Tuesday, June 29, 2010

G20 police tactics, a compilation of videos and leftist news stories

I have been contemplating a follow up post to this one on how the role of the police at the G20 summit actually played out, but the more I read about what went on, the less I know what to say about it. I find it sickening that this type of police brutality happened so close to home. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the protests myself (even though I really wanted to), so I am just going to link several articles that I found about the protests. Any readers with first hand accounts to share can post them too, as I have been quite interested in these stories.

News reports Saturday evening said that 300 "anarchists" began rioting... however, there were more than 900 arrests so far. I am not going to show footage of burning police cars or windows being smashed, because if those of you reading this have seen any images about the summit, those are likely the ones you have seen. What was not shown in regular media coverage was that 25,000 protesters were there to oppose the summit in and of itself, as well as various issues surrounding it.

There has been international coverage on some of the tactics used by police officers. I found this video to be especially hard to watch.

This video reminds me of a scene from Braveheart, or a similar type of war movie. The protesters finish singing the national anthem before the police attacked

There is some really good information at rabble, Toronto Media Co-op, and Canadian Dimension, among other sites.

There is also a movement demanding a public inquiry into the police tactics, with a lot of information on this facebook group. This site is asking for stories on the arrests, such as personal accounts, in order to garner more support for this inquiry. I hope most of you become involved in this, if you haven't already, because if it happened once in Canada, it can happen again here and throughout the world. Without serious opposition, this type of policing could become the norm during events such as future summits.

Here is one last video, which describes the story of a reporter who was following the "black bloc" and suspects that much of the violence was led by police officers. I'm not sure that is the case, but it seems to me as though the police may have allowed this to happen.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Real" flawless beauty

Jezebel posted an ad for Dove from Craigslist in which they are looking for women for their "Real Beauty" campaign. As much as this campaign offers a wider beauty ideal than most other ads, it is far from challenging the definition of the word "Beauty."

The ad reads:


Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!

I find it particularly upsetting that scars are not allowed. So many women are self-conscious about scars, and I think they could be featured in positive ways. For example, I saw an old friend of mine at the beach a couple years ago and she had silver stretch marks on her lower abdomen... I couldn't get over how beautiful and interesting they looked.. so much so that for a moment I wished that I had stretch marks (then dominant social norms kicked in and I got over it). I have a rather large scar on my leg, and I don't feel that it should affect my ability to be a "Dove Girl" (not woman, at 35-45 years of age the models are still referred to as girls)... not that I have any desire to model for Dove.

I can understand the need for "flawless skin" in the sense that Dove has acne products, and a person with acne (such as myself) could have trouble selling acne products), but scars and tattoos? I don't get it.

Also, this ad informs me that nice bodies are naturally fit and not too curvy or athletic. Like many other "love your body" type of campaigns, rather than allowing women to actually love the body that they have, it merely offers a different restrictive image that women's bodies are supposed to conform to.

And the $4000 pay for a 3 year ad campaign sounds like these models are being exploited. I wonder how much a "real" model charges for that type of ad.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Girls suck at video games!

I saw the title of this video and hesitated, expecting it to be full of "boys are better than girls" gender stereotypes, but it is actually critical commentary on gender roles that provides a (fairly accurate) visual representation of why men are still surpassing women in earnings, despite some recent claims that women are taking over.

Girls suck at video games / Les filles sont nulles aux jeux vidéo from Stéphanie Mercier on Vimeo.

Gotta love "Democracy"

For the duration of the G8/G20 summit, there is legislation in place called the Ontario Public Works Protection Act, which goes directly against the Canadian Constitution. Among other things, gives police officers in and near the fenced area:

the power to require anyone entering or attempting to enter or approaching the public work 'to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise'.

The police may also 'search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work'. The police can also search 'a vehicle in the charge or under the control of any such person or which has recently been or is suspected of having been in the charge or under the control of any such person or in which any such person is a passenger'.

Finally, the police 'may refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary to prevent any such person from so entering'.

Police may arrest, without warrant 'any person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction of a guard or peace officer, or who is found upon or attempting to enter a public work without lawful authority'.

Neglecting or refusing 'to comply with a request or direction made under this Act by a guard or peace officer' or if you are a person found upon a public work or any approach thereto without lawful authority means you could be found guilty of an offence and be liable to a fine of not more than $500 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two months, or to both.

This means that in Canada, people MUST show identification to police officers for no reason (sounds like the Arizona law that has so many people enraged, but with less obvious racial connotations), submit to searches of themselves and their vehicle without cause, and be arrested without a warrant, facing up to two months in prison if they fail to comply? This is taking security way too far.

It's always nice that the most elite people in the world get to throw their billion dollar party that is closed to everyone else, while the "little people" get arrested merely for being in areas near the party that they paid for. I wonder how many peaceful protesters are going to be arrested or worse because of this legislation.

The elitism and issues of social class seem so transparent with regards to this summit that I am baffled at how many people keep telling me that we need this type of security to protect world "leaders" instead of questioning who these "leaders" represent and why the summit exists in the first place.

I should also mention that this was passed secretly, with no public input and little mention until yesterday, and that it is being described as unprecedented in Canada.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Earthquake felt in town!

I guess Canadian women have been too immodest lately... Earthquake of 5.5 (now downgraded to 5.0) was felt in Ontario and Quebec.

There doesn't appear to be any major damages or injuries at this point. And yet, news about the earthquake has taken over both Canadian and American television stations right now, interrupting regular programing for a quake that, by most standards, is very small.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toronto's G8/G20 and women's health

I just spoke at a forum tonight on the G8/G20, and I thought I would try to recreate some of what I said because I think it is important. I spoke on women's health, and more specifically, abortion. Keep in mind that this is one small piece of the summit, and there were other presenters who gave much needed information on topics like the environment, indigenous relations and global capitalism in the context of the Steelworkers strike.

I started by discussing my experiences of reading about abortions on American bloggers websites. For example, Feministe, Jezebel and Feministing have discussed the Stupak amendment at length on many occasions, which makes abortion even less accessible to poor women by restricting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Recently, Louisianna passed laws requiring women to get ultrasounds before abortions. Nebraska has imposed confusing laws regarding women's mental health in relation to abortions, and Utah has essentially criminalized miscarriages. Reading this over the past few years, I have often found myself greatful to live in a place where abortions are free and largely unrestricted (although not always accessible).

When Harper announced that maternal and children's health would be a major issue at the summit, I was rather pleased... and surprised. Harper is not exactly known for his women friendly policies... actually, he thinks that we have already attained gender equality! Globally and historically, women and children have not had much acess to funding for their specific health care needs, as they have taken a back seat to issues that directly affect men's health.

Then, Harper announced that this initiative would not cover abortions (my reaction to this announcement here). He explained

"We want to make sure our funds are used to save the lives of women and children"

I always thought that this was part of the purpose of abortions, but I guess the life of the fetus is being prioritized over the health of the mother. The fact is that women and girls often die when they do not have access to safe abortions.

As a sidenote, the USA does plan to include abortions in their contribution for maternal and children's health, even though they have some very restrictive laws domestically.

Women's groups began to speak out about abortions right away, and within 2 days 11 groups lost funding. Within a month, 24 women's groups lost federal funding. These cuts undermine women's equality and democracy within Canada.

Nancy Ruth, a "feminist" Conservative Senator spoke out on this issue (previously posted here), saying that women need to
"shut the fuck up on this issue... Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Dont' make it into an election issue"

So, we are to allow white male politicians to decide what counts as maternal health (See this post), even in countries they may never have visited. Colonialism is rampant within Harper's maternal health initiative.

And, for the bigger picture. We have to fight for our right to choose, and for women everywhere to have this right. But we have to make sure that this isnt' being used as a distraction. Saving abortions might distract us from fighting for more accessible abortions for women in rural areas. This issue, as important as it is in its own right, cannot distract us from the cuts to women's programs and social spending, lenient corporate regulations that lead to tax loopholes and lacking health and safety regulation, Israeli's occupation of Palestine, aboriginal treaty rights, or any other systemic inequality.

The moral right and neoliberal movements have political power in Canada. They also have corporate sponsorship and financial backing. The left typically does not have this type of money or power. What we have is our voice, and that is why we are being told to shut the fuck up. Because when we do come together and speak, we threaten the status quo.

As those of you who know me are well aware, I will not shut the fuck up.

Will you?

Privilege... as taught by Disney

Too true... Disney princesses are not always blond, but they are always conventionally pretty and tend to be white (whiteness is pretty much the basis of Snow White's beauty). Even worse are the Barbie movies that have been coming out in the past 5 years or so, where EVERY female lead has blond hair and blue eyes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The consequences of gay marriage

Just another cute chart (thanks Justin)... if you haven't noticed, I am quite fond of social commentary when presented as an infographic of any sort.

Now, to wait for the chart that shows us all how women dressing "inappropriately" causes earthquakes!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Needlessly gendered children's product

This category could go on indefinitely, but I just want to show a few toys from a Sears catalog that was just delivered. First, in the 'Outdoor Summer Fun' section are two pool loungers.

Although I will concede that the toys are not identical and possibly not designed to be a male and female version of the same toy, they are advertised as such by being the only two options of pool loungers and are featured right next to each other. The lounger on the left features Buzz Lightyear (a character often depicted on toys designed for boys) and shows a boy playing on a police boat style lounger. The toy involves active play; you get to spray people with what the website describes as water-blasting cannon, a type of toy weapon.

The girls version, however, involves no active play. The girl is lounging in the chair smiling at her Barbie, as the chair offers a specific lounge area for a Barbie doll. The girl is also posed very similarly to how adult swimsuit models might pose, and takes up very little space with her legs curled up.

My daughter is very "girly" in that she loves Barbies and the colour pink (grrr), but, I have to say that, if we had the luxury of a swimming pool, she would definitely prefer the Buzz Lightyear lounger. She would likely get bored of watching Barbie lounge after a few minutes, and unless her Barbie had special water cannon protection powers, she would be defenseless to her brother's water-blasting cannon attack.

A sleeping bag on the same page was needlessly gendered in that it offered the exact same products, but as either a Soccer theme, or a Fairy Princess.

Both have identical items (sleeping bag, flashlight, water bottle, keychain, whistle, etc), but the girls one has to be distinct from the boys sleeping bag with pretty colors. My son is involved in soccer (and my daughter would be too if they didn't make the 7 year olds play until 9pm on schoolnights). In my city, soccer is usually co-ed until early teens and girls and women are well represented on competitive and recreational teams, so I'm not sure why the bags have to be gendered in this way.

I also find it interesting that the "boys" version is based on something kids do whereas the girls version is something that they wish to be and requires no obvious doing on thier part.

Edited to add:

I just found another picture, this time from a book club that came home from school

(the bottom outside pictures)

The girls book gives them "easy instructions and ideas for tiaras, sparkly masks, presents, and more!" because girls need things simple, like things that are pretty and sparkly, and enjoy being generous. The boys book has "ideas and instructions for mummies, masks and more!" because boys don't need their instructions to be easy or their masks to be sparkly.

BP Coffee Spill Spoof

Someone mentioned a spoof that was played on Canada AM this morning that depicts the BP boardroom with a coffee spill.

Like many people, I have been following the oil spill from the start with much sadness, but frankly, little surprise. What I am surprised and annoyed about is the USA vs. Britain mentality that I have seen, from comments posted after this youtube video to people arguing that the US/England soccer game would be a good rivalry because of the oil spill (which I first heard about as a joke on The Colbert Report, but the previous link shows that it goes much further). BP ownership is 40% UK and 39% US, so this rivalry is ridiculous, in my opinion.

When pointing fingers, we seem to skip right past the idea that capitalism as a way of organizing and the reliance on oil for so much of our everyday lives are more to blame than a particular country or political figure. I really can't figure out why so many people blame Obama for not fixing it, such as Elizabeth Hasselbeck from The View... would she have blamed Bush if this had happened 5 years ago?

Hopefully the environmental devastation from this does not affect future generations as much as I fear it might.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stripper Pinatas

This video is a news story for adult pinata's that are shaped like strippers, pole and all.

This is a very odd news story to me, because the adults keep talking about how the display is horrible because it can be viewed by children in passing cars.

Does anybody realize that, more problematic than the fact that children can see cartoonish breasts might be that grown men (and women) are beating 4 foot tall replicas of naked women with bats for fun? But then, on the Madonna/whore dichotomy, strippers definitely fall in the "whore" category, and are therefore not "deserving" of being treated with any degree of respect.

I won't embed this next video, because I find it quite disturbing, but if you want to watch people beating at one of these pinatas with a stick and laughing, it is also on youtube.

Maybe the news, and society more generally, needs to reframe their views on such issues when violence against women is so normalized that it isn't even considered in a news story about people beating images of women.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baby Gaga Telephone video

Here is an interesting video of a preschooler doing Lady Gaga's Telephone video.

I find it telling that an outfit that looks "normal" to us on a grown woman looks so odd on a young girl(wait, did I just say Lady Gaga's outfits looked normal?). I don't mean because of the sexualization of children, as I didn't find most of the little girl's outfits to be too outrageous in that sense. It is normal for women to put so much work into their appearance, but it is not normal for men or children to do so.

When the adult dancers show up, however, I find the little girl looks so scared... I'd like to think that she's thinking "Please, don't let me grow up to be valued only for my ability to dance around in skimpy outfits" but I'm pretty sure it's more of a "who are these people and are they almost done yet" expression.

As a sidenote, Jezebel (a really good blog) has a lot of comments on this video, many of them including posters condemning the child's mother for letting her do the video. Why is the blame placed only on the mother? Assuming someone should be blamed for the video, what about the father or the (male) producer?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guest post: responding to comments on Israeli Apartheid.

My last post, which was on Toronto Pride banning the term Israeli apartheid from the Pride Parade, led to an email comment debate that, I will admit, I am not entirely capable of handling, simply because I have not been aware of the situation for long enough to have done any extensive research. A friend and classmate has been quite involved for some time and, as such, can provide some insight on this issue.

The following post, written by Eileen, is directed towards the previous debate, but also provides some important information as a stand alone piece.

The term apartheid, used to describe the occupation, is correct and has been supported time and time again by South African anti-apartheid activists including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

The word "apartheid" means "apartness" in Afrikaans. It is a very new word in the first place and thankfully isn't terribly commonplace. Frankly, the fact that Western countries are able to get away with dismissing and censoring this word so hastily despite its validation speaks volumes about just how easy it is to disregard an Afrikaans word in the English world.

Language changes and the word apartheid is more than appropriate to describe the genocide of Palestine. This debate is not a new one, it's a tired, pro-zionist argument used as a distraction; if the world is scared into believing the very use of the word apartheid is an anti-semitic act, no one will be able to accurately talk about Palestine. Try to describe a painting without talking about the colour, shape, line, texture, space, value or form.

Israel is in violation of many international laws and war crimes, it is a rogue state that believes itself above the law because, aside from the Vatican, they are the only religious state and believe they have a religious right to be where they are. This is not an age-old religious clash, this is a 62 year war on Palestine. Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of many other religions lived there together for centuries, what we are seeing now in “Israel” is ethnic cleansing.

Amongst many other misinformed statements you [the commenter in the aforementioned debate] say “…many of the criticisms which are alledgedly[sic] only against the Israeli policies are in fact thinly veiled antisemitic comments.”
So tell me, as an anti-zionist Jew am I anti-semitic for calling out Israel for their war crimes? As an out queer am I homophobic because I’m ashamed of my city’s Pride committee for adopting censorship for the first time in their 30 years? I think of myself as a morally sound human being who is appalled by genocide no matter who the perpetrator.

Carving up the borders of Palestine to separate Palestinians from each other, setting up check points and road blocks, assigning special license plates, denying passports, not supplying enough medical aid, fresh protein and produce, building materials and many other bare-minimum aid supplies, not allowing Palestinian refugees the right to return, keeping 1.7 million Gazans (58% of them under age 18) in an open air prison of 360 square kilometers and using the fourth largest military in the world with Canadian and American support and weapons (including a high but unknown number of nuclear weapons) to kill 1,417 Gazans and maim thousands more in less than a month then claim everything was a success is the very definition of apartheid. These are the actions that should offend, disturb and anger you, not the word describing them.

Your initial reaction to stop arguing on behalf of Israel’s in light of the Mavi Marmara murders was correct and should have stopped you there, though Israel’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone by now. There may be a media block but factual information isn’t totally obsolete, I highly suggest you familiarize yourself with news that doesn’t pass through many zionist filters from here on, you can start with the Goldstone report.