Friday, October 5, 2012

Not loving the anti-choice protest that I see Every Single Morning

I pass pro"life" protesters with pictures like this one every day on my commute to work.  It's a great way to start your day off with a grrr.

  Photo: At 26 weeks we are talking about a fetus not an infant. If you have to play with language to make your point, maybe you should reconsider the stance. I am totally bringing my pro choice sign for tomorrow's commute.

 It is my least favorite thing about working so close to the hospital (which is the only place that has abortion services in my city, which means it is the only place to put these signs to shame the women who need to access abortion services).

I just want to say, at 26 weeks, it is not an infant, but a fetus (or, if born at this age, a neo-natal preemie that may or may not be old enough to survive).  The language and photo are problematic for many many reasons.  Less than 1% of abortions in Canada take place after 20 weeks, and when they do, it is usually because the baby has no chance of surviving and the mother doesn't want to put her body through carrying a baby that is going to die to term.

Also, a fetus in the womb is probably not smiling.  But it looks cuter in the photo if there is a small smile on the baby, I guess.

Also, I keep planning on bringing a sign that I can fold up into my backpack that just says PRO-CHOICE in big letters and then I can hold it up while I walk past them, so I can at least feel like I am doing something.  I started trying to organize a protest, but they are usually gone by 10am and most of us have to work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

no words...

Seriously, how the fuck does this even happen?


The minister for the status of women actually votes for a bill that will lead to the criminalization of abortion!  This is clearly who Harper chose in charge of my rights...

Also on the attack against women, I just found out that the university is no longer going to fund a coordinator for the women's centre.  Because we don't have issues like sexual assault, sexual harassment, or any other form of sexism on campus anymore.

Friday, September 21, 2012

First attempt at blogging again

I have been trying to blog all week and have found it impossible to write about topics that I would normally be all over... like this one by a friend of mine.  

Last weekend, I received some news that set of my blogging spider-sense (that's a thing, right?) to the point where nothing else really mattered, and I can't write about it due to confidentiality issues and my lack of anonymity.  So I am stuck in this space of finally having my blog back and being thrilled to be online and committed to writing at least one post a week, but being entirely unable to think around this one block in my head when I think about social justice.

Does this happen to other people?

I have been talking a lot about the census release, so maybe I will start with trying to write about that after a reporter decided to strip everything critical that I had said about the topic... Wednesday, StatCan released data on families in Canada from the 2011 census and there are headlines about changing families or new types of families.  The problem is that single parents and common-law relationships are not new... if you really think about it, it is the nuclear family that is new.  But, as a news source, it is much more responsible to assume that the idea of family that exists within eurocentric capitalist patriarchal countries is the original family.  

Families take on different forms in various cultures at different times.  Same-sex couples are not new, but they are more often openly defining themselves as same-sex couples as opposed to pretending to be just roommates, and laws allowing them to adopt children and get married have allowed them to take part in what we consider to be more traditional family forms.  And they are now being measured on the census.  Single parent families are also not new, in the early 1900s there were a lot of women with children widowed in the war who raised families as single parents. If we take the census data seriously, homeless people do not count, and there isn't a single person in Canada who deviates from the gender binary.  

We have to stop thinking about the census as a reliable source of data or of the results as representing new forms of families as though the nuclear family is the ideal that other families are supposed to strive to achieve as it sets up one type of family as inherently better than other forms.  And we have to get more critical reporters.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back Online!

I have not been posting lately due to technical difficulties, but I am back and expect posts to resume shortly!

You have no idea how incredibly happy I am to have figured this out!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

why do I bother watching the olympics anyway...

Why is it that women cannot be as good as men at sports?  If women even come close to performing as well as men in any given sport, they must be on drugs or they are really a man.

The idea that men's bodies might not ALWAYS be innately superior to women's bodies at EVERY task deemed important by athletics organizers appears to be a threat to every man.

In both of the situations from the previous links, there is also a huge element of racism involved in the accusations... if a "pretty" North American or Western European woman had a score on par with that of men in her field, there is a better chance that it might be seen as being due to athleticism and hard work, as opposed to "doping" and "tricking" us about their "real" gender.

My new olympic cheer... "Go Patriarchy! Yay!"  Now where did I put my pompoms?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cat calls and comics

A few weeks ago, I went to the social sciences and humanities congress at Wilfred Laurier.  As I was walking from the dorm room to campus, someone honked at me for the first time in a very long time and this particular comic came to mind.

But thank you, whoever you were, for reminding me that as a woman, my body is on display and my worth is somehow tied to how many honks I get while walking down the street. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Robots with Aspergers

This will be my first real post in several months.  I tell myself I haven't posted because I am too busy... work, finishing my thesis, parenting.  The truth is I am very busy, but that hasn't stopped me from reading books, watching television, browsing other peoples blogs, and it isn't the only reason I haven't posted in my own blog.

 The main reason I haven't posted is because blogspot changed the settings on me a few months ago.  I logged on and all of the buttons were different.  It wasn't so different as to be impossible to navigate my way through the new look, but I really don't like when things change without notice.  It is disorienting and by the time I have sorted out where the "New Post" button is, I have forgotten what it is I want to say. ;At least facebook makes big announcements so I have time to prepare for these changes.

I use my Aspergers diagnosis to explain why I don't like certain changes and it is also why I am writing this particular post.  I have been looking at aspie characters in pop culture and am very annoyed by the limited portrayal of these characters.  Aspie characters are usually male (but then, statistically speaking, males are more likely to be diagnosed with Aspergers than women, so this kind of makes sense).  They are also almost always brilliant in some ways, usually in math and physics.  Think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory and you will have the general idea.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am quite fond of Sheldon (despite my annoyance at some of the ways his particular aspie traits are made to be funny when they actually create serious difficulties in people's lives) but we really need a more diverse portrayal of what Aspergers actually looks like.

I have looked at lists of people in pop culture who have Aspergers or aspie-like traits, which I am using to look at how these characters are depicted and there is one thing in particular that really annoys me about many of these lists.  Robots do not have aspie traits; they are robots.  There is a huge difference, and to write that Data from Star Trek or the robot played by Robin Williams in Bicentennial man has Aspergers is very insulting to those of us with that diagnosis (especially considering that I have been described as somewhat robotic at times).

 I think I know more people with Aspergers who are NOT particularly interested in math and science than people with Aspergers who are.  My "special interest" (if we are going to call it that - I have a lot of interests and am not nearly as one dimensional as most of the depictions I have looked at would have one believe) has to do with tracing out networks of social relations between people to see how their actions and decisions are influenced by broader social structures (I don't usually use the term structure, but I'm not going to get into that here, and structure is a rather easy way to describe it that can be easily understood, so I will keep it for now).  I don't expect the average sitcom to reflect these subtleties, and I haven't exhausted the list of aspie characters in books and film as of yet, but what I have seen and read thus far is quite limited.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thesis defended!

With my thesis work done, I am hoping to find time to start posting again soon... holding a full-time job along with the thesis work and everything else just really didn't leave enough time for blogging.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My blog photo and white privilege

When we were sitting at the dinner table today, my 9 year old critiqued the image that I use for my blog... the one that reads "my Marxist feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard." I have this image on a Tshirt that I was wearing today. She read the shirt and examined it for a few minutes, then asked

"Why do they all have the same skin tone?"

I am embarrassed to say that this had never occurred to me. Not that I thought the image did have a racial analysis, but I didn't realize it was missing. The privilege of having white skin... as much as I try, I don't always notice how invisible whiteness is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Harper's new anti-terrorism strategy

Harper's new anti-terrorism strategy (ie. his plan to protect corporation's profits based on Canadian oil) is very worrisome. I'm not sure if it is any different from the old strategy, insofar as all of this stuff was in place around the G20 and whatnot, but the boldness with which he is announcing these "anti-terrorist" tactics and the scope of who is considered to be a terrorist is disconcerting.

For example, the Public "Safety" Minister announced that they will not target "not only known terrorist groups, but "vulnerable individuals" who could be drawn into politically inspired violence."

My first question is with regards to this guy's title... which public and whose safety is he concerned about?

Also, they are vigilant against extremism based on causes like "animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism"

As an anti-oppression activist, I love seeing my work thrown in with white supremacists... it seems to be a very common strategy to discredit a movement. For example, I was having a facebook argument the other day, and was told that "to carry a label like feminist, [I] may as well wear the great dragon's cloak from the KKK because its no different.... feminism is associated with anger and hate" It seems as though people think that they can immediately discredit an entire movement comparing it to hateful movements (without knowing what you are talking about, or doing it purposefully to influence people who don't know what feminism or anti-capitalism is about).

In the article, it was said that
Terrorist action occurs when an extremist ideological group plans to carry out a violent attack that reasonably can be expected to kill people or destroy property,” Michael Patton, Mr. Toews’s director of communication, said in an e-mail Friday.
I guess Gandhi was a terrorist.

And why isn't Harper under arrest for terrorism?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We don't need feminism anymore!

I was listening to CBC radio the other day and they were doing a special show on the 40th anniversary of Ms magazine. They interviewed one of the founders of the magazine, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and her daughter, a journalist named Abigail Pogrebin.

At first, I was kind of excited to be listening to a feminist story on the radio while I drove, but I ended up getting more and more irritated with it. It gave the impression that everything is fine right now, thanks to people like the founders of Ms magazine. While I appreciate how much things have improved in a variety of ways, I really get annoyed when people try to make it seem as though we no longer need feminism because men and women are equal now.

Abigail said that she doesn't feel that her life or her daughter's life are constrained by being a woman because we now have choices that weren't available when her mother co-founded the magazine. Then she went on to say that she used to work for 60 minutes, but found a new, less prestigious, job closer to home when she had children because she wasn't able to travel all the time anymore... and that she couldn't travel for work regularly because her husband had a job that required him to travel for work. She also said that he would not consider compromising his job to stay home with the kids. Now, this sounds like one of the reasons we still need feminism... women's choices are constrained in ways that men's choices often are not.

So, she quits a good job to take something closer to home in order to stay home with her children while her husband travels for work, but we don't need feminism anymore. Hurray for choices!

I hate this "I choose my choice" feminism. We do not have choices, in a lot of cases. The decision to participate in the nuclear family, to work in the waged labour force, to make sacrifices in one's career for the sake of raising children, even the decision about what kinds of clothing to wear are constrained by material circumstances, they are not made in a vacuum.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not to be racist but....

I've said this before and I will say it again... if you have to say something along the lines of "I'm not racist but..." THEN YOU ARE ABOUT TO SAY SOMETHING RACIST. I cannot stress this enough.

If you need to preface what you say with telling people that you are not a bigot, then you should not say it and think about why it is that you had the thought in the first place.

Also, I hope these are meant to be ironic or something, and I'm just not getting the joke

Also, I did get one laugh out of this at my friend's response on facebook, which was "not to sound racist but I'm wearing a green shirt"

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Framing protests in the media

This post is from a presentation I gave at the University of Toronto a few days ago, where I spoke about the media's role in social movements. In discussing how issues were framed, I compared two newspaper articles covering some arrests at a budget cuts rally in Toronto. One article was in the National Post (found here) the other was from the Toronto Media Co-op (here).

Here are the headlines of the articles... National Post is on left and Media co-op on the right

“Four arrested after Toronto budget-cuts protest turns violent”

“Police crack heads as major budget cuts reversed”

Just reading the headlines, you have an idea of who is to blame. Did the protest turn violent, suggesting protesters started it, or did the police crack heads?

As for how many people were there

More than 100 demonstrators

Approximately two hundred people were in chambers for the vote; almost ten times that number remained outside, prevented from entering by a line of police officers mixed with City Hall security.”

So, for those who read the National Post, this could seem like a really fringe thing... only 100 people... but if you read the media co-op, you would be told that there were move than 2000 in attendance, which gives the protest a lot more legitimacy.

What about the police officers... how threatening did they look?

officers clad in yellow rain jackets and black bicycle helmets”

“horse mounted riot squad”

I don't know about you, but I would be much more afraid of a riot squad than a few guys in raincoats and bicycle helmets... the power relations would be much more obvious.

Who started the violent acts?

demonstrators surged against the line of police”

”Attempts to enter the building for the vote were met with violence”

In both scenarios, protesters approach the officers, but it makes a huge difference if they were "surging against the line of police" or merely trying to enter a public building!

Lastly, were the police violent?

three male protesters had been handcuffed and lined up against the wall of the building — one bleeding from his head.”

“Several arrests were made, people were beaten and choked, and an elderly man was thrown to the ground. At least one person was taken to St. Michael's hospital.”

In one article, some guy is randomly bleeding and nobody knows how. In the other article, there are specific and precise accounts of violent acts done by the police. We can use the pictures included in the article to take that further...

Police punch Emily Noether in the face
This photo, from the media co-op, shows a clearly violent act by a police officer...

The image from the National Post shows some angry protesters yelling while police officers watch calmly
Matthew Sherwood for National Post

The National Post also mentioned disturbances arising among the "ranks of occupy Toronto protesters"... you know, just in case anyone had stopped being afraid of them.

Which of these stories are read influences what readers think about the issues, the specific event in question, and their conception of protests and protesters more generally. Unfortunately, the National Post has a wider readership than Toronto Media Co-op (which usually only goes to already leftist people).

In my presentation, one of the things I mentioned was that we need to demand leftist journalists within mainstream papers (actually, I think I said that for every Margaret Wente, we need a column by Karl Marx). We need to demand that right wing propaganda is corrected and the media is held accountable for misinformation. I think think that letter writing campaigns are helpful, but at this point we might need to go further than that. I am wondering how an occupy media campaign might look and where it could take us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blog for Choice 2012

For the past few years, I have been involved in blog for choice (see posts here and here).

This years' question disappoints me however. I received an email from the organizers of Blog for Choice day, and was asked to reflect on this question in my post

What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

First of all, Blog for Choice day is the anniversary of the American Roe vs. Wade court decision, so it makes sense that it is a very US-centric day, but, in light of the American election in 2012, this question becomes especially important to many American pro-choice activists and much less relevant to those of us who do not live in a country that has a major election of any kind coming up (yes, I know we can continue to lobby and whatnot after an election, but that isn't helping candidates).

Anyway, the question becomes even more frustrating and problematic for people who do not support the supposedly democratic political system. I, personally, think that the electoral system is a joke... I believe that by giving us two (or three or even five) candidates, and calling a select group of people citizens and allowing them to vote, it presents the illusion that we actually have a choice. But if you look at the candidates, we are basically selecting from A, A or A.... maybe NDP or Green party candidates can sometimes make up something that almost represents choice B in Canada, but in very limited ways. The way politics is currently organized upholds heterosexist, racist, patriarchal capitalist social relations. Anyway, this critique is not new, so I won't go into any more detail on it right now.

But to answer the question, what will I do to help pro-choice candidates (or members of parliament) in 2012? Absolutely nothing. I will, however, continue to write letters to newspapers and giving presentations as well as helping to organize and attend rallies when I believe it is useful to do so (such as on this and this occasion). I will continue to blog about the importance of choice. I will also continue to call out Harper (here and here) when he makes asshole decisions that affect women's ability to access abortion all the while saying that he will not bring up the abortion debate in parliament. But I will not help political candidates because I refuse to participate and further legitimize what I think is an illegitimate system.

Also, here is a cute failbook picture because it makes me happy.

funny facebook fails - Un-Pregnant

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yet another offensive facebook comment conversation

I have been debating whether to post this or not because of thoughts I have been having about the ethics of posting about people in a blog that is no longer all that anonymous. This conversation was from facebook several months ago, and I have decided to go ahead and post it now because it still kind of bothers me and I find posting to be incredibly freeing in that once it is posted, it is no longer something that I think about.

Anyway, a friend on facebook updated their status asking if there were any men with a drivers license who needed a job, to which I asked if the work could be done by a woman (because I always seem to feel the need to comment on things that seem like they might be sexist). When I found out that it was for an actual company, I asked which one, so I could send some female friends down to apply, considering that sounds like a human rights violation.

One of her friends wrote

you must be gay!!! thats a gay woman's answer!!!

Because I guess only gay women care if men can apply for a job that they cannot. A mutual friend told them that their comment was totally uncalled for, to which this person responded

Am I wrong?????? If so I apologize. But I bet I'm right.

Why is it that he only has to apologize if I am not gay... if I am, then it is perfectly acceptable for him to talk about my sexuality on someone else's facebook wall based on a one sentence comment about why women couldn't apply for the job as well.

When I informed him that you don't have to be a lesbian to be a feminist (because I don't know when to walk away from an argument online) he responded with

it's ok really, i like pussy too.
Are you??? and i'm surprised you never spelled it " WOMYN"

So, I guess my point is if you think someone sounds queer in a facebook comment, great. But don't feel the need to post about it repeatedly. I was tempted for a while to comment on every post he wrote saying something like "you must be straight, with a comment like that" but figured it he wasn't worth the time and effort.

Also, am I the only person that seems to have repeated offensive conversations on facebook?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Trans woman turned away from YWCA

The Sudbury YWCA is facing a human rights complaint after turning away a transgender woman who needed a place to sleep after having problems with her partner (CBC's coverage of the story here - I can't seem to find any coverage in the local papers).

The executive director of the YWCA said that trans women are not allowed to stay at the women's shelter but they are directed to another safe space. Apparently, they do not do a very good job of it though, because the woman in question ended up spending the night at a downtown park.

Before turning her away, they subjected her to a series of questions about her genitals... whether she was pre or post-op, whether she urinated sitting down or standing up... questions that would never be tolerated if they were asked of a cis-woman.

I am not a trans person, and therefore am not really able to understand what she was going through, but I also cannot understand the position of turning away someone who needs these services just because the presence of a penis tells society that her own personal experiences of gender are not real (or something to that effect). I don't get it. And I don't think I want to understand that line of thinking, either.

It seems to me that people who don't conform to the gender binary should be allowed to decide whether a man's shelter or a women's shelter is a safer space for them (especially in the absence of non-gender specific spaces) and I am guessing for a trans woman, the safest place is probably a shelter for women.. please correct me if I'm wrong. And as someone who has spent time in a shelter for battered women, I don't think I would have felt in the least bit threatened by her presence.

Yet another example of how transphobia is still considered to be acceptable...