Friday, June 29, 2012

adopt pets, more. breed pets, less.

Someone sent me this website of Carli Davidson's disabled dog photography, and my heart melted. The photographer was inspired to do the series after seeing a dog in a wheelchair play fetch with it's owner, perfectly happy. The dogs in her photos have many different kinds of "disabilities" from losing limbs in traumatic accidents to being born without eyes. The photographer says of her project:
"I wanted to create a project showcasing differently abled pets, telling their stories in order to show the world that they are happy, thriving companions. They are not sad, they are not in pain, and the owners and animals continue to be of great value to one another."
When people see dogs wheelchairs, or dogs that are missing limbs, it seems like the reaction is pretty standard: "AWWWWWWWW." Those dogs are super cute and we love them for their pluckiness, their happiness despite their limitations, and for being 'survivors'.

I really, really like Carli Davidon's project but it highlighted something that has always been a big issue for me: we love these funny little dogs but we still live in a society that values "pure breeds" even though that means dogs are subjected to pain, mental difficulties, and behavioural problems - all to create a perfect dog. And what happens when the dogs aren't perfect?  Puppies that are born imperfect are sometimes destroyed or abandoned, so that the breeders good "stock" isn't compromised publicly.

How is it humane to keep dogs solely for the purpose of breeding? To condemn a female dog to a life of carrying and birthing litter after litter? Most breeders treat their best breeders better than many humans can hope to be treated, but it still raises the question of controlling the life of another creature solely for the purpose of aesthetics and vanity.

Not only is it an ethical issue, but a lot of pure bred dogs are overbred which means that the characteristics we value in the dog have become prominent, resulting in a defect. German Shepherd's that are bred for show have been bred with heavily sloped backs, which causes the dogs to have difficulty walking and exacerbates hind leg diseases. French bulldogs and pugs have adorable little squish faces but they also have compacted airways, which makes it difficult for them to breath. This doesn't just make it hard for them to get exercise, but makes it almost impossible for them to regulate their temperature through panting. Because of their "adorable" large, square heads almost 80% of French Bulldogs are birthed through caesarian section because the puppy heads don't fit in the females' birth canal. The males are often not able to mount females to breed because of their prized "slim hips" so the females are artificially inseminated often. The impregnation and birth of these animals are completely engineered by their breeders.

Dogs who are prized for their teeny, tiny little heads (Like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) often experience pain because their skulls aren't big enough to accomodate their brains, which can result in syringomyelia.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are famous for the"ridges" that ripple down their backs. The Chairman of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club has stated that puppies born without ridges were defects, and a section of the code of ethics of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club states that "ridgeless puppies shall be culled."

Culling puppies that aren't perfect is not rare. Our family dog was a rescue from a Shih-Tzu breeder who was getting ready to destroy her because she was missing an eye. Little did they know, they would have been culling a Chess champion:

People who want pure bred puppies pay huge amounts of money for a dog that is "perfect", in a world where there are hundreds of thousands of dogs and puppies that need homes. Dogs, originally bred to do work, are now just an accessory and people are willing to sacrifice the health of their dog to ensure they'll get something aesthetically pleasing.

This isn't to say that every dog breeder is a cruel, greedy  monster. I know, and understand,that people who breed dogs love their dogs and "love" the breed. But humans have a tendency to be short-sighted and selfish in their love,and we have to acknowledge the fact that intentional breeding is not a natural state for dogs and traits we think are adorable are often harmful to the dogs. It's eugenics,and we decry eugenics in human breeding, so why should we force dogs to breed to produce perfect specimens? It's weird. Do people really think that only a specific kind of dog can have the personality traits they value?

For all of our love of dogs, we let a lot of them suffer. There are so many organizations that deal only in pure-bred rescue because once people realize all of their medical or mental issues, or they simply don't need them anymore, they abandon them. Greyhounds, for example, are bred for racing but are abandoned when they stop winning races( or, "retired" from racing). Dogs are abused and abandoned, and then spend the rest of their lives in shelters because people don't want them.

So yes, Ramen the dog missing its two front legs, is incredibly adorable but let's try not to forget that behind a lot of animal disability is human interference, that animals are hideously abused in large numbers and treated like garbage, and let's try to understand why we'll feel sad abused/abandoned/or disabled dogs and then pay $2000.00 for a dog that is "pure bred."

Humans are the worst.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why it doesn't really matter if Rob Ford goes to Pride anymore

It's that time of year again: PRIDE. 

Last year we had our first taste of Mayor Ford's disinclination to celebrate gay, gay Pride. He didn't attend the parade, didn't go to the flag raising, didn't read the Pride Week proclamation, and he basically fled the city.

It mattered then, ideologically, that he was ignoring Pride Week. It mattered because we hadn't really figured out who Rob Ford was yet, who our Mayor was really going to be, and if he was really as extreme as we thought. This is what I wrote about the situation last year:

"Deciding against participation creates an Us vs Them kind of mentality with Ford on one side and the lgbtqa community on the other. Ford is the Mayor(unfortunately), we're stuck with him. But he's stuck with us too. This is our city AND his. To march in the Parade, or to be involved in any way, might not have meant a lot to some people but we need to stop and consider what it means to Ford. It means he doesn't want to extend an olive branch, he doesn't really want to work with this community, that he is so stuck in his own ideology that he can't even participate in something he doesn't 100% believe in. It means he doesn't acknowledge that there will be people participating in Pride who actually voted for him because all he sees are left-wing radical perverts. Sure, I might not want to see Ford at Pride shaking his money maker(actually.. I did) but it would definitely demonstrate that he's willing to step outside of his comfort zone and really lead this city, fags and all. To be a healthy city we need the Us and the Them to at least try to work together and that is why it matters that Rob Ford won't march."

One year later, Ford hasn't changed. One year later and there's only one reason why we should care if he attends Pride or not: because it's his JOB. Mayor Ford gets paid to attend events, he gets paid to represent the City of Toronto, and so it is part of his job to attend at least one Pride event(which includes the flag raising at City Hall). Ford wants Toronto to be a "world class city" but ignores the fact that other cities in that category have open-minded Mayors who support ALL cultural events. I care that Rob Ford picks and chooses what counts and does not count as his job. The rest of us don't have the luxury of deciding what we get paid to do. As a Civil Servant, Rob Ford shouldn't have that choice.

Here's why we shouldn't care anymore, on an ideological level, that Ford is going to eschew Pride: it reminds us, and proves to those who would throw this claim at us, that the "revolution" is not over(which Barbara Kay wrote last year in defense of Ford's decision). Now we have gay marriage, the revolution is over! We can adopt kids, the revolution is over! Gays and lesbians are more accepted than ever now, the revolution is over!

No. The revolution isn't over until GLBT people aren't harassed, beaten up, and killed simply for existing. It isn't really post-revolution era until kids in schools don't have to fight just to be allies with their queer friends. It hasn't ended while there are still laws in place all over the world that criminalize being queer. When gay politicians closet themselves, fight against gay rights, then get busted having park sex with dudes, then there is still work to be done. Too often we fool ourselves that we have things pretty good now and so we can relax, but that just isn't true. It's the same argument as saying women have equality because they're guaranteed pay equity by law. Unfortunately, law and practise are two different things.

The Mayor of our fair city refusing to attend a multi-million dollar tourist extravaganza has to be a reminder to us that if a man in his position can be so blatantly homophobic and uncomfortable with the event we still have work to do, and Pride events here and everywhere still have political impetus.

Rob Ford is an entitled and small-minded guy. His tenure as Mayor so far has proven that he was ill-equipped to take on such a large job and has often retreated instead of facing issues or people that he simply can't deal with. Rob Ford's bad decisions are a good thing, because they'll remind us at eletion time what we DON'T want in a Mayor. 

We live in a world where people will boycott a COOKIE if it's too gay. Homophobic and intolerant behaviour is hard to fight when it's hidden. It's only when we see and hear things we don't agree with that we can act, and we should be thanking Rob Ford for demonstrating this yet again.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My lungs VS. Your lungs.

Know your rights.

Rosie DiManno's latest diatribe in the Toronto Star includes this ominous warning. Know your rights, people, that shit is important! Know your rights at work, know your rights at school, know your rights when the cops pull you over. Knowing your rights is important, right?

Actually, DiManno is imploring smokers to know their rights. I guess odds are really stacked against smokers and society is really trampling all over their God Given RIGHT TO SMOKE.

DiManno says that while she once collected baseball cards(see, I'm an ironic cool hipster type laaaady), now she collects cigarette packages because of the mandatory gross-out images on them. She describes these images as "cancer porn" and wonders whether or not the government will be slapping "anti-obesity" ads on chocolate bars or car accident photo scenes on beer cases.

Ha, ha, cancer porn. How witty! I imagine that anyone who has had a loved one suffer from or die of cancer and watched them wither away in front of them doesn't find this quite as funny. Describing anything cancer related as porn is just plain gauche and railing against smoking regulation is childish. We live in a nation where some communities don't have clean drinking water, smoking rights should really be our last priority right now.

I digress. Back to DiManno's 'arguement'. She states that unlike American, with all of its great freedoms, Canadians were docile when it came to 'allowing' their government to force these yucky images onto them. In Canada, she writes,  we aren't as passionate about our rights and freedoms. In America, people stand up for their rights! In Canada we're more apt to just lay down and accept "infringements on individual and collective rights."

I guess that's why in American, the Land of the Free, they have health care access for all and freedom to choose abortion and be married to the person they love despite gender identity! I guess that's why in America education is affordable. In America, the government can't just "arrest you" and send you to "an army base prison" for "no reason."

Oh wait, that's Canada.

Never mind that. You know who else hated smokers and wanted to take away their rights? HITLER.
If you hate smoking and you want to stop people from smoking, you are basically as bad as Hitler.  Pregnant women were banned from smoking in Nazi Germany, you couldn't smoke on public transportation or in public places either. That means that, in DiManno's words: "So, Hitler is the patron saint of today’s nico-Nazis."


Obviously Hitler's campaign didn't work, because people know it is their right to smoke, yes? Probably it doesn't matter that people didn't understand the health impacts of smoking back then. And that smoking was heavily campaigned as a rebellious, glamorous, and sexy thing to do.

Germans didn't listen to Hitler, though, and Germany became the largest importer of cigarettes. DiManno says of the Nazi-era Germans: "You’ve got to admire such defiance. Some just won’t bend to anybody’s will, and most assuredly not to government zealotry."

Yes, choosing to smoke against government wishes was really defiant, that probably cancels out the Germans that turned their Jewish neighbours and friends in to the government. Or the Germans who participated in the genocide. They probably smoked while they walked past those frozen and starved bodies, DEFIANCE! Maybe they even lit their cigarettes on the incinerator flames. Those Germans were true rebels. FREEDOM!

I agree that people have every right to smoke. Smoke away! Smoke to your heart's content but a smoker's right doesn't trump a non-smokers right. Last week I had bronchitis and I could barely get out of bed. The few times I managed to make my way outside, to go to the doctor or pick up medication, I was bombarded with smoke. It's annoying any day to have to smell cigarette smoke on the sidewalks(because let's face it, Torontonians LOVE to smoke), but it's especially hideous when you're sick. People are more vigorous about keeping public places peanut free than they are about smoke free, despite what DiManno says.

She says that the "nine meter rule" is too vigorously applied despite the fact that it is only valid at hospitals and other health facilities. Seriously? If there's a non smoking sign outside a door,or a sign asking people to not smoke in front of a door or vent, guaranteed there will be a smoker standing there smoking. Having to move away from a door is a tiny little thing and it's a courtesy to the people who will otherwise have to walk through your cloud of smoke to get into the building(which happened to me on Monday at York University, where no smoking signs abound).

It's not revolutionary or defiant to support huge multi billion dollar corporations who make money from not only providing cigarettes(which I have no problem with), but who actively try to introduce their product into new markets, sometimes illegally-- This isn't some local business that you should support, tobacco corporations are basically evil NOT because they supply cigarettes but because everything they do is designed to make incredible profit, and if that means abusing austerity measures in nations under Structural Adjustment to destroy sustenance farming and replace crops with tobacco, then so be it.

DiManno makes smoking sound like some kind of revolutionary right. It's not. You can smoke, you can buy cigarettes, you can smoke in public places, what else do you want? You know what most people want? Health. They want their parents not to die of lung cancer. They want their kids asthma to not flare up in the park because a bunch of hipsters feel the need to chain smoke while they drink PBR. Smoke away, it's allowed, but like any other human who is doing anything else, be cognizant of the people around you.

Consideration, understanding your effect on the people around you, not being selfish. Those are revolutionary and defiant ideas, not the idea that you should be able to smoke whenever and wherever you feel like just BECAUSE. If smokers truly want to be defiant, they should demand a more sustainable product that is not grown on the exploitation of land and people. Don't just whine about not being able to smoke at the hospital, DiManno, use your platform to do some good in this world instead of just making it a more annoying place for us all to live.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This song isn't about sexual assault at all!

I was listening to some Top 40 Radio this afternoon. Usually I don't listen too carefully to lyrics because generally speaking they're idiotic in Top 40 music. Today, though, my ears couldn't help but hear some lyrics that made me feel a bit.. awkward.

Apparently there is a new song called "Kiss you inside out" by the band Hedley. Not only is Hedley just plain offensive because their music hurts my ears, but these lyrics are bizarre:

I don’t know if you’re ready to go
Where I’m willing to take you girl
I will feel every inch of your skin
And you know I can rock your world 

Let's start here, shall we? If you aren't sure whether or not your "girl" is "ready to go" where you're "willing" to take her, then you have a problem.  You will feel every inch of her skin? Well, maybe you should wait until you know whether or not she wants you to? Just because you're some whiny sounding pop singer with neck tattoos doesn't meant that what you're saying is less threatening.

Turn off the lights
Take off your clothes
Turn on the stereo
Ouuu oohhh
Give up the fight
I’m in control
Why don’t you let it go.

What? Give up the fight?! There's a fight? This is what I don't get about pop music. This shit is aimed directly at the wallets and hearts of pre-teen girls and what this song is telling them is that it's romantic when a guy pushes you to "give up the fight" and just accept that he's "in control" and so you might as well just "let it go." Guess what, this scenario is called sexual assault! This guy is turning on the stereo because he doesn't want his neighbours to hear this poor girl screaming, most likely.

Just close your eyes and shut your mouth
And let me kiss you inside out.

Shut your mouth?! How are you supposed to kiss someone back, say yes, or express any kind of pleasure, when you have your mouth shut? This is just so fucking creepy. These are 30 year old men singing about a woman just lying back with her eyes closed, mouth shut, letting whatever is happening just happen to her. You sell your music to children, Hedley! You sell your music to young girls who are already vulnerable to sexual assault and date rape! How can you be so irresponsible? Not only are you hideously untalented musicians you're also embarrassing human beings.

I don’t care if you steal all my air
we can breath in together as one
it’s all right if you’re here every night
waking up with you in the sun
we start with an hour and we find we waste the day
kicking back with the love we found.

Oh right, because sexual assault is a great precursor for a loving and long-term relationship. He's only assaulting you because he loves you! Having sex when you don't want to is just what you do in a relationship! Just lay back and take it, unless of course you don't want to have a boyfriend. What the hell kind of message is this?

let me love you, let me love you
let me love you babe. 

Ah yes, because sex is always equated with love and someone who says they love you could never hurt you, right?

How, in 2012, a band comprised of adult males can get away with lyrics like this is beyond me. How do they exist in society and not realize that what they're saying is not only fucking disgusting but it's describing something that is against the law. I get it, pop culture is rape culture. Our mainstream media is saturated with things that normalize sexual assault and sexualize women and girls.Sometimes I just forget, for a moment, how blatant these messages really are until I turn on the radio or the TV and get smoked in the face with a song about date rape.  Men who sing to girls have a responsibility to not just write or perform conventional music about female sexual passivity. The fact that this kind of music is still being performed just goes to show exactly how much artistic creativity actually exists in our mainstream music: zero. That this group got up and sang this song at the MMVAs, so a crowd of thousands of screaming twelve year old girls, solidifies their position as men who are part of the problem. 

Maybe try trading your silly tattoos, vintage t shirts,and counterculture haircuts for something that is actually different and radical: standing up to a music community that normalizes and naturalizes sexual assault. Or, you could continue just being an annoying, entitled, totally oblivious band of insignificant assholes.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Is this the most tasteless ad you've seen all day?

Apparently a new Harvey Nichols advertisement for a big sale is getting people all worked up.

The ad, with the tag line "The Harvey Nichols Sale... Try To Contain Your Excitement," features male and female models in fancy outfits with... wait for it.. PEE running down their legs! Get it? They're so excited about the sale that they peed in their silky, silky pants.

The ad even prompted this from the Huffington Post Canada:

Funny coming from the Huffington Post who often runs tasteless material on their website and their title page(like this little number.) But, who cares who writes it, are these really the most tasteless ad campaigns you've seen all day?

To be perfectly frank, they certainly are not the most tasteless ads I've seen all day. In my opinion, they don't even come close to being tasteless. I actually think the ad is funny. Here's a bunch of posts featuring ads that are super tasteless, like men having sex with women who have pictures of cars over their faces, or jokes about domestic abuse. Advertisements consistently and without fail sexualize, racialize, and demean women while simultaneously creating an unrealistic vision of beauty that no human can live up to. In light of this, I'm surprised that a little bit of pee is getting people upset. Anyone who has witnessed a big sale knows how crazy people get: they rip things out of one another's hands, they hit eachother, they swear, and I wouldn't be surprised if they peed their pants once in awhile.

How about this for the most tasteless ad, Piranha "3DD." I see it every single day in the TTC Stations and on the trains where the posters are perfectly lined up to the eyesights of children. I guess the difference here is that we're looking at tits and we know that the piranhas are going to rip this lady to shreds, which is totally normal!

People, it's pee. Calm down.
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