Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GG: 100 Years of Keeping It Real

So it seems that this is a mighty big year for girls.

First, we have Barbie's 50th Birthday. (Still looking fresh, might I add).

Now, we've got Girl Guides bringing in a new badge. (Stick with me, here). Badges are a mighty big deal in the world of Brownies, Girl Guides and even Scouts. You earn a badge every time you've demonstrated that you did something or learned something new. You can get badges for a whole whack pile of things, like learning to start a fire outdoors, sewing a button, learning to paint, etc.

Girl Guides have now announced that in a move to stay "relevant" and "progressive", they are releasing a new badge. Sounds less than newsworthy but hear me out.

"Girls aged five to 17 can earn the Love Yourself Challenge badge by completing three tasks that promote self-esteem, healthy eating and a positive body image." The badge features a super skinny stick person, a bigger one, a typical stick person and a heart.

I was never into Brownies, Guides or Pathfinders as a kid because I had to choose between dance class or Guides and the former won every time. It never really struck me as something I would be into, though. But lots of my friends were and they loved it. And the same time that a lot of my friends were getting into Brownies and Guides, my junior high had an entire day dedicated to anorexia and bulimia. A whole day. The reason being that for a small school in a small town, there were a handful of severe cases of anorexia. There were possibly more but living all up in people's business like you do in a small town, everyone knew about 2 in particular.

I mention this story because I never forgot both my classmate's love for Guides and that day of learning about body image. Both of them really stick out in my mind as events of my youth. And so to see that Girl Guides are picking up on this and being relevant to the lives of girls, is great.

I'm left to wonder however: Are body image issues this "new" that talking about them equates "progress"? In the 100 years of Girl Guides, have girls never struggled with their weight? Or is it a matter of it now being kosher to talk about these things in general, and at Guides in particular?

I don't know.

But I do know that this latest move will surely help girls.

So Three Finger Salute and job well done! Unless, of course, this new health kick at the Girl Guides headquarters means that they're canning Girl Guide cookies. If that's the case, there will be a revolt!

Oh and by cookies, I'm not talking about those Mint Patties. Those can go. I want the real shit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is there an Echo in the Building?

And the "C" word strikes again!

Keeping in mind that the source isn’t exactly impartial but, a Toronto lawyer has publicly come out in support of the increasing numbers of womyn who are being laid off while on Maternity Leave.

The excuse given? The economy.

Technically, it’s illegal to lay someone off when they are on Mat Leave. That’s the whole point; that you help society reproduce while we hold down the fort until you come back. BUT! If the company is “doing multiple lay offs” then its okay. And what is happening is that while womyn are away, the new person they hired in the interim is cheaper because they’ve just started and so the company would rather keep someone with less seniority than pay the rates of the womyn who left.


I guess the only solution is for babies to make and raise themselves. Well, we could socialize people to be equal partners in the child raising department and create child friendly work environments but the first solution is probably more likely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Because You Don't Win Friends With Salad

A new study has found that when eating out and presented with a variety of side options (Fries, baked potato, salad) people opted for the fries more often than the salad.

The study was based on 100 college students who were presented with two different menus. When presented with the option of choosing the salad, they took fries instead.

This is a pretty big deal in terms of research because it flies in the face of the years of previous commentary from people that healthier choices are what's needed on menus. Hell, even McDonald’s has yogurt parfaits and apple slices now! Clearly the complaining has worked to get healthier options on the menu. But what these researchers are showing is that it doesn’t matter; people still choose crap.

There is a lot that can be chalked up for this. North America is a glutton society that loves its shit food. We should eat healthier but we don’t because we’re lazy, unmotivated, etc. Some people think that “healthy food doesn’t taste as good as nuggets and fries” hence their choices. And truthfully, if the words “healthy” always result in salad, then you can’t really blame people. It’s not really a choice. It’s either PICK ONE OF TEN AMAZING THINGS or SALAD. Maybe a variety of healthy food choices that don’t involve simply adding different types of salad is an option?

But I also think that it’s much simpler than that. In my opinion, when people go somewhere that sells “fries, chicken nuggets and baked potatoes” they’re not eating out to be healthy. They’re eating out for a “treat”; nobody goes to Wendy’s (which is a prime example of this type of menu) for salad. I say this as someone who loves the Wendy’s chicken salad and is terrified of their burgers. But I know that I’m not most people and I get that.

The people in this study were just presented menus and said “What would you prefer to eat?” When people choose to hit up Wendy’s or McDonald’s, it’s usually because they’re jonesing for a Bacon Mushroom Melt or a Big Mac, not chicken salad. If you wanted decent chicken salad, you’d go somewhere that specializes in chicken salad. Wendy’s is not this place.

Now if you have no choice in the matter, like you’re on a road trip for instance then you might be grossed out with so much take-out and choose the salad and apple juice choice. But the people in the study possibly hadn’t had take-out in a while and were thinking “Mmm… that’d be a nice treat”.

See what I’m getting at?

If you’re hitting up fast food, then you’re craving some fast food, something that you either wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home. The problem that I see, is if people always choose the shittier option, everyday. The key to fast food is not to demonize the stuff but to view it in moderation.

I went to McDonald’s as a kid and turned out okay. Why? Because it was a “treat”. We got a Happy Meal, we played in the ballroom; it was swell. If my parents had brought my ass there three times a week, different story.

And who knows? We’re dealing with 100 college kids here. They were probably recovering from 4/20 and were thinking FRENCH FRIES before the study had even started. It’s not impossible.

**A nice unhealthy donut to whomever can reference the blog title

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who Pays?

Mmmm... recession. It seems we can speak of nothing else these days. With good reason, of course.

Recession talk leads to the next big "C" word. (Not C-U-Next-Tuesday, you dirty kids) but cuts. Job cuts, budget cuts, tax cuts, etc. Everything is cut. It's a scissor fest these days. And without any real critical analysis, it would appear that the cuts are not discriminatory. Sure, they are in terms of class, because let's face it: It's Jim, Bob and Jane who are making the cars that are losing their jobs and not Robert So-and-So who runs the joint.

But the evil "c" word is also becoming a way to really conveniently "do away" with things that folks weren't too happy with to begin with.

Exhibit A: We've got Women's Studies at Guelph that has been chopped due to "budget constraints". Ahh yes, that other evil "c" word. This would seem like just another run-of-the-mill, aww-shucks cut if it weren't for the fact that "Cutting the Women's Studies program will save *less than 0.17%* of the University's predicted $46 million shortfall. And yet Women's Studies is the only program in the university that's slated to be cut." This was written in a petition to save the program; the program has now officially been cut.

You gonna tell me that this isn't just a wee bit suspicious? I'm not saying this is a full on witch hunt but when cuts are needed and the first thing to do is Women's Studies, which represents such a measly part of the total budget, one's gotta start asking questions.

Exhibit B: Oh Alberta! The land of bounty! Or not. Seems they're hurting in the Health Care department so they are making cuts, too. Massive cuts, it seems. Although there have only been two major cuts announced and they are *drumroll please*

Chiropractor services: Which will save them 53 million a year


"Sex Change Surgeries": Which will save them 700,000$ a year.

"The latter move has become particularly controversial. " No shit, CBC.ca 53 million vs. less than one million. Hmm...

I get that these will be two of many cuts but once again, you gotta start thinking this through. It's no coincidence that when the axe comes down, things like Women's Studies and sex re-assignment surgery are seen as disposable and easy to chop.

Women's Studies is chronically underfunded everywhere and in the case of Guelph, represents peanuts in terms of financing. Sex re-assignment surgery in Alberta, with only 26 people currently undergoing it and 20 people on a waiting list, represents such small numbers in terms of people and in terms of money, but represents so much to the livelihood of trans people that it makes no sense to see it go at this point. Unless there's a hidden agenda at play here.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I call bullshit on both the University of Guelph and the province of Alberta.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Attention All Students!

Today's lesson: Take a book out from the library for so long that it becomes an artifact, not a late fee.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Misdirected Anger

So I have purposely avoided discussing the "alleged" assault of popstar Rihanna by fellow popstar Chris Brown.

I've purposely stood back since the very beginning because I felt like it was not the place of people who are not involved to "weigh in" on what they think. Sure, the police report was leaked and so were photos of her bruised and beaten up face, but neither of these should have been released to the public in my opinion and asshole gossip bloggers should not have published them. But we still don't "know" the situation nor do we "know" them.

Rihanna is not even her real name. So what does that tell you?

I was particularly disgusted with people weighing in on the rumour (and yes, it was only a rumour. To this day, Rihanna has never issued a statement regarding the incident) that Rihanna "took back" Chris Brown and attempted to reconcile their relationship. Bloggers, journalists, talk show hosts and everyday people went ballistic on Rihanna, asking her what kind of message she was sending to "her fans", etc.

I refuse to comment on this aspect because it's a rumour and I don't know Rihanna or her situation/politics/feelings and so I am way overstepping my boundaries by casting judgement here.

I did appreciate how some commenters took this is as an opportunity to discuss teen violence and how this particular incident is but the tip of the iceberg. Teen violence is rampant and so rarely talked about. And so for people to take the discussion in this direction was a positive step, in my opinion.

But the reason why I feel the need to pipe in now is that I've officially snapped on the Judgy McJudgerson folks out there. Commentator, after commentator, after commentator was quick to point the finger at Rihanna for possibly having wanted to reconcile with Chris Brown, as I've stated above. People were losing their minds, totally ouraged and "disgusted" with her.

And yet, Chris Brown turned himself in to police, issued a statement admitting that he was involved and was just in court last week to plead not guilty.

So, when people decide that it's their business to get involved in the business of others, why are they losing their shit over a rumour on Rihanna's part and yet letting this one slide?

Admittedly, not everyone is letting this second part slide. But I'm not seeing the angry outbursts, television segments and blogger comments flooding this one, when I saw exactly that in regards to Rihanna.

Using myself as an example, I spoke on the radio about violence against womyn and was asked to comment on the "fact" that Rihanna wanted to reconcile with Chris Brown and yet my phone hasn't rang once about his not guilty plea.

Chris Brown turns himself into police for battery and uttering threats and yet his CD sales remain steady. So the writing is on the wall here, people.

Why is that Rihanna "possibly" returning to Chris Brown is a disgusting example to her fans and yet Chris Brown admitting that he took part in an assault and then pleading not guilty is not?
What kind of example is he setting? That it's okay to assault your girlfriend and then act like you did nothing wrong?

There is so much wrong with Chris Brown's not guilty plea. So many concrete, proven things wrong with this. And yet, a rumour smeared Rihanna's reputation.

Somebody explain this to me.

Like so many cases of violence against womyn that I have witnessed in my short lifetime, the onus always falls on the womyn involved. Why aren't we turning the focus to the men?

Why aren't people directing their anger about domestic violence at the men involved?

** I usually post to a lot more secondary articles to back up what I'm saying but 90% of articles featuring this story and the reactions I'm mentioning also post the police photo of Rihanna and I do not want to be a part of reproducing that image on the internet.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lesson Learned?

As you may or may not remember, a prominent New Brunswick sociology professor was murdered last November by his son-in-law. (I wrote about it here). I was (and still am) deeply saddened for him and his family and I was equally as pissed about the complete negligence by the RCMP and police officers involved in the case.

The silver lining at the time was that social justice groups were pushing for an inquiry and report in regards to the investigation. Well, the report has been tabled.

The report calls for better training for RCMP officers regarding domestic violence. Domestic violence, from an investigation point of view, requires certain knowledge and skills that this report found were lacking in RCMP officers.

"The administrative review of the case found that the focus of their investigation was primarily on the theft and fraud allegations, and the mental health of Baker instead of the possibility that there were factors that could lead to domestic violence."

I cannot speak for Mr. McKendy's family members or friends but I can speak for myself in saying that this report is somewhat of a relief in the sense that at least there is the possibility of change occurring. There is no guarantee that anything really will change but it's a possibility now.

I'd never heard of Professor McKendy until his death but if you have a second, Google him. You will get page after page of both his work and people responding to it. He clearly made a difference around the world. Let's hope that this report makes a difference, too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

As You Should Be

Apparently, Harper is "deeply troubled" by the newest Afghani legislation that would make it illegal for a womyn to refuse sex from her husband, for a womyn to leave the house without permission and to have custody of children.

Well Steve, so am I. For once we agree!

But I do find it rather suspicious that you're not "troubled" by the 500+ missing and murdered aboriginal womyn.

Or the fact that Canadian womyn make an average of 72 cents for every dollar that a man makes while still debating the merits of pay equity legislation.

Or really, every other statistic and study demonstrating that systemic violence and sexism against womyn in this country continues to happen day in and day out.

So kudos Steve, on speaking out against this proposed legislation and its very real effects on the lives of womyn in Afghanistan. Kudos, my friend.

But please don't forget the ole adage about stones and glass houses.