Monday, 17 December 2012

On Walking, Biking, and Victim-Blaming: An Explicit Connection

This article took me some time to write, and in the course of the time that I began writing until it was publishable half a dozen more accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars surfaced in the news. For a while I tried to keep on top of the latest ones and update the first paragraph accordingly, but there are simply too many, which goes some way towards proving my point in the first place.

Hey, I wonder how fast that car's going.

On Monday morning of last week, 6 people were struck by cars in Toronto in the span of an hour, all while legally crossing or waiting to cross the road. That seems like a lot – and it is, it is a lot, a rash – so surely there was some connective factor this morning? Something to learn from so many violent interactions in a single morning? Indeed, says traffic services Const. Clint Stibbe, the common factor was “dark clothing worn by pedestrians”. If those pedestrians had been wearing lighter clothing, then, they may not have been struck by the cars that struck them. What if they had been younger, if they had not been pushing a stroller? Did they make sure all the cars were going to stop at the crosswalk before they started walking? Did they? And if, as Christopher Hume asks in the Toronto Star, Monday's pedestrians were all crossing legally, “why should the colour of their clothing make a difference?” Indeed.

So, to summarize the coverage: a person is the victim of a violent act, a crime, and in the aftermath of that crime we ask each other what the victim did or did not do to invite the violence on themselves.

This is victim-blaming, pure and simple.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Oh, You Have a Degree? Then You Must Have a Job!

Laurie Penny had a piece in the Guardian yesterday, in which she discusses the enormous amount of fear and stress young people feel about their student loans and their prospects for employment.

This is something I know.

Oh, is THAT what I'm meant to do!
Penny writes from London, where I have struggled to live before, and I know how difficult it can be (homeless! In January! In Camden!). Though I live now in Ontario, the path my country and province are following is the same as London - increasing ideological austerity even in the face of concrete evidence that it is fiscally reckless and harmful for almost everyone. Though, as with everything in our mess of a hierarchical system, it is most harmful to the people who have already been harmed by it - that is, single parents (mothers, usually), people with disabilities, people in industries with low job security, marginalized racial groups, people without homes, and on and on. The poorer you are, of course, the harder austerity measures hit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

December 6 1989 Day of Remembrance

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at the École Polytechnique, when a man "fighting feminism" killed 14 women and injured 10, as well as accidentally injuring 4 men who were caught in the crossfire. It is a testament to how much work still remains to be done on the issue of male violence against women that when I sat down to write this post, nothing more than a link-roundup, I didn't even know where to start. In the aftermath of Kasandra Perkins's murder and Jovan Belcher's subsequent suicide, there seems to be no end to the mournful and outraged and bone-weary discussions of male violence against women.

If you're in the KW area, I hope you can find time to attend Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women this evening. There are candlelight vigils tonight in pretty much every town in Canada, so take a look at your local paper to see what's going on around you.

Specific to the Montreal Massacre:

  • Julie Bindel in the Guardian on how the events of that day impacted the Canadian radical feminist movement
  •  Supriya Dwivedi in the National Post on the validity of the vigils that will be held today (there aren't many comments yet, but a likely tw for when they start to appear. This is the National Post, after all)
  • Stephanie Levitz in the Huffington Post on the Canadian long-form gun registry, which was sparked by the Montreal Massacre, and which the Conservative government is in the process of dismantling (oh, goody!)
  • Lynda Muir, director of the Women and Children's Shelter of Barrie, in the Barrie Examiner on how little progress has been made on violence against women in Canada.
On Kasandra Perkins and naming male violence against women:

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Makeup For Babies! Super Great!

In my last post I mentioned a speaker at a conference about domestic violence showing a picture of himself as a 3-year-old, looking, sure, adorably rough-and-tumble, and using it to illustrate that "all children are at equal risk for being abusers" and that gender difference hadn't set in yet. That little boy, he asserted, did not even know he was a little boy! He was just a gender-neutral small person!

Girls like purses because they used bags to gather berries.
Wrong. Oh, oh, so wrong; I wish he was not so wrong. But he is so. Wrong.

It was an offhand remark in the conference, and I didn't address it at the time because it seemed like a derail, but the more I think about it, the more it sticks in my craw. How dare this guy not know how early this messaging starts? Before babies are even born we're talking about them in terms of their gender, buying pink blankets for girl babies and blue blankets for boys, as though the baby zirself will be confused as to what their genitals look like if they don't have the label of a blanket. That may seem like a small thing, coloured baby blankets, but they are illustrative of the way we treat humans differently based on whatever colour blanket they were born into (whether they fit in it or not). Because there is makeup for babies, and because makeup for babies is almost not even the most egregious example of this kind of shockingly early gender manipulation. Makeup! For babies!

Monday, 26 November 2012

On Men's Place In Feminism: Part One (Probably)

Congratulations, Maureen! You are the fourth winner in the Feminist Ryan Gosling book contest.

I’m giving away one more book this week - check back to see if you’ve won!
Give me back that hammer.
About six weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference about how to engage male allies in the fight to end gendered violence, namely violence against women. I was there as a volunteer-in-training for the very awesome Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, which boasts one of the very few Male Ally programs in the country*; a program which, it turns out, is at least as comprehensive as the programs espoused by the speaker of the conference, Rus Ervin Funk. Go team!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Is This Feminist? And Other Relevant Questions

Oh, FEMEN and your feminist boobs. Your uniformly thin, smooth-skinned, whole, mostly white, two-breasted naked torsos are just so subversive, and lard knows there's no other way to get the media to pay any attention to you!


But this post is not about FEMEN, necessarily, because lots of people have been saying whatever I would say about them for years now. Read here! And here! And here's what I wrote about Slutwalk, and here's what I wrote about hookup culture, in which you could just replace the actual subject with "FEMEN" and voila! Reconstituted. In the immortal words of everyone's favourite spinster aunt: If the liberal peen is keen, the result can only demean. There's no need to add to the list of criticism - in fact I can't believe that such interesting, thoughtful, and patient analyses have arisen out of this SAME. TIRED. SHIT.  Update: Meghan Murphy totally beat me to it this morning!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

In Defense of Using "Douche" as an Insult

I recently read this post on Can Be Bitter, in which the author dissects the meanings behind some commonly-used insults, namely douche, slut, motherfucker, and comparing vaginas to sea-creatures. I'm totally on board with the opening - that language is important, that the words we use reveal and reinforce cultural ideas that we share and which may be harmful or oppressive, and that we should therefore be aware of what the hidden meanings of the words we use. I like the suitcase metaphor - as in, think of each word as a suitcase full of all kinds of cultural and personal assumptions, and in order to communicate effectively with one another we have to all know most (but not all) of what's contained in those suitcases. (Quick aside: this is why "It didn't mean anything, it's just a joke!" is not a defense. If it actually didn't mean anything, it would not have been a joke, it would have been a series of disconnected nonsense words. It's only a joke because it means something, and because everyone who gets the joke knows what things it means. I'll probably write more on this later, but for now this is a pretty interesting article.)

So I think it's really important to acknowledge the ways our words are used and the meanings we may or may not be aware of when we speak, and to take the harm those words and meanings can cause very seriously. Whoever said "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" was, quite frankly, a total idiot.

The purpose of this post is to defend the use of one of the words discussed in the post at Can Be Bitter, not in denial of what the words means, but because of it. The author points out that douche is an insult primarily because it is a thing that is used in the vagina, which obviously makes it gross and terrible and something no one would ever want to be associated with. And that's true, for sure, but it's also true that douching in itself is a pretty oppressive and dangerous practice, and for me that makes it a pretty damn apt insult for a certain type of behaviour.


  • Douching, first, is the act of squirting corrosive, flower-scented chemicals up the vagina, also known as Patriarchy-In-A-Box. It is based on the idea that vaginas are dirty and gross and something to be embarrassed about. Just like this.
  • Douching is a harmful, unsafe practice that denies the actual function of female sexual and reproductive organs, and uses that denial to assert male control over them.  Just like all of this nasty business.
  • Douching is also about selling women products they don't need to fix something that isn't wrong with them. I can't find a link to ALL OF ADVERTISING EVER, so use your imagination. Or go watch some tv. No, wait. Don't.
  • Douching is a symptom of the idea that female bodies exists for male pleasure. Just like this.

It turns out there are a lot of people (mostly male people, but not exclusively) exhibiting dangerous, oppressive desires to control vaginas and the things that happen there. Douches, one and all!

*Photo credit: Gawker

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Some Thoughts About Reddit, Doxxing, and the Anonymity of Images

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, here’s some background on the Reddit-Predditors series of events.

I’ve been reading a lot of pretty great analysis that goes well beyond the obvious “uh, if posting photos of non-consenting women in public is free speech, then me calling you an asshole for doing it is also free speech”, and there’s been a ton written about putting r/creepshots, Amanda Todd, and 12-year-old Slut Facebook pages in the context of a society that is often actively hostile to women and girls more generally. I have some general-ish thoughts about the nature of online anonymity, why we value it, and who benefits from it, so here they are.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Hi, I'm New Here.

Hi! Welcome!

Here are some things that describe me. I will probably write mostly about being those things, and some other things, and what that means for me in the world. Anything I write that is not directly about being those things in the world is still kind of about being those things in the world, if you know what I mean.

As one of the Base Assumptions of this blog (and, you know, feminism) is that the personal is political, I will try my best to be unflinching in what I write here. There is a lot about me that is not likeable, but I will try to be brave about that, because I think it's important to examine the ways our individual lives are impacted by broader social structures. I also think it's important to illustrate that the process of situating your life and your decisions in cultural context does not automatically rob you of agency, or whatever, and that we will get nowhere if we can't at least agree on that. I believe in recognizing my own privilege, and I will do my best to ensure people who belong to a group with which I do not identify will be able and encouraged to speak for themselves here, especially when discussing issues that impact those groups more directly. I believe that listening to marginalized voices of all varieties is necessary to move the struggle for meaningful equality forward, and that likewise - or therefore - those voices and stories are often ignored. Also, though, I will try to be careful in identifying the line, insofar as that's possible, between listening to stories and relying on anecdotal evidence, which is subject to that most pernicious of effects, the confirmation bias, and I will try to make sure that the speech here is based on fairness and openness. I will likely discover that this is much easier said than done (foreshadowing!).

 I hope to build a safe space here, like the many online spaces that have made me feel safe and welcome, and from which I've learned so much. I hope to add my voice and the voices of whatever community hopefully forms here to a vitally important conversation about power and its manifestations, and I expect to learn a great deal here too.

And we're away!