Monday, July 19, 2010

Great video about racism and the war in Iraq

I came across this video through a friend on facebook today.

It features a former soldier talking about his role in the war, calling himself a terrorist for following what sounds like rather standard orders that North American soldiers in that region probably hear every day. He blames racism for making ordinary working people willing to fight other working people, when they actually have more in common with those working people than the elites who sent them. He also says that elite people send us to war when it is profitable to do so, and that we agree to go because of racism.

So, if working people around the globe were to realize how much we had in common based on our status as workers and how different the lives and priorities of the elite actually are... it seems like Marxism 101. This theory is very well articulated in the video.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gasoline ad from 1962 melting glaciers

This is a gasoline ad for a petroleum company in life magazine in 1962. It shows pretty much the exact opposite image of that which petroleum companies are trying to show today.

It's hard to read, so here is the transcript

This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies- if converted into heat- could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second! To meet the nation's growing needs for energy, Humble has applied science to nature's resources to become America's Leading Energy Company. Working wonders with oil through research, Humble provides energy in many forms- to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals. Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the "Happy Motoring" sign is the World's First Choice!

Now that we are aware that the glaciers are actually melting, and that our reliance on oil and gas is a large part of why that is occurring, the ad is no longer effective in selling the company.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Victim blaming and the Mel Gibson tapes

I am writing this post under the assumption that most of you reading this have heard of the recent Mel Gibson rants. For those of you who haven't, there is information about it here and here, and it is basically him verbally accosting his ex-girlfriend, including threatening to kill her and crazy amounts of profanities and racist and sexist language that I prefer not to hear.

Anyway, I was watching Access Hollywood (rather, it was on in the background as I was working), and I heard this quote from a viewer about Oksana (his ex):
She set him up, egged him on, pushed his buttons, worked him into a tirade and recorded that to be put out there... for money... granted, no woman deserves domestic violence... but come on...
This is victim blaming. Although there have been accusations that Oksana was trying to get money from Mel Gibson (I'm not sure if they are substantiated), would that make any of this ok? Speaking to a human being in this way is NEVER acceptable.

And saying that "no woman deserves domestic violence, BUT" is the same as saying but she did. It's like when someone says "I'm not racist, but" you just know the next comment is going to be incredibly racist... and that's not ok. If you have to use that "but" you should probably think twice before making the comment in the first place. And it is eerily similar to questioning a woman's behavior and dress if she is raped. There is NO excuse, it is NOT ok, and commenters need to stop justifying his behavior.... including Whoopi on The View

In a previous relationship, I have heard most of the same threats that are uttered on this tape. I spent 2 and a half years living in terror. I couldn't tell you how many times he told me that it was my fault. I was blamed for everything in the relationship... if only I was a better housekeeper, a better mother, a better support for him... if I were better, he would quit using, drinking, and I wouldn't get hit or yelled at (even though it still happened when he was clean and sober). It seems rediculous now that I blamed myself for the abuse, but it is extremely real for so many people in this situation. The last thing that Oksana needs right now is more fingers pointing at her, she needs privacy (good luck with that one) and support (somewhat more plausible).

And, on a sidenote, the same episode reported that 50% of people would still go to a Mel Gibson movie... that figure might end up being substantially higher in a few months or a few years. I hope not, but pop culture does not always have much memory. I don't think I will ever be able to look at him the same way again, or watch his movies....

Toronto Sun applauds the appointment of a white male Governor General

An editorial in the Toronto Sun is praising Harper for his choosing David Johnston to be the next Governor General of Canada. This article praises him, not because of Dr. Johnston's past career or what he can bring to the position, but because he is a white male.

An old white guy for Governor General?

How novel, and yet how brilliant of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In fact, we're giving him a standing ovation. Right now.

Everyone on their feet!

In an age when the federal civil service has taken affirmative action to the extreme, with preference in the federal bureaucracy given to those who are bilingual -- preferably francophone, of course -- or persons of colour, or disabled or aboriginal, the appointment of David Johnston as Canada's next Governor General is a historic breakthrough.

You, like us, have no doubt seen the federal career ads where, written in invisible ink, are the words, "white men need not apply."

Well, this appointment trumps it all.

Can we really say that we have any preference to women, persons of colour, disabled or aboriginal people within Canadian politics? Granted, the past two Governor Generals were not white men, but look at the other positions within the country.

The only female Prime Minister was appointed until an election could be held, not elected. The House of Commons is currently only 22% female. The most recent detailed information I could find on other demographics was a study conducted by Jerome Black in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, which showed that in 2000 only 1.7% of MPs were aboriginal (down from 2.3% in 1997), and 5.6% were members of visible minorities, a term which is not explicitly defined in the study, (down from 6.3% in 1997). It is not a good sign when these numbers are decreasing. Also, it seems there have only been 3 MPs with disabilities.

Looking for these statistics, I was very surprised by how little information there is on the demographics of Members of Parliament... I can find a lot on how many women are in parliament, but very few other statistics that aren't related to provinces or political parties.

I'm not even going to go into wage gaps to show how well affirmative action, which, to my knowledge, has never existed in Canada, has worked to equal the playing field, but suffice to say that white men have a much higher income than any other group (lots of info with Statistics Canada if anyone is doubting this claim- check it out now before the end of the mandatory long form in the census further skews much of their results).

It is interesting that elected officials seem to be white men, and other people tend to get appointed to their positions. It is reflective of the authority that is given to white men, especially in that as you go to lower levels of government (provincial, municipal), you get a wider representation from other groups.

I'm not suggesting that David Johnston can't do the job... I have done very little research on him and am not sure what he stands for. He might be great, however, I have my doubts... first, because he was chosen by Harper, and secondly, because I am not too fond of university administrators as a group (comes with the territory of being active in the GTA union, I guess). I just don't think we should be happy that Harper appointed someone simply because they are a white male. We see enough white men in parliament as it is.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Comparing hockey riot with G20 protest

Found here

The hockey riot referred to seems to be from 2008. Hockey fans aren't a big threat because they are just celebrating a win or getting angry about a loss... possibly protesting a ref's call... not trying to end poverty or send any type of message to politicians.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Women and body hair

For some, this post could be the most disturbing post I have written to date, which is really sad if you think about it.

To start, I do not have a position on women's body hair... I honestly couldn't care less if women shave, wax, or go natural on any part of their bodies providing that they are comfortable with their decision and at very least occasionally question it. Actually, that isn't entirely true.. when I see a female celebrity rocking body hair at a concert or on the red carpet, I feel a twinge of happiness!

I tend to shave my legs occasionally in the summer (and by occasionally, I mean like 2-3 times over the course of the entire summer)... and in the winter, maybe if there is a wedding or something I might consider it. The hair isn't particularly thick or dark, and is usually not that noticeable unless you are really paying attention.

Anyway, at school this week I was wearing knee-length shorts and had not shaved my legs in over a month. I was walking down the hallway and a man looked at me... you know that up and down "approving" look that isn't quite a catcall but can be very uncomfortable and even intimidating for the person being looked at? As he was looking downwards, he noticed the hair on my legs and his face changed to an expression that I would describe as shock and disgust. He then looked away and went on with what he was doing. The worst part is that it happened a second time the same day as I was leaving school... and I had my 5 year old son with me, so being a mother does not necessarily protect women from being stared at, neither does dressing casually, not wearing makeup, not being particularly feminine, and I could go on.... not that any of these things should be necessary, as all women should have a right to walk down the street or through their school without being made to feel uncomfortable by such things.

I'm not sure which look is more insulting; the I-am-entitled-to-look-at-your-body-simply-because-you-are-female look, or the disgusted how-dare-you-not-prepare-yourself-properly-for-my-gaze look. At least the second has an element of defiance on my part.

Seriously, the only explanation for this is a double standard. He sure had hairy legs (the first guy was wearing shorts), but that is fine for men; actually, it would be weird for him not to have leg hair unless he was a swimmer or something. I have had men ask me why I didn't prefer the feeling of soft, smooth legs over stubbly legs, and I've turned the question back on them, considering they don't seem to prefer their legs hair-free. And they aren't stubbly... after a few weeks the hair gets soft, and it is actually quite fun to play with (maybe that's just me??).

There is absolutely no biological or even hygienic reason to remove body hair; it is almost entirely related to cultural expectations, and this is an expectation that I have rarely seen challenged. So I will continue to challenge it, albeit intermittently, because I don't think that we can pretend to live in a "post-feminist" world if there is one standard for men (functional) and a completely different standard for women (conform to men's standards of beauty).

On a more anti-consumerist note, I wonder how much money a woman spends on shavers, shaving cream, after shave lotions, hair removal creams, home and salon waxes, etc. And how much waste goes into the landfills... And how many dangerous chemicals get absorbed into her body and into the environment...