Rest in power, Kate

First of all, fuck cancer. Fuck cancer right to hell.

Doctor Kate McInturff is (fuck your past tense) a national treasure. She hates that I call her that and said that it would send Nicholas Cage after her, but it’s true. She is incredible.

It’s hard for me to form a sentence let alone be articulate, but I really want you to know how amazing Kate is because she’d be the last person to tell you herself.

So, between sobs, here it goes:

I first met Kate almost a decade ago. She gave me my first feminist job and later told me she’d fought for me to get the job because I had said something controversial in the interview and pissed off the Board. She liked that.

I sat beside Kate for three years. Literally. Just the two of us, with the occasional third person, as she tried to sustain a national organization that did both advocacy and feminist work at a time when the Harper government hated both.

She was an incredible boss and I stopped seeing her as “just my boss” about a month into the job.

She was so awesome to work for because it was really “with”. I mean, it was LITERALLY just the two of us, sitting side by side for three years under the Harper government. We had to get along or else we’d have lost it.

Kate loved listening to Nina Simone as we worked and her self-care was crushing interior décor magazines. She fucking LOVED looking at pretty couches and her condo was decorated in a way that it was stunning but also super welcoming. Kind of like Kate herself; so fucking brilliant and yet approachable and humble AF.

She had a PhD in decolonizing literature but I introduced her as Doctor McInturff when I interviewed her on my radio show and she balked. For real. Not in that faux “Oh, this old thing? Found it at a yard sale” kinda way. She was legit. Through and through.

There are three things in this world that I owe to Kate:

I have never in my life met a bigger champion of Shine Theory. Kate McInturff never participated in lateral violence or petty bullshit. Fighting for other women to succeed is in her DNA. It’s a part of who she is. She couldn’t seem to wrap her head around feminism any other way.

It was Kate who nominated me for the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. She literally leveraged the high powered women around her to nominate me so that I could get a leg up and increase my chances of succeeding. She didn’t want anything in return.

Kate wants us all to win.

Second:

Kate *was* my boss, in the past tense, not because I was fired or willingly moved on but because the organization had to lay me off. Harper came down hard on feminist organizations and literally banned the funding of feminist advocacy organizations in Canada with Federal dollars. So organizations around us went into survival mode, which often meant “Change the mandate to fit the funding requirement”. Our funder came back to us with an ultimatum that essentially boiled down to “We’ll only continue to fund you if you do X project”. Well X project required stepping on the toes of Inuit organizations in the North so Kate said “I’d rather go under than undermine Indigenous women” and so we didn’t get the funding, I got laid off and then she had to leave, too.

A white lady running a national organization chose to let the organization go under rather than mandate creeping and taking something away from Indigenous women.

That is leadership.

Leadership at a price to both her organization and herself.

And as countless organizations around us mandate crept into other things to keep their doors open, Kate chose integrity over a pay cheque.

I’ll never forget that.

The third thing that I learned from Kate is that resilience really is bullshit.

See, when I was working with Kate, I was also trying to finish my MA, struggling with health problems and dealing with my abusive ex. She was one of the few people I confided in about all this and she not only gave me great advice on finishing my MA (Namely “Just sit down and fucking write it”) but was also a tireless listening ear.

My MA involved a deconstruction of how resilience sets women up to fail and few people were buying my idea. “Resilience is important! Resilience is survival!” and all that. Not to mention all the “But you wouldn’t be who you are today without everything you’ve suffered.”

I distinctly remember Kate staring me dead in the eye and saying “That’s bullshit. To say that I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t suffered so much is to act as though I was never an empathetic person. If I could do everything over again, I would absolutely do it differently. Trauma and pain didn’t make me a better person. It made me a sad person; an exhausted person.”

Fuck. It shook me then and it gets me now, all these years later.

Kate McInturff fundamentally believes that human suffering is useless and inexcusable. No exceptions.

Kate McInturff quietly donated to me and my work all the time; literally and metaphorically.

She offered me all her travel reward points to fly me to an important conference in NYC. She routinely donated quietly to Hollaback! in NYC.

When I lost my job this spring, she sent me an outraged e-mail titled “Team Getting Julie Employed” and outlined all the things she was signing up to do to help me find a new job.

The woman had cancer for three fucking years and still spent every conversation asking how I was doing and questioning why people were so mean to me.

Just two weeks ago, we were making plans to get together and strategize finding me work.

I’ll forever remember Kate as the most tireless advocate for women. I’ll remember her deep love of femme things like fashion and interior design and how she always encouraged me to ignore those who saw femme things as frivolous or a reason not to take women seriously. I’ll remember her dark, daaaaaaaark sense of humour and the way she’d shock you with something filthy, delivered in a flat, unsuspecting tone. She told me that she still believed weddings could be made feminist and said that humour helped, like the time she gifted a friend a beautiful handbag for her wedding but had the word “Clitoris” sewn inside it. One of the years I interviewed her on my show about her “Top Ten Best and Worst Cities for Women”, she had the most gorgeous Kate Spade bag with her. When I complimented her on it, she responded with “Oh, it’s my cancer purse! When people find out you’re dying, they’re very generous. Isn’t it pretty?”

I loved that.

She proved to be a class act until the bitter end and nobody should be surprised. Her classiness and pride is what kept most people in the dark about her cancer and what shocked most people about the news of her death.

Kate is generous with her time, her brilliance, her money and her connections. She’s a giver.

Kate wants all women to succeed. She wants us all to shine.

I owe her so much and I’m so angry she’s gone. I’ll miss her forever.

I’m going to spend the day listening to Nina Simone and channeling her fierce, unabashedly feminine, quiet brilliance into making the world safer for women and girls. I encourage you to do the same.

And please send much love to her son and family.