Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christie Blatchford and the Mystery of the Backhanded Homophobe

It's always a struggle for me when I read something hideous, from a columnist that I despise, because my first reaction is to disseminate it. Why is that a problem? Well, we live in a society where people say the grossest things to get attention, because any kind of publicity or recognition is better than being obscure. Barbara and Jonathan Kay, Rosie DiManno, and Christie Blatchford are just a few names that come to mind when I think of shitty journalism. These people have great jobs, at media outlets with a broad audience, and are not held accountable for what they write -- not the quality of writing, the lack of research, or the reprehensible nature of their opinion. It seems best to quietly laugh at what they write and move on, not draw a lot of attention to it, and hope that they will soon retire. Once in awhile, though, a "journalist" writes something so absurd and contemptible that to let it fly under the radar would be criminal. Such is Christie Blatchford's latest "opinion": Toronto, City of Sissies.

Blatchford writes:

"The bull terrier and I were on a long forced march on the toney part of Yonge Street, in Rosedale.

There were a couple of boys, maybe 10 years old, maybe 12, walking ahead of me. Coming towards them was another small knot of boys about the same age.

The two groups met, and immediately began hugging each another, one at a time. The trustees and ding-dongs at the Toronto District School Board would have been ecstatic; I was mortified and appalled."

Apparently, Blatchford has never seen boys or men hug before -- especially "one at a time". After she barfed into her three thousand dollar COACH purse, she and her bull terrier went straight home to wash themselves of the faggy fag residue those boys had scattered. Then she went to her safe home, wrote something hateful for her safe job, and fell asleep on the downy chest of some brawny man who kisses with his fists just the way God intended? What the hell is this woman on?

The first thing I thought of when I read this article: this bitch is white. This bitch is SO white. Some of us come from cultures where hugging and kissing -- even amongst the MEN-- is common. Men and boys, hugging their relatives and their friends, without even thinking about the consequences! Amazing! These same men and boys work hard, are macho men, get into fights, stand up for themselves and others, and generally perpetuate other (often damaging) stereotypes of masculinity. So Christie Blatchford has her white panties in a knot that she saw white boys hugging one another? Rich, white boys in Rosedale? I'm sorry, Ms. Blatchford, TORONTO men need to be toughened up? Have you ever been outside of Rosedale? Besides the time spent in your car driving to and from the other affluent parts of Toronto? It is absolutely unacceptable and embarrassing that such a generalized and flippant statement could be made, and then paid for, about such a diverse city where there is SO much violence. I wonder if Christie Blatchford walks her bull terrier in North York at night? Or in ANY park? Is she glad when she reads stories about groups of young men swarming and mugging people? Or raping girls, taping it on their cell phones, then passing it out at school? Is that the kind of group behaviour that she would prefer to hugging? So that she can tuck herself in at the end of the day, safe in the knowledge that all is as it should be?

She writes:

"But holy smokes, I am wearying of the male as delicate creature. I am wearying of men who are so frequently in touch with their feminine side they, not to mention me, have lost sight of the masculine one. I’m just plain sick of hugs, giving and getting, from just about anyone, but particularly man-to-man hugs."

Who is sick of hugs?! What kind of demented lunatic is "sick" of hugs? If you don't like being hugged that's your own business, but you cannot take a stance against other people hugging. You especially can't say that you "particularly" hate man-to-man hugs. It's truly baffling that in this world there are people who would rather see people fight then hug. Does Blatchford have children? During holidays and family gatherings if her male relatives hug does she spit on them and leave the event?

The silly thing about Blatchford's article isn't even her aversion to hugging, it's that she tries to make her argument about bullying. She argues that bullying is best dealt with by people who witness the bullying occur, then attack the bully. To be perfectly honest, I think sometimes a bully needs to be beat down -- but bullying is a symptom of a much bigger problem that doesn't have one solution and it has absolutely nothing to do with hugging. By judging the boys on the street, by calling men and boys who hug sissies and "feys" who speak with too much "Sss", Blatchford is being a big fucking bully. Bullying isn't just regular behaviour, it's abusive behaviour that is usually prompted by some kind of difference - even if that difference is just being weaker than someone else. Proscribing and policing behaviour is bullying and the problem with bullying is that it isn't always about inflicting physical damage. How do you deal with a bully who just tries to force you to act a certain way, by degrading you and treating you with derision?

Not only is it extremely tacky to be taking a stance basically for bullying right now, but it's also transparent. What does a group of boys hugging one another have to do with Rob and Doug Ford? Seriously? It has nothing at all to do with politics, except that this conservative old lady is so obsessed with them that she thinks about them when she sees little boys on the street. How weird is that? Blatchford is so blindly pro-Ford that I'm surprised her disgusting articles about the Shafia trial haven't included some kind of tribute to them, in all of their "too big, too pink, too football-y" glory. It's as though she's just taken trending topics and thrown them into one article: The Ford Brothers, UFC, The Toronto School Board, and bullying. The desperation is so obvious and sad.

Blatchford finishes her 'article' by writing:

"I know men have feelings too. I just don’t need to know much more than that. On any list of The 25 Things Every Man And Boy Should Know How To Do, hugging is not one of them. Killing bugs is. Whacking bullies is. Kissing is. Farting on cue is. Making the sound of a train in a tunnel is. Shooting a puck is. Hugging is not.

Feel free to give this to your male children. You’re entirely welcome."

Men should know how to kill, kiss, fart, make the sound of a train, hit other men, and play hockey? What man is really as stereotypical as that? Women are the only ones who have the luxury of exploring emotions, or free to have any kind of personality and depth? Who actually thinks this describes the ideal man? The healthy man? Blatchford tries to pre-empt any attempt to label her a homophobe by saying that "like all women" and as a "downtowner" she loves the gays! She doesn't hate gays, she just hates seeing men display healthy amounts of physical affection towards one another and feels it is her mission to point out how wrong it is.

She asks the readers to give her article to their male children, because she obviously thinks it is appropriate to shame children and ask them to act a certain way to make her feel more comfortable while walking her pure bred dog in the rich part of town. I think that people should probably give this article to their male children, to teach them what bigotry looks like, and to encourage them to hug if they want despite crazy people like Blatchford.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why we need to remember and act on December 6th

Update: I wrote this one year ago today. In the year since I posted this more women than we ever want to believe have been murdered, abused, exploited, and gone missing. Today may be a day for remembering the 14 lives lost 23 years ago but it's also a reminder that for the next 365 days violence against women, against the vulnerable and oppressed, will continue. (Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women)


Today is the 22nd 'anniversary' of the Montreal Massacre, when a young man walked into an educational institution and murdered as many women as he could. Shooting 28 and killing 14, he started his rampage by separating the men and the women because he was "fighting feminism".

In his attempts to attack women and feminism and in a blatant act that would forever define what 'violence against women' could really mean, he took the following lives:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

One of the outcomes of his crime, which he committed with hunting knife and a semi-automatic rifle casually purchased, was a tightening of gun control laws in Canada. With several family members of the murdered women heavily involved, Bill C-68(The Firearms Act) was passed in 1995. The new Bill required the training of gun owners, screening firearm applicants, new rules which would restrict certain types of guns and ammunition, regulations around gun storage, and the requirement to register all firearms.

It seems like a small thing, to me, to have to register or safely store your guns. I bought bear spray for a camping trip up North once and I had to register to own it. If anyone were to ever check how many weapons or dangerous items I have registered to my name there would be two: that bear spray and some allergy medication I bought in the States. I think that's normal. If I bought a gun I'd be more than happy to register it, because it means that if I have to register my weapon so does that creepy guy who lives in my building who stands in the hallway at 4am silently. It means that the abusive partner of my co-worker will also have to register his gun. The gun registry has been one of the most controversial items on the Canadian political landscape since its inception and it seems that only a person who is completely secure in their safety could be opposed to it, could fight against it, which means being completely oblivious to the safety and concerns of others. If mere inconvenience, or "concerns about privacy", really seem like good enough reasons to oppose a Bill that was prompted by the brutal murder of 14 women then women's safety, children's safety, and public safety are less important to some people than their own comfort. To be blunt, it is selfish to deny a Bill that can save even one life.

But despite controversy and despite opposition the Gun Registry and the Firearms act remained and, despite arguments around the methodological soundness of data collection, has made a difference in the amount of gun related crime and death in Canada.

This year Canadians voted in a Conservative Majority and one of the first items on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's agenda was to initiate the repeal of Bill C-68, to not only "scrap" the registry and the requirement to register long-guns, but also to compel the destruction of ALL records pertaining to any information under the Firearms Act, which includes information about registered firearms, past and present.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who sponsored the bill said that it was a proud moment for the Conservatives, stating that "waste is finally coming to an end in Ottawa." All debate and controversy aside, the long gun registry should be last on the list of "waste" in Ottawa. Abusing public services, spending public money on personal trifles, there is so must waste in Ottawa that's just impossible to focus on one thing. Politicians pay for their expensive dinners with our tax dollars. They pay for their hand jobs at those expensive restaurants with our tax dollars! So why is it "waste" to spend our own money on something that some of us actually want? What this really means is that the Conservatives have finally won their long battle against having to spend any money on anything that benefits women or protects them. It's too expensive to have to register your guns? I have to pay for a new driver's license every few years, and a passport, and a health card. It's too expensive to maintain a database of registered weapons? Well, what about the RCMP surveillance of non-criminals? What about the collection of medical data, or of DNA samples of sex offenders? Registering children for school, collecting data on their grades? Voting? We maintain and expand databases all of the time so what is it exactly about this particular database that irks them so much?
Many opponents argue the the registry treats responsible citizens like criminals. But what doesn't? I have to register my car. When you get pulled over and provide your registration, the police are in their car doing a criminal check on you--sometimes for no apparent reason. And how about airport security? While study after study has suggested that airport security screening is doing a bad job at preventing terrorist acts, we still allow each ridiculous technological advance in security to be shoved down our throats. So do the people who believe that the long gun registry should be halted and the information destroyed also believe that No-Fly Lists should also be destroyed? That airport screening should be abolished? Because it's exactly the same sentiment. I don't appreciate having to remove my shoes and have my hair patted every time I fly somewhere but I suffer it because I have places to go, so I sacrifice a bit of my privacy and allow myself to be treated like a criminal.
Critics bring up the fact that "criminals" and gang members don't register their weapons, so the registry is useless. Sure, this is true. But the fact remains that women are also murdered by the "law abiding", they're murdered or abused by their family members and people they know. You may be surprised at how many 'respectable' and upstanding men are perpetrators of domestic violence, but it is a simple truth that abuse escalates and women are killed by their partners' registered guns.
That the Conservative government is demanding the destruction of all information pertaining to the registry is absurd. Really? You won't even let the police keep the information? Or keep it for the purposes of government research? Anybody who is worth anything knows that there is no such thing as useless information and that destroying information that has cost money and time is senseless and childish. It's a slap in the face to anyone whose ever been the victim of violence, or been robbed at gun point, or had a family member killed. There is always something productive to be made from any information, and it highlights the short sightedness and truly bratty nature of the Conservative Party that they would rather just toss that information in a big fire and dance around it, crowing about their "victory".
Today the annual memorial in Ottawa was held for the 14 women who were murdered 22 years ago. No Conservative MPs were present, because none of them were invited. Prime Minister Harper released a statement about the deaths saying that "while the senseless events of that day will never fully be understood, we must continue to do our utmost to ensure such a tragedy never occurs again and to protect society's most vulnerable...our Government is making significant investments to end violence against women and girls in communities across the country and will continue to advocate for the fair and unbiased treatment of all citizens."
Prime Minister Harper has a daughter and he can make such a hypocritical, disingenuous statement that demeans the women who were murdered and all women who have faced violence before or since. As a father, a husband, and as the person Canadians have entrusted with their safety Stephen Harper should be ashamed of his actions and the callousness of his statement. He's spitting on the graves of our buried sisters and mothers, and he's scoffing at the real pain violence against women has caused in all of our lives -- including the lives of men.
Violence against women isn't just something someone made up and 22 years ago today these 14 lives were ended simply because they were women.

It would be nice if politicians could get over their ideological pettiness and just honour their commitments to those lost lives and lives that continue to be threatened and destroyed to this day.

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