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Glossary

"I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own." - Audre Lourde.

Many of the words used to discuss gender issues and equality are fraught with various connotations and interpretations. In the interest of clear communication, here are some of the words and phrases we use, and the definitions and contexts we use them in.

  • Equality: The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. (Oxford Dictionary). While equality is our goal, we recognize that intersectionality plays a significant role in what is fair and equitable. See equity for more information.
  • Equity: Fairness or justice in the way individuals or groups are treated (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Equality and equity are frequently used interchangeably, but in our work, they are slightly different. Equity is more about finding fair and just solutions, based on intersectionality, rather than black and white equality across the board.
  • Feminism - Many people have come to believe that feminism is an antagonistic movement against men, with the purpose of taking power away from men. This is not how we view it. When we speak of feminism, we are referring to the official, accepted definition from the Merriam Webster Dictionary, which is: "An advocate for the social, political, legal and economic rights for women, equal to those of men." For more information about our stance on feminism, please see our FAQ.
  • Gender - Social and cultural identification of male and female. (World Health Organization)
  • Gender Equality: The experience of affording women and men the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making. Also, when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured. (United Nations)
  • Gender Equity: the process of allocating resources, programs and decision-making fairly to both men and women. Equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits – the same finish line. (See equality and equity).
  • Gender Gap: the systematic differences in the outcomes that women and men achieve in the labour market. These differences are seen in the percentages of women and men in the labour force, the types of occupations they choose, and their relative incomes or hourly wages.
  • Gender Lens: Using the gender lens is like putting on glasses to bring different perspectives into focus. Through one lens of the glasses, you see the participation, needs and realities of women. Through the other lens, you see the participation, needs and realities of men. These glasses do not make you see something that is not there they just help you see clearer. The gender lens is important to our work because we serve to provide women's perspectives to city decision-making, perspectives that are currently under-represented.
  • Intersectionality: the intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination, a term originally coined by Kimberle Crenshaw. The theory originated in the work of Black feminists, and is now a prevailing idea in how forms of oppression differ depending on one's life circumstances. (Annual Review of Sociology). We recognize that not everyone has the same advantages in life. While women have gender in common, there are wide gulfs in terms of privileges or advantages between upper middle class women and women who are born in poverty, for example. Race, class, wealth, education, mobility and sexual identity all impact the ways we navigate our lives. Intersectionality (and intersectional feminism) seeks to acknowledge these advantages (or lack thereof) by challenging generalizations about certain groups. In this way, we can never say "All women experience sexism/ageism/classism in the same way."
  • Intersectional Gender Lens: Viewing the female and male experience with an intersectional perspective, respecting that not every woman or every man experiences privilege or oppression in the same way, based on race, age, wealth, class, etc. Intersectional feminism similarly considers the complexities of these aspects when advocating for women's rights.
  • Patriarchy: A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it (Oxford Dictionary). It is easy to view the idea of patriarchy with biased eyes, pointing at societies that are extremely male-dominated, and dismiss the cultural relationship we have with the patriarchy here in North America. Indeed patriarchal rankings are at the core of many of our own inequities here, and are damaging to both men and women.
  • Privilege: A special right, advantage or immunity granted, or only available to, a particular person or group (Oxford Dictionary). In particular, privilege refers to the invisible advantages rooted within our present social framework. Notions like “male privilege” or “white privilege” consider the power advantage characteristic to simply being male or white in the dominant (read: male and white) society. When discussing privilege, the concept of intersectionality (see above) is important to consider.
  • Sex - Biological identification of male or female. (World Health Organization)
  • Sexual Discrimination: Prejudice or stereotyping on the basis of sex. The belief that members of one sex are less intelligent, able, skillful, etc. than the members of another sex (Cambridge University). It is important to note that both men and women experience sexual discrimination.
  • Sexism: Institutionalized power over and oppression of women, causing prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sex. (Random House College Dictionary)
  • Woman: any person who identifies as a woman - not necessarily biologically female.