Category Archives: Feminism

It’s International Women’s Day, and I don’t feel like celebrating

I did wear red.

Moreover, it’s handmade red. Coming soon to a blog post near you.

I made some small donations  (Oxfam Canada, for their recent report card, and the Canadian Women’s Foundation). I wrote a few emails to politicians. I shopped at women-owned local businesses.

But otherwise:

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Not so much.

If I’m going to feed my daughter, I need to work. And there are no men in my life who can pick up the slack if I drop out of unpaid work for the day. I like to eat dinner–and my daughter also likes to eat dinner–every day, ideally; if that’s going to happen, I’m going to make it.

I considered asking the dog, as the only male in the house. He wagged his tail and barked. Was that a “yes”?

There was Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s inspiring call to social media inaction, in which I dutifully participated. It’s awfully selfish of us women to want to centre International Women’s Day on women, after all; and of course we all have a male ally to gaze at adoringly while holding hands.

This cruelly neglects all the male allies who so thoughtfully remind me that women in the middle east have real problems, and that, since I can vote and drive, I have nothing to complain about. I keep forgetting, somehow, that women–and only women–are supposed to be so fucking grateful for basic fucking suffrage that we don’t see, notice, point out, discuss, or try to change, anything else ever, especially if it makes men uncomfortable. The important thing, I try to remind myself, is that men don’t think we’re going too far or asking for too much or asking for it in the wrong tone of voice.

(Please don’t make me #notallmen this. It would be too depressing.)

Our main ally to the south seems determined to erase any progress that’s been made in women’s rights since 1923 and, as often happens with our main ally to the south, many American women have decided this translates to a new and global threat against all women. Outside of the global gag rule, though, not so much. The condition of women globally has not changed since January 2017. I get that you’re an empire and empires do tend to assume that they are the world, and that differences really only amount to local flavour, but actually: nope. Also, I hate to break it to you, but the idea that women globally pine for the rights and freedoms enjoyed by American women specifically and will take this new setback in their rights to heart because American women have reached a pinnacle of freedom we need to aspire to in order to motivate our own local struggles: also nope. We kind of feel sorry for you and have for a long time. The abortion thing, the health care thing, the maternity leave thing, the child care thing, the bible belt thing. Canada’s got lots of work to do and we’re going to do that work here, for ourselves. Thanks for understanding.

I feel for you. I’ll help you wherever I can. But I am not you.


I am angry.

I’m angry about the pay gap and rape culture and how long it’s taken for our country to take the plight of indigenous women seriously and I’m angry that the government has been dragging its heels on the abortion pill forever and that women in rural areas particularly on the east coast still have no access to abortion and I’m angry that at nearly 42 I’m still being harassed on the street by assholes who think women are public property. I’m angry that the feminine is still considered so inferior to the masculine that it is still, for kids at my daughter’s school in her generation, an insult for a boy to be called girly and a compliment for a girl to be called a tomboy. I’m angry that we are so incapable of seeing women as aggressors that abusive women can and do get away with abuse for decades and no one calls them on it; I’m angry that we still have to debate whether men are or are not more often the abusers; I’m angry that when men abuse women we still question why women didn’t leave instead of why men felt free to punch their partners in the face; I’m angry that almost every woman I know has been assaulted or sexually assaulted and only one of their assailants has faced any jail time and he was acquitted at trial; I’m angry that when an ex-boyfriend bragged to me that he bugged his ex-wife’s apartment so he could keep track of who she was fucking and I called the police they told me they couldn’t take a report because “no crime had taken place.”

And I’m angrier because my anger is considered the problem.

Listen: if you can read all that, and all the mountains of bullshit beside it, and not be angry–there is something wrong with you. If you find the anger off-putting, well, there’s the door.

Today, I’m mostly depressed that we as Canadians have become a shining beacon of human rights and equality, not because we’ve accomplished anything in the last 20 years, but because we’ve managed not to regress.

I have to believe that we are capable, as a society, of recognizing that women are people and acting accordingly. Not almost-people. Not people-here-but-not-people-there. Not people-if-they-do-what-I-prefer. Not people-if-they-wear-what-I-respect. Not people-who-are-responsible-for-my-feelings. No conditions. No caveats. Not people-with-a-preference-for-unpaid-emotional-labour-that-I-am-entitled-to. Not people-who-inexplicably-choose-to-be-paid-less-for-reasons-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-sexism. Not people-deserving-of-my-respect-but-only-if-they-smile. Definitely not walking-sex-puppets-who-shouldn’t-leave-home-if-they-don’t-want-my-unsolicited-opinion-on-their-boobs. Or people-who-should-feel-grateful-we-let-them-get-drivers’-licenses. Not people-if-they-act-a-bit-masculine-but-not-too-masculine-god-forbid.

Just people. Complicated, flawed, people–horrible, wonderful, angry, happy, smart, stupid, girly, manly, strong, weak, successful, struggling, maternal, childless, ambivalent, ambitious, contented, resentful, single, coupled, tripled, promiscuous, virginal, slovenly, controlling, relaxed, energetic, tired, depressed, joyous–all of it. The full range of human experience, without any bits chopped off to fit in someone’s frilly pink box. Actual full human people who are here on this earth to live their own lives whether or not it serves someone’s else’s agenda or expectations. People who are, and can, and are supported in, living for themselves.

I have to believe we’re capable of it. We’re not there yet. It’s hard to feel celebratory today–but I celebrate each and every woman, today, who refuses to be less than she is.

Burda 04/2016 Dress #122: Sheath Dress? and something stuck to the bottom of my shoe

The website says this is meant for jerseys and knits; the magazines says “dress fabrics with or without elastane,” which I take to mean wovens. As I went shopping for fabrics with my phone and not the magazine, I bought a poly jersey, and only figured out that might not have been what they had in mind when it came time to install the zipper–which, as it’s jersey, I skipped with no issues.

At any rate:

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It’s cute, eh?

It was a bit bigger than it should have been, but that might have been the fabric choice. I’d have to make it up again in a proper woven to see how that affects the fit. The neckline is a bit wobbly–I’m not a fan but I see it on the sample photo so my guess is that was intentional. I’d take it out next time though, and probably change it to a deeper scoop.

What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side
What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side

Alterations are challenging given the way it’s put together, but I made what I think are my standard alterations.

JFC I just can't get it off! And, The Back.
JFC I just can’t get it off! And, The Back.

The pattern goes together well and it is an interesting and well-thought-out design. The gore is a nice, very swishy touch; but it does alter the line somewhat from a sheath dress in my opinion.

 

Maybe I'll just burn the black shoes ... That's better. Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.
Maybe I’ll just burn the black shoes … That’s better.
Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.

A Conversation:

Me: When I told him I wasn’t going to see him again he said “you will always continue to know me.” I thought that was pretty ominous so I told him not to contact me again. He was traveling a lot this summer and I thought that by the time he came back things would have blown over, but instead it was escalating. Just before I went on vacation, for example, a group of us went dancing. He grabbed me and started dancing without asking and, when he saw I was looking pretty miserable (seeing as I was feeling pretty miserable), he said, “It wouldn’t cost you a lot of money to smile, you know.” Then the next day at a dancing class he was there and he got … gropey when it was my turn to dance with him, then afterwards he was telling all kinds of insulting jokes and saying awful things about women to try to provoke me into reacting. I don’t even think he wants to date me, not really. I think he’s just punishing me for saying no.

H: It could be both, really.

Me: I guess … Then a few days later there was another class and he was there again and he was gropey again, and afterwards he was just following me around trying to bully me into a conversation. I’d ignore him and walk away and he’d just follow me around. He wouldn’t stop. So I got fed up and left and he followed me into the parking lot and stood knocking on my driver’s side door while I started up the car and drove away.

H: Are you going to call the police?

Me: I will if I have to. I’m not planning on it yet. I’ve gone through things like this before and in my experience the police are pretty useless. They won’t do anything, they won’t even take a report, until after he’s basically punched you in the face. So, probably not. And besides, they’d only tell me to stop dancing.

H: That’s upsetting.

Me: It is. It’s really very unhelpful. It’s kind of a crap world to be a woman in, isn’t it?

H: Have you thought about getting a gun?

Me: [laughing]

H: Well–I’m South African, so I have different experiences with guns than you do, but I’m not kidding.

Me: Oh. Um, no, I don’t think I’m going to get a gun. I don’t–I’ve told a bunch of people about what’s going on and they’re helping me to enforce some boundaries and distance. I’m going to see how that works out before I–but I’m not going to get a gun.

H: It’s something to think about.

Me: Uh… I mean. I have gone through this before. Eventually they do leave you alone. Like in about six months. They get bored and stop. You just have to not interact, not react, not engage, at all. It’s just getting to that point is a huge pain in the ass.

H: Are you afraid?

Me: … Somewhat. It’s the escalation. But we’ll see in a few weeks, what’s going on then. I wish I had a better radar for this kind of thing. It’s just ridiculous that this keeps happening. I have to be doing something or …. One of the women in my dancing class was telling me that she’s seen him doing this thing when we go out for dinner, where he’ll just pester whatever woman is sitting closest to him to eat a french fry. And she can say no a dozen times and he’ll just keep pushing. He tried it on her once and she just kept saying no, and she said it took him five minutes or so to stop asking. Stupidly of course he tried it on me and I ate the damned french fry. But it seemed like such a small thing so I didn’t even think of it, except that’s probably how he figured out I’d be his next target. And I can’t even say that if someone else tried something like that, that I wouldn’t fall for it again.

H: Yeah, I don’t know either.


Predators do indeed test or “groom” their victims. They intentionally violate boundaries in small ways and wait to see your reaction. Then they up the ante. An example of this could be as simple as insisting on eating pizza on a date if you have expressed not liking it.


The art of “no.”

Let’s pause briefly for some Basic Important Safety Stuff:  “No” is a complete sentence.  If you say “no,” and the other person keeps talking and trying to convince you to go along with whatever it is they want, do what you can to extract yourself from the situation. This person is trying to manipulate you, and you don’t have to let yourself be manipulated.  And if you hear a “no” from someone, the correct response is to back off immediately.  No insults, no whining, no pressure.  Just say “Okay, sorry to hear it” and move away.


 

In real life, being overly persistent is not romantic. It is called harassment. Sure, sometimes a little persistence is necessary to win someone over, but incessant badgering to the point of making a girl uncomfortable is not going to get you anywhere. If a girl smiles politely and says, “That’s very kind, but no thank you,” she is not playing hard to get. She does not want you to “get” her. She is simply not interested.

Perhaps the worst part about persistence is when a guy realizes his defeat, refuses to accept it, and still subjugates a girl to unwanted attention. Let me make this clear: if we reject you, WE. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. HUG. YOU. Don’t try to play the good guy. Don’t act all sweet or ask us to press our bodies against yours. Not only is it humiliating and extremely uncomfortable, but it makes us look like heartless bitches if we say no. We do not want to give you a hug.

winner of the slow fashion olympics

Years ago–really–I started this skirt.

bloggish-77 - Copy (2)
No I’m so fascinated, please tell me more!

I bought the linen, cut out the pieces, dyed the trim with cochineal, in 2014.

I thought about embroidering it.

Then I sewed it up.

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The Back, with bow. You can see the shadow of the insertion stitches on my legs. ! You can also see a metric fuckton of wrinkles. Ugh, linen.

Thinking about embroidering it took about two years.

Continue reading winner of the slow fashion olympics

V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

I made a thing.

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Yet another make of V8997–this one colour-blocked, per the advice of FaceBook. And pegged a bit at the bottom, which would have helped the other one a lot, too.

Dear Readers–

I wish I could say the return to garment sewing was a triumphant and unvarnished success.

I guess I could say that, but it would be a lie.

The truth is, I made so many mistakes cutting out the pieces, I have enough cut pieces to make a second dress. It wouldn’t fit, nor would it cover my bra straps, but it would be a complete garment.

Continue reading V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

Not too tired to pontificate, thank god

Today I am walking into walls. Apparently I have lost the ability to manage a straight line. But why should this stop me from soliloquising about internet matters? No reason at all.

To that end:

I coincidentally came across two articles about when and how much to care about what other people think.

Dani Shapiro wrote “What do you do when the internet hates you?” for the May edition of Elle magazine (I read it originally in print where it had a different title, but I’m tired and I forget; forgive me). And then Emma Gray wrote “In praise of women who give all the fucks” for the Huffington Post. (She asterisked her title, but I can swear on my own blog if I want to.)

Says Dani: Care less. Says Emma: Care more. This would of course not be the first time that women receive contradictory advice on how to be properly feminine from the Professional Womanification Guild. Actually, if we got consistent advice, they’d probably go out of business. But anyway:

“I’d hear from my agent that they were going in a different direction. Someone taller. Or they wanted a redhead. Or whatever. All I ever heard, thrumming beneath the ostensible reasons, was that I wasn’t good enough, or talented enough—not even to smile fetchingly and hold up a can of soda. Look,they just didn’t find you appealing, my agent once told me. I lived in a debilitating state of chronic insecurity, which I dealt with by exercising more, starving myself further, and making myself blonder. I was operating under the dangerous delusion that if only I could burnish myself into some sort of perfection, I’d be chosen. Truth be told, I was a lousy actress. I was self-conscious, tongue-tied, prone to blushing and stammering in front of the camera. It would have been merciful for someone to take me by the hand and tell it to me straight, put me out of my misery. I was careening down the wrong path, trying with all my might to squeeze myself into somebody else’s life.

“…It may sound quaint now, but in those days you’d actually have to go to a newsstand to pick up a magazine or newspaper. I was living in New York City, and I would haunt the newsstand on the corner of 82nd Street and Broadway, because that vendor got his shipment first. There were lovely surprises, like opening up the new Vogue to see a glowing review of my book written by a heroine of mine. But the negative attention was swift and vicious. The word bimbo was used as a caption beneath my photo in the New York Observer. A male writer I admired wrote a highly personal character assassination of me in New York magazine—I’d quote it for you, but I didn’t keep a copy (and I can’t find it online, I swear). I cried for three days in my apartment. Once again I felt I was being judged not for what I wrote, but for who I was. My life, reviewed.

“Of course, you might say I asked for it. To be a writer—to do anything that involves putting oneself out there—is to invite criticism. And if you write about personal stuff, well, what do you expect?

“…It seems to me that when we inhabit ourselves— when we say, This is who I am in all my flawed humanity—we are taking a step toward being most real. And when we buy into the opinions of perfect strangers whose feelings about us may be based on random data ranging from something they read to what we’re wearing and even to their own projections, we are being assaulted and governed by the unreal. As I’ve written this essay, I haven’t once thought about how it will be received in the world. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write it—I’m revealing quite a lot about myself, some of it is quite painful and unflattering. But as I come to the end, now I can imagine some possible reactions: Humblebrag…Who the hell does she think she is?…How dare she dismiss all those online reviews just because she doesn’t like them? The ugly comments from the past may even be flung back at me. You are a spoiled, pretentious crybaby. But that’s okay. I’m no longer dancing for the shadows. I’m just a shot of whiskey—not for everybody.

“And so I close the door. I write these words. I don’t click over to Google to see what people think. In the silence—in the absence of all those voices—here is where I discover who I am.”

I’ve quoted a fair bit of Dani here, and my apologies for that. But she makes an interesting point and she makes it well, in my opinion. The public criticism is of course painful and she’d rather have praise. But ultimately she recognizes that these people are allowed to dislike her and allowed to say so. That said, she’s decided to carry on being herself and doing what she does anyway.

People don’t like you? Dani says, don’t give a fuck! Fuck them fuckers. They don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Or even if they do, so the fuck what? You don’t have to be something they like.

(And flip side: they don’t have to like you. It’s allowed.)

Whereas Emma argues that we have reached, in a memorable phrase, “peak lack of fucks given,” perhaps to our detriment.

“But it also can be deeply exhausting pretending not to give a fuck about everything — and at times, it may prevent us from fully embracing the fucks we do need to give. The simple fact remains: to affect real change, and feel anything deeply, you probably need to give quite a few fucks.

“…We might be closer to embracing “strong women,” but we also want those “strong women” to have an uncanny ability to “let it go.” Express messy emotion? Probably don’t. Show just how hard you try? Ditto.

“…Since when did caring the least about everything — or at least convincingly pretending to — become the most attractive quality a woman could possess? The only way you’re going to be able to rise above and give fewer fucks about the bullshit is if you actually give a fuck about something else.”

I think the two of them managed to say the same thing after all:

Decide what you do give a fuck about, and then don’t give a fuck about anything else. Dani gives a fuck about finding out who she is, being real, being herself, and writing. As a result she doesn’t modify her writing to appease her critics, because that would interfere with the more important goals of self-discovery and authenticity. Emma valorizes Amy Schumer, who has similarly decided to be bravely and authentically herself in public, and not allow the voices of others to detract from her self-confidence.

I can attest to this method. It works.

It’s also relevant that both Dani and Emma and the women they discuss have editors. Their work is not immune to professional criticism. They have gatekeepers who criticize their work, who have standards, and who can at least somewhat impose those standards on the work. In that sense, they haven’t decided not to care about what anyone else thinks; they’ve just decided to care about what a limited number of people in certain contexts think. If they didn’t, it’s unlikely that they would have achieved the professional success that they have.

These articles highlight something else that’s interesting and, to me, overlooked:

“Not giving a fuck” doesn’t mean “not disliking.” It’s an active, mental decision not to engage with something rather than a passive lack of emotion about whatever has gone on.

Dani is quite honest about disliking those negative reviews. Amy, in Emma’s piece, was very open about the dark place that criticism used to take her. Both of them are actively choosing not to engage rather than just not feeling any discomfort or unhappiness about the criticism. This also rings true for me: it’s not that I enjoy being disliked or criticized (or when a few hundred people at a public event start shouting that I should be fired, for instance). It’s not that I’m emotionally neutral on it, either. It’s that I’ve made an active choice about what I’m going to prioritize, and if something isn’t on that list, then whether or not I like it is irrelevant and I’m going to keep going.

Seen that way, “I don’t give a fuck” isn’t a statement about feelings but about values. And it is–I think this is overlooked too–a statement that contains with in it an implicit valuation of what other people want us to feel and care about. One doesn’t say, out of nowhere, “I don’t give a fuck about air mattresses,” for example, and if one ever did, it would immediately invite speculation about who exactly does give a fuck about air mattresses, and why. Whereas if I were to say “I don’t give a fuck about public transit” (a statement which I hasten to add is not true), it immediately brings to mind an entire debate about whether or not public transit is important, to whom, why, and possible positions.

Not Giving a Fuck is what happens when you’ve decided what you DO Give a Fuck about, when someone disapproves of your choices, makes you aware of that disapproval, and when you–regardless of how you feel about that disapproval–decided to carry on in the face of that disapproval. 

So to sum up, here’s How Not to Give a Fuck about Things That Are Not Worth Giving a Fuck About:

  1. Decide what it is you are going to give a fuck about. You can’t get around this step. What do you love, what do you care about, what are you willing to go to the mat for?
  2. When disapproval surfaces of something you have said, done, or made (or conversely, not said, not done, not made), re-evaluate: is there something going on here that should have been part of your Give A Fuck List? If yes, add it, care, and behave that way. If no:
  3. Keeping saying/not saying, doing/not doing, making/not making, what you were before. Go ahead and feel all the messy and uncomfortable feelings that come along with disapproval. One day they may lessen or go away, and maybe not. This is called “courage.” One does not get to the pinnacle of No Fucks to Give without quite a lot of it.

In the meantime, you have your work to do. You know what it is. Do it.

How To Be 40: The first in an ongoing (and sporadic) series.

Dear Readers, I have an apology to make.

It’s recently come to my attention that I have not turned 40 properly.

Nor, apparently, was I able to conduct my 30s appropriately.

I recently bought a copy of Harper’s Bazaar for potential sewing inspiration. I don’t know why I do this. I will never have time to make all of the things I rip out of magazines every month. But there I was, with a copy of Harper’s Bazaar, and a true Come to Jesus moment.

Can you ever forgive me?

I’ve been wearing the wrong colours all along!

I guess I just didn't quite manage Fabulous.
I guess I just didn’t quite manage Fabulous.

Apparently I was meant to be wearing pink throughout my thirties. I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised. Isn’t pink often criticized as being too girly and therefore infantalizing (leaving aside all of the sexism implicit in those statements) for adult women in the workforce? Still, there it is, in black and white (and pink): In your thirties? Wear Pink!

And I didn’t. I just … didn’t! I didn’t know! Ignorance is no excuse, of course. I should have known. All these months I have been inflicting images of my thirties-self in non-pink clothing. How did you stand it?

Now that I’m 40, apparently I’m supposed to be wearing red.harpers bazaar 40s 50s

The good news is, I already have a lot of red.

The bad news is, I’ve been wearing all that red throughout the time I was meant to be wearing pink. Thank goodness I am well prepared to be 40, and now that I know, I can be sure to emphasize red in my wardrobe for the next ten years (or until the next issue comes out).

But oh god, there’s worse news: I also wear a lot of yellow. And I’m not supposed to be wearing that until I turn 50!

Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?
Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?

I’m so grateful to this magazine for pointing out the ways in which I have failed to choose age-appropriate colours in which to clothe myself. In an effort to make up for this gross oversight, I will continue to share with you the advice I receive from diverse sources about the proper attire for women depending on their age. Fortunately, women’s magazines seem to be full of opinions about how best to disguise our increasing decrepitude and how to prevent ourselves from strangers being forced to witness women older than 22. It’s a public service, really.

For instance, Harper’s Bazaar also informed me that I should now be aiming to look sun-kissed (but I’m pale. Can’t I just be pale? I look like a clown when I’m sun-kissed. But maybe there’s a $100 bronzer that will be light and translucent and also red enough to look like I actually do when I’ve spent a day in the sun), only use mascara on my upper lashes, and that I have 20 years to figure out how to camouflage my jowly bits by covering them with a super-dark sculpting bronzer. Thank goodness!

harpers bazaar makeup age

I, for one, welcome our media overlords. It’s a good thing they’re here to tell us women what to do.

Review: Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message
Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boy, am I ever glad I didn’t pay for this.

Mohr’s heart is in the right place. She wanted to write a book that would help women overcome a lifetime of socialization and learn to believe in ourselves, so we can pursue our own big dreams and goals. And that is wonderful. But the execution fell apart somewhat.

To begin with, it is pretty well a standard self-help book, with standard self-help advice: make friends with your inner critic, find and follow your inner mentor, step depending on praise or running from criticism, deal with fear, stop undermining yourself, figure out what your big dreams and callings are, chase them down to the ends of the earth. All fine, so far as they go, but not earth-shaking. I’ve read enough self-help books over the course of my life to know that making friends with your inner critic is the first piece of advice offered in almost every self-help book, and whether you call it your Inner Mentor or your North Star or your Peaceful Place or your Future Visualization or whatever, finding it is always the second.

(Aside: I had three stages in my own self-help book journey: 1–I was young and proud and much too good for self-help books; 2–I was older and sad and decided maybe I could use help even if it came in the form of self-help books; 3–I am even older and either through the books I’ve already read or just the process of increasing curmudgeonization, I feel like I no longer need it. The Fuck-Off Fairy has been and gone; now I figure if I do something and it turns out to be ridiculous and everyone laughs at me, well, at least I’ve brightened their days.)

For another, the feminist portion of the book seemed half-thought-out, at best. She acknowledges the reality of discrimination and sexism in shaping our world, our lives, and our personalities, but then doesn’t really consider how that sexism will react to us in our new, fearless, uber-confident and self-mentored-up selves. If we are taught self-deprecation in order not to seem uppity, for example, it stands to reason that when we no longer self-deprecate, the world will not take it well. In my exeperience, one can absolutely expect a significant backlash to any move away from the feminine Norm of Nice.

Most of the research that forms the basis of the book is anecdotal and personal–of course, since this is self-help; one can’t expect double-blind studies and statistical correlations. However, it is less that convincing, particularly when some of the anecdotes are of the “I listened to my inner voice, and it told me to send my first ever written piece to Forbes, and it got published!” variety.

The chapter on fear, though, angered me.

Mohr states that really there are two kinds of fear: pachad, which is the fear of things that don’t actually exist, like monsters under the bed; and yirah, which is the fear felt when we confront the divine or other things larger than ourselves. Pachad we should ignore because what we fear isn’t real. Yirah is telling us we should move forwards.

You may notice that there is a distinct lack of any discussion of the fear of real, present and immediate threats, like sabre-toothed tigers, abusive ex-husbands, or the imminent prospect of foreclosure on one’s house. Both of the kinds of fear she does discuss mean, in her view, that you should move forwards towards your dream; but look, terrible things can happen and sometimes our fears are rational and realistic. The Universe is not a cosmic vending machine and we are not all guaranteed to have our dreams come true if we are nice people who want reasonable things. The worst can happen, and sometimes it does. Sometimes people fail, and it is irresponsible not to even discuss what to do when one’s fears are realistic or even probable, and it boggles my mind that however many people read this manuscript and no one thought to wonder about the whole fear thing.

Here’s my own personal advice on fear:

As yourself three questions: What is the most likely outcome? What is the best case scenario? What is the worst case scenario?

If you can accept the most likely outcome, if the best case scenario is something you truly deeply want, and if the worst case scenario is something you can recover from, it’s a good risk.

If the most likely outcome is not good enough, if the worst case scenario would crush you and you aren’t sure you could recover, or if the best case scenario isn’t amazingly fantastic, it’s probably not worth it.

By all means, do some research or talk to people to figure out what those scenarios are; but just plunging ahead on the expectation that the Universe takes care of people with good intentions is silly and irresponsible.

~~~

There was a time in my life when a lot of this book’s contents would have resonated with me and I would have dragged out my journal and earnestly completed all of the journaling prompts. If you are at that time in your life, I wish you good luck, god speed, and it almost certainly isn’t as bad or as scary as you think. Keep breathing. You’ll get there.

Somehow or other, I did; or at least, I think I did. I did more tagging of pages that I agreed with than tagging of insights–in fact, I didn’t tag any insights. Yep, still scared of things; no, it doesn’t stop me; the inner critic is still vicious but I just smile and nod at her and keep on plugging; praise and criticism don’t tell me what to do; etc. Maybe I’m just a smug and self-satisfied brat. In any case, I’ll be sending this back to the library, where it can hopefully inspire and console someone else.

View all my reviews

Don’t. Be. Nice.*

It’s such a truism that people have made fun of us for it, at least twice.

So this ancient article finally made its way through the blogosphere to roll across my FB feed this morning, and you’ve probably seen it already, but I’m going to share it with you anyway:

Psychologists Find That Nice People are More Likely to Hurt You (from io9.com)

People who are agreeable are also more likely to make destructive choices, if they think doing so will help them conform to social expectations. That’s the finding of psychologists, who suggest that disagreeable, ornery people may be more helpful than we think.

Being me, I followed the link back through other, earlier reports, including Psychology Today:

Are Polite People More Violent and Destructive?

Now a new study using a variation of Milgram’s experiments shows that people with more agreeable, conscientious personalities are more likely to make harmful choices. In these new obedience experiments, people with more social graces were the ones who complied with the experimenter’s wishes and delivered electric shocks they believed could harm an innocent person. By contrast, people with more contrarian, less agreeable personalities were more likely to refuse to hurt other people when told to do so.

If this is a complete shock to you, there are two possibilities:

  1. You are not Canadian. Canadians have a reputation for being “so nice!” and polite to the point of utter pointlessness. But if you are Canadian, you will know that it is entirely possible to be a very Nice, extremely Polite Asshole. It’s a national speciality. You smile and nod a lot, say sorry, please and thank you every third word, and treat people like crap while claiming to do it all for them because you care so much. It’s effective, if you’re looking for a strategy that lets you get away with murder for a long time.
  2. You are Canadian but are not possessed of critical thinking skills. Sorry.

But let’s keep working our way back to the original research:

Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm

Say, are you in the holiday spirit right now? All in a warm and fuzzy glow over peace on earth and the essential goodness of people? Right. Then get yourself a drink or a xanax, or stop reading until you’re in a less rosy frame of mind, because the Milgram experiments show a pretty grim side to human nature.

Extra-super-duper-short version:

The reportage of Hannah Arrendt on the Nazi war crimes trials, and her observations on the “banality of evil,” got Stanley Milgram wondering about what would make a person do something they knew was wrong and would kill people.

In his original experiment, participants were asked to deliver what they were told were potentially lethal electric shocks to someone else (who they were told was another participant, but was actually an actor) if they answered questions wrong. The actor was instructed to answer most of the questions wrong, and would then begin to scream convincingly as the “shocks” became stronger, and beg the person to stop. Eventually the actor would stop responding, simulating death.

Everyone in the original experiment (where the actor was in another room, and the participant could hear but not see him) went all the way to delivering severe shocks. No one stopped delivering shocks before 300 volts. (And 26/40 went all the way to maximum.)

Almost everyone delivered potentially lethal shocks to an innocent person because someone in a white coat told them to.

The experiment yielded two findings that were surprising. The first finding concerns the sheer strength of obedient tendencies manifested in this situation. Subjects have learned from childhood that it is a fundamental breach of moral conduct to hurt another person against his will. Yet, 26 subjects abandon this tenet in following the instructions of an authority who has no special powers to enforce his commands. To disobey would bring no material loss to the subject; no punishment would ensue. It is clear from the remarks and outward behavior of many participants that in punishing the victim they are often acting against their own values. Subjects often expressed deep disapproval of shocking a man in the face of his objections, and others denounced it as stupid and senseless. Yet the majority complied with the experimental commands.

In fact, it was so close to universal that in order to get usable data, they had to alter the experiment–bring the actor into the room, close enough to touch the participant, with the participant required to grab the actor’s hand and force it onto a plate to deliver the shock, before enough of the participants would refuse to continue that they could properly analyze the data.**

I won’t blame you if you need to stop, breathe deeply, get some chocolate and alcohol, and continue after a short break.

In this recent update to the Milgram experiments, they replicated the original structure in the format of a game show. The white-coated authority figure of the original was replaced with a broadcaster on a stage with a microphone, but the rest of it–questions, electric shocks, actor pretending to be shocked to death–remained the same. What the researchers did was look at both the personality traits and political leanings of the obedient vs. the disobedient.

I’m finding it hard to write this. Do you find it hard to read?

As with Milgram’s original experiments, the majority of participants shocked the actor to death, with the twist that all it took was a person on a stage with a microphone. That’s some pretty flimsy authority by which to murder someone, but it was sufficient for approximately 80% of the research subjects.

As expected, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness predicted the intensity of electric shocks administered to the victim. Second, we showed that disobedience was influenced by political orientation, with left-wing political ideology being associated with decreased obedience. Third, we showed that women who were willing to participate in rebellious political activities such as going on strike or occupying a factory administered lower shocks.

In other words:

  • Nice, reliable people delivered the strongest electric shocks.
  • People with strong-right wing values delivered the strongest electric shocks.
  • Women with a history of participating in left-wing activism delivered lower electric shocks. (There was no significant difference for men re: whether or not they had a history of political activism.)

There was NO relationship to emotional sensitivity. An emotionally highly sensitive person with low conformity values would not deliver the shocks. A very nice, very reliable person with low sensitivity would.

This is a subject I’ve written about many times over the years. Nice is not GOOD. Nice can be a good thing in some contexts, but it is not inherently good. Nice is a social strategy. GOOD is good, and good requires bravery–the willingness to be unpopular, to stand out, to do things other people don’t approve of, to take flack, to speak the truth when no one else is saying it. Highly sensitive people are just as capable of this as anyone else. Don’t blame your thin skin or weak stomach. If you can’t speak up, stand out, or take a risk of being unpopular for an opinion or point of view in the society we have right now–the safest one for dissent in the history of humanity, where the strongest penalty you’ll receive for most disagreement is an upset stomach and some broken weekend plans–you may be Nice, but mostly, you’re a coward.

It’s agreeable, conscientious people–nice, rule-following people–who merrily followed an authority figure down the path to murdering an innocent person, for no reason or reward at all. So if you take pride in how nice you are, how popular, etc., and like to upbraid people who are less conventional, who won’t go along to get along, who are NEGATIVE, heaven forbid, or CRITICIZE, or aren’t NICE–maybe entertain the idea that it’s those people who will risk their necks one day by sticking them out for you.

~~~~~
*Yes, that’s a needlessly provocative attention-seeking headline. Go ahead and be nice. Just don’t get it mixed up with being good, and don’t use it as an excuse for being a coward.

**Yes, I’ve heard the criticisms of the Milgram experiments. What they don’t explain to my satisfaction is how often the results have been replicated around the world since the 1960s. Sorry. Human beings are not a noble race, and blind obedience to authority and social convention is surely behind some of our worst atrocities.

Jian Ghomeshi, eh?

I’m not going to share (many of) my own thoughts. Instead I present for you, a massive collection of the thoughts of other people on this story.

No, it’s not sewing related. But who can think of sewing at a time like this?

OK, yes, I can. But not yet.

Background, for those of you thinking “Jian who?” or “don’t you mean John?” Though at this point, that might be two people total in North America:

Jian was a popular radio broadcaster at our national public broadcasting corp, CBC. He’s got quite a fan following. Last week we heard he was taking extended leave for “personal reasons.” On Sunday, CBC said they fired him because of “information” that had come to light. Late Sunday, Jian published this letter on FB, claiming he was let go as part of a BDSM Persecution Witch Hunt, where everyone knew everything he did was consensual but they disapproved so they canned him.

In order of relevance to the sections of his FB post, links!

Dear everyone,
I am writing today because I want you to be the first to know some news.
This has been the hardest time of my life. I am reeling from the loss of my father. I am in deep personal pain and worried about my mom. And now my world has been rocked by so much more.
Today, I was fired from the CBC.

True.

For almost 8 years I have been the host of a show I co-created on CBC called Q. It has been my pride and joy. My fantastic team on Q are super-talented and have helped build something beautiful.

Also true. Not sure it’s relevant. See: Woody Allen, Charles Dickens, etc. Doing good work does not mean you are not an asshole.

I have always operated on the principle of doing my best to maintain a dignity and a commitment to openness and truth, both on and off the air. I have conducted major interviews, supported Canadian talent, and spoken out loudly in my audio essays about ideas, issues, and my love for this country. All of that is available for anyone to hear or watch. I have known, of course, that not everyone always agrees with my opinions or my style, but I’ve never been anything but honest. I have doggedly defended the CBC and embraced public broadcasting. This is a brand I’ve been honoured to help grow.

Does this link cause you to think that his behaviour, on and off the air, is dedicated to “dignity”?

And maybe think, while you read this letter, how much assistance the PR firm Navigator provided him in crafting this “deeply honest and personal heartfelt appeal.”

Plus, should it matter whether or not you like Jian Ghomeshi?

Anyway. This paragraph serves little than to cause people to react patriotically to his message, much like American Republican senators caught with some hanky-panky in their personal lives immediately try to wrap themselves in the flag.

All this has now changed.
Today I was fired from the company where I’ve been working for almost 14 years – stripped from my show, barred from the building and separated from my colleagues. I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision. But I am not going to do that. Because that would be untrue. Because I’ve been fired. And because I’ve done nothing wrong.

Please note, then, that the airing of allegations was his choice. He aired the allegations.

Also: CBC does not have a history of firing staff for their public sex lives. See Sook Yin-Lee.

I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer.

Jilted Ex Girlfriend
However, there were at least 3 women involved in The Star story
Plus a coworker
Plus the xoJane article from last year, linked above
As well as numerous rumours about his dating conduct for quite some time now (there are forum links all over the net to discussions among women sharing stories, but those are all password protected, so no shares here)

A beautiful piece from out west about the rumours circulating about Jian for over a decade.

And already, another woman has come forward with her own abuse allegations from a decade ago. Then, about an hour later, another three. God knows what the total will be by the time this gets published.

Here’s the “freelance writer

As friends and family of mine, you are owed the truth.
I have commenced legal proceedings against the CBC, what’s important to me is that you know what happened and why.
Forgive me if what follows may be shocking to some.
I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.

Friends and family, huh? His FB followers? Are friends and family? Wouldn’t actual friends and family deserve something more than a post on FaceBook?

Response of BDSM community part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Really to me it looks like they’re just not having it.

As well, is this about BDSM, or is it about consent?

About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do. I have never discussed my private life before. Sexual preferences are a human right.

LATE 20S??????

Late 20s? The man is 47.

According to the Star, all women who have come forward so far are in their 20s. I haven’t yet heard him denying that he was involved with them. So this is a man who likes to date women 20+ years younger than he is. Moreover, when he hurts them, it makes him come. Whatever else has gone on, he sure don’t like having women in his sex life who are his equals. That is the best-case scenario based on his own words.

Sexual preferences are a human right, but Canadian courts and law do not permit a person to consent to sexual abuse. Whether or not you believe it should be illegal, currently, it is.

Also, one’s personal human rights to one’s sexual preferences ends where harm to another person begins. See: pedophilia

Also also, see BDSM community reactions to Shades of Grey comparison in above links. I.e., not actually helpful. Because Shades of Grey misrepresents abuse and rape as consensual BDSM.

Despite a strong connection between us it became clear to me that our on-and-off dating was unlikely to grow into a larger relationship and I ended things in the beginning of this year. She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others.

How dare she! Plus, you may want to see the court documents, which have more detail. In that he claims they were dating non-monogamously by mutual consent, and he didn’t so much “end things when it became clear that it was unlikely to grow,” as cut her off when she decided that the non-monogamous thing wasn’t working for her anymore. So that’s two stories, that contradict each other, already from Mr. Ghomeshi.

After this, in the early spring there began a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety.
It came to light that a woman had begun anonymously reaching out to people that I had dated (via Facebook) to tell them she had been a victim of abusive relations with me. In other words, someone was reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious. I learned – through one of my friends who got in contact with this person – that someone had rifled through my phone on one occasion and taken down the names of any woman I had seemed to have been dating in recent years. This person had begun methodically contacting them to try to build a story against me. Increasingly, female friends and ex-girlfriends of mine told me about these attempts to smear me.
Someone also began colluding with a freelance writer who was known not to be a fan of mine and, together, they set out to try to find corroborators to build a case to defame me. She found some sympathetic ears by painting herself as a victim and turned this into a campaign. The writer boldly started contacting my friends, acquaintances and even work colleagues – all of whom came to me to tell me this was happening and all of whom recognized it as a trumped up way to attack me and undermine my reputation. Everyone contacted would ask the same question, if I had engaged in non-consensual behavior why was the place to address this the media?

Well. When I broke up with the abusive/stalkery guy some women did reach out to me via email and FB, and I’m glad they did. Those conversations were helpful. Not sure what this proves of her, even if it is true.

And maybe she went to the media because our courts are broken, so far as sexual assault goes. If you don’t go to the courts, of course, you’ll be accused of making it up and trying to destroy an innocent man. But if you do go to the courts, you will still be accused of trying to destroy an innocent man. Plus, since so few accused are found guilty, the man then effectively has been publicly exonerated for his behaviour. He gets a shield. He gets to go around for the rest of his life saying, “Yeah, that crazy bitch accused me of rape, but the judge saw right through it.”

AND THEY DO. This happens. I’ve seen it. I have friends who were advised to this effect by their lawyers.

When I went to counseling to deal with my abusive ex, my counselor advised me to just wait it out. “Eventually he’ll latch on to someone else,” she said. “They always do.” So my best way out, according to a professional, was to sit tight until he started victimizing someone else.

Women who want to protect other women from rapists and abusers are better off using gossip. That is simply a fact of our current judicial system.

Now, how about this “vindictive ex-girlfriend” thing?

That he has friends who told him what was happening is quite possibly true. But it is not relevant. Plenty of famous rapists have friends. This does not mean that they are good people or don’t rape. Plus, at least one of his friends has publicly come out on the side of the victims. Plus a group of Canadian musicians put out a petition supporting the victims.  Whether or not you think this was appropriate is beside the point; his insinuation that his friends are unanimously in support of his version of events is simply not true.

The writer tried to peddle the story and, at one point, a major Canadian media publication did due diligence but never printed a story. One assumes they recognized these attempts to recast my sexual behaviour were fabrications. Still, the spectre of mud being flung onto the Internet where online outrage can demonize someone before facts can refute false allegations has been what I’ve had to live with.

This was clearly not true, as the Star’s decision to then print the story demonstrates.

And this leads us to today and this moment. I’ve lived with the threat that this stuff would be thrown out there to defame me. And I would sue. But it would do the reputational damage to me it was intended to do (the ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations). But with me bringing it to light, in the coming days you will prospectively hear about how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie. But it will be salacious gossip in a world driven by a hunger for “scandal”. And there will be those who choose to believe it and to hate me or to laugh at me. And there will be an attempt to pile on. And there will be the claim that there are a few women involved (those who colluded with my ex) in an attempt to show a “pattern of behaviour”. And it will be based in lies but damage will be done. But I am telling you this story in the hopes that the truth will, finally, conquer all.

So what exactly are we to think that these girls would get out of it? The pleasure of seeing him unemployed?

And if she didn’t succeed in contacting him, how does he know what she was going to say?

Also, see analysis from this lawyer about whether or not his lawsuit is going to go anywhere.

And more analysis about why, when he must know that his suit is not likely to be successful, he would go ahead and file it anyway.

I have been open with the CBC about this since these categorically untrue allegations ramped up. I have never believed it was anyone’s business what I do in my private affairs but I wanted my bosses to be aware that this attempt to smear me was out there. CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months. On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. I did this in good faith and because I know, as I have always known, that I have nothing to hide. This when the CBC decided to fire me.
CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. In fact, they later said to me and my team that there is no question in their minds that there has always been consent. They said they’re not concerned about the legal side. But then they said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC. They said that I was being dismissed for “the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out.” To recap, I am being fired in my prime from the show I love and built and threw myself into for years because of what I do in my private life.

Look at that last sentence a few more times. Does it seem familiar? Perhaps because it is the same appeal used by Rob Ford when the crack cocaine story first broke.  “I am the best mayor in the world and I am being persecuted for what I do in my personal life!” Maybe because every prominent abuser in recent history has used that line–“it shouldn’t matter what I do in my personal life!” Except that when you use your prominence to befriend victims, and carry out crimes, it very much does matter.

Also, it is legal to fire employees for what they do in their personal time, even if it’s legal, under some circumstances.

Also also, even if BDSM were legal in Canada, it is impossible to demonstrate consent to an employer. A text message or an email would not mean there is consent. It would mean that, at best, in advance of the event in question, a woman expressed some interest or enthusiasm for the idea in concept. But that doesn’t mean that she consented to what actually happened once she was in his apartment, or house, or whatever. So that doesn’t hold up at all.

Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life. But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.

That is not true. See above.

And so, with no formal allegations, no formal complaints, no complaints, not one, to the HR department at the CBC (they told us they’d done a thorough check and were satisfied), and no charges, I have lost my job based on a campaign of vengeance. Two weeks after the death of my beautiful father I have been fired from the CBC because of what I do in my private life.
I have loved the CBC. The Q team are the best group of people in the land. My colleagues and producers and on-air talent at the CBC are unparalleled in being some of the best in the business. I have always tried to be a good soldier and do a good job for my country. I am still in shock. But I am telling this story to you so the truth is heard. And to bring an end to the nightmare.

News on the CBC’s ongoing internal investigation.

This is a fantastic example of the pity-the-abusers story that gets trotted out whenever someone with a promising career is charged with abuse. See: Ray Rice, Steubenville football stars. Their “nightmare,” their suffering, is invoked as if it compares in any way with the suffering of their victims. It does not.

There are two possibilities here that I can see:

Jian Ghomeshi is telling the truth, despite the inconsistencies in his account. Three women plus a freelance journalist are out to get him. They went to his boss and complained. The boss, despite excellent legal and HR teams and a history of dealing with sex in more progressive ways, decided to fire their highest-grossing staff, even knowing that he was going to sue and that they had no real cause. At that point, another four women came forward, and the same rumours that have circulated about him for years–even where I am, and my connection to the Canadian arts scene isn’t even cobwebby, more where a cobweb strand might be if a spider decided to spin it–have become something like public knowledge. But it’s all a conspiracy.

Or Jian Ghomeshi is a liar and an abuser.

You are entitled to come to your own opinion, of course.

As am I.

Contrary to what you may believe, my brain is not a courtroom, and I am not obliged to apply the same reasoning to my opinions as judges do when making legal findings. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies to the legal system, not whether or not I like someone, or find him credible.

Not even a little bit sewing related

For a refreshing perspective on body image and strength training, and a quasi-related follow-up to my previous post on Vogue’s ridiculous anti-lifting article (completely unintentional on their part, but still), check out An Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Told Women “Don’t Get Too Muscular.”

When women strength train, it is an act of borderline social disobedience. “Don’t get too muscular” is the phrase of choice used by people who are threatened by strong women to put them “back in their place”.

And it’s working.

We have three generations & counting of women who have been brainwashed into voluntarily physically debilitating themselves.

The Sewing Blog Community reflects the biases of the larger culture (of course), so it exists here too. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed sewing bloggers dieting or running themselves into bigger readership numbers and more prominence.