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#whatchagonnadoaboutit

Cirle of women

Cottage country. Here we are surrounded by vast expanses of nature, spotted like a leper with cottages, out-buildings, and ice-cream shops. The noise of a chainsaw cuts across the lake drowning out the sound of the chirping toads, trilling birds, and quiet lake water kissing the shoreline.

What better place to come and reflect on life in general? What better environment to rest, reflect and focus on the issues that are most important to me at this stage in my life; where to live and what to do? Never before have I had so much freedom to choose.  Too much choice can be overwhelming.

The land, water and air here have been stamped with our nonsense. Even now, as I type out my thoughts on a laptop from the dock, I feed into the madness. My coffee cup rests on the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail, the traditional ‘top of the fold’ importance given to a full colour photo of Tina Fontaine, “Not in vain” reads the white font against a black backdrop. Under my coffee cup, covering my coveted weekly read of the book section.

Not in vain. Genocide. As a CBC listener, I cringed at our Prime Minister solemnly declaring the atrocities that have been going on for hundreds of years.  Patronizing, distant,distain does nothing to effect change.

I do not identify as an indigenous woman, or a woman of colour, or a woman who comes from a culture where women are not considered to be persons in their own right. I’m afraid to say that I do share a border with one. I identify as a woman; sexually abused, raped, working in a culture which boasts of being a leader when it comes to gender equality, but is still entrenched in a society where misogyny has deep, strong, still thriving roots.

My mind flips like a picture book back to when I attended my first protest. I made a banner (not just a sign), and along with two school friends, we marched, chanted and made known our intolerance for violence against women. The overwhelming emotions were rage, injustice, and anger.

As I sit here, I realize how privileged I have become. I’m a long way from the village (yes, it was technically a village) I grew up in and the single-mother struggle that dominated my adult years. But here I am with all of that rich knowledge of experience, looking down at the headline of another young girl who has been murdered. And what the hell are we really doing about it other than assigning a hashtag?

Meaningful work is where my mind goes when I think about what’s next. I have always done work that has made a difference; reporting news, helping the bereaved, comforting the dying.

As a woman, I take it upon myself to help other women. My joy now comes from giving a hand to younger professionals, sharing my experience and building their confidence. I know that whatever comes next will involve sharing my opportunities, sharing my joy, and showing up for  more marches where my pain, rage and anger have naturally taken a backseat to building a community of resilient, strong, women.

 

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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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Ringtones, Podcasts & Cupcakes

Today my phone chimed in with the famous ringtone I used to assign to men worthy of the term, ‘lover‘,  Let’s Get it On. Yes, I’ve a twisted sense of humour and I’m a phone screener extraordinaire. This ringtone used to either inspire my laughter or disgust, and based on my reaction, I knew whether I wanted to pick up or not.

 

What are old lovers if not opportunistic? Having known my preferences for well over a decade, he was fulfilling his annual happy-new-year-can-I-get-up-your-skirt-check-in-requirement, that quite frankly, had served him  well throughout the years.

Despite my hands-off status, it was interesting to hear from him. You see, besides his jack-of-all-boudoir-trades skills, he was quite a companion of intellect as well.

Which got me to thinking about thinking.

plato-s-symposium-anselm-feuerbach-1873Intellect and thoughtful conversation have always been a huge turn on for me. In our fast-paced lives of distracted-attention-deficit-afflicted-engagement with our loved ones and contemporaries, who has time to think? Like, really take time to put an idea on its’ axis and examine it from all sides? More importantly, who even realizes that we don’t do that? Most importantly, who takes time to set aside a few hours to have meandering discussions about ideas or the creative process, or how we found ourselves at the bottom of the political wheel again? Very few people even have the time, attention or inclination to actually read books (yes, plural) with fully expounded upon ideas, let alone form any original thoughts all on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scolding anyone, I’m as guilty as the next cog.

Tonight, the noise from the television was right up with there with the noise from a leaf blower (a contraption I believe proves our culture has lost it’s collective fucking mind). With dramatic music playing in the background, and a black and neon blue-lit set to match, celebrity couples were  being pimped on one of those disgustingly pretentious cooking shows.  Le sigh….

Has the world seriously come down to this? Really? We’re judging other people’s fondant and cupcakes with more earnest than our national leaders? Buh. Arf. Do something worthwhile for crying out loud! Sit at the table and eat wieners and beans, but for the love of all that’s holy, try to have an intelligent, engaged conversation.

The poop on the television was in direct contrast to the entertainment I chose on a short road-trip this afternoon. A phone call from a previous lover inspired me to take  time to indulge in some exercise for my intellect. It was refreshing to step away from the madness and listen to someone who has taken the time to do some thinking for us.

 

In a world filled with entertainment that at best can be a terrific study in dramatic background music (queue the chocolate cupcakes ), podcasts can offer us  something more substantial.

Trust me, I understand the value of small talk to safely test the waters of new acquaintances. For every discussion about philosophy, spirituality, art, or global justice, there is also a place for sports and fashion, but now, more than ever, we need to nurture our collective spirituality in order to hang on to not-so-long-ago-hard-won-social-justice.

Set the table and I’ll bring the cupcakes.

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Winnipeg: What Wonders Await?

blog1

So here I am in Winnipeg.

Discovering that the curtains don’t close over the white blinds isn’t exactly a night owl’s dream.

Being woken up at precisely 6:00am by my morning lark sweetie (and not for sex)- also not delightful. And I’m all about delightful. It’s a damn good thing he’s cute and conscious of my AM limitations.

After rolling over and trying to get back to sleep I decided to get up and start the day. I opened the blinds and welcomed the sunlight, begrudgingly at that hour, but welcomed nonetheless.  I pulled up the crisply dressed all in fluffy white bed, and welcomed some quiet, ‘me time’.

The day takes me a while to ease in to you see, and I’m still adjusting to someone who is a morning person. Sweet love of Jesus, help us both.First of all, I can’t see a damn thing any more without my specs, but I can usually get to the washroom ok. Excess noise (as in anyone speaking words other than, “Would you like a coffee honey” makes my blood pressure raise in a flight or fight response, and I become at risk for a stroke, or homicide.

Despite not having my glasses on, I did spot a giant, black bug in the crack between the tub and the tiles. Suddenly I needed my glasses. Very nice. Sweetie of course was no where to be found. He was either in the gym, pool, or walking around doing some such nonsense that normal people wait to do until noon.

I was stuck with the bug.

I decided it likely wasn’t going anywhere to quickly. Big bugs aren’t like the little wirey bastards that skitter around like crack addicts. Given my AM logic, I proceeded to the in-room coffee station to make what I hoped would be passable joe.

I opted for a flip flop over a running shoe, simply because the sole is flat and I figured there’d be no losing the damn thing in the arc of the toe, or the deep grooves in the tread. Flip-flop samurai. Mission accomplished.

The coffee was a let-down, but I knew what to expect. The local Starbucks sign just down the street was taunting me, but I’m a strong woman, and I can wait until we hit the road later on today.

With my weak coffee and morning fog still lifting, I decided I would find a nice, easy jazz station to listen to while I started my first day of vacation with some writing. Right. I managed to tune in to a full-blast version of ‘Dirty Deeds’, and a twenty year old Trisha Yearwood song that reminds me of my days on the California coast. Seriously, Winnipeg? Really? This is what you’re listening to…le sigh.

I sent a quick text to my kiddo (the reason I’m here), and we laughed about the bug and my morning struggles, and in the end, were thankful to be here, together.

After my early morning of watery coffee, 70’s country and rock, and beatles in the bathtub, I don’t think this fair city can disappoint. It can only charm me….after 10:00 am of course.

In the mean-time, there is sunshine and vespers on Jazz 107.

 

 

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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.

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Lundi Monday



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Why Sex-Ed Belongs in Our Schools

knowledge-is-power-quote-22It’s true.

Religion has always been at best, a path on the road to spiritual awakening which encourages empathy, ethical living, and love. At it’s worst, it’s a bastardized tool wielded by the hands of power-hungry lunatics.

Spirituality belongs in school because we are all spiritual beings in human bodies. Religion belongs at home because of the long history of being used to gain power and dominate other human beings. It continues to be a  mess of misunderstood translation, twisted  cultural laws, and most importantly, something that you have the freedom to teach your children or not. At home.

Last night on the news two protestors on the sex-doesn’t-belong in school-side spoke to a reporter about their religious rights, and that it’s a parent’s job to teach kids about sex at home. First of all, if you wish to live by religious law, move. That’s right, go to a country that honours religious law unlike Canada’s secular law. It is because Canada enforces secular law that everyone is, on the surface, offered equal rights.

No? You don’t want to move to a country filled with fanatics willing to slit your throat in the street?  You don’t want to be a woman covered and bound as property to her father or husband? Then sit down and have a good think darling.

You see, sex education from a woman’s point of view is healthy. I must agree that  despite teaching about biology and the mechanics of it all, institutional education  lacks the more subtle, but just as important aspects of emotional intelligence, sexual ethics, and personal morals and values. Those things are indeed a parent’s job to discuss.

What I find very sad for both men and women is that culture within religion often perpetuates myths that can cause physical harm and psychological trauma. Most people who adhere to fundamentalist translation of holy scripture in any religious tradition value a woman’s virginity. What they don’t preach well to those young girls are the risks, health concerns and precautions to take when their protective male counterparts convince them that blow jobs and anal sex aren’t really sex. What they don’t preach well to boys  are the same things. They don’t have the knowledge to seek help when they are raped, molested or infected.

Consent? What is that when one gender is the property of another? And ‘God’ forbid there may be more than two genders. Gasp!

Regardless of gender and religion, every person in this country is entitled to knowledge and resources when it comes to a whole picture of health. That includes sexual health. Chances are you’ll have more experience with sexuality than with  calculus during your years of mature adulthood.

Chances are the irate, red-faced fathers on the news would go into convulsions explaining the transgressions of the flesh that their children face. The same goes for their mothers. Memory is a slippery trickster, remember, it was less than a hundred years ago that women were considered persons and successfully fought for the right to vote right here in the true north strong and free.

God does not belong in school. Spirituality does. Education does. If you are God-fearing, religious, or otherwise follow a moral code, it is your duty to help your children experience the beauty of spiritual living, including the real meaning of sexual desire, intimacy and relationships.

If you really care, may I suggest adjusting your priorities instead of talking smack. Instead of bowing down to the almighty dollar, be home to share a meal around the table. Spend time with your kids and get to know their friends. Teach your sons and daughters about personal respect, compassion and leadership.

Knowledge is power, especially for young women who still live in a world where rape and the onus for birth control weighs solely on their shoulders. Now, could that be the reason that men of certain religious and cultural traditions poo-poo public education, because it gives women power? Why yes, I think we have the winning answer right there darlings.

Knowing the risks and reality of sex does not take away from religious life. It never has and it never will. It only takes away power from power-hungry leaders and the weak.