Tag Archives: work

Seven Reasons You Should Thank A Feminist Today

4 Jul

If there is one thing in this world that makes me want to chew my own face off, it’s women who think that feminism has ruined their lives.

You know the type – women who want to live in some kind of souped up 1950s fantasy world where they get married right out of high school and their husband makes enough to support their family on just his income and they think the moral decline of society has something to do with the fact that women no longer wear crinolines and genteel white gloves and cute little hats. Never mind that, you know, lots and lots of families in the 1950s weren’t able to live off of a single income; trust me when I say that feminism did not invent the working mother. Leaving that little scrap of truth aside, I guess I can see what some women find appealing about this model. They want to live in a world where there were fewer expectations put on women – and lord knows that in this day and age, when women often work full time jobs outside of the home and yet are still expected to do the majority of the housework and childcare, the idea that there was a time when you only needed to be pretty and fertile might seem downright relaxing. I guess.

Of course, many women were miserable back then, and the feminine mystique and blah blah blah. I’m not going to get into all that Betty Friedan second wave fun here, but feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me. Life for women back then was like a fancy chocolate with some gross shit inside – really pretty to look at, but best left in the box so that some other sucker who HASN’T read the chocolate map gets tricked into eating it. Just kidding. No one should eat that chocolate – it’s a garbage chocolate and should be treated as such.

All that being said, the thing that REALLY makes me howl with exasperation over this time-travel housewife fetishization is that the vast, vast majority of the women who say that they hate feminism seem to be pretty damn happy to reap the benefits of it. So either they’re totally unaware of what feminism is, what it’s done, and how history works, or else they’re just total hypocrite jerks.

If it’s the latter:

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But assuming that for some people it’s the former, here’s a short and totally not exhaustive list of things that they can do because of feminism.

1. Vote

Thanks to those lovely suffragettes, women have the legal right to help decide who runs your country. This means women get an actual say in legislation that directly impacts them and their daily life. THAT IS A REALLY AWESOME THING, regardless of whether or not you, personally, exercise your right to vote.

And just a heads up, I will jump-kick anyone who says that women were “given” the right to vote. No. Women were not given anything. They fought, endured violence, imprisonment and forced-feedings, and sometimes even died for the right to vote. So fuck you to anyone who wants to say otherwise.

Police arresting British suffragette Emmeline Pankurst

Police arresting British suffragette Emmeline Pankurst

2. Own property

Being able to own property is awesome. Being able to inherit property is also awesome. Know why? Because it totally helps you avoid a Sense and Sensibility type situation when you are your husband’s second wife and he totally wants to will everything to you and your daughters, BUT HE LEGALLY CANNOT. And then you have to go live in a cottage and the family that owns the cottage is the most annoying family in the world and then also Willoughby comes along and ruins everything even further. So.

The fact that women can now legally own property straight up means that the government can’t just walk in, take your house away, and give it to a dude (or keep it for themselves). The fact that women can now legally inherit property means that if a you are living in a house that a manly man owns and he wants to give you said house when he dies because he thinks you’re rad and maybe also you have nowhere else to live, he can TOTALLY DO THAT. This is seriously a huge thing and I can’t understand how any woman could be like, “huh, I wish I lived in a time when I could be turned out of my house because my presence has become inconvenient to a dude.”

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3. Have Reproductive Rights

Do you like being able to have any kind of control over your baby-making parts beyond yelling “MAKE SURE YOU PULL OUT IN TIME” when a dude starts making his o-face? Great, then you can thank feminism. Feminists of many stripes have fought long and hard to make sure that women have access to birth control, reproductive healthcare and safe and easy abortion. So unless you’re, like, part of the Quiverfull movement or else a staunch Catholic, you can high five feminism for the fact that you can totally get it on without getting knocked up.

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4. Wear Pants

Pants are fucking awesome. And let’s not forget about pants’ cute little cousin, shorts. I’m really glad that I can wear pants, because they’re super warm in the winter and they allow me to sit in all kinds of unladylike positions without flashing my junk at everyone. Yay pants! Thank you, feminism, for my pants. I am wearing pants right now – charcoal skinny jeans, to be specific – and I’m just going to have a little moment of silence to express my gratitude for these pants.

One time, back in ye olden days (the 1960s), my grandmother’s boss wouldn’t let any of his female employees wear pants. And my grandmother, bless her, was like, fuck this noise I want to wear some goddamn pants to work. So she took her boss to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and totally won the right to wear pants to work. So if you ever have those days when you just don’t want to wear a skirt, you can totally thank feminism (AND MY GRANDMA) for the fact that you can put on a pair of pants and strut yourself to work.

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5. Get An Education

Remember when we were growing up and our parents were all, “You can be whatever you want when you grow up!”? Well, that’s because of women who braved insults and abuse and alienation and all kinds of other shitty shit in order to be able to go to medical school or law school or like astronaut school or whatever. Women literally sat there in those classrooms and let their classmates and professors treat them like complete dirt in order to get a higher education. And that paved the way for women today being able to pursue any postsecondary studies they want to.

There are still so many girls on this planet who don’t have access to even a grade-school level education. Don’t forget that in some countries girls are threatened with violence or death for attempting to go to school. Stop taking your own education for granted and recognize the fact that thanks, in part, to feminism, you were able to go to, you know, walk into school without worrying about getting shot because you’re a girl.

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6. Work Outside The Home and Be Financially Independent

Whether or not you love your job, the fact that we are able to be respected members of the work force is so fucking important. Even if you’re the world’s happiest stay-at-home mom (and ain’t nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home mom), you should be grateful that, if need be, you could go out and get a job and make your own money. While, as noted above, women working outside the home is nothing new, the fact that they can do that AND be financially independent is. Ladies, you can make your own money and then keep it and choose what you spend it on. I mean, yes, this ties in with the whole idea of women being able to own things, but it’s so damn important it deserves its own entry.

Women need to have the ability to support themselves and their own families – whether they exercise that ability or not. Otherwise, we’re totally dependent on men for, well, everything. If your husband dies or leaves you or it becomes necessary for you to leave, then what the fuck are you going to do if you can’t get a job? So even if you’re not currently financially independent, the fact that you could be is really fucking huge.

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7. Be A Person

You know what’s awesome? Being a full-fledged person in the eyes of the law. I really, really love not being a man’s property. I love having agency. I love being able to make my own decisions. I love that I live in a world where it’s no longer completely 100% legal for a man to rape his wife. Being a person is so fucking rad. And yeah, if you’re a woman, you can fucking thank feminism for the fact that you are legally a person.

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The bottom line is:

I don’t give a fuck if you call yourself a feminist. I mean, you totally should, because feminism is awesome and patriarchy sucks, but you get to make your own choices about how you label yourself. However, I give all the fucks if you think that feminism is useless, or has never accomplished anything or, worse, is somehow responsible for all of your life problems. Because if you value any of the things mentioned above (and, spoiler alert, you should), then you can just give feminism a big old high five. Whether or not you’re a feminist is your own business, but for god’s sake at least acknowledge that you owe a debt of gratitude to the movement for so many of the rights and freedoms that you currently enjoy.

FEMINISM – FUCK YEAH

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Goodbye, Old Store

31 Oct

I woke up this morning and logged into Facebook, thinking that I would take a few minutes before work to check and make sure that all of my friends had survived Superstorm Sandy. Instead, I was distracted by the news that the Roots store on Queen West had burned down overnight.

People in neighbouring buildings felt an explosion around 12:30 am, and the force of the blast broke the front windows of the store and forced the back door open. Roots merchandise spilled out onto the streets and, according to witnesses, there were looters grabbing whatever they could get, in spite of the flames pouring out of the second storey windows. Sandy’s winds meant that the fire fighters (over 80 of them) had a hard time controlling the blaze, but by the early hours of the morning they had managed to put the fire out and save the adjacent buildings. Unfortunately, this was all that was left of 369 Queen West:

(c) Torontoist, Ink Truck Media

This Roots store was the site of my first job in Toronto. I’d worked for Roots in Halifax, and when we moved here they offered to transfer me to local store. This Queen street location (there had previously been another one a block down the street) opened not long after I arrived in the city; I loved the Queen West neighbourhood, lived only a short subway ride away, and thought working at a brand new store would be exciting. It seemed like a perfect fit.

I was there to help set up the store, piling sweatshirts on tables and artfully arranging leather bags on shelves that smelled of fresh wood. I was there day they opened, too, a sunny but cold day in the spring of 2007. I worked there for over a year, until, in the summer of 2008, I transferred to the Rosedale store so that I could also work at the Roots Yoga Studio. I’ve been back to visit the old store once or twice, but honestly I haven’t thought about it that much. All day today, though, I’ve been using my spare moments to collect and sift through memories of my time there. It’s almost as if I used to rely on the building itself to hold onto all the things that happened, but now that it’s gone I have to be the one to safeguard my own experiences.

I thought about my old co-workers – there was Kari, the manager and the person I worked with most often, who kept us all entertained and worked her ass off to make sure that things ran smoothly. Elise, an art school student who took amazing photographs. Georgea, the stand-up comedian who taught me how to draw unicorns (the first time I tried I put the horn at the end of the nose, and she explained that it went between the eyes – when I groaned about how stupid I was, she said, well, it’s not really fair because I have a unicorn at home). Lindsay, the smarty-pants U of T student who is now doing her MA in Cinema Studies.

There was Rachel, who became one of my closest friends and played the cello at my wedding. Adam, our token straight male and the dude who explained the “drink and dance” diet to me (hit: it involves drinking a lot of beer and then dancing a lot, and apparently results in losing weight). Sasha, who is now a superstar makeup artist. Alexei, the high school student who had his first real hangover on my watch (he swore that he would never drink again, but pictures on his Facebook prove that he’s a liar). Emily, who was only 16 and was like everyone’s little sister, and now inspires me with her feminist rhetoric and general bad-assery.

I remembered how we used to make candy store runs when summer afternoons dragged on too long, running a block west to Tutti Frutti and returning with giant bags of various gelatine-based sweets for everyone to share. The rickety stairs leading down into the horror movie of a basement. The funny pictures and signs we put up in the staff areas, some of which were still there long after the people who made them had moved on to new jobs:

I remembered staff outings and movie dates, pot lucks and parties. The time we all went to the Ex together and Kari and I ate a million Tiny Tom donuts. The time we went to watch the fireworks down at the Princes Gates and sat in the grass trying to stealthily drink our beer. How we used to hang out in the alley behind the store, sometimes with staff from the Silver Snail next door, soaking up some sunshine on our breaks.

I remembered the time a pipe burst in the basement bathroom, covering the floor with inch-thick black sludge. We had to call a plumber, a little old Asian man who explained that what looked like mud and mulched leaves was actually hundred-year-old poop that had been sitting in the pipe for a century or more. When Kari and I yelled “EW!“, the plumber exclaimed, “No, no, that’s my gold! That’s how I make my money!

I remembered the tiny baby tree that grew through the crack in the wall of the staff room. I remembered the giant centipedes that lived in the basement, terrifying creatures who liked to hide under the boxes we stored down there (RIP giant centipedes).  I thought about how we used to hang bells inside the drawers where we kept the leather bags in an attempt to prevent shoplifting.

I remembered doing good-cop-bad-cop interviews when we were hiring new staff (one potential employee asked to use our microwave at the end of the interview – that’s weird, right?).

I remembered eating a thousand Swiss Chalet meals with Kari, who swore that she would have her wedding dinner there.

I remembered the time Elise got a giant tattoo of geese (or was it ducks?) on her side. The time Emily’s hair turned pink and she had to make an emergency appointment to fix it. The time the owner of the building wanted to sell it and hired a building inspector who showed me the knob and tube wiring in the basement. The day there was a giant snowstorm and we took Kari to see the Nutcracker ballet and Matt fell asleep.

I remembered the time Samantha Bee came into our store, and Kari and I tried SO HARD to be funny but she didn’t even laugh once. When Audra came in, before we were even really friends, and I was like, hey, I think I know you from the internet, and then sold her a red purse. I thought about the many times Emily broke up with (and inevitably got back together with) her boyfriend, each instance a mini drama requiring ice cream and an in-depth analysis of their relationship.

What happens when a building is destroyed or torn down or otherwise ceases to be? What occupies the space where it used to exist, other than open air and the occasional bird passing through? It’s strange to look at that giant hole two storeys in the air and think about how that used to be a place where people lived. A place where they slept, and cooked, and laughed, and made love, and cried, and did all the other little things that make up our lives. What happens to all of those experiences once their physical remainders, all the scuff marks and scratched paint and cracked plaster, literally go up in smoke?

I’ve been wondering why this fire has affected me so much. Am I going to get this nostalgic over every former workplace? I mean, yeah, I’m great at being nostalgic, but this seemed a bit much, even for me. Then I realized that my time at that store has had a huge impact on the shape my life in Toronto has taken. The people I worked with helped me learn to navigate the city, and introduced me to places and events that I might not have discovered on my own. Some of the friends I made there are still a part of my life, and have certainly helped influence choices that I’ve made. Perhaps most importantly of all, working at this store indirectly lead to me becoming a yoga teacher. See, the Roots Yoga Studio offers free classes to all of its employees. If I hadn’t been able to take free classes, I doubt that I would have started a regular practice; knowing me, I would have given up early on due to laziness or being a cheapskate. But the fact that they were free, and that I’d shaped my work schedule around the classes I took, meant that I didn’t have much of an excuse to quit. So I persevered, and I grew to love yoga and, well, here I am.

I haven’t been in the Queen West store in years. Mostly I’m just not hip enough to spend much time in that part of town anymore, and when I am there I prefer to go to stores that I can’t find anywhere else in the city. I haven’t seen many of my former coworkers in a long time either; after we stopped working together, our paths diverged, and now most of us are in totally different places in our lives. We keep up with each other on Facebook, and promise to get together soon, but never do.

I miss them, though. And I know I’ll miss the store, too. Just not the centipedes.