12 December 2009

22 November 2009


I am a crier. When I get upset or angry or otherwise highly emotional, I cry. It is a long-standing affliction. I consider it an affliction because as soon as it happens, people don't take me seriously anymore. Once my voice starts to waver, I'm irrational and unreasonable. In a former relationship, I completely backed off any kind of debate because it turned into a fight as soon as I started to cry.

I don't know why it happens. I refuse to say that it's something "I do", because it's not intentional. I have tried so hard so often to not let it happen. The only surefire way to prevent it is to back out long before I get to that point.

I've been accused of emotional sabotage, of being "too emotional", of being a wimp.

I don't find those statements fair; partially because they're not true, partially because they drip with cynicism. Why is it that the same people who say they love me -- that they admire my strength of character and opinion -- are so quick to turn on me and accuse me of manipulation.

I think it's because of the masculine/feminine binary that's been created in this society with regards to crying. I don't think I need to go into a long explanation. Crying is "girly". Men aren't supposed to cry. Women do it because they aren't intelligent, rational creatures like men.

A few weeks back, when I spotted a post at feministing.com called Crying while Arguing, I felt an enormous sense of relief that someone was addressing what happens to me all the time. I felt like I had a new way to view my ability to engage people, because of what Courtney wrote:

Today I have more empathy for that 19-year-old version of me. I think that emotions, as Roxie argued, are a critical part of how I process the world, understand ideas and issues, and formulate my own arguments. In this still male-dominated realm of intellectual debate (just look at the op-ed pages of any major newspaper), the standard is still clear: emotions, and most certainly crying, don't have a place.

Male or female, you might not like it when the person you're talking to starts to sniffle or talk shakily during a debate or argument, but stop acting like the crying is some kind of threat or tactic. Listen to the point of view, not the sobs, before dismissing someone. Or just don't be dismissive. Maybe you'll need that break at some point, too.

10 November 2009

Voting is fun

This is my choice for:
Favorite Music Collaboration
I'm On a Boat

27 October 2009

This is beautiful

I haven't done much posting lately due to continued lack of time and a creative drought. Have a look at this news story from last year.

Posted using ShareThis

15 October 2009

I like my planet

Today is Blog Action Day, a day for bloggers to come together and make the world a better place? I'm not sure I believe that it's possible to make an effective change, but the more people who think about global issues -- especially those with an inclination towards using their time and their voices -- the more likely it is that things will improve.

So here I am. And here you are. Clock below to find out more. And blog it yourself.

12 October 2009

What's the word?

I'm out of things to say right now.


21 September 2009

Flying High

I love this story so much, and how far Dave Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell, have been able to take this.

So awesome. Read about it: Halifax singer takes guitar-smashing tale to Washington

Shared via AddThis

19 September 2009


I have thought about gender and race issues in Disney films, but I'd be interested in seeing some research data about how these movie influence us. It would probably be a hard study to control, since you'd have to isolate children from Disney media for a long period of time to get an accurate picture of how watching the movies may change our perceptions of race and gender.

It's scary enough to make me wonder what I'll do if I have my own kids some day. I have always loved the brain candy that is the Disney genre (with notable exceptions). I believe that it's possible to watch the movies and still become a reasonably intelligent and informed adult. But I know that some of my perceptions about reality were pretty skewed for a long time.

Given the following, how do you let children watch these movies and talk to them about how to be critical about the content?

27 August 2009


I'm not surprised by learning that the appearance of alcohol ads increases when teens are most likely to watch TV. I'm just disappointed at the predatory marketing.

Shared via AddThis

23 August 2009

Hey, journalists! Pay attention!

Exhibit B:

After finding this post at matthewgood.org in my Google Reader feed, I had to watch the interview in question. I actually cringed a couple of times while watching it because of the woman's disingenuous attitude, plus the way she treated Jon Stewart like an idiot. Also, her complete inability to answer the simplest questions just shows how she's used to spewing talking points without challenge.

To watch in Canada

To watch in the US (two parts)

This officially makes Jon Stewart my Hero of the Week.

20 August 2009

Anything I can do

I hate listening to the tripe thrown around in the American media about the impending devastation of their health care system. It's cynical, elitist crap. While I'll admit that our system in Canada isn't perfect, it isn't leading to mass-extinction either. I've had a couple of operations in the last 10 years, and I came out fine. Socialized/government-funded health care isn't perfect, but it's not a monster either. Privatized health care that bankrupts citizens and pays for private jets and tropical island second homes for executives is.

So, when there's anything I can do to spread the word about the fraudulent tactics the anti-public system lobbyists are using to incite hated and rage, I'll do it with fervour.

Exhibit A:

28 July 2009

24 July 2009

Better than I could have said it

Normally, I just post links, but I felt like this article deserved the full re-post.

I Am Pro-Choice

I am pro-choice.

“Pro-choice describes the political and ethical view that a woman should have complete control over her fertility (and the choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy).”

That being said, I do not know if I, personally, would ever be able to receive an abortion.

While growing up, I watched my mother suffer miscarriage after miscarriage, having had six pregnancies and only three children to show for them. Do not get me wrong: my mother considers my siblings and I each a blessing to her. I am the eldest, her first pregnancy and her first born. After me, my mother concieved again, only to miscarry. My mother concieved and gave birth to my sister when I was almost three. Between my sister and my brother, my mother suffered two more miscarriages, the worst of which came in 2002. Two weeks before her due date, my mother miscarried a son, my brother. She didn’t think she could concieve again. But two years later, my brother was concieved, whom she has called her “miracle”.

My mother is pro-choice.

The miscarriage she suffered between my birth and the birth of my sister was due to a defect with the fetus. Only the bottom half of the fetus’s skull had formed during development. My mother was told that if she did not terminate the pregnancy, her life would be in danger. Not only that, but the baby would obviously not survive if born full term. And so, my mother terminated her pregnancy. My mother had an abortion.

I used to be strongly pro-life; I found the idea of ending an innocent life to be horrendous, a sin. I marched alongside many others in Washington DC at the annual March for Life. I should mention here that I have been raised in a Roman Catholic household all my life; I have attended Catholic school. I have been preached that abortion is wrong. I have been taught that to be pro-choice is to be pro-abortion.

And this is NOT the case.

To be pro-choice is to believe that a woman has the right to choose.

A woman has the right to be abstinate. A woman has the right to have sex. A woman has the right to take birth control. A woman has the right to refuse birth control. A woman has the right to concieve and give birth. A woman has the right to raise her child, with or without a father figure. A woman has the right to put her child up for adoption. A woman has the right to adopt. A woman has the right to concieve and seek an abortion. A woman has the right to choose what is right for her. And what is right for one woman, may not be right for another.

To teach that pro-choice means pro-abortion is wrong. No one has any right to pass judgement on another for the choices that they make for themselves. I can not judge a woman for having an abortion because I have no right to. I do not know what that woman went through to lead her to making that choice for herself. I do not know that woman’s story, that woman’s situation.

The “pro-life vs. pro-choice” battle is a pointless one at that. No matter what anyone says or does, abortion has existed, and will exist, whether it is legal or illegal (and, honestly, legal abortions are far safer than illegal abortions). It has existed as long as humans could concieve children.

So, again I say, I am pro-choice.

I believe that a woman has the right to choose.

What about you?

23 July 2009

Sad turn of events

I really enjoyed Weeds when it seemed to be a show about an empowered woman making her way in a "man's" world.

I'm not so keen on it now that it's a show about a woman who gets completely beaten down by every attempt and seems to enjoy rape and humiliation as long as it's getting her the attention of the man she wants.

Some comeuppance would be nice. Even better would be if we didn't have to watch complete degradation of a woman before that happens.

22 July 2009

Whose standards need to change?

I've read a couple of posts about the upcoming Katherine Heigl engine, The Ugly Truth. It got me to thinking about the premise and some advice I've been given in my own life.

One of my education professors once said to me, "Go for older men. You intimidate boys your own age. You're too smart for them." I was a little hurt by his statement because it was presented as a "this is why you'll be alone for the rest of your life" analysis. I was also mildly insulted on behalf of "men [my] own age", but it wasn't the first time I'd been told to aim higher (read: older). A number of older friends had already told me that I was wasting time on boys in my own demographic.

I think I stuck to my guns, but it's true that I've never had much luck with guys my own age. In fact, every guy I've dated has been incrementally older than the last. I don't think that necessarily fulfils the prophecy of my professor and friends.

May-December romances abound in movies and in real life. Usually, the man is older (since it is a huge joke for an older woman to be considered attractive); and whether that's because of an iteration of what my professor told me, or because younger men in this culture are socialized to spread their seed while they can is probably up for debate. Younger women are still socialized to settle down and raise a family, even though they can still get what they want out of a career and social life. There still seems to be something abhorrent about unmarried women in their 30s.

As an unmarried woman who just entered her 30s, I'll admit that there was a time when it sounded OLD to not have a husband and be starting a family. But when I review my 20s, I'm pretty glad that I didn't settle for what I could have had (although, I was dangerously close a couple of times). But the message I often got was about fitting in with a partner's needs and wants. I was told to accept things and suck it up, without reciprocation.

Enter Hollywood. In it's latest schmaltz, The Ugly Truth, we're told that Heigl needs to learn what a man wants in order to have a successful relationship. Of course, all men want the same thing.

Here's my question: If these men are so vastly different from her beliefs and expectations, why would she want them? This isn't the first movie to introduce this premise, either. Even an old fave of mine, Grease, trumpets the same moral: once Sandy sheds her "good girl" image and falls in step with Danny's much cooler crowd, then they can be together. (Yeah, yeah; Danny makes his effort too, by lettering in track, but it's quickly tossed aside when Sandy shows up in skin-tight polyester.)

It's insulting.

Insulting to women because we can expect better. We can find life partners (of any gender, depending on your sexuality) without resorting to trickery, gimmicks, or subterfuge. And I firmly believe that a relationship that employs such tactics to get off the ground is a relationship based on a lie. I don't recall being at any weddings recently where the friends and family of the couple told hilarious stories about how the bride tricked the groom into thinking that she was some kind of sex goddess by keeping her hair long, and throwing double-entendres into the conversation, or how she pretended to like soccer until the ring was on her finger, but she secretly hates it and is only waiting for the ink to dry on the marriage certificate before getting the HD disconnected so he can never watch it again. Yet, these are strategies that we're supposed to believe work? And I guess I mean believe in the sense that I've also been led to believe that, during my summer coma, a prince on a horse is going to ride up, cut his way through my overgrown hanging plants, and whisk me away to a life of leisure and luxury: I'm not actually meant to believe in that literal interpretation, but it normalizes the underlying premise.

You know, it's a premise that's insulting to men, too, because they're painted as pretty ignorant, boorish, and vapid. Yup, my boyfriend likes hockey and sex, but I think he'd be pretty chapped about being painted as so one-dimensional that he only wanted a flesh-and-blood blow-up doll and someone to bring him a sandwich during play-offs. Most guys I know would likely joke about wanting that, but quickly stress that it's not what they want long-term.

Which brings me back to the age component. Was my professor (who taught psychology, by the way) trying to tell me that men "my age" (I was 24 at the time) hadn't learned that the blow-up doll wasn't satisfying long-term? Was he saying that their young egos were too fragile to brook oppositional thoughts from a mere woman?

I still call bullshit. I think that it's time for men to do some adapting and accept that women are not going to be the soothing, placating sandwich-makers of yore. I'm sure there will still be women willing to do that for a long time to come. As for me, watching women jump through sexist manufactured hoops in hopes of landing a husband is no longer entertaining.

16 July 2009

I can't help but be excited about this!

I know it's tiny, but it's still exciting! Matthew Good is following me on Twitter! :D

04 July 2009

Why should you watch this?

Because the Westboro Baptist Church (I refuse to link to them) produced a song to the tune of We Are the World, of all things.

I really hope they get hit with a copyright lawsuit.

And again, because I'm not going to link to WBC, here's my favourite YouTuber's posting, with commentary.

Happy Independence Day, America. Maybe you can work a little harder on the bigotry.

24 June 2009

Guns solve everything, right?

Like Roger Ebert needs my help promoting his writing. But since this article isn't about movies, I thought I'd provide one more forum for sharing, in case you missed it (thanks, Tricky).

Much has been said recently about the possible influence of [Bill] O'Reilly on the murder of Dr. George Tiller by Scott Roeder. Such a connection is impossible to prove. Yet studies of bullies and their victims suggest a general way such an influence might take place. Bullies like to force others to do their will, while they can stand back and protest their innocence: "I was nowhere near the gymnasium, Sister!" A recent study of school shootings found that two-thirds of all the shooters were victims of bullying, and perceived themselves as members of persecuted minorities.

I'm all for personal accountability. An individual ultimately has to answer for their own actions, especially when those actions cause harm to someone else. But the buck doesn't always stop with the perpetrator. If Ebert is to be believed, O'Reilly -- and probably others in the right-wing media (Limbaugh, etc.) -- are inciting hatred and egging their followers into taking action. You can hear it night after night on O'Reilly's show. He yells, he bullies his guests, and then he implores his viewers to DO SOMETHING! Really, it was only a matter of time for someone to take matters into dangerous hands.

Bob Hebert, columnist at the New York Times, wrote an interesting Op-Ed last week with a similar theme:

Even with the murders that have already occurred, Americans are not paying enough attention to the frightening connection between the right-wing hate-mongers who continue to slither among us and the gun crazies who believe a well-aimed bullet is the ticket to all their dreams.

He speaks specifically to people who think that the way to deal with the possibility of gun control initiatives in the US is to shoot as many people as possible before the guns get taken away. I feel like there's a common thread, though, between what Ebert and Hebert say (tee hee -- their names rhyme): while violence does happen as a result of liberals (protests gone wrong, etc.), it feels like the worst of the targeted violence comes from the right-wing; the same people who claim that liberals are ruining society.

The conservatives, self-proclaimed protectors of Morals and Values, seem to be willing to unleash all kinds of violence on opposition at any cost.

And it's not unique to the US. Currently, Iran is reportedly dealing with opposition to the disputed election with beatings and shootings of the protesters. Those enforcing the status quo in Iran are conservatives.

I think that difference is important. Whether it's racial, ethnic, cultural, political or culinary, I think that different perspectives, different experiences and different flavours add to our understanding of the world, reduce boredom, and enhance our experiences. And every time someone experiences something different, a little bit of ignorance gets chipped away. I don't always agree with the differences, but they're there for a lot of good reasons, and who am I to question those?

But I have a really hard time with people who don't embrace differences, who actively work to suppress differences in the name of "saving" us from something. That's when my enjoyment of differences starts to wear thin and I gag a little. While I'm sure there's some inherent value in having a world with completely intolerant, bigoted people milling about, I can't figure out what that could be, unless it's to show the rest of us what not to be.

People have different ideas of how to make the world a better place. I have the idea that, if people spent more time listening to what people actually need instead of assuming that they know and trying to force it on them, then we might actually accomplish some improvements that benefit all of us.

22 June 2009

It's like crack, only with less death

My friends like to make fun of how addicted I am to my BlackBerry. Actually, it's more people with whom I have a casual acquaintance. People who know me well know that I'm just as capable of not looking at it when it beeps or blinks. Those who barely know me haven't yet learned that they just aren't interesting enough to hold my attention.

That's why I liked this post from writer John Scalzi.

First: If you are the sort of person who believes that all your e-mails/texts must be responded to instantaneously or sooner, you may be a self-absorbed twit. Please entertain the idea that your responder may have a life of his or her own, with priorities which may not conform to yours.

The entire entry is pretty amusing. And poignant.

I get involved in e-mail/text conversations when they come up, if I judge that they are more important than what I am doing. Sometimes I'm wrong about what's "more important", but I never intend to be disrespectful.

The other night, I talked to a friend via IM on my BlackBerry while watching a movie with my mother and boyfriend. It wasn't because it was a boring movie, or because I disrespected either of them; it's because the topic was one that I felt needed to be sorted out before I could comfortably move on. Otherwise, the verbal bomb would have been dropped and I likely would have been more distracted with it hanging over my head. Having the IM conversation was unobtrusive to the other people and allowed me to gather more information before deciding that I was ready to get back to the movie. No one else was worse for the wear.

The argument I love from Luddites is, "What would you have done 10 years ago? What if you didn't have a BlackBerry/text messaging/the internet?" These are false, ridiculous arguments.

Ten years ago, my friend would have had to call me to talk directly. I would have had to make a decision to leave the room altogether to have the conversation. That's probably much more rude (or more stressful to cope with) than answering a text. Thirty years ago, the conversation would have waited until we were in the same town, since it would have been an expensive long distance call at the time. Eighty years ago, even a local call may have been a little ridiculous to achieve, since the subject was something that's still pending. And 150 years ago, he and I wouldn't have been friends. Gender barriers aside, I likely wouldn't have even made it to this province to live, let alone have become friends with someone who lived in another town where a half-day buggy ride would have been required for simple socializing.

So, stuff your "what would you do without texting?" argument. It's the only way I've communicated with some friends in the past few days because the surgery makes it hurt to talk.

While there may be problems with the instant and multiple communication inundation, I'd say it has as much to do with self-restraint as anything else. And if you don't let yourself (or your kids) socialize in any other way, then that's what sets you up for problems. Not the need to respond; your perceived need to respond.

21 June 2009


My posting has been scant lately because life gets in the way. I guess I can't help having a fantastic, fulfilling personal relationship, a job I love, volunteer activities that keep me flat out, and face-altering surgery that puts me down for a week.

No, it wasn't plastic surgery. Well, it was, in a sense. But it was for improving the functional structure of my face, not for vanity. I never had a problem with my chin(s). Apparently, the rest of my face disagreed.

I wanted to add this link to the discussion of my last post, because I think it shows that something is lacking between what young people want/need to know about sex and what adults are willing/able to tell them.

Learning about healthy relationships in school ties directly into better safe-sex practices because adolescents who know how to communicate with their partners are more likely to succeed in negotiating condom use, said Sarah Flicker, one of the study authors and an assistant professor of environmental studies at York University.

Maybe taking kids out of school for "controversial subject matter" is even riskier, since the ignorance that issues exist might lead them to make false choices based on what they think they know.

They're just people. Tell them what they need to know and let them sort out how to use it. Putting a gun in someone's hand doesn't mean they'll shoot it. Letting a kid know about what might be fun or dangerous about sex doesn't mean they're going to run out and get laid.

03 June 2009

There was a boat?

In my long list of daily tweets from CBC, I came across a link to this article about a new law in Alberta that allows parents to take their kids out of class during

A clause in the bill, which is an amendment to the province's human rights legislation, requires that school boards give parents written notice when controversial topics are going to be covered in the curriculum. Parents can then ask for their child to be excluded from the discussion.

When did it become necessary to protect kids from things they might learn in school? This feels to me like yet another abdication of responsibility by parents. I mean, I certainly hope that my own kids grow up to be thoughtful, caring, compassionate people who embrace cultural and lifestyle diversity, but I don't plan to do it by not letting them know that opposite viewpoints exist. And I would certainly prefer that any discussion be moderated by an educated professional as opposed to anything they might come across on the Wild Wild Web, or sitting around with their friends.

What happened to parents letting the schools do the teaching and then tempering the lessons with discussion at home. This is the moral equivalent to slapping an "Evolution is Only a Theory: stickers on the front of science textbooks. Yes, we know. That's why it's called the Theory of Evolution. And we don't teach Creationism because it's not a science. And because we don't teach religion in public schools. (Before you jump down my throat, I am well aware that we still live in a Judeo-Christian-centric society in North America, and that God pops up everywhere (including most major school holidays). I'm just saying that our curriculum does not include theology; at least not in my neck of the woods.)

So, why can't parents take an active role in their child's education in a positive way? I certainly don't disagree with parents right to know that some topics are part of the curriculum. Every semester, I'm responsible for a "Curriculum Night" where I have to account for most of what I plan to teach. That doesn't necessarily include the minutiae of the course, but definitely the broad topics, and of course, parents are free to ask about specifics, which I may or may not be able to provide at the time.

Rather than taking children out of class altogether, why not talk to kids about family beliefs, either before or after the classroom discussion? Why do teachers need to come up with an entirely new category of adaptation for students who "aren't allowed" to learn? There are enough kids on this planet who don't get an opportunity to learn about the basics of life or the much lauded "Three Rs". Now we're afraid that some kids might be learning too much and we have to censor them from the discussion?

There is opposition to the clause from those who fear that "... Bill 44 makes it possible for parents to file human rights complaints against teachers and school districts...". I have to say that I agree with that stance. Most teachers work hard to create fair and diverse classrooms that honour and respect people from many different backgrounds, and I don't think that comes out of fear of litigation. I think it comes from a place of knowing how to respect many people in many different ways. I many not agree with the beliefs of a student who is a Jehovah's Witness or a Catholic or a Hindu, but I will try my best to let them know that I'm okay with what they believe, and hopefully they'll find a way to reciprocate -- not through ignorance of the difference, but because I will model acceptance and understanding.

The people who tacked this clause onto Bill 44 didn't just miss the boat. I'm not sure they knew it was there in the first place.

02 June 2009


At some point, I'd like to talk a little about what I think about terms like "cougar" and "MILF" as it applies to older, attractive women. In the meantime, here's a taste of why I find such labels degrading.

31 May 2009


Often I just link to things like this, but I felt that this was big enough that I wasn't going to risk people deciding not to click the link to read it:

When You Can’t See

Space May 26, 2009, Matthew Good

You’ve just arrived home. The kids, having gotten home from school a few hours earlier, are going about their usual business. You walk into the kitchen and throw your briefcase on the counter, grabbing a glass out of the cupboard. As you walk towards the fridge to get some orange juice the phone rings, diverting you.

You pick it up. You stand there in stunned silence. The voice on the other end of the line informs you that your wife has been involved in a serious car accident.

You immediately hang up and dial your neighbour. You ask them to watch the kids while you go to the hospital, telling them that you’ll inform the kids of the situation once you know more. Your neighbour, who you’ve know for years, is aghast, but assures you that they’ll drop everything and come over.

The glass that you had grabbed remains empty on the counter, you grab your keys, get in your car, and drive like a madman.

On the way to the hospital your whole life flashes in front of your eyes – the seventeen years of marriage, the night you first kissed her, the look on her face when you asked her to marry you, the tears that filled the corners of her eyes as you were pronounced man and wife. The hard times are forgotten, the good times surging to the forefront of your memory - the birth of your children, the vacations, the laughter, those silent moments when you stared at each other in bed at night contented and at ease with yourselves.

You get to the hospital, park in a two-away zone, run into emergency, find the desk, ask where she is, and…

…you can’t see her.

Imagine that. Because that is the reality faced by many gay and lesbian couples in that exact situation. They are not considered immediate family, even if they have been together for decades. At that desk, with the one person that means more to them than anything possibly facing death, they are stopped.

I’ve read and heard a great deal about God in my life. If you’re of the opinion that God’s will is represented at that desk when a gay or lesbian person is stopped, then what is there to say other than God help you.

It's ridiculous to me that you can't choose who can see you in an emergency. Can we have the equivalent of Medic Alert bracelets that designates "next of kin"? I mean, basically, your homosexual partner can't visit you, but your estranged parents could. Isn't it time that we eliminated archaic hospital visitation rules to better reflect the reality of contemporary families?

29 May 2009

But I DO like it.....

I just hate stupid commercials devoted to it. And the ever-worsening chemical and disposable nature of the products....

26 May 2009

Forgetting to breathe

Sometimes, when I'm thinking or stressed out, I stop breathing. I guess it's a form of apnea, but it apparently doesn't happen in my sleep (at least, not enough to warrant a diagnosis).

Sometimes, I let things get out of hand. I pack my schedule; I rush from pillar to post. It's exhausting.

In five weeks I will be on summer vacation again. The next two weeks are insane (much like the last two). I have some things jammed into my summer already, including a family wedding, some professional development, and a road trip.

I just hope I remember to breathe.

25 May 2009

Tick Tock

Everyone's in a rush. Gotta get married; gotta have babies. Clock's ticking, people!

I've mentioned my biological clock before. I generally ignore it. Plus, I work with teenagers, which is as effective a prophylactic as any I've encountered.

Last month I turned 30 and I started thinking about where I am, what I have, and what I want. In considering some other people in my social sphere I started wondering whether what I want is more closely linked to what I have access to than I originally understood. Last summer I had an interesting conversation with Tricky's husband about free will and whether it can possibly exist, and he put forth a theory (which I can never correctly attribute) about whether our subconscious pushes us to the point where we're not actually taking decisions about things, but selecting an option based on it being the only possibility after all others have been eliminated. It changed my way of thinking about certain "mistakes" I'd made in the past, although I think it's an incomplete consideration of the theory, which I've very badly explained above.

Humans are remarkably good at rationalizing our choices. Someone pointed out to me (maybe Tricky's husband again) that we are not a rational species, but a rationalizing species. That's how I find it easy to identify when someone says they've "made a choice". It's probably unfair to say that everyone rationalizes each decision that is limited by resources or access, but I think it happens more than people realize. Personal example: when I was young, my parents would never have shelled out $80 for a sweatshirt, so it was really easy to say that I had no interest in owning one. I actually don't know whether my indignation at being required to pay so much money for a sweatshirt was genuine or whether I knew that it was useless to ask my parents so I pretended I didn't want one until I believed it. I'd like to say that it was the former, considering the time period, but maybe my distaste for popular fashion (which, at my junior high and high school) was borne of my inability to access it. What confuses me is my lack of resentment. I don't look back and think, "Why didn't I have _____?" When I talk to others about similar forced denials, social or material (significant others, clothes, etc.), it always seems to entail some underlying anger at not having something that "everyone else" had access to. I rarely had that anger, and it certainly wasn't because my parents caved to every demand.

But what I find curious now is whether not wanting certain things (marriage, kids, etc.) on a certain time line has as much to do with my lack of access to them as any actual free will on my part to decide whether I want them at all. I have friends who definitely wanted things to happen at certain time in certain orders; some were successful with this and some failed miserably. I have also encountered people who have declared from the rooftops that they don't want to get married, they aren't looking for love, and they certainly don't want kids.

While I believe some of these people, others make me suspicious. It seems really easy to say that you don't want to get married or have kids when you're in a relationship that isn't ever going to offer those things. Specifically, an acquaintance of mine has been with the same partner for 13 years. He declared early on that he didn't want to get married or have children. She was enjoying herself at the time and probably didn't think much of it. She stayed with him. All these years later, she says that she doesn't care about getting married and she doesn't want kids. But when I look at the state of their relationship, I wonder if she hasn't just convinced herself of that because she doesn't want to start over. I certainly can't see any other reason why she'd stay with him, and you'll just have to take my word on it.

At the same time, my rampantly feminist self thinks, why should she feel the need to get married? We can all be just as happy without it, if that's what we want from our lives. So why can't I shake the feeling that these choices aren't just choices?

Because the choices change. I've been in the situation numerous times where I've been just as happy on my own -- thanks to some hard work on my part -- and then something changes. Maybe a friend has a baby, maybe I meet someone and feel connected, maybe I witness something tragic that breaks my heart; whatever the reason, I seem to adapt. Suddenly, if only briefly, I want a baby too. Or a husband. Or a trip to Cuba. Then I settle in to not wanting it anymore once the initial stimulus passes. I guess that's a great evolutionary skill, but it's what makes me skeptical about what influences other people.

I wish I understood more about how people came to decisions and why they choose between certain social standards. That might make it easier for me to cope with the pendulum swinging as often as it does.

11 May 2009

Things That Make me Feel Better #2

Hooray for common sense!!

09 May 2009

The R Word

I always love how this guy thinks.

Respect is a big deal. It's hard to earn; harder to keep. There was a time when it was assumed that you automatically respected anyone who was older than you, or in a position of authority. Now respect seems to move laterally. You can like someone, but not respect them. You can also respect someone you don't like. I have more respect for some of the kids I teach than some of the adults I've worked with based on many different factors. And we don't respect everyone equally for equal reasons.

Very often, we fail to outwardly respect people in favour of our "right" to exercise our freedom of speech. I won't bore you with the details of how that freedom isn't available in Canada like it is in the US. I will enlighten you on the fact that people have feelings, and that if you decide to trample on them, don't be surprised when people get upset, even if you don't know those people. Even if you didn't intend for those people to hear. Especially if you say something that could, at any point in history, be considered offensive.

My example, I do not like being called a "broad" or a "chick". I am a woman. I find those terms derogatory. I will likely call you out if you use those words to refer to women. I don't care how many other women would giggle, think it's cute, or just roll their eyes at your ignorance. Those are words that subjugate me as a human, and I'm not just going to smile sweetly while you say something that offends me.

What Asher Roth said was much worse, but it's analogous in that it's something patently offensive. In this case, as proven by another douchebag. It's not about the offended people needing to "lighten up" or "have a sense of humour". It's that we are all entitled to respect and to define what makes us feel respected. If you say something that squashes someone else, take responsibility for it. You'll probably come out seeming less of an asshole in the long run.

04 May 2009

The Challenge

Tricky asked me to write about porn consumption from the other angle. She asked if I could speak to the experience of people who frequently look to porn either as a supplement to or a foundation of their sex life.

That’s a sensitive topic for me. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve been in the unfortunate position of trying to sustain a relationship with someone who was/became more likely to look to porn for their sexual release than to me. Therefore, it’s hard to talk about the reasons why someone might feel entitled to watch porn without feeling a sense of outrage or shame. Outrage because of how he made me feel; shame because of how I feel I created that need.

Before I continue, I need to link to this article about porn in relationships. It popped up a couple of weeks ago and I meant to link to it then, but it feels more relevant now. In fact, when I read it, I’m kind of stunned that I didn’t write the e-mail that prompted the article. The only difference between her experience and mine is that I’m not married.


I can certainly understand why someone consumes porn overall. I understand that it serves a purpose. Whether that purpose leads to deviant behaviour or serves as catharsis is as individual as the person viewing it. But why would someone do it when it’s hurtful to someone else? Some theories:

LONELINESS - When you’re not making connections – sexual or otherwise – with other human beings, maybe the only intimacy you can get is through watching the most intimate thing two people can do. Maybe you’ve been hurt or shamed so much, that observing someone else’s experience is the only safe way to feel it for yourself. Maybe the easiest thing to do is turn on the computer and put yourself in the roll of someone else who doesn’t seem to have any hang-ups or self-consciousness about what they’re doing.

FRUSTRATION - Maybe you’re not getting what you want. And maybe you don’t know how to communicate what that want is. Maybe you have a fetish that you don’t think a partner would understand or that you’re too ashamed to vocalize it because of popular perceptions of the act. Maybe you’ve been put off so much that the porn is the only outlet.

REJECTION - If your partner turns you down often enough, I’m sure that porn becomes a viable option for sexual release. Having a computer in another room makes it easy to watch and imagine those fantasies without disturbing your partner. Maybe it’s just easier to stay up another half hour while your partner sleeps and you can partially get what you want. You can at least pretend, and you can also imagine that you’re in control by turning on porn and deciding what type you want and how long you want to let it go. You also get to remain sexual to the exclusion of your partner and it’s their loss if they don’t want to participate. In fact, maybe you even enjoy leaving your partner out of it because they don’t deserve it.

I think porn is a way of being in control. It’s so readily available, that you can find any type at any time and make decisions about when, where, how often, how long, etc. You don’t need anyone else’s approval or permission.

ENTITLEMENT - This one is my favourite. Some people, because of certain things that have happened to them, feel that they are above everyone else. Maybe because they were spoiled and coddled as children; maybe because they think they were deprived or neglected as children. Maybe because the media bombards them with sexual images and they get the message that they deserve it too. We all have a right to sexuality, and maybe this is the best access someone has to it. Plus with approximately 266 new porn sites daily (check the link for more great stats), it's not like anyone prolific is sending the message that we're doing something wrong. The internet is just making a point of how desired it is. So, why wouldn't someone feel like they should be able to consume as much as they want?

I find it interesting that I can talk about this with a certain amount of empathy. At first I thought that it would destroy me, but I think I let myself get too worked up by my experience. Having written this, I realize that, yeah, it bugged me to write from the perspective of not considering the harm that could come of the consumption, but I also started to see how it wasn't just a choice at first, especially when the initial use was based on ignorance of the consequences. The real choice came in after it was raised as a damaging issue and those pleas went ignored. That's when the hurt started.


03 May 2009

Teenagers are people too

Teenagers get a lot of bad press. They're always destroying stuff and stealing stuff. They're too loud. They're obnoxious.

Well, for the past three days, I hung out with about 300 teenagers at DramaFest. And, except for the loud and obnoxious part, I didn't see the frightening creatures the media would have us believe they are; I saw 300 of the best teenagers in the world. I don't even count the loud, obnoxious part, since I'm just as loud and obnoxious as any of them. It's part of why I can handle teaching high school so well; and possibly why the kids don't hate me. :)

So many people miss all the good things teenagers do because all they hear about is the shit that goes on. I watched a dozen student-devised plays and was pleasantly surprised at the results. I supervised 30 students on a university campus in the middle of an urban core with no serious issues (unless you count finding them at a May Day anarchist rally). I spent time chatting with them as people, not just as students.

I wonder if teenagers are really that bad, or if it's the adults they encounter. Especially when I see crap like this:

And it wasn't his first offence.

Now, sure, that's one man and hardly representative of all police officers. Likewise, the kid, Eric Bush, is not necessarily representative of all teenagers. It's really a lesson in stereotypes and discrimination. Just because a kid is skateboarding does not mean that he's a delinquent; just because an adult is a cop does not mean that he or she is right.

Every day I work with 90 kids, the vast majority of whom are amazing, intelligent and caring people. Every day I encounter a few shitheads, too, but that has nothing to do with their age. Most of those will be shitheads when they're 90.

Adolescence is a hard time, and not having a clear idea of how to treat teenagers as people makes it worse. It's easy to live up to mediocrity. When you expect a kid to act like a stupid jerk, many of them will be happy to oblige because it's easier than busting their ass to prove someone wrong when they aren't going to listen anyway. So maybe give them the benefit of the doubt, even when they're walking in packs and taking up the whole sidewalk. Somewhere in that pack is a decent individual who will live up to your positive expectation. You just have to set the example.

26 April 2009


I've been busy celebrating my life this week. I'm more like to comment on Tricky's blog than write my own. Read hers for a bit. It's smart.

16 April 2009

Distressed Damsel

Entertainment isn't innocuous. We learn something from each book, movie, television show, or play. Sometimes those messages are good and positive. Other times those messages are devious and damaging.

I've been reluctant to read Stephenie Meyer's books. I didn't even know they existed until the hype for the Twilight movie began. At the time I though, "I'll read the book before I see the movie." Then I heard an unfortunate review of the movie and my interest waned a bit. But in talking to friends, my interest would occasionally pique again. The cycle continued for a while. It even came up as a possible rental viewing choice a couple of weeks ago. I was torn between the negative messages I kept hearing about, and the pop culture bubble-gum romance to which I kept hearing my friends and students refer.

Then I saw this. It kind of grossed me out a little. Could it be true? Does this happen in the book and is it positioned as romantic and desirable?

Unfortunately, yes (spoiler alert for all four books).

I'm not at all comfortable with the content I read about in that review. I've been looking for more positive portrayals of females in entertainment media for a long time. It really hurts me to find that coming up behind me is a group of girls who are still being fed the same damaging tripe about needing a man and doing anything, at any cost to get one, no matter what kind of life they'll end up with.

If I had followed through on that mentality, I'd either be married to a pot-head with no motivation, an abusive rage-a-holic, or a mentally crushing emotionally retarded man-child. Or a multi-millionaire who would have mostly ignored me....

Hmmm. Maybe I should have stuck it out a bit longer.

Thanks to tricky for both links.

09 April 2009

Things That Make me Feel Better #1

The maker of this video is my Hero of the Week.

30 March 2009

Look out for women!

I can't get enough of Sarah Haskins. Where's her awesome talk show?

28 March 2009

Tolerance on Parade

While I generally think that this show is sensationalist tripe, I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the following video (via feministing.com):

I'm not going to unpack it right now, but feel free to open up in the comments. Of note: civil unions are legal in New Jersey.

17 March 2009

Sleep means no

This isn't so much about what I talked about in my post on Saturday. It's more about how the media portrays rape. And it doesn't come across much differently than how they portray domestic violence.

It's one thing to present "unbiased", objective information. It's another to make a crime seem much less worse than it is. Or to make it sound like it's not a crime at all. We use the word alleged in the media for murder, robbery and fraud. Why can't we use it for rape?

16 March 2009

The Rebuttal

I had a bit of interesting debate on my post about pornography, Responsible Consumer.

I felt like responding to some of the points made, and since it's my blog, decided to expand my thoughts into another post.

Commenter Todd said he didn't know how the lesson of the fox and the grapes applies, but in making his point he said, "It is a form of rationalization." The answer is right in his argument against tricky's point. It's just as possible to rationalize how pornography could be harmless so that one can consume it without guilt as it is to convince yourself that you don't want grapes because they're probably cringe-inducing. One is to rationalize a like, the other for a dislike. So what? I don't think rationalization only works one way.

A few points I'd like to make:

The biggest one is what Todd left out of his original comment. I talked about how dangerous depictions of women in pornography were to women. His comments focused on my self-identified hyperbole and pay equity issues, which were never meant to be the focus of my original post. And when I say dangerous to women, I don't just mean the actresses involved. Specifically, I'm concerned with the women (excuse the following heteronormative argument) who end up having sex with ignorant, undersexed men* who seem to think that the sexual behaviours they see in porn are normal and that they are entitled to the same. I'm especially concerned about the porn billed as "voyeur", which would lead some people to believe that it's just "regular" people having "regular" sex. I've seen that porn. Trust me, its fair share is staged. Or filmed and posted without the knowledge and/or consent of one of the partners, which is problematic for other reasons. I digress.

Considering the high numbers of young and adolescent males that are learning about sexuality from these movies, it's not a leap of logic to understand how this translates into some extraordinary requests and pressure when these guys start having sex. And it's not hard to understand why -- with all the pressure for women to by hypersexual, confident, and savvy -- women end up feeling obliged (or actually coerced) into doing things they find uncomfortable, degrading, or maybe just wrong. And just because you may be a decent guy who would never dream of thinking that way doesn't mean I'm wrong about it happening. In fact, I'd be happy to introduce you to some "delightful" men who fit the mold. Hmm. More digression.

Look: not all sexual acts in porn are bad, but the way a comparison to porn can erode a woman's ability to feel confident in expressing her discomfort with a particular act is troubling to me. It's hard enough for anyone to find confidence and balance in their sexuality, but when you're being compared to impossible beauty standards, yogic flexibility and a willingness to engage in everything, it's hard for a lot of women not to feel as if they have no choice but to make the best of it. And that's where the trust falls out of the bottom and sex becomes something mechanical, crude, and traumatic.

Moving on....

I think one major problem with a point Todd made about wages and porn is that we can't assume all porn is from "developed countries". Consider, for example, human trafficking. Lots of women are duped or forced into sex slavery all over the world. And the "civilized" West is not necessarily immune from the problem. Besides which, when you're watching a movie on the internet where two people just start having sex with no contrived storyline or plot, can you be sure that it was made in the relative safety of North America or the UK where maybe women are making a choice and that they may get paid decently? The answer is no. And it's pure ignorance if you think that's what's happening just because the cinematography is decent.

Also, no jurisdiction in the world offers adequate, fair health (and other) benefits for women, period. I can't even begin to conceive how anyone could argue that porn actresses are given adequate, safe access to what they need, or that their job benefits (medical, dental, etc.) would allow them to live healthy, secure lives. With the exception of some niche preggo porn, most women who get pregnant during their porn career get the boot. Not only are they about to get "fat", but their entire shape is about to change and it takes a while to get your body back to porn standards. Never mind the fact that those hips aren't going anywhere. Alternatively, there's the abortion route, but I won't spend time speculating on whether that entails coercion or worse.

Finally, Todd left out something glaring while refuting my and tricky's points about porn: I'm not wrong. A certain friend from back at Acadia (who never updates his blog) will remember how that is often the case, and I pride myself highly on that. People may not agree, but what I'm saying here isn't necessarily wrong or untrue. There is no good reason why we shouldn't expect porn to be fair to its workers and be responsible in its portrayal of women the same way we are starting to expect fair wages and decent working conditions for the farmers who grow our food or the labourers who make our shoes.

I'm not arguing against porn as medium. I'm just arguing that the industry need to clean itself up and consider the larger implications of its practices, just like everyone else in business is doing. If not voluntarily, then because the current world economy is going to demand higher standards from everyone as we become more cautious about how we spend our money. I don't think it's out of line to think that those principles will extend to porn as people cancel credit cards and decide whether they should feed their kids or watch Debbie do Dallas.

*In no way do I mean to imply that all men are ignorant or undersexed. I'm just talking about the ones who actually are.

15 March 2009

Watch what you say

In the same vein as yesterday's post, I wanted to further help spread the word about this article on abuse from Newsweek. Domestic Abuse Myths: Five Mistakes we Make When we Talk about Rihanna catalogues a number of popular fallacies about domestic abuse and how the media conflated and sensationalized Chris Brown's assault on Rihanna to turn it into some kind of game with players, rules, and colour commentary.

Assault is assault. The only "fault" is with the assaulter. Once you attack, the other person loses, and whatever they did to anger the perpetrator becomes moot. I don't care if Rihanna got up in Brown's face and screamed, "Hit me, you pussy!" He is responsible for his own actions.

I think the media circus and all the speculation about what she did wrong only serves as reinforcement to her decision to go back to him. All the talk of blame and what she did to "deserve" the beating would only support what most abused women already think: that she did something to deserve it and has to make up for what happened. The reports are so convincing that consumers are believing it too.

At least Coolio knows better. Ignore the irony. Coolio is just awesome and I love that the media is so desperate for commentary that they'll call anyone for input.

In addition to the Newsweek article, the Winnepeg Sun also published this piece on taking the event as an opportunity to set the record on abuse straight with your kids.

14 March 2009

It's not what it seems

It's an unnerving thought: being forced to do something you don't want to do. When it's sexual in nature, it adds an extra layer of apprehension. And trauma.

A couple of years ago, I had to come to grips with sexual abuse. Even though I knew I was experiencing something bad, I never identified it as any kind of assault. I just thought I was a little fucked up and didn't know enough about my own sexuality. I thought I was oversensitive to the criticism of asshole ex-boyfriends. I had no idea exactly what it meant because I was deluded by popular depictions of sexual assault in the media (news and entertainment), as most people are.

I'm not taking about planted memories, where I felt badly about something and someone made suggestions about what happened so I began to believe something that didn't actually exist. I'm talking about a situation where I didn't realize that what happened could be considered abuse. I described a situation and was given the label afterwards.

It was a huge blow to me. It crushed me for quite a while. It was hard to talk about with friends. I still haven't broached it with family. Even with the person who I thought would continue to love me and help me through it twisted into something it wasn't. I guess I can't fault anyone who couldn't deal with it, or didn't understand it when I opened up about it. I think I can fault people who made it worse, or blamed me. It took a long time to come to grips with the idea that what happened to me was not my fault; that it was not exaggeration or misconception; that I had as much right to my story as anyone has to stories that follow the more traditional interpretations of sexual abuse.

This post comes from reading someone else's story of non-traditional sexual abuse. In her case, outright rape. Because of the context of the relationship, it's kind of hard for outsiders to identify it as rape. But it makes sense. If lack of consent equals rape, then mounting someone while unconscious is rape. I certainly don't see a problem with initiating sex in the middle of the night and obtaining consent. It's the penetration before she's awake that makes it wrong and it scares the crap out of me.

But marital/partner rape is a generally new concept, in the same vein as spousal abuse. It used to be commonplace and acceptable for a husband to smack his wife around if she didn't do what he said. Likewise, it was considered his right to have sex. Let me stop there for a second and acknowledge the difference between sucking it up and letting him have his way and him forcing her to submit. These views are changing now, but it obviously takes time to permeate cultures so that individuals understand their rights in relation to other people. Backing up a bit to my story: according to my counsellor, the trauma associated with not being mentally engaged in sex (i.e., saying yes because you know it will shut him up or avoid a worse confrontation) is emotionally damaging. Moreover, each time it happens, it becomes increasing difficult to stop the pattern.

I'll be the first to admit that it's not as damaging as rape, but it can still have a long-term impact on the woman who feels that submission is both the lesser of two evils, and a way to avoid acknowledging the larger issues/problems in the relationship. And while I'm sure that there are exceptions to this rule, and that even that each instance is unique and includes distinct negotiations and interactions, the pattern of behaviour from either partner can be damaging to the trust in the relationship.

While women are most often the victims of sexual assault, a lot of men have told me that we have all the power when it comes to having sex. We get to say no or it's rape; we get to give permission like we're doing men a favour. Of course, very often, we also have to be the ones who take responsibility for preventative measures (birth control) and are at greater risk of contracting STIs. It's an ongoing power struggle. For all the work to improve women's rights and allow for sexual liberty and autonomy, there are still serious issues.

One of the biggest is that we don't even know when we're being hurt.

02 March 2009

A good what?

I have married friends. Many of these friends work, though not all do: some are stay-at-home moms, some are stay-at-home dads, some are not able to work for one reason or another.

What I commonly hear from the lot is a desire to be a "better wife". I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, but it generally means that they think that should cook more, clean more, do more of the laundry, contribute more, or be more organized.

In general, I think it's a fairly reasonable sentiment to want to do more to be a better partner. Specifically, the things my friends mention that makes them feel like "inadequate wives" makes me angry. So far, I've held my tongue. So far, I've been careful to listen patiently and be supportive of their desire to want to live in a cleaner home, eating food made from scratch. But when they seem to insist that it has to come from them in order to exist, I have a hard time not yelling, "WHAT YEAR DO YOU THINK IT IS?!"

Yes, I've read a book about it. The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston. I definitely don't agree with everything she says, but she makes some great arguments about the social constructions of the word. She points out that the word "wife" has no other meanings, and gender-specific synonyms are basically non-existent. I guess that's why it's so hard to break out of past presumptions that once you're a wife you become responsible for all the housework and child-rearing. Which would explain why some of my friends kind of crack under the notion that not doing so well makes them akin to failure as opposed to properly supported by their partners.

I think it's totally ridiculous that, as a woman, I should have to remind anyone that it's time to do anything that even mildly resembles cleaning. I find it preposterous that I should have to tell another adult not to leave a wet towel on the bed, to put their socks in the hamper, to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or to wipe the counter when they've spilt something. I also find it ridiculous that I should have to feel fully responsible for cooking something that doesn't come out of a box in the freezer.

So, why do so many women my age seem to feel inadequate for not automatically doing these things? Why does asking someone who should be able to feed, clothe, and bathe themselves to help out become "nagging"?

I understand that it will take a while for some of the increasing equality we teach our children to take root, but I don't think that anyone should be considered to be or should even entertain the notion that they are somehow inadequate as a partner because they're slack with the dishes, or they leave the floor un-vacuumed for a few weeks (or months, ahem). In the meantime, why do we have to feel like we're doing something wrong just for agreeing to take on the mantle of a word. If a word like "terrific" can have such vastly different definitions, then why is is so hard to break the shackles of a such a little word like "wife."

01 March 2009

Last night, I had a dream

Every so often, I dream about Paris in a way that makes me feel homesick.

This time it was early summer, like the first time I went. It was warm; just warm enough to not need a jacket. It was dusk, but the dark was frozen. It didn't get darker the entire dream. I think that's my favourite time of day in Paris. I guess it's the time when I feel like romance should happen, but it never did in real life.

Paris is something that I can barely believe exists. What happened there the first time was so incredible that I find it hard to accept that it might not always be that way. In reality, I want to go to Italy. I am going to Qatar. But every time I think of being somewhere, it's Paris.

In my dream, Daphné was there. We were standing on the Pont Alexandre III. The Eiffel Tower was behind us. We were looking toward Notre Dame. My heart was full, but I felt so peaceful.

Nothing else happened in my dream. I was just being there, and it reminded me of being in a place that felt so amazing that you couldn't help but feel amazing too. I keep going back for a reason: the remembrance of a person who is still so important to me, and a place that sparked a change in me in just three weeks. Whenever I dream about Paris, I feel like I'm dreaming about home. If it wasn't for where I work now, I would have been living there by now.

I don't regret a single moment of the last 6 months. But I think it's time to plan another trip home.

24 February 2009

Four days to go....

Okay February, I don't like you, and you don't like me, but I think we can move past that. You came through with a few snow days, and for that I am grateful. But let's not push it. I think you can let March take over and exit with some grace and dignity intact. I definitely won out this year, but you've taken the last 5, so I haven't exactly won the war.

Let's just agree to part ways peacefully, and maybe I'll look forward to seeing you next year. Maybe you'll present yourself as less intimidating and I'll present myself as less hostile. I'm willing to give this a fair shot.

You see, February, a lot has changed this time around, and I guess I had to prove that I could beat you. I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings, but I think you've kicked me around long enough.

In the past, I've been okay with nothing disastrous happening, but this year that wasn't good enough. And perhaps that decision made all the difference. I can't take full credit for it; I was definitely heeding the advice of friends.

So maybe next we can start over? I thought that I needed a few more clear triumphs, but after having this discussion, I'm willing to put the past behind us and move forward. I'll admit a slight disadvantage as long as you don't use that to beat me down next time we meet.

Enjoy your summer, February. You deserve the break.

08 February 2009

Happy February!

I'm so glad it's February, even though it's a month I traditionally hate even more than January. I'm willing to give it a shot this year.

I'm taking some time off from blogging because:

a) I'm busy. I'm teaching two new courses this semester and I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around the massive amount of work I have to do to make them not suck. Anyone that tells you it's easy to teach drama is lying and should be roundly beaten by all.

b) I'm sick. I woke up with a cold Friday and it is determined to get worse before it gets better. Today I can't talk without severe coughing. I hate coughing.

c) It's February. If I'm going to give February a chance, I have to do something other than sit in my living room on my laptop. In store to date is a weekend away to New Brunswick and the Improv Regionals (website not current). Also, not sucking.

On deck for my return:

a) A response to the porn blog and comments.

b) Online dating.

c) International Women's Day

d) Feeling numb.

Happy birthday to my mom. She's 60, she's fabulous and I love her.

29 January 2009

The Good ol' Hockey Game

I read about this video at cbc.ca. I'm not as good at reading my daily news e-mails as I used to be, but since today is a "snow day" and I have a bit of leisure time, I decided to flip through and see what was happening in the world.

That's when I found this video:

I'd say that he had some help with the speech and his actions, but the message is true, and not just for hockey. It's called a game for a reason. That kind of abuse is one of the many reasons why I will not ever sign my kids up for hockey. When they're 3, they don't know differently and I'd rather that they play something that doesn't carry as much baggage as hockey does in Canada.

25 January 2009

What your favourite colour?

Whenever I hear about people having babies, I cringe inside. As much as I love a baby and cute baby gear, I just know what's about to happen. A boy is about to be stuffed into all kinds of mini sports uniforms (with the odd exception) and camo gear. Girls get frilly dresses, and flowers. Little boys are rugged; little girls are cutesy.

And here's what's wrong with that.

I like clothes. I like clothes that I look good in. I like my clothing to be a variety of colours, but the colour I have in my wardrobe more than any other? Blue. Ask my female friends what their favourite colour is. A lot of them will say blue. Although hardly a scientific method, when my friends make a Mii on my Wii, most of them will pick one of the blues for their clothing when it comes time to pick.

I highly doubt that this is some kind of rebellious reaction to having pink forced on us as toddlers. Quite the opposite -- I think it's free choice after having been exposed to a wide variety of colours.

Back in the early part of the century, I took a Women's Studies course for my undergrad. One thing that stuck with me is that the idea of blue being for boys and pink being for girls is a recent phenomenon. It used to be the opposite. Baby blue used to be for girls because blue was a colour of weakness and passivity. Baby pink was for boys because, as a shade of red, it stood for power and dominance. I don't remember when the switch was -- I think it was some time in the 40s or 50s -- but I think it easily demonstrates how arbitrary colour is when gender-assignment and babies.

I don't know how people choose their favourite colour. I don't know if it's something innate, biological, conditioned, or random. But I hope people will understand when I ask them not to inundate my kids with some determination of "gender-specific" colour. Whether or not my baby is a boy or a girl is irrelevant to strangers I encounter. I don't need to advertise what my kid is based on what it's wearing.

You don't either.

24 January 2009

Feminist Men

Yeah, yeah. I don't post as much. I'm busy. Sue me.

Before I go on, a shout out to Tricky for her intelligent and well-researched response to Todd on my last post. I was all kinds of annoyed when I read it but didn't have a chance to look into a well-thought-out reply. Hearty thanks, lass.

Now, have a look at this article-type-deal from The Guardian. It's a bit old (soooooo 2008), but very relevant.

Dude argues about how gender stereotypes affect men and are damaging. My favourite paragraph:

"Men should embrace these principles too, not only for women's sake but also for their own. All else being equal, to be born male is to inherit legacies of entitlement that continue to outweigh those bestowed on those born female. Yet the state of maleness carries its own burden of expectations and constraints. Contemporary studies of boyhood shed light on what we've always known – what I still remember vividly from my own boyhood – about the disabling and limiting influence of male behaviour conventions, homophobia and general "gender policing" on men in the making and the huge anxieties that inform them."

Yup. True. I wish more men knew how limiting gender stereotypes are for them. I think the reason it so often goes unidentified in men is that it seems to affect a minority. Straight male figure skaters, for example. And some of those stereotypes aren't easily identified by virtue of stepping outside the house -- like how some men feel it's acceptable to comment on my appearance because I have breasts. The same just doesn't happen for men.

So, please, take a look at the article and have a think the next time you open your mouth about what "being a man" is all about. It certainly shouldn't be a simple definition.

18 January 2009

Responsible consumer

The other night, I had a really interesting conversation with a good friend about something that seems to affect the relationship of almost every couple I know. Our topic: pornography.

I have to say that I know very few women who jump for joy at the thought of their partners watching any porn online. I don't know if the attitudes would change if they were confronted with magazines or videos (DVDs, etc.) that had to be purchased. But the friends I talk to get upset at discovery or mere thought of their partners using the internet to look up pornographic pictures or videos, whether they're free or not.

I personally hated it. I only dealt with it in one relationship, since both my other major relationships were before the major proliferation of the internet (especially high-speed). When it's an occasional thing that acts as an outlet during dry spells, I can sort of understand it. My experience was slightly more... insulting than that. In my case, he was staying up past my "bedtime" to watch pron before he came to bed, while I was already dealing with some sexual trauma. In effect, rather than do his best to "not pressure" me, I ended up feeling completely undesirable, inadequate and incompetent, sexually. And while I don't know exactly how often he was watching porn, I do know that his garbage can filled up with tissues quickly and that on more than one occasion he couldn't be bothered to go get his own lube when he ran out (despite a pharmacy across the street), so he would use my stash.

In some ways, I blame porn for the decline of sexual intimacy of our relationship. Not only did he run to it when I was looking for a slower return to physicality in our relationship, but I feel like it created unrealistic and false expectations of sex, period.

Those expectations and the increasingly degrading depictions of women in porn are my two biggest problems with the genre. Couple that with its proliferation on the internet and easy access, and you have a problematic situation: how does a moderately sexual person find and connect with someone who doesn't a) see them as a mere sexual commodity, and b) feel the need to use porn as the gold standard for how sex works? And then there are those ethics of porn.

Without delving too deeply into the "some women choose" debate, let's take a look at a parallel. Some children choose to go to work in developing countries. It may be a choice between working in a factory or starving, but it's still a choice. Does that make it okay to beat them? Does that make it acceptable to deny them safe working conditions? Does that mean that they don't deserve the same basic protections as other workers? In the West, we have organizations that fight to let kids be kids, or guarantee protections for kids who have to work. Now replace "kids" with "women" and "go to work" with "make porn" and tell me what the difference is?

I would say that the difference is misogyny; that women working in porn somehow deserve whatever treatment they get because they're, well, women. And they're working in porn!

I'd love to be able to reason out all the problems with that particular mindset and how it connects to violence against women, domestic violence and sexual abuse, but I feel like the issue is so large that I don't know how to do it justice. I'll try another tack.

Right now, there's a push in society toward responsible consumerism. We're encouraged to "go green", reduce consumption, consider the impact of the products we buy/consume, consider the origins, find the least harmful, etc. Why shouldn't that apply to pornography? Why shouldn't we start considering where we get our porn, who makes it, how it's made and what impact its viewing will have on the world? Why not find out if the actors are being paid a decent wage, that everything is fully consensual and nothing coerced? Why not make sure that the sex is safe and hot so as not to encourage dangerous and possibly deadly sexual acts? Why not check into the policies of the producers to make sure that the women are taken care of in the event of a career-halting pregnancy? To me, this is common sense.

If you going to make sure that your shoes are produced in a factory that rejects child labour, buy fair trade coffee, go organic, support local businesses and producers, and do your part to reduce your impact on the environment, then how can you possibly justify not finding porn that is responsible and ethical in a parallel way?

I think whether porn is harmful to society as a whole is immaterial until we take a look at how and what we consume. Ladies, change your strategy: don't try to get the men in your life to stop watching porn altogether. Have them switch to porn that is made responsibly, has respectful, realistic depictions of women, and doesn't glorify unsafe or harmful behaviours.

If we can change attitudes about seat belts, gas mileage and pesticides, surely it's possible and realistic to find a new way to look at porn, too.