Guest post by WAVAW Volunteer Rosie Maeder
Write a blog post? Me? Yikes. What an intimidating prospect. I’m sure I’m not knowledgeable enough, witty enough, WAVAW enough…
But you know what, I can write this. And I am going to write this, for two reasons. First and foremost, since I magically stumbled upon WAVAW and participated in 11 weeks of WAVAW volunteer training…
I CAN’T TALK ABOUT WAVAW ENOUGH!
To anyone who will listen, I will rabbit on about this unique, radical, dynamic, not-enough-adjectives-to-describe organization. The work that WAVAW has done and continues to do is just vital. So I will take any possibility of listening ears or reading eyes to begin sharing what I have learned about WAVAW and why it rocks my world.
The second reason I feel motivated to take on this challenge is because of the profoundly empowering experience of going through the 11 weeks of training for outreach and crisis line support worker volunteers. I was taught skills and language necessary to support survivors of sexualized violence, and given extensive knowledge of the oppressive structures which constitute Canadian society and contribute to violence. I also learned about the multitude of individuals and organizations resisting oppression and striving to create a world without violence..
I learned more in these 11 weeks than in 5 and a half years at university studying law. And I walked away from the training ready to take on the patriarchy and believing that I have something to contribute to the movement to end violence against women.Before taking part in the volunteer training I had never heard of “anti-oppression”. I thought, ‘Sure, oppression sucks, I’m on board’. But it really is the most revolutionary concept for violence prevention (and life generally) and it is at the core of WAVAW and all the work the staff and volunteers do.
Anti-oppression work involves recognizing the oppressive structures that exist, both on global and interpersonal levels, then further form that, working to mitigate your complicity in that oppression. It relies on the premise that we live in an inherently hetero-sexist, colonialist, capitalist, racist, cis-sexist, ableist etc. society, and as a result we are all party to these dynamics. We all exist and interact in the world within these structures and experience many layers of privilege and oppression determined by our background and how we are perceived by others.
Acknowledging the privilege I hold as a white, middle class, educated, non-fat, enabled, cis gendered person is a powerful first step towards taking responsibility for the ways I benefit from living in a racist, heteronormative, ableist, etc society.. I must work to challenge assumptions and perceptions of people, situations, and well, everything and try to understand how the context affects the power dynamics at play in any interaction. Finally, I must endeavour not to perpetuate the oppression already operating and wherever possible counteract oppression by celebrating, supporting, learning from and giving space to those individuals, ideas and practices that are usually overlooked or suppressed.
Phew. That’s a brain workout. [eats cupcake]
WAVAW women have accepted me warmly into their community with a massive hug (figuratively and literally). They have effortlessly inspired me, challenged me, humbled me and supported me on my tumultuous journey of feminism. I began training a wiggly, hungry, dissatisfied caterpillar. I entered the chrysalis of training cocooned by strong, inspiring women. And now I am ready to bust open – a patriarchy smashing butterfly. Ok, so this metaphor isn’t perfect, especially if we go into detail of how caterpillar’s digest their own cells and become mush before regenerating their butterfly bodies (fascinating!). But the point is… I ❤ WAVAW!