Wednesday, February 24, 2010

blame feminism...

I have been trying to avoid talking about the Tiger Woods scandal since it first happened, mostly because I do not believe that somebody's extramarital affairs should take precedence over more important news issues on the local television news as the lead story EVERY night for more than a week, but I saw a paper on his apology that presents a position which I feel needs to be addressed.

Dr. Wendy Walsh, a clinical psychologist, blames women for Tiger's infidelity. She actually writes "How can we blame our husbands for getting wet on their way home from work when IT'S RAINING WHORES?" I detest these essentialist arguments that men somehow can't help sleeping around when women are sexually available, and it is the duty of women to be sexually chaste... I mean, it's not like women have real desires anyway, other than seeking "their fifteen minutes by kissing and telling on national television." She suggests that they need to become mothers in order to understand Elin's position... somehow having given birth will help women understand that they no longer need to be sexual.

She writes:
"Thanks to feminism, women own their own orgasm and a box of Trojans."
I thought great! That's what should be happening! But I guess I didn't read it as she meant for it to be taken, because she goes on to say that divorce and children born out of wedlock are a problem caused by feminism. Not that I think having children out of wedlock is inherently problematic, but if we were really "owning" our Trojans, most children would be planned, and teen/unplanned pregnancy, abortion and STI statistics show that this is not the case.

It makes me angry to read articles like this, especially when it is written by a woman, although I should be just as angry regardless of who writes it. It is not feminism's fault that Tiger Woods, or any other man, had an affair (or many affairs). Blaming women does nothing other than make it easier for people to forgive Tiger while demonizing all women who are not sexually conservative. I see this argument as part of a larger anti-feminist culture of victim blaming and slut-shaming. I don't think that Tiger Woods should be forced into hiding forever for his 'indiscretions' but I do not like that so many people are giving him a free pass while blaming women into tricking or luring him into sleeping with them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

a positive note about the olympics

I just wanted to quickly note that I am impressed that women are wearing the same clothes as men in most of the olympic sports that I have watched or seen clips of. Skiers, snowboarders, curlers, hockey players, speed skaters, lugers and bobsledders all seem to be wearing the same outfit regardless of whether they are competing as men or women. Not so much in figure skating though...

This is often not the case in the summer olympics. I wonder how much of this is because it is cold, and not just because the sports gear they do wear is more practical.

gendered diaries

Every month, my children's school and daycare sends home book club order forms, the same kind that I received when I was in elementary school. I couldn't even begin to count how many times I have seen a little diary with a lock and two keys in it- usually pink or purple, sometimes with lace or other frilly designs and clearly labeled 'Diary' or 'Journal'

This time, I found a diary that is not geared towards girls... note that it is not called a diary.

I'm not going to bother with details about the appearance of the journal, because I believe it is quite obvious.

I am both happy and annoyed with this product. Happy that boys are finally being allowed to have an outlet to write things down. Unfortunately, they won't be able to do much writing of their innermost thoughts and feelings, as they will be busy "With cool activities and loads of bizarre facts, this fun-filled journal will keep young boys entertained for hours." Girls, apparently, will not be entertained by cool activities or bizarre facts.

Girls don't need activities in their journals... although, my daughter has a Hannah Montana journal with a lock and activities, so that isn't entirely gendered, but I would love to analyze some of the differences in the content... like does this journal tell you to write down the name of your best friend, favorite teacher, and 'ultimate crush'? I suspect there will be fewer lists and more activities in the 'boys' version.

But really, do we to segregate journals by gender?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Olympics and a grade 2 class assignment

My daughter's class has a special homework assignment for the next few weeks. Each child is bringing home the local newspaper every day and are to read the olympic section with their parent(s) every night. The teacher described this as a great learning opportunity... I agree, but probably not in the way that she thinks. I'm just trying to rationalize how much of my opinion to tell her, and how much I should just step back, and let the olympics retain some kind of magic for her, not unlike Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

I will use this opportunity to teach her about capitalism- by sending home a newspaper everyday for several weeks, I'm sure they are hoping parents will want to subscribe once the Olympics are over. Should I also tell her about how much of the Olympics is linked to corporate sponsorship and consumerism?

Do I tell her about how many social programs were cut to fund these games, which were estimated to cost $6 billion. And about how this money is then given to companies who build the infrastructure to support the games instead of being put back into the community to help people.

Or about the environmental devastation that has occurred, such as in building a large highway from Vancouver to Whistler which is not needed after the games are over.

Or about the lack of treaties with aboriginal communities which was entirely illegal, and means that the Olympics are being held on stolen land?

Can I tell her about the criminalization of the poor, where Project Civil City was passed because of the games, making it illegal to beg for money or sleep outdoors, and is being enforced during the games by the largest police force ever in Canada.

As a former athlete, I used to dream of going to the Olympics. I love the idea of people becoming great at their sport, and coming together in celebration of this passion. I do not consider myself entirely anti-olympics, and I hope the protests do not affect the athletes too much. But, there are a few aspects of the games that I am not as happy with, and I think it is important that they are discussed throughout the games.

When I think about it, I find the concept of nationalism kind of silly. I am cheering for this person (but not that person) because the first was born in a geographical location that is politically defined as being the same country as I happen to reside in. That really doesn't make sense to me... rallying behind the maple leaf (or various other symbols). I think we should be rallying behind the athletes, not locations that are attached to them to make them a guaranteed fan base. One particular athlete representing Canada used to compete for the American team until he was kicked off for repeated drug problems, then was asked to compete here because he had dual citizenship. I'm not saying that we should not cheer for him, just trying to point out how arbitrary these relations are.

Another note is the imperialism that is used when defining what is and what is not a sport. I'm not as informed on this as I would like to be, but I am pretty sure most Olympic sports were developed in the western world. Also, the arbitrary nature of what is considered worthy of being an Olympic sport is shown in the battle that female ski jumpers went through over the past decade in trying to be a part of the games, which, unfortunately, did not work yet again, even though a woman holds the record for longest jump at the course they will be using.

As for my daughter's assignment, I am going to watch the Olympics with her and we will read the newspaper together. We are going to cheer on the athletes while I try to teach her about critical thinking. Together, I suspect we will enjoy the artistry that comes together as we see so many people dedicated to what I hope is a passion for their sport. I do need to use this as a teaching opportunity, I just have yet to decide to what extent.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

insert attention grabbing headline here

Just a short video clip that makes fun of the typical cookie cutter news broadcasting format... it is entirely true, with the possible exception of CBC news broadcasts sometimes taking on a different format.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Superbowl commercial

CBS has repeatedly refused to air commercials that represented a political issue from organizations such as PETA and Now CBS has agreed to air a pro-life ad during the superbowl (and they are getting $3 million for it).

I was going to leave this story alone... I have resisted writing about it for more than a week... then I saw this commercial:

Transcript to this song is
Corporate bull shit, corporate bull shit!
They won't take ads from MoveOn or the like
but take 3 million from right-to-life.
They're hypocrites and they won't give a voice
to women's choice. (Repeats)

More people should find creative ways to get people to notice actions such as these by CBS.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Answer: $59,000.00

Question: How much money do I have to pay back after obtaining my bachelor's degree? (as a sidenote, I love Jeopardy!)

I just got a letter in the mail today with that number on it. Keep in mind, I have obtained grants, bursaries and scholarships, and I work 2 part-time jobs while raising my children and attending school. Still, I feel a little bit nauseous and very scared every time I think about that number. I can't even comprehend that amount of money. That amounts to payments of $650 per month for 10 years! That's almost a mortgage on a small house outside the city. I guess the real question is, would a bachelor's degree earn me $650 per month more than a high school diploma? Maybe this is where I should question my decision to go for a liberal arts degree...

In a recent study, Statistics Canada compared wealth of students with and without a post secondary education (PSE), with and without student loans (4 groups). What they found was that people who did not take out loans fared best- as expected. People with PSE without loans have more wealth than those with loans, as do people without loans who have not completed their PSE. What surprised me is that the study found that students without loans or PSE (so, people with high school diploma or less) have about $10,000 more net wealth than people with loans and a PSE. According to this, university may not be worth it if you cannot get through it debt-free.

The study also found that "Average loan amounts at graduation for those with a bachelor’s degree also rose during this period [1982-1995] by 121% for men and 145% for women." And that "the average benefits of a post-secondary education will not be realized by all graduates." This is one of the many reasons that I am going on to grad school... I do not believe that the cost of my education will be realized without the extra years- however, this is a catch 22 situation because the extra years will cost more money.

There are many other reports on education that are frightning. For example, a student group reported that only 8% of students with loans finish their degree/diploma (I'm going to look for this study at some point, instead of a newspaper reporting it). And the University of Calgary is considering a tuition hike of 47% for some programs.

Sometimes it is hard to think of a way out... if you don't get an education you could be stuck in a low-paid job... if you do get one, you could spend the next 10 years or more struggling to pay it off. But there is a way out. There are many countries that provide inexpensive, even free, post-secondary education, although it is becoming less common every year. I often hear the phrase "invest in your future" pertaining to paying for your education, and I am not entirely opposed to that concept, at least if you are guaranteed a 'return' on that 'investment' (and by that I mean some kind of stipulation- you only have to pay if you earn a certain income maybe), but I think that these costs should be drastically lower than they are right now. I am not ok with $60,000 debt for a bachelor's degree for anybody.

Edited to add: Here is the photo that is linked below by anonymous

Monday, February 1, 2010

Best Protest Ever!

Westboro Baptist Church was planning on protesting against Obama and gay rights in San Franscisco this week with signs talking about how severely 'God' frowns upon homosexuality and Obama, when they were met with a much larger group of people holding signs such as these:

And these

As far as social commentary goes, I don't even know what to say about this... other than hopefully the sheer ridiculousness of these signs (Build Prisons on the Moon) can be compared to the ridiculousness of God hating Obama... I mean, if you believe in that stuff, isn't He supposed to love ALL his children.