Friday, January 25, 2013

Girls are dumb and need instructions on how to enjoy everything.

Today the New York Rangers (that is a hockey team, in case any GIRLS are reading) posted an unfortunate article via twitter. A Girls Guide to Watching the Rangers was a little puff piece about how girls can pretend to enjoy sports, for the sake of the men around them because only men watch sports. No, really: "when having either guy friends, brothers, boyfriends or husbands in your life watching games in any sport becomes unavoidable." Besides this being a terribly written sentence, it's also really stupid. I get it, some ladies do not like sports. Sports are traditionally a "male" thing and this has more to do with gender stereotypes (and also historical laws that banned ladies from going into the public to do things like watch sports) than it does with being endowed at birth with some kind of magical appreciation for sports just because you have a penis. Some men do not enjoy sports,some women love sports, this whole idea of "girls" needing to learn about sports and how to be acceptable whilst spectating is just so boring.

The author, Mirna Mandil (how can it be offensive when it's written by a girl?! Girls can't do sexism!) came up with the idea for the piece after being at a house where football watching was taking place. The men, she says, were there for the game. The women women were there for the deep fried turkey.  She could have sat and watched the game, but she doesn't care about foot ball "nor does [she] pretend to." Faking an "alpha male obsession" is exhausting. But that isn't going to stop her from telling other girls how to pretend to like watching sports!

She goes on to say that the NHL lockout caused a lot of excitement in the "male world" and was comparable to either a "70% off sale" to ladies. So, to help ladies understand what the end of the lockout means she says we should think about how we would feel if "the premier of the newest season of Girls being delayed by months" and suddenly it's coming back!! Oh my God, I totally get it now(this is what girls and women are supposed to say at this point, but they don't because it's stupid). Even if you don't understand the game, you don't understand what's happening in your man's mind, and even if you're bored as shit watching hockey or football Mirna is going to "help you understand
obsession, enthusiasm and passion, and help you hold your own during game nights."

THANK YOU LADY! Girls, obviously, don't understand anything unless we can see it in Guide format and our learning potential increases exponentially when there are slide show photos involved.

I'm not going to go through every point she wrote and rip it to shreds, because the article was taken down and I think that's enough embarassment for her for one day. What I'm more interested in is this idea that women should "pretend" to like sports and should schedule their lives around men who like sports. Also, women do like sports, so probably we don't have to fake liking it. Women also "understand" things. It's like explaining how to breath. We have this basic instinctual capacity that allows us to interact with other humans in appropriate ways, mostly, and this allows us ladies to partake in a night of sports watching without having to do weird things like "ask all the right questions at the exact right moment."

In case you doubt the veracity of my claims, I copied the text and it's also still available here.

Living: you're doing it wrong!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Good grief, more of this shit?

Sometimes the lack of actual thought in this world seriously baffles me. Yesterday the Huffington Post published an article about former MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who tweeted about the horrific gang rape in India. Dosanjh tweeted the following:

"Absurd 2blame female dress 4 rape. If men unable 2control penises, they shud have them removed

 He went on to say (the Huff Post didn't cite where he said this) that "Obviously this issue is much broader and wider than the Indian case. Usually men blame women for the way they dress and I just wanted to put it succinctly to show the absurdity of the position."

I agree with half of what Dosanjh says, the half about women not being responsible for their assaults. What I don't agree with, and what makes me incredibly angry, is that people are having emotional knee-jerk reactions to this rape and they're saying things that are not only untrue but completely dangerous to the progress women and men have made when it comes to perceptions of sexual assault. The Huffington Post's tweet about their own article called Dosanjh's statement "bold" and I saw multiple retweets that applauded his sentiment. I understand the impulse to wish harm upon rapists, I think it's natural and can be a really helpful coping mechanism. This is not what Dosanjh has done. This is not a bold tweet, it is an incredibly stupid and incredibly revealing tweet about how ignorant people can be.

He, like many others(especially those who have no been exposed to the daily and often extreme violence which victims of sexual assault survive), has decided to take a "stand" against sexual assault in the worst way possible. In an attempt to be "supportive" without educating himself about the issues of assault he has attributed the gang rape of the Delhi student, and all rape and sexual assault, to lust. It doesn't matter how many penises you castrate, rape and sexual assault have absolutely nothing to do with sexual desire, sexual impulses, or controlling either of those things. Rape and sexual assault are always about power and control. You can only be an ally, you can only be part of the solution, if you know what it is you're fighting against. We aren't fighting against men who can't control their dicks. We're fighting against the GLOBAL inequality of women that leads to men feeling entitled to the control and denigration of women's bodies. It's a fight against people wielding power and control over women, men, and children not for bodily pleasure but because they feel entitled to the position that inflicting that kind of hurt puts them in. Castrating a rapist doesn't address systemic inequality. Castrating a rapist doesn't take into account that his penis has nothing to do with the crime.

This specific instance of idiocy is a great example of the way reactions have been pouring out in the media, facebook, twitter etc about this case of rape.It is a horrible crime, unimaginable to some. But the fact is that for some people it is all too imaginable, and not just in India. The Huffington Post article goes on to say that it in India it is "common for women to be blamed for sexual assaults, which in turns means few report it to authorities. Those who do find police often do not take their cases seriously. Politicians and decision makers in India regularly suggest that women should not go out at night or wear "provocative" clothes."

This statement could be said for any country in the world, at any time. Remember how Slutwalk started? When a Toronto Police Officer told women not to dress like sluts if they didn't want to be raped? This isn't an uncommon sentiment and the idea that women "ask for it" is not a rare response to sexual assault. Not so long ago it was legal to rape your wife in Canada because the law recognized a woman's husband as her master. What about the Christie Pits groper this summer? What did the police tell us? They told us to be alert, dress a certain way, don't go out after a certain hour etc etc. Mayor Rob Ford's niece tweeted that women should not dress like a slut if they don't want to be groped.  All things women need to do to protect themselves and "not ask for it." Women in Canada and the U.S also don't report their rapes and assaults because, guess what? Cops often don't believe them and the trauma of having to try to get police to believe you is sometimes too much for someone to bear. It isn't as easy as going to the police station, reporting your rape, and the bad person goes away. You have to give statement after statement, you have to describe what you were wearing, how they took it off, how they hurt you. Then you have to do it all over again in court. Then your rapist gets like two years in prison. In a perfect world where racism, sexism, and classism didn't exist everyone would report their assaults. In a world where there is so much inequality and so much discrimination it makes perfect sense to me that people choose to keep their assaults out of the justice system. The justice system in Canada, the U.S,  and India all have one thing in common: they are not designed for the comfort and security of victims of assault and rape and they have all been built on sexist assumptions and stereotypes.

After the Delhi rape a woman was gang raped in Thunder Bay and left for dead. So where are the tweets about that from our politicians? Where is the outrage? How dare a former MP of BC tweet something so ill-informed about rape when he used to represent a province famous for the murder and rape of indigenous women, which was essentially allowed to continue for years because authorities didn't care about the victims? This is not support for rape victims. This is not support for progressive legislation. This is emotion unfocused and set upon a world that doesn't need any more muddled ideas about sexual violence.

So let's just stop it with the "things are so bad in India" thing because we all know things are just as bad here. Let's also stop going with our gut reaction: you may wish your rapist had his penis cut off to punish him, but the idea that castration could stop rape perpetuates misconceptions we can no longer afford. Let's stop applauding every man or politician who turns their noses up at the Indian Gang Rape and calls for change while they totally ignore all other violence against women, all over the world.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Because you can be anything Barbie can be!

Barbie is an interesting figure. Yes, she's weird and blonde and has a torturously perfect body but she's also come a very long way from the first Barbie. I won't lie, I played with Barbie as a child and our Barbies had a lot of outfits and accessories, cars and houses. It was fun to play with Barbie. Now Barbie has a lot of different careers, she comes in different colours (not sizes..), and so she's supposedly supposed to encourage young ladies everywhere to be whatever they want to be because if Barbie can, so can they.

Barbie, I'm sure, has had some questionable careers over the years but when I saw this certain career path I was a bit surprised. Apparently there is a "Splash and Spin Dolphin Trainer Barbie" available.

I guess I was surprised by the complete and total lack of subtlety involved. This isn't just like "hey kids, you can be a "Dr." or a "Lawyer" it's " look how much fun it is to be dolphin trainer!" A dolphin trainer? Who encourages their children to be dolphin trainers? I don't get it. I'll get to the morals and ethics of it later but first, let's look at the product details.  

"Your Daughter can Pretend to Be a Professional Dolphin Trainer." Your daughter can be pretend to be a dolphin trainer, but God help you if your boy wants to play with this toy. This thing is so geared towards girls:  "dolls and accessories let girls play out different roles and "try on" fabulous careers, including professional dolphin trainer."  Girls don't just get to pretend to be a dolphin trainer, they get to be "stylish" while they're at it: "Barbie doll knows how to make a fashion splash! She wears a sparkly pink wetsuit and matching pink flippers, so she always looks stylish while twirling in the water!"  And Barbie doesn't just "swim" with the "pretty pink dolphins" she spins with them too! "Girls will love playing out all the the bathtub or pool!" 

The toy makes swimming with and training wild animals sound like so much fun, so safe, and so cuuuuuuuuute!!! In reality, dolphin training is just not cute at all. Dolphins, whales, and seals held in captivity for human entertainment are not "happy" nor are they even "cute" most of the time since they're usually sick, fatigued, and depressed. Maybe in the Product Details they should be more realistic: "Your daughter will love trying to force dolphins to come up for air while they're trying to commit suicide! Dolphins are voluntary breathers and often try to kill themselves by sinking to the bottom of the pool because they're so miserable so Barbie has an extra sparkly outfit for such occasions!!" "Your little girl will love withholding food from her animals to force them to do unnatural tricks on command so a corporation can make huge amounts of money!" Or, maybe "your daughter will have the time of her life escaping gigantic killer whales that try to hold Barbie under the water and kill her, then thrash her lifeless body around like a..doll!" Does this Barbie come with a kit for masturbating whales, which is essential for the perpetuation of the billion dollar breeding program for killer whales? Because if you're really seriously about letting your girl become a dolphin trainer she should probably be aware of the perks that will come with her "fabulous" new job.

Every single parent who buys their child this toy should have to sit through a mandatory viewing of "The Cove." Dolphins in captivity are often caught in the wild and a major source of captive dolphins are captured in Taiji, Japan during the annual dolphin slaughter. Animal "trainers" from around the world come to Taiji to pick out the "prettiest" and most show able specimens while they ignore the hideous and cruel slaughter around them.   It's annoying when toys reinforce gender stereotypes but it's more annoying when toys are encouraging children to enter a career by misrepresenting it. If Mattel were honest, this is what the Barbie Dolphin Trainer would really look like: 

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