Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What your opposition to gay marriage means

This is an infogaphic on what your opposition to gay marriage means that I found funny in parts (found here). Thanks Justin.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blog for Choice 2011

Has it already been a year since my last Blog for Choice post? Blog for Choice day was created to get people talking about choice and abortion rights, and January 21 (yes, I'm a day late) marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. This year's question is:

Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?

This question is even more USA-centered than usual, which frustrates me a little bit because bloggers from all over the world blog for choice. However, I am not going to let that stop me this year.

Last spring, I wrote about Senator Nancy Ruth telling Canadian women to "Shut the fuck up" about abortion or it will become an election issue. That hasn't changed. Funding to women's groups is being cut drastically at an alarming rate, and little is being done about it. These funding cuts, along with the end of the mandatory long for census, is going to change the way research on women is conducted in Canada. This terrifies me. It is an attack on women, and one of the first things to go might be access to abortions.

At the municipal elections that took place a few months ago, some very conservative mayors were elected, such as Rob Ford in Toronto (if you haven't heard of him, just google his name... I am baffled that he could win an election after some of the comments that he has made). The new mayor in my city has made it very obvious that she works for the corporations, and people were largely accepting of that. If this plays out in the provincial and federal elections to come, who knows what could happen.

This summer, there was a group of anti-abortion protestors that sat outside the hospital, which is the only location that I am aware of that provides abortions in Northeastern Ontario (meaning a lot of people cannot access abortions, even though they are free and legal). This doctor has said that he refuses to work anywhere outside of the hospital for safety reasons. Anyway, driving past these protestors made me really angry... it gave me this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought about how it might make women who have had abortions or are considering having an abortion feel when they saw this... how it might influence their choices... and how it might make other people feel justified in thier judgements of women who have had abortions. They were there for about a month, from morning to night, with their signs about how God chooses life or some such statement and pictures of fetuses. And I heard random people talking about how they were glad these people were there getting this important message across.

Am I concerned about choice in 2011? Absolutely. If we are not careful, this is exactly when we are going to lose access to safe, legal, and free abortions in Canada.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesbian visibility; short hair and men's clothing

I saw this picture from postsecret on sociological images

it reads "because I'm a LESBIAN I feel obligated to cut my hair short and wear men's clothing... I'm actually really girly"

When I first came out, someone told me that I couldn't be a lesbian because I had long hair. This 'someone' was a lesbian... a 'real' lesbian... who had never dated men, had short hair, wore men's clothing, and had plenty of other lesbian friends. I, on the other hand, had hair that was long and curly and that I stubbornly refused to cut (not because I liked the long hair, but because I didn't want to conform to any stereotypes). I also wore tight clothing that was considered stylish by most, spent lots of time doing my makeup... basically looking 'hetero' by conforming to what the magazines had told me to do since I was a teenager.

This made it very hard to get a date. I think there were two reasons for this. First is visibility... when dressed 'girly' other lesbians couldn't identify me as a potential dating partner. The other reason is related to biphobia, as having children and an ex-husband meant that I wasn't really "one of them" which made finding a dating partner difficult even when the people around me knew I was gay.

Once I started to dress more masculine, things got easier. I cut my hair (more because my long hair was completely fried and damaged from hair dye than for reasons related to conforming). Once I cut my hair, I also found myself wearing jeans and T-shirts everyday. I found lesbians start to pay attention to me. And I started to get more credibility as a queer person.

Even now, when I am going out to bars as a single person, I will dress more masculine than if I am going to the bar with a date so I am not mistaken for a straight girl at the gay bar.

My clothing style is not particularly masculine... I am a HUGE fan of big sweaters and leggings, but I still have short hair and never wear makeup. The grad student association has a semi-formal coming up, and I have had several people specifically request photos of me in a dress and heels because they have never seen me dress feminine before. I have also been informed that I am supposed to shave my legs for the occasion... but I digress

I think the point I am trying to make is that although there is a practical reason for lesbians (or women who date other women, whatever label they use/don't use to identify themselves) to dress in masculine clothing and have short hair, it makes me sad to see that someone is changing who they feel they are in order to conform to a specific standard. How is this any more liberating than having to wear heels and makeup in order to attract men?

Satirical campaign by OPSEU takes on corporate tax cuts

OPSEU's new political campaign tells Canadians how much corporate tax cuts are actually costing us.

Granted, it isn't as simple as every family giving up $500, but hopefully it sends a message about how substantial these cuts are. Ontario already has a very low corporate tax rate, to cut it further just seems wrong on so many levels. And I'm glad that OPSEU is still mentioning the wage freeze, because despite the fact that salaries for non-union public workers are still frozen and unionized employers are still trying to use it as a bargaining tactic, I haven't heard much about it politically or in the news in the past few months.

I'm not sure I really like the campaign, but it is good to see unions doing something to try and get a political message across. I hope it works because I really fear the likelihood of a Conservative government after this next election.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Queering It Gets Better

I love this depiction of the "It Gets Better" movement.

Found here

The picture, with comments like "made with white privilege" and "0% class awareness" shows an important critique of the movement. It refers to this niche that middle to upper class white gay men have found where they can fit in and happily consume products. And capitalism benefits immensely from their spending power.

Like the last post that I wrote that was critical of the "It Gets Better" movement, I feel like I need to explicitly say that I am glad it is happening. I like the attention that it brought and is currently bringing to queer issues, and I think it is important to tell young people that it generally does get better. I just think that we need to push it further to try harder to make things better now. I worry that by saying that it will get better, we are at the same time justifying the abuse that teens face as "kids being kids."

I don't think that it would have made me accept my own sexuality any sooner had a few relatively wealthy urban white men told me that it would get better. What happens to those of us who cannot inherit this white male privilege? What about trans youth? People of color? Queer people with disabilities? Poor or working class queer people? What happened to the queer movement that did not fit into dominant and consumerist norms?

We are replacing one normative culture with another, very similar, prescribed set of rules and calling it transformational in some way. I think we need to queer the It Gets Better movement.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Annoying conversation...

Two people we overheard talking while walking past the office today:

"He's a male nurse"

Does the qualifier 'male' really need to be used when you say 'he'?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Update on homophobic office rant

This is an update to a previous post, which can be seen here, in which I was subject to a homophobic rant at my office.

When I woke up on the morning after this incident, I thought I was fine. I got the kids ready for school, ran a few errands, and went into the office. As I got closer to the university, I realized that things were not as 'fine' as I had previously thought, but I still wasn't prepared for the knot of anxiety that I felt in the pit of my stomach as I approached the office door. I was also not prepared for the sound of my keys bouncing off each other as I tried to open the door with a trembling hand, afraid that he would be on the other side. He wasn't.

Still, as I got ready to begin work, just as I do every morning, I realized that something was different and I am not sure that it will ever be quite the same again. My office is a place where I had always felt safe. I had found a little niche where I could exist as I am without having to hide or conform, without having to pretend to be something I am not without having to worry about being judged or discriminated against. The place I could let my guard down and not have to worry about the anxieties that I often feel while dealing with people in the "real" world outside of this bubble.

And I am confused because he never touched me, he never made me feel as if I was in any kind of physical danger, never so much as raised his voice. Maybe that is why it didn't hit me until I really started thinking about the words that he used. If he had yelled or made me feel physically threatened, then I would have really seen the words for what they were from the beginning. But his tone was almost pleasant, conversational... in the context of words that were so full of not-quite-hidden hatred, or at very least ignorance, it made the entire situation seem even more surreal.

And the part that frustrates me most is that I can't get over being mad at myself. I am angry that I didn't tell him off or at least really explicitly tell him that it was inappropriate and that I wanted him to shut his mouth right then and there. I wasn't entirely quiet... at first, I tried to argue with him, but then just tried to ignore him in the hopes that he would stop talking, but he didn't, so I left the room. Either way, rationally I know that I am not to blame and that putting any blame on myself for his words is unhealthy and part of the victim blaming trend that I have written about so often (although I don't like that term... and I am definitely not thinking about myself as a victim in the context of this incident).

When I talk about it, people seem surprised that I didn't fight back. I am known for being argumentative when I want to be and for not backing down from an argument or debate, so it makes sense that those who know me are shocked that I didn't say or do anything. Still, acting shocked that I didn't say or do anything makes me feel as though I was wrong, and that isn't helping me right now.

Another friend just told me that although he doesn't condone that behavior, it is probably because the person was attracted to me. Then said something about how guys are jerks and it can be hard for them to behave properly around attractive women. So, basically what I got from that conversation was that it is my fault because I fit into a specific box of what could be defined as attractive by some people's standards (despite the fact that I don't wear makeup and rarely wear "figure flattering" clothing). Is the solution, then, to make even less effort with my appearance or should I excuse him for just being male?

And to make matters worse, I just received a non-apology letter, saying things like I'm sorry if you were offended by our openly intellectual conversation... you should have told me to stop... sorry if you thought i was rude or offensive. NOT sorry for being rude and offensive, but just apologizing if I interpreted it that way, because he is clearly open-minded about sexual orientation (he said as much in his letter), and I am the one with the problem for not seeing that. That letter should never have been allowed to be sent as an apology.

So, now I am sitting at home, not wanting to be alone, but not wanting to go on campus either. I am dreading tomorrow because it is the one morning that I know he will be there and I am pretty sure that he is angry with me for not seeing our 'conversation' as intellectual/academic. And the way that this is being handled is making me as angry, or possibly moreso, than the original rant... and I thought things were being handled so well up until late last night.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cure for lesbianism discovered by my colleague

I had an interesting conversation today with someone... and by interesting, I mean horribly homophobic, sexist and offensive. I wasn't going to mention anything about context in order to not identify this person, but the context is quite important. I was in my office at the university, which is one of my favorite places... somewhere that I am surrounded by graduate students working on a degree in sociology in a program that has an emphasis on social justice. If there is anywhere that I feel safe, it is my office. Not so much today.

The word girlfriend was mentioned in conversation, and he said "what do you mean girlfriend?" So I said I was gay (something I assumed everyone here knew, but apparently not), and he went off on this huge tangent.... starting with "I'm not against that BUT" and, as I've mentioned in numerous previous posts, if you have to say "but" in that context, you are better off not speaking at all.

As he was speaking, after getting over the shock of what I was hearing, I began furiously writing down what he was saying as he was saying it so I could quote as much of it as possible here for the benefit of readers.

I feel I need to mention that he doesn't think he is homophobic because he is ok with people being gay, he just thinks that they are wrong in that they are not actually gay, they just haven't yet realized that they are straight. Here are a few quotes, the ones without quotation marks are paraphrased;

"If she is with a good man who is doing his job as a man, women will prefer the man"
He didn't say exactly what it meant to do your job as a man, but I can guarantee you that dating a man who was doing whatever that job happens to be would not be enough to make me attracted to him for long. But it is good to see that the gender binary is alive and well in sociology.

There are two types of lesbians, one who will always play the man, which I don't understand, but for the one who plays the woman, there is nothing that a woman can give her that a man cannot
I wonder which "type" of lesbian I am... probably the latter. I did wear a skirt on New Years Eve, but I have also been described as moderately androgynous. Is that more or less wrong than "playing the man"? Few things annoy me more than the assumption that all relationships need to follow some kind of dichotomous gender construct.

If you cannot stay attracted to men, it is the fault of the men that you have dated. You have built up stereotypes in your head on the image of the men, which limits your view of how men can satisfy your needs
Ah, I see. I am gay because I was raped. Or maybe I'm gay because my daughter's father was abusive. Or because my ex-husband was sexist. Or because my dad left when I was 3. Or all of the above. Good to know. Am I 'cured' yet?

This line of thinking scares me, as I believe it makes lesbians particularly vulnerable to sexual violence from men in certain ways.

"The link between men and women is a frontier, and it is really hard to penetrate that frontier"
ummmm... what?

If a gay person starts dating the right person of the opposite sex, they will no longer be gay. It depends on their experience of dating.
This one particularly offends me because it is exactly what I had convinced myself. This misconception is the reason I got married to a man. It is the reason that I dated men exclusively for 6 years. It is the reason that I hated myself for not being able to conform to heteronormativity.

"I know it cannot be better" (gay as opposed to heterosexual relationships)
Yes, for many of us, not only can it be better, but it is better.

"but i'm not against that..."
No, not at all. You are CLEARLY ok with non-hetero lifestyles. You just think that we are all tricking ourselves.

After politely, but vehemently disagreeing with him (multiple times), I had to leave the office and rant to a queer studies prof in the department. I wasn't sure if I should tell him off, or just try to let it go... I'm still not entirely sure. On one hand, I have to see this person all of the time, we share a tiny little office. On the other hand, holy homophobia batman.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The wage gap between top paid CEOs and average workers in Canada

This article, which critical of the wages received by the highest paid CEOs in Canada, is reminiscent of a lecture by my intro to sociology prof that was part of what got me interested in the discipline to begin with.

The article states that
By about mid-afternoon Monday, the 100 best-paid chief executive officers in Canada will have already earned the equivalent of an average full-time salary in this country.

The gap between the executive suite and minimum-wage workers is even larger. The average CEO had earned a full year’s worth of minimum-wage work by about 3:15 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

In the lecture for my first year class, a brilliant professor (who occasionally reads this blog and has yet to distribute the final grades for our last class) began by asking the class of about 100 first year students how many of us expected to be earning more than $100,000 in 10 years. A large portion of the class, probably more than half, raised their hands. Keep in mind, many of them were sociology students, and the liberal arts are not exactly known for high salaries. He proceeded to show tables of statistics about the actual income of average workers with a bachelors degree in the social sciences, and I think the average income 10 years after graduation was something like $30,000, not even close to the 6 figures that most of them assumed they would be earning.

In this lecture, he also presented us with information on income inequality in Canada, and the most telling statistic for me was this same one. Sometime on the morning of January 2nd, Canada's top 100 CEOs have earned more than I am likely to earn with my degree in an entire year.

This was among the first steps in the process of me going from being a relatively leftist, but pro-capitalist, social work student to becoming a Marxist sociology student... which, I have to say this prof strongly discouraged for financial reasons. I was sitting in his office telling him that I felt as though I couldn't continue on with social work after having taken his class, but he said that because I was recently divorced and had 2 children, he was of the opinion that social work would lead to employment, whereas a BA in sociology would not. Another prof that stopped by his office while I was there said that a sociology degree would get me a job at the mall. They weren't the best recruiters, but when I decided that I could spend the additional 2 years working on a Masters Degree, they were both more than supportive of me switching programs.

Still, I guess this professor has earned the nickname Dr. Doom (which, despite his suspicions, I did not come up with, as much as I would like to take credit for it). However, I think a nickname like that would come with some pretty cool backgound music that follows every time he walks into a room holding a stack of graded papers (he is also known for being one of the toughest markers in the department).