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Choose to Challenge: Move Beyond Fear

Each March Break, I tend to head away on holiday with a stack of books. Books provide an escape for me and draw my mind to things unrelated to work.

While any extended time away from work now won’t occur until our week-long April break, that stack of books is close by, and I have been trying to carve out reading time whenever I can.

I have been thinking a lot about community these days. That focus, combined with a reminder during Black History Month, caused me to go back to a favourite writer, bell hooks. Over the weekend, I was rereading one of her books entitled All About Love: New Visions.

hooks’ premise in this book is that if one lives by a “love ethic” – that is, a culture where “everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well,” they must be prepared to embrace change. Change, however, can evoke fear. As hooks writes, “Cultures of domination rely on the cultivation of fear as a way to ensure obedience. In our society we make much of love and say little about fear. Yet we are terribly afraid most of the time…Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination.”

What a timely reminder as we recognize International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. Canada’s theme for the day is Choose to Challenge.

While women’s experiences have improved over centuries, there continue to be chasms for many that have been particularly stretched and magnified because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, women’s progress with respect to economic status, health, and security has been forced backwards and, “These disproportionate impacts could have long-term and far-reaching consequences. If we are to restore momentum in our efforts to bring about gender equality in Canada, social and economic recovery efforts must take a feminist approach.” The Canadian Women’s Foundation provides important information about the impacts of the pandemic on women.

We must “choose to challenge” this reality.

While, as a girls’ school, the rights and empowerment of women should always be front of mind, realities of structures beyond the School mean that we must always encourage our students to challenge inequity – even if it feels scary or difficult.

hooks also said, “Faith enables us to move past fear. We can collectively regain our faith in the transformative power of love by cultivating courage, the strength to stand up for what we believe in, to be accountable both in word and deed…When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat.”

hooks’ words remind me of the imperative of prompting ourselves and others to challenge our fears to enact change. Happy International Women’s Day 2021.

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