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Change the Pronoun – Change the Outcome

A child was raped and assaulted over and over. He was terrified to tell anyone, and so remained silent his entire childhood, growing into a young man wounded so deeply that he would bear the scars the rest of his life.

As an adult he could no longer stand the guilt of thinking that other children would suffer the same horror.  He spoke up. It was emotional, he felt ashamed for something he did not provoke, and at the end of it all, because he was believed, he began the real work of healing.

Does anyone remember the Penn State sexual abuse scandal? If not, refresh your memory.  Young men came forward reporting  sexual abuse, resulting in the prosecution of the perpetrator.

You’d have to have had your head buried in the sand if you haven’t heard of the reports of child abuse (overwhelmingly of boys)  reported in the Catholic Church and the  incredibly powerful conspiracy to cover that up. Overwhelmingly these young men came forward because they trusted that they would be believed.

Now read my first paragraph again with a different pronoun;

A child was raped and assaulted over and over. She was terrified to tell anyone, and so remained silent her entire childhood, growing into a young woman wounded so deeply that she would bear the scars the rest of her life. 

I was one of those girls. When I wanted to come forward (years later after much counselling and thought), to help other children who were exposed to this man’s reign of terror, I was told (by professional lawyers and psychologists) that despite my record of years of counselling ,  that it would be my word against his. Without any real physical proof (all those years later), he would not be prosecuted. Not only would he walk away without any repercussion for being a rapist and abuser, getting away with it would only reinforce his perversion.

I was told that should I break my silence in order to help the other kids at risk,  he would become bolder and continue to abuse and rape. This is the kind of support women of my generation had; none.  Not likely what those Penn State men were told.

men speak

The ‘Me Too’ movement has exposed the dirty underbelly of western misogyny. It has highlighted the history of fear-mongering and abuse of power. The frustrating and sad reality of it all is that because these victims are women, they are being poo-pooed, and condescended to by the very systems and people in power who have orchestrated silence of the vulnerable for centuries.

The common opposition about coming forward after years and years, and false accusations are non-arguments. Coming forward years later often happens after much difficult and heart-wrenching work, and with the hope of stopping the horror.

As for false accusations, I take that seriously. After all, I’m the mother of a son. It would break my heart to see his name dragged through the mud if he did not hurt someone.

Most women that you know have been sexually abused and raped. It’s a fact of life that we all know, yet our global culture shrugs it off. As North American women we set a standard for the rest of the women in the world.

In my own sphere, men often shrug it off by saying, I don’t know. It never happened to me. Well, lads, imagine being sexually assaulted and raped and then emotionally abused into being humiliated and shamed by the man or woman who did it. Would you think that they were capable of doing it again to someone else?

Remember that women (and men) report not out of vindictiveness, they report because they want to stop the cycle of abuse.

The problem is that society rallies behind sexually abused men and boys, while, by silence, apathy and blatant denial of the female voice, condoning the continued abuse of women and girls.

maya angelou quotes.jpg

Finally our voices are uniting, and are becoming stronger and louder than the din of the historical patriarchy.

 

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When We Lose Our Neighbours

greed economyI’ve lived here four and a half months, and said hello to exactly three neighbours. It’s amounted to a total time commitment of under 10 whole minutes. 600 seconds.

Earlier this week a news story broke about a house fire and the resulting fatalities. A single mother and two children living in a multi-family house died.  The house is  suspected to have been scraping under the radar of housing regulations, as most affordable housing does.

A neighbour was interviewed saying that he lived ‘nine-steps-away’, but had never met the family. Just nine steps.

And therein lies the problem. We no longer have a sense of community. We are no longer neighbourly. We no longer have the energy or resources to care for others.  We no longer have the inclination to take the time to build relationships with other people. Our world is losing its humanity in the great race to keep the economic machine rolling.

eat cake

Recently the raise in Ontario’s minimum wage has people divided over the benefits and drawbacks. Primarily the arguments are about the ability of businesses to ‘catch up’ and make profits. What is lacking in the conversation is what has been happening to the most vulnerable people in our communities for a very long time; decreased access to safe housing, health care, and the resulting social maladies. What is also lacking is a discussion regarding the  ridiculous wealth acquired by those who say they cannot afford to pay a fair, living wage.

The short-sighted argue that by raising minimum wage, the vulnerable will become jobless, and their situation worse. And they’re right. Unchecked greed will make all of it worse. Protesting for and protecting the vulnerable can only create a stronger community. It’s what neighbours do. It creates community. It prevents bad things from getting worse.

The word neighbour seems to be going the way of the word chesterfield. Perhaps we’re unwittingly becoming more like our neighbours to the south than we’d like to think.

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Knowledge is Power – Why Our Children Need to Learn about Their Bodies

kidsKnowledge is power.  When someone tries to deny another knowledge, they are denying them power: Power to make informed decisions, power to question, power to think independently, and power to live a full life.

If you’re not promoting knowledge, you’re promoting ignorance, and boy oh boy, isn’t that easy to take advantage of?

This morning I was reading a thread in a social media post where someone I presume to be a Christian conservative went on a rant about the evils of teaching sexual education to our children.

We live in a world where childhood sexual abuse is a reality. I know what it’s like, and it haunts you for years. Had we had the language and body awareness to speak about it, perhaps it would have stopped. Not only that, perhaps it would have stopped for the next generation as well.

If you are uncomfortable hearing a child talk about their body, perhaps it’s you who has the problem.

We live in a world where (primarily, but not exclusively) girls are raped on a regular basis.

You’re concerned about the words ‘anal intercourse’ being used in public schools? Well, I hate to put a kink in the rays of sunlight your almighty is shining down on you, but these girls are raped up the bum and taught that anal sex is not sex. You know why? It keeps their ‘virginity’ in tact so they can remain virtuous for their husbands. Yah.  Not to mention the health concerns that result from unprotected and non-consensual sex.

And Child-brides, it’s a real thing.

child brideLearning about our bodies gives children the opportunity to protect themselves, and the language to do that.

So don’t start trying to tell the world how damaging learning about the human body and sexuality is. We are humans who thirst, hunger, lust and need rest. Understanding these parts of our humanity only serve to make us better. Like a healthy diet and knowing how to balance our cravings at the dinner table, learning about sexuality helps us learn how to rejoice in our bodies instead of being ashamed.

If you’re reading this and shaking your head, thinking I’m a bra burning feminist who serves the devil, rest assured, I love my bras. They protect my voluptuous and glorious breasts. And seriously, how can you know the divine if you’ve never experienced darkness?

If you get angry hearing that our children are learning how to protect a part of life that can be beautiful and is often violently taken from them, just sit with this question for a while; what are you so afraid of?

 

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Us vs. Them: A Dangerous Game During Dangerous Times

single-issues-struggleIt was super important to me to  able to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, here in my own country.

I have been sick like a dog for over a week, but felt the need to show up and be present.

As we gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto, I initially felt a little disappointed with the crowd, but estimates are that approximately 60,000 people attended. How they come up with these numbers, I will never know.

Standing on the muddy ground of our provincial legislature, I was humbled. How could I express my gratitude to be able to gather like this on public lands to advocate for human rights, when so many times in (relatively) recent history, people have been tortured, killed and imprisoned for doing the same thing?

I was also a bit cynical . I’d never seen so many pairs of pricey Blundstones and Doc Martin’s in one place in my life, and from where I stood, the crowd looked pretty darn, middle-class-privileged-and-very-white. Let’s face it, the folks working for minimum wage were working their minimum wage jobs while I was out there in my down-filled coat and Canadian made hat, looking forward to a warm pub and a hearty beer after all was said and done.

But that’s the point really. If people with some affluence and power do not advocate, the marginalized may never have a voice big enough to be heard.

singleissueslives

 

This all lingers under the shadow of the recent inauguration of a man who espouses so many vile qualities and completely lacks empathy. As a bit of an economic conservative and extremely social liberal, I fear the future. Even though I favour the left, this election wasn’t about Conservative vs. Liberal or Republican vs. Democrat. It was about how deeply disturbing it is that a man who is so cruel could be looked to as a leader by so many.

Kindness, above all else, matters. I’m not talking about  naivete or handouts.What I’m talking about is ensuring the basic needs of everyone are met; meaningful work that affords food on the table and a safe place to live. I know what it’s like to worry about both, and that kind of worry isn’t healthy.

What I’m trying to get at is that yesterday during the Womens’ March, I was very aware of how quickly my rights can be taken away. How easily it becomes an us against them game; I’m more of a victim than you because of my gender, my skin colour, my profession….in other words, how easy it is to fracture our basic bond as human beings, and how easily our political world can turn to horror.

We need to let the different freedoms we’re fighting for bring us together rather than divide us.

It was empowering to see so many of us care enough to get out of our comfort zones to gather together this weekend. I just hope that we can keep the momentum going instead of letting our privileged, North American apathy carry us back to relive a very dark time in our recent history. More than ever we need action. More than ever we need to be present.

 

 

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A Little Bit of Medicine Makes the Madness Go Down

gin-and-tonic
“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Limes, tonic water and club soda are at the top of my grocery list. Guess what’s getting me through the horror-show that is American politics? You got it ladies – booze. Booze, helpless laughter and apathetic photos of cute, baby animals.

Spending a day trapped under the weight of a huge writer’s block, I turned to Twitter and Instagram, only to be bombarded by angry politics.

I get it. I do. I’m a fighter for anything I believe in, and I do believe it’s time to fight. But a gal needs a to retreat into comfort to gather her wits.

Given the internal, spiritual distress it’s causing, I’m hoping a few of my favourite things will fortify my faith in human beings again; a satisfying nosh at a TO restaurant paired with aglianico  and political conversation, the passionate and detailed attention of an attentive lover, a controversial novel and even a loud girl talk in public.

What makes it all sweeter is that this madness that is the USA, is a serious threat to all of the above mentioned freedoms, especially for women.

Do whatever gets you through ladies. Stock up on your favourite cocktail elixirs, take comfort in the arms of an accomplished lover, gather and plan in circles of strong women.

Whatever you do, remember how much courage it took for women to pave the way for us, and never, never give up.

Cheers!

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What the Women’s March on Washington Means to a White Chick

goddess
” A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~Abraham Lincoln~

I’m as white as they come. I’m a woman. I will never be and have never been anything other than I am. I will never know what it’s like to be Black, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, financially affluent or well-connected, and the folks who identify as all of those things and many more will never know what it’s like to identify as me.

Farah Stockman’s article on the front page of the New York Times brings up a lot of really great questions about race, class, privilege and other social issues. I suggest you read it.

The Women’s March on Washington is an opportunity to come together as a community to protest the ass-hat who was elected (and yes, by a number of ‘white women’) as the next President of the United States. I believe that everyone who voted for Ms. Clinton should be in the streets to protest the twisted fuck up that is known as the Electoral College. I believe in the power of numbers and the power of kindness.

To the groups who have made the March a divisive issue, thank you for falling into the eons old trap of dividing women to diminish our power. It happens in families, in the workplace, and now, under the spotlight of a grand social scale.

For once in our history of gender, let us come together without any other motive than to access the full potential of our political clout; the marginalized power of the sacred feminine.

What spiritual, political and ethical living come down to for me is; how would you treat me if I needed your help on the street?  I like to think that we would all, when we’re eye to eye, regardless of race, creed, class, gender or anything else, reach out and help. If you don’t feel the same way because I am white ( thanks for assuming), perhaps your place is not at an inclusive March?

You’re preaching to the converted. We’re there because we support equality, and we’re not afraid to learn more.

Bring your signs. Show the world what you stand for; is it gender equality, racial equality, equal pay…??? Bring it and come in droves. But don’t hate the next person for being different, appreciate them because they are there, standing side by side with you, supporting you even though they carry a different message. What matters is the message of unity against evil.

I will stand happily with my white friends, my black friends, my Muslim and Buddhist friends; male, female, trans and anyone else who simply wants to make the world a more loving place to live. I don’t care how you identify, as long as it’s from a place of inclusiveness and love.

This is what the Women’s March means to me.

 

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The Niqab Debate; A Feminist Canadian Perspective

maninchapsI’ve debated whether or not to write this post.

Let me be clear, the Niqab is a political, social and emotional hot button, and our Canadian Conservative spin-doctors hit the nail on the head when they reeled in this red herring.

This is and is not a political issue. It is because it addresses the clusterf^@k that happens when church and state mix. It is not because we should be focused on the complete erosion of democracy that has been achieved by the Conservative government.

I am by no means a social conservative. I am, however, amongst other fabulous and wonderful things, a feminist.

As a woman, the idea that any faith or culture requires a woman to hide her body reinforces the grand debate about the inequality between women and men.

It’s all bullshit folks. Women, men, and everyone who lives in the spectrum between these binary ideas of gender, deserve to be treated equally according to their achievements, gifts and status as a human being.

This morning, sipping my coffee, I read a social media post, (read it folks- it makes a great point, the twitter handle is @manwhohasitall ), which emphasized how screwed up our culture is when it comes to assigning value to typical gender roles.

The title of the article was; If we gave fathers the same nonsensical advice we give working mothers. Here are a few of the more ridiculous quotes;

TODAY’S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?

RISE & SHINE FRAZZLED DADS! Wife & kids asleep? Now is the time to declutter cupboard under the sink & snack on your open pores. ‘Me time’.

Working husband & father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Drink more water, get up earlier & dress in your ‘wow’ colours.

Now that we have established the double-standard that still exists for working women, let me dive right in to Canadian politics and culture.

People flee to this country because it has a reputation for being nice, for offering equal opportunity, and not allowing our citizens to slit one another’s throats in the street because of basic human rights such as gender, religion, or ability differences.

You know why that exists folks? Because we separate religion from politics.

Given that the history of the niqab as religious versus cultural choice is debatable, let me hit you with a feminist, Canadian, patriotic perspective; women are sick and damn-tired of being told what to do. As Canadians, we’re sick and damn-tired of people from other countries coming here and telling us that they want the same religious-cultural government that they fled from.

If your argument is that not being allowed to wear the niqab is a religious right, perhaps you can cover your face and symbolically demean women in another country. I would never dream of travelling to Saudia Arabia, wearing a bikini and whining about being persecuted for wearing it. It just doesn’t happen.

I wouldn’t mind if all heterosexual men were mandated to wear ass-showing chaps so I could size up my next pony-ride, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen. Because it’s sexist and demeaning.

I agree with Naheed Nenshi’s latest article in the Globe and Mail which talks about Canada being a country of hope. I do not agree with starting down a slippery slope of mixing church and state via the not-so-subtle misogynistic tradition of devaluing the feminine in the name of religion, a la Niqab.

Don’t give me the ridiculous argument about Hallowe’en or Newfie Mummers. It’s not the same and you know it. You know why?  Because females and males participate equally in both. Because no one shows up at airport security, in a courtroom, or in any other situation with their face hidden. It’s a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to fight to vote, be legally considered a person, been paid less than a man for the same job, the list goes on and on.

Yes, mandating an uncovered face would be telling women what to do, and men too. It’s also telling citizens that we are all accountable for our actions, that hiding behind religion or cultural traditions which symbolically treat women as the property of men will not be tolerated.

Like it or not, allowing the niqab to be worn in public flies in the face of women’s rights in North America. We have worked damn hard to achieve the reduced level of inequality that we have now.

Misogyny cannot hide behind a veil. Instead, that veil screams to North American women that it is alive and well.