Posts categorized "Feminism"

Now What? Ideas for Canadian Feminists

We made the Pussyhats.

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We marched...on every continent.

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It was affirming and inspiring.

Many of us had never marched before (or for me, for many years). 

The Women's March was the START.

Now what?

Here's some suggestions (all of which I'm making to myself as well as you):

1. Make a plan.

Start with Jenny Zhang's guide to activism for frustrated Canadians, it's filled with good ideas on how to get started. Give yourself some goals (like an activist FitBit): write a letter a week, call one of your representatives every month, attend a local meeting to learn about a cause that energizes you, organize your friends to join you. It's easy to go Hell Ya! We Marched! and then go back to regular life. Now's the time to create a new habit of being involved. 

2. Do something concrete

Retweeting or posting stuff to Facebook is good to spread the word, and yes, politicians pay attention to social media, but it's NOTHING compared to writing a real letter, phoning your MPP or attending a meeting. It's free to mail your MPP and the printed word in an envelope is considered much more important than a Tweet. Show those in power you mean business. 

3. Do what you can, and try to do a bit more.

Contacting your elected officials or donating money to an important cause might be what fits your current life/circumstances/comfort level. Great, keep doing that. But, also consider making new connections to organizations, or attending a public consultation. Stretching yourself will benefit the causes you care about and expand your sphere of activism.

4.  If you're a straight, white woman of privilege, do better.

Frankly, I'm doing pretty fucking great on the societal hierarchy. Yes, I experience patriarchy and sexism, but I need to use my privilege to ensure other women have a voice and that their needs take priority. When I'm writing those letters or attending meetings or calling my representatives, I'm telling them that women who are poor, racialized, disabled, Indigenous, and/or LGBTQ disproportionately bear the burdens of our current structures and they need to listened to. I'm not always going to get it right (privilege is pernicious that way) but I'm learning. I'm also donating to causes that benefit marginalized women in Canada and internationally. 

5. Keep knitting. 

Seriously, self care is important. If you want your knitting to do more than keep you calm, consider knitting things for women in shelters or newly arrived refugees. Knitting for yourself is cool too: This is Canada; we need to keep warm when we take to the streets. 

 


Grey*

Remember way back in the Fall when I mentioned I would stop colouring me hair and see what my natural colour was?  It's done and it's pretty spectacular.

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Aside from my regrowth roots, I estimate that I haven't seen my natural hair colour since just after I had Alexander in 2000.  I cut it very short and then in a fit of sleeplessness and a "OMG I have two children" moment, I bleached it (which turned it pumpkin orange) and then tried to fix it (which thankfully, the sleep deprivation has wiped the results of that out of my memory) and I've been colouring it ever since.

When I made this decision (inspired by the fabulously awesome Julia Farwell-Clay) I went looking for photos of women in their 40s with grey hair.  There aren't many--though there are a million photos of Jamie Lee Curtis who looks amazing--so I thought I would take a picture after each hair cut so that those of you considering this could see how the grow-out goes.

Having pixie-short hair makes this an easier process.  I made the decision in October and I was 99% colour free by June, completely natural after my July 29th cut.  I get my hair cut every 5-6 weeks (which seems economical since I stopped paying for professional colour) so it's a fairly fast process.

October (just had a cut and colour for Rhinebeck):

Brandied orange

In mid-December my stylist suggested adding light blonde highlights just to the top to even things out and hide the obvious root line.  It looked great, but I probably could have skipped this step.  It was December and cold and I usually have my head covered.  I think I panicked a bit.

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January: sorry for the bad lighting. I really have just a bit of re-growth and I discover I'm not as grey on top as I am on the sides.

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March: mostly blonde on top.  Stylist kept the top longer to maximize my colour investment.

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April: sides and back are natural, still have blonde colour on top.  It did look a bit weird by this point, but the fabulous white streak I discovered in the front made up for it.

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I just happened to get the chance to have some professional head-shots done a few days later (and the photographer insisted on a knitting one!).  I'm still mostly blonde on top.  

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May: I started loving my hair at this point. It was a mix of grey and blonde and I started getting it cut shorter which I personally prefer.  I was feeling good about my decision to ditch the colour.

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June: I'm grey.  Both greyer than I thought and perhaps, not grey enough.  My natural colour is pure ash-blah.  I remember when my hair went from blonde to this non-colour and how washed out I used to look.  The silver gives it a pop and I like it, but it there are moments where I feel I look old or perhaps not so stylish (dowdy would the word fashionable people might use, but that's too-judgemental--greying men don't get told they look dowdy.)

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That white streak is amazing though.

July: My hair is natural and pretty fantastic.  I like it.  I really like colouring my hair for fun, but feel much better not HAVING to colour my hair to hide the grey or maintain a shade that isn't mine. Natural hair colour has far more depth and shade going on--I'm a hand-dyed yarn compared to a commercially-dyed one :)

I also like the quiet (or perhaps not so quiet) fuck you to gendered ideas about aging that comes with showing my grey.  I was referred to as "the silver haired woman" recently and after the hit of feeling old, I decided it was an okay description because there aren't many silver-haired 45 year old women around. 

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If I get bored, I can add some colour.  Something fun and completely unnatural.  I'm thinking electric blue.  

 

 

*I just have to say that those books and that movie have totally messed with my desire to use the term shades of grey to refer to my hair.  A quick google tells me that grey is the newest trend and all the cool kids are dyeing their hair.  WTF?


Forty-Four Fixer-Upper

Many women remark that their being in their forties is pretty fantastic. I was doubtful because as a woman in a youth obsessed society forty is old. And I would get chin hairs and grey hairs and get all peri-menopausal and shit. What I didn't realize until lately is that, yes all that is true (and what the actual fuck is up with the chin hairs?!) but that I don't actually care one bit what anyone thinks of my looks or my mood or any of it.

I have zero fucks to give. That's magic.

But while I don't care what others think of how I look, how old I am, and except for those I love and respect, what I think and do, I do care about how I see myself and how I want to feel in my body and be in my world. So I started fixing stuff.

First was my skin. Almost 30 years with psoriasis was enough. I was tired of being itchy, applying greasy ointment, having to pick clothing that would hide ugly red patches. And I was tired of spending time on treatments that only sorta worked. Last spring I took a leap and chose a new biologic systemic drug (Stelara) and I'm almost completely clear. I was afraid of systemic treatments because of risks and side effects but realized that I don't want more children and am at a time in my life where it's my turn to do stuff for me. It was the right time and I still feel good about making the decision. It used to seem shallow to want to fix what was essentially a cosmetic issue but taking this drug has changed my life. Both in the time I spent treating my skin and worrying about how I could be in the world with ugly skin. And it feels great.

Next was something a bit more troublesome. Stress incontinence. Super common in women. Almost never discussed. And while I've tweeted that I had lady-part surgery, I haven't said what until now (eep!). But I realized it's important to tell my story.

I've lived with it since I had my kids and it was getting worse. It made doing things I enjoyed like running, ball hockey, laughing, sneezing and sometimes walking, well, messy. I talked to my doctor a few years ago but decided to not get a referral. She pushed but not too hard. Then after the stelara victory I realized that I need to fix the things that bug me or I'll be unhappy. So off I went. Met the urogynaecologist, did the tests (email me if you want the details--they're uncomfortable) and booked the surgery. I chose to wait until ball hockey season ended so I wouldn't lose my spot on the team and it was a long summer and fall because I had decided and was ready.

I had the surgery November 5th. Tension-free, vaginal tape. Like a face-lift for your urethra! It was day surgery and I got over my fear of everything medical, sucked it up and it wasn't awful. The recovery was uncomfortable for about a week (catching a cold five days after seriously sucks) and I got two weeks at home to watch tv and movies and knit (I finished 5 cowls) and now a month later I'm feeling pretty great and leak free. All I wait for now is the all-clear appointment at 6 weeks so I can start running and riding my bike to work. That'll be the true test but I'm feeling optimistic. And again, taking care of me for ME was the right thing to do.

The time off work also gave me time to think about what else needs fixing. Not just my body, but who I want to be in my forties. My kids are teenagers and need me a lot less. What do I want to achieve professionally? What outside things do I want to pursue? What shape does my life take as my kids get closer to leaving home (they do that, right?!). I don't have real answers, but it's cool to have the freedoms to think about it.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

The next fix is my hair. I decided to stop dying it. I'm telling my stylist tomorrow. I will have her help me plot the grow out. I'm tired of paying the money and taking the time and resent that men get grey and sexy (like George Clooney) and women get grey and old. Fuck that.

Though once it's natural, I do plan to get a streak or two or cobalt blue, because I can.


I'm on the run!

Remember a long, long time ago when I started running?  It's been over a year and while it was a bit bumpy going over the Fall and Winter, I really go back into it in May and I've been running pretty consistently since then.

It was HELL over the summer.  Turns out that I love the heat when it means laying about at the cottage but it sucks for running.  Now that the weather has turned a bit, I'm really happy to be out running.  I even put in a 9km run yesterday (5.6miles)--my farthest distance ever! 

I'm sort of amazed how good I feel about it.  I've always tried to be active, but I can't say I've ever really settled on something I love.  I can't say that running will be my thing for the next decade, but right now it's awesome.  I just put on my shoes, step out the door and go. I find the stress relief that comes from a 30 minute run amazing and I'm looking mighty fine too.  I've lost 12lbs since last winter, gone down a pant size and my mood is so much better.  It's great.

The next step is to maintain the 3 times a week running habit over the winter months.  I've decided to do a charity run in October to keep up the momentum.  So I joined a team at work to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer foundation.  Yep, I'm running for the cure.

I've done the walking part of the event a few times in the past with Team Knitty and then I stopped because I really really really hated the whole "pinkification" of the breast cancer message and I wasn't pleased with all the stupid pink product placement that tries to create brand loyalty from the perception that these companies are contributing to the cause. 

I'm still not comfortable with it.  But after doing my research, I see that Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation funds important scientific research AND community based initiatives to support women living with cancer AND socio-cultural research that looks at how cancer affects the lives of women and their families.

I can run for that and I hope you can support me.

Here's the deal.  If you would like to donate, visit my donation page here.  For every $5.00 donation you will receive a ballot for fabulous prizes from my stash.  Just email me and let me know how much you donated to enter the draw. 

I think this is a win-win-win solution.  The Run for the Cure raises money, I thin the stash a bit and you get a chance to own some fabulous yarn.

Here are the first three prizes.  I will probably add more once I have time to toss the stash a bit.

A fabulous orange skein of Araucania Ranco Multy:

Araucania Sock

Socks that Rock Midweight in Gertrude Stein:


STR Mid Gertrude Stein

Two skeins of Briggs and Little Regal worsted in a nifty purple:

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Don't speak for me Mr PM

Dear Stephen Harper:

This Canadian does want abortion services as part of any foreign aid initiative for global maternal and child health. I want women all over the world to have the same health care that I can get in Canada. This includes not only abortion and contraception but the economic prosperity which helps protect health and enables choices.

Autonomy for women cannot be achieved without control over reproduction.

That's the rub eh? I'm guessing you're not all that keen on Autonomy for Women...

A tale of how homophobia messes stuff up for everyone

I was on the subway this morning riding to work, when an odd thing happened.

I'm sitting (ya, that is odd, but that's not the point of this story) and the orientation of the seats is such that I am perpendicular to other passengers.  Directly in my line of site are two 20-something women, and one of them is sporting a nice looking chartreuse messenger bag.  I like chartreuse and I like bags, so I was looking at it.  

Thing is, the girls were holding hands on top of this bag.  And when one of the pair made eye contact with me, she thought I was checking out the hand holding so she looked me right in the eye, grabbed her girl's hand and licked it rather provocatively.

I instinctively turned away and then looked back and said: "I like your bag".  They look at me, and we're all laughing a bit nervously.  She says thanks and I say "I didn't mean to make you upset" and we laugh a bit more.

It this had been a heterosexual couple none of this would have happened.  I could be thought rude for checking out the bag, but there wouldn't be this latent sense that I *might* be judging a couple riding to work together for holding hands.  

There wouldn't be that direct confrontation or the nervous laughter.  

I wouldn't feel a teeny bit bad for making them feel uncomfortable and they wouldn't feel a teeny bit bad for being defensive about their relationship.

That's how homophobia messes stuff up for everyone.  Even in everyday life riding the subway to work, checking out people's accessories.

The only thing I would have liked to told them was: "I like that you're in love too".  


I read stuff like this...

...and I really get worried about how I will parent children growing up with the internet. 

They're Back, and They're Bad: Campus-Gossip Web Sites

Students have more ways than ever to post anonymous attacks on classmates, thanks (or rather, no thanks) to new and expanded online forums promising to be bigger and juicier than the infamous JuicyCampus, which drew fierce protests from harassed students before it shut down earlier this year.

"This is the new JuicyCampus," says a note at Campus Gossip, which boasts campus-specific message boards for hundreds of colleges and encourages anonymous and racy barbs such as "These Fellas got herpes," with a list of names attached. Going even further than its predecessor, there's also a photo section where students can post embarrassing pictures and videos of others.

(Read the rest here)

I wandered over to the site (which I don't even want to name) and it was full of misogynist crap, foul mouthed hate and just stupid remarks about college, fraternities, certain specific people and inanities. 

I know there has always been gossip.  Mean boys and girls who spread rumours to wield power.  Titterings in the bathroom about so-and-so and her new boyfriend.  I do it too; and I know it's not very nice.  But I also have some sense about when and where I have these discussions.  I don't write them down.  I don't post them anonymously on some website.  I certainly don't NAME people in writing in public forums. 

I can't imagine how it would feel to see my name on a website which disparages me as a slut or as too ugly to sleep with or which in any other way assesses my appropriateness as the object of partriarchy uber-babeness.  First off, I don't fucking care how I rate in the hotness contest of my oppression, but more than that, why would those making the posts think this is okay or free-speech? 

And how do a you a) keep your kids from doing stuff like this and b) keep your kids from being the subject of this stuff?

As someone who spends a lot of time on the internet--facebook (which I really don't like), twitter, the blog, ravelry etc--I know that it's part of the world and has much to offer.  I connect with all sorts of people I would never otherwise meet and 99% of the time they are good, interesting, generous, smart people.  They are also, for the most part, of my generation and like me straddle the thin line that has them out there in the world wide web while also trying to keep some boundaries on their privacy. 

Believe it or not, I don't tell you everything about my life here.  ;)

But I might share it on a closed message board with people I "know" (at least virtually) and trust.  I gauge my disclosures on the forum in which they will be released, but it seems like these gossip sites don't promote the same filters and younger people don't seem to even consider the consequences of their postings.  That the facebook photos of them puking at some party today, are going to be around forever and might not seem to so funny when they're applying for a job or wanting to volunteer at their kid's Scout troop.

While I write that, I feel that "in my day, people knew about respect" speech my mother/grandmother/great-grandmother gave and I feel a bit old.  But really it's the truth.  I suppose that respect and decorum have to be learned.  And yes, my kids are going to learn it.  While I can't completely control what they say, I can enforce the idea that gossip isn't nice and that gossiping in a public forum on the internet or texting is wrong, wrong, wrong.  I can tell them to think about how they would feel if someone did that to them and teach them to challenge others who are doing these things and not stand by and let it happen to some other kid.

As for protecting them from others, well I have to trust there are more of me's out there telling their kids the same thing.  There better be...



All I can think of is "cult of domesticity"

Let me start with a little story...

When I was a teenager, I worked at the public library, which meant that I spent a lot of time around books.  For some reason that I can't remember I took out a book on horoscopes which provided long profiles of the various astrological signs and what personality qualities those people had.  I was completely horrified with the Cancer profile which stated that I was going to be happiest as a mother, nurturing a brood of children, keeping a perfect home, baking, being a homebody and a bunch of other stuff that made this young budding feminist cringe.  There was no way I was going to end up like that.

Now here I am almost 25 years later and I'm feeling a sting of irony. 

It's not because I'm a mother, or because I am a bit of a homebody.  It's certainly not because I keep a perfect home (unless they meant a perfect disaster). 

Nope.

It's because I'm weaving dish towels. 

By choice.

I don't particularly like doing dishes.  Nor do I feel that my store bought dish towels are inadequate in some way (the orange and red heart ones from Ikea are really quite pleasing). 

I'm just content with the idea that I can make my own dish towels using my stash of hempathy. 

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Hemp dish towels.

What next?  Macrame?  (If I ever consider that, please arrange an intervention.)

I know that doing things for one's home and for one's own pleasure is not anti-feminist--though I can also remember that university women's studies course where I learned about the "cult of domesticity".  And learning a new skill like weaving and learning to apply it with different materials like hemp and with new techniques is the point of this exercise. Nothing wrong with that.

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I was inspired by my new weaving books (I'll do proper reviews soon), and the need to try out something new.  I've already messed up and realize that these towels (I'm doing three on one warp) will likely be too drapey because I should have used a 12.5 dpi reed, not the 10dpi (fewer slots and holes).  I'm hoping they'll shrink in the wash. 

But I'm having fun.

Both with the weaving and that little recollection about my strong, self-assured, know-it-all teenaged self.


Life on the Cheque

I have some cool friends.  Doing some great works of activism in their communities.  I confess that I feel like my own path as an activist (something I was very into in my middle-twenties) has really stopped and while I write a lot about politics and social issues, I don't feel like I do much but contribute money and promote the works of others. 

But since changing what I do takes both time and the energy to do it (something I'm not feeling I have right now), I will continue to promote the good works of my friends and colleagues so at least I'm doing something.

Elaine Power is a woman I met after I boldly sent her an email after hearing her speak about food security issues on the CBC.  She was on a teaching contract at U of T the same time I was a grad student and she introduced me to some other fabulous students and researchers who were interested in public health issues and it really helped me overcome the isolation I felt as a new mother working on a PhD.  Beer and Theory became one of the highlights of my week and I could not have finished without all their support and enthusiasm.

Elaine is now an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University and is the midst of producing a documentary about "Life on the Cheque" about six mothers living in poverty in Kingston Ontario.  I think film can be a powerful medium to comment and critique issues of the day and as someone who loves film I'm very excited to see Elaine mixing her academic work and community activism using this medium.

There are some really neat things happening on the site where Elaine showcases the film-in-production.  Have a look.  Provide support.  Spread the word.


Awareness and Super Models and a funny feeling I can't describe...

I have psoriasis.  I've had it since I was about 15, and it is a big pain in the ass.

Actually, it's not painful at all, it's itchy, unsightly and inconvenient.  The first two are self-explanatory; having big red scaly flaky patches of skin due to a believes -to -be -screw -up in one's immune system leading to the overproduction of skin cells isn't so great.  It's also inconvenient because in my desire to rid myself of itchiness and unsightliness I have to undergo treatments of varying levels of effectiveness that take up my time--applying creams twice a day over most of my body, and right now, undergoing phototherapy 3 times a week (it takes about 10 minutes, but I have to get there etc).  Inconvenience also arises whenever I need to buy clothes for the skin-baring months--I'm very happy 3/4 sleeves are big this year, they hide my elbows.  Or when your kids want to go to the local pool and you're not up for being all spotty.  We won't speak about those fancy occasions when I might need to wear a dress or bare my arms.  Inconvenient.

Those complaints aside, it's not so bad in the spectrum of immune-system diseases or other chronic conditions.  It doesn't cause pain, disability, mental illness or general unwellness.  It won't debilitate or kill me.  I do have a higher risk of developing a form of rheumatiod arthitis, and my kids might develop it (which would suck), but that's about it.  It's itchy and ugly and I've learned to live with it.

So, when I discovered that America's Next Top Model Winner CariDee English has become the spokesperson for the National Psoriasis foundation, I had mixed feelings.

I *get* all the talk about awareness that we hear whenever any celebrity is associated with a cause or disease.  I *get* that awareness may lead to more research money, less stigmatization, a greater understanding of why that person might be wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt in the summer, and all that the promise of awareness might bring.

But I dislike platitudes like these: "Psoriasis awareness is very important to me.  I want other with the disease to know they are not alone.  I want to inspire them to live their dreams."

Bleh.

Live my dreams?  Inspire me?  Huh?  Bleh.

My dreams haven't been tied to how I look. It may be inconvenient, but psoriasis doesn't slow me down.

Or "She spent years gathering information and trying various treatments.  Her psoriasis persisted but so did CariDee.  She maintained an optimistic outlook and a vision of becoming a model.  After a hard-won acceptance of the disease, and visits to three different dermatologists to find a treatment that works for her, she is living her dream."

Hard work, persistence, struggle, determination.  The usual triumph over tragedy story.  She changed from ugly duckling to beautiful swan or rather Top Model swan.

Does CariDee as the "face" of psoriasis, send a message of hope to sufferers of this condition or raise the bar a whole hell of a lot?

While I don't want to dismiss the emotional toll of psoriasis, I do want to state that having a beautiful face attached to this cause again privileges beauty as the most important thing.  The new (super expensive) biologics that CariDee English uses to control her psoriasis have both mild and nasty side effects. 

Is this another case of suffering to be beautiful?  What happens to her if the drugs stop working?  Does the Psoriasis foundation still want her as a spokesperson? 

And for those of us who choose not to do "everything that we can" to control our psoriasis?  Will we be slackers?  The ugly and unfortunate? (the drugs she is taking cost about $2000 a month and will only be paid for by insurance after you've tried everything else).  More stigmatized for not using the options available?  A quick surf on CariDee shows that a lot of people want to know what she's using and how they can get it so they can look as good as her.  But maybe that's the point.  I bet Raptiva is mighty happy that she's around.

Me?  I'm not sure I want to trade the good health I have now with clear skin. 

Or feel like I need to "look good to feel better".

The thing about a disease that affects your physical appearance is that it's only a problem if the person who has it thinks its a problem.  Most of the time, I don't really think much about it.  However, in the world we live in, how one looks is pretty important, especially for women.  As someone who tries to fight against the norms of physical beauty attached to women (even when I feel like I fail miserably)  having a spokesperson who is beautiful as her profession just doesn't sit right with me. 

I'm not sure I've articulated this fully.  But I've been mulling it over for about a week now and wanted to write about it. 

Any thoughts?