The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

As a teen, Sarah Rowe didn’t entirely understand the fuss about feminism. Coming from a relatively normal background, Rowe was never forced to come to terms with gender inequalities, and, like many young girls, saw feminism as being unappealing.

“My first experience with inequality and gender violence was when I was in grade 11. My aunt Karen was murdered by her husband, my uncle ... That was a pretty traumatic experience for my family.”                             — Sarah Rowe

“In high school, no matter what you’re taught, you’re like ‘Ugh, I’m not a feminist, I don’t burn my bras, I shave my armpits.’ You have this idea of a feminist woman and you want to distance yourself from that because of internalized misogyny.”

But little did she know, Rowe’s life would be thrown into a whirlwind of tragedy.

“My first experience with inequality and gender violence was when I was in grade 11. My aunt Karen was murdered by her husband, my uncle ... That was a pretty traumatic experience for my family.”

Karen Beck’s murder, which happened back in 2007, stuck with Rowe, making her re-think her ideas on feminism. A particular element of her aunt’s case struck her: woman-shaming.

“My aunt lived in Maple Ridge, B.C. which is a small town, so it made the papers. Journalists were trying to imply that it was my aunt’s fault. That first started me thinking about how women were shamed in these types of situations and how it’s never the man’s fault. And that started me thinking about the men in my life and their behaviours and what all of that meant.”

Indeed, local newspapers did cover the issue with very little sympathy to the victim, as well as tip-toeing around the issue of domestic abuse. Susan Lazaruk for the Province covered the story in 2007. In an interview with a neighbour, Lazaruk mentioned that the husband, Richard Beck, was “controlling” but did not specify nor did she follow up with family members. The focus of the article was predominantly on Karen’s small conflicts with her husband, rather than on her death.

Despite all of this, Rowe didn’t really come into feminism until university. While taking a double major in english and communications from the University of Calgary, Rowe was able to start analyzing her daily life and how gender inequalities impacted it.

“I started thinking, ‘Why don’t I speak up about my opinion?’ I realized I needed to keep on doing things because I like doing them, not because society or someone else told me to.”

Rowe’s interest in feminism didn’t end there, however. These inequalities started Rowe on a path towards intersectional feminism: the idea that inequalities overlap and intersect in systems of oppression and discrimination.

She also believes that the true core of feminism is self-reflexivity: “Being a feminist is essentially questioning why you’re doing these things ... it’ll show our bad behaviours and give us the means to correct them.”

This feminism and critical mentality led to Rowe being interested in radio - specifically the podcast, ‘Yeah, What She Said’ on the University of Calgary’s campus radio, known as CJSW.

Rowe has been a volunteer host for the show – something she’s been doing since 2013, along with managing productions.

As the only current host of the show, Rowe organizes it, along with several contributors, to create an educational podcast for feminists and the community as a whole.

“When I bring guests on the show I want them to stand on the platform that the show gives them and broadcast their message - I really just guide them onto that platform ... I’m just a conduit.”

Indeed, Jennie Palmer, who hosted ‘Yeah, What She Said’ from 2006 to 2014 states that the one thing that has changed from the early days of the show is content: “As we got more comfortable in the later years we started reaching out to experts [in the feminist community] to contribute, which definitely improved the show.”

Rowe also mentioned that ‘Yeah, What She Said’ has progressively moved towards intersectional feminism than the predominantly ‘white feminism’ ideals in the previous years.

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Rowe explained that with the help of experts, the main work she’s doing to spread her ideals is the show itself. To accomplish this, Rowe plans to use the educational platform that ‘Yeah, What She Said’ creates to broadcast the importance of intersectionality.

The problem with Calgary, Rowe explains, is that we’re a very conservative community - which dampens our chances at being fully feminist.

“You’re pushed to do conservative, white feminist studies. And that’s ridiculous ... Feminism should, at large, be at the forefront of pushing oppression. And in Calgary is so held back into its beliefs.”

But despite these issues, there is still hope for the Calgary feminist community.

For example, Take Back the Night — an event that supports survivors of sexual and domestic abuse — has been a tradition in the feminist community for years, but was cancelled this year. The main reason? It completely ignored indigenous women that have been targeted in domestic and sexual violence - focusing on white feminism instead.

According to Rowe, the Calgary feminist community decided to push more support towards organizations such as the Red Dress Project that push for intersectionality and advocate for indigenous women. Rowe sees this as a huge step in the community, one that can surely affect our society as a whole.

“As long as we’re learning, we can affect change. It won’t happen overnight, but as long as we’re in the know, then we can educate society.”

Body2 copy copy'Yeah, What She Said' is broadcasted at least once a month under the CJSW station at the University of Calgary. Photo by Georgia Longphee

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Editor: Rosemary De Souza | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.