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Shrevolution! Or, I Hate Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there: I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.

I mean, it’s fine when you’re a little kid. You make sure to wear something red or pink, tell your parents how much you love them, and draw hearts all over every-fucking-thing. Everyone in your class gives you a card, your gorge yourself on chocolate, then spend the afternoon in a sugar-fuelled frenzy and throw up all over your babysitter’s carpet. End of story.

Then you hit puberty, and Valentine’s Day becomes this huge, looming thing. Like, it’s the only day where you can truly prove just how much you love (or, at least, want to fuck) another person. You can be in a happy committed relationship for every other day of the year, but if you happen to be single on Valentine’s Day, then you, my friend, are the most pathetic person in the world. Or at least you’re made to feel like you are.

My dislike for Valentine’s Day has slowly evolved over the years. In grade school I thought it was fine, maybe even sort of fun, and in high school I endured it, handing out ironic valentines to friends and crushes alike (go ahead, ask me how well that worked in the dating department). By university, though, I was ready to declare open season on V-Day.

I decided that the modern-day, grown-up version of Valentine’s Day was nothing less than a capitalist nightmare, chock-full of obligations to spend money: on flowers, on dinner, on chocolates, on jewellery, on sexy lingerie. There were other, insinuated obligations, too. For example, women were expected to pay for all the attention and money lavished on them by putting out, whether they wanted to or not. I even once had a male friend say to me, “If I buy my girlfriend flowers for Valentine’s Day, she basically has to have sex with me, right?”

Uh, no, dude. She doesn’t.

And, I mean, seriously, out of all the thinly-Christianized pagan celebrations to take hold this side of the Atlantic, how did crappy old Valentine’s Day manage to make it onto that list? Why can’t we celebrate May Day and dance around may poles? How come we don’t do anything for St. John’s Eve, a.k.a. Midsummer? I would way rather build some bad-ass bonfires in June than hand out ugly, mass-produced cards in February.

All of this was part of the reason why my roommates and I decided to throw an Anti-Valentine’s-Day party during second year. My mother had put a package of pink, heart-shaped Post-It notes in my stocking that Christmas, so we used those to decorate our apartment, scrawling things like, “LOVE IS AN ILLUSION” and “FUCK YOU” on them. You know, the usual romantic stuff.

Aside from the fact that a girl that no one liked and no one would admit to inviting ended up vomiting red wine all over our bathroom, the party was a resounding success.

The next year, my friends and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a little differently. Our plans started innocently enough: we were going to go eat greasy, delicious, non-romantic food and then go somewhere for drinks. There were four of us, two of whom had boyfriends, and all we really wanted was a quiet, Galentine’s night out.

Once we got to the pub, things went downhill fast.

A few drinks into the evening, the ranting began. And, naturally, the more we drank, the more belligerent we became.

“Fuck Valentine’s Day!” said one of my friends, “People think it’s all about women, but really it’s all about dicks getting some action.”

“Yeah, fuck dicks,” said another. “I mean, don’t actually fuck them, but also, fuck them.”

“Valentine’s Day should be for clits, not dicks! Dudes should be obligated to prove that they can perform proper oral sex before taking a woman out for V-Day,” said someone else. “Clit not dick! Clit not dick!”

Clit Not Dick ended up becoming our mantra for the evening. We repeated it frequently and loudly. We decided that we were going to start a revolution based on our new slogan, one that would free women everywhere from the oppressive shackles of Valentine’s Day. We began approaching romantic-looking couples at other tables to ask if they’d hear the good news about Clit Not Dick. We harassed the band with demands for songs by Veruca Salt, Hole, and, strangely, Counting Crows (they actually did end up playing Mr. Jones, probably just to make us go away).

This was back in the days when you could still smoke in bars, so we started chain-smoking to go along with our drinking. Soon our ashtray was overflowing, and our table was surrounded by a blue haze. We decided that we should pact that night, the four of us, to continue spreading word of the revolution. We touched the glowing tips of our cigarettes together and called it a cigarette pact because, we said, cigarettes don’t lie.

Later, we spilled out onto the street and, arm in arm, began marching down Spring Garden Road singing We Shall Overcome. Whenever we saw a girl getting into a car with a guy, we would run over and try to convince her that she didn’t need him, she only needed herself! We proselytized about the revolution to everybody, shouting CLIT NOT DICK at random intervals.

We found a phone booth and somehow managed to cram all four of us into it. We dialled the tips line for the local newspaper and left them a long, rambling message about capitalism, the revolution, and how Valentine’s Day oppressed women, and, naturally, clit not dick. We finished up by saying that we expected to see something about this in the next day’s paper.

“GET ON IT,” my friend yelled into the phone before hanging up.

One of my friends was so drunk when she got home that she was slurring her words. She tried to tell her boyfriend It’s the revolution! but apparently it came out sounding like Shrevolution! 

Naturally, once the rest of us heard that word, we adopted it as the new name for our movement.

The next year we held another Shrevolution, but the year after that I met Matt, and everything changed.

I learned to love Valentine’s Day and everything that went with it.

PSYCH. I still hate Valentine’s Day. Matt, who is kind of into it, has had to accept that I’m just not a very romantic person. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’ve tried to celebrate it, if only because it seemed to mean something to Matt. But I think he realized pretty early on that it wasn’t my thing – the fact that for our first Valentine’s Day together he gave me a red silk pillow with I Love You embroidered on it and I gave him a swiss army knife may have helped tip him off – and now we’re pretty low-key about it.

But tonight, the Shrevolution will ride again. A bunch of my old Halifax friends are now living in Toronto, and three of us are going out to the Drake tonight to eat fancy, romantic food and get trashed on overpriced cocktails. Because as much as I might laugh at my younger self for some of my ridiculous Shrevolution antics, I can’t say that I entirely disagree with her thoughts on V-Day: that it’s too commercial, too capitalist, and there’s too much obligation to spend money that you might not have. Also the fact that you should celebrate your love for someone every day, not just spend one day a year in the back corner of a third-rate restaurant because that was the only place you could get a reservation, exchanging cheesy Hallmark cards and crappy gifts. Because you know what? Love fucking deserves better than that.

So while you are sitting there trying to whisper sweet nothings in your lover’s ear over the din of everyone else trying to do the same, I will be laughing raucously, swearing like a sailor, and yelling rude things.

Happy Shrevolution, you guys!

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Feminism and Abortion

27 Jan

I like to think that there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules when it comes to feminism. I think you can be married and have kids and be feminist. I think you can be single and childless and be feminist. I think you can be a stay-at-home mom and be feminist. I think you can be a working mother and be feminist. I think you can breastfeed and be feminist. I think you can formula-feed and be feminist. I think you can wear cute dresses and pretty pink lipstick and a giant fucking bow in your hair and be feminist. I think you can wear jeans and combat boots and cut your hair real short and be feminist. I think you can be a woman and be feminist. I think you can be a dude and be feminist.

I don’t, however, think that you can be anti-choice and be feminist.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme court to legalize abortion (up until then, the only legal abortions in America were those done in cases of rape or incest).

In the 40 years since Roe vs. Wade, the abortion issue has only grown more contentious. There are many people who are still vocal supporters of the pro-choice movement, but there are also many people who don’t support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.

And you know what? I wish I could say that I understood, but I don’t.

I don’t understand why you would try to enact a ban on abortions when banning abortion does not actually affect the abortion rate.

I don’t understand why you would try to create legislature that is almost certainly going to be dangerous to the health of women, sometimes even leading to their deaths.

I don’t understand why you would spend your time preaching at women about dead babies, telling them at what gestational age they develop fingers and toes and referring to abortion as “murder”, rather than using your time to promote access to things like birth control and sex education.

And I really, really don’t understand how and why Ross Douthat thinks he can convince women that they can be anti-choice and feminist.

I think that part of the problem is that Douthat doesn’t seem to understand what the feminist movement and the abortion debate are all about. And you know what? Far be it for me to elect myself the Boss of Explaining Feminism and The Pro-Choice Movement to Ross Douthat, but I guess someone has to do it, so here goes.

Douthat begins by complaining that Nellie Gray, a former-WAC-corporal-turned-bureaucrat-turned-lawyer who helped establish the March for Life, the annual rally against Roe vs. Wade, is not a “case study for students of second-wave feminism.” This, Douthat argues, is because “cultural stereotypes” cause us to believe that the anti-choice movement has a more “complicated relationship” to women’s advancement than all those Liberal left-wingers want us to believe.

I bet you are wondering how on earth banning women from exercising their reproductive rights is anything more than a reverse of all the hard-won equality that feminism has fought for. I know that I sure am! Let’s see what Ross Douthat has to say.

First of all, Douthat wants you to understand that one of the “stereotypes” about the anti-choice movement, the idea that they are trying to reinforce traditional gender roles by forcing women to have children and stay out of the work force, just isn’t true! He notes that,

Jon Shields of Claremont McKenna College pointed out last year, pro-life sentiment has been steady over the last four decades even as opposition to women in the work force (or the military, or the White House) has largely collapsed. Most anti-abortion Americans today are also gender egalitarians: indeed, Shields notes, pro-life attitudes toward women’s professional advancement have converged so quickly with pro-choice attitudes that “the average moderately pro-life citizen is a stronger supporter of gender equality than even the typical strongly pro-choice citizen was in the early 1980s.” Among the younger generation, any “divide over women’s roles nearly disappears entirely.”

Translation: the anti-choice movement totally gives you permission to work outside of the home! And wear pants! And vote! They support all kinds of radical choices for women!

I mean, except whether or not to have kids once you’re already pregnant.

You’re totally allowed to be in control of your own body right up until that one, single, solitary sperm encounters that one single, solitary egg – after that moment, you’re up baby creek without a paddle.

Douthat then goes on to assert that,

The pro-life cause has proved unexpectedly resilient, in other words, not because millions of Americans are nostalgists for a world of stricter gender norms, but because they have convinced themselves that the opportunities the feminist revolution won for women can be sustained without unrestricted access to abortion.”

What he actually means is that SOME of the opportunities the feminist revolution won for women can be sustained without unrestricted access to abortion. You know, all the opportunities that don’t involve a woman’s right to choose whether she has kids or not.

And before you jump in to tell me that if a woman doesn’t want to have kids, she should just use birth control, let me tell you that that’s not how it works. Even with all sex education in the world, even with easy access to birth control, women are still going to have unplanned pregnancies.

Sex education is easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. Birth control fails. We all know that no form of birth control is 100% effective, except for abstinence.

Please, go ahead and raise your hand if you think that preaching abstinence is going to work.

Lindsey Graham, you can put your hand down right now.

Douthat finishes his article by saying that,

For its part, if the pro-life movement wants not only to endure but to triumph, then it needs … [to offer] … realist’s explanation of how, in policy and culture, the feminist revolution could be reformed without being repealed.

Ross Douthat, let me explain this to you using small words, so that you will understand:

If you are trying to take choices away from women, that is not feminist. If you want to enact policy that will quite certainly lead to women’s deaths, that is not feminist. If you think that you, as a man, get to have any say over what happens to women’s bodies, that is really not fucking feminist.

Got it?

Good.

And you know what? If you really, truly believe that life begins at conception, why not work to fund research and raise awareness regarding miscarriage and infertility? One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and those are only the pregnancies that women know about. It’s actually estimated that 50-75% of all embryos fail to implant due to genetic problems, hormone imbalances and other factors – if you really want to save unborn babies, why not go that route? You’d be saving way more “lives” that way than by banning abortion.

And let’s not even talk about all the ways in which you don’t help the children you’ve “saved” from being aborted. You know, the children born to mothers struggling to make ends meet, the children who don’t have access to healthcare, the children who don’t get enough to eat on a daily basis. Those children.

The thing is, Ross Douthat, you and I both know that this isn’t about saving unborn children. This isn’t about the fact that you believe that abortion is murder. This is about controlling women, plain and simple. This is about you thinking that you can use the rhetoric of the feminist movement to somehow trick women into agreeing with your anti-choice stance.

So please refrain from ever using the word “feminist” in conjunction with the anti-choice movement ever again.

p.s. Also, please never use the term “mansplaining” ever again.

p.p.s. No one says “chauvinist” anymore. Just sayin’

p.p.p.s. I don’t like you.

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An Open Letter To Wil Wheaton

21 Jan

Hi Wil Wheaton,

How’s it going? Good, I hope. We’re all fine here. I mean, we just had this gross stomach flu or whatever, and my kid kind of threw up all over everything. But everyone’s okay now. In case you were wondering.

Soooooo about this thing I am writing.

I know I promised you a post showcasing all my hilarious drunk tweets at you, and I swear, I’m getting to that, but you’re going to have to bear with me through a bit of backstory first.

I mean, or not. You can always scroll on through. This is the internet after all.

But if you want to read all the nitty gritty details, here they are:

Twelve was a tough age for me. Some kind of paradigm shift happened over the summer between sixth and seventh grades and I went from being a pretty normal, if obnoxiously know-it-all kid to being the biggest loser in dweeb town (have you ever been there? I don’t recommend it). Part of it was that all the other girls in my class had started wearing tight jeans and cute t-shirts, while my daily outfit usually consisted of a sweatshirt with kittens on it (I had several) and track pants. Part of it was that I’d spent July and August developing a really unfortunate case of acne. The main problem, though, seemed to be that everyone else had collectively decided that they were going to grow up, and meanwhile I was still reading Babysitters Club books and playing with dolls.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I had the shit teased out of me. All day, every day. I cried. A lot.

The fact that my father left a year later only compounded my misery.

Have you ever read David Sedaris’ essay A Plague of Tics? In it, he talks about obsessive-compulsive disorder, the symptoms of which he suffered from right up until he started college and took up smoking. He writes,

“It’s as if I had been born to smoke, and until I realized it, my limbs were left to search for some alternative.”

Sometimes I wonder if I was born to be a geek, but didn’t figure it out until seventh grade. I’d always had pet obsessions, things that I read, talked and thought about constantly for a few months before discarding them and taking up a new interest. For a while it was the Titanic, and, if you’d known me during that phase I could’ve given you all the specs of the ship, given you an accurate timeline of it sinking, and spit out a list of famous survivors. After that, I think, it was The Black Death. I also went through periods where I was deeply interested in The Russian Revolution, Anne Boleyn and the Halifax Explosion. It was always something, you know?

In retrospect, I think that I was a geek in search of something to geek out about. Then, when I was twelve, I discovered Star Trek.

Star Trek was like my own private It Gets Better Project. I mean, sure, waiting 400 years for things to get better wasn’t exactly the most optimistic view to take, but still, I enjoyed the fact that someone, somewhere had imagined a future that was vastly better than the present I was living in. A future where socio-economic status didn’t seem to exist anymore (as long as you were in Starfleet, I guess), and nobody had nicer possessions or better clothing than anyone else, because everyone just replicated whatever they wanted. Racism, sexism and gross teenage acne all seemed to be things of the past, and people could legit have sex with robots if they wanted to. And if someone’s dad disappeared*, it was probably because they had died on some kind of mission, sacrificing their lives for Exploration and Science – not because they just didn’t feel like living with their family anymore.

I know it’s popular to hate on Wesley, and make “Shut Up, Wesley” jokes and talk about what a loser he was, but you know what? I liked Wesley. I mean, I liked him because he was cute, and I was twelve, and I wished he was my boyfriend, but I also liked him because I identified with him. Like me, he didn’t seem to have any friends (I mean, yeah, the show tried to pretend that he had friends, but come on now. Let’s be serious grownups, please. You and I both know that Wes did not have any friends). Like me, most of his interactions were with adults who thought that he was pretty smart, but still didn’t exactly respect him. And, like me, he was prone to speaking out at the wrong times, saying the wrong thing, and was generally regarded by everyone as a nuisance.

I was, like, pretty sure that Wesley Crusher was my soul mate.

Naturally, being a trekkie didn’t exactly improve my image at school. I guess I could’ve just, you know, not told anyone about my Star Trek habit but, being me, I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut. As with my other, former obsessions, I wanted to talk about it all the damn time, forcing my parents, classmates and few remaining friends to listen to me rattle off every tiny detail about the Enterprise and her crew. Pretty soon everyone in my class knew that I had a crush on Wil Wheaton, and the kids who actually knew who that was added that to their reasons to make fun of me. To say that I was miserable would be an understatement.

You know what, though? It helped to have Star Trek tapes to pop into the VCR when I got home. It helped to watch you being a nerd in space, and it helped even more to realize that you were happy being a nerd in space.  It even helped to know that all the other fans of the show hated you because I was like, damn, I am only being crapped on by a bunch of twelve year olds, but here is a dude who is seriously hated by every adult science fiction fan ever, and is he letting it get him down? No, he is hanging out in space, saving the motherfucking Enterprise like a fucking boss.

Eventually, I stopped watching Star Trek. Part of it was that I grew out of the show, but part of it was also self-preservation; if I didn’t want to be a nerdy loser for the rest of my life, I would have to start actually being interested in cool things. I began to cultivate the persona of someone who liked hip, independent films and read near-incomprehensible modern poetry. I shopped at second-hand stores for vintage clothing (mostly because I couldn’t afford anything new), listened to Tori Amos, and dyed my hair weird colours. I learned to be snarky, and started making fun of people before they could make fun of me.

And things did get better. And I met a dude (who thinks you’re aces, by the way), and we got married, and we have an awesome kid. I’m mostly happy now, and the reasons that I have for being unhappy have nothing to do with how popular or attractive I am. All of the things that I hated about being twelve have pretty much been fixed, which is pretty amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that after almost half a lifetime of pretending not to be a geek, I’m finally starting to re-embrace just how nerdy I actually am. And I have to say, it feels pretty good.

Look, Wil, you’ve probably got a lot of things in your life to be proud about. You’ve got an awesome wife, two great sons, and you continue to make some pretty amazing stuff. And Stand By Me is maybe one of the best movies ever made. But if you ever need one more thing to be proud of, you could think about the fact that you helped a sad, lonely twelve-year-old girl get through a really tough time in her life. Maybe you hear this type of thing all the time. Probably you do. Probably none of this really means much to you, but it trust me, it meant a fuck of a lot to me.

So thanks for that. Seriously, thanks a lot.

Anyway, on THAT note, let’s get to those drunken tweets!

Literally The Best Picture Ever

Literally The Best Picture Ever

p.s. The working title for this post was “Girl Tweets Obsessively/Drunkenly At Childhood Crush Until He Responds: A Story of Triumph”

p.p.s. I want all of Wesley’s season one sweaters. Not even kidding. I’m totally into it.

* My dad didn’t actually disappear, we knew where he was and all that jazz. I was just saying that for, you know, dramatic emphasis. He did leave really super suddenly though.

I Am At Least Three Times As Ugly As Jessica Valenti

15 Jan

Today the website Return Of Kings (which I had never heard of, but I’m sure is super important and relevant) published their list of The 9 Ugliest Feminists in America.

My first thought was: What, they couldn’t find one more ugly feminist in order to round it out to an even ten?

My second thought was: I wonder which pictures of me they chose for their post?

Everyone knows that I am at least the third ugliest feminist in North America.

For example, I am way uglier than Jessica Valenti. Like, this is your ugly picture of her?

jessica-3

Bitch, please.

You want ugly? Let me show you ugly.

ugly

Hey, at least my kid is cute, right?

Science has proven that I am at least three times as ugly as Jessica Valenti. Here is a graph demonstrating our comparative ugliness:

flowchart

 

You know that there is some real fucking science involved when there is a GRAPH. Science is awesome.

Imagine my surprise and embarrassment, then, when I realized that I’d been overlooked for this, the definitive list of ugly feminists. Me. The one with the bad skin, hooked nose and squinty eyes. The one who was voted ugliest in class by a group of 12 year old girls. The one who is eternally on the receiving end of remarks like, well, at least you’re smart.

All right, all right, I know what you’re probably thinking.

“But Annabelle,” you might say, “These women are all famous feminists. Sure, you’ve had a few posts go viral, but you’re nowhere on the same level of recognition as, say, Hanna Rosin.”

And you know what? That would be a fair criticism to make if this was a list of the  nine ugliest famous feminists in America. But it’s not. It’s just a list of the nine ugliest feminists. And I am deeply, deeply hurt that I wasn’t included. Because, seriously, what is my point in life if I’m not grossing out the men’s rights activists with my Medusa-like face?

So, come on, Return of Kings, let me know what I can do to put myself in the running for next year’s list. Should I gain weight? You seem pretty fatphobic, so that could be a winning strategy. Should I lose weight? That might seem strange to some, but I think that if I could get to the point where men consider me “scary skinny” (as the tabloids say), I might have an advantage over more average-sized women. Should I wear more makeup and have you accuse me of looking like a whore? Or should I wear no makeup  and let you mock my face as-is? Should I dress badly so that you can make fun of my fashion sense? Or should I dress well so that you can laugh and laugh about how those silly feminists want to be taken seriously and look good?

Come on, guys, throw a girl a bone here!

In all seriousness, though, the funniest thing about your whole post isn’t your pathetic attempt at making “she’s-so-ugly” jokes – it’s the fact that you seem to think that any of these women care about whether you find them attractive or not. Sadly, most of them don’t even know you exist. They write off your comments and tweets and posts as trolling, and, honestly, don’t even give you a second thought. Sorry. I know the truth hurts. Someone has to say it, though, right?

But hey, I gotta thank you for helping me show that feminism is still relevant and necessary. Because as long as there are still douchebags like you out there publishing crap like this, it’s easy to prove why we still need to fight for women’s rights and equality. Your list has actually done more to help the feminist movement than hurt it. So please, keep on posting stuff like this and making my job easier.

Seriously, though, don’t forget me in 2014!!!

That Time We All Had The Plague

7 Jan

On the days when I think that God might exist, I’m convinced that if he is out there, somewhere, he is some kind of divine troll who thinks that everything is an elaborate joke.

How else do you explain the fact that, five minutes after posting my last entry, Theo started throwing up all over my bedroom floor.

It’s like God reads my blog and he was like, “Girl, you think you are in crisis? Let me show you crisis.”

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that God is pretty big into plagues. Like, remember when he wanted the Egyptians to free the Isrealites? And he inflicted TEN PLAGUES on them? I mean, I get that his chosen people were enslaved or whatever, but ten just seems excessive. That is, like, a LOT of plagues. I am just saying.

Luckily for us, we haven’t been keeping any Israelite slaves, so we got off easy with just one plague. Still, though, I’m thinking of painting lamb’s blood on our lintels for the next few weeks, just in case. Better safe than sorry, right?

For the first day or so the plague was manageable. I mean, sure, Theo was throwing up every 15 minutes and none of us got more than two hours of sleep Thursday night, but it wasn’t too bad. We were sure that we could handle it. On Friday morning we called Theo’s daycare and they said that five other kids were out sick with the same thing, but all of them had stopped vomiting after about 6 hours. Great, we thought, the worst was behind us.

We started making plans for the weekend.

That was obviously our first mistake.

My friend Artem used to quote an old Russian proverb at me: “If you ever want to see God laugh, try making plans.”

And oh, how God laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed.

Theo was still throwing up all day Friday. He kept crying for water, but every time we gave him some, it came right back up. If you ever want to see the most pathetic thing in the world, just imagine a toddler wandering around crying, “More water! More water!”. And then imagine me cleaning up his vomit over and over again.

By Saturday Theo seemed better on the puking front, but still wasn’t himself. He just wanted to spend the whole day lying on the couch. That was fine with us, because by that point none of us were feeling great. Matt was nauseous and worried that he was coming down with the same thing that Theo had; I was feeling off, but was also in a healthy state of denial. I forced myself to eat breakfast, telling myself that food would make me feel better, then called Telehealth to find out what to do about Theo. They told me to bring him to the ER, which is really the only thing Telehealth ever tells you, so I could probably have saved myself the ten minute phone call, but whatever.

I dragged myself through my clothing-and-makeup routine, packed Theo into his stroller and then headed out to catch the bus to Sick Kids. Matt was feeling too sick to come with us, but my friend Eden was going to meet us there. Thank God.

We got to the hospital and I had the delightful experience of having about five different people ask me, “Is there another adult with you?” which I guess is code for, “Are you a slutty single mom on welfare?” I fought down the urge to say, “YES, I AM A SINGLE MOM, IS THAT GOING TO BE A PROBLEM?” and instead said that there would be another adult joining me shortly. I was kind of hoping that Eden and I could pose as a couple, and wondered if lesbians would draw more or less attention than a single mother.

As the afternoon went by I felt worse and worse, but I told myself that it was just because I was tired. I texted Matt and he said that he was feeling better, so there was no way that I could be sick, right? I figured that if I just kept telling myself that I was fine, I would be fine. I mean, The Secret and laws of attraction and positive thinking and all that. I considered making a vision board of me not being sick, but realized that the ER waiting room lacked the necessary art supplies.

An hour or so after Eden showed up, I went to buy a bottle of water. While I was waiting in line, I started feeling kind of awful, but I used The Secret to tell myself that I was just dehydrated and water would fix me right up. By the time I made it to the head of the line, my vision had gone grey and I knew I was going to pass out. I sat down on a nearby chair and put my head between my knees, amid cries of “Miss! Your water!” from the confused Subway employee.

After a few minutes of sitting down, I realized that I wasn’t so much going to faint as I was going to throw up. Frantically, I tried to figure out what to do about this fact. You would think that if you were going to puke, the hospital would be the perfect place to accomplish this, right? That being said, the hospital food court probably wasn’t the best place in the world to get sick.

I ran to the bathroom, and made it into a stall just in time to throw up everywhere. I mean fucking everywhere. To make matters worse, the cleaning lady was right there to witness my shame.

“I’m sorry!” I kept saying to her, between heaves. “I’m really sorry! I’m so sorry!”

She just stood there, silent. Finally she said,

“You want some extra paper towel?”

“Yes, please,” I answered pathetically.

When I made it back to the waiting room, Eden took one look at me and said,

“You look green.”

Theo, of course, looked great. The Pedialyte the triage nurse had given us had worked miracles. Even the doctor, when we finally saw her, said that he seemed to be totally over whatever bug he’d had. Turning her gaze to me, she said,

“You look like you’re not feeling so great, though.”

Understatement of the year.

We’re all feeling better today – Matt and Theo are basically back at 100%, and I’m, well, not throwing up, so that’s a plus. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, reading trashy fantasy novels and tweeting at Wil Wheaton (we have a really special relationship where I tweet hilarious things at him and he ignores me). Between my last post and a few desperate Facebook posts from yesterday and Friday, I’ve been overwhelmed with kind words from friends and strangers. People have offered to help, either by looking after Theo, letting me crash at their place, or coming over to do laundry or dishes. I’m not normally the sentimental type (nostalgia is really my forté), but I would be lying if I said that all this love hasn’t made me tear up a bit. Maybe even a lot.

I love you guys, almost as much as I love my pukey, plague-bearing kid.

I’m pretty sure he’s worth all of this:

theo_shirt

Dear NRA, The Answer Is Almost Never More Guns

21 Dec

By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about the NRA’s press conference earlier today regarding the Sandy Hook school shooting. After waiting a week and remaining “respectably” silent (do you think they meant “respectfully”?), they are now ready to tell us how to solve the problem of gun violence:

More guns.

I mean, naturally, the answer is always more guns, isn’t it?

It gets worse, though; the answer isn’t just more guns, it’s GUNS IN SCHOOLS.

That’s right, you read correctly: the answer is armed personnel in schools in order to protect innocent children.

Because, says the NRA, the real truth is,

…that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can every possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment?

Because it’s fear-mongering and exploitative when people rightfully point out how dangerous automatic and semi-automatic weapons are, and how lax gun control laws lead to tragedies like what happened at Sandy Hooks, but it’s totally not fear-mongering to say that society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters.

And because having men and women carrying guns in our schools is totally going to make children feel safe. Seeing an armed man or woman every day definitely isn’t going to make them feel as if being at school is a dangerous, life-threatening activity.

I mean, pardon my language, but Jesus fucking Christ, when does it end?

Is there ever going to be a time when more guns isn’t the answer?

Don’t worry, though; the NRA has another solution to gun violence.

They want a national registry of the mentally ill.

Yes, you heard that correctly: they don’t want a firearm registry, but they want the government to register every single person diagnosed with a mental illness. Because apparently what they’ve taken away from the whole “now is the time to talk about mental illness” discussion is that, rather than improve access to mental healthcare and work to reduce stigma, what we actually need to do is keep tabs on all the crazy people.

Never mind the fact that the mentally ill are four times more likely to be the victims of violence. Never mind the fact that “mental illness” is an incredibly broad category that includes an array of disorders ranging from anorexia nervosa to depression to schizophrenia. Never mind the fact that not all people with mental illness are violent, and not all violent people are mentally ill. Let’s just get on with this and start keeping tabs on the one in four Americans who have been or will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

And fuck, I know that it doesn’t even bear saying, but how the hell do you think this will affect the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you think that people will be more willing to go to their doctors and ask for help if they know that a diagnosis will land them on a national registry of people that the NRA believes to be deranged, evil monsters?

There is one thing, and one thing only that I agree with the NRA on: we live in a culture of violence. We live in a society that not only normalizes but celebrates violence. What I can’t wrap my head around is the fact that they don’t seem to understand that owning and using a gun contributes to that culture of violence.

I also don’t think that Grand Theft Auto makes anyone go on violent rampages, but hey, what do I know? Not as much as the NRA, apparently.

Look, I get it – guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But you know what? Adam Lanza would have been able to kill a fuck of a lot less people had he been carrying a knife, a club, or a crow bar. Saying that guns don’t kill people, etc., is like saying that polio doesn’t kill people, shitty immune systems do. But guess what? You still wouldn’t have died of polio had you not been fucking exposed to virus in the first place.

You guys, the way we view guns and violence is fucked up, and we need to fix it. I don’t know what the answer is; I can theorize, based on events that have happened in other countries, that stricter gun control is what’s needed, but it’s true that I can’t say for sure that that would fix everything. What I do know that is the answer is definitely not more guns. The answer is not a national registry of the mentally ill. And the answer is most definitely not armed personnel in schools.

gun-da-kop2p44

I Hate Flying

10 Dec

In case you were wondering what it’s like to fly on an airplane with me, it’s pretty much like this:

"This should be open because it's civil rights."

“This should be open because it’s civil rights.”

I am terrified of flying. Seriously. Even just glancing up and seeing an airplane in the sky as I’m happily going about my daily business makes me feel queasy. Whenever we go to the airport to pick up or drop off a friend or family member, I think, Better you than me, buddy. I’ve taken the train all the way east to Halifax and all the way west to Edmonton because I refuse to fly. Friends will suggest taking a vacation together to some exotic locale, and I just laugh. If they want to go on vacation with me somewhere exciting, then they’ll have to sit in a dirty, smelly bus to New York or wherever for hours on end; they sure as hell aren’t going to manage to drag me anywhere with palm trees.

I don’t really know where my fear of flying came from. There was actually a time when I loved everything about air travel – from walking along the airport gangway (I don’t know why, but this part always seemed very exciting), to the thrill of the moment when you feel the airplane lift into the air, to the tiny over-packaged meals that taste like reconstituted cardboard. For a kid who spent four gruelling days every summer driving from Ontario to Nova Scotia and then back again, flying seemed like nothing short of a luxury.

All of my flying experiences were positive until the winter of my second year at university, when I was flying from Halifax into Ottawa. Everything was lovely and normal until we hit some kind of air pocket or something and the plane suddenly dropped like the dead weight it was. The actual drop was over pretty quickly and the flight continued as if nothing had happened, but I couldn’t help feeling shaken. To make matters worse, the girl beside me began crying hysterically, saying that her father was in the air force and she’d flown a million times and had never experienced anything like this and we were all going to die. Helpful, right?

Anyway, we landed without further incident, and other than spending a few hours feeling very grateful to be back on solid ground, I didn’t think much about what had happened for the rest of my holidays.

Then, on my way back to Halifax, I realized that two of my close friends were on the same flight. I began to think about how sad it would be if our plane went down and we all died together; how our group of friends would mourn us, maybe even build a memorial. Then I started to think, Aren’t we descending a little quickly? We’re not even over Nova Scotia yet!

Embarrassingly, it didn’t take much for me to go from wondering why we were starting our descent so early to, Oh God, we’re all going to die. 

I’ve been afraid of flying ever since.

The last time that I was on an airplane was when we flew to Paris for our honeymoon in 2009. I managed to convince myself to get on that plane by telling myself three things:

1. I needed to fucking suck it up if I ever wanted to visit parts of the world that weren’t accessible by Via Rail.

2. God would not let Matt and I die on our honeymoon.

3. If we did die, at least it would be romantic. We would be forever remembered as the couple who died in a plane crash while on their honeymoon. Also, we would probably die happy. Right?

I prepared for this trip by doing two things: going to my (prescription-happy doctor) for a bottle full of Ativan, and watching Mayday marathons. Mayday, for the uninitiated, is a documentary show about airline disasters. I figured that it would be helpful to know some of the things that could potentially go wrong during a flight; plus, once I knew enough about airline disasters, it seemed possible that I might be able to avert them. For instance, I learned from Mayday’s episode about Aeroflot Flight 593 that you should never let children fly a commercial airplane. If I were on a plane and saw that happening, I could be like, You guys, this is a bad idea. Total hero material, right here!

A few minutes before we boarded our flight in Montreal, I popped a pill. They were the sublingual type, meaning that they melt under your tongue and enter your bloodstream faster. Once we found our seats on the plane, I took another pill because I still felt anxious. As we began preparing for takeoff I took yet another pill because, although I felt woozy, I definitely still felt anxious. Shortly after our plane lifted off the ground, the safety video began playing on the tiny video screens on the backs of the seats in front of us. Something was wrong, though; the video kept re-starting, and finally the screen just went black.

I started to cry.

A kindly flight attendant noticed my distress and came over. The following is a basic approximation of the conversation we had:

Kindly Flight Attendant: What’s wrong?

Me: I’m sorry, I’m just a really nervous flier! And right now I’m freaked out because the safety video isn’t working.

Kindly Flight Attendant: Oh, don’t worry! Those things have nothing to do with flying the plane. They’re not connected to the engine or anything like that! Plus, the entertainment system is kind of flaky. In fact, some days it doesn’t work at all!

Me: Well what about Swissair Flight 111? That went down because the entertainment system overheated and caused a fire. HOW DO I KNOW THAT’S NOT WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?

Kindly Flight Attendant: …

Kindly Flight Attendant just walked away and didn’t say another word to me for the whole trip.

Naturally, after that encounter, I had to take another pill.

After that, I fell asleep, and didn’t wake up until we were flying over the UK. We started our descent, which is weirdly the least frightening part of flying for me – it means that we’re either going to be landing soon, or else it won’t be long until we die a fiery death. Whichever way the dice land, at least the anticipation is over!

Once we landed, I was still feeling a little out of it, so I decided to get a coffee. As the guy at the airport cafe poured my drink, Matt noticed me dumping fistfuls of change into their tip jar. He politely yet firmly asked me what the hell I was doing. I told him that I was giving them our Canadian change, because we wouldn’t need it anymore. Because we weren’t in Canada anymore. Duh.

I guess the Ativan might have had more of an effect on me than I’d thought.

We ended up spending a wonderful week in Paris once I’d gotten over my drugged state. I ate my weight in croissants, drank a lot of cheap but delicious wine, and basically decided that Paris was my favourite city of all time. I am an obsessive planner when it comes to travelling, so even though we only had seven days in the City of Lights, I created such an air-tight itinerary that we got to see pretty much everything we wanted to. I also made it my mission to take pictures of every single statue of Joan of Arc that I could find (because Joan of Arc is the best, obviously).

Joan and I - a romance for the ages

Joan and I – a romance for the ages

Of course, the only bad thing about taking a trip to Paris was that we had to come home at the end of it. Which meant that I had to get on a plane again.

No big deal, I said to myself. I’ll just take a bunch of Ativan and pass out again.

And that’s what I did.

Or, rather, that’s what I thought I did.

It wasn’t until a few weeks after our trip that Matt mentioned a show that we’d watched together on the plane. I patiently explained to him that I’d never watched that show with him; I’d watched it with a friend in Halifax earlier that year. He kept insisting that we’d watched it on the plane, which kind of freaked me out, because I’d obviously just married a dude who a) had hallucinations or b) thought it was hilarious to lie so obviously and conspicuously to me.

After another few minutes of arguing, I finally said, There’s no way that we watched that show on the plane. I slept the whole way on both flights.

Matt looked at me like I’d grown a third arm.

No, you didn’t, he said, you were awake for the entire flight back.

Even as I kept insisting that he was wrong, I began to feel a wave of horror wash over me.

I hadn’t slept on the way home. I’d been awake the whole time. I had absolutely no memory of this.

I began interrogating Matt with a Spanish Inquisition level of intensity. What had I said to him? How had I acted? Had I seemed like myself? Did I take off my clothes or do anything else embarrassing? Could he give me a play-by-play of the entire eight hour flight?

His answers were less than comforting. For example, he told me that I’d been talking to the woman next to me for a good chunk of the flight. Naturally, I asked what I’d been saying to the woman. Matt just shrugged and said, I don’t know, you were speaking French.

I WAS SPEAKING FRENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ATIVAN BLACKOUT. I WAS TALKING TO STRANGERS IN FRENCH AND NO ONE HAS ANY IDEA WHAT WAS SAID.

Horrifying.

I begged Matt to tell me that I’d at least stayed in my seat the entire flight and not bothered anyone other than the Francophone woman next to me. I really needed to know that he’d kept an eye on my altered-state self the whole time.

He thought about it, then said that at some point I’d gotten up to go to the bathroom.

Did you follow me? I asked him, hopefully, desperately.

He just rolled his eyes.

The thing is, for all he knows, the minute I was out of his sight I started taking off my clothes and/or making out with the flight attendant. It’s possible! Literally ANYTHING is possible.

I told him that if we ever flew again, it would be his job to follow me everywhere, up to and including into the tiny airplane bathroom.

Of course, when I said that, I had no intention of ever flying again anyway.

You guys, having a phobia of flying sucks. Like, it sucks badly. First of all, every single person that you know feels the need to tell you that more people die in car accidents than in airplane crashes. Every time someone says that to me, I’m like, Whoa, really? You are the first person to ever mention that to me! Thank you! I’m cured!

No, but seriously, the next person to tell me that will get – well, they’ll probably just get a dirty look, but what I want to do is way worse than that.

I know that my fear of flying isn’t logical. If it was logical, I would probably be over it by now. I would just talk myself out of it. I am the master of talking myself out of things. You should see how well I talked myself out of cleaning the bathroom the other day. I did it in like five minutes! So that’s really not the problem here.

Logically, I know how safe airplanes are. I know how unlikely it is for anything to go wrong on an airplane, thanks to my sister-in-law, I even sort of know how they fly (hint: it’s not by magic). But even though my mind knows all those things, it has made an executive decision not to give a shit about facts and to go on being afraid. Thanks, mind. Thanks a bunch.

I hate not being able to fly. I hate that there are so many places that I might never visit because of my stupid malfunctioning brain. I hate that anytime I go someplace far away it takes me fifty years to get there, whereas it would take the average, flying-capable person an hour. I feel like I’m missing out on so much, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I guess I could do the Ativan thing again, although the idea doesn’t thrill me. It’s not so much the blackouts that scare me (well, they might scare me a little), but the fact that a lot of my anxiety happened in the weeks leading up to our flight. Also, in spite of all the drugs I took, I still felt pretty scared on the plane.

Another issue is that now I have Theo. I can’t imagine flying with Theo and Matt; not only would I be totally useless as a parent, but for Matt it would be like dealing with TWO toddlers.

Basically, what I really need is for someone to just knock me out anytime I have to fly, like B.A. Baracus on the A-Team:

If that means that I have to wear a lot of gold jewelry and say “I pity the fool”, well, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

In all seriousness, what I probably actually need to do is start taking short flights with people who are super chill about flying. People who will hold my hand and tell me that everything is fine and/or tell me to shut up about dying already. I need someone who is willing to put up with my bullshit for at least an hour, probably longer when you factor in the trip to the airport, checking in, going through security and waiting for the flight to board.

I guess that what I am saying here is that I am now accepting applications from people who are willing to put up with my bullshit for a minimum of four hours. COULD THIS BE YOU? Apply within!

p.s. I’m not willing to share my Ativan, even if you’re brave enough to fly with me. I will need the entire contents of my pill bottle, and possibly more.

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

7 Dec

When I was a kid, my mother had a button that looked exactly like this:

399036_s

I couldn’t find a very large image of this button, but in case you’re wondering, around the edge it reads: “In commemoration of the 14 women killed in Montreal, December 6th, 1989 and all women who have suffered from violence.”

Every year, after my mother retired her Remembrance Day poppy sometime in mid-November, she would break out her rose button and pin it to the lapel of her coat. As a small child, I remember coveting the button, because I liked the picture on it. When I was older, it made me uncomfortable; I didn’t like that my mother wore a pin to commemorate a mass murder, and the look on her face and the tone in her voice when she explained the story behind it frightened me. Strangely, the story itself didn’t frighten me; it seemed too remote, totally removed from my day-to-day life. It was a freak accident; a tragedy, yes, but nothing that could ever happen to a person like me.

Later still, when I was a teenager and irritated by everything my mother did, I found the button obnoxious and sanctimonious. I’d grown up hearing my mother referring to herself as a feminist, a term that I refused to apply to myself. It seemed to me that most boys hated feminists and, when I was a lonely high school student with low self-esteem, the last thing I wanted was to do something that would cause the boys I knew to reject me even more. When they made jokes about women, jokes whose real punchlines were how stupid and pathetic women were, I laughed. Sometimes I joked back, making fun of the way girls dressed, of how many guys they slept with, how idiotic and shallow they were. Sure, I was a girl, but I was on their side – I wasn’t one of those girls. Never mind the fact that I probably would have given my eyeteeth to be cool enough to be one of those girls.

Back in those days, whenever late fall rolled around and my mother broke out her shabby, rusting rose button, I would roll my eyes. He was crazy, I would tell my mother. Like, mentally ill. It had nothing to do with women, he was just nuts. What if he’d killed only Dutch people? Would we have national day of remembrance and action on violence against Dutch people?

When I was a teenager, I thought that feminism was pointless at best, and a way of angering and alienating people at worst. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that sometimes angering and alienating people was a good thing; that there might be situations in which I wanted people to feel negatively about me and the things that I said. At the time, I couldn’t imagine not wanting to please every body, just like I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to kill me simply because I was a girl.

Now I know differently.

I’m not saying that anyone’s out to get me specifically, because as far as I know, they’re not. It probably helps that I come off as fairly non-threatening – I’m a small, mousy white woman who doesn’t work in a male-dominated field. I’m a shy, quiet woman who pretty much totally followed the status quo – I finished high school, went to university, then married a nice guy and had a kid before I turned 30. Probably the most threatening thing I do is blog (extensively) about women’s reproductive rights, but that hasn’t generated any death threats or anything.

But there are still people who hate me because of my gender. I mean, maybe not openly, maybe not obviously, but they do. We live in a culture of casual misogyny. A culture where over 600 First Nations women are missing or have been murdered in Canada, only to have our government do nothing about it. A culture where female sex workers are treated as objects instead of people. A culture where women are told to be less angry when they talk about the events of December 6th. A culture where women are constantly being ridiculed, judged and set up in competition against each other. A culture where my sister, an avid World of Warcraft player, has been asked repeatedly to turn on her webcam and show other players her breasts in order to “prove” that she’s a woman.

When Marc Lépine went to the École Polytechnique 23 years ago today, he entered the school with the intention of killing feminists. Feminists, he said in his suicide note, had ruined his life. Lépine had applied to the École Polytechnique in both 1986 and 1989 but had been rejected both times because he lacked the CEGEP courses necessary for admission. In Lépine’s mind, however, he wasn’t admitted to the school because women had taken too many of the available spaces. Women, he thought, had taken everything important, and left nothing for him.

Lépine killed 14 women just because they were studying engineering. Lépine killed 14 women for daring to want careers in a male-dominated field. Lépine killed 14 women for being women.

I was seven years old when École Polytechnique Massacre happened. I want to think that the world has changed since then, but really, has it? Women are still the butt of the joke. Women are still lacking in positions of power. Women are still being told that they need to compete against each other. There is still a persistent bias against women in the worlds of math and science. If there’s anything that can be learned from the latest American election, it’s that there are still men who hate women. A lot of men. Powerful men.

I don’t know if my mother still has her rose button. Probably not – I haven’t seen it in several years, and the last time I did, it was looking pretty beat up. I wish she did, though, and I wish that she lend it to me. These days, I would wear it with pride.

Rape Jokes and The Oatmeal

5 Dec

Yesterday, Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal wrote a comic about the “delicate relationship” that he has with his keyboard.  This was the final panel of the comic:

rape-f5rape

The comic in its entirety was about how he feels and behaves towards the various keys in his keyboard. This panel specifically was about trying to get a webpage to load when you have a slow connection, with the joke centering around Matt “raping” his F5 key in order to make the page load faster. Yes, it’s a rape joke. No, I’m not surprised. Yes, it’s supposed to be funny. No, no one would ever  actually “rape” a computer key. Yes, in spite of all that, I’m still grossed out. Now that all that is out of the way, can we talk about how terrible this is? Because it’s terrible. Really, really terrible.

The panel above is the type of joke that normalizes and trivializes rape. Instead of showing rape as an act of sexual violence that will haunt someone for the rest of their life, it’s hilariously portrayed as pushing your F5 key one too many times. What it tells readers is that rape is no big deal, that it’s just this thing that happens. It tells readers that rape is not a powerful word, but instead is a term you can use to describe any kind of forceful action. It tells readers that rape is normal, and even worse it tells rapists that rape is normal. The problem with jokes like this is that not only do they make rape victims deeply uncomfortable, they make rapists feel comfortable.

And I mean, you know what? As far as rape jokes go, this one isn’t that bad. I mean, not really. It’s not graphic, and it’s not even describing a plausible situation since, again, computer keys can’t be raped. If we didn’t live and participate in rape culture, this joke on its own wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But you know what? If we didn’t live in a culture where rape was constantly aided and abetted, a culture where rape is so normalized that we think nothing of making light of it, a culture where rape victims are frequently hushed up, dismissed or outright disbelieved, this comic would never have been made. This comic is a product of rape culture and it perpetuates rape culture. The message that this comment sent out to The Oatmeal’s nearly 800,000 Facebook fans (and the myriad other readers who follow the comic on Twitter or directly on The Oatmeal’s website) is that rape is no big deal.

It is a big deal, though. And when some readers of the Oatmeal told Matt Inman that rape jokes are a big deal, this was his response:

XekGY

I mean, first of all, it seems bizarre to blame Daniel Tosh for this backlash. Just because Daniel Tosh was called out for making a rape joke doesn’t mean that he was the first to do so, or that he invented rape culture. This joke wouldn’t have been funny before Daniel Tosh, and it sure as hell isn’t funny now.

Second of all, it’s really great that Matt Inman donated money to a battered women’s group. But that doesn’t give him license to say whatever he wants. It’s not like making a one-time donation gives him some kind of immunity to ever being called out on misogynistic shit that promotes rape culture. That’s not how it works.

Third of all, this isn’t censorship, and I hope that Matt Inman never lives in a place where true censorship exists. Freedom of speech means that you can say whatever you want, sure, but it also means that I get to call you out when you’re being a dick. You get to make jokes, and I get to tell you when they’re offensive. We are both afforded the privilege of freedom of speech. And you know what? I’m not even offended by this comic; I’m not going to give anyone that satisfaction. See, Matt Inman wants to believe that he’s done something so cool, so edgy, that regular, Family Circus-reading folk will be “offended”. Well, I’m not. I’m contemptuous of this comic, and I’m contemptuous of you, Matt Inman. Every time you make a joke like this, I think less and less of you. So no, you’re not being censored; you’re just hearing the reactions of people who aren’t on board with what you did.

I’m sure that there are people who will accuse me of being so wrapped up in feminism, so focussed on seeing misogyny wherever I look, that I’m just not able to recognize humour anymore. There are people who probably want to tell me that nothing is so sacred that you can’t joke about it, that “censoring” comics is the worst possible thing you can do, and that if I don’t “let” people make rape jokes then I’m some kind of fascist.

First of all, anyone who would think that should look up the definition of “fascist”.

Second of all, I don’t think that all rape jokes are bad. In fact, I even think that some of them are funny. The thing is, in order for a rape joke to be funny, it needs to do two things:

1. Not make rape victims the butt of the joke

2. Challenge the status quo, i.e. rape culture

Below is a video by Louis C.K. in which he makes a joke about rape that’s funny. If you are a comic, or aspire to be one, you might want to take notes:

See, what he’s doing in this joke is challenging the idea that rape is sexy or desirable. He’s challenging the idea that some men would leap at the chance to take a woman without her consent, while she is repeatedly telling them no, just because she’s giving out some kind of vibe. He’s challenging a culture that persistently insists that women don’t know what they want, that they play hard to get, that they lie and manipulate and shouldn’t be taken at their word.

That is a joke that challenges the way we think in a humourous way. That is what comedy should do.

Matt Inman did, thankfully, end up removing the rape joke panel, and tweeted the following earlier today:

It’s not the greatest apology, but at least it’s an apology, you know? I wish that he hadn’t included the “if”, because obviously people were upset, no ifs about it; it would have been better had he just flat-out apologized for the fact that people were hurt and upset. However, this apology is better than nothing, and it’s waaaay better than artists who continue to defend themselves after they’ve been called out for inappropriate behaviour. So I guess there’s that.

Sometimes stuff like this feels so relentless, like there’s no way to fight against it because you’ll just never win. Working to bring down rape culture feels overwhelming, because it’s literally everywhere. How do you fight nearly every movie you’ve ever seen, every book you’ve read, every casually misogynistic word that’s ever been spoken to you? Where do you even start?

Every once in a while, though, you do get someone who reconsiders what they’ve done and issues an apology, and that feels like it’s maybe the beginning of something. And like I said, maybe it’s not a great apology, but hopefully it will start people thinking. Maybe this will get fans of The Oatmeal really considering what that rape joke really meant, and why it wasn’t funny.

I think that if even one person who laughed at that comic sits back, thinks hard and changes his opinion, then this fight is worth it. If this post gets even one person to change their minds about how they view rape, and especially rape jokes, then I’ll be happy. Hell, even if this post does nothing more than get people who agree with me to start a conversation about this, then I’m good. The fact is that talking about this stuff, getting it out into the open and engaging people about it, is a huge first step to changing the status quo.

And I really, really want to change the status quo.

On Judgment And Breastfeeding

4 Dec

If you know me at all, even a little bit, then you know that I am a person who loves breastfeeding. I think breastfeeding is great, and will talk about it until you are super bored and/or uncomfortable. Half of the population of Toronto has probably seen my breasts by now, and not just because of my preference for low-cut tops. Most of the time I’m pretty sure my kid loves me, but there are days when I wonder if he loves my boobs more. If you ask me for breastfeeding advice, I will inundate you with more facts than you could ever possibly need. In short, I breastfeed, I’m proud of it, and I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding.

I think that one of the reasons I’m so into breastfeeding is that Theo and I struggled with it at first. He had a bad latch, jaundice made him too sleepy to stay awake for an entire feeding, and I just plain had no idea what I was doing. In retrospect, I know I got off pretty easy as far as breastfeeding issues go, but at the time it seemed like the end of the world. My son was only 5 lbs 4 oz at birth, and by the time we came home from the hospital he was only 4 lbs 12 oz. Every nursing session was a fight, and I started to dread feeding time. I also dreaded weighing him, because I was terrified of seeing the needle dip even lower on the scale. Here I was, blessed with an abundant supply of milk, and I couldn’t even manage do that simplest, most basic thing: feed my child.

I worked hard to be able to breastfeed Theo. While I was still in the hospital, I attended daily breastfeeding classes and would would call the nurses to come help me get Theo latched on every time he woke up. After we went home, I schlepped Theo back and forth to our family doctor and the hospital lactation clinic on a near-daily basis.  In those cold, sterile offices I would watch as other people weighed him, then I would let strangers manhandle my boobs and stare intently at my chest as I tried again and again to feed my son.

I pumped. I did “suck training” with a tiny tube attached to my finger. I cup-fed him. I bottle-fed him. Finally, I tried a nipple shield, which (hallelujah!) worked. With the nipple shield, Theo was at last able to fill his tiny belly with my milk and start gaining the weight he needed so badly. My kid has been a boob-addict ever since.

Now, the thing is, I know that a lot of my successful breastfeeding relationship is due to good old-fashioned hard work. I wanted to breastfeed, and I fought for it and, in the end, I succeeded. It was really hard at times, like, total-meltdown-cry-until-I-made-myself-sick hard, but even though I sometimes felt like giving up, I didn’t. And I’m proud that I didn’t quit, and I also have to give myself credit for sticking with it even when things felt impossible.

But you know what? Hard work only gets you so far, and I know that I wouldn’t still be breastfeeding today if I hadn’t had an amazing support system. I was lucky that my hospital offered such great resources to breastfeeding moms, I was lucky that our family doctor had breastfed both her children and knew what she was talking about, I was lucky to have a mother-in-law who was a former La Leche League leader (and a sister-in-law who knew a whole heck of a lot about breastfeeding), and I was lucky to have a family who gave me nothing but encouragement and love. If I hadn’t had these things, there’s a good chance that Theo would have been formula-fed, and I know that. So yeah, while hard work has played a big part in our success, I also realize that I’ve been able to breastfeed because I was just plain lucky.

Knowing that I was lucky to have such great support means that I want to offer that kind of support to other people. I cheer people on when they’re struggling to breastfeed, and I offer advice (usually only when asked) to new moms. I upload a ton of pictures of me nursing Theo to my Facebook page, partly because I just think they’re really nice pictures, but also because I think posting breastfeeding pictures publicly help normalize breastfeeding. Basically, if you want to breastfeed, I want to do whatever I can to help you! If you don’t want to breastfeed, though, that’s cool too.

Sadly, a lot of the breastfeeding community doesn’t feel the same way I do. I belong to a few online groups, and while a lot of the posts are asking for advice, or sharing cute, funny stories about breastfeeding, there’s an awful lot of judgment going on against women who don’t breastfeed. Mostly I’m used to it and I just kind of shut it out, because I still see a lot of benefit and good in the lactivist movement. Today, though, really took the cake. Today I couldn’t ignore this judgmental crap anymore.

See, there’s a story that’s been in the news lately about an Alberta mother who can’t afford the prescription formula that her infant son needs to live. Her son, Isaac, was born prematurely and subsequently developed necrotizing entercolitis (NEC), an intestinal disease that means that he has an inability to digest many foods, including dairy products, and can lead to internal bleeding. At four months old Isaac has already had two week-long stretches in the hospital, and continues to be at risk for bleeding and other problems.

Isaac’s mother, Lisa Caskenette, initially tried to breastfeed her son. Unfortunately, he had severe reactions to her milk, and, given the scope of his allergies (dairy products, whey, soy and whey protein, to name a few), she wasn’t sure that she could find an elimination diet that would work for her. As well, during Isaac’s two hospital stays he was allowed nothing by mouth, and although Caskenette pumped during that time, her supply dwindled. After consulting over a dozen experts, Caskenette decided to give her son Neocate, an amino acid-based, hypoallergenic formula which costs her $1,200 a month. $1,200 a month that Caskenette’s family cannot afford.

You’d think that this would be the kind of story that breastfeeding advocates would rally around, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, what I witnessed today on a Facebook breastfeeding group was the opposite of that. Here’s a small sample of the comments people made after the group’s moderator posted a link to a story about Caskenette and her son:

She should breastfeed. That’s free and better.

She should be breastfeeding! That won’t cost a dime,the Insurance wont need to pay a dime and the baby would be a lot healthier!!!

Yes, she should be breastfeeding…formula use has been shown to increase the chance of NEC [this from the page’s owner/moderator]

Sometimes I wonder if people just don’t feel like sacrificing their own diet to make it acceptable for an allergic baby.

I think the cost is outrageous and I certainly would not be able to afford that, however I breastfed my kids. Or donor breast milk, we have 3 Milk Banks in Canada which you need a prescription for and she would have no problem getting a script for it. I would have pumped and pumped. However, she may not may not have tried that. I feel for the family, but she never mentioned anything about trying to nurse, pump or re-lactate. I do think the cost should be shared though. We have a public health care system and we pay for it by way of taxes etc and if her baby needs it then it shouldn’t have to cost $1200 a month, but I wish someone in her circle would mention she could try to breastfeed if she hasn’t. Her baby would be eating for free.

For the government to start subsidizing an industry that harms the health of its citizens is not the best idea. They should offer to fund the baby’s use of breastmilk from a milk bank if the mom is unable to breastfeed.

I looked up this condition and one of the reasons it occurs is improper mixing of formula, yet another reason breast would been best!

I find it hard to believe with all the support in Canada that NO-One would have given her the information she needed to do best for her baby! And yes the only thing that would stop me from giving my baby breastmilk is death!

Can’t breastfeed…not really. You could do an elimination of your diet. You could breastfeed. You opted not to. You don’t want judgment. You just want everyone to agree with you. Should the formula me covered? I actually think yes but the rest is just crap.

I wonder if she ever saw/spoke with an IBCLC to get support to breast feed? This baby needs human milk not formula to heal his gut. Perhaps she should look into eats on feets or similar organization to find mothers willing to donate their extra breastmilk. So sad that all this baby needs is breastmilk ;(

There are a few comments supporting and sympathizing with Caskenette, but most of them are just repeating over and over, ad nauseam, that she should give him breast milk. Most of the commenters agree that she should either relactate (which is a long and difficult process, and also doesn’t solve the issues she was having with the elimination diet), or else she should get donor milk (which wouldn’t work at all, because she has no way of knowing the diet of the women who donated the milk). Most of the comments were judgmental and hurtful; nearly every single one of the commenters felt that Caskenette was a selfish mother who just couldn’t be bothered to do what was best for her son.

Here is the one thing that I really want all of you to know: when you comment on something like this on a public page, you are writing actual words that will be read by actual people that can cause actual hurt. Is it really so difficult to try to be a kind, empathetic human being? Like, really? Can everyone just stop being dicks for like FIVE MINUTES?

It's kind of true, though

It’s kind of true, though

The other thing is that stuff like this does a total disservice to the breastfeeding advocacy movement. When you make comments like this, you’re making us all look like the crazy, narrow-minded, intolerant people all the stereotypes make us out to be. Comments like these are the reason people end up switching to formula, because they’re afraid of the judgment that will be thrown at them if they ask for help. You are not forwarding your cause, you’re hindering it. I don’t understand how you can’t see that.

I mean, in a perfect world, do I think that every biological mother would breastfeed? Hell yeah, I do! In a world where babies don’t get life-threatening illnesses, and women don’t go back to work after 6 weeks, and sexual assault victims don’t find nursing to be triggering, and no mothers need to take any medication that is contraindicated for breastfeeding, and there aren’t fucking booby traps everywhere you turn, and all healthcare professionals are well-educated about breastfeeding, and no mother had supply issues, and shitty formula marketing schemes don’t exist I think everyone could breastfeed. But I don’t live in that world and neither do you.

If you want to be a good breastfeeding advocate, here’s what you need to do: support and listen. Support the person wherever they are in their breastfeeding journey (even if they’re formula feeding), and listen to what they have to say. Maybe they won’t breastfeed this particular child, but maybe your love, support and advice will make them more willing to try to breastfeed the next one. Or maybe it won’t, and that’s fine too. All you can do is offer your help; you can’t make people take it. And what’s the sense in getting riled up over the fact that someone doesn’t breastfeed? Is that worth ending a friendship or hurting someone over?

If you want to help out Lisa Caskenette and her family, there are a number of ways that you can do that. First of all, you can find her on Facebook, and she does accept private donations to help her family with the cost of the formula. You can also advocate for her by writing to the Alberta Blue Cross (which should be covering the cost of the formula), or to Alison Redford, the current Alberta premier. Or you can just send Caskenette positive messages on Facebook, letting her know that you’re thinking about her and her family.

Anything, really, other than telling her that she’s a bad mother.

Baby Isaac

Baby Isaac