Tag Archives: feminism

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:

<img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-214″ title=”1

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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in the company of men.

 As a feminist I have, of course, heard numerous forms of the ‘man-hater’ label.  Usually this happens when a man is threatened by my mere mentioning of the fact that some men are violent or when I point out that they aren’t picking up on my emotional, experiential logic framework of discussion.  No, I don’t hate men.  In fact, I married one.  Though this is somewhat surprising given the actual state of affairs: I am afraid of men.

 

a man's man.

a man's man.

I am not the only one afraid of men: many women (and men) have shared with me that they are  likewise fearful.  Our shared fear takes many forms.  Personally, I face extreme discomfort with actual or possible sexual attention from men, panic at the sight of certain types of men (read: dudes), and absolute panic at the thought of interacting with male authority figures on a personal or critical level.  This means that going out to any public drinking establishment sans spouse is frightening (last time I was called a ‘lesbian’ and was forced to call the guy ‘asshole’), interaction with male professors and administrators takes extensive emotional planning and preparation, and asserting myself with peers of the opposite sex is next to impossible.

 

Am I neurotic? Perhaps. But these personal experiences are not the most extreme I’ve heard of and I know many people who face similar tribulations. In fact, the overarching problem of fear of men is far more prevalent than we should be comfortable with in a supposedly progressing society. The good news is that, as I see it,  it has its foundation in avoidable circumstances.

First, of course, low self-esteem is instilled in women and girls through various actions of a unintentional social conspiracy of the patriarchy including the obvious, beauty standards, and the less obvious, a well-documented lack of support for girls in the classroom.  

Second, from a very young age socialization is gendered.  Boys hang out with boys and play boys’ games with boys’ toys and girls hang out with girls and play girls’ games with girls’ toys.  To blur these lines is to be socially punished by peers – think being taunted as a ‘tomboy’ or ‘sissy’.  Thus, with little variance, girls grow up on one path and boys on another not to meet again until it comes time to partner off in heterosexual couplehood.  The outcome is essentially two groups unique in childhood experience, and therefore socialization, somewhat coached in reconciling these differences for the purpose of  sexual pairing but with no real development of the tools necessary to effectively interact with the opposite sex outside of that sexual framework.  On top of this, as girls, we are taught that there are strange predatory men lurking around every corner poised to attack.  

So by the time we are women we have learned how to deal with family-member men, boyfriend/husband men, and dangerous men.  But what about all those other men?  From personal experience and in talking with others I come to realize that to many women, those other men become mysterious beings who communicate very differently than we do. We have been told (and sometimes we perceive first-hand) that they are unemotional, helpless against our sexual power, constantly judging our sexual power, and are prone to arrogance, disloyalty, superiority,violence, and general dude-ness.

So, what of all those complicated social interactions between sexes?  Well, some women end up feeling constantly disempowered: those women who do fear men likely feel constantly disadvantaged in social relationships with them as their self-doubt is magnified by a palpable, though often imaginarily so, sense of inferiority and powerlessness.  

I believe this is all connected to the fact that women are still entering a ‘man’s world’ when entering the public sphere.  Less gendered socialization and more support for the development of self-esteem and empowerment in women and girls are minimum steps necessary to making a truly egalitarian society.

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your ontology is killing me.

this pig has boots.

this pig has boots.

This story was on the CBC  morning show yesterday.  It is an illustration of some of the evils of factory farming: animals are treated like emotionless product/cargo and often transported long distances without food or water, crammed in uncomfortably, and as the story specifically shows us, often without concern for whether or not the animals will fall out of the truck.

Feminists should care about factory farming because the way we as a society treat animals is an indication of the status of the patriarchy.  Violence against women and violence against animals is the result of the same ontology operating on society.  The ontology that places MAN above WOMAN and NATURE/ANIMALS in a hierarchical structure of understanding despite the interconnectedness of the well-being of all actors on the planet.  Obviously, feminism is quite concerned with ‘man’ being above ‘woman’ in this proliferate model, but concern for the other ‘other’ is slower coming.  As I see it though, systemic violence against nature/animals is not only linked to the health and well-being of all of our world system including people, but is a sign of a sick society that is yet to give up an ontology of hierarchy as one of its basic principles.

The struggle for animal rights has many similarities with the struggle for women’s rights.  For instance, there are systemic laws in place which normalize the oppression of animals and make it next to impossible for the average citizen of Canada to begin a process whereby we view animals as something for than a commodity.  Just as women in legal matters were mere property, animals, particularly food production animals, are legally  bound to be reduced to mere property.  The case of the little pig on the 401 is an example of this as the piglet, by virtue of being a ‘farm animal’, cannot legally be owned as a domestic pet.  Just as women were viewed as baby-making property, animals are still viewed merely as meat-making property and even if we wanted to reimagine the role of meat-producing animals in our lives, we can’t because of the laws restricting private ownership.   

These types of by-laws and laws normalize essential commdofication of animals, keeping them in the hands of mass producers as most cities in North America disallow city dwellers to own or raise animals such as chickens, despite the fact that most standard backyards are more than enough space to safely raise happy, well-cared-for chickens.  This also makes alternative food production, a move which could help reduce strain on the environment, difficult.

Like the current trends to focus on class and ethnicity as well as gender within feminist discourse, I think we also need to start looking at systemic models of animal oppression as indicators of the status of security and equality of women in our society.

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healthy shape

XPosted to We’ve Arrived! And other such myths.

Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka

The other day I lamented during a radio show that it’s impossible for a woman to just be.  It seems the women I know and hear about are either overweight, watching their weight, dieting, getting in shape, laboriously counting calories or carbs, or nipping and tucking.  Other measures of vanity toward the almighty feminine are included in this concern, but of particular interest to me right now is health and body size.

Health and Body Size: the official preoccupation of women.  Even when we consider fat pride in contradiction to Western beauty standards, we are still talking about perimeters of body size.  And when we try to shift the conversation away from inches and pounds towards health and body pride, there remain complications.  Like the fact that we can’t seem to embrace ‘health’ or ‘body pride’.

Among the many, my most rage inciting encounter recently was while watching Julie Louise Dreyfus on Ellen.  Dreyfus was recently on the cover of Shape, which seems to want to be a magazine about ‘healthy’ lifestyles.  When asked by Ellen how she kept in such good shape, Dreyfus claimed to not really work out but  run sometimes and of course, heavily restrict food before the photo shoot.  I was so mad I punched a throw pillow.  

Magazine covers of healthy lifestyle magazines are often photos of fit, not necessarily famous people.  They showcase to the reading and passing public the epitome of good shape in many instances and, of course, subconsciously suggest that  we too will look like that if we buy the magazine.  Though after hearing Dreyfus’ interview, what I suspected all along about lifestyle magazines promoting health turns out to be true.  That is, they showcase bodies that are either unattainable or attainable only through drastic, sometimes lethal, unhealthy methods, despite being healthy lifestyle magazines. 

So the healthy body that just bes is hard to come across in media, but the proud, unapologetic body is even harder.  One of my fav people(<3), Beth Ditto of The Gossip (<3), once posed nude for NME.  But as you will see if you click the link, despite being what would likely be considered obese, there is not a dimple of cellulite on her, pointing quite obviously to airbrushing out of ‘flaws’.  It doesn’t make me punch anything, but it still makes me mad…and sad…

Even real, healthy bodies are obviously flawed. Why can’t we just deal with it? And also, I need better language than ‘flawed’ for this connotes a perfection from which to stray.  Booooo! ( I blame the patriarchy).

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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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