Posts categorized "Politics"

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. 

 


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.


:Cringe: cyclist stupidity

When the weather is good (ie there's no snow) I bike to work. Over the years I have had tangles with many stupid drivers which have thankfully lead to nothing more than a wrecked fender, sweaty palms and a rapid heart beat.


This year, the traffic and stupid drivers are NOTHING compared to some of the things I have seen my fellow cyclists do. Luckily I haven't had to see them being smucked by cars but even cringing as they run that red light, or move out of the bike lane into traffic without freaking looking (and hearing the squeal as a car brakes) is too much for me.


Case one: Tuesday June 28 morning Bloor and Parliament
Man quizzes by on bike. Turns out he is holding on to the wheel well of a van to propel himself! Lets go, crosses 6 lanes of busy traffic then rides the wrong way in the bike lane before running through a red light.


What a stupid douche.


Case Two: Wednesday June 29 morning Bay and College
This was a slow cyclist. He looked careful and knowledgable. Until I passed him. Obviously bothered that a vagina passed his penis, he rode in the very skinny space between a city bus and a very big truck in order to pass the bus and make a right hand turn in front if it. I waited behind the bus because I know that the bus wouldn't see me and I don't want to be flattened. The bus didn't see him at first evidenced by the hard braking and I cringed.


Bonehead.


Why do I relay these? Not because I want to set back cyclist rights or because I'm sanctimonious because I too am not a perfect cyclist or driver but because stupid people like these endanger themselves, drivers and ME. I hope they don't drive cars the way they cycle and I want them to know they are reinforcing the views of drivers and our mayor who is poised to banish cyclists from the streets.


So stop it okay? Be sensible. I don't want to be in therapy after witnessing your death.


(Save Transit City) He's not even in office yet...

And Mayor-Elect Rob Ford has succeeded in giving me something to rant about.  Transit City.

Sure having light-rail instead of subways is not a perfect solution.  But subways take time (which we don't have) and money (which many taxpayers and the current governments don't want to spend) and well they aren't on the public agenda except in Rob Ford's fantasy addled mind and with his fantasy money.

See here for the latest from the Toronto Star

Apparently Ford believes that light rail causes traffic congestion and is willing to use MY money (and YOUR money if you live in Canada) to pay penalties on cancelled contracts for work that is already started.  Then he's going to troll around looking for the unknown oodles of cash that it will take to get a subway built.  And there's the time it takes to get environmental assessments and the contracts and the building of the cars, and well, you see how there ain't gonna be no subway in suburban Toronto.

Hey Mayor-Elect Ford, try to think a little differently. Maybe spend a few days looking at the books and getting a feel for how being mayor works (you know, finding out where the stapler is, and how the coffee machine works). 

Perhaps utilize the services of those traffic engineers who went to University and learned about traffic patterning and gridlock and all kinds of "thinky" stuff about how cars and transportation work and the people at the TTC who spent time planning Transit City.  Those crazy experts we employ to tell leaders like Mayors what the FACTS ARE based on RESEARCH and EVIDENCE.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

Maybe cars cause congestion. 

Maybe having 1 person in one vehicle x 1000 causes more congestion than 100 people in 10 vehicles that can cruise along unhampered by all those cars.

Maybe there are many many citizens in the suburbs who do not have cars, or free parking, or other means of transportation and DESERVE a solid public transportation infrastructure IMMEDIATELY to get to their jobs, schools, shops etc because they pay taxes too and work to keep this city running.

Maybe use the money you have now instead of promising something that you can't deliver during your time in office.

Transit City makes sense.  It is relatively inexpensive, possible, started, funded and HAPPENING.  If this is how Rob Ford is going to save me money and show me good customer service (his mantras, not mine, I have far loftier goals as a citizen), we are SCREWED.

 


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...

Knitting Olympics

I'm not a big fan of the Olympics.  I think the human drama of sport (mediated by TV) can be very captivating, but the Olympic industry is a big, corrupt, corporate phenomena that sells a lot of messages I don't support.  

Knitters, I like. A lot.  And I like the idea of the Knitting Olympics--taking a challenge and seeing it through. In Toronto, a knit happening town, there are a bunch of knitting olympians having a good time and this year I decided, the non-corporate, big, good knitters are people I could support; so I'm playing too.

My project?  Skew--the Knitty Winter Surprise.  I like the pattern and I have some Claudia's Handpaint in the stash.  I never knit pattern socks; especially architecturally challenging socks and I never use Magic Loop (I'm all dpns, all the time) so this made for a challenge.  

Socks might not be a challenge for some of you, but I have a full-time job, a bathroom that still needs to be finished, two kids and my mother is recuperating from a broken upper arm at our house.  The next two weeks are busy enough without having plans to start and finish a pattern I have to pay attention to.

So far, it's coming along okay.  

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It's a long weekend and I had one of those cocky moments where I thought I might get these done a little early.  That should bite me in the butt later...

Are you participating?  Let me know your challenge--I'd love to hear it.


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...



Tax-Free Savings Accounts...More of the same regressive tax policy

I don't write about politics as much as I used to, but you all know that I have no love for conservatives, expecially our current Prime Minister and his ilk.  The latest federal budget does nothing to change that.  I know I'm a bit late on the analysis of this, since the budget came down in late January, but that's because the "how does it affect me" part didn't really sink in until I started working on my taxes.

I have no particular issue with paying taxes.  Taxes pay for things I value like universal health care, education, roads, social services and a whole bunch of other things that make Canada a good place for most people to live.  In fact, if paying more taxes would turn "most people" into "everyone" I would happily pay more--but only to a point.   I would prefer that current taxation schemes become more progressive (which could mean I would pay more) and do a better job of redistributing wealth through the provision of services and less taxation for the very poor, rather than the current trend towards encouraging those who already do okay to keep more of their earnings out of the system.

The Tax-Free Savings Account is one of those new programs that gets it completely wrong in my books.  This new scheme allows anyone over 18 to annually save $5000 of money, and shelter all the investment interest it accumulates from taxation, forever.  Any of the $5000 that is not used in a tax year can be rolled over into the next year similar to RRSPs.  However unlike registered retirement savings which are taxed when they are withdrawn (ie the taxation is deferred), the captial gains from the TFSA are never taxed.  The tax savings are greatest for those who can put away the most money.  No sign of progressive taxation there...

The smart people at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives sum up my issues with this program nicely:

This is essentially a program to shield capital gains. Consequently over two-thirds of the benefits from this program go to 6% of Canadian, those with taxable incomes of more than $100,000 (They were the source of 69% of all taxable capital gains in 2005.)  This is a male dominated group, but also a very elite group: 5.7% of men who filed taxes, and 1.6% of women.

Looking ahead, TFSAS raise another troubling issue: a future generation of retirees could be paying little or no income tax (for those who could afford to save) but expect to receive large amounts of high-cost public services, such as public health care.

Budget 2008: What's In It for Women?

This new program also raises personal issues for me.  I live very comfortably.  My family income is much higher than the median national family income and while I live in a big expensive city and have a comparatively large mortgage, our family is able to do pretty much anything we want.  As Jo suggests in a very thoughtful post, we have chosen how we wish to live, and do what we need to achieve that. 

I have some money that I could use in one of these accounts.  It seems foolish not to take advantage of this and increase my personal wealth.  Does that mean I should strive to donate a portion of this to causes I deem worthy and exchange taxation-based income distribution with philantropy?

While I know that both government and charitable organizations play important roles in Canadian society, I also feel like my government is going in a direction I don't support.  I suspect that most Canadians are not having this conversation with themselves.  They seem to not consider how their taxes contribute to services they demand for themselves and for others (everything from funding for amateur sports to Aboriginal housing), but instead think only of keeping more of their money; like the "tax man" is some nefarious entity that keeps them from their holiday or big screen tv.  

I also suspect there's a whole bunch of people out there who wish they had an extra $5000 they could save and earn some extra income.   

 


Prorogues and Coalitions and Punditry...Oh My!

My aren't things suddenly very interesting in Canadian politics? (Yarn Harlot has an excellent synopsis to get you up to speed.)  We move from an election that pretty much everyone knew would lead to another Conservative-lead minority government to a full testing of our parliamentary democracy and constitution (that I actually typed democraZy shows how extraordinary things have become).

Anyone who reads this blog knows that not a single atom of my being supports Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, and yet, as I try to step back from the possibility of Harper crashing and burning (which fills me with glee) I'm not completely convinced all will be well.

I will say that Harper messed up big time.  Minority governments, by their very minority status must govern in ways which build coalitions with the other parties to pass legislation.  In a country like Canada where no one or two parties represent the views of the majority of the population, minority governments are a good thing.  People need to collaborate and fight to ensure that things happen, be that economic stimulus, the daily work of government, continuing to build a great country etc. 

(And yes I said fight. I have no issues around decorum and playing nice that people seem to continually harp about, representing people's ideas is hard work and sometimes it means being forceful and showing leadership.  It might even mean yelling. It's not being childish, it's being passionate and we could use a lot more of that in government). 

Harper decided he would attach a confidence motion to his economic update and put the onus on the other parties to like it or lump it.  Instead, they chose a plan C: We'll take you down, but offer the Governor General a coalition that can govern instead of having another election.  They said, no more making us do your bidding by force, you come and talk with us instead.  So far, Harper has done nothing to say, "let's talk" to the other parties and anything reassuring to the people of this country who are feeling the economic pinch.  And while he has supporters, I think he's completely misread the mood of the population.

From where I sit, that works for me, I don't want Harper as Prime Minister, even less so than in October.  But I'm not sure the coalition can hold together.  I don't think Dion is a great leader.  I believe he's an intelligent person, who cares about Canada and has sound ideas, but I don't see him as one to inspire others, strategize about how to implement his plans or work the details, which are an important parts of leadership.  I think he'll have a tough time as Prime Minister which will shorten the life of any coalition. 

I also don't know if the Liberals and NDP can find common ground if they do form a cabinet, especially if there is a leadership vacuum, but I also would like to see if it could work.  It happens in other countries and would far better represent the interests of the majority of Canadians who did not vote Conservative in the last election. 

I also have no real issue with their coaltion having the support of the BQ.  They were duly elected by Quebecers and have no real appetite for separatism at this time.  I see them more as boosters for their province who have managed to be a political force in their for nearly two decades.  I don't like some of their policies and platforms, but I can say that about all the parties.  The BQ could have sided with the Conservatives (and have done so in the recent past) but instead chose to work with those they felt could DO the work of governing. 

And if this coalition does occur and suddenly a giant hairy monster named separatism comes rushing through the corridors of power (which is what Stephen Harper is predicting) then the Conservatives can step up, side with the Liberal and NDP coalition and save Canada. 

Imagine that?  Again with the working together thing. 

Right now, the Governor General is consulting with her advisors after meeting with Harper, who asked that Parliament be prorogued (post-poned) until January as a "cooling-off" measure. 

Wait, while looking for a link, it seems that Parliament is prorogued until January 26th.  Then Harper and the government will present a budget (which is always a confidence motion).

I'm not sure if this means Harper will be walking over to Stornoway with a Toblerone and a bottle of Bailey's to work out something with Dion to stop this coalition, or if he will be making appointments, and changing anything not requiring legislation in a last ditch effort to govern like he has a majority (I do hope that if the proroging happens that Jean puts some limitations on the government), but he better not just put up the Christmas tree and sit in front of the fire;  he's going to have to show Canadians that he has a plan to govern within a minority government and embrace the idea of collaboration.  Since he's going to present a budget, he better start the consultations now.