we have challenged, changed

Women in pink top at women's shelter

I was recently recognized by the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie for working over 30 years in violence against women. Throughout that time, I worked many roles as we tried to make changes and meet the needs of women and their children.

The shelter in Barrie opened in 1982 and I was hired as the first childcare worker in 1987. During my time at the shelter, I was part of the building committee for a new shelter, worked as a front-line worker, trainer, victim services, and now I am the group facilitator.

From those early days, driven by the feminist movement, we have challenged, changed and extended our services to meet the needs of women and their children. I did not come into this work as a feminist but I soon realized that giving women a safe space and choice was challenging well-established institutions and systems.

To me, feminism is like a pendulum that pulls me out of my comfort zone. It pulls at our societal beliefs – are we being fair? Are we paid equally, have equal access to justice and equally held accountable for our behaviour?

When the pendulum lets go I think it will stop in a comfortable position, but the momentum swings past into backlash, women blaming and longing for the “good ole days,” but it keeps swinging forward.

After 30 years, when I think the pendulum is slowing down, I wonder if feminism is obsolete or redundant. Women politicians are not chosen; young women are being bought and sold; war and terror bring refugees from a culture I am not familiar with; the construct of who is “he and she” is questioned … and the pendulum pulls me forward again!

– Linda, life partner, big sister, auntie, friend, fan of group work, champion muckler, wine enthusiast, avid audience member, activist for equality, wanna-be nun >> learn more