Tag Archives: feminism

This is what’s wrong

15 Oct

Last night I decided to have one last look at Facebook before going to bed. It turned out to be a bad move. I went to bed seething with anger.

I have quite a few young friends on Facebook, many of whom are people we met when we lived in Fort Liard, and who were barely teenagers when we moved to Whitehorse. One young man I’ll call “M” posted a status update he clearly thought was hilarious. And I didn’t. Well, have a look for yourself.

I enjoy irreverent humour, naughty humour, and sometimes even bathroom humour. But this is not irreverent or naughty; it’s degrading and abusive. I could see that my young friend M didn’t get it. What was even sadder is the person who posted “LMAO” is a young woman.

I was so so angry, I shut off my computer and headed for bed. I started brushing my teeth and thought about M. At barely 20, even though he “should” know better, he’s still at an age where this kind of stupidity, er, ignorance is not surprising.

So I came back on Facebook and posted my second comment.

In fact, I don’t think it’s funny in the context of the movie. (I’ve never watched Goon, but based on this glimpse, I suspect I’d find a lot of the movie disgusting.) I was trying very hard to set aside my anger and explain what makes this kind of public declaration unacceptable. It’s so hard to be reasonable and coherent when I feel this way.

I knew posting this comment made me look like a killjoy; to the group around this young man, I would probably appear to be just another a humourless adult who takes pleasure in berating youth. But to me, this kind of attitude is absolutely dangerous, especially in a community where violence against women is all too common.

After posting this, and fully expecting to be called out, I went to bed shaking.

You’ll be happy to know that I found a contrite message from M this morning. I’m proud of him. A few more people had chimed in on the thread to say they thought it was funny, but no one yelled at me. I’m glad I did a little something. I hope that speaking out this once makes a difference in M’s life, that he’ll think twice next time.

I never watch movies anymore, but it makes me wonder how much popular culture out there promotes this kind of degrading attitude towards women. I can’t do a lot about that. But at least I can help shape some small attitude shifts, just like this, every once in a while. It’s better than despairing.

Bulgy went a-walkin’

3 Jan

You get to do a lot of people-watching when you have to wait in a grocery line-up for 30 minutes.  You also get to read all the headlines on the magazines in those racks by the cash registers.  I rather enjoy reading the gossipy titles of articles I’m not that interested in, often regarding people I’ve never even heard of.  It’s the literary equivalent of a potato chip.  Some of the titles are so tantalizing, even though the contents are undoubtedly fluffier than cotton candy.

While in the interminable line-up today (WHY did I go grocery shopping on a holiday Monday?!) one headline seemed to smack me upside the head:

“GET RID OF EMBARRASSING BACK AND BELLY BULGES”

it screamed.

Guess what?  I was at a party last week and was asked by two people if I was pregnant.  (I’m not, just in case you wondered.)  Clearly, the clothes that I was wearing combined with the delicious mom-cooked supper I had eaten combined to create quite the belly bulge.  Happily, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I wasn’t mortified.  In fact, I was highly amused.

Okay, maybe I should exercise a bit more — that’s true for most of us.  But telling me that my totally normal-looking body should embarrass me?  Is infuriating.

There’s no real point to this little rant.  We’ve all seen this headline and its five thousand and one variants.  And I’m certainly vain enough that, yes, I do spend time on my hair and makeup (not to mention clothes and jewellery).

But, to me, this kind of headline just sounds like bullying.  It makes me want to scream right back,

“STOP MAKING MY GIRLFRIENDS FEEL BAD, JERK!”

Hmm, if only problems could be solved by screaming, I’d have the whole world fixed by now.

On feminism, abortion, and enigmas

3 Mar

This morning I was listening to The Current on CBC radio and got interested in listening to the debate about MP Ken Epp’s proposed private member’s bill. It’s called the “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” (Bill C-484) and it’s generating a lot of controversy. The bill would make it a separate offence to injure or kill an unborn child during an attack on the mother.

At first glance, it seems that this type of legislation is a logical way to support victims of violence against women (and their families). When a woman is the victim of violence, the aggressor is without question guilty of an abhorrent act; when the woman is pregnant, though, many would agree that the act seems even worse, and that there are two victims.

The question being introduced by pro-choice advocates is, does this type of legislation undermine abortion rights? Is it the beginning of a “slippery slope” to giving unborn babies legal rights? Ken Epp says the bill is carefully worded to protect women’s right to choose, that it does not confer the status of legal personhood to the fetus, and that it specifically excludes any actions that are the woman’s choice; according to him, pro-choicers ought to be comfortable supporting a bill that punishes aggressors who have taken away a woman’s right to complete her pregnancy.

Pro-choice advocates say that there are examples of this type of legislation in the U.S. being used against women who chose to have abortions or who abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant; even where the woman was found to be not guilty, she had to endure the stressful and expensive legal proceedings, making her a victim all over again. They point to another type of legislation in other states that they say is more appropriate; instead of naming the unborn child as a victim, that legislation makes it a greater offence to assault a pregnant woman, with stiffer penalties.

I think the debate is interesting in itself, but it particularly caught me because I’ve had thoughts percolating lately about feminism and whether I would call myself a feminist. I think that I am in the sense of “equal pay for equal work” and in the sense that women can and should vote and that they can and should be able to pursue any type of career they choose. However, I don’t know if it’s treading out of the realm of traditional feminism to recognize that there are basic differences between the sexes, that men in general are better at spacial perception and that women on average are better at verbal skills and intuition. That in stressful situations, men tend to “fight or flight” whereas women are more apt to “tend and befriend“.

Another aspect of feminism that I am very uncomfortable with is abortion rights. I see it as a pillar of feminist thought, but in my heart I believe that abortion is wrong. I do believe that an unborn child is a person. I don’t believe it’s “my body, my choice”; to me, there’s another person’s body involved, not to mention his or her life. Having had the privilege of bringing a daughter into the world, as well as having lost a pregnancy, I feel this way all the more.

But wait, don’t stone me yet. Having said all that, I reluctantly admit that I would not be prepared to eliminate the right to choose. While I find the idea of using abortion as a means of birth control offensive and irresponsible in the extreme, I recognize that there are valid arguments for legal abortions.

The book Freakonomics makes the most compelling and passionless argument I’ve yet encountered. The authors’ position is that legalized abortion is directly responsible for lower crime rates in the U.S.; the premise is that many unwanted pregnancies occur in disadvantaged social groups and that the children born in these environments are much more likely to engage in criminal behaviours. The authors back up their arguments with research and statistics and they stress that it’s not a question of values or morals (they even say they find abortion as birth control to be reprehensible) but that these are verifiable empirical facts.

If you don’t buy that, there’s the anecdotal evidence, and I’m not just talking about the “what if a woman is raped?” argument. I had a friend who ended a pregnancy because she was in a highly abusive relationship. Like many women in situations of domestic violence, she knew she should leave but kept finding reasons to stay. She knew that having her partner’s baby would trap her in that relationship. The greatest tragedy is that she would dearly love to have children; her decision was not lightly made. What right do I have to tell her she was wrong?

All in all, I’m glad I’m not the one making the decisions on Bill C-484. I know it’s cowardly of me to argue both sides without taking a stance, but I don’t know that this is a debate that I can resolve within myself.

Now if there were enough people reading my blog, this is the kind of post that would generate a thousand comments. Maybe I should follow it up with some posts on circumcision and religion…

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