Politics is a Language Game

By: Juliann Garisto

Before this election, I never took politics too seriously and simply voted for the sake of voting, without much care as to what the consequences would be. I blame myself for this, for never taking the initiative to do research that was so readily available and literally at my fingertips. But I also believe our educational systems should be held accountable, for failing to give sufficient attention to how politics operates. In school, the topic was brought up in a way that assumed everyone had a prior understanding. Terms and expressions such as “bill”, “law”, or “cabinet” were never thoroughly explained. I had no clue what they meant in the context of government, so I steadily backed away. Im now beginning to understand how fundamental politics is, while simultaneously realizing how frustrating it can seem at times. Nonetheless, it is the way our world functions, and in Canada we are granted the privilege of having a say in how we think things should run.

Lately, Ive had an excessive amount of free-time on my hands, so Ive dedicated a great deal of it to researching Canadian politics, as well as political culture in North America. I still dont know the half of it, and frankly the desire to spend my free time reading about our government system didnt come naturally, but was something I conditioned myself to do. Politics can be repetitive and tedious in its routine, as we hear politicians constantly repeating their talking points. Although this is probably necessary in order to establish each politician’s character, it’s not always engaging. Somehow though, I was able to push past this and look at the facts in better detail. I read about the Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation and noted which politicians supported it. I read about the proposed “Barbaric Cultural Practices” tip-line and thought about what that would mean for our society.

What really got me interested in politics was social media. On an impulse, I decided to create a Twitter account, and soon after started following The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, New York Times, Vice and a few other news publications. In doing so, I would challenge myself to read article upon article of coverage on the upcoming federal election and the long, winding campaign cycle. I would read these articles over and over and sometimes write about them afterwards. This became my early morning routine, and I began to love educating myself in this way.

However, once I started to better understand the political sphere, I reflected more upon why I was only educating myself now, and why I was so intimidated in the first place. The 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, Speaking a language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.Politics exemplifies this as it utilizes a form of language specific to it and nothing else. In other words, there would be no political systems or anything really if there was no language to shape and mold it. We manipulate language, giving words relative meanings and combining them to create phrases and expressions that are limited in their application. This applies to the language of politics; it is a language in and of itself which can be difficult to understand. Two years ago, if you asked me to listen to and make meaning of a political debate, and I would be utterly and completely lost hell, even now Im lost because its almost like trying to decipher a foreign language, and this is what needs to change. The language of politics can be exclusive in that its only really accessible to people who have an exceptional grasp of it, and moreover access to resources that allow them to gain insight into the world of government.

But its important that everyone be given the opportunity to learn this language, because politics shapes our world. We need to start educating children at a young age, on how the world functions on a political axis and why it is important. We need to make the political sphere, and its language, much more inclusive.

Standing up for the country we want

Illustration by Terra Loire Gillespie

Illustration by Terra Loire Gillespie

Election season is an important time to ask yourself, “What kind of country do I want?” Amid increasingly dangerous rhetoric and policy restricting Muslim women’s right to wear the niqab, and other Islamophobic legislation such as Bill C-51 and Bill S-7, Women in Toronto Politics feels clearer than ever about the country we want.

The country we want celebrates freedom of choice about how we adorn our bodies and express our faith.

The country we want sees clearly that coercion is coercion, whether we are coercing women into or out of certain items of clothing.

The country we want recognizes that patriarchy has been part of the Canadian story for centuries and is not the exclusive province of “new stock” Canadians. The white settlers of Turtle Island used (and still use) violence against Indigenous women as a key tool in the project of colonization – regardless of whether this fact is “on the radar” of our political leaders.

The country we want values and supports the leadership of Muslim women like Zunera Ishaq in the Canadian intersectional feminist movement.

The country we want has party leaders who all vehemently, unequivocally reject Islamophobic, racist, and otherwise bigoted statements and policies.

The country we want eschews racist vote-pandering that cynically claims to be in women’s best interest. The country we want actually centres women’s voices, safety and freedom in policy-making.

The country we want offers affordable child-care and housing for all, welcomes refugees, listens to the call for action to halt the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, puts an end to violence against racialized women inflicted by police and border services, stops selling guns to men who have a history of violence against women, understands the role of accurate and comprehensive census data in formulating inclusive social policy, and champions free (and shame-free) access to physical and mental health care for people of all genders.

The country we want believes that women know what is best for them and listens when they tell us what that is.

The country we want is within reach. It burns brightly within our hearts and yours. It grows whenever we listen with an open mind to those with life experiences different from ours, and make a genuine effort to understand. It flourishes when we share what we have learned with our family, co-workers, friends and other loved ones – whether it’s on social media or over the dinner table. Join the conversation on Twitter to help build the #countrywewant.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, September 25

Anastasia Kuzyk, 36. Nathalie Warmerdam, 48. Carol Culleton, 66.
On Tuesday, three women were killed in a rural Ontario town called Renfrew Country. Friends of the victims shared memories on As It Happens. It was a traumatic event for such a small community, and clearly illustrates how women in rural areas are uniquely vulnerable to violence where access to services is few and far between. An Ottawa Citizen report has also detailed how local police failed to protect these women, who were all known to the perpetrator.

It took almost a day for the story to gain mainstream media coverage, which still remains sparse. Every week, when we assemble these news round-ups, there is inevitably a story to cover on violence against women. It’s become a numbing reminder of just how prevalent these stories are, but we do need to be reminded. We can’t let these stories become a blip on the radar. We will continue to work with our members to address these issues in whatever way we can, and will challenge our leaders to confront the systemic barriers that allows violence like this to persist.

More news from this week:

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, August 21

 A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, August 7

 A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, June 5

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • The Concerned Citizens to End Carding, a group of prominent and influential voices, gathered together at City Hall Wednesday to call for an end to the practice
  • Bill 77 passed on Thursday making Ontario the first province to ban conversion therapy for LGBT youth
  • Next week, council will vote on the fate of the Gardiner expressway. Check out the Toronto Star’s latest update to see where they stand on the issue.
  • Ontario will allow ranked ballot systems to be used in the 2018 municipal elections, spurring media interest in who has the right to vote, including the 250,000 Torontonians who are not Canadian citizens. The CBC’s The 180 explores the merits of including these residents in the municipal voting process.
  • The Inside Agenda Blog explores policy options to address the lack of affordable housing in Ontario.
  • Ontario Legal Clinics are making services more accessible to precariously employed workers. Over the next 2 years legal clinics across Ontario will receive and additional $9.8 million to increase capacity and services.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has concluded that the residential school program for aboriginal Canadians, that ran up until 1996, amounted to cultural genocide.
  • Ipolitics explores the impact of the “unofficial” Federal election campaign, suggesting it could be long, dirty and expensive.
  • Canadian banks and accounting firms are committing to the 30% Club to promote the inclusion of more women in senior corporate roles. The group aims to ensure women occupy 30% of their boards by 2020.
  • Patricia Lane shares her thoughts on how the First Past the Post system continues to leave women out of Federal Politics.