Mother of all walks is about equality
Journey is symbolically a link between generations of women and their stories
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
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.