Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dave can be funny....sometimes

"The rules for carry on are so strict these days: no liquids, gels or sharp objects. They have full on body scanners. It truly slows one down and the amount of things one can carry are so limited one may as well not have carry on at all. I feel like the true spirit of flight, which the wright brothers unlocked for all of humanity to enjoy, has been dampened, nay! cheapened, by these rules and restrictions. On a totally unrelated note, we need to buy new hair cutting scissors."
-Text I received from Dave today as he transfers flights at Vancouver airport

So his Flash t-shirt.

Me: I kind of wish Edmonton had got the Expo. It may have put us on the map.
Dave: Yeah and not one of those crappy maps that says "Here Be Dragons".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Ain't No Hollaback Girl

A recent article written by John DeVore has me thinking about something I've gotten use to ignoring: Catcalling.

As a woman living in a central area of a large city, I should probably just shrug my shoulders and accept that catcalling is the price I pay for choosing to live downtown and walk down any main street. But that kind of passive thinking doesn't lead to change. I know I could walk the back streets, the less populated streets, but then I put myself in a more tangible risk of being mugged or assaulted. So, I walk the most well lit, populated and busy streets when I get off work at 10:30pm or later, every weeknight.

The consequences of my choice and schedule are having random people yell inherently aggressive remarks at me. Even if it's a compliment, anything yelled at a random stranger from a moving vehicle is aggressive in my books. But this hasn't just been an issue for me since moving downtown (which I did when I was 18). It first started as an adolescent. Yes, you read that right, an adolescent. I hadn't even broken the "teens" yet when my sister and I were being verbally attacked by random men in random places. I know we were tall for our age (almost 6 foot by grade 7) but that is not an open invitation to be hit on while walking in public.

I recall being 12 and getting honks from cars while walking down Whyte Ave with my sister. Or the time, when I was 14, and walking past a bar with my sister, best friend and her mother, only to have the bouncer accost us with invites into the bar and hit on us. When my friend's mother yelled "they're only 14!", he replied "even better".

Any weekend I walk down a main street past 11pm, I expect that I am going to be sexually harassed. But, all the advice out there to deter it puts the onus on my behavior: Dress down or in baggy clothes, just ignore it, avoid streets with people or bars, don't make eye contact, don't smile, wear headphones, read a book on the bus/train. Well, fuck that! I shouldn't have to shut out the world, dress plain and pretend something isn't happening just so I can live a somewhat peaceful existence.

It's no wonder someone designed a game based on these encounters, in which a main character (a woman) has the tools necessary to shoot the men who harass her. Do I condone this kind of behavior in real life? Of course not. It's just a game, some might say, but it brings attention to a very real problem.

One action that people (women and men) are taking is to use their camera phone to document lewd or unwanted behavior and post it online at websites such as YouTube or Hollaback. The most disturbing trend I found while reading through the entries on Hollaback is that many of these women feel the need to clarify that they weren't wearing anything provocative. I constantly saw the phrase, "I wasn't showing any skin", "My clothes weren't tight or short, just normal jeans and t-shirt" and other phrases basically trying to explain that they weren't "asking for it". It saddens me that they should even have to add that detail into their narratives. I've only been talking about my experiences with catcalling (though there have been past experiences with physical harassment), but Hollaback also documents sexual harassment which has lead to some men being arrested. For example, a woman had a man arrested for rubbing up against her while his genitals were exposed, an all to common occurrence in the crowded New York subway system.

It wasn't until I started thinking about this topic that I started realizing the extent women go to in order to avoid sexual harassment. I read multiple comments about women pretending to sleep on public transit to shut people out, reading books and using MP3 players as a way to signal their disinterest. While reading up on various forms of public sexual harassment and how women avoid certain scenarios, I thought to myself that I didn't limit myself or change my life in anyway to avoid it. I'm a very confrontational person and not one for avoiding a situation because I prefer to face things head on. That's why I was honestly shocked to realize that even I have changed past behaviors to avoid being hit on or harassed in public. I use to sit in the front seat of cabs because I'm tall and prefer all the extra leg room. But, after a while, I started sitting in the back seat because I was tired of my choice to sit in the front seat being some silent agreement to be hit on by the male drivers. Questions about whether I had a boyfriend or asking why am I so dressed up got tiring and I eventually moved to the backseat where I find myself very invested in texting, just to avoid awkward conversation. Some male cab drivers are honestly just making conversation but I ask myself if the others would ask a guy the same questions they ask me, such as "Oh, you're sure dressed up, are you meeting up with your girlfriend?" I kind of doubt it.

This isn't a matter of not being able to take a compliment. It's the audacity some people have that when a women goes out into public, it must mean she wants to be accosted and berated with what may seem like words of adulation but in fact are tiresome, trite and in, some cases, terribly offensive. When someone demonstrates to me that they cannot control their words, it worries me and makes me ponder what else they can't control. Am I going to have to walk a little faster because this person is now following me? Am I going to have to call the police? Am I going to have to find a place to escape from this person? Where is the nearest stores that's open? These are all thoughts I've had while being "complimented" by random strangers. Feeling like someone's prey is a disturbing experience and should not be an acceptable way to treat anyone, regardless of intention, location or gender.

3:19 Mark - Hilarious bit about a serious subject

Friday, December 3, 2010

Submission and Feminism

I believe that we are all complex creatures full of contradictions and dualities that compliment and oppose each other. Though, in some cases, this dichotomy can lead to conflict. Conflict within ourselves or conflict with those who support only one side of this combination. One such issue within my own personal conflicts is my belief that all people are equal and my affinity for being sexually submissive. I've often wondered can a woman identify sexually as submissive and still consider herself a feminist, without being a hypocrite?

Of course, this is no simple question to answer and I think everyone has different variables to weigh when deciding where they stand on the issue. Perhaps the best step is to start by explaining how I identify with feminism.

Simply put, I believe women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such. I believe this because I know all people are equal and deserve to be treated as such. We have the right to the same justices and protections. We have an obligation to defend and secure justice for those who cannot do it themselves.

There are those who identify themselves as feminist (1st wave, 2nd wave, 3rd wave, militant - whatever category they feel they fit in best, if any at all) and believe that a woman who participates in submissive sexual behavior, such as Master/slave or BDSM play, is only crippling the progress of womanhood as a whole. There are also those who believe that BDSM is a male-generated form of sexuality and that by participating, a woman is succumbing to this tradition. This was a major issue during the 60s and 70s and lead to conflict between different sects of feminism or some feminists organizations and the pornography industry.

I resent the idea that women who engage in BDSM are doing so because they are conforming to a male generated fantasy. This line of thinking denies women who enjoy BDSM from any credit for discovering what turns them on. It assumes that in a strictly female society, BDSM would not exist. It also furthers the gender stereotype that only woman play the submissive role in the BDSM community when, in fact, it is extremely varied. Not only do some men prefer being the submissive as opposed to dominant but there are many people who switch between both. Of course, this is assuming both genders are involved. BDSM is prevalent in both gay and lesbian communities. Personally, I know that I did not need a man/society/the media to tell me what aroused me. It was inherent. It felt rooted within me, much like the rest of my sexuality. I did not question it but only awaited the time and place to discover and explore this natural affinity. Assuming that a woman can only learn submission from a man/society/the media robs her of any ownership or responsibility of her own sexuality.

There are those who even discourage women being submissive because of their strong conviction that this has an impact on women's progress as a whole. But, if those who believed that truly wanted equality, wouldn't they be encouraging all people not to partake in BDSM, regardless of gender? Or, do they believe it is okay for a man to play that role? In that case, isn't the man enjoying a privilege that has been denied to women by the very people who were trying to ensure their equality? Where is the fairness in that?

I'd argue that my being a strong female has actually helped me develop a healthy perspective on my sexuality and I've channeled this into my preference for being a submissive. Any woman with a poor self esteem or a dysfunctional view of their sexual worth is going to find being a submissive exhausting and unfulfilled. My worth as a human being is not decided on my worth as a sex object. Sure, I may subject myself to what others may consider horrendous treatment and what others may view as submitting to my partner's will. Considering oneself a feminist and also a submissive does not have to be a dichotomous situation. In fact, the juxtaposition of both these traits can strengthen each other. Not only does my knowledge that I am worthy of any person's attention and respect make me a great submissive, but knowing myself so well and owning my sexuality encourages a feeling of wholeness and completeness in the world outside my bedroom.

Some people do not fully comprehend the active communication that goes on between a Dom and sub, even when no words are spoken. It may seem demeaning to an outsider but there is a huge amount of respect and trust exchanged between those involved in a BDSM relationship. Most might assume that it is only the sub who respects their partner, but it truly starts with the Dom earning the sub's respect and consent. And, in the end, it is the sub who holds all the power. The sub can simply utter one word and everything comes to a halt. It may seem odd to those unfamiliar with this subculture that the common credence is "Safe, Sane and Consensual"

My role in feminism is ensuring that my gender is viewed upon with equal regard and respect. That I earn equal pay for equal work and that I enjoy the same rights and privileges that a man may in the same position. That means enjoying the same rights and privileges in my work, my government, my community and my bedroom. If we deny women the right to explore their sexuality because they feel judged, we deny them the ownership of their bodies. If we can vote, run for office and own land, we should be able to own our orgasm too.