Well this poor little blog has been long neglected.  What better way to break it in again than with a post about Ann Coulter?  OK, maybe there could be better ways but this is what I am going with.

This evening brought Ann Coulter to the campus of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.  This was her first visit to Canada and first stop in her three University tour.  As a proud UWO student I have been appalled by the thought of her arrival on this campus.  As a human being I couldn’t think of anyone more offensive based on her well known hateful language and general grand-standing (OK, I’m sure I could think of someone more offensive, but for arguments sake…)

I was part of discussions about peaceful protest.  I was part of discussions about grandiose protests.  I briefly imagined the joy of participating in a group same-sex kiss-in… and then remembered how much Coulter and her admirers would relish the attention of any form of “liberal, lefty” protest.

So instead of making my way anywhere near the building Coulter would be speaking in I went about my life by attending classes, laughing with friends, and working my part time job.  Oh yes, lets not forget my small measure of wearing my “This is what a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt.  (I had to counter act the negativity in the Universe in some way!)

After all those decisions I still couldn’t help myself when I discovered “Ann Coulter” was a trending topic on Twitter (my new found love for Twitter is ever growing), I had to follow it.  Not only that but I helped bring the conversation to focus by announcing the #coulterincanada hash-tag which was quickly picked up.  Through Twitter I read some of her comments to the audience and soon after it was done I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook (oh the wonders of social media).  I was informed that the talk was horrifying.  But after some thought I think this talk was horrifying for reasons other than Coulter herself.

Outside of Coulter’s inflammatory, hate-filled language was the reactions of an audience who couldn’t get enough of it.  Coulter has little problem rhyming off sexist, racist, and homophobic language and as upsetting as her statements can be, they are those of an individual.  The truly disturbing part is that a room of around 800 people would sit there and listen, enjoy, and fully agree with her statements.  For example, a few news outlets have picked up the story of how she told a Muslim student to use a camel for transportation if she couldn’t find a flying carpet.  This comment was met with cheers.  People agreed and approved.

As one Twitter comment states: Glad #uwo decided to have the #CoulterinCanada speech here. I now realize racism is alive, thriving and encouraged on campus. I am disturbed.

If we are going to take a meaningful message away from how Ann Coulter presents ideas it shouldn’t be reactions of hate toward her.  It shouldn’t be name calling of bitch, cunt, whore, or the devil.  Instead the message should be an evaluation of those who take her seriously and agree with her.  We need to deeply evaluate why a group of 800 UWO and London community members would cheer on racism delivered directly to an individual.  What was proven Monday night was that racism, homophobia, and sexism are thriving and encouraged in London and UWO community members.

We have to ask ourselves if this is acceptable.  Can we call ourselves an inclusive, open, and diverse community when so many will cheer on visible discrimination?

I have come to the belief that Coulter is playing us all for fools.  She makes wildly offensive and contradictory statements that illicit emotional reactions from both the audience that loves her and the audience that hates her.  Through the polarization of arguments she encourages a lack of discussion, because really, if people were engaged in open dialogue she would be out of a job.

In an attempt to better understand Coulter, some have tried to compare her to political satirist Stephen Colbert, if only she would come out and admit it.  I don’t believe this is the case.  The difference between Coulter and Colbert is that with Colbert the audience is in on the joke while with Coulter the joke is on her audience.   Through the language and actions of her audience we can uncover where oppression lays and recognize it for how it is ingrained socially instead of contained in a single individual.

Censoring Coulter will not end oppression.  Instead, lets educate and empower our communities so that they refuse to sit by and allow racism, sexism, or homophobia to be used against community members (both locally and globally).

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Jessica over at feministing.com hits on how I have been feeling about cultural misogyny and the ignorance of it over the last few days.

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I have been putting this post off for a few days thinking that my outrage would subside and then I could find the words to write.  However, three days later, I still find myself consumed with anger, frustration, and shock.

I am talking about the shooting that happened in Pittsburgh at an LA Fitness Club on Tuesday.  The gunman, George Sodini, murdered three women; Heidi Overmier, Elizabeth Gannon, Jody Billingsley after walking into a dance class and opening fire on everyone in the room.  He also injured nine others then killed himself.

What has been discovered after the fact is that this man killed these women because they were women and he hated women.  It has been found (and published) that Sodini kept an online journal, which outlined his misogyny, racism, and ‘exit’ plan.

As I said, I have been struggling with this piece of news for a few days now.  I was first told about it by a co-worker who was sure I would have heard about it already.  When I finally got onto the internet, I had to dig around a bit to find a brief story.  Finally, the feminist blogs I follow had postings.

Now, after a few days of reading, thinking, yelling, and reading some more I am left with an overall feeling that outside of feminist groups…socially…culturally…this is seen as unimportant.  I want to be wrong.

Some news articles have attempted to point out how this is a misogynistic, gender based crime.  That this man had planned for almost a year to mass murder women. However, there are more articles, and hundreds of internet comments, that dismiss this shooting as the actions of an ill individual.  The overall assumption being that we all make our own choices as individuals and are disconnected from any great ideological or power structures that inform our actions.

Sodini was just a sick man who didn’t get any  help.

My thoughts – bull shit.

Allow me to explain.  I have to ask, would he still be ill if he had not walked into a public space with weapons and murdered women?  What if he had just kept blogging his opinion that women are “hoez” and “bitches”?  What if he had kept living his life assuming that he deserved sexual interaction with women – that it was the only way that men feel good about themselves?

Put another way – are the men who rate women’s physical appearance ill?  Are the men who expect sex from women after buying them something ill?  Are the men who call women who aren’t interested in them “bitches” ill?  What if they called other men pussies?  What if they stare at women’s bodies? What if they demand to see women’s breasts?  What if they hit a women when she “talks back”?  Is that ill… or is that “normal”?

So, if Sodini had lived his life out in these ways, would he still be ill? Would we condemn such thoughts as wrong?  Or would many slap him on the back and laugh about those “bitches”?

It can be difficult to look at his actions this way because we (the media/public) want to remove ourselves from such violence and convince ourselves that this was the actions of a mad man.  Because if his actions aren’t ill but follow with the social script… then what does that mean for the rest of us?

Because the way I see it, his murderous actions and the way he thought/felt/lived his life are not mutually exclusive.  The way Sodini felt about women is not a one-off.  He was not alone in his feelings.  This is a culture that breeds misogyny and sexism.  This is a culture that allows men like Sodini to blog the things he did, feel the way he did, act the way he did and then turns it’s back and dismisses him as an anomaly when women are being shot, stabbed, beaten, raped, assaulted, verbally abused, publicly humiliated and shamed every dayevery where.

By dismissing this man as ill, the media is normalizing the way  he felt and his violent actions.  It is like saying, “this is a sad event… but what are you gunna do?  It’s just one of those things”.

I can’t understand why violence like this and the violence that is happening every day in every part of the world is not making people take to the streets demanding an end to it.  I don’t understand why men are not demanding an end to the violence that other men inflict on women, children, and each other.

This is not a story that should be dismissed.  We need to be making the connections of how women are viewed and treated on a daily basis, to such large violent acts such as this one or the Amish girls who were shot down in their school, or the women raped and murdered in the Congo, or the women shot and killed in Montreal the École Polytechnique Massacre in 1989.

Perhaps it is that the

disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock.

But I urge everyone to be shocked by all degrading treatment of women.  I also urge everyone to start questioning why some men are brought to lengths of violence.  If we don’t start asking these questions and having this dialogue, how is this violence and hatred ever going to end?

I am outraged and I encourage everyone else to be as well.

A very interesting, important, and well written post from Feministing.com about the issues surrounding the up coming revision of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R).

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Raymond Blanchard has some proposals for expanding the “paraphilia” section including naming anything outside of “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling” as a disorder.  Also included is changing “Transvestic Fetishism” to “Transvestic Disorder” – specifically if you are a heterosexual, cisgender male.

Another frightening aspect of Blanchard’s proposal is that any sexual interest other than “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling” is now, by definition, a paraphilia. In his presentation, he claimed that paraphilias should include all “erotic interests that are not focused on copulatory or precopulatory behaviors, or the equivalent behaviors in same-sex adult partners.” Copulatory is defined as related to coitus or sexual intercourse (i.e., penetration sex). So, essentially, all forms of sexual arousal and expression that are not centered around penetration sex may now be considered paraphilias.

These suggetions only further gender and sexual stereotypes that hinder and shame the sexual experiences and gender identities of everyone.   Please read the post linked to above and become aware of this important current issue.

Since classes let out, I have been spending some much needed quality time sleeping, getting back in touch with loved ones, and catching up on my television consumption.  In my moments of T.V. zoning out I have been running across my nemesis, commercials.  Over the years my partner and I have got into the habit of muting commercials so as to avoid the inane chatter, however, the imagery still sneaks through and gets me angry.

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The most recent inanity is a product line called “The Skinny Cow“.   This is a line of ice cream diet products that boast low calories and high flavor all part of a diet product crazed media that makes (mainly) women recall that they should always be on a diet because they are never good enough.

When I saw the mascot for these products, I just about fell over.  It isn’t good enough that the product is called “Skinny Cow” – I’m sure meant to link images of dairy products (that we all know are full of Evil Fat) to weight loss – but their mascot is, in fact, a skinny cow!  Now, to me this seems to epitomize what weight loss culture is all about – skinny, under-weight, unhealthy, emaciated bodies.

“The Skinny Cow” is meant to remind the consumer that skinny is sexy, healthy, acceptable and to not think about what a real skinny cow would look like:

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I am just so sick of the message upon message that tells women they are not good enough until they are a certain clothing size or body image.

As has been mentioned in a previous post, women are the ones who spend much of their time thinking about food for themselves and their families and so commercials are directed at them.  These media representations and messages remind women over and over again that food is some kind of enemy.  These “Skinny Cow” products are framed as if they are a help to women, but what they are really telling people is that regular ice cream is not good for you, but their product is and that is because this product won’t Turn Against You and your forever diet.

Why are women regulated to eating “fake” food, or less food?  I am currently reading Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat where she discusses how in times of scarcity, women (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) are the ones who give up meat and larger food portions to men with whatever is left over going to children.  It seems that women are the ones who sacrifice themselves for any number of dietary causes including the Western Social ideal of “skinniness”.

So I ask you, when are we going to get images of “Healthy Cows”?  And when are we going to be happy with those images?  Is it possible in a media driven society that values zero fat and how might we envision that possibility?

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For now, I ask everyone to rethink that guilt reflex that comes from eating the “wrong” food and to feel proud in eating.  Food fuels us, brings us together, celebrates with us, and we experience food.

Now I’m hungry, I’m going to go and experience a sandwich.

After a feminist rant from a friend about the film “He’s Just Not That Into You“, I decided to put myself through the certain torment of watching this film based on a book based on a line from a hit TV show.

Thank God for Rational Men or else nothing would ever get done... am I right?

Thank God for Rational Men or else nothing would ever get done... am I right?

Over the last few years this book has been recommended to me and I have heard it’s praises sung by women who are so glad to have been told “how it is.”  This book is held up as some kind of Holy book filled with spiritual mantras to repeat to ones feminine brain when it becomes too laborious to think for ones self (as all Emotional Women have experienced from time to time).

If He’s Not Calling You… He’s Just Not that Into You.

If He’s Not Sleeping With You…He’s Just Not that Into You.

If He Doesn’t Want to Marry You… (everyone now!) He’s Just Not that Into You.

I have several problems with this book and now movie.  To begin with,  my personal opinion is that popular culture self help books are crap (I’m looking at you Dr. Phil).  They are written by people who are making piles of cash off of your personal suffering and are in no way held accountable for the information they provide.

Second, these types of books are written in broad terms to apply to as many people as possible.  They are like those online quizzes that claim they can tell you deep secrets about yourself based on what colours you choose and in what order you choose them.  The results are so sweeping that everyone can find something in the resulting paragraph that relates to themselves and so they believe that the internet quiz is the only thing that truly knows them, even better than they know themselves.

My main problem with this title rests outside the genre of self-help and falls heavily on the fact that “He’s Just Not That Into You” relies on one pillar of Capital “T” Truth,  Men are Rational and Women are Emotional.  This brand of essentialism has divided women and men for centuries and in that essentialism Rational Men are superior to the inferior Emotional Women.  The authors of this book claim that they wrote it to help women but it seems their idea of help has more to do with putting down women and their intelligence than talking about communication with potential partners.

I found an excerpt online where in author Greg Behrendt replies to women’s (clearly made up) letters.  One woman, Nikki, tells Greg that he is silly for telling women that they shouldn’t call men because she has called men all the time and sees nothing wrong with it.  Greg proceeds to put her down, tell her she is wrong, throw in the age old “Men are pursuers, you are emasculating them by calling” story and then gets a woman, co-author Liz Tuccillo, to back him up.

Cute.

Is this advice suppose to make me feel bad about myself?

Is this advice suppose to make me feel bad about myself?

Before I start choking on my own rage lets try to wrap a few things up.

I have to ask, why is this book hiding behind a message of empowering women when it is really insulting them and teaching them nothing about how to be communicating individuals who are confident in their needs, desires, and pleasures?

Also, why are men not being encouraged to be communicating individuals who are confident in their needs, desires, and pleasures?  In the movie the only advice given to a man about how a woman is treating him involves two gay men explaing how “gay signals” work before telling him to “man up” and take charge of that little lady.  After all, women just want to be dominated don’tcha know?

Instead this book and this film, encourage essentialist views on gender that state men “just are a certain way” and women need to learn that and adapt to it.  Why are women the ones who need to change?  Why are women the ones who have it wrong and need to learn from men how to get “it” right?

I call bull-shit on the tired notion that Rational Men need to teach Emotional Women how to better serve men.  Because that is what it really comes down to.  This is not about women’s fulfillment or relationship health, “He’s Just Not That Into You” is about molding women into passive, un-intelligent, play things.

I can understand it though… because I mean, really, if Emotional Women started thinking for themselves, who knows what they might try to do…

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I am going to try and get back on board for this blog and my first order of business was updating the banner and layout.  I’m rather proud of it if I do say so myself.  And so the second order of business would be to write a post with some substance to it.  I have been mulling over what I could possibly write about including items from my personal life, information from class, or just hitting up an idea from another blog.

I have opted for an intersection of the first and last of the ideas on the list.

Over at Jezebel there is a post asking if Women Bear the Burden of Ethical Eating.  In the last few years there has been a growing focus on organics, veg*nism, and local food with such books at the 100 Mile Diet.  Such dietary choices are presented for everyone alike and yet the question must be asked, who is at the forefront of this movement?  Are women and men alike jumping on board with ethical eating or are women disproportionately dealing with ethical food choices?

I would argue that women are, indeed, disproportionately those most concerned with ethical eating.  This, of course, does not mean that there are not men who are passionate about ethical eating, but I think we can agree that in general women are still the ones spending the most time with food for themselves and their families.

There is an overabundance of cooking television channels and shows that are directed at women as the provider of sustenance for her family.  Our media tells us that Mom has difficulty finding time to cook and so has microwave meals or KFC’s “Mom’s Night Off” to help her out.

And so I do think that there is a gender gap in ethical eating.  Women are spending the time thinking about veg*n lifestyles, organic fruit and vegetables, or providing food locally produced.

On a personal note, I have seen this in my own life as I have always been the one more concerned about healthy eat and implementing it.  In part this is because, being a girl child, I have had a lot of practice thinking about food starting from a young age helping my mother in the kitchen.  When I made the choice to follow a vegetarian diet it was my choice alone and meat-free meals are in the home of my partner and I mainly because I do all the cooking.  This is not to say that I do the cooking or grocery shopping alone, but I do recognize that I am the main force behind creating meal plans, choosing foods, and following dietary restrictions.

Vegetarianism and masculinity still do not mesh well socially as he and I have combated notions of meat deprivation and therefore emasculating.   This suggests that it may be all fine and good for women to follow plant based diets but men should be sure to eat a whole cow once a week.  This undermines ethical eating and places it in the realm of Other, a place that men should never want to find themselves.

So, how can this gender gap be closed?

There are a couple of things that I think is working for me and my partner. The first is dialog about ethical eating.  He is open to talking about why I have come to my conclusions and has recently made the choice to look into some of them further on his own.  This also includes talking with family and friends about ethical food choices as well.  Secondly, we grocery shop and prepare meals together as much as possible.  For us this helps foster equality in the kitchen a real traditionally inhabited by women and girls.  These are ways that are getting us on track to eliminate the disproportion of ethical eating and food preparation.

What are some other ways that the gender gap can be closed when it comes to food and ethical eating?