Sunday, August 3, 2014

Your Centrism Sucks

Recently, a person who has never actually had to consider what would happen if he became pregnant was paid money by the Chronicle Herald to condescend to people who actually might have to make a decision about what they want to do with something in their uterus at some point.

“Why can’t we all just get along?” asked Ralph Surette, wombless wonder, who makes the same I’m hated by both sides in this debate so I must be right argument as that person who yelled questions they already knew the answer to, hijacking their first year philosophy class with roughly the same amount of poise to boot.

To be fair, Ralph Surette is not the problem, he is a person who writes problematic things.

In many countries, ‘centrism’ represents party or ideology that is not rooted in changing an economic system (or major overhauls of any system.) More and more in Canada I see the term centrism used to describe a weak middle that benefits no one. Though undeniably lefty, my views tend to lean and not fall in one direction. This is why it enrages me to see the center presented as some sort of ideal for every situation; it’s convenient, it’s polite, it’s a compromise which makes it so Canadian.

A compromise that works really well is when two children are fighting over a cookie and the cookie gets cut in half.

Some compromises that don’t work so well:

  • One side wants to build many prisons, the other wants none. Let’s build some! 
  • One side wants a pipeline, the other doesn’t. Let’s build half a pipeline!
  • One side wants humans to have human rights, the other doesn’t. Let’s give some people humans some rights!

‘Centrism’ speaks highly of logic but seldom employs it. “We can see both sides,” they coo, but there is always more than two sides to a story and frequently some are batshit crazy.

The truth is, some things are worth being radical for.

Radical does not mean violent, radical does not mean rude, but sometimes radical means making someone uncomfortable. It is ‘centrism’s’ propaganda of politeness that weighs comfort over what’s right.

The other day I watched my triumphant and brilliant advocate-friend Katherine politely explain to my lawyer friend why law being so inaccessible to people with disabilities isn’t a good thing. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, and the friend who just passed the bar was feeling very protective of the system that granted them entry over others. But it’s one of the many conversations that needs to be had if we plan on having a fairer society.

On a regular basis I see my determined and inspiring friend Rebecca pause for a second, flinch, take a deep breath, realize she is about to be pegged as ‘that troublemaker’ and explain why racism isn’t kind of wrong, it’s really wrong.

It’s not convenient, but it’s how society progresses.

People say there need to be more conversations, but then wag their fingers at the people actually having them. This attitude stands in the way of actually getting anything done.

“Abortion is not a good and desirable thing in itself” Mr. Surette tells us, without ever explaining why. Why are there ‘too many’ abortions in Canada? Because it makes him feel uncomfortable? What is an appropriate number of abortions? Are there too many knee replacements? Who gets to say what is too many? Based on what?

What makes abortions ‘bad’ is the fact that some people, frequently people who practice or were brought up in certain religious, believe it is murder. If you believe it is murder, a compromise is not the solution. If you believe you have to fight for justice for the unborn to not burn for all of eternity, I’m not sure your God appreciates your compromising skills. I don’t agree with my friends who hold these views, but I have a special respect the ones who non violently push forward based on ideology.

However, without this ideology there is no reason for abortion to be labeled ‘bad.’ Without stigma, it is healthcare. I struggle to think of any other healthcare procedure that is labeled ‘bad.’ Without the hyper-rhetoric of 'abortion being murder!!!', the only thing that makes abortion bad are people like Mr. Surette saying it is. Religious or not, these uncomfortable feelings are frequently rooted in the belief system of our surroundings.

“Abortion is never going to be a technical, untroubled business-as-usual affair. The pro-choice side should start with that,” the reader is told. The outcome is determined. We can never hope for anything more than this. This is the progress that is being packaged for us, those who actually work on these issues daily. I would have loved to hear his hot take on other civil right issues as they happened. What amount of inequality should we have to accept in a wage gap? Should we be happy when we hear slurs less?

We live in a society that is better than it was because people fought for a better society. Despite being born in the 90s I am painfully aware of the turmoil that has taken place for me to enjoy the improved environment I have today. It is my duty to make this country better for my future daughter, my future son, and the future daughters and sons of people I will never meet or know because we live in a country that is a beautiful collective. We would be foolish to say racism and homophobia no longer exist but we try to create an environment where they can be eradicated by not giving special accommodations for ignorance. Sexism must be treated the same way.

There are plenty of things wrong with this particular column, from the 'lots of people wanting to adopt' myth (Frequently, the problem is the cost of adoption, not a lack of children. To imply that there's a lack of children needing homes in Canada is laughable to say the least.) to vague 'polls' that are referenced to but never specified. There’s much more dangerously inaccurate information being pushed out about reproductive justice every day, but it’s important to call attention to the flawed dialogue that we are accepting as ‘reason.’ People are being paid to write drivel that placates a target audience that longs for a white washed nostalgic version of the ‘politer’ past, and I’m fed up of my rights being tangled into it.

It baffles me that people who do not participate in a conversation feel comfortable telling people how to have it. We’ve been talking without you because you decided to stop talking to us. You’re welcome to join us again, but maybe, just maybe, try listening a bit first.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Embracing Tuesday: book store stories, pre-Pantone, & a lot lot lot of art

This is a permanently open tab. When I'm stressed out, it brings me the strangest peace. The oldest living things in the world.
A good start for your next history related Wikipedia black hole.

One of my new favourite blogs, Our American Safari, drives across the country.

How Maya Angelou became San Francisco's first female African American train conductor. (I've linked this before, but it's so good.)

Google search tips. The first few are pretty basic, but there's 3-4 here I didn't know that are quite helpful.

Bookstores are full of stories. Here are a few illustrated.

I don't regularly read Jezebel anymore, but some uncomfortable truths: On encouraging girls to masturbate.
On that note, "All of the pages worth masturbating to in Fifty Shades of Grey" which is incredibly funny.
"i can't date anyone who is going to fuck up my tv-watching time or interrupt my listening to podcasts in the shower for hours on end."

A fantastic book of colours, or Pantone before Pantone was Pantone.

Here is today.

Some anachronistic pop culture fun.

If you listen to ONE THING this week, make it Anna Maria Tremonti interviewing IMF head Christine Lagarde who speak in a clear, interesting way with aplomb about climate change, the economic cost of gender inequality, and not shutting up. Then play it for your sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and friends and brothers and sisters but especially your daughters.

If you listen to two things, this brief episode of Planet Money about a one-page solution for climate change is also exceptional.

I don't know, I'm weird, but this house is a dream to me.

Bold yet basic: The NDP has launched a pan-Canadian food strategy.

The Met has releases 400,000 high res images to the internet. And there are so many practical ways to browse them!!!! UH WHAT. WHY ARE YOU EVEN LOOKING AT THIS GO LOOK AT THAT NOOOOOOW.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A few words on & by Dr. Maya Angelou

I was sitting in a gorgeous little cafe on Dundonald Street when I found out Maya Angelou had passed away. Normally when I find out someone has died I stick my nose in my wifi capable device and I read every single article and thinkpiece about what they’ve accomplished. I’m not going to pretend I was Dr. Angelou’s biggest fan growing up; the little I knew of her seemed to be the stuff of Hallmark cards and inspirational plaques on walls.

But when I was gifted ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ when I was perhaps 17, "I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn't know what I was aware of.” It struck me deeply even if I didn’t truly understand many of the racial aspects of the book until a few years later. (“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” )

Maya Angelou was a lovely poet, a fierce activist, and a beautiful person. She was awarded over thirty (!!!) doctoral degrees, and was a journalist and a professor as well as San Francisco’s first woman African-American streetcar conductor as I just learned today.

So when I found out about Dr. Angelou’s death I remembered what she said about autonomy, about structural racism, about voicelessness, and ran to grab I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (where all of these quotes are from) which is actually surprisingly both easy and not that easy in Bermuda. I ended up missing my bus, I sat in my favourite park in Hamilton, and I read it, not front to back but I took a few moments to try to suss out all of the parts that struck me so many years ago.

“If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking.” 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Beating the shit out of someone

On Friday, May 9th, 2014 in Halifax someone beat the shit out of a person.

I’m going to say shit because I don’t think crap is a strong enough word for when someone it beaten.

I don’t need to say allegedly because no one will tell us who beat the shit out of a person although what I am about to write will highlight a trail in communications that implies it is someone and results in potential misinformation or disinformation.

This person has been identified, although not officially yet, as a woman.

You don’t need the woman’s name. You don’t need to know who she was unless you wants you to know that, but someone beat the shit out of her.

I am not writing about the woman, although I really do hope that she is okay, that she has an amazing support system that helps her recover in the way that is best for her. I hope she is treated with respect by the media and the attention and the people paying attention to the media. I hope people will think of her, not her personality, not her as potentially a mother sister or daughter, but her as an autonomous being before talking about her and her situation.

I have. I thought a lot about this last night because I am frequently troubled by how people in positions of power use that.

I hope that she’ll tell me if she wants me to change anything about this. I’ll do that. For her.

But someone beat the shit out of a person.

I’m not going to talk about the person who had the shit beaten out of them, or even really the person who beat the shit out of the person.

We’re going to look at what “beat the shit out of” becomes.

Beat the Shit Out Of
Beat the shit out of is not a legal term. I don’t want it used in a paper either. I use it here because I am not a newspaper. I still feel compelled to remind people of that.

Domestic Assault
The headline of this CBC article says Domestic Assault. That is a legal charge. That is the name of the charge against the person who has physically hurt someone. In ‘Domestic Assault’ you can identify that someone beat the shit out of someone, even if it doesn’t come out and say it.

This is a quote that uses the word assault:

"We can confirm that officers responded to a report of an assault at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 9 at a Halifax address. A 34-year-old Halifax man was subsequently arrested at a separate Halifax address that same evening and was released on a Promise to Appear in Halifax Provincial Court on June 18, 2014, to face a charge of assault," the HRP said.

Sun News Network’s headline also used the term domestic assault. I am not linking to their story because I am not interested in giving them ad money, but here is a picture of that headline.

In the piece you can also see that the press secretary says “after charges for a domestic matter.”

Charges for a Domestic Matter/ Domestic incident

Charges for a Domestic Matter is not an official term although it uses official terms in it. It includes the word domestic from ‘domestic assault’ but not ‘assault.’ Charges for a domestic matter could theoretically be a lot of things, like some combination of fireworks or drugs or land or anything. It could also theoretically be for beating the shit out of someone.

Kyley Harris, the communications director for the Premier, is on paid leave for charges for a domestic matter, as reported by Metro.

Legal problems/ charges
Here are a list of a few potential legal problems:
  • A parking ticket
  • Cannibalism
  • Driving without a license
  • Murder
  • Shoplifting
  • Beating the shit out of someone
In the CTV News article, Kyley Harris is on paid leave for charges for a domestic matter that are legal problems.

In addition to not being a newspaper, I am not a journalist. I have an awful lots of respect for journalists. They work difficult hours and have to process a lot of information very quickly. They are threatened, both physically and and legally. Sometimes I’m not sure if they are aware of their own power.

Someone beat the shit out of a person.
Someone is on paid leave for legal problems.

In all that will come out of this conversation, I would ask you to remember a few things:

  • Feelings are valid but outrage solves nothing
  • The person who was beaten is a person and can probably read what you publicly say
  • It does not matter if the person could have been your mother, wife, sister, or daughter
  • Words are powerful and shape our perceptions of very real events that take place
  • Someone beat the shit out of another person, and no context, no nuance, no situation, no excuse, no other side of it, no further information, no nothing will ever make that okay
For transparency’s sake, I identify as a New Democrat, and for transparency’s sake, it really doesn’t matter, as the party of the person who beat up the person doesn’t matter, as the government who is in doesn’t matter as long as it is handled appropriately.

I write from the bias that beating the shit out of someone is bad. Most people write from different biases.

I will consider making updates to this piece as information comes in.

All of the screen grabs were taken between 10 & 11 am on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Three unrelated pieces of writing I found while cleaning up my bookmarks folder

These are on display at Argyle Fine Art but I wish they were on display in my home.

Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere.
A berm overlooking a pond in Vermont.
The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset.
A seat on the subway.

And something bad will have happened:
You will have lost someone you loved,
or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.

And sitting there, you will fall into the centre of yourself.
You will look for some core to sustain you.

And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.

I don't want anyone I know to take that terrible chance.
And the only way to avoid it is to listen to that small voice inside you that tells you to make mischief, to have fun, to be contrarian, to go another way.

George Eliot wrote 'It is never too late to be what you might have been'.

It is never too early, either.

- Anna Quindlen from Being Perfect, which is not a poem, but this is the way it was spaced on the now defunct Tumblr that I first read it. Now, I every time I read it, which is frequently, I read it like this.


White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior.
Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected.
Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action.

Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged to feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat.” This is what the worship of death looks like.

-bell hooks from All About Love: New Visions, but this was circulated again after Trayvon Martin was shot


Spring comes into Quebec from the west. It is the warm Japan Current that brings the change of season to the east coast of Canada, and then the west wind picks it up. It comes across the prairies in the breath of the chinook, waking up the grain and caves of bears. It flows over Ontario like a dream of legislation, and it sneaks into Quebec, into our villages, between our birch trees.

In Montreal the caf├ęs, like a bed of tulip bulbs, sprout from their cellars in a display of awnings and chairs. In Montreal spring is like an autopsy. Everyone wants to see the inside of the frozen mammoth.

Girls rip off their sleeves and the flesh is sweet and white, like wood under green bark. From the streets a sexual manifesto rises like an inflating tire, 'The winter has not killed us again!'

-Leonard Cohen from Beautiful Losers, which just seems so appropriate

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Things I want(ed) to do before turning 25

Birthdays make me feel a bit numb. I am not old enough to hate them (yet), I do not relish having lots of attention being paid to me in a very concentrated period of time, and they kind of go against something at the very core of my being, which is rather hard to explain but just trust me on this. Also, in good Maritimer tradition I am a chronic "you too!"-er. ("Have a good day!" "You too!" / "See you later!" "You too!" / "Happy birthday!" "You t- auuuughh.") Birthdays are not very big in my family and I've had a hard time explaining to friends that the "no, really, it's okay" line is not modesty, but no, really. It's okay.

Despite all this, I pay a lot of attention to years and what I can accomplish in them and I find it much easier to decide what I want to do in vibrant May (swing dance! change the world!) than dreary January (screw everything! wear sweatpants!) When I was 20 I made a "five year plan" full of concrete goals with steps and deadlines but also random whims I've always had. As I'm turning 24 this week I thought it might be time to revisit some of these things and get the pressure on in the next 12 months but I was pleasantly surprised at how closely my life had mirrored my forgotten list, especially lately.

If I had a lot more time than I do I would love to write a thesis on the gendered aspects of to do lists. (This is not a goal, though.) Whether it's a grocery list on the door of my mother, the list of most detested body parts my friends made (there's a strange, perverse solidarity in realizing all the other 13 year olds hate their stomachs too), or simple five year plan I feel like the Internet is the checklist on crack. Still, here's mine, because I think it's a pretty solid list and maybe this will serve as inspiration to actually complete it for once.

Bolded items are what remain to be accomplished.    

Finishing writing my book.

Learn to swing dance.

Buy original art. (Although I love the prints I've purchased, the spirit of this goal was more a painting or sculpture: something difficult to carry and monumental.)

Chair a committee.

Own a cat. Specifically, own a little grey cat who is an offspring of Momma Sunshine, the sweetest cat in Antigonish. Solomon, named for Evan Solomon, who provokes his loudest meows, was in Momma 
Sunshine's last litter.

Cook a turkey by myself.

Bake a pie by myself.

Go on an American road trip. (Driving from Toronto to Cleveland was wonderful but I'm not going to check it off as motivation to do something lengthier.)

Pay for a vacation entirely by myself.

Take a train. Any train.

Do some sort of feminist tangible project.

Work on a pro-choice campaign. (Okay, two birds on stone.)

Work on a sexual assault campaign. (Interestingly, this was done in the same month as the pro-choice campaign.)

See the Braves.

Be able to afford avocados. Well, this is actually quite emotional because I'll never forget times when I could not afford avocados. This is a real measure of personal finances for me, something I affectionately call 'the avocado index', because even when times are tight now I can usually afford an avocado if I'd like.

Wear lipstick regularly. I don't know, it seemed like a thing grownups do.

On that note, I also scrawled 'actually know how to apply make up.' I don't think I'm there yet.

Get a Marimekko Unikko couch. My grandmother had one because Jackie Kennedy had one. I might substitute this goal because I live with someone who can only handle so many florals.

Wear a swimsuit publicly. I'm not kidding, this was a hard one.

Go a summer without getting sunburnt. This one is actually impossible to do before 25 as I just turned a toasty rose today. Sad trombone.

Not live with roommates. 

Live downtown.

Paint a room. (We did the entire apartment! Every single room! Goal DONE!)

Make a piece of furniture.

Buy a piece of furniture not from Ikea.

Fix / refinish my grandparents' gorgeous mid century modern furniture. (It's a process.)

Make my closet sweatshop free. (Working on it.)

"Watch the sun rise or set or something cheesy I just don't know how to end this list." is something is actually wrote. 
Not much changes in 4 years after all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Everything everyone likes about me now is because I read for at least three hours every night as a kid because no one else liked me then. I read when I was lonely because no one wanted to hang out with a nerd, I read when I was happy and too excited to sleep. I read because I was curious and being curious made me interesting. 

In my reading I found things I wanted to be and I read how to become them.

Sometimes I wish I could show 11 year old Allison my social schedule. I wish I could tell her that she has all the time in the world now but one day she will have to fit her novel habit into 15 minutes over tepid herbal tea and incomplete breakfasts in the morning.

This is not to give the illusion that I am popular, liked, or even cool (I am really cool with being decidedly uncool.)

Reading taught me to be interested and to some people that makes me interesting and they are frequently people I am interested in. Who I am is made up of written role models. 

It is glorious to be curious and that is what I hope I can tell every child to be because I’ll never be able to tell angry, lonely, 11 year old, 13 year old, 15 year old Allison that she will live a story worth reading one day.

// many thanks to E who encouraged me to share

Monday, April 21, 2014

7 very short stories about things that happened to me over the past 7 days

In no order.

1) I stood outside the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton. I thought of the people I had the privilege of meeting while working on pro-choice bus ads. I thought of the people who had good experiences. I thought of the people who told me about their self harm when faced with the idea of pregnancy. I thought of the girl who had made me want to go to Fredericton in the first place. I pictured her as she told me about throwing herself down a flight of stairs. I didn’t respond strongly to her story at the time because I was so focused on comforting her. But I didn’t forget a word she said, her exact phrases only echoed louder in my mind until my ears felt hot. I told myself I wouldn't forget the architecture of the building, the strange passion of this moment. I thought I might cry but in a perfect moment Wigwam by Bob Dylan came on so then I didn’t.

2) I went into a coffee shop that ended up being a hookah bar as well. I ordered two samosas; one beef and one chicken. I went and tucked into a very lovely magazine made of very thick paper. I was brought two veggie samosas. I corrected the person saying that I had ordered one beef, one chicken. Someone sitting on the couch, with a mouth full of flavoured smoke, exclaimed “You’re eating meat on Good Friday?!”

3) I took a taxi. The Vietnamese driver told us about how he didn’t take black people in his cab anymore because a friend of his got beaten up so bad that he now has no memory and cannot walk. In the cab were two people I really loved who sometimes pass for white but sometimes do not. I had a bad fever. I didn’t say anything. I felt like I might cry but then in not a perfect moment no comforting song came on so I did.

4) I made peanut butter + Nutella cookies. Despite using an actual recipe shared by one of the few celebrities I admire (at least on a recipe level), they somehow turned out terribly. Very dry, very bland. I didn’t know that was possible when you put Nutella in cookies. I didn’t eat them.

5) A cab driver in a city asked me what size my feet were. I was alone in the cab. It was terrible.

6) I watched a gull vomit in front of me and then eat its own vomit while sitting next to someone on their first visit to Nova Scotia. It looked like an actual piece of fish and not just a French fry.

7) The Habs played hockey quite well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Choosing to Speak Up

The Morgentaler Clinic is making an announcement at 10 am, which many believe will be a sign that it is shutting its doors. This would be a devastating loss not only to New Brunswick but to people all over the Maritimes, especially Prince Edward Island which does not offer surgical abortion services at all, despite the best efforts of many.

Many asked me why it was so important to me to create bus ads for a pro-choice organization. Simply put, if the abortion debate must still be fought, it should be through accurate information, not through access. Less clinics performing the procedure does not lead to less abortion, but simply to less safe abortions. 

I am no stranger to how vicious online commenters can be. Nastiness is inherent to large platform that where power can be gained without visible consequences to anonymous people. I have also never had an email that has shaken me to my core and I’ve received a lot of them: from simplistic remarks about me being too ugly / too pretty / too smart / too dumb for this to some truly perverse ones suggesting I take out actions of violence on myself. They come randomly; yes, in flurries when I’ve made a recent media appearance but at any time doing any thing I will suddenly get a capslock and mistake laden not-quite-threat reminding me that there are people out there who I will give maybe a second but never a third thought to who stew all over my words.


So it’s with this context, this context of knowing how scary speaking up can be, that I ask you to do three things:

  1. Pay attention to what is happening to The Morgentaler Clinic.
  2. Speak up about it.
  3. Consider the appropriate action when the time is right.

Typed out, these are not revolutionary actions. Many people will ask you to do the same to save this, prevent this, etc. Still, I think it needs to be said so that Canadians do not sink back into a state of passive pro-choice. I appreciate that the bus ads that South House worked so hard on were considered a rallying call, but the thing about rallies is they happen over and over again. This is another one.

Follow #nbprochoice to participate in the conversation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A race of stubborn little things

"So, where does that leave us then, in our present? 

Maybe all any one of us can do is push against the baseline as it shifts.

We can be a tiny counterweight. We weigh almost nothing but generation after generation, that weight ads up. Sometimes in some places the baseline starts to shift in the other direction; in the direction of more beauty, not less, but that happens incrementally too. It can be hard to notice.

So picture that scene at JFK again, all those turtles. When Hornaday was born, they were closed to extinction, being hunted because they tasted so good in soup. We’re like those turtles: a race of stubborn little things that barely notices as the wilderness it migrates through, fills up with villages and lights and swells into an airport runway. Just keep migrating across it anyways, tucking the eggs of the next generation into the sand.

And we’re like the airplanes too, 'cause we have changed, we changed into something Hornaday could never have imagined: a species that at least tries to slow down, try to stop.

I like to think about those airplanes powering down, the lines of them parting like a shiny metallic sea, so this tiny tribe of turtles can pass through.

I get it. It looks funny in the present. But squint into the hazy panorama of history and those airplanes idling in place, that little moment of not moving forward, looks, unmistakably to me, like progress."

-Jon Mooallem from his book Wild Ones

You can hear an excerpt of it on 99% Invisible. I have listened to these final five or so minutes of that episode so many times since its release when I feel lost in all the future that is happening around me.

Like today.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A quick little post of feelings

I tried reverse googling this image. No luck. Thanks, person.

As a woman who thinks women are important and underrepresented, I think International Women’s Day is a great day but I frequently find myself a bit disappointed with the conversations that end up happening. I’m still working at what feminism is & isn’t, but here are a few things I’ve determined over the past year.

Feminism is not slut shaming, protecting “virtue” or any rigid set of “values”, or any kind of hate. Feminism is not divisive, but it’s also not calling intersectionality and other entirely valid critiques divisive when they try to expand the conversation. Feminism is not just a series of inspirational quotes by sassy women of eras past. Feminism is not derailing conversations to inject the views of those in a position of privilege into them. Feminism is not wonderful, well intentioned, privileged, smart, capable white women giving their ‘solutions' to wonderful, less privileged, smart, capable women of colour overseas. 

Feminism is acknowledging that public transit is a women’s issue because across Canada a disproportionate amount of women rely on it to get to low wage shift work jobs (filled once again, disproportionately by women.) Feminism is being critical in a productive way. Feminism is finding your space in your government, your community, your neighbourhood, and then removing barriers so others can access that space too. Feminism is wearing lipstick if you feel like it and not if you don’t. Feminism protects all expressions of gender identity. Feminism is fighting for improved mental health resources. Feminism is child care, pharmacare, and caring. Feminism is showing people younger than you the books and music and movies that defined your feminism while still noting what’s changed, what’s not appropriate anymore, what you’ve learned since then. Feminism is art. Feminism is girl gangs. Feminism is creating and sharing opportunities.

Feminism is so little to do with what you say and so much to say with what you do. Feminism is not the values you hold but how you express those values in real life. Feminism is nuanced. Feminism has context. Feminism is wonderful. 

Thanks so much to the countless people who have inspired me this past year. With all of this behind me I can now actually say Happy International Women’s Day!

Monday, January 27, 2014

"So Polite."

In the past week I have given over 30 interviews about my solution to some anti-choice bus ads that are currently on my city’s public transit. I lived off steak and weird ending with -atte drinks I’ve never had before that I felt compelled to buy whichever coffee shop student journalists directed me to. I had to correct reporters with the wrong information on air, I read hatemail laden with the word “cunt” on request, I watched as hour long interviews turned into ten second lines. It was an intense, interesting experience. The crux of it seemed to be a radio show where both “sides” of the “abortion” issue gave their perspective one after the other in prerecorded interviews.  

“I loved it,” I was told by a mentor minutes after it was played. “It was so polite.”

I like polite. Polite is both nice and strategic; everyone involved in this debate knows that everyone except those with sick obsessions with car crashes and bull fighting will tune out if the becomes a mudslinging mess typically wrongly associated exclusively with the Southern United States. Acknowledging this subtle, strategic decision that both parties in this debate silently made does not mean I don’t like the anti-choice people at a personal level nor does it make it less authentic, but at the same time, ‘polite’ posed a new set of problems because the conversation around removing a person’s rights to autonomy over their bodies is not polite.

You can’t rely on the media to tell your story, but I am still curious at the story they told; the 30 seconds of me that they deemed worthy always seemed so strange. From both sides the focus of the story always ended up being more about the methods of information than the actual cause. This isn’t a criticism; I was happy with the various people in the media that I worked with, but I question the climate when the conversation is more rooted around the presence or lack of trash talk than the actual issue itself. With something like abortion, the conversation seems so hot topic that it can only ever be referenced so people can feel comfortable in one of the only two boxes that are apparently acceptable to sit in.

The reality that isn’t quashed into sound bites is there are people who believe in access to more information and people who believe in access to less. There are also lots of people in between who represent many other views, sometimes passively. Everyone believes theirs is the answer. I think that when we give people access to good, proven information they can make the decisions that are right for them. Others answer to a power that defies understanding; they very nature of some peoples’ perceptions of God is that you do not need to know the answers to continue doing good. As someone who believes in God, I too try to occasionally be inspired by the wholly illogical urge to do good, but as someone who is just empathetic enough to realize that I can never truly empathize with people in situations, all I can hope for is that they have access to everything they need to make their own decision. Lacking this level of empathy is not about a lack of respect; it is insulting to pretend we could ever actually put ourselves in the shoes of someone who has been sexually assaulted, someone facing a healthcare crisis, or even just someone who is not ready to have a child and might never be. We could all benefit from not passing off our theorizing about others’ real lives as some sort of common experience.

Still, I think we can have a polite conversation about abortion; a conversation that discusses more sexual education in school, a conversation that leads to more access to birth control, a conversation about Plan B, a conversation with real solutions. 

Because here’s the reality: medical procedures in general are frequently physically uncomfortable. Less abortions would be great! Birth control is so much more convenient than a hospital visit. As long as we accept that the right to choose isn’t going anywhere, at all, ever, I’m all for being pragmatic to help the person whose condom broke as long as it’s not at the expense of the needs of the rape victim.

But this hasn’t been the conversation I’ve been having. Journalists’ questions and research has come out to show that this is a conversation based in medical inaccuracies like cancer scares and anti-birth control comments.

The conversation I’m willing to have is one where we acknowledge the rights that people currently have as long as it is without shaming, without judgment, and without valid but intangible missions trumping the needs of people who may not have the same beliefs. Right now, this conversation can happen through bus ads.

South House is always going to have less money for marketing than an anti-abortion group because South House actually provides resources and services for all people. The information they provide is based around choice, not abortions, but also acknowledging abortions. This campaign will not keep the ads on the bus forever, but raising this money will make the statement that Pattison Advertising and Metro Transit are afraid to make: that misinformation, especially pertaining to health, is unacceptable even if you find it offensive.

So I’m going to keep being polite because I prefer it, because I like feeling better than the people who contact me or the news source anonymously to tell me some variation on deserving a coat hanger to my vagina, and because it keeps people tuning in, but I need you to understand how impolite the reality of this conversation is.

“The public is on our side,” everyone involved in this campaign reminds ourselves (they are). “We just have to get them to do something tangible about it.” You do that by donating.

Here I am trying to get you to donate in a very honest, largely unedited, definitely not a soundbite, definitely ‘controversial’ way. I think you’ll agree I’m still very polite. Statistically, I think you agree with me. I need you to show us that this way works, because the pro-choice message is not going to die down.

You can also:
  • Share our donation page or this post on your social media
  • Share something in support of choice in a post of your own
  • Set up a similar campaign in your city
  • Volunteer at South House
  • Donate by cheque
  • Donate again