the teachers are leaving… i hope we’ve been paying attention

 

I’m thinking of so many teachers on a morning when we woke to find we’d lost one of our best, one who taught through music and poetry, such gentle lessons… the kind that change us in ways that allow us to find the strength to build and change our world with compassion.

Have we made notes? Because it’s up to us now.

And I’m thinking about those who fought against the *isms* … Oh, to find a way of fighting without harming. Maybe that’s the hardest fight of all.

dsc07670It’s not much, but I went out onto the main street of our tiny downtown and watched those men and women march to the cenotaph. Each year there are fewer gray heads but those still there always have the same look in their faces, their eyes…

dsc07680I’m not a fan of war (are there fans of war?). Or even the military. That’s not what I’m paying respect to.

At least not directly.

I’m there for the individuals, not the machine.

I’m there for the same reason I once stood at the side of the 401 while the car carrying the body of a boy home from Afghanistan passed and the crowd of people went silent and a mother and a father were somewhere doing god only knows what mothers and fathers do at times like that.

It’s not about condoning why people die, it’s about not being able to pretend they don’t.

And so every year since this one I try to make it to the parade and stand in silence, together with neighbours I don’t know, all of us there for probably very similar and yet different reasons.

Does it matter that there are different reasons?

dsc07667 dsc07668 dsc07666 dsc07675However you look at it, it’s a sweet thing in a fleeting way.

**

Bonus: on the way back to my car this beautiful old man in a don’t-hit-me fluorescent vest, said hello in that way the very old have perfected as an art. One of those things we might have made better notes of… how to greet the neighbours we don’t know.

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**

The Gift,

by Leonard Cohen

You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me.

in fairness to men

 
There’s so much inequality. For men, I mean.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, on International Women’s Day, a few chaps harhar’d about why isn’t there an International Men’s Day??

Turns out there is one.

But the sentiment remains: the women’s version gets more attention.

And that begs a few questions. Beginning with why?

Because if you look around, you’ll soon realize it’s all about the women. And I can see how men might be feeling left out.

Even something as simple as a title… women luck out. They’ve got so many to choose from. Miss (status: available), Mrs. (status: unavailable), Ms. (status: pain in the ass feminist who refuses to say if available or not). While men only get one. Mr. (status: male).  Fine, we know they’re male, but how are we expected to know their status??

It gets worse.

Consider the TV show, ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. Where’s the boy version? One that features spray tanned four-year old lads in speedos and fake facial hair who are encouraged to pat their butts in saucy ways while winking and blowing kisses to strangers?

The moms on the show say this gives their girls confidence and boosts their self-esteem. Hello!  Boys need self esteem too. How else to prepare our sons for teen and young adulthood when, instead of being relegated to host or judge, they should be entering  beauty pageants.

Where are the beauty pageants for men??

And what about fashion? Why do designers hate men so much? It’s almost impossible to find skin-tight clothing in the lad’s department, never mind shoes with heels high enough to flatter the calves. And what about pushing things up? Couldn’t men benefit from a little under-wire support… somewhere?

While we’re at it where is there a Victor’s Secrets?

And the media, shame on them. Always focussing on what Angela Merkel is wearing. What about what Vladimir is wearing???  Sure, he pretends he doesn’t care, but all that attention to what he does rather than how he looks must get to him at some point.

And magazines. I can’t imagine being a man walking past a magazine stand in a corner shop, drug store, grocery store, newsstand, airport, well, everywhere really… they just can’t get away from the humiliation that is the outright boycott (let’s call it what it is) of men’s pretty smiles and perky buttocks on covers. After all, they have just as much right to air-brushing and ‘visibility’ as anyone else. Damn straight they do.

Then there’s what’s in  those magazines. And, as can be expected, it’s NOT men’s issues. Which begs the question:  where are the ads and articles and 10 Top Tips featuring Mens Problems? How are men supposed to know how much is desperately wrong with their eyes, neck, ear lobes, teeth, cheekbones, jaw line, hips… well, you know, things that are messed up. How are they supposed to become perfect if they don’t have instructions???

And where are the age-defying creams for men? It’s a travesty that the entire cosmetic industry appears to give less than a rat’s ass about the condition of a man’s pores or the depth of his wrinkles.

And his hair? Is it supposed to just go grey??? Is he supposed to walk around with grey hair??

Where are the instructions?

Men are right. Women get all  the attention.

And men do all the work.

Just watch any film. They’re doing all the work. Behind the scenes as well. And look at history. Men, men, men. They did it all. Women mostly knit while the universe was carved out by the fellas. And the space program and sports (yes, women do trouble themselves to play sports and get into rockets but who cares, they don’t do it right, or something). Look at science (it’s not hard to avoid the women)… it’s mostly frazzle-haired men we know the names of. The faces on our money. Painters, playwrights, protagonists, sculptors.

Consider what’s happening in any corporation, any religion, any government, any board of directors. Look at the military, any military. Hells bells, almost any industry you can name is run by men. Essentially, the entire world is run by men. Does anyone even begin to think how exhausting this must be? Obviously not or there would be a few more ads for spas featuring our menfolk in sexy robes and towel turbans sipping cellulite busting guava juice, legs crossed (also waxed), and chatting about non-essential, stress-free issues.

That we have an International Men’s Day is good news, but in fairness to men, that shouldn’t be where we leave things, with a simple token gesture. No, let’s give men a better start in life by treating them equally right from toddlerhood. Teach boys to cry and play coy and let other people ‘go first’. And let’s lobby the cosmetic and fashion industries to take into consideration the feelings of young males and how they, too, would like to know what’s wrong with them and that they, too, would like to think about this constantly and to have goals such as pectoral implants and hair extensions and striving to have an ass that looks good in skinny jeans.

Let us encourage our sons to be the go-go dancers in music videos.

And let’s explain how winning isn’t everything, it’s how you look and that maybe, if they look really, really good, they might find the right person one day and then what will winning matter anyway…

Let us tell our sons that if they must work, they should become nurses not doctors; waiters not chefs; receptionists not lawyers.

And please, let us for once and for all stop assuming that only men should do all the work.

Let us allow them fulltime child care, to assume the role of homemaker and caregiver to the elderly; baker for fundraisers, cafeteria monitor at Susie’s school, anything that will give them more time to just chill at home. To get their nails done.

Surely, this is the least of what they deserve.

Damn straight.

You go, boy!

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it may seem we’ve come a long way but you’ve got to admit, the bar was pretty low…

 

In 1854, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon published a pamphlet, A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning  Women; Together with a Few Observations Thereon” ; this is an excerpt:

“A man and wife are one person in law; the wife loses all her rights as a single woman, and her existence is entirely absorbed in that of her husband. He is civilly responsibly for her acts; she lives under his protection or cover, and her condition is called coverture.

A woman’s body belongs to her husband; she is in his custody and he can enforce his right by a writ of habeas corpus.

What was her personal property before marriage, such as money, becomes absolutely her husband’s, and he may assign or dispose of them at his pleasure whether he and his wife live together or not.

A wife’s chattels real (i.e., estates) become her husband’s.

Neither the Courts of Common law nor Equity have any direct power to oblige a man to support his wife….

The legal custody of children belongs to the father. During the life-time of a sane father, the mother has no rights over her children, except a limited power over infants, and the father may take them from her and dispose of them as he thinks fit.

A married woman cannot sue or be sued for contracts—nor can she enter into a contracts except as the agent of her husband; that is to say, her word alone is not binding in law….

A wife cannot bring actions unless the husband’s name is joined.

A husband and wife cannot be found guilty of conspiracy, as that offence cannot be committed unless there are two persons.”

 

* In 2007, the British equal rights campaigner and feminist Lesley Abdela came across the grave of Barbara Bodichon. The grave lay in the tiny churchyard in Brightling, East Sussex, about 50 miles (80 km) from London, in a state of disrepair, its railings rusted and breaking away and the inscription on the tomb almost illegible.[  About £1,000 has since been raised to restore the site.

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* With thanks to Wikipedia.

an open letter to tiffany & co.

 

Dear Tiffany & Co.

The full-page ad in my weekend newspaper, a sketched illustration, has me wondering about your sensibilities… Lovely are the ad’s colours, and the sentiments of giving exquisite gifts in small blue boxes, well, I’m sure it’s never an unpleasant box to receive. But heavens to betsy, your sense of proportion is perhaps a little off.

Here’s the scene as I see it: a woman is decked out in a body-hugging satin dress, a slip of a dress, that threatens to fall off at any moment, while she climbs a step-ladder in five-inch heels to add a bauble to the xmas tree. A fully-dressed man stands and watches, holding behind his back a little blue box, presumably for the satin-bedecked woman as a reward. For what? For decorating the tree? For being able to function in five-inch heels? For choosing a slinky dress that refuses to stay on?

It doesn’t much matter. And this isn’t the issue anyway. (I have every confidence there are as many Tiffany & Co. ads where it’s the guy in tight clothing, arranging baubles from a tippy-toe position atop a ladder while a chick stands there waiting to present him with a little sparkly something or other. Right??)

In any case, this isn’t the issue. It’s the size of these people. He is exceedingly tall, a handsome near-giant who could simply raise one arm and hang the stupid bauble himself from where he stands. She, on the other hand, is oddly small by comparison. Remove the heels and the ladder and you have an oh-so-delicate creature… in a slinky dress that’s about to fall off.

And so I wonder: why???

Not why can’t she buy her own jewellery, or why do we need to see the shape of her buttocks and thighs and bosom through that dress, or even how is she managing to balance on that ladder in those shoes… but why do the chaps in ads never get to star in the honoured role of small and delicate creature?

Some women are tall. Some men are not.

All the best to you, and happy holidays.
May each of your baubles be hung with joy.

love,
Matilda.
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Thanks to WikiCommons for the snaps.

why she stays

So why did she marry him, move in, have kids? Why, when the feel of his fist is still fresh on her face??

Or maybe the abuse is not physical, but only emotional. Or financial. Maybe she’s only allowed to do what he says, go where he says, see who he says.

I met a woman once who said she came to this country with her husband in good faith… until, once here, he said she was to go nowhere without him. She didn’t know anyone else here so she became a virtual prisoner inside her home for six years.

Why didn’t she leave sooner? She and she and the other she and her and the hundreds and thousands of ‘she’ everywhere… why doe she stay?

It’s always the first question. Sometimes the only question.

And the answers…  not so simple.

She stays because she’s afraid, isolated, shamed. Because it’s her home. Because she’s given away her power, been told she’s stupid and worthless one too many times. Because she’s been told her whole life she’s stupid and worthless. Because she believes she’s stupid and worthless. Because there are kids and pets and threats to harm them or take them away.

Because there are threats. Always threats.

Because she is deflated, broken, and because he threatens suicide if she leaves. Always threats. Because to leave is failure; because she came from a broken home and doesn’t want her kids to come from the same place. Because she will be seen as pathetic for having stayed so long so it’s better to stay even longer and not let anyone know. Because people blame the victim. Because people blame the victim… Because people blame.

She stays because she’s fought this fight ten thousand times and hasn’t got the strength it takes to fight back anymore much less start a new life, no matter how right and good and sensible she knows that would be.

She stays because she doesn’t even know she’s being abused. It started small. It was only emotional. He has a temper but he loves me, the kids, he always says he’s sorry. Because this time is the last time. Because this black eye is the last black eye, he said so. He promised. He cried, he begged. He’s really just a teddy bear underneath… he needs her, he said. And she needs to be needed. What else does she have?

She stays because he is her family. Because of For Better or Worse. Because even though she looks fine and manages to function, she is so messed up emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, she can’t even see straight. She stays because it’s easier at this stage to hope… so she hopes he will be in a good mood today and when he isn’t… it’s too late again.

She stays because she doesn’t want to be seen as weak, or overly dramatic. No bones broken, just a little scuffle. He’s got a temper. I mentioned that, right, the temper?

She stays because the most dangerous thing she can do is leave. It’s bad enough under normal circumstances but if the guy has money, that danger is multiplied. He can have her watched, followed, hurt or worse. And he almost always does.

And where is she supposed to go? Family? Friends? He’ll find her. A hotel isn’t safe. So you tell me… where does she go?? In this weakened state. Where?

That she leaves at all is extraordinary. It takes monumental courage.

And the women that manage it should be applauded and protected. They aren’t just ‘leaving’, they’re fighting for their lives. I see them at the women’s shelter where I volunteer. They land on the doorstep not because it’s an easy fix but because, for a short time at least, they’ll be safe. The windows are bullet proof; there are cameras at the door, you have to be buzzed in. The police are on speed dial.

Sadly there are never enough beds, never enough shelters. The problem of abuse is only getting worse. Sometimes women are sent out of town, wherever a place can be found. Imagine leaving your home with nothing, your abuser’s voice still ringing in your head, screaming that if you leave he’ll kill you or someone or something you love, and it will be your fault he says. If you leave, he won’t be accountable for what he does. It will be your fault.

What now?

The shelters are a place to breathe and think and get some help with what to do next. They’re a place that reminds women they aren’t alone, that their problem isn’t unique to them.

Why does she stay?

Because until she finds the strength to do anything else, it’s all she can do.

And even if she finally musters the courage to leave, she may very well go back at some point. For all the same reasons.

She wants things to be better. She really does. That’s part of the problem.

Factor in a situation where names and faces, celebrity and corporations and big money are involved and you can be sure there are those that will do their best to convince her staying is to her advantage, in order that those others save face. And money.

Her face for theirs.

Now factor in having nothing.

Or being somewhere in-between.

Because it doesn’t matter, rich or poor, abuse is the same.

So…

Why does she stay?

Here’s a better question: why does he  stay?

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Black_eye_2

(Note: The woman who was a prisoner in her home for six years, finally escaped. I met her at the shelter she ran to, where she found safety and community for the first time since coming to Canada and where, in a writing workshop, she wrote about the taste of mangos, the memory of a tree outside her childhood window. As she read aloud it occurred to me that she will heal, she will survive and maybe even thrive, not in small part because she was careful to leave at the right time. When she was ready, when she knew where to go, when she had enough courage. So many factors to consider.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
For further information and assistance, including a list of shelters in Ontario, and across Canada:

OAITH

Public Health Agency of Canada

cue the theme from deliverance

 
So I’m driving home from lunch with a friend. Said friend lives way over yonder and I live here, and so we meet in the middle once or twice a year.

There’s a lot of countryside between here and way over yonder and it pleases me to drive through it.
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But I’m late and there’s a cement truck in front of me all the way up one (two lane) highway, and then construction on the other (two lane) highway, so I can’t stop for pictures, except the ones I take while stopped, to prove there’s actual construction and that I’m not just rudely late. Not that said friend needs proof; but taking pictures is something to do while stopped.
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Lunch is a patio, an endless strings of words, hugs and laughter. This person has been through much in the past few years, one of the strongest people I know. Yet she, in the way of such people, has no clue as to her own strength. It’s my pleasure to remind her. And to celebrate having come out the other side intact, more brilliantly herself than ever.

Driving back home, I’m in no rush and so decide to turn left here, and right there, venturing down the occasional country lane.
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As a woman, I’m always aware of the potential for trouble in venturing down lanes. I take in the air and the sights. But I remain alert. I’d like to pretend this isn’t the case, to throw out some bravado, but it wouldn’t be true. Not that the ‘awareness’ stops me from the venturing, it’s just that I don’t do it casually, the way, maybe, a fellow would.

I suspect that every woman has a few dicey-situation stories to tell. Keeping one’s wits about one helps ensure they have happy endings.

But back to all that green.
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And then, as I walk along the shoulder of a particularly untraveled road in order to get the optimal view of greenness, a car in the distance coming toward me.

Not especially noteworthy, except that I can tell it’s slowing down. A beater of car, as if the driver forwards and backs into walls as a matter of course.

I tell myself it’s a kind soul who wonders if maybe I’m in distress, but even I don’t believe me. I am very obviously not in distress. I am very obviously taking pictures. And the car is very obviously now stopping right in front of me. The window is lowered. Inside, a large man in a dirty tee-shirt. His stomach abuts the steering wheel as he looks me over before speaking, says so, what ya doin’, taking pictures?

He doesn’t care about pictures. I’m pretty sure he’s not big into the creative arts. My car is clearly visible, but it would take me a good minute to walk back to it. Long enough. There’s no traffic on this road.

I look him in the eye. That’s right, I say. See ya.

He continues to stare at me a moment and I stare back, give him the best f**k-you look I can muster. (It’s not hard.) And maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s the look, or that it occurs to him that it’s only a matter of time before someone drives by (although no one ever did)… but he snarls a bit then steps on the gas and tears away in what feels distinctly like some kind of moronic snit.

I’d like to say that I was emboldened by all this, that my veins surged with a kind of f**k you, assholes who bother women, you can’t stop us from taking pictures on deserted country lanes, “superpower”. But the truth is I walked quickly back to my car.

I continued on my way, still stopping for pictures, albeit on less untraveled roads; I found a greenhouse and bought a fern. I was grateful for traffic. And I hated that this is the way it is for women. On empty country roads, on crowded city ones. There is an ever-present ‘lurking’ that goes on among a certain kind of men.

And it occurs to me how important the friendship of women, how its embrace is one of the few truly safe places. I’m equally grateful for friendships with good men, and it’s a sad thing that that particular bunch is so tarnished with the likes of so many others.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful for a good f**k you look, which I believe I inherited, quite by chance, from my mother.

The moral of the story? How’s this: ladies, teach your daughters it’s not always good to be polite.
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And enjoy all the scenery you’re entitled to enjoy…