Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weekly Reader

This week's round-up of links is focused solely on Fern Hill, blogger at Dammit Janet! and soldier in the fight to keep Ontario from (as a co-worker of mine puts it) "getting Hudak'd".

You see, Fern brought up the fact that were Hudak elected in Ontario, he would most likely try to defund abortion. Well the press ran with this, as did other bloggers (it even brought JJ back!).

Then came the critics, and the now-inevitable cry of "gotcha! journalism", whatever the hell that is.

But don't worry, Fern Hill fought back - and so did others.

Keep your eyes peeled, friends - let's not let this issue go away.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Letter to Progressives

Dear everyone ever,

I am getting mighty sick lately of people who identify as progressives being complete assholes and thinking it is justifiable because their assholery is directed at someone (generally a public figure) whose politics aren't progressive.

This first crossed my radar (as I'm sure it did for many others) during recent political candidacies in the USA; first the relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton's gender, fashion and physical features - to be fair this came mostly from the right but when she was running against Obama for the Democratic nomination it got pretty gross on the left, too - and later with Sarah Palin. Any time a female candidate/politician rises to prominence in the States, the misogyny just goes everywhere, and progressives can't pretend to be innocent. Nor can Canadians. As someone who witnessed a male friend refer to Ann Coulter as someone he would like to "hate fuck", I can testify to that.

I think misogyny is the most obvious and frequent example because it is acceptable in this society to police women's bodies, and especially women in the public sphere, because there is also (I believe) a latent resentment even among progressive men to see women succeeding in arenas designed by and for men. I think you get a lot less flack in certain circles for saying you want to hate fuck Ann Coulter than for, say, making a rude comment about a politician in a wheelchair. Which makes it sound like I'm playing Oppression Olympics, but really what I mean is there is an assumption that women's bodies are always up for debate/discussion, regardless of their performance at their jobs or their political views.

What got me thinking about this was this amazing piece over at Shameless about the progressive people in Toronto who are constantly making fun of our mayor because of his weight. But I think that just triggered a lot of other stuff that's been bothering me lately. I guess it's not so much that people do this - call Rob Ford a "fat fuck", call Ann Coulter a "tranny", call Sarah Palin a "slut" - it's that when called out on it, instead of apologizing and trying to do better (as I think they would or might if their target was also progressive), they get defensive and/or try to justify it because the target is right wing or because the right wing does that to us, etc. etc.

No. Not ok.

When you call Rob Ford a fat fuck you are calling me a moral failure because I am also fat. When you call Ann Coulter a tranny you are appointing yourself the gender police and contributing to a culture where the rape and murder of trans folk is an epidemic. When you call Sarah Palin a slut you are making the world an unsafe place for women - because our sexual expression, behaviour and choices (or at least your perception of them) are what define us instead of our ideas and values and actions.

When you do these things, and do them unapologetically, it makes you a bigot. Yes, it does. You begin to remind me of those other great policers of women's bodies, the anti-choicers screaming at patients outside of clinics. Don't go down that road.

Please stop. You're hurting us and you're hurting the progressive movement. And when we find it totally ok to police the bodies of public figures, is it any wonder that no woman's body is her own? You calling a female politician out on her fashion choices doesn't directly criminalize abortion - but they are all strings of the same web.

It's a shame that as a fat progressive woman, there are very few spaces where I can discuss/debate Rob Ford's policies without the fear that I will feel uncomfortable and hurt because I know someone will call him out for being fat. And the fact is, I'm just fat. I can't imagine what it is like to be disabled, trans, non-white, old etc. and try to participate safely in progressive discourse.

That sucks. Clean up your act, jerks.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading lately:

Progress on the New Brunswick human rights complaint.

People are getting riled by anti-abortion graphics and rhetoric.

Sorry it's not much. What have you been reading?

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Being Childfree

A(nother) friend of mine just had a baby. My partner and I have been talking a lot lately about children. Throughout the course of our relationship there have been times when one of us has wanted them and the other hasn't, or we both have or we both haven't. Right now we both don't want them, and it's a phase that has been going on for a while. I think it will probably stick.

Oh what a surprise, right, the abortion lady doesn't want kids? Surprisingly my involvement in the reproductive rights movement hasn't had much of a conscious effect on my desire to be childfree. For one thing, I have always known I didn't want to have my OWN kids, ie I don't want to push them out of my body. I know myself well enough to know that my pain threshold is far, far too low for that. So we would have adopted or fostered. But the more I think about having children, the less appealing it seems. I want to travel. I want to have disposable income. I already feel kind of tied down by our cats. When I do the cost/benefit analysis in my mind, I can't see it working out.

Both of us love kids, and he is especially good with them. We will be awesome as an aunt and uncle or whatever. I certainly get the appeal of them. I just don't want any of my own. I totally respect and admire people who are parents, and I think they have a valuable place in the movement that we are just not giving them (especially mamas) - but I don't see it as my role. And I'm ok with that.

What I'm beginning to get less and less ok with is the arrogance and antagonism of some of these "childfree" crusaders. I am 100% behind the idea of being proud of being childfree, and of changing society to accommodate people (especially women) who do not want to reproduce. But I don't feel the way to change the dominant mindset is by aggressively complaining about spaces that welcome children, or about other people's children specifically. The childfree movement is beginning to parallel, in my mind, the atheist movement - it is becoming distant, arrogant, overly intellectual and worst of all, elitist. The attitudes of some of the childfree people I have encountered are the reason I am hesitant to identify as such (and I feel the same way about atheism).

If you are childfree by choice, that's awesome. You are making a brave choice and in some ways being a trailblazer. I support questioning our culture's obsession with the "mommy cult", the bizarre hyper-consumerism expected of parents, the deification of married mothers and the demonization of single ones, and in fact the whole horrific kyriarchal lens through which we look as a society to decide which mothers are worthy of our love and attention. I support standing up against the assumption that all women are breeders, that all women want to and should have children. I support asserting your right to decide what does and doesn't happen in your uterus. I totally support the choice to be childfree (and to be vocal about it) as much as I support any reproductive decision a person makes. Because it's your body, not mine.

What I don't support is acting like your choice to be childfree makes you better than others. Or your decision to complain about spaces that welcome children. And what I especially don't support is when people start to talk about children as if they are not also people - "I hate kids" "Kids are so annoying" etc. Some kids are annoying, as are some adults. Children on average are more likely to be loud, impulsive, and easily upset. But THEY ARE PEOPLE. They are in our lives. They are always around. So just suck it up. And don't assume the choice you made is somehow better or more valid or more altruistic or whatever than the choice to parent. And if I know you, and you ever say something about someone needing to "control their kids in public", so help me it will take a lot for me not to slap you. Verbally. Of course.

Let's all just try to respect each other's choices and get along, is what I'm saying. There's a lot of people out there trying to take those choices away from us, so being an asshole to someone who has kids isn't going to protect your right to choose not to have them.

Edited to add: Go read this. Do it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Toronto the Good (at Taking Stuff from People)

So, as you know if you've been paying attention, I live in Toronto now. And these days that seems to be an exercise in reading the newspaper with a look of horror.

Suddenly, all the horrible things we feared would happen when Rob Ford was elected mayor are coming to pass. As alarmed/angry/frustrated as I am about the bike lane debacle, the threats to public parks and Riverdale Farm, and the willful ignorance of any way besides money to measure the wealth of a city, what I am most flabbergasted about and would like to talk about now is the public health nurse scandal. And yes it is a scandal, and an absolute disgrace.

Basically what happened is this: the province offered the city the funding to hire two public health nurses, who would be working (in part) with marginalized communities that don't generally have access to health care. Can I just repeat: FULLY FUNDED by the province. How can this be anything but good? But Rob Ford and his allies on City Council rejected the funding, and then rejected an opportunity to re-open the vote.

Their argument against FULLY FUNDED PUBLIC HEALTH NURSES remains unclear, except for the fear that we would have to pick up the tab after the provincial money ran out.

Two arguments: one, fine - but isn't having them for a year (or two) before letting time go when the money runs out better than not having them?, and two, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing even if we have to pay for them! Because they are nurses! Providing a valuable service to our community - particularly chronically underserved sectors of it!

I dunno, sounds like a gravy train to me.

I mean really, how much can two nurses cost - and more importantly, isn't the work they do more than worth the cost (because I have no illusions that we pay nurses what they're worth)?

I kind of get the arguments for smaller government, against "nanny state" whatever, although I don't agree with them. But I will just never understand the nightmare of refusing what basically amounts to free healthcare for the citizens you are supposed to be serving. And when I do understand it, y'all can take me out back and shoot me, because I have no interest in living in a world where that kind of bullshit makes sense.