Sunday, December 14, 2008

Masculism (or what the hell are men so scared of?)

Lately I've been noticing (more and more) sources of "Men's Right's" Groups. It's a really disturbing trend.

The first time I ever heard the term "masculist", it was through a friend, who said that it was being used to describe men who wanted gender equality - but didn't want to be called feminists because they weren't women. Even then, that entire argument has never been a very good one for me. First of all, it's feminism, because the movement is to equalise the rights of women and men. And women are the group that has been systematically disenfranchised for about as long as we've had recorded history; and probably since before. Secondly, the "dirtying" of the word feminism has been going on for far too long. Trying to use the word "masculist" for a so-called feminist man is simply avoiding a coherent connection with the movement one claims that they support. Thirdly, if all men have to be "masculists" and all women have to be "feminists"... well.. doesn't that just reinforce the "traditional" gender structures we've always had? Oh, yeah, it also disenfranchises everyone who isn't specifically male or female.
Not long after hearing the term for the first time, a friend and I were chatting to a few guys about philosophy, and it was mentioned that we were feminists. One of them immediately said something along the lines of "Oh, you're a feminist? Well I'm a masculist." When asked what that meant, he couldn't define it. But the use of that word as a antithesis to feminism simply made me angry. If he was pro-feminism, why couldn't he simply say so? If he was trying to make a joke, it was incredibly misplaced. If he was "masculist" as in "men's rights advocates" then I'm truly sorry I didn't tell him off in very strong words. One way or the other, his attitude towards feminism ended the conversation for me - how do you argue with a fool? You either drop down to their level and scream and shout and repeat and shout and scream and use profanities until someone's completely drowned out, or else you walk away because you're not going to change the attitude of someone who doesn't care what you think, but just wants to out-yell you.

Lately, however, the term masculist has had a much more chilling definition to me: the group of men who seem to think that the goals of all feminists are to disenfranchise the rights of men. According to some guy's (really really crappy geocities webpage): "Definition of Masculism: A men’s movement ideology that advocates for the abolition of political and cultural assumptions of equality between sexes. A realistic approach to sex differences that attempts to identify those differences and how they are best expressed in the social and political melieu. Supports the establishment of a modern partriarchy and assumes that we are now living in a matriarchy." (Spelling and grammatical mistakes copied-and-pasted direct). In the case of this website, I don't really want to take it too seriously, because, well... really it's an amazingly poorly done website - which means that a) due to spelling and grammar errors, I have to assume the author isn't really all that bright" and b) he doesn't have much of a support group. But then there's this, which tries to suggest that men must be relieved of parental duties if the pregnancy was undesired or accidental.

Now, the issue of paternal child support is really fucking big. Women are paid less. Any way you paint it, any country: women are paid less. In Canada, on average, including all salaried jobs, women generally get 70.5% of what men in the same positions make. Oh, yes, I'm sure there's a few power-suited women in corporations making bucket loads more than your average man. But on the whole women are paid less. Women also generally end up taking care of the children in a marital breakdown. (This is an issue that should be addressed separately, but I think that parents should be getting joint custody far more often, and I believe that the court systems have a bias towards giving women the children to care for that should be removed - whichever parent, mother or father, is best able to care for the children should be caring for them). Wait a second, 1+1 = Oh yeah, women, especially single mothers, tend to be under the poverty line more often than men. So, seriously, a man, living on his own, with no significant expenses (other than the children his estranged wife has been caring for) should fucking pay his child support. (And I added "fucking" there to emphasize, this is an issue very near and dear to me - as a child who's grown up with a single mother. No... my father wasn't deadbeat, but he came pretty close sometimes). It doesn't matter if a child was accidental or not. If you bring a child into this world, you'd better be helping to raise that child. If you don't want to do that... well, wear a condom (and know who you're sleeping with).

I titled this entry as I did because, a few weeks ago I followed the link to This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me through Feministing. I loved the campaign (wish it was happening here too), and then I read the discussion board. The numbers of guys who took major offense at the ad campaign was ridiculous.
First and foremost was the assumption that the ads somehow label all men as rapists. (Ok, but if that's how men react to those ads, good thing the poor muffins aren't treated the way women are treated in advertisement...). Nevertheless, maybe not all men are rapists, but most girls (including myself), have been told to watch out for men who are: strangers, relatives, boyfriends, husbands, acquaintances; the last four being the most likely men to rape you, according to statistics. No, I don't think every man in my life is a potential rapist, but the point here is rape is such a common crime that girls (especially) are always told (with a certain amount of good reason) to be really careful. No, I don't want to label all men as rapists, but maybe there's a little bit too much ...well... social support for a guy who's committed a rape.
And then there was the reaction of "Well, women yell 'rape' all the time, they must be lying!". So maybe that happens once in a while; it's a big world, I'm sure someone somewhere has done so. But what about how many women get raped (1/3 in most Western countries). "But men get raped too!" And if men get raped, they should come forward about it. Luckily for them, men don't get raped nearly as often (1/22). So yeah, although I'm sure there is the very odd woman who's willing to get herself subjected to all sorts of abuse through the police, through the court, through the lack of support of relatives and friends... etc, etc, more often than not, I'm pretty sure if a woman comes forward about a rape, she's not kidding around. She's going through about as much (or more) social exclusion as the rapist.

In the end, what masculism appears to be (to me) is a frightened yelp of an over-enfranchised group who must learn to share. It's like a child who's always had exactly what s/he wanted, and suddenly s/he must share with another child. Feminism has never been about disenfranchising men. It's never been about hating men either. Feminism has accomplished great things, and will continue to accomplish great things. Enfranchising women (just like enfranchising any other group) has done amazing things: most importantly, allowing large numbers of incredibly intelligent and amazing people to participate fully in society, free of numerous social inhibitions. Women are still on an unequal playing field with men. But women don't hate men for it (It's funny, but most of the "boys are dumb" or "guys smell" stuff [in my experience] comes from women who wouldn't call themselves feminists). As a feminist, what I want is neither a "patriarchal" or a "matriarchal" society - those are lofty and foolish goals. I want a society that will accept anyone regardless of gender, race, creed, nationality, etc, etc etc, on an equal level. I don't appreciate a bunch of frightened "masculist" men (that very group that has been in power for so many centuries) trying to overthrow or protest that ideal because they're scared of having a level playing field - and unhobbled competitors.

Guys, you've had millenia to control the world. Yes, losing small amounts of that control is a very big, frightening change for you. But it's time to simply MOVE OVER.

Post Scripted: And everything I wanted to say is summed up very quickly, astutely and beautifully right here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Naomi Klein Talks About Coalition

Naomi Klien: We Can't Lose

Some key points in this interview with Naomi Klein: understanding what "Liberal" actually means and what histories and legacies it points to, holding the Coalition accountable in this very exciting moment, challenging our political process and the borders around democracy. She's right, talks of this coalition being a political coupe is bad Tory PR spin on the situation. Let's talk about the ways this exciting moment potentially opens doors for a truly progressive change in politics and nation-states like Canada. I don't think Harper even represents most conservatives (much less anyone else) in Canada--he's just their only choice.

The Article Here:

Kim Elliott: As you outline so well in your book and in various interviews in the U.S. media, the current financial crisis holds the possibility of being one of those moments when the shock doctrine can best be applied. Can you comment on both the Harper government's economic and fiscal statement introduced last week, and on the Opposition's response to that - that is, the formation of a coalition - in the context of the shock doctrine?

Naomi Klein: Yes, absolutely. What I think we are seeing is a clear example of the shock doctrine in the way the Harper government has used the economic crisis to push through a much more radical agenda than they won a mandate to do.

At the same time we are seeing an example of what I call in the book a "shock resistance," where this tactic has been so overused around the world and also in Canada that we are becoming more resistant to the tactic - we are on to them - and Harper is not getting away with it.

What I think is really amazing about this moment is whatever happens next - whether we end up with this coalition or not, we will have an extremely chastened Harper. So the attempted shock doctrine has failed. I think we can say that decisively.

Just to be clear, what I mean by the shock doctrine, as you know, is the use of crisis to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies. This bundling of a whole package of policies: denying the right of public sector workers to strike, the attack on public financing of political parties, with the economic program - that is what failed, and people were offended by the opportunism of it.

This is what so many of us were worried about during the election - the context of a Tory victory in an economic crisis, because we know that there is this pattern of using an economic crisis to push through policies that were nowhere during the campaign.

KE: This coalition gives us lots of opportunities, but it also poses some risks if it is successful. I'd like to ask you about that. In an interview you had on Democracy Now!, you said that part of the reason that Obama was appointing a host of neo-liberal economists was because there was a lack of "intellectual honesty" among progressives about the real legacy of the Clinton years. Does the Canadian left, in a Liberal-led coalition, risk losing our understanding of the neo-liberal legacy of the Liberals, who during those same Clinton years were ripping up Canada's welfare state, cutting social spending etc?

NK: I think it is really important to remember, and I've written about this in the book, and Linda McQuaig has written about it extensively, that it is the Liberals who actually implemented what I'm describing in Canada.

They were elected on an economic stimulus platform in 1993, with a huge mandate. The Tories were wiped out in those historic elections. And then they caved to pressure from Bay Street, from the corporate media and from the right-wing think tanks in the face of the debt crisis. They turned around and broke their election promises when it came to NAFTA, when it came to job creation, and the famous 1995 Paul Martin budget came down which did so much damage to unemployment insurances (which makes it particularly interesting that a key piece of the agreement for the coalition is about strengthening unemployment insurance). So we need to have long memories about the Liberals, because they have done exactly what Harper has just done, in terms of using an economic crisis for a neo-liberal about turn.

That said, what I find most exciting about what is going on right now - beyond just getting rid of Harper, which is exciting in and of itself - is that we have this opportunity to show what proportional representation (PR) would look like, because all of this talk that this is a coup is a joke.

What is being proposed by this coalition is much closer to representative democracy than what we have right now, which is a government that has [slightly more than] 35 per cent of the popular vote in a turnout that was historically low, of 59 per cent of Canadian voters, which means that even though the Tories won more seats they had fewer actual votes than in the last election.

I think it is really important to talk about democracy, about what it actually means in this period. In some ways I think it is even more important than talking about the policies, because our electoral system is broken. Because of the Tories' extraordinary opportunism and terrible calculation we now have an opportunity to see a better version of democracy and see more people represented in government.

To me the best case scenario that could come out of this is, one, you get the coalition, and, two, the NDP uses this moment to really launch a national discussion about why we need PR and that that becomes one of the things that comes out of this crisis.

Now, they don't have the mandate for that right now, but we could come out of this with a national referendum on proportional representation. People might actually like it, which would be really, really exciting.

KE: That is a very exciting possibility, and I wanted to ask you, if this coalition is successful, what are the two or three key issues that the NDP should focus on, the kinds of issues that were not covered in the agreement?

NK: They've put in writing what they've agreed to. I think it is going to maybe be up to the NDP to make sure that the EI improvements are protected.

KE: I'm thinking of those issues that were not in the agreement like PR, or like withdrawal from Afghanistan - those issues that were not nailed down in the agreement.

NK: Those issues weren't nailed down because there isn't agreement on them, and that I think it is not really about whether the NDP holds the line on these issues, but about how the NDP uses this platform. It is a historic opportunity, I think, to be very bold, not just because of what is happening in this country, but because of what is happening globally.

Another important role for the NDP, beyond putting proportional representation on the agenda, withdrawal from Afghanistan, is also the terms of the bailout. The bailout for the auto industry is part of their agreement, but we don't know what the terms of that agreement are going to be, and that is going to be really important in terms of negotiating a progressive automobile industry bailout - a green auto industry bailout, if such a thing is possible. So that is a very important role that the NDP could play.

I think the best analogy, in terms of the kinds of concerns you are raising in regards to the Liberals and neo-liberalism, of being the party that continued and deepened Mulroney's neo-liberal economic program, is to look at Gordon Brown. He was finance minister for Tony Blair, really the face of neo-liberalism in Britain. He is now overseeing what many are calling the death of New Labour, and the return to Keynesian economics in Britain. That is because he is fighting for his political life. That is because he was going down, until he started talking this way. That is really what is at stake for the Liberals, I think.

This is also why I think the issue of political financing for political parties is so key. The reason there is a little more latitude in Canada on these issues is because our political process is not massively owned by corporations as it is in the United States.

The way in which public financing for political parties has been presented in the press is "oh the politicians, they just got mad when they went after their money," right? This is another key point that I think is somewhat related to the issue of proportional representation. We need to be talking about our political process here, and the issue of public financing for political parties in elections is key to protecting and deepening democracy in Canada, and for keeping it out of corporate control. It is not for nothing that the Tories are attacking that. They see attacking public financing of political parties as a way to entrench their power.

KE: Should this coalition become government, what should we as progressive movements be doing in terms of using this as an opportunity to promote these kinds of progressive agendas, to support the NDP in a predominantly Liberal caucus?

NK: I think it is PR, I really think that is the way in. By pushing PR then it is not just about this one crisis. It is about leveraging this situation to have a more democratic system. It means that if the NDP does deeply disappoint us in this moment we could still end up with a better political system.

KE: Should the coalition happen what do you see as the long-term fall-out in terms of western voters in Canada?

NK: I really think that we need to fight back this strategy. We know what the talking points are from the right and from the West, and it is about playing up this idea of making a coalition with the Bloc, "with the separatists."

What to me is so extraordinary is the temper tantrum being thrown in Alberta right now at the prospect of having to be ruled by a majority - by a coalition of parties representing the majority of the people in this country. I really do think it is worth asking who the real separatists are, because of course the undercurrent of everything they are saying is that they will take our oil. So who are the real separatists?

KE: Do you agree then that we should be out there supporting the coalition? Attending rallies, mobilizing letter-writing campaigns?

NK: Absolutely. Listen, we've been given a second chance, after these elections. What is exciting about it is that a lot of people did get involved in the election to try to beat the Tories. Maybe it started a little bit too late. We were surprised a bit by how quickly the election happened, but you saw a lot of people getting involved in things like and the Department of Culture.

That was very much the spirit of it, it was anything but the Tories and it was kind of building a PR system without the cooperation of the political parties that got a lot of people excited during this election. It was about just doing an end-run around the political parties who were not cooperating to try to keep out the Tories.

So, what is exciting about this political moment, and how people can get involved, is that this is building on that. The political parties caught up with the grassroots movement that was happening anyway with those initiatives like, Department of Culture, and people like Murray Dobbin who have been making these arguments pretty steadily outside of the political parties. Now it is happening, and it is happening thanks to Stephen Harper and his extraordinary arrogance and over-reaching. We can't lose this moment.

I just want to emphasize this point: If even through smart tactics, Harper pulls this off, if he prorogues Parliament; if the Governor General lets him get away with it; if the Liberals lose their nerve over Xmas, then the Harper we will have in January will be a deeply chastened Harper.

What everybody agrees with is that he made a massive error, that he massively overreached, and his own party, his own base agrees with that. Worst case scenario we dodged a bullet here. Best case scenario, we leverage his overreach, his attempt to use a crisis to push through his ideological pro-corporate agenda to have a deeper democracy in our country, and to prevent forevermore a situation where a party with 35 per cent of the vote is government.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Remembering Violence Against Women

I just wanted to take a moment out to add to Medea's post, especially since today also marks a national day of rememberance on violence against women.

Violence against women happens under various conditions but what we know of it and how we know of it gets mediated by the fact that we live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, able-ist society--so only certian kinds of violence against certain women gets acknowledged, and paints a particular, limited picture of the issues, when the reality is that there are an abundant. So many histories and conceptions of what we think is a 'liberal'* (read: our) society drastically change when we bother to look under the rug.

So while we remember importantly the Montreal Massacre, let's also remember to read Andrea Smith,Sherene Razack,Angela Davis,Melissa Wright. Let's remember to watch Finding Dawn and The Sterilization of Leilani Muir. Drop by The Centre for Women and Trans People (University of Toronto) and have an important conversation.

There's so much more out there.

Note how many of those few sources I listed point to a Canadian history--including the Massacre. Let's look under our own rug.

*a big problem is understanding just what exactly we mean and politically support when we say 'liberal' in the first place...

Montreal Massacre

I just wanted to make a point of noting that today (December 6th) is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, almost 20 years ago now, but still just as shocking.

If you haven't heard of this before, go to the CBC Archives. A lone gun man, Marc Lepine shot down 14 women, to get revenge on them because he was unable to get into engineering school. He blamed the women because he felt that they were taking up spaces he could have taken in school. He felt that women going into the workplace were taking all his opportunities away. Lepine deliberately separated men and women, and targeted only women.

It's just as heart wrenching, sexist and terrifying today as it was in the 1980s. This happened in a liberal country, at the end of the 1980s, at a time when people were already saying that feminism had run its course, and was "no longer necessary".

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stephen Harper

Harper got his prorogation. I'm not pleased about this. It just gives him a bigger chance to launch attack ads and be a jerk.

Hopefully, this won't stop the no-confidence vote from going through, and the much more respectable coalition government from coming into power in January, when parliament reconvenes.

(Feel free to use this image where ever you like!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

5 Reasons to love the coalition

5. Most of us didn't vote Conservative. Even if you ignore the popular vote, conservatives did not reach a majority. So, yeah, a coalition is not undemocratic. In fact, it's more democratic than a minority government, because it forces parties to work together and negotiate - giving the public more of what most of them actually voted for.

4. The bill that Harper was trying to put through included: 1. Removing public funding for all the parties - which would give the Conservative Party a huge and undemocratic advantage. 2. Removing the right of public service workers to strike. That's not exactly pro-democracy.

3. Harper really doesn't give a damn about advancing the equal rights of women, visible minorities, and LGTB people. Remember how Harper cut funding for shelters for battered women? I know most people cringe at the word "feminist*", but if I add that usually kids get battered when their mum gets battered, does that mean you'll actually give a damn?

2. Global warming is not a joke, nor is it something that should be kept on the back burner. The environment is life and death important. We need a government that actually gives a damn.

1. Stephen Harper is an immature lout. He accuses the proposed coalition government of being undemocratic - well, then the rule of the majority is undemocratic. He rails about the Bloc Quebecois as a "separatist" party - he is simply pushing Quebec further and further away. Oh, and, whoops, forgetting his attempts to work with them to pull down the Martin Liberals. Instead of speaking about budgets, about policies, he merely insults the proposed coalition. Instead of trying to compromise with the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc, he refuses to take responsibility for the house's loss of confidence in him. Harper governs like a schoolyard bully, with little understanding of what the majority of Canadians want. Get him out of power.

Bring on the Coalition!

* For the ten millionth time: Feminist does not mean man hater.

Cars, Subsidies and Canoe Races... (definitely not an essay)

I don't know who actually wrote this; it came to me in an email. Just kinda true...

A Japanese company ( Toyota ) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River . Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order; American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India .

Sadly, the End.

Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US , claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US The last quarter's results:

TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses...








Monday, November 17, 2008

Way to Ruin a Good Thing

So, this commercial pissed me off especially because I the first whiskey I started drinking was Wisers.

Too bad I ain't male...

Luckily, I've gotten over Wisers, and moved onto things much better.

I'm just annoyed at the sexism inherent in umpteen alcohol advertisements. GAWD, if I decided to boycott all alcohol based on sexist ads, I'd probably be stuck with no choice but making moonshine.

...Luckily my favourite wines don't need to advertise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bloody Poppies

So, it's that time of year again - that time when talk of the world wars suddenly rises from the ashes and we all wear poppies to support the veterans of those wars.

Last year I posted about why I don't wear a poppy. This year, again, I am not wearing a poppy, but still remembering. But I have noticed that the collective minds of the masses seems to have decided either in favour of my direction or to simply forget.

To reiterate what I said last year: Ever since September 11th rhetoric started to get mixed up with world war remembrance rhetoric the poppy turned just didn't do it. Even if you listen to the straight-up nothing but "remember the 'Great' Wars" rhetoric, we're getting into foggy territory. Yes, it is important to remember the terrible losses (by which I mean hundreds of thousands of deaths, not "casualties") but to what extent are we glorifying the very act of war with this remembrance? The poem that the poppy symbolism comes from states, very clearly: "Take up our quarrel with the foe:/ To you from falling hands we throw/ The torch; be yours to hold it high." (McCrae 1915). That's a pretty clear statement of "Keep this damned war going."

Another issue I keep taking with the Remembrance Day deal are our "new" modern wars. Sure, people said that World War I was "the first modern war" - but was it really? It seems to me that World War I and World War II were really the exception. Modern Wars seems to be the ability to inflict as much damage on the "enemy" with as little damage on your own troops - current wars, Afghanistan and Iraq as our primary example (where's the talk about these places, now that suddenly the US is in an era of progression?). "Our" side, the "good guys" have a death toll of something like a mere tenth of how many of "Their" side, the "bad guys" have had? Is that war, or is that a one sided slaughter with the victims doing their best to fight back?

YES, we must remember the lessons of World Wars I and II. But we've very obviously already forgotten them, and remembered absolutely nothing but the bloody poppy! Wars today are being fought for the same reasons they were being fought back then. It's very much colonialism under a vague flag of "We're democratic, let us free the victims of these totalitarian states" and "Bringing Free and Democratic Trade to the land of the oppressed!". But we are setting ourselves in the space of the oppressor, and maybe they can vote on their government, but these countries, set up as they are being set up - even if they were able to emerge peacefully (and I beg you all to remember that if Canada or the States were thrown down into a state of Anarchy by another country, we would not emerge any more peacefully than Iraq or Afghanistan or any other country has in history), World Trade sanctions and unfair trading treaties are already being placed on them - making it pretty much impossible for them to emerge in a state of anything but poverty.

So, again: I cannot wear a poppy that stands for "remembrance" of previous wars, when the bloodthirst of my own nation (and its closest ally) is so apparent. I repeat: we have not retained anything except this bloody poppy. So maybe it's time to start a new way of remembrance, one that ties itself to remembering why we shouldn't be invading other countries for colonial purposes.

Or maybe we should strip back this artificial veneer of pretending we remember and recognize the sacrifices of World War veterans and start actually remembering and recognizing their sacrifices - as well as the sacrifices of so many millions of innocent victims who did not fight in these wars, but were merely killed in them.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Anti-Gay is Anti-Human Rights

I posted last night about the American election. Although I am no American, American policies often affect the policies in my own country (Canada, if you cannot already guess). This is why Canadians so often have their noses right into American politics. And I've had a number of American friends who, while coming up here because they can't stand their own country, get bent way out of whack when we criticize American policy that affects us. Because a lot of it does.

One thing that terrified me in this American election was the number of Woman's Choice issues on the block for decision. I say this because, although Canada is a fair deal more liberal than the states, the border is, after all, only a line created by politicians and bankers. We do have our own Anti-Abortion activists here, and don't you worry one bit, we've got our fair share of Christian Fundies. If the anti-choice give-embryos rights legislation were to have passed, it would have given fuel to our own Anti-Choice types (who actually get a good deal of funding from the American Focus on the Family group**). Which, as someone who grew up in a small town that has a fairly strong anti-choice climate, is frightening. I'll admit, it terrified me that those rights that women had fought for were being marched towards an executioner's block.

Gay rights in Canada are a fair bit stronger than those in the States. In all honesty, I think here, too, it's a good deal shakier than womens' rights. Of course, it's not perfect for homosexuals or transexuals (henceforth referred to as queers). In all honesty, no where is. In small town Canada, young queers face the same sorts of discrimination that young queers face in small town USA. (I saw it happen to friends in highschool). Most of them didn't come out until they had moved to a larger city, someplace like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. But Canada still has a large populous that doesn't support gay rights, and the rights that queers have are still shaky here.

Which is why it disturbs me so much that all the anti-gay legislation in the States passed on Tuesday.
It makes me happy that the queers in the states aren't taking this sitting down:

And I am writing this to express some form of solidarity (as weak and fleeting as digital words are) with the American queers. It is absolutely disgusting (still) that a country that can spend so much time talking about their so-called "freedom" can unblinkingly treat its own citizenry so poorly.

** the first time I heard of Focus on the Family was actually when they were campaigning against gay marriage in Canada, like before we had granted queers that right. It was an ad in the Hamilton Spectator.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ok, so, just a two days ago, the United States of America elected their very firstest ever non-white prezie, and the rest of us in the world are cheering this shit on. I work in a cafe, and the entire day went a little like: "We love Obama!" "So glad Obama won the election!" and "What a momentous day that the first black man is elected president!"

Hells, you could almost believe that this cafe was, you know, like a full border south-wards.

But, as Pierre Trudeau said, living next to the US of A is like sleeping with an elephant, and since the US of A has extended its enormous tentacles worldwide, the rest of the world, we're all sleeping with the American elephant... and we all feel every single tiny twitch. So, although the entire world is disenfranchised and without a US Ballot, every single person on the planet had a lot riding on this election too.

So, as a Canadian, my hopes and fears about Obama's presidency.

So, yeah, let's start this off positively, shall we?
1. I hope that Obama begins to bring some much needed education and sanity to much of the American populace. That much ridiculousness starts to rub off after a while.
2. I hope that Obama's only sort of less right wing policies help to keep the majority of Americans out of third-world style poverty. As much as the US likes to call itself a land of the free... I ain't never seen slums like America in Canada or Europe. It's an absolute disgrace that such a wealthy nation decides to treat its own citizens so poorly.
3. I hope that Obama is the start of meaningful, long-lasting change in American policy.
4. I hope that Obama does decide to roll Free Trade back, but also that he waits until we don't have a treacherous Conservative slug for a PM. (Yeah, Harper, I mean you... I see you licking your greasy lips waiting for the sell Canada to the US moments).
5. I hope that Obama is helluva a lot more radical than he actually sounds like he is.

And now the gross stuff...
1. I fear that Obama will get blamed for the shit-storm that will be heaped on him when he takes up the presidency. By this I mean: Bush may only be president for a gruelingly long 8 years, but his peoples' policies aren't exactly going to go away when they do. Obama's going to have a tough shit fight.
2. I fear that the United States SuperRight Psychos will assassinate Obama.
3. I fear that Obama is still an American president. And, as we all know, American presidents don't really give much shit about the rest of the world... we love the fact that he's not McCain, but I'm not putting money on Obama's social conscience.
4. I fear that this is the first time I've really been more ok with the American President than the Canadian Prime Minister. Oh, I know that Stephen Harper is a fluffy kitty compared to John McCain, and that Obama's policies still lie pretty close to Harper's... but it's just the US pulled up and made the better choice, why didn't we.
5. I fear that the scary shit that McCain ran on is not going to be buried just because McCain didn't win.
6. I fear that I may hear Sarah Palin's name again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blue Country - Post Election Notes

So, as was fairly predictable, Canada dropped the ball again and elected Stephen Harper, our ultra-conservative angry man, who really belongs more to the States than to us.

What wasn't predictable was Harper came very close to a majority government, and I spent a good deal of time thinking about all sort of things he was likely to go after, including, but not only: freedom of speech in the arts (oh, yeah, and the arts), gay marriage (he really never liked it), women's rights (who cut nation-wide services that fund women's shelters?), the environment (which to me, is actually the most important, doesn't matter how bad things get, the land can save you)...
I've never been happier to return to a status quo that I really don't like. All I can say is: Dion, Layton and Duceppe had better make good on their promises to stand up against Harper. Don't keep this parliament running longer than it needs to be; I know it's an unpopular decision to kill a minority, because no one likes an election... but hey.

For those of you who don't quite get Canadian parliament: We have a total of 308 seats in parliament. Any time a party wins 155 or more of those seats, they get a practical carte blanche to do whatever they like. Anything less than 155, they end up with a minority government, which can be toppled by the other parties by voting against a movement in parliament. I'm willing to bet that Harper's confident enough by his almost-majority (143 seats) to try to push the buttons of the other parties: If they topple the government within the first year, they'll be blamed for the ensuing election. He's going to push for things they don't want NOW. But, he will remain acting like HarperLite, because he doesn't have the power to push his more controversial agendas.

Anyway, checking voter turn-out this morning and guess what? Turnout is down to 59.1%. In other words - not so hot. That is a record low, according to CBC. A large chunk of that is Newfoundland, ConLand, where the Conservative Premier stated that Harper's Conservatives were not good for the province, suggesting the catchy "ABC" Voting Strategy - Anything But Conservatives. I expect a lot of people just didn't really know who to vote for.
The other place I expect (don't have anything to back this assumption up) voters didn't show was Alberta. Oh, Alberta. So many new people have moved there, but everyone who votes central-to-left seems to think that since they don't have a chance, they just don't need to try. Well... thanks a lot, left-of-right Albertans. Your lack of voting is really what's screwing the rest of us over on a national level. You need to take responsibility and just elect someone Lib or NDP or, hell, the Greens would have a big fight there, but them too! I know Alberta's not really a great place to live these days. We all know that. You could be making $20/hour and still not be able to afford a house... but you gotta elect a party that's going to help rather than encourage Alberta to degenerate into a cesspool of poverty, oil and crime.
Nevertheless, we're taking our right to vote for granted. It's pathetic.

Finally, remember last year, when all the young voters didn't bother on voting for proportional representation? If you had bothered voting for that, we wouldn't have such a big problem on our hands with the current government.

Popular Vote vs Percentage of Seats (ie. Real Power) in Parliament:
37.63% vs 46.42% Conservative
26.24% vs 24.28% Liberal
9.97% vs 16.23% Bloc Quebecois
18.20% vs 12.01% New Democratic Party (NDP)
6.80% vs 0.00% Green Party

Just bothers me some that almost 20% of voters aren't properly represented (Helps that I'm one of them).

Monday, October 13, 2008







Friday, October 10, 2008

Last Post Before Election!


So, with just one day left until elections start, I'm going to give my personal run-down of each of the parties - something I meant to do, heh, a day or two after the Leader's Debate(s).

So. First off, I'm going to start with our current (crap-for) government. I'm trying hard not to let my own biases get in the way of sounding balanced and sane, but I hold a lot of hate for the Conservative Party of Canada. I hold a lot of hate for Stephen Harper, and I really hope that the majority of Canadians remain ever vigilant and cautious about this grade-A douchebag. Watching the debate, I really just wanted to smack Stephen Harper's smug "I-think-I-got-it-in-the-bag-therefore-I-won't-actually-debate" smirk off his face.

To start, here's a Conservative TV ad, swiped from the Con's channel on YouTube:

I chose this ad because it really stands as a shining example of why the Conservatives are a terrible choice for leadership: they assume that they don't need to worry about Canadians having enough brain power to want to hear about -what's it called...- issues. Hell, they figure, just smear Stephan Dion's name enough and all will be well.

For this entire bloody campaign, they have been smugly going on about how terrible the other parties are - how their economic plans are flawed, etc, etc. What they continuously forget to mention is that it seems that the Cons always give up the government just after they've used up the surplus that the Libs created. That's right, Libs and Cons may both be scheming, lying bastards, but at least the Libs balance the bloody budget. This year, the Cons also, oops!, forgot!, to release their platform until last week. At this point, I haven't actually made the time to go over it - it's a pretty basic Con platform.

It goes a little like this: tax cut here, tax cut there, give a little tax cut everywhere!!! Now if you're lower middle class or impoverished, you're saving something like $200 a year - but to afford these cuts that make your nobility (oops, I meant, the upper-middle class and the rich) lots of extra money... oh, yeah, about those arts programs, the environment, hell, even the whole job issue... let's just SLASH. Oh, yeah, good luck with the pending economic DOOM!

And, next up to bat, the Liberals! Oh, those good old classy Liberals, the ones who have provided my two favourite PMs in Canada's history: Pierre Trudeau for his policies, social reform, all round "good-guy" appearance in Canada's history (except when you remember that small occurrence in Quebec... ), and awesome sass: "The government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation!", "Just watch me!" and so forth; and Jean Cretien for his absolute ridiculously inappropriate sass and willingness to mock himself on the Mercer Report, even if he was a corrupt bastard. (I'd like to see Cretien kick Mercer's ass, actually, but hey, can't get all my wishes). Stephan Dion might actually be my favourite party leader these days - well, he was, up until the Leader's Debate. Get into that later.

Here is the Lib ad that, for me, most summarizes what the Libs have been saying:

Now, some people say that this is just as smeary as the Cons' ads, but I'd argue that this is fact-based, rather than an all-out "Gamble on Dion and die" approach. Because these things did happen. I remember it happening - especially calling Ontario the last place in the world to invest. God, Ontario actually needs to start crucifying its Conservative party members, the way that they have been treating us. But, outside of Toronto and the other major cities, most people seem to have the ability to clamp fists on their ears and yell "LALALALA".
Nevertheless, to talk about the Liberals: I like the Green Shift plan. It's not perfect, no, but it's a step in the right direction, which is a hell of a lot more than the Con plan is (reduce 20% of emissions by 2020? Right, by then we've all asphyxiated already). And there really is no perfect way to reduce emissions, other than going back in time and stopping "progress" in this direction.
Now, social programs, not bad. Support for the arts? Not bad. Economy? Not the classic laissez-faire approach, but hey, that approach certainly didn't help the poor fools who elected Conservative governments in the 1930s, did it? It was the more left-wing, "socialist" approach that saved that day, and I strongly believe the same goes for this day. Most of this, however, can be applied to the slightly less corrupt NDP and Green platforms.

The other thing I'd like to say about the Libs is about their leader, Stephan Dion. I honestly believe that Dion is the best federal Liberal party leader since Trudeau. He might not be overtly heavy with the party whip, and keeping his party in perfect line, but that is what democracy should be, baby! Now, I don't think Dion has everything to be desired, etc, etc. But what has driven me crazy about this election is that he has been facing slander from all sides - and yet he slugs on. The Cons slander him. The NDP slanders him. The Green party... well, they really haven't insulted anyone except Stephen Harper, and I think it was just. Hell, even some members of his party have been insulting him (quietly since the election was called). Most of all, though, ALL THE MAJOR NEWS NETWORKS IN CANADA have been saying: "Stephan Dion is a weak, uncharismatic leader" constantly. And it changes people's opinions. I've heard people quoting, over and over again, these reports. And you know what? I think Dion's got charisma. And I think that he's shown fortitude, maturity (which many world leaders tragically lack), the way he continued to stand strong against this shit, and really hasn't whined about it. So, I say: "Stephan Dion, you have my respect."

On to the NDP!

I'll be honest. I like Layton's politics, I like Layton's party... I just have never really liked Layton himself. I don't know why. He's just never really captured my heart... Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Layton shares the same policies as his predecessor, and yet, he's not called names, like "Sausage Face" on talk radio. Oh, wait, she was a woman. This makes her policies unimportant, instead, her appearance takes precedence! (I'll add a full blog about this eventually, I've got a list of female politicians in this boat).

Anyway, NDP is the party I'm most likely to vote for. And here is an ad that, for me, summarizes the campaign. Enjoy:

The NDP is probably my favourite party in Canada. Unfortunately, they never win, and when they finally do win, they are far too surprised themselves to deal with their own political success. In fact, I think that they do best in coalition with the Liberals, because the Liberals keep grounded in the Capitalist reality.

Anyway, this election, they're yammering on about just about everything that I feel is important to me. Things like... oh, creating Canadian manufacturing jobs. You know, maybe Canadian companies, making Canadian goods? Instead of letting companies like General Motors fuck us over again and again and again? Oh, yeah, and doing things to help create a bit more social justice? Like, you know, closing the gap between the rich and the poor? Sounds good, don't it?

Oh- yeah - the cap and trade versus the carbon tax? Same policy, different phrasing. Layton, Dion and May need to get the fuck over it. They're basically all proposing the same thing - except the Liberals are, indeed, central rather than left wingers.

Well, try telling that to people in my riding...

Finally, last but not least, the Green Party! (I'm going to add - there is also the Bloc Quebecois, but they really only run in Quebec, which is roughly a 10 hour drive from my current location, speeding the whole way. Nevertheless, I respect them, and don't hate them for wanting to protect Quebec culture).

Anyway, the Green ads are really low budget in comparison, so... enjoy!

To start, Elizabeth May is probably my favourite party leader this time around. She approaches things in a level-headed way and responds intelligently. She seems to honestly believe in making Canada a better place, as well as the world.

The Green Party platform seems like a proposal to create Utopia. It is, unfortunately, absolutely impossible without the support from the entire world, by which I mean, most of all, the world's big "superpowers", ie, United States and China (yes, I think China is going to have its say in the future).

Last election, the Green Party almost stole my heart from the NDP, until I read their platform. Last time, it was a very Conservative platform, and I was angry at it leeching votes off of some of the NDP's less attentive flanks. I maintain, actually, that it would be for the best if the Green Party and the NDP merged - NDP keeping a strong focus on social justice and the Green half keeping a strong focus on environmental justice. And, yeah, slap May up there instead of Layton, because Layton's just never been an excellent speaker. He makes me cringe sometimes. (Although don't get me wrong, I do respect him... I just respect Elizabeth May more). It would be nice to have some measure of guarantee that the Green Party won't blur itself into the right wing end of things.

In conclusion, I'd like to see Harper lose by winning an extremely narrow minority, opening the show for a coalition between Dion and Layton's parties. I'd like to see May get a few more seats, but not if it means throwing off the NDP's base.

I feel, however, that I support the classic ABC Voting Strategy - Anything But Conservative. I'd rather have another Liberal majority and a Conservative one.

And to complete this, some messages from a not-quite major party contender: Neorhinos!

My French is not astute enough to understand all of this, but it's still awesome:
Neorhinos on CBC

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find their "Cubeq" ad, in which they propose to merge Quebec and Cuba to create a new national drink- lots and lots of Cuban rum with just a touch of maple syrup.

I love the Neorhinos!

And a wonderful reason to avoid the Cons:

More important than anything:

NO EXCUSES! JUST VOTE. Please, vote anything but conservative, but JUST VOTE!

(If you're an American, please, for the sake of the entire planet, just vote Obama. We all beg you.)

Sarah Palin's Literary Cousin

Although I really hate that Sarah Palin is the US media darling right now - the other day I realized something.

Sarah Palin is a real-life Serena Joy (a character in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale).

Now, if you haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, I really can't paraphrase it so that you'll get it, but if you have read it, but can't remember: Serena Joy is the wife that Offred works under. The one who used to be an evangelist darling... and then may or may not regret the changes that have actually relegated her to her own home after so long...

If you're an innocent little American and you know all about Sarah Palin and nothing about Atwood's the Handmaid's Tale - you should read it! It's a wonderful book - an excellent satire and yet horrifyingly frightening possible circumstance. It's a great book to read concerning not just feminism, but totalitarian governments and fundamentalist religion - and how these things can pan out in the world. It's somewhat... ...erk... Orwellian..., but I prefer Atwood as a writer - even if Orwell gets things named after him more than Atwood does...

If you're lazy, you could always just watch the Playboy (!...?) endorsed movie from the early '90s. But the book is much better in its social commentary than the movie is. Really, it's an old, somewhat dated, book - but it's an excellent read.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Word From Margaret Atwood In Defense of the Arts

This is a piece written by Margaret Atwood in response to Stephen Harper's cuts to the arts.

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

September 24, 2008 at 11:00 PM EDT

"What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we
already live in? What do we like? Who are we?

At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector
accounted for an 'estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).'

But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called 'ordinary people' didn't care about something called 'the arts.' His idea of 'the arts' is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand:
I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity – not because they think they'll be millionaires.

Every single one of those people is an 'ordinary person.' Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. 'Ordinary people' pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for 'the arts' in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. 'The arts' are not a 'niche interest.' They are part of being human.

Moreover, 'ordinary people' are participants. They form book clubs and join classes of all kinds - painting, dancing, drawing, pottery, photography - for the sheer joy of it. They sing in choirs, church and other, and play in marching bands. Kids start garage bands and make their own videos and web art, and put their music on the Net, and draw their own graphic novels. 'Ordinary people' have other outlets for their creativity, as well: Knitting and quilting have made comebacks; gardening is taken very seriously; the home woodworking shop is active. Add origami, costume design, egg decorating, flower arranging, and on and on ... Canadians, it seems, like making things, and they like appreciating things that are made.

They show their appreciation by contributing. Canadians of all ages volunteer in vast numbers for local and city museums, for their art galleries and for countless cultural festivals - I think immediately of the Chinese New Year and the Caribana festival in Toronto, but there are so many others. Literary festivals have sprung up all over the country - volunteers set them up and provide the food, and 'ordinary people' will drag their lawn chairs into a field - as in Nova Scotia's Read by the Sea - in order to listen to writers both local and national read and discuss their work. Mr. Harper has signalled that as far as he is concerned, those millions of hours of volunteer activity are a waste of time. He holds them in contempt.

I suggest that considering the huge amount of energy we spend on creative activity, to be creative is 'ordinary.' It is an age-long and normal human characteristic: All children are born creative. It's the lack of any appreciation of these activities that is not ordinary. Mr. Harper has demonstrated that he has no knowledge of, or respect for, the capacities and interests of 'ordinary people.' He's the 'niche
interest.' Not us.

It's been suggested that Mr. Harper's disdain for the arts is not merely a result of ignorance or a tin ear - that it is 'ideologically motivated.' Now, I wonder what could be meant by that? Mr. Harper has said quite rightly that people understand we ought to keep within a budget. But his own contribution to that budget has been to heave the Liberal-generated surplus overboard so we have nothing left for a rainy day, and now, in addition, he wants to jeopardize those 600,000 arts jobs and those billions of dollars they generate for Canadians. What's the idea here? That arts jobs should not exist because artists are naughty and might not vote for Mr. Harper? That Canadians ought not to make money from the wicked arts, but only from virtuous oil? That artists don't all live in one constituency, so who cares? Or is it that the majority of those arts jobs are located in Ontario and Quebec, and Mr. Harper is peeved at those provinces, and wants to increase his ongoing gutting of Ontario - $20-billion a year of Ontario taxpayers' money going out, a dribble grudgingly allowed back in - and spank Quebec for being so disobedient as not to appreciate
his magnificence? He likes punishing, so maybe the arts-squashing is part of that: Whack the Heartland.

Or is it even worse? Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily. Of course, you can always get some tame artists to design the uniforms and flags and the documentary about you, and so forth - the only kind of art you might need - but individual voices must be silenced, because there shall be only One Voice: Our Master's Voice. Maybe that's why Mr. Harper began by shutting down funding for our artists abroad. He didn't like the competition for media space.

The Conservative caucus has already learned that lesson. Rumour has it that Mr. Harper's idea of what sort of art you should hang on your wall was signalled by his removal of all pictures of previous Conservative prime ministers from their lobby room - including John A. and Dief the Chief - and their replacement by pictures of none other than Mr. Harper himself. History, it seems, is to begin with him. In
communist countries, this used to be called the Cult of Personality. Mr. Harper is a guy who - rumour has it, again - tried to disband the student union in high school and then tried the same thing in college. Destiny is calling him, the way it called Qin Shi Huang, the Chinese emperor who burnt all records of the rulers before himself. It's an impulse that's been repeated many times since, the list is very long. Tear it down and level it flat, is the common motto. Then build a big
statue of yourself. Now that would be Art!"

I'd like to also add a point to those who tell the artists to quit whining, that the 4.6 million dollars of cuts only constitutes a drop in the bucket, that overall its not really that much. In looking at the bigger picture, you completely miss the little things, the everyday ways that are effected by this loss. I'm certain that four million dollars are not mere pennies to the 'ordinary' Canadian. Four million dollars would go quite the way for many an artist, musician, curator, director, actor, comedian, educator, gallery, workshop program, radio broadcaster, writer, and well, you get the picture. Most artists are not gala*-going, rich disconnected elitists. In fact, artists that do live comfortably could not have done so for the most part without grant support. It's very hard to work full-time on creation when you are out working in other jobs just to pay your rent.

And anyone notice that the programs cut from the budget are the ones that affect visibility and accessibility to Native populations? So much for that apology for Canada's historic (and current) treatment earlier this year, eh Mr. Harper?

*Galas, by the way, in which his wife attends. Galas which are thrown by big-wigs in order to raise money to supplement the grants. Galas, which do not compromise the majority of the time spent by artists. Galas, which I'm pretty sure none of the people directly affected by the cuts (which by the way involved pulling money out of already existing programs right from under their feet) are going to.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vote, Damn You!

So, it's that time of... not quite four years again, and we've been asked to paddle our butts down to a polling office and cast our votes.

The available choices are something that I've been known to whine about. But the actual act of voting has always figured fairly high upon my list of priorities. It's not like it takes a lot of effort or anything... and when it comes down to it, it does make a difference... (a small part of a big difference?).

Once upon a time, back when I was ages 12 through to 18, I was so raring to vote... blame Mike Harris, the premier of Ontario for the larger part of the '90s. All's I really remember was: I was a gallery brat. Therefore, I knew the pains of the art communities during those years. The no-funding deals. Or, you know, the basic slash funding, programs.

But there was more. I remember my mom pointing out posters (they really made no difference in our small Ultra-Con towns) that stated: "Minimum wage $6.75, Monthly welfare payments $695, Mike Harris' political advisors' hourly wage $495". Or, you know, something along those lines. I might have forgotten the specific numbers by now (I think I have, because I remember the hourly wage being higher than the monthly welfare rate). Point is, at that age, I was already indignant and angry about PC Politics.

Oh, yeah, and to add salt to that wound... there was also that minor incident of the new curriculum. And the glorious day that we went to listen to Nelson Mandela speak at the SkyDome (now known horrendously as the "Roger's Centre"), and Harris came out to speak first. And a SkyDome full of angry 11 and 12 year old children booing him.

Long story short: while most of my friends were more into their Nintendo systems, I was so ready to cast my vote. I actually spent the 14-16 years reading books about Suffragettes (probably one of the reasons that people called me that dirty ol' f-word, you know... feminist). In Highschool Civics class (the bullshit "understanding the political system" class that Harris' new curriculum added) I railed against the unjust laws that required me to be 18 before I could vote - 16 was more than mature enough! (Of course, my classmates thought I was an utter nerd, and the teacher kind of hated me).

The point of this long, rambling story is that voting is a responsibility I feel is very, very, very important. And even if you're voting for the dirty Con Party and their head corporate robot Harper (can you tell I'm biased in favour of the the lefties?) the point is, you're voting. And that is important.

The sad thing is that I feel like most people in my generation are still no more interested in being involved than they were in highschool. I know numerous young, university educated people who refuse to vote because: "Oh, it just doesn't matter." "What has the government ever done for me?" and "My guy never wins." And we wonder why there are so few young people trusted in government. A mixture of laziness, apathy and plain old ignorance allows so many people to "justify" why they just shouldn't vote. One friend told me that she creates change through other actions. But activism, however important, shouldn't be constantly necessary. Instead, why not just try to elect a responsible government that responds to its populous? Hell, what's a walk to the polling office compared to having to organise protests or incite the revolutionary mob?

I'm sick of people who go on and on about how the world is going to shit and then, if you ask them if they voted, they say "Oh, well, my vote doesn't count for much". No, it doesn't count for much if you don't use it. It'll count for a hell of a lot more if you were to just use your vote.

I think that one of the reasons that the advertisements for the respective parties (*cough* Conservatives) have gotten so completely trashy (ie. no political message, just slamming the other guy, like, you know, the "Gamble on Dion" series?) is because people are just shutting off to actual issues. We don't want to talk about, don't want to deal with it, and don't want to take responsibility of it.

And don't even get me started on how the American Election '08 is going.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Arts Funding and the Election

So, I'm well aware that art funding is not the headlining "issue" for this year's election; in fact, usually the only people who really care about arts funding are... you got it... artists.

I was sent this video via my email - it is the husband of a friend talking there.

I just wanted to post this because it raises a reasonably good point.

If you can't watch it, it's just saying that Harper's not a big fan of arts funding. (Are you surprised?)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Compromising Principles, Part II

This past summer, I got engaged.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised by this turn of events. Pleasantly, of course, as I love my partner, but still the decision to get married and the weight it carries left me with some complex issues.

For one, I hadn't seen myself as the marrying type. I, in fact, was looking forward to a life of living in sin. I'm actually kind of surprised about how linear and modernly traditional my life looks on paper (or blog). Let's see-->went to university right out of high school (albeit there are lots of cracks in that story), finished university, got engaged shortly thereafter. A little more heteronormative than I anticipated. But of course, our marriage is the personal story of me and my partner, and we both know our lives are more complicated than that.

I suppose my biggest issue is what marriage has historically meant and the roles that it casts out whether we notice them or not. This is problematic for someone trying to juggle her feminist principles with an institution that is not only visibly flailing, but also tied to repressive notions of property and moral norms. I mean, how much transformation can we really make within an age-old institution if the society we live in doesn't support our notions of our relationship?

I am thinking though, that my partner and I don't really care. Our marriage for him just solidifies our commitment to each other for as long as we can maintain it. It's not the commitment part about our marriage that bothers me. Just the way that marriages are constructed as an institution that worries me so.

What was troubling me as well was whether I felt like I could balance the pressure of family traditions, such as a big wedding fiasco, getting married in a church I don't believe in, etc, etc, with what would be an acceptable celebration for us. I don't want the fuss, I don't want people to not come to our wedding because they are broke, I don't want to be married by a priest, and I don't want to wear white.

I have to admit, though, if I can get my partner to cave into having a Beetlejuice wedding,that would be pretty damned awesome. Can you imagine, if I could get a hold of Lydia's dress?!

Ah yes, and the rings. I really didn't want to support this idea of my partner's success in capitalism and masculinity being reflected in the ring that I wore. Nor did I want to feel like a spoken-for piece of property. Or support the exploitation of diamond-miners.

Sigh. And I failed. My partner really wanted to get a ring. It was important to him, and I do like rings, so how could I deny it? I do love my ring that we chose together, because it's from him. And let's face it, it's a tasteful and pretty piece of jewelry. However, we felt just awful ring shopping. The whole enterprise was depressing with the expectation of expense, and the commodification of love through diamond rings. We finally found something that wasn't ridiculous (to us anyway) in expense and ostentation. As well, in my own way to subvert the engagement industries gender norms about what rings signify, I also bought a ring for my partner. I am not just engaged to him, but he is engaged to me. I realize that in a way I'm still supporting the capitalist end of the engagement market by buying him a ring as well, but our rings have become quite significant to us over these summer months and I won't deny their symbolic power to our individual union.

Though when I wear my ring I am conscious of the developmental implications that a diamond bears with it (even though in Canada, supposedly one cannot sell diamonds unless they are conflict-free--a term which is narrowly defined, and hard to guarantee). I think part of my compromises and negotiations with this whole thing has been an important exercise in awareness and consciousness. When I look at my ring, I will not forget the many things it symbolizes.

And I will not forget the possibilities of institutional transformation, even if it is just on a personal level.

When I had gotten engaged, since the boy and I are planning for a long-term engagement, I decided I didn't want to make a big deal out of it so I just changed my relationship status on Facebook. I had to work the next day, at a restaurant that is gay-friendly and active in Toronto's LGBTQ community. I figured, what did anyone care there that the straight girl is getting married?

Ah, the importance of legal battles such as the right to wed. When I walked in, everyone hugged me and jumped for joy and just made me realize that happiness is what is at the bottom here. It reminded me about the ability for society to change, to maneuver our own meanings and significances, even when we have to counterbalance them with old expectations and traditions.

I think though, that the funniest story that came out of this turn of events, is that both our sets of parents, when we announced our engagement, were firstly and openly relieved that we weren't pregnant...HA!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random, Albeit Cheesy Thoughts...


This month is the first time I've ever noticed my menstrual cycle to be in sync with the full moon.

So not only have I already pulled most of my female friends into my cycle (at some point anyway), I've now complete control over the earth's gravitational pull over the moon...


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Compromising Principles, Part I

Well, you can't fight every battle, right? You have to choose.

Recently, I decided to decrease my meat intake. Decrease is the operative word.

Because this witch looooves meat. I love it all. Except maybe for rabbit, but not because I loathe the idea of eating cute little bunnies. I mean, how do you decide that it's immoral to eat one animal but not all the others that make up your Big Mac based on fluffy cuteness? That seems to be skewed a bit. Maybe cows should consider a make-over then if they want to avoid your dinner plate.

My problem has become my growing awareness at not only the awfulness of the conditions in which animals are prepped for the grocer, but also in the gross over-consumption in which we eat them. There's no need for either the way we raise and slaughter animals--which is often cruel and unhealthy and environmentally detrimental, but also their number. And we discard them a lot of them.

But alas, I can only offer a decrease. It's really hard to give everything up in one go when you come from a culture of meat-infuse cuisine. So many Portuguese dilectables and temptations to resist. Meat is so much a part of the way I grew up, from making sausages in our house, to all the traditional food that made up our dinners. I think its best to go slow, and start with limiting my meat options to poultry and fish, but trying to go for the vegetarian options when I can. Though, I must admit, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go entirely vegetarian or even touch veganism. I will certainly try, though.

The thing is, that although I agree that current practices are cruel and unneccessary, I don't believe that meat is murder. Human beings are omnivores. Our systems were designed to eat meat. Just not the way we currently do.

Over-consumption is the problem.

I do have to concede, that after speaking to my single-working-mom sister feeding four kids, that it is a bit of a privilege to be able to choose this. She can't afford neither the time nor the money to seek out completely vegetarian options, should she even want to.

The moral of this story?

Capitalism ruins everything!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Get Yo' Condom On

So. HUGE turn-off: boys who whine about condoms. "Oh, it just don't feel right, baby." "Oh, I can't get off with a condom on." "Seriously, I'm clean, you're clean, 's'all good!"

I am surprisingly liberal about sex. But, seriously? You want to start whining about fucking putting a condom on? FUCK YOU. Even if you've never slept with me and do it to other girls and boys. FUCK YOU.

I don't know if you slept through the awkward videos about boys having strange new sensations in their pants, and girls having boobs pop out of their chests, but somewhere around that time, way back in highschool (or whenever you got sex-ed) you should have heard something about protecting yourself about STDs. (Although I think my class spent more time discussing why STD [Sexually Transmitted Diseases] was not politically correct, and therefore the term was supposed to be the sanitized STI [Sexually Transmitted Infection], even we got to the point where it was stated) the best way to protect yourself against STD/Is is to wear a condom. And as much as I think teachers gave lots of shitty advice in highschool, that's rock-solid. (Personally, I think they should have made us all watch the Canadian AIDs Musical Zero Patience rather than the awkward adolescent ones, but oh, well.)

So. I fully support casual sex. But seriously, people, let's make it a habit to use condoms. It seems that since celebrities stopped dropping dead of AIDs that people are no longer quite as concerned about STD/Is. Maybe it's a trend leaking up from the USA, where sex-ed appears to be mostly "sex is godless, be abstinent until marriage, then fuck like rabbits to make God's children", but it's a fucking stupid trend, and we all need to nip the fucker in the bud.

I'm really not the most educated about sex and STD/Is. But I'm smart enough to respect my body (as well as the body of my sexual partner) and use some fucking protection. And condoms come in so many different textures and sizes... (I actually prefer screwing with condoms because boy's penises don't have interesting textures).

This was going to be a lot longer, but I'm lazy. Typing is hard work, damn it. So, instead of me bothering to do a lot of research, stringing it all together candidly and writing something somewhat useful, I will provide links to other websites where people have done all the work for me.

- Sue Johanson is my inspiration for how I want to be when I'm an older woman. This is an index of her articles, (We need to put up a link to her website; Sue Johanson=God)

- Dan Savage is my gay celebrity crush. Because he's so good at snapping at people for their stupidity. We already have a link over on the side, but in case you can't find it:".

On a side note: I wonder if ignorance about sexuality related topics is linked to the fact we learned about sex-ed in gendered classes in highschool. I always wondered what the boys learned in their Phys-Ed Sex Ed Unit. I remember walking in their and there was a big note on the board about how important it was that young men try out many different relationships and date girls because it would teach them important social skills.
I don't remember being told, as a girl, that it was good to try out many different relationships. More that as far as sex was concerned, you should "wait till you're ready", make sure he's "right", whatever the fuck that means. (I hated that crap, even before I was sexually active, I think I always wanted to an empowered tramp) The biggest thing I remember from girls' Phys-Ed Sex Ed Unit was being told "If he wants to have sex with you while your clothing's on, he doesn't love you." And, similarly, same thing about quickies. (Fuck that... quickies can be awesome; clothing can be hot.) That and the distressing video of a woman's vagina as she gave birth. Eugh. I think that was the final nail in the coffin for any babies I could have had; right after the semi-mythological "womanly power of fertility" crap. (I do respect women who choose to be mothers, and I think babies and young children are cute. I just don't want one of my own, thanks.)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Art Shows

I wandered around 401 Richmond in Toronto today (for the first time in a while), looking through the shows at Open Studio, Redhead Gallery and the rest (on the main floor… I’m terrible for not going upstairs).

Two shows really stood out to me, however, Existing in Costume, by Chan-Hyo Bae at Gallery 44 and Dry Spell by Sau Wai Tai at WARC Gallery.

Existing in Costume – Chan-Hyo Bae Gallery 44
This show was a series of photographs of the (male) artist dressed up as unidentified English queens – although many of the portraits seem fairly recognisable and likely are easy to identify with very little effort.
The literature that goes with the show states that “One is readily reminded of Yasumasa Morimura, the Japanese artist who casts himself in Western art’s biggest roles, and also, perhaps, of the phenomenon of cosplay – the subculture of dressing up like fictional or historical characters … Bae seems to be performing a blatant paradox: that of the outsider gleefully destabilizing the hierarchies of a culture about which he has admittedly fantasized, but which has forbade him full entrance because of an unalterable ethnicity”. The colonial aspects of this show were interesting, and I’m sure could be used to fill many essays.
I was more interested in the gender-switches. I suppose I could write an essay that fuses together post-colonial theory with gender theory but… hey, I’m not going to.
What I enjoyed about these cross-dressing images was that they looked very honest. Like they lacked the sarcasm and over-the-top foof that generally comes with male cross-dressing. (Fuck, can’t believe I just said that… I don’t think that cross-dressing should even be a word… in my ideal world, everyone just wears whatever the fuck they want, regardless of gender norms). In fact, one of the things that I liked about these photographs was that even though proportionally Bae’s body looked a little… off… to be female, I could have believed him to be a European Renaissance queen, because regardless of the humour of the project, it also has a very stirring sincerity to it. It felt as though Bae was attempting (or, rather, succeeding?) to either understand or empathise with the English Queens he is portraying.

Dry Spell – Sau Wai Tai WARC Gallery
Now, Revista has already left an entry about this show about two days ago, so I’m not going to talk about it too much. I am still writing this because it was, in my opinion, one of the best shows I have seen in recent times.
It was well put together, and seemed all very appropriate. The artist’s concerns were amazingly (and unfortunately) appropriate, and I enjoyed the opportunity to add my own “thoughts or stories” to the wall. The privatization of fresh water is something that I find, personally, very disturbing – even a fairly revolting trend of capitalism as we continuously allow necessities of life to be bought and sold.
The show doesn’t really mention some things that have happened in recent years – like the way the World Bank forced a South American country to privatize its water system, selling it off to an American corporation. When the corporation wanted more money for the water than most could afford, they repeatedly forced laws into effect, making it illegal to even collect rainwater. Eventually this led to revolution…
That’s all that I’m planning to really add… Revista’s entry has the description included. What the description of the show doesn’t mention, is the way the scattered bottles reflect (to me at least) evoke a message about the waste involved in bottling water – not only through the waste and privatization of water resources, but the garbage created by cheap, plastic non-reusable bottles.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dry Spell

I recently attended the opening of Sau Wai Tai's show at the Women's Art Resource Centre. Such a show, which demonstrates a feminist ethic applied to interlinking environmental and social justice issues, takes art not for its aesthetic but its potential to demonstrate, to involve the masses by taking them past speculating on a visual culture made only for their living room walls. Sau Wai Tai's exhibition "Dry Spell" deals specifically with the water crisis and allows the viewer to make the connections between the commodification/desecration of water resources to the trafficking of women caught in development paradigms.

The press release below:

"Sau Wai Tai

May 24 - June 21, 2008

Dry Spell presents Toronto artist, Sau Wai Tai¹s mixed media investigation into climate change. While floods and hurricanes command the media¹s attention as effects of global warming, severe and intensifying droughts have been largely un-reported even as the percentage of land affected has substantially increased over the last decade. Privatization of water by bottling industries, and the prioritizing of industrial needs, aggregate the problem for communities with little political/economic power. Dry Spell highlights environmental injustices against the global South with special attention to the ordeal of women. Many have suffered and perished as they tried to bring home water and feed their families. In the gallery, the artist constructs a drying, cracking Å’paddy field¹ with gradually dying seedlings. Also in the gallery lie four locked 80 litre water boxes. At the Third World Water Forum, it was said that 80 litres of water per person, per day are necessary to maintain a reasonable standard of life. Text etched onto the boxes references uses such as pop and bottled water, toilets and urban etiquette, industry and agricultural processes etc. On the floor lie scattered bottles of water containing submerged pictures of women of colour consumed/to be consumed and discarded away. A dim image with native women from Mother Earth Water Walk walking around the Great Lakes to reclaim sacred water is projected onto a gallery wall.

Sau Wai is a cultural hybrid living and working in Toronto: She was made in Hong Kong, did her tertiary education in Australia and then worked with various non-government organizations after she returned from her studies, including relief and development works in Asian countries. Realizing the importance of how the environment plays upon the well being of people living in the margins, especially women, she came to Toronto to earn a Masters degree in environmental studies. It is thus natural for her work to cross borders and to interweave dialogue about the environment, gender, class and race to highlight connections in a perceived fragmented world. She also embraces a critical understanding of humanities role in manufacturing the environmental crises and interprets the word "environment" to include the implications of the interplay between political, social, cultural and
economical global elements."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Because I Love This Song So Much

And also because me and some of my girls were singing/screaming along to the music at four thirty in the morning...and I'd do it again!

Caught a light sneeze
caught a light breeze
caught a lightweight lightning seed
boys on my left side
boys on my right side
boys in the middle
and you're not here
I need a big loan
from the girl zone

tumbling down
didn't know our love was so small
couldn't stand it all all
Mr St John just bring your son

The spire is hot
and my cells can't feed
and you still got that Belle dragging your foots (yeah)
I'm hiding it well Sister Ernestine
but I still got that Belle
draggin my foots (yeah)

right on time
you get closer and closer
called my name but there's no way in
use tha fame
rent your wife and kids today
(yah) maybe she will
maybe she will caught a lite sneeze
dreamed a little dream
made my own pretty hate machine
boys on my left side
boys on my right side
boys in the middle and you're not here
boys in their dresses
and you're not here
I need a big loan from the girl zone

I love Tori.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Am A Diva: A Review

About three periods ago, I switched from tampons over to the Divacup. A friend had recommended it, as well, since I'm not the most environmentally conscious person, I thought this would be a positive thing to do. And so I went.

So far...

Well, the cup certainly takes some getting used to. Due to the Nuvaring, my periods are pretty short, and so its taking me a little longer to get used to using it on a two day period as opposed to my pre-hormonal six-day period. But I figure, I'd rather get used to using a cup than watching discarded tampons choke our lakes so...

It was pretty easy for me to pop it in, but getting it out initially involved a lot of squatting, the likes of which saw my bum hang dangerously close to my bathroom floor (note to self: clean the bathroom more frequently, sheesh). I've used it now for three periods, and the squatting is definitely becoming less extreme and my ease of use is definitely improving. You really do just have to get used to it.

However, since the days of my heavy, over-saturating periods still leaves me with a leakage paranoia (the horror, the horror), I do find myself on heavier days to be using the cup in conjunction with pantyliners. The thing with the cup is, if you don't position it just right, that thing will leak. For the most part, I haven't had too much of an issue, but a pantyliner has come in handy for me more than once so far. And nobody likes a leaker...

Overall, even with minor leaking, and an initial fee of $40, the Divacup is a conscientious move that will pay itself off in the end in more than one way. I find it definitely more sanitary than a tampon, or, ahem, a sanitary napkin, and already cheaper than buying disposable products. And forcing yourself to be so upfront about handling your blood, which you cannot avoid with the cup like you can with tampons, is actually pretty inspiring for liberating yourself from ingrained menstral taboos. My blood is certainly not what I thought it was.

Sometimes though, really, I wish we could go back to the days of The Red Tent and just chill and let it all flow out. It would be such a relief...

Between using the Nuvoring and the Divacup, I'm spending a lot more time getting to know my vag. Sweeeeet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Brief Lesson in Art History

Found via Feministing:

Women Artists Win

It's a discussion of how Linda Nochlin eventually dealt with her own essay-question "Where are all the great women artists" and the history that has come out/been marginalized/was there all along about women in art, both under the rigid academic sense (great masterpiece paintings) as well as in ways/techniques/practices in which women were made to be forgotten.

I never realized either, that Artimesia Gentleschi wasn't always part of the art history canon. I remember, waaaay back when, learning about her in my later high school art classes, and thinking, "Well, at least there's one woman in there". The thought "I bet there are more..." had always lingered in the back of my mind as well...

All criticisms aside of the tokenism aside, my high school art teacher, in teaching cannonical western art, always did try to spend a great deal of time on the few women artists in the books. I remember videos and lengthy presentations (including my own on Frida Khalo) as well as test questions focusing on Gentileschi, Vigee-Lebrun, Mary Cassat, Khalo, Berthe Merisot and so on...I guess she wanted to make sure that in this all-girl high school of ours, that we could see a little of ourselves in the curriculum.

(My drama teacher was really really good for this too.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008