Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finally, a Douche for Men!

I'm feeling too brain-dead lately to post much (maybe it's just my mind trying to rest one last time before school starts right back up again) so I'll just share this here brilliant Axe/Tag body spray spoof.

Found via Feministing:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Important Upcoming Event (Toronto, On)

Well, I feel like a bad feminist.

Via York's Women's Studies listserve, I have discovered that there is a Take Back the Night event happening on Saturday, September 8, 2007. Unfortunately, my tickets for Vfest are the same day.

Sigh.

*Hangs head in shame* I SWEAR, I bought these tickets back in May as an anniversary gift for me and the boy. It broke the bank for me to get these tickets.

I really think these kinds events are important to attend, so in the very least, I thought I would pass it along and post it here as an upcoming event. Here is the information, straight from my inbox:



Toronto’s 27th Annual Take Back the Night
“We Demand Our Rights”


The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCC/MWAR) and community partners from Regent Park host the 27th annual Take Back the Night protest and march on Saturday, September 8, 2007 at Allan Gardens Community Park, main intersections Sherbourne St & Gerrard St.


This year’s theme is ‘We Demand Our Rights’. Take Back the Night is about bringing visibility and exposure to the impact of sexual violence in women’s lives. It’s a space created to ensure our voices are heard.

[...]

“The TBTN march is an event organized by feminist grassroots, anti-violence & anti-oppression activist groups all around the world with a focus on women’s rights & safety for women and children.” says Grissel Orellana, TRCC/MWAR outreach & community development Coordinator. A community fair, rally and protest march has been organized. The march is for women and children only, men are encouraged to attend in solidarity, by participating in the other activities, including the provision of childcare so their partners, mothers, sisters, and aunties can march. TBTN is a Trans -Positive, wheelchair accessible event with ASL interpretation, childcare, food and refreshments.

[...]

You can take action by attending Take Back the Night, spreading the word in your communities and to every woman you know, and marching with us on Sept. 8th. The community fair starts at 5:30pm at the Sherbourne Health Centre 333 Sherbourne Street, rally at 7:00pm at the Allan Gardens Park, and the march at 8:00pm.


The rally and march starts pretty late, so I think I'm going to try and be there.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Quick Yay!

Julie Doucet will be releasing a new art book, coming this fall! I haven't read or seen any new Doucet in a long long time.

Yay!

According to the preview, it is a journal chronicling her art experiences and forays into printmaking, though still making good use of her brilliant cartoonist style. Check out the preview over at Drawn and Quarterly.

Fan-fucking-tabulous!

Now to keep my fingers crossed that there will be enough space on my credit card to purchase this new gem with come October.

*fingers crossed, indeed*

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Canada's Blind Spot

I haven't really heard much or seen anything about this issue, which may be in part due to the fact that I don't have cable at home, and I read daily papers more frequently during the school year but according to this CBC article, Ottawa is going to be handing out a 1.9 billion dollar compensation to former students of Native residential schools who suffered through this system and who "opt-out" of the class-action settlement.

I don't know about anyone else out here, but I never really did get a thorough education about Canada's native history. We got bits and peices here and there in elementary school learning vague notions about Native lifestyles pre-colonization, and then in high school, we'd look at a lot of Native art. But that's about all I can remember. Though, aboriginal women's issues has come up often in my women's studies classes as part of the course's curriculum, so maybe that's a place I can start from.

From what I do know about residential schools, they were terrible places that fostered the horrors of institutionalized racism. When you're learning it in school, such ideologies are much harder to resist and to not internalize. I'm pretty sure that there were quite a few more abuses that went hand in hand with this kind of 'education'. Residential schools certainly did nothing for the empowerment of Canada's Native peoples.

They're estimating that out of this 1.9 billion dollars, that each person who opts out is going to get about $28 000. That's a lot of money in one go, but a pretty cheap price to pay to get someone to promise to never seek any other action against the government or anyone else involved in these matters.

Doubtless, many people need that money, and it can go far for individuals if the community has the tools to enable that, but still...

And out of potentially 80 000 students, they are only expecting 5000 to opt-out, but still...

(and they're are only expecting to average out $28 000 per recipient? hmmm...)

So many questions, mostly because I am so admittedly ignorant about Native histories in Canada, except to know that this country doesn't have a very good track record. I am aware, for example, that many of Robert Picton's victims were Native women who got lost in the shuffle of social concern. But that's just in news that I have heard recently. And that came from one of my classes this summer, as well as attending a feminist conference earlier.

One of the things that I wonder though is why this isn't bigger news? This news bite called the class-action suit being filed 'historical'. But most people I talk to don't really know about it, or talk about it. It's not as out there as I would have expected. It seems to me that something this big should be inviting more active conversation with both the government and Canadian citizens, Native and otherwise. After all, such issues remain largely unresolved. This kind of thing seems to me what we should be talking about in classrooms and newsrooms, especially since it's an issue that involves such a huge amount of people and should be hitting all Canadians close to home. As a colonized nation, one way or the other, every citizen is implicit in this type of history/current event.

It's not a particularly nice view of Canada, but I for one am not someone who thinks these kinds of discussions and events should be swept under the rug. If we are going to be an imperfect nation, at least we can be honest about it. And then do something proper about it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sa(va)ge Advice

So I was reading this week's installment of Savage Love. This crazy letter made the cut:

I'm a 24-year-old female and I've been with my boyfriend for five years. We're transitioning to a long-distance relationship in January when he moves a hojillion miles away to go to law school. He's 28, an angel, and I want to have a baby. He doesn't want to have a baby, and he's made it clear that if I give him an ultimatum, he'll dump my ass. I'm longing to spawn, so I've decided to get pregnant and not tell him. He has nothing to do with birth control, never has, so my plan will succeed. I'm going to do this: That's not in question.

The question is, do I tell him? I'm not going to dun him for child support, but I'd let him be as involved as he wants to be—pictures, visits, moving in together. I'm never going to tell him that I got knocked up on purpose. I could also pretend that the brat is someone else's, but that would require some fudging of dates. So what, if anything, do I tell him, and when?

E.

In his response, in which Dan Savage rightfully calls the writer 'batshit crazy', he also extends this wisdom:

Not only is what you're planning to do unfair to your boyfriend—who, just like a woman, has a right to decide when, whether, and with whom he would like to reproduce (and who, like most men, needs to be more proactive about birth control to protect his right to make that decision)—it's hugely unfair to any "brat" unlucky enough to drop from your twat.


I think he's right; it is unfair to her boyfriend and her potential child, not to mention a disgusting revelation of an individual's level of manipulation. I'm not even sure why the writer is so concerned about telling her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend about the pregnancy considering the ways in which she's going about getting pregnant. For fuck's sake, you wanna baby, go to a sperm bank, where the donors are okay with the whole she-bang (pun sort of intended).

What I'd like to tack on to his response though, is that if in general men really want to be given the same so-called considerations as women, then we better give women that consideration in the first place. That means, for one thing, that Savage's bracket about the boyfriend taking a more proactive role in birth control options should be far more prominently featured in his response. That's right boys, it actually DOES take two to tangle, or as I prefer to do, FUCK. And consequently, reproduce. Or to prevent that reproduction. It's really not that hard to upkeep. I use the nuvoring on my end, and the boy whips out the condoms on his. I also keep a stash, and he helps out with my BC payments, as they ring up quite a bit more than the plastic stuff.

Oh.

And it also means this whole global bullshit about banning abortion has got to go. If we're gonna sit here and talk about being considerate about a man's right to have to be a father, we better forget about taking away women's access to their own bodies when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. Some of those bills in the rumble that I've read about in the some parts of the U.S where they are trying to make women get permission notes from the fathers for abortions? That's total bullshit, by the way. Not cool. Not cool, indeed.

I'm also gonna give a shout-out to all you dead-beat dads out there, too, to step up the plate already. The whole leaving-the-mother-to-do-it-by-herself-thing, that's hardly what I call "equal consideration." And while you're here, you may as well act like an adult already and equally participate at home. Do the wash and the dishes, you shouldn't need a medal or some applause for it. Also, there is no such thing as babysitting your own children. They are your own children. And babysitters get paid for their care. Usually a lot more than that 100 bucks a month that the Harper government is peddling out to families.

I wanna to offer equal consideration, I really do, but I think I need to see it actually happen first. I'm glad Dan Savage shit on this woman for going about her pregnancy in this way, when she has other possible options, like spermbanks or another father's consent, or fuck, since she's only 24 years old, time, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to point out that in reality, this so-called consideration isn't really happening for women yet either.

I know my above criticisms are not true of all men, least of all someone like Dan Savage and certainly my own dad, but I don't think that right now the opposite is true enough of significant numbers of men.

Of course, this whole letter could have just been a fake...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Bra Burning" and other feminist (and feminine) stereotypes that do nothing for me

Bra Burning - Now this is an age-old feminist stereotype. Well... at least it seems that way from my perspective. The way I see bra-burning is that at the time it must have felt like the right thing to do. I don't, however, see bras as an incredibly constricting thing - for many women who have -erm- full chests they're actually quite a good thing since they do hold boobs up there and save the muscles involved. If one's bra is uncomfy, it's probably because one's bra doesn't fit properly. And, of course, one should never sleep in a bra. What I do find annoying, however, is the fact that there is a serious lack of interesting-looking bras that come with the pad-free option. Seriously, I am happy with what I've got.
More to the point, wearing (or not wearing) a bra is a choice each woman must make for herself. It's got nothing to do with "is she or isn't she a feminist", but I suppose that back in the day, bra burning must have been such a flourish that it burnt itself deeply into the minds of everyone, but thankyou, no one's really been doing it seriously for quite some time.

Feminist = Not Getting Any - Sorry, dude. You may be screwing a feminist and not even realise it. Or maybe not... if you're making such an assumption. But, trust me on this one, feminists get sex too.

Girls don't like sex - I know so many girls who feel that their guys don't give enough sex it's funny. Just because boys' sexual desires peak around 18 don't mean girls' do. Women actually peak somewhere in their 30s. One way or the other, everyone's got their own level of horny, no matter their gender. Some people just want sex more than others.

Feminists are bitter old women - I am in my early 20s. I've been a feminist since I learned what the word meant, when I was around 10. Would you call me old? So don't give me that "feminists are all old" crap.
I won't say that I'm not bitter, though. I tend to be a rather bitter person. I do, however, know a number of feminists who are actually quite nice and not bitter at all.
Also, men can be feminists too! (Yeah, yeah, I know there are semiotic issues regarding the word "feminism", I promise I want to write about that, but feel the need to do some research first) One example would be that male rock idol Kurt Cobain. Seriously. Maybe he wasn't self proclaimed, but look at his journal as it was published a few years back. He's got a lot of feminist sentiment happening there. And don't tell me that Courtney Love planted it all there as a part of her insidious murder and sales plot.

Women are empowered by their child-bearing abilities - This is a big one. I am quite happy with my own genitalia. I do not regret being a woman at all. And I do think that the entire set up inside our bodies is pretty impressive. But "feminists" who go so far as to claim that our Motherhood Abilities are what makes us (and I've heard it said in terms of "better" than men) special and wonderful are ridiculous. What about women who don't want kids? It's just as bad as defining masculinity solely by virility. Same problematics. Motherhood doesn't make women anymore special than Fatherhood makes men. The "Miracle of Life" thing is pretty damn miraculous, but doesn't work in the least if one of the sexes is left out. And I think both parents raising kids is to be desired, where possible (yes, even if the parents have seperated and moved on to new partners, no matter the gender or sexuality). Defining women by our wombs is exactly what we've been doing for centuries. It doesn't matter if we are defining it as "SuperWomb" - where the birthing process is an all-woman all-powerful process and men have no place in it beyond the supply of semen - or if we are defining it as "SlaveWomb" - where thirteen year old girls are sold by their fathers to a man who expects them to bear him as many children (especially sons) as humanly possible before they croak. It's just as dumb one way or the other. As animals (yes, I called human beings animals) the survival of our species has always been dependent on procreation. And parenting is very important. But women are not broodmares. We usually do more things with our lives than pumping out kids.
Women are more than their wombs. Men are more than their testicles. We are all so much more than our genitalia. Doesn't that thought make you feel good about yourself? Doesn't it feel liberating? Besides, producing children shouldn't be a pissing contest over whose genitals are more special. Anyone who even considers having kids should definately be mature enough to know that.

Girls who plan their weddings - Ok, so this isn't a totally unjust stereotype. I know many girls who have been planning their wedding in some form or another since they were like 4, but I am not one of them. You want to know the truth? I DON'T WANT TO GET MARRIED. I'll be happy if someday I find someone I want to be with for the rest of my life, and would consider marriage if this person felt it to be very important. Yes, all that. BUT I'd rather not, if only for a political point. Marriage is not high on my priorities. Conversely, it's right down at the bottom. And if I DO get married, yeah, I'm keeping my name. Damn right I am. I find marriage somewhat laughable as an outdated and obsolete institution. If you need to go through some huge ridiculous process to commit to someone, chances are you actually don't want to commit to them. That's right. I called it ridiculous. Then again, maybe you can't stand the thought of living in sin. To which I say "There are worse sins", but that's an entirely different conversation.

Feminists can't be hot - Wanna see hawt feminists?
Pantychrist is a Hamilton (ON) punk band. They're all pretty conventially hot. And their lyrics are about as feminist as you get. ("I'd call you a cunt but a cunt is useful" is one example).
More precisely to the point: Want erotica that I would argue is feminist? Try Uberslut.com, an erotica site.
And you didn't think that feminism could be hot.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Women in Film



In August, I posted a video in which famous paintings of women morphed together. Well, thanks to a rare lazy day spent browsing, and of course,
Jezebel, where I found this, I have come across a second one, by the same guy, which now uses the faces of Hollywood femmes, past and present.

Many of the issues from the original video stay intact during this one. In fact, the few women of colour who appear in this short seem to have their skin colour completely washed out in the black and white photos used, which makes them morph/assimilate together with the white actresses with a lot more ease.

Hmmmm.

Cool technology, but unless these videos are intended to highlight the issues of the oppressive master narratives of the world, very creepy indeed.

Upcoming Event (Toronto, ON)

Another great event, cross-posted from the great Miss Kitty Galore's livejournal:

SUNDAY AUGUST 26th, come to the inaugral WRITING OUTSIDE THE MARGINS
festival of queer literature on Church Street 11 am - 7 pm

We're closing down Church Street to present a dazzling array of readings and performance as well as a book fair. Also featuring open mics, a poetry slam, a zine fair and a children's area where local literati will read excerpts from their favourite children's stories.

It's free, so come check it out. Meet exciting queer authors including (but not limited to) Nalo Hopkinson, James St. James, Lisa Foad, Patrick Califia, Alec Butler, Yehuda Fisher, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, and yours truly, Kristyn (miss kitty galore) Dunnion!

Visit www.xtra.ca/writinginthemargins/

PLUS later that night: SAVE THE ROBOTS!
Party with us at The Gladstone Hotel $10 in advance
Hosted by Christobel
Special guests: Will Munro (Peroxide), Sheila Chevalier, Fierce Helder (big primpin'), Shane Mackinnon (foxhole)and Scarlet Sylphide


Sounds like a good time!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Follow-up to Medea's Rant

I thought that this here Feministing post, Not Oprah's Book Club: Death by Chick Lit might offer a reprieve in the genre for those who are just as irritated by it as Medea is. 'Death by Chick Lit' is a novel by Lynn Harris that seems like it may have the same concerns as my fellow witch. It offers a satirical skewering of what we come to know as 'chick lit' and turns it on its head. Feministing's Courtney gives it a good review. Check it out.

I know I'm gonna add it to my bookshelf on Facebook.

:P

Friday, August 10, 2007

Masculinity: Still Unexamined

*Long Post Alert*
*Also, another disclaimer: I ended up writing this in a pseudo-essay format, though definitely with not as much care to style, and referencing as I would normally use. Really, I've just been writing off the top of my head, and I also want to say that my own opinions are in constant flux though this is completely what I'm thinking as of this very moment. End all disclaimers*



I came across a TIME article last week through Feministing. I was excited to read about it because I thought it would address concerns that I had been debating and writing on in one of my summer school classes; that is issues surrounding the anxiety about boys' social performance.

In The Myth About Boys, author David Von Drehle examines some of the literature surrounding this burst of concern about boyhood. I was interested primarily because my readings of masculinity in school were written by Michael Kimmel and his main, though very important essays were written in 1999. I wanted to see what was to be said about the myths about boys almost a decade later.

It is actually quite well-written. Von Drehle addresses some important points, and takes the analysis in ways that diverge from the way I see the situation. But I still think he missed some important points about masculinity. He debunked a lesser myth about the boys. This article, while I think makes strong points, has lead me to reflect a great deal about what I'm reading and what I've already read.

Von Drehle opens this piece with a reflection of the worry surrounding his son's birth: "our little guy had entered a soul-crushing world of anti-boy influences" was what various media had projected to him. I thought this was an important statement to make; I was hoping for an analysis of what constitutes "anti-boy" and what that means culturally, and how that often frames a feminist backlash. That's what Michael Kimmel did. I must admit that was unfair of me in the first place to expect only one such direction this article could take.

But I was disappointed that someone as highly regarded, and as thoroughly educated about masculinity as Michael Kimmel is was not referenced. Neither was anyone even remotely akin to Jackson Katz. These academics have developed well known and important bodies of work concerning men. The myths that Von Drehle was uncovering were not those of how we construct masculinity in our particular society like Kimmel and Katz do, but simply the idea that boys are not doing so well right now is bunk. Instead, he draws on Christina Hoff Sommers, and Michael Gurian, both authors I find suspect in their work. Kimmel, in particular, has made pointed criticisms about Gurian's work, which supports traditional masculine roles, roles that Katz has shown in his film "Tough Guise" to be problematic. As with Sommers, I find often that her criticisms of feminism are ill-informed and her concern as Von Drehle reports it reflects this. I was hoping that this article would be a deconstruction of masculinity, rather then just a reassurance that, with the help of a dedicated few, the boys are doing just fine.

Right here below is one of my problems with this article. This is in reference to the media scare about boys:
It's enough to make people long for the good old days. Sure enough, one of the hot books of the summer is a zestfully nostalgic celebration of boyhood past. The Dangerous Book for Boys, by brothers Hal and Conn Iggulden, flits from fossils to tree houses, from secret codes to go-carts, from the Battle of Gettysburg to the last voyage of Robert Falcon Scott. A sensation last year in Britain, the book has been at or near the top of the New York Times best-seller list since late spring.

The Dangerous Book, bound in an Edwardian red cover with marbled endpapers, has many of the timeless qualities of an ideal young man: curiosity, bravery and respectfulness; just enough rogue to leaven the stoic; an appetite for any challenge, from hunting small game to mastering the rules of grammar. It celebrates trial and error, vindicates the noble failure. Rudyard Kipling would have loved it.[...]
And here's where the success of The Dangerous Book gets interesting, because it suggests that as parents spend more time with their sons, we may be reconnecting with the fact that the differences between boys and girls need not be threatening and that not all the lore of the past about how to raise boys was wrong.




Here is the blind spot. While being very good throughout the article about not bearing a backlash against feminist gains, the problem that Von Drehle misses is that these books are also prescribing and reinforcing current hegemonic gender roles. Why are things like "curiousity, bravery and respectfulness", treehouses, go-carts and battles qualities of boyhood and boyhood only? What if a young male doesn't feel himself to fit in these categories that these books hand out? What about girls who do? What about everyone in between? Do these books address sexuality and how that is often used as a marker for manhood? Do they embrace identities of gay men or trans men and how they fit or don't fit in this world? How do these books like the above and particularly Gurian's work address the fact that masculinity is not the same throughout time and space, and is constructed differently in various cultures? We can't decide to turn a blind eye to that either because we live on a continent that has been constructed through a history of colonialism and immigration. In advocating these books and societies that trump themselves up as being spaces for boys, how can one miss the very rigid and simplistic definition of masculinity? The problem with boys is the disparity caused by these prescriptions for a happy, healthy and often heterosexual boyhood (though ironically in homosocial atmospheres...*grin*).



Von Drehle does a good job about addressing some of the concerns that are brought up in the article, even if they are not the same concerns as mine. He is right when he says that boyhood is an important topic to delve into:
Observers of the boy crisis contend that families, schools and popular culture are failing our boys, leaving them restless bundles of anxiety--misfits in the classroom and video-game junkies at home. They suffer from an epidemic of "anomie," as Harvard psychologist William Pollack told me, adrift in a world of change without the help they need to find their way. Even in the youngest grades, test-oriented teachers focus energy on conventional exercises in reading, writing and other seatwork, areas in which girls tend to excel. At the same time, schools are cutting science labs, physical education and recess, where the experiential learning styles of boys come into play. No wonder, the theory goes, our boys get jittery, grow disruptive and eventually tune out. "A boy will get a reputation as hell on wheels that follows him from one teacher to the next, and soon they're coming down on him even before he screws up. So he learns to hate school," says Mike Miller, an elementary school teacher in North Carolina. Miller's principal has ordered every faculty member to read a book this summer titled Hear Our Cry: Boys in Crisis.

Kimmel too, in his essay "What About The Boys" talks about the above-mentioned theories. Von Drehle is careful about not framing his own criticisms as "girls against boys" or using women's accomplishments as the reason for men's supposed fall out. But that above paragraph was rife with binary gender-isms that Von Drehle doesn't really address, even though he does find different ways to analyse them.

He goes through statistics and finds that boys are in fact not unreasonably behind girls in achievement. He also questions why it is problematic for boys to be in special education classes if it means they will recieve more attention from teachers. On this front, Von Drehle does his job of deflating the myth about boys. They are not necessarily in a horrible state of despair, at least in the ways that the media had him worried over. I find that he is also quite articulate in the subjective nature of sociological research. He's right, we can find any statistic and drum up enough intrepretive research to validate a viewpoint. I'm not denying that.

What my concern with this article is the lack of analysis on traditonal hegemonic masculinity itself, which is clearly problematic (see Kimmel, Katz, Michael Messner, The Other and Beyond Real Men blog for extra reading). In Jessie Klein's essay "Cultural Capitol and High School Bullies: How Social Inequality Impacts School Violence", she examines the factors that seem to surround the overwhelmingly male perpetrators of school shootings. Many involve an ability to accrue what she terms 'cultural capitol', that is the accumulation of social status. Many of these status markers reflect the construction of hegemonic masculinity that Kimmel identifies in his essay "Masculinity as Homophobia." They include ideals of athletic ability and expression, macho bravado as well as a devaluation of anything deemed 'feminine'. Hence the way words like "pussy" and "cunt" sting so much more than being called a "dick" or an "asshole". "Fag" too is seen as an ultimate insult, one that is also imbued with a sort of that apparently awful femininity. And this, we all know is very dangerous for people who don't approximate. It is something Von Drehle misses. It's important as well, because I do not see how the books that he talks about really challenges these issues. Very few of these books address how we as a culture need to change our social hierarchies. What will Von Drehle think of his son if he doesn't want to play sports or go on rogue adventures that will define his boyhood?

In some of the solutions Von Drehle proposes he advocates for qualified academic training for male-dominated feilds such as firefighting, and policing, as the female-dominated fields of teaching and library services require. But he does not question why these fields themselves represent such extreme gender binaries and the problems that come when men and women try to cross these lines. He completely skips over the fact that these professions are so gender-biased. And there are plenty of problems: sexual harrasment and debasement, glass ceilings, and other repressions. Making men get a degree in criminology so they can be cops is not going to address these serious concerns. As well, issues of extreme violence, such as school shootings need to be reckoned with. Von Drehle talks briefly about the fact most of these school shooters are male (and are often white, so a discussion about varying levels of the disparities between percieved privileges can also be deployed here) but doesn't go very far. I think this is possibly where a real site of worry and concern over boys needs to be addressed, albeit such outrageous violence is at the far end of boys' bad behaviour. Threatened masculinity seemed to be a constant thread when I look at the motivations behind these kinds of shootings: the Montreal Massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique is a prime example. The killer felt emasculated by the presense of women in a program he himself could not get into. Many of the other shooters reported being bullied by those on top of the school hierarchies like the jocks, who embody traditional masculinity. Many of them were called 'fags', thus making strict heterosexuality (and also its threat)a part of how manhood is understood. They also often targeted women who rejected them. I think these are really important things to look at whenever we talk about boy-myths. Its not just as superficial as this article makes it seem.

He references a school principal, Gregory Hodge as someone who is actively engaged in getting African American boys, who are according to statistics the poorest performing group of students. While at first read it seems too that Hodge is using the typical male domain of sports to entice boys into better social performances, as he continues in his efforts he is finding that he needs to be broader about how to encourage success in men. Part of that is offering to boys already restricted by class and race things that are available to those in more privileged positions. I think this is an analysis that should have been furthered in this article. Broadening men's spheres, and thereby broadening how we define masculinity/ies, needs to happen, as well as the issues of how masculinity intersects with race and class.




All these reforms shared a common impulse to return to the basics of boyhood--quests, competitions, tribal brotherhoods and self-discovery. There was a recognition that the keys to building a successful boy have remained remarkably consistent, whether a tribal chieftain is preparing a young warrior or a knight is training a squire or a craftsman is guiding an apprentice--or Gregory Hodge is teaching his students. Boys need mentors and structure but also some freedom to experiment. They need a group to belong to and an opponent to confront. As Gurian put it in The Wonder of Boys, they must "compete and perform well to feel worthy."

The problem with these kinds of statements is that they forget that this is human need, not just one we need to grant to boys. It also places an unchanged, timeless quality on manhood. But a quick read through anything historic offers us a contrary picture. Manhood has changed as society has changed. The Industrial Era man is not the same as the Victorian Era man who is not the same as the Medieval man, not to mention the differences in masculinity across various cultures. The notion that these books are offering a 'return' for boys should make them suspect. I know that I am suspicious.



This is Von Drehle's conclusion. And at least he has one; I feel that even as I am sorting my thoughts out writing this, that my own notions are in constant flux.

Worrying about our boys--reading and writing books about them, wringing our hands over dire trends and especially taking more time to parent them--is paying off. The next step is to let them really blossom, and for that we have to trust them, give them room. The time for fearing our sons, or fearing for their futures, is behind us. The challenge now is to believe in them.

He's right. But nothing in this article really reflected a fluidity in gender norms. The campsite he references seems to engage in mainly manly man activities like metal work and fort-building. Sure it offers watercolour painting, but does it also offer home economics? Sewing classes? Ballet? Do the boys play house? And throughout the discussions he engages in with various principals and camp workers, it is always "boys need this room". Don't we all need this room, regardless of our gender? Why is "cultivating" boys so necessarily different from "cultivating" girls? And why has this 'positive-styled' gender reinforcement not been made problematic? I think the real problem with boys is the ways in which our society does not allow them to manoevre, something this article does not truly address.

Sigh...I can only hope that I did.

Some references I made:

Kimmel, Michael. “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity.” Theorizing Masculinities. Ed. Harry Brod and Michael Kaufman. Sage Publications, 1994. 119-141.

Kimmel, Michael. “’What About the Boys?’ What the Current Debate Tells Us—And Don’t Tell Us—About Boys in School.” The Gendered Society Reader. Ed. Michael Kimmel. New York: Oxford University, 2004. 243-262.

Klein, Jessie. “Cultural Capital and High School Bullies: How Social Inequality Impacts School Violence.” Men and Masculinities Vol. 9:1 (2006): 53-75.

Messner, Michael. “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and The Construction of Masculinities.” Men’s Lives. Ed. Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner. New York: Prentice Hall, 1989. 161-176.

Katz, Jackson.Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity. Dir. Sut Jhalley. Media Education Foundation, 1999.

All images used with permission of the artist
Paul Elia. Check out his stuff!

Weekend Readings

So what are you reading this weekend?

Or whenever your spare time happens to be?

Since summer school let out, I've been on a bit of a bender. Reading for leisure, what a joy! Sigh. And with only three weeks left for me to soak up all that is non-required reading...

Anyway, right now I've just begun reading Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. I'd previously read Mrs Dalloway, which I enjoyed enough to start picking up her other work. I'm finding that Woolf's writing does this really fine balance of hitting emotional cores within broader social concerns.

However, in doing some light research on Woolf herself (and I emphasise light), I've come across some criticisms that suggest some anti-semitism on her behalf. I thought this odd considering that her husband was Jewish, but I'm still interested in finding out about the validity of this accusation.

Virginia Woolf is an amazing figurehead not just in literature but for feminism, for artists, and for people suffering with mental illness as well. What becomes of her work if it is tinged with a form of racism? I haven't found her novels thus far to be particularly reflective of this alleged attitude but this criticism of hers must still beg the question of how we read or accept one's work, or if we should, when the artist betrays a negative ideology. Do we brush it under the table for all the important things she brought to in the first place? How do we critically engage with an artist's work when certain attitudes come to the table?

Perhaps the first real question I should be asking is if this is even true about Woolf. I only did a flimsy little Wikipedia search; I'm definitely going to be scouring some more trustyworthy and indepth resources.

This reminds me of the whole Roman Polanski debate. He raped a thirteen year old girl and escaped to Europe to avoid jail time. Still making award-winning movies in exile, how does he remain uncriticized? How do the actors and producers that work with him forget about this enough to make with him what are apparently critically acclaimed movies? Why doesn't Polanski own up to his actions and address them? Maybe I could take him more seriously if he had at least faced some serious consequences for his crime. Exile in Europe hardly seems on par with jail time.

People are complex and certainly we cannot expect anyone to be flawless in their thinking and belief systems. But I think it may be a tad flippant to dismiss all such criticisms in this way.

So seriously, how do we critically think about the work that artists (and politicians and anyone else who makes history)offer to the world, when they have shady attitudes and actions lurking in their backgrounds?

Hmmm...

Popcan Review

So we hit up "The Pop Can Poll" reception over at the Lennox, and I must say with the help of a few glasses of wine as the night progressed, we had a pretty good time.

The artist, Les Paterson, spent the last two months collecting as many pop cans as possible, flattening them down, and making them into postcards to be sent the House of Commons. Already, Canada Post has been giving him some trouble.

I have to admit, I wasn't crazy about the mixed media popcan paintings up for sale. However, the activist element of this show is what really perked me up to this artist.

The crux of his project is to allow people to voice their complaints (or compliments...though it seems like mostly complaints)about the government and to address the pop can postcards to a wide variety of politicians within the House of Commons. While people brought up many issues amongst the cans displayed on the wall, such as Aboriginal rights, women's rights, family care, health care, institutionalized racism and other equally important concerns amongst Canadian citizens, there was an overwhelming theme about environmental responsibility.

And really, the use of discarded aluminum makes a great impact for that concern in particular. Stephen Harper's government has been notoriously lax on environmental issues, even in the face of David Suzuki's tireless activism as well as world summits that have called Canada to task. In true Harper style, our prime minister has not said much in response. I can imagine all sorts of reactions from the House of Commons on receiving can after can after can of political discontent. Hopefully, none of the reactions will include a complete shunning of the cans. Hopefully.

All unmoderated by the artist, the cans thus allow anyone with different views from Paterson to be allowed to speak. There were a few cans addressed to Jack Layton to be found amongst the Harper critics. I think that its important that the cans be allowed this kind of freedom of speech; it can only be truly democratic if everyone feels like they can freely have a say. Different opinions are important to respect, especially in a political climate, and be made available for open dialogue. I think these pop cans, by being openly displayed in a large space, do a good job of addressing this diversity of concern and opinion.

This show is going on for quite some time. I recommend everyone have a look and take the opportunity to have such a creative say. A box is set up so you can drop your can and contribute to the mass mailing of our culture's environmental waste. Maybe if the politicians take notice of the inherent eco-message, all those other concerns addressed may get a chance as well.

While you're there, be sure to check out the neighbouring bookwork show up on the second floor. Some pretty inventive and thoughtful stuff is on display.

"The Pop Can Poll" is on until August 19th.

T-Shirt Ad

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Explode This:

Okay, so I have a love-hate relationship with this webcomic. Sometimes, the comics kill me, and certain times I think they're really thoughtless. I have to admit, though, I really really enjoyed this one.

Pour Vous:

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

To Boycott or Not To Boycott?

*Long Post Alert*

Argh.

For anyone living in the Toronto or Barrie areas, this is a post about a restaurant I used to work for, one that violates many MANY labour laws and treats their employees like shit on a whim that they will not explain to you when you ask them about it. It comes to no surprise to me to hear then the treatment of a friend of mine who must still work there.

She is an immigrant who until recently was here illegally. She has since filed her papers, and so won't be made to leave the country, but while she waits for them to grant her status, she must work under the table in order to survive. She is not left with a lot of recourse as such, when she is being mistreated.

At first, my former bosses took pity on her and gave her a job working at their restaurant so she could make ends meet while getting her papers in order. It was actually quite a nice thing for them to do, a favour even, that could get them into some potential trouble. She was grateful; we were all happy to work with her. She was just trying to get by like all the rest of us on this planet.

However, it was not long before this favour jumped to exploitation.

Soon, they started to use her to work long hours that they didn't want to pay their legal employees. They would withdraw days off from her to give them to someone else who would request one. They would purposely tease her to see if they can get her to cry. They would make her plead and bargain for days off when she needed them. And for the past few months, if not year, they have been making her BEG for her paycheques.

Sometimes, they make her wait a month. And recently, the manager at the top of her location has started to call her a CUNT after she's come begging for her pay. Yes, that's right, he tells her "Here's your money, cunt."

Those pieces of shit.

She's lucky; her tips and the money her husband makes gets them by fine. She just needs these paycheques so she can send them back to her sick dad back home. But still they make her beg. BEG.

I asked her if there was malice in his voice when he called her cunt: did he think he was goofing with her when he would talk to her like that? She said that he does seem to find it funny to treat her this way. Some joke. I laughed all the way to my computer.

I don't understand this attitude. These men who run that location, their parents who own this franchise are immigrants themselves. They came here from Korea, honest and hardworking (and also fun-loving...it was pure laughs to work with them). We live in a country whose history is coloured by colonization, and needs immigration to survive. How did these owners raise such spoiled, unsympathetic, lazy sons? Their parents, during the time they spent cultivating this location before moving on to another, ran the restaurant pretty well. I had a blast my first summer there. Then the elder ones left. And the boys went wild.

I will give credit to their middle son; he's very nice, studious, works hard, and doesn't have the stupid, selfish and cruel streaks that his brothers seem to have. He is completely outside of my complaint though in part because he does not work for the family company to see this bullshit go on. I have a feeling he'd be pretty disgusted.

As am I, clearly.

But what to do?

She needs to work. She's been offered other under the table serving jobs, but she says once she gets her papers, she's getting out of the service industry completely, and doesn't want to work for someone else who may just end up being the same. Her papers are supposed to come sometime this year; I'm crossing my fingers that they process by the end of next week.

Do I call for a boycott on all these locations? Demand people to steer away from a place where such horrible treatment of employees goes on? But if no one visits this place, how will she make any money while her paycheques are being held back?

There are so many issues involved here: immigration, exploitation, workers' rights, class privilege, not to mention the continued devaluation of anything female by the ways in which words like "bitch" and "cunt" get tossed around. In a situation like my friend's, how do you even empower such words in the first place? She's not in a place to think about the politics of language and hate. She's got to wait to obtain some legal status before she can do anything for herself, for immigrant rights, for feminism.

The system is so flawed. Fack.

I think perhaps I am more appalled than she is. She didn't know right away the significance of being called a 'cunt'. I'm not sure if that should lessen the severity of what is going on or not.

It doesn't lessen my anger, that's for sure.

But what can anyone really do in this situation? This is not a rhetorical question. Someone answer me please!


Methinks some rotten eggs need to be harvested and then projected ever so violently onto some spoiled brats' lavish condos. Hmmmm.

Upcoming Events: Art Hopping! (Toronto, ON)

I've come across a bunch of cool events I thought I'd post about here.

At the Lennox Contemporary Gallery, on 12 Ossington St:

Presenting "The Popcan Poll" by Les Paterson.
August 9 - 19, 2007

A democracy project by Les Paterson. Opening reception is this coming Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 7 p.m.
This is a project in which discarded popcans become a sight for messaging about the world. Check it out:



Also:
AlleyJaunt!
"Local Art in Local Garages"
Saturday August 11 and Sunday August 12, 2007.

Featuring 32 Garage and Alley in/outstallations. Shannon Gerard is one of them, and believe me, her stuff is just awesome and so thoughtful.




For a full scheduling of events, as well as a complete list of artists, check out:
Alleyjaunt.com

Sounds like a fun-filled, busy, artsy weekend! I hope everyone makes plans to go check some of this stuff out. I know I'd like to go.

Give a witch a call.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

How Do You Live In The Big City?

I was just noticing the other day things I kinda do out of habit.

For example, if it's late at night and I'm on my way home on the bus, a few stops before mine I'll take my keys out of my bag and loop them through my fingers. I tell myself, and most other people that ask me why I'm doing this, that it is so I don't have to stand in darkness in front of my door fumbling desparately for my keys. But I also know that in the event of an attack that keys to the eyeball is a great way of saying "Don't Fucking Touch Me."

Further, if its really really late, when I get off the bus, I will also ring up the boy on my cellphone, and talk to him until I enter my apartment and lock the door. (After which, I settle down by spending mindless hours on them internets...)

I noticed the other day, too that when the pizza guy was dropping off my order and attempting to make small talk as I fumbled with my credit card, that when he asked me if I lived here alone, that I automatically said, "No, my boyfriend lives here too." In fact, I usually tell male strangers, who either deliver me pizza or are hooking up my internet connection, when they inquire about my living arrangements that I live with a boyfriend. Though I don't make a point of saying so if they do not ask.

And of course, the boy doesn't live with me. I live alone. And most of the time, this is a fact I proudly admit to. No roommates with the need to have clean dishes at all times for this witch. No rent collecting from people who haven't been home for a week for me, no sir-ee.

But I just find it weird that I have those automatic defenses, when I've never actually had the experience of being attacked, nor have the cablemen ever been threatening or menacing at all. And despite reported increases (or maybe its just increases in reports...I dunno) in gun violence in Toronto, I do not feel like I am unsafe in my city. I love this city, and I love that I live alone and independant in it, though I am certainly not lonely or without community.

It's not like I haven't experienced the pitfalls of cat-calling and other horribly sexist behaviours. I served in a dirty sports bar for three years; I've jammed my fair share of elbows in greasy drunken necks belonging to bodies that just tried to rub their sweaty balls on my leg as I pass by with a tray of beer. Yes, I'm still bitter.

Am I just being another paranoid white woman in the city? These habits of mine, they are not particularly conscious. They just happen automatically during certain situations. I don't even remember when I started to do most of them. To be honest, my own personal city-safety is not really on my mind all that much. It is a much bigger concern to both my parents and the boy then it is to me.

Am I just socially conditioned to behave in matters of (attempted) self preservation as a woman, then? Is this how women grow up in cities? I mean, the boy calls me when he's walking home late by himself sometimes, but he doesn't prep his keys, and no one really ever asks him if he lives alone when the guy from Rogers comes over.

Maybe I just watch too many episodes of Cold Case.

Upcoming Event

Found this on the ARM page (Association for Research on Mothering, listed in Link-O-Rama), thought I'd pass this event on. I've read 'Top Girls' before and found it very thought-provoking. There are quite a few remarkable actors in this production, so it'll definitely be a worthy night out. This listing is taken directly from ARM's page.
Interested in attending a fabulous dinner party with the most scintillating female guests, both real and imaginary, discussing the choices women make with regards to motherhood? The Association for Research on Mothering (ARM)--www.yorku.ca/arm--invites you to join others at this special MOTHER OUTLAWS’DINNER and THEATRE EVENT:

A feminist revival of Caryl Churchill‘s TOP GIRLS
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 7:30 PM
Dinner before at 5:30 (see below)
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery District, 55 Mill Street
A Soul Pepper Production directed by Alisa Palmer

Featuring: Megan Follows, Kelli Fox, Dawn Greenhalgh, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Cara Pifko, Liisa Repo Martell, Robyn Stevan and Diana Donnelly.

Caryl Churchill is the most important female playwright of the British stage.

Top Girls, considered by many to be Churchill’s defining achievement, is both delightful comedy peppered with some of history’s most compelling women, and scorching political examination of the role of women in contemporary society.
Churchill brings together five figures from centuries past for a celebratory girls' night out. The guest list includes such disparate characters as Lady Nijo, a 13th-century Japanese courtesan; Patient Griselda, the obedient wife in Chaucer's "Clerk's Tale," and Pope Joan, a ninth-century cross-dresser. The link
among them all is a choice each has made concerning motherhood.

Book your tickets (prices range between $56/$41) to this event by directly contacting
the theatre at 416-866-8666 or http://www.youngcentre.ca

As befits a play that begins with a dinner party, dinner reservations are being
made for 5:30 pm at The Boiler House patio (next door to the Young Centre). For more information and to RSVP for the dinner, please contact Linn Baran at linnbaran@sympatico.ca

Bon Apetit!

Follow-Up to Monday's Inquiry...

I found out the name of the book based on the blog I was talking about the other day.

No surprises, it's called "Baghdad Burning" by Riverbend. It's published by The Feminist Press. I couldn't find it on Amazon, though I didn't really try that hard on that site. But you can locate the book here at this link:

The Feminist Press:
http://www.feministpress.org/Book/index.cfm?GCOI=55861100869560


Just spent the weekend work work working to pay rent, as well as finishing off the loose ends of summer school, and THEN helping the boy move, so as the rest of this week carries forward, I hope to get a-blogging.

Dang, I just realized it's already Thursday. Ah well.