My grandma

 

grandma 1 copy

 

This is my lovely 94 year old grandma, Joyce (my middle namesake) drawn in ballpoint pen, with a splash of some watercolour, on 9 x 12 in paper. This was a piece with a lot of stops and starts, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right.

I don’t draw in this much detail often, but I am so in admiration of this woman’s energy and wit, as well as her capacity to continually learn and grow in her most recent years, I wanted to do her justice.

My grandma was a source not only of my earliest feelings of family and comfort, but of my ideas of femininity and beauty. She has always taken pride in her appearance, and it has always shown. My mom told me that when she was little she thought her mom was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I believe it.

It was important to me to reframe my grandma’s own self-consciousness around the act of ageing. Like many women from her generation (and today), she believes that youth is the ideal, and that getting older is a departure from that ideal. While on one hand, I remember her morning beauty routine and makeup instruction with warm and fuzzy nostalgia from sleepovers at my grandparents’, I know that her commitment to those products was a necessary protection from the critical external and internal voices of ageist judgement.

I wanted to pay attention to and honour how the imprints of her life experiences have informed her skin. As my face begins to get its own creases and lines, I’m trying to appreciate (despite a lifetime of training) that this is the story of my interactions with the world for the past 31 years. They represent all my smiles, all my belly laughs, all my scowls at people who deserved it, and all my serious eyebrow furrowing thoughts. They are a record of my story, and there is no reason they should be erased in favour of the simpler texture of a younger, less experienced and less wise, version of myself.

Lately I have been getting angry when I am seeking health care and I am instead targeted with anti-ageing products and procedures. It starts with the pharmacy section in the Safeway where there are a million wrinkle reducing skin care products but you can’t find the yeast infection treatment (ew vaginas, gross), and it seeps into the places where I am at my most vulnerable and exposed.  In my OB-GYN’s office, and in a general walk-in clnic I went to recently, there were ads for cosmetic surgery in the waiting room and in the actual doctor’s offices.

I resented so much that while I was dealing with issues that affected my actual health and well-being, when I was feeling low and like there was something wrong with me anyways, and in a moment when I was asking for help from an authority I was supposed to be able to trust, I was being marketed to and confronted with the fact that not only is there a problem with how I feel or operate, but I live in a society that also thinks I don’t  look how I’m supposed to look because my face has lines.

I reject the idea that women should feel shame or embarrassment for showing evidence that we have spent time on this earth. I’d like to celebrate all the life stages women experience, not just the perpetual childhood we are sold as necessary for continued social relevance. Humans get old (if we’re lucky). Women get old. There is not actually an alternative. Selling women discontent for being subject to the laws of time and space is a huge industry, and I’m specifically pissed off at the individuals who profit from inventing our insecurities for us.

I have a feeling that women who are not afraid to express the experience they’ve amassed over the years may be the most dangerous . . .

What if all women did not feel they needed to hide or fix themselves in order to occupy public space? What would we resist if we were not resisting time’s conversation with our own bodies?

Hmm . . .

I can think of some things.

Women, books and power

I created these pieces to celebrate literature by women* and its ability to reach across generations, inspire readers, and teach girls and women the lessons learned by our predecessors in the struggle for equal rights.

I love books and gain so much strength in reading from the perspectives of women who have imagined different worlds, articulated their lived experiences as members of marginalized, sometimes hated, groups, said funny stuff, and investigated the nature of our world in science, religion, politics and global culture and conflict.

I dream of a time that is beyond binaries, but in the mean time there is so much strength to be found in relating to the wisdom and stories of other women.

During this time that seems to be toxic masculinity manifested, I hope we can find our way back to what are generally considered ‘feminine’ qualities. Gentleness, an instinct to nurture, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, and a sense of submission in the form of duty may be falsely considered exclusively and essentially female, but they are part of every person. So now – when everything is out of balance favouring the fear, dominance and tribalism of the archetypal alpha male – this feels like a good time to learn from women.

* people who identify as female

 

Resist

I made this for the Vancouver Women’s March.  The woman in purple attended Trump’s inauguration to give him the double middle finger, becoming somewhat of a meme as she did so.  It’s a powerful image, reminding me that women from my mother’s and grandmother’s generation have been fighting for a long time, we can take nothing for granted, and we must speak truth to power.  Even if it means standing alone in the rain.

Jill Andrew- Body Positive Warrior 

Jill Andrew, PhD (ABD), is a prolific woman with a mission. She is a body positive activist, writer, educator, fashion blogger, co-creator of the Body Confidence Canada Awards, founder/director of BITE ME! Toronto Int’l Body Image Film & Arts Festival Awards, and spearhead a petition going to the  Ontario Human Rights Commission to make discrimination based on size and appearance illegal.  She wants to end fat shaming, and change our culture into one that accepts and celebrates all bodies, not to mention the people in them.

After learning about the Body Confidence Canada Awards, I wanted to connect with Jill and let her know about The Body Book, thinking it could be an educational tool to help the cause.  Kindly and bewilderingly given her full schedule, Jill found some time to share her thoughts.  In my opinion, she summed up perfectly why I feel this book is needed.

“Roz Maclean’s The Body Book is a welcomed edition to the Body Positivity Movement! MacLean seamlessly demonstrates that everyBODY has a story and that each and every one of our bodies not only deserves respect but should be acknowledged and celebrated as the only one we’re going to get! Our bodies usher us into the world, make us better community citizens and allow us to develop healthier and stronger relationships with our loved ones. We may look and move differently in these bodies of ours but what we can all do is appreciate one another and admire each others journeys in the skin we are in! Through the use of vivid colour and fun imagery, MacLean’s characters reach countless readers as they are not defined by any one gender or race, for instance. This allows a transcending of stereotypes which truly provides the opportunities for each of us – young and old – to ‘find’ each of these bodies within our very own.”

-Jill Andrew,PhD(ABD)

Thanks Jill for your thoughts, I look forward to following your incredible work. I encourage everyone to do the same!

Shoutback fest!

I was honored to be a part of Shoutback! fest this year by taking part in their first visual arts show at Artbank gallery.  Shoutback! is a lot of awesome things, such as diy, anti capitalist, anarcha-feminist, queer and all ages. Ultimately it is a “celebration in smashing patriarchy, showcasing artists who are under-represented.” Amongst a plethora of shows and workshops (on such topics as anti oppression and colonization, direct unionism, feminism and hip hop, fat panic!, skateboarding and bike fixing) this year they showcased art for the first time in a show curated by arts supporter and enthusiast ambitioustron extraordinaire, Selina Crammond. A rad zine was made by the fantastic Adrienne Labelle (both are of Movieland fame) with artists’ statements and manifestos, music was played to a jam packed venue, and even though people were very sweaty art was not, in the end, sweated upon.  Times were good. I even took pictures.

Also, the manifesto of the show/ festival (written by Selina Crammond)  was so inspiring to me I had to write it out here:

The name Shout Back! Festival was directly inspired by the title of Bell Hook’s 1988 book Talking Back: Thinking Feminist. Thinking Black. In the book, she outlines the transformative power of writing as a tool for addressing oppression and encouraging social change. For Shout Back the emphasis is on voice and sound as a tool for challenging the heteronormative structures that perpetuate inequality. This year we are going beyond music-making by including expanded workshops, a documentary screening and this art show as a way to offer (quieter) space to foster dialogue.

Be it through sound, writing or talking there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of sifting through such complex realities. The songs performed, the uber cool shout back t-shirts worn and even the art in this show are not the most important part of this festival. For me the power lies in the process of screen printing a t shirt and even the process of hanging art on the wall.

This art show, like the festival itself, is a celebration of process over product. Though all of the pieces in this show are wonderful, weird and thought provoking in their finality, the act of making them is what I’m most interested in. For it is the curl in Aili’s riot grrl manifesto, the pencil marks behind Roz’s watercolour, the tiny knots in Kristine’s tin foil jewelery, the pixellated splotches on Jill’s computer monitor, the rip in Vanessa’s paper canvass and the stitches in Caitlin’s banner where ideas become action.

Many feminist scholars have proclaimed the importance of working collectively through difference. But difference doesn’t exist without the normal. And I think, perhaps, the time + space that breathes between ideas + products are where difference + normal can collapse into an active togetherness that will set us free!

For if the duty of the feminist movement is, as Bell Hooks says, to work collectively to expand our awareness of how sex, race and class interlock to create oppressive narratives, then what better way to build a new narrative than by sharing the space where ideas become tangible? Let us always be talking, listening, laughing, reading, writing, drawing, editing, organizing and shouting together!