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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Why is cultural appropriation so hard for people to understand?

There’s always been a backlash to political correctness. Many behind the backlash say they’re sensitive to the legitimate concerns of disadvantaged groups but things have gone too far. More often than not, when you dig a bit deeper, their solution is usually something like: why can’t we all just relax and treat everybody the same way? Well yeah, that’s the point – but the question is, who isn’t being treated fairly and what’s being done – and by whom – to keep these people from achieving social equality?

There are some people who’ll never believe that by virtue of being members of certain groups based on shared ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, etc., individuals are vulnerable to mistreatment and often are mistreated on that basis. They might do a bit of research and number-crunching to support their views, but more often than not, they just don’t care. Even if it could be unequivocally shown that certain groups in society are disadvantaged, they wouldn’t change anything about their own behaviour. It rarely seems to be noted that for every offense taken by SJWs, there’s an equally-vocal group who instantly become offended that someone is offended. These types relish in the notoriety of holding controversial opinions whether they have a genuine belief or familiarity with the ideology that underpins them, or not.

It’s clear to any decent, honest person who isn’t a misogynist that Baby it’s Cold Outside is a manual for sexual harassment, its easy acceptance by most people a horrifying signifier of women’s oppression. It doesn’t take much effort to see the problem. The machinations of gender are clear: we see how femininity has conditioned not just the woman in the song but women as a class to be nice, to do everything possible to avoid hurting men’s feelings, to give in to their pressure; and how masculinity has given this man such a sense of entitlement to this woman’s attention and body that he feels totally comfortable taking advantage of his greater size and strength, and the woman’s desperate attempt to balance her internalized duty of politeness with her own instinct for self-preservation. Over and over again, she says no – but he has a smarmy rebuff each time. How, then, can there be a critical mass of people who feel no shame in whining so much that radio stations felt they had no choice but to put the rape apologist song back on the air? All this in the era of #MeToo when there are literally countless examples of male violence exposed for all to see. You can prove in the clearest terms that these problems exist, how they work, and how to eradicate them. But facts don’t matter when you don’t have power.

It’s within this context that I’d like to discuss recent news that Coop les Récoltes, a bar and co-operative at the Université du Quebec à Montréal, banned white comedian Zach Poitras from performing there because he has dreadlocks. Their public statement can be read here (in French). I think there’s a debate to be had about the current climate of safe spaces and censorship at universities in Western countries, but this is a legitimate issue that won’t go away for good reason.

I approach this case with two main questions in mind:

  1. Is it justifiable for private establishments to ban someone who engages in cultural appropriation?
  2. Is this an example of cultural appropriation?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that white people who wear dreads are engaging in cultural appropriation. What should we do about it as a society? We can’t force the offenders to stop, so some form of social censure is required if we agree that this practice is rude at best and harmful at worst. Is it fair to exclude cultural appropriators from certain events and spaces out of respect for black people who also wish – and deserve – to enjoy those same events and spaces? To me, it turns on one fundamental observation: there’s been ample debate for some time now that white people who wear dreads can’t possibly feign ignorance to the fact that many black people say it’s insulting. Why isn’t that enough to make them stop? Why is their personal aesthetic more important than the right of black people to be treated as equals? There are two rights here, and in my mind one is manifestly more important than the other. People shouldn’t engage in practices that are disrespectful to a disadvantaged group unless they have a very, very good (i.e. rights-based) reason for doing so. Individual style doesn’t make the cut. So consequences should be expected, and reasonable, which I would define as decisions that don’t violate fundamental human rights. I don’t think this is one such example, so Coop les Récoltes had a right to make the decision they did. That being said, I get why it’s controversial.

As to whether this case is indeed an example of cultural appropriation, I think an honest, robust analysis leads to a fairly easy conclusion that it is. I saw many comments on the Facebook post that are lazy and shallow. One person linked to a Wikipedia page which says:

During the Bronze Age and Iron Age, many peoples in the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, East Mediterranean and North Africa such as the Sumerians, Elamites, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Amorites, Mitanni, Hattians, Hurrians, Arameans, Eblaites, Israelites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Medes, Parthians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Georgians, Azeris, Cilicians and Canaanites/Phoenicians/Carthaginians are depicted in art with braided or plaited hair and beards.

This point is irrelevant. Braids and plaits aren’t the same as dreads and no skater dude, stoner, new ager or anarchist is trying to emulate an Indian sadhu or Aztec priest. Dreadlocks as a concept and style are known in the West primarily and specifically as a result of the growth of the Jamaican diaspora. Ask any random person what springs to mind when they think ‘dreadlocks’ and they picture a black person by default.

There are two main reasons why dreads are typically worn by members of the subcultures I’ve listed here: (1) they presumably give one an earthy, ‘ethnic’, ‘hippie’, ‘alternative’ kind of look; and (2) they’re a symbol of resistance popularized by Rastafari, most famously by Bob Marley. Another person who comes to mind is Zack de la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine. White people, and other non-black people, adopt the look because this connection conveys for them an ineffectual, cool, edgy image.

Dreads and cornrows are firmly located within black communities and are meaningful from a black liberation perspective because black people – and by extension, black hair – have been so heavily stigmatized. Just like the afro and the comb, dreads are an unmistakable symbol of black pride more broadly even if dreads are ultimately attributed to Jamaican culture specifically. How is a white person treated and regarded when wearing dreads, compared to a black person?

White people mimicking black people is nothing new, but the argument can’t rest on comparisons alone. Either a practice is right or wrong on its face. Otherwise, we’ll continue to go in circles forever, failing to recognize that these are not isolated, trite issues. You’d have to know all of this and not care about the message you’re sending as a white person wearing dreads, especially if you want to socialize with people of all backgrounds. I’m sure Poitras has met black people who’ve told him he’s alright and his hair doesn’t offend them. Several responses to the Coop les Récoltes’ announcement say as much. Then again, I’ve also met women who hate lesbians and think all women should have children, so…

Is a guaranteed basic income the solution to poverty?

I don’t think so. I’m a socialist and I still don’t think so. In fact, it’s because I’m a socialist that I think it’s a bad idea.

We all know that housing costs in Canada – Toronto and Vancouver in particular – are crazy. And when I say Toronto, I’m essentially referring to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) because as prices have risen exponentially in Toronto proper, many people have migrated further and further outside of the city, trying to snatch up homes that aren’t cheap but still somewhat affordable. This drives local prices up to such an extent that people who’ve lived in peripheral cities as far out as Guelph are saying that if they sell their houses, they won’t be able to buy a another one in the same community. Everyone is getting priced out everywhere. In Hamilton, for example, residential real estate is still significantly cheaper than in Toronto, but home prices have shot up 70% according to a recent report by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Minimum wage won’t get you very far in these circumstances, and the fact that the Progressive Conservative government headed by Doug Ford cancelled an increase from $14 to $15 which was planned by the Liberals doesn’t help. But we knew they were going to do that before Ford was elected Premier. What we didn’t know – because they said they wouldn’t do it – was that they would cancel the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. I think it’s unethical and irresponsible to renege on a campaign promise, especially when people will reasonably make important life choices based on that promise. There was no warning, and as far as I’ve been able to determine, no alternative support system implemented to help people who are going to have serious problems as a result. What happens to a person who signed a new lease and now won’t be able to afford the rent? Whatever one’s assessment of the effectiveness of the pilot in alleviating poverty, the about-face was dirty.

I read a news story about a Hamilton couple who found out they were accepted for the basic income pilot in May 2018. At this point, Justine Taylor had already found out she was pregnant and the couple say they were having trouble finding work. They say they wanted to go back to school and start a business. I don’t know if this is the sort of thing people say to reporters to make it look like they’re trying to be gainful contributors to society, but owning a business isn’t a right. Most of us – me included – don’t work for ourselves, nor do we have the resources to do so.

Again, it was wrong for the government to cancel the pilot in July 2018 without warning, knowing that families would have put plans in place to move, have a child, etc. But I actually don’t think the Liberals should have started the pilot to begin with.

Let’s take a closer look at this couple from Hamilton. They failed to use birth control, both preventative and retroactive. This is Canada, where all the reproductive health care one could want is available. Birth control really isn’t that expensive between two people. Condoms exist – and the morning after pill is available over the counter in drug stores if something goes wrong. This couple already had a nine-year old child and were struggling financially. Their decision to have another child was a poor one, made well before the pilot was an option. Why should people like myself subsidize these choices? As it is, I’m not exactly thrilled that I have to contribute funds for education and medical services for children I’ll never have. As a child-free woman renting alone in the north end of Toronto, I have a hard enough time paying the rent, utilities, bills, and saving for a home and retirement all by myself.

Quality full-time work is hard to come by, but there’s always someone hiring. When I graduated from university, I couldn’t find work in my field and worked as a cashier to make rent. I didn’t want to do that. I was ridiculously overqualified, bored and disappointed. But the truth is that there are jobs out there, just maybe not the ones we want. Two people can find full-time jobs in Hamilton and find a decent apartment for a lot less than I’m paying on my own.

There’s so much emotional rhetoric around the issue. Taylor comments that the pilot is “making people realize that we are people, too.” Who’s saying they’re not people?

I started to question the value of this project while reading news articles that described the changes people were able to make in their lives as a result of the pilot. Some were on disability, barely scraping by, so the extra cash made a huge difference to them. But shouldn’t the government instead focus on fixing disability support programs so that people who truly can’t work are getting enough money to live dignified lives? This seems to me to be a classically liberal attempt to put a band-aid over systemic economic problems. I don’t support the PCs; I’m critical of their decision to scrape back welfare payments and freeze the minimum wage. I also think that the welfare system as it exists doesn’t provide enough incentive for people to find work, and there are all kinds of people collecting social assistance who shouldn’t qualify. Rather than patching up a broken system, we need to rebuild it so that it works for everyone.

Who pays the price for an inadequate social assistance regime and minimum wage? Workers. The basic income pilot was a gift to employers, especially large corporations. They don’t have to pay their workers a decent wage and invest in good benefits – taxpayers will do it for them. This shifts the onus of compensating for an exploitative financial system from the capitalist class – those who control and benefit from it – to those who are less so, but nevertheless, also exploited by this system. This isn’t progressive policy.

I actually agree with Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod that we shouldn’t be paying people for doing nothing, that it sends the wrong message that you can get free money and not be expected to work for it. There are many people who will put that money to good use. There are also a lot of lazy, careless people who will piss it away. Why should anyone bankroll that? One individual said she was using her installments from the pilot to pay off her credit card. Maybe she accrued that debt because she didn’t have any other way to pay legitimate bills. Or maybe not. I read another report (can’t find it now) in which someone said she used the extra income to lend money to a friend. Does this sound like a fair, responsible program?

The basic income pilot was a program that helped some deserving people, made some people feel virtuous, and encouraged waste and the perpetuation of a broken system. Making promises and then pulling the rug out from under people made things worse, but it didn’t get us to where we are now.

Sexual harassment is so over

I logged into my Meetup account today because apparently someone sent me a message. I didn’t recognize the name. It was from a man named Ben who is also a member of a nature group. I’ve never attended an event.

Ben thought it was imperative to tell me he thinks I’m looking good. He’s grey-haired, looks like he’s maybe in his 50s and is seated beside a woman who’s wearing a wedding ring and seems close to him. Maybe she’s his sister?

FYI – I look like I’m about 25.

I joined the group because I want to see trees. Not dicks. If I wanted to be looking at dicks instead of getting some wonderful fresh air, I’d be looking at dicks. It’s not all about dicks.

Women are people. Not objects of conquest, robots, blank slates, holes, brainless zombies standing around waiting to be interrupted by a perpetual teenager. When I’m waiting for the bus on a given day, I’m thinking about the errand I have to run after work, what to make for dinner,  or that weird dream I had last night. All of those things are exponentially more important than what Mr. Macho Mouthbreather has on his mind. Nothing says “you’re my property” like assuming your intimate thoughts are important enough to spew to a woman you don’t know.

Of course, it’s about power – not attraction. Sometimes men feel the need to tell a woman that they don’t want to rape them. Like that’s supposed to make them sad.

Almost every day, another allegation surfaces of a powerful man who made a woman feel like garbage because he could. Far too often, a woman is assaulted by a strange man or (more likely) assaulted or killed by a male partner. We’ve gone too far now in mainstream culture to pretend that this is acceptable.

There are some issues that divide feminists. This isn’t one of them. There are two sides in this debate and they’re clear: either you’re committed to challenging male entitlement or you don’t value the lives of women. Call it what you want. Even if you’re watering it down as “sexual harassment” instead of male violence, it’s front and centre in the media now and there are just too many fed up women to let this go.

At around the same time I joined the nature group, I also joined a women’s hiking group. Everyone has been friendly and respectful. Some women met each other on hikes and are now dating. I’ve been an active member for months and have never gotten a creepy message.

To me, women’s spaces aren’t about avoiding men. They’re about connecting with people I feel safe around and realizing how much power women have when we get together.