Mother of all walks is about equal­ity

Jour­ney is sym­bol­i­cally a link be­tween gen­er­a­tions of women and their sto­ries

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF MAHONEY jma­honey@thes­pec.com 905-526-3306

If you don’t walk, you’re stand­ing still and if you’re stand­ing still and ev­ery­one else is walk­ing (the man next you, for in­stance), then rel­a­tively speak­ing, you’re go­ing back­ward.

And so Re­nee is walk­ing. And so is her mother. Across Hamil­ton. From Dun­das to Stoney Creek. So are many oth­ers who’ve heard of their pas­sion­ate Mother’s Day Walk for equal­ity.

Re­nee and Diane will do some­thing else be­fore the walk this Sun­day — get wrist tat­toos. The tat­toos will say “Nev­er­the­less She Per­sisted,” which has turned into a women’s rights bat­tle cry of sorts.

“Mine will be in my mother’s hand­writ­ing,” says Re­nee, but not vice versa. Says Re­nee, with a laugh, “I’ve got ter­ri­ble hand­writ­ing.

Re­nee Com­mon stud­ies psy­chol­ogy at Univer­sity of Western On­tario — she dreams of be­ing a fire­fighter, which she might not have been able to dream had she lived in an­other gen­er­a­tion.

She’s learn­ing so much at univer­sity, step­ping up the lad­der of that dream, not only in class, but on the cam­pus grounds where so much con­ver­sa­tion these past few months has turned on events in the United States — the elec­tion, de­fund­ing of Planned Par­ent­hood, at­tempted si­lenc­ing of El­iz­a­beth War­ren. And the fuss made over sup­pos­edly un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated, for­got­ten Rust Belt men.

Sure, but they weren’t the ones whose gen­i­tals the new pres­i­dent felt blithely en­ti­tled to grab. And they weren’t the ones mak­ing, when em­ployed, two-thirds of what women make. No. The other way around.

“Yes, men and women have equal rights but it doesn’t seem like they do,” says Re­nee.

There she was — this young Hamil­ton woman, in Lon­don, Ont., ab­sorbed by what was hap­pen­ing in Wash­ing­ton D.C. But it’s all con­nected, as are the gen­er­a­tions.

“This started with a video we saw,” Re­nee says of her and her cam­pus friends, a video about Min­neapo­lis blog­ger Nora McIn­er­ney, who started a Nev­er­the­less She Per­sisted tat­too trend to flag the cri­sis that the new pres­i­dency rep­re­sents for gen­der progress.

“I tagged my mom on this woman,” says Re­nee.

“It was al­most half a joke, but my mom said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”

Diane Sham­chuk, who runs East­side Mario’s near East­gate Square with hus­band Bob Com­mon, says she’s done many Mother’s Day things with her daugh­ter, es­pe­cially when Re­nee was a girl.

“But al­ways as mother and daugh­ter, but this is as two women, as equals. I look at her as a young adult per­son, pas­sion­ate and pro­duc­tive, and — I’m go­ing to start tear­ing up — as a mother it’s, well, ‘check that box’” on her list.

Diane says Re­nee’s idea for the tat­too be­came a cat­a­lyst for the idea of a fundrais­ing walk.

“It res­onated with me,” she ex­plains, “both po­lit­i­cally and per­son­ally, when I thought of my grand­mother and my aun­ties and my mom, their strug­gles.

“What they over­came.” Her grand­mother came from Ukraine to Western Canada, built a life but when she died, Diane’s mother was put in a con­vent, es­sen­tially an or­phan­age, while her fa­ther fought in the Sec­ond World War.

When he re­turned, they didn’t let him take her back. They had to fight to be re­united.

“But they per­sisted,” says Diane. “They were piss poor but they per­sisted ... with love.”

For Diane, the walk is sym­bol­i­cally a link be­tween the gen­er­a­tions, their sto­ries, the dif­fer­ent kinds of strug­gles. Mother’s Day.

The walk will raise funds for Equal Voice, which pro­motes the elec­tion of more women in Cana­dian pol­i­tics. Re­nee and her friend, Abi Rabi­valan, who helped or­ga­nize it, are sell­ing hood­ies and T-shirts with the ex­pres­sion Her Mind Is More.

It res­onated with me both po­lit­i­cally and per­son­ally, when I thought of my grand­mother and aun­ties and my mom, their strug­gles. DIANE SAMCHUK

CATHIE COWARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Diane Samchuk and her daugh­ter, Re­nee Com­mon, are cel­e­brat­ing Mother’s Day by walk­ing from Dun­das to Stoney Creek. They’re get­ting match­ing tat­toos be­fore set­ting out Sun­day.

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