Category Archives: Politics

Oh, I sure do use the “F” word

When I was 24, I went to university. I was a single mother, with a two and a half year old daughter. Before I started at York U., I spent one year at an adult day school in Toronto called CALC: City Adult Learning Centre. I wanted to upgrade my OACs so that I wouldn’t be restricted into the adult learning stream once I started my university studies. My daughter was in daycare at the same site that I was, and I was supported, and encouraged by wonderful teachers and mentors that cared and saw my potential.

There were generally three types of students during my time at CALC; many refugees and new immigrants to the city, whom I always had such a great respect for as they were working hard to create a new life and already knew two or more languages. There were also those that spent their time mostly smoking joints in the back of the field and were biding their time, ensuring they were getting their welfare cheques. Then there those like me, working on their upgrades, vying for the opportunity to head to university and get on with it.

In spring of that year, the news was reporting about a particularly violent weekend in Toronto. I didn’t realize why it stuck out to me at first, but there were a number of reports about multiple assaults and murders. Notably, the victims were all women. I remember thinking of this as I headed into my first class on Monday morning, when the head of the Social Sciences department pulled me aside and let me know that one of our classmates and her mother were in fact two of the victims that I had heard about on the news.

This woman was a recent immigrant from Poland. She was probably my age, and although we didn’t agree on a number of issues in our World Issues class, I respected the fact that she was vocal, opinionated, and strong-willed. Her boyfriend had apparently attacked her, her mother and her father, and only her father ended up surviving the assault.

It was around this time that I was starting to investigate what it meant to be a “feminist”. I actually went to the dictionary to look it up. Webster’s defined it for me as “one who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of women.” Easy. I was a feminist. Really, I always had been. I had the “When God Created Man, She Was Only Joking” t-shirt when I was a kid, and my mother had always instilled in me a great sense of pride in being a woman, but it wasn’t until I was about 23 that I started to really educate myself and self declare.

I started to read Ms. Magazine, Marilyn French, Gloria Steinem (seriously, have you ever read If Men Could Menstruate?), Susan Faludi, and Naomi Wolf. Then I started talking about being a feminist. Inevitably, the response I would get from most was “I’m a humanist”. Funny thing was, as soon as I would provide the actual definition of feminist, it wasn’t really surprising to me how many would say, “Oh, then I’m a feminist”.

Labels are scary. They can pigeon hole us, restrict us, cause judgments that we may or may not welcome.

I feel that one of the most important things that define us as human beings is our use of language. It is our language that frames our thoughts, and expresses our emotions. When my daughter was six years old she asked me one day, “Mummy, why do you use ten dollar words when two dollar words will do?” “Oh, because I love those ten dollar words,” I would respond.

So, I choose to use those ten dollars words, and I certainly choose to call myself a feminist. (It’s also not a surprise that my daughter, now 19, does the same. ) And I do it for many reasons; for the women that are afraid to, the women that no longer can, the next generation of women who deserve to see examples of what feminism look like across all the demographics, and most importantly, for myself.

Oh yah, I am feminist, hear me roar. You betcha.

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“Opinions are like assholes…

…and everybody’s got one.” ~ Salt ‘n Pepa (1993)

There’ve been a ton of blogs written on the danger of becoming too insular in the “new ‘net”; the ‘net that is moving ever closer to being highly curated and driven by apps, providing people with only one voice, one view of what’s out there on any given topic. I’m just as guilty as the next person, predominantly listening to what I want to, what pleases me, what I agree with or what inspires me, rather than availing myself too much to the “other side“; and while I don’t consistently pursue that other side a great deal either, on Twitter I do follow the odd writer or media outlet that I regularly disagree with or sometimes vehemently oppose (disclosure: notably not anything to do with Fox or SunMedia, because my mental health is just too important to me and I choose to not avail myself to such evil).

So, without intending to earlier this past weekend on Twitter, I ended up having an interesting dialogue with a blogger for one of our Canadian national papers from that “other side” of my political and ideological sensibilities. I didn’t realize who the writer was at first.  Originally, I was  just replying to a comment that I saw from one of my tweeples, but as the tone changed, I had to take a closer look at who I was following.

I’ll save you the rehashing of the entire conversation because you can review it yourself here (between @karensd & @unambig) and really, the only purpose it would serve herein would be to more thoroughly articulate my points (because of course, I still believe I’m right and so does he). Nonetheless…

What appalled me about this whole stream of back ‘n forth was the antagonistic, patronizing, paternalistic approach of said writer from the other side and right from the onset.

Why is it when someone has a differing opinion, people tend to pat you on the head and tell you you’ve missed the point? It’s self-aggrandizing, petulant and immature and certainly doesn’t produce dialogue, does it?

I’m interested in real dialogue.  Real discussion. Real growth as a human being and as a critical thinker. Don’t you think that we all  have something to learn from one another? Is there not a nugget of truth in someone’s perspective that could possibly ring true for oneself as well, even if you’re on “other side”?

Throughout the entire conversation I had to choose to be ever present because quite honestly I found myself wanting to be derisive and patronizing right back, and it took a lot of restraint for me not to do that. Further disclosure: the original intent of this blog was also entirely different from what’s actually come to fruition too. It’s difficult to not fall into the trap of hashing, rehashing, stating over and over again to make one’s point and show someone just how wrong they are.

Later on in the same evening, I heard something on a recent podcast from CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera where the speaker simply stated, we are “yearning to being visible to one another” and so, I’m choosing to simply be grateful for being visible to @unambig, even if I don’t agree with him.

What I can do and what I choose to do is state my perspective, call out rhetoric and inflammatory commentary for exactly what it is and stick to the issues. I am choosing to not put people down, insult their intelligence or throw invective into the wind.

I continue to choose dialogue.

And in my strongest statement I’m also choosing to continue to not patronize this particular writer’s paper, as long as he and writers like him continue to patronize their audience.


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