Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Small Changes

Something that's struck me a lot, especially since living in Toronto is how frequently we mistake progressivism for some sort of brand to be consumed instead of a movement dedicated to tackling hard changes to save the planet and make humans more equal. When Conservatives decry the latte sipping elite it's a facile stereotype but they're not wrong: social justice is not about what kind of coffee you can afford to drink, even if it treats its workers better. 

This is not to say that you shouldn't drink coffee that treats its workers well! This is good. This is important. But this is the one of the smallest parts of a social contract that needs to change. Businesses that exist in this type of economy need a competitive edge to justify their cost & continue their existence so they amplify their social good as a form of marketing to make you feel like this small choice is what you needed to to do end inequality, save the planet, justify your spending 3$ when there's cheaper coffee elsewhere. And if you spend that 2-3$ at a locally owned business that treats its workers well, that's even better. 

But that's still not social justice.

I use coffee as a relatable example but it's not the only product to feel skeptical about. If you own a really nice bicycle and bike to work, it's awesome that you're not in a car! You're saving gas, you're saving the planet! I mean, kind of, but not really until enough people are also able to bike. With housing costs increasing so dramatically and people getting pushed further and further from cores of neighbourhoods the bicycle is not practical for people living in poverty the way it is in many other countries. But biking is still great!

I don't bring this up because I want us all to feel crappy & hopeless, but I want to illustrate that we need to undo the idea that it just takes one small stand to change the world. This is not to tell you not to take small stands. This is to say right now we are at a crux where we need to take much bigger stands: social justice takes work. And I'm not saying you're not doing that work in addition to these small choices, but I do worry about how satisfied businesses are making us feel by making only small choices. 

Over and over I see workout plans and juice with vegetables being described as some kind of movement. I see capsule wardrobes and apps that let you boss people around for much less money and "the sharing economy" that involves little sharing as some kind of beacon of progressivism because we made they small choices! We're life hacking society!

But for who?

Movements mean moving people out of poverty, not into it with the expectation of precarious labor so we can have cheaper rides around. Movements are not a groundswell of cute tiny condos that are 'efficient' but still priced too high for a family living in poverty, or hell, even families. Movements are not the coffee you drink. Movements mean moving. 

This doesn't mean I'm saying what you're doing, what I do, is bad. We have this obsession with good and bad, that there's a box we should be able to put each decision in to feel good about ourselves. But that's the problem, it's not about feeling good about ourselves, it's about making major structural changes to acknowledge that we live in a world where the illusion that we're nice to a huge group of people we call minorities is taking precedent over structural inequality that has existed for decades and decades and we're calling our society less racist, as if the water on reserves improves or carding decreases with white people smiles. Where buying organic food is that little thing you do instead of asking why it's so hard to get any groceries at all in some neighbourhoods. Where some stupid spin class (I love spin classes) is some kind of movement. 

It's okay to do things because you like them but don't kid yourself that these small choices make enough of a structural change to ignore that social justice takes a lot of work, and some of it is easier, and some of it is harder, but if it's done it will benefit all of us. 

Voting tomorrow is the easiest thing you can do. (Unless you live in a place that it has strategically been made harder, i.e.: you live on a reserve, you are homeless, etc.) All of these campaigns have been made to make you feel like voting is a big important task, and yet there is literally nothing easier. You are asked to take a lead writing device and MAKE A MARK ON A PAPER for who you LIKE MOST after showing people some ID. Unless you're in a marginalized community, that is really, really easy and I'm not going to patronize you and tell you you're making the difference by doing it.

What's hard is making the decision, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make it. Copping out is easy. You're not communicating some grander narrative by rejecting everyone. Not voting because you're too so fashionably disengaged is the dumbest 'movement' I've ever seen. Because you can't tell me social programs don't make a difference in people's lives when they've changed mine. You can't tell me funding for healthcare isn't important when it's saved people I love. You can't tell me even seemingly small differences won't make a change, because that's the thing: the biggest differences frequently start with the smallest change, but the biggest choices.

I voted for Megan Leslie because I believe in Megan Leslie's choices. I know what pharmacare will do for people I love. I know what universal childcare will do for people I don't know.   I know what protecting the environment will do for people I'll never know. I did not vote for the Conservatives because I don't believe people are struggling because they're not working hard enough. I did not vote Liberal because they are campaigning against social programs in the guise of progressiveness to make up for the fact that they didn't delivered on their promises for them while in government. I did not vote Green because without proportional representation (promised by the NDP) little change can be made. These are my opinions and these are why. This is the decision I think about a lot, and this is the big choice small change big different I see in my community every time I see Megan yes biking but also championing affordable housing initiatives, every time I see Megan shopping local but also working on poverty reduction strategies. But this is not about Megan.

This is about asking you to demand a movement greater than consumption. I don't care if you take a selfie at the voting booth, there's nothing wrong with that, but these decisions make the core of our country, not some addition to a personal brand. People tell you to vote because it's important, but the X on the paper isn't important, the thought you put into that decision is. 

It's such a farce that so many corporations have co-opted the language of activism to make you think that small, consumption based changes make a big difference but big changes like voting are just lost in the system, as if democracy is actually achieved by picking the next flavor for whatever. We let the word community apply to what we do with our time instead of our neighbors. We all think we're smarter than marketing, but we keep building unaffordable condos instead of parks and feeling good about them because the design is nice & they're eco friendly! 

Parks are also very good for the environment. 

Tomorrow you can make a small action and a big choice, but in the scheme of your life it won't define you. Make the choice that will make it possible for other people to make big choices. 

And then enjoy some coffee that treats its workers well.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

These Best Adventures: Summer Podcast List 2015


"Before everything, before even humans, there were stories. 

A creature, at a fire, conjuring a world with nothing but its voice and the listener's imagination. And now me, and thousands like me, in little booths and rooms at mics and screens all over the world doing the same for a family of listeners connected as all families are, primarily by the stories we tell each other. And after, after fire, and death or whatever happens next, after the wiping clean or the gradual decay... After the after, when there are only a few creatures left...

There will be one. At a fire. Telling a story to what family it has left.
It was the first thing and it will be the last.
Stay tuned next for more stories being told to you aaaaalll of the time whether you are away of them or not.
& from whatever fiction it is that we happen to be living together tonight:
Good night, Night Vale, good night."

-Welcome to Night Vale


Nothing calls my soul higher than an exceptional piece of radio. This nerdery is more and more open ever since Serial broke the internet in a way Kim Kardashian's (gorgeous) bum never could and I see more and more podcasts getting the cred they deserve, which is beautiful. But that being said, all of the top ten lists I see are always the same ones, over and over, and honestly I don't love most of them.

There are very few shows that I like that are two people blabbing about one of their lives. Interviews are fine, but also... confining. I am aware that I am sitting at my desk or on my run or cutting vegetables or trying to fall asleep at night as people who are cooler than me talk about how much cooler than me they are in a series of semi inspirational quotes that frequently sounds like a pinterest board given a voice.

I love stories.

Hearing other people's stories is the fastest way for me to travel, the only chance I get to escape my life most days. I love learning through what other people have learned. I love ideas that are shown through a collage of human voices. Fiction is great, but that's not quite what I'm talking about. I love hearing about lives that give each other context, that help me see a bigger picture in the world.

I love road trips.

I love pulling over because I need a sunflower, I love my linen shirt sticking to the back of a leather seat. I need to stop at the very old bowling alley on the way, and I will go kayaking even if we reach our final destination a little too late. I love the thin red stripes on the boxes all fries seem to come in, the pulpy green cartons that hold roadside raspberries. I love the #AllisonSparlingLemonSquareTourOfTheWorld hashtag, which is a thing. I love the freedom of following through on whims.

So you've heard a lot about how great podcasts are, how cool, how hip, the skinny jean wearing cousin of your concept of public radio. Here are some ones you can download that give you a taste of what the shows themselves promise. And then when you arrive wherever you arrive you can download every single episodes of your favourites.

Here are the pieces that I like most, the ones you probably haven't heard of already. The samplings of them I picked are about adventures physical and emotional. This is my attempt to try to celebrate the beautiful & the badass.

I hope these stories are great friends to you. Have a great summer.

Bayard Rustin: Who is this man? by State of the Re:Union

"Bayard Rustin was a man with a number of seemingly incompatible labels: black, gay, Quaker . . . identifications that served to earn him as many detractors as admirers. Although he had numerous passions and pursuits, his most transformative act, one that certainly changed the course of American history, was to counsel MLK on the use of non-violent resistance."

Al Letson's voice ties up the most phenomenal tribute to a man who deserves to be heralded beside Martin and Malcom. State of the Re:Union usually visits geographic areas, but this broader concept of community is one of it's greatest.

400,000 Stars by the Memory Palace

"These women ordered the heavens without ever having to look up."

If you're ever having trouble seeing the magic in math, listen to how what we know about the world was discovered by some truly badass mop wielding women. Play this around a little girl you love a lot.

Riss Park by The Heart

"In the summer of 1960, Joan Nestle was 20-years-old and in love. At the time, she lived in a Lower East Side tenement. The city was hot, sweaty and humid. Joan and her girlfriend Carol would ride the subway for an hour-and-a-half to Riis Park. Riis Park was, and still is, an easily accessible queer beach in New York City."

Young love in a time that's sweet & scary.

Mystery Man by Snap Judgement

You thought Serial was good? Listen to this story about a guy who discovers who his father actually was... maybe.

Fried Chicken: A Complicated Comfort Food by Gravy

"Fried chicken has both been the vehicle for the economic empowerment of a whole group of people—and the accessory to an ugly racial stereotype. How can something so delicious be both?"

Food politics peppered (HAHA GET IT?) with the stories of some truly inspiring female entrepreneurs.

What do Txts do to Actual Writing? by Note to Self

"In answer to the question of whether the digital age has changed her process, novelist Margaret Atwood simply said, “Do chickens have beaks?”

But there's plenty of (metaphorical) ink to be spilled on the subject of why writing has changed. To answer this question, we've decided to talk to a guy who wrote a pretty big deal book on the subject."

Manoush Zomorodi is the friend you wish you had.

The Compton's Cafeteria Riot: It was so more than Stonewall
Sylvia Rivera: Uncompromising Trans rights activist
Maria Tallchief: First grand ballerina of the United States

all by Stuff You Missed in History Class. I could listen to these charming ladies talk about absolutely anything, and the amount of effort they put into researching each episode really comes through in the careful way they explain even the words they use and their historic context.

Hark! Kate Beaton by Canadaland

Cartoonist Kate Beaton is an exemplary weirdo. Her webcomic about Canadian historical figures and literary ephemera has gained a global following of one million monthly readers. She has published an acclaimed book and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, but she still is largely a self-published online creator. Jesse tries to learn her secrets.

I don't love a lot of Canadian media circle jerks. I expletive-ing love Kate Beaton.

Case #2: Britney by Mystery Show

"Andrea's a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery."

I never thought an episode centered around tracking Britney Spears would make me feel like my heart was smiling.

Dinner at the Afterglow by Lore

"Deep in the forest at the northern tip of a small island near Vancouver Island, there is a stone monument standing amidst the trees. How that structure came to be, and what it meant to those who built it, are both interesting stories. But it's the unofficial reports — the sightings and experiences of those who visit it — that truly deserve to be told."

Some Summer Stories by Home of the Brave

"These stories from the Home of the Brave archive have nothing in common, really, except they remind me of summer."

Well Scott, that's great. I also love his recording of Bernie Sanders.

The Friendliest Town in Texas by Here Be Monsters

"Shoppingspree Clark showed up on the side of the road outside the “Friendliest Town in Texas” with nothing more than a sketchpad and the burnt-out ruin of the RV he’d just bought.

Coleman, Texas’ self-claimed title is true because it used to be on a billboard above the highway. And the people that live there are diverse, troubled, religious, unusual…and friendly."

I've closed this off with what might be the boldest attempted road trip of all time. Here's to you, Shoppingspree Clark.

If you are looking for a roadtrip to enjoy these on, my friend Gillian of The Local Traveler has some great suggestions for 10 day trips within two hours of Halifax.

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Shall Never Rebuild Halifax Unless Everybody Shovels

I’m sorry.

I cannot make Halifax weather suck less, but we can all make Halifax as a city way better. Inspired by a combination of Waye Mason & @ProSkates, let’s clear our side streets and support our main streets, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to win an awesome date / hangout / huge meal all your at some awesome local restaurants for doing so.

Here’s what you can win:

  • 25$ to The Red Stag Tavern! Excellent pub classics with a bunch of twists to make it unique. Also, on a personal note, a great place to watch college sports if you don’t have cable. Enough money for you to have food and a beer or beer and a food.
  • 50$ to Agricola Street Brasserie! Perfect for a romantic date with your significant other or a romantic date with yourself. Make sure you get the jojos even if you have no idea what they are, and the Agricola 75 is my JAM.

For such amazing prizes I bet you think you’re going to need to single-handedly melt all the snow in HRM, right? Well, if you can do that I will give you that and my next pay cheque and my eternal adoration. BUT if no one does, you can be entered into the draw just by:

  • Shovelling part of a street! Take a picture of your handiworks and tag it #ShovelSelfieHfx and get 2 entries and eternal love from pedestrians. Extra love to those helping neighbours or schools.
  • Attending local events: Go to a concert, school fundraiser, play or other community event. Tell us which one and how much fun it was by tagging it #ShovelSelfieHfx for 2 entries.
  • Supporting a local business: Tell us where you went and what you got and tag it #ShovelSelfieHfx for 1 entry. Also tag the business and let them know you love them.

And because there’s seemingly limitless snow, the number of entries (for new snow clearing / events / purchases) are limitless to.

I will use an internet generated name picker. This contest is limited to public twitter & instagram accounts because it’s easier to track.

The contest starts now! It ends on Thursday, April 2nd, at 5 pm so you can use your winnings next weekend.

Many people rely on active transportation such as cycling or walking to get where they need to go. It’s important to encourage this to be proactive about healthcare in our province. I feel I need to indicate that the city really screwed up here. Their reaction to the most recent storm seems to have been as good as it possibly can be, but the last 3 months of miserable sidewalks where people can barely leave their house has been embarrassing. This winter was full of abnormal weather, but not so abnormal that it couldn’t have been managed better.  We need political action to ensure that this does not happen next year, but right now we just need to make it through this season. It’s important to note that these are my personal views, and not the views of any other people / businesses, but I want to highlight that this is a stop gap, not a solution.

Okay! So now you want the sweet, sweet gift certificate and you know how to get it. Good #ShovelSelfieHfx-ing and...

Happy Spring!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A list of some of the men who hate women

There are many important points to take away from the extremely misogynistic comments made by some Dalhousie Dentistry students. Having worked on sexual assault prevention campaigns has exposed me to some interesting misconceptions some people have in defining modern sexism. During the rape chants I heard a lot of people dismiss it as the work of 'dumb jocks', as if bigotry is the culture of one socioeconomic class, one lane, one calling, one talent. 


There isn't one kind of man who hates a woman. 

Men who are dentists hate women. Men who are sensitive poet types hate women. Men who are brothers and fathers hate women. Men who 'respect' women but make the 'joke' anyways hate women. Men who are teachers, lawyers, and lovers hate women. Rich men hate women, poor men hate women. White men hate women. So do men of other races. Christian men hate women. So do men of other religions, men of no religion.  

Men who say they don't hate women hate women. Men who only hate Trans women hate women. Men who think they don't hate women hate women. Some women don't understand the ways they are trained to hate women. 

And if you are one of "not all men!", I don't care. You not teasing me, harassing me, assaulting me has never stopped the ones that did. Show me how you will stop the ones that do: stand up. Don't tolerate the joke. 

Learn more about how to unlearn hatred of all women at the White Ribbon project.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A list of times I cried at the new library on its opening day:

  1.  When a woman dressed up as a movie princess was reading with three little girls also dressed up as princesses. I saw children excited to see the characters from screens read books to them and realize how special it is to let your imagination fill in the blanks, and I cried.
  2. When I was standing in a room watching 3D printer demo surrounded by little boys of girls who thought it was SO COOL. I heard four different languages being spoken (English, French, Arabic, and possibly German? I couldn’t identify the last ones.) I realized how multicultural Halifax is, and how even though we still have lots of deeply ingrained bigotry, we unconsciously fight to celebrate our differences when we share in a remarkable common experience each in our own way, and I cried.

  3. When I saw my younger kind of cousin and her feminist punk band bussed in from the suburbs to check out the new recording studio with plans to create their first album. I didn’t cry, because crying isn’t punk.
  4. When I sat down in a black leather chair in on the very top floor, which felt like a very glamorous spaceship, looking out the window, and stuck my book plate dedicated to my grandmother into Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, thinking of the traditions I created with her when we read together. Then I thought of all of the traditions that the families who read this book would already have, and would go on to create, as they created their own stories around this story. I pulled my sticker off my backing, I admired the pattern of the book lining, I thought of the woman who made me appreciate everything in my hands and everything around me, and I cried.

I had seen the building before. It was remarkable, it was special, it was exciting. But what makes the Halifax Central Library important are the people in it; climbing the infamous stairs, sitting in the modernist pods, dancing in groups at the video game stations, watching authors give presentations in the prayer circle, gasping at the view on the roof. Thank you for being my neighbours in the shelves. Thank you for bringing this magical space alive. I hope I see you all there again soon.

Thank you for the library staff who made the first day so magical. You can support Halifax's beautiful shared space and make a meaningful contribution by buying a bookplate for 25$. (What an amazing Christmas gift!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"No time for books! We're at the library!"

I am at a loss for words.

Earlier this year I lost my home away from home. Katherine had brought her instax camera and took a picture of me, standing in the familiar stacks of the building I knew would be torn down and then we heard the message. The final message. Not a five minute warning. Just a warm, oddly welcoming goodbye that ended with "the library is closed."

Katherine caught a picture of the exact instant I started to cry.

I shared my stories with a stranger that day. I wrote them down on a card and told the building what it meant to me: freedom from my parents, the suburbs, the 'authority', and the start of my downtown adventures.

I heard back from that stranger this week, and she invited me to come see the new library, which will open December 13th.

Here is what this library is: open, beautiful, stark, homey, accessible, classic, friendly, warm, modern, innovative, classic, completely different while maintaining what is important about a library, accessible, eco friendly, and truly world class. A recording studio. A theatre, An auditorium. A lecture hall. A sound production studio. A play place. A kitchen. A place with lots of privacy. A place with lots of open space. A rooftop patio. A puppet place. A place for children. A place for seniors. A place for everyone. A home away from home.

A lot of people, myself included, like getting lost in old libraries and finding all of the hidden nooks and spaces. You cannot do that in this library, and that is a good thing. Secrets mean inaccessibility. But the lack of "lost" does not mean a lack of nooks; children can play and scream and not be heard from another pod despite all of the beautiful wide open space that lets in the light. There is always a new place to wander, something new to discover, even if you can always see all of it. It's special like that.

I ran through the halls, savouring every minute in this building that was too beautiful to comprehend. I had been consistently positive but secretly a little skeptical about some of the designs but they all came together perfectly, ever floor bringing a new gasp. And I mean that I ran. I ran up and down stairs and touched all the tiny details that made this building so special. A librarian, clad in a wonderfully stereotypical smart wool sweater, caught me panting and grinned. "You look... so happy."

I kept getting sidetracked by all of the amazing books I wanted to pick up, but I reminded myself that this time, this time only, that wasn't what I was there for.

I took well over 100 pictures. None of these will do the space justice, but hopefully these will excite you just enough that we will bump into each other at the opening.

Donate now to get your own customizable book plate! I got one in honour of my grandmother and will place it in a Roald Dahl book. What a perfect Christmas gift!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Bedrooms of the Nation

"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation" was one of Pierre Trudeau's more infamous quotes. It was said to defend the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968 & 1969, a huge omnibus bill that sought to decriminalize homosexuality, abortions and birth control, and several other things that slightly defied logic for a bill of its size but it has drastically shaped Canada today.

It is also being incorrectly repeated by fans in a weird attempt to defend a popular radio personality's insistence that he did not commit sexual violence against several women, thus stating that at least 4 women are lying in a smear campaign led by a "jilted ex lover." 

When Trudeau said that there was no place in the bedrooms of the nation, it was because at that time, bedrooms were safe. I do not mean that they were a safe space for the people in the bedroom. (Nor am I referring to possibly the dumbest failed hashtag in the history of Canadian politics.) But bedrooms were a safe space for many acts we now acknowledge as abhorrent.  

1983 is a year that happened 14 years after 1969.

Rape was what happened when a penis entered a vagina. Rape was something that happened on street corners. Consent didn't even have to be a factor, and it could be applied in bulk if it was acknowledged. Victims were questioned about their motivations, their clothing, their character.

Things are not perfect yet, but they have changed.


His roommates definitely heard my awkward, sharp shriek. It was so loud and the apartment walls were so thin that the neighbouring units might have heard it as well. But we were in one of those buildings where screams, especially those that could be explained away as just shrieks or maybe even yelps, didn’t incite much reaction. And even if someone had come, I would have said I was fine, because I was fine, kind of.

I wasn’t entirely fine. Although I don’t look back at his attempt to transition one consensual act into another not discussed with any sort of trauma, my body might. The days after he attempted to intrude me, parts ached in so many different ways. There were shooting pains when I sat in a particular position. There was the awkward angle I had to hold my legs. And then there was the dull ache, like a bruise from inside, that stayed with me for a few days. Nothing about any of this struck me as a problem. When you don’t have much more sexual experience than the loss of virginity, the thought of aches and sharp pains are entirely logical.

Nothing about this awful encounter approached anything that could be described as kinky, let alone BDSM. Neither of us were will coordinated enough in the actions we were trying to interpret into pleasure for there to be focus on any other element added to heighten the experience. Instead, it was the time honoured game of adulthood that I had been training for; one partner taking just a little bit more than the other had agreed, a test to see if I was cool. Cool was his word, after.

“I thought you’d be cool with that,” he justified himself his quivering partner.

“Yeah, sure, it just hurt,” I explained shakily, as if hurting was something that could be 'just' a side note.

To me, boys, because we were not so young but we were still perched on the edge of being boys and girls or men and women, boys were still poltergeists or leprechauns or something tricky. I saw myself, my body, as something that had to be defended from all of the males. I kept my keys in between my fingers for the men who walked behind me at night. I covered my beer bottle mouth with my thumb around the guys I liked at parties. I made sure not to stray too far from the pack when I was about the boys I wanted to kiss. I was still at the age where I saw the other sex as the providers of mutual pleasure but it was my job, my duty to manipulate them into allowing me to achieving it safely. Even the nicest of them still posed threats because patriarchy was teaching both of us that men couldn’t control themselves.

What would I call what happened with him? I don’t have to think about it because I wasn’t hurt badly enough for me to consider anything more than fooling around gone awry. It’s impossible for me to even know what happened as I look back. I dumped him the next day. We would meet again at a party a bit more than a year later, a year after my first year of education at my lovely feminist university, and he would complain to me about a string of failed relationships since ours and tell me they weren’t cool like I was. I could only make guess at what that meant, but the empowering realization that sexism and homophobia were oppression had prepared me for this moment.

I told him he was an asshole. The look he gave me was not one of revelation.

I went on to have better sex with better people. And, as a side note to any younger readers, I don’t just mean better as in ‘didn’t hurt.’ The hottest experiences in my life have always been respectful, before, after, and during, even when the nature of the actions didn’t necessarily reflect that. But we knew, because we talked, and that was hot too. We whispered our desires into ears as we nibbled earlobes and we urged each other to take safe risks with our minds and bodies, the parameters of what we were okay doing leading to unprecedented creativity.

My transition into respectful sex wasn’t smooth, but from what I gather from chatting with others it seldom is. I once joked with my professor that my safe word is Brenda Hattie’s Women’s Studies class, but in a way the statement rings incredibly true. We’re so focused on the minutiae of consent. Did they say yes? Did they say no? as if the entire conversation of consent is just obtaining a password to one’s body, as if you can gain entry by hacking it. Brenda’s class is my safe word because it taught me a framework to have these conversations, to be okay saying no, and to teach me how to engage with others respectfully too.

Nothing about consent is easy. He decided to surprise me with something didn’t hurt me too badly, not for too long. But the culture that created his decision and anyone else’s, anyone who wants to do something with a heavier hand or a bit more intention without asking, is the same.

The conversation we are having is about so much more than one radio personality, and it's important to be mindful that we are speaking to people who have been potentially victimized when we are quick to defend someone based on feelings.

This does not mean Jian Ghomeshi did any one particular thing. This just means that I advocate believing in victims. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and the accused is found guilty. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and they choose not to press charges. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and the accused is not found guilty. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth but it is not something that falls under certain charges. But none of this should empower us not to believe victims.

I believe in victims.
I believe in survivors.

Trudeau Sr.’s prolific words were to normalize certain sexual and lifestyle actions, but not sexual violence nor assault. They’re clever if taken in context, but like all words they leave room to be picked at, and they’re in favour of laws, not the law themselves.

The state belongs wherever victims speak up.


I find Metrac to be an excellent source of information if you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence. I strongly encourage you to talk to someone you trust, whether it is in a clinical environment like a doctor's office, a legal environment like with a police officer, or a resource centre like a women's centre. You can make the best decision that is right for you if you have the best information. You have done nothing wrong. My heart goes out to you.


Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of working as a lead on on a contract with Students Nova Scotia. More Than Yes! is an enthusiastic consent based campaign initially targeted at university students in Nova Scotia. My former employer’s opinions are not reflected in this post, but I believe it is a necessary clarity. And check out the posters; they’re pretty great.

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.