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Letter From the Editor

Miriam Arbus

Speaking up and representing all the small voices, and always doing so from a place of understanding: That’s one of the many ways I’d describe my feminisms.

When I began writing this letter last week I was filled with inspiration from all of the incredible feature artists and writers that we have been lucky enough to connect with in our second edition (and via Sleepover Club Initiative in general). I am constantly amazed and inspired and comforted by our expanding community of strong voices and passionate lovers. 
Our invitation to provide work commenting on the role and importance of our changing landscape of contemporary feminisms, was met with insightful response. We present, in this Edition II, a complex conversation that initiates considerations of gendered expectations and constructs of womanhood, motherhood, censorship, objectification and representation. Edition II asks that we analyse the way we react, and the way we communicate. 

Sitting down to finish writing, I feel quite a bit more down on luck. This past week a major court case gripped my home town, Canada. Jian Ghomeshi, is a major public figure in Canada, having dominated one of our most popular radio shows and was considered to be a trustworthy person by many. In 2014, after one brave woman stepped forward to publicly discuss the traumatic sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Ghomeshi, countless women came forward with the same stories to tell.

In a process that has spanned too many months, these women have been examined and cross examined with the whole country looking on. They have been worn raw, exposing extremely emotional and vulnerable personal experiences on such a public platform. They collectively are seeking retribution, and striving to speak with strong voices in hopes that perpetrators can be held accountable, and that domestic violence and sexual abuse finds acknowledgement and rejection in our societal space.

After many gruelling sessions, the court has ruled that Jian Ghomeshi is not guilty. The game of he-said she-said so overtly ignored what so many she’s had to say. Instead of engaging in an empathetic conversation supporting the victims who had suffered, the court insisted on following with rigour, the stagnant and stale institutional structures that have been instilled long ago. This then resulted in Ghomeshi walking free due to “inconsistencies” in the victim’s statements. The defence lawyer implemented really heart breaking tactics - suggesting that the victims had enticed their assaulter, that they had too much to drink, and that they were only searching for media attention. (maybe she wore short shorts and was basically asking for it...)

An entire nation has been involved in this conversation. The hashtag #BelieveSurvivors populates social media beseeching and offering support and fight,  yet court rulings (a system developed by those majorities in power), dictate the response. This is all done according to a set of rules that were designed before our increasing collective capacity for gender equality and also for empathy and cognitive/psychological understandings, even existed. Though this case and verdict are confusing and disheartening, I hope that this national and global conversation will inspire women and minorities everywhere to grow stronger together, and continue to speak up. I hope that we collectively learn to be sensitive to those who have experienced trauma.

So in this second web edition, Sleepover Club Initiative wants to know from everybody - what are your feminisms? How do we take feminisms into account and into practice, and move forward? How can we speak for ourselves and also for others?

I believe what we need to be pushing forward is a politic of responsibility, leaving behind our entitlements and self-involved anxieties. 
Read the submissions and go forth. Share your ideas with us always. 

Remember, as Arakawa and Gins in their ongoing Reversible Destiny projects remind: you can change your reality by changing your perception.

We’d love to hear from all of you and continue our What is Contemporary Feminisms platform as an ongoing forum. Send us your words, thoughts, images.