Friday, November 30, 2007

Life, Choice and the Pursuit of Solidarity

I tend to shy away from the overtly personal on here because although I do believe that The Personal is Political, that's not what this platform is for me. However, I think I can make room for exceptions.

It's a rather complicated story, but the long and short of it is that I was going to class yesterday when a beloved classmate of mine told me about this anti-choice demonstration occurring in a very busy area of student traffic on campus. The group was called Lifeline and FeministsforLife (Yeah, their title pisses me right off). We did our best Third Wave feminist move, made up some DIY signs and had our own counter-protest.

Although I've stated my pro-choice standpoint on here many times, I'm not here right now to rant about my absolute disgust at these people. In fact, this particular demonstration saddened me more than anything because it used the "I regret my abortion" tactic. I felt horrible for these womyn (all of whom were older) who were publicly shaming themselves for their so-called cause. They were pathetic in the most heartbreaking way.

All in all, it was an exhausting day, both physically and mentally. However, there was an unexpected joy in all of this.

As I said, this counter-protest began with my classmate and I being angry and wanting our voices heard. With just us two, we ran up to the floor where we work, where we were able to snag writing material from two different sources. Then we spoke to our professor, who gave us permission to not attend class. Then we stood in the room, just her and I with our signs held high versus the anti-choice group of about 10. With a quick cellphone call, one more feminist joined our side. By the end of the day, we were over a dozen womyn (only two of which I had previously known) with just as many signs. People we didn't even know were walking by and asking to join us. In fact, we far outnumbered the anti-choice side. Hey, we even scored a few men on our side for a while!

What's more is that we were brought food by two different groups on campus as well as more writing material for signs. Campus security came to check on our safety and the womyn's group on campus came to ensure that we felt comfortable and not threatened. We received dozens upon dozens of encouraging passerbys, with high fives and thumbs up a plenty.

And so, when I hear that we are living in a post-feminist society, that feminism is no longer needed nor relevant; when I hear that womyn cannot work together because they are too catty, backstabbing and uncooperative, I shake my head.

Feminism is not about division, in-fighting or confrontation. It has been and still is, about building solidarity. And so I raise my fist with all those who understand what the mighty, mighty F-Word is all about.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Liquor, love and lesbianism

I have a really bizarre fascination with the new "reality" show A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. I'm fascinated for so many reasons. Like why do we care about Tila Tequila first of all? She was a Playboy model who started a MySpace page and quasi-raps. She's immensely popular for reasons unknown. But that's not why I'm so fascinated because let's face it, that's nothing new. Paris Hilton, The Hills, all that junk is a matter of people being famous for nada.

Alright, so in a 3 second description, A Shot at Love is a "reality" show like the Bachelorette, except that Tila is bi-sexual, therefore she's choosing between 12 men and 12 womyn. Like all other "reality" shows, the whole thing is a joke, as they spend a day together between elimination rounds and yet claim to "love" Tila.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. This show is pretty progressive, considering GLBTQ people are typically represented in the media in purely stereotypical and over the top manners. (Think Will and Grace and every show with a gay hair dresser/designer) And I have yet to ever see bi-sexual characters represented on mainstream television.

However (and here comes Debbie Downer). This show is a goddamn train wreck - I can't look away. And not just because it's another crappy reality tv shows but it assaults my feminist sensibilities more so than the average show. This show really highlights the blatant homophobia of contemporary North American society. The men on the show constantly refer to the womyn as "he-she" and at one point, they are referred to as having "cock envy". References are constantly made to how they "just need a good man" and they are consistently questioned about whether or not they are really lesbians or bi-sexual, whichever the case may be.

A Shot at Love is a highly popular show. But the truth is that this show would have bombed (assuming it would even make it on the air) if the main person was a man. Imagine if this show was a a bi-sexual man choosing between womyn or men? This would never happen. And if Tila wasn't a "hot" 4'11 former Playboy model, would people want to watch her make out with womyn?

Therefore, in a strange twist, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila makes a perfect case for the ways in which feminism's goal of gender justice is beneficial to men and womyn. Woulda thunk?!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pro-Life! Pro-Jesus! Anti-Logic!

If there's anything in the world that I love more than Skittles and naps are crazy anti-choice Jesus freaks. The thing I love most about them is their selective use of logic. Take this guy for instance.

He's a guy (emphasis on the penis here) from the Maritimes who refuses to pay his taxes because the Federal Government and in turn, Provincial government, funds abortions. The man, who is evidently very anti-choice, thinks that his tax money is better left to him than to give to the politicians who will use it to fund abortions.

But unbeknown to him apparently, tax money also goes towards... the roads he drives on, the health care he uses, the collecting of his garbage, etc. Oh and the funding of education systems, which is something he obviously needs more of. Oh and it also goes towards the judiciary system. The same legal system that's going to nail his ass to the floor for tax evasion.

On days like today, I am oh so proud to be a Canadian (and a lapsed Catholic).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Shedding a tear for the white man

Canadians are multicultural, diverse and my favourite “tolerant”, right? I call bullshit! The reality is that racism and racial tensions do exist in Canada. The issue is coming to the fore right now in regards to young men and womyn of colour and the education system.

In a nutshell, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) held public discussions this week on the possibility of creating a “black only” high school. The reason being that drop out rates for youth of colour, particularly youth men, are alarmingly high. 200 or so community members came to the public meeting and most were in favour of a pilot school. Supporters argue that the current public education system does not fully represent black culture and black youth tune out and drop out because they don’t feel engaged.

I will admit to being undecided on the idea of a segregated or “Afrocentric” school, as it is sometime referred to. Therefore my musings here today are not on my opinion regarding where I stand but rather I want to demonstrate that there is a definite need for something to be done. Stats on drop out rates are great but one need only read the coverage of this issue to understand the racism bubbling under the surface in Canada.

Sometimes, you need to search for it under the politically correct stench of bullshit, in the case of Margaret Wente’s Globe and Mail discussion. Other times it’s so blatantly obvious that it’s startling. The National Post, bastion of all things right-wing went all out in their absolute hatred of this proposed school. They list four main reasons why these schools are a bad idea, and let me tell you, there’s some real zingers.

“Experiments with "Afrocentric" schools have often yielded bizarre curricula that teach students puffed up fairy tales about the supposedly ignored grandeur of ancient African civilization, and which describe the history of European peoples as one of unrelenting brutality and colonial exploitation.”
Yes, because the white man has always been so nice to the black people and nobody’s ever mistreated them, abused them or made them seem savage and uncivilized. Slavery (and residential schools for that matter) were a damn good time, don't you think? Right up there with the Holocaust on my list of favourite historical moments.

The National Post should of just made the title “PRAISE THE WHITE MAN” so that you’d save yourself the five minutes of reading the whole editorial to figure out their main argument.

But the best part of this whole thing? Their conclusion. The high rates of dropout amongst black youth have nothing to do with the education system. No no no! It’s substance abuse, lack of respect for the education system, bad parenting, fatherless homes, etc. When they say that, I’m thinking “Alright, I like this so far. They’re going to break into a discussion of societal racism and institutionalized oppression." Well apparently I was giving them way too much credit.

“The roots of these sociological phenomena are rooted deeply within individual families and the lifestyle decisions they make. That is where any solution will have to originate.”

You heard it here folks. According to The National Post, black youth are dropping out of school because they choose to be poor and living in fatherless homes.

And the white man marches on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The true cost of living

I love this country. I love this country for many, many reasons. But (oh and you knew it was coming...) this country of mine has some got a whole lot of dead skeletons in the closet and far too much dirt under the rug. Example of this?

What is asbestos? According to the knower of all things wordy : Merriam Webster, asbestos is:

any of several minerals (as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause asbestosis and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have beenused especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials.
Asbestos has been found to be incredibly toxic, as Mr. Webster points out. The problem with it is that it takes many years before symptoms of asbestos exposure are felt/seen. But nonetheless, the cancer causing asbestos has been exposed in Canada for many years and has been removed from plenty of schools, with strict regulations regarding exposure and so-called “free flowing particles”. Health Canada has dedicated an entire website to the stuff.

However Canada has been sending asbestos off to “Third World” countries for years, because apparently there lives are of no importance. Now don’t get me wrong. This is horrible. Totally horrible. But it’s not just horrible at the other end of the world. How do you think we get this stuff to send to other places?

We mine it here, particularly in Quebec.

“"The findings of the air, soil and dust samples lead us to conclude that the residential environment in areas near Thetford Mines are severely contaminated by asbestos," the report concluded.”
The report concluded that the people of this community of 26,000 are at an elevated risk of developing asbestos related diseases. Diseases like you know… cancer. Shit like that. You know… the stuff that kills you.

The situation is complicated however because this is a small, resource based community. Many of the community members were actually opposed to having the levels of asbestos in their homes measured. They were opposed to speaking to the researchers. Because their situation, like mining families in Sudbury, fishery families in the Maritimes is precarious and they can’t afford to bite the hand that feeds, so to speak.

So what do we do?

Asbestos causes cancer in those who mine it, those who live around it and those who have it in their homes. But people need jobs and people need insulation and both of these groups of people have been put in situations where asbestos related diseases are the lesser of two evils.

We need to call in Erin Brockovich. She’d set this whole thing straight.