Other (not always) wordless friends:
In the event you’re confused about how to treat the wimminfolk ‘these days’, and we suspect you are, maybe this will help…
a) ‘these days’, by the way, have been ongoing since Mary Wollstonecraft had the chutzpah to point out (publicly and in writing) the inequities between genders in 1792. She was, of course, the first feminist or, as some of you might describe her, the first pain in your ass. She certainly heard enough of that in her day. As have all women who dare to point out inequities. Because our more important role is to smile. And if you think the inequities are tiring to hear about, imagine it from our end.
b) It’s not about doors. Or seats on buses. I mention this only because it appears to be no small detail in terms of your frustration/confusion.What do these chicks want? Are you supposed to open the door or not, you wonder….
c) So, I repeat… it’s not about doors.
Please understand… we know you live to be helpful, to treat women with chivalry because, after all, that implies horses and knighthood, a nifty metal ensemble, a shiny sword but, honestly, unless our arms are full of groceries or rocks or children, we can handle a door. Same with anyone, really, you needn’t single us out. We’ll let you know if we need help with a jar or a high up shelf but in the meantime we’d like to think you’re using all those knightly instincts being chivalrous to people in general, opening an equal number of doors for men with arms full of children and offering seats to old fellas who look tired. In turn, we, too will gladly hold a door for you should we happen to get to it first. Basic politeness is different than a sense of duty, or favour.
That said, if you just can’t move past the idea of imposed chivalry, that men exist in order to ensure the welfare and good treatment of women, you’re in an excellent position to do something about it given your clout in most things corporate, political, tyrannical and world domination, generally.
Justice for sexual assault victims
Elimination of gender discrimination in the workplace, in the arts, in government, at my car dealership
The growing trend of women and poverty (aka feminization of poverty)
Gender based violence in… well, everywhere
Domestic violence and the need for shelters, community support, housing
The buy-in on your part to raise your boys to know it’s okay to show healthy emotion so that they don’t grow up like angry little grenades
The buy-in on your part to allow your boys to do more than excel at sports
The need to change the language that demeans girls: throw like a girl, etc.
And the language that demeans women… the male server at the restaurant who calls the woman who is neither young nor a lady, young lady, while addressing the male at the table as sir.
Equality of pay
Equality of employment opportunities
Elimination of the pink tax. Why do pink razors cost more than blue ones?
Missing and Murdered Women
Rape and Trafficking
Increased funding and research in the area of women’s health, i.e. maternal, menstrual, menopausal (part of human biology, not chick stuff )
Oh, and stop telling women to smile, okay? You like telling people to smile, tell each other.
Because these are the kinds of things that would actually HELP women.
Once you’ve taken these things as seriously as you do doors, and seats on buses, and opening jars, and similarly ‘helpful’ things, well, then, if you still want to open doors for us, go right ahead.
Thanking you in advance.
Once again, thanks.
———those who doubt,
———those who insist,
———those who sit at the steering wheel and cry,
———those who write on blackboards,
———those who fall asleep in the sun,
———those who wait to be served in their own language,
———those who have a radical change of attitude,
———those who have seen your face somewhere before and
frantically search their memory for the sound of your name,
———those who worry about the state of your health,
———those who turn up the volume as loud as it can go to
prepare for the confusing and unpleasant noise that will
———those who can recognize in the grey sky the infallible
signs of an impending storm,
———those who place their head against your forehead to
try to track the movements of your thoughts or to transfer
information or, simply, to try to get close to your soul,
———those who stretch out their hands, imploring you to
help them up the steep slippery slopes they are preparing to
climb with or without you,
———those who go and get wine,
———those who do the shopping,
———those who make supper,
———those who move painfully, making their way slowly
and cautiously over icy sidewalks,
———those who turn around to make sure you haven’t
followed them with your eyes into their solitude,
———those who can’t get their keys to turn in the frozen
locks of their houses,
———those who touch up their lipstick,
———those who carry their shoes in plastic bags,
———those who never use a comb,
———those who cut their own hair,
———those who wipe the fog from their lenses,
———those who write their names in the sand,
———those who draw hearts and arrows or write risky
confessions in the dust and dirt that builds up on car bodies,
———those who use pointed objects to engrave graffiti into
the cold frost that thickens on the windows of their houses,
———those who insist on getting things out into the open,
———those who share a deep respect for each other,
———those who say yes with their eyes, offering the
troubling and genuine confession of their vulnerable bodies,
———those who leave flowers, love notes, flyers under the
windshield wipers of cars in the parking lots of shopping
———those who hold your face in their hands as if to drink
out of your mouth, as if from the source of an injury that
cannot be repaired by any other means but in this intimate
gesture, as distant as scripture and as moving as the sea,
———those who care deeply about making sure the world
is still and will always be a refuge of infinite warmth and
~ From, Beatitudes, by Hermengilde Chiasson
That my choice for Int’l Women’s Day is an excerpt from a book by a man isn’t completely ironic. His were the words that came to mind today when what I wanted to address was the universal each other of us, not just those who travel in our circles, who share our concerns, but those with or without families, with or without homes or meaningful work, respect, love… with or without someone who cares if we have a cold, who will bring us soup.
The forgotten women as well as the remembered.
The fact is we’re more same than different… and, despite our differences in gender, culture, race, privilege (and other contributing factors to how life plays out) (and the need to address those factors of inequality…) we recognize each other.
And that’s no small thing.
But how to use the power of it?
Because it strikes me that maybe it’s a key ingredient to achieving all kinds of equality, and rather than giving so much energy to divisiveness, teams and sides, all those rules to argue over, which makes for such a slow and bumpy road, maybe we could focus on the reality that we ‘recognize’ each other.
But, yeah, how to use that reality… remains the question.
In the meantime, that a man wrote these passages feels somehow hopeful, makes the idea of recognizing each other seem more possible somehow.
In the meantime…
Happy International Women’s Day, to ‘us’ all…
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.
I believe the correct term is ‘re-blogging’.
I’ve never done it before so I feel the need to make it very clear that
They belong to the clever minds over at Telling the Flesh and rockstar dinosaur pirate princess but they are so very wonderful and so perfectly address the issue of ‘consent’, which for some reason seems to baffle certain folk to the point of collapsing empires…
Anyway, they deserve to be shared.
From Telling the Flesh—
The news is full of stories about sexual assault, rape, and rape culture. Jian Ghomeshi. Steubenville. Rehtaeh Parsons. Dalhousie Dental School. Etc. Every day, almost, there’s another story. Rape culture is now on the agenda, people say. And sure, it’s great that people are talking. It’s great that the idea of rape culture is actually showing up in the mainstream media.
But it’s clear that a.) this conversation shouldn’t have had to happen on the backs of those who have suffered – in some cases, died; and b.) the whole notion of consent still seems to be a particular sticking point for many.
I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people have such a hard time with consent. To me, it’s simple. It’s straightforward. But for others it isn’t. And that’s where a handy analogy developed by rockstar dinosaur pirate princess comes in.
RDPP (for short) compares sex to tea, with brilliant results. Here’s just a sampling:
You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.
If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.
If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?
They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.
If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.
Now, go read the rest, which you can find here.
The above, with thanks, to Sonja Boon.
The waiter brings the apps, sets mine down and says, “There you are, young lady.”
He sets down my husband’s. “And for you, sir.”
We are the same age, my husband and I.
And I am no young lady.
When the main course comes the waiter repeats his little service mantra and I point out the above—lightheartedly, but clearly wrapped in a message. It rattles the poor soul but he’s not the sort that moves easily beyond his ignorance and chooses to stand firm instead, explaining that many people like being called ‘young lady’.
“People?” I say. I point out that in our case, my husband is called ‘sir’ every time.
He looks to my husband who purposely says nothing. This is my discussion and that seems to rattle the waiter even more.
He says some people prefer ‘sir’.
Again with the people.
I should mention that the waiter is thirty something. In other words nowhere near old enough to be calling anyone young. Were he my parents’ vintage or older, or even my vintage, it would be another story and more acceptable, because it would be coming from a whole different place. Does this chap call twenty-five year olds ‘young lady or man’? I doubt it but if he does I’m guessing it might also come across as odd. In fact I can’t think of any age, beyond maybe eight, when I would have thought it normal. But more important than the age thing, is the gender thing. My husband is referred to with respect, as in ‘Sir’. While I’m expected to be content with the nonsense of ‘young lady’.
Women may be subjected, generally, to more dears and sweeties and hons, than men, and from both genders, and that’s another story, but this is about more than endearments or habits of speech. The ‘young lady’ thing, however, seems to come predominantly from males… and is directed at females who are not young. Perhaps these misguided men think of it as some kind of gift…
I try to explain this, to enlighten him with the news that women don’t actually enjoy being condescended to and that this ‘young lady’ thing is just plain silly, and then I present him with a challenge so that he might see the silliness more clearly. I suggest he turn things around, call all male customers, of any age, ‘young man’.
His face falls a little.
I smile. “Go on,” I tell him. “Give it a whirl. Maybe some people will prefer it…”
No answer to that and I’m suspecting he doesn’t give it a whirl.
I swear if I was his boss I’d insist he do it.
Later, when I pass on dessert and hand back the menu, he says, “Thanks, love.”
“You’re welcome, darling,” I reply.
If he gets where I’m coming from he doesn’t let on.
It’s only when he places the bill on the table and I immediately reach for it—and I know he sees this—that for the first time all night a light seems to come on for this boy as he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake…
The following, ascribed to ‘Anonymous’, but thought to have been written by Florence McLandburgh, is taken from the 2014 Herstory calendar, an annual celebration of women that I have raved about at least once before.
She rose before daylight made crimson the east
For duties that never diminished
And never the sun when it sank in the west
Looked down upon work that was finished.
She cooked an unending procession of meals,
Preserving and canning and baking.
She swept, she dusted.
She washed and she scrubbed.
With never a rest for the taking.
A family of children she brought into the world,
Raised them and trained them and taught them.
She made all the clothes, patched, mended and darned
Till miracles seemed to have wrought them.
She watched by the bedside of sickness and pain
Her hand cooled the raging of fever.
Carpentered, painted, upholstered and scraped
And worked just as hard as a beaver.
And yet as a lady-of-leisure, it seems,
The government looks on her station.
For now, by the rules of the census report
It enters her—No Occupation.
Picture courtesy WikiCommons
I’ve been time-travelling recently, spending happy hours in the late fifties, sixties, seventies and early eighties, with Christina McCall, one of the ‘lady journalists’, or dames, from that extraordinary era, and author of the collected essays in My Life as a Dame.
It was after the war. Technology was king (definitely not queen); women’s equality was still a quaint if irksome notion. Chaps were growing their hair and women taking off their gloves and corsets. Jane Jacobs had just arrived in Canada and wondered what was our problem with ‘identity’—“When you come here from outside, as I did, you know immediately what ‘Canadian’ means and that it is this very Canadian quality that has so far kept your cities liveable. Your saving grace is common sense…”.
Trudeau was a mania and George Ignatieff (yes, Michael’s dad) was the Man Who Should Have Become Governor General, if only the rules of the whole game hadn’t changed and then nothing was ever the same again. Yonge Street was just starting to get grubby, the Four Seasons was a still a motel on Jarvis and CanLit was a few talented writers with pluck.
It was a world of Bloody Caesars at mid-morning meetings, swingers, bad hair and the birth of bilingualism in Ottawa. “With their end-of-June paycheques, civil servants got an institutional green pamphlet telling them in effect to learn French or resign themselves to dead-end jobs.”
McCall wrote for magazines such as Macleans, Saturday Night, Chatelaine (during the Doris Anderson years), among others. Her subjects were people and politics; her slant was that of justice, a dissection of class, an attempt to understand various aspects of society, including her own distinctly privileged middle class one. In fact it was her own class and those ‘above’ it that were often her favourite targets. She observed the banalities of privileged lives but not in merely a cursory way—her essays inspired neither outrage nor indifference, but a changed perspective, or at the very least, thoughtfulness where once a vacuum had been.
She was especially passionate about women’s rights and defended them well (while wearing hat and gloves, naturally) and at every opportunity. One of my favourite pieces in the collection, ‘Some Awkward Truths the Royal Commission Missed’, refers to the document published in 1970 to study the status of women. She charged many things about it that were disgraceful in its execution and, even worse, the presentation of the final document: a long, dry, statistical non-account of things.
“I sat in on those hearings….and I found it one of the most engrossing, moving and involving experiences I’ve ever had. The women who appeared before the commissioners weren’t silly suffragettes in defensive hats or mannish harridans seeking unearned privileges. They were professors, farm women, nursery school teachers, Aboriginals, deserted wives, nuns, disaffected suburbanites—all real women with real problems of poverty, alienation, loneliness, and prejudice. Surely, something of their quality as human beings should have been imparted in the report, some part of their individual stories should have been told so that all those who couldn’t attend and hear for themselves would have been affected, as were the audiences at those hearings. At one session in Ottawa, for instance, when an Aboriginal woman from the Caughnawaga reserve was eloquently describing the hardship of her life, another woman in the audience, the very model of a Rockcliffe matron in an expensive dress and careful hairdo, sat with tears rolling down her face. Something of the eloquence and the tears should have been in the report.”
However, my MOST favourite essay comes last in the book: ‘What Won’t Appear in My Next Paradise’, written in 1970, in which she outlines what she hopes the world, especially as it relates to women, will have achieved by 2020. It begins:
“…For I belong that nameless generation of the 1950’s, that uncommitted company of the cool who were born in the years just before the Second World War: educated in the expectation of equality, confronted by the realities of domesticity and the double standard, too young to have been gulled into believing in the feminine mystique (as was the generation of the 1940s, for whom happiness was supposedly a man, four children on three levels, Birks sterling, real pearls and a grand slam at the Victoria College Alumnae annual bridge tournament) but too old and—oh! shameful admission—too liberal to be affected by the Sisters, Unite-Against-the-Capitalist-Imperialist-Phallic-Society! militancy of the new women’s liberation movements.
“If you add to the uncertainties of my whole generation my own specific experience—too many dues paid to feminism in the form of five years spent on a women’s magazine writing such mind-blowers as ‘Why Can’t We Treat Married Women Like People?’ and ‘Working Wives are Here to Stay!’—you realize that it would be paradise enough for me if by A.D. 2020 people had simply stopped talking about women as though we were a national problem… “
She then outlines five simple (and I mean s-i-m-p-l-e) but brilliant points—markers—that if achieved, would indicate a somewhat more enlightened world.
It’s both stunning and interesting to note that, in the almost half century since she wrote the piece, not one of those points has been realized by the so-called ultra modern, progressive, and so very very savvy society we think we’ve become.
From the Re-Run Series: originally posted in June, 2010.