Friday, March 29, 2013

This Post is Not Spam: Discount Sex Toys!

Guys, one of the things I love about living in the super-trendy West Queen West neighbourhood in Toronto (yes I said West Queen West - everything west of Bathurst is even that much cooler than plain ol' Queen West) is that there are so many delightful shops that are experimenting with different business models. It's hard to stand out in an area that is so overrun with "quirky" shops and hipster-friendly merchandise, so that means there are lots of really fabulous places that cater to, I'm just gonna say it, the Pedgehog aesthetic. Like vegan restaurants, all-you-can-eat-sushi, really fabulous drag queen dresses, Japanese candy, and one store that pretty much exclusively sells fascinators and Hello Kitty merchandise. It's a pretty great place to be.

Probably my favourite place in the area, though, is Come As You Are. This is technically in Queen West - being east of Bathurst - but it really encompasses the spirit of the neighbourhood. It is a straight-up sex-positive, women, queer and trans positive, co-operatively owned sex shop. Everyone who works there is also an owner, and they are the friendliest, funniest and most fabulous folks on Queen Street. It is a wonderful, magical place.

So of course they are in trouble. I guess rent is going up all along Queen Street - we were in Ten Thousand Villages the other day and the woman at the counter told us they were closing up, and I've heard rumours of a couple other places also shutting down or at least leaving the area. It sucks.

Anyway I just wanted to tell you about CAYA because they are having some sweet sales, and you can shop online too so you don't have to be in Toronto to help out. We all know sex toys can be expensive, so if you're in the market for something, you need to jump on this. You can get off while supporting a local, worker-owned, feminist business. It's win win!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ok it's Dead. Let it Go.

So by now you've probably heard the good news: Sex-Selective Abortion Motion from MP Mark Warawa Killed.

Awww yissss! My favourite part of the article:

Warawa is vowing to appeal what he calls the sub-committee's "shocking and undemocratic decision."
He can appeal to the procedure and House affairs committee to overturn the sub-committee's decision.
If that doesn't work, Warawa could then appeal to the Speaker of the House of Commons, triggering a rare secret ballot vote by all MPs.
Warawa says he'll appeal the decision "as far as necessary."
This fucking guy, am I right? It's like, dude, you lost. I get it if it's something really serious, like something that will actually make a difference (like actually outlawing sex-selective abortions), but all this motion is asking is that the government condemn sex-selective abortions. That's not even some kind of legal action. That's...well, I don't really know what that is. I'm imagining a make-work project for some intern at the Ministry of Health designing a poster that says "don't have a sex-selective abortion; it's stupid" that they can put up in doctors' offices or something. I mean, what else could it possibly accomplish?

What I have to wonder is, why is Warawa even in politics? Does his constituency really want him to spend any more time chasing after this useless motion that's doomed to fail? No wonder so many anti-choicers express their disapproval of women's choices/sexuality by being assholes outside of clinics; when they try to go the legal, acceptable route of making change through the law, they can't even get that right. Note to assholes: legally mandating disapproval is just not helpful.

It is great that this motion has been killed. I just wish Warawa would let it die, and get back to the other 99% of his job which I hope does not involve quite so much fruitless prying into women's private lives.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Non-Hippie's Guide to Reusable Pads

Ok full disclosure, I guess the title isn't entirely accurate, since I was kind of a hippie in high school. And though I no longer wear a bathrobe as a coat, or that sick Janis Joplin t-shirt with the purple darts, and my hair is only moderately long and I no longer smell like "marijuana and salad" (actual friend's opinion on what I smelled like in high school), I do still just want everyone to love one another and, like, chill out. So I guess I'm not completely a non-hippie. But the point is, I am a reasonably together person with a real job and a bank account, and I am easily grossed out by shit hippies love, like, you know, reusing things, and dumpster diving etc.

The point is, I love reusable cloth menstrual pads. And if I, a lady who does not enjoy camping, can get into them, you can too. Here's how!

1. Figure out why you're doing this.
Just because if you do, you're more likely to stick with it. My own personal reason, as is often the case, was a sudden guilt attack related to the environment and over-consumption, etc. as well as my growing identity as some kind of feminist crusader who might need to be doing something suitably hippy-dippy regarding her period. Ok it doesn't seem like a great plan but I've been motivated by less. I recently allowed my hair to hang greasy and unwashed for eight weeks out of similar environment/consumption guilt, with less positive results. But the point is, having a reason (or reasons) that works for you will make it easier to stick it out.

2. Find out what works for you. 
I definitely had a disappointing and frankly guilt-inducing experience with the cup/keeper, chronicled here (yes, read not one but TWO internet articles about my vagina!). I think even if something seems pretty perfect for you on paper, it's hard to know how it's going to work out. Unfortunately, a lot of these alternatives are expensive to just buy and try them out if it turns out you won't like them. But do what you can - it might involve a lot of research and asking around as an alternative to buying a bunch of pads right away.

There's also a lot of different kinds of reusable pads - different designs, patterns, shapes, price points, etc. If it's within your budget to do so, I suggest buying a couple, maybe even from different vendors, to see what you like. A lot of vendors offer sample packs, which include an assortment of styles and sizes to help you figure out what you like. Also, don't be afraid to ask around - you might be surprised how many people are already using them and can give you recommendations.

3. Don't cheap out
I know, this is something that is easier said than done depending on your economic situation. However, if you can do it, buy good soft, thick pads from recommended sources. Don't just search Etsy and buy the cheapest thing. Trust me, I made that mistake. A thin pad is not a great companion; neither is one that doesn't secure properly and slips all over the place in your underwear. Reusable pads can be costly ($12-15 each generally), so a good strategy might be to buy one at a time as you can afford them, and slowly wean yourself off pads and tampons as you build up a full set.

4. Take care of them!
My first attempt at using reusable pads ended in disaster because I am extremely lazy. I was just throwing them in the laundry basket with my clothes, and so they got really stained and worn out and were no longer comfortable. Taking proper care of your pads will make them last way longer and be a lot more hygenic (and less smelly!). Most reusable pad companies offer care instructions, but in the absence of these what I recommend is designating a big bowl or tupperware for pads only (don't use it for anything else once you've picked one!) and putting used pads in there with cold water to soak until laundry day. I change the water each time I put a new pad in, and at the end of my period I wash the container.

5. Travelling
I don't know. If I have to travel while on my period I generally bring disposable pads and tampons because I just haven't found a way to travel with reusable pads. How/where would you soak them? What about washing them? Any tips?

That's all I got. There are lots of great reusable pads out there - I recommend Party in My Pants, which is what I currently use and they are super awesome.

Happy bleeding!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You're Taking it Personally: The Godwin's Law of Sexism

A guest post by Jenn Gorham

I work at the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (FSACC). I love my job, but one of the weird by-products of working at FSACC is the awkwardness of telling people where I work. It manifests in different ways, but one of the most challenging for me is when the discussion of what I do turns into a debate on sexism or sexual violence. Typically something is being discussed that I comment on, my comment then makes someone uncomfortable, we have a back and forth, and then my position is dismissed because, “you are taking this too personally, you are being sensitive because of where you work.” End of discussion. The Godwin’s Law of sexism.

I understand what has happened. My contribution to the discussion has made the person uncomfortable. And when we are uncomfortable, we can react defensively. Often people confuse pointing out a sexist comment (song, movie, comedy etc) with an accusation of being sexist. Jay Smooth at Ill Doctrine had a great vlog similar to this around racism.

For example perhaps I have criticized Eminem for being misogynist. The other person points to the song he performed with Rihanna (trigger warning!). We debate the merits of whether this song/video was actually empowering to women in domestic abuse situations. I point out that this seems hypocritical coming from the man who not only wrote but still performs the song Kim (lyrics here - HUGE trigger warning). Because the person is a fan of Eminem they see my criticism as an attack on them personally and at some point, the person feels the need to point out my sensitivity due to where I work.

Still, I am always floored by this statement. I am on the phone with someone who has survived childhood sexual abuse and is struggling to get through their day. I am sitting across from your teenage daughter who is telling me her boyfriend is pressuring her to text him a nude picture and she is crying. I work every day with people who have been impacted by sexual violence. Don’t you want me to take that personally? Don’t you want me to be upset by this and say, “This is wrong! And we are going to do something about this? We are going to try to stop this from happening to others!” Don’t you want that? I do. If my sons went to someone because they were in pain, looking for support, I want that person to take it personally and be caring and empathetic.

I also want that person to know what they are talking about. The volunteers at FSACC go through an intensive screening process that includes two interviews, a reference check and 60 hours of training. 60 hours. They cannot miss one session or they do not make it. I coordinate and run this training. In New Brunswick no public service group requires this level of training around the issue of sexual violence – not doctors, nurses, Fredericton police, RCMP, guidance counselors, social workers, or addictions counselors. No one. In fact it was such a gap in services that FSACC was asked to create a training program for these groups. My co-worker Jenn R. and I then developed and deliver Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention Training (SACIT), a 40 hour training course which we have delivered province-wide to police, nurses, counselors, and social workers.

All of this training and education is based on volumes of academic research spanning a spectrum of the human and social sciences to neurobiology. It is meticulously researched, updated and monitored by committees of experts on a consistent basis in order to ensure that it is ethical and includes the most current research and best practices.

I am really good at my job. Really good at it. So yes, I do take it personally, and I also know what I am talking about.


The above was a status update on Facebook, posted here with Jenn's permission. To learn more about the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (including how to get involved as a volunteer or donor), please contact them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Motion 408: The Pretender

Remember Motion 408? Yeah, that's still happening. ARCC has put together a great run-down of what it's all about, along with a brief history of some other sneaky anti-choice motions put forth in recent years. Check it out!

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day 2013

Happy International Women's Day! Listen up, starting today, until Sunday, the National Film Board's new documentary "Status Quo?: The unfinished business of feminism in Canada" will be online for FREE! You should definitely go and watch it if you have 87 minutes free this weekend; maybe even have a couple friends over and watch it? You would be supporting an amazing young filmmaker named Karen Cho, who is simply the greatest. Check it out!

Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada by Karen Cho, National Film Board of Canada