Why is it we tell our children that they just need to make an effort at their homework, or that it’s for the pleasure of playing whatever game? I grew up hearing there’s no such word and “can’t”, you got to at least try.
Yet as we grow older the need to not look silly, to not try new things for fear that we won’t like it, starts to permeate our lives. Soon the “I can’t do that” grabs a hold of us and we begin stagnation. I believe that’s one of the reasons why baby blue eyeshadow and corduroy jackets stuck around for so long – peeps were just to afraid to try something new.
So, life is short folks, and we’re here to experience it.
Seize the day, grab the rope, engage etc… Even if you suck.
Jian Ghomeshi is not news.
If you think it’s news that a man with even an inkling of influence thinks he can exert some measure of power over a women…then you are clearly not a woman.
The big news here is that half of the people reporting on it have done it too. And that every single woman on the planet has been victimized by a man at one or multiple points in her life. Every. Single. One.
We like to make up stats that say around 70% of women have had unwelcome advances from a man because 30% of those women likely don’t even recognize what unwelcome advances means. We can accept that a man who physically lays hands on woman may be overstepping his bounds. If she has a bruise. Or some recognizable wound perhaps in the shape of a hand. Or she wasn’t wearing a short skirt or a low cut blouse. Or a positive rape kit (which in case you didn’t know is basically a secondary form of being violated after you’ve been violated so you can potentially lay charges on the violator who originally violated you. But probably not) Mostly, women do not bring sexual misconduct cases forward because they stand the risk of being slandered and traumatized without ever seeing justice. And besides, it’s just a part of being a woman. We understand the risks…like travelling to the middle east in the middle of a conflict, we get it. We always have.
A friend of mine who works in an office down town advised me that she rarely attends a meeting where a man does not say something condescending to her. She has been called “sweetheart”, “toots” or “baby” on a regular basis. When she stopped wearing make up to work in an in effort to stem the constant attention she was getting, a co-worker declared her a “dike” and comments ensued about the possibilities of threesomes and videos with her lovers. The less she dressed for their satisfaction, the more the harassment increased but now more to declare her unattractive at every opportunity as if it was a personal offence to the men in her office that she was no longer dressing to their desired taste.
Another friend of mine who works in HR admits she often has to tell women to “toughen up” because there is no chance that the harassment in her field will stop and it is an expected class of conduct that you either accept or don’t do that job. It is common in male dominated fields for women to accept a certain level of intimidation which they either handle “gracefully” or they are deemed incompetent. As one male I heard proclaim, “If you can’t take the heat, get back in the kitchen”.
I think it’s fair to tell you that I am not a woman who anyone would accuse of being a wallflower. I like male attention – sometimes. I’m not afraid of showing cleavage. I’m not afraid of discussing my sexuality openly. I suppose you could say I’m taking back my power in that way. I’m no longer afraid to be labelled as a tramp, slut or a whore. Frankly, these words are so common place when faced with a disgruntled man, they barely register for me any more. It is always the first line of assault regardless of what your perceived crimes are as a woman. It is meant to bring you down a peg or ten, to shame you, to make you subservient. Men have threatened various forms of assault on me since I can remember – “Hey beautiful…I’d like to butter your muffin”. You would? Does it matter to you if I am conscious or not? Just checking sweet talker.
There is no line of defence in this whole situation. Women will always be casualties of the sex war. I have taken a defensive stance in that most men who know me understand that I have started playing the same game as them. One guy told me that if I didn’t watch myself I was going to end up alone…as if that was a fate worse than ending up with someone who objectified me or showed his friends nude pictures of me as if he had a right to. Or someone who immediately upon my arrival threw me up against the wall by my throat and slapped me – like it was a fun a game. Proclivities be what they may, let’s be real, some people like that sort of thing and they have a right to. Just as the same people have the right to agree to and set the boundaries of their inclinations with the ability to change their mind at any damn time.
To be blunt, the Jian Ghomeshis of the world are common and everywhere. They are the Pollyannas of predators. Arrogant men with some kind of success that trips them just over the line of deviant. Big deal. I could throw a stone and hit a 100 different Jians on my block alone. The one who told me it was rude to mow my lawn in anything but shorts, the one who let me know his mistress was going to park in front of my house because no one would ever ask questions about a strange car in front of MY house, the one who showed up at my BBQ and said he knew I liked to party…wink, wink. The bigger offence to me is that the police have decided to pursue allegations NOW after everyone has jumped on the “crucify Jian” band wagon. Do we think it’s a coincidence that none of the women filed formal complaints or charges until now? Or that CBC execs are taking time off and saying things like they just don’t remember the conversation about Jian’s bad behaviour? Jian has become a convenient scape goat for the bad behaviour of men everywhere, masking over even more heinous crimes against women every day that will never see the light of a media frenzy. If we’re feeling so hot to trot about sexual injustices, let’s investigate the commentary of the Youtube “10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman” who has been threatened and intimidated by men since the day it went viral. Take a stroll through that comment section and then tell me Jian is big news.
“A hunch that you are the sum of those incidents only you can testify to, whose existence without you, would have no earthly acknowledgement” – Barbara Gowdy “The White Bone”
First of all, if you have never read this book, go read it right now. I should warn you that it is based entirely on the perspective of elephants…that’s right, the life and times of elephants. The beauty and syncronicity with people is astounding and breath taking. It was one of the novels I never got over. This is one of my favourite quotes and I came upon it cleaning out an old drawer as I have so many times over the years. It always makes me pause and really consider the weight of these words. Our time here on earth is measured and recorded by those we spend time with. Who we are, the impact we have had, the value of our lives is wrapped up snugly with the company we keep. I, myself, am a testament to the people I love and care about. I am also a testament to the ungodly events that have shaped me as much as the triumphs. It is a big responsibility when you examine it, being the story teller for so much and so many. I have blogged on here previously about my best friend and her relationship both to myself and others – this account becoming a part of who she is and how she she will be remembered. When we are gone, these stories will be the thing that says we ever existed. Our legacy. When you think about the enormity of that, it skips a heart beat in me. Our time here is so limited, our accomplishments become more and more limited as we make decisions and level setbacks and tragedies. There is often a saying that goes: You are only limited by your own mind. But I take some exception to that being that this theory I am evolving is that our minds and our lives are very much wrapped up in other minds and lives and that these concurrent connections can often be the limits we set on behalf of the well being or otherwise of people we hang out with.
The tributes of our lives can be both a gift and a burden. I have accepted since I was young the moniker of caregiver, soul saver, sacrificer, beast of burden. Bring me your dead and your dying…I’ll take all of them. I seem to have no ability to turn away the most bleak of souls; In fact, I often prefer their company. I think there is something beautiful about the metamorphosis of tragedy. Staying along side of someone who has been shot by horrific circumstances and their journey through open bleeding wounds to scarred impunity. Sweet freedom from ignorance. The ability to see all the colours of pain and emotional brevity – like childbirth, we forget and dare to live again with a subtle or sometimes not so subtle limp that presses us against all the other living injured. How not to impact people in negative ways? How not to fall prey to the selfish indignation that says we deserve more, better? What a delicate balance to be storied as brave or heroic or kind or helpful. As often as I have been claimed this, I have been equally described as cold or uncaring. My defensive wounds coming to light. But to ignore them, to ignore the creeping defences of others is almost ludacris – like inviting the evil in. You can only hope to meet your match in tragedies and scar tissue that you might have a chance of treading together in a way that does not constantly rip the wounds wide open again. And have what we all ultimately want…someone to tell the stories about you that you hope will be your memory, your earthly existence.
I wrote recently about my Grandmother, another story of existence. We had a strong bond her and I – we shared a great love of unique jewellery, beautiful clothes, books and flirting. She was fancy and I admired her. The way she never let a bad day stand in the way of a well put together outfit and some lipstick. When my Grandmother passed, she still had a tube of lipstick in her bra, in case a visitor stopped by, she could apply a pinch of colour. Even as she was dying, she was fancy, because she loved it and people loved that about her. And I tell that story about her because it wraps up for me the link we had while she was here. Her earthly existence was wrapped up in ball gowns she let me gingerly try on and feel against my cheek every Sunday. The stories she told me about every one and the feelings she experienced in and out of them. She told me once, I was just like her, and I remember thinking it was the nicest compliment I had ever received. I think that stands to this day and I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to be the bubbly and entertaining woman she was, to recreate the feeling she brought into a room with her smile and wit. Our stories build on stories and then some. I would never be what I am without her being who she was. A cousin once told me she didn’t know our Grandmother very well, couldn’t really tell you very much about her. I gasped as if she had slapped my face. How did she not know the kind and generous woman I had grown up with? How could someone be telling the story of my Grandmother so differently? These woven tapestries we create as we live are made exactly of that…stories as different as the colours of fabric sewn together with seemingly no connection. But it is presented simply as one long blanket of experience. Our legacies.
In the White Bone, Barbara Gowdy details the lives and deaths of elephants who have long been held to show intense bonds and protectiveness of each other parallel to humans. The above quote refers to the death of one of the elephants and the how the herd must process it, grieve it and move on. It is a heart wrenching passage. It reminds me that nothing on this planet is removed from the circle of life and that we are simply one passage in the story of everything. Humbling. But it keeps me mindful of what I want my passage to read when I’m gone and how I will have to live my life to achieve that. Mostly, that is all we will get as time passes and less and less people who knew us in the flesh are present – one line. I would like it to be one that isn’t easily forgotten.