Tag Archives: women

No, I Don’t Want To Learn How To Love Criticism, Thanks

30 Sep

Tara Mohr recently wrote a piece in the New York Times about women and criticism. The article is called “Learning to Love Criticism,” but it could probably more accurately be titled “Haters Gonna Hate,” because that’s the type of approach that she advocates. She starts out promisingly enough, citing a recent study done on workplace performance reviews that contains the following fascinating (and appalling, and, if you’re a woman, entirely familiar) statistics: “Across 248 reviews from 28 companies, managers, whether male or female, gave female employees more negative feedback than they gave male employees. Second, 76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” Only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.

Yet in the next paragraph, after admitting that women in the workplace walk an “impossible tightrope” in trying to balance competence and niceness, the best advice she can come up with for women in this situation is little better than “learn to deal.” And while I get that none of us are likely to see a monumental change in how women are treated in our lifetime (though god knows I pray for a bloodless feminist coup every night before I go to sleep), it’s still frustrating and angering to be told that, instead of trying to affect any kind of change, women should just suck it up and learn how to better live in a man’s world. I don’t want to be better at playing by men’s rules; I want to change the rules so that they’re fair for everyone.

Women, apparently, just need to learn to be less sensitive, even when the criticism that they receive is personal and heavily gendered. Mohr writes that, “Many women are aware of this problem. “I know I need a thicker skin, but I have no idea how to get it,” one woman, a consultant to small businesses, said to me.

I’ve been told that I need to “grow a thicker skin” so many times that I’ve lost count; I’m willing to bet that the same is true for many other women. It’s the same stuff we tell little kids who are being teased or made fun of – “just ignore them, and they’ll leave you alone.” Stop getting upset. Stop reacting. Stop being an easy target. It’s the kind of pat advice that sounds helpful in theory, but doesn’t really work in practice. Once anyone – another kid, a coworker, a boss – knows how to push your buttons, they know how to push your buttons and that’s that. Even if you stop reacting to one thing, they’ll figure out another way to get your goat. At least, that’s been my experience.

Not only that, but, after thinking about this pretty long and hard, I’ve realize that I don’t want a thicker skin. It’s not my skin that’s the problem. It’s never been my skin that’s the problem. I don’t want to thicken, solidify or otherwise change my skin.

Instead, I want to figure how to rely on myself, how to rely on my instincts, and how to trust in the fact that I am a smart, capable person who is worthy of respect.

It might sound as if I’m splitting hairs, but I can’t help that “thick skin” and self-esteem are two very different things. The former is all about ignoring or disregarding the negative stuff that people say about you; the latter is feeling solid enough in yourself and your abilities that you don’t need to rely on other people’s feedback, be it positive or negative, in order to figure out how to navigate your life. And maybe I want to have thin skin, if that means an ability to feel things more deeply. Maybe having thin skin has its positive sides, like a heightened ability for compassion and a greater awareness of the impact that I might have on other people. Maybe empathy is one of the results of never having developed a thicker skin.

And you know what? I don’t want to learn to love criticism. If the criticism is valid – if, say, someone is calling me out for doing something hurtful or problematic –  then that criticism should feel uncomfortable. If, on the other hand, the criticism is some kind of personal attack or comes from someone who doesn’t have the same values or beliefs that I do, then why on earth should I love it? I want sound criticism to make me feel bad, and I want to use that bad feeling to force myself to continue to grow and learn. I don’t ever want to be stuck in an unbending, call-out proof shell of haters gonna hate. Because sometimes the haters are right, as much as we might not want to admit it.

I also don’t particularly want to learn how to keep a heartless poker face when dealing with people saying shit that’s cleverly designed to find every chink in my armour. First of all because that’s fucking exhausting and sad-making and doesn’t seem to be very sustainable. Second of all because I’m tired of teaching angry little boys on the internet that the more they throw shit at women, the quieter and more patient those women will become. Silence and acquiescence is what those trolls want – it’s exactly what they’re trying to frighten women into doing. And I’m tired of giving them what they want, even if that does temporarily make my life easier.

At the end of the day, it’s all very well and good to give women tips on how to function within the current framework of society; it’s another thing altogether to assume that this framework will never change. It’s never going to stop being a man’s game if women keep playing by men’s rules, and if our only form of resistance is to learn to live with how things are, well, this revolution isn’t going to get very far.

1940s vintage female telephone operator BELL SYSTEMS advertisement illustration by John Falter

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A Dudely Challenge: Read More Books By Women

28 Sep

The Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), a national organization devoted to promoting “strong and active female perspectives and presences within the Canadian literary landscape” recently released a report looking at gender representation in Canadian book reviews. You can find the full set of numbers here, and an infographic explaining those numbers here.

Folks, the news is not good. I mean, it’s not terrible, but it’s also not great. It’s also pretty indicative a deeper gender imbalance in the literary world in general.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers provided by CWILA, shall we?

First, the basics:

Out of the 5,613 book reviews studied, 56.9% were reviews of books written by men, 37% were reviews of book written by women, 5.02% were reviews of books co-authored by men and women, 0.14% were reviews of books written by non-binary individuals, and 0.93% percent came from “unknown author(s).” So far so good – I mean men are slightly outpacing women, but it’s not a big deal. 37% of the pie is still a lot of delicious pie (whenever I look at pie charts I always picture a big old steaming dish of apple pie, but your mileage may vary).

It’s when we start to look at who’s reviewing what (and how often) that things start to get a bit .. whacky? Out of all of the reviews written by women, 51% are of books authored by women and 43% are of books authored by men (with the remaining 6% being taken up by reviews of books that were either co-authored by men and women, were written by non-binary individuals or were written by unknown authors). Out of all of the reviews written by men, a staggering 69% were of books authored by men, while a measly 25% were of books authored by women (with, again, 6% of the reviews taken up by the same three groups mentioned above).

On top of that, while some publications (The Vancouver Sun, The Toronto Star, Quill & Quire) employ more slightly more female reviewers than male, reviews written by women still make up only 38% of the top 20 reviewers (those who wrote 50+ reviews last year) in the country.

Let’s just look at some of those numbers one more time:

25% of the books reviewed by men were written by women. 

69% of the books reviewed by men were written by men.

Men review nearly three times as many books by men as they do books by women.

If that’s not a huge indication of the problematic ways we view women writers, then I don’t know what else is. Women review nearly twice as many books written by men as men review books written by women. And it’s not as if there’s a dearth of women authors writing quality books – novels written by women won the Man Booker Prize in 2013, 2012 and 2010. Books by women won both the French and English Governor General’s Literary Awards in 2013; women also won in 2012, 2010, and 2009. Alice Munro won the Nobel Fucking Prize for literature last year. There are so many fantastic, internationally-recognized, award-winning books by women (many of them Canadian – CANLIT, REPRESENT) – so why aren’t men reviewing them?

The answer is, unfortunately, pretty simple: men don’t read books by women.

There are a lot of reasons for why this is true. Some men – like David Gilmour and all of his highbrow dudebro acolytes – just don’t think that women are very good writers. See, they only like the serious, classic stuff – stuff like Chekhov and Tolstoy and Proust. They like the good ole-fashioned, tried-tested-and-true Western literary cannon, which is pretty male-dominated for reasons that I’m sure have nothing to do with the historical oppression of women and everything to do with talent and know-how. Some men have shied away from books by women, worried that being caught reading Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights will somehow bring their masculinity into question. And some men have literally just never thought about it; they grew up with a toxic cultural mix of beliefs that taught them that real, serious books are written by men and only girls read books by girls. Which is tragic, and not just because every kid should should have the chance to read the delight that is Anne of Green Gables.

It’s this last group of guys who, I’m pretty sure, make up the majority of the male readers in this work. They’re guys who, in school, were told to read famous books by famous men as a matter of course. They’re guys who were never handed works of literature written by women because a teacher or a parent or a friend never thought they needed books they could better “identify” with. They’re guys who don’t question the fact that nearly all of the major works of fiction displayed at a bookstore or library are written by men. They’re guys who have never noticed that male writers are the status quo, because if you’re part of the status quo, why would you ever bother questioning it?

Women are, in many ways, treated as a special interest group. And sometimes that treatment is legitimate, like when we’re talking about reproductive rights or street harassment or workplace sexism. But that also means that literature written by women is viewed, often subconsciously, as being especially for women. And while we might praise the technical aspects of a book written by a woman, or laud its excellent storytelling or well-developed characters, we still ultimately view it in the category of other. It’s not regular a book – it’s a lady book. Probably with some kind of lady agenda. But books by men are just books. Serious, literary books.

Men aren’t encouraged to read books by women because on some level we don’t believe that those books were written for men. And yet no one ever questions why women would read books by men. It’s just taken as a given that books by men are the gold standard, and that everyone, no matter what their gender, should read them.

So here’s a challenge for all the men out there (including, but not limited to, the men who write book reviews): read books by women. Pick out a specific chunk of time – maybe a month, three months, or, if you’re feeling especially brave, a whole year – and during that period only seek out books by women. This challenge, by the way, doesn’t have to be isolated to literature – you could also have a month where you only listen to music by women, or look at paintings by women, or watch movies written and directed by women. If you’re struggling to find enough media to fill a whole month, then ask for recommendations; ask you’re girlfriend what she’s reading, or ask your little sister what she’s listening to these days. Ask your mom. Ask the woman who sits next to you at work. Ask that aggressively eye-linered punk chick who almost always ends up on the same bus as you in the morning. I mean, don’t be pushy or gross about it, and if they’re not interested in talking then back the fuck off, but still. Just try asking. I’m willing to bet that most women would be delighted to have a man ask them what they’re reading these days.

I have a friend who was recently explaining to me why she’d decided to end a blooming relationship with a nice, smart, funny man. There were lots of reasons why things just weren’t working out between them, but one red flag for her was this: he wasn’t reading any of the books she loaned him. See, book-talk was a big part of the attraction between them, and he was lending her plenty of books (which he expected her to read and which, diligently, she read), but apparently it wasn’t a two-way street. The books he gave her were, in his mind, important; the books he received were not. And before you jump in and tell me that not all men, let me say that I’ve seen this same dynamic play out in so many relationships. Men take it as a given that the women in their lives will read the books they recommend; unfortunately, they do not extend those women the same courtesy.

Guys, don’t be that guy. Read (and review, if that’s your bag!) books by women. If you consider yourself to be in any way an advocate for gender equality, then let that equality extend to the media you consume. Because women’s voices won’t get any louder if men aren’t helping to amplify them.

Not only that, but if you’re only reading books by men, then you are seriously missing out on some really fucking good books.

Photograph by Edward Steichen

Photograph by Edward Steichen

10 Reasons Feminism Might Not Be For You

18 Sep

This post originally appeared on the blog The Outlier Collective. But since that blog is now defunct, and since people have been asking for this post, I’m republishing it here.

I’m typically a huge proponent of the idea that feminism is for everybody. Feminism is for ladies! It’s for men! It’s for individuals who don’t subscribe to the idea of a gender binary! Feminism is for teenagers and small children! In fact, I’m even pretty sure that at least one of my cats is a feminist, although the other one just prefers to think of herself as a cat-ist, because that’s less political. Regardless, I’m usually of the opinion that feminism, as a philosophy, can and should be embraced by everyone.

Lately, though, I’m not so sure. I’ve been seeing a lot of questionable behaviours and comments, many of them coming from purported feminists. I’m starting to wonder if some people might want to re-think whether the feminist movement is right for them. With that in mind, I’ve created a handy-dandy list of ways to tell whether or not this movement is for you.

So without any further adieu, here are ten signs that feminism might not be for you:

1. You are against victim-blaming except in the case of _____

No one is deserving of any kind of violence, sexual or otherwise, at any time, ever, full stop. I would have thought that this would be something that would be fairly well understood within the feminist community, but apparently that was just wishful thinking. I’ve heard self-professed feminists say all kinds of nasty victim-blaming shit, especially about women who have been sexually assaulted, ranging from complaints about girls giving out mixed signals (hint: there is no such thing as a mixed signal, there is only consent and lack of consent), all the way to suggesting that if a woman does not loudly and forcefully defend herself against an attack then she’s somehow complicit in it. I’ve also heard people criticize and even doubt assault victims because they’ve said something problematic or at some point in history weren’t very nice. But let me tell you something right now: there is no such thing as a perfect victim.

You guys, a victim is a victim is a victim. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’ve lived an exemplary life. It doesn’t matter if they’ve said things that you find disagreeable. It doesn’t matter whether or not you like them or would want to be friends with them. None of those things mean that they are deserving of violence.

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2. You think that one of the goals of the feminist movement should be to make men feel safer or more comfortable about feminism.

Someone recently shared this video with me and it made me want to throw up everywhere:

I mean, I have so many issues with this video that I could probably write an entire series of blog posts about it. Also, I’m not sure that someone who doesn’t understand that sex and gender are two different things should be telling anyone about anything, and especially not opining on feminism. But the moment that especially makes me want to claw my own eyes out is when she asks “young women” to make feminism “male-friendly.”

Look, lady, the entire world is male-friendly, for one thing. For another, feminism isn’t anti-man – it’s anti-patriarchy, which is completely different. It is really fucking toxic to the feminist movement to suggest that we need to be more open and welcoming to men. That’s like saying that the civil rights movement should have been more open and inclusive towards white people. And this isn’t to say that men can’t be involved in feminism, in the same way that white people are still able to fight against racism – it’s just that movements working to forward the rights and freedoms of the oppressed should never, ever try to make themselves more friendly to those who have been historically oppressive.

That’s just common sense.

3. You think that someone can’t be a feminist based on how they dress or present themselves.

I can’t help but think of an interview with Zooey Deschanel that Glamour ran in February of this year. In it, she said,

“We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?”

There’s this weird idea (even within the feminist movement) that femininity somehow takes away from feminism. And, I mean, I guess that I kind of get it? Maybe? Sort of? Like, wearing pretty dresses and putting on makeup and removing your body hair definitely plays into patriarchal ideas of beauty. But you know what? Feminism is about choice, and these patriarchal ideas are so deeply ingrained in our culture that’s it’s nearly impossible to escape them. So you know what? You fucking wear your feminist Peter Pan collar with pride, Zooey, and I will do the same.

ABC's "Live With Kelly And Michael" - 2012
Still A Feminist

4. You don’t think that feminists are funny.

We’re fucking hilarious. Deal with it.

And not only are we funny, but our jokes don’t rely on the same old tired stereotypes about women that dudes seem to find so charming. That’s right – we’re actually coming up with new material and it’s fucking fantastic and maybe you should get over yourself and read some Lindy West or Mallory Ortberg or one of the other million woman who are a riot and a half. Turn off your white dude comic show for HALF A SECOND and check out something new for once in your life. Just saying.

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5. You’re not interested in hearing how women of colour, queer women, or trans* women feel that the feminist movement has failed to recognize or address their needs and wants.

The feminist movement likes to think of itself as being anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia. And I do think that most feminists believe in these ideas in theory; unfortunately, many of them have a harder time putting these concepts into practice. There’s a tendency to ignore or even silence queer women, trans* women and women of colour, and while I don’t think that this silencing is intentional, exactly, I do think that many people, even those working within the feminist movement, don’t want to address this problem or even acknowledge that it happens.

Here’s the thing: when someone from an oppressed group speaks up, you listen. You shut your mouth and you listen. You don’t tell them that we’re all women, here, and the issues that we’re working to resolve are issues that affect all women. You don’t discount their lived experiences by countering with your own examples of being oppressed as a white woman. And finally, you most fucking do not pretend that sexism experienced by women of colour or queer women or trans women is exactly the same as what you’ve experienced. Because it’s not; it’s worse. Get off your high horse, acknowledge your privilege, and let someone else have the microphone for a while. Feminism isn’t an egalitarian movement if it’s only promoting the rights of white, educated, middle-class women.

27 Audre-Lorde-IWD

6. You can’t handle being called out.

Getting called out is going to happen, I can guarantee it. Pretty much any person working in any kind of social justice movement is going to fuck up at some point (or, at the very least, do something that another person views as “fucking up”), and someone is going to call them out on it. And when that happens to you, it’s important to take a moment, cool your jets, and not immediately get your back up or become defensive. Instead, actually listen to what that person is saying (especially if they’re coming from a place of oppression that hasn’t been your lived experience). Try to take what they’ve said into consideration, even if you think that you’re not, ultimately, going to agree with it. And you know what? The funny thing is that you may very well end up realizing that the person calling you out is, in fact, right.

If you do realize that you were wrong (and let’s be real, probably you are if the caller-outer is from a more marginalized group than you) and you need to apologize, try taking a few notes from the fabulous Chescaleigh:

7. You ever, ever, ever feel the need to clarify that you’re not one of those feminists.

This is code for, “But I don’t hate men! I don’t wear cargo pants! I shave my legs! I promise!” And for sure those statements are true for many feminists; in fact, none of us hate men. But by distancing yourself from those feminists, whoever those feminists are, perpetuates the idea that a) there’s something wrong with those feminists, b) those feminists are totally threatening to men and masculinity, and c) that they make up the majority of the feminist movement.

Remember how we were talking earlier about feminism being all about choice? Well, it’s a two-way street, my friend. You can choose to wear your lipstick and your Peter Pan collar, and another woman can choose to wear hiking boots and a baseball cap, and at the end of the day, both of you are awesome feminists.

8. a) You think that there might be a type of body-shaming that is acceptable.

Nope. Never ok. You don’t get to comment negatively on another woman’s body, ever. You don’t make fat-phobic comments, you don’t make divisive remarks about how real women have curves, you don’t treat “fat” as if it’s a dreadful, dirty word. Oh, and while we’re on this subject, you can also feel free to keep any remarks about plastic surgery to yourself. Recently, when the new season of Arrested Development came on the air, a ton of my friends were gleefully jumping all over the fact that Portia DeRossi appeared to have had some kind of plastic surgery.

And yes, plastic surgery typically plays right into patriarchal ideals of how women should look. And maybe these women are furthering the idea that there is only one, very narrow definition of beauty, and that the appearance of aging is to be avoided at all costs. But you know what? Bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy means that you get to do whatever you like with your body, and other women get to do whatever they like with their own body. End of story.

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8. b) You think that there might be a type of food-policing that is acceptable.

I once had a woman say to be that she openly judges anyone who uses margarine instead of butter, because apparently margarine is a tool of the devil or some such shit. Now listen, I am the last person to deny being judgmental. I will openly judge you if you are sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-choice, mean to puppies, or any of that sort of vile shit. But when it comes to what you put in your body? I literally have zero things to say about that. No wait, I have one thing: bon apétit.

You guys, food is complicated. On the one hand, yes, you do need a certain combination of nutrients in order to keep your body functioning at an optimal level. On the other hand, not everyone has access to so-called healthy foods, and even if they do, they are under no obligation to eat them. In fact, no one is really under any kind of obligation to even be healthy. Bodily autonomy! You get to treat your own body however you want.

9. You are pro-choice, except in cases where _____.

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you were on Jeopardy or whatever, the WRONG ANSWER buzzer would be going off right now.

The first part of this statement should never be followed up with an “except” or a “but.” You are either pro-choice or you are anti-choice. There is no hierarchy of abortions; they should be available to everyone, on demand, and without apology.

Sure, you are totally free to feel uncomfortable about why someone might choose to terminate their pregnancy, but you know what? You keep those feelings to yourself.

Say it with me, now, one more time: b-o-d-i-l-y a-u-t-o-n-o-m-y

10. You think that there is one specific way to be a feminist.

I know that I’ve pointed out a ton of things that people do that are unfeminist, but the flip side of this is that there’s no one way to be a feminist.

You can be a feminist and be married. You can be a feminist and be single. You can be a feminist and have kids. You can be a feminist and be childless. You can be a feminist and take your partner’s last name. You can be a feminist and keep your last name. You can be a feminist and breastfeed. You can be a feminist and formula-feed. You can be a feminist and work outside the home. You can be a feminist and stay home with your kids.

You can be a feminist in a box. You can be a feminist with a fox. You can be a feminist in a house. You can be a feminist with a mouse. And so on. And so forth.

Seriously, you guys, I can’t believe that I have to say all of this in 2014.

And yeah, I know that I said earlier that maybe feminism isn’t for everyone, but I totally take that back. I still think that everyone can and should be feminist. But I also think that it’s super important for people, especially those already within the movement, to be able to take a step back every once in a while, re-evaluate their beliefs and ask themselves if their speech and actions actually do help to promote women’s rights and equality. Because you know what? It’s easy to fall into the trap of offering the appearance of giving a hand up to women while actually actively engaging in pushing them down. It’s easy to feel that you are working towards “equality” while still sliding back into the old patriarchal beliefs that we all grew up with, to one degree or another. And it’s especially fucking easy to find things to criticize about the ways that women dress, act or talk – in fact, I actually can’t think of anything easier than that.

But we’re not here to take the easy route, are we? So let’s all start taking the time to check in with ourselves, to make sure that the stuff that we say and do actually promotes the changes that we want to see in the world. Let’s take a long, hard look at our thoughts and beliefs, and try harder to call ourselves out before anyone else can. And let’s all try to take few moments every night to repeat bodily autonomy is a necessity five times, out loud, in front of the mirror.

Because, you guys? This is our movement. And it’s our job to continue to make it a better, safer, happier place.

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On Motherhood and Losing Myself

7 Sep

I remember the first time it happened – it was shortly after Theo’s birth and I was still in the hospital. My mother and husband were in the room with me when the nurse came in to do something – maybe weigh him or help bathe him or check his vital signs. After she finished, she said, “all right, now I’ll give him back to mom,” and I was momentarily confused. Why was she handing my son off to my mother? Shouldn’t she give him to me or my husband?

And then I realized that she had, in fact, meant to give Theo back to me. Mom meant me. I was mom. My mother, meanwhile, had graduated to “Grandma.” The nurse left before I had the chance to tell her that my name was Anne, although if she’d really wanted to know that she could have just looked at my chart.

I got used to the name Mom, though, and faster than I’d thought I would. I started using it to refer to myself in the third person when I spoke to my son: “Mama loves you so much,” I would say to him. “Mama’s just going to change your diaper, and then you’ll be much more comfortable.” “Mama’s making your dinner, but don’t worry, she’ll be really fast!” “Ma-ma. Can you say ma-ma? Ma-ma. I’m your mama. Ma-ma.” By the time Theo was eight months old, he would howl “Maaaaaaaaa-maaaaaaaaa” every time he wanted me, and I felt a funny sense of triumph whenever I heard him call me. He knew my name. I was Mama.

I wasn’t the only one who referred to myself as “Mom” or “Mama” either. My husband did it whenever he was in front of our son, even when he was talking directly to me – after all, we wanted to keep things consistent and easy to understand for Theo, didn’t we? My mother did it, too. So did my sisters. And as my son got older and we started making the rounds of playgroups and library programs and sing-alongs, the other parents (almost exclusively women) referred to me as “Theo’s mom.” Not that I was any better – I didn’t know any of their names, either. We were all just so-and-so’s mom, as if that were our name or our job title or maybe the most fascinating fact about us. 

Admittedly, there were a lot of things in my life that made me feel as if being a mother was the most fascinating thing about me, or at least the best, most noble thing about me. Strangers smiled at me, and offered me their seat on the bus. People working in customer service were more polite and attentive, whereas before I felt as if I’d often been brushed off. Everyone took me more seriously. It was as if by giving birth I’d somehow gained some strange kind of respectability. I wasn’t just that weird girl who talked too much and cried easily; I wasn’t just another person who had never reached their full potential. I was a mother, and according to a lot of people I’d fulfilled exactly as much of my potential as I needed to. And while on some level that fact was embarrassingly gratifying, mostly because I’d never felt so much societal approval before, underneath that gratification was a restless, howling anxiety. 

I wasn’t the only one in our household to be given a new title, of course. My husband became “Daddy,” a name that also carries some baggage with it. But he didn’t seem to feel as if he was losing himself, the way that I did – and it does seem to bear pointing out that our circumstances were vastly different. Every day, while I stayed at home with our son, my husband went to work. Every day, while I sat on the couch and cried over how fucking hard breastfeeding was, while I took a deep breath and tried not to scream with frustration because my kid was inconsolably exhausted but absolutely would not nap, while I stripped off yet another urine-soaked onesie and brightly-coloured cloth diaper only to watch in horror as my son chose that exact moment to unleash a jet of poop, my husband went back to the Land of the Adults, a country that we both called home but from which I had temporarily been exiled. Every day, while I opened my laptop and tried yet again – through frighteningly hive-minded online parenting communities, frantic status updates on Facebook, and emails to my family – to find the training manual for my overwhelming new job, my husband went back to his same old job, where he could take hour-long lunches and everyone called him by his real name.

No. It wasn’t the same thing at all.

I tried not to feel like I’d somehow lost something, because how could I have lost something? I hadn’t lost anything; I was still the same person, wasn’t I? Even if I felt like I’d lost myself, I was clearly still there. I still existed. On top of that, it seemed unbelievably selfish to frame it in terms of “loss” when, in fact, I’d gained a perfect baby – especially when several of my friends were struggling in various ways to become parents. And I’d wanted this, hadn’t I? Becoming a mother had been my choice. So how could I complain?

Another layer to my unease lay in the fact that if I felt like I’d lost some part of identity, then had my mother experienced the same thing when she’d given birth to me? It seemed impossible that she had ever been anything other than what she was, namely my mother; and yet that selfish feeling of impossibility was almost certainly evidence of the part that I had played in who she had become. For a long time I’d thought that I would never grow up to be my mother, because my mother’s life had always seemed so constrained and limited. Now I saw that I was the one who had limited it. 

Maybe saying that becoming a mother was my choice wasn’t quite the right way to put it. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I chose to become a parent, and then society gave me the label “mother” with all of its loaded associations. After all, what is there specifically about being a woman that says that you have to lose yourself completely once you have a kid? Isn’t it possible that if we lived in a world that treated motherhood and fatherhood equally – a world where we called it parental leave instead of maternity leave, a world that was just as accepting of stay-at-home fathers as it was of stay-at-home mothers, a world where women couldn’t expect their wage to decrease by 4% for every child they have – then women wouldn’t feel as if having children was a deeply personal sacrifice?

I mean, of course you have to give some stuff up once you have a child. I’m not saying that your life should stay exactly the same. But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice yourself.

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CANADA: LAND OF MISANDRY? NOT ANYMORE

28 Jul

I think that we can all agree that the main problem with Canadian history is that men are just way too underrepresented. Take our money, for example. I mean, the queen is on all of our coins! What kind of misandry is this? Sure the five dollar bill boasts our old pal Wilfred Laurier, and the ten dollar bill shows everyone’s favourite confederation-loving racist Sir John A. Macdonald, and the fifty dollar bill has séance-holder and dog enthusiast William Lyon Mackenzie King and yeah, fine, the hundred dollar bill is devoted to Nova Scotia’s good ole boy Sir Robert Borden, but I mean, come on. Queen Elizabeth II graces all of our coins and our twenty dollar bill. Every time you open your wallet it’s just ladies ladies everywhere and nary a dick in sight*.

If you’re not seeing the feminist conspiracy that’s clearly at play here, then you must have taken the blue pill and I hope your happy living in your fantasy world where you think women aren’t angling for world domination. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be out here fighting the good fight for all those poor, ignored white men of history.

Thankfully, those of us with even just an ounce of good sense can count ourselves lucky to have Lord and Saviour of Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper on our side. I mean, here’s a guy whose political party is fighting for rights of oppressed white dudes everywhere. After his disappointing failure to ban abortion in our fair country – though fear not, beloved reader, he’s doing his best to make accessing abortions as difficult as possible! – he has now set his sights on a new and very worthy enterprise: getting all the ladies off of our money.

Obviously it would be silly to start by taking the queen off of our money. For one thing, she’ll be dead soon and then it’s kings ahoy for at least the next century. For another, if Harper did that he wouldn’t be invited to any more royal garden parties, and if there is one thing Stephen Harper loves, it’s garden parties. Full of white people. Who speak English. Preferably with a refined accent. He’s also a big fan of those little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

With that in mind, Harper began his de-ladyfying of the Canadian currency back in 2012 by removing the Famous Five and an image of the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award from the fifty dollar bill. The Famous Five, for you lucky few not in the know – how nice it must be to live in ignorance of Canada’s deplorably lady-infested past! – were Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Edwards, the five women foolish enough to ask if the word “persons” in Section 24 of the British North America Act included female persons. Which of course was a trick question because we all know that there’s no such thing as a female person – just male persons and hysterical, irrational women.

Thérèse Casgrain, bless her unreasonable little female heart, came a bit later than the Famous Five and was one of those pesky suffragettes. You know, those women who thought that female-persons (OXYMORON) should be allowed to have a say in who was running the country. As if men weren’t capable of making that decision by themselves! She also went on to do many unfeminine things such as being made an Officer of the Order of Canada and becoming a senator. No wonder so many fatherless teenagers are getting pregnant and shooting innocent white people.

Pierre Trudeau, noted socialist and French-speaking person, created the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award in 1982 as a way of honouring Canadians who deserve recognition for doing things for free (which is the opposite of capitalism). Note that Trudeau and Casgrain are both from Québec – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that fact, but with mention that you can totally anagram “separatism” into “parasites m” (the M is for Murder All The Anglophones). I think it’s pretty clear to everyone here that this award was all some sort of front for the FLQ, who are probably bombing your staunch anglo mailbox as we speak.

Thankfully for all of us true, red-blooded (BUT WHITE-SKINNED, AMIRITE FOLKS?) Canadians, it has recently come to light that Stephen Harper put a stop to all those Thérèse Casgrain shenanigans back in 2010. In lieu of that stinky french commie award, he created a Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award to be awarded instead, with a picture of the prime minister’s banner on it. I MEAN IS THAT CANADIAN OR WHAT. BEAVERS AND MAPLE LEAFS FUCK YEAH. I’M GONNA GO DO A LINE OF TIMBITS TO CELEBRATE.

I would suggest that all of us loyal (white) Canadians should kneel by our bed and offer a prayer of thanks to Jesus (also white) that we live in this wonderful country that works so hard to erase the memory of any and all women who might ever have done anything of note.

Thank you, Stephen Harper. Thank you.

Amen.

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*Not all men have penises and not all women have vaginas, but as far as I know QEII has a very royal vagina and all of the men on Canadian money were happily be-penised.

 

We Asked One Woman (Me) Why Birth Control Is Great And Here Was Her Answer

24 Jul

So today Buzzfeed published a post with the title “We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.” And like, first off, where do they find these women? Are they living under a rock in Arizona where they don’t actually know what Buzzfeed is and don’t understand that their images will be fodder for a million internet feminists/misogynists/what-have-you looking for easy prey? Or are they so secure in their beliefs that they actually just don’t give a fuck? Are they hoping they’ll convince other women to join their YAY BABIES BOO BIRTH CONTROL tribe? I mean, I sincerely hope it’s the latter, but I don’t know. Some days I just don’t know.

Also why are so many of them standing in front of the same white brick wall? Did Buzzfeed recruit them off the street and then take them to the same weird alleyway to photograph them? Do they all work for Buzzfeed? IS THIS A CONSPIRACY? Someone should look into this and get back to me stat. Meanwhile, on with the feminist rants.

So, first up, I’m assuming that what many of them mean by “birth control” is “hormonal birth control,” based on responses like this:

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So, real talk: I actually do have a sincere amount of empathy for these women. Hormonal birth control is not for everyone. I know plenty of women whose bodies just can’t handle artificial hormones, and the range of their reactions to the birth control pill and/or hormonal IUDs and/or shots or patches have ranged from migraines to decreased sex drive to severe mood swings to recurrent panic attacks. NONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE COOL, AND WHAT UP IF HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL IS MAKING YOU FEEL TERRIBLE THEN I FULLY SUPPORT YOU NOT USING IT.

BUT.

BUT.

THERE ARE SO MANY FORMS OF BIRTH CONTROL THAT DO NOT INVOLVE HORMONES.

Like condoms, for one. No, they’re not as effective as hormonal birth control, but they are still PRETTY DAMN EFFECTIVE. If, for whatever reason, the pill et al are not for you, then condoms are an extremely viable alternative. “OH BUT MY DUDE DOESN’T LIKE TO GET IT ON UNLESS HE’S BAREBACK.” That’s cool! I mean, I mostly think it’s kind of a dick move (pun SO intended) for a dude to pull because it puts the onus for contraception almost entirely on the woman, but I get that this is a genuine issue for some couples. The good news is that you still have options – for example, a copper IUD, which is super effective and is totally non-hormonal. Or the sponge, which contains spermicide but no hormones. Or a cervical cap or diaphragm, the latter of which should be used in conjunction with spermicide but the former of which can be used totally chemical-free!

OR (and I know I’m about to get a lot of shit for this) the dude can just pull out. Like, if he is a trusted partner and you both know that he can pull out in time and you’re both STI-free and blah blah blah, this is actually totally an option. If done properly, the rate of success is pretty high. I say this as a person who used this as my primary form of birth control for like three years, and it’s not like I have fertility issues. I got pregnant literally the first time we didn’t use any form of contraception, so it’s not a case of “well sure he pulled out, but maybe you just wouldn’t have conceived anyway.” You guys, my body is a conception machine.

So, like I said, I feel for these women on some level and I support whatever choice they want to make about their body, but also I think they’re spreading gross misinformation about what “birth control” actually is.

But some of these other women? I am digging real deep in the empathy vault in an effort to not just scream WRONG YOU ARE WRONG WHY ARE YOU SO WRONG PLEASE STOP BEING WRONG but you guys, I am having a pretty tough time. To wit:

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WHAT IS ALL WORTH IT. Risking pregnancy every time you get it on? Having more children than you can afford and living in poverty? Struggling to be able to pursue any dreams or goals beyond “have lots of babies?” Never sleeping again? PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IS WORTH IT BECAUSE I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

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BIRTH CONTROL IS NOT A ZERO-SUM GAME. You can use it sometimes, and then not use it when you want to get pregnant. IT’S NOT LIKE YOU TAKE A PILL AND BAM YOU WILL NEVER EVER HAVE A BABY, WHAT THE FUCK DID THEY TEACH YOU IN HEALTH CLASS.

Oh and I am not even touching the whole “my body is a gift to my future husband” thing with a ten foot pole. Except to relate this anecdote from when my now-husband and I were planning our wedding and the priest wanted us to sleep in separate bedrooms in the months leading up to the wedding. The reasoning he gave was this: “I want you to think of your sex as a gift. Now [turning to my husband] have you ever received a gift that someone else had already opened, then wrapped up and then re-gifted? How would you feel about a gift that’s been re-gifted seven or eight times before you finally receive it?”

He may as well have just pointed to me and yelled “WHOOOOOOOOOOORE!”

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That’s awesome! Devoid of any context, I would fully support the message this woman is holding up. Also, her hair is really fucking swag.

BUT HOW IS TAKING BIRTH CONTROL NOT A MINDFUL DECISION AND A WAY OF ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. This actually kind of breaks my brain. Like, the only way of accepting “responsibility” for sex is to get pregnant? THAT IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE MODEL TO WORK WITH.

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I mean, I guess? But like, do you also think that hair growth isn’t a condition that needs to be fixed? Or nudity? Like, you are just never going to alter your body for your own convenience because nature or god or whatever?

I don’t really think of my fertility as a “condition that needs to be fixed” so much as “a reality about my body that I prefer to have control over.” BEING IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN BODY IS SO AWESOME, YOU GUYS. I DON’T GET HOW ANYONE COULD DISAGREE WITH THAT.

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I guess when you think your husband owns your body, then you also believe that he owns all of your unfertilized eggs. So.

(At first I accidentally typed “unfertilized effs” and actually I’m pretty sure that’s what my body is full of)

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I LITERALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS.

YES. YOU CAN CHOOSE NOT TO USE BIRTH CONTROL AND STILL BE A FEMINIST.

CONGRATULATIONS.

NOW LET’S ALLOW OTHER WOMEN TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES.

FEMINISM, Y’ALL

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I know that what she actually means is that she has enough self-control not to be a slutty slut who has hot sex whenever she feels like it. Which is stupid and nonsensical because ALL women have that control should they wish to exercise it – it’s not like those of us getting it on are doing so because we are slaves to our own desires. But I’d rather think that what she’s saying is that she has total control over her own body and can stop eggs from being fertilized or whatever using her intense MIND POWERS.

She also never farts because CONTROL.

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… I actually think that she just said that birth control makes men feel like they can get away with rape.

I just.

I can’t.

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I also fully don’t understand this one. WHAT SYMPTOMS. WHAT PROBLEM.

MY PROBLEM IS THAT MY OVARIES ARE FULL OF EGGS AND MY BODY WANTS TO MAKE BABIES ANY TIME IT SENSES A SPERMAL INTRUDER AND I DON’T WANT ANOTHER KID RIGHT NOW. SO YEAH, CONTRACEPTION ACTUALLY DOES TREAT THE PROBLEM.enhanced-buzz-14348-1406076618-8

Hey man. You do sex your way, I’ll do it mine. If sex was meant ONLY to create life then god wouldn’t have invented the multiple orgasm, just saying. Or gay people, for that matter.

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Real talk: they’re both. Take it from someone who’s been there, done that. Kids are awesome and magical, but they will get all up in your shit and you will never have a moment to yourself. I love my kid and all, but when you’re considering what to get me for my birthday just know that I’d rather not, at this moment, have another creature in this house who will look me full in the face, grinning broadly while doing exactly what I told him not to do, just fucking WAITING to see my reaction. One of those gifts is enough for now.

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Arguably cooler, but also a bajillion times harder to rear and exponentially more expensive.

Call me next time your pet gerbil has a meltdown in the candy aisle because you won’t buy him the chocolate he wants and oh my god you need to get your grocery shopping done but everyone is staring at you and whispering and you know you should just leave but then you won’t be able to eat for a week.

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I actually agree that no one is ever really ready for kids. Nothing in this world can prepare you for what it’s like to go weeks without sleep and spend your days being screamed at by a tiny tyrant. By the same token, nothing can prepare you for the super intense love you will feel for your kid. It’s kind of a two-sided coin.

But legit that doesn’t mean that people who don’t want to have kids are wrong or misguided or just don’t understand how wonderful babies are. Some people don’t want to have kids and that’s their choice, end of story. Go read the fucking Handmaid’s Tale or something and then we can talk about what it would be like to live in a world where women have no bodily autonomy.

ANYWAY.

Everyone has a choice and gets to make their own choice and that’s rad. I’m glad that these women have all considered their options and decided what makes the most sense for their bodies. And I guess the argument could be made that they’re not trying to convince other women that they shouldn’t use birth control either – I mean, they’re just saying what works for them, right? But I think that when you photograph yourself holding up a giant white sign explaining why you don’t use contraception, then it definitely seems like you’re trying to change the opinion of women who DO put up the no-baby shield. And that’s a pretty shitty, unfeminist thing to do.

Also I really want to organize a basic sex ed class for all of these women and explain to them how their body works and what contraception ACTUALLY means because I am sincerely sad that a lot of this seems to be a grey area for them. WOMEN EVERYWHERE: YOU SHOULD EDUCATE YOURSELVES ABOUT YOUR RAD BODIES. IT CAN ONLY LEAD TO MORE HAPPINESS.

Ask A Feminist: Is BDSM Inherently Misogynist?

15 Jul

Q: What is your opinion on BDSM? Obviously people should be free do to whatever they want in the privacy of their bedrooms… but don’t you get suspicious when guys nonchalantly admits to enjoy getting off at the thought of humiliating and/or beating  a woman? Doesn’t it sound like they’re reinforcing negative stereotypes that are already omnipresent in our society, only in this case they can get away with it because it’s – supposedly – a consensual fantasy? Is it just a fantasy, after all? Do fantasies happen in a vacuum? Aren’t there going to be ramifications? Where do they come from in the first place? We can criticize women’s portrayal in mainstream media, but we can’t do the same with BDSM? Why? As for female submissives… isn’t consenting to the re-enactment of abusive and exploitative scenarios a bit self-destructive? Or am I taking away women’s agency by pointing this out?

A: First of all, a sexy disclaimer: I’m not an expert on BDSM. I’ve engaged in some fairly light BDSM stuff before, but definitely not enough to make me feel like I am a Noted Authority on this subject. But I definitely have Thoughts and Feelings on feminism and BDSM, and naturally I’m going to share them with you.

First of all, no, I don’t think that fantasies exist in a vacuum. I think that people’s sexual proclivities and fantasies are definitely influenced by our society in one way or another. I know for a fact that there are men who are into humiliating and degrading women sexually because they flat out think that’s what women deserve. BUT. I don’t think that dudes who are turned on by dominating women must, by default, be misogynists; in the same vein, I don’t think that women who are interested in being submissive in the bedroom are self-hating anti-feminists. I think that BDSM can for sure be a way of exploring the power dynamics between men and women, but I don’t think that the fact that a man is sexually dominant necessarily means that he views women as inferior.

I once had a partner who was pretty into being dominant in the bedroom. Interestingly, I think this actually caused him more moral quandaries than it did me – I was totally into it, but I remember that at one point he asked me, “How do you ethically degrade a feminist?” The answer is, of course, “With her enthusiastic consent.” If she’s into it, and she wants you to do it, then it’s not actually “degrading,” even if an outside observer might call it that. It’s just a way of interacting that makes you both incredibly hot under the collar, and that’s pretty awesome.

Personally, I find that being sexually submissive has a lot of positive things going for it. When I’m in a submissive sexual role, I don’t have to make any decisions, which is actually pretty relaxing because I often feel like I have to make All The Decisions For Everyone in my everyday life. The times that I’ve slept with dudes who are all, “ok, first I want you to go down on me, and then I’m going to fuck you and make you come, and then I’m going to come on your face,” I’ve been like, great! Now I don’t have to worry about what’s coming next or whether he’s enjoying what I’m doing or whatever. It’s basically like a day at the spa (with a complimentary facial) (that was a really bad joke) (sorry).

Another thing that I like about being submissive in the bedroom is how safe it makes me feel. I know, that sounds like a total contradiction, but it’s true. Being submissive to a dude makes me feel safe because it gives me the realization that I trust this guy so much that I will let him be in control. Usually I’m a super uptight control freak, so the fact that there have been people with whom I’ve felt comfortable enough to totally hand over the reigns is huge. It means that I trust this person enough to never, ever hurt me and to always respect me if I show the slightest sign of not wanting to do something. And dang, feeling that safe with someone gives me a giant boner.

I’ve definitely had my moments of wondering if enjoying being tied up and spanked is very feminist of me, but I guess I’ve come to realize that the most feminist thing I can do is not police my own sexuality or the sexuality of other women. And really, it’s not as if me denying this submissive fetish will benefit anyone; it’s not going to go away if I pretend that it doesn’t exist, and refusing to act on it just means that I’ll have less fun in the bedroom. If I want to be sex-positive (and I do!) then I have to be on board with all kinds of different ways of expressing of sexuality, even if some of them don’t seem very quote-unquote feminist.

I also think it says a lot about our culture that when we talk about BDSM and feminism, we pretty much always mean BDSM within a cis-het relationship, usually referring to a power dynamic where the man is dominant and the woman is submissive. No one ever asks if BDSM between two (or more!) women is feminist, and dominant women aren’t often discussed except in the OHHHHH SCARY SHE’S A DOMINATRIX kinda way. So, as a friend recently pointed out to me, that right there shows you that it’s not so much BDSM that’s problematic, but the way that we assign and act out gender roles. And, again, that’s not to say that men who are dominant are never misogynists, just that one doesn’t necessarily have to equal the other.

I guess that the bottom line is that as long as there’s enthusiastic consent from all partners involved, then any sex can be considered “feminist.” Because if there’s one thing the patriarchy hates, it’s women who own their own sexuality. So I think we should embrace all forms of (consensual) sexual exploration, because in this case I think that’s the most feminist thing we can possibly do.

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