Category Archives: Human Rights

Niquab or not Niquab, that is the question, Canada

COVERINGS

(hasty blog alert)

I admit to having an emotional first reaction to the niquab.

It is not of my culture, and it does, visually, represent to me all the things that I as a western feminist have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I know women who feel it is their right to wear skimpy clothes, show their bras as part of their ensemble, wear tiny skirts, and bare their cleavage.

I admit to having an emotional reaction to that as well. Dressing so skimpily represents to me all the things that I, as a western feminist, have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I choose to dress conservatively, but I would be livid if someone told me to wear a longer skirt OR a shorter skirt. Fundamentally it is my choice. I choose a hem length to balance what I want to say about myself and about how I view myself in relation to the world around me. I love clothes, and I love feeling attractive. But I most definitely do not like sensing that men are imagining me in ways that I would never in reality consent to. Naked. With them. In their sight at all, really. So I balance wanting to look like a beautiful woman with my distaste for being sexualized. And that balance is a very personal one.

That balance is a very personal one for every woman.

My choices are influenced by my upbringing, my dad, my mom, my Sunday School classes, my friends, my husband… But saying that the choice is influenced is very different from saying I do not have free choice.

I assume this is the case with almost all women. There are women who feel pressured to dress sexy for their significant others. There are women who feel pressured to cover up for their significant others.

But we aren’t going to mitigate that by being yet another party in that woman’s life to pressure her to conform to an outside (outside her own head and body) definition of what is, or what is not, acceptable when it comes to how she clothes herself.

My emotional reaction to her choices, her emotional reactions to my choices, do not matter. What matters is that logic dictates that the choice be hers.

Our laws protect her freedom to choose. What she chooses must always be left up to her. And to me.

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Penurious Progress (as the sexual revolution marches on)

I was going to just post a reply on Facebook to this, but I started to run on…

What got me started was this article, posted in response to this article.

The tension building up from the sexual revolution is palpable and painful to the touch.

Sexuality is on the cutting edge of a huge cultural shift going on right now in our world. I tend to think of cultural shifts as being like the San Andreas fault. A whole bunch of tension builds up and then there is a sudden lurch. The lurches aren’t controlled and can be both good and destructive at the same time.

The problem faced by legislators trying to address sexual autonomy and rape culture is that laws are written as if the people they apply to have one culture. Our culture is hardly uniform. We have a culture evolving, with subgroups of that culture evolving at differing rates and developing differing ways of coping with change. Can we apply a law uniformly to a culture that is far from uniform? I’m not sure – which is not an argument against trying, it is just a comment on the difficulty of doing it well.

There are a couple other things these articles bring up that I’d like to touch on.

We do need to work on the culture of entitlement to sex. That means making (some) men fully understand sex is for mutual benefit. I firmly believe most men know that, and that the problem is largely that there is no good way for women to tell the good guys from the bad guys. You good guys, get to work on making that easier for us.

We also really really need to make sure women understand that both yes and no are valid. There should be no fear, hesitation, judgement, or repercussions associated with having, or not having sex. One of the things I hear a lot is that men are vulnerable to women accusing of them of sexual assault when they later regret having had sex with them. Forget the flawed premise that women are that vindictive for a minute for the sake of staying on topic. Why don’t we just make sure women don’t have to sort out mixed cultural signals that lead them to regret their decisions? Let’s get rid of the madonna whore complex that brands women sluts when they say yes and teases when they say no, because it’s hard to give a straight answer when neither answer is a winner for you.

Lastly, and I love this part, the article touches on commitment and relationships. The sexual revolution freed men and women part way, but kept both genders tangled up in old mores and attitudes. That left the rebellion against strict sexual codes open to excess. There has been excess. The hook up culture leaves everybody vulnerable to misunderstandings. Sex and lust are not really conducive to obtaining legally defensible consent. We get swept up in lust and it inhibits our ability to read other people. Again, not an excuse for men ignoring signals, just an explanation of how a subtle signal could get lost. Also not an argument against making consent the cornerstone of sexual assault laws. The better you know someone the more familiar you are with their subtle communication. Within commitment, consent is informed by an existing framework of mutual respect and affection. Now that we have the right to have sex we should make sure it is actually right to have sex.

I am fixated on this issue. I was so very lucky to be raised by a mother who never made me feel like sex was a dirty word and a father who never made me feel like having sex was a bad decision. I observe from a very safe place. I see all the tangled issues and all I can do is comment from my point of view as a woman who hasn’t been afraid to speak up, who was never called a slut for saying yes or a tease for saying no, in a society where women are pretty empowered, and as a woman who has a fabulous partner in her life and a stable and mutually fulfilling relationship. I wish everyone could have what I have. But they need my parents, and they need my background.

I am trying my darndest to spread the good stuff around. You can too.

Let’s start by outing men like Daryush Valizadeh who are not compatible with where we want to go as a culture. Let’s raise our kids to respect sex, and respect each other. Let’s admit that, in our desire to make change, we are going to make mistakes and will have to tweak how we deal with issues as they arise, and let’s work together to move forward.

 

…dee dee deedle deedle dee dee dee dee…

So Huffington Post has decided to put Donald Trump’s campaign coverage in their entertainment section as a way of indicating their refusal to take his parody of political discourse seriously.clown trump

Mother Jones is countering that the problem is that Trump is a serious contender. I agree. He has a frightening level of supportive.

They’re both right.

I understand what Huffington Post is doing. I one hundred per cent support refusing to give this …

trump ruprict

…a seat at the grown-up table. His ideas, beliefs and commentary are laughable. No intelligent, informed, mature person could possibly take his views seriously. America shouldn’t take him seriously. He has no place in serious political discourse. He shouldn’t be given any serious thought as a potential leader. Energy spent portraying him as a serious voice for the average American or as an advocate for the American way of life is energy wasted. While there is (sadly) a market for his kind of chicanery, that market demographic isn’t the intelligent thoughtful voter looking to cast an informed ballot.  He should be ignored for the same reason you don’t give in to your screaming toddler in the toy store.

I also understand what Mother Jones is saying. The right wing created the environment in which Donald Trump became a ‘credible’ right wing voice, and now the joke is on them. He and his ilk have turned the American political and social system against the best interest of America by cranking up the volume on the least rational parts of American society. The right wing is feeding on itself, eating its own tail in an ever more desperate bid to achieve conservative political immortality and defeat progressive liberalism. Trump represents the monster that the right wing allowed to grow out of the childish desire to never admit the legitimate, demonstrable constructive progress America is making in the absence of conservative rule.

No, the joke is on the whole society. Donald Trump could be the undoing of the GOP, or worse, the undoing of the US as a respected world power. Really.

Trump sets the bar dangerously low for the GOP. Pretty well any looney they choose to lead them into the next election is going look like a right minded competent human being compared to the alternative – if the alternative is Donald Trump. Sadly this just sets the race up to elect someone who sits just a smidgen to the left of complete asshattery who will appeal to the rabble but inevitably damage the GOP and, if elected, do real damage to the country. Let’s be honest; politics isn’t about finding the best person for the job, it’s about finding the least bad person. Often, and I am tempted to say always in the American 2 party system, casting a ballot is like deciding to settle on a rock or in a hard place.

Ignoring Donald Trump could have dire consequences. America is in a tough spot right now.cob over trump

On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.

Unfortunately in the US moderation has never caught on so they take everything they do to the extreme, often to the point of defying logic. Donald Trump for President is the result. As much as it hurts our heads, the world would be wise to listen to this man talk so we keep tabs on the crazy before it gets any more out of control because clearly the US hasn’t got a handle on the situation.

 

Liars and tories and White Elephants OHMY!

So, I got a little reprieve today* because some social media driven public outrage forced my employer to back away from a really, really bad policy. My wings are slightly less clipped.

With in 30 minutes of the writ being dropped here in Alberta I received an email reminding me of the code of conduct for Alberta Government employees and outlining restrictions to my political involvement.

I first noted that I am not allowed to solicit donations. Which, to be honest, I am not sure is 100% justifiable. I see no reason why as a low/mid level public servant I could not fundraise for a cause I support. Ostensibly I am sure the reason is potential conflict of interest. However for the record I feel that the potential for perceived conflict of interest for the average government employee on their personal time and not acting on behalf of government doesn’t stand up to the reasonable person test. Unless I wore a badge declaring myself to be a public servant no one has any way of knowing who I work for. Even if they did know who I worked for, they know its election time and I think most people understand that public servants are enfranchised. What the conflict is in a public servant having an independent political opinion during an election I do not know. Certainly there is less possibility of conflict of interest in the public servant scenario than there is for a politician/elected member of government accepting or soliciting donations. Afterall, I don’t influence government policy, but they do. No one who donated to me would be currying favour, the same can not be said of those who donate in the other scenario.

ANYWAY…I was OK with no soliciting donations because it doesn’t impair my ability to volunteer based on my personal conscience.

I then noted in the email (but no where in the actual code of conduct) that I was advised that I should inform my supervisor if I am volunteering with an election campaign. This gave me pause. Before I elaborate on why I paused, I will further add that a few days later I was advised that not only should I inform my supervisor of any volunteer involvement on my personal time, but that I should also inform my deputy minister.

I immediately saw three problems:

  1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of conscience
  2. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of association
  3. There is both federal and provincial legislation giving me individual right to privacy

Now, I am not going to say I am in any way an expert, but I am capable of reasoning things through. I know that 1 & 2 are fundamental rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set outlined in it subject only to reasonable limits under law that can be justified.

Freedom of conscience is the freedom to have, hold and act upon beliefs. That covers political beliefs. [1]

Freedom of association also incorporates opinion, thought, belief, expression, conscience, religion, communication and peaceful assembly. That covers political party membership and activity.

I have the Charter right, regardless of who my employer is, to hold and act upon my own beliefs, to associate myself with others who hold similar beliefs, to have my own opinions, and to communicate and act upon those personal opinions. If it is my fundamental right, then what justification is there for having me report on matters of conscience and association? Most importantly, what justification is there for having me report to people in a position of authority over me who I have actual and real reason to perceive as having actual and real conflict of interest with regard to my personal beliefs?

Given that there is no possibility any member of upper management in the Alberta public service right now did become management during the reign of the PC government, I would not be unreasonable to suspect my boss may be a PC supporter. It would be reasonable for me to wonder if he/she would bear my non-PC association in mind when I apply for my next promotion. That is a real potential conflict of interest.

That’s 1 & 2 in brief. What about 3?

Again, I am no expert but I am interested in privacy as a legal concept and I have a year of course work on privacy legislation informing my opinions. The main point I took away from my course work was that the key to privacy is balance. Members of a group should give up privacy only in return for a tangible benefit to society, and the two competing interests (individual and social) must be weighed carefully.

I will leave it to you to look through Canada and Alberta’s privacy legislation, but I assure you that your employers right to infringe upon your privacy ends where your personal life begins unless they can prove a significant social benefit to eroding your privacy. [2] [3] [4]

There is a white elephant in the room. I will lay odds this policy was drafted by some upper level bureaucrat, but that still shines a light on a systemic problem. One party has been in place for four and a half decades. The entire bureaucracy has risen through the ranks under their thumb, and this inane policy just shows how horribly acclimated the bureaucracy is to the way the PC party has chosen to govern. The PC party has chosen to govern by repressing dissent, by portraying dissenting voices as ‘left-wing nut’s’ and ‘extremists’… by making sure everyone knows they are either with them or against them.

My reprieve came as knights in shining armour.  My beloved CBC, my beloved social media. It took only a couple hours of outrage for the errant policy to be rescinded. This was a victory. However, this arrogant sense of entitlement to the erosion of freedom to express dissenting opinion or support accountability was only a drop in the bucket, Alberta. Don’t leave the protection of progressive values to the media and twitter.

This is your power, Alberta, your infrequently exercised power. If you speak out, if you let it be known that your vote is not guaranteed, you can hold government accountable for what they do. If anyone tells you that you have no power to make progress a reality they are liars. Remember that on May 5. You decide how you will be ruled, which means in the end you make the rules. Unless, of course, you don’t vote.

[1]  http://rmcla.ca/blog/?p=252

[2] https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/index_e.asp

[3] https://www.priv.gc.ca/leg_c/r_o_a_e.asp

[4] https://www.priv.gc.ca/resource/fs-fi/02_05_d_15_e.asp

[5] http://www.servicealberta.ca/foip/legislation/foip-act.cfm

 * Written Tuesday night, scheduled for publication Wednesday morning…I write too slow…mostly because every 20 minutes or so one of my boys wanders into my office to ask what I am doing and I end up on my soapbox spewing political homilies…my poor boys

#DearMe

Dear Me,

My 46 year old self wishes that I could tell you the things it took me 46 years to learn. Like:

The path of least resistance is not the easiest path. The people who resist you as you try to move forward, or mock you because your progress is slow? Ignore them.

Don’t stop questioning or challenging or arguing. Those are all signs of intelligence, they are not character flaws. Not questioning and following blindly are character flaws. ‘Bossy’ is a compliment.

Take physics. Take math. Don’t drop-out of art. Don’t stop writing. They all matter, you are capable of them all, and they will all help you find your own happiness.

Those ideas you have about yourself, they are dreams, and dreams are not signs of weakness. Follow them. Pragmatism is not the be all and end all, and being pragmatic is not incompatible with ambition. You just need to find other people with dreams that will help you learn to fly.

You can go to university without a plan, the plan will come. Ignore all the dissenting voices who ask what job that degree will get you. The job will come. What you need is knowledge.

Don’t give into the pressure to define yourself in relation to others, ever. Nothing good can be kept in a box. Everything good grows and changes over time. You are too big to be defined. You are more than what you represent in other people’s eyes. Don’t be for them, be for you.

You are loveable and capable of inspiring love and loyalty, you just have to find people who are loving and loyal. When you find them, (and your 16 year old self has already found some of them) never let them go.

all of us

#DearMe

http://www.tubefilter.com/2015/03/03/youtube-dearme-campaign-international-womens-day/

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Social Edition

I am going to keep saying this until it sinks in; Yes, government has a role in legislating morality.

We need to elect progressive, liberal minded representatives that understand why philosophical-esque ideologies clash over individual and plural rights in our communities. Look:

  • liberalism = commitment to balancing individual freedom and social justice.
  • conservatism = commitment to traditional values, the goals and ideologies of which vary.

The definition of social conservatism includes the caveat that traditional values vary between groups. In any society there are potentially multiple traditions, and potentially values may not align.

I hope you can hear me over the wailing right-wing nuts when I say this. Do try…

If we’re all going to live together, we need balance. Maintaining balance between personal and secular values isn’t a zero sum game.* Sharing a human right doesn’t eliminate it; or halve it, or quarter it, or reduce it by any fraction. Removing a tradition from the public realm doesn’t necessarily remove it from the personal realm. In fact a zero sum only happens when progressive liberalism governance is NOT present.

Herein lies the peril inherent in democracy. Votes are equal individually, but not collectively. The risk that a majority can run roughshod over a minority exists because there is considerable pressure for government to conform to majority held views.

But the role is government is not to pander to the majority, it is to rise above and serve the whole.

In a progressive liberal democracy we avoid the trampling minority rights by implementing reforms that protect the right to have personally different values. A progressive government implements reform where there is contradiction between current traditionally informed and non-traditional choices. Progressive governance mitigates inequality founded upon tradition.

The catalyst for this Personal Pedantic Political Peroration is the Bill 10 fiasco in Alberta. Bill 10 panders to the worst pockets of social conservatism in our society. I expect my government to enact legislation that makes it unlawful for any group to use tradition to deny rights to the others. I’m not alone either. Alberta is full of progressive liberal minded people.

I don’t care what any religious tradition says about homosexuality. I am not bound by other traditions. Everyone is free to be offended by LGBT people in any old heteronormative tradition bound way. However, finding something personally offensive does not give anyone the right to censure it. We are all free to disregard any tradition, or the word free doesn’t apply at all.

The right to challenge tradition has been asserted before, and it will be asserted again:

Well, Alberta, now there is so much racket that something must be out of rightness.

I think that between the social progressives in the cities and the reality of what constitutes a human right, the traditional bigots will be in a fix pretty soon. Let’s be honest about what we all are talking about.

The zealots over there say that LGBT students don’t need to be helped to feel safe, or given a place to share, and that they have anti-bullying protection already. Don’t ask don’t tell will help them, doctrine over compassion, because that’s what scripture says.

Was Delwin Vriend protected? Was he? Now look at his students. Tradition clearly allows them to be marginalized, or be punished for who they are, here in this system. Isn’t that bullying? You should look at the statistics and look at these children – maybe you’ll get it – LGBT students suffer your bigotry. Do they deserve it?  They all bear higher risk of suicide, and GSAs mitigate that risk, and aren’t their lives important – doesn’t god love even sinners? Aren’t you a sinner? I hear you all talk about this scripture or that – why use them to justify contempt? What’s that got to do with a moral life?

If you have the right to choose your religion, and you are choosing it freely, doesn’t that give us all the right to choose for ourselves which path to follow? All the small minded keep saying it was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve; how does your wife feel about Abram and Hagar? Which scriptures do you follow? Which ones are discarded? Use logic and reason for human rights. Your religion has nothing to do with it.

If we have already as a society made a clear distinction between church and state, and we have already agreed to allow our neighbours freedom of conscience, you few right-wing nuts rallying behind your irrational traditions shouldn’t be able to hold the rest of us back from moving human rights forward!

The progressives are speaking, and the government better start listening.**

 

* FUN FACT: Zero Sum one of my favourite pedantological terms, I slip it into every conversation I can.

** With all due respect for the great Sojourner Truth; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

 

The Pedanthood Monologues

falling resize

Eve Ensler wrote a fabulous piece of theatre called the Vagina Monologues twenty years ago. I saw it with a friend at the Meyer Horowitz theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It made me cry, it made me smile, and it made me think.

This recent article indicates that she, and the work, have been accused of not being ‘inclusive’.

This touches on a distinction that bothers me. It is appropriately a pedant issue too, because it involves the precise interpretation of two related words. High five for living up to my blog’s name once in a while. YAY!

It can also be directly tied back to my previous posts via one common rebuttal of feminism – “What about men’s rights” Low five for sticking to a theme? …

Here’s my issue: Just because something is not included does not mean it was excluded. Inclusion involves choosing what is IN a set. Exclusion involves deciding something should not be in a set. For reasons of pragmatism or availability of information or timing of message, IN choices can leave things un-included. But that does not mean they were deemed un-includable for broad purposes. They can be brought into discussion and can benefit from awareness generated about an issue even if they were not originally in the set.

Eve Ensler herself says “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.”

I am a woman. I also have a vagina. Specifically, I am a cis gender woman.

The Vagina Monologues addressed a specific issue, and for pragmatic reasons cis gender women were the IN set. The Vagina Monologues speak to me as a subset of humanity without denying the humanity of anyone not addressed by the specific words spoken on stage. This wonderful work is not called the ‘Woman Monologues’ and it doesn’t claim that the underlying themes are unique to women. Sadly violence, bigotry and intolerance are issues faced by many ‘sets’ within our species.

The issues faced by women and by LGBT people are similar, but not identical. All gender identifications face challenges when it comes to living their sexual identities. The set was chosen to give voice to one facet of broader human challenges. That it is applicable to a larger set of people and the challenges they face means that The Vagina Monologues can be used as the foundation upon which more discussion, change and progress can be built.

I am an ardent feminist, and logically by extension have also been an active advocate for LGBT rights. In my head one extends to the other; there is overlap and fluidity between the two groups and the challenges they face.

Bear in mind that when I talk about harassment of women or violence and sexual crimes against women I am speaking for myself from my own personal experience, but I would never dream of silencing your voice or minimizing your struggle. We are humanity, and we are in this together.

 

Women against feminism part four – the man update

(Maybe) this is the last time I will address women against feminism. I cannot say for sure because both women and men keep undermining the (human rights) cause(s) that are in their best interest.

For example, this sad example of women blaming women for our unwillingness to accept the status quo, where the status quo is not acceptable. Or this offensive example of trying to erase women from a global discussion.

Anyway…myth busting…

A woman who hates men is not a real feminist, she is a person with problems. I love you guys … when you treat me well, and when you don’t I don’t. A real feminist’s affection for men is a reciprocal affection.

Feminism is not about targeting any segment of the population for contempt. That would be misandry. Misandry is the b-side of a really bad record (the a-side be misogyny). True feminists do not march to that tune.

Feminists promote extending human rights to all human beings, not taking them from men. Human rights are not a zero sum game, rights shared are not rights diminished. Extending human rights to one more human does not in any way mean there are fewer human rights for those who already enjoy them.

Human rights are an infinite resource and hoarding them or restricting their possession to and elite group of humans can in no way ever be justified.

In fact, the one thing that restricting access to human rights CAN and WILL do is make those rights less certain for every last one of us regardless of gender.

Men can and should be self-identifying as feminists. Not for our sake; although I appreciate that sentiment; but for their own sake. What is universally available is very hard to take away.

Feminism is not a power grab, it is a method of solidifying prosperity and freedom for all of us whether we like each other on an individual basis or not.

Men have absolutely nothing to lose by feminism and a great deal to gain by  actively working in unison towards feminist goals. When women win we all win, and denying that men need to be involved or asserting that feminism is not fair to men is just not productive. We are stronger when we stand together.

 

 

I’m dreaming …

I’m dreaming of a rights Christmas, 

With rights for everyone I know

With no native women missing, Two men not fearing kissing, Where we all understand that no means no

I’m dreaming of a rights Christmas

With every tweet and blog I write 

May we keep our government in line, So that all our futures stay bright

leg xmas

I am breaking for the holidays but even while I am away I’ll be keeping up with the little details of my pet issues:

#bill10

#ableg

#abpoli

#cdnpoli

#yesallwomen

#heforshe

#ferguson

#torturereport

#AmINext