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This article was published 21/5/2011 (3531 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Feminism never went away. It just lost its voice. That was the underlying vibe at the RebElles Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering at the University of Winnipeg Saturday morning. Hosted by local feminist movement FemRev, women ranging in ages from 14 to 35 are taking part in the four-day event, discussing numerous topics ranging from violence against women to social justice, both home and abroad.
The conference, which features over 350 participants -- a third of those from outside of Manitoba -- is dubbed Notre Révolution Féministe, Our Revolution is Now, and is considered a needed 'reboot' of the feminist movement in the country.
"It has sort of died down," Charly Wreggitt said of where feminism is in Canada right now. "But I think a lot of it is just an attack on our beliefs -- not as a feminist collective -- but rather in the ideas that a lot of feminists are pro-choice and against patriarchy.
"Frankly, I think a lot of people are just uncomfortable with the traditional idea of feminism and would rather just pretend that the issues involving women don't exist."
And that's the starting point for many at the conference, the need to breathe some new life into the feminist ideals at a time when many at the conference feel they're needed the most. Women's advocacy hasn't taken a break or stopped working, nor did it die when Thelma and Louise went over the cliff.
Feminism is a full-time position, according to participants, and if you talk to many at the downtown campus this weekend, you'll find no shortage of complaint with the national Conservative government, the right-wing ideologies that still exist with some employers and the slashing of women's-advocacy program budgets.
Many feel the issues surrounding women's rights are connected.
"When I was 18 years old, I thought there would be a huge decrease in violence against women and there would be a dollar-for-dollar attitude when it comes to employment," Kathleen Shellrude said. "I'm one of the older people here and it hasn't happened yet."
"It's a lot more than just being allowed to vote or getting a job," said RebElles spokeswoman Jodie Layne. " 'Why are you still fighting?' or 'What more do you want?' -- those are the arguments I hear, questioning the feminist movement. And it's so disappointing to hear those attitudes.
"This isn't about small victories; it's about maintaining basic human rights for women."
One thing the plenary gathering at the U of W showed Saturday was a distinct energy, one that led to some inspired discussion.
Participants hit on five general areas of conversation -- violence against women, anti-racism and decolonization, poverty and anti-capitalism, the environment and peace and demilitarization -- with other workshops and activities revolving around those main themes.
With more activities planned for today, Wreggitt says the weekend has already been a success. New relationships are being formed and new ideas are being shared, both of which she hopes will breathe new life into the feminist brand.
"Sometimes the happy little bubble we live in isn't really how things are," she adds. "It's OK to get out of your comfort zone and challenge things."