Video and Article by Maxine Pichler and Sashalie Quirós
According to Statistics Canada (2015) “women and girls constitute over half of Canada’s population”, a total of 17.2 million females, from which 2.6 million females identify with a visible minority group.” (Statistics, 2015). The growing presence of diversity and women in the workforce makes it important to discuss stereotypes that women still face day in and day out.
Historically, women stayed at home to be housewifes and to be at their husbands beck and call. It was not until 1929 when women were finally declared “persons” in Canada. It is fair to question why a women’s abilities to fulfil a position is often doubted. Women have been accustomed to stereotypes that society has assigned them. Now, we as women want to know how far this declaration has brought us, and what inequalities are we still facing. If women constitute half of the population why are they still being treated as second class citizens and according to Oxfam Canada still a “political issue”. Having such a strong feminist movement advocating for women’s equality around the world has grown a rising concern; several women still feel that they are being diminished based on either their heritage/background or the simple fact that they were born a woman.
Although many women have fought for years to gain rights, freedom, and equality; today more than ever there is a discourse around women’s rights. Glass ceilings and stereotypes are being destroyed through the fight for feminism. For decades, women have not only been judged and defined by their sex, but also by their background. Women are stronger warriors in the fight for equal rights and respect men, but it is an ongoing battle.
Should women be treated differently for the way they look, for the colour of their skin, or the colour of their hair?
We decided to interview six different women of contrasting heritage. These women have been exposed to different cultures and beliefs. In our hunt for the truth and a raw view of how women are perceived and perceive themselves in the world, these beautiful women shared stories of their present and their past with us.
Some of the questions that they were asked are:
How do you define yourself?
Do you feel your heritage has influenced your identity? How?
Do people perceive or treat you differently based on your background?
If you could choose your label, what would you like it to say?
Do you think being a woman or your heritage has influenced your career or path?How?
For the next five seconds we would like you to go back in time to the moment you met someone for the very first time. What was your first impression? What was the very first question you asked that person? For some people meeting someone is not a big deal; they probably fit the Western image. However, when your skin colour stands out, or your hair is not silky and blonde, even when your facial features are too prominent, the story changes. Racialized women face a double barrier. On one hand, women like Kruti, Saadia, and Karissane have to put up with being judged and ask what they call “silly” questions based on their visual characteristics, being women of colour. On the other hand, women like Mairead, Maria and Rhea that share caucasian characteristics are rarely asked questions regarding their background.
Let us introduce you to our six volunteers:
Kruti Kapadia, born in India (Hindu heritage), 28 years old, pursuing a career in the Logistic industry.
Maria Mesic, born in Canada (Croatia descendent), 21 years old, interested to pursue a career as Nurse practitioner.
Saadia Khan, born in Pakistan, 20 years old, interested in pursuing a career in Community based projects that advocate for Queer Muslims.
Mairead Meyer, born in Canada (German/Latvian/Irish/Scottish/British heritage), 22 years old, interested in a career in Psychology, Mental Health, and Indigenous Reconciliation.
Karissane Redwood, born in Jamaica (African descendent), 20 years old, singer, interested in the production industry.
Rhea Singer, born in Canada (Jewish descendant), 21 years old, interested in a career in PR or Corporate Communication.
In a very modern era where communication is a key for society, we can get stuck in stereotypes of the past. As women we recognize the work that pioneers like Rosa Park, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Antony achieved through their fights and sacrifices; these women became role models to humanity and especially to other great female leaders of our generation like Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and Michelle Obama. These are women of diverse backgrounds; that were driven by their passion and not their fears to fight for equal opportunities. Today more than ever we need to listen to those great leaders, and continue fighting while embracing our gender and heritage.
Every woman should have the opportunity to express herself without being automatically stereotyped by her explicit (visual) heritage. All six women that we interviewed shared an opinion. Regardless, if they are asked or not about their heritage, they want people to focus on their personalities and skills and not their looks. These six ladies were exposed to their cultures in different degrees, and while some identify more than others with their heritage, none of them want their heritage or the fact that they are women to come between their goals. They feel their heritage has influenced their identity until certain extent, but only in positive ways, because it has make them who they are.
We as women will not be able to eliminate racism or stereotypes if we don't have the same opportunities men have. The fight for equality continues.
For more information on the women we interviewed, watch the video we made by clicking the box on the top.
Special thanks to:Kruti Kapadia, Saadia Khan, Maria Mesic, Mairead Meyer, Karisanne Redwood, and Rhea Singer.
Start a conversation with Maxine Pichler on intersectional feminism by connecting with her on Linkedin