Monday, September 26, 2016

Being Married

So, VOMD and I have been married for precisely 30 days, and I have to say that we are officially marriage experts who have it ALL figured out...

Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration.

There is this myth that the media shows us that marriage is the happily ever after, the end of the line, the happy ending, the conclusion. But once you get married you quickly begin to realize that marriage is just the beginning of a whole new story that comes with its own trials and tribulations. VOMD and I are working to become better partners, more supportive of one another, more open to each other's views and opinions, and hopes and dreams. But being married didn't magically make us experts.

So, here are some lessons that I've learned since getting married.

1. Things that you (or your partner) did to one another before you were married, and things that you said will be excused by the statement "yeah, but we weren't married yet back then". This can be very frustrating on the receiving end.

2. You will not suddenly become comfortable with your partner's bodily functions, but they may feel like you should be and leave the door open while pooping in the morning or suggest that you pee while they brush their teeth.

3. You will not stop fighting, but half way through a fight it will not be uncommon to start thinking to yourself why the hell are we fighting? this is so stupid...I should just say sorry....we're married after all.. That being said, thinking that and actually saying it and ending the fight are two different stories.

4. The things that you got as wedding gifts may become sacred objects...and putting those nice shiny forks and knives in the dishwasher, or leaving the coffee grinds in the coffee pot become taboo.

5. Conversations about the future stop being magical and become pragmatic - you can no longer casually suggest that you may want to live on the other side of the world for a year without expecting a long and drawn out discussion of the implications and practicability of that proposition.

6. Really mundane things like watching your partner cook, clean or cuddle your animal friends become incredibly sexy in a way they never were before. Perhaps this is because your biological clock is ticking and you link these activities with their potential ability to be a good parent...

7. EVERYONE will begin asking you when you're going to have babies. Even if you want babies, like VOMD and I, it can become incredibly frustrating.

Altogether, being married has so far been a great experience. I love VOMD more with every day, and in totally new and unexpected ways. I am learning to love the things about him that I would have liked to change before we got married - like his insistence on taking his pants off in the hallway, or his unwillingness to put the toilet seat down because, in his words "it's not my responsibility to make sure you don't fall in the toilet when you get up to pee in the middle of the night"!

Happy Monday,


Monday, September 19, 2016

Why I don't mind that my husband is not a feminist

The problem with being a feminist is that everyone seems to have an opinion about what being a feminist entails. When a contemporary feminist icon like Nikki Minaj tries to distances herself from feminism, while maintaining that she is a “woman who wants other women to be bosses and to be strong and to be go-getters,” feminism becomes murky water indeed.  Groups like Women Against Men claiming that feminism is a hate group, an idea that unfortunately permeates much of society, doesn’t help either.

An article in the Huff last year, by Hannah McAtenmey, claims “There is no sitting on the fence. You are either a feminist or sexist.” This is a such an unfortunate perspective because it potentially alienates a large proportion of people, who will likely never call themselves feminists, yet are strong advocates for the rights of women. I’m no coward, but I do believe that you can be a feminist in some circles and an advocate of equality in others. And I also believe that being a non-feminist does not make you a sexist. There are very legitimate reasons to take issue with feminism - particularly the white middle class feminism for which people like McAtenmey advocate.

When I first met my husband we had some very complicated discussions about the concept of feminism. He asked me “if it really is about equality of the sexes, why is is called feminism?” His question would have been a very good one, were we not living  in a society that is still struggling to overcome the historical baggage of female subjugation, and were we not living in a society where men and women are still so far from being equal. Recently he mentioned to me that he learned that the wage gap between men and women is a startling 27%. This is not so startling to a woman in academia, who is constantly struggling for legitimacy among her largely male colleagues, but being a man who has worked in the trades for most of his life, where most people start off with the same wage, and female applicants are uncommon, women and men making different rates for the same work never crossed his mind. Now he is heading into a degree in computer game development, and he is for the first time being faced with questions of inequity and inequality in the workplace and in academics. This is how feminists are made. But it is very unlikely that my husband will ever call himself a feminist. Like Minaj says, some words just “box you in”, and try as I might, I will probably never convince my husband to embrace the term. But the concepts, those are easy to grasp once you do some research, and once you give the facts some genuine thought.  

I do not wish to distance myself from feminism, and in fact will continue to proudly associate myself with a movement that seeks equality for all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and class. But as an intersectional feminist I have begun to recognize that the term feminism may also carry with it a lot of cultural baggage from the Western World, and there are many strong female writers from across the globe who decline to associate themselves with feminism largely because they feel the term erases their particular struggles.  

For example, Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta says: “I will not be called a feminist...because it is European. It is as simple as that… I do believe in the African type of feminism. They call is womanism…” What Emecheta is trying to explain is that Western Europeans and North Americans do not share the same experiences of women from Africa. Our experiences are not universal, so the words that we use to describe our struggles may not be universal either.

As Western feminists we can have a tendency to think our values are universal. We can get bogged down in our own experience of the world. Whether we do this by claiming that any person who is not a feminist is a sexist, or by insisting that women in Africa care about the same struggles as us, we are creating a situation that alienates our potential allies.

Does it weaken the movement that a large proportion of the ‘feministic’ population will likely never call themselves feminists? I don’t think so. Whether you call yourself a feminist or not, if you believe that women should be raised up in our society, and that there are certain accommodations that women deserve based on their sex in order to level the playing field of business, academics, politics etc. then your position is a feminist one. I don’t mind that my husband isn’t a feminist, because I recognize that my understanding of feminism is not universal.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Why are you getting your PhD (or: What will you do with a PhD in the Liberal Arts?)

I get asked this question almost every time I tell someone that I am getting my PhD. Honestly, it even happens when I talk to other people who are on their way towards their PhD, or who have one already. Academia is becoming increasingly precarious, with a large proportion of people with PhD working outside of the University or travelling over seas to teach or do research in the Middle East or Europe.

I don't want to live in another country. And I really don't want to do policy work or work for a think tank. So, what the hell am I getting a PhD for?

There are very few things that one can "do" with a doctorate in my field. My PhD work will focus on issues of gender and the development and reinforcement of gender norms through popular culture and media - particularly children's media. It will question why, for some reason, people always assume that Blue from Blue's Clues is a boy (even through it's a female dog, y'all), and how it is that children come to recognize themselves and others as male or female based on the clothing they wear, the length of their hair, and the activities in which they participate.

 I don't see the task of pursuing a PhD as being about engrossing myself in an ivory tower-like atmosphere. I actually hate the ivory tower metaphor. It implies that all academics are disconnected from the practical aspects of life. The majority of academics I have met are deeply invested in real world problems and are working their asses off to come up with solutions. My own research is also about the real world. There is also a myth circulating that people who pursue higher education are unprepared for "real life", but that is an absolute absurdity. My friends getting their PhDs come from so many backgrounds. Some are parents; some are retired people seeking new challenges; some are refugees seeking a better life; most have worked and continue to work in the "real world"; most have a vested interest in finding solutions to problems that impact all of us because their lived experiences inform their research.

So, I plan to spend the next 4-6 years of my life immersing myself in gender and cultural theory, and even if I don't come out of this degree with epic career prospects, I will have spent those 4-6 years doing something that I love, which is more than I can say for the many, many people I know who are miserable at their jobs. I will do research that matters to me, I will learn, I will soul-search. I will grow. Or I guess I might fail.

Could I do this type of research, learning, and soul-searching without going to university? Maybe. But doing this work in a university setting provides me with a support system and a relatively stable (if somewhat low) level of income on which I can rely. Will it be a waste of time? Perhaps, by some people's standards. But for me, hell no. Even if I fail. This is going to be such a fun ride.

Happy Monday!


Monday, July 25, 2016

Getting married!

When I first met VOMD he told me that he would never get married. If he did, it would not be with a ceremony and signing papers and matching wedding bands. I liked the idea of marriage; I'm not too hot on the religious aspects, but the idea of binding yourself to someone in front of your friends and families, and signing your name next to theirs in a big book full of other people who also bound themselves to their partners seemed romantic.

Here we are a little more than 2 years later and we are 32 days out from our wedding day with the ceremony and the signing papers, and guess what...we even have matching wedding bands. And I don't think that either of us could imagine it any other way.

All that said, though, there is a part of me who has been thinking about what marriage means, and then this other part of me is worrying that I am thinking too much about what marriage means. Because, really, who gives a shit what marriage means to anyone else? To me it means committing to spend the rest of my life with the most fun, kind, passionate and wonderful man I have ever met

But it does matter what it means to everyone else. An amazing, intelligent and insightful friend told me this weekend that she, while she is married, refuses to be addressed as Mrs. I had never considered the significance of the concept of Mrs. She explained what the concept of Mrs. implies. You are a Miss. You are unmarried, and potentially threatening to married women as a potential target for some philandering man. As a Miss you belong to your parents. As a Mrs. you belong to your husband.

Boys and men are all Mister, because they belong to themselves.

Connected to this disturbing realization is my discomfort with the more traditional aspects of the wedding ceremony we are about to take part in. My father will walk me down the aisle and give me away. VOMD will receive me. The implication of my beautiful engagement ring, and the wedding band which matches is, is that it demonstrates that I am soon to belong to him. I wear it on a specific finger so that others can see that I am not available for courtship. Did you know that the Romans used wedding rings to denote ownership? I guess we still sort of do that.

More than this, though, is the realization that to our more traditional family members marriage means that we are about to be bound in "holy"matrimony, and that I will be bound to VOMD to honor and obey him until one of us dies. To them, we will no longer be living in sin. To them, we will be allowed to have children, because it will finally be acceptable for us to have sex.

To us, it means we get to share our commitment to each other with one another and our loved ones.

But it comes with lots of baggage.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Activism and Academia

Before I wrapped up my classes for the semester I had a conversation with one of my students who was considering leaving university. He explained that he felt disenchanted by the academic process, and would rather direct his energies towards activism and direct political action.

This is a struggle for many social-justice motivated people who like myself have found themselves in the academic world.

This year has so far been a tumultuous one for the global LGBTQ+ community. The tragedy which took place in Orlando struck a chord with those of us who identify with the struggle for gender and sexual identity in a world that often rejects those who do not easily conform to heteronormative male/female societal standards. And it has struck a chord with me as someone who has begun to build a career for myself by reflecting on and theorizing about the gender binary and its implications for trans and queer people. Last week I defendes my thesis and I had to stand up in front of my committee and my colleagues to speak about something that seems never to have been more pressing than it is right now - the tragedy and violence that exists within exclusionary spaces.

The horror of the situation, beyond the absolute depravity of the monster who committed then mass murders in Orlando on Sunday, is that as a culture we are continuously allowing this type of atrocity to take place. When we silence queer and trans voices on our university campuses, when we ignore requests from queer and trans students for safe and accessible spaces, we are letting these atrocities happen.

This week I am overjoyed that my MA is finally over, but I am horrified that my success this year is largely a result of the pain and misery of so many people.

I don't know how to reconcile the excitement I feel about my future in academics with my agreement with my past student whose frustration with the ineffectuality of academics, which is reinforced every time I read the news, and every time I read and reread my now complete thesis.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Happies: April 11th 2016

Today is a good day. I've finally completed the first draft of my thesis (minus my conclusion)! I'm basically doing back flips here!

Also, VOMD and I found an adorable cat who is the sweetest, most cuddly dude we've ever met (notwithstanding our current cuddly buddies, of course). We've taken him to the vet and he is not neutered or chipped. So, if nobody calls or emails us to claim him within the next week, he's ours for keeps.

Taking in another furry friend is something I didn't expect to do so soon after losing Toojoh. But, this guy showed up at our doorstep - actually, at our kitchen window - and VOMD immediately fell in love. He's a crazy cat lady at heart.

George and Lego are not too happy to have a new dude in the house. His un-neutered maleness is a lot to handle, I guess. He's in my office for now and has only come out twice. (Both times he's marked.)

If he is not claimed in the next week we are going to take him to get neutered, which should stop the marking behaviour and make the other cats less crazy. Also, he seems like the kind of cat who will likely run outside whenever he has the chance... so neutering it is.

This week I am working on being more positive, more active, and more open.

So far, so good.

Happy Monday!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The [imaginary] hierarchy of injustice

I am nearing the end of my MA thesis, and beginning to daydream about my PhD, which will likely focus on cultural studies rather than political science. I hope to look at the way media produces and reproduces masculinities. If I mention this to a certain type of person they immediately go on that classic tirade anyone interested in gender or animal issues has heard far too many times before. There are people dying in the world; what about homeless people?; so what if people can't access washrooms?; so what if children are placed into narrow categories; there are worse things in the world than having to be a girl or a boy. 

The same sort of rant tends to come our of the mouths of people who don't want our tax dollars directed towards refugees because we should take care of Canada first. Of course this is usually the same person who refuses to acknowledge their settler privilege, and that they owe their lives to the bloodshed of indigenous peoples.

As people interested in social justice we've probably even considered these things ourselves. I know I have. Last Friday night, during a long and fruitful conversation with VOMD, I admitted that sometimes I feel like all the work I'm putting into my thesis is pointless, and even my social activism, and my work for animals, are just bandaid solutions to a problem of inequity and systemic injustice that is so deep it will take a revolution to fix (uh oh, my communist is showing!). I worried that I should be focusing on something more immediate. I considered leaving the education system altogether to pursue activist work, and to remove myself from a system that has been largely co-opted by capitalist ideals. I ask myself those same questions that the conservative on a tirade asked "What about the homeless? What about people dying?"

We tend to create this hierarchy of injustice in our society... homelessness comes before refugees; sexism comes before bigenderism; access to housing comes before access to washrooms, and so on and so forth. But why can't we just see that all injustice is bad and that as individuals we must choose where to direct our attentions to maximize our effectiveness as scholars and as activists? Yes, I care that many people in Canada are homeless, and yes I care that people on First Nation reserves do not have proper water, and access to healthcare, and adequate housing, and yes I care deeply that sex-slavery still exists all over the world and that the environment is degrading by the hour and that women still get paid less than men and that Jian Ghomeshi won his court case and that children are body shamed in grade school....

But for now, I am going to finish my thesis. I am going to argue that there is a problem with the strict adherence to a binary gender system that demands individuals fit within narrow categories of what it means to be a man and a woman. I am going to argue that the abuse and violence that takes place within public washrooms against non-binary and trans individuals must be addressed immediately, and in the right way, to ensure meaningful and consistent participation of all people in the public sphere, and especially in high education in Canada. And I am going to recognize my place of privilege as a cisgendered white woman. And in my private life I will fight for non-human rights and I will rescue animals and I will continue to eat and live vegan.

And I will keep caring about all the other injustices in the world. But I am just one person. And you are just one person too. So, don't let someone tell you that your work doesn't matter because there may be something more pressing you could be addressing. Commit your heart and your mind and your life to your work. Do something.

Happy Wednesday,