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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Go Get It

Just a reminder to everyone out there who has a partner, friend or employer who diminishes your desires.

Speaking from experience, I refuse to wait on someone who treats my needs like a hassle. Go out and get what you want; the intimacy, the coffee, the job…

timeforwhattheywant

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.

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

I thought that this was important enough to share. Sometimes a picture IS worth a thousand words. In this case, it speaks more loudly than words ever could. The article can be read at Post Internazionale.

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Noses, Vaginas and Other Things That go Bump in the Lab

Yes, you read that correctly.

petri_dish

“It’s no use reminding yourself daily that you are mortal: it will be brought home to you soon enough” ~Albert Camus~

Today, the Globe and Mail was clearly needing to fill some inches in the Life and Arts section. Just as clearly, they didn’t have much to choose from.

Having worked in the news business and as a health care advocate, I have to say that the Globe and Mail stooped to a bold, new, blatantly obvious journalistic low today.

The article used to fill the gaping 8 inch hole on page L6 was headlined, “Vaginas and nose parts grown in lab”.

No, I’m not kidding.

This is not only a bad headline, but a really bad article.  Bad as in, it insulted the integrity of, “The super seed square-off”, article which dominated the page.

Seriously? Our newspapers are giving more room to seeds than what we’re spending billions of dollars on in an effort to out-smart mother nature and father time?

According to the Canadian Press style guide (at least when I was writing for a newspaper), journalists should strive to write for readers at a grade five level. Except the Globe and Mail. They had much higher standards.

Those standards have obviously changed.

To insist on writing that any type of tissue or organ transplantation, ‘carries a risk of complications’ seems a bit patronizing at best. Hell, if it didn’t carry a risk of complications, we’d all be walking around with new parts, and none of us would ever die.

Why not write about the ethical issues surrounding organ and tissue donation? Why not report the news?

I have known people who have been the recipients of organ and tissue donation. I have known people who have clung to hope while their dying bodies are riddled with cancer and the side-effects of the drugs that are supposed to miraculously stop them from their inevitable death.

I have never known anyone stupid enough to have to be told that organ transplants are  risky.

We should demand that our national newspapers at least make the news entertaining, or just give up the charade of trying to pretend that they report any news at all.

Dear modern pseudo-journalists,

Please tell me about vaginas, and other organs being grown in a lab together. Tell me why they didn’t match the headline up with body parts that seem somewhat better paired. Let’s say vaginas, tongues and perhaps penises? Tell me about the vagina, tongue and penis committees established to ensure seamless integration of each part with the others. Tell me who gets along better with the tongue, and how the nose copes living so closely to the vagina.

Whatever you tell me, just don’t write ridiculously insulting news that isn’t news at all, and expect me to take it in like an indiscriminating storm sewer. At least make it entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

The “C” Word

Showy Lady Slippers

Showy Lady Slippers (Photo credit: Odalaigh)

No, not that one. For my readers who really know me, it’s not the Amazing “C” either (sorry pumpkin).

The ‘C’ word is “Commitment”.

That word has been known to make me shiver, lose consciousness and even forget my manners.

A number of less than kind readers have reflected on my aversion to having a committed relationship. I say; do not judge lest ye be judged. I figure getting quasi-biblical might speak to any archaic idea about how a woman should live.

To be perfectly clear, I am not averse to a committed relationship. I am averse to being in any relationship just for the sake of having a bed-warmer October through April or for a second income. Believe you me my precious little diamonds-of-love, being a single woman has forced me to closely analyze my relationships status and resulting quality of life.

My conclusion? I’d rather be dirt poor and happy than trapped in a home where I am not. I’d rather be the poster woman for Ella’s, ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, than not be able to stand on my own two feet and look after myself.

Caveat; I am not alone. I have a plethora of loving, giving, strong, intelligent friends (both men and women, so don’t accuse me of being a man-hater either my judgmental little prunes). I also have not been famous for my celibacy. I might be able to get what I want, but I get what I need. You know what I mean.

I get all warm and fuzzy when I think about making a commitment to a man who is my best friend. Before you point your finger accusing me of putting too much pressure on a mate, hold off. Trust me pookie-bear, I will always have a special part of myself reserved for my gal-pals only. Consider it my healthy outlet to take the pressure off Mr. Wonderfulbuns.

Just because I don’t go around whining about my single status, and even dare to (gasp) celebrate my freedom, and the creative relationships that I do have, doesn’t mean I spurn monogamy. I simply haven’t signed up. Yet. Who knows whether I ever will. I am a woman with hopes, dreams, and a sensitive side just like anyone else.

I have, through my own unique experience, chosen to keep my life simple, my relationships unburdened, and my eye on honourable goals as a mother and professional.

Single women still suffer the stigma of either being unlovable or sluts. The reality is we are stronger than you could ever imagine, wage change for women’s rights better than anyone else, and have the freedom to learn, create and be fearless.

Trust me, if I ‘settle‘ down, it will be with a partner who is my equal. That means that I certainly won’t be settling.

Friday Fifty: Suffering and Presence

crying-statueThis Friday fifty was inspired by my work in end-of-life care, and my own spiritual practice.

“I’m not afraid of tears. Not like everyone else seems to be. The expression of human suffering causes panic; I must do something! What the world needs is more humanity, empathy, and to cultivate presence. Suffering is not’ bad’ or wrong. It is a rich experience from which to grow.”

It’s  Friday Fifty! I’ve linked through another blog above, but I believe that this Friday Fifty was inspired by the Scottish Trust’s Fifty Word Fiction Competition.

If you’d like to give Friday Fifty a spin, you must play by the rules as posted at  dans les pointes suture darlings.  You can leave your fifty in the comments box  or post it on your blog and link back to this post.

Twitter etiquette for Friday Fifty on Twitter, then don’t forget to use the hashtag #Friday50. Happy Writing!

Human Rights NOT Women’s Rights

English: Pro-choice Español: Pro-elección

English: Pro-choice Español: Pro-elección (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah yes, it’s true, at a certain age, fewer and fewer things take us by surprise.  As I lie in bed watching the United States Vice-Presidential debate, I was gob-smacked that the question of a woman’s right to choose was asked.

I couldn’t have been more surprised than if my secret boyfriend Mr. Tatum crawled out from under my bed and pulled a Magic Mike routine.

What was so surprising for me is that we’re still having this debate at all. By virtue of the question being asked, women, including my fabulous self, are stripped of their autonomy. The right for a woman to choose what is best for herself and her body is a HUMAN right, not a feminist whim.

During the debate, Congressman Ryan had the first opportunity to respond, ending his two minutes with the  accusation that the pro-choice Democrats were in effect attacking the sacred religious institution of the Holy Catholic Church.  Vice-President Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic, and argued his point of towing the Democratic “Pro-Choice” line.   

My response (but what do I know, I’m only a woman), was; Holy religious crap! Are  you f-ing kidding me, who turned back the dial to 1950-freaking- two?  I cannot believe that this is still an issue that is acceptable for our political leaders to quibble about.

North Americans have sent troops off to fight for ‘freedom’ in the middle east, and we’re still trying to decide whether women have rights? Something is rotten in the state of democracy.

Secular politics are all that has saved North America from the debacle that is Middle-Eastern-Male-Ego-Drivin-Hidden-Behind-Bullshit-Self-Serving-Theological-Interpretation politics.

Ryan’s remark about attacking his religion was a bald-faced attempt at side-swiping the real issue. Or perhaps he really doesn’t understand what the real issue is.  The right for a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy is not an attack on any religion. It is a choice. It is a human right.

Choice does not take away from any religion or spiritual path. It is a choice. A Roman Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Atheist (etc., etc., etc.,) woman can choose what is right for her. Choose whether she is well enough supported within her faith group to raise a healthy child or not.  Choose whether she follows the interpretation of religious doctrine that either exalts her or dictates that she be nothing more than property. Choice is a human right.

This is not an argument for or against abortion. That argument is one for a woman to consider herself, or with her partner, or family. I believe to revert to that argument “for or against’, essentially strips women of fundamental human rights. The real argument is one about choice, and more than that, whether women are truly recognized as individuals with full autonomy.

I Take A Stand on; Ikea – No Girls Allowed

One of my very fabulous readers, and a woman whom I consider a trusted friend sent a very thoughtful, informed response to my last blog, Ikea – No Girls Allowed.

This was her response (edited);

I understand your indignation and admit I always feel a tad ‘miffed’ when I see women here with only their
eyes showing. Seems they reject the freedom even when in our culture, with opportunity to change. And it’s not
always their ‘man’ forcing them to that – to my surprise!
So I believe that we are judging the culture in Saudi by our standards, not by theirs. The point of those
already here still holding on to their custom for cover from head to foot  – shows that some can’t make the
grade of adopting different standards. They actually feel better in the traditional dress. Amazing, eh!?!
In their Muslim countries then, it’s a slight against their standards to take pictures of the women. I was very
surprised in Dubai when taking pictures of the lush array of goodies in one store to have a man come quietly
up to me, asking me not to continue as it was against their customs and could affront some of their female
patrons. 

Yes, wow!  So demanding Ikea use the photos of Saudi women when it’s adverse to Saudi culture
is basically demanding the country adopt our standards in their homeland.
I’m still amazed that the women are not more up in arms, along with their men, for the right to drive
their own cars without a male driver – but, there you have it….”

My friend makes a sound argument, but I stick by my rationale. My response was;

“Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I understand what you are saying, but my gut tells me that taking women’s images out of media sends a message of women being non-existent.
Surely there were many Canadian women comfortable with the status quo when they couldn’t vote or weren’t considered their own person under the law.

Now, thanks to women who fought for our right to choose to vote, to work,and to receive an education, we no longer feel marginalized (for the most part).
So, showing Saudi women in traditional dress in publications at least acknowledges their existence. I’ll stand by my opinion, and hope that in a gentle way we can honour those women, and support their very dangerous struggle for equality.”

I could go on about traditional language marginalizing women, the history of women’s rights in our own country, and the psychological phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome. Whether or not these women are captives in their own culture/country/marriages is up for debate, but I’m sure my very wise readers,  you can make the intellectual jump I’m trying to get at.

Women who live in parts of the world where being born female means your life is not valued, still feel and think the same way as any other human being. They love their families and they work to give their children a better life. They do not want to jeopardize their families by speaking out.

These same women are at risk of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, simply because they are not considered independent human entities in the eyes of the law. We take for granted our secular laws, which make our country a haven for immigrants from across the globe.

The least we can do is ensure that women are not invisible in their own cultures. The most we can do is work diligently for human rights for everyone.

Despite my Irish temper, I try to keep this idea close to my heart when I’m working at any kind of social change, remembering that it takes a steady, unfaltering effort, over a long period of time;

“The highest goodness is like water. Water benefits all things and does not compete. It stays in the lowly places which others despise. Therefore it is near The Eternal.” ~Lau Tzu~