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PART A. Introduction
Under this charter
We can still push farther
Under this charter
We can still push farther
And who do we honour, and what do we honour,
and in whose honour, Your Honour, my honour, our honour,
in whose honour should I address my thoughts today?
To the honour and dignity, for instance, say,
of any woman who has found that that the letter of the law
sometimes stands in the way:
that a decision that’s been written
doesn’t address what lies beneath
and needs to be re:dressed, put to the test, held up to the light, given a re-write to reconsider the honour and the dignity of a woman who has found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is interpreted only as freely and righteously
as its interpreter wants it to be and so we find
we have to push further, in honour of every decision
that deserves to be re:written
we gather here tonight to hold court.
PART B. re:invite
The Women’s Court of Canada is courting your vision.
This court is a court with a mission.
This court seeks to reach beyond the division
of what the ruling was or wasn’t, to suggest what it could be.
It’s an invitation to see how big justice can be
how far her arm can reach
seeking not only the facts but the deeper meanings
to create a new blueprint, blaze a new trail:
re:adjust justices’ scale.
This court is courting your dream, courting your re:vision
this court is courting all women to step up to the plate
to contemplate a vision for justice that actually includes us.
This court is courting your imagination
for a thorough examination of why no one is free until everyone is free and that means you and that means we and that means WCC
and that means Substantive Equality.
PART C. re:definition
And what exactly is a court, I found myself asking
as I re:searched around, trying to lay some words down.
One of the definitions I found was:
COURT: an open space surrounded by walls; a roofless area within a building
and I found this particular definition fitting,
surrounded as we are by preexisting legal structures, laws,
and frustrated as we are with ceilings,
substantially unfair dealings.
We’re looking for that roofless area where we can see sky, appealing to the highest and wildest possibilities that lie beyond limitations and expectations, frustrations, all the letters and the laws and the flaws in the systems
and the assumptions, presumptions and historical conventions.
We want an open area into which things can grow.
Open space is where the imagination wants to go
and so under this charter
we commit to pushing farther.
PART D. re: word
What power does a word hold?
The power of the stories told or untold, assumptions
we continue to uphold, the roles we assign, the words
that re:inforce the dominant paradigm, where there is not enough language to adequately define us
the way gender is poured into one of only two molds
and who is bold enough to speak up and say:
It is not enough.
Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby; we’ve got Section 15 and maybe things are better now than they were, but it is still not enough.
We can choose a bold re:tort and call ourselves a court
a nice turn of phrase, a rhetorical device,
a place where we offer our own advice
and consider ourselves worthy of taking it.
We are re: writing and re: wording,
looking for bigger meanings, word-smithing, volunteering, building new support structures with our phrases,
pouring new foundations out upon our pages,
creating new acoustic buildings where justice can be heard, re:verb
Our words hold court: they define, re:fine and re:veal, unpeel
the layers, re:shape, re:drape, infiltrate, re:verberate, substantiate, litigate, decision-make, legislate.
One case in point: define the word “person”.
Circa 1929, half the human race given a new definition re:cognition
now it seems almost absurd, but that’s all in a word.
Consider what assumptions we might still hold, the stories
still told that could be overturned; what lingering definitions need to be unlearned.
Please be advised: continue to re:vise.
PART E. re:vision
In this section we consider that re:writes and re:visions are known by any author, writer or artist worth their salt
to be both the most painful and the most critically important part of the creative process that you will engage in, during the creation of a work being made ready for publication.
But do you know what I mean when I say that as a woman,
sometimes I just get a little bit sick of the idea of re:visions? When it’s as if in history, that’s our only viable inclusion. When it as if every surface that I see offers another solution for my personal re:vision: redefinition: complexion perfection, immaculate re:flection, make-up, make-over, relentless, Oprah-sized self-improvement.
And it’s as if by virtue of my gender,
constant self-revision is an never-ender,
a life long quest wherein my worth as a good, consuming citizen rests on my constant dissatisfaction.
And sometimes I do feel so dissatisfied.
And I have to remind myself that this feeling inside
is real: I AM dissatisfied, but there’s a reason why
which is not just about outside forces telling me
I am never enough:
it is my outrage at a world that can make so much stuff,
and yet can’t seem to make change fast enough.
A world where injustice and inequality still fester and grow
like aggressive cancers that haven’t been put into re:mission
and so we have to keep proposing new answers.
And so we’re here, not to complain, but to pick the bone:
pick it clean and take it home: to improve the lives of others, and not just our own.
To change laws, not our bodies; to re:own.
To re:write the words which define us,
the images that still bind us: re:vise and unpack and unwind:
to change minds and laws.
To become wise.
PART F. re: judgement
In this penultimate section, we consider for a moment the wider implications of a judgement.
And no wonder, since women
are no strangers to judging each other.
If I had a quarter or a dime for every time
I’ve judged another, like book by its cover:
“Why doesn’t she stop her kid from crying?
I can’t believe that food she’s buying!
Well, SHE’S trying too hard,
She’s talking too loud,
That sort of outfit shouldn’t be allowed!
She’s lost weight, she looks terrible, she looks great!
God she’s pushy, why can’t she wait
like the rest of us, why make such a fuss,
She should eat something a little more substantial…
Well just because she’s so financially successful…
Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead
being so goddamn judgemental.”
Re:inforcing the roles, re:inforcing our gender
pitting one against the other: history
hands us a legacy of judging each other through the ages
holding the keys to each others cages
we keep each other well in line, encouraged to stand
in judgement of each other all the time.
And so now, today, tonight, it’s a fine time
to break the code, to make inroads, to re:claim judging,
become decision-makers and decision-writers
to re:make judgement as an act of radical freedom fighters
PART G: re: conclusion
in the case of substantive equality v. the world,
in which the plaintiff unfortunately has not yet prevailed,
to which more detailed attention must still be paid,
where more consideration is still deserved,
wherein justice has not yet be served
I return to my original question:
in the case of Parry v. revision, who will win?
But now I consider if that’s really the question, since,
while each of our lives plays a part,
it’s revisions that are the true art:
the way we each stand on the shoulders of our ancestors,
the way we build on each other,
a balancing act, where what was once considered fact,
like the world being flat,
gets proven wrong and re:opened wide
and with each re:vision we get closer
to the inside of the world:
to the place where every act of compassion
and every decision and every piece of legislation
and every piece of art
is offered as a gift from the heart:
a gift that is given, opened and re:opened again
© evalyn parry, March 8, 2008 all rights reserved.
commissioned by The Women’s Court of Canada, Rewriting Equality Symposium, Toronto, 2008.