Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go ahead and call it gay, and tell the Catholics to give the money back

The province of Ontario-- where I was born and raised, and where I lived for the first 20 or so years of my life-- has been spending a lot of time lately talking about bullying in schools, for which I'm grateful. I was bullied as a kid. It's a horrible experience I wouldn't wish on anyone, and it has shaped who I am as an adult. Schools have gradually been getting tougher when it comes to bullying, and now the provincial government is stepping in and means to pass anti-bullying legislation, called the Accepting Schools act, or Bill 13.

As always, the devil is in the details. Included in this bill is a requirement that students be allowed to form Gay-Straight Alliance (or GSA) clubs, or a similar anti-homophobia club that may include the word "gay" in the name. You can't say "gay" without getting religious and "pro-family" groups getting pissed off, and they've latched on to this particular provision of the bill, calling it some gross violation of their religious beliefs. The Catholics are kicking up the most fuss, and because of way the education system in Ontario is set up, the government has something of an obligation to actually listen to and consider their opinions on the matter. Unfortunately.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I got nothin'

Human foot sent to Conservative Party headquarters:
An Ottawa coroner has confirmed a package delivered Tuesday to the Conservative Party of Canada's headquarters in downtown Ottawa contained a human foot.
Major Crimes Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt said the suspicious package was delivered through Canada Post and conceded it's possible it was sent as a "gruesome message."
There's really nothing more I can say about this. 'Cuse me while I collect my jaw from the floor before someone ships it off to Ottawa, too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Worse jobs


The government is finally providing some details on the Employment Insurance reforms they're proposing. It doesn't look good:
The rules will split EI recipients into three categories based on how often they’ve claimed EI in the past. Frequent users would be given just six weeks of EI to look for work in a similar occupation before they will be expected to take “any work” available, provided it pays at least 70 per cent of what their last job paid.
The Chronicle Herald  has a breakdown of the three categories.

The government claims that these changes are not an attack on seasonal workers, though it seems most people here in Atlantic Canada aren't buying it. The thing is, seasonal workers are going to fall into that "frequent users" category, and being forced to accept any available job within an hour's commute and at a possible 30% pay cut, it sure sounds like an attack to me.

That hour commute is nothing to sneeze at, either. Winter is the off-season, and we get a lot of snow out here. A commute like that could be deadly. One of my co-workers was killed this past winter on her way to work. No job is worthy that, and especially not one that pays 30% less than one's last job.

The government continues to repeat the line that these changes are necessary to address labour shortages:
Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley said the changes are necessary because hundreds of thousands of Canadians remain unemployed despite a skilled labour shortage that is “hindering our ability to prosper as a country.”
OH FOR THE LOVE OF COD WOULD YOU SAY WHERE THE LABOUR SHORTAGES ARE, ALREADY?! I keep hearing that there are industries that are hurting for workers, and I'm hoping to go back to school to get the skills I need to maybe fill one of those jobs, if I can ever figure out what skills they're looking for.
This is going to impact everyone because what we want to do is make sure that the McDonald’s of the world aren’t having to bring in temporary foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians who are on EI have the skills to do,” she said.

Some small-business owners are also welcoming the changes, though others are skeptical. On one hand, these businesses will now have plenty of EI-claimants applying for and accepting jobs because they'll lose their benefits if they don't, and those applicants won't be in a position to demand a higher wage. On the other hand, this could lead to a higher turnover rate for those businesses as soon as fishing or farming season rolls around again. Plus, those people will likely jump ship as soon as a better offer comes around; this is why some places won't hire people they believe are "over-qualified", a complaint I've heard many job-seekers make. Or maybe an employee will simply switch to another low-skilled, low paying job. This, I believe, is the reason why the call centre I'm about to be fired from had such a hard time getting and keeping workers. What's the point in staying at a job you hate when you can get another job you might hate a little less, and for the same pay?

But hey, maybe people in Nova Scotia will be able to find jobs related to the $25 billion shipbuilding contract the Irving Shiphard in Halifax was awarded earlier this year. Oh, wait. Nevermind. **facepalm**

Image credit: The Chronicle Herald

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Because I Am A Girl

Today's my day off work, so I finally dragged my lazy ass down to the local hospital to get the bloodwork done that my doctor asked for three weeks ago. It's a long walk-- Google maps tells me it's 2.7km and should take about 33 minutes, though it took me a bit longer than that-- and up-hill both ways. Because in Nova Scotia, walking uphill both ways isn't just something your grandfather tells you when he talks about his own youth. Anyway, today it took me even longer than it ordinarily would because I ended up stopping to talk to a young woman wearing a vest that read, "Because I am a girl".

That right there is a feminist trap if ever I saw one. I see something like that, and I'm drawn to it faster than free coffee at dawn. Why yes, I think I will stop, turn off my iPod, and listen to what you have to say.

The woman was working on behalf of Plan Canada, a charity that, to quote from their website, "is a global movement for change, mobilizing millions of people around the world to support social justice for children in developing countries". They do this by doing things like building schools, providing immunization and other necessary medicine, improving access to safe, clean drinking water and... promoting the rights and interests of children, especially girls.

Because I Am A Girl is an initiative of Plan that is basically all about supporting women and girls. They recognizing that educating and supporting women is one of the best ways to eliminate poverty and improve the lives of the community as a whole. They aim to get and keep girls in school, and so so by not only providing them with food, but sending them food to take home when the school day is done. They also seek to improve access to health care, including reproductive health. (There is no specific mention of contraception as a component of the reproductive health care they provide, though I imagine that is included.) Plan is also not affiliated with any religious groups, which is something I feel is important; I'm generally skeptical of supporting any non-profit group with a religious agenda, especially since many religions are inherently anti-women

This definitely sounds like the sort of charity I'd love to get behind. I want to give them ALL THE MONEY, except I have about a dime in my bank account right now. I mentioned that I was low-income to the woman I was speaking to, and that in light of a lay-off notice I received, I'm in the financial position to make a donation right now. Fortunately, I still have my teaspoon, and a blog where I can promote a cause that I think it worthy of support. I encourage others to check out Plan for themselves.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Plan, and they did not ask me to write this. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Because goblins, that's why

I have often complained that I need an accio spell for my purse. In fact, whenever I'm digging through it for something, I always say to myself, "Accio keys!" or Accio iPod!" or "Accio shitatthebottomofmypurse!" It hasn't worked yet, sadly. Maybe it's because I don't have a wand.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my purse. One of the reasons why I love it is because I can fit so much stuff in it. One of the reasons why it bugs me is... because I can fit so much stuff in it. On an average day, I will have the following things in my purse:

Wallet, keys, cell phone, headphones, iPod, portable CD player, CDs batteries, hand cream, notebook, pen, pencil, e-reader, pain killers, other pain killers, anti-anxiety medication, work badge, flashlight, various charging cables, eye drops, glasses case, condom, various receipts and other small pieces of paper, and my dice.

And I need to have all of those things with me, all the time. I'd be the perfect Boy Scout, except for the lack of penis. I'm always prepared for anything, and I could need any of those items at any moment.

Yes, even the dice. What happens if I run into a gang of goblins? I roll initiative, that's what. And then I try really, really hard to get that accio spell to work.

More bad jobs

In addition to changing some of the rules for employment insurance (which I have already touched on), the Conservative government also plans to fast-track the approval process for temporary foreign workers as past of their massive budget bill. They also will allow employers to pay temporary foreign works 15% less than they'd pay Canadian workers. While I have no problem with businesses bringing in workers from other countries, I completely disagree with paying them less.

Union leaders have accused the Tories of using these things to drive down wages. Businesses, on the other hand, are claiming that they're facing labour shortages, and these changes are necessary to allow them to get the workers they need.

I keep hearing about these labour shortages in the news, and I really wish someone would go into more detail about this. I mean, I'm about to get laid off, and I'm hoping to get assistance from the government to allow me to go back to school so I can get job training. Where are these labour shortages? What fields should I be looking into?

From The Globe and Mail:
Louise Vandenhurk, who owns and runs a Dairy Queen [emphasis mine] in Estevan, Sask., says she would love to hire local workers, but can't find any. She said student applicants are so busy with other activities that their windows of availability are too small to be worthwhile for employers.

I think a big factor contributing to a labour shortage in the fast food industry is because the work sucks (and I've worked in the industry, so I'm speaking from experience), but, most importantly, because the work doesn't pay enough. One would be lucky to pay rent and other expenses working a minimum-wage job. You can forget about buying a house. Savings? Good luck with that. Who needs retirement, anyway?

This is the sort of job EI claimants might be forced to accept. These are the jobs temporary foreign workers might be brought in to fill, and earn 15% less for their efforts.

If the government wants people to fill these jobs, then they need to make it possible for one to live off such a meager income. They should not be forcing people into a minimum-wage job until then.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stuff I've been reading

First, something very close to home: Former Nova Scotia bishop Raymond Lahey stripped of clerical duties over child porn conviction. Apparently this is "one of the most serious penalties that the Roman Catholic Church can impose". What's a guy gotta do to get excommunicated, these days? Lousy Canuck has more.

From The Globe and Mail: 2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today. In response, A 29-year-old on the difficulties of landing a first job.

Across the pond, a couple of posts about the austerity measures in Ireland, and the Fiscal Compact treaty: Burning Our Future To Fuel The Past, Rabbit Of Government Versus Truck Of Euro, and  So Where Do We Get The Money?

Finally, 30 days' worth of grilled cheese sandwich recipes. I recommend exercising caution before clicking on that last link. Make sure you have plenty of bread and cheese handy, first, because it might make you hungry.

I plan on writing more about possible EI changes later this week, as well as something on the student protests in Québec. Anyone got suggestions for other things I should write about?

Hey, is this thing on?

So, I've been doing this blog thing for about two weeks, now. Apperantly I have some people reading what I have to say. Hello, people! It's pretty quiet, though. I played around with some settings last night, including a new layout and installing Disqus. Please, feel free to comment, if only so thay I know it works! I promise, I don't bite.

Unless you're into that, anyway, in which case my preferred safeword is "Santorum".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bad jobs

According to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, there is no such thing as a bad job. This is the attitude members of government are taking as they propose changes to Canada's Employment Insurance (EI) system, changes that could affect myself and my co-workers. (By the way, the layoff notice I got? It was not pink. I was disappointed.) While some have been fortunate enough to find employment elsewhere, many of us will find ourselves collecting EI. That's what happens when the third-largest employer in town shuts its doors in rural Nova Scotia. Many of the people I work with are nervous about these changes, and with good reason. Not many details have been released yet, in true secretive Tory fashion, but from what I've read in the news, it doesn't look good.

First and foremost, there have been proposed changes to the types of jobs people collecting EI are allowed to turn down. Under current rules, you can turn down jobs that aren't in the field you're trained in, or jobs that are significantly below your previous rate of pay, without losing your benefits. Flaherty wants to change that. This has lead to criticisms from the Opposition NDP that teachers, nurses and software developers might be forced to accept a job driving a cab or serving coffee at Tim Hortons, criticisms which are probably hyperbolic.

Obviously, it would be bad if highly skilled individuals are forced to work in fast food or risk losing their EI benefits. What about people already working low-skilled jobs, though? My current job- the one I'll be losing in just over two months- is an entry-level job at a call centre. I would like to be able to move on up to getting a job that will let me use the skills I have, but under these changes, I stand a very real chance of being forced to take that Tim Hortons job. My co-workers will be in the same boat. For me, working in fast food would mean taking a pay cut, for starters. Assuming fast food pays minimum wage-- and most of the time, they do-- I'd earn about 11% less than I currently do. When you're already low-income and struggling to pay the bills, that can be significant. I'm also losing my health insurance when I lose my call centre job, and jobs in the food service industry don't generally offer benefits. I can only think of one that does-- McDonald's-- but I don't know if those benefits will be in any way comparable to what I have now. My prescription drug costs alone would be in the area of $200 per month without coverage. I absolutely cannot afford both an 11% pay cut and the need to pay for my medications completely out-of-pocket.

Collecting EI already means I'm taking a pay cut; I'll receive 55% of my wage, which will actually put me below the poverty line. That 55% is coming out of my gross wages, however; the amount I get after deductions (which includes paying a premium for that health insurance I mentioned earlier) is a good bit lower than that. Also, my cost of living is higher when I'm working compared to when I'm not. I no longer need to worry about transportation costs, for example. Finally-- and probably most significantly-- I will be better able to afford my medication if I'm collecting EI. This is because my gross income while collecting EI means that I'll not only qualify for the Family Pharmacare program here in Nova Scotia, but my deductible will be quite low. Working a minimum wage job would mean my deducible would be four times higher. I would not be able to afford my medication.

Let that sink in for a minute: I am better able to pay for my medication when not working compared to if I was working.

Without my medication, I would be unable to work. Hell, even with my medication, I have a hard time working; I can't imagine what my life would be like without it. What this means for me is that, when I look for a new job, I have to be picky. I cannot afford to work at a job that does not offer health benefits which would allow me to pay for the medication I need to do the job.

Minister Flaherty is quite wrong when he says that there is no such thing as a bad job. If changes to EI mean that I am forced to take what is, for me, a bad job, I would be unable to keep said job. My health would deteriorate until I am forced to quit or take a leave of absence, or I end up getting fired for some combination of poor performance and too many sick days.

Unlike the idea of teachers and nurses working at Tim Hortons, what I am describing is not hyperbole. If changes are made to the type of jobs EI claimants are allowed to refuse, this could very well be my reality, and it is a very scary reality.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is Barack Obama the first gay President?

No! Why are we even asking this question?!

It's the fault of Newsweek, and an article written by Andrew Sullivan. Obama recently came out in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples. This is a good-- though not entirely unexpected-- thing. The US president has been slowly working to repeal legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian Americans: the Obama administration no longer defends the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), for example, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell is no more. Marriage equality is a natural progression-- or evolution, if you prefer-- of these actions. It doesn't make Obama "the first gay President", however.

To my knowledge, Barack Obama has not come out as a gay or bisexual man. While I don't want to assume heterosexuality, I do think it's a safe conclusion to make, here. He seems to be very much in love with his wife, at any rate. Why, then, is Sullivan portraying Obama as the first gay President, when as far as anyone can tell, he doesn't fit the bill?

It's an allusion to a 1998 quote by Toni Morrison, referring to the possible impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton:
Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
 Fortunately, Morrison was wrong about Clinton being "blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime", seeing as it was only 10 years later that Barack Obama was elected President. Morrison later went on to clarify what she meant by that phrase:
People misunderstood that phrase. I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race.
How, exactly, is Obama's statement supporting marriage equality anything like Clinton's treatment in 1998? There's no comparison that can be made, here.

Sullivan tries to draw a comparison, though, by looking at Obama's childhood, as a black man being raised by a white mother and grandparents.  From the article:
The core gay experience throughout history has been displacement, a sense of belonging and yet not belonging. Gays are born mostly into heterosexual families and discover as they grow up that, for some reason, they will never be able to have a marriage like their parents’ or their siblings’. They know this before they can tell anyone else, even their parents. This sense of subtle alienation—of loving your own family while feeling excluded from it—is something all gay children learn.
Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. 
There is something about this comparison that rubs me the wrong way. To me, it looks like Sullivan is grasping at straws in order to make the claim that Obama's experience as a black youth is similar to that of gay youth, when the reality is that they are two different things. Frankly, by calling Obama the "first gay President" and using his childhood upbringing to demonstrate how it's just like a gay child's upbringing (except in all the ways it's different) strikes me as trying to erase Obama's identity as a black President.

(Which is not to say that one can't be both a black and gay President; it's just that Obama is only one of those things, and it's not the thing Sullivan or Newsweek claims he is.)

 I like the way Renee Martin of Womanist Musings put it:
What Barack Obama did does not make him the gay president, anymore than Bill Clinton was the first Black president.  You don't take on the identity of a marginalized person simply be [sic] attempting to be an ally. Now, to be clear, I'm not pulling a no homo here, I am talking about the appropriation of a marginalized identity in order to give the appearance of being liberal, inclusive and tolerant. A straight man, cannot by definition be the gay president.  He can advocate for GLBT rights and in fact should do so, but I reject this appropriation. 

To be fair, it's not Obama appropriating a gay identity, here; it's others bestowing it on him. I suppose Obama could grab hold of this identity and use it to garner support form queer Americans (not unlike how Clinton supporters used Morrison's"first black president" comment), but I doubt that he will. While the President has been frustratingly slow in going public with his support for same-sex marriage, I think he has too much respect for the gay community to take on an appropriated identity.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Nelly Furtado's Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)

One of the things I thought was pretty cool about Nelly Furtado's music was the variety. I remember flipping through the booklet of my copy of Folklore and thinking, "She used all these instruments in just this one song?" To me, Furtado seemed really unique among artists. I admit, the first time I heard Promiscuous (the first single I'd heard from her 2006 album, Loose), I was disappointed. I had been expecting more songs like those from Folklore, or from her debut album, Woah, Nelly!, and I definitely wasn't expecting to hear yet another hip-hop song. The track grew on me, though, and six years later, I still play it on a regular basis. I mean, the song just oozes sexual positivity, and that's definitely a theme I can get behind.

Big Hoops (Bigger the Better) is more like the stuff from Loose than from either Folklore or Woah, Nelly!; it's the sort of song you might dance to at a club. It's also really, really catchy. Furtado has stated that this song has her channeling her 14-year-old self, back in the early '90s. She said that hip-hop wasn't really a big thing in Vancouver at the time, so if she wanted to hear hip-hop, she had to try and catch it from radio stations south of the border. I have to say, my own inner child is also loving the idea of big hoops, since I wore a lot of big earrings when I was young, too.

It was the video for Big Hoops that made me stop and think, though:

First of all, the stilts? Impressive. Mostly, though, what caught my attention were the hoop dancers, starting 20 seconds in.

I watched the rest of the video, bought and downloaded the song and played it a few times (like I said, it's catchy), but I kept thinking back to the use of Native American hoop dancers in the video. I remember there were some criticisms (and rightly so) surrounding Native American appropriation in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, 2010 (where Furtado preformed), as well as the use of indigenous imagery in marketing for the games. (This article discusses the issue far better than I ever could, and I recommend it for those who are interested.) I was initially concerned that Furtado had fallen into the trap of appropriating elements of other cultures (Aboriginal culture, in this case), and doing it in an inappropriate and/or racist way, not unlike what was done during the Olympics. However, this was the same artist who sang Powerless (Say What You Want), so I wanted to read up on the subject before passing any judgement.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am not an expert on the subject, but based on what I've read and learned? I think Furtado got it right.

It's not Nelly doing the hoop dancing; rather, it's Tony Duncan, an Apache world champion hoop dancer from Mesa, Arizona. Also in the video is his brother, Kevin Duncan, and his wife Violet preforms a shall dance later on in the video. In other words, Furtado and her team brought in the experts for this video, as opposed to hiring white dancers and putting them in some bastardized stereotypical Native American costume. There are some shots with Furtado and the Duncans together (including the last shot of the video), but she's got her big hoops on, not a costume. It looks to me like Furtado tried- and succeeded- to include elements of Native American culture in this video, rather than just appropriating those elements.

I also highly recommend reading what Native Appropriations has to say about the video.

After Big Hoops, I'm really excited to see what the rest of Furtado's album, The Spirit Indestructible, has to offer.

Also, very much wanting to one of these tank tops, which not only look awesome, but support Free The Children's efforts to build an all-girls school in Kenya, which is definitely a cause I can get behind.

Okay, let's talk about abortion.

Normally I stay the ever-loving fuck away from anything written in the Toronto Sun, but today's an exception. Today was the annual March for Life, a protest held in Ottawa calling for abortion to be outlawed. I suppose this year is a bit special since not only do we have a Conservative majority in Parliament, a back-bencher MP from Kitchener, Ontario, Stephen Woodworth, tabled a bill in Parliament just a few weeks ago calling for a special committee to be formed to discuss when life begins. He says our current definition isn't scientific, or something like that.

Now, I'm not a biologist, but I think it's safe to say that, scientifically speaking, a fetus is alive. I think that's something both pro- and anti-choicers can agree on. I'll even go as far as to say that life begins even before conception, since both the sperm and egg cells that go on to form a zygote are alive. That scientific enough for you, Mr. Woodworth?

It comes as no surprise to me that columnists for the Toronto Sun would like to see the abortion debate re-opened. A choice quote: "Canada is the only developed nation without any restrictions on abortion."

Anti-choicers like Woodworth see that as a major hole in Canadian law. I, on the other hand, think that's something other countries should strive for.

Quick history lesson, here. In 1969, Canada began allowing women to have legal abortions, but only if they could convince a panel of doctors (known as a Therapeutic Abortion Committee, or TAC) that one was medically necessary. This requirement was challenged by Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who set up an abortion clinic that specifically catered to women who wanted abortions, but didn't have TAC certification. Morgentaler wanted to challenge Canada's existing abortion laws, and he finally succeeded in having those laws struck down in 1988. Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative party was in government at the time, and they twice tried to pass new abortion legislation. The first bill didn't pass the House of Commons, and the second was defeated in the Senate. (I knew there was a reason Canada had a Senate!) There have been some backdoor attempts to outlaw abortion since then (Woodworth's bill being one of them), but no bills changing the legal status of abortion in Canada have been brought forward since Mulroney. Anyone curious can read more on the subject on Wikipedia.

 Woodworth's bill doesn't propose making abortion illegal, per se, but it's not fooling anybody, either: by examining the point at which life begins, Woodworth is trying to grant legal rights to a fetus, thus outlawing abortion once again. At the moment, a baby only gains rights after it has fully emerged from the birth canal. From the Toronto Sun article I previously linked:

It would be perfectly legal in Canada to kill a baby that was halfway down the birth canal because there is no protection for life until the baby is fully delivered and breathing on its own.
Let's be realistic, here: no one is going to decide to terminate a pregnancy halfway through giving birth. In Canada, less than 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks. When they do occur, they are almost always because the fetus has already died or will have serious birth defects, or because the woman's health is at risk if the pregnancy continues. An abortion at that stage in the pregnancy is done because it's medically necessary. They become less safe as a pregnancy continues, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to find a doctor who will preform a late-term abortion for that reason. There are plenty of medical reasons why abortions don't happen at 40 weeks gestation, and legal limitations on abortion are unnecessary.

Some anti-choicers are faux-feminists, especially when it comes to sex-selective abortions:
We can’t even discuss the problem of sex-selective abortion in Canada in a rational way, at least not in our legislatures.
Two recent papers by the Canadian Medical Association Journal have shown what many people have known for years. Immigrant women from certain Asian countries, namely China, India and South Korea, are obtaining abortions when they find out they are carrying a girl. Girls are unfortunately not valued in some cultures and so they are aborted before they even have a chance at life. The result is a gender imbalance with far more boys born in these certain communities than nature would have.
Is this the country that we want? A country where girls are aborted simply for being girls, where our most vulnerable, those without a voice of their own, can have their life taken away from them?
Surely a civilized and mature country like Canada can do better than this.
We do not demonstrate that we value women by taking rights away from them. If those people truly cared about the issue of sex-selective abortions, they'd be working hard to ensure that woman have all the opportunities men do. There is still a problem with misogyny in Canada, and people who claim to value girls should be trying to eliminate that, not trying to outlaw abortion.

Woodworth isn't trying to outlaw abortion, though; he simply wants to form a committee that will look at updating a 400-year-old definition of when life begins so that it's more in line with modern medical and scientific advances. I've already established that a fetus is alive, though. The thing is, if we're going to discuss the legal definition of when life begins, we should not be having a scientific discussion. This isn't about science; it's about rights.

Namely, it's about whether or not we let the rights of one person infringe upon the rights of another.

Here's the thing: for 40 weeks, a fetus lives inside the body of a woman.  It is wholly dependent on her for survival and nourishment, and it does so by taking nourishment from her. Finally, it exits her body, and painfully so. Furthermore, in spite of all our medical and scientific advances, pregnancy and birth are not completely safe. Does a fetus have the right to steal nourishment? Does it have the right to injure, and possibly kill?

Or, put it this way: do we give those rights to a parasite?

It might sound crass, but a fetus and a parasite have a lot in common. We do not give rights to a parasite; in fact, should a human being become infected with one, we generally seek its removal. Why, then, are people trying so damn hard to force a woman to keep her fetus-parasite?

One can also look at it this way: we do not force people to share their bodies with another person, even if it means that the other person will die. No one is forced to donate their organs, or their blood, or their bone marrow (which I've heard is quite painful). Yet some will argue that a woman must share her body with a fetus, something we'd never force her to do if that fetus was an adult.

This is what Woodworth and his ilk want. Fortunately, even under Stephen Harper, arguably Canada's most conservative Prime Minister ever, it won't happen. Abortion won't be discussed in Parliament, not because people don't care about the issue, but because it's been decided, already. It was decided in 1988 in the Supreme Court, and again by the failure to pass legislation restricting abortion under Mulroney. It's long past time for Woodworth and others who would try to limit abortion to just give it up, already. At this point, it's just a waste of Parliament's time, and a waste of my tax money.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In the news

Just a couple of news items I've been reading, which I may or may not write more about in a future post.

First off, US President Barack Obama finally comes out in favour of marriage equality. As expected, presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney confirms that he is still a homophobe. Today, an article from the Washington Post reveals just how much of a homophobe Romney is, recalling incidents from Romney's high school days where he bullied-- violently so, in at least one instance-- classmates who weren't masculine enough. Romney claims he doesn't remember, but it definitely wasn't because he thought those students were gay!

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains firm in her opposition to same-sex marriage, and plans to vote accordingly on the three private-members bills that hope to change Australia's marriage laws.

Some good news out of Argentina: the Senate unanimously passed a gender identity bill that not only allows people to change their name and gender on official documents without requiring surgery or psychiatric permission. Furthermore, people who wish to transition will be able to do so, and have it covered by both the public and private health care systems.

Today is my day off work. I am now going to go celebrate that with a nap, and possibly more posts will come later.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well, this sucks.

Amendment One passes in North Carolina, banning same-sex marriages in the state.

Obviously this outcome is full of suck, but there is one particular thing I want to highlight (emphasis mine):

The vote came after weeks of heated debate in church pews and over the airwaves. More than $3 million was spent on the rival campaigns. Ministers formed coalitions pushing for and against the measure, and cities passed resolutions condemning it. Former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Billy Graham weighed in on opposite sides, and law professors skirmished over the consequences. 
So, I'll be over here waiting for the tax-exempt status of all the NC churches who participated in the campaign to be revoked.

I imagine I'll be waiting a while. Separation of church and state, my ass.

On Christian privilege

Recently, a student at a high school here in Nova Scotia was suspended for five days because he refused to stop wearing a t-shirt that school officials say some students and teachers found offensive. The shirt in question states, "Life is wasted without Jesus." When the student, William Swinimer, was asked to stop wearing the shirt, he refused, and then went as far as to wear it to school every day for several weeks. (I imagine it must have stunk something fierce, unless he had more than one copy of the shirt.) Finally, the school suspended Swinimer, and it drew a lot of attention across the country (and maybe even further). The school has since reversed its decision and allowed Swinimer to return to school and wear his shirt.

Upon first hearing about the story, one of my initial reactions was to wonder what dress code policies the school has in place, and whether or not Swinimer's shirt was in violation of said policy. I think I must be the only one to have this reaction, as I haven't read any articles mentioning it. Then again, I had to wear a uniform in high school, so my perspective is a bit different.

On the surface, this seems like a pretty cut-and-dry issue; people have the right to freedom of religion and expression in this country, and while Swinimer's response to being asked to stop wearing that particular t-shirt is a real asshole move, he's still well within his rights. (And, to be honest, when I was Swinimer's age I probably would have done something similar.) I think the school was in the wrong for suspending Swinimer because of the shirt. I do not, however, support Swinimer.

This article  is the first one I read about the controversy. Swinimer is quoted as saying, "Some people say you're not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down."

Ahh, yes. Poor Christian student, so immersed in Christian privilege that he can't see all the Christian influences around him. It seems like he's forgotten that he wasn't in school over Easter weekend, or that he gets time off for Christmas. He doesn't have to go to school on his religion's Sabbath day. In fact, until recently, you couldn't go shopping on a Sunday in Nova Scotia. But no, there's no Christianity in schools, and everyone picks on the poor Christians.

There's another choice quote from The Gazette:
As young Swinimer himself pointed out last week: Kids at his school can sport Satanic motifs without apparent difficulty. The Twilight books, which glorify vampirism? No doubt that's OK. But an overt expression of Christianity? Tut, tut.
Twilight is Satanic, now? Really? A series of books that put heavy emphasis on sexual purity until marriage, about a man who stalks his girlfriend, narrated by a woman who sees his abusive and manipulative actions as the ultimate expression of his love for her? A series of books written by a devout Christian? Are all books save the Bible banned in the Swinimer household?

Today was supposed to be Swinimer's first day back at school. Yes, he was still wearing his t-shirt. However, the student's father, John Swinimer, made quite the show of pulling his son out of school upon hearing that the school was holding voluntary forums on how students can appropriately express religions beliefs. Waving a Bible around, he said, "[William] will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic — good old fashioned academics."

Good old fashioned academics, eh? Like a return to the days when religion was taught in public schools?

The forums being held by the school-- which are entirely voluntary-- are being facilitated by  a representative from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, along with psychologists, school staff, and hosted by officials from the provincial Education department. John Swinimer's actions suggest that he doesn't want his son participating in discussions on religious tolerance, or how to express beliefs in more respectful way. From the Globe and Mail:
[John Swinimer] said he wouldn't allow William to participate in discussions about freedom of expression and religious tolerance that provincial Education Department officials were hosting inside the school.

"When they're having forums, when they're having other extra-curricular activities, he will not attend that school."
 Other students from the school are now speaking out, saying that William Swinimer's suspension is about more than just his t-shirt. Swinimer would frequently try to evangelize other students, and, according to this article from the CBC, he paid particular attention to foreign students. Swinimer would also tell students they were going to hell if they didn't convert.

Was Swinimer's rebellion really about freedom of religion, or was he more concerned with being able to harass other students who didn't agree with his particular flavour of Christianity, or Christianity at all? Based on the reaction today, on what was supposed to be Swinimer's first day back at school after his suspension, I'm inclined to think it's the latter. They're steeped in Christian privilege, and fighting like hell to keep it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The basics.

For far too long now, I've had a very hard time writing anything. I'm still having a hard time with it. Even now, after two sentences, I'm stopping, pausing, switching to a different browser tab, and just struggling to get the words out on the page. I want to keep trying, though. Maybe if I write all the words that keep running around in my head, they'll stop keeping me up at night.

So let's start with the basics.

I'm 26 years old.

I'm Canadian, originally from southwestern Ontario, now living in Nova Scotia.

I'm a woman, though I'm not especially feminine.

I'm very politically aware, and I'm a small-l liberal (not to be confused with capital-L Liberals. I actually vote NDP.)

I'm a feminist.

I'm somewhere on the atheist-agnostic spectrum, religiously speaking.

I struggle with mental illness, among other health problems.

I like to read historical fiction, and I have a slight obsession with Greek mythology, especially where it concerns Gorgons.

I'm a geek, and I enjoy table-top gaming. I also nerdrage over the way DnD handles gorgons (they're wrong!)

I'm a Slytherin.

I'm currently working a shitty job, but I'll be unemployed as of July 26 when the site where I work will close.

I really don't know what I want to do with my life, and I'd really like to get that sorted out before I lose my job, or at least have a general direction in mind.

 Maybe if I stick with this writing thing a bit more, I'll figure something out.