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General News · 29th August 2020
Tanya Henck
The Cortes Island Women's Centre wanted to respond to the recent Performance Art created, publicly posted, and displayed at a public beach. The piece is called "Drowning Woman". This was the extent of the explanation on the post: "Here's the Drowning Woman for Saturday's event. She has two sides to her... We're offering her to the Ancestors and the Ocean is the original Ancestor..." It is a structure made of natural materials to depict a naked woman. The pictures were in a public post on Facebook. In the picture there are several people, most of them are men. One of the men is fully groping the breast and another man is reaching in for the other, while the rest huddle around her. A piece of driftwood with a hole in it was placed below her navel. The piece was later taken to Smelt Bay where it was placed by the rocks for the tide to "drown her".

It was stated that this was supposed to be the opposite of Burning Man. Burning Man is a festival that by definition "celebrates art, love, and freedom of expression". It would appear that Drowning Woman celebrates contempt, silencing, and domination. It is hard to find truth in there being any honouring of the feminine in this display. For many, women and men, it has been an obvious disrespect. It was shocking to see that men would be willing to have themselves publicly posted sexually molesting an effigy of a woman. Considering most women have dealt with sexual assault at some point in their lives, behaviours like this have to change.

This is a classic example of rape and porn culture. It minimizes the impact and triggering affects on a small community and the individuals that make it up. To say that it was humour is further desensitizing and a normalizing principle. Dismissing or removing the voices of women is retraumatizing when many have had to face huge challenges to find their voice. We do not believe it is anyone's right to dismiss a woman's voice on something that personally wounds her.

Are women and men opposite? Wouldn't the opposite of Burning Man be Drowning Man? Are men and women not complementary of each other. If we see each other as opposites, how will we ever relate? Does this ideology not lend itself to perpetuating the divide of men and women, and in turn support the domination of the feminine? This is the patriarchal culture we are working to dismantle.

"The definition of an ancestor is a person or creature from whom one is descended or who lived in the past, or a person who came before". The Ancestors of this place are the Klahoose and Tla'amin Peoples. In a time when we, as guest on this land are trying to develop healthy and consciously giving relationships with the original people as well as recognizing MMIW affect this very island, is it appropriate to sexually assault a figure of a woman publicly and then put her in the water to drown? As if drowning hasn't been one of the preferred means of femicide throughout history.

We expect more of the men in our community. We expect that women, especially young women and teen girls, can be safe with the men they are surrounded by. That men can show a woman that she can feel safe and will not be objectified or have her experience minimalized. We hold fathers to an even higher standard. We know there are many men who support the women in their lives and honour the feminine. We know there are men who look at themselves and challenge their own behaviours and standards and want to learn to be better people. We know that these same men are navigating how to do this and how to hold others accountable. We see you and we appreciate your allyship.

We hope that anyone who has been affected or would like to connect over this issue will call or email the Women's Centre 250-935-6501.

4 Things you can do to be an Ally (taken from

1. LISTEN: One of the easiest ways to start to take part is to listen – really listen – to what women have to say. It sounds so simple, but often we are listening to respond – subconsciously preparing our answer, counter point, or rebuttal – instead of trying to understand the other person’s point of view.
2. SPEAK UP: It can be uncomfortable to raise this – especially among friends – but the words we choose speak volumes (both literally and figuratively) about how we view women. They set the standard for what’s acceptable.
Chances are you’re not the only one thinking it and – whether it’s a sister, mother, daughter, partner – once we start thinking of these words being applied to people we know and care about it’s a game-changer.
Pause. Reflect. Be brave. Speak up. There will likely be resistance, especially if you're in a group and the person is put on the spot; it may be more effective to change the subject and find time to talk to the person on their own - and in a different setting.
3. SHARE AND READ: Share your views on supporting women and inequality on public media. There are endless resources on the internet, research them. Read articles, books and interviews by women.
4. DONATE: Support women's organizations with financial contributions and/or your time. Fundraise and donate the money to further the work they are doing. Ask what you can do to help them.