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The assorted meanderings, rantings, and pontifications of... us!

Topics may include, but will not be limited to: feminism, hockey, atheism, shoes, politics, fat acceptance, fitness, skepticism, dancing, introversion/HSP issues, and anything else that happens to be on my mind.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Literary devices in real life: Irony

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, has said some pretty offensive things about Islam.

He was in Winnipeg this weekend having a big "evangelistic festival", and while thousands of Christians are expected to attend, some are coming not to worship, but to protest. They want him to retract the hateful things he's said about Islam and apologise.

The name of the group: Operation Bless our Enemies.

Literary devices in real life: Juxtaposition

1. Report finds systematic racism against aboriginals in Canada's prison system, including
- "routine overclassification" of aboriginal offenders, meaning they are disproportionately more likely to be sent to maximum security than others who have been convicted of similar offenses

- greater likelihood of having parole denied or revoked, for less cause than other prisoners

Not to mention that "Where disadvantaged socio-economic factors lead to overrepresentation of First Nations peoples in the criminal justice system, this is systemic discrimination," says Angus Toulouse, of the Ontario Regional Council of the Assembly of First Nations.

And, as Beverly Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, points out, "If this was the case for non-aboriginal people, I'm almost certain that Canadians would react and demand that something be done."

Stockwell Day says he'll take the report into consideration (we all know what that means) but he doesn't believe there is any evidence of systematic discrimination against aboriginal offenders in the prison system. (Besides the findings of the report? What a dumbass.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

2. New "Dangerous Offender" legislation is tabled. Any idea who this is going to disproportionately affect?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Five things Feminism has Done for Me - but...

Surprise, surprise, Mr. Harper's New Government is kicking the feet out from under the Status of Women Canada Agency, cutting the budget by $5million, despite a $13BILLION surplus, and "banned ALL domestic advocacy and lobbying of governments with any funding received from SWC". Progressive Bloggers has started a thing to support SWC by posting "Five things feminism has done for me", and even though I didn't get tagged, and I'm late to the party, I thought I'd say my piece.

So, besides the thing where legally I’m a person? I tried to limit it to five, but that was really hard, so then I just put it into five general categories.

Sexuality and Reproduction
I’m free to say yes to sex. (Note: I “borrowed” this phrase from the Happy Feminist, because it was so perfect.) Not only can I say yes, I can ask somebody else to say yes (or no) to me. I have the freedom to learn what gives me pleasure and the confidence to ask my partner for it or do it myself. And I’m legally entitled to say no to sex – to anybody, at any time.

I’ve made it to 29 without getting pregnant. If or when I decide to have a baby, it will be because my partner and I really want to and we believe we’re ready for it. And modern medicine has kicked pregnancy/childbirth out of the top spot on the list of killers of young women.

But…

There are still plenty of people around who buy into that damned if you do, damned if you don’t double standard that applies only to women, where if I say no, I’m a frigid bitch, and if I say yes, I’m a slut. And there are plenty of people out there who belive that in certain situations, a woman’s “no” isn’t valid because she’s asking for it, or that she “owes” the man sex. Not to mention the parts of the world where if it’s your spouse, it’s not legally rape, or where if a man rapes a woman and she doesn’t keep it a secret, she’s the one who gets punished (often by death) for being an adulteress.

And many, if not most, women in the world don’t have a choice about when or if they’re going to have babies. They may be denied their right to say no to intercourse. They may not be aware of their birth control options. They may not be able to access contraception (and if that fails, which it sometimes does, abortion) due to lack of availability, inability to travel to where it’s available, inability to pay for it, or even healthcare providers refusing to provide it to them. On top of that, if they get pregnant, they may not be able to get adequate pre-natal care, or even emergency help for complications that, left unattended, can be fatal.

Romantic Relationships
It’s my decision who I’ll be in a relationship with. Even if I were to get pregnant, nobody could make me marry, the father unless I wanted to. I can go into relationships expecting to be treated as an equal partner, and if I’m not, I can leave. If I do get married, it’s a legal contract between equals, not a transaction where ownership of me gets transferred from my father to my husband.

But…

Many, if not most, women aren’t this lucky. Many men still believe their wives/girlfriends are their property to do with as they like, and many women believe it too. I’m sure domestic violence is down from the bad old “rule of thumb” days*, but it still happens, to the point that resources for women trying to escape abusive husbands don’t come anywhere near the need. If a woman is murdered, there’s a good chance it was her husband, boyfriend, or ex-.

* - I’m aware that the law making it legal for a man to beat his wife was not actually called the rule of thumb at the time, nor did it reference the thumb in relation to the size of stick he could beat her with.

Education
Gender hasn’t limited me in my education. My teachers have always taken me seriously, even in traditionally male-dominated subjects like math and physics. I was able to attend university because my parents set up a RESP for me.

But…

There are still plenty of people out there - some influential - who believe that women just aren’t as smart as men, or not as good as men in certain subjects. There are people who don’t think it’s worthwhile to pay for their daughters’ higher education because women don’t need it. When families can’t afford to send all their children to school (from primary to post-secondary) it’s usually the sons who will go. And of course there’s Afghanistan, where the Taliban has burned down girls’ schools and threatened to kill anybody who tries to re-open them.

Career
I grew up believing I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. I get taken seriously at work. I don’t get sexually harassed. I get raises on the same schedule as my male co-workers. If I decide to have a baby, my partner and I can both take leave and not be penalized. If both my partner and I decide to go back to work after having the baby, we’ll probably be able to afford quality daycare.

But…

I don’t have any illusions this is the norm. I’m living in a fairly socially liberal country, working in a white-collar job, and represented by a pretty powerful union. Most of the women in the world don’t have these things going for them. That doesn’t mean they deserve any less.

Body and Beauty
I’m not required to be ornamental. The negative repercussions of being fat, wearing comfortable shoes, avoiding pantyhose, or neglecting to shave my pits or legs, haven't really been that bad for me. I readily admit that my body confidence, and my refusal to inconvenience myself for "beauty", isn’t so much the result of feminist enlightenment as just giving up on trying to meet a standard I simply don’t fit. And wanting to sleep a few more minutes.

But…

While I don’t look sloppy – I put as much effort into grooming as the average man, I think – there are a lot of jobs where a woman dressed like me would get sent home to change. In fact, back when I worked in retail, I once got sent home to change into “more fashionable” shoes.

I get comments on my “bravery” at being seen in a bathing suit – I don’t feel brave; I’m just going about my business, which happens to be swimming. Why should it be an act of bravery for a woman to be fat in public?

I’ve had conversations with several women somewhat older than me, who were surprised that I wasn’t wearing makeup (and rarely do), and assumed that I always did, just like them. And then wished they could get away with it. And if I tell them wtf do they mean, they’re gorgeous (and I mean it) and still would be without makeup, they get all squirmy and finally admit they’re really uncomfortable about anybody seeing them without their makeup and say things about being ugly without it.

I think I'd like to tag everybody at The Galloping Beaver - and not just the women. Because let's face it, feminism is good for men too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Afghanistan and Womens Rights - A truly Canadian Farce.

One of the most risible justifications for the war in Afghanistan is the argument that we are protecting the rights of women.

First though, one must make a comparison to our other noble venture in Iraq. It is under the false aegis of bringing freedom and democracy to the people that the rights of women in Iraq are being steadily eroded.

Analyzing the two countries shows that the presence of a foreign occupying power is generally a detriment to women’s rights and freedoms. In Iraq a once strongly secular nation, frustration at the US’s farcical attempts at democracy have left the people desperate and without hope. When viable political institutions are no longer available to the populace the people tend to turn to religion to get their social needs met. A corollary of this migration to religion is the deterioration of the rights and status of women as radical religion comes to power, which is the case in occupied Iraq. Everyday there are stories of women being harassed for not wearing what the fundamentalists believe to be the proper modest clothing. Professional women in Iraq are being harassed doing their jobs, or just walking without a male relative in attendance. Yet we hear no clarion call to restore Iraqi woman’s rights, no indignation about the injustice they are facing, so why the furor in Afghanistan but not Iraq?

The reason why there is no mention of women’s rights in Iraq is painfully simple. The answer is the withdrawal of the illegal occupation forces stationed in Iraq and the restoration of authentic Iraqi sovereignty. US imperial design leaves no room for such dalliances as women’s rights when they will not serve to further justify the imperial cause. The circumstances in Afghanistan though are slightly different as we can paint ourselves as noble protectors of women and their rights, as it fits in with the current military objectives.

The ‘noble cause’ of protecting woman’s rights in Afghanistan unsurprisingly coincides with the strong hegemonic current flowing from the US; therefore defending women’s rights is acceptable (for now). If the West is so concerned about Afghani women they why did they generously fund, equip and support the Taliban in the late 1970’s and early 80’s? The Taliban’s radical interpretation of Islam was not a mystery to anyone in the West…ever. If the US and the western nations knew about the Taliban’s take on women’s rights then why did they so fully support such a repressive authoritarian regime?

Fighting the evil of Communism would be the standard answer for US apologists. A more realistic view is that the US needed a force, any force, to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ethical and moral standards notwithstanding. For empire, no decision is too despicable, too cynical as long as the needs of the empire are served. Up with the gallant Taliban heroes to fight the Red Menace and stop the spread of Communism…insert propaganda here etc. Never mind that the Taliban tore Afghani civil society to shreds and transported women’s rights back to the dark ages, that is entirely acceptable to Empire. The primacy of hegemonic power does not respect human rights. The impassioned commentators and courtiers never mention this dark chapter in the struggle for Afghani women’s rights.

It is blatantly hypocritical to clam to be fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The claim rings as hollow as the promise to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Canadians must resist the propaganda spewing from the Harper government. What we are doing in Afghanistan in fundamentally wrong. Not only are we supporting the efforts of a unjust, immoral, imperialistic nation, we are throwing away what slight international credibility Canada has of being on the side of internationalism, diplomacy and most importantly, peace.

What is needed is a mediated peace agreement, not more violence and death meted out by our military. We must withdraw our troops from Afghanistan or at the very least cease all offensive operations immediately. We are spending the lives of our soldiers in a shortsighted, hopeless, lost cause that can only end badly for Canada as a nation.

Afghanistan has humbled far greater military powers than the meager Canadian contingent. Ask Britain and Russia about their success in Afghanistan… Why do we strive to be added the ignominious list of countries that have failed in Afghanistan?

We as Canadians are making a mockery of women’s rights by trying to use them as justification for occupying Afghanistan. We must dispense with this cynical casuistry and begin working on a mediated agreement that will work for the people of Afghanistan, rather than the needs of the imperial interests that currently dominate the debate on the legitimacy of the Canadian mission.

Friday, September 29, 2006

When all else fails, play the homo card

Everywhere I click on Ted Morton's Alberta PC leadership campaign website, it just gets worse.

Among other things, he wants to:
- have a "made-in-Alberta immigration policy" (any ideas what that could mean?)
- create an Alberta Provincial Police and Alberta Pension Plan
- Allow private health insurance
- Allow private clinics to deliver some services
- "Provide marketing choice for grain farmers" [so in good years they can skip the Canadian Wheat Board]

He's a Reform Party Senator-in-Waiting

According to a collection of articles and news releases from his campaign website:

He was Stockwell Day's policy advisor.

At a bear pit session atthe Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association’s fall convention in Calgary, September 15, he is reported to have "proposed some interesting ways to attract labour to Alberta by stopping transfer payments to provinces where there are no jobs."

None of this is really exciting enough to get anybody in the Alberta PC party but policy wonks hot and bothered, but fortunately he has an ace in the hole: the homo card. He's been harping on that one since at least April, when he introduced a private member's bill to "protect freedom of speech and religion via Bill 208 for those who support traditional marriage".

He argues that "Tolerance is a two-way street. Bill 208 will ensure that the traffic keeps moving in both directions."

So gay and lesbian Albertans, in other words, can exist in public, but the people who want to push them back into the closet have every right to try.

Now that he's in the spotlight for this leadership race, he and the Edmonton Faith Coalition for Natural Marriage are getting out in the media with such brilliant, original and valid arguments as:
it is essential that the government consider the rights of children, because they're the most vulnerable in our society
same-sex marriage is not a basic human right, but rather it's a social experiment ... there is no charter of rights in the world that recognizes homosexual marriages

Not to mention the eponymous fallacy in the name of the Coalition for Natural Marriage.

Or the verging-on-theocracy statements the Edmonton Faith Coalition for Natural Marriage were making before they were part of a leadership campaign:
The scriptures of all participating faiths "indicate that marriage is a sacred thing between a man and a woman and we feel it ought to be kept that way," said coalition member Garry Rohr, representative of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Alberta District.
Marriage is (between) one man and one woman open to procreation and that's the way the human race started.

So I have an idea what's going to be wrong with Alberta shortly... Vote for keeping the homos out of public life, Get (...)

And on top of that, the colour scheme of his website's splash screen is the same as that villain from Sin City.

Waah, no Sunshine Girl

And the poor widdle mens is cwying. More than 1400 distraught readers called or emailed to complain. The Sunshine Girl was back the next day.

Never mind that the Sunshine Boy disappeared over a year ago, was way in the back (instead of opposite the opinion columns), was in black and white, and was maybe a quarter the size of the Sunshine Girl.

Reasons cited for the disappearance of the Sunshine Boy include lack of reader interest plus, according to longtime Sunshine Boy photographer Veronica Henri, "It was hard to get good-looking guys." She goes on to explain that
It wasn't considered "prestigious" to be a SSB, and most of the prospects preferred to wear suits. Women [...] are socialized to show off their bodies. "Men aren't brought up like that."

And people say we don't need feminism any more because women are already equal.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The First and Second 9/11

We in the West are familiar with the second 9/11. It was a tragedy that took place in the continental United States. It is an acceptable day to remember. However, there was another 9/11 with even more grievous consequences that also “forever changed the world”.

In 1973 in Chile, Salvador Allende ended his life in the presidential palace. It was being overrun by the military in coupe led by Augusto Pinochet. As Allende fell, so did the social democratic government that had led Chile. Replacing democracy was the murderous authoritarian regime with Pinochet at its head.

Pinochet murdered some 3000 people and throughout the course of his autocratic rule his secret police tortured another 30 000. The people of Chile were being ground down with the approval and blessing of the United States and their allies. Their crime, of course, was democratically electing a government unfriendly to foreign capitol, so the government had to go. Cuba, Nicaragua and most recently Palestine are other examples of the treatment provided to ‘wayward democracies’.

The first 9/11 is not mentioned in the press, yet the second is almost endlessly eulogized and revered and kept prominently in the news. Why is there a difference? Does the bloody end of the hemispheres longest standing democracy not merit recognition in our eyes?

On the tenth of July in 1955, in the New York Times, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein issued an appeal to the people of the world asking them “to set aside” the strong feelings they have had about many issues and consider themselves “only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.” The choice facing the world is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” Noam Chomsky wrote this in chapter one of his book Failed States. It is now, more than ever, the question of our times.

Comparing the two 9/11’s is very informative as to what our values are and who qualifies to be a worthy victim. Do the victims of Pinochet's slaughter not deserve the respect and remembrance that we lavish on the second 9/11’s dead? When (IF) the day comes when we can mourn others tragedies, and take responsibility for the ones we have caused, then perhaps we can begin edging towards the second proposition of Einstein and Russell, rather than ignorantly pursuing the first.