i don’t even believe myself as I write this: my body is a battle

A powerful piece on body image, gender, and race. How do body politics interact with your multiple identities?

I remember the first time I realized that my body was different, that I took up too much space. I was in my elementary school gym class and I was playing dodge ball and my team mate told me to get off the front line because I was a bigger target and therefore would be easier for the other team to hit.[i] Before then, aside from family members offhand comments about my “baby fat” I had never thought about my body.  It was merely the vessel I shoved dino nuggets and kool-aid in while I played pretend in the backyard. I started to compare my body to the other girl’s in my class, most of them tall, thin, gangly, kids while I was short, squat, and thick. I never had to think about my body as different yet, because up until that point I had kept up: I could…

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#maybehedoesnthityou raises awareness of non-physical abuse, which can sometimes be trickier to spot within relationships.

Emotional abuse is incredibly damaging to relationships, self-esteem, and equality between partners. It can cause lasting damage to a person’s sense of worth, and is often a tactic used to manipulate partners into staying in unloving, unsupportive relationships.
Check out our examples on Twitter or tweet your own @HRYnovascotia


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A leadership experience like no other

stclogo2016Guess what–Spring is coming, and so is Spark the Change!

What is Spark the Change? It’s the Healthy Relationships for Youth (HRY) program’s annual youth leadership retreat. It brings youth facilitators involved in the HRY program from across Nova Scotia together for a weekend focused on leadership development, team building, and reflection on their experience as peer mentors.

This year, Spark the Change will be taking place on April 15-17 at Dorje Denma Ling, Tatamagouche, NS. The program will begin on Friday evening and end at noon on Sunday. This year’s themes will include youth leadership, diversity and inclusion, community building, and more.

Want to participate? The deadline for registering is March 18. For more info and to get the registration forms, email betsy@awrcsasa.ca or call 902-863-3624 ext. 233.

Get set for a life-changing experience!

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We heart #HealthyLove!


Valentine’s Day can be a time for reinforcing problematic gender roles and relationship stereotypes. It can also be a time for questioning the social construction of romantic love and promoting healthier, more equitable ways of being.

That’s why we are loving this campaign by Canadian Women’s Foundation. The purpose of #HealthyLove is to reclaim Valentine’s Day by pledging to practice nonviolence in our relationships, and circulating these healthy messages throughout our social networks and the world. The really cool thing (besides the awesome concept) is that for each share, donor Margaret Newall will contribute $2 towards teen healthy relationships programs.

It’s easy to participate – just visit the website, choose an e-card, and share.

What’s your #HealthyLove commitment?


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Why using hot guys to market breast health is not OK


Work out. Stay fit. Eat right. Be aware.

These messages appear along with images of barely-clothed dudes (and a couple of equally clothesless women) in this video posted by Rethink Breast Cancer. The idea, apparently, is to make younger women more aware of breast cancer by having “hotties” deliver the message.

OK, let’s unpack this. So first there’s the blatant sexual objectification of men. Even though it is different from women’s objectification (which happens in the context of a patriarchal society in which gender-based violence is pervasive and hypersexualized images serve to degrade and devalue women), it’s still seriously problematic.

More troubling, though, is the messaging. It’s basically this: “Dear women, your breast health matters to us (hot guys). In fact, it’s not really your breast health we’re concerned about – just our access to your breasts (’cause, you know, they exist for our pleasure). So take care of them by exercising, eating right, and not drinking too much. Because that’s how you can prevent breast cancer, and the even more awful reality of not being able to sexually please us.”


OK, I’m no medical expert, but I’m pretty sure that a person cannot just “prevent breast cancer.” The last time I checked, different kinds of cancers ran in different families. A person can be genetically predisposed to breast cancer, the same way a person can be more likely to be diabetic or have heart disease, based on their family history.

I’m not saying that healthy choices can’t reduce our chances of getting sick, but on some level, it’s luck of the draw. Of course, it’s good to make healthy choices. But this is misleading crap. And it blames women who do end up being diagnosed with breast cancer, because apparently they didn’t do enough pushups or eat enough kale!

Moreover, it perpetuates the idea that women should have hot bodies… for men. This is not only completely heterosexist (not all women are into men!); it is also deeply sexist. It is sexist because reinforces the idea that women’s primary function in society is to serve men’s sexual needs. It establishes “hotness” as the benchmark by which our value is measured. It tells us we are not good enough, and sends us chasing after an impossible beauty ideal. It suggests we’re less than “human” – a category that includes a range of experiences and ways of being, and most importantly, inherent worth and dignity.

I wish these hot guys were actually saying that our health matters. That we deserve to be healthy, and that maybe a healthier lifestyle will reduce our chance of becoming sick with a horrible and life-threatening disease. And that regardless of how “fit” we are, if we do end up with breast cancer, it’s not our fault.

I wish it didn’t have to be “hotties” delivering this message. It is both presumptive of women’s sexuality and insulting to our intelligence to think that it takes half-naked guys to make young women care about breast health.

At the end of the day, who really benefits from this kind of awareness campaign? Presumably the non-profit organization that is running it, and the businesses that affiliate themselves with the campaign. Maybe – hopefully – it is raising the level of awareness of breast cancer among young women, and contributing to the disease’s prevention.

Ultimately, though, women lose out from this kind of messaging. It encourages conformity to a patriarchal script that is disempowering at the personal and societal levels.

Cancer isn’t sexy. Let’s stop using sexism to try and sell solutions.


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Check out this video that weaves together concepts of slut-shaming and gender-based violence in a compelling and at times heart-wrenching way. Developed by the Norwegian organization CARE, it is narrated by a girl who offers a powerful message to her father.


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It’s #GivingTuesday. Help us empower youth to prevent violence!


Today is the day. We are thrilled to be celebrating GivingTuesday with communities, businesses and organizations across the globe.

The reason

Healthy Relationships for Youth is a response to gender-based relationship violence. According to the facts:

  • Approximately 7 out of 10 teens are in dating relationships
  • Dating violence accounts for 7% of total crimes in Canada
  • Most victims of dating violence are young women

Why healthy relationships?

School-based teen violence prevention programs have a demonstrated positive impact on reducing the rate of dating violence among youth. They teach youth important skills and knowledge that contribute to their long-term well-being, and foster more respectful school environments.

Invest in youth today

Do you feel moved to support youth in rural Nova Scotia? Your contribution – however small – is an investment in the well-being of a generation. Our goal is to raise $5,000 for the Healthy Relationships for Youth program.

Donate Now

Share your story! Post an #unselfie to show how you are celebrating GivingTuesday.

Join the conversation. Find out what others are doing for GivingTuesday by visiting www.givingtuesday.ca and checking out the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #GivingTuesdayCA.

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