Global Roundup: Disabled women, queer women, and filmmaking women fight patriarchy

Compiled and written by Miriam Batal

Samaneh Shabani, who completed an internship at the United Nations Information Centre Tehran. United Nations photo: UNIC Tehran

Samaneh Shabani, an Iranian woman who recently defended her PhD with a dissertation on violence against women with disabilities and their access to justice under international human rights law, is a vital voice during a pandemic that has hit especially hard women and disabled people. She is fighting for a world where people with disabilities are equal under the law and able to lead active lives everywhere. She knows that legislation, edicts, and conventions will remain just words before legislatures, the business sector, and civil society, until all of us turn them into actionable change.

If each of us will take even a modest action to help a person in need – an elderly neighbor, a single mother, a person with a disability – we would be much stronger in our battle with COVID-19 - Samaneh Shabani

COVID-19 has hit Iran hard with 20,000 deaths, making it one of 11 countries hit hardest by the pandemic. Since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, the Iranian economy, which is still severely hit by international sanctions, further weakened, leaving many workers unemployed, supply chains disrupted, and borders locked.

We are all aware the COVID-19 pandemic and the year 2020 as a whole have been a real bitch! The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and been especially disastrous for womxn around the world, with jobs lost, abusive relationships and violence on the rise under lockdown, and housework and childcare and caretaking generally falling mostly on their shoulders. COVID-19 has increased daily challenges for folks with disabilities, who already must cope with lack of wheelchair ramps for buildings, lack of accessible public transport; lack of services like sign language interpreters in community facilities as well as the shortage of home caregivers for folks that are disabled. 

Samaneh Shabani is showing us the way to a better and more just world.

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CW: This article contains cyberbullying and suicide.  This can be upsetting or triggering since folks might have directly or indirectly experienced them. If ever you feel the need to reach out, please do and know that you are strong. 

When Canadian teen Amanda Todd took her young life back in 2012 after she was cyberbullied by a 38-year-old Dutch man, it set off an alarm in my head. They caught the Dutch asshole in 2017 and he was sentenced to 11 years – fucked up right!?!  

The internet should be a place where you can be yourself, vent about your personal life, make new friends, and so on and so forth. But if you’re a womxn, chances are you have already been cyberbullied, trolled or have even been threatened online just for being you.   

Madhuraa Prakash, a Plan International Australia youth activist based in Sydney, is bringing awareness to what it’s like to be a girl online:

You see, I am a queer young female activist with an active presence on social media. And while social media can be a blessing, it is also a place where cruel and mean-spirited people lurk, waiting to attack minorities - Madhuraa Prakash

In her article Prakash shares some shocking (yet informative) statistics:  

Plan International’s Free to Be Online survey of more than 14,000 girls across 32 countries worldwide, released on Monday, found 42 per cent of girls who identify as LGBTQIA+ have been singled out and harassed because of this identity. The research, conducted in April and May this year, also heard from 1,000 Australian girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24. One in four girls and young women who faced abuse online said they felt physically unsafe as a result - Madhuraa Prakash 

So, if we can’t be safe in the streets and online then what are we supposed to do? Nothing? FUCK NO! Prakash’s important work is helping to shine light on a dark subject which is life threatening for too many girls.

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Colonialism is still all present in our society – this might come as a shocker for some but guess what? THIS SHIT IS EMBEDDED IN OUR SOCIETY. In her September 30th issue of FEMINIST GIANT Newsletter, my classmate Sahra, shared with you the outrageous circumstances around the death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old indigenous woman from the Atikamekw Nation while tied to a hospital bed. 

I stumbled across this Twitter thread where ᑲᑕᕋ ❄ ᐱᐅᔪᖅ shared the various prices of food items from Igloolik Nunavut. Prices like CDN$12 for orange juice, $32 for asparagus and $49 for a box of various fruit snacks. If these prices scare you, then good! No one should pay $50 for some fucking fruit snacks!  

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Photos: Pussy Riot/Facebook

Is there a better way to celebrate your birthday than having pride flags everywhere? Well, Pussy Riot celebrated the 68th birthday of notoriously homophobic Russian President Vladimir Putin by raising rainbow flags on five government buildings in Moscow last Wednesday (October 7th). Putin has spoken out against LGBTQ rights, saying he doesn’t believe they align with traditional Russian values and oversaw the introduction of an anti-gay propaganda law in 2013, which bans the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations to minors. It has been used to ban marches for Pride and other supportive public coverage of the queer community.

The punk feminist collective took to their social media to explain what they would like to see from the Russian government: 

1. Investigate the killings and kidnappings of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer people in Chechnya.

2. Stop harassment of activists and organizations who help the LGBTQ community.

3. Pass a law that prevents discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. 

4. Legalize same-sex partnerships. 

5. Stop harassment of same-sex families, stop taking away children from these families. 

6. Abolish "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" law as discriminatory – Pussy Riot (ig: nadyariot)

Now that’s how you make a statement! 

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Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Two months ago, my heart was devastated when I saw the horrific images/videos of the Beirut blast all over social media. Lebanon was already suffering before this tragedy - the pandemic, an economic crash as well as protests against the corrupt government. The blast left 190 dead, more than 6,500 injured and roughly 300,000 homeless. Rising up against this tragedy, Lebanese folks came together to clean the city and help those who were affected by the blast; many of them are young Lebanese folks.  

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, whose latest Oscar-nominated film “Capernaum” shed light on Beirut’s preexisting desperation, has turned her camera on Lebanese’s leaders to hold them accountable for their recklessness that caused this man-made disaster.

We need to know the truth… Just because this tragedy happened in a small country that is almost invisible on the map, it doesn’t mean it can be forgotten so quickly - Nadine Labaki

Labaki said that the fact that a network of unpaid workers “got organized so quickly and efficiently” to remove broken glass and debris and start fixing damaged buildings and providing food and diapers to displaced survivors stands as further proof that Lebanon “has always been functioning without a government.” And that, she notes, “is the only hope I still have of rebuilding the country.”

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La chanteuse Béatrice Martin, plus connue sous le nom de Cœur de pirate  Photo : Maxyme G Delisle

This article is in French. 

Cœur de pirate (Béatrice Martin), released a song in early October called T’es belle (you’re beautiful) in which the Quebec artist denounces patriarchy and the sexist injunctions imposed on womxn constantly. The lyrics of the song are powerful and truth telling: 

T'es belle, c'est c'qu'on m'a toujours dit / Mais juste quand tu souris / Pourquoi c'est toujours un non-dit / Que pour être aimée, faut être soumise? / T'es conne, si tu restes en silence / T'es folle, si tu prends la parole - Cœur de pirate.

Translated from French to English: 

“You're beautiful, that's what I've always been told / But just when you smile / Why is it always unspoken / That to be loved, you have to be submissive? / You're stupid, if you stay silent / You're crazy, if you speak up - Cœur de pirate

As womxn we are constantly told to smile, be quiet, don’t be angry and stay submissive things that you might have heard before yourself. This song is critiquing the patriarchal society in which womxn are always told how they should act and behave. The music video is even more powerful with womxn of all skin colours (fuck yes inclusivity), body shapes and sizes (fuck yessss body positivity), a trans woman Khate Lessard, drag queen Kiara, and an iconic scene in which three womxn are all in white yoga sportswear and when they stretch you see blue coming down their legs – making reference to the stupid “blue liquid” that tampon and pad commercials use. Give the song a listen and watch the video! 

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Miriam Batal (she/they) is a completing their fourth-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree with a major in World Cinemas and minor in Feminist and Gender studies at the University of Ottawa. They are out and proud queer Lebanese – Canadian, they are abled-bodied, a settler of colour, intersectional feminist, body positivity, sex-positive, pro-sex worker, fully bilingual (French and English) person who lives on Turtle Island (Canada). She currently sits on the uOPride Executive team. 

They are passionate about human rights, social justice and accessible mental health services and treatments. They are tired of cis white heterosexual men running politics and making decisions on their body and sexuality. They would like one day to make a positive change to this heteronormative world. When they are not protesting, or reading on queer theory/literature, Miriam enjoys spending time with their friends, going to the museum, attending drag shows, queer art exhibit, cinema and the theatre (pre-pandemic nonetheless) and video games. 

They firmly believe that with education whether it be in academia or through lived experiences and conversation we are able to defeat ignorance, the patriarchy, colonialism and injustices.