Friday, January 27, 2017

Ableism and virtual activism

For the last three weeks I have spent most of my time in front of the computer, curled up on the couch or in bed with a stack of dirty tissues on one side, and a glass of water on the other. Because of my sickness I have not been able to take to the streets with my fellow feminists and water protectors, and it has given me a strange sense of impostor syndrome that I normally only feel in the academic world.

But then I read this article about the disability march - a group of people from all over the continent and the world, despite physical or mental limitations, engage in the political practices of the majority from their homes.

I am critical of social media for many reasons - but for its capacity to allow people who can otherwise not get involved in politics to raise their voices, it is invaluable. (that said, access to the internet and social media is limited based on economics, geography, etc., but that is a conversation, perhaps, for another day).

There are many reasons that someone may not be able to physically be present at polling stations, marches, rallies, and protests. I keep hearing from my politically active friends: "shut up and vote"; "get off your ass and do something"; "so, where were you on the 21st?!" and so forth. This ableist attitude is harmful to a movement that seeks to overcome the American administration headed by President Cheeto Birdbrain who thinks it is appropriate to mock a disabled reporter (you all remember this, don't you?!)

Today there is a rally against Line 10 here in Hamilton - our Canadian PM is approving the destruction of indigenous land, and threatening the health and safety of our water. I will not be able to attend. But I am here, writing this post to say that though I - and many others - may not be physically present, our voices are being raised. We are writing letters to our MPs, we are calling their offices, we are signing petitions, we are sending money and supplies to water protectors, we are fighting alongside you, even though you cannot see us. I will eventually be able to leave my home and physically join in, but many others will not. Don't be an ableist by insulting the absent. Call on able bodied (and able minded) people to be present, and empower those who cannot to do what they can, to get involved in their own way.

Here are some resources for those who can't get out there, but are protesting the hell out of our leaders' injustices in whatever way they can: : A guide to safely existing and organizing in the virtual world : An article in the huff by a disabled activist with some very helpful tips on how to get involved : A legal guide for disabled activists (particularly those able bodied enough to be physically present - ie. what to do if you are arrested etc.) : Amnesty International's guide to effective e-activism

Please let me know if there are any great resources you think others should know about!

Happy Friday,


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Don't Give Up the Fight

I pulled this from my journal - a quick note that I wrote reflecting on the political climate 3 weeks after the election of Sweet Potato Stalin*.

"It has been 3 weeks since the election in the United States that resulted in Dump's upsetting win via the electoral college. In Canada, our 'feminist' Prime Minister mourns the death of a man who gathered up homosexuals and put them to work in labour camps for re-education, and who betrayed the people who claimed to represent by lavishing in riches at the end of his life, the product of decades spent as a capitalist dictator in a country who fought for a communist revolution. While he marches in the parades, and appoints a balanced Cabinet, our prime minister remains screamingly silent on the problems faced by indigenous women in Canada, and clearly indifferent to the more than just controversial history of Fidel Castro.

Anne Kingston wrote in McCleans: 'Where doubts are growing is over a prime minister who vocally identifies as feminist without calling out and drilling down into the hard intersections and injustices that underlie gender inequality, particularly those faced by women on the margins.'

The world is a scary place right now. I don't know how to move forward."

I was scared then. I was scared because it seemed as though all hope was lost. People didn't seem to give a shit that our public figures were crapping all over the dignity of women, people of colour, indigenous communities... Three weeks after the election my news feed was weirdly empty of anything political. The odd post from a friend or colleague about the most recent ridiculous post from Cantaloupe Kaiser gave me some hope, but mostly people seemed to turn off. In some ways, I understood. Politics got scary as hell, and lots of people just couldn't handle the pressure of staying active and informed.

But today the story is a little different. Politics is still scary as hell. But my hope is coming back. Yesterday, Black Bloc tore up the streets in protest. Today women - and many others! - march on Washington. Hundreds of thousands of people are in Washington, while across the globe hundreds of solidarity marches are being undertaken - from Tokyo to Toronto - people are standing up and demanding that women, people with disabilities, people of colour, the young, the old, the educated, and the under-educated and underemployed, religious minorities,  LGBTQ2+ people, be treated equitably (not just equally) under the law, and through social and economic programs.

Today I am hopeful, and I am letting myself get caught up in that hope. I am not allowing my usual negative, 'realist' thoughts overpower the power I see in the people. No matter what Tangerine Drumpf does during his presidency, I know that people will hold him accountable. People will not stop protesting, marching - whether peacefully, or via more violent, riotous means. He will be held accountable.

But the inauguration of the POS-OTUS (peace of shit of the United States) has - same may say, rightly - distracted Canadians from the problematic circumstances women, people of colour, and especially indigenous people continue to face in Canada. The Kremlin Carrot is not worth our attention if it means that we will not also hold our own government to account. Trudeau - since taking his place as the head of our government - has approved a $6.8 billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. He has spoken sweet, moving words about the position of First Nations people in Canada, yet still lack of funding has led to yet another outbreak of suicide pacts among young people living in rural reservation communities. He promised to pull us out of active bombing of Iran - and yet he has openly stated that he is willing to keep support aircraft in play. He has promised to invest in education - especially for First Nations people. And yet now his government is more than $10 billion deeper in deficit than he promised - and the social programs that this country so badly needs are likely going to be swept under the carpet. 

We need to fight. We need to speak up. Not just today. 

We need to stand up for ourselves, for the underrepresented, and over, in the United States, across the globe, and in our own 'back yard'. Don't let today be the only day to read the ("real") news. Don't let today be the only day you march - whether you are marching literally, or marching with your words, typed, signed, or spoken. Don't let today be the only day that you are angry. Don't let today be the only day that you have hope for a future where your body, your identity, your ethnicity, your religion, your family, you skin colour, your genitals, your feelings, will be respected. 

Don't give up the fight. 


*Taking inspiration from some amazing nasty women, I have taken an oath not to help the Coral Cretin 'trend'. I will call him, instead, the Titian Twit, He Who Shall Not Be Named (but should be very ashamed), Carrot Craphead, Donny the Dump...but never POTUS.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrapping up 2016

This year was kind of scary and traumatic. But it was also pretty amazing. Here are some of my highlights:

This year, I married the love of my life!

This year, I got my Master's Degree and wrote a 100 page thesis, made a new cat friend,

and I added to my book collection!

This year, I spent time with people I love and made memories to last a lifetime!

This year wasn't a bad year. It was scary. I lost some animal friends, and some human ones, politics got scary, and lots of artists and celebrities died. 

But so much good happened as well. On top of all the stuff I posted above, there is just so much more! My step-dad was given a clean bill of health after battling cancer for nearly three years. My beautiful sister got engaged and asked me to be her matron of honour. My other sister seems to have found her calling and has started making the most beautiful crafts! My mom is the happiest I've ever seen her. My sister and her husband, and their two beautiful kids have adjusted to a new town and their new school. My grandmother got a new nurse who is helping my family care for her as her Alzheimer's progresses. My husband started college and is doing very well. Speaking of VOMD, he and I not only got married, but we decided to pursue foster parenting! 

And in the world: the liberals beat the racism of the Conservatives under Harper; women rocked the hell out of the summer Olympics; Gay Marriage celebrated a 1 year anniversary in the United States; Leo got his Oscar (and produced an awesome documentary that might help our planet!); Gilmore Girls had a reunion; Scientists found the ALS gene; protesters in cooperation with military servicemen effectively stopped the DAPL pipeline, at least temporarily; Bernie Sanders inspired a shit ton of youth in America to get involved in politics like never before...

So much good shit.

I loved this year. It was by far the best year of my life.

Happy New Year, my friends. 



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lefty humour

I have a class with an older white male professor who casually uses the word 'retarded' to describe ridiculous situations. I'm not sure why he uses this language, but it seems flippant, and without thought.

Often people on the left - particularly in academia - think that their humour, their irony, and their lack of concern with politically correct language is subversive. Perhaps this is because in academic circles it often is. Language is a powerful tool in both academia and the social realm but its specific uses have very different implications in these two worlds.

Words like genderfuck, land rape, sissy-boy ...etc disrupt dominant discourses in academia by make the reader purposefully uneasy. In a non-academic context, however, they can trigger deep emotional reactions, and can even give people the opposite reaction. This language can reaffirm the status quo.

This is a similar problem to the humour/comedy issue, with which I am sure you're acquainted. We've all been there... we're watching a comedy special on television and the comedian does impressions of people from diverse cultural/ethnic backgrounds. His impressions (because, let's be honest, it is normally a man) usually draw on problematic stereotypes. And here we are, white, middle (ish) class folks, laughing our asses off. We laugh because first, we are uncomfortable, second, we know that these stereotypes are false, and third, because we see the comedian drawing attention not only to the stereotypes, but highlighting how regular people often don't question the implications of these stereotypes. When a comedian says something outrageous about women, I am often laughing along. But now and then, the statements become more nuanced, less outrageous, less discernible from a real statement of the comedian's beliefs, and that is when I, and others like me, get uncomfortable.

The problem is that in every day conversations, most jokes of this nature is more nuanced, and less discernible from the teller's true beliefs. We are not being subversive by telling our wives that they belong in the kitchen, and we are not be subversive by drawing attention to our Jewish friends' noses or spending habits, and we are not being subversive by comparing a Black athlete to a gorilla. We are being sexist, xenophobic, and racist. This does not mean that we believe the things we are saying. It's just that our jokes are indiscernible from our actual beliefs.

On the other hand, if my husband tells me he wants me barefoot, pregnant, and scrubbing the floor on all fours, while breastfeeding and forfeiting my right to vote, I know that he is joking. But it is only in the context of our actual lives, in our own home, between the two of us, that this joke is understood as a joke. Online, where the world can see this 'joke' and does not understand the context in which it was originally spoken.

So, when my professor uses the word retarded to describe a frustrating or difficult concept, because I do not know him personally, this is problematic. When my neighbor calls the gay boy down the street a sissy boy in jest, because I do not know him personalty, I assume that he is saying it not in the subversive, empowering way that some queer folk may use the term, but rather I assume he is being deprecating.

And I hope that others on the left (or near the left) come to understand that just because you  meant it  in a certain way, does not mean that it is perceived in that way.

Here is an anecdote for you:

When VOMD and I were first dating I once told him to get the fuck out of my kitchen. I was clearly saying it jokingly, but it was clear only to me. We ended up having an argument, during which I came to realize that because we did not know each other well, and because of our own emotional baggage, this dismissive, abrasive language was taken as aggression, rather than a joke. I defended myself at first, and I continue to do it in this relationship. When I say something in jest that hurts VOMD's feelings, or makes him angry, I say "sorry, but I was just joking". What I should say is "sorry, that joke was not funny, and I should remember to take your feelings into consideration when I am speaking to you."

The lesson to be learned from my experience, within the intimacy of my marriage, is that when speaking with a complete stranger, "I was just joking" is not an excuse to hurt someone's feelings.

There are ways to fight for social justice without insulting already disenfranchised folks. Why is it that so few comedians do impressions of upper/middle class white folks? Where are all the jokes about WASP men? Why is your Black/Jewish/Woman joke the only way that you feel you can draw attention to racism and gender inequality?

Stop defending your poor use of language against the people that this language hurts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The politics of fear; and harnessing fear in the fight against Trump (and racist, sexist patriarchy, more generally)

I don't know who said it, but there is a popular (ish) saying that goes: "Fear is a powerful motivator."

This is very clearly the case. Fear motivates us to hold our children, family, and friends close. It motivates us to save our money for a rainy day, to give our animal and human family members vaccinations to protect them from diseases...

But it can also motivate more dangerous emotions. When faced with someone or something that we do not understand we often immediately fear...and when we are unable to get beyond our fear to a proper understanding of the other, we are lead to hate. Fear can make us to hate. And hate is terrifyingly more powerful than fear.

I'm not saying that we should not hate. There are many things - mostly ideas or actions - that we should continue to hate. I hate racism, sexism, Islamaphobia, speciesism, violence, gender norms, homophobia...

In my fear for those who are victimized by Trump and his supporters, I became angry and hateful towards all those who voted for Trump, or who supported the Conservative party in Canada's most recent election.  In my anger I decided to hate...not just ideas, and actions...but people..often ignorant, uneducated people who may not understand the implications of their support for Trump of Harper. During the past week I have seen others take this turn. The world that I know has erupted into a mess of shit slinging in all directions, from the left and the right. People are terrified, and the mass media and social media are allowing for this fear to descend into anger, resentment, and violence (verbal and physical) in a way that I have never experienced. I was too young to give a shit when Al Gore lost to GW Bush, but I know that there was probably similar outrage.

And some of us are hurting each other, and losing sight of the big picture in our terror.

This past week I have seen images depicting violence against visible minorities and women in the name of Donald Trump. I have seen young people cry trying to understand why our world is such a shitty place.

I can imagine that this week is just the beginning. Judging by my conversations with friends, family, and strangers, the fear is very real. And very powerful.

But it is not entirely unproductive.

Women across North America are organizing and harnessing their terror and demonstrating against the the fear turned hate of the radical right. Sons and daughters of immigrants are joining together with queer and trans folks to take a stand against the violence being perpetrated against them. Where the radical white right wing fear of the other has led them to hate those who they see as invaders, the invaders - feminists, people from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ+++ folks - are taking an opposing, though not opposite approach. They/we fear the hate, and as such we hate the hate, and we are harnessing our collective otherness to fight it.

How are we/can we continue to do this? How can you get involved?

Consider these options (some of these are taken from a Facebook post by some women on the left who are committed to the fight against Trump):

1) Donate to the following organizations:
American Civil Liberties Union
Sea Sheppherd
20 Feminist Organizations…/20-womens-organizat…
2) Learn how to practice compassion and model it for your kids…/about…/why-cultivate-compassion/
3) Write An Op-Ed For Your Local Newspaper <--- teaches you HOW to write an Op-Ed
4) Have an impact on the economy by boycotting big businesses, and in particular those owned by Trump and his buddies.
5) It might sound vague, but 

In solidarity, and with love,


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The aftermath

I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that we were so cocky. I'm sorry it took too long for us to take Trump seriously. I'm sorry that a sexual predator, child rapist, and woman beater is the President Elect of the United States.

I'm sorry for my queer, trans, and visible minority friends in the United States (and everywhere else). I know that many of you, and your family and friends, are in the streets right now. I am proud that you are fighting this. But I am also scared for you.

I can't do much from over here. But what I can do is take a stand with my dollars.

I will no longer purchase American made goods from which Dronald Trumpet profits.

I don't know what else to do, or to say.

Stay strong. Keep fighting. Demand change.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

American Election 2016

Tonight we will know for sure who will run America for the next four years. I have a few thoughts on that, though they are not all entirely connected.

I suppose some of us might feel like we already know who has won. The choice is clear to us. Either a politician who supports big business and capitalist enterprises that disenfranchise the third world, and perpetuate systemic inequality in North America and beyond, or a business man who does exactly that, but is also probably a rapist and a child sex offender. If given the choice myself, I would of course stand with the victims of violence.

At the same time, it is troubling that numerous republican commentators and outspoken advocates for Mitt Romney, and George Bush before him, are now proud supporters of Hillary Clinton. It is only right that we will recognize the inhumanity of the alternative option, but is it not telling that Clinton is so far from left that the right embraces her as their candidate as well? I'm not saying vote for a third party candidate this election... Unfortunately we all know how that might end up. But I am saying that we should be concerned that both candidates in this election are essentially republican, even if one is dressed in democrat's clothing. That said, I hope that a woman beats a woman beater this time around...

But, whoever wins the election, it is clear that this year, the white, upper capitalist class, patriarchy won this year. And they keep on winning. It doesn't matter what face they wear, they have still won. And they win because every four years we become suddenly interested in politics, while the rest of the time we sit silently as rich white men make decisions that affect the whole world. This is not only true of the United States. Canada is equally implicated in this phenomenon.

There are a number of brilliant, outraged, and passionate people who continue to rage against the machine year long, term long, never ceasing. But there are too few. There are too few of us who write letters to our government, who make phone calls, who stand on the streets, who protest, who break things that need breaking and fix things that need to be fixed.

We should, perhaps, take the water protector's example and see that politics is bigger than an election. It is about the real lives of people and peoples. It is about the way that we live together, among ourselves and with the land.

I don't know what more to say.

If you are in America, and you are scared about the outcome of this election, know that, for what it's worth, I, and many others here in Canada and elsewhere in the world, stand with you.