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Monday, November 8, 2010

When Your Guy Friends Say "I Hate Feminists"

I started to write about this, decided I would introduce the topic by giving an overview of the Insecure Nerd Boy, and then got distracted and ended up ranting. Sorry.

So: the point I was trying to make is that most of my friends are Insecure Nerd Boys, an identity that has a little bit of misogyny built in (on of the Insecure Nerd Boy's main points of definition is that he lusted after the unattainable hot cool girl in high school, couldn't get her, and now believes himself too uncool to get a girlfriend, even one who is just as nerdy as him. And also, although I didn't mention this in the previous post, Insecure Nerd Boys tend to comment negatively on the attractiveness of Nerd Girls even though they are hardly more attractive themselves).

How, I have a very analytical mind. I'm constantly assessing and deconstructing what's going on around me, and one of the main lenses I use is gender. So I'm pretty much always conscious of the workings of the patriarchy around me. That doesn't mean I always talk about it. It's just so intrinsic that I only mention things that really bother me.

This means that it is somehow possible for some of my friends (especially the Insecure Nerd Boys, who have difficulty recognizing and identifying emotions and opinions not explicitly stated) to not realize that I am a feminist.

In turn, this leads to awkward situations where someone goes, "God, I hate feminists."

I try not to be personally offended when one of my male friends says this. Instead of putting on my hardcore-feminist-cloak-of-anger, I usually say, calmly and reasonably, "Why do you hate feminists?"

This often surprises the dude in question. He thought his statement was self-evident. Often he will stumble through some response which you can neatly tear down ("Feminists are just whiny lesbians") or handily win a debate over ("Feminists want chivalry AND equality, that's just not fair").

Because these dudes are intelligent, generally well-read and somewhat politically aware beings, they don't usually engage in mindless feminist-hate. In fact some of them will have specific, if stupid, reasons for hating feminists. For example: "The sexual assault hotline is an all-female space, there's no place for male victims to turn. Also the women who run it are crazy misandrists." This is actually true in the city where I live. The local sexual assault hotline is run by a bunch of super-radical feminists who are seem to view all men as a potential source of sexual violence. Of course, these ladies do not represent all feminists everywhere of ever. If a dude said, "I hate the women who run the sexual assault hotline," or "I hate crazy radical feminists," or "I hate people who see all men as a potential source of sexual violence," I would not have nearly as much of a problem with that statement.

The problem is that a lot of the guys I know have a severe misunderstanding about what feminism is. They might have some idea of second-wave feminism, or radical feminism, which leads them to paint all feminists as "feminizes." Third-wave feminist ideology is completely foreign to them.

This is often accompanied by a severe lack of understanding about how the patriarchy operates, and how misogyny operates. These guys don't understand that sexism with good intentions is still sexism, and frequently engage in this "benevolent sexism." Sometimes they engage in sexism without good intentions as well, as when a friend's boyfriend, standing on the street corner with myself and two other women including his girlfriend, yelled out a slut-shamey comment to two girls walking by in short skirts, and then laughed when we stared at him like he was an alien.

Fortunately, a lot of guys are willing to listen. I actually had a surprisingly nuanced discussion about rape culture with some guy friends one evening. They had never heard or thought about any of that kind of thing before, and they were surprised and kind of horrified to hear about it. Later that same evening, I was harassed by some drunk guys in a cab while walking home. When I told my guy friends about the incident, they were suitably shaken and disgusted.

Anyway, this post seems to have gone on a bit of a tangent (a common theme today… possibly because I'm sick and on pseudoephedrine), but the main point I'm trying to make is this:

A lot of guys that I know are kind of benignly, benevolently sexist. This is largely because they don't understand feminism, and don't understand how privilege and oppression work. (Interestingly, I've found that the guys who are most receptive to conversations about feminism tend to be ones from ethnic minorities.) Most of these guys are relatively open to learning about feminism, and at least try to get rid of their sexism, especially when they see how sexism affects their female friends.

Until recently, I had very few guy friends, and one of the reasons is that I'm a little bit allergic to latent misogyny. Recently I've discovered that as long as a guy is open-minded enough to learn about the patriarchy and how it works, and as long as I can keep myself from being too offended by blanket statements like "I hate feminists", friendship with men who are not already identified as feminists or feminist allies can work.

And that gives me hope. If every woman can introduce a few of her male friends to misogyny and make them face their own privilege, maybe the patriarchal beast will be conquerable.

On Insecure Nerd Boys, and the Dating of Them

So I will fully admit that I don't have a lot of male friends, and the ones I do have sometimes tend to fall into the Nice Guy™ mode. Well, that's not completely accurate… it's more that most of the guys I know tend to be Insecure Nerd Boys.

You may not be acquainted with the species known as Insecure Nerd Boy, so allow me to give you a brief overview. Insecure Nerd Boys tend to obsess over their middle school/high school experiences, which follow a common narrative:
(1) Boy is really smart and into geeky things.
(2) Boy gets made fun of by the cool guys for not being cool.
(3) Boy feels bad about self.
(4) Boy lusts after hot popular girls who are dating the cool guys that make fun of them.
(5) Boy begins to define himself by uncoolness, nediness, and inability to get the hot girl.

Insecure Nerd Boys can sometimes be difficult to be friends with, because they are so convinced of their own uncoolness. And also they sometimes find it hard to acknowledge girl-nerdiness, because come on, you are a chick! Dudes want you! You cannot possibly have gone through the uncoolness, teasing, and alienation that smart boys go through in middle school and high school! You have boobs, which fix everything!

Most Insecure Nerd Boys would never believe you if you told them they were being misogynistic. Because they are such nice boys! It's the cool guys who do that shit! And anyway, you have boobs, which fix everything!

But the real problem comes when you try to date Insecure Nerd Boys. Firstly, they tend to be very oblivious to social cues like flirtation. Secondly, once you finally get them to realize you are into them, they immediately deny it. "But I am not cool!" they exclaim. "Only cool guys get girlfriends!"

This denial persists onto the first date. "I can't believe you're real! I never had any idea that girls as awesome and nerdy as you existed!" And beyond. "Wow you are so awesome and foxy-hot and smart, why would you ever be with someone like me who is nerdy?" And beyond. "Oh my God, I have a real live naked girl in my bed. I can't believe this is happening to me. Does this mean I am… cool? EXISTENTIAL CRISIS HAVING. SEXYTIMES CAN WAIT, SORRY NAKED GIRL." Sometimes you wonder if they're so flabbergasted by the idea of having a girlfriend they forget that said girlfriend is a person, who would like to be in a relationship and not on a pedestal, thank you.

Then comes the CLING. Insecure Nerd Boys are like, "Well, I have a girlfriend, which is clearly a rare and uncommon occurrence. I MUST NOT LET HER ESCAPE WHICH SHE SURELY WILL DO GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY FOR I AM NOT COOL." And then it's all, "I know we only met a month ago, but I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you." And, "I was never suer if I wanted children, but I could see myself having them with you." And, "Let's make plans for two years from now!" And, "I know that as a female being you are not a huge fan of sexytimes so let's cuddle all night! Look how sensitive I am!"

And then you are like, "Hey buddy I think we might need to talk about our relationship," and their reaction is "OH MY GOD YOU ARE BREAKING UP WITH ME I KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN I AM SO UNWORTHY." And you are like… "No, communication in a relationship is just a really good thing." And he is like, "NO. IF WE DON'T ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PROBLEMS THEY WILL GO AWAY. TRUST ME I HAVE TRIED THIS." And then you say, "Dude, your clinginess is scaring me. Like you, I have had few relationships. I am uncomfortable with things getting too serious too fast. Can we slow down a bit?" And then they are like, "OH MY GOD YOU HATE ME I KNEW IT." And go sulk alone on a canoe in the middle of a lake for a few hours, and don't talk to you for a few days.

At this point you realize the relationship will never work. Because you need regular sexytimes, and a dude who appreciates but doesn't fetishize your nerviness, and a dude who is at least half as secure as you are. But you can't just break up with them because then they will get all upset, and they just told you about how they're on antidepressants, and you've met their family which is really nice.

Except then you can't take it anymore, because they keep interrupting you with cutesie baby talk while you're trying to have an intelligent conversation, and trying to cuddle all the time instead of sexytimes because they think that's what you want and nothing will convince them otherwise, and talking getting married one day. So finally you just cut them loose with some kind of, "I'm just really too busy for a relationship right now," or "I need to find myself," or "I'm moving to Guatemala." And then because they're upset, they make their Facebook profile a picture of the two of you with your face cropped out, or they ask out all of your best female friends, or they insult your mother. And then you are bitter and twisted and swear to never date another Insecure Nerd Boy.

Okay, so this post turned out differently from what I originally intended to write about, but I will post about that topic later. I think I needed to rant about Insecure Nerd Boy relationships. I haven't dated one in a while, but the way it ended still left scars, and a couple of my friends going through that right now and that brings it all back.

Gah. My advice to Insecure Nerd Boys: Get over yourselves. Nerdy girls like you because of your shared interests and values and personality compatibility. Also they like sexytimes. Communication is necessary to any good relationship, so don't take it as a criticism. Your girlfriend is a person too, and probably a very intelligent person, so have intelligent conversations with her. And try to remember that you are AWESOME--just don't get too arrogant about it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts of Some Eastern Ontario Women in their Twenties and Thirties on Russ Williams and his Victims

When Jessica Lloyd went missing in January, her family was frantic. Within a couple days, radio stations throughout Southeastern Ontario were helping to spread the word--help find Jessica Lloyd, call if you have tips. There was even a Facebook group, run by Lloyd's brother.

The radio station I like to listen to while I work announced updates before and after every commercial break, with people calling in to show their support for the Lloyds. The Facebook group quickly ballooned to thousands of members. Lloyd was popular, but more than that, the mysterious disappearance of an adult woman from a tight-knit community in the dead of winter sent shock waves across the region.

And then, just over a week later, everything happened at once. The police followed a tip, found Lloyd's body, matched some tire tracks to Colonel Russell Williams, base commander at CFB Trenton, and before we knew it Williams was under investigation for over a hundred charges, including murder, sexual assault, break-and-enter, and theft.

If Lloyd's disappearance shocked the region, it was nothing compared to Williams's arrest. We froze in disbelief for a few days. Here was a well-respected military commander, who had passed all sorts of psychological testing to get to his position--and he was a deranged rapist and murderer? Even his wife had no idea. His neighbours in Ottawa were incredibly unsettled, especially when police searches turned up hundreds of stolen women's undergarments.

It was something of a triple-whammy, especially for military towns with their United Empire Loyalist heritage. This was no Robert Pickton, way out there on the west coast, slowly picking off street prostitutes, or Paul Barnardo (with whom WIlliams went to school) and Karla Homolka with their vaguely foreign-sounding names. Williams was a well-respected military officer, operating right here in our own backyard, targeting women who were themselves integrated into the community--popular Jessica Lloyd, Canadian Forces member Corporal Marie-France Comeau.

Now, as Williams stands trial and more information about his crimes is revealed, shock is reverberating once more across the area. "So this is what it's like to be in the presence of pure evil," the Whig-Standard comments, before summarizing the "shocking and grotesque display of evidence" of Williams's "lurid and freakish conduct." In emphasizing how lucky Ottawa residents are to have avoided the fate of Jessica Lloyd, the Citizen describes the images:

So there was this tall, lock-jawed figure, wearing a dainty orange bra, or a black bikini, or stuffed into “Tweety” bird underwear — all stolen, all photographed, all stored — hundreds and hundreds of items, in his computer or in caches at home.

Repeatedly, the court was shown photographs of his erect penis, or various angles of the decorated airman engaged in masturbation — all images he carefully recorded with dates, times, places.

Williams eventually began leaving notes to his young victims--after photographing one twelve-year-old Orleans girl's ID, he typed "merci" into her laptop.


In the fall of 2009, Williams admits to breaking into two women's homes and tying them up, blindfolding them (he punched one in the head while she slept), and then terrorizing and sexually assaulting them.

In December 2010, Williams broke into the home of Comeau, a military flight attendant on CFB Trenton he had encountered professionally a few times. It was not the first time he had been in her house; on a previous occasion he had photographed her lingerie and sex toys. This time, however, Comeau was home, and preparing for bed. When she went downstairs to look for her cat, Williams hit her over the head with a flashlight and tied her to a post in the basement. He took pictures of her, naked and unconscious, before raping her repeatedly for two hours.

At one point, Comeau asked if Williams was going to kill her. "Have a heart, please," she begged. "I've been really good. I want to live."

Williams covered her mouth and nose with duct tape. After she suffocated to death, he washed her sheets and covered her body with a duvet before fleeing.

One evening in January 2010, Lloyd called a friend to let him know she'd arrived home safely. From outside her house, Williams watched as she prepared for bed. Eventually he broke in, physically subdued Lloyd, and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Quick-witted, Lloyd faked an epileptic seizure, begging to be taken to hospital for treatment. Instead, Williams moved her to his house in Tweed.

When it became clear that Williams didn't plan on letting her live, Lloyd pleaded, "If I die, would you make sure my mom knows that I love her?" Shortly afterward, Williams strangled Lloyd, put her body in SUV and dumped it at the side of a road.


The details of Williams's crimes are disturbing and horrific, but I haven't been able to keep myself from following this story obsessively. Even as my stomach turns and my blood chills, I feel like I have to know every extent of his depravity.

A number of my friends and acquaintances feel the same way. When I posted on Facebook about my state of transfixed horror, several people, all single women in their twenties and thirties, many living alone--much like Lloyd and Comeau--in and around the Kingston area, commented that they felt the same way. A few others mentioned it to me personally later, as though they didn't want Facebook knowing that this was an issue that worried them.

Probably the most salient reason for our obsession is the question: why? Why did he do the things he did? Why did he find those things exciting? Why did he target the women he chose? This is tied both into a great fear on our part and a genuine, confused, morbid curiosity. By his own admission, Williams became attracted to the idea of stealing women's underwear when he was in his twenties, but it took him twenty years to act on it. But what did that have to do with his violence, his need for control? Why did he like to masturbate sitting among little girls' stuffed animals, and leave them notes afterwards? Why did he keep such an organized log of his activities, accompanied by so much photographic evidence? One friend thinks he knew what he was doing was fucked up, and secretly wanted to get caught. Another friend thinks he believed himself to be invincible, and kept the records and photos either for his own pride, or to leave behind as a legacy. Some people think that if we as a society treated deviant sexual desires like pedophilia or the desire to steal underwear as mental illnesses rather than lasting stigmas, maybe he would have gotten psychological help rather than letting his desires fester until they sought a violent release. Others think that he was simply abusing his position of power, his actions increasing in violence as he continued to avoid suspicion.

I don't know the answer, and I'm not entirely sure I want to know. The Whig-Standard claims that in court,
Every time there was a picture of himself on the courtroom screen wearing children's underwear, or lying naked on a child's bed, Williams would tilt his head and sneak a peak -- perhaps one last jolly before the twisted pilot and "shining, rising star" of the Canadian military goes off to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Citizen, meanwhile, observes that he "seemed a broken figure, sunken into himself. He spent most of the day bent over, staring at the floor, giving away nothing."

Col. Russell Williams told a packed courthouse here he was "indescribably ashamed" by what he had done and deeply regretted his crimes.
"Your honour I stand before, your honour, indescribably ashamed," Williams told the courtroom after being handed two life sentences for the murders of Jessica Lloyd and Marie-France Comeau.

"I will spend the rest of my life regretting most of all that I have ended two vibrant, innocent and cherished lives," he said. "I know the crimes I have committed have traumatized many people, he said, noting rape victims Jane Doe and Laurie Massicotte have "suffered terribly" as well.

"My family, your honour, has been irreparably harmed," he added. "Most will find it impossible to accept but the fact is I very deeply regret what I have done."

Williams emphasizes the effect this is having upon his family. He admitted to police earlier that he only confessed so that his wife's life would be easier.

Lee Burgess, Crown attorney, suggested a different tack on which Williams can hang his shame, saying in his closing comments that "No doubt, your honour, he laughed at us as he lived the life of a community leader by day and the life of a serial criminal by night."

Stephen Harper comes from a similar perspective, claiming that Williams's actions were a betrayal of members of the Canadian Forces.
"This is just a horrific event," Harper said while in St. John's on Thursday. "Our thoughts go out to all the members of the Canadian Forces who knew the commander and who have been very badly wounded and betrayed by all of this. Obviously, this in no way reflects on the forces."

Harper said the Department of National Defence would attempt to strip Williams of benefits he would have received for serving in the military.

"Defence Minister Peter MacKay has made clear the forces will undertake all necessary actions to ensure that all sanctions possible and all benefits possible can be withdrawn from the former commander but this is a terrible and unique case," said Harper.

"The Canadian Forces are the victim here, as are the direct victims of these terrible events."

Certainly some members of the Canadian Forces feel betrayed. The Whig-Standard, main newspaper in the perpetual military town that is Kingston, put out today a small editorial defending their reasoning behind publishing some of the gruesome details of Williams's crimes (because people need to know, and also because "where bloggers …[add] static and confusion to the debate, it has never been more important for professional news organizations to carefully frame the public record," which is ironic because (a) I have never put much faith in the professionalism or integrity of the Whig-Standard, (b) "carefully framing the public record" is clearly euphemism for spin and/or privileged bias, and ( c) you can frame the public record just fine without actually mentioning the graphic details). It also contains this explanation, which suggests there have been complaints:
For example, we understand running pictures of Williams in his Air Force uniform on the front page has, and does, offend current and past members of the Canadian Forces. We continue to run them because his uniform is germane to the story.

Williams was not a new recruit, he was one of the Forces [sic] most trusted men. Trust, and the betrayal of that trust, is something the Forces will undoubtedly wrestle as they seek ways to improve psychological testing in their promotion protocols.

While all this is very true, it hasn't escaped my notice that it's men who are putting all of this emphasis on Williams violating the trust put in him by the community, the military--abusing his position of power. Being a man in power did give Williams an edge in his criminal activities--mainly by giving him resources like an SUV, a digital camera, and houses in three different cities and towns, by placing him completely above suspicion for more than two years of criminal activities, and by allowing him to learn classified information about Corporal Comeau.

But being sexually assaulted by a stranger or relative stranger is essentially the same no matter his standing in the community. Acquaintance rape has a lot more of those dynamics--"He's my boss, I can't turn him in"--"But I thought we were friends?"--etc. But when someone breaks into your house, hits you over the head, and starts raping you, you don't really care who the crap he is. You mostly care that YOU are being hurt and violated. A friend of mine was chased down the street the other night by a homeless man waving his penis at her. For her it would essentially have been the same experience even if it had been, say, the mayor chasing her (except the mayor would be unlikely to do such a thing in public).

My friends and I aren't obsessively reading about this case so we can think, "Oh, wow, look at him abusing his position of power. What a betrayal of the Canadian Forces." Of course this matters--how did he get by all the psychological testing, for instance--but it's not the most salient bit for us. We read about his crimes, and we imagine ourselves as Jessica Lloyd, as Marie-France Comeau. We look outside our windows wondering if there is someone there watching us, we curse the fact that a single 20- or 30-something woman living alone, even a popular, well-known one, can so easily become a target.

We fear, we curse the patriarchy, we fear some more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

70 Most Powerful American Women + we should probably include these really high-profile ladies from other countries, dudes

I just saw Forbes' new "World's 100 Most Powerful Women" list. Feministe remarks approvingly that the top ten "includes four women of color and at least one lesbian." Fair enough, this is a good thing.

However, I'm a little bit concerned about Forbes' metrics for rating the power held by these women (on a world-wide scale). I've been trying to find their criteria on the website but no luck yet.

What concerns me is out of these 100 supposedly most powerful women in the world, 70 are from the US. Of the top 25, only three are not American. Of the top 50, that number is 10. And this is why I'm so confused/concerned about the metrics…

For example, while it's great that Beyonce has such a high ranking on the list (#9), is she really that much more influential on a world-wide scale than the Queen (#41)? And I find it hard to believe that Stephenie Meyer (#49) has more power globally than the Prime Minister of Australia (#58), the President of Finland (#62), the President of Ireland (#64), the President of Argentina (#68), the Queen of Jordan (#76), the President of Iceland (#80), the President of Costa Rica (#83), or the President of Liberia (#86). (I'm also concerned that Stephenie Meyer made it on the list and J.K. Rowling didn't, even though Rowling seems the more politically active of the two. Also her books are better.)

I feel like income must be a prime consideration, otherwise there would not be nearly so many people from the fashion industry (models as well as designers). In a lot of cases--and here I'm not only referring to the fashion industry, but also many of the media personalities on the list--these women have influence as tastemakers and opinion makers, and largely, I would argue, only in the US. Rachel Maddow, for example. Now that I know of her existence I watch segments of her show sometimes, and I find her clever and funny. But I hadn't heard of her until earlier this year, and I'm pretty sure her show doesn't even air in Canada (I've only ever seen it online). And what about Danica Patrick, the race car diver? Sure, she's breaking down barriers into an old boy's club and she's probably inspiring lots of little girls who are into racing, but I don't know if I would consider her powerful on a global scale. I've never even heard of most of the news anchors that appear on the list.

Big corporations and big governments objectively harness a lot of power, and the people who run them control that power. The list at least mentions most of the important female heads of state, ministers, and business executives, and although there is a definite bias towards the US there, that can be partially explained by the political power of the US. As for the others--the singers, the talk show hosts, the athletes, the models, the authors--they are legitimately powerful culturally… in the US. Some of them do have a more global reach, but seriously… who is Suze Orman? Who is this Rachel Ray person? Does it count if I only know about someone because she's Arnold Schwarzenager's wife? Does it count if I've read a couple articles from the Huffington Post? Why are there no media/culture/lifestyle personalities from other countries (except the First Lady of France)?

You know who I think is a powerful woman? Michaelle Jean, who until a few days ago was Governor General of Canada. She had the power to stop Parliament in its tracks (which she did, twice). She's shmoozed will all of the heads of state and ambassadors. She was a major force behind bringing aid to her birth land of Haiti. Once she almost caused trade disruptions between Canada and the European Union by eating a seal heart, thus showing her support for the traditional seal hunt practiced by the Inuit, and infuriating anti-seal hunt Europe. Before she was GG, Jean had a CBC show.

Why aren't there more women like her on the list?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Support Our Troops, Except the Wimminz

This kind of makes me sick.

There's a new book coming out about Captain Nichola Goddard, the first woman in the Canadian Forces in a combat role to die in action. For the book, Capt. Goddard's husband shared some letters she had written him, and they carry some pretty disturbing information.
"There were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night."

Goddard, who had arrived in Afghanistan one month prior, said in that letter that she was "pissed" because all the troops had been told about the rapes, yet because one of her peers forgot to tell her, she walked the 300 metres to and from the showers unaccompanied on her first night at camp.

"You know how freaked out I get about that kind of stuff," she wrote. "At least I had my pistol."

Six rapes. In one week. That's practically one a day.

And while Goddard's words don't indicate that she ever felt physically threatened by her fellow soldiers, she did tell her husband that she suffered sexual harassment in the form of constant rumours that she was sleeping with men on the base.

This is disgusting and infuriating. Well, sexual harassment and sexual assault are disgusting and infuriating at the best of times, so perhaps that's not strong enough of an epithet.

This is horribly, intensely WRONG.

These women are putting their lives on the line just as much as the men who are harassing and assaulting them--they're doing their duty to their country, they're doing their jobs, they're fighting, they're in a fricking combat zone. The same sacrifices and demands are being made of them. And they're prepared to offer it--Captain Goddard did eventually pay the ultimate sacrifice to her country, as did Trooper Karine Blais a few years later.

And yet they and their female comrades-in-arms were subjected to this horribly demeaning, violating environment every day. Goddard spent the last few months of her life and Blais the last few weeks of hers in a base camp where, with the usual support for sexual assault and harassment missing, it ran all too rampant.

I am fortunate enough to have never been sexually assaulted, but I have been sexually harassed, and I can assure you that it is a humiliating, demeaning experience. It makes you feel angry, and worthless, and powerless; it reminds you that to some people all you'll ever be is a living, breathing sex toy, and those people will judge you only on your usefulness in that area; and because of this it plants little seeds of self-doubt in your mind--and your self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth suffer. You can't stop the words that have been said to you from repeating on a loop in your mind, taunting you, and the images evoked by their lewd suggestions play out endlessly, horrifyingly in your mind's eye, seemingly beyond your control. Maybe your body hasn't been violated, but your thoughts certainly have.

And that's the thanks our female combat soldiers get for putting their lives on the line.

No wonder so few women are in the Canadian Forces. Once when I was talking to a (male) friend in the Forces about the fact that in the US women are still not allowed in combat roles, and he said, "Well, most of the women in combat units are practically men anyway." In fact, he classified the majority of young women in the military as either "practically men anyway" or "huge sluts to make up for it [the relative lack of women, particularly at the Royal Military College]." Take your pick, military ladies--dyke or whore. Make sure you stick with it now.

Living/working in an environment of such constant harassment has to take an emotional and psychological toll on female soldiers, especially since they're already experiencing the anxieties associated with deployment to a combat zone.

The author said she was astounded when she read Goddard's accounts. "To read this in her letters, from this woman who was stronger than most people I've ever come across in my life, to see her get really freaked out and intimidated by all the male attention, was shocking."

I wouldn't exactly call it "male attention" which might be why I'm not as surprised as this author.

Goddard was 26 when she was killed. Blais was 21. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and there is no doubt that it was a tragedy for their young, promising lives to be cut short. There's nothing we can do now about their experiences with sexual harassment and/or assault. But hopefully some good will come from this new book. I have enough faith in Canadians to believe that they will by and large be shocked and outraged at what our most brave and patriotic women have to endure while serving our country. And maybe--just maybe--we can make it better for future generations.

~*~In Memory of Captain Nichola Goddard, Trooper Karine Blais, Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, Major Michelle Mendes, and the 148 other Canadian Forces casualties in Afghanistan~*~

Betcha didn't know that the Trews were inspired by Nichola Goddard to write this song.

UPDATE Oct 8: As a follow-up to that story, the Ottawa Citizen has published some stats about rape in the Canadian Forces. And it's not particularly cool.

The Canadian military has investigated just five reports of sexual assault in Afghanistan since 2004, with only one investigation leading to a guilty verdict — a number that contrasts sharply with the picture painted in a new book about a female soldier.

According to the Citizen, the case that ended up with the guilty verdict occurred in 2006, and the rapist was an Afghan man. Another case involving an Afghan man didn't end up getting off the ground because the rape occurred in 2006 but wasn't reported until 2009, and the victim couldn't provide an adequate physical description of her attacker.

The other three reports of sexual assault were dismissed by the Canadian Forces as unfounded.

Now I have no idea who the accused were in these allegations. But in a climate where, according to Capt. Goddard, so many female Forces members were being raped, isn't it odd that (a) only 5 sexual assaults were reported since 2004, (b) 3 of those 5 were dismissed as unfounded, and (c) the accused in both reports that weren't dismissed as unfounded were Afghan men?

People tend to excuse or apologize for the sexual behaviour of male soldiers, even when it becomes violent. (There are exceptions, of course, particularly high profile cases (Daniel Menard) or really inexcusably violent ones (Russ Williams).) I can also tell you right now that there's a culture of sexual harassment in the Forces (see my friend's comment, above--the same friend also told me about the extreme harassment young women face on their "walks of shame" home from the Royal Military College campus, and advised me to never sleep with anyone from RMC for that very reason). I think that the rationale usually given for this tolerance is the idea that we (as in the people in general but young women in particular) owe these men something for being so brave and sacrificing and defending our country, and gawd, they deserve to have a little fun when they're not out there putting their lives on the line, don't they?

The problem here is even if you abide by this flawed and super-problematic logic, you still run into issues when it comes to female soldiers (especially female combat soldiers). Do they still "owe" their male comrades-in-arms "something" for being brave and sacrificing and defending the country when they're doing the same thing?

In exchange for their patriotism, bravery, and self-sacrifice, men get a blind eye turned to their sexual violence. Women get slut-shamed, victim-blamed, ignored, and dispossessed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Reasons to Dislike Sun Media

Yesterday I mentioned that I consider Sun Media newspapers the best argument against Sun TV, and expanded upon that with a rant about biased coverage in the Kingston Whig-Standard. Today I have another axe to grind with the Whig.

So yesterday Ontario struck down several Criminal Code laws relating to prostitution, meaning that sex work is kind of decriminalized in Ontario. The Ottawa Citizen's first reaction was this:
Tuesday’s Ontario Superior Court ruling that Canada’s prostitution laws put lives at risk came only days before the 20th anniversary of an Ottawa sex worker’s unsolved murder.

Melinda Sheppit — who was murdered Sept. 30, 1990 — would still be alive today if the laws were different, said Frederique Chabot, vice-chair of POWER, a sex workers lobby group. “It’s a pretty strong and symbolic moment — the fact that it’s the anniversary of her death,” Chabot said of the ruling.

The Citizen goes on to list other unsolved murders of sex workers in the area.

By contrast, this is the Whig's first reaction:

An Ontario court ruling on Tuesday that a key anti-prostitution law is unconstitutional has caught the attention of federal lawmakers who are reviewing the decision before deciding on a course of action.

"The government is very concerned about the (court)'s decision and is seriously considering an appeal," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement.

"We will fight to ensure that the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to both communities and the prostitutes themselves, along with other vulnerable persons."

Way to miss the point, Whig.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So. You know how yesterday I was all like, "Busy busy busy, no time for posty!" Well, today has been a particularly heavy news day and so here I am doing a mini-post (aka a post which is not full of synthesis/critical analysis).

  1. The First World War is... over...?
    So apparently today Germany paid the last installment of the reparation payments owed to Allied countries in accordance of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
    I am really confused by this and can't find nearly enough news sources actually reporting it. I thought that after the Second World War everyone agreed that Germany didn't have to pay anymore...?

  2. Aaah! The atheists! They know our secrets!
    According to a new study, most Americans don't know much about world religions (or, often, their own religions). In fact, atheists and agnostics answered the most questions correctly, followed by Jews and Mormons.
    In fact, get this:
    For instance, only 55 per cent of U.S. Roman Catholics surveyed understand that Holy Communion is not meant to be symbolic but is instead believed to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

    Fewer than half of Americans surveyed knew the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and fewer than half of the Protestants surveyed knew that Martin Luther inspired the Protestant reformation.

    How is it that so many people don't know the main tenets of their own religion? Never mind others. This might explain how 20% of Americans manage to believe that Obama is Muslim even though he doesn't adhere to any of the tenets of Islam (set out here by John Green so much more eloquently than I could do myself):

  3. Fox News and Fox News North
    Speaking of Obama... he said recently in an interview that Fox News is "ultimately destructive for the long-term growth" of the United States, comparing Rupert Murdoch to William Randolph Hearst (that dude they based Citizen Kane on).

    Can you say awesome? I personally have little patience for sensationalized news (that's why I don't read the Globe and Mail regularly, it's bad for my blood pressure) but Fox is often intentionally inaccurate rather than just sensationalist.

    Which brings me to my next point. I have an email from Avaaz in my inbox telling me there's only three more days left in the CRTC's delay on the SunTV case. Will Harper try to push through the mandatory-carriage for Fox News North when the American president himself is speaking up about journalistic inaccuracy? (Probably.)

    I think Sun Media newspapers are the best argument against Sun TV, actually. The Ottawa Sun is one of those papers people only buy for the Sunshine Girls (like the Page Six girls). My current hate-on is for the Kingston Whig-Standard, which has been going off at the mouth lately about "OMGZ LOOK AT ALL OF THESE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PARTYING WHY ARE THEY DRINKING CAN'T THEY JUST GROW UP ALREADY THERE WILL BE MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY IT'S GONNA BE NASTY LET'S BRING IN THE TORONTO RIOT POLICE OMGZ".

    (Side note: Every September in Kingston there is a massive street party loosely connected to Queen's Homecoming, although Queen's students are probably the minority of partiers and usually less than 30% of arrests... and there are lots of arrests, especially since they've started bringing in the Toronto Riot Police [last gig-G20 Protests!] and mounted officers from other parts of Ontario. Anyway, my point is: 2000 people partying in the street, 200 police officers [most of whom are either riot squad officers or on horses], 70 arrests, half of which are for "breach of the peace", some of which involved people being tackled by multiple officers, police horses going up on lawns to try to clear people off of them, at least one person getting kicked by a police horse... that sounds like some kind of human rights issue to me but all the Whig can say is "Look at all of these students drinking beer on their lawns! Why won't the students stop irresponsibly partying? Think of the private property! Oh and also someone's going to get hurt although they will probably deserve it!" That is why I am currently frustrated with Sun Media.)

    Bit off-topic. Sorry.

  4. Sex workers=also human beings
    The Superior Court of Ontario has struck down several prostitution-related laws: communication for the purpose of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house, and living on the avails of prostitution. (You can tell these laws were all made by Sir John Thompson in the 1890s.) Since the actual exchange of money for sexual services is not illegal in Canada--just everything surrounding it--this technically means that prostitution in Ontario is less semi-criminal than before! (I think there are still a few other laws, like solicitation or something, that didn't make it into the case.) More importantly, as Valerie Scott stated,
    We don't have to worry about being raped and robbed and murdered. This decision means that sex workers can now pick up the phone, and call the police and report a bad client. This means that we no longer have to be afraid, that we can work with the appropriate authorities.
    The judge in charge conceded that this means that brothels might now technically be legal (and unlicensed) in Ontario, so she has suspended the effects of the law for 30 days while the case gets passed up to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court affirms Ontario's decision, then Parliament will have to deal with the fallout by creating new legislation--hopefully they will instate licensing for brothels, protections for the personal safety and working conditions of sex workers, etc., but with the Harpercons in power, I don't know if that's likely.

    Just kidding. I love me a good constitutional crisis. Hopefully it's King-Byng all over again!

Well, that's it for today...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just a couple of things...

1) I'm working two part-time jobs to put myself through university, where I currently have a full course load. It's a really busy time right now at both my workplaces, so I've been working double-shifts and training new staff and teaching workshops and all that. I have to take a road test next week because Ontario's graduated licensing is kind of stupid. I'm also getting audited for rent expenses, which means I have to contact my douchey old landlord to get a rent receipt off him. There is a weevil infestation in my pantry. I have some kind of usage surcharge on my internet bill. I'm running around like crazy trying to get scholarship applications done because the history department only announced the deadline three weeks in advance. My best friend had a minor nervous breakdown last week. Needless to say, my stress levels are not doing so hot. Remind me again how as a student I'm supposed to be leading some kind of magical charmed life free from the stresses and strains of the "real world"?

2) Once again, two part-time jobs and full course load. In total I will have had 4 days off in September and 2 in October (which I will be spending traveling to and from Montreal for my grandfather's 75th birthday party, where he will hopefully refrain from the racists comments). November will be full of term papers and December, exams and grad school applications. Needless to say, don't expect much posting in the next few months.

3) Instead I think I might do mini-posts when an issue really strikes me. For example, go read this: Long John Flaherty's Talk Like a Prat Day.

If we really don't want an election, why do the Harpercons have to keep reminding us of that?

"The coalition led by Mr. Ignatieff has its own agenda – power, power, power.
Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois government, nothing would be safe."
"Nothing would be safe"--what, you mean like the long-form census, Jim? That wouldn't be safe? The long gun registry? The freedom of the press, and the ability of MPs to say anything without running it by their Fearless Leader first?

Also: As opposed to Harper's agenda, which is clearly gumdrops and sunshine. Harper's agenda is not at all power, power, power. At all. Nope. No power tripping here. None whatsoever.

4) One of my classes is on user-friendly web application design. For lack of a better idea I'm creating a Sir John A Macdonald tribute website as my project. This might not mean anything to you but it amuses me greatly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear the drunk guys who harassed me last night from their cab

Dear the drunk guys who harassed me last night from their cab:

No, I haven't forgotten it yet, seven hours later, although you probably have. You probably forgot all about it seven minutes later. And no, I'm not overreacting. That was my initial reaction too, to tell myself I was overreacting--but you know what, I'm really not. I have a right to be upset.

You know my pigtails, the ones you asked if you could use as handlebars? They're pinned up on the back of my head now, in a demure 1840s hairstyle, required for my job at a historic site. Yeah, I do my hair like that for work, not so that you can make me feel like the shit on the bottom of your shoe.

But I forgot. The mere fact that I go into public represents my tacit agreement that you're allowed to comment on my appearance all you want. Why else would I be out in public? Especially standing at a corner across the street from my home waiting for the light to change so I could cross. You were practically required to objectify me at that moment. God, what kind of slut walks home at night anyway?

Monday, August 9, 2010

So I have been a little bit absent recently, due partly to the crazy whirlwind that is my life right now, and partly due to an overwhelming sense of doom that comes over me whenever I read the news.

What is happening to my country? I wonder if this is how my great-grandparents felt as they slowly became disenchanted with Mussolini's totalitarian leadership methods. Because I find what is going on right now to be seriously scary.

This morning, I was shocked to read the following opinion piece (quoted here in its entirety) from a Sun Media paper, which is normally sympathetic to Harper (they're the ones who are trying to create a Fox News North):

In just the past six weeks, this Conservative government has made bad decisions that have or are going to waste enough taxpayer money to fund the $4 million "deficit" of the prison farms for years to come.
At least $1 billion dollars was spent on the G8/G20. The cost of which, including lost tax revenue from business closures and more, will take months to learn. And now what will certainly be more than $600 million on a census that includes a useless voluntary survey that will potentially cripple a world-renowned government agency.

The G8 & G20 summits alone racked up more than $4 million in costs for each 20 minutes of the three-day affair. And to what end, exactly? Most of the work was done in the weeks leading up to the event by civil servants whose names we will mostly never know.
The voluntary National Household Survey, which is attempting to play the part of the mandatory long-form census of yore, has been decried as basically useless by most statisticians and professionals in the field including Statistics Canada's two most recent heads. Its bias will potentially permeate through all national statistical models and skew results for years to come.

All three of these decisions are bad decisions and, thankfully, two of them can be easily corrected. This government of mistakes needs to recognize that it has gone astray and reverse these decisions before it's too late: keep the prison farms alive and reinstate the long-form census.

The G20 came as a huge shock to me. I have no love for the Toronto riot police--I know from personal experience their tendency to overreact and power-trip--but even I was surprised and horrified by the experiences of peaceful protesters who were rounded up, incarcerated, brutalized, and even threatened with sexual violence.

This time the violence was actually reported in some mainstream media outlets, which is not usually the case for police brutality in this country. Usually it's glossed over if it must be mentioned at all. And then--despite the fact that most of the country now knew what a cock-up the whole thing was--Harper and his mouthpiece, Dimitri Soudas, praised Toronto police for the great job they did in keeping the summit safe.

We've all known for quite some time now that Harper muzzles his caucus and especially his staff. Between that, the fact that information being released by the government according to the Access to Information Act had slowed to a trickle, and Harper's two semi-unconstitutional prorogations of Parliament--and the underhanded tactic of making announcements at the same time as major hockey events, proving that he considers hockey to be the opiate of the masses in Canada--made me fear that Canada was slowly turning into the kind of dystopic dictatorship you usually only read about in scifi novels.

And then the Tories announced that they were getting rid of the long form census.
My first reaction, as posted on Facebook:

Just when I thought I couldn't dislike Tony Clement and the rest of Harper's minions any more... they pull some stupid shit like this. MAJOR CHANGES TO THE CENSUS. The long portion of the census will now be replaced by some weird-ass voluntary survey, and the data will NEVER BE RELEASED. OMFG. Not only will this result in a crazy bias in results, meaning that WE WILL NOT KNOW ACCURATE STATISTICS REGARDING THE ETHNICITY, DISABILITIES, EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, OR INCOME of Canadians--information which policymakers and others use regularly to ensure that the majority of Canadians are benefited by their policies, information that potential immigrants look at before choosing to come here, information that it would just generally be nice to know--FUTURE HISTORIANS will know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about today's Canadian population on account of how even the voluntary information collected won't be released after 92 years the way census data currently is. And why? Because apparently the current census is an intrusion of privacy. WHAT THE CRAP EVER. I'm probably not going to be around in 92 years, I don't care if people see my census data, I WANT them to see my census data if it contributes to their general knowledge. You know who's really going to be the losing party here? GENEALOGISTS, who regularly use census data to find out information about their ancestors. And since there is a closet amateur genealogist in all of us (there totally is, admit it), this census reform is really hurting ALL CANADIANS.

I stand by that even more than before now that I've learned that the question of official language is also on the long form census.

Conservative spokespeople have offered up a variety of finely-tuned bullshit to explain/defend this decision. The long form census is invasive, and the fact that it is compulsory abhorrent. (Bullshit! Of all the organizations collecting personal information about me, StatsCan is the one I worry about the least. Also--how long does it take to fill out the form, like half an hour?) People have been complaining about the lack of privacy. (Also bullshit, according to the Privacy Commissioner.) StatsCan said that the voluntary survey would provide them with enough information. (Bullshit! The head of StatsCan resigned over this statement. StatsCan said it would be theoretically possible to get statistically significant data from a voluntary survey as long as the sample size was big enough.) So many Canadians list their religion as "Jedi" that… actually, I don't think they explained why this justified cutting the census. (Also, the New Zealand census counts Jedi as second-most-popular religion, and they still have a census, so...) And--my favourite--Canadians won't notice, anyway.


Despite all the headlines and the backlash, there is a strongly held belief within the Conservative ranks that the census story has not penetrated the psyche of many average Canadians and will soon fizzle out.
"It's just another dead news-cycle story," said one Conservative MP. "Most people will look at it, and say, what's the difference?"

But it didn't quite work out that way, did it? Provincial governments are complaining. Just about every organization representing an "othered" group is complaining. Municipalities are complaining. Everyone and everything that deals in information is complaining. Impolitical has a (partial) list of 43 organizations who are against the removal of the census, and three that are for it.

The Official Languages Commissioner is investigating the issue and its potential impact on francophone communities outside of Quebec and New Brunswick. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada is even taking legal action against the federal government over this issue.

And the Tories' idea of a compromise is to suggest making the official language question a part of the mandatory short form. Otherwise they remain unbudged.

Way to rule like you have a majority, Harper.

The Conservatives are no longer leading in the polls, but they are neck-and-neck with the Liberals. I'm surprised that they're still that far ahead, considering that literally the only person I know who actually supports Harper is my grandfather (the one who forwards me racist emails).

The third issue mentioned in the Whig editorial is the closure of the prison farms. Where I live, in Eastern Ontario, this issue is enormous. Everyone--LITERALLY everyone--is against the closure. Even at my nominally non-partisan place of work, where we're not allowed to talk about politics because we're technically agents of the federal government, my manager once suggested shutting down the site so we could all go to a local protest, and I'm not at all convinced she was joking.

The reasoning for shutting down the prison farms: the skills they teach (farming) are no longer applicable in today's world as they were a century ago when the prison farms were first founded; in a farm setting, there are more security issues and successful escape attempts; and the prison farms are posting a deficit.

Legitimately, farming skills are not in super high demand right now. But just learning new skills and putting in a day's worth of honest work can raise inmates' self-esteem and general desire to succeed without resorting to petty crime. It also gives them something to do with their time other than just watching TV or reading in their cells, which I would think probably reduces drug use and elaborate escape plots (inmates of maximum security prisons have spent a lot of time and energy whittling weapons out of toothbrushes and making hollow spaces in stacks of lunch trays).

Security was an issue at one of the prison farms, I think in Saskatchewan, where there were quite a few successful escapes. But here in Eastern Ontario, there are seven correctional facilities within a short drive of the city of Kingston, including maximum securities like the Kingston Penitentiary (where rapist and serial killer Paul Barnardo is held) and Millhaven Institution (where the brother was sent in the Tragically Hip song "38 Years Old"). It's safe to say that area residents are far more concerned about a recent security breach at the Pen and the fact that last week a Millhaven employee was discovered smuggling in drugs than they are about an escape from one of the minimum security prison farms.

As for the deficit issue--tell me, are any non-farm prisons making money?

As I type this, protesters are blockading the entrance to Frontenac Institution, as they have been since yesterday morning, to prevent cattle trucks from entering the prison and removing the dairy cows. Yesterday nine people were arrested at the blockade, including a 14-year-old girl and an 87-year-old woman, and a dozen more have been arrested today. Most protesters, including some of my co-workers who were at the protest yesterday, have said they would also be willing to be arrested for their cause.

All you need to do is take a look at the pictures accompanying the media coverage to tell that these are not radicals, or even people who protest regularly. When an entire community--a community in a prison town, in fact--gets together to oppose something, you should probably sit down and think about it. People are not stupid. They have a pretty good idea of what works best in their own community.

Meanwhile, Stockwell Day is still an idiot. Probably in order to distract the (apparently stupid) Canadian populace from the census issue, Day announced the expansion of several prisons, including Millhaven, which is apparently going to become some kind of prison super-complex. A Walmart Superstore of a correctional facility, if you will.

When asked why the government was spending billions of dollars to expand prison capacity when crime is on the decline, and has been for at least a decade, good ol' Doris went on some kind of rant about how there is an epidemic of unreported crime in this country.
Now, there IS a StatsCan survey that says that reporting of crimes has gone down a few percentage points in recent years. However, it also reports that most crimes aren't reported because they're dealt with another way (eg. when your neighbour's son spray-paints something nasty on your fence, you make him repaint the fence rather than reporting vandalism to the police) or because the people involved don't think it's important enough to report to the police (eg. while fighting, someone punches you in the face, and you don't charge that person with aggravated assault because it was just one knuckle-sandwich, no permanent damage). The same report says that 94% of Canadians are confident in their personal safety.
Basically, there is nothing to justify this prison expansion.

Now, what can we take from all this? Some have argued that the Tories are arrogant, secure in their support, ruling like a majority, in order to "cover the fact that they are truly lacking when it comes to governing. Harper knows that without tight control over anything said in the media, they will very quickly be revealed as bumpkins." In a hilarious editorial, Dan Gardner argues that Harper is "liberating" himself from reality, much like the "truthiness" of the Bush administration in the US. By strictly controlling the dissemination of information, and getting rid of one of the most accurate and invaluable sources of information in the country, Harper is allowing himself to take the actions he feels are correct, such as expanding prisons, without letting those pesky little facts get in his way. Susan Riley remarks that Harper's "successes"--the things his government have accomplished which have not caused the majority of the country to despise him--have been very minor things: "a free trade deal with Colombia, a successful royal visit, reopening beef exports to China, restricting pardons for violent offenders. This is tweaking, not leading."

I find myself agreeing with all of these assessments. Since Harper usually acts without reference to how the country feels anyway--his ability to ignore protests, both in person, in the media, and in letter-campaign form, will probably end up being legendary--and controls his cabinet (not to mention the Governor General) with an iron fist, Parliament is getting more and more to be the Stevie Show. At first I thought maybe he was angling for more of a republican, presidential role--wouldn't he love to be the head of state--but now I'm thinking it might be something more, especially since he is now deliberately obfuscating the information that any good policymaker would find necessary. I know I've made jokes about Harper "not being dictator yet" in the past, but feeling the world kind of crumble around me these past few weeks, I'm starting to seriously wonder if that's actually what he's aiming for, or if this is just a ginormous power trip.

I'm sorry if this post seems like a giant flood of kind of disconnected ideas. I'm still trying to work through these things for myself, and trying to figure out if there's any way to get Harper out of office without a heck of a lot of gerrymandering. Next election--and I really, really hope that the Opposition can force one for this fall--I'm going to be out there singing "Raise a Little Hell" with the best of them, trying to get the youth vote (which, in my experience, tends to be left-of-centre) out to the polls.


I can't tell if these duckies are hunting or in the military, but either kind of works. The Tories in their spare time--because we all know how much Peter McKay loves illegally wearing a Canadian Forces uniforms, and I bet all the cabinet ministers would like to put on some camo and scout out my housemate's herb garden, as these duckies are doing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My grandfather, a "BAD Canadian"?

So my grandfather seems to think that the best use of the internet is email forwards. Which is fine. I highly enjoy the dirty jokes he sends me on an almost-weekly basis. However, he also tends to send me these ranty, ideo-political, emoticon-heavy forwards that are so right-wing and ignorant that they kind of offend me. He sent me one such today, and it struck me that he seems to be buying into a contradictory idea that doesn't particularly represent him well.

Without further ado, the email in question, accompanied by my commentary/response/deconstruction:

I Am the Liberal-Progressives Worst Nightmare.
I am a Canadian.

Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know those damn pesky Liberal-Progressives were still around. I thought they went out with William Lyon Mackenzie King.

I am a Master Mason and believe in God.

No you aren't, Grandpa. You're Catholic. You're supposed to think that the Freemasons are the devil and trying to eat your soul. Get with the program.

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles and believe in Canadian products.

But the Harley Davidson isn't a Canadian product. And you don't actually ride one either, Grandpa. I also support Canadian products, which is one of the reasons why I'm confused that at least half the stuff you own is American-manufactured.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some Liberal/PC governmental functionary be it Conservative or Liberal!

Okay, so the PCs have only been gone since 2003. Some confusion is understandable. Especially since I think 2003 was the last time I sent an email forward.

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I don't think the Liberals are trying to take that away from you. The HarperCons, maybe.

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer, it makes you a smart Canadian.

See, if NO ONE had guns there would be a lot less people dying. It's just so much easier to kill someone if you can just shoot them from a distance, rather than getting, you know, all up close and personal and messy with strangulation and stabbing and whatnot.

I don't care how many rifles you have at your hunting lodge. If you live in inner-city Toronto and own a handgun, I am going to find you suspicious.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, and does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!

I also believe that being a minority does not entitle people to something "special." I do, however, believe that everyone, regardless of their minoritarian or non-minoritarian status, deserves to be treated the same. That means that minorities deserve not to be discriminated against. They also deserve to not have their accents or cultural customs mocked--I'm looking at you, Grandpa.

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, do it in English.

WHOA. WHOA. WHOA. Slow down there, buddy. Grandpa--I don't know if you've noticed this, but English is actually not your first language. In fact, Grandpa, even though you live in Ontario now, you have actually lived the great majority of your life in Quebec, and a few years in the bilingual province of New Brunswick. And, in fact, even though you do now live in Ontario, and have for a while, you live in a bilingual city with a lot of francophones in it, and before you retired, you worked exclusively in French. Are you actually telling me that you would be offended if someone tried to sell you a Big Mac in French?

I believe that everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.

Yes, freedom of religion is in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is important. Remember it.

My heroes are John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson, maker of the awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycle.

Dude... none of these guys are Canadian. Babe Ruth played (ick) baseball. How about some Bobby Orr? Phil Esposito? Paul Henderson? Would you still love John Wayne if you knew that that's only his stage name and his real name is Marion Morrison?

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.

Well, maybe you should.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

...what does this have to do with anything?

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave.

Good, because that's been illegal in Canada since 1834.

I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you! So, shut up already.

I'm very confused. Who are you telling to shut up? Who is this mysterious person who thinks they've burned witches and been persecuted by the Turks? Is this an anti-intellectual/anti-history thing? Do I have to remind you that I, your granddaughter, am studying history quite passionately?

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!

Well... see, that's the thing. I AM from here. And I know people who are refugees--people whose families were kicked out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein, people who are fleeing from anarchist, chaotic Somalia, people escaping from lives of extreme, soul-crushing poverty in South America. They kind of can't go back. Those problems are going to take a really, really, really long time to fix.

This is CANADA. We like it the way it is!

Well. I mean. There's always room for improvement. Like, for example, not treating Native people like shit. (They really, REALLY can't "go back to where they came from.") However, if this is a "Harper, you megalomaniac idiot, what are you DOING to my COUNTRY" kind of rant, I can support that.

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.

Can I get an AMEN on that one?

Um, no.

You see, no country is perfect, but from where I'm standing, Canada is about as close as they get. We've got good social programs, a healthy economy, good job prospects, low violence, and relatively few racial/ethnic issues (barring the whole language issue and the treatment of First Nations people). Women, such as myself, have a lot more rights and a lot more options here than in some other countries.

But as I mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean that I think we should stay exactly as we are now. There is room for improvement.

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what colour you are.

I agree. The police should really step up in that whole pulling-over-white-people thing. It's kind of embarrassing how underrepresented we are in fines, tickets, and charges.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my drivers license.

Good for you. That is not exactly a defining characteristic of a Canadian.

I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on on our Government Buildings.

But what if it interferes with someone else's ability to pray to his or her God whenever they want, like you said you believed in...?

Oh, I'm sorry, I misunderstood your previous statement. You want people to be able to pray to their God, so basically you exclude all non-monotheistic religions, and potentially even monotheistic religions that refer to their deity by some other name.

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the nation.

Dude. That's not even funny. That's downright ableist, not to mention offensive to people who came from places where democracy didn't exist, and thus have never seen or heard of a ballot before they became Canadian citizens.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause.
Get a job and do your part!

But what if it is their job to sell you stuff at intersections, or to collect donations for a charity?

What if they are people who are discriminated against for any number of reasons (race, gender, sex, ability, religion, etc.) and are unable to find a job? What if the person is a single parent who can only try to make money during the three hours a day the neighbour is able to watch the kids?

Better yet, what if there is a global economic recession and there simply aren't any jobs?

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.

So single parents, including widows and widowers, should either find a partner quickly or be forced to give up their children to a couple. Interesting.

Do you believe in nannies? What about babysitters? Teachers? Aunts, uncles, grandparents taking any kind of active role in raising the child? (Be careful what you say about this one, Grandpa!)

What about kids who have two parents, but are being abused by one or both of their parents? Should the aforementioned "village" not then step in and do something?

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.

Now I'm confused. Well, illegal and illegal are the same thing. As in, they are the same entry in the dictionary. And what lawyers do is compare the case before them to something that has occurred before that was found to be either legal or illegal, and try to argue that the current situation is the same as, or different from, that previous situation. Thus, lawyers try to decide whether what has occurred is illegal or not. They don't really spend much time debating the definition of illegality as far as I can tell.

I believe the Canadian flag should be the only one allowed in CANADA !

This causes far, fare more problems than it solves. What would the embassies do? What would happen if we ever had the Olympics here again? And are you so violently against provincial, territorial, and municipal flags? I feel obligated to remind you here that Canada is a Confederation of ten provinces and three territories, and not some kind of monolithic state.

If this makes me a BAD Canadian, then yes, I'm a BAD Canadian.

I don't know if there's such thing as a "bad" Canadian, unless you really do mean "BAD" Canadian and the BAD stands for something. I mean, you can be a bad person, like if you do something really unethical or immoral, which I guess makes you a bad Canadian too. Or you can try to take the citizenship test and fail it, which means you are bad at being Canadian. But I don't think there's such thin as a bad Canadian.

If you are a BAD Canadian too, please forward this to everyone you know.

We want our country back!

Oh, I'm sorry, Grandpa. I didn't realize you were advocating for the rights of First Nations people. That changes everything.


Or not. Dude. When was the last time you sang the national anthem? Try it again,and then reconsider that sentence.


Okay, I can get behind this one. But it doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the... manifesto, shall we call it.

One of the problems I have with this, and specifically with receiving this from my grandfather, is that it feels like a very rural, WASPy kind of movement. And while my grandfather is W, he isn't ASP. The God in this email seems to me like a Protestant God, and the emphasis on the English language troubles me, even more so because it didn't seem to trouble my French-Canadian grandfather. It sounds like something that could come out of Alberta, especially with all that cowboy crap, and I feel like the guy who originally wrote this (do YOU think it could have been written by a woman?) would probably look down on my grandfather for being French Canadian and Catholic. When you start being an agent in your own oppression, it means you can't see it, and things get really, really tricky.

That being said. When a person becomes a Canadian citizen, they do have to agree to obey Canadian laws. There has recently been some movement toward implementing Sharia law in Canada, and I don't think that should happen (especially since some people came to Canada to escape Sharia law). And I can understand that from a privileged perspective, it might look like minorities get unfair advantages, because privileged people often don't recognize their own privilege, and don't usually see the casual discrimination that happens all the time as truly harmful (race-based jokes and insults, the way someone's behaviour can change based on the appearance of the person they're talking to, the underlying assumption that if your skin isn't white you probably can't speak English and aren't from Canada).

It must be so nice, to be privileged like that, not to have to confront your oppression every day. Not having to think of yourself as female, as ethnic, as disabled, as queer, as different, before you even think of yourself as a human being. Not having to wonder whether the next person you meet on the street is going to be this guy, the BAD Canadian guy, the guy who looks down on you because you have that little qualifier attached to your very humanity.

I should probably just stop opening emails from my grandfather.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The HST and Me!

Well, folks, it is almost upon us. In just over a week, Ontario will be subjected to the horror demon spawn that is the HST.

(That was sarcastic, by the way. I feel like I need to clarify because some people are actually talking about it in those terms.)

First, an explanation. HST stands for Harmonized Sales Tax, which basically means that the current Ontario sales taxes, the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) at 8% and the GST (Goods & Services Tax, federally controlled) at 5% will be combined. So instead of having an 8% PST and a 5% GST, most items will be sold with a 13% HST.

The issue is that while you get charged GST on just about everything, PST is a little more selective. One of the original incentives of the PST system was to encourage healthy living and to make the necessities of life more affordable. So, for example, PST is charged for junk food but not produce, and for adult clothing but not children's clothing. With the HST, some things that were formerly only taxed 5% will now be taxed 13%. This is supposed to shift the tax burden off the shoulders of corporations and onto the consumer, allowing the corporations to lower their prices.

The Maritime provinces harmonized their sales taxes in 1996, and some reports state that the price of goods did go down. Currently both Ontario and British Columbia are preparing to harmonize their sales taxes, and the public is not very receptive. While Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did consult with Ontarions before working towards harmonization, BC Premier Gordon Campbell apparently did not extend the same courtesy to his constituents.

In both provinces, the public and the media have come out strongly against HST. In BC, residents have been circulating a petition which could force the issue to referendum (it needs the signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters of every riding to do so), and a provincial cabinet minister resigned from his position and from the Liberal Party because his riding is so strongly opposed to the HST. In Ontario, Premier McGuinty "has taken to the airwaves in an 11th hour bid to sell the merits of the harmonized sales tax," as that byline goes. Basically he appeared in a 60-second spot talking about how awesome the HST would be for employers. This appeared, interestingly, on the 6 o'clock news yesterday throughout Ontario, except in Ottawa, the location of the federal government and McGuinty's own riding.

Now, I am generally not against taxation. I think of it as a good thing--it keeps our roads paved and our health care universal. However, the concept of moving the tax burden from the corporation to the consumer seems more than a little suspect to me, so I hunted up the Ontario Ministry of Revenue handy-dandy guide to tax change, which my right-wing grandfather forwarded to me almost two months ago along with an email petition to stop "the dreaded HST."

And so, without further ado, How the HST will affect Me:

Clothing and Footwear

No change except in dry cleaning service and children's footwear below size 6. Well, since I've never had anything dry-cleaned in my life and have no kids, looks good.

Food and Beverages

No change except to alcoholic beverages, which actually goes down. I considered this fortuitous until I checked out the footnote, which informs me that other taxes will be charged on alcohol to make up the discrepancy and "continue to support social responsibility." Tcha.

Home Services

Taxation goes from 5% to 13% on cleaning services, electricity and heating, internet access services, home service calls by tradespeople, and landscaping, lawn-care and private snow removal. Well, I don't use cleaning services, my heating is included in my rent, and the supers take care of repairs and snow removal. And I have a lease contract so they're not allowed to raise my rent.

So, for me, tax increase in: internet access service, electricity

Accommodation, Travel and Passenger Transportation Services

Taxation goes from 5% to 13% on hotel rooms, taxis, campsites, and domestic air, rail and bus travel originating in Ontario. Well, hotels and taxis are already ridiculously expensive so I try to avoid them as much as possible anyway. I don't camp much anymore, rarely bus, and only travel by air when absolutely necessary.

So… train travel.

Around the House

Taxation goes up on magazines purchased by subscription and home renovations. I can't renovate my apartment even if I wanted to, and my only magazine subscription is just about to expire, so I think I'm good.

Motorized Vehicles

Well, I don't have a car. But the only changes are to private resale of car and gasoline/diesel so I guess the cost of bus passes will go up.

Home Purchases

The tax is increasing on new homes over $400,000 (although if they are primary residences they are eligible for some kind of housing rebate, apparently, which covers most of the cost) and on real estate commissions.

Health Products and Services

Here we have the caveat that audiologist, chiropractor, and physiotherapist services will remain tax-free "if offered by a practitioner of the service." Honey, if you're getting chiropractic work done by someone who's not a chiropractor, you're going to have bigger issues than having to pay taxes.

Also, tax increases for massage therapy services and vitamins.

I do take vitamins.

Memberships, Entertainment and Sport Equipment

Here we have some interesting changes. The tax for admission to professional sporting events and for movie tickets is actually going down from 15% to 13%. Green fees for golf, gym membership fees, sports lessons, and tickets for live theatre (small venue) are going up (with some exceptions, such as sports lessons for kids with disabilities, and theatre for charity events). Alright. So I do attend professional sporting events (like maybe once a year) and movies. I also go to the theatre, and sometimes I pay for a gym membership.

So, theatre tickets and gym membership up, pro sporting events and movie tickets down.

Lessons and Rentals

Hockey rink and hall rental fees are going up.


No change.

Professional and Personal Services

Tax is increasing for the services of a fitness trainer or hair stylist/barber, aesthetician services, funeral services, and legal fees. Barring exceptional circumstance (aka as long as I don't get arrested or sued), the only one of these I use is the hair stylist.


Tax goes up. I don't smoke, so it's all good.

Bankins and Investments

No change.

Ontario Government Services

Tax is up on hunting and fishing licences. Yeah… no.


With HST, I am going to be paying more for:
internet, train travel, electricity, vitamins, theatre tickets, gym memberships, hair cuts

With HST, I am going to be paying less for:
pro sporting events, movie tickets

According to my estimates for how much I currently spend on those things, tax increases will cost me about $77 annually, and tax decreases will save me maybe $5 a year.

If prices remain the same, the HST will cost me personally (poor university student!) about $70 a year. Taking into account pension plan and employment insurance reductions, that's about one work day (7.5 hours) on Ontario minimum wage.

However, this entire system is predicated upon the assumption that shifting the tax burden will lower prices. If that's the case, since the average Ontario family is expected to pay an extra $450 a year in sales tax once the HST comes out, maybe I will get off easy?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On the "End of Men," or Why More People Should Study History

Recently, The Atlantic--which I admit I don't read, but it sounds kind of like a sensationalized, Boston version of Maclean's--published a piece titled
"The End of Men."

Ha! Oh, hahaha! Ha! Haha! Hahahahahahahahahaha! Haha! Ha!

Fortunately, the article itself isn't quite as laughably implausible as the title. But it is pretty close, as I will demonstrate as I rip it to itty bitty shreds.

For some reason I can't for the life of me fathom, Hanna Rosin introduces her topic by talking about scientific sex selection for babies. Apparently the guy who invented/discovered it is a Manly Man who thought that the fact that Y-chromosome sperm go faster than X-chromosome sperm was awesome. I really don't understand why this is here, and why the editor didn't ruthlessly fill it with red-ink question marks. Is she trying to say, "Ooh, maybe boys come from more athletic sperm, but girls are still more awesome!"

Let's please not attach too much importance to this fact of nature. Because that's what it is--a fact of nature. Even without Dr. Manly Man's sex selection, the agility of the Y-chromosome sperm means that more male than female fetuses are conceived naturally. HOWSOMEVER, male fetuses are ALSO more likely to be miscarried. This is Mother Nature's little way of keeping things balanced. Also, this way, if a group of people is suffering hardship and becoming malnourished, even MORE male fetuses are miscarried, so a disproportionately large number of girls are born. This makes an ideal situation for repopulating the society. Actually, demographers sometimes determine the relative quality of life of a society by tracking the birth rate of males.

(This also explains why in those historical drama movies, there's always that one really dramatic scene where the queen/lady/important person's wife miscarries late in her pregnancy and you find out it would have been a boy and her husband gets super-upset and everybody cries. It's historically accurate, yo!)

So, to recap: boy-making sperm are faster than girl-making sperm. This isn't about boys being stronger than girls. This is about not letting your society die out. It's about evolutionary biology. I don't understand why historians know this but scientists apparently don't, but whatever.

Anyway, in a society such as ours, when our quality of life is such that miscarriages don't happen very often (as late as a hundred years ago, every childbearing woman could expect to have at least three miscarriages), we have a higher birthrate of boy babies than girl babies. NO WONDER people want sex selection to have daughters. Supply and demand. Economics. Geeze Louise, Dr. Manly Man, don't you read???

Apparently Rosin doesn't read either, or at least she doesn't really think about what she's reading. She starts talking about how for centuries women who gave birth to daughters instead of sons could be scorned or even beaten by their husbands; but it doesn't seem to occur to her that maybe that was WHY women wanted sons so badly then. Men wanted sons, sons to carry on their bloodline and carry on the family name, often sons they could raise to be a chip off the old block, as they say. Women wanted to not get beaten by their husbands; ergo, women wanted sons.

Now that babies of any sex are all good, because babies are adorbs, and hey we're all equals here right?, I think it might be more that women want a chip off the old block also. Or maybe they want a baby girl to dress in cute clothes, a daughter they can go shopping with, a vibrant young woman who can hate on the patriarchy with them, what have you. The point is: I highly doubt that people now want daughters because they think their daughters will be better equipped to succeed at life than sons. This:

American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind's eye.

Bullshit! I think that generally, dads-to-be are kind of hoping for a boy, and moms-to-be are wishing for a girl. This probably stems from the way that parents tend to encourage their kids to fulfill dreams that the parents themselves didn't have a chance to fulfill. Doesn't that sound great? Having someone who is essentially a mini-you doing all the stuff you always wanted to but couldn't? Yeah. Thought so. I feel like the increased demand for female babies comes from women having more of a voice when it comes to their family planning.

Well, that was long-winded, but so were Rosin's opening remarks. Seriously. This literally has nothing to do with the rest of the article, which is more like this little gem:

For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history?

NO. You think? I have ALSO had this thought! More than that, I'm sure I've read it in several Psych and Soc textbooks! Also several women's studies writings! What a crazy random happenstance!

And then she kills it. "What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?"

BUT YOU JUST SAID THAT MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT HARDWIRED TO BE DIFFERENT!! Make up your mind--are men and women hardwired to be different, and the new economy favours female characteristics? Or are men and women simply fulfilling social roles, meaning that ANYONE can be socialized into being nurturing and domestic, and ANYONE can be socialized into being ambitious and competitive?

Rosin never does make up her mind on this issue, which is probably one of my main problems about the article. She demonstrates handily that women are gaining economic power in the working class and political power in the middle class and who knows what the upper class are doing.

Basically, the recession mostly hit male-dominated industries like the auto industry, meaning that most of the people who were turned out of work are men (she's not the first person to write about this; I have heard the more or less ridiculous term "Mancession" bandied about a few times. Recessions ALWAYS hurt men more than women, because men are always a higher percentage of the labour force, at least at the beginning of the recession). So women are making most of the money in the working class, in retail and nannying and housekeeping and I dunno, whatever other lady-crap they do. Rosin describes the environment created by this phenomenon as a "matriarchy". And all the poor sad unemployed men who defaulted on their child support have to go to support groups where they talk about things like this:

'What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral emotional, social, and physical. But you ain't none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain't even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she'll call 911. How does that make you feel? You're supposed to be the authority, and she says, 'Get out of the house, bitch.' She's calling you 'bitch'!' […] 'Who's doing what?' he asks them. 'What is our role? Everyone's telling us we're supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It's toxic, and poisonous, and it's setting us up for failure.' He write on the board: $85, 000. 'This is her salary.' Then: $12,000. 'This is your salary. Who's the damn man? Who's the man now?' A murmur rises. 'That's right. She's the man.'

Holy jumping' Jehosaphat! What is this, How to Be a Massive Asshole Patriarchal Misogynist to Your Wife and Kids 101? (Or a humorous Amanda Bynes movie? Anyone? Anyone?) If I may speak directly to the men in the support group for a moment: You're not a fucking paycheck, you are a FATHER. You know what your role is? You're supposed to love your kids and teach them all about values and hard work and how to make good choices, and you're supposed to set a good example and make sure your kids eat healthy and get enough exercise. So excuse me while I crash your little pity party for your defeated breadwinner masculinity, which, for your information, is a construct of masculinity that was only formed about a hundred years ago, when the LAST major crisis of masculinity happened. Oh, boo-hoo, you don't make as much money as your wife/partner. Guess what? As long as you have a penis and identify as male, YOU ARE STILL A MAN. Grow up and get over it already.

So, yeah. As you might be able to tell, I think this situation isn't leading to "Awesome, look how much economic power working-class women now have!" as much as to "Massive Crisis of Masculinity Ahead!" As I mentioned, there was another massive crisis of masculinity about a hundred years ago, in response to the rise of maternal feminism, men losing their livelihood due to increased industrialization, and a few minor recessions. You know what they did then? They took it out on the loose young women, and in some places (including Ontario) legislation was even passed to the effect that young women could be locked up in a "reformatory" (prison) just for being "promiscuous". Also, Boy Scouts were invented to make boys into Real Manly Men and Not Girly Boys. Does that remind you of anything? Countless editorials about young women and hookup culture, perhaps? A new academic discipline called "Male Studies"? (Seriously, check that website. It's worth a few laughs at least. That's it, white boy, cry your heart out.)

So, yeah. The whole more-women-than-men-employed thing? Not exactly an unalloyed blessing, here. (Also, what's going on now? Nothing new. Literally.)

According to Rosin, women are also doing really well in white-collar job areas. Well, yes and no. She is correct in saying that women hold more than half of all managerial and professional jobs in the US. But "managerial and professional" is an enormous category, one that includes nurses, teachers, and mid-level retail and fast food managers. And that's why women hold more than half the positions in that category. She glosses over mentioning the glass ceiling, only commenting that female CEOs are very rare. Yeah, funny that. She tries to salvage it by pointing out that female CEOs make on average more than male CEOs, but really--when so few women make it that high up the ladder, the ones who do have got to be fricking formidable.

Here is another gem, this time on the subject of male vs. female leadership styles (which, I would like to remind everyone, are socialized and not innate):

A program at Columbia Business School, for example, teaches sensitive leadership and social intelligence, including better reading of facial expressions and body language. “We never explicitly say, ‘Develop your feminine side,’ but it’s clear that’s what we’re advocating,” says Jamie Ladge.

Hmm. This sounds suspiciously like Columbia Business School is lacking in students who already have a feminine side, i.e. female students. Either that or they want their male students to become proficient with both management styles. Do they also offer courses in ambition and aggression, or do they expect their female students to learn as they go along? Oh, dear. Women may, as Rosin suggests, be the future, but apparently not the immediate future, at least so far as the Columbia MBA classes of 2010 through 2012.

This is where Rosin gets distracted and goes, "LOOK AT ALL THE EDDYCATION THE WYMMINZ IS GETTING!" Okay, not quite, but I was surprised that the pulled up the stat that BAs are granted to three women for every two men. Which, unpacking the awkward phrasing, means that women earn 60% of BAs. I entirely believe this is true--thank you for reminding me of my minimal dating prospects--but, as my dad says, the BA is the new high school diploma. Rosin has apparently not talked to many BA students, or she would know that the number one question people ask us is, "Oh, you're studying (blank)? But what are you going to do with that?" And the answer is usually: something completely different! There are very few jobs you can get with just a BA--you could work for the public service. I guess. Of that's really what you want to do with your life. Or you could do like everyone else and go back to school! Grad school, business school, law school, teacher's college, library school, culinary school, beauty school--anything! You just have to get in! If your school is like mine, most programs (outside of the BA, nursing school, teacher's college, the gender studies department, and maybe a few others) are more or less male-dominated. And for all the female students, women aren't exactly ruling academia. In fact, the old guard of the history department at my school has begun to make noises that 40% is close enough to 50%, so we can probably stop hiring women now. (Granted, this might be because they're historians, and thus not particularly mathematically inclined.) Not exactly the most female-friendly environment in the world.

I'm also going to take a moment here to point out that the male-dominated trades--plumbing, carpentry, etc.--pay a lot more than the public service, or anything else you can do with a BA, as well as most things you can do with a BA and another degree.

Another odd quote from Rosin:

One afternoon, in the basement cafeteria of a nearly windowless brick building, several women were trying to keep their eyes on their biology textbook and ignore the text messages from their babysitters. Another crew was outside the ladies' room, braiding each other's hair.

Excuse me? What is going on here? How come all the female students are either mothers or preteens at a slumber party? Also, why are the mothers ignoring the babysitters? It takes ten seconds to check a text message. What if the house just burnt down, or the kid fell down the stairs and got a concussion? Or maybe the kid's sick and the babysitter's texting to say, "Yeah, cleaning up puke? So not in my contract." Seriously. CHECK YOUR TEXT MESSAGES FOR GOD'S SAKE. YOU GAVE YOUR BABYSITTER THE CELL NUMBER FOR A REASON. As for the ones braiding each other's hair--why are they doing it outside of the ladies' room, when they could just as easily be inside the ladies' room where there are mirrors? Why are they braiding each other's hair on campus at all? This is just too confusing for me.

Anyway, the upshot of all this, according to Rosin, is that women are becoming more like the dominant sex, i.e. being more violent and dating younger men (think Jihad Jane and Demi Moore), while men are apparently all turning into Judd Apatow characters. Apparently this is a bad thing? I personally find that a lot of the men in Apatow's movies are more likeable and sympathetic than those in movies by a lot of other male directors. Think Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, or Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Totally adorkable, right?

Okay, so now that I've basically disagreed with Rosin on every point, and/or called her an idiot, I think it's time to return to her initial question. Are women more suited to the new postindustrial economy?

Maybe. Usually I stay away from generalizations based on sex, but this time I'll go with it. First of all, being on the wrong side of the hegemonic order kind of gives you a different perspective from "the man", with ideas that at least appear to be new and fresh. The different strategies women have developed to try to exert their agency lead to a different ways of organizing interpersonal relations, which could be especially useful in this information age. This has a lot to do with teamwork, cooperation, and communication. There is also the fact that women have been and continue to be very… versatile, for lack of a better word. I'm thinking here particularly of women like my mother, who has a degree in computer science as well as an MBA, but who can still make a bolt of fabric into a floor-length, bell-sleeved Mediaeval princess dress (don't ask), makes the best desserts in the world, and quite literally ALWAYS wins at Scrabble. I firmly believe that my mother could do literally anything; and if it didn't come easily, she would work at it tirelessly day and night until she achieved her goal. I think that this might be the legacy of that whole "second-shift" thing, that we have women like my mother, who can do everything. Still today, girls are more likely than boys to learn how to do complex, occasional household tasks like sewing. This collection of wide and varied abilities, combined with the "women must do twice as well to be thought half as good" mentality, just might make many women suited to the information economy.

That being said, I don't think it is "The End of Men," and I don't think men will "end" very soon. In fact, I don't want them to. I don't want women to become the dominant sex, I don't think anyone wants that. What I'm looking for is more like a decrease in the importance of gender roles, hopefully to the point that they no longer exist. I do think that the conditions described by Rosin might lead to a transition period to that kind of world. As more girls than ever grow up with mothers who are employed, and an increasing number have stay-at-home dads, hopefully careers will seem to them more like a certainty than a choice; and even though their mothers are more than likely working in the nurturing professions or other "female" fields, hopefully these girls will see possibilities that extend beyond that, into a future that is apparently really cheesy and sentimental.

Sorry about that. I started writing about my mom and it made me emotional, because my mom is awesome and I don't see her enough. I feel like a lot of this is about mothers and daughters, and so…


A Mommy Duckie and her baby duckies.

AWWWWWWW!!!!! Isn't that adorable?