Last night I participated in an action designed to raise awareness and ire in regards to violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada. As some of the shirts they had made for the event stated, First Nations women are 5 times more likely than other women to be subject to violence and 3 times more likely to be murdered by their intimate partners – although maybe those two numbers are reversed, I can’t remember. At any rate – that’s scary! And very big.
The idea of the action was to wear shirts with a message or statistic on one side, and a letter on the other. We then walked a few blocks from the Exchange district to the MTS Centre on Portage Avenue. There was a hockey game last night, so lots of folks who don’t normally dare to tread downtown past dusk were out. We walked in the bright yellow shirts, attracting lots of stares from passersby, then lined up to spell out ‘NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS’ in front of the main doors.
And then watched the reactions of the crowd. Which were mixed. Most people stood watching, saying nothing, as we lined up, then looked to see what the shirts said and went back to talking, glancing over occasionally. One guy walked down our lineup shaking all of our hands, and I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic in doing so or if he was genuine. Probably the former, but whatever. Some folks actually clapped and cheered – I noticed that the people I could see doing this were First Nations men, which is great. While we were on our way from Ace Art to the arena, one dude who walked past us read the shirts, then yelled ” Stop violence against aboriginal women and girls? FUCK that shit!” And threw something at a pole? It was one of those moments that makes me think, ‘Oh, right. There is a reason that we’re still doing this.’
I think a lot about ally-ship – how can I be a good ally to First Nations folks, queer folks, racialized folks, immigrants and refugees? Last night felt like good ally practice; participants were white/male/female/First Nations/African Canadian. As feminists, we grapple with the question of men’s involvement in our movement. We do not want to be dependent on members of the oppressor group to change our circumstances. On the other hand, where will we get if men don’t have a stake in social change? Fucking nowhere, that’s where. We’d have to move to some island in the middle of nowhere and live like the Amazons of yore, kidnapping dudes to reproduce. And this is not my utopia. So I, personally, am of the opinion that we need men in our movement – not as leaders, because we’re capable of that, but certainly as allies and friends and lovers. We need men to spread the word that hurting women is wrong, and that equality is great! Yeah! So, yes, it felt good to be in that action last night.
So this afternoon I did my final Burning Man cleanup. Not final, I suppose, as I’m sure I’ll make fresh attempts to get the dust out next summer. And my boots might never be clean, but the snow will probably help this winter.
At any rate, I emptied my bags completely, packed away the things I won’t wear ’til at least the Folk Festival next year, and rinsed out my bandana. It’s hanging in my room now, drying. I feel a bit sad and plenty nostalgic; but, and I’ve said it before, I feel like I’ve carried a lot of good home with me, so optimism is the overriding sentiment. I’m looking forward to busting my playa gear again – and to making it Bird’s Hill Park gear next July!
I’m having one of those days. I’m at work and there is very little happening in the office, so I’ve been reading articles and writing emails and trying to deal with other parts of my life that tend to fall by the wayside. It’s the article-reading that’s getting to me; the number of things that have happened in the past week or two that make me sad and angry is absurd.
I feel completely swamped, like I am lying on the ground and someone is piling everything up on my chest. Gang rapes at parties and the people who think this is entertaining; racism and Islamophobia; don’t ask, don’t tell; book-burners and Nazis and the Spanish Inquisition. At least some of these things are in the past. That image of the heap of books with men saluting in the background still has such impact; it gives me chills. When I traveled around Europe a few years ago, I spent two days (not enough time!) in Berlin. Mostly what I wanted to do there was to take in some of the city’s history, which means that I was in a very bad mood for those two days because most of that history is terrifying. I think I had a map from my hostel or something, though I can’t remember; anyway, I somehow heard about an installation in the square where that book burning took place and decided to walk there to take a look. When I arrived, I couldn’t see anything, so I walked toward the centre of the square. As I got closer, I could see a space in the middle that reflected the sky. It was a window into a small underground space, entirely painted white and lined with empty bookshelves. Standing on that spot in Berlin was a crazy feeling, like: that day it was overcast and kind of cool, and I was going to the Egyptian museum next to check out some pilfered artifacts, and then probably I would get a coffee; and under my feet was this little pane with a view on the world we might have had: shelves empty of books and rooms empty of people. I’m so glad I went to that square. In spite of the anger and dread, I’m so glad I went to Auschwitz/Birkenau when we were in Poland and cried in the gas chamber with my good friend who traveled with me. I’m grateful to the man training me in crisis counseling who read a piece to us earlier this week while we sat, eyes closed, and imagined what a new colonization of Canada would feel like: your family torn apart by force, your rituals banned, your land taken and your children abused in every way imaginable while you are restricted by law from preventing it. I had never really thought about it in that way before, though I spend an awful lot of time thinking about colonialism.
I don’t even have the energy to engage with the gang rape issue. It’s just making me sad. Every time I start to feel really great about the community I’m in right now – hooray for amazing feminist activists! – I encounter something that reminds me how much work there is to be done. SO MUCH. It’s overwhelming. But, again, thank goodness for those women around me who will cry with me when it’s too much, or scream, or sometimes even laugh. There is so much good here mobilizing against the forces behind all of these horrors. We need to work to keep ourselves and each other alive as much as we need to keep fighting.
It felt great to write this.
Last Monday I got back from two weeks in the US of A, where I first spent some wholesome time arguing and occasionally laughing with my family. We drove from the ‘Peg down to Berkeley, where my sister is starting her second semester, and my parents schlepped Ikea furniture for little Vos and her schoolmates while I drifted aimlessly around Berkeley and San Francisco. Fuck, I love the Bay Area. Bookstores, Mexican food, moderate weather, flowers EVERYWHERE, nice people, easy-to-find info shops that some friends at home directed me to in February. San Francisco is one of those cities I would like to make a home in; it just feels good to be there. There is an energy in big cities that makes me feel full and alive.
From there, I moved on to less wholesome activities at Burning Man. Please, please follow that link if you don’t know much about the festival. The image gallery in particular will blow your mind, and I spent hours reading through everything on the site in the three weeks before I headed out there. I’m not going to try to describe the experience because I won’t be able to do it very well – which, even for a pathetically out-of-practice writer, is very frustrating. Suffice to say that I’ll be going back and I’ll be working to keep that feeling with me in the rest of my life. And that I think I’ve been inspired by the place, the people and the ideas to make some big changes in my life.
Being away from home always makes me appreciate this city more, somehow. It’s a small place, and I don’t think it makes a great impression on visitors. For instance: an Australian dude who befriended some of my campmates at Burning Man decided to hitch a ride back here with them, and apparently he is not too happy with where he’s ended up. Which, for one thing, seems unnecessarily bitchy considering that he decided to come here on a whim and depended on the kindness of strangers to get here. For another, it probably means he hasn’t gotten out to look around too much. Anyone we camped with could tell him: if you like (thing), go to (neighbourhood), it’s awesome! It may be the only example of that thing in the city, but it’s cool. That’s part of the beauty of our city: the communities are tight-knit because they have no other choice. We may not have impressive highrises, but we do have plenty of open space under the prairie sky. I sat down in a park today, just a slim strip of grass and trees alongside Balmoral, and it was so lovely to look all around and see the clouds moving, the sun in the trees. Watching sunsets in the desert was novel, but watching them in the prairies is breathtaking because there is just so much to be painted orange and pink and green.
Of course, I only love the city this way because it’s home and I’ve never known another place in this way. And like most of us, I have a love-hate relationship with it. But I would rather be present in it and make it mine and work to change the shitty things than sit around bitching. Even in the winter. I might have a visitor from a very different place sometime soon, and I’ve realized in the last week how excited I would be to walk around with someone who would look with fresh eyes at my favourite places.
*Most will know, but – this song is the best known and most fun example of Winnipeg self-hating from local band The Weakerthans.
My sister came home last night from five months of galavanting overseas, and in the course of our couple of hours together she suggested that the two of us take a four-month cycling trip in Europe next summer. Which is so so so so tempting. Part of me says ‘FUCK YEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!’ because I have a latent travel urge that I think most folks can relate to – I truly love my city, the people in it, and the things I see myself doing in the future, but I always feel so alive when I’m thrown into a different place. Going to San Francisco this winter woke me up and made me appreciate what’s OUT THERE, waiting to be seen, so much.
But then there is the overwhelming part of me that has a tendency to overthink everything. This part of me is focusing on the issues:
(1) I just adopted a cat and I absolutely refuse to relinquish her back to the shelter, because that’s pretty cruel. Finding someone to cat-sit for more than a weekend could be tough.
(2) I would like to apply to schools for next fall, in which case I’ll be needing my meagre savings. Along with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. So maybe traveling right now is a tad impractical.
(3) Travel itself. Especially over large distances, by plane, with a high associated cost. I feel like traveling overseas is a huge marker of privilege, something I can only do because I am who I am, born in Canada, in my particular family. It’s environmentally suspect to traverse oceans, and I’m no longer at a place where I can justify this with “It’s ok because I live so sustainably on a daily basis”. So I need to suss out how I feel about this and decide whether I want to break some of my own rules by doing something frivolous, expensive and wasteful.
(4) My whip-crackin’ ways these days. I do certainly take time out every week to do fun things for myself and with friends, but I feel intense guilt when I’m not being productive or doing something that can benefit someone else. I also tend to burn myself out regularly, working like crazy on a bunch of different things until I crack and then spend a week or two pissing away my evenings. So maybe a break is what I need before I get down to a really, really intense part of my life.
There are probably other things. Logistically, the cat is the biggest issue. Her name is Neko, by the way. Surprise! She’s a babe.
On another note, it’s been a while! I like that I can always come back here and write things semi-publicly when I want to. See you again. Perhaps in less than four-five months time.
I haven’t watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force since it lost its novelty about six months after my friends and I discovered it. But. I may have to start streaming episodes because: NEKO CASE.
Also starring in the ridiculously-titled Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge. Mmm, candy fudge.
Wow. Today somebody out there found my blog by searching for it by title. This is a first in the animal’s blogging career. It makes me feel that there is now some pressure on me to start writing properly and expressing real opinions rather than reiterating what other intelligent internet entities have said. That’s part of what blogging is about, I guess, but since I have a brain which functions fairly well, I should probably use it from time to time. No promises, because I tend to break those, but I would love to start writing more about birth and pregnancy and sexual health, and how we think about women’s bodies in all of these contexts – for that matter, how we think about men and their bodies in these contexts, because they are often overlooked. I would love to give myself some leeway to write frivolous things about fiddling (as in, playing the violin, you dirty bastards) and books and cats and my little prairie life. It’s a pretty great life with some pretty great people in it. So try not to mind if I occasionally remove the stick from my ass to talk about the things that make me happy to be in the world, rather than all the things I wish were different.
Thanks for making my morning, Google user.
I hope somebody else has time to read this entire post, which is hilarious. I would never have thought to write so extensively on “(500) days of summer” in part because I forgot about it the next day, and in part because I’m nowhere near as hilarious as this writer. Favourite quote, which you will have to find and read in context to enjoy fully: “I just thought I would share.”
But, seriously, she makes some good points:
(500) Days of Summer is a movie about a boy who acts like a girl and a girl who acts like a boy. But here’s why I’m not thrilled about this: If Zooey Deschanel were actually a boy, and in this situation, most people would not perceive her as the problem. She wouldn’t be a monster, a whore, a freak; she’d just be a dude. And she’d get to complain about the clingy psycho bitch she fucked who’s now, like, putting all this pressure on, that bitch is fucking CRAZY, she just hooked up with the girl, she didn’t buy her an engagement ring, etc. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt, were he an actual girl, would be getting some sympathy from his lady friends, true, but he would also be getting well-meaning lectures about how Dudes Are Like That, and what did he expect, and he needs to be more cautious about these things and not put out so easily, and has he ever read a book called “He’s Just Not That Into You?” He should read that book. He would be told, to be blunt, that he was the real problem in this situation.
I can dig it. Stupid self-help books.
So, uh, enough of this mopey introspection: I love Democracy Now! I would love to find a Canadian equivalent; tips are welcome. All two people who wander onto this site daily. Even that seems like too many… Anyway. Interesting discussion of palliative care (not DEATH PANELS. Fucking stupid tea baggers.), its importance, and how it might have fit into American health care reform. I’m hoping they’ll talk about the concessions made to anti-choicers at some point. Pretty fucked up, if you ask me. Also, coverage of an immigration reform rally and a long talk with a journalist in Indonesia. The headlines are always interesting too.
It’s frustrating to me how easy it is to be informed about what goes on south of the 49th parallel, while the only news I can easily access that’s Canada-specific is mainstream. And therefore not all that informative. And, never ever read the comments on the CBC News website, because they will make you want to gouge your own eyeballs out and never speak to anyone ever again. There was a story up there recently about how Canada will change demographically in the next 20 years; I have never seen so much concentrated racism in my life. At one of my jobs we get emails from an organization called Immigration Watch with subject lines like “Turn off the Tap.” I would really like to send them strongly-worded responses, but that might get my boss in trouble. So instead I shall sit here in my anonymous corner of the internet, bitching quietly.
On an unrelated note: I’ve started watching Question Period, and it is hilarious. Politicians are like children, but meaner.
It would be really great to not care about certain parts of life from time to time. To relax, and be cool and detached. I would probably be easier to be around. And I would certainly worry less.
But then I also would stop being me, and perhaps I would stop seeking out the things that are best for me. I’ve learned to listen to my gut over the past few years; different indefinable sensations tell me when I’m in the right or wrong place. I think my bestest lady friend listened to her own (extremely slender) gut this year, and it motivated her to do something that is scary and enormous, but which will proably make her so happy. I love that I am similar to her in some ways, because she’s amazing (I hope you’re reading this, you fabulous woman). She tells me that I don’t need what I’m thinking about right now, and I agree; so why am I so frustrated by it? Why am I analyzing it to death? My mom sometimes says that I am a person who always wants to do the right thing, and I think this is accurate. Not the best or most noble quality, because I get caught up in trying to find the action which will be least harmful to everyone and I don’t always take my own feelings/those of the people I love most into account. So right now I think I have to figure out what feels best for me, and stop being so anxious. And I have to realize that I can’t make everybody happy, and it’s no good being charitable toward people in your life if it makes you miserable. It’s just obnoxious, really.
Fuck. I’m just so annoyed. I really want to feel relaxed and positive. But other people still have power over my emotions.
Corny. And mother fucking annoying.