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No newspapers, please

How I stopped worrying
and learned to love International Women's Day

Copyright 1995 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

'm not sure exactly when it was that I gave up on International Women's Day. It might have been the time I got stuck behind some group calling itself the Bolshevik Tendency and carrying signs saying "Hail the Red Army in Afghanistan." One member earnestly tried to explain to a friend of mine that the only reason the USSR had launched the invasion was to liberate women from Islamic rule.

Then again, it might have been just a part of my general disenchantment with conventional politics -- something that's been building for the last decade or so, and culminated in my vitriolic columns about spousal rights last summer, and a general feeling that most demos (apart from Take Back the Night, and anything organized by Earth First!) are a well-behaved waste of time.

Or it might have just been the result of having to fight my way once too often through the gauntlet of Lenin's Witnesses flogging newspapers with names like Socialist Worker, Worker's Vanguard, and Worker-this-that-and-the-other-thing, their eyes glazed over with missionary zeal or possibly just bad drugs. When I was writing for the anarchist journal Kick It Over, we used to joke about changing the name to either Work It Over or Kick The Workers to fit in.

Whatever the case, I stopped going a number of years ago, feeling that it had essentially turned into International Trotskyist Splinter Group Day and lost whatever relevance it once had to women. So how was it that this year I found myself down at Convocation Hall once again, debating whether it was better to suffer through the undoubtedly boring speeches indoors or to freeze my ass off outside amongst the paper-pushing Marxist Moonies?

It all started with a friend of mine, artist Catherine Tammaro, telling me about some events she was planning for this year's IWD: a Goddess Contingent in the parade, an exhibition of pagan art called Between the Worlds, and a women's ritual to top off the day. Good luck getting that by the committee, I thought -- considering both the anti-spiritual bent of most party-line leftists and the way that "ritual abuse" hysteria seems to have taken the women's community by storm (kind of like a cross between the '70s UFO abduction craze and Salem witch trials), I expected anything involving spirituality to be greeted with stark horror.

Surprisingly, I was wrong. The committee thought her ideas sounded great, and before I knew what hit me, I'd agreed to design some flyers and submit a couple of pieces for the show. As I looked over the copy for the flyers, the events sounded better and better, and I began to suspect that maybe, just maybe, I'd make it out to IWD this year after all.

At first glance, everything looked about the same -- people were still drifting aimlessly back and forth between the speeches and the steps, the Bolshevik Tendency folks were still there, looking more than ever like some kind of mutant offspring of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and the squadrons of glassy-eyed leftist evangelists flogging their newspapers still looked confused when told to get a real paradigm.

But when I ventured inside, I found that, to my surprise, the speakers weren't just the usual tired assortment I'd come to expect. A Latin American Native woman spoke of the importance of honouring Mother Earth, a local Native lesbian talked about living with AIDS, and a fundraiser even injected some humour into the usual plea for money. When a speaker led the audience in a raucous chant of "Cuts? No thanks! Tax the fucking banks!", I began to suspect this year's parade might even be fun.

Fun, as it turned out, was an understatement. It was a delight, especially when hordes of women charged the Royal Bank building at Yonge and Bloor to plaster it with stickers suggesting the rich be taxed, and the chant changed to "They say cut back, we say fuck that!" As the parade progressed down Yonge Street, passing BMW's, cop cars, and even cops themselves were stickered with great abandon.

Ultimately, a good time was had by all, except perhaps the cops ("Please don't put that on me," one pleaded. "I've had to peel off five already!"). The Goddess Contingent ended up being tiny, but the Between The Worlds show was well received, and overall, the day left me feeling better than any large demo had in years. So I suppose my longstanding boycott (girlcott?) of IWD is at an end, and you'll likely see me there next year as well.

But I still don't want your damn newspapers!


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