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Open Season

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Feels like it’s open season. Worked at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Sunday. There was a notice on the memorial table for each of the women who have died in the last month. There are a lot of them. Philipa, Fern, Julie, and, oh god. oh no. not Marlene, too. How? she’s only 43, what the hell happened? All of them, preventable deaths. Philipa had breast cancer. I don’t know how that could have been prevented, but I know the whole “breast cancer awareness” bullshit fund-raising bullshit is bullshit. Honestly, it’s like working in social services. We don’t really WANT to find a cure, and preventing all this suffering means we will have to utterly change the system, rearrange everything, stop working in research for a cure; stop or doling out soup and condoms and fucking platitudes (like my fucking favourite: “Everything happens for a reason”–it does NOT. most shit is just random, random fucking crap raining down on the Beautiful People)–and start redistributing everything. lose our jobs. do without some of the nice stuff we got, so everyone can enjoy some beauty.

There’s no fucking reason that those women downtown, where I work, should be dying at 43 or 52 or 57 or 28 or 17 of breast cancer or overdoses or heart attacks or lupus (that was Marlene’s particular affliction this time) or aspirating their own vomit or pneumonia or…no fucking reason. Okay, okay, “everything happens for a reason” you know what? you know why these women died so young, when they could have lived long enough to say, “when I was your age…”; do you know why they died? Because they were murdered by racism and sexism. Patriarchal capitalism killed them. Marlene had three kids and they didn’t live with her because she had to leave her impoverished home town and work and she drank because she was lonely and afraid, and her boyfriends were sullen or violent or deadbeats or all three–Julie was an activist and an artist and an addict. something went sideways pretty early for all these women, and they paid with their lives. All of them good women, all of them yearning for freedom, striding or trudging or stumbling along different paths to get it, and all of them cut down before they could achieve it. I didn’t know Julie or Fern very well, but I knew Philipa and Marlene–and Philipa was a visionary. Marlene was a good woman. they’re all good women. I remember once Marlene called me–we lived close to each other then–and said, “I want to be where you are.” I had roommates at the time, I wasn’t so sure they’d be down with another roomie with no notice. So I went to where she was. We smoked cigarettes and drank stale Coke and talked. Her boyfriend was there, and grumpy. I think he went to bed. I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else. “yes” she said. But she didn’t leave that night. Not long after that, I quit my job where we worked together, Marlene and me. We lost touch. She quit a few years later, too. Stuck it out through some hard times, but finally couldn’t manage, and there were some changes going on, and you know how things go. She wasn’t well, either.

The day i was at work, women were somber. They had lost a lot of women they loved and admired. the already enormous burden of grief has increased again.

But you know what, sometimes, (well, every day, actually), miracles happen. And that day, five young women came into the centre. They asked if they could sing a few songs. it was Sunday, and naturally we were suspicious. “No religious stuff” we said. They assured us they’d keep it entirely secular.

But even at that, they had the voices of angels. Oh my. I don’t know what it was, sounded like something ancient and English. Soaring harmonies in a minor key–a love song and a lament at once. Just the thing. They were from Camrose. There’s a bible college in Camrose, and you can bet your bottom dollar that’s where they were from. And their songs were a deliverance and redemption and women were completely still listening to these girls. i saw tears balancing on lashes, and felt some rolling down my own cheeks.

It was, in general, a cold wet windy day, but when those young women raised their voices together–gave that brilliant gift–the sun came out for a few wavering minutes so the notes could climb above the streets on ladders of light–warming us deep for just a short while.

Sometimes it feels like open season on women down here.

But the sun shines here, same as the rest of the city. And women sing and laugh and feel the love. ‘Cause we have to. And we deserve to.

About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, working in a field for which I am not yet trained, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. Radical feminism will be the roots of our shared liberation. Rejection of sex-stereotypes (gender) and male domination will give us wings.

One response »

  1. an important thing to say, that i left out, is that most of these women are Aboriginal. Marlene and Phillipa were Gitksan, from the Skeena River area of what is now known as British Columbia. I don’t know who Fern’s people were. Racism killed these women before their time, sure as shit.

    we have a lot to answer for, a lot of work to do. and we can. we need each other.


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