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An open letter to Alexa McDonough and Megan Leslie

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An open letter to Alexa McDonough and Megan Leslie


October 20th, 2015


Dear Alexa and Megan,

I mean no disrespect to either of you by drafting this joint letter. I recognize that you are both different and strong in your own ways. Your leadership has been different- but for me, it’s been a constant. And I want to honour and thank both of you for feminist leadership in Halifax for most of my adult life.

When I was a teenager, I moved to Halifax after a few weeks in a women’s shelter in Toronto and some time couch surfing with a family friend.  I had few friends in Halifax. My first day of high school was awful. Girls were mean to me. Guys were wearing football jackets. No one cared about my radical political buttons or my asymmetrical androgynous haircut. Home life was rough. Halifax was not home. I hated it here.

Fast forward. There were protests. I helped-with a small crew of new friends- to plan a walkout in protest of the provincial education budget. John Hamm was forced to back track on planned cuts to education. We made a lot of noise and kind of won. That year I graduated from high school with the Alexa McDonough Book Award- an illustrated history of Halifax- written by a local feminist historian.

Alexa; you signed the inside cover with encouraging words to keep fighting. I had never won anything before. You planted a seed. In the next few years, I met many of your friends and supporters- I had tea with you. I was two decades younger than every feminist I met. I supported your campaign with poetry and canvassed my neighbourhood. I got to know my neighbours.

I don’t think I realized how powerful it was- to be welcomed into a community of feminists who were unafraid. When I was invited by CBC to talk about my undergrad research on young women’s participation in hip hop culture, there were death threats on online message boards. Someone wanted to “choke the bitch” who suggested that women should be more welcome in hip hop events as performers- not just fan girls. That was my first death threat. Not the last. Feminism hurts sometimes. Although I knew that home was sometimes a treacherous landscape, there was violence here I had never felt before. But I stayed on the footpaths you wore into this place. 

Megan; you have been a fucking lighthouse. Every underpaid part time job I did, every time I risked getting poor teaching evaluations for putting ‘too much’ feminist content on a course outline, when I gave guest lectures and students responded with;  “girl, what’s your snapchat?” instead of ‘thank you professor’… I stood on ground that you protected and I shook it off. When friends of mine victim-blamed another friend who was a victim of intimate partner violence, I felt less alone because you stood tall. Your name was a talisman. Halifax was feminist because you were feminist.

Every time I’ve been chastised for my stubbornness about staying in Halifax- despite poor job prospects and even poorer weather, I dug my heels even further into this place. This was the place that Alexa stood upon when she stood up to militarization. This was the place that Megan called home when she called out for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. This was the place that started a national movement against cuts to cultural programs in the Friendship Centres. It was Muriel Duckworth and El Jones and the Company House and a million rowdy bar fights and frosh weeks and when I dug my heels in I knew I’d find something good under the muck and the rotten leaves and the concrete.

I have been less involved in Federal politics the past few years. I was trying to protect my heart. Walking a feminist path is an uphill battle and we are exhausted, under-employed and under-supported. I try to pick my battles and staying sane means being just out of touch enough to radically imagine a different world. Electoral politics brings me screeching back to reality hard enough to break my bones. So, I am ashamed to say I did not volunteer in this last election. I was confident in almost three decades of work that both of you put into representing Halifax. Perhaps I rode your coat tails too long and should have put more time into this last campaign, instead of enjoying the comfort that your political leadership brought my fragile feminist heart.

Halifax is my home come hell or high water. And I’d like Megan back in Parliament to stem the rising tides of climate change. This red tide rose too high and too quick and I want to raise a family here and with $15/day childcare. I support Megan for the leadership of the Federal NDP. I am already grieving the security of 27 years of feminist representation in Halifax but I want to start digging now. I want to dig back down to the ground that you both built here and start planting seeds.

Here’s to you; both of you. And the next election. And all the work in between.

With gratitude,

Ardath Whynacht

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