for feminists in Canada is largely lost. Basically in the eighties there were national conferences to discuss current issues and talk with government representatives and Minister of Justice and panels to advocate for systemic changes. There was funding for women’s organizations to do that kind of lobbying with women from across Canada. That funding has been cut over the past twenty years, which has made it difficult for us to connect, and work with women in the east and central Canada.
People seem curious about feminism. How would you respond to someone asking you “are you a feminist?”
MM: People really like to talk about it. I find that it’s good in some ways but can also be really exhausting because people want to argue with you. People are really interested, I find. I get ignorant comments sometimes, but for the most part people are really interested, they want to talk about these issues, both men and women. They may not necessarily identify as feminists but are really interested in talking about it because they haven’t had these conversations before, and haven’t had much exposure to what women’s studies courses provide.
The F Word radio show broadcasts on 102.7FM every Monday from 12pm-1pm. You can also check out their blog at www.feminisms.org.