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.

10 January 2009

Fence-sitter

I've always tried to look at both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a friend of mine says, "I'm on the side of human rights." I believe in the safety and security of both sides. I disagree with both sides on how to go about it.

I've been skipping over most commentary about the current manifestation of the conflict, because it feels like "same old, same old." But the other day I came across this on Bitch, PhD. It made so much sense and was so different from the other arguments I heard, mostly because of its perspective and this:
America's moral support of Israel manifests as support for virtually every action Israel takes. When Israel blocks off food and supplies to Gaza, it is properly defending itself. When Israel kills twenty Palestinians in response to a single Israeli casualty, it is properly defending itself. When Israel wages war on half a nation in outrage at two of its soldiers taken hostage, Israel is properly defending itself. When Israel sequesters a people in a tiny strip of land with no real economy and doesn't allow them egress and entry, it is properly defending itself. In short, there is nearly nothing Israel can do that it not defended by mainstream American politicians and thinkers on both sides of the political aisle as an appropriate defense of its right to exist. American opinion is so utterly lopsided in Israel's favor that the mere criticism of any Israeli action will cause the criticizer to be rained upon with a dozen accusations of anti-Semitism.
It was so refreshing to read because it's true. People in the West don't know how to speak out against Israel because they are a state created by the British in their withdrawal from colonialism that was meant to make up for all the past atrocities. It was created in such a haphazard way, that the consideration of other religious groups in the area was completely lacking -- besides how many people actually need a homeland. And isn't Mecca enough?

No. It's not. Israel was created as a Jewish state to the exclusion of other ethnicities and cultures in the area, and because of past transgressions (ghettos, the Holocaust, etc.) they've been given a blank slate to write and rewrite the rules over and over again. And maybe, in the past six years, they've taken advantage of some of the other anxiety and xenophobia floating around to impose their rule most stringently. Does it make them laugh with megalomania to see how much they can get away with?

Having been neither alive nor an active citizen of Canada when most of the conflict unfolded over the past couple of thousand years, I sometimes feel ill-equipped to comment. But when so many people are in such danger of death or immediate harm, I wish that the swaggering machismo could be put aside long enough to take a look at who's being hurt, and to find a solution that works for everyone in the future, because nothing at this point will change the past.

05 January 2009

Happy 2009?

Well, as my cousin said yesterday, good riddance to 2008.

He has a good reason to feel that way. His son was born 6 weeks early, quite ill, and needing lots of care. It was stressful. It's likely that the little guy will always be challenged, and it will be a while before they know whether it's limited to physical problems. But, he's a sweet little thing. I just love him to bits. I know there are lots of challenges to come, but he's so wonderful that I don't think it makes a lick of difference. I wish I'd gotten to spend more time with him. I think a trip to Boston is in definite order.

4 months later my cousin was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. For geeks who think that sounds familiar, it's the same kind Steve Jobs had (people often incorrectly refer to it as pancreatic cancer). My cousin's original treatment was fraught with issues. It was a newer (generally successful) treatment, but he kept getting infections around his stent. Now he's in old fashioned chemotherapy, and it's doing a number on him. I've never ever seen him so... wan. His entire disposition is different.

They say that cancer touches everyone, and I don't doubt that it'll get closer to me than this, but seeing how different this disease makes the victim was heartbreaking. Not only was his personality lacking, but he's lost at least 40 pounds, and he's just a shell of himself.

My paternal grandmother had cancer. It was a form of leukemia. I had just turned 11 when she died, so I barely remember her, let alone how it affected her. But this is the first time I've really experienced that change. In a couple of hours, I could tell how bad it is to deal with. This is definitely the closest I've ever been to cancer.

I certainly admire my cousin's wife for her strength. I'm sure she gets tired sometimes, too, but I hope I can deal with my life with the same grace that she displays. She obviously loves her men so much, it's so great to see. I see my friends married and in love and I get jealous sometimes because of what they have. But what I saw yesterday is even more wonderful to see, because it isn't easy. It's the "better or worse" that they talk about in the marriage vows. It's definitely what I've been missing in my relationships.

Lately, I find myself doing something akin to praying -- mostly just concentrated thinking about the people in my life who need help. I don't know if it's the same thing as what more formally religious people do, but it's definitely what I feel like doing right now. And if 2009 holds promise for my cousin to get better and his son to get stronger, then yes, good riddance 2008.