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Tiger vs. Crane

Why the G(irls) don't get it

by Ryan Lum

FLAP members at anti-G8 development ministers mobilization
FLAP members at anti-G8 development ministers mobilization

Last week, the inaugural G(irls)20 summit took place in Toronto. The 3 day meeting, touted as a gendered alternative to the male dominated G8 and G20, brought together one young female delegate from each of the G20 countries to discuss issues that affect women at the global level. Largely organized by the Belinda Stronach Foundation, but also supported by such corporate heavyweights as Nike and Google, the business-woman-turned-politician-and-back-again's charity organization sought to enact its mandate of "advancing human potential and achievement through individual empowerment and social change". The meeting addressed access to education for women, employability, and gender violence, and wrapped up with proposals to achieve UN Millennium development goals and a resolution to meet again before next year's G20 summit in France. 

Fast forward to this week, as anti-G8/G20 activists began to organize for the weekend summit, a group of feminists from Halifax called FLAP, the Feminist League for Agitation Propaganda, has come to Toronto to spread their message of radicalized and revitalized feminism. Indeed, while delegates of the G(irls) summit find it problematic that only 1 of the 20 leaders at the upcoming summit, Germany's Angela Merkel, is a woman, FLAP member Emily Davidson says that it not only shows that there is an unequal distribution of power amongst the genders, but that it represents the G20's structural bias against women.

"The G(irls) summit has a narrow conception of what underexposed issues are for women", said Emily. She explains that although issues affecting women are not unimportant, to view them simply as "women's issues" to be debated separately from other issues of social justice disregards the inequalities that are promoted by the economic model upheld by the G8 and G20, neoliberalism. "Such a system promotes 'gender equality' nominally, but it does not seek to end gender-based oppression".

Even while the G8 has sketched a plan to improve maternal health in developing countries, including the funding of abortion and contraception access, a measure which PM Stephen Harper refuses to adopt, Davidson says that its support of government austerity measures and relative inaction on climate change legislation constitute an "attack on women".

"Women in developed nations regularly access the social service network, whether they be single mothers or pregnant woman who are temporarily unable to work" Likewise, women in developing nations that lack the same infrastructural technologies as first world countries are more prone to the affects of climate change, flooding and drought among them. 

"Ultimately, one has to consider feminist issues as interconnected with other economic, environmental and social issues we are facing, and the G8/G20 is standing in the way of progress on all those issues".

  When asked what separates FLAP from existing feminist groups, she replies "FLAP doesn't feel obligated to say 'Yes' to all varieties of feminism under the sun". Such "feminist essentialism', a standing in solidarity with women based solely on their gender, is the very reason why a leader such as Merkel is able to legislate for austerity measures and remain in good standing amongst 'feminists', she said.

Emily also finds this trend behind the popularity of potential U.S. presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin, who is vehemently anti-abortion, has said that the pro-life movement represents a reclamation of 'feminism' by politically conservative women. For some, Palin is a feminist because, in her opposition to the 'paternalistic' welfare state, she endorses women's right to self-determination.

Such a stance may make her a libertarian, but it does not make her a feminist, thinks Davidson. "We have to remember that Sarah Palin is quite wealthy and has a job that she does not risk losing. Most women are not in as fortunate a position as she is". 

Offering what they consider a "feminist analysis of the current socio-economic context", FLAP plans to be present at the People First!/Off the Fence march today, so keep a lookout for floral-print banners.


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Topics: Gender
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