I was shocked into one of the realities of academic research last Friday morning: in order to research, you need money, and to get money, you need to write convincing and exciting grant proposals.
For the majority of the people in my program, it appears that this is not a new or intimidating prospect. They are simply copying and pasting from a variety of undergraduate thesis and grant proposals, or have already received these prestigious allocations, and do not need to bother with it this year.
For the rest of us, this now requires a scramble to quickly review the relevant literature in our field, produce a 'cogent research question' to investigate, and then devise a plan to actually gather the data.
For the past six months, I have been planning on investigating the experiences of gender-based violence in the Aboriginal community.
Ever since returning from Iqaluit, I have been unable to forget the way that domestic violence was visible in the community. Working at PPSC I used to read through the files during my spare time, pulling out anything coded with domestic or child abuse.
For the past week I have been wading through my memories of being in Iqaluit and Malawi, and engaging with survivors of gender-based violence. Two different continents, languages, cultures, skin colours, and communities. Same problem. All of this brought me to this Masters program, to the opportunity to contribute to the existing knowledge and research on this issue.
Somewhere years ago, I tapped into the violence and pain that is experienced by people just like me. People who could have easily been me. It has now taken me half-way around the world, and to remote places in my own country. It drives my academic pursuits and volunteer activities. It makes up my leisure reading.
And now I have to find a way to translate this passion and interest into a scholarly thesis. It feels emotional.
Tonight I attended a 'Take Back the Night' ceremony in downtown St. Catharine's. Take Back the Night is held in communities around the world and offers people a chance to speak out against violence against women, as represented by many women's inability to walk safely at night.
One woman was holding a sign which read "Women have the right to walk at night".
Say that a few times.
Hear the emphasis on right.
Think about what the sign is saying.
How can a person in Canada in 2008, one of the countries looked to throughout the world as a symbol of democracy, freedom, and model human rights, have to assert her right to WALK at a certain time of day. I looked at that sign for a long time.
It really struck a chord. How many times have I tried to explain what it feels like to walk alone at night? How many times have I tried to articulate my own sense of vulnerability, my own fear?
It was a good idea to go to the event tonight. Even if my study is not about women walking alone at night, or even about the experiences of Aboriginal people by the time this is all said and done, it is an important issue. And for whatever reason, it is my issue.
So tonight was the night to bring back Tracy Chapman. If you ever listen to her lyrics, you will hear that she sings about equality, rights, minorities, oppression, fear, sadness, women, men, humanity. They are good songs.