Imagine not being considered a person, being told you’re not really part of society. Women in Canada were told just this until Oct. 18, 1929, when the Supreme Court of Canada declared them persons.
The painful reality of women’s rights was the inspiration for Sharon Stevens in creating the video project titled “Connective” — a screening of feminist video art by Canadian women, which took place Oct. 26 at Emmedia Gallery in downtown Calgary.
“I called out to film makers who were apart of the feminist community. I deeply care for community collaborations,” Stevens said.
The project is the compilation of 10 feminist videos, which address some of the major issues affecting women today.
Some of the films were produced in the past year, while the oldest of the films date back to 1988. One film chronicles the burgeoning of lesbian culture and body image, while others address the issues faced by immigrant women and those in the face of poverty.
“So much has changed. Some are in VHS, film, super 8, BETA, and I wanted to highlight that change,” Stevens said about her process of choosing footage from 40 years worth of archives.
“Films that center on comedy have also been worked into the project. Comedy makes it easier for a community to gather around,” said Stevens.
“There are some light hearted parts to laugh at, as activism can be so grim and determined.”
The film is being screened not just to commemorate women being persons, but also to raise awareness about issues facing women everyday, according to Stevens.
Marina Giacomin, executive director of Servants Anonymous Society, said, “Even with films raising awareness, women in certain countries are not considered people and in Canada have been for only so long.”
“Women are still marginalized, and the public have trouble seeing these issues as being important.”
The Servants Anonymous Society takes women from volatile situations, such as abusive relationships or human trafficking, and provides them a community of safety which to invest themselves added Giacomin.
On the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women website a Statistics Canada study was cited saying half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence, and only 10 per cent of these incidents will be reported.
The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children reported that the cost of supporting victims of abuse is $4.2 billion a year. This cost is for the support of social services, criminal justice, lost employment days, and health care interventions.
Giacomin said poverty is the largest problem that affects women, and that when women live in poverty they are more susceptible to violence, addiction and becoming victims of the sex trade.
She added that these problems continue largely because people are not aware of these issues or still believe women choose to be in such situations.
“It might be a choice but it’s a choice based on no reasonable alternative, you know, you might trade sex for survival but that is not much of a choice,” explained Giacomin.
“Here at Servants Anonymous we find women seeking community, we are all sisters and its evident women are relational. From this I see how the world is changed — women have been forced to act like men and they have lost those relationships or connection with each other,” said Giacomin.
Spousal abuse is one of the largest contributors to violence against women. According to Statistics Canada, 29 per cent of Canadian women have been assaulted by a spouse.
The relationship and community of women is reflected in Stevens’ video, as she wanted the film to be rooted in community.
Vicki Chau, program co-ordinator of Emmedia Gallery, spoke of Stevens’ direction of community for the screening, “Sharon also wanted to tie into the international women’s month and wanted to celebrate women.”
“My hope is that the rhythm of the 10 pieces won’t be too jarring, but they all raise important issues which need to thought about,” Stevens said regarding the explicit nature of one of the highlighted films “Drawing the Line.”
While the public screening has passed the compiled video is in the Emmedia archives and the possibility of private viewing does exist. More information can be found by contacting Emmedia Gallery.