Friday, June 30, 2006

The Wall Comes Down

Last day at my job as political hack/office monkey/spin doctor.  I'm currently packing up all the random shit I've littered around the office: two years' worth of clippings from various religious and political publications, various mementos like the matchbook from 24 Sussex, the freakin' sweet suit from Femme de Carriere that I kept here in case I had to pretend to be a competent young professional, and, my personal favorite, The Wall of Randos.

The WoR is (was?) my own personal shrine to the homobigots of Canada who saw fit to influence their federal leaders during the legislative run of Bill C-38 by faxing in a variety of letters and drawings that ranged from "mildly crude and laughable" to "incredibly asinine and offensive".  I'll post some pictures later, but you can get the general idea here.  Every morning my co-worker and I would gather round the fax machine and pull off a stack of few dozen of these (somedays I'm sure it must have been more than a hundred) and pull out those that were ridiculous enough to deserve a spot on the wall,. Which, technically, wasn't a wall at all, but the back of my door, but "The Back of the Door of Randos" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

It might sound masochistic, but it was actually quite cathartic - it was a reminder of the stupidity of these arguments.  Many of them featured seatbelts/cutlery/nuts and bolts.  Many of them featured trees or animals, complete with skirts for the females - you know, just like in nature.  Many of them were from children, which was heartbreaking, and arguably reason enough for a call to Social Services. 

I can't think of a stronger argument for free speech.  As soon as these people opened their mouths (or in this case, uncapped their felt pens) the sheer banality of their reasoning was revealed.  Every letter I read, every picture I saw, every single one of their so-called "arguments" only strengthened my convictions against their discriminatory cause.  They were the best argument against their own beliefs, and the greatest reminder of the importance of secular law as the basis for civil society.  There are people out there who believe that marriages, like seatbelts, require interlocking parts, and I don't want them shaping the social policy of my country.

So the wall's coming down, but it's coming with me. I promise picture goodness later.  And let us all hope that it is truly the end of an era.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This girl kicks ass!

Just stumbled across the story of 15-year-old Ava Lowrey from Alabama, a peace activist who makes Flash animations protesting the war.  The story, as far as I understand it, is that she's made over 70 of these animations, gone on CNN (interviewed by a complete MORON - honestly - needs to be seen to be believed) and received (surprise surprise!) numerous death threats, a lot of which related to her "WWJD" animation, in which she has the unbelievable audacity and unrepentant gall to imply that were Jesus around today, He probably wouldn't be first in the "Indiscrimate-killing-of-Iraqi-children" line. 

Yes, that's right - her animation attempts to show that war is un-Christian, using a hymn, passages from the Bible, and some downright heartbreaking photos of the consequences of violent conflict view it here). 

She's a truly courageous person to stand up to the groups and invididuals who are co-opting (what I'm assuming is) her religion. The extent to which Christianity has been hijacked for political and personal motives by extremist groups is both tragic and terrifying.  These people that hide behind the cross (or any other religion) in order to spew ignorance and hate need to be unmasked and disowned by the truly faithful.   Non-religious types need to do their part as well, by not referring to the aggressive hatebots as representatives of a religion.  Ann Coulter isn't a Christian, she's a marketing tool.  (And just kind of a tool in general).  Osama whatshisface isn't a Muslim, he's a cold-blooded psychopath.  Doesn't matter if they self-described as such - if just saying you were something made you that something, then this world would have a hell of a lot more astronaut-rock star-veterinarian-presidents.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Open Letter to Paul Steckle

Dear Honourable Member for Huron-Bruce,

First and foremost, allow me to congratulate you on becoming the first MP to take advantage of the first (albeit minority) Conservative government in office for 13 years to introduce a Private Member's Bill restricting abortion access[link to follow].  My own pick for this dubious honour was a certain Maurice Vellacott, but this is hardly the first time he has disappointed someone with his actions, or lack thereof. 

However, while I missed the "who" I do want to assure you that I was bang-on in the "what" - as in, what kind of legislation would be introduced.  As has been the case in the US, the fundamentalist-anti-abortion-legislation-wedge of choice seems to be what they charmingly refer to as "partial-birth abortions" (which, as long as we are completely making up supposed medical terms, I prefer to refer to as "red herrings distracting people from the erosion of bodily autonomy").  And in that regard, you have come through, with your law restricting abortion access after 20 weeks.

Now some people may wonder why you believe a woman's ability to make a conscious moral decision somehow mysteriously dissolves at 20 weeks of pregnancy.  At first, I simply assumed that you do not trust women's judgment, which seemed a tad bit ironic coming from the man who used, as his official House of Commons Christmas card, this photo of him and member of his family, in camouflage and bearing arms, inscribed with "Glory to God in the highest, And on Earth peace, good will toward men."  (As far as celebrating Our Lord and Saviour's birth in such a manner, I can only imagine that my copy of the Bible is missing the passage where Jesus and the disciples bag some deer.  Of course, it also appears to be missing the passages where He says "Abortions make Me cry" and "I hate gays", so I suppose that's par for the course.)

Fortunately, you have an answer to that - it's not that you don't trust women's judgment, it's that the poor fragile creatures simply aren't capable of handling the consequences of making their own choices:
If a woman is so ambivalent about having an abortion that she cannot make the decision until after she is in her 20th week, then a choice to terminate the pregnancy at this point is likely to be even more traumatic for her.
How terribly thoughtful of you to try and protect these women from the terrible, terrible situation of having to make and live with their own decisions!  You are not only on a quest to save these helpless unborn babies, but also to save their hopeless mothers from being full human beings!  It is so unbearably noble, I almost hesitate to point out that some women may, perhaps, feel perfectly qualified to make their own choices at whatever stage of the pregnancy they're in.  And I am certainly even more hesitant to point out that some of the more hysterical ones may question even your qualifications to rule on the emotional consequences of a decision which you yourself could not, under any conceivable circumstance, face. 

Yet I doubt that will persuade you.  You have, in the face of epidemic poverty, rampant illness, international epidemics of child (and here I must distinguish between "living, breathing" child and "still technically a part of a woman's body" child) abuse and exploitation, chosen to devote yourself to bringing unwanted children into this world.  I'm sure that the currently-endangered children completely understand your choice to ignore their needs in favour of the unborn, and are likely happy to rot away, alone and abandoned, if it means that you are doing your utmost to usher in their replacements.  And if that isn't a morally sound decision, I suppose you don't really know what is.



PS. Get your own damn uterus.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On Chivalry

Brace yourselves: I'm about to say something only a crazed, man-hating feminazi looking to incite fear and anger would ever consider...

I don't like it when men hold the door open for me.

Now, before you need to reach for your smelling salts, torches and/or pitchforks, allow me to add a little context: I don't like it when a man holds a door open for me because I am woman. If he's doing because I have my hands full, or he's gone through first and doesn't want the door to slam in my face, or there's someone right behind me he's holding the door for, then fine. But I hate, hate, HATE the concept of "Ladies first".

I haven't always hated it. Well, I hated it at first, and then I was told that I should stop being such a reactionary uppity bitch and accept these actions gracefully, and then I quietly stomached then, and then I grew up, grew a pair of ovaries, and decided that if chivalry wasn't dead, then I would track it down and finish it off once and for all.

Because this world doesn't need "doors-open-chairs-pulled-out-coat-in-the-puddle-ladies-first" chivalry - it needs simple human consideration. You should open the door for others because it's a nice thing to do, not because they have XX chromosomes.

And this cuts both ways, women on my bus who won't give up their seats at the front for the elderly or obviously pregnant.

Still, I like to think that we are moving more towards a "people helping people" society rather than a "men helping women who then fix sandwiches and/or sleep with them". But just when I start making my peace with it, of couse I stumble across an article by Bella Online's Sons Editor (no really, that's her title):

Everywhere we go, people comment on my son’s manners. Not just the ever-present
“please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in his vocabulary, but holding the
door open for women, allowing ladies to exit the elevator first, and holding out
his elbow to “escort” me during our “dates”. All this, and he's not even eight

"Please", yes. "Thank you", yes. Letting other people exit the elevator first? Why not! BUT WHY JUST THE WOMEN?

Because chivalry is about the powerful being momentarily gracious to the powerless. The white knight who picks up the lady's hankerchief moments before he wins her, an ox, 13 chickens and a peasant or two in a jousting tournament. Chivalry is about perpetrating the myth that fine "ladies" do nothing for themselves - not dress, not sit, certainly not open doors. The less capable a woman is of taking care of herself, the more dependent she is on a male provider, the more attractive she is.

I am perfectly capable of opening my own doors. I am perfectly capable of seating myself. I am also perfectly capable of walking on my own, unescorted (unless I am wearing high heels in which case I must cling to the nearest friend, stranger or parking meter for safety).

One would think that any mother would want to instill in her children the idea that she is their caretaker, their protector - not the other way around. And yet:

From the time my son could walk and talk, as he saw his father open the door for
me, we always told him, “Ladies go first”. This became ingrained in his
thinking. At every opportunity, we explained to him what Daddy was doing and
why. Now, it is second nature to him.
Notice she never tells the reader what was explained to her son:

"Oh, Daddy's opening the door for me because I'm a lady!"
"Because 'Ladies First!'"
"Because...ladies should be treated special from men."
"Because! We, uh...aren't as strong as men."
"But you're stronger than me, mommy. Why do I open the door for you?"
"Because I AM A LADY!!!!!"

In a similar vein, this is why I don't go out of my way to open doors for people in wheelchairs. It's insulting for me to assume that they aren't capable on their own. If someone's right behind me, I'll hold the door the same for them as for anyone else, or offer my assistance if the building seems inaccessible - but I've seen people sprint to get to the doors first, and it's about as big a slap in the face as it gets. He made it all the way to the bank in the wheelchair, pal - I'm sure he can handle the button. You gonna offer to operate the ATM for him too?

I'm not saying we shouldn't be nice to each other. And I'm certainly not saying, as in the words of a commentor on a BBC article which I cannot find for the life of me so you'll just have to take my word on this more-or-less accurate paraphrase, that "Women got the vote, so they're not getting my seat on the bus - they can't have it both ways." We should be courteous out of human kindness, not out of outdated gender notions.

Now, this is likely a generational thing, and I respect that. And I'm also not about to judge couples who partake in chivalry together - knock yourselves out. But the day an eight-year-old opens the door for me because he's a manly man and I'm a mere woman is the day his parents get to explain just what "nice misplaced socialization emphasis, jerkwads" means.

Also - true story - the other day at the library as this post was fermenting in my brain, a frail-looking elderly man stopped to hold the door open for me and another woman. She was clearly of a like mind - that the person who looks as though a stiff breeze could blow him over should not be doing the heavy lifting for two healthy adults - and said firmly: "You didn't need to do that!" To which he replied, "It's what I do - I'm a Wal-Mart greeter!"

So - I guess the moral is that I hate chivalry, but I hate assumptions more?

Why anti-abortionists are anti-women

Couple of great links - first, to Alas, a Blog and the terrific table done up there that shows anti-abortion policies and analyzes whether said policy is consistent with the belief that abortion is murder. I'd summarize it here, but it's terrific on its own already. Check it out.

And a post from from Amanda at Pandagon, who is currently my hands-down favourite non-friend blogger, looking at how fundies aren't really worried about the poor innocent sex cells zygotes embryos fetuses babies as much as they are about making sure the wimminfolk aren't out there exercising their own autonomy. Basically, if an embryo fails to implant because God so willed it/it was touched by His Noodly Appendage, that's okay - but if a woman makes a conscious decision to prevent pregnancy on her own, that's eeeeeevil.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Some good news!

The FDA has approved a vaccination against certain strains of cancer-causing HPV.

Now - Canada needs to get its act together! If they can get it passed in the US despite some vocal opposition about how not being able to threaten pre-teen girls with a highly-fatal form of cancer will turn said girls into wanton, sex-enjoying women, then certainly it should be a cinch up here.

I hope.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sorry I'm Late - Must Be the Daycare

The Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recently published a booklet containing some pretty startling facts about daycare in a totally reasonable, unbiased, unpatronizing, non-mysogynistic, scientifically-thorough and non-ideologically-motivated way! Oh, except for all those last parts.

The cover letter accompanying their ground-breaking pamphlet states that three studies found results that are "a serious cause for concern", such as:

1) The amount of time you spend away from your mom before you turn five is a "predictor of assertiveness, disobedience, and aggression." Whereas the amount of time you spend away from your dad is a predictor of how many fart jokes you know.

2)Daycare before the age of three increased anti-social behavior at age three. And we all know that nobody changes after age three. Now excuse me while I go play with my Barbies without sharing.

3)Children in daycare either become aggressive or compliant. This is totally in sync with the study I did just now in my head that shows that they also grow up to be tall or not tall.

Basically, they have 40-odd pages of poorly punctuated "articles" (honest to goodness - every single title uses is terribly awkward...not to mention incorrect...) describing how anything less than 24/7 mothering turns infants and toddlers into, at best, emotional basket cases and, at worst, dangerous psychopaths.

I'm all for scientific inquiry into the effects of early childhood groupcare and education, but if you want to be taken seriously, maybe you shouldn't start the intro to your "scientific" report with:
I feel sorry for women who cannot look after their babies themselves[...].

Aw, that's so nice! You feel sorry? For my mom? Wow, I bet she really appreciates your pity. Here, why don't you go tell her in person! Oh, and just so you know, in our family we show appreciation by smacking people upside the head.

This issue really burns me because I went to two stellar, and one pretty good, daycare. I made good friends, had plenty to keep me busy all day, learned a lot about a variety of topics (including socialization because - duh, I had to get along with other kids) and had access to activites, toys, games, play structures and other things that my own parents could never have provided on their own.

Do I wish I had been raised at home? Do my parents wish they'd been able to do so? Maybe. But I'd say that's based more on the desire to have spent those precious years together, than out of regret that daycare has turned me into some sort of mentally unstable, violent, anti-social monster.

This type of argument does nothing more than pit people against each other, which is where the ideology seeps in. Are they really doing this out of concern for mothers and children? After all, if they'd managed to guilt my mom some 25 years ago into quitting her job, she could have reaped the glorious benefits of raising infants in abject poverty - which, as we all know, has no negative impact on children whatsoever.

It's not an either/or issue, no matter how hard they try to frame it as one. You can easily be in favour of both daycare and homecare. There is no conflict, no cognitive dissonance, in saying "I believe that both daycare and homecare are valid and valuable ways of raising healthy and happy individuals".

Oh, but there I go, asserting myself again! Damn you, daycare!