Mar 27, 2017

On Inequality

I believe with all my heart and intellect that, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or income, people should have the ability to provide a safe and comfortable life for themselves and their families, an education, access to health care, and the right to treat their own bodies as they choose.

I believe that, as a society, we should help people with physical / mental / emotional impairments in whatever ways we can (so things like ramps to public buildings for people in wheelchairs, described video and little chirpy sounds at crosswalks for the blind, extra time on tests for students with dyslexia, etc.). I believe in equal rights and opportunities for all of humankind.

But I do not believe that we are all created equal.

Some of us are smarter, faster, or stronger than others. Some of us are more motivated, more artistic, more tech-savvy, more empathetic, more generous, more logical, or more inventive than others. Some of us are better drawers, builders, drivers, planners, teachers, dancers, or nurturers. Some of us have better eyesight or a better sense of smell or a better sense of direction. Some of us are better spellers and some of us are better mathematicians and scientists. Some of us are better at telling jokes and some of us are better at small talk. Some of us have asthma or a peanut allergy or astigmatism.

I think it's ridiculous to treat everyone as if they were the same, when we are clearly not all the same.

A woman is superior to a man in her ability to give birth and breastfeed a child.

Sighted people are superior to blind people in their ability to describe the colours in a sunset.

A person with the working use of both their legs is superior to a person in a wheelchair in the ability to save someone from a burning building.

A non-pedophile is superior to a pedophile in not regarding children as objects of sexual desire.

A tall person is superior to a short person in getting a good sightline at a rock show.

A person with dark skin is superior to a person with pale skin in not getting a sunburn at the beach.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. The only way of creating true equality is to erase our differences, and that, as dystopian fiction makes abundantly clear, is a terrifying prospect.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I believe in equal rights and opportunities, but I don't believe in equality. Ah well, and riot on.

Mar 15, 2017

On Glass

I grew up in the halcyon days before the internet and portable video games, when your options as a child having to endure grown-up tasks such as Thanksgiving road trips across the prairies or trips to the laundromat were limited to what you could come up with to pass the time given the restrictions of environment and volume allowance. So reading, Mad Libs, bugging your little brother, and pretending the laundry hamper was one's only protection from the lava floor were pretty much your only options.

One afternoon, rather than spend a couple of hours watching for the red sock to come around, my childish cohorts and I were running up and down the aisles of agitating washers and spinning dryers. For a reason lost to the depths of my childhood memory, I decided to escape the suffocating confines of electric heat and the cloying smell of fabric softener and make a break for it. (I was in general an obedient child.)

But when I pushed on the heavy door leading to the freedom of the outside world, instead of doing its doorly duty and opening, it shattered into a million tiny shards of glass around me. I remember standing there in the doorway, bits of glass glittering in my hair and around my feet, stunned. It was my first experience with the impermanence of the world. It was also an indication of my immense power.

The things I could count on - the loyalty of best friends, the protection of mommy and daddy, my own strong body - were no longer the bastions of solidity I assumed them to be. Best friends could move away. Parents could divorce. Bones could break. (So could hearts.) If glass doors could shatter rather than simply swing open as doors were created to do, there was no telling what chaos lurked in the shadows.  

But I had created this chaos. I was the bringer of this destruction, albeit unintended. What previously untapped potential had I unveiled to myself and to the world in that remarkable instant?

On the day that glass door shattered, I learned that I was a being both formidable and fragile. Ah well, and riot on.







Mar 10, 2017

9 Things Tonight

1. My thumbnail is too long. My forefinger keeps going back to that excessively long thumbnail, running over the edge of the nail, feeling the fingertip too far beneath, worrying its unfamiliarity like a tongue worries a canker sore or the flap of skin on the roof of your mouth from hot pizza cheese.

2. As a girl myself, I sometimes find girl friendships difficult. You never have to comment on a boy's haircut. There is no expectation of noticing a new top, a new lipstick colour, a new nail polish; no fall-out from the failure to notice these inconsequential things. We have to constantly tell each other how cute we are, how great, how worthwhile. (This emotional bolstering is perhaps our way of countering airbrushed magazine ads and gap-thighed supermodels. Still, I find it tiring.)

3. I would like to start composting. Make something useful out of decay. 

4. I turn the labels on the food in the fridge and pantry out and line everything up so I can see what I have at a glance. I like the tea towel to hang off the oven door handle just so. I alphabetize my books (by author's last name and then alphabetically by title unless it's a series, in which case, chronologically) and records (by first word in the artist's name, excluding "The" but counting "Thee" and then chronologically). I like things to always be kept near the place they are used. I hate dust. (I also hate dusting.) These traits remind me of Julia Roberts' psycho husband in that movie where she secretly takes swimming lessons and then pretends to drown in order to escape him but he finds her and she knows that he finds her because everything in her house is lined up just so. I wonder if I am a little bit psycho.   

5. I know I am only a little bit psycho because I just toss my pajamas into the bottom drawer without folding them and rarely make the bed and never iron anything.

6. Every single time I sit down to write something at night, without fail, the Supertramp lyrics "There are times, when all the world's asleep, the questions run too deep, for such a simple man" run through my head. I wish something cooler than Supertramp was my night-time writing muse. Sometimes I want to write something angry and visceral, but then this goddamn philosophical Supertramp song pops in there and adds its wistful, nostalgic air to whatever it is I'm writing. I fucking hate that. 

7. It would be an exaggeration to say that I almost died a few weeks ago during a routine surgery, but I did experience dangerous complications due to my body's rather alarming reaction to a certain substance used in the surgery. Intellectually, I am aware of the transience of life, but I have to admit that I can't fathom actually dying. This is why I walked through the murky, potentially-shark-and/or-crocodile-filled waters between sand bars in Costa Rica, why I think nothing of exceeding the speed limit on the 401, why I crossed the protective barrier and peered over the cliff edge into the Grand Canyon, why I ride my bicycle without a helmet. It only takes a moment to die.

8. I am not afraid of living. I am not afraid of taking chances and embracing opportunities, of being uncomfortable, of looking foolish, of being rejected, of admitting to not knowing. I want to know things and do things and go places. (And look at how fucking wistful and nostalgic and philosophical this has gotten. Thanks, Supertramp, you insidious asshole. Every goddamn time.)           

9. Well, the laundry is done and the night wears on and sleep beckons and dreams await. Also, I have to pee. Ah well, and riot on.     

    


Feb 17, 2017

Narcissus

I have, in the past, been criticized for being egotistical and narcissistic (and even if you've never brought it directly to my attention, you might have thought it), but I don't believe I am any more self-absorbed than anyone else (although I probably express it more often). Shouldn't we be the most interesting people in the world to ourselves? When you get right down to the real nitty gritty, we're the only thing we've got that can't be lost.

I am fascinated by my own thoughts. The intricate layers of thinking: the concurrency of the song running through my head, the imagined conversation, and the memory. How can the present, past, and future exist simultaneously in my brain?

My body is also fascinating to me. The way it looks and the things it does, the things it is capable of doing. I very frequently feel like an interloper in this bag of flesh and bones and blood. How is this body so intrinsically entwined with who I am in my entirety? This thing that bruises and bleeds and breaks and heals all on its own. (And don't forget aging, the way the body weakens and softens and wizens.)

In a crowd, at a club, I am invisible, unnoticed, looking out at the world from a face that does not belong to me, or to the essence of me. I feel awkward standing still. What do I do with my hands? (Is this why we hold bottles of beer at concerts? To give ourselves something to do that makes us feel less ungainly? Am I the only one who feels this disconnect?) That feeling of looking out, which suggests that there is something in. 

I like taking pictures of my body parts, itemizing them, cataloging. Here is my navel, here are my breasts, my hips, my legs, my hands. Here are my bruises; here is my blood. Here is my face, this thing I will never see except in reflections. I cannot take a photograph of the in, so here are photographs of the out.

I can't help that I am the most interesting person in the world, to me, and I can't stop trying to figure myself out. Understanding of one's self leads to an understanding of others, and an understanding of others leads to an understanding of the world (or so we hope). So forgive me my self-absorbed musings and memories. I appreciate your indulgence, and I sincerely hope that you are the most interesting person in the world to you.





   

 


Feb 1, 2017

On Religion

I personally think religion is stupid. If you need to believe in something bigger than yourself to get by in this crazy world, then, go ahead, knock yourself out. If prayer and meditation help you focus and deal with hardship, get down on those knees and light those candles.

But too many people use religion to justify their shitty, antiquated behaviour. Too many people use religion to hurt others. Too many people do not understand that the rules and tenets of their religions were created by men in positions of power to control (and often protect, to give them their due) the men and women beneath them in the social hierarchy. Too many people forget that religion was created as a way of explaining things we now understand through science.

I honestly believe that religion is the source of all evil in this world. (Which is kind of interesting, because would we even have the concept of evil without religion?)

Don't worry, it's cool. I'm allowed to marry a 13-year-old against her will and force her to fuck me - it says so in my holy book.

You can't have sex without being married or you're going to hell - it says so in my holy book.

You can't eat bacon - it says so in my holy book.

You can't control your own reproductive system - it says so in my holy book.

I'm going to tell you you're evil and make you hide who you are because you love someone who has the same genitalia as you - it says so in my holy book.

You must wear something on your head even though you might just want to go bare-headed and feel the wind in your hair some days and I'll punish you if you don't - it says so in my holy book.

You have to starve today - it says so in my holy book.

You can't play with the face cards - it says so in my holy book.

You need to go to this building a certain number of times a week, and you should leave some cash even though you're broke - it says so in my holy book.

You can't drink liquor or ingest certain substances - it says so in my holy book.

We're going to chop off bits of your sexual parts. Boys, because someone once decided foreskin was weird or something. Girls, because you shouldn't think sex is fun - it says so in my holy book. 

If you have sex with another man, I can kill you, but I can have as many wives as I want - it says so in my holy book.

I have to ring your doorbell early on the weekend to convince you that you are wrong and I am right - it says so in my holy book.

Killing you will help me get to heaven - it says so in my holy book.

There are obviously some good parts to most religions, and the varying interpretations of those holy books might be vastly different from their original intent. But as a human being in the wildly futuristic year of 2017, do you really need to have someone else tell you to try to be good? Do you need the fear of eternal punishment to not act like a jerk?

Can we not all just agree that life (all life, including the life of this planet and all its inhabitants) is valuable and should be respected? Can we not just all adopt the Golden Rule and throw out all that oppression and subjugation and violence that is responsible for so much suffering and death?

Let's at least give it a shot, see what happens. Riot on if you're with me.

Jan 23, 2017

The March

I've been having a hard time expressing, even to myself, why the women's march this past weekend has had such a powerful impact on me. People have asked me why I marched, what I thought it was accomplishing, and I don't really know how to answer. I didn't have a specific agenda. I am a straight, white, educated, non-religious, middle-class Canadian woman. I have never been raped or abused. I have never had an abortion (or a child). I am comfortable with my body and my sexuality. I am in a relationship with a man who is my intellectual and emotional equal. I have never felt denigrated or limited because of my gender at school or at work. I am lucky.

But I feel a very deep connection, inexpressible but undeniable, to my womanhood and to my place in womankind. (Is it buried in that extra X chromosome, in the blood we shed? Do men feel this same sense of solidarity?)

I have been aware of my own female power for as long as I can remember - it is an indelible part of my identity - and seeing all these women around the world standing together, and being part of the group in my own small city, reinforced this power.

But without exception, there are moments in every woman's life that make her feel powerless, and afraid. I am lucky to have had only a few such moments, moments that did not escalate into anything traumatic or tragic. But those moments, minor though they are, have stayed with me.

The boss at my first job asked me and my female co-worker to touch his new pants. At the staff Christmas party, he encouraged us, at fifteen, to drink alcohol.

An older man pursued me at my place of employment, buying me gifts, telling me not to tell my boyfriend, introducing me to his daughter, showing up at a bar I went to, all despite my informing him that he was making me very uncomfortable.

The married (and considerably older) proprietor of a restaurant next to the store I worked at offered to give me money to go for a drive with him.

I was roofied. (I made it home safely thanks to friends.)

These moments were why I marched. Because men are powerful, too, and because people, men and women both, in positions of power have the responsibility to not abuse that power.

I marched to support the women who do not have my freedoms and who suffer for no reason other than the fact that they are women.

I marched to add my strength to the feminine force that has the power to change the world.









Jan 21, 2017

Listen.

She comes to you at night with her siren-whisper.

Listen.

It's a man's world, but here you are, with your breasts and hips (and the brain that they can't see). Play it up, show some skin, make them love you, with your chipped fingernails and fishnets and black boots. It's easy, really.

When they kindly provide you with knowledge that you already possess (because you are a girl, so how could you possibly know about baseball or carburetors), bat your lashes and ask for clarification. Reflect his condescension in the twinkle in your eyes. Let him see it, and laugh.

Reject him, but do it kindly. Remember that he's a person, like you, and his ego is as soft and fragile as his external genital organs.

You are hard beneath your softness. You bear the weight and the pain of the millions before you whose suffering comes to you in blood.  

And when you're walking alone in the dark, don't forget to put your keys between your fingers, aim for the eyes, the throat, the groin. (The boots will help you run.)