Tag Archives: Toronto

How to be a liberal feminist

Tip #1: Rationalize

Adopt political positions that condone misogyny. Never come between a man and his sense of entitlement to sex on demand, especially his “right” to exploit vulnerable women to achieve gratification through the use of violent, degrading, pedophilic imagery. Be sure to remind men that you’re here for them and understand that they can’t help themselves. They’re wired to be visual, sexual predators who inevitably reduce women to objects. It’s in their nature. Do you really want them to go around raping virtuous women instead? Since the only form of female sexuality that’s visible or acceptable is one that validates masculinity and femininity, use this to your advantage. You can preach female sexual empowerment without infringing on boner rights. Win-win!

Tip #2: Look the other way

When a male member of the community says or does something sexist, be careful not to make any bold statements. Remember that these men were gracious enough to tolerate your polite feminism and can cut you off without a second thought. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. You can talk about all the shitty things men do, just don’t link that behaviour to actual men you know.

Tip #3: Scapegoat

When the actions of your misogynist male comrades come to light, it’s damage control time! Deflect attention away from the fact that you stood by and gave their behaviour a pass. Remember those women you all bashed together when they dared to call out the misogyny? This isn’t the time to wonder whether they might have actually been onto something. Why change your priorities now? Don’t admit they were right, whatever you do – these women are gross. When they point out that your comrade’s misogyny has finally caught up with him – no thanks to you – don’t worry, you can easily manipulate the situation to your advantage. Just say they’re gloating and lob whatever accusations come to mind at them. Nobody likes those bitches anyway. Slowly and carefully distance yourself from the perpetrator.

Tip #4: Build solidarity with other enablers

The last thing you want is for your complicity to be exposed – that could damage your reputation. Try to limit the scope of discourse by calling for healing and empathy (you’re a woman so you’re super good at that). Be as vague as possible about who deserves that empathy. You might want to save a bit of it for the perp. You’re friends, remember? The community will be reeling from these revelations. Many people will be disappointed and disillusioned. Exploit this. Express compassion for them, talk about solidarity, throw in a lot of progressive buzzwords to show how cool you are, but don’t hold them accountable for staying mum while the misogynist did his thing. You all feel really bad right now. Really, really bad. Tell each other that you and you alone care about the survivor(s). Or, at least you care now. This is a perfect opportunity to double down on the nepotism in your movement and reinforce that the people who saw this coming won’t be allowed in. Like-minded people will flock to you and you’ll all be just fine.

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Filed under Feminism & Gender, Politics & Society

The Urban Lumberjack: When trends show us just how lost we are

Sleepwalking through the all-night drugstore
Baptized in fluorescent light
I found religion in the greeting card aisle
Now I know Hallmark was right
And every pop song on the radio
Is suddenly speaking to me
Yeah, art may imitate life
But life imitates TV

Superhero by Ani DiFranco

I’ve written about hipsters before, and this is one subject that I never get tired of griping about. Because it never ends. It just ‘evolves’ into bigger, more stupid trends.

hipster2

The Darmody: sexy or skeazy?

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this. There’s a particular haircut that any given man on a busy street corner in downtown Toronto is likely to be sporting. But first, let’s discuss what has happened to the other hipster trends… Nothing. They are STILL wearing skinny jeans and plaid shirts. They still walk around with all manner of foofy scarves, with their pants rolled up to their ankles while wearing grandpa sweaters and loafers with no socks on. They are still creeping us out with their suspicious mustaches and frothy beards everywhere we go. And those glasses. Those fucking glasses.

But some months back, very suddenly, I realized that these dapper gents were also wearing variations of a nouveau-retro quaff referred to as the Undercut, also known as the Darmody. Oh yes, after all this time I have discovered its name. According to my research, we have Boardwalk Empire and complicit barbers to thank for this. This style is being worn absolutely everywhere, to the point where I was starting to wonder if we were having a sort of neo-Nazi invasion (though the fact that the original inspiration predates the Third Reich doesn’t make it any more acceptable). It’s like these guys are all part of an underground club (wouldn’t that be so fitting?) that sends them memos when hideous new throwback-inspired styles can finally just barely be tolerated by the public. Or maybe what’s happening is that random assholes simply decide to play a trick: think of something that looks so pretentious that the posers won’t be able to resist and then watch it catch on like wildfire, just for entertainment. Modern-day social Neros, in other words. There are other theories, of course.

Hipster fads sell cars - poster in downtown Toronto

Attack of the ‘stache: Car share ad targetting (or mocking?) Toronto hipsters

You really have to wonder with some of these gimmicks, and not even because of the escalating silliness of some of the looks, but because of the ubiquity. That’s what really gets me. Why are there so many people trying to stand out by looking the same way? What does it say about our society that in the most sophisticated, cultured places we have masses of people who feel that being ‘cool’ is integral to their identity and happiness?

It’s hard to separate the fakes from the other guys who just seriously dig beards or have always worn those thick black-rimmed glasses. It’s gotta take some courage not to sacrifice your dignity and get a makeover for the sake of disassociating yourself from the fads.

Typical real-life Toronto hipster

Typical real-life Toronto hipster

We live in a time when competition is considered a virtue and image is a commodity. Expressing your individuality isn’t really about being you; it’s about making a point of showing the world what category of person you belong to, as though that actually matters. What’s particularly frustrating about hipsters, though, is that they’re supposedly well-read and socially and environmentally conscious – while managing to be even bigger douchebags than the ignorant types that comprise Ford Nation. Yeah. Ironic.

hipsters3

Another observation is the particular fashion being expressed and what it means about how people want to be regarded. This includes what I term the Urban Lumberjack look – also commonly referred to as the Mountain Man – whereby a man who lives in a concrete jungle wants to look like a rugged, bacon-eating, down-to-earth bloke who can build a perfect lean-to in the middle of the bush and feels most at peace when dangling from a cliff. In truth, however, he turns his nose up at anything that isn’t gourmet or de rigueur, probably hasn’t been on a boat since he was 10 years old and feels that guns are for uncivilized people (but secretly wouldn’t mind firing a few rounds himself).

The insincerity just keeps dipping lower. It’s obviously disgusting for people to think they’re superior to the common man and to be unapologetic about that contention, but it’s worse when people get off on the same pomp precisely by pretending to reject that notion. What will they think of next? I don’t want to know, but I’m sure we’ll find out. They’ll make sure it’s impossible for us not to.

 

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Sorauren Park Pumpkin Parade

Whether Halloween brings to mind rusty leaves, spooky things, scantily clad partygoers or candy, it’s a pretty awesome holiday. Can you tell it’s my fave?

There’s something else that is quintessentially Halloween: jack-o’-lanterns. The Toronto neighbourhood that no one can seem to pronounce – Roncesvalles (Roncy for short) – hosts a pumpkin parade in Sorauren Park every year on All Souls’ Day. It’s literally down the street from me so I had to finally check it out this year. Enjoy!

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Starbucks honey gets funny

Crap!Yes, I am a Starbucks customer. The frequency with which I visit this establishment depends on whether I’ve had breakfast while I’m getting ready for work or how groggy I’m feeling. There’s a location conveniently located where I get off the streetcar near the office. Some weeks, I just know… so I fill up my card (um, I’m not paying extra for soy milk!) and restrict myself to what’s on it. For most Torontonians other ubiquitous choices include Second Cup, which is like the younger brother that can never really catch up and Tim Hortons, with its fake Canadian image and mediocre but more reasonably priced rocket fuel. Or, you know, if you’re really crashing but not necessarily in the nicest of hoods, you can depend on some even shittier coffee chain that no one admits going to, like Coffee Time or Galaxy Donuts.

StarbucksSo… Starbucks. I’m not writing this because it’s become fashionable to bash them to the point of fatigue. Here’s the thing, though. On my last two visits I couldn’t find the honey anywhere. The first time I just sucked it up and used sugar. But this morning I was like, “Huh, they still haven’t replaced it?”. I was promptly informed that they now put out these little packets of honey (and have been doing so in the United States for some time).

My obvious initial reaction was that this is such a waste of packaging! Cute though these packets may be, and very tempting to lift (you always need a couple extra, right?), how many of these little buggers will Starbucks customers go through in a year? I have to say, I much preferred the squeezable bottles of honey they’d previously been using, which while not portable, also drastically reduced the probability of getting honey all over your fingers. And they’re cute too – let’s not discriminate.

Another consideration: the packets require some patience and manual dexterity. Both of these things are good to cultivate, but not good to test when you’re standing there squeezing out tiny dollops of honey while people jostle around you. I mean, I know this is going to play out badly for me some day. We all know how much spilling piping hot coffee sucks – at least I do. I’m the type of idiot who spills coffee on a brand new copy of Sacré Bleu just before lining up for 4 hours to have it signed by Christopher Moore.

Perhaps I can look past the inconvenience knowing that Starbucks buys its honey from Canada (British Columbia, to be exact). Perhaps.

I should also probably disclose a potential bias. I don’t know where it is now, but hidden away somewhere is a photo of my then angelic-looking brother as a baby asleep in a wagon, wearing adult-sized sunglasses while clutching a plush Billy Bee doll half his size.

It did not look like this:

Or like this, for that matter:

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Weather you accept it or not…

“Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing. Bravely face whatever the gods offer.”
– Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba

We talk about the weather every day, regardless of whether it’s nice out or downright rotten. In fact, we even talk about it a few times a day if it’s interesting enough. Sometimes it comes in handy when we need a topic to fill in awkward silences. If we’re not talking about it, we’re hearing about it. It’s only natural that it’s such a ubiquitous subject – it affects our daily lives in an immediate, profound way. Granted, not as much as it would if most of us weren’t sheltered in buildings for the majority of our days and nights. I wonder what we would do if we actually had to spend significantly more time outdoors. Would we blab about the elements even more or would we eventually get over it and silently endure it?

Our discourse surrounding weather conditions reveals a poignant truth about our fundamental attitudes. We modern humans are very bad at grasping reality and accepting it. We’re so centred on our own wants (which we often mistake for needs) that we’re constantly trying to butt heads with something we have zero control over. Actually, it’s interesting that we complain so much about something which has become more volatile and dangerous as a result of our own lifestyles. I’m certainly not suggesting that all natural disasters are the product of pollution. While the source of smog is obvious, it would be impossible to know which major meteorological events are products of human-generated climate change, but those of us in ‘developed’ countries can’t deny that there is some sense of collective guilt. The fact that it’s impossible to define or quantify is besides the point. I wouldn’t blame you, though, if your roof got ripped off by a tornado or half your community was carried away in a flood and you gave Mother Nature the finger. Then again, She may have every right to return the gesture (and she gets the last word at any rate).

Here’s the thing. Since birth we’ve experienced the seasonal cycles every year over and over again. There’s something fundamentally wrong with a culture than can’t acknowledge and make peace with something that is constantly thrust in its face. Every time the seasonal temperature starts dropping people start dreading winter. It can get very cold in some parts of the world, including where I grew up and here in Toronto (though people in Siberia or the Arctic would laugh at us). There’s also a difference between what I call dry cold and humid cold. In some ways, winters in Northern Ontario were much more pleasant than they are here. But when people in either place complain that it’s cold pretty much every day during the winter I get aggravated. Especially when they’re walking around indoors in a t-shirt. Now, Toronto summers can also be tough. I’ll state my bias openly: I’m very uncomfortable in hot, humid environments. I’m a human furnace to begin with. So the fact that I relish my Bikram yoga practice (at 40°C [104 Fahrenheit] with 40-50% humidity) is kind of strange. Not only do Torontonians experience the lake effect which makes it quite muggy, but as a large city we have the urban heat island effect too. When there’s an extreme heat alert, I try hard to remain equanimous and keep my discomfort to myself. At least in the winter you can bundle up. Going naked when it’s hot and sticky won’t help you any. I try to use my air conditioner as little as possible but I still feel guilty every time I do – and grateful – because I’ve rented small second-floor rooms in carpeted houses with no cross-breeze and that really sucked. Not to mention the fact that many people live in much more difficult environments and don’t get any relief.

I think the source of our inner struggle with the weather is fear of the unknown and resistance to change. Our culture is obsessed with measuring, monitoring, and analyzing. You can only do that with meteorological phenomena once they’re a thing of the past. It’s difficult to make social plans not knowing what the conditions will be. But somehow, as inconvenient as this often is, we deal with it. Every time the weather doesn’t cooperate it’s a reminder that there are things happening around us that aren’t affected by our personal experiences and thoughts. But we’re also not alone or disconnected. It’s almost like an invitation from Mother Nature to remember not to take ourselves too seriously, not to take anything for granted and to pay attention – because there is beauty in all things.

Even those of us who try to be more conscious of our resistance and our negative commentary aren’t immune to checking the forecast and expressing disappointment when we’re faced with a week’s worth of rain. I think the important thing to note here is that we need to embrace not only nature as it is but also to expand that mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. We need to accept at a deeper level that control is just an illusion and that life is change. So even though our meteorologist tells us that tomorrow is supposed to be sunny with blue skies, we always have to remember that nothing is fixed. If we spend more time observing the weather rather than judging it, we open ourselves to the opportunity to reconnect with nature and the universal laws that govern it (which we’ve forgotten we are subject to). A neutral person is an adaptable person and will have a lot less to complain about.

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Plastic snags

Rob Ford, Toronto’s new mayor, is trying his best to scrap our 5¢ plastic bag fee because the proceeds are going to retailers (as opposed to the government, which would apparently legitimize it in the public’s mind as a tax). So rather than make it exactly that and fund a very worthy cause, he’s just scrapping it. Period. Because that’s the kind of guy Rob Ford is.

Here’s my issue with people who are proud of him: Although I agree with Mr. Ford that companies shouldn’t be able to pocket the extra money, I never had a problem paying 5¢ in the first place. Firstly, I’ll openly admit that like most people, I buy things I don’t need. Out of all the things we should complain about spending money on, I’d hope it would be gratuitous coffees, cigarettes, overpriced movie tickets, booze, knick knacks, candy and other (arguably) pointless and potentially harmless things (more on this here). If you purchase any or all of these items, that’s all fine and dandy – but then what difference does a few cents make?

If I don’t like paying this small fee, I can do something very easy: carry a reusable tote around with me. It’s not complicated. Whether any given study suggests that paper, plastic or any other material is ideal, the goal should be to not buy or use so much stuff in the first place. I’ve read an article that indicated that reusable bags (e.g. canvas) carry far more pathogens, especially if people use them to carry groceries. I think it’s safe to say that as long as you don’t have leaky packages of perishable goods in there (in which you can wrap much thinner and sometimes biodegradable bags or simply wash), it shouldn’t be a concern. Some people say they use plastic bags as garbage bags. Boo hoo. I’m pretty sure almost everyone who says this can afford to purchase kitchen bags. The same goes for people who use them in their compost bins. If you’re taking the trouble to participate in compost programs, this tells me you care about the environment to some extent. Although some municipal waste collection programs allow disposal in plastic bags, they do this to encourage people to compost, at great expense. Separating organic waste from plastic bags is expensive (from a financial, energy and time perspective), the cost of which in some way may come out of your tax dollars anyway. Yes, plastic bags can be reused, but not as much as say canvas or cloth, and the real issue is the bulk that we produce in the first place (and the fact that they’re petroleum-based).

I don’t understand how some people don’t feel the fire of environmental catastrophe burning under their asses. It boggles my mind that we still have to pander to people by way of incentives. I would definitely allow that people who are below the poverty line or anywhere close to it can’t afford it, but people in any other category simply have no excuse. It’s a matter of priority. We all need to take personal responsibility for the materials we use and the waste we produce. Reusable shopping bags are just a small part of that. It’s the least we can do, and once you get into the habit, it takes no effort at all.

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[sub]urban

Even the most enthusiastic urbanites occasionally crave respite from the noise and nuisances of the city. You can see it on the faces of the people crammed into the subway train, waiting in line at the grocery store, or trying to pass the guy who’s loafing in the fast lane. Somewhere, someone is ready to snap. Still, urban centres have amazing potential to foster understanding and solidarity across cultures, lifestyles, classes, etc. 

While some city dwellers are content with just enjoying the plethora of ethnic foods, festivals, restaurants and nightlife, there’s always a contingent who feel that they’re part of a throbbing, breathing global village in which it’s their duty as citizens to contribute to the greater good and expand their consciousness. It can be tricky to draw a line between the average person who leans toward this tendency and the hippie or hipster – whatever term you want to use to describe people who think they’re not mainstream, but are really just annoying. These folks likely feel they’re different, subversive, alternative – but they’re not terribly original, and they look like idiots for trying to make some sort of vague statement about society by wearing clothes they bought in a mall or some pretentious boutique. This is sadly not just an ignorant stereotype. You can normally tell what type of music a person listens to by their apparel. I’m not generally a proponent of violence, but if you’re wearing skinny jeans, Converse sneakers and vintage eyewear, you deserve to be punched in the face. Especially if you think having a Ron Jeremy ‘stache boosts your sex appeal. I’m pretty sure the person next to me on the streetcar doesn’t expect me to be listening to black metal in my business casual attire and fashionable heels. I’m not a sell-out; I don’t have to dress like an idiot to enjoy good music. 

Are city slickers really as sophisticated, cosmopolitan and open-minded as we’d like to think? Hardly. If people in one borough can be ignorant about the one at the other end of the city, or if downtowners and suburbanites can look down their noses because they just don’t ‘get’ each other, how much do they know and appreciate about the rest of their country, or world, for that matter? We tend to think that only city dwellers are rough around the edges and experience poverty. Not so. And it’s difficult to live your environmental convictions when you’re surrounded by concrete and choking on pollution. You can try to pressure the government to improve public transporation, do more composting and tighten emissions regulations, but the fact remains that the place where you’ve chosen to live is a cesspool of toxins. That’s what it means to live in a city. And even if you shop at a farmer’s market instead of a grocery store, you still probably don’t have your own garden. You might be lucky to grow some tomatoes and herbs on your condo balcony, if you have one. You can wear as much organic clothing as your income will accommodate and get dread locks if you’re that ‘radical’ – but don’t bother pretending you’re into a ‘natural’ lifestyle. Nothing about your environment is natural. If you were really that much of a hippie, you’d say, “Fuck it!” and move to the hinterland to work on a farm (or something equally as liberating – and arguably insane). 

Lake Muskoka

City and country – I love them both. I spent a solitary weekend recently out in Muskoka, horseback riding and hiking. It was fantastic and totally recharged my batteries. The city is like a girlfriend who’s great to party with, has cool clothes, and doesn’t ask me what I’m talking about when I bring up current events or the lastest viral videos. But she’s pretty much useless around the apartment if something breaks down, and when we go camping she doesn’t know how to build a fire and screams like a banshee when a curious raccoon comes skulking around. You just can’t hang around with her 24/7. Is it possible to find a place where you can have the best of both worlds?

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