Welcome to WordCity Literary Journal’s July 2021 issue.
For this collection, while we accepted works that address many different themes, we also expanded on one that was brought forward by our fiction editor, Sylvia Petter. Sylvia noted that 2021 marks only 50 years since Women in Switzerland won the right to vote.
With few exceptions, most of this journal’s editorial board were alive in the world by that time.
In Canada, where three of the nine of us live, women’s suffrage, depending on the province, is about 100 years old. A time that is still alive in our most senior citizens.
Certainly, much has changed since that time. Women have entered, have often broken down the doors of opportunities and institutions that were previously closed to us.
And yet, women, here in Canada, in Switzerland, all around the world, are still not equal.
Women are more likely to be affected by societal evils such as workplace, domestic and sexual harassment and violence.
Girls and women face barriers to health care, to autonomy over their own bodies, and to education, opportunities and income inequality, whether in careers previously regarded as men’s work, or in positions traditionally occupied by more women than men. And right now, women-led industries are under assault.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic circumnavigated the globe more than a year ago, women have found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic response.
They are the parent most likely to leave work and stay home with children who are necessarily receiving their education online. They are service workers in grocery stores and pharmacies. When restaurants have been open, they are the preponderance of servers. They are the housekeeping, food and laundry service staff that keep hospitals running. They also make up the majority of teachers and nurses.
Today, for example, when I required a Covid-19 test after coming down with a sore throat, cough and headache, the two technicians on staff to perform the swab were both women.
Women. On the front lines. Within coughing distance of me. As I lowered my mask and breathed Ahhh.
Here, you see, in the Canadian province of Alberta, our Conservative-led government dropped all but the merest of pandemic restrictions as of July 1st (Canada Day), in favour of the appearance that the virus is no longer among us. We have been all but instructed to have “the best summer ever.” Anything less is considered bad for business, and so even the simplest measure of mask wearing indoors has been done away with.
That is how I came to step through someone else’s cough or sneeze at the grocery store. Because about the only place I’ve been in the last seventeen months, and especially the last few days, is the grocery store.
Nevertheless, I am fortunate. Canadians are fortunate. Fortunate in the extreme. As a wealthy nation with purchasing power at the federal level, we have enough vaccine for our entire population, and around 75% of our eligible population (age 12+ to date) has received at least one of the two necessary doses needed for full immunization. 50% of us have been fully immunized, including myself. Therefore, even if I do have Covid, I might cough for a few more days, but I’m going to survive. I needn’t worry about anything other than having passed the virus along before I knew I was sick.
Also in Canada, we have a health care system that is paid for by our taxes, so that we incur no costs in hospital, where we are largely cared for by nurses, mostly women, putting themselves at physical and emotional risk to save lives every day. To hold our hands as the now-recklessly unvaccinated die of what is becoming, in this country, a preventable disease.
So what does this have to do with women’s suffrage in Switzerland or Canada or anywhere else in the world?
I’ve been thinking about this over the last two weeks, as I assembled this month’s journal, reading and laying out the text for page after page of poetry and prose, finding the threads that speak to women’s experiences in the world.
Then, when Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, and his United Conservative Party, appointed a worryingly fundamentalist man to head up the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women (which were previously separate portfolios), and announced that they intend to cut the wages of nurses by 3%, it became clear.
Fifty years, 100 years since suffrage, women’s lives and women’s work remain as political, as politicized, as they have always been.
In this context, nurses, whose praises have been sung as nurturing angels of mercy through the pandemic, checking our oxygen levels while intubated, are now alternatively being cast as greedy and whorish for rebelling against lower wages. They’re being told to be grateful to have jobs at all. Politics are being played in the media, and “women’s work” is therefore devalued.
“Men’s work,” meanwhile (framed as the work of politicians), remains necessarily expensive.
As I see it, it’s time to stand with women. Whatever your gender, stand with women. With “women’s work,” with what these last seventeen months have shown to be the most necessary work on the planet. And then, if you are in a place where you are able to vote, remember women’s worth the next time you approach the ballot box.
Also, if it is within your ability, please consider nurses and other women-at-work, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. After all, doing all we can to avoid infecting others, to avoid dying on the watch of nurses who have already seen too much death, is another way to respect the critical roles and lives of women in our world.
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