International Women’s Day is a Scam

If you work for a public agency, large corporation, or a progressive small or medium-sized organization, you’ll know that International Women’s Day is coming up. In anticipation of this, I’ve seen a lot of internal communications on diversity and inclusion in my own organization.

This includes a story on a book by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay that we’re encouraged to read, titled The Confidence Code. The book explores whether confidence is a product of nature or nurture; whether people are genetically predisposed to self-confidence.

What they’re talking about, of course, is why many women struggle to accept themselves, express their views, and promote themselves. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. From the synopsis, however, one can gather that the book concludes that some individuals might be genetically predisposed to self-confidence, but it can be learned. I think this is just common sense. Brains are incredibly elastic, with quite a bit of individual variation. We inherit traits from both males and females in our lineage.

However we got here, women who struggle to accept and assert themselves must make a choice at some point if they’re to break the cycle of self-doubt. We have to decide that we’re worth it, that not only do we have something to offer others, but more importantly, we have something to offer ourselves. We have innate value. Men can continue to be arrogant and dismissive, but we can be sure that unless we push back, they’ll take advantage of our acquiescence. So whatever else happens, it’s critical that women encourage each other to stand up.

As well meaning as it might be, though, self-help discourse usually fails women and girls. When Shipman is asked, “What did you find is one of the biggest things women do that undermines their self-worth or self-esteem?”, she responds:

We don’t let go. And that undermines how others see us. I remember doing an interview and after it was over, thinking that I had asked a stupid question. Later that evening, that thought was still swirling around in my head. We can let a doubt go round and round in our heads til it can literally drive us crazy. It can be debilitating and is an enemy of self-confidence.

We don’t let go?! This plays right into the hands of every man who’s ever accused a woman of nagging or overthinking. Before we can explain why women have developed this pattern, we need to identify it accurately. It’s no accident that so many women beat themselves up about insignificant mistakes and never feel like they’re good enough. It’s not natural for women to hate themselves. We’ve been taught to feel this way about ourselves and other women by extension. It’s called internalized misogyny. We’re represented as headless bodies and objects of male conquest and control, and treated like ancillary beings, barely human. We’re treated like shit because we’re women. Is this really a revelation?

Millennia of male domination have entrenched this system, and men continue to uphold and benefit from it. Does Shipmen think we hate ourselves just because? Or we’re masochists? That we’re foolish? Weak? That sometimes we’re given the wrong cues for no apparent reason?

There’s no mystery here. This world makes no secret of the fact that women are hated. It’s no wonder that women implicitly understand that they’re screaming into the void. They know that they can embrace a few masculine personality traits and that might win them respect and advance their careers. But it could just as easily be construed as a threat, and they’ve been punished for violating the strictures of femininity before. Why should they trust that it’s safe to be themselves now? What’s changed?

It all starts the moment we’re born and is reinforced consistently throughout our lives in every social space, from every angle, until it’s so ingrained that women believe we’re somehow born this way and men don’t need to change.

In the article, Shipman acknowledges that some messages aimed at girls are part of the problem but then goes on to say:

Teaching a child to accept and even embrace struggle, rather than shy away from it, is a crucial step along the path toward instilling confidence. You are showing your child that it’s possible to make progress without being perfect.

This is where she loses me. Girls don’t need to be taught to nobly embrace struggle. They already know how to do that, and they do it well. Too well, in fact. The problem is that females face the struggles they do because they’re female, and that boys and men treat them the way they do because they know they can. Girls are amazing. It’s boys who need to be taught how to deal with conflict, not to lash out at others, respond with violence, or become numb to the pain of others – girls especially.

The key lies in Shipman’s gender-neutral language: “teaching a child”, “showing a child”. Teaching which children what? We need to get right down to the root of the problem. Unfortunately, the only women who are embraced as experts and deemed worthy feminists have a tenuous grip on the issue. They don’t threaten the system, which is why they’re given a platform.

Meanwhile, everyone goes on pretending that things are getting better, that if only girls and women would somehow realize they can liberate themselves, everything would be fine. But the first step to liberation is understanding.

With each passing IWD, I see society crawling toward this radical awareness and I wonder how we’ll ever get there at this rate. The greatest obstacle to progress is the illusion of progress.

 

 

 

 

Depression sucks

Depression triggers a debilitating double-bind: you want to have good times and feel connected to people you value but you don’t have the will or energy to do anything. You distance yourself in an effort to conserve what little strength you have to perform basic tasks, alienating yourself from the outer world and in the process feeling isolated, which only makes things worse. You feel lost and alone with no one and nothing to distract you from your ennui. And distraction is the best you can expect; no one can really inspire or lift you out of it. They can’t save you. All they can hope to do is help you to temporarily feel a bit better and assure you that they’re there for you. But you know they’re too far away to throw you a life line. On a certain level you’re drowning but too tired to swim. After the nice little rendezvous, you’ll go home and either sleep a little more soundly or feel exhausted from the interaction. The guilt is sometimes the worst part. You lose track of whether it’s your turn to get in touch with friends and family, people generally, and you fear you’ve dropped the ball and have pushed people away. If they’re true allies and understand without taking it personally, you’re still missing out on the relationship. While other people seem to be getting closer to one another, you know you’re missing out and yet no amount of shame or disappointment can rouse you to do anything about it.

Why do you have depression? There could be a lot of reasons. Lack of sleep, allergies, medication, winter, a sudden shock or loss, being a victim or even a survivor of violence or abuse, reproductive issues, hormonal issues, etc. The last thing anyone suffering from depression needs is to not be able to nail down the cause. Yes, meds can and often do help, but finding the right chemicals at the right dosage can be a long drawn out process. It takes a minimum of one month to feel the effects so if you haven’t found something that works, you’ve got to start over again. That’s the pharmaceutical approach. No matter the cause of the depression, you’ll need therapy. Pretty much everybody should do therapy. This is especially true when you’ve been in a crushing state for a prolonged period of time. Those dark thoughts and heavy feelings act like waves; they erode the edges of your mind and change the landscape. Your outlook on life and your place in it is dramatically altered. Just like any other illness, there’s a rehabilitation period.

For two days now I’ve been feeling better. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep – and of course I haven’t, for a number of reasons – I simply feel tired, like I need a nap and then I’ll be fine. It’s an altogether different sort of fatigue from the kind that sticks to you and drags you down. I hope I’m feeling better thanks to the tweaks to my meds and not because it’s a temporary reprieve caused by some mysterious factor. I mean, a break is always welcome and often the one thing that keeps you from going under. But I want to be well. I want to live. For the moment I don’t feel like I’m struggling to get out of my own head. I can tolerate the thought of going for a bike ride or organizing that pile of stuff I loathe having to stare at day after day.

I feel like I can talk about my illness rather than just get through it. Maybe the cobwebs are starting to clear. I’m optimistic. I’m grateful for that much.

Feminism and partisanship: does the Left own feminism?

Feminism identifies patriarchy as the root of social inequality; though oppression also exists along ethnic, religious, national and cultural axes which overlap to create multiple layers of marginalization and discrimination, all societies (with a mere handful of exceptions) are built on a system of male domination of females. Though the term ‘radical’ is widely interpreted to mean ‘extreme’ particularly in the realm of politics, the etymology of the word is far less loaded while illuminating a crucial point:

late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (from PIE root *wrād- “branch, root”). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s.

Radical feminism therefore seeks to address the root of patriarchy – why it exists and how it functions. The goal of any system of oppression is the accumulation and control of resources: one group wants something another has; usually land, natural resources, and labour. What resource do women have that men want? Labour, certainly, but more fundamentally it’s the ability to reproduce the species. Men need women in order to have offspring who can carry on their legacy, take care of them when they’re elderly or ill, and bring honour to the family name – their name, of course.

The historical accumulation and maintenance of power and capital by men is a massive barrier that women as a class are still struggling to overcome. Women are aware that men are generally physically stronger than them. The prevalence of male violence against women presents enough of a threat to deter women from ending relationships with men, standing up to them, and choosing to prioritize their own lives and the lives women more generally.

But brute force alone isn’t enough. No system of oppression is complete without social engineering. Those without power must not only be convinced that they can’t win if they fight back; they must be convinced that fighting back is unacceptable or unthinkable. Enter the system of gender, or gender roles, as it’s more commonly known. Gender consists of sex role stereotypes that decree what each sex is supposed to do in relation to each other, i.e. masculinity and femininity. Masculinity is the social institution that gives males permission to be domineering, self-centred, and sociopathic. Femininity, on the other hand, grooms, coerces, and punishes women and girls into centring the feelings and demands of boys and men, arranging their appearance in relation to the male gaze and porn culture, and compromising their own self-interest and well-being in order to meet the expectation that they be managers and carers for all.

Gender permeates all cultures, all economic classes, all households. Whether one’s parents are liberal or conservative, religious or atheist, single-parent or traditional, gender roles are imposed both explicitly and subtly through limitless sources. Children grow up understanding what’s expected based on biological sex as reinforced by interactions with students and teachers, nannies, neighbours, politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, TV commercials, movies, toys, clothing, music, family friends, relatives, etc. No one escapes sexist brainwashing no matter how progressive one’s immediate family might be in theory or practice, and men benefit from sexism no matter how progressive they appear or try to be. Regardless of men’s individual upbringing or intentions, they have a vested interest in patriarchy and they don’t have to make any effort to wield that power. They’re born with it just as females are born into a role designed to force women to accommodate that power.

Is it any wonder that feminist spaces (places where women can gather freely without interference from men) is the only true safe haven for women? Feminism isn’t for white women, or educated women, or English-speaking women, or rich women, or conventionally attractive women, or heterosexual women. Nor is it for liberal or left-wing women alone. Feminism is for all women, even those who don’t identify as feminists, and even those whose political views we find repugnant.

Recently, three UK feminists traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to politicians of all stripes about the importance of maintaining sex-based protections under Title IX as trans activists push to replace the protected category of sex with gender identity. These women are Posie Parker (AKA Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull), Venice Allan (AKA Dr RadFem), and Julia Long. An uproar has ensued because Posie and Julia confronted two individuals, one of whom is Sarah McBride, a male who identifies as a woman and is the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. McBride is lobbying the U.S. government to eliminate sex-based protections. Natasha Chart explains the context for the campaign:

McBride was there that morning to argue that girls in school have no right to bodily privacy when changing for gym class or when first managing menstruation in what should be girls-only bathrooms. McBride was there to argue for an end to girls’ sports, because they want boys to be able to join the girls’ sports teams. McBride was there to overturn decades of women’s rights advocacy, at the head of a movement that has brutally silenced women who dissent.

Posie posted a video of the interaction with McBride which was instantly denounced by LGBTQ+ organizations and websites like Gay Star News and PinkNews as a shocking incident of harassment and transphobia. Let’s see if their interpretation is fair and accurate:

First off, what right do men have to equivocate on the rights of women to be recognized as a class of people with unique challenges and needs? What right does any group have to tell children that they’re born wrong and to lead them toward permanent, dangerous medical procedures as they struggle to negotiate gender roles? It’s not surprising that organizations supportive of gender ideology would characterize this encounter in an unfavourable light. But what’s kept me awake this past week has been the way in which prominent feminists have torn into Posie and Julia, accusing them of launching an embarassing ambush, causing harm, and declaring these feminists a liability. These criticisms aren’t coming from liberal feminists. They’re coming from feminists who have vocally opposed the genderbread nonsense and have had the courage to say that actually, women are adult human females and nothing else.

What I see in this video are two men who hate women being paid good money to reverse feminists’ achievements in the name of human rights and progressive politics. I see two women seizing an opportunity and asking these men to be accountable. They didn’t call anyone names. They didn’t curse. They didn’t yell. And if you notice, the first thing McBride does when the women walk in is turn his head away from them and ignore them. Yet he’s being cajoled as a victim. Something doesn’t feel right about this. I realize that Posie has made controversial statements in the past but that doesn’t mean everything she does is wrong. This looks to me like an attempt by popular feminists who oppose gender self-declaration to purge feminists they view as problematic as they gain acknowledgement in mainstream politics.

I wonder whether the real controversy here is the fact that Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) organized the campaign and they’ve partnered with conservative organizations to oppose gender self-declaration. Another feminist coalition, Hands Across The Aisle, is also not above working with people from the Right to defend the boundaries of women and girls, and to recognize biological sex as legally, socially and materially significant to women’s lives. That includes women from conservative families and communities. Likewise, children from all walks of life have a right to be protected regardless of where the adults around them fall on the political spectrum. Progressives like to think that conservatives are brutes who don’t care about women, and most of them don’t, but neither do progressives. So liberals support abortion rights. That’s easy. Men on the Left support abortion because they benefit from it; it means they may not have to take responsibility if they get a woman pregnant.

Liberals support the sex trade, pornography and surrogacy – all industries that exploit women. It was a conservative government under Stephen Harper in Canada that implemented the Nordic Model, as some liberal countries have also done. The Left, usually consisting of the Greens, NDP and Labour, has been the home of misogynists who wish to abolish the word ‘woman’ and replace it with ‘womxn’ (they don’t seem to mind the word ‘men’, interestingly). It’s liberals who are responsible for giving awards and positions to men who identify as women instead of actual women. It’s liberals who congratulate men for competing in women’s sports and stealing their medals. It’s liberals who turn a blind eye to arranged marriages, child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, and acid attacks. It’s liberals who’ve embraced the words ‘TERF’ and ‘cis’. It’s liberals who argue that feminine beauty practices are a matter of personal choice and are empowering.

Feminists who criticize other women for working with conservatives don’t seem to realize that there’s no such thing as a a pure ally. No matter where you turn, the organization you’re working with – unless it’s a radical feminist group – will support you in some ways while undermining you in others. Hasn’t that always been the case? Even parties that purport to centre women purge feminists who dare say that men can’t be women and that women are oppressed because of our biological sex. I understand why it’s controversial to speak at an event hosted by a group like the Heritage Foundation and I’ll never question a woman who doesn’t feel comfortable doing so. I get it. But even in this hostile climate, I think it says a lot that an organization that opposes gay rights invited radical feminists to share their views, whereas the Left tries to shut radical feminists down every chance they get.

How do we advocate for women if we can’t say what a woman is? How do we support lesbians if we’re not allowed to define sexual orientation according to biological sex? Leftists who shun women for working with others on some issues are hypocrites who’ve hated women all along anyway. If they cared, they would have listened in the first place and not forced feminists to go looking elsewhere for support.

We need to do more about smoking

According to Business Insider, cigarette butts are the ocean’s single largest source of trash. Smokers seem to think they can flick their used butts pretty much anywhere – on sidewalks, in waterways, public parks. Out the car window, at times causing disastrous forest fires that claim lives and cause billions of dollars in property damage. While smoking rates seem to be declining overall, vaping rates are skyrocketing among Canadian teens. After everything we’ve learned about the impacts of cigarettes, I genuinely can’t understand why so many people still smoke.

Every day during my lunch break, I try to take a walk to get a bit of exercise and fresh air. I work in the financial district so the crowding and car fumes downtown are bad enough, but the amount of cigarette smoke I have to breathe in while walking down the street worries and enrages me beyond words. Everywhere, smokers line the sidewalks and blow their carcinogenic clouds right in people’s faces. They don’t seem to give a damn. It smells awful, especially in the summer heat.

The worst offenders are people who smoke while walking down the street, leaving a trail of poison behind them that can’t be avoided. Also, people who smoke while standing next to others as they wait for the bus, and smokers who feel entitled to stand right beside building entrances. I’ve had to move seats on the subway because I developed a headache within minutes of sitting beside a smoker. Movies and TV shows still seem to have a love affair with cigarettes, too. Peaky Blinders in particular is a big offender; the ubiquity of smoking on the show is positively stratospheric. I wanted to throw up just watching it.

The Ontario government has passed laws designed to protect the public but they’re never enforced. If you asked most people, they’d have a rudimentary familiarity with these laws, at best. Hardly anyone knows about this one, for example:

You cannot smoke or vape on the outdoor grounds of a community recreational facility and any public areas within 20 metres of its grounds.

And if they know about it, they don’t care. The City of Toronto has also passed bylaws including one that prohibits smoking within 9 metres of any building used by the public. Although this bylaw is well-known and signs are posted everywhere, rarely does anyone heed them. At my place of work, there’s a large outdoor space where smokers can congregate far away from the entrance, but almost every day as I enter the building, some oaf is standing right there, obnoxiously puffing away.

On a positive note, I’ve seen acknowledgements in the media lately about the fact that smokers tend to take more work breaks and there’s a growing appetite for redress. Global News reports:

A Japanese company is giving its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time smokers take for cigarette breaks.

This is only fair. It’s about time!

I understand that cigarettes are highly addictive. I have personal experience of a close family member who for many years smoked in my presence. Eventually they limited their smoking to the basement, and then later, outside. When they found out they had a brain aneurysm, they realized they had no choice but to quit. They did it cold turkey and though it was hard, they never looked back. My grandfather was a chain smoker and after he retired, he suffered a stroke. But that’s not what did him in; years later, he died of lung cancer. At a family reunion a couple of years ago, almost everyone was smoking right where we were all set up in the garage with games, drinks and food. They didn’t even have the decency to walk 3 metres away to smoke outside. Truly incomprehensible. The craziest part is my grandmother is 91, in fantastic health, and has no plans to quit smoking. She’s outlived my other grandmother, who passed away last year at 91 and never smoked a cigarette in her life.

As someone who’s been treated for cancer recently, I’m more sensitive about the issue now and I struggle to understand society’s apathy about this problem. No one ever says anything, and because no one ever says anything, no one ever says anything. I know that in this environment, if I were to speak up, people would either ignore me or respond as though I was the one being rude. From time to time when someone’s smoke is blowing in my face and I can’t get away, I’ll give them a dirty look and they usually get the hint and move away. But it shouldn’t come to that.

All of this would change if the public were better educated and everyone made an effort to speak up. There’s a limit to the extent to which sin taxes will deter smokers and governments have been utter cowards when it comes to holding tobacco companies accountable. As long as these corporations rake in massive profits and our political representatives bend to their will, the price we all pay for this heinous habit will continue to rise.

Why men keep getting away with being pervs and pedos: a case study of Marc Emery

Men can do the most outrageous, disgusting things and loads of people – mostly men but also women – will inevitably come to their defense even when the facts are damning. This can only happen in a culture that supports and worships male power, and devalues females. These two biases are self-reinforcing and serve to ensure that whatever men do, they’ll escape punishment and whatever women do, we’ll continue to be exploited, disbelieved and harmed. Sure, men are being called out, but rarely do they actually get the justice they deserve. The actions of celebrity men are highly visible, but how many average men have done terrible things and gotten away with it? Just from my experiences alone, I can list dozens.

Journalist Deidre Olsen recently published a shocking (not so shocking) thread on Twitter about the creepy advances that ‘Prince of Pot’ Canadian activist Marc Emery allegedly made to her when she was just 17. Further along the thread, she provides details and shares the stories of other women.

 

Emery has admitted to being a pervert but insists no one has ever complained to the authorities about him. That’s a solid defense because we all know most sexual assaults are reported. Right?? Well, Marc, maybe no one spoke up before but they sure as hell are now. He went on to say:

I’ve never had sex with anyone under 19 ever, so this idea that I’m grooming young women is not true

Emery may be a greasy sleazebag, but I’m sure he’s smart enough to know this doesn’t wash. Do all instances of sexual abuse involve actual intercourse? Of course they don’t. It remains to be seen what will come of the recent allegations but things don’t look good. Despite this, many are rushing to his defense. Just check out the incomprehensibly asinine comments of support posted under Emery’s statement on his Facebook page. Apart from the current allegations and those that have apparently been floating around for a long time (Jian Ghomeshi comes to mind), there’s plenty of evidence that makes it clear what kind of man Emery is: an egotistical chauvinist who enjoys debasing women and encourages other men to dominate and abuse them too. Like Roosh V and James Sears, Emery likes to bond with other men by humiliating women. Shall we review the evidence?

Yeah, dude. We could have told you famous men have always preyed on vulnerable women and girls. That’s because we live in patriarchy, not because it’s okay.

 

…But he’s not a pedophile, you see, because they’re probably of legal age. Nothing wrong about a middle-aged man getting turned on by girls, taking their picture while their backs are turned, and posting it on social media so other pigs can objectify them too. Please proceed to the next exhibit with caution. Emery is one sick fuck…

 

So do I believe that this violent vacuum of humanity tried to groom a 17 year-old girl on the internet, and has probably done and said a lot of other disgusting things to women and girls over the years? Yeah, I do.