Where Are All The Women?

by , on
November 6, 2017

I had a conversation a few weeks ago about women in politics. The conversation was started by a very smart woman, she runs her own business, she’s engaged in the community, and she happened to hear how few women are involved in American politics. She was surprised, and that low number made her question how few women might be involved in Canadian politics. The answer in the federal parliament is 26 per cent at the moment, which is the highest it has ever been.

She started asking questions about why women don’t get involved as much, and I engaged, because I have read about the issue, and discuss it in classes, and, in fact, took an entire class about women in politics in North America.

And then on Saturday I spent the day with women who are interested in maybe, possibly getting more involved and listened to some presenters who are very, very involved in politics. And then on Sunday, the City of Montreal elected its first ever female male in its 375 year history.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about women in politics.

I know that women have to be asked, usually more than once, to run. I know that when women run, they have just as much of a chance of winning as men do. I know that having women in a legislature, in committee and in cabinet makes politics different, and different is better in this case.

My wish is that more women would think more about politics, talk to each other more about politics and care more about politics, because virtually everything is political.

 

More than 140

by , on
October 13, 2017

Like most people, I was confused when I first started using Twitter. It seemed ridiculous, communicating in short bursts like that. I didn’t even really text at the time.

Very quickly I figured out that Twitter was a place I needed to be as someone who was working monitoring the media. The Parliamentary Press Gallery was all over Twitter, and many of them were posting their stories there before I ever would have seen them otherwise. Being on Twitter became a place I had to be.

And even when I went on mat leave, I kept using Twitter. I credit it with helping me through post-partum, because even on days when I couldn’t get myself together to get out of the house, I could still connect with people online and have conversations. Not just conversations, but understanding.

Slowly but surely the people that I met on Twitter became friends. I met many of them in person, I’ve worked with some of them, volunteered for others, and had playdates with many. I even went to blogger conferences to meet and talk to these wonderful women in person. I have had the chance to see some of them change their lives.

One of these friends once told me that she wished she could be confident like me. I thought no, you’re thinking of online Amy. Online Amy expresses herself much better than in-person Amy. But, in fact, who I can be online has changed the person that I am day to day. That person, I think, is who I have always been when I’m alone.

She’s still more articulate though. The ability to edit does that.

I still love Twitter, though many people have moved on. I love interacting with the news there, I rant there, I still have great conversations there, and I get to hear voices that I don’t necessarily hear anywhere else. But.

But Twitter is often a hateful, awful place. There are people there that spew racist, sexist, homophobic trash day in and day out. There are people who threaten to hurt, maim or kill other people. There are women who can’t look at their mentions because they are filled with angry, idiotic men who are threatening to rape and murder them and their families. Because she said something they didn’t like. Because she had an opinion at all. Sometimes just because she existed.

Honestly, if Twitter has taught me anything recently is that there are people who will hate you no matter what you do or don’t do, and Twitter has become their arena to speak hate and display their total idiocy without fear of reprisal. I mean, there is one obvious example.

And something else that has become clear is that Twitter really doesn’t care about the abuse being hurled at members of their community. Well, that’s not true. Sometimes they do act and sometimes they ignore, and it seems that often when they do act it is against someone whose actions pale in comparison to what others are doing.

Now, this is not just a Twitter problem, lord knows Facebook is filled with racism and misogyny and hate, but this one step, boycotting Twitter today, is just the first step.

If we don’t call them out on this, then we’ve done nothing, and I can’t do nothing any more.

As always, The Doctor

by , on
July 17, 2017

Last weekend I was in Montreal. I had arranged to go for work, and then for my family to join me, specifically so I could be there for Montreal Comiccon. I have never gone to a con outside my own city before, never even really considered it, but there was a draw I could not escape.

David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, would be there.

It was his first con in Canada and while it is possible that he will come back, and maybe even come to Ottawa someday, I decided it was worth the small expense to see him this time. For he is my Doctor. Everyone has their favourite, and Tennant is mine.

(Squee)

Now, this does not mean that I don’t like other regenerations. After Eccleston I was sure I would have trouble getting comfortable with Tennant (nope), and when Tennant left I was positive I would never like Matt Smith for the simple fact that he had replaced 10, but he grew on me. I am actually shocked at how much I like Capaldi. I find his humour pretty great. On my shelf of Whos I even found space for the War Doctor.

And now, just a few days after I met my favourite Doctor the show is making news – Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the first female Doctor.

We knew the announcement was coming. Capaldi had already said he would leave after this year’s Christmas special. Twitter was buzzing yesterday morning as people waited for the BBC to tell us, finally, who would be number 13. And I knew in the back of my mind that if it was another white man I would be disappointed. It would feel like a missed opportunity. There have been growing calls for a person of colour or a woman to take on the role. Names from Idris Elba to Tilda Swinton had been mentioned, although both of those actors might be too big for the show.

Finally they posted the video, a figure in dark clothing walking through a forest. A hand reaches out. A shot of part of the face. And it was a woman. It was a WOMAN!

I may have actually whooped for joy. I could not contain my excitement. Eventually there were tears. I didn’t know it mattered so much until I had it, there in front of me.

Of course there was backlash. Of course. White men who have had something that they’ve always had taken away from them. People saying that this destroys the show, that they won’t watch, that a female Doctor just can’t be.

And last night it occurred to me, very peacefully. If you think that having a female Doctor ruins the show for you, then you never understood the show in the first place. Of course the Doctor could be a woman. Of course a woman Doctor will have the same gravitas as a male one. She’s THE DOCTOR.

I’ve gone through this with so many things now – When Rey was the lead in the new Star Wars, when they made an all-female Ghostbusters. Why can’t you let us have something? Why? Why can’t women (and men!) be excited about these things without having idiots declare that it’s not fair or not right or whatever else they are butt hurt about.

Today I have my nails painted Tardis blue, I am wearing one of my Who shirts, I am ready and willing to buy all the 13 merch. Because when I told my daughter that the new Doctor was a woman she was excited too.

 

No Limits

by , on
April 4, 2017

I got some good advice from a friend a little while ago – That maybe instead of focusing on how frustrating it is to feel fat and useless, instead focus on the things my body can do and what other women like me can do.

She had some recommendations – great, fit, strong women I can follow on Instagram or Facebook. I’ve been following a few and Annie helped me find a few more. One of those was Louise Green, who has written a book – Big Fit Girl – that I have only started reading and am really, really enjoying.

I have felt rather more at peace lately, realizing that my body is my body and it usually does what I ask it, even if I push. That maybe it’s okay for me to eat what I enjoy and do exercise I enjoy and be healthy without overdoing it or trying to be something I will never be.

The idea that I have about what a fit body has to look like is wrong. I can be me without limits. I can program my brain to believe in myself.

I need to stop thinking that I can’t be something. I need to start reminding myself that I can do anything. No matter what my brain and my biases try to tell me.

Further Reading:

8 Secrets from 8 Curvy Women Who Love Their Bodies

7 Assumptions People Make About Plus-Size Women in the Gym That Are Just Wrong

 

In the name of love

by , on
September 9, 2016

The other day at the park, after her first day back at school, the kid was fly around the monkey bars and talking a mile a minute. She was showing me her tricks and demonstrating her strength and also telling me how good she is and how she taught one of her friends a better way to do the monkey bars too.

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And I had this instinct. This unfortunate instinct that I squashed down.

I almost told her not to be so cocky. I almost suggested that her friends won’t like it if she’s so confident.

What a stupid thing to think.

This kid is strong. She’s strong and she’s been practicing for years. She’s been doing gymnastics and working hard at it since before she could walk. She practiced the monkey bars over and over again until the day she finally got all the way around. I remember that day and her smile was so big I almost cried, as she ran towards me telling me “I did it!”

She’s worked hard and practiced and why would I take that away from her, ever? Why shouldn’t she be confident about something she can do well?

And if she were a boy, would I have had this whole conversation in my head? No, probably not.

This kid is an athlete. She loves to exercise, she loves to run and stretch and bounce and play. When Daddy asked her if she did anything fun at gymnastics today she declared her love of burpies. Nobody loves burpies.

She’s an athlete and for the rest of her life people will tell her she’s too confident, they’ll place her behind the men in her sport, they’ll say she’s not dedicated because she likes fashion.

I will not be one of those people.

So YOUNG and So BOSSY

by , on
October 22, 2015

I woke up this morning to a beautiful sort of Twitter essay from one Michelle Rempel, newly re-elected MP for Calgary – Nose Hill. If you watch any of the political panel shows then you know Rempel. She was one of the only spokespeople the Conservative Party sent out to respond to issues on those shows.

She is generally respectful, well-spoken and knowledgeable. I found it almost impossible that she was so prepared to talk about so much during the campaign day by day.

Last night Rempel took to Twitter to express herself a bit on the messages she’s been getting as a woman in politics. While some people are encouraging her to run to be the new leader of her party, some are sending her an entirely different message. A message she wouldn’t be getting if she were a man:

I cannot express how much I loved to see this strong, powerful woman speaking out like this. It means so much. Perhaps more knowing that Michelle Rempel is one of Megan Leslie’s very good friends, despite the differing party stances. Knowing that makes me respect both of them more, because those are the kind of politics we need. Women lifting other women up.

I hope we hear more soon. We need women like this standing up. And if you think we don’t, you’re wrong.

Feminist harping, apparently

by , on
July 21, 2015

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There was a discussion in one of my Facebook groups today that I didn’t want to get involved in. There’s something about community Facebook groups that just seems to bring out the worst of everybody. But after hemming and hawing a bit I decided I had to say something.

The thread was started by a father who saw a teenaged girl wearing short shorts while out to eat with his daughters. He shared with the group that he had taken the opportunity of this young girl’s outfit to explain to his children why they should have more self-respect than to wear such things that show off body parts he felt should not be for public viewing.

Following his lead, many people agreed that yes, that was the right thing, and these girls who walk around dressed like that, how dare they?

The thread went on as people pointed out  that the only reason this girl would have for wearing that sort of thing was to attract attention from boys. Well, the original commenter said “trying to bring all the boys to the yard,” which is a really lovely way of putting it.

I pointed out that it is unreasonable to assume, based on the length of her shorts, that this girl lacks self respect. Moreoever it is a terrible thing to teach your children to judge others based on what they are wearing. I also pointed out that it is very possible that she was hot in the 40 degree humidex and decided to wear shorts, because she likes those shorts, or that maybe she just likes her ass – heaven forbid the teenager have body confidence.

People talked about this being inappropriate and we need to teach our kids that there are appropriate things to wear to school or work or whatever. Again, this girl was in a fast food restaurant. You have no information about what she wears when she’s doing anything else, nor is it any of your business.

And then the original dad tried to explain to me that this doesn’t have anything to do with feminism or women’s rights. Which, but the way, is bullshit. Any time you decide to go to a public forum and shame girls and women because you think that they’re being inappropriate that has something to do with feminism. I’m looking forward to this guy trying to teach two daughters to be proud of their bodies no matter what but not to display it lest random dads at the Subway see you.

It’s all been said much more eloquently that I can say it by the Stay at Home Feminist here.

Yes, Facebook Dad, you can teach your daughters what you see is appropriate, but using a random teenager that you know nothing about to start that conversation teachers your daughters to judge others based on their appearance, and that’s not cool.

(Photo via Creative Commons).

Women in Canadaland

by , on
July 3, 2015

I had been impressed with some of the work Jesse Brown was doing on Canadaland so far, but this morning Twitter is full of people talking about Brown’s claim that women from the Globe leaving their jobs because of sexism in the workplace… and the actual women from the Globe who have left for better jobs, not because of sexism, asking why he put them in this story without talking to them.

So I’m forced to wonder how you can critique the job that journalists do if you can’t do good journalism yourself.

Saying that you contacted these women and they didn’t comment when you haven’t done something so simple as tweet at them to get the right email address and then amending the blog post to say that you didn’t actually contact them and they didn’t actually have a chance to comment? Come on.

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Indicating that all of this list of women you name left the Globe because they couldn’t take the environment anymore when in fact a majority of them left for different (and better) jobs? That’s just more sexism.

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You can’t be a good media critic if you then try to do journalism and cock it up to this degree. You get things wrong and then when the people you were wrong about speak out you then ask them for a real comment and update your story?

That’s not good journalism.

If you want a great stream of consciousness on the topic, go see @Scaachi

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It’s frustrating because we do need media critics in this country and there is a problem with sexism in journalism (just like many, many other industries). But when you do the reporting badly that takes away from the story that could actually have been told here.

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As cynical as I am, I still believe in the power of good journalism. This was an opportunity wasted.

Further reading:

Vidya Kauri: Sexism in Canada’s media industry

Melissa Martin: The Problem with the Problem

Early Childhood Education

by , on
April 29, 2015

When my daughter started preschool I managed to accidentally join the executive at the school. It’s a co-op so all the parents are involved in different ways, and we all had duty days when we spend the afternoon at the school helping the teachers.

As it turns out being on the executive and doing duty days at school were a truly awesome experience. I got to know other parents, I got to know the teachers really well, and I got to have conversations with them about the school and their training and curriculums and new things they’re learning about early childhood education.

As far back as high school I remember learning how important early childhood education could be. Taking care of young children can set them up for life. Studies have shown the kids who attend preschool or some other form of early childhood education are more likely to finish high school, less likely to be involved in crime, they have better social skills, they have more ability to focus, the list goes on and on. The fact is that the more funding you put into early childhood programs the less you’ll have to spend on an array of other things as these children age and the better off society will be.

So why don’t we focus on early childhood development?

This is an election year, and day care is part of the conversation. But a national day care isn’t the whole solution. We are failing so many kids.

There is a major problem with school attendance in the north, and I heard it put very simply recently while I was attending Progress Summit – the schools are in disrepair, the supplies are second rate.

If we don’t invest in those things to demonstrate how important education is, then why would any of those kids consider it important?

A good start in school can change everything about a person’s life. Everything. Starting at the beginning can change everything about our country. That’s the kind of long term thinking we need to see this election year.

Further reading: 

This American Life: Three Miles 

Dropping out

by , on
March 12, 2015

After one year of maternity leave I was ready to go back to work. I was very, very ready. I had put us on my city’s centralized waiting list just after I found out I was pregnant and with just a few weeks left before my return to work we had yet to receive a space. And so I started looking on my own.

We were very lucky with the space I eventually found. It was relatively inexpensive ($43 per day) and the caregiver was absolutely wonderful. She loved our daughter as much as we do. But she also kept business hours – 8 to 4 – which made life difficult sometimes, especially considering I was working 7 to 3 and my husband was often traveling for work.

In 2011 my work changed drastically. We became the official opposition and then my boss died. Everything got much harder for me at work and my family became increasingly important. And so in 2012 I became a statistic.

I was one of the women who dropped out of the workforce to stay at home with my child. All I had to do was make half as much working from home as I had going into the office.

The blog post says: “So what caused the decline? It’s not retirement and it’s not fertility — the biggest declines in workforce participation were middle-aged women aged 40-54, and declines were recorded in every province across Canada.”

So what’s happening?

Women, facing years of pressure from caring for their children are then faced with helping to care for aging parents. The money doesn’t make up for the stress of trying to balance everything they’re responsible for. It’s just too much to ask.

That’s my theory, I’d love to hear others.

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