Status update

Canadian feature documentary ‘Status Quo?’ zeroes in on key feminist concerns such as violence against women, access to abortion, and universal childcare, asking how much progress we have truly made on these issues.

The crisp promise of September was marred faster than you can upload a video. Images circulated of frosh students in Halifax and Vancouver raucously exhorting non-consensual sex. Such actions were particularly grievous given the suicide of Nova Scotian teenager Rehtaeh Parsons earlier this year following a sexual assault and its traumatic fallout.

With the cultural persistence of men’s violence against women from the Atlantic to the Pacific, now is the time to take the temperature of feminism in Canada. Status Quo?: The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada takes on the challenge.

Put your parka on, Status Quo? finds the atmosphere chilly. The feminist landscape is marred by unfulfilled potential and lost gains. Intimate partner violence rates remain steady. National childcare provision peaked in 1945. Abortion rights are under threat. Aboriginal communities suffered a generation of Stolen Sisters.

The film alternates between footage of the 1967 Royal Commission on the Status of Women and contemporary women working on the frontlines and at the grassroots. Tellingly, the film starts with a shelter worker trying unsuccessfully to find a place for a woman wanting to escape an abusive partner.

One woman tells of the numerous hurdles she faced when attempting to access an abortion in New Brunswick. Another woman, from the Philippines, exposes how the Live-in Caregiver program, implemented by the Conservative government, is an unfair and insufficient response to calls for a National Childcare Program.

There are glimpses of light. As a counterpoint to the formality of the Royal Commission, the Rebelles are a group of young women breathing life into the Canadian feminist movement. But the message of the film is both rousing and daunting: to achieve equality Canadian women and men need to protect hard-fought victories as well as continually push for advancements in attitudes and policy.

Cinema Politica St. John’s and the National Film Board of Canada are screening ‘Status Quo?: The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada’ on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., Memorial University, Innovation Hall, Bruneau Centre for Innovation and Research (IIC-2001). Admission is free. Donations to the Newfoundland Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre will be accepted. Come grow your feminism.

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