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Archive for the ‘Women are people’ Category

I wrote a much longer, angrier response to the article which spurred the article I reblogged earlier today. It was rather incoherent, so I won’t publish it, but I do want to say one thing:

Life isn’t a game where the object is to collect the most awesome points. I think it’s great if you’re able to solve your problems without recourse to the authorities, but you don’t get to snidely look down on others if they can’t do the same. But if your argument against a woman involving the police to deal with a stalker is basically “Who’s against the patriarchy NOW?” and “Real women ride motorcycles and beat up the creeps they encounter!” you are a) incredibly naive and b) kind of a nasty person.

…OK, I wanted to say two things, as it turns out. The “just been mean/physically violent until the trolls go away!” is not just an unfair double standard – do men who have opinions in public have to do so? No – it is actually REALLY FUCKING DANGEROUS. Some predators back off when confronted. Others take verbal or physical aggression as an excuse to escalate the situation. And a woman who has been able to shut down predator type A “being directly and verbally such a cunt that he soon disappeared” (that’s a quote, by the way) will get a very rude awakening if she tries such tactics on predator type B.*

…Make that three things: the problem isn’t that women are insufficiently awesome. The problem is that we live in a world which actively and passively dehumanizes women and enables predators. Or even more succinctly, if members of group A are routinely assholes to members of group B, the solution is not for group B to be assholes right back.

What the solution IS is not for me to say. I am not a feminist activist; I’m more like a fan of feminism. But trust me, there is a discussion happening. Just not in Vice magazine.

*Simone de Beauvoir, of all people, describes exactly this situation happening to her rather farouche young friend Lise: “One afternoon three young fellows passed her in a deserted street…one pinched her bottom. She promptly lashed out at him, and was shattered to find herself lying on the ground with a bloody nose and one tooth broken.” The Prime of Life, p. 477

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So this morning my Twitter feed exploded with the latest iteration of the eternal, asinine debate: should we allow strollers on public transit? In this case: should we charge extra for strollers?

Because there is NO OTHER POSSIBLE REASON for our system to be overtaxed than the selfish choice of your Roncesvalles and Leslieville yummy mummies overloading it with their little Peytons and Vanessas in their Bugaboo Frogs, right?

SO LET’S STOP FOR A MINUTE. I haven’t got a lot of time to write this because I have to take Gus to the vet for a follow-up ultrasound – DOGS ON THE TTC! – but I have pretty much exactly three things to say about this.

1) Let’s check our class assumptions for a moment, shall we? The so-called “rich bitches” pushing those $800 strollers are a minority of mothers. (They are also not necessarily rich – there is a thriving second-hand stroller market and grandparents will frequently buy a nice stroller. They are also not necessarily bitches. I know a fair number of these ladies and they are the same mix of awesome, normal, and awful as everyone else.) Also those $800 strollers are usually much more compact than the $150 Safety 1st stroller you get on sale at Walmart. The woman you fume at for taking up so much space on transit with her infant probably has no choice when it comes to transportation. [Note: this paragraph has been edited to correct some unfortunate implications. “Rich bitches” is a common characterization of certain mothers, not my opinion of them. -kmh]
2) AND EVEN IF SHE DID – even if she has a nice safe car at home to whisk her child around town without exposing you to the indignity of having to share space with a tiny human being, she still has the right to use public services. As does her child. And be honest, when you see a woman driving a car with an infant in the back, do you say something like “Look at that selfish bitch, polluting the environment”? I bet you do.
3) AND HEY SPEAKING OF BABIES BEING HUMAN. Babies are human. They are not miniature robots designed with the express purpose of annoying you. They are human beings and members of our society, they have legitimate needs and desires, and have the right to use the same services as anyone else.

No matter what they do, mothers can’t win. I tweeted about this extensively this morning, so you may want to skip this if you follow me on Twitter, but I feel the need to go into it again. You are excoriated for being environmentally irresponsible by procreating, but also for being environmentally responsible by taking your child on public transit. You are told over and over again that you have to breastfeed or you’re a horrible selfish parent, yet people give you everything from the side-eye to the horrified stare to outright discrimination if you do it in public. You are expected to bring up a perfectly socialized child…without ever bringing them into society, because you can’t expect people in stores or restaurants or, hell, streetcars to put up with your child crying or whining or running around or otherwise acting like a child. Mothering is expected to be perfect, joyous, and invisible.

And I am really, really done with trying to live up to that impossible standard. Let me tell you a story.

Last May I was home alone with the baby for several days. Ben was away on tour for almost a month, but I did have either my mother or my mother-in-law here for a lot of that time. Anyway, during the time I was alone, Cecil knocked over my phone and broke the screen. The only place I could take it to be repaired was near the goddamn Skydome. I also had to get a birthday present for my dad (Bobby Flay’s Grill It!), and the only place I could find it for sale downtown was the Eaton Centre. So on a Tuesday towards the end of May I put Cecil (then about 3 months and 12 pounds) in the ring sling and went out to do these errands.

Have you ever slung a 12-pound weight around your neck and carried it around in 27 degree weather for four hours? It gets really, really heavy, and really, really hot, and really, really squirmy and uncomfortable when it’s a living creature who would rather not be confined in yards of fabric on a hot day. (To top it all off I was wearing giant rubber rain boots because the forecast called for a thunderstorm AND IT DIDN’T EVEN RAIN. Bastards.) But I did it, because the only stroller I could use with him at the time*, a giant plastic monstrosity, was much too large to take on the subway and streetcar.

And you know what? I still got funny looks and judgement and assholes questioning my right to exist in public space with my infant. No matter WHAT you do, whether you drag your huge-ass stroller up and down the subway steps or bite the bullet and carry your infant in a decidedly un-ergonomic sling for hours and hours on a hot day, SOMEONE will feel they have the right to tell you to GTFO.**

I still take (11-month old, almost 20 pound) Cecil around in a carrier – an Ergo, because he’s long outgrown the ring-sling – but if I need to, I do not hesitate to take my stroller. For one thing, he will only put up with being in the carrier for so long, being a very active near-toddler, and for the other, I do not want to carry 20 pounds of unhappy human if I don’t have to. And I shouldn’t have to in order to access a public service that is as much mine and Cecil’s as it is yours.

And if people are going to be assholes to me no matter what I do, I might as well do what’s most comfortable for me and my child.

For all the gains women have made towards equality, for all the strides men have taken towards being more active and involved parents, things are still not equal. Women are still much more likely to be primary caregivers of their children. If you limit the access of children to a public service, especially infants, you are limiting the access of women to that service. And if that isn’t a feminist issue I don’t know what is.

*The little umbrella strollers people talk about when they say “why don’t they use those little strollers you get for $30 at Walmart?” are not suitable for babies under the age of 6 months as they don’t provide head support and can’t recline enough. We started using one with Cecil about a month earlier than you’re supposed to because it was SO HOT that it was unsafe to take him anywhere in the sling, and his head control was pretty good.

**This story, of me going really above and beyond to avoid inconveniencing my fellow transit riders, I liken to my sex ed story. Due to the woefully inadequate sex ed I received at Catholic school, when I needed to know more I went to the public library, found the Sex for Dummies book, hid in a corner, and read it cover to cover. Good for me for taking responsibility for my sexual health, I guess, but you can hardly base a system around the assumption that everyone is resourceful and a good problem-solver. You cannot expect parents to do what I did any more than you can expect teens to do what I did.

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Last year it was the Bearded Lady Pub Crawl – I discovered that a plausible-looking mustache made me immune to catcalls and unwanted advances. Also that a mustache is not a hot look for me, but that’s OK.

This year it’s pregnancy. For whatever reason I haven’t had a strange man yell at me from a car/comment on my ass/ask me to give him a blow job since I started showing, and it has been *awesome*. I started to feel invisible, but in a good way – like I could just walk around doing whatever and no one would bother me other than the usual friendly weirdos you meet in my neighbourhood.

Then tonight I had the following exchange with a guy on the streetcar:

Guy (who was oldish, scruffy, and had taken off one of his shoes), tapping me on the shoulder: Is this the 506?

Me: Yes.

A couple of minutes later…

Guy, tapping me on the shoulder again: Is this the 506? Is it going to Gerrard Street?

Me: Yeah, they diverted to Queen for some reason, but it’s going to Gerrard now.

Guy: [pats me on shoulder]

When we get to Gerrard…

Guy, tapping me on the shoulder for the 4th time: This is Gerrard Street?

Me: Yes.

Guy: You want to go out with me, go for dinner?

Me: No thank you.

So there you have it, girls, even an obvious pregnancy won’t stand in your way of hooking up with a guy who doesn’t know what streetcar he’s on or that shoes conventionally remain on one’s feet on public transit, but totally thinks he has the right to touch total strangers and proposition them on streetcars.

There’s hope for us all!

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I was in Old Navy the other day in the extremely tiny Maternity and Baby section (because who doesn’t have enough maternity pants? I didn’t buy anything though) when I noticed the what was possibly the cutest and the saddest thing ever.

The cutest: A tiny Superman onesie.

The cutest thing ever, also the tiniest image ever - sorry

The saddest: An identical pink version of the same onesie, only for girls.

PINK

(BTW, I know these are not identical. Also that the first is a onesie and the second is a shirt. It was surprisingly difficult to find pictures of the ones I saw in the store online and this was the closest I could get. Trust me, they were identical in every respect, only one was pink. And sparkly.)

You know, it is pretty much impossible to tell if a baby is a boy or a girl without checking what’s in its diaper. And babies themselves could not care less about gender, since they have trouble with understanding such basic concepts as “hungry”, “tired”, and “the difference between self and not-self”. The only reason that baby clothes are so absurdly gendered – and they are, they really are – is that a lot of adults have a hard time relating to anyone whose gender is unclear. (If you don’t believe me, talk to the transgender people discriminated against by a farmer’s market in London, Ontario. Hometown pride!) So boy babies have to wear blue and girl babies have to wear pink and little useless headbands (they don’t have hair, people) and get their ears pierced, just so your casual passerby will know that you’re carrying around a little Supergirl and not a Superboy.

And for the record I like cute things, and I don’t mind pink or anything, though I don’t wear it often as it doesn’t go with my colouring, and if I have a girl she will certainly have little pink outfits. There’s nothing wrong with cuteness or girliness or pinkness. But I don’t see why an already unbelievably adorable object needs to be girlified and sparklified, if not to pander to adult gender anxieties. And I think it’s kind of sad that we as a culture have a hard time just dressing up our little girls like superheros, instead of sparkly pink superheros, or that we can’t dream of putting our boys in sparkly pink. Because I can’t think of a single good reason why this should be, but enough people must have thought of at least one for Old Navy to have come up with gendered superhero onesies for newborns.

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*Warning: NSFW*

My take on Julian Assange et al.

If you’re looking for that email, kaythecomplainer@gmail.com.

Link.

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Ladies, do you ever look around at the crazy world we live in and think, “My god, I wish I were a man!”?

I know, we all enjoy having the freedom to express ourselves through fashion (within the bounds of femininity, of course), and we love the bonds we create with our families from doing the majority of the mental, physical, and emotional work to connect with them, and who DOESN’T enjoy having random strangers chat them up in elevators, living in a rape culture, or having to have a yearly I-hate-my-body exam to check for a vaccine-preventable form of cancer?

But even with all these advantages, the burden of maintaining a spotless home, perfectly groomed appearance, and happy, conciliating manner in the face of a hostile world – all on 78% of what a man earns! – can wear one down a little.  So, ladies, here is something we can all be grateful for:

If you are a woman and your feet slip off of your bicycle pedals, causing you to fall forward and smash your groin area into the frame, you will not enjoy it very much, but you will not suffer anywhere near as much as a man would.

(Yes, this happened to me today.  I sustained minor injuries to the aforementioned groinal area, right knee, and dignity, but I stayed upright and did NOT collapse in agony into oncoming traffic.)

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– Nuit Blanche. Me in it. Under the overhang of the Omni building in Dundas Square. I’m on from 7-11.

– Hey, look! Our ridiculous prostitution laws* have been struck down. I’m not really in favour of prostitution or anything – I think in an ideal society it would either not exist or look very, very different than it does now – but I’m glad the women and men who do it for a living can now do it more safely.

– No reviews of Fallen Voices…lots of positive audience feedback, including from an 8-year-old girl. “Isn’t there going to be another story?” she asked her mother after the Tammy Faye opera ended. Oh, and we’re doing one of the shows (Time will Erase) at a conference showcase at Brock University on Oct. 23!

– I got home last night around 11 – teaching, then going to a birthday party – to find Madeline tearing around the house and howling.  Ben told me that she’d stolen a whole chunk of cheese off the table (yes, we’re vegans, but Ben’s quitting smoking and he loves cheese, so he’s breaking the rules a bit) and was, I guess, celebrating.  You’d a 25-pound dog eating a 1/4 pound of cheese would feel more lethargic than anything else, but apparently cheese gives Madeline superpowers.

*Prostitution (i.e., exchanging sex for money) has always been legal in Canada – but “communicating for the purposes of prostitution” (finding and negotiating with clients), keeping a brothel (working from your home), or living off the proceeds of prostitution (supporting your family) was illegal. Those laws didn’t reduce prostitution or anything, but they did make prostitution more dangerous. Good work, boys!

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