30 April 2010

black magic woman

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

No, really. I know, you thought earthquakes were caused by plate tectonics—but really, it's immodestly dressed women, leading young men astray.

Jen McCreight, a feminist and blogger decided to conduct a fun little experiment called Boobquake. The idea was to encourage women to dress "immodestly" for one day, whatever that may be for each individual woman.  It could be a cleavage baring shirt or a pair of booty shorts...whatever you choose, and then it was  wait and see if there was any significant increase in earthquakes or seismic activity.  Chances are you've heard about Boobquake. It went viral pretty fast.  It was meant to be a small, offhand joke among her blog readers and Facebook friends; instead, she wound up with coverage on CNN, the BBC, the Washington Post, and all over the place.

 (That would be Jen at her local Boobquake rally.  Loves the lab goggles!)

But many feminists responded very negatively to Boobquake, calling it exploitative, demeaning, trivializing, objectifying, and a whole host of other sexist bad things.  A Facebook group called Brainquake was created in response, saying that Boobquake "has aroused the evidently insatiable enthusiasm of the web community, male supporters in particular who can't wait to see 'regular' girls and women, many their direct friends to 'showing off their tits'," and arguing that "Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls."

So, lets see if I've got this straight - a misogynist man used his position of religious authority to imply that all of the world's problems were to be blamed on female sexuality and women responded by saying, "Fuck you. Our sexuality is not responsible for earthquakes or any other evilness that may exist.  We are amazing and we will flaunt our sexuality any way we want.  It's our body, our right to choose", and that is being seen as not feminist?

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, "Show us your tits!" idiocy, which was to be expected, really. Apparently women should not display our sexuality because men can't be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly... and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it's women's fault.

 How, exactly, is this "feminist" response to Boobquake anything but a version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader, minus the garbage about earthquakes?

I get that this is a complicated issue. I get that the line between women expressing our sexuality and letting ourselves be exploited is often blurry, and even I find myself wavering on how I feel about it.. I get that using sexuality to draw attention to an issue can be a tricky business, and that the sex can distract from the issue at hand. And I get that, yes, a lot of men acted like idiots around Boobquake, ignoring its political and religious and scientific context, and turning it into another opportunity to scream, "Show us your tits!" However, none of this was Jen McCreight's intention.

She made it clear that this was an event initiated by women, to be participated in voluntarily by women who got the joke. She made it very clear that it was open to all women who wanted to play... and that every woman could decide for herself what "dressing immodestly" meant. She made it very clear that this was a social and political protest—albeit a humorous one—and not simply another opportunity for men to clumsily ogle women.

 Bagging on her and the thousands of women who participated in Boobquake because society's response to female sexuality is sometimes sexist and stupid? That's messed up. There needs to be a way for thoughtful, feminist women to express our sexual desirability without automatically being treated as dumb, exploited bimbos who don't understand what men really think of us.

Our bodies. Our right to decide.

If that's not what the feminist movement is about, then what the hell is the point?

27 April 2010

one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small

As a huge Alice in Wonderland fan, and an even huger Tim Burton fan, it's safe to say that I was anxiously anticipating the awesomeness that would happen when those two forces of nature came together.  I mean, if anyone could do justice to Lewis Carroll's masterpiece, it would be Mr. Burton.  The man gave us The Nightmare Before Christmas, for crying out loud.  There was no way that his interpretation of Alice would be less than awesome.

Then I heard it was going to be in 3D and I think I may have peed in my pants a little.  Seriously.  Alice in Wonderland in 3D?  What could possibly go wrong?

How about, oh, everything?

While on holiday on the west coast this week, my friend Denise and I made plans to take in the three-dimensional goodness of this film.  We paid the ridiculous admission price, bought the overpriced, stale theatre popcorn and drank the gallon o' fountain drink that passes for a "small", and put those glasses on like our lives depended on it. 

Then the movie started...and it was all downhill from there.

Now, as much as I want to blame Tim Burton for this, it's not entirely his fault.  I mean, he could only work with the material he had been given, and it's not entirely his fault that the story was lame.  If you haven't seen it, I'll try not to spoil it for you, but basically, we meet Alice at the age of nineteen, who is betrothed to a man she does not love.  While at her surprise engagement party (and by "surprise" I mean, she had no idea he was going to ask her to marry him), she becomes obsessed with this White Rabbit that she keeps seeing.  She leaves the guy on bended knee and chases after the rabbit, only to fall down the rabbit hole and into Underland.  She meets the usual assortment of characters that we've all come to know and love - Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Caterpillar, the Doormouse, and my personal favourite, the Cheshire Cat.

Of course, none of them believe that she is the "Real Alice", and she must go about proving that she is indeed the same one who visited Underland as a child.  In the meantime, she is revealed as the one who brings peace and harmony to their world by slaying the Jabberwock, who I'm sure was added to the script to atone for the total blasphemy that this story was to the original.  The Queen of Hearts has a freakishly huge head and surrounds herself with other such afflicted people in order to feel less alone, but, you know, she was never loved by her parents as much as her sister, the White Queen was, so she's got issues and something to prove.

In the end, Alice proves herself to be strong and independent and forward thinking, which is a big deal for the Victorian era, and it's for that reason that I didn't totally hate her.  She refused to marry a man she didn't love, and she took up her father's business.  You go, Alice!

It is a Tim Burton film, so you know it's going to be pretty, and boy, was it.  I have decided that it was a good thing that I saw it in 3D, because if I only saw it in old school 2D, I would have really been aware of how lame the story was.  Ok, I was aware of the lameness of the story in 3D, too, but I didn't care so much because, "Ooooh...pretty....", and because they did such an awesome job with Cheshie.

Yes, I love that grinning kitty.  How can I not?  He is all calm and cool with this huge grin that masks his cowardice. You know, kinda like me.  After Alice is attacked by the vicious Bandersnatch,  he offers to purify the gashes on her arm by licking them. Alice declines, although she allows him to lead her to the Hatter’s Tea Party where the Hatter blames him for deserting them on the day the Red Queen seized control of Underland. Using his skills and the Hatter’s coveted top hat, Cheshie later finds a way to redeem himself.  In other words, they didn't keep him around just because he was cute.  I would have, but that's just me.  I'm just a crazy cat lady in training.

Would I watch the film again?  Heck yeah, but I think I'll just read the book again.  It might not be as pretty, but at least it's real.

14 April 2010

paperback writer

In the summer of 2007, I took part in an online photo essay project called "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth."  The idea behind it was that everyone involved took a photo at the exact same time on the exact same day and then wrote about it.  It just so happened that at the same time I got involved in this, an organization in my town chose to offer employment to a young man named Sean Aiken.  It doesn't seem like much, right?  So someone in town decided to give a kid a job, big deal.  Well, here's where it gets interesting.  Sean Aiken is the creative mind behind "One Week Job", a concept he came up with shortly out of university.

Not wanting to be stuck in a job where all he did was clock-watch, Sean was determined to find his passion in life, and he thought that by trying fifty two jobs in a year (that's one a week), that he would at least get an idea of what he didn't want to do.  Any potential employers who paid him a wage would have those wages donated to "Make Poverty History" and, of course, receive a tax break for doing so.  There was a blog where you could contact him to offer him employment, read his blog and basically find yourself along for the ride.

By the time he made it to my small town, he was still fairly new into the process, having only been at it for about sixteen weeks.  He worked at the Pizza Hut for a day, but his big task that week was the Race Co-Ordinator for my town's second annual pursuit style triathlon.  This is where he and I met.  Stuck for a photo subject for my essay, I approached him and asked if I could take his photo and use him as my essay topic.  He seemed distracted, but he did mumble something that sounded like agreement, so we took a couple of photos and then he went back to doing whatever it was race directors do.

A few months later, I sent him an email with my essay and photo attached to it, and it was submitted to the online photo essay.  I kept in touch with Sean through email and by following his blog, and I watched his One Week Job Project take on a life of its own.  He found himself selling real estate in Hollywood, working as a movie producer, aquarium guide, photographer at the Toronto Film Festival, and so on.  He made appearances on CNN, Good Morning America and the Rachel Ray Show.  He was even contacted by Oprah's people, but that fell through.

From humble beginnings, One Week Job because a sort of phenomena, with a documentary in the making and a book offer.  A few months ago, I got an email from Sean saying that he had written about our encounter at the Triathlon in his book, and he wasn't going to say anything, instead letting me read it for myself when the book was released, but his editors and publisher and lawyer said it would be best to get my permission, especially since they were going to be using text from my essay in the book as well.  I'm no fool, I said, "Sure."

A week ago, "The One Week Job Book" was released in Canada, and there on page 76, Sean mentions me by name and quotes my essay.

I know, right.

So, since this is my blog and it's all about me, I present to you, my essay for "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" entitled, "Jump!" (currently being quoted on bookshelves all over Canada)

Henry Miller once said, "Destiny is what you are supposed to do in life. Fate is what kicks you in the ass to do it." 

Enter Sean Aiken. 

After already having an impressive head start out into the "real world," through graduating top of his class in University with a degree in Business Administration, the possibilities were endless. But this was not enough for Sean. He made a promise that he would not settle for a career unless he was truly passionate about it. Of course, at 25 years old, it's not surprising that he wasn't sure where his passions were. (How many of us really knew what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives at 25 years of age?) So, he created One Week Job which he describes as "one of the crazy ideas I had running through my head keeping me up at night." 

At the same time that he had the idea for One Week Job, a friend of his had mentioned the issue of child poverty in Canada to him. His reaction to this was the same as mine. There's child poverty in Canada? We're one of the richest countries in the world, how is this possible? Eighteen years ago, our trusty government made a resolution to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. So, how come, seven years later, one in six children still lives in poverty? 

Something has to be done. 

Sean is not trying to champion the fight against child poverty in Canada. (It's not like he's Bono, after all.) His goals are simple - he's just trying to find his place in the world, trying to find a better understanding of what he needs to be happy. He's not entirely ignorant of the impact that his "crazy idea" can have on those who encounter him, either. He hopes that he can somehow inspire those who might find themselves in a similar situation, whether they are high school graduates striking out on their own for the first time, or someone who has worked a job they hated for twenty years just because they felt like they had to, to commit to seeking out a career they're passionate about. Since he was already spreading that message, why not use the opportunity to raise money and awareness of child poverty in Canada in the process? Sean says "I believe if we truly want to make a difference in the lives of others, we must first starts by being happy with ourselves." 

I am willing to go on record right now in admitting that the thought of meeting someone who I had sort of built up in my head as this amazing individual, was a little daunting. I'm a skeptic as well, so part of me wondered if he was really as he seemed, or if all the media attention had gone to his head, and he was going to walk around like we should all be falling at his feet because of all of the attention he was getting because what he was doing? Furthermore, how would he respond to my request to being the subject for my entry at "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" Would he jump at the opportunity or would he brush me off with a wave of his hand? From our first "Hello," I realized that my fears were unfounded. 

Sean is one of the most open, laid back, easy-going, and passionate people I've ever met, and when you meet him you almost feel as though you've known him forever. He has this presence that is so infectious that you can't help but feel not only at ease, but like you've known him forever. In my conversation with him, I got the sense that whether he knows it or not, this is his "passion." He created something he believed in and, as cliched as it sounds, he chose to follow his bliss and has found his comfort zone. While my visions of his future and his visions of his future are more than likely on completely different scales (I can see him following in the footsteps of so many others who believed in something, no matter how unpopular or crazy it was, and had the balls to pursue it), we both can agree that we have no idea where this will lead him today, tomorrow, or even next week. 

I realize that this may all sound a bit over-inflated, but in all honesty, it truly only takes one person to make a difference, no matter how big or how small. My heroes are those who don't sit idly by and complain about what they see; they try to change it, and either through their own actions or words, they inspire others to do the same. They inspire people to take that first leap or that first step to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary, and to make a change. When you meet someone who feels "that people and our relationships with others are the most important things we have," how can you not look at yourself and life differently? 

In trying to decide on what sort of a photo I wanted to include as my statement in "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth," I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go. With a subject who is everything and nothing all at the same time, how can you perfectly capture that belief that "You must be the change you want to see in the world?" Fortunately, since neither Sean nor I take anything too seriously, I feel that there is no more appropriate photo than this one. 

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In a split second, it captured what Sean and One Week Job, and what "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" are all about - that we're all in this together, and that what one person does can make more of an impact than they would expect. I never thought that taking part in this photo essay, and meeting Sean would change the way I look at things, and yet, both have. It's nothing I can fully articulate, but it's something that I feel deep in my core; that in these chance opportunities, something has changed...and that something was me.

10 April 2010

dancing with myself

I've been crocheting for about eight or nine years now, give or take, and I can honestly say it's probably my most favourite hobby ever.  I know that announcing this is like saying that Adam Lambert is gay or that water is wet, but sometimes, things bear repeating.

I'm not sure what I love most about it, whether it's the satisfaction of seeing a project go from balls of wool to actual object or the fact that it helps to keep me sane.  All I know is that when I walk into a craft store, I head straight for the yarn while my heart is all a-twitter, my head swimming with possibilities; colour combinations, textures, who I'm going to make what for...all that good stuff.  Oddly enough, when it comes to "Who am I going to make this for?", the most obvious answer (a.k.a. "ME") is the furthest thing from my mind.

I like to make things for other people.  Ask any of those I hold nearest and dearest to me and they can show you at least one item I've made for them or their children. (Yeah, if you have kids, you're pretty much doomed, because I will be spoiling that little moppet with handmade goodness like there's no tomorrow.)  I don't do it for money (though twice I've been paid for my efforts...and both times it was well deserved.) I do it because it makes me happy and I like to see those I love happy.

Lately I've been on a crocheted doll kick.  Specifically, I've been making dolls for friends that sort of resemble the friends I've given them to.  Sometimes the resemblance is spot on; others not so much. So, with that in mind, I thought I'd play a little blog game to test your powers of observation (which, if they're anything like mine, are somewhere in the "Captain Obvious" realm).

I am posting photos of dolls I've made with specific people in mind, and then photos of how they really look.  Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to try and figure out who is who.  You can keep that to yourself, or you can post your guesses in my comment section.  The winner gets nothing other than my admiration for being so darn smart..or maybe they'll see themselves in crochet at some point.  We'll see how I feel.

First up:  The Dolls

Doll #1

Doll #2

Doll #3
Doll # 4
Doll #5
Doll #6

And now, The People:





(Yes, I am aware that I haven't made any crocheted dudes yet.  That's not sexism, that's just me assuming that there aren't a lot of men out there who would appreciate the coolness of being immortalized in crochet.  That being said, there's a first time for everything)

04 April 2010

you make me sick

I'm not sure how many of you are following the news somewhat regularly, but I have to share this one story that literally makes me sick to my stomach:

New Jersey Girl Sells 7 Year Old Sister for Sex

A 15-year-old New Jersey girl is being charged for selling her 7-year-old stepsister for sex with men.

The sickening transaction happened at a party on Sunday when the 15-year-old sold her 7-year-old little sister and, according to a report from the NY Daily News, “let the boys do what they want to do as the leering lechers looked on – then stepped back and watched the men molest her.”

Due to this incident, NJ.Com has promised that detectives are on the case to track down the people who raped the little girl.

Mayor Douglas Palmer said of the crime, “I believe personally, not as the mayor, personally, there is a space reserved in hell for the perpetrators of this act and I know they’ll get there.”

The sad part of the entire incident is that the 7-year-old girl reportedly tagged along with her big sister to try to protect her; she was worried about the 15-year-old’s safety.  The parents of the girls called the police at 4:30 p.m. when they did not return home; they assumed that the older girl had run away taking the younger sibling with her.

The 15-year-old girl is being charged with aggravated sexual assault, promoting prostitution and other crimes which have been rumored to consist of prostitution on her behalf because she also accepted cash for sex.

I'll let you digest that for a second before I start ranting.

Disgusting, huh?

Of the many, many, many, MANY things I find wrong with this story, the ones that bother me most are:

1 -  What kind of parenting the 15 year old must have had and what kind of family environment she lived in which made it ok for her to sell herself as well as her sister for sex?  Seriously.  At what point did we decide that teaching our children that selling yourself for sex was acceptable?  When did we, as a society, decide to just turn a blind eye to things like this.  I know it's all a bunch of tree-hugging hippie crap, but really, it does take a village to raise a child.  It just breaks my heart to think of what kind of upbringing these children have had.

2 - When children go missing and the first thought of the parents is that they have run away, there must be something seriously wrong at home. The parents must be held accountable as well, instead of merely crucifying the 15 year old girl.  Yes, what she did was disgusting, but the blase attitude of the parental units leaves a lot to be desired as well. 

Selling her baby sister is sick and twisted. The one person there that she would be looking toward to protect her, betrayed her and profited from her pain. She watched while this little girl was touched and raped and not once did she stop and think, "Hey, this might be wrong" or did she tell them to stop.

I am sure the lot of them will rot in hell, but in the mean time, I hope that they are all jailed, including the 15 year old.  In a perfect world, the older sister would do time as a pimp, and also be prosecuted for kidnap, confinement, and rape as well. I can only hope that’s the outcome.

As for the parents, they're claiming that they're the victims and that people are blaming them for what happened...and as well they should.  They are all responsible for what happened, not just to the seven year old, but her older sister as well.

There is a special place in hell for everyone involved and I hope they take a bullet train to the destination