The Bronomicon

19 Dec

Do you often find yourself in need of the perfect portmanbro – that is to say, a portmanteau created by combining an existing word with the word bro? If so, I present you with the bronomicon* – a lexicon containing a selection of perfect bro terms. A lesson in brocution, if you will. Please feel free to add your own brophemisms in the comments.

Bro-down – A type of bro folk dance, or an event that has many bros in attendance.

Bro-Choice, Bro-Life – Bros who value the lives and well-being of other bros over literally everything else.

Brocrastination – Avoiding work by engaging in aggressively bro-like activities, such as cat-calling or shot-gunning a beer.

Broetry – The style of poetry composed by bros. Defined by Monica Lita Storss as “a gorgeous male tribalism that reaches deep through shared history and experience, to a place beyond the snap of a hot August cross-breeze and tilted beers.” (via @meghanlbell)

Brofessional – a bro that has pupated into a Suit (via @MaraWritesStuff)

Brogrammers – Computer programming bros; often seen tweeting stupid shit about ethics in games journalism.

Brogressives, Brocialists and Manarchists – the keffiyeh and horned rim glasses wearing bros who like to get involved with any and all social justice movements, if by “get involved” you mean “try their damnedest to take over”

Brohemians – Trust fund bros slumming it in cheap incense-stinking apartments, smoking weed and writing bad prose. Brohemians are often (though not always) white dudes with dreadlocks. (via @JonahPMix)

Brojolais – A bro’s favourite wine (via @oytamarind)

Broletariat – The horde of working class bros; can be shortened to “broles.”

Broligarchy – A form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of bros, most often distinguished by the power of their bro-ness. (via @theskyisblack)

Bro-magnon – An un-evolved bro. A brototype of a bro. (via @RonArsenault)

Bromance – A beautiful romance between bros; not necessarily sexual, often just a meeting of the bro minds.

Bromarillion – An extensive, gratingly pretentious narrative about the origin of bros. (via @nataliezed)

Bromosexual – A bro who is exclusively attracted to other bros, whether he’s willing to admit it or not.

Bropocalypse – When the bros finally bring about the end times. Think Walking Dead, but with less zombies and more bros. (via @quaintmagazine)

Bropossum – An opossum who also happens to be a bro. The “bro” is silent. (via @theschwasound)

Brotesque – An adjective often used to describe something both horrible and bro-like. (via @SofiaSamatar)

Brotocracy – A political philosophy which holds that power should be invested in individuals almost exclusively according to their bro-ness. For example, the indie literary scene is a total brotocracy.

Brotographer – A sensitive bro with an eye for composition. Spends all of his money on film equipment; will lecture you for hours about what lenses he uses to achieve various effects. Boring as fuck. (via @OpheliaInWaders)

Brotox – A term for the form of toxic masculinity experienced by bros. (via @thesuncannon)

Broverdose – When you’ve had to endure too many bros. (via @LadySnarksalot)

Higgs Broson – Otherwise known as the “bro particle,” it is the elementary particle that proves the existence of a bro. (via @mgpcoe)

MacBook Bro – The preferred computer of the bro nation. (via @bicyclecomics)

Mangst – A special kind of angst specific to the modern white male; widely believed by modern white males to be the worst, most gnawing type of anxiety. (via @macomeau)

Famous bros:

Broseph Stalin

Napoleon Bronaparte

Brover Cleveland

Theodore Broosevelt

Manlet and Brophelia

Brometheus

*The term bronomicon is via @aproposnothing

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Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex

15 Dec

Leigh Anne “That Nice Woman Sandra Bullock Played In The Blind Side” Tuohy recently posted the following picture and caption on her Facebook and Instagram accounts:

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We see what we want! It’s the gospel truth! These two were literally huddled over in a corner table nose to nose and the person with me said “I bet they are up to no good” well you know me… I walked over, told them to scoot over. After 10 seconds of dead silence I said so whats happening at this table? I get nothing.. I then explained it was my store and they should spill it… They showed me their phones and they were texting friends trying to scrape up $3.00 each for the high school basketball game! Well they left with smiles, money for popcorn and bus fare. We have to STOP judging people and assuming and pigeon holing people! Don’t judge a book by its cover or however you’d like to express the sentiment! Accept others and stoping seeing what you want to see!!!

The comments on both posts are full of people praising her – telling her how awesome she is, how open-minded, how kind. Reading these responses is completely baffling – like, did these people and I all read the same words?

Let’s break down what happened here:

1. Two teenagers were sitting alone and completely minding their own business.

2. A white woman decides that based on the fact that they are “huddled” in corner “nose to nose,” they must be “up to no good.” Because obviously whenever Black people (especially Black men) gather in public, it’s bad news for the rest of us!

3. Another white woman, one Leigh Anne “I Adopted A Black Boy So I Can’t Possibly Be Racist” Tuohy, decides that White Lady #1 is wrong. Which is actually the correct assumption for Ms. Tuohy to make, so I guess this is where some people are getting confused because we see that her intent is good, and that makes us want to believe that the action that follows will also be good. She’s at a crossroad here – two roads diverged, etc. Had she taken the road less travelled, Ms. Tuohy might have said to her friend, “Wow, you’re being really racist right now! I’m not comfortable with how this conversation is going.” Instead, she decided to confront the teenagers who, as a reminder, have done absolutely nothing wrong.

4. Leigh Anne Tuohy walks over to the two boys and sits there in silence. I’m sure that wasn’t scary for two Black teenagers at all, especially given recent events.

5. After what was certainly the most awkward ten seconds of those boys’ lives, Ms. Tuohy asks what’s “happening” at the table. Like, other than two teenagers sitting there talking like anyone sitting at a table might do? Some kids are hanging out and chatting. That is what’s happening.

Unsure of the correct answer to this question – other than “we are two friends sitting together and not causing any trouble,” which probably seemed too obvious for them to point out – the boys remain silent.

6. Leigh Anne tells them that this is her store and they need to “spill.” Again, these kids have done nothing except be in public and be Black.

7. After being interrogated by this woman, and probably afraid that at the very least she’s about the call the cops, the boys show her their phones. This part just breaks my brain, like, these two kids had to show this woman evidence that they are doing exactly what they seem to be doing: sitting at a table and having a conversation.

8. Apparently satisfied with the evidence the boys have presented her with, Leigh Anne Tuohy gives them bus fare and money for popcorn, but not before she has White Lady #1 take her picture with them.

9. Ms. Tuohy then posts this picture to social media and receives thousands of responses lauding her for being such a good person.

Leigh Anne Tuohy profiled two Black kids, invaded their privacy and interrogated them, but somehow people are behaving as if this is some kind of wonderful social justice moment. No. Not even a little. This is some fucked up racial profiling combined with white saviourism, and it is racist as hell. Assuming that those kids were doing something bad was racist. Assuming that she could take up space at their table was racist. Insisting that they talk to her was disrespectful and racist. Wanting evidence that they weren’t up to no good was racist. Treating those boys as props to make her look good and then posting this picture publicly (and honestly, I wonder if the boys consented to that) is incredibly racist.

Also, can we talk about how problematic using the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is when it comes to talking about race? First of all, it begins with the assumption that the “cover” (or in this case, skin) tells you something unappealing about the contents of the book or person. It also implies that there is something unattractive or bad about the “cover” (or, again, skin). I can’t believe that I have to say this, but: there is nothing wrong or bad about Black skin. Black skin is not unpleasant or ugly, and to imply that dark skin might devalue someone is really, really fucked up.

Black people aren’t things. They don’t exist just so that white people can make a point about themselves. These are two real kids who not only had to endure this woman’s microaggressions but have now had their image splashed all over social media – the Facebook picture alone has 150,000 likes and over 12,000 shares. Step away for a hot second from this white woman’s narrative, and think about how those teenagers must feel – having their privacy invaded, having assumptions made about them based on their race, and now having a white woman use their images to get praise for herself.

Now tell me again about how Leigh Anne Tuohy did a good thing.

A Very Garrison Keillor Christmas

12 Dec

This post is written in response to Garrison Keillor’s mewling whine Leave Christmas Alone published in the Baltimore Sun. it’s from 2009 but has been once again making the rounds on social media.

Hello, and welcome to the Keillor family Christmas celebration. Emphasis on the Christ. As in Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ is our saviour, then you can leave. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that in an hour or so god will peer into my house and incinerate any non-believers and, well, I’d just rather not clean that up. Plus I don’t really feel like risking my own precious soul by allowing infidels into my house. You know how it is.

I bet those politically correct Cambridge elite won’t even tell you that the word Christmas is derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse, or Christ’s Mass, a fact which I blame on that dilettante of the intelligentsia, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Did you know that Emerson once preached at a Unitarian church that has since tried to remove all references of god from “Silent Night”? Because both of these things happened in the same building, Einstein’s law of Cause and Effect and Spooky New England ghosts proves that they’re indubitably related.

Did you know that there’s a war on Christmas? Why, just yesterday they were burning Christmas trees in the town square. A mob had the mall Santa bound and gagged and were threatening to burn him at the stake, only to spare him at the last minute. Last week a little girl was sent to juvie for singing Jingle Bells. There’s been talk of making all of those who celebrate the birth of our lord Jesus Christ wear manger-shaped patches, the better to round us up when the real campaign of terror against Christians begins. Of course it goes without saying that when we must worship in secret; we all live in constant fear of the government coming into our churches and forcing us at gunpoint to say “Happy Holidays” instead of the good ole fashioned “Merry Christmas.”

Have you ever seen a grown man have a full-on tantrum? Well, prepare to be dazzled by the one I’m about to throw over Christmas Carols! It is wrong, wrong, wrong to re-write Christmas songs to get rid of religious stuff. How dare you steal our sacred music? I mean, it’s fine when Christians do it, like when William Chatterton Dix wrote “What Child Is This” in 1865 to the tune of “Greensleeves,” whose previous lyrics are an Ode to Henry VIII’s boners. Dix was obviously only trying to improve an unworthy ditty, whereas when you change the words to “Silent Night” you are literally ruining my life.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the term “cultural appropriation,” but Christmas is a classic example. Did you know that lots of Christmas carols are written by Jewish men? And that sometimes non-Christians put up trees and exchange gifts on December 31st? This has nothing to do with the oppressive cultural domination of Christmas in the west and everything to do with Jews and their ilk trying to horn in on our holiday. Do I celebrate Yom Kippur or write songs about Rosh Hashanah? No, I don’t, because I for one know what it means to be respectful of other religions, unlike you and your spiritual piracy.

We Christians have been Christ-like about your “cultural elitism” long enough. And by Christ-like I mean that we have a history of killing, torturing and ostracizing those who don’t share our beliefs, stuff which is very similar to the acts performed by the actual Jesus Christ, like healing lepers and caring for the poor. Regardless of all that, it’s time we Christians stood up and said no more! Yes, all of you non-Christians are forced to endure two months of Christmas crap colonizing practically every public space, but don’t you dare try to participate! Get your own damn holiday. Celebrate Yule instead which, admittedly, looks a lot like Christmas since many of the old pagan traditions were incorporated into western Christmas celebrations. But really, I have no idea what Christianity’s history of appropriating other religions and cultures has to do with anything.

So please, come in, and let us begin our celebration. We will sit by the fire in a circle of rough-hewn wooden chairs, eat seasonal nuts and tubers, and smugly remind each other that Christmas is ours and ours alone. While you’re here, we’ll probably pull out my old notebook, bound in a leather hide I tanned myself, and completely re-write the last 2,000 years of history so that we Christians somehow come out looking like the oppressed minority. Later, we’ll come up with a list of synonyms for the word “elite” – so far I’ve got “Jews,” “Unitarians,” “People Who Say Happy Holidays,” and “That Harvard Dude.”

The nice thing about being a white American man is, well, literally everything. I’m able to be outraged by only things that directly affect me without having to think about how any of my actions or words hurt others. Everyone treats me as if my thoughts and beliefs are precious jewels to be cherished forever. I get to lull myself with some kind of weird myth about how everyone is equal now, which allows me to bellow like a cow in heat every time I feel that the status quo, which prioritizes me over literally everyone else, is becoming even slightly more inclusive. Being a white man means that, even though I’m a serial adulterer who has been married thrice, I’m allowed, nay, obliged to lecture all of you on morality and Christianity. So come in, and bask in my light. I promise not to play any awful Christmas songs –  none of that dreck like Rudolph or Jingle Bells. Here we will have only the classics, like that one carol all about killing babies. That one always puts me in the holiday spirit.

To finish, let me end with what might be the most petulantly White Dude statement of all time: if you’re not in the club, buzz off. This also applies to gentleman’s clubs, country clubs, and sock-of-the-month clubs. Buzz off, and take your faux-hymns with you. Quit trying to steal back all the stuff we righteously stole from you.

Merry Christmas, my dears. If Jesus were alive today, I’m sure he would have written a blog post just like mine. Because celebrating his birth isn’t about peace on earth or good will towards men, it’s about fighting over who owns what.

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On Negative Self-Talk

12 Dec

I know what it must sound like to you whenever those ugly words start pouring out of me.

Every time I tell you that I’m so stupid, I’m a failure, everything is my fault and so on and so forth forever into eternity, you must think that what I’m really doing is asking a question, namely: Do you agree that these things are true?

Or else maybe it comes off as a command: Tell me that I’m wrong. Tell me that I’m worth it. Validate me.

Maybe it sounds like a dare or a taunt: Go ahead, fight me on this. Just try.

It must seem like I’m looking for some kind of reaction – a hug, or an eye roll, or something in between the two, an affectionate sort of “there she goes again” crossed with “don’t worry, you’re not monster.”

The truth is that when I fall into the spiral of negative self-talk, even when my words seem to be directed at another person, they’re almost always meant for me and only me. These words are also a compulsion, and in the way of many compulsions they act as a sort of charm or a spell to ward off something worse. They’re a way of beating everyone else to the punch, and they also function as a funny type of pep-talk. But even when I say them publicly, they’re never meant for anyone but me.

Sometimes it’s almost like I have to say something out loud in order to know whether it’s true or not. It’s similar to how I can’t memorize something unless I’ve actually muttered it through several times to myself, except that it’s more like I have to shape my mouth around these vile thoughts about myself to see if they have a taste of truth to them. A thought seems so insubstantial that it could be anywhere on the realm of possibility, but a spoken or written word – well, that’s a different kettle of fish, isn’t it?  A thought is like cotton candy, melting and disappearing the moment you try to properly consume it; a word has heft. Speaking or writing something gives me the chance to weigh it against reality, to see which side the scale comes down on.

Negative self-talk is also a way of loudly and triumphantly declaring all of the terrible things you worry that other people are thinking about you. It’s a way to take the sting out of an insult, a way to toss your head and wink like you don’t care. Theoretically, what’s the hurt in someone else calling you stupid or ugly or pathetic if you’ve already embraced those awful things yourself? It’s a pre-emptive shedding of your emotional clothes before another person can come along and lift up your skirt; it’s biting your lip, hard, so that you don’t feel the needle in your arm. But of course you do still feel the needle, and even when you invite people to stare at your naked feelings their gawking sneers still hurt. You’re not really beating anyone to the punch, you’re just pounding away at yourself like a schoolyard bully landing one hit after another on some poor, defenceless, cowering kid.

Whenever I talk badly about myself, it turns into a sort of Harry Potter Devil’s Trap situation – the harder I struggle and the more I tell myself to stop, the worse it gets. Like, if I start of by saying that I’m stupid and can’t handle even the smallest things, then it escalates to saying that calling myself stupid is proof of my own stupidity, and having this meltdown is proof that I can’t handle my life, and then anger and shame that I’m letting other people see me going through this, with every added layer just making me feel worse and worse and worse about myself. Once you’re down in that pit, there’s no way out – you’re just scraping your fingers against the walls, unable to climb or dig through and ultimately only hurting yourself more. My own negative self-talk validates my low self-esteem, and in my rational moments I know that. But when I’m feeling awful about myself, the only way to fix it seems to be to drive the knife deeper.

I know that the negative self-talk serves no real purpose, no matter how I try to frame it or justify it, but it’s hard to quit. It’s an internal groove on a record and whenever my mental needle slips into it, the music needs to play the whole way through before I can put on something else. I’m slowly learning to pull off the needle mid-song, but it’s hard. If I tell myself to stop at the wrong time and I can’t or don’t for whatever reason, then that just leads to feeling awful over the fact that I’m still going. Right now I’m at the point where I can pick out harmful thought patterns after the fact; later, once I’m not sobbing stormily and feeling like the world is ending, I can look at what how wrong and harmful what I was saying about myself was. But when I’m in the middle of berating myself, I’m not in a place where I can listen or change – it’s like this howling mess that blocks out or distorts anything that doesn’t agree with what it says.

So I’m working on this. Along the same lines, I’m learning to Take A Compliment. Whenever someone trots out something nice about me, I just breathe deeply and say thank you instead of explaining to them all the particular ways they happen to be wrong. Sometimes, if I’m not too consumed in the haze of panic that compliments set off in me, I’ll remember to compliment them back. I hope that someday my negative self-talk will work along these lines – like, whenever I feel the compulsion to do it, I’ll just take a deep breath, smile, and say no thank you, brain. Not today. I’m too awesome for your shit right now.

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The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide

8 Dec

Shopping for that special feminist someone in your life? Or maybe just looking to gift something to yourself because no one else is going to get you what you really want? Or maybe you’re just looking to support some awesome indie artists this holiday season. Whatever it is you’re here for, we’ve got you covered!

1. “This Princess Saves Herself” Necklace

Perfect for the man-hating video game aficionado in your life! Fuck waiting around for Mario, slay Bowser yourself like the bad-ass bitch you are.

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Buy it on Etsy

2. “I Woke Up Like This” Tank Top

Channel your inner Beyoncé with this Instagram-worthy shirt. Because you are flawless, like a diamond! Although let’s be real no one else is quite as flawless as Queen Bey.

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Buy it on Etsy

3. Pronoun Patches

Do some of the people in your life need a reminder of what your pronouns are? Would you prefer tapping a patch on your jacket to actually explaining again to some jerk-face stranger which pronouns you use? Or maybe these appeal to you Just Because. Whatever reason you might have for wanting them, these patches are pretty adorable.

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Buy it on Etsy

4. “Misandry” Hand-Stamped Bracelet

Because sometimes you want to dress up your man-hating ways. Perfect for a gallery opening, a fancy dinner party, or an awkward work function!

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Buy it on Etsy

5. “Go Away” Toque*

Perfect for the days when you want to leave the house and not come off as “an approachable girl who wants to hear about a man’s feelings.” Or when you want to read a damn book in public without having a bunch of dudes sally up to you and tell you how literary you are. Or just whenever, because being alone is awesome.

*Toque is Canadian-speak for knit cap, or winter hat, or whatever the rest of you weirdos call it

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Buy it on Etsy

6. Ada Lovelace T-Shirt

Celebrate the first programmer, Ada Lovelace, and show those brogrammers what’s what.

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Buy it on Etsy

7. “Riot Grrrl” Sweater Brooch Set

For your extensive collection of cardigans, and because you firmly believe in riots not diets.

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Buy it on Etsy

7. “Fuck The Patriarchy” Banner

Because your Great-Aunt Doris is coming to visit, and you need to spruce up the place a bit. This store also has banners that say “Merry Fucking Christmas” and “Get Shit Done.” I approve of their cussiness!

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Buy it on Etsy

8. “A is for Audre Lorde” Tote Bag

Use this sunny yellow tote to remind everyone that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. You can also use it to remind yourself that you cannot be free while any other woman is unfree, even if her shackles are different from your own. Or just use it for your grocery shopping. Whatever.

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Buy it on Etsy

9. “Intersectional Liberation” Necklace

Because if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s nothing but bullshit.

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Buy it on Etsy

10. “Don’t Tell Me To Smile” T-Shirt

No one is going to tell THIS bear she’d look prettier if she smiled. At least, not if they value their lives.

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Buy it on Etsy

11. “Male Tears” Teapot

Concoct your favourite brew of male tears in this adorable pot. Or just use it to steep your Earl Grey (hot), whatever floats your boat.

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Buy it on Etsy

12. “Transphobia Isn’t Cute” Embroidery

A gentle reminder to your guests that you’re not going to tolerate transphobic bullshit. Because feminism isn’t feminism if it’s only for cis folk.

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Buy it on Etsy

13. “Girls Don’t Like Boys, Girls Like Aliens And Dana Scully” Sweatshirt

BECAUSE MULDER IS THE LITERAL WORST AND SCULLY IS OUR PATRON SAINT OF PUTTING UP WITH SELF-INVOLVED DUDES

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Buy it on Look Human

14. “Fat Babe” Necklace

Fuck yeah you are a babe and you are fat and now you can let everyone know BOTH of those things with this sparkly necklace.

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Buy it on Etsy

15. #Snacklife Uterus Poster

I don’t even know what is happening here, but I keep bursting into giggles every time I look at this picture so obviously I need to include it here.

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16. Ruth Bader Ginsburg Mug

Perfect for sipping male tears/coffee/whatever elixir Ginsburg drinks every morning to help her kick ass all day long.

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Buy it on Etsy

17. “Cats Against Cat Calls” Tote Bag

Thank god the cats are on our side because honestly I don’t know what we’d do without them.

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Buy it on Etsy

18. “Books Against Body-Shaming” Sweatshirt

Because reading is AWESOME and body-shaming SUCKS so why are we even having this conversation?

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Buy it on Look Human

19. “Ew No” Necklace

I am a sucker for anything with a deer on it and that goes double for a pretty necklace telling people to respect your boundaries

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Buy it on Etsy

20. “Colouring Outside The Kitchen” Colouring Book

Get your Crayola on with the likes of Josephine Baker, Nellie Bly, Rachel Carson, Soong Ching-Ling, Hillary Clinton, Claudette Colvin, Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Indira Gandhi, Emma Goldman, Sheikh Hasina, Billie Holiday, Mae Jemison, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Frida Kahlo, Billie Jean King, Tina Modotti, Annie Oakley, Michelle Obama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Yoko Ono, Betty Shabazz, and Madame C. J. Walker.

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Buy it on Etsy

22. Hypatia of Alexandra Necklace

Celebrate the original woman in STEM with this gorgeous handmade necklace. It gives you the chance to take a deep breath and say “WELL!” whenever someone asks you who that lady hanging between your boobs is.

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Buy it on Etsy

23. Pink Middle Fingers T-Shirt

Re-defining the term “lady fingers” – they’re not just a fancy British cookie anymore.

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24. “Literally Anything Before Bros” Necklace

This pretty much says it all. Cats before bros. Wizards before bros. Old rubber boots before bros. Literally anything.

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Buy it on Etsy

25. “Valar Morghulis” Phone Case

Because when you’re busy texting in order to ignore a dude, you really want him to remember that YES ALL MEN.

Hopefully he’s a Game of Thrones fan.

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Buy it on Look Human

26. “Be The Leslie Knope Of Whatever You Do”

Be committed, be kind, be funny and suspend your disbelief enough to put a positive spin on whatever situation you find yourself stuck in.

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Buy it on Etsy

27. Wonder Woman Evening Bag

For those nights where you want to be fancy, but you still want to stay true to your comic book nerd roots.

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Buy it on Etsy

28. “Seahorses Against Gender Roles” Shirt

Because the male seahorse is the one to go through pregnancy and childbirth. Seahorses: fucking up gender roles since whenever it was they evolved?

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Buy it on Look Human

29. Vintage Feminist Button Print Infinity Scarf

Feeling a little too grownup to plaster yourself with buttons, but still want a way to broadcast your ideologies? Off to a black-tie event and need something to spruce up that little black dress? Whatever the need, this colourful scarf is perfect for pretty much any occasion and is as adorable as it is aggressively political.

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Buy it on Etsy

30. Feminist Harry Potter Shirts

For the feminist Potter-head in your life. This one is a twofer: the Marauder’s Map-inspired “I Solemnly Swear That I Will Smash The Patriarchy” I and the heck-yeah-I-need-this “The Fucks I Give Are Like Horcruxes – Very Few And Hard To Find.”

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Buy it on Look Human

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Guest Post: On Attention Deficit Disorder, Video Games and Community

30 Nov

This is a guest post written by my amazing little sister, Catherine Thériault. She is a complete treasure.

I was seven when I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, although my parents had suspected since I was three or four that I might have it. I had all of the classic symptoms – difficulty focussing, poor impulse control, and a mind that was easily distracted by, well, anything. I had some of the lesser-known symptoms, too. For example, high-pitched noises really bothered me. Another behaviour that I exhibited, which my mother would often use to prove to ADD-non-believers (you know, the ones who say that it doesn’t exist, that it’s just kids being kids or else kids who have watched too much TV) that I did in fact have ADD was my ability to hyper-focus. I was especially good at hyper-focusing on video games.

School was tough. I couldn’t sit still. I constantly spoke to the people around me until I was moved to the very back or front of the room, where I couldn’t bother others. I struggled all day long trying to understand, trying to “get it”. My mom usually wasn’t there yet when I got home; our neighbour babysat me for a while, and then when my sister watched me when she was old enough. I loved the hours before my mom came home from work, because that was leisure time; after she got home was homework time, and I would have to spend hours on the “homework couch” trying to focus enough to get my assignments done. During leisure time, I would sit and play Mario, Tetris, or Looney Tunes on my NES. I could happily play those games for hours and hours and hours.

People don’t get it – they didn’t understand why I could focus on this one thing, but not other things. They would say stuff like, “How come you can’t even pay attention long enough to listen to the answer to a question you just asked me, but you can play video games without interruption for hours?”

The answer is simple: video games are my anchor. They are the one thing in my life that can make my brain settle down. The rest of the time, my brain is distracted by everything the world around me. Any sound or image that comes along, no matter how minor, sidetracks my attention. It’s a constant flood of things gaining my attention for seconds, then comes something else, and then something else, and something else. Think of it like this: my brain doesn’t have a secretary, but yours does. Your brain can decide that a conversation is more important than the bird that just flew by the window. Your brain will let you do a page of math problems without suddenly noticing that your pencil case needs to be rearranged RIGHT NOW. But when I play video games, it’s like I have blinders on. There’s so much going on in the game, and it’s all happening at once, and I get to pay attention to a lot of things at one time. So when I’m in my video game world, I am so deeply focussed on everything that’s happening in it that I can’t be distracted by the outside world. To be totally honest, it’s a complete relief. It feels like my brain finally gets to take a break.

I started an online game 6 years ago called World of Warcraft. You may have heard of it. The company that makes it, Blizzard, gets a lot of heat in the news, because some of their players take things too far, sometimes starving themselves or even killing themselves over the game. Sometimes people who play WoW get violent in real life. Some of the men who play treat female players badly. And this is the kind of stuff that makes the new – all of the awful stuff. So people who don’t play video games sometimes get the impression that games make you violent or make you hate women.

What you don’t hear about on the new are the average people who play video games. They have families, jobs, and lives outside of the game. I have a job. I go to college. I have a successful relationship. I also have a level 100 warlock that I use to kill in-game monsters and sometimes other players who have signed up for a fight against me. But what I really love is the player-versus-player aspect of the game. That part is all about teamwork, communication, and outsmarting other players. These are skills that help me in real life. That’s the part of the game that the media never really mentions.

When people speak badly about gaming, and the gaming community, I have a tendency to get defensive and take it personally. Because to me, it is personal. There’s a person I have played with in WoW almost daily for the last 4 or 5 years. His character’s name is Wilsons and he is a deathknight. He has helped me level all my characters to max level, helped me get items in the game. There are others who have helped me along the way too. Hawtsoss, a druid, helped me get better at player-vs-environment stuff (like killing the game-generated monsters). Evarella, a paladin, helped me get better at the player-vs-player stuff. These people are my friends. When you say bad things about the gaming community, you are speaking badly about these people who help me, and that I enjoy playing and speaking with. You are speaking badly about my friends.

You’re not usually speaking about me though, because I’m probably not what you would think of as an average player. I’m not some dude living in his mom’s basement; I’m a woman. Which is where the greatest failing in my community is. Women. People treat me differently because I am a woman. I have been kicked from groups requiring voice chat when they hear me and realize they’ve been playing with a woman. I have been told to get back to the kitchen. I’ve had people ask me for nudes. The list goes on I’m sure. But I just ignore those players. Literally, there’s an ignore button, and I use it. It’s not a perfect fix, and I know that there’s a lot to be done to improve how women are viewed in the gaming world, but it’s how I get by. I ignore the woman-haters, and then I prove them wrong by being really awesome at what I do.

At the end of the day, I love video games, especially World of Watrcraft. I have over 100 days of time spent playing the game. There are more good players then bad, and the good ones make it worth it every time. The ones who explain stuff, who help you out. They are the ones I consider a part of the gaming community. Communities help people. Communities are accepting and inclusive.

The problem isn’t video games; it’s the vocal minority of people who use death threats and bomb threats to scare off women in video games. These are the guys who tell you that you can’t be a nerd of a gamer because you’re a girl. These are the guys who tell you that you must be bad at gaming just because you’re a girl. These are the guys who think girls are only useful if they’re sending them nudes. But these people are not a part of my community. They are a cancer, making things bad for all of us who aren’t like them. Please fight this cancer and not my community. They may be sexist, racist, cruel. Fight the sexism, fight the racism, fight the cruelty and the bullying. But don’t say that “all gamers are ___”. They aren’t. Yes, some of them are terrible. But they’re people like me, who turned to gaming as an escape from the exhausting cycle of ADD thoughts and through that found a place where I felt like I belonged. They’re people like my boyfriend, who shares my passion for WoW and will spend hours talking about stupid little details in the games with me. They’re people like my friends, who have helped me and been there for me and who feel like part of my family. That’s who gamers are, too.

Catherine Thériault, right, with sister Anne Thériault

Catherine Thériault, right, with sister Anne Thériault

On Ferguson – The System Isn’t Broken, It Was Built This Way

25 Nov

I have an uncle who was a cop.

His kids, my cousins, were around my age and when we visited our family in Québec every summer I practically lived at their house. As soon as we got to my grandmother’s house, all rumpled and grumpy from our eight hour drive, I would start dialling my cousins’ number on her beige rotary phone. I spent the whole damn school year waiting for summer, and my time with my cousins, to come; we wrote each other letters all through the dreary winter, hatching plans for new summer exploits. Life with my cousins – swimming in their pool, family barbecues, playing hide-and-seek in my grandmother’s mammoth hedge at twilight – was lightyears better than my boring life in Ontario.

Pretty much every summer my uncle would, at some point, take us to visit the police station. He would pretend that we were criminals and take our fingerprints, maybe a pretend mugshot. He would let us explore the holding cells they had at the station; I remember being utterly fascinated by them – bare blank rooms in miniature, each with its own personal toilet and sink. One time I lingered so long that he threatened to lock me in if I didn’t come out soon. I said that was fine, and asked what the prisoners were going to have for dinner. I wasn’t afraid. I had no reason to be afraid.

Like most white people, I grew up with the idea that the cops are on my side. Over and over again, I was told that the police were here to protect me. As a little kid, I was told that if I was ever lost or in danger, the first person I should try to find was a police officer. I was taught that this is the system; I was taught that the system was here to take care of me.

What I was never taught was that the system takes care of white people like me first, and everyone else second. If at all.

I’ve been trying to figure out over the past few months how white people can be so blindly outraged over the events that have unfolded in Ferguson. It’s honestly baffling that they can argue that it’s fine for a police officer to fire six shots at an unarmed man because he maybe stole some cigars and also wasn’t walking on the sidewalk. I’m in awe at the vast mental gymnastics required to believe that there’s nothing wrong with a cop shooting an unarmed man six times in “self-defence.” The same goes for white reactions to the cases of Trayvon Martin, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and countless other young Black men who have been murdered for no reason. I’ve lived a privileged enough life that the white responses to these crimes still shock me; I know that for Black folks, these responses are just par for the course. I can’t even wrap my head around what it would feel like for this spew of racist hate to just be part of another average day – and that’s my privilege showing right there.

White people have been taught for their entire lives to believe in the system. The system is civilization; the system is democracy, the courts of law, the way the state cares for and supports us. We’ve been told over and over that the system is what allows us to live safely, free from fear. But every time something like Ferguson happens, we white folks see glimpses of how completely fucked the system is. And those glimpses terrify the shit out of us, because they shake the foundation of every bit of patriotic jingoism that’s been crammed down our throats since day one.

A popular belief among progressive white people is that the system is broken, but it’s absolutely not. It was built this way; it was built to prioritize the safety and security of white people over everyone else. The way the system works is by oppressing Black people and other people of colour. As Ta-Nehisi Coates said at a recent talk that I attended, “the machine is running as intended.” The very foundations of the American economy are based on the enslavement of Black people. Throughout American (and Canadian) history, there are so many examples of state-sponsored marginalization and oppression of people of colour. These examples continue today – just look at the overrepresentation of Black men in prisons. This is the fucking system – this is how it is meant to run. We don’t need to “fix” the system, because it’s operating exactly the way it should be. What we need is to completely overthrow it and start again from scratch.

I have friends who have Black sons, and today, as they struggle through grief and pain and fear, they are trying to figure out how to make sure that their son isn’t the next Mike Brown or Trayon Martin. They want to know what they have to tell their kids in order to keep them safe. I wish I had some kind of answer for them, but of course I don’t – both because I’m white and this is so far outside of my realm of personal experience that I am absolutely not in a place to give advice, and also because there are no answers. The only way to ensure these boys’ safety would be for them to be white – and that’s both an impossible and terrible response. There is nothing about this situation that doesn’t feel impossible and terrible – and, again, that’s me as a white person saying that, and I can’t even imagine the depth of horror Black communities are experiencing right now.

We – and by “we”, I mean white people who want to be allies – need to take action. We need to de-centre ourselves, and start promoting Black voices. We need to, in the parlance of social justice circles, take a fucking seat. We need to take a whole goddamn chair factory’s worth of seats. We need to listen, and then we need to turn around and share what we’ve learned with other white people. We need to let Black people lead, and we need to learn to be good followers. We created this broken  system, and now we need to humbly help build a better, fairer system.

Because maybe even right now my friend is sitting her three year old son down and telling him that he can’t always trust the police. Meanwhile, some white kid with a cop for an uncle is being taught that a police station is a neat place to visit and a fun place to play. The only difference between those two kids is the colour of their skin. And that is both incredibly fucked up and also exactly how this machine was designed to run.

Below are some excellent pieces by Black writers. If you are white, please take some time to go through it and educate yourself. That is our job right now. If you have any other articles (or blog posts, or videos, or whatever) by Black writers or activists, please share the links in the comments and I will include them in this list.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

About Ferguson, White Allies and Speaking Up When It Matters by Awesomely Luvvie 

America’s Not Here For Us by A’Driane Nieves

A Letter to My Unborn Black Son by George Johnson

Youth Are on the Frontlines in Ferguson, and They Refuse to Back Down by Muna Mire

If There Are Good Cops Out There, Prove It by Albert L. Butler

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

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