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o! Canada

Today I watched the Throne Speech and I was not particularly surprised by what I heard.

The speech amounted to colloquial pats on the back and vague generalizations regarding things that may have been done or will be done or will be or maybe has already been ‘looked into’ (like Francophone identity?). There seems to be a logical disconnect between Harper oddly mentioniong crime prevention (or rather ‘cracking down’) about 12x, while expressing  maintained determination to abolish the long-gun registry. It was an hour long compared to the previous one which was 7 minutes. It was a terrible not-so-good speech. (maybe on purpose?) But dear me! the things the media I watch picked up on:

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O! Canada? Really?

The lyrics to O!Canada haven’t offended me for non-  gender-neutrality.  Sure, non-gender-neutrality bothers me sometimes. And sometimes I’ll ask someone to not say ‘man’ when they mean ‘hu-man’ (oh! that was so hard to do). But not very often, really, overall, and I will still like you. What really got me was that I thought the line in question was a Jesus-thing. (and t. did too so I’m not the only one, I swear!)

When I was 5, I thought the lyrics were ‘true parrot love in all thy sons command’. Until today, I thought the lyrics were ‘True Patriot Love, In All Thy Sons Command’ meaning I like Canada and will do what Jesus says I should. Turns out, it may be ‘True Patriot Love, In All Our Sons Command’ meaning I like Canada and so will all my (male) children!

Neither interpretation concerns me historically. At the time, Jesus and misogyny were super popular. Today, I’m not sure if either concerns me.

For one, a lot of what th Canadian Government  is about publicly is the pomp and circumstance of tradition. For instance, tuning into throne speech, one would see someone who looks  like a  mace,  and Senators taking notes (!) in the House, while MPs shift from foot-to-foot under the press box and in the lobby.

So there is an argument for public displays of Canada being associated with foggy traditions and/or things that appear silly – like the loonie and, perhaps, the national anthem, which is often taught/learned phonetically and is not quite written of the stuff that Canadians sit and ponder the literal or deeper meaning of.

Then again, maybe language does matter (always?). Maybe it is a problem that on one interpretation, the national anthem is a blatant, public statement of a state in reverence of God/Jesus (could this simply mean ‘a god(dess)’? what about atheists? i don’t know), and on another, is all God-y and and lacking specific mention of women.

Ultimately, many Canadians are reverent of the national anthem and it makes them proud and happy to hear it, though really I don’t believe they keep track of the words. Is the wording a problem? Oh, let’s say maybe. Change it? Sure! Will anyone even really notice? But if you’re going to do it, please remove the blatant ‘God’ reference(s) while you’re at it because really, church and state oughta be separate.

So, gender-neutral anthem: Blog worthy? Clearly. 11 o’clock news-worthiest part of Canadian Politics today?  Um, not really. (see instead:  long gun registry &  UN Declaration on Rights Of Indigenous People & what on earth does ‘recalibration’ even mean and why does it take two months ? etc…)

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too cool for school.

Public education as a concept is a mark of socialism.  In some forms, it represents an understanding that not everything can be based on profit derivation.  Not in the form that we have in Canada though.

No, our system is based on the Prussian model of education which exists to create obedient citizens.  Its values include ensuring that pupils become wrote machines of consumption and that those who struggle with this are kept at arms length of social participation.  Not to sound too Marxian or conspiracy theoristy, but the system of education in Canada exists to sustain capitalism.  Booo!

I feel as though I have a lot of ground to stand on when I complain about the public education system in Canada – particularly Ontario – as I am product of its system, sort of:  I have attended 7 schools, dropped out 3 times, and did not graduate from high school.  And yet I am an honours student in University.  I could come up with many excuses as to why I couldn’t get those last 4 credits, but the plain truth is I just really didn’t like school, and now,thanks to my Politics of Education course, I can tell why.

In the class I learned that our mandatory, public education system exists, fundamentally, not to educate children and allow them to fulfill their potential, but rather to indoctrinate them into being good little consumers and capitalists.  Schools reward obedience, routine attendance, and not thinking outside the curriculum with high grades and the sense that ‘good’ students are special snowflakes whose opinions always matter; I was, and still am, contrary to the core and appreciate self directed learning, I don’t show up to do things I don’t like to do, and I really don’t feel as though I am a unique and special individual with constant profoundness and importance.  

I also hated the curriculum, which I continue to deride to this day.  Among many things I find lacking about it, a friend of mine remarked quite profoundly the other day on a serious problem with curriculum in Canada’s school pertaining to the education of Aboriginal students.  She was reacting to Mr.Ignatieff who politically name-dropped  free post-secondary education for Native Canadians when he did a town hall meeting at our school the other day, without making any mention of the fact that very few actually make it to post-secondary education – or a program or policy that would help rectify this.  Her claim, which I would say is correct, is that our curriculum teaches history, language, and social studies written by white people about white people for white people.  Her directive was to rethink education to create curriculum that would include Aboriginal perspectives so that Aboriginal students may be engaged, empowered, and therefore be more likely to graduate.  Imagine!

How about school as a place to receive care and nurturing toward selfhood?  Well, guidance counselors in London can help you if you need to make that super-tough decision of which school to go to: the one with all the parties, or the one where you got a scholarship to in recognition of all of your attendance, punctuality, and obedience as opposed to actual ability to function in academia.  But if you’re ,say, in a gang or, god-forbid, GAY, then no:

When I was in high school, I was part of a group of queer and queer-friendly youth who were reacting to recent violence against young gays in the city and attempting to make safe spaces and provide literature for queer youth in schools.  At the school board meeting I went to, one trustee claimed that support literature for queer youth should not be put in the library or counselor’s offices as there were already enough of ‘them’ in the school and they didn’t need to create more of a problem. 

I reflect on this because I was recently shown my yearbook from one of the times I didn’t graduate , the caption that appeared below my misprinted graduation photo read ‘too cool for school’.

How true! 

peace,

-a.b.

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progressive stances pt.2.

smashThere is a gigantic disconnect between social taboos and the actions of our citizenry/government.  For instance, I think we can all agree that excluding women  from participating in society and making sexist remarks are pretty much prima facie no-nos.  Not that it doesn’t happen, but there are laws, Bills of Rights, and etiquette norms against it.  And yet…

Despite it being not OK to hate on women, it’s totally fine to hate on feminists.  I believe this is the case for many reasons, but one important one being that the majority of people feel that the work of feminism is done: we can vote, serve on government, take maternity leave, control our reproductive destiny, and have an all-access pass to the public world.   Great.  Except that women by and large don’t serve on government, feel immense pressure to choose between career-baby-career/baby/double-day of labour, suffer depression and hormone-related disease from the pill, and make .67 to a man’s loonie.  Oh! and 1/3 of us are sexually assaulted in our life time.  

Yet the people who are working towards solutions to these systemic problems are constantly belittled and forced to explain themselves via one monolithic answer for ‘what does feminism even mean’?   I wonder if judges and lawyers are constantly asked ‘what does justice even mean?’ only to be told that their clearly relative, personal, and complicated answer demands that they should give up their struggle for it.   

And while punidts and politicians alike scratch their heads over the lack of gender-representation in Parliament, our public school system still has yet to teach a history which includes a meaningful discussion about women or the proper emotional curriculum  necessary to influence gender interaction towards health and mutual respect and  away from violence and oppression giving young women no empowering role models and no empowerment. 

Not even Canadian post-secondary institutions and supposedly learned people **can stop themselves from undercutting progression towards a society wherein women gain parity of  participation and freedom from rigid gender construction and violence.  

And who can forget this stunning move on behalf of the Harper government?

What do we want?  “A fair and just society!”  When do we  want it?  “Once it stops requiring us to do something about it or change our attitudes!” 

peace,

-a.b.

** Interesting that this person claimed progressive education is ‘brainwashing’…more on this in next the post.

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progressive stances p.1.

if that were my house, i'd stay home too.  

 

if that were my house, i'd stay home too.

 

 

A few weeks ago in one of my classes – a class particularly ripe with argumentative neo-cons – a classmate of mine suggested that no one discriminates against homemakers any more and that any one who did would be chastised for doing so.  My professor calmly pointed out that people still say that women returning to the paid labour force from parental leave are said to be “returning to work”.

 I, on the other hand, had spent the entire class to that point listening to people argue that poor people deserve to be poor and that uncomdifiable work is worthless.  I had run out of patience and couldn’t respond so levelly to such a grossly incorrect statement.  I veritably exploded with concerns that “Homemaker” is not viewed as a legitimate line  on a resumé and that there are no policies supporting income for the stay-at-home spouse paid by the out-of-home spouse or homemaking unions and as such it is not the case that our society reflects the opinion that a homemaker is a valued worker.  

I see this interaction as a symptom of a society that merely pays lip-service to progressive stances.  Stances that I actually have difficulty calling ‘progressive’ since they appear to me to be natural progressions from the truths brought to the forefront in the civil rights movement.  

Of course, the laws of a nation and accepted norms don’t equate to every citizen embodying them.  But it seems as though we would move toward a society built on love and mutual respect were we to actually govern the governable in such a way as to promote standards of equity and acceptance.

First on the list: stop teaching ‘tolerance’ and start teaching ‘acceptance’.  For ‘tolerance’ means that Amazon will carry Queer literature and ‘acceptance’ means they will stop censoring it

…to be continued.

peace,

-a.b.

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all’s fair in film and comedy?

Recently, this happened.

And who can forget this

Now, there’s also this.

Questionable depictions of rape are nothing new.  Of particular interest to me are depictions of rape on film. One, because I love film, and two, because rape is rape and I’m a proud feminist.

 I shall never forget the time I watched High Plains Drifter  expecting only the usual ways in which women are depicted in Westerns  – dumb and hapless but beautiful OR industrious yet smelly and unattractive, and always under-represented.   But alas, in this one, Clint Eastwood rolls into town, grabs the first woman he sees, forces her into a barn where she struggles against his attack until part way through the rape when her exclamations of resistance turn to sexual moans and she ends up enjoying it.  OMG. And of course, all the people  of the shanty town who see this happen in broad daylight do nothing about it. 

This is just one example of so many possible examples of the ways in which the media reinforces all those nasty stereotypes about rape.  But the new flick starring Seth Rogen, Observe and Report, hits a fascinating note in the normalization of sexual assault.  And by fascinating, I mean disgusting.

Essentially, the scene in question involves a woman who has ingested so many drugs and so much alcohol that she has vomited on herself and she is passed out.  Rogen’s character is having sex with her anyway.  If you read the third link of this post (commentary and trailer which includes the scene) you will see that Rogen himself suggests that the rape is made OK and funny by the woman waking up part way through and asking why he has stopped.  Defenders are saying this is consent. 

In Canada, sexual assault law precludes consent under circumstances of extreme intoxication of either the victim or the perpetrator and whether the intoxication is self-induced or otherwise.  Therefore, at least Canadians will have to conclude that there is no consent given.  Also…WTF.  He just starts having sex with a passed out chick?!?! Not cool, man, not cool.

As many on the internet have noted, the really troubling part is that the target audience of this film are those same 18-26 -year-old mooks who are most likely to commit date rape.  So now they’ll think its funny.  And OK.  

To this point I’ve had conflicted feelings toward Rogen; while I find Superbad to be hilarious, I also feel  making-light of porn-addiction in young men is detestful.  And the pseudo-porn included in the extra features of the DVD is a bit much.  But I really don’t think I can respect a man who participates in making a joke about date rape. 

Sure, the film is billed as a black comedy.  And yes, date rape is pretty effing black.  But comedy?  I just feel as though some things are off limits.

Rape isn’t comedy and it isn’t art.  It is a sorrowful expression of men’s incessant need to empower themselves by stealing power from women in an horrific act of terrifying, degrading, and scarring violence.  

Shame, Seth Rogen and Jody Hill.  Shame.

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baby daddies; baby porn stars?

 

i especially like the gender-obvious colours.

i especially like the gender-obvious colours.

So I like, totally, watch Maury Povich.  Like all the time. (The only thing more ridiculous than his show is the show’s website)  It’s my most embarrassing viewing habit behind America’s Next Top Model.   I end up growing emotionally attached  to the women who are 160% sure that dude # 15 is their baby daddy.  Is it exploitation?  Absolutely.  However, DNA tests do cost money and not knowing who the father of your child is is problematic for several obvious reasons.  So…public service? Maybe.  

I’ve also learned things watching Maury.  For instance, the fact that frightening 13- year-old girls can “do what they want”, and that some young women are allowing half-naked-to-naked photos to be taken of themselves on cell phones and then sent through…whatever it is that cell phones send things through to other cell phones.  It’s called sexting. And it’s causing a stir in the  American  legal world.

I don’t really get plain texting.  Mostly because I’m in an awkward gutter of  a generation.  I’m certainly not Generation X; Kurt Cobain died when  I was 9.  But I’m not really of the digital generation either; I don’t own a cell phone even though my father works for Rogers.  But sexting was truly novel when Maury introduced it to me.

If you’ve tab-browsed the hyperlink above, you will soon read the perspective of one lawyer about a particular case wherein a prosecutor was going to charge  some young women with aiding in the creation of child porn because they allowed partially nude photos to be taken of them and distributed. Drastic and misguided? Yes.  Totally off base? Maybe not.

The type of prosecution the judge attempted makes a whole lot of sense. Charges of child pornography have been brought against perpetrators for filming sexual assaults.  Brilliant, really.  But charging the young women who allow photos to be taken of them with child pornography could put them on a sex offender list for the rest of their lives for what is essentially exploring their sexuality. Bad, really.

But in Thomas Millar’s account (the one linked to “stir”) , he seems to call any negative reaction to the unsettling phenomenon “moral panic”, and opponents “prudes.”  Well call me a panicked prude because I’m kind of horrified. 

I remember being 14 – 15.  I remember how easy it was for boys/young men, who were too old and too rebellious- in- the -wrong -way for me, to get me to do things just by paying a little attention and how important that attention was to me.  I can’t help but think that a lot of this sexting is young women wanting to fit in/ be admired/impress young men. 

Millar argues that we should allow young women to explore their own sexuality without punishment – fine.  But what exactly is their own sexuality anymore?  Could one possibly be expressing it at 13 -17?  And what about the social punishment that comes when those photos/videos make it into the wrong hands?  Which they will.  (In this era of leaked sex tapes shouldn’t we all have learned not to put it on digital celluloid?)

I’m not made nervous by the nudity; there is nothing wrong with nudity.  Except for that little point of our entire society immediately devaluing a woman who will take off her clothes in front of other people/cameras.  Slut-shaming – as Millar called it – ?  Yeah.  The girls wanting to show off their new push-up bra’s fault? No. Reality?  Absolutely.  Solution: better sex education for our children.  

Pre-teens need to know more than mechanics.  They need a healthy understanding of the emotional consequences and changing intricacies of sexuality (like sexting and why not to film yourself having sex).  They require healthy spaces to explore and ask real questions and get real answers.  They need more than abstinence.  They deserve better than purity balls, 18- year- olds in porn legally, and the fetishism of innocence.  They deserve better than sexting.

peace,

 -a.b.

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breakfast vs. capitalism

alfredo-pangeaI hate my grocery store.  But I shop there anyway for three very important reasons:

i)I hate shopping and it allows t. and me to buy pretty much everything we need in one place

ii) It’s the cheapest grocery store in town.

iii)Self check-out.

I hate it for these reasons:

i) Often they have a very poor selection of produce and shelf items,particularly on Sundays, and one time they were out of sugar. This is so unthinkable for a giant grocery store chain in North America that the manager I complained to didn’t believe me. 

ii) The other people that shop there are intolerable, aisle blocking, cart abandoning, slow-walking yocals or students who only by the grace of grocery gods don’t constantly run into one another.

iii)The Real Canadian Superstore only exists so that Loblaw, which I always thought was Loblaws, could open more grocery stores but not support more employee unions.

iv) They constantly introduce delicious new President’s Choice products at low low prices that they don’t tell you are low low prices until you cannot live without them, and then they jack up the price.  Like my new fav breakfast cereal: On Track Protein +

It’s a delicious healthy cereal.  It has whole wheat and rice flakes, bran, and soy protein bits. It has lots of fibre, good quality protein, and a hint of honey. In short, it was my very favourite breakfast, particularly since I’ve started eating healthier (ie. going on a diet to try and reverse the post-election beer-pizza-reese -peanut- butter- cup binge).  And it cost $4.79 for a 700g box.

So yesterday we went to the grocery store where I found my fav breakfast cereal being sold for $5.99 !! Now, two months ago this wouldn’t have phased me, but now, we’re broke and I don’t have a job lined up.

As t. pointed out quite brilliantly to me the other day, one of the problems with Marx was that he claimed that the only injustice of capitalism comes from  the labour value theory of goods production, when in actuality there are so many more capitalist relations that put all the power in the hands of the owner of production/goods to the detriment of others.  For instance, when a company can sell you something for $4.79, but decides to increase the price by more than a dollar per unit once it’s selling well.

I chose to buy oatmeal instead because it is cheap and quite healthy.  I had always believed that I hated oatmeal.  Mostly because I hate hot cereal for the following reason:

When I was young, I was babysitted by a neighbour whose whole family lived under the tyrannous rule that if you are fed something you don’t like, you have to eat it anyway.  I sat at their dinner table one night in front of a plate of liver until bedtime.  Then one morning, they fed me cream of wheat which I felt was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen in a bowl.  But fearful that I would have to sit at the basement coffee table all the way through reading buddy day at school until I finished it, I ate it anyway.  Being a stubborn child however, I detested every choking bite to the point that half-way through I barfed what I had eaten back into the bowl, which no one saw.  Then my babysitter came downstairs and believed that I had not eaten any of my cream of wheat, as it looks pretty much the same post-gastral,  and forced me to eat a bowl of barfed up cream of wheat.

So I ate four bites of oatmeal.  Gross.  

My babysitter and capitalists like Galon Weston have ruined breakfast for me, forever.

peace,

-a.b.

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