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JulieDependence, independence, and interdependence

Julie is a women's studies student and an artist. Julie and her partner live in Thompson.

Julie says:

My mom wasn't paid to work at home. She made no decisions in the home whatsoever. My dad had complete financial control. As I grew up I looked at my mom and I thought, "No way! I don't want to be that. I'm going to be independent. I'm going to have my own job. I'm not going to have children. I'm not going to be tied down like my mom was."

I thought everything that she did was so negative. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally realized that my mom did work, and she just wasn't recognized for that work. I think it's because of what I was taught in society. We only value people that get paid and we only value people that get paid a lot. I think it's interesting that I myself believed those socially-constructed ideas that my mom's work wasn't valued.

We could look at the problem in two ways. We could pay unpaid labour. Or, we could look at it the completely opposite way and say we don't want to value people through money. We want to go back to people being people, spiritually, mentally, physically, and approach each person differently and not put them into these categories. If we solved it by giving people money it would mean we'd be back in the system and that's like saying that this system is working for us and we all know that it's not!

People are just so intent on money. How many times have you gone to a party and the first question people ask is, "So what do you do?" What they mean is how much money do you make. Here in Thompson it's especially hard because there's such a class split. We have absolute poverty and we have high middle-class. And within that high middle-class there's so much striving for more. You got to keep going, keep working, pay for this, pay for that. It's all wanting more and keeping up.

When my partner and I meet people it's funny how people respond so differently to him. They're like, "Wow, you're a Chartered Accountant. That's awesome." And then they'll look at me and ask what I do. When I say that I'm an artist and a women's studies student, they go, "Oh yeah." They don't understand anything about what I do and they don't really understand what my partner does either but they just assume that he must make a lot of money and he must be good at what he does and so his work becomes more important even though it means very little to him and my work means so much to me.

I'm the first person to go to university in my entire family so I'm the first person to be in that kind of income level. But because of who I am I still don't fit in well into that monetary economy. If I was to be a full-time artist I would have to live off grants. That's the reality. As a student I don't fit into the economy because I'm in debt. And as a woman there are barriers too. As much as I know that I could be and do whatever I want, the reality is that even if I did I would get paid less than my male counterpart. So my reality is that if I were by myself, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. Instead I'd have to take a different job and pay off my debts.

Going into a relationship I was so afraid to give in a little bit. You're so afraid of that control being lost. I didn't want to be dependent. But finally this little light bulb went on and I realized that even though I had my own credit cards, my own school fees, I was dependent. I had tricked myself into thinking that my mom was a bad person because she was dependant on my dad. I had also led myself to believe that I was financially independent of my partner when in reality I wasn't.

Now my partner and I are interdependent. I provide lots of emotional and mental support and he provides most of the financial support. I am learning not to feel embarrassed or badly about that. I am learning to value myself as a person no matter what money I bring in to the relationship, and I am learning to value other people in the same way, including my mom.

10 years later
Julie is a faculty member at OCAD University in Aboriginal Visual Culture and Liberal Studies and a PhD. Candidate in Social and Political Thought at York University. Her research interests are a (re) mapping of a colonial state through creative interventions and currently her artistic practices are focused on an oral sound project of a site specific area of the city of Toronto. The more exciting news is our daughter Nahanni who is almost 2 years old. She makes our life exciting and busy. We live in Toronto, which of course is a stark difference from Thompson.

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