Saying ‘YES’ to sexual consent- Slut walk Toronto

Tomorrow afternoon Toronto will be hosting ‘Slut walk’, a rally against rape, violence against women and the common discourse that by dressing ‘slutty’ women are ASKING to be raped.

Some people think it’s okay to dress ‘slutty’ and some do not. This is not the discussion on the table though.

I will be participating in the ‘slut walk’ because I believe that sex is an intimate act between two loving consenting adults. I think most would agree with that statement but let’s look at the word ‘consent’ and what it currently means in our culture.

We’ve convinced ourselves that there is a fine line between rape and consent based solely on whether the (mostly) female said ‘no’. Consent is then defined as the omission of ‘no’.

the meaning of consent gets stretched further when  women are drunk or wear revealing clothing as they are now considered to be ‘asking for it, because if she didn’t want to have sex why would she dress that way?’ or ‘how could she remember whether she said no if she was drunk?’ This certainly does blur the line when we teach that ‘no means no’, but what if we redefined our cultural conception of sexual consent?

This is the main thesis of this book I’m reading. Instead of consent being the omission of ‘no’, instead of asking rape victims ‘did you say no?’ or men justifying their actions with ‘she didn’t say no’ what if we defined consent how we should define it- saying ‘yes’ “did you say yes? Did you want to have sex and with this person?’.  No more shaming of women, no more encouraging or enabling the culture of rape to function and hopefully, no more rape since the lines will no longer be blurry and we will teach our children accordingly.

Pretty simple right? well, yes. But apparently no, as well as we still have TV programs that encourage this rape culture, and even people enforcing justice that tow the archaic definition of consent.

I see the ‘slut walk’ not as a way of reclaiming the word slut, or an opportunity to dress like one (the event doesn’t encourage slutty wear, just ‘wear what you wear’) mostly because, well, I generally dress more modest than most people’s maiden aunts, but to me it’s an opportunity to spread this message: our definition of consenting sex should be ‘Yes means yes’ and no less.

 

Sexy-Professionals

Sometimes you have to choose your battles and sometimes you have to choose what fires you up.

Sexy female halloween costumes.

I feel like the subject has been exhausted in that a lot of people (save for those that wear them) find them ridicules.  It’s been written about, complained about and judged by everyone and their mother.  Last night a couple friends were laughing over an inebriated girl who was wearing only a bra and underwear and a butterfly clip in her hair ” I’m a buttterrrrflllyyyyyy” she slurred.

I’ve chosen to ignore how ridicules these types of costumes are (in effort to keep myself from being judgmental) but there are some that I cannot ignore. Particularly, those ‘sexy costumes’ that are of  vocations that women have had to really fight to be included as equal persons

Take for instance ‘sexy cop’ when I see females parading their asses into da’ club I think of my good friend Julie, a very dedicated female who worked really hard to get on the OPP force, pushing herself through physical trainings, achieving high academics and rigorous competitions in order to be hired on.  And then when she DID get hired on, having to establish herself in a male dominated profession as a physical and mental equal, even making her appearance as non-sexy as possible in order to be respected as an authority by both her colleagues and the citizens she serves.

A friend’s mom once shared that she wanted to be a police officer all throughout highschool, until she heard a police chief say at a career event “There will NEVER be a woman on my force” it’s a shame, I think she would have been really excellent in that career. We’ve made leaps and bounds since that time and it frustrates me to see it devalued by a skanky halloween costume.

The same rings true for other vocations: Sexy-pilot, Sexy-military soldier, Sexy- sailor, Sexy- public service officer (?)

Please ladies, I beg you. If you want more trick than treat this halloween, by all means, freeze your tatas off but please please PLEASE leave the sexy-professional costumes alone. For the sake of those who are trying to make it as professional equals.

Strategic Risks.

I was not raised to have a conscience of guilt. And yet I stand at an ethical cross road feeling overwhelmed, creating lists of pros and cons, reciting Kant’s categorical imperative, asking W.W.J.D? and questioning the possible future implications of my choices. It sounds intense (and boring) but I do this because on October 25th/2010, I want to sleep with a clear mind.

October 25th marks the day of the Toronto Mayoral election, and although most people SHOULD be questioning which candidate they think will be the best fit to run this city, this seems to be anything but the case.

The front runner, Rob Ford, I can easily categorize as that douche bag who snaps his fingers in restaurants, calls waitresses ‘sweetie’ and leaves a lousy tip after complaining about everything. He’s the family member who ‘wins’ arguments because he talks the loudest and backs his opinions not with facts, but with angry ill-thought syllogisms. He’s the Mayoral candidate who in my opinion probably knows a lot about running a business, but little about running a city. Paired with ignorant statements about immigrants, the poor, homosexuals, art, living sustainably etc. I would never want him representing my city in a million years.

And I don’t think a lot of others would either, except that he’s harnessed (or instilled) a collective sense of revolutionary anger over how city hall is run while shifting the focus from the importance of civil society to how badly others are doing. A decision to vote for Ford, therefore, is not a vote FOR anything, but a tactical strategy against what we already have or hope to achieve.

*

But, I can’t cast the first stone against these angry voters because I am now faced with the same decision.

The truth is, when I go to put my X on the ballot in October, I’m being asked “who do you think will best run this city”? And unfortunately, there is no “not Rob Ford” option. There is the option of voting for the candidate I want, but he is trailing far behind. In the opinion of others it would be ‘a waste of a vote’, which is why most people I know have decided to engage in the same tactical strategy as the angry Rob Ford lovers (RBLs). That is, to vote FOR a person (the 2nd runner up, George Smitherman) in order to vote AGAINST Rob Ford.

But in the same way, strategic voters aren’t voting FOR anything, they aren’t questioning the perhaps contentious ideas and values of the 2nd runner up. They aren’t saying what they want, how they want their city to look, only that they don’t want Rob Ford. At this point, Smitherman could probably run on a campaign of “I’m not Rob Ford” and have a pretty good chance at taking the race.

So this is my dilemma. Do I vote for George Smitherman, a candidate I don’t really like, in order to save my city from the bumbling idiocy of Rob Ford? Or, when the ballot asks me to put an X beside the candidate I think is best, do I tell the truth, and vote for the candidate who most assuredly won’t win?

The stakes are high! And only one month left to decide.

This post is brought to you by the letter G and by the number 20 (why I will be protesting)

I have a confession to make: I am a protester. Not a well seasoned one, but I sometimes go to protests… and I protest.  According to most media outlets and mainstream opinion I am practically a terrorist, or at least an unemployed ingrate.

I understand the confusion.  Protesting is often looked at as an activity for the fringe, or according to a lot of hecklers “for the unemployed complainers who want to cause violence.”  I don’t really fit into any of those categories (perhaps ‘complainer’), nor do most of the protesters I see and meet (professors, journalists, factory workers, lawyers, artists, students etc) so I thought I’d try and clear the air. I hope this can be a starting point for people to understand why protesting is important, which requires one to think outside of their own fixed perceptions and measure from a different angle.  While protests are often portrayed as unruly and archaic meetings of destructive people,   I often compare organized protests to concerts: You may have the crazy aggressive people in the mosh pit but everyone behind that line is just there to participate peacefully.

We live in a liberal democracy, which means government is accountable to citizens and we need to make sure that they are working in the interest of citizens. When they are not, we are to speak up. This is what it means to be politically active; democracies don’t run on autopilot. To further enjoy the rights and freedoms we have, we must be constantly mindful of when we think those rights and freedoms are being compromised and by whom.  Unfortunately, we’ve been duped into thinking we only need to do this once every 4 years at election time. Protests are a great tool to let politicians know the needs of people and how they are falling short meeting those needs, as well as raise awareness for causes that the general public are disconnected from.

There seems to be a mainstream discourse that protests are violent, useless, archaic and irrelevant. If this is your opinion, then I’m singing this song to you, so hear me out.

Protests work.

Do the leaders of the summit swing open the windows and relent to the crowds? Nyet. But protests bring awareness to real issues and reveal information to the mainstream, which in turn sways public opinion and eventually brings change. Environmental issues, fair trade, gender equality and civil rights, to name a few, were all results of some “crazy fringe groups” protesting.  As a woman, I enjoy so many liberties that I wouldn’t have if  women before my time didn’t risk their reputations, and sometimes their lives, to protest their unequal treatment; I’m forever grateful that they did.

Obviously, not everyone wants protests to work.  Fair trade is bad for business, Environmental issues limit natural resource exploitation and gender and civil rights derail conventional power relations. Profit (most commonly referred to as ‘economic stability) is then considered more important than the people who actually create it.  It just so happens that the people who are effected by these issues coming to light, are the very people running our governments and economies (or the people/ corporations that fund them).  They rely on the failing (failed?) system we have in order please financial supporters, share holders etc. AKA: not you or I.

So how do you keep citizens from addressing their actual needs? you scare the crap outta them then tell them ‘everything is ok!”  Everyday the newspaper introduces a new weapon that will be used against the crowds, or the threats made by niche groups.  They play on the PERCEIVED threat of violence in order to contain dissenting citizens.  This is dangerous. When a threat is created based on not even a possibility but a perceived possibility, “preventive security” actually translates into “pre emptive agression to maintain security.”  Once everyone is good and scared you convince them that the protesters are crazy.  We somehow think that as long as nothing gets in the way of our lifesyle, everything is ok but we fail to recognize that our very lifestyles and the policies upheld by the G2o leaders can create and perpetuate the poverty of  others.  Since those ‘others’ just happen to be the people who grow our food, make our clothes and take the jobs we won’t do, it’s actually in EVERYONE’S interest if we recognize the interdependence and see that  they are healthy, educated and treated/paid fairly.

Anyone who knows me or has read my blogs can probably get an idea of why I’m protesting (you can also ask me if you don’t) but In short, I want to stand behind the dignity of the poor and oppressed by being their voice when another group denies them their dignity and renders them voiceless.  Not so I can boast in it and get a gold star of achievement, and not just when it’s safe and mainstream.  I’ve been granted the resources and the liberties to make their situations known and hold those in power accountable. To me, that translates as a responsibility and a duty to do so; Many others feel the same way.

So I encourage you to step back from the hype and recognize what protests actually are and the progress that has come from them. Ya, some protesters are violent and aggressive, but perhaps try and understand the reason behind her actions, learn more, get involved and NEVER  EVER give into fear that is impressed upon you. Question everything, look at every angle and follow the money trail.

I really encourage anyone to attend a protest, even just to dispel the condensed image of protests that are shown in the newspaper or on TV.  I hope to blog about the whole experience after this weekend (hopefully not from jail…but maybe, apparently someone just got arrested for putting up a flyer at the university of toronto…crazy)

I’ll leave you with this quote

please let me know your thoughts!

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

— Martin Niemöller (lutheran pastor and  nazi concentration camp survivor)


Haiti

Stop. Breathe. Think.

This is what I’ve trained myself to do in times of tragedy. Thinking is always the hardest part because my gut reaction is to DO SOMETHING because by doing something, I feel like I’m helping.

As I watch the condensed images of Haiti filter through, I’m met with the conflicting reaction. My connection to Haiti and the Dominican Republic draw me to do something, obviously meeting the initial needs of people is priority. But I’ve stepped back and started to put the pieces together especially after reading this quote on the Heritage Foundation’s website.

“In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”

There has been a pattern of  development industries and venture capitalists seeing opportunity and EXPLOITING natural disasters in order for them to accrue disgusting amounts of wealth. This is what Naomi Klein describes as “disaster capitalism” at its finest.

Probably the most relevant comparable example would be Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out New Orleans in 2005. With the new “clean slate” the Bush administration was able to take advantage of the collective panic and pass otherwise contentious pro-corporate policies to ensure that money was made.

For example, within one year after Hurricane Katrina only 4 of the once 123 public schools reopened. The remaining schools were auctioned off to the private sector to create charter schools. The once 4700 teachers who represented a strong union were all fired, some were hired back, but on reduced salaries.  Contracts for clean up and redevelopment were bestowed upon corporate sponsors of the government du jour. This privatization of the public school system had long been a dream for opportunistic capitalists, but had never materialized because the deeply polarizing effects of charter schools between the regions rich and poor did not bode well with the people of New Orleans.  The hurricane, and the collective vertigo it created changed everything. To quote Milton Friedman “Katrina accomplished in a day…what Louisiana school reformers couldn’t do after years of trying”.

There are countless other instances of disaster capitalism in the last few decades (9/11, the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, H1N1 etc). In which policy makers and government executives play on the fear, declare martial law and let their cronies dive in and scoop up the profits.  As I step back and watch the truly tragic events unfold in Haiti, a country that owns a piece of my heart, I have a righteous anger towards the deals for profit that are being made before the dust settles.

I echo the sentiments and actions of people wanting to help and send money, we must dig deep and give hard. But we cannot disorient ourselves from what is going on, or depoliticize the state of Haiti while we grieve. Catastrophe is big business and it does not work in the interest of those who are the victims. We must not allow our panic and grief to be used to pass advantageous policies, or allow the facade of “development” and “reconstruction” to further exploit the impoverished. Lets not mistake vultures for angels.

In the mean time, Stop. Breathe. Think

*And read “Shock Doctrine” by: Naomi Klein.

Ice cream vs. Candy

Today had crept up faster than I had hoped. The bi-election in the Toronto riding of St. Pauls for a brand spankin’ new MPP

Based upon the two leading incumbents, it would seem that the deal breaking issue, the pivotal decision we as a riding have to make is…

Do we prefer ice cream or candy?

On two occasions I was bombarded in front of the subway station by unpaid volunteers for both the conservative and liberal party. Last week the liberal tows were yelling and handing out pamphlets for their incumbent- a humanitarian/ family doctor.  On the front: a picture of Dr. dental work done. On the back: “FREE ICE CREAM!” No mention of the new proposal for a harmonized sales tax, no mud slinging not even a list of accomplishments! I felt like I was being loured in by a pedophile.

The next day the conservatives struck back.  But again, not with any literature criticizing the last 8 years of liberal leadership, or a proposal of how they’d do anything differently. This is what placed in my hand.

I generally don’t base my vote on platforms and promises but on ideology, so It doesn’t often take me long to decide who to vote for since my political ideologies aren’t set to expire for another 6 years READ: Winston Churchill ( “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”)

And they certainly are not swayed by ‘free swag’. But both days I came into work irate (which is an unusual amount of emotion for me to have anytime before 11 am) It seems consumerism has crept into the already diluted democratic experience and into, perhaps, the last active part of a collective democratic action.

I understand these are meant to draw people in; to hopefully bring them to hear about platforms and positions, and I (somewhat) applaud these incumbents for trying.  But who is zooming who. There is nothing sexy about politics. Its not something we participate in because its fun, but because its important and there ARE important issues at the moment.

Its hard to pinpoint where the problem lies- constituents refusing participation in anything that isn’t wrapped in polysterene or politicians who market and brand politics with celebrities and free shit.

Either way, I think what is most concerning is that the prime focus is placed on voting as the most important facet of political participation, which is like going into an exam without going to class or reading the texts. If we as a voting public shifted our focus on political participation from voting to becoming actively involved in our immediate communities than I believe individually the decision on who to elect will be quite clear: no ice cream or candy needed.

DISCLAIMER: Although trying to win my VOTE with ice cream and Candy makes me irate, trying to win my heart with ice cream and candy almost always works.

Duck-ness and torture-ness

When is a duck not a duck? if you saw a mallard (or a drake yuk yuk) without a beak or webbed feet would it still be a duck? If you saw a pig with a ducks beak, webbed feet and duck feathers would it be more of a duck than the other?

I really don’t seek sage replies to the question of ‘duck-ness’ but I’ve been watching a lot of CNN lately (Strike 1) and it has led me to ask two questions: 1) when is a duck not a duck? 2) At what point is a duck considered a duck, and by whom?

Ok, ok. Enough about ducks. I have a huge aversion to foul.

A few weeks ago I watched a press conference that Condoleezza Rice held at  Stanford  University giving  aspiring journalists a taste of  what I like to call ‘la SLAM!’ At one point a bold frosh (I assume) started questioning the torture tactics going on in Gitmo under her administration

“How are we supposed to continue promoting America as this guiding light of democracy and how are we supposed to win hearts and minds in the world as long as we continue with these actions?

The match was going well, at first. He talked about torture, she talked about the 3K people who died in 9/11, he mentioned that more people have died in Iraq.

Thats when the ‘Condi fire’ started to blaze. She pulled out the finger , got in the young man’s face and seethed through her teeth

Condi: Did you know that the Organization — just answer me — did you know that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said Guantanamo was a model medium security prison?

No, but I feel that changes nothing…

Condi: No — Did you know that?

I did not know that, but that changes absolutely nothing.

Condi: Alright, no — if you didn’t know that, maybe before you make allegations about Guantanamo you should read.

The young man backed off after this. I was quite upset. Despite the fact that I’m all bark and no bite (I mean, come on. I BLOG), I blurted out at the screen “WHAT MAKES A PRISON MEDIUM SECURITY!?” Medium compared to WHAT? Are we to believe that some ad hoc European committee went on a global prison tour stopping in Canada (this prison is too low security) China (this prison is too high security) then went to Guantanamo and decided that this prison  (recently confirmed to have used water-boarding as a form of ‘information gathering’ ) is a MODEL MEDIUM security prison and therefore,  everything that goes on inside is the porridge of mama bear? Does that justify the torture? Condoleeza goes on to justify the actions by falling back on this gem:

” (Waterboarding) did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.”

Pardon me, Ms. Speaker. Maybe those are grossly OUTDATED AND AMBIGUOUS CONVENTIONS.

Laws and conventions are interpretive; abiding within them does not always justify our actions. But because Water-boarding some how slipped through the cracks of the conventions then it is a PERFECTLY reasonable way to get (false) information from a terrorist (not tried in a court of law).

When is torture “not torture”? Is there a torture continuum?

This whole torture debate brings me back to 1994. When 800,000- 1 million people were killed in Rawanda.  Time was wasted over the debate: Is it a genocide or a civil war? how many people have to be killed in the civil war before it is considered a genocide? No UN convention had defined when a conflict becomes a genocide.

Laws and conventions are put in place for a reason. the Conventions Against Torture serves a purpose. Namely, to ensure that human beings are not treated any less than a human being. These conventions and laws are not put in place to find loopholes and penumbral areas to take advantage of, which I believe the U.S has been doing.