Monday, October 27, 2014

The Bedrooms of the Nation

"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation" was one of Pierre Trudeau's more infamous quotes. It was said to defend the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968 & 1969, a huge omnibus bill that sought to decriminalize homosexuality, abortions and birth control, and several other things that slightly defied logic for a bill of its size but it has drastically shaped Canada today.

It is also being incorrectly repeated by fans in a weird attempt to defend a popular radio personality's insistence that he did not commit sexual violence against several women, thus stating that at least 4 women are lying in a smear campaign led by a "jilted ex lover." 

When Trudeau said that there was no place in the bedrooms of the nation, it was because at that time, bedrooms were safe. I do not mean that they were a safe space for the people in the bedroom. (Nor am I referring to possibly the dumbest failed hashtag in the history of Canadian politics.) But bedrooms were a safe space for many acts we now acknowledge as abhorrent.  

1983 is a year that happened 14 years after 1969.

Rape was what happened when a penis entered a vagina. Rape was something that happened on street corners. Consent didn't even have to be a factor, and it could be applied in bulk if it was acknowledged. Victims were questioned about their motivations, their clothing, their character.

Things are not perfect yet, but they have changed.

***

His roommates definitely heard my awkward, sharp shriek. It was so loud and the apartment walls were so thin that the neighbouring units might have heard it as well. But we were in one of those buildings where screams, especially those that could be explained away as just shrieks or maybe even yelps, didn’t incite much reaction. And even if someone had come, I would have said I was fine, because I was fine, kind of.

I wasn’t entirely fine. Although I don’t look back at his attempt to transition one consensual act into another not discussed with any sort of trauma, my body might. The days after he attempted to intrude me, parts ached in so many different ways. There were shooting pains when I sat in a particular position. There was the awkward angle I had to hold my legs. And then there was the dull ache, like a bruise from inside, that stayed with me for a few days. Nothing about any of this struck me as a problem. When you don’t have much more sexual experience than the loss of virginity, the thought of aches and sharp pains are entirely logical.

Nothing about this awful encounter approached anything that could be described as kinky, let alone BDSM. Neither of us were will coordinated enough in the actions we were trying to interpret into pleasure for there to be focus on any other element added to heighten the experience. Instead, it was the time honoured game of adulthood that I had been training for; one partner taking just a little bit more than the other had agreed, a test to see if I was cool. Cool was his word, after.

“I thought you’d be cool with that,” he justified himself his quivering partner.

“Yeah, sure, it just hurt,” I explained shakily, as if hurting was something that could be 'just' a side note.

To me, boys, because we were not so young but we were still perched on the edge of being boys and girls or men and women, boys were still poltergeists or leprechauns or something tricky. I saw myself, my body, as something that had to be defended from all of the males. I kept my keys in between my fingers for the men who walked behind me at night. I covered my beer bottle mouth with my thumb around the guys I liked at parties. I made sure not to stray too far from the pack when I was about the boys I wanted to kiss. I was still at the age where I saw the other sex as the providers of mutual pleasure but it was my job, my duty to manipulate them into allowing me to achieving it safely. Even the nicest of them still posed threats because patriarchy was teaching both of us that men couldn’t control themselves.

What would I call what happened with him? I don’t have to think about it because I wasn’t hurt badly enough for me to consider anything more than fooling around gone awry. It’s impossible for me to even know what happened as I look back. I dumped him the next day. We would meet again at a party a bit more than a year later, a year after my first year of education at my lovely feminist university, and he would complain to me about a string of failed relationships since ours and tell me they weren’t cool like I was. I could only make guess at what that meant, but the empowering realization that sexism and homophobia were oppression had prepared me for this moment.

I told him he was an asshole. The look he gave me was not one of revelation.

I went on to have better sex with better people. And, as a side note to any younger readers, I don’t just mean better as in ‘didn’t hurt.’ The hottest experiences in my life have always been respectful, before, after, and during, even when the nature of the actions didn’t necessarily reflect that. But we knew, because we talked, and that was hot too. We whispered our desires into ears as we nibbled earlobes and we urged each other to take safe risks with our minds and bodies, the parameters of what we were okay doing leading to unprecedented creativity.

My transition into respectful sex wasn’t smooth, but from what I gather from chatting with others it seldom is. I once joked with my professor that my safe word is Brenda Hattie’s Women’s Studies class, but in a way the statement rings incredibly true. We’re so focused on the minutiae of consent. Did they say yes? Did they say no? as if the entire conversation of consent is just obtaining a password to one’s body, as if you can gain entry by hacking it. Brenda’s class is my safe word because it taught me a framework to have these conversations, to be okay saying no, and to teach me how to engage with others respectfully too.

Nothing about consent is easy. He decided to surprise me with something didn’t hurt me too badly, not for too long. But the culture that created his decision and anyone else’s, anyone who wants to do something with a heavier hand or a bit more intention without asking, is the same.

The conversation we are having is about so much more than one radio personality, and it's important to be mindful that we are speaking to people who have been potentially victimized when we are quick to defend someone based on feelings.

This does not mean Jian Ghomeshi did any one particular thing. This just means that I advocate believing in victims. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and the accused is found guilty. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and they choose not to press charges. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth and the accused is not found guilty. Sometimes it means victims are telling the truth but it is not something that falls under certain charges. But none of this should empower us not to believe victims.

I believe in victims.
I believe in survivors.

Trudeau Sr.’s prolific words were to normalize certain sexual and lifestyle actions, but not sexual violence nor assault. They’re clever if taken in context, but like all words they leave room to be picked at, and they’re in favour of laws, not the law themselves.

The state belongs wherever victims speak up.

-

I find Metrac to be an excellent source of information if you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence. I strongly encourage you to talk to someone you trust, whether it is in a clinical environment like a doctor's office, a legal environment like with a police officer, or a resource centre like a women's centre. You can make the best decision that is right for you if you have the best information. You have done nothing wrong. My heart goes out to you.

-

Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of working as a lead on www.morethanyes.ca on a contract with Students Nova Scotia. More Than Yes! is an enthusiastic consent based campaign initially targeted at university students in Nova Scotia. My former employer’s opinions are not reflected in this post, but I believe it is a necessary clarity. And check out the posters; they’re pretty great.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Your Centrism Sucks

Recently, a person who has never actually had to consider what would happen if he became pregnant was paid money by the Chronicle Herald to condescend to people who actually might have to make a decision about what they want to do with something in their uterus at some point.

“Why can’t we all just get along?” asked Ralph Surette, wombless wonder, who makes the same I’m hated by both sides in this debate so I must be right argument as that person who yelled questions they already knew the answer to, hijacking their first year philosophy class with roughly the same amount of poise to boot.

To be fair, Ralph Surette is not the problem, he is a person who writes problematic things.

In many countries, ‘centrism’ represents party or ideology that is not rooted in changing an economic system (or major overhauls of any system.) More and more in Canada I see the term centrism used to describe a weak middle that benefits no one. Though undeniably lefty, my views tend to lean and not fall in one direction. This is why it enrages me to see the center presented as some sort of ideal for every situation; it’s convenient, it’s polite, it’s a compromise which makes it so Canadian.

A compromise that works really well is when two children are fighting over a cookie and the cookie gets cut in half.

Some compromises that don’t work so well:

  • One side wants to build many prisons, the other wants none. Let’s build some! 
  • One side wants a pipeline, the other doesn’t. Let’s build half a pipeline!
  • One side wants humans to have human rights, the other doesn’t. Let’s give some people humans some rights!

‘Centrism’ speaks highly of logic but seldom employs it. “We can see both sides,” they coo, but there is always more than two sides to a story and frequently some are batshit crazy.

The truth is, some things are worth being radical for.

Radical does not mean violent, radical does not mean rude, but sometimes radical means making someone uncomfortable. It is ‘centrism’s’ propaganda of politeness that weighs comfort over what’s right.

The other day I watched my triumphant and brilliant advocate-friend Katherine politely explain to my lawyer friend why law being so inaccessible to people with disabilities isn’t a good thing. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, and the friend who just passed the bar was feeling very protective of the system that granted them entry over others. But it’s one of the many conversations that needs to be had if we plan on having a fairer society.

On a regular basis I see my determined and inspiring friend Rebecca pause for a second, flinch, take a deep breath, realize she is about to be pegged as ‘that troublemaker’ and explain why racism isn’t kind of wrong, it’s really wrong.

It’s not convenient, but it’s how society progresses.

People say there need to be more conversations, but then wag their fingers at the people actually having them. This attitude stands in the way of actually getting anything done.

“Abortion is not a good and desirable thing in itself” Mr. Surette tells us, without ever explaining why. Why are there ‘too many’ abortions in Canada? Because it makes him feel uncomfortable? What is an appropriate number of abortions? Are there too many knee replacements? Who gets to say what is too many? Based on what?

What makes abortions ‘bad’ is the fact that some people, frequently people who practice or were brought up in certain religious, believe it is murder. If you believe it is murder, a compromise is not the solution. If you believe you have to fight for justice for the unborn to not burn for all of eternity, I’m not sure your God appreciates your compromising skills. I don’t agree with my friends who hold these views, but I have a special respect the ones who non violently push forward based on ideology.

However, without this ideology there is no reason for abortion to be labeled ‘bad.’ Without stigma, it is healthcare. I struggle to think of any other healthcare procedure that is labeled ‘bad.’ Without the hyper-rhetoric of 'abortion being murder!!!', the only thing that makes abortion bad are people like Mr. Surette saying it is. Religious or not, these uncomfortable feelings are frequently rooted in the belief system of our surroundings.

“Abortion is never going to be a technical, untroubled business-as-usual affair. The pro-choice side should start with that,” the reader is told. The outcome is determined. We can never hope for anything more than this. This is the progress that is being packaged for us, those who actually work on these issues daily. I would have loved to hear his hot take on other civil right issues as they happened. What amount of inequality should we have to accept in a wage gap? Should we be happy when we hear slurs less?

We live in a society that is better than it was because people fought for a better society. Despite being born in the 90s I am painfully aware of the turmoil that has taken place for me to enjoy the improved environment I have today. It is my duty to make this country better for my future daughter, my future son, and the future daughters and sons of people I will never meet or know because we live in a country that is a beautiful collective. We would be foolish to say racism and homophobia no longer exist but we try to create an environment where they can be eradicated by not giving special accommodations for ignorance. Sexism must be treated the same way.

There are plenty of things wrong with this particular column, from the 'lots of people wanting to adopt' myth (Frequently, the problem is the cost of adoption, not a lack of children. To imply that there's a lack of children needing homes in Canada is laughable to say the least.) to vague 'polls' that are referenced to but never specified. There’s much more dangerously inaccurate information being pushed out about reproductive justice every day, but it’s important to call attention to the flawed dialogue that we are accepting as ‘reason.’ People are being paid to write drivel that placates a target audience that longs for a white washed nostalgic version of the ‘politer’ past, and I’m fed up of my rights being tangled into it.

It baffles me that people who do not participate in a conversation feel comfortable telling people how to have it. We’ve been talking without you because you decided to stop talking to us. You’re welcome to join us again, but maybe, just maybe, try listening a bit first.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Embracing Tuesday: book store stories, pre-Pantone, & a lot lot lot of art



This is a permanently open tab. When I'm stressed out, it brings me the strangest peace. The oldest living things in the world.
A good start for your next history related Wikipedia black hole.

One of my new favourite blogs, Our American Safari, drives across the country.

How Maya Angelou became San Francisco's first female African American train conductor. (I've linked this before, but it's so good.)

Google search tips. The first few are pretty basic, but there's 3-4 here I didn't know that are quite helpful.

Bookstores are full of stories. Here are a few illustrated.

I don't regularly read Jezebel anymore, but some uncomfortable truths: On encouraging girls to masturbate.
On that note, "All of the pages worth masturbating to in Fifty Shades of Grey" which is incredibly funny.
"i can't date anyone who is going to fuck up my tv-watching time or interrupt my listening to podcasts in the shower for hours on end."

A fantastic book of colours, or Pantone before Pantone was Pantone.

Here is today.

Some anachronistic pop culture fun.

If you listen to ONE THING this week, make it Anna Maria Tremonti interviewing IMF head Christine Lagarde who speak in a clear, interesting way with aplomb about climate change, the economic cost of gender inequality, and not shutting up. Then play it for your sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and friends and brothers and sisters but especially your daughters.

If you listen to two things, this brief episode of Planet Money about a one-page solution for climate change is also exceptional.

I don't know, I'm weird, but this house is a dream to me.

Bold yet basic: The NDP has launched a pan-Canadian food strategy.

The Met has releases 400,000 high res images to the internet. And there are so many practical ways to browse them!!!! UH WHAT. WHY ARE YOU EVEN LOOKING AT THIS GO LOOK AT THAT NOOOOOOW.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A few words on & by Dr. Maya Angelou


I was sitting in a gorgeous little cafe on Dundonald Street when I found out Maya Angelou had passed away. Normally when I find out someone has died I stick my nose in my wifi capable device and I read every single article and thinkpiece about what they’ve accomplished. I’m not going to pretend I was Dr. Angelou’s biggest fan growing up; the little I knew of her seemed to be the stuff of Hallmark cards and inspirational plaques on walls.

But when I was gifted ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ when I was perhaps 17, "I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn't know what I was aware of.” It struck me deeply even if I didn’t truly understand many of the racial aspects of the book until a few years later. (“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” )

Maya Angelou was a lovely poet, a fierce activist, and a beautiful person. She was awarded over thirty (!!!) doctoral degrees, and was a journalist and a professor as well as San Francisco’s first woman African-American streetcar conductor as I just learned today.

So when I found out about Dr. Angelou’s death I remembered what she said about autonomy, about structural racism, about voicelessness, and ran to grab I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (where all of these quotes are from) which is actually surprisingly both easy and not that easy in Bermuda. I ended up missing my bus, I sat in my favourite park in Hamilton, and I read it, not front to back but I took a few moments to try to suss out all of the parts that struck me so many years ago.

“If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking.” 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Beating the shit out of someone

On Friday, May 9th, 2014 in Halifax someone beat the shit out of a person.

I’m going to say shit because I don’t think crap is a strong enough word for when someone it beaten.

I don’t need to say allegedly because no one will tell us who beat the shit out of a person although what I am about to write will highlight a trail in communications that implies it is someone and results in potential misinformation or disinformation.

This person has been identified, although not officially yet, as a woman.

You don’t need the woman’s name. You don’t need to know who she was unless you wants you to know that, but someone beat the shit out of her.

I am not writing about the woman, although I really do hope that she is okay, that she has an amazing support system that helps her recover in the way that is best for her. I hope she is treated with respect by the media and the attention and the people paying attention to the media. I hope people will think of her, not her personality, not her as potentially a mother sister or daughter, but her as an autonomous being before talking about her and her situation.

I have. I thought a lot about this last night because I am frequently troubled by how people in positions of power use that.

I hope that she’ll tell me if she wants me to change anything about this. I’ll do that. For her.

But someone beat the shit out of a person.

I’m not going to talk about the person who had the shit beaten out of them, or even really the person who beat the shit out of the person.

We’re going to look at what “beat the shit out of” becomes.

Beat the Shit Out Of
Beat the shit out of is not a legal term. I don’t want it used in a paper either. I use it here because I am not a newspaper. I still feel compelled to remind people of that.

Domestic Assault
The headline of this CBC article says Domestic Assault. That is a legal charge. That is the name of the charge against the person who has physically hurt someone. In ‘Domestic Assault’ you can identify that someone beat the shit out of someone, even if it doesn’t come out and say it.



This is a quote that uses the word assault:

"We can confirm that officers responded to a report of an assault at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 9 at a Halifax address. A 34-year-old Halifax man was subsequently arrested at a separate Halifax address that same evening and was released on a Promise to Appear in Halifax Provincial Court on June 18, 2014, to face a charge of assault," the HRP said.

Sun News Network’s headline also used the term domestic assault. I am not linking to their story because I am not interested in giving them ad money, but here is a picture of that headline.



In the piece you can also see that the press secretary says “after charges for a domestic matter.”

Charges for a Domestic Matter/ Domestic incident


Charges for a Domestic Matter is not an official term although it uses official terms in it. It includes the word domestic from ‘domestic assault’ but not ‘assault.’ Charges for a domestic matter could theoretically be a lot of things, like some combination of fireworks or drugs or land or anything. It could also theoretically be for beating the shit out of someone.

Kyley Harris, the communications director for the Premier, is on paid leave for charges for a domestic matter, as reported by Metro.

Legal problems/ charges
Here are a list of a few potential legal problems:
  • A parking ticket
  • Cannibalism
  • Driving without a license
  • Murder
  • Shoplifting
  • Beating the shit out of someone
In the CTV News article, Kyley Harris is on paid leave for charges for a domestic matter that are legal problems.



In addition to not being a newspaper, I am not a journalist. I have an awful lots of respect for journalists. They work difficult hours and have to process a lot of information very quickly. They are threatened, both physically and and legally. Sometimes I’m not sure if they are aware of their own power.

Someone beat the shit out of a person.
Someone is on paid leave for legal problems.

In all that will come out of this conversation, I would ask you to remember a few things:

  • Feelings are valid but outrage solves nothing
  • The person who was beaten is a person and can probably read what you publicly say
  • It does not matter if the person could have been your mother, wife, sister, or daughter
  • Words are powerful and shape our perceptions of very real events that take place
  • Someone beat the shit out of another person, and no context, no nuance, no situation, no excuse, no other side of it, no further information, no nothing will ever make that okay
For transparency’s sake, I identify as a New Democrat, and for transparency’s sake, it really doesn’t matter, as the party of the person who beat up the person doesn’t matter, as the government who is in doesn’t matter as long as it is handled appropriately.

I write from the bias that beating the shit out of someone is bad. Most people write from different biases.

I will consider making updates to this piece as information comes in.

All of the screen grabs were taken between 10 & 11 am on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Three unrelated pieces of writing I found while cleaning up my bookmarks folder

These are on display at Argyle Fine Art but I wish they were on display in my home.

Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere.
A berm overlooking a pond in Vermont.
The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset.
A seat on the subway.

And something bad will have happened:
You will have lost someone you loved,
or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.

And sitting there, you will fall into the centre of yourself.
You will look for some core to sustain you.

And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.

I don't want anyone I know to take that terrible chance.
And the only way to avoid it is to listen to that small voice inside you that tells you to make mischief, to have fun, to be contrarian, to go another way.

George Eliot wrote 'It is never too late to be what you might have been'.

It is never too early, either.

- Anna Quindlen from Being Perfect, which is not a poem, but this is the way it was spaced on the now defunct Tumblr that I first read it. Now, I every time I read it, which is frequently, I read it like this.


***

White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior.
Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected.
Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action.

Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged to feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat.” This is what the worship of death looks like.

-bell hooks from All About Love: New Visions, but this was circulated again after Trayvon Martin was shot

***

Spring comes into Quebec from the west. It is the warm Japan Current that brings the change of season to the east coast of Canada, and then the west wind picks it up. It comes across the prairies in the breath of the chinook, waking up the grain and caves of bears. It flows over Ontario like a dream of legislation, and it sneaks into Quebec, into our villages, between our birch trees.

In Montreal the caf├ęs, like a bed of tulip bulbs, sprout from their cellars in a display of awnings and chairs. In Montreal spring is like an autopsy. Everyone wants to see the inside of the frozen mammoth.

Girls rip off their sleeves and the flesh is sweet and white, like wood under green bark. From the streets a sexual manifesto rises like an inflating tire, 'The winter has not killed us again!'

-Leonard Cohen from Beautiful Losers, which just seems so appropriate

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Things I want(ed) to do before turning 25

Birthdays make me feel a bit numb. I am not old enough to hate them (yet), I do not relish having lots of attention being paid to me in a very concentrated period of time, and they kind of go against something at the very core of my being, which is rather hard to explain but just trust me on this. Also, in good Maritimer tradition I am a chronic "you too!"-er. ("Have a good day!" "You too!" / "See you later!" "You too!" / "Happy birthday!" "You t- auuuughh.") Birthdays are not very big in my family and I've had a hard time explaining to friends that the "no, really, it's okay" line is not modesty, but no, really. It's okay.

Despite all this, I pay a lot of attention to years and what I can accomplish in them and I find it much easier to decide what I want to do in vibrant May (swing dance! change the world!) than dreary January (screw everything! wear sweatpants!) When I was 20 I made a "five year plan" full of concrete goals with steps and deadlines but also random whims I've always had. As I'm turning 24 this week I thought it might be time to revisit some of these things and get the pressure on in the next 12 months but I was pleasantly surprised at how closely my life had mirrored my forgotten list, especially lately.

If I had a lot more time than I do I would love to write a thesis on the gendered aspects of to do lists. (This is not a goal, though.) Whether it's a grocery list on the door of my mother, the list of most detested body parts my friends made (there's a strange, perverse solidarity in realizing all the other 13 year olds hate their stomachs too), or simple five year plan I feel like the Internet is the checklist on crack. Still, here's mine, because I think it's a pretty solid list and maybe this will serve as inspiration to actually complete it for once.


Bolded items are what remain to be accomplished.    



Finishing writing my book.


Learn to swing dance.


Buy original art. (Although I love the prints I've purchased, the spirit of this goal was more a painting or sculpture: something difficult to carry and monumental.)

Chair a committee.


Own a cat. Specifically, own a little grey cat who is an offspring of Momma Sunshine, the sweetest cat in Antigonish. Solomon, named for Evan Solomon, who provokes his loudest meows, was in Momma 
Sunshine's last litter.

Cook a turkey by myself.

Bake a pie by myself.




Go on an American road trip. (Driving from Toronto to Cleveland was wonderful but I'm not going to check it off as motivation to do something lengthier.)


Pay for a vacation entirely by myself.


Take a train. Any train.


Do some sort of feminist tangible project.

Work on a pro-choice campaign. (Okay, two birds on stone.)

Work on a sexual assault campaign. (Interestingly, this was done in the same month as the pro-choice campaign.)


See the Braves.

Be able to afford avocados. Well, this is actually quite emotional because I'll never forget times when I could not afford avocados. This is a real measure of personal finances for me, something I affectionately call 'the avocado index', because even when times are tight now I can usually afford an avocado if I'd like.

Wear lipstick regularly. I don't know, it seemed like a thing grownups do.

On that note, I also scrawled 'actually know how to apply make up.' I don't think I'm there yet.


Get a Marimekko Unikko couch. My grandmother had one because Jackie Kennedy had one. I might substitute this goal because I live with someone who can only handle so many florals.



Wear a swimsuit publicly. I'm not kidding, this was a hard one.

Go a summer without getting sunburnt. This one is actually impossible to do before 25 as I just turned a toasty rose today. Sad trombone.


Not live with roommates. 

Live downtown.


Paint a room. (We did the entire apartment! Every single room! Goal DONE!)

Make a piece of furniture.


Buy a piece of furniture not from Ikea.

Fix / refinish my grandparents' gorgeous mid century modern furniture. (It's a process.)


Make my closet sweatshop free. (Working on it.)



"Watch the sun rise or set or something cheesy I just don't know how to end this list." is something is actually wrote. 
Not much changes in 4 years after all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Interesting


Everything everyone likes about me now is because I read for at least three hours every night as a kid because no one else liked me then. I read when I was lonely because no one wanted to hang out with a nerd, I read when I was happy and too excited to sleep. I read because I was curious and being curious made me interesting. 

In my reading I found things I wanted to be and I read how to become them.

Sometimes I wish I could show 11 year old Allison my social schedule. I wish I could tell her that she has all the time in the world now but one day she will have to fit her novel habit into 15 minutes over tepid herbal tea and incomplete breakfasts in the morning.

This is not to give the illusion that I am popular, liked, or even cool (I am really cool with being decidedly uncool.)

Reading taught me to be interested and to some people that makes me interesting and they are frequently people I am interested in. Who I am is made up of written role models. 

It is glorious to be curious and that is what I hope I can tell every child to be because I’ll never be able to tell angry, lonely, 11 year old, 13 year old, 15 year old Allison that she will live a story worth reading one day.

// many thanks to E who encouraged me to share

Monday, April 21, 2014

7 very short stories about things that happened to me over the past 7 days


In no order.

1) I stood outside the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton. I thought of the people I had the privilege of meeting while working on pro-choice bus ads. I thought of the people who had good experiences. I thought of the people who told me about their self harm when faced with the idea of pregnancy. I thought of the girl who had made me want to go to Fredericton in the first place. I pictured her as she told me about throwing herself down a flight of stairs. I didn’t respond strongly to her story at the time because I was so focused on comforting her. But I didn’t forget a word she said, her exact phrases only echoed louder in my mind until my ears felt hot. I told myself I wouldn't forget the architecture of the building, the strange passion of this moment. I thought I might cry but in a perfect moment Wigwam by Bob Dylan came on so then I didn’t.

2) I went into a coffee shop that ended up being a hookah bar as well. I ordered two samosas; one beef and one chicken. I went and tucked into a very lovely magazine made of very thick paper. I was brought two veggie samosas. I corrected the person saying that I had ordered one beef, one chicken. Someone sitting on the couch, with a mouth full of flavoured smoke, exclaimed “You’re eating meat on Good Friday?!”

3) I took a taxi. The Vietnamese driver told us about how he didn’t take black people in his cab anymore because a friend of his got beaten up so bad that he now has no memory and cannot walk. In the cab were two people I really loved who sometimes pass for white but sometimes do not. I had a bad fever. I didn’t say anything. I felt like I might cry but then in not a perfect moment no comforting song came on so I did.

4) I made peanut butter + Nutella cookies. Despite using an actual recipe shared by one of the few celebrities I admire (at least on a recipe level), they somehow turned out terribly. Very dry, very bland. I didn’t know that was possible when you put Nutella in cookies. I didn’t eat them.

5) A cab driver in a city asked me what size my feet were. I was alone in the cab. It was terrible.

6) I watched a gull vomit in front of me and then eat its own vomit while sitting next to someone on their first visit to Nova Scotia. It looked like an actual piece of fish and not just a French fry.


7) The Habs played hockey quite well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Choosing to Speak Up


The Morgentaler Clinic is making an announcement at 10 am, which many believe will be a sign that it is shutting its doors. This would be a devastating loss not only to New Brunswick but to people all over the Maritimes, especially Prince Edward Island which does not offer surgical abortion services at all, despite the best efforts of many.

Many asked me why it was so important to me to create bus ads for a pro-choice organization. Simply put, if the abortion debate must still be fought, it should be through accurate information, not through access. Less clinics performing the procedure does not lead to less abortion, but simply to less safe abortions. 

I am no stranger to how vicious online commenters can be. Nastiness is inherent to large platform that where power can be gained without visible consequences to anonymous people. I have also never had an email that has shaken me to my core and I’ve received a lot of them: from simplistic remarks about me being too ugly / too pretty / too smart / too dumb for this to some truly perverse ones suggesting I take out actions of violence on myself. They come randomly; yes, in flurries when I’ve made a recent media appearance but at any time doing any thing I will suddenly get a capslock and mistake laden not-quite-threat reminding me that there are people out there who I will give maybe a second but never a third thought to who stew all over my words.

Great.

So it’s with this context, this context of knowing how scary speaking up can be, that I ask you to do three things:

  1. Pay attention to what is happening to The Morgentaler Clinic.
  2. Speak up about it.
  3. Consider the appropriate action when the time is right.


Typed out, these are not revolutionary actions. Many people will ask you to do the same to save this, prevent this, etc. Still, I think it needs to be said so that Canadians do not sink back into a state of passive pro-choice. I appreciate that the bus ads that South House worked so hard on were considered a rallying call, but the thing about rallies is they happen over and over again. This is another one.


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