Saturday, 31 October 2015

Dress Up Time

Several people have mentioned to me lately that they are having a hard time finding a ladies' Halloween costume that isn't "sexy". One friend even showed me a picture of an equestrian outfit with a plunging neckline and a tiny added tutu, presumably for the "sexy" horsewoman. Definitely not practical for riding. Not everyone wants to dress "sexy" and so while some people are OK with these costumes, some are not, and are looking for something else. The "something else" is increasingly hard to find, apparently.

We didn't dress up for Halloween when I was growing up, there was no trick or treating. Halloween for us was a bit of bobbing for apples and scaring ourselves with superstitious stuff about mirrors. My first costume party at Halloween was as an adult. I chose to dress as a "naughty nun". Ripped fishnet stockings and a very short habit. It was what you would call ironical. Nuns aren't supposed to be naughty, you see. That was the joke.

So, you see I'm not averse to that sort of thing.

But we have a problem greater than that. We have "sexy" costumes for children. And a lot of people are objecting. This problem goes way beyond Halloween costumes. People been complaining for a number of years now of clothing for girls that is considered age inappropriate, and the difficulty of finding anything else.

This gives us a bit of a problem, because thinking women do not want to dress their daughters in these inappropriate styles, while at the same time, not wishing to criticize the styles themselves, because they want to wear them. Words have to be chosen carefully. You can't go around calling these age-inappropriate things "sluttty", for example, and then object to having your own outfit described in the same way. We are trying to stop the policing of fashion in this way.

To figure this all out we have to look a bit deeper.

I have the advantage of coming from a different time and place. When my girls were toddlers, they ran on the beach naked. This was normal, in that time and place. When they were a little older, but still pre-school, they wore what were effectively bikini bottoms. No tops, because they were small children. You could, at that time, walk into any children's clothing shop and buy them. What did a small child need a bikini top for?

We came to Canada, and discovered something very odd. On the beaches there were toddlers in bikinis. There were also slightly older girls running naked. You could tell who the European immigrants were in this way. The Canadian mothers were shocked to see little girls running around naked. The European mothers were shocked to see little girls in bikinis. I witnessed more than one argument over it. To the European mother, the bikini sexualized the child, because it emphasized the idea of "breasts" even though she had none.

You could easily take sides here, based on your own background and views on the matter, but the fact remains, these were all good people. These were all responsible parents doing what they believed to be best for their child. And clearly, there were some strong feelings about it all. How do you allow for everyone's feelings, and smooth this all out?

Actually, it's quite easy. Mind your own business. You choose what you and your child wear, and stay out of what others choose.

The objection to this, and I hear you, is that dressing a child in an age-inappropriate outfit is going to attract perverts. It may even be true. But I don't know about you, I don't want to live in a world where perverts run my life for me. I don't want to give them that power. Moreover, I'm not convinced that dressing your daughter in a Victorian dress, or in completely practical kid clothes such as jeans and a t-shirt, is going to protect her from perverts. Do we have any data here? I don't know. When girls are sexually assaulted does anyone ask "what was she wearing?" like they do with adults?

And if you came across a case where a child was assaulted, and the assailant blamed it on her clothing, would that give him any credibility in your eyes? Think about that very carefully, because that's what it comes down to.

Why then, would a thinking woman object to a "sexy" costume, if we don't believe it's anybody else's business what we wear?

This was put to me, in one such conversation, "you can't have it all ways, you don't want anyone criticizing or even commenting on what you wear, but you complain about the shops being full of "sexy" costumes, and you insist that clothing is just clothing, yet you yourself note that this is "sexy" clothing, and as as a result, you get uptight about it, and really uptight when it's for children."

Fair comment, but missing the point completely.

If you've read this far and whether you had considered this whole issue before, or you hadn't, and you are now pondering it, what I want you to think about is why women are angry about people telling us what to wear, and why, in the first place.

What we are hearing, is that we don't get to choose. This is what we are always hearing. This is the entire basis of our fight for equality. It's not that we object to the existence of "sexy" costumes, it's that we can't find any others. It's that we are told that's where our value lies, as a "sexy" thing. Maybe we want to be "sexy", and maybe we don't, we'd like that choice. But we are told, no, you don't get that choice. You don't don't even get to decide which is which.

We are told that others will decide for us.

And then there's this.

In an interesting twist here, I was told recently that I should stop looking at this as a feminist issue because the worst culprits when it comes to criticizing what women wear are other women. And it's true. Bitchiness and gossip has long been a hobby for many women (not that men don't do it) and I doubt that will ever change. The reason people do this is quite often lack of self-esteem. Not always - everyone is capable of it - but typically somebody who is insecure in themselves will pick on others. It's a classic human failing.

But not all women are feminists. A lot of women reject feminism, for a variety of reasons. Feminism is not "something women do". It's something people who see imbalance in the current system do. We see things that are wrong in the current system, and we speak out against them. And the sexualization of children is wrong. 100% wrong. No excuses wrong. No ifs or buts wrong. No wiggle room wrong. You don't need to be a woman to see that.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Judging Books etc.

First a little hypocrisy for you:

Does she have the right to wear what she likes without comment?

Well, that depends. Does everyone have that same right?

Oh dear, no, she criticizes what they wear.

I suggest this is six of one and half a dozen of the other. You can't have it both ways.

But what do we have here? More of the same. More people telling others what to do, more people setting themselves up as fashion police. Self-appointed experts. More "shoulding".

The problem is that we all do it. Rarely for the best of reasons, either. Why do we do it?

There are many reasons, but I think the most powerful one is best described as "a sense of occasion". Now, that doesn't just mean the king must wear a crown. It means we are going to stare at the people wearing PJs to Walmart. We have decided, among ourselves, that certain items of clothing are chiefly designed to be worn in bed, and while relaxing within one's home in them is OK, going out is not.

Recently however, many people have decided to ignore that "rule". It's really not uncommon to see people shopping in PJs. 30 years ago it would probably have caused such a stir that only real eccentrics would have dared do it. But now, it's not a big deal.

There are still those who would never do it, and there are plenty of people who disapprove of it, but it's generally not considered the done thing to say anything.

Let's pretend you did say something. What would you say? That's not appropriate?

We don't stop and ask ourselves why we feel the way we do about such sartorial rebellion, and we may learn something if we did.

So, if 30 years ago people simply didn't wear PJs to go shopping, and now they do, what changed?

Attitudes are not as individual as we think. We are influenced by others, and one of the things that influences us are the questions that make us think. Where's the harm in wearing PJs to go shopping? Seriously, who does it hurt?

And in this way, the rebels, those who cause us to examine our reactions, serve a wonderful purpose. Because if we can release all our old notions about PJs, we are on the way to ridding ourselves of many other attitudes that actually make no sense.

I'm quite sure some of you saying "we have to draw the line somewhere". Well, no, we don't have to. There is nothing that compels us to do anything of the sort, other than climate, and peer pressure. There is no good, solid, rational reason why we can't wear our PJs everywhere. There are only agreements that we make.

PJs, as we know them, a loose fitting pair of pants and a top, did not begin life as sleepwear. They were, and often still are, the everyday clothing for millions of people in many parts of Asia. The word pyjama or pajama simply meant "trousers". Traditionally they had a drawstring in the waist and this is common, but not essential, in the modern western sleepwear version.

A similar outfit is the scrubs worn by many in the healthcare profession. That is to say, the working garment of professionals. It is very practical, and has become normal and expected. When you are attended to by an ER doctor wearing scrubs you don't say "Ye Gods, he's out in his PJs".

Yes, we can tell the difference, but let's be honest, it's a trivial difference. It's all based on details and expectations. Without experience, we'd not be able to tell the difference.

Once you have started down the road of awareness, these things become very obvious, and it becomes harder and harder to convince oneself that we have GOOD reasons to accept one and reject the other, and I think that is why some are afraid of it. Where will it all end? They cry.

Actually, it's all very easy. This is where etiquette comes in.

If I wear my PJs to the shops it doesn't do any harm. But if I wear them to somebody's wedding, they just may feel slighted. They may feel that I care so little about them, that I didn't bother getting dressed. I think they'd be right.

Getting dressed more formally than we are used to is a lot of bother. Some people enjoy it, some not so much. But most of us are willing to do it to make somebody happy. Children grin and bear it when their parents clean them up for photos. Men who never normally wear ties will put one on if their wife asks them to, when they go out. These are gestures we make. Now we look at it the other way round - there's no harm in it. It won't kill me to dress up now and again. It's a compromise. We make the effort to show we care.

Who is harmed if we don't dress up to go to a lecture? Who is harmed if we do? Nobody. So wear what you like.

Of course, I didn't get up early to write about PJs or judgemental students. You know me better than that. These are just symptoms of a much bigger area of interest, one that I've discussed many times, and no doubt will as long as I live.

How long ago was the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" written? Well, it was a phrase known in 1860, whether it was original then or not, we don't know, but there surely can't be any adult in the English-speaking world who has not heard it.

Yet we still do it. Why do we do it? It is so obviously wrong, it is stupid.

I want you to try this.

How did you do? Not an easy test. Now ask yourself what criteria you used to try to decide.

When more complex versions of this test are done, real conclusions can be drawn from our prejudices. For a start, the better looking they are, the less chance they'll be suspected. I don't need to tell you what happens when race is thrown in.

And we've all heard "You could just tell he was no good". But you can't. The young thug that just got arrested for slipping a wallet out of an old lady's bag probably looks like a young thug. But the banker that took the old lady's savings probably looks very "nice". And he's far, far worse. But we're fooled by business suits and haircuts every time.

It is really hard to get past that. We profile people as we walk down the street. We choose who is safe and who looks dodgy. How do we choose? Hunch? Instinct? 

Apparently we're not that bad at this. Results from the test above were pretty promising; most people got scores above 50%. One answer then, as to why we judge by appearances is that, more often than not we are right. But even if we are right 70% of the time, that means we are wrong one time in three. And that's just not good enough for it to be fair. You may as well judge a man with phrenology.

So, despite our skills in this area being limited, we still do it. And it's wrong. It doesn't matter that we've always done it, it doesn't matter that it's "human nature", or that we are stuck not having anything better to go on.

It is none of your business what other people wear. You don't have to like it. Nobody is asking you to wear it. "Dressing up" does not make you a bad student, or a bad person, and nor does "dressing down". And it doesn't make you a good person either. It's all just a matter of taste and priorities.

It is such an easy trap to fall into. But it makes no sense. Your own personal preferences are absolutely not a way to judge other people. Remember, "I'm right, you're wrong, I'm better than you, and you're no good because you are not like me" is bigotry. We have enough of that in the world, over much harder matters. For pity's sake don't be a fashion bigot.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Conservative? No, Thank You.

I have a shock for you this morning, in the "things you don't know about me" department. I'm not into tradition.

Are you OK? Didn't see that one coming, did you?

No, but seriously folks.

People get split into conservatives and whatever they call those who are trying to change things. Conservatives, at least in theory, represent the older, established way of doing things. The older way of doing things often sucks, and the reason we move forward is because we find a better way of doing things. We progress. Which is why one word used for non-conservatives is progressives.

It's a direction thing. Not an inertia thing. Progress is inevitable, hence the "conserving" concept. Which often means going backwards, or at least LOOKING in that direction for ideas.

That was why, when the Canadian political entity called itself the Progressive Conservatives, we all did a head tilt. Right and left at the same time? Won't that involve spinning in a circle?

I'm not quite sure what they DID mean by it, a bit less conservative than a non-progressive conservative? Anyway, moot now. The new blood fighting over the PC leadership are quoted in the media as saying "times have changed". No shit Sherlock.

But outside of political parties, regular humans do relate to one of many scales, including a conservatism scale. We can number it from 0 to 100 and see where people find themselves.

That's far from being accurate you understand, just a vague idea that it's rare to find people at the extremes, and that humans in general are slightly more progressive than not, which is why we do, actually change and move forward, while the other animals don't. The peak of that lump actually includes most people you know today. That's PEOPLE, not governments. Governments tend to be further down the scale than people. They tend to be the elite, and the elite have a vested interest in the status quo.

Individuals can be fairly easily convinced to change. The larger the group, the less likely change will occur, because the one warning against it tends to influence the others. We are funny beings.

In my family I am the second most progressive. I am the one saying "we don't have to have turkey for dinner at Christmas you know" and Tom (the most progressive) is even willing to have a curry. But the group opinion is that there MUST be turkey, so there shall be turkey, because I cave.

When  you find people not doing the whole turkey thing they are usually either just a small family, with nobody else to worry about, or they have a whole OTHER family tradition that trumps turkey.

That said, despite being a large family, we are more progressive than a number of other families, on many issues, due to having a progressive matriarch, no doubt. Maybe also because we are "foreign", but that can go either way.

Families are a sort of micro version of society as a whole, as anyone who has ever studied any sociology knows. You have the individual as the starter unit, then the family, then the tribe (oh yes we still do, it's just different), then the larger community and so on, all the way to the human race. And if you watch how a person is on the family level you can tell a lot about how he is on the larger level, even to party politics, and I think it's important that we understand the overlap between personal and political conservatism. They are not the same thing, but the correlation is close enough to use as a guide.

Tradition as a concept is neutral. It's neither a good nor a bad thing. But your feelings towards it are not neutral. So it's just like a colour. It would be absurd to say that purple is good or bad, but some people like it, and some don't. Some like it an awful lot, and some hate it. Some have nothing against it, but think it can be "too much" sometimes, while others like it in some places (the garden, maybe) but not others (clothing).

If you have no tradition, more decisions have to be made, and people are lazy. If you have too much tradition people feel stifled by not getting to make any decisions. Hence the need for balance.

And we manage pretty well. We have to. Change is all around us, and we cope or die, frankly. Remember, adapting to change is the basis behind evolution. Even the most die-hard traditionalists adapt a bit. But on the other hand, it doesn't take a crazy person to get hung up on certain aspects of tradition. And as I said, tradition and family go together.


As it happens, I have seen both sides of this, and not in the usual order. NOW I have the big happy family thing. Now. And I like it. It's good. There are all sorts of benefits.

It's also not essential. It's not even necessarily the best. Is it normal?

I grew up in a one parent household, or a 3 parent household, depending on how you look at it. My father had died when I was a baby, and we lived with my maternal grandparents. I constantly heard that that situation was weird, but when you look back on human history it was incredibly common. People die. They used to die younger more often, and there have always been kids raised by one parent, or none. Plenty were raised by other relatives. An older sister even. The reason we have the word "orphan" in our language is that we needed a word to describe this common occurrence.

These days the absence of one parent in the child's home is far more likely to be from a relationship break-up, but again, it's far from rare. In the latest Canadian census, the two-parent family makes up 67% of families. In Britain it's 76%, and in the US it's actually only 46%, so statistically it's not "the norm". And you can go wah wah wah, if you like, but unless we examine every family and find out who's happy and who isn't, it doesn't tell us much.

I know I was happy in my weird family, I had all the attention I needed (didn't need much), and I didn't go short of basic needs at all.

A family is a group of people who live together, two or more. They may or may not be related. They may not even like each other, some of the time at least, they most certainly don't all of the time. But they manage for the most part not to kill each other, to share food and shelter and services. Some families are more functional than others. There is no such thing as a normal family. Any definition attempted is going to be unkind to anyone whose family didn't fit that definition. And it's not political correctness, that makes that so, it's reality. Any definition has to be fairly loose.

But still, there are those who talk about the traditional family, meaning their tradition, obviously. They tend to mean also, two parents, one male, one female, who were married prior to having children, and perhaps even, that this is a first marriage for both of them. This is seen by those of a more conservative mindset as ideal.

Is it? It might be if it's a good marriage, by good people. But as a matter of fact, some of the nastiest people I've ever known, the most messed up, the most amoral, have come from a family like that.

As picture perfect as it might be, it is no guarantee of anything, while families of all other types can work really well.

The traditional family sounds good. Mine IS good. But not all of them are. In my experience the chances of a family being good or not do not rest on the numbers, age, gender, or relationship status, they rest on the individuals concerned being people who want that family to be a good family.

Which brings us to family values. A delightful subject. Just what IS a family value?

I think a reasonable suggestion is that members of the family support one another. This may be by sharing resources, or it may be by listening to them. If somebody has a problem, a good family is sympathetic and helpful. In a good family you have people who care about you, even if you argue.

Hate is not a family value. Violence is not a family value.

We gained a family member because his original family treated him like shit. He is not related to me in any way, but he became my son. He behaves like a son. He does son things. This includes picking his adoptive brother up in the middle of the night after telling him on the previous occasion "that's the last time I do that for you, come on, get your plans together" because he really doesn't want him walking home 5km in the rain. That's the sort of thing family do.

His original family beat him, starved him, stole from him, locked him out in the cold in winter, and treated him like an indentured servant. He still visits his father and helps him with things, because that's the kind of man he is.

So, I may have a slightly different view of family values, one way and another.

You see, the reason that, for so long, the sought after family was one man, one woman, married, and with children, is that there are many benefits there. The man gets a "helpmeet", the woman gets a "protector", and together they get people to look after them in their old age. Sounds alright?

It does until you get into the whole chattel, domestic slavery, "do my bidding, woman" thing. There has always been this dark side to marriage.

Don't be afraid to click on this, it's short and in simple language:

That's some very helpful data, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't tell individual stories. They seem to have more impact on people who may otherwise move on to the next blog, so here's a story selected at random from my collection:

Like so many of these situations, it's her word against his. Without witnesses, what do you do? Unfortunately these stories are not rare. Are they are all lying? When a suspect changes his story (part of the pattern in domestic violence, incidentally) you would think that would be an immediate red flag.

But of course, that's extreme. Men don't usually murder their wives, even if they threaten to. They just say things in anger.......

Are death threats family values? Is that a good marriage? That is not a marriage at all. That is not a family. That is not right.

"Well, most men don't threaten to kill their wives. I've never threatened to kill my wife, not even in jest!"

Oh dear, we're back to #notallmen.

Not all dogs bite, but if you are in the street and 200lbs of barking teeth starts running towards you, is it any help to know that?

When I had small children I employed two girls in the village as babysitters, they were sisters. They also had a brother. They came from a respectable two-parent family.

One day the older one asked me if Martin was violent towards me and I told her no, never. I learned that her father had been beating her mother. She had a feeling this wasn't right, but she wasn't quite sure. She wasn't completely convinced that I was telling the truth.

A lot of girls grow up like that. They think it's normal. Well, it used to be. It was legal to beat a wife. Still is in some parts of the world. Doesn't mean all men took or take advantage of that, but there's something wrong when it's allowed or encouraged. That's wrong. No ifs or buts. It's wrong. It's just another example of women being treated as second-class citizens.

If anyone wishes to "inform" me that men get beaten up by wives, you're too late. I have that data. You just gave away that you didn't read the link I included, further up. You ask for data, but you ignore it. That tells me you came to this discussion ready to argue, not listen. This is why I keep harping on about it.

If we are ever going to get anywhere with this massive, international problem, we first have to acknowledge it exists. We then have to admit that it truly is a problem for women. Not a small thing, or a rare thing, or something that will just go away by itself. Then we have to stop this rubbish about traditional families and family values. It's holding us back.

Domestic violence is traditional. It's a tradition that needs to end, and it won't do so in a vacuum. We have to look at what is enabling it. Change is sometimes not optional, but critical. We need to look forwards, not backwards. If we are too keen on defending the old ways, we end up retaining the worst bits of it. If we are too quick to say #notmyfamily then we dismiss those for whom this is a daily reality. If we offer simplistic Duggar-like solutions to family problem, they continue and multiply.

The only way we will ever fix this is the end of patriarchy as a system. The conservative mindset wishes to preseve the patriarchy, as well as several other long-established flawed systems. This is why I reject the conservative mindset

"Oh my God Mom, they're all ignorant racists!"

Becoming an adult brings many challenges, and the financial responsibilities are just the beginning of it. At some point comes the realisation that there is more to this world than sport and music, and sooner or later you find yourself talking ethics, politics etc. with your friends.

For me, this came very early. At 14 I was already having heavy debates on serious topics, asking too many questions, and reading Marx in my spare time. I already started choosing friend by values, rather than the bands they listened to, and I wasn't your typical light-headed teen.

But even if you are an aware young person, there are surprises.

My younger daughter moved away from the rural idyll we raised her in, and jumped into the deep end of adult life in the city - it really hasn't been easy for her, one way or another. But this is not her story. This is about her epiphany. Lately she has spent more and more time looking at "issues", and today she contacted me having had a falling out with an old school friend over one such issue.

She showed me the conversation. It wouldn't matter whether you agreed with her actual stance or not, it's quite clear that she is being the adult in the conversation, and the "friend" is just parroting something he's heard in the media, or from another person who can't think for themselves. She kept her cool, and kept to the facts. I'm proud of her. But it breaks my heart to hear her say that - there goes another old friend, and.....

"Oh my God Mom, they're all ignorant racists!"

There are some things you can get past. Differences of opinion are natural, normal, and good. But when you are being bombarded by the most egregious racism, backed up by "facts" that can be easily demonstrated to be complete nonsense, you have to question the core values of the person believing and sharing the nonsense.

Why do they believe it? What do they get from sharing it?

It all goes back to fear of other, and the belief that "The way I do things is right, and the only way to do things." In other words, bigotry.

My daughter would like to remain friends with other people connected to this person, so she can't even say what she's really thinking. What she'd like to say is:

"I refuse to tolerate racism or sexism of any kind"

But apparently that statement is seen to be inflammatory. Eventually though, she's going to have to say it, for clarity.

People argue, it's what people do. Differences of opinion are one thing, being completely unreasonable is quite another. It's very hard being the voice of reason, especially when you find yourself in a minority.

But I would remind everyone one of this:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

When you see or hear shit-stirrers like me, or like my kids are fast becoming, making a big fuss over something, it's because we see harm. Injustice. Wrong. Stupidity. Ignorance. Cruelty. Selfishness. 

The solution to all of this is education, and we therefore choose to educate. You won't shut us up. 

Friday, 23 October 2015


Hi :)

So, getting down to the nitty gritty.........................

All my kids are now over 19, and my grandchildren don't yet read my stuff.


I was 13 when I "lost" my virginity. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I didn't lose it down a drain or anything. What a STUPID word.

His name was Lothar, he was German, and we were in a student exchange thing. I was on the pill and I really didn't care.


It was the 70s. It was Europe.

Grow up.

At the time, it felt right. I wasn't coerced. He was fucking gorgeous. I was very, very ready.

And do you know what he said afterwards?

"Didn't that hurt?"


"You are not a virgin."


I have no idea why I had no hymen. MAYBE I WAS BORN THAT WAY.

Maybe, being a tomboy, I had done enough rough outdoorsy stuff that I broke it on a stile (q.v.) or climbing a tree, or something. I don't know. I don't care.

All I know is that "my first time" it was all pleasure, and no pain.


I also knew girls who did just about everything EXCEPT "real" sex. They had sucked lots of penises, oh yes. Some had taken it up the rear. But they were still VIRGINS, you see.

What a load of bollocks.

Some of these girls were "virgins" on their wedding nights, and along with those who had zero experience they suffered pain. Right. Great way to end that day.

Then....some of them discovered the man they married was f**king hopeless at sex. Some of them are still with that man. Some of them have still not had good sex.

I tested my husband out. Are you ready for THIS?

First night we dated. In my living room. As my mother slept above. And I thought, yeah, I can spend the rest of my life with this one. Right then and there.

We married 11 months later. My advice to women? TESTDRIVE, girls.

I apologize in advance if this post offends. I'm just trying to be honest.

I accept there are other experiences. This is mine.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Dilemma of the Feisty Peacenik

I know I'm not alone in this, so let's look at the issue.

On the one hand, my essence, my philosophy, my id, my basic nature is a smiling, calm, loving person who talks to butterflies. Om.

On the other hand, I am very much "alive", not just living, and I am an extrovert who likes to swear and dance, and tell it like it is.

These two conflict.

When I yell instead of breathe slowly and deeply, when I carouse instead of meditate, I use the excuse, to myself, that at least I'm not grumpy. I'm not a negative person. I'm not an angry person.

But I am a getting things done person, and I've never been any good at just letting the waters flow around me ALL of the time.

Oh, I pick my battles, you'd better believe it. Raising a family taught me that. I do know when to just let it go.

But when it matters, when I just can't be that Buddha, because things are going to go to shit if somebody doesn't do something, I will often wade in and be that person.

AND......I am cool with the fact that I have a dual attitude, because it's normal, human, and probably a good thing. Too laid back and you're just lazy, actually.

What I am not cool with is the expectations of others, who seem to think I can be, SHOULD BE, only one or the other. That is to say, my frustration is that I am damned for not being one-dimensional.

It frustrates me because all around me I see people who are moody, capricious, unpredictable, and frankly unstable, but I have to fit neatly into THEIR pre-conceived ideas of me?

"I'm disappointed in you, I thought you were more sanguine than that."

The best part is, it's usually the pot calling the kettle black.

The people I admire most are those who are mature to the point of gallant, but can also get the giggles.

One or the other is not enough. She's fun, but that's all she is. There's no substance there. And she doesn't know when to stop. And if you need her to be reliable or wise, you're asking too much. He's a clever guy, and great to have around in a crisis, but he's as dull as ditchwater.

We all agree the world needs all types of people, but we also need well-rounded combination people, right?

Combining wise and funny is therefore seen as a good thing. I KNOW I'm not alone in valuing that.

So why can't I be "chill" AND outspoken? Why am I expected to be one or the other?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Caught In A Landslide, No Escape From Reality

Less than 6 hours after going to bed here I am to write for you, such dedication. And why am I voluntarily short on my sleep? Well, at least in part because I stayed up for the election results. This morning, I'm sorry, but I have to write on politics. Yes. I try not to do it very often, but as the memes say, if you are bored with the realities of the world please go look at cat photos instead, with my blessing.

.......and let the grown-ups consider the fact that it actually matters what goes on in government, because it affects all of us. No matter how little real power we have, as humble plebs, last night showed at least what happens when enough people say "enough of that".

Firstly I want to say that while I'm very happy that Stephen Harper has gone, and while I am no conservative*, this isn't a party issue. I'm not sure it ever is, and I hate party politics anyway, but this wasn't a Liberal victory, it was a Conservative defeat. I'm sure you'll see many others say that, but I'm up early so I get in first.

I am not a raving Trudeau fan. I shall be watching him very carefully, and if he steps out of line I will be one of the first people complaining. I don't trust him any more than any of the others. All politicians have the potential to tell lies, get involved in corruption, do stupid things, and pander to the elite rather than the masses. I don't like it, I wish it were otherwise, but I'm too old to believe in honest politicians. We just hope that some are better than others.

At least it's not quite as bad in Canada, as our neighbours to the south, whose politicians are simply bought by billionaires. We should be grateful for small mercies. And I'll just briefly say I hope they get Bernie in power. That would be very interesting to see.

But Harper had to go, he was doing too much damage, he was not representing the people he served, and when you forget why you are a leader in that way, your time is up. He forgot. He lost the plot, as they say. He started out ineffective and gradually became worse. Canada can run itself with very little input from leaders, it's set up that way. He started tinkering under the hood and it stopped running so well.

Then recently we saw his disdain for the environment, minorities, the vulnerable in general, and we said no. Stop that.

There are no guarantees that Trudeau will be any better, but we had to take that chance. We have to hope that his ego, his desire to be seen to do well, will help him try, at least. He knows, surely, that he is under the spotlight, he has to fill his father's shoes, apart from anything else.

I don't think it's an easy job, running a country. It's like being a mother, only there are millions of children, and they never sleep. And they squabble among themselves, and it's impossible to please them all. Therefore, as a mother, here is my advice on how to run a country.

First, you need a distant goal. The objective is that you are trying to raise a bunch of healthy, successful, and good kids. Even though you'll get no thanks for it until way into the future, you must set in place things now that are going to help later on. Just as a mother helps in every possible way to teach her children lifeskills, a government must invest in education, including kindergarten and even daycare where need be. Just as a mother tries to keep her kids healthy, a government must invest in public health, in all its manifestations from meat inspectors to keeping prices sensible on pharmaceuticals. Just as a mother tries to keep her kids out of mischief, a government must have laws that make sense and actually prevent crime as well as a system that deals with it effectively when things go wrong.

If you have a solid basis, like a functional home, the kids - the people - will thrive. When you see a government actively thwarting the efforts of the ordinary people to "get on well" you know something has gone awry. The government are forgetting what they are there to do. When you are caring for a very large family, you can't mollycoddle a few favourites and let the others wander out into traffic. You have to set things up so that everyone is taken care of, for the things that matter.

At the same time kids need freedom to develop into functional adults. They don't need helicopter parents. While you need a certain amount of discipline, you don't help things by watching over and interfering in everything they do. It's a balance.

And the nitty gritty, you don't let your kids go out in the cold without a coat on. You may not be wealthy parents, but you get your priorities straight, and you don't have a bunch of kids with no shoes just so one of the others can have designer shoes. You share it out. Why would you do anything else? If they don't share among themselves, you step in.

That's what you are there for. Don't forget. I'll be watching you Mr Trudeau.

And now, because it's my blog, and can say whatever I damn well please.....

Ner ner ner ner ner, we have the CUTEST leader ON THE PLANET. Bar none.

Meh, I know, but there it is.

*I have no party affiliation. I'm broadly socialist in ideals, occasionally conservative in crime and punishment, but essentially anarchistic, although I don't think you lot are ready to take care of yourselves. You still need parental government. And you get what you need.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Sex For Women.

Among all the nonsense about women, and covering them up, and so on, is the tacit idea that women aren't supposed to enjoy sex.

Well, bollocks to that.

We do.

If the woman is your life doesn't, that's your problem, OK? Do it better.

I have been married 35 years and I have no complaints. 

But apparently we have two choices. Either we have to be willing to do it on demand, or not at all. Really?

If you look at ALL of the nonsense spouted by all of those with a vested interest in women's sexuality (except, you know, the women concerned) those are the options.

Rape within marriage has only recently become a crime. It's still awfully hard to prove.

Is is still impossible in some places for a prostitute to get authorities to take her rape clams seriously, even if she is off duty, and the rapist is actually unaware of her profession.

We are not supposed to just have sex when we want to. All or nothing.

Now, why is this?

Well, on the sexual freedom side, I've heard some interesting theories, including some from well-meaning women. One is that a woman has more to lose than a man, be it her virginity or her reputation. PLUS, the risk of pregnancy.

There is certainly some truth in this. Thanks to tradition and the associated brainwashing by the patriarchy (yes, strong words) there is still this idea that it's OK for a man to "sow his wild oats", you know. To be a bit of a lad. Nudge nudge. Ha ha. While the woman who does the exact same thing is "sleeping around", which is not seen as a good thing.

No matter how much this is known in the modern world we still hear it all the time. It's OK for a man to behave like that, but not a woman.

I've even seen theories than this is a libido thing, men naturally have this insatiable appetite for sex, women don't. And if they do, well....that's DISGUSTING. You've heard it.

And so, she is less promiscuous, or even chaste, to avoid getting a reputation of not being chaste. That is to say the reasoning behind being chaste, is to avoid being thought of as not chaste. Because not chaste is bad,'s not chaste. Help me get out of this loop of circular reasoning please?

Oh, yes, that's right, because if she's not chaste then obviously she MUST be the opposite, which means she's openly offering it to anyone, all the time, no exceptions. She's gagging for it. She's a whore. There are only these two possible states of mind. The nun and the whore. There couldn't possibly be anything else, like maybe, a person who enjoys sex on her schedule?

That is how society works, still. There are a lot of people who see the complete absurdity here but not enough, and until we get past this we are always going to have problems.


Her virginity/reputation is valuable because other people decide it is.

Pregancy can usually be avoided. Contraception these days is fairly good, but it's not perfect. Still, there is abortion available when things go wrong. Some people are anti-abortion, but some of them can be persuaded that a really early abortion is OK, such as the morning-after pill. So women have that option in many places.

Unfortunately there are a certain number of people, mostly men, but not all, who oppose BOTH abortion (however early) AND contraception, of any kind. They have decided that sex is only for making babies. Even the less extreme ones preach abstinence.

Well, for women that is. Many, many of the men who feel this way have no problem being promiscuous themselves. It's a classic double-standard, nothing new, nothing surprising, but it remains. They are effectively opposed to women enjoying sex, because that's what it amounts to. If a woman is only able to have sex knowing that a risk of pregnancy is always going to be part of the deal, that takes away her options, her freedom.

The thinking behind this in many cultures and individuals is that it keeps her at home, out of the job market, out of the decision making processes, out of the way.

But there's something else.

There's fear. Remember? Fear of the power of women? If you let them have sex without risk, if they stop worrying about chastity, if in fact they start behaving like men, they might take over!

Good grief. What a thought.

I'm not for that. I don't want anybody taking over. I like democracy, a power balance, a variety of ideas. I like having everyone involved in decision making, not just one gender or one ideaology.

I'm into freedom. I fail to see why I need to be chaste to be respected. But because I'm married, it's OK. The only time busybodies ever mentioned my sex life was when I had my second child quickly after the first ("Haven't found out what's causing it yet,, eh? HA HA HA HA") or when they found out I had 6 children ("Can't leave him alone, eh? HA HA HA HA"). No, really I haven't had to explain myself too much. I was even married three whole years before having a child. Yay me.

But no.

It's OK.......

I'm just making this all up.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Complete and Utter Bollocks

I love social media. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. I love people too. I really do, no matter how annoying they are. At least if nothing else they can provide entertainment inspiration.

Some people are brighter than others. Some are so dim you get this urge to switch the lights on. Some just.....

OK. So there are facts, and there are opinions. And there are people who confuse the two (HOW?). But there is a special phenomenon that we English call bollocks. A useful word, the dictionary offers the following:

Which includes:

3. Exaggerated truth or blatant lies. 

But to me, it isn't just nonsense. It is when a person states something that is not only stupid, but can be EASILY demonstrated to be so, and yet they say it as if it were objective, proven fact. THEN they get offended when you call them out on it. Like nobody ever factchecks, or knows how to Google, or whatever.

So, while it's easy to use the word bollocks to refer to anything you disagree with, I prefer to save it for such occasions. If I say you are talking bollocks, I am not simply saying that I disagree with you, OK?

I'm saying "Are you crazy? Because I can easily prove you completely wrong, if I can be bothered to do so."

And this is important. Because quite often it's not worth the effort. This will not be a debate. Or even an argument. It will result in the bollocks-talker having such a fine, well-thought out rebuttal as:

"Well, that's what I believe anyway."


"My personal experience is more important than your data."


"You don't know me."

I think the latter is my favourite, because it is emotional drivel. I try not to judge people that I don't know well, based on short exchanges, but if I hear "you don't know me" I am immediately 100% certain that I don't want to.

But let's look at option #2 there.

Yesterday I found myself face to face on Facebook with a lady who was claiming to have had avian flu 4 times. As there have only ever been 2 cases total in Canada, that's quite the claim. And both of those were, as you might expect, reported in the media, and they weren't her. She claimed many other things that were also complete fantasy, and when given proof (data) of her, her reaction was to take offence and then bugger off. Which is standard in such matters.

She's a lovely example of this phenomenon, but hardly alone.

Who does it remind you of?

There is a recognized mental disorder, where otherwise quite normal people (can function fully in society, hold responsible jobs etc) can't stop telling lies. They invent stories to make themselves look brave, clever, or to act as credentials for their views. It's not quite Forest Gump material, but it is sometimes....borderline.

Some years ago, I frequented a Yahoo chatroom of regulars, and met some very nice people (and some utterly horrible people, but it was educational just the same), and one of my "friends" there, eventually anyway, was a young man who claimed to be an angel.

So I called bollocks on him, and I wavered between treating it as a running joke, wondering if he was completely delusional, and trying to demonstrate why he couldn't be. That's my failing, I try to bring logic into everything.

With him, because he was harmless enough (really very nice actually, I wish we hadn't lost touch) after a while I just let it go. OK, you identify as an angel? Whatever. I treated him in the same way I treat my transsexual friends. i.e. you are who you feel you are. We're cool. I didn't tease, and I stuck up for him. no point did I ever believe him (unlike my transsexual friends), because saying you are an angel is bollocks.

I mention this case because sometimes you can ignore bollocks.

Bollocks isn't an opinion. I mean......I could say that it's the criteria used when we decide how much religious belief we don't share, but can tolerate. But much of that cannot be proven either way. That's why it's called belief, and belief is just glorified opinion. Even if you call bollocks on many religious beliefs, you can't actually prove them wrong, such is the nature of the thing. This is why religious tolerance is a separate category.

With bollocks you COULD insist that the bollocks-talker stop talking bollocks. Simply on the basis on it being an untruth. You could present them with the data, and show how it isn't opinion they are spouting. You could say "everyone is entitled to an opinion, but you are just plain wrong" - but unfortunately statements like that are made so often that they have become meaningless.

When we debate we often swing back and forth between opinions and facts, and without some sort of signal as to which is which a person could get quite lost, but in informal discussion it doesn't really matter because those who contradict you will do so regardless.

That's normal. We cope. We don't usually feel the need to say "opinion" or "fact" after every statement we make.

But now and again a claim is made that is just so outrageous, it's different. It stands out.

"The earth is flat."

"There was no holocaust."

"Aliens built it."

"Lizard men run the planet,"

"Elvis is still alive."

Some even catch on, that is to say, they get shared.

This is not new of course - throughout history there has been wild folklore that looks silly now, but at the time it was accepted, because nobody could really prove otherwise. You either believed it or you didn't. Some of it became religious doctrine, and it became dangerous bollocks. These days we have conspiracy theories and other bollocks, but we can relax because far cleverer people than ourselves have done the work and made the rebuttals.

We don't even have to waste our time with people whose minds were so open they fell out.

Until we do. Until they walk into our lives, and then, well, then we have to decide how to deal with it.

I try, at first at least, not to be rude. Be kind rather than right. It's a good way to live. Sometimes though, I see a risk. There may be others who could take it verbatim. Maybe the young, the credulous, the compromised. If the bollocks is dangerous, there's a strong chance I'll say "Now, wait a minute. You are entitled to your opinion, but I have to call you on this one." Sometimes your objection will be called rude. Sometimes it will be mocked. So before you begin, you have to be ready for objection to the objection.

I've learned not to wade in too fast. I've learned to let it go unless I see real harm being done.

There is not one damn person alive who is right all of the time. Impossible. And there is nobody who is completely logical, even. We are not Spock, we can't do it. For a start we fall in love, and we are prone to other emotions. And preferences. Preferences are often not logical, and sometimes quite solid.

And (thankfully) we change our minds. We get new data, we have new experiences.

But some things really are just bollocks. Unsubstantiated drivel. Balderdash. Claptrap. Garbage. Rot. Ordure. And lots of other synonyms for manure, which are all a weird choice considering how useful manure is, but there we go.

Know what else we hate doing? Calling somebody a liar. This suggests something wilful, and it's a strong word. We'll say it about someone, but rarely to their faces. We were brought up to be more tactful than that. So we say "I think you are mstaken" instead. The way a person reacts to that is your clue. If it's bollocks they will resort to argument rather than debate (oh yes, there is a difference). If they are wise they will go and look it up for themselves. That's all you were ever asking anyway. Check your facts.

Sometimes we are all wrong, be it fact or opinion. Yes, an opinion can be wrong, that's a topic for another day, but it can happen. But there is no excuse for talking bollocks. It may be from laziness, it may be psychopathic, it may be with a malicious intent. It may just be stupidity. We dn't have to sink to their level of lack of thought, and it's better to temper critical thought with kindness (in my humble opinion, which I'll defend to the end!). Just once in a while, it has to be done.

Friday, 16 October 2015


I've been writing this week about an issue that isn't the issue. Ever since Stephen Harper decided he'd make a big deal out of the niqab in the run up to the election, to convince women he was all about women's rights, the topic that won't go away has arisen again. I believe that the power over, and manipulation of women is at the root of it all, whether those in power try to get them covered OR uncovered. The desire for the welfare of the woman may in some cases be sincere, but then it is misplaced, based on mistaken ideas. Her real needs are never taken into account all the time she doesn't get to choose, either way.

Men have long held power over women, but in the last century they have seen that gradually slipping away. Some men are intelligent enough to see that this is actually not a problem. That women with equal rights, and therefore equal educations, are perfectly good themselves in positions of power. Except.........

There are those who still fear the power of women, and I know why.

They dread our revenge.

I know this because I've asked. I managed to find men who were honest enough to say that intellectually they know equal rights are fair and sensible, but they're actually scared women will treat them the way that, traditionally men treated women. And still do.

"I have nothing against women but I don't want them taking over. That's scary."

I found them in all ages, all around the world. I've been asking the questions for years, and to my surprise, in most cases I was the first person to ask it.

We don't ask the right questions, most of the time. But if you ask a person what they are afraid of you get better answers because fear, not logic, not ethics, is at the bottom of most people's rationale.

Men are afraid that we will take away their choices, take away their freedoms. Take away their power. It doesn't matter how much we say "No, we just want equality, not superiority" they still fear losing power. Even men who feel powerless already fear more assaults on the culture that may just allow them some.

You hear it every time feminism is talked about. They say openly "I'm not against feminism, I'm against man-haters." Because they know what women-haters do, and that's scary.

In some daft way, I'm sympathetic. I love men and the last thing I want to do is make them feel helpless and impotent. That's a bad feeling. Plus, I really despise tit for tat, it's childish. "Ha! Now you know how it feels!" Effective, maybe, but not what sensible people do.

Sometimes I am able to find ways to explain things that allow men to think from another perspective, to help them understand how the system, even here in the west, is biased towards men. When you are in the position of privilege it can be difficult if not downright impossible to think outside that box.

One advantage of modern social media is that men and women are able to easily form platonic friendships and really TALK. I've always had male friends, but to talk in such depth as I do with male friends online, would have be be difficult in person, just from time restraints and geography.

Not only that, men are able to to talk to one another about these topics without the fears they might have of being overheard in the pub.

And ideas that people have, that they create as wonderful succinct quotes or "memes" get shared around and can be pretty powerful.

In all ways, it's becoming easier all the time.

Hence the backlash.

Those men who cling to inequality and power, and see any loss thereto as an attack on their manliness don't like what they are seeing. They are trying to wrest some power back.

This always happens, when change happens too fast for some (bearing in mind we are talking 100 years give or take since women got the vote in most places). Despite decades of it being quite normal for women to work outside the home, the men haven't really adjusted, so they still pay female employees less if they think they can get away with it. They still expect female office staff to clean the kitchen, and never do it themselves. They still have unequal dress codes and expectations. No, we have a long way to go.

Because of fear. They admit this if you question them. Their objections are all what ifs. None of them make sense. Fear is irrational.

The exact same situation can be found in the racist mindset. Again, you can get them to admit it. Just ask the right questions and it all comes tumbling out.

"I have nothing against non-white people but I don't want them taking over. That's scary."

Loss of power is a real fear. Let's not pretend otherwise.

And so they resort to name-calling. Treat her as "lesser". Insult her no matter what she does. You know how it goes. If the male boss comes on to her and gets rejected, she's frigid, she's no fun, she's the ice queen. But if she thinks "well, this could be to my advantage", then she's just sleeping her way to the top. In other words if she behaves like a man.

Ah yes, slut-shaming. We'll do that one tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Covering Issue, Part 3

There are still people out there who don't know this so for the sake of completeness, here's what is actually in the Quran.

You can argue until the cows come home, that's the top and bottom of it.

But does it even matter? Once a tradition is in place, even if quite localized, it becomes a sort of norm, and humans, being lazy, tend to accept norms.

We get the best clues from places where the norm changes suddenly. These sudden changes are always reversions. No culture progresses overnight. All progressive change is slow (despite what opponents say). But reversions, especially where threats are involved, tend to be very swift.

Consequently, in places where a religious revolution has occurred, and modern clothing is suddenly banned, there will be a couple of generations where memories of life before the ban remain.

Imagine, for example, living in Afghanistan in the early 70s.

It took no time at all for this to be replaced by strict Islamic clothing. Young women at the time had no choice in the matter. Many women alive today remember wearing whatever they wanted when they were young. They have adjusted, as people do, but their feeling towards it is going to be different to their daughters who never knew that freedom. Their daughters may be utterly terrified of the idea of a mini skirt.

If you want to know how women feel about covering themselves, at whatever level, you have to ask them. Very privately, so they can speak freely. You can't assume anything. You will hear different views, some ultra-conservative, and some completely the opposite. A wide range, and no obvious pattern. There are plenty such interviews on You Tube if you want to see them. But the point is that there is no consensus. I have learned to ignore sweeping generalizations that "they are all perfectly happy", or "they know it's right", or "they are all forced into it", or whatever, because it's just not that simple.

There is familiarity, which leads to comfort.
There is resignation.
There is subtle cultural pressure.
There is the law.

In all cases what is forgotten is choice. Every single time.

Those poor Muslim women.


What, you think this is something restricted to Muslim countries or individuals?

No. And this is where I came in.

Admittedly having had a schoolfriend enter into a traditional Muslim marriage glowing with happiness helped me to be open-minded. And that stuck. But it's so easy to see (if you look) that the parallels in the west are just a matter of degree. And it's all a matter of degree.

I watched an interview with a a middle-eastern man who said that even a fully veiled woman can be a slut, because if she wears enough eyeliner it shows through the veil. And he said she was doing this deliberately to allure men. He couldn't see how ridiculous his projection was, even when some of his peers said he was going too far. The problem, therefore isn't the degree, from a veil to a string bikini. It's all about person A being convinced he can tell the intent of person B.

If I said I could read your mind, you'd say I was crazy. But this is no different.

This is the gist of the entire problem.

A man decides (based on what? Being rejected in the past? His own fantasies? Sheer delusion?) that THAT woman there is trying to turn him on. He is so determined to blame HER for HIS feelings, that he'll go so far as to insist on no eyeliner under a veil.

"They're all whores! They're all asking for it! They're all the same!"

Some of them, when questioned, have some sort of trauma in their past that gets them to that point. If you've ever read any of the Jack the Ripper novels, a number of them are sympathetic to Jack, and give him an experience that led him to what he did.

Any psychologist knows how this works. There are all sorts of ways it can happen, too, but the end result is the same. All women are evil jezebels and harming ANY woman works as revenge.

We know it's crazy, we don't accept it as an excuse, and every time it crops up in the media the overwhelming opinion is that he's wrong, he's crazy, he needs to be put away, and well....thankfully he's rare. And #NotAllMen too.

But there are those who just listen. They get persuaded by the idea that all women are weak/sluts/evil or whatever. OR.... all except their own. They're different. They're saints. Jimmy Saville called his mother the duchess and never married because no woman could reach that level of perfection. But he thought nothing of raping his own nieces. I guarantee inside his head they were just asking for it.

And some of the men he hung out with looked up to him, and thought he made sense.

And then there were men who looked up to them.

And even those who never had any slimebag hero somehow got caught up in a general machismo. It's in the media, the arts, Hollywood, cheap cowboy novels, locker room humour, and our language.

No, NotAllMen. Not even most. But just enough. 

If I had a penny for every time I heard a man say that he just "knew what she was really like" I could buy myself a huge bucket to vomit in, because this entire concept nauseates me.

And the solution? Hide them. Cover them up. By degree. Veil. Eyeslits. Headscarf. Loose tops with long sleeves and high necks. No upper arms. Wide shoulder straps. Hide the nipples.

Or this:

By degree only.

"It was distracting the boys."

This is the EXACT same thing as veiling a woman, because the reasoning behind it is identical.

And in both cases, if she doesn't comply, and is sexually assaulted, she'll be blamed. And if she complies and is assaulted she'll be blamed anyway.

It isn't the clothing that's the problem. OK? It never was.

It is the attitude of others, about the clothing.

Veiled women are assaulted. Fact.

But what do we have, after all this time?

Dress codes. Laws about clothing.

Let's try one. You are running a resort, and while you want to allow swimming, sunbathing etc. you don't want actual nudity, for whatever reason. So you have to come up with a simple dress code. And then enforce it.

"Cover your breasts and your pubic area."

Sounds reasonable. And then this lady shows up.

Would you allow her to dress this way?

Thought not. She's actually well-covered compared to some swimwear. Is it her age? What's the problem?

Ah, you say, she's just trying to make a point, she's actually being provocative.

And there we go again. Reading people's minds. Crazy.

"I insist she wears a regular bikini."

That's LESS clothing. How do you know she's not uncomfortable showing her lower legs? The reason is irrelevant too. None of your damned business.

"But I make the rules."

That's what they all say. That's what women have dealt with for soooooo long. Put this on, take this off. That's not enough, that's too much. We are all heartily sick of it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Covering Issue, Potato Edition

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada. We had roast potatoes. Most people had mashed potatoes.

Why did we have roast potatoes? Because that's what I serve with roast meat. I have nothing against mashed potatoes, in fact I love them. But to me they don't go with roast meat. To me they are a pedestrian, weeknight, common or garden dish that goes with cheaper, more ordinary foods.

To me, a roast dinner is a special thing, be it an "occasion" or not, so I serve a posher potato. I have no problem with you having mashed potatoes, so long as you have no problem with me having roast potatoes.  It's all potatoes. If I come to your house, I'll eat mashed potatoes with a good grace.

And I voiced this, foolishly, outside my comfort zone of MY blog, MY Facebook page, the groups I belong to and so on. I voiced this as an analogy to women's clothing choices, and even more so the concept of choice in general. I thought it was a really good analogy, nothing anyone could get offended about.

You won't believe this. Ready?

I was told that it was "roasted" potatoes, not roast.

I was told that roast potatoes were easier and cheaper than mashed.

I was told that I was a snob because I said that roast potatoes were posher.

I wasn't even talking about potatoes.

I said, right at the start, that it was an analogy. I got into a more convoluted and NASTY argument than any I'd ever had while not using an analogy. In future I will avoid such analogies, because it's way too much of a hot potato.

The Covering Issue, Part 2

But surely Melanie, with your attitude you can't side with the burqa?

Darling, I don't even side with clothes.

My attitude is that clothing is all for comfort and fashion and anyone who feels otherwise has been brainwashed. Yes, I said brainwashed.

I've said it before, taken the heat, and I'll say it again.

Oh alright then, encultured. Same thing.

Ask any toddler why they wear clothes. They'll tell you it's because Mommy says they must. They strip off every chance they get. I've even had them run outside in the snow. They soon come back in, but the impulse is to just run and play no matter what. And that's real.

That's why there are parents. Because kids don't have any sense of danger.

Children don't worry about being naked until they are taught to. Some are quicker to copy than others. Some are quicker to conform than others. My youngest was so well known for hating clothes that his aunt bought him PJs with Nude Nigel on. For those of you unfamiliar with the character here's the book:

Why do we insist our kids wear clothes? Convention. Etiquette. Climate. Religion.

I have danced naked in public when I was young and beautiful, and I'm not afraid to do it now I'm old and ugly. It's only skin.

So WHY do I wear clothes? Well I live in Ontario for a start. I don't want frostbite. In summer when I could get away with it I would burn my nipples and bum (been there done that) if I didn't at least have something on. But also "When in Rome". You see, agreeing to certain social conventions won't take away my "rebel" status. So long as I have the choice, it's all cool. The law says that I can show my tits in public, and that's good enough. I generally simply exercise my right to let my nipples show through my shirt. Bite me.

I've blogged on this topic before, and will do so again. Forever. I hate stupidity, and, yes, I will say shocking things to make a point, because some minds are so rigid it's the only way to get them working.

I may, therefore, not be the person you should go to for advice on "decency". I think the concept is a load of rubbish. The advantage I have is simply a lack of inhibitions. Therefore I examine the idea rather clinically.

I'm also not stupid. Because I try, because I want to understand, I know that people do have inhibitions. That doesn't make them faulty or bad. It isn't a disorder. It's familiarity. It's upbringing. It's culture. It's all sorts of memories and little voices in the head. It becomes very deep-rooted in their comfort zones, this isn't something that can be just brushed aside.

Could you brush it aside if you were required to suddenly wear a lot less? To the point you felt indecent? Doesn't matter how "silly" it was to feel that way. And in any case, who has the right to tell you to do that? How do you feel about strip searches at airports? Remember all the fuss about X-Ray machines, a few years back?

As I said, I don't even mind being NAKED in front of strangers, but I resent being TOLD that I have to uncover myself.

And I will stand up for anyone who feels uncomfortable, in any way, being told what she can or can't wear, because it's nobody else's business but her own.

It is very, very important that we give a woman the right to wear what she pleases. Either way. Double standards just don't work, they don't stand up to scrutiny or logic. You cannot cry "women's rights" and then insist a woman undresses for you. It doesn't work like that.

Aha, you say, because you know everything, she was forced to dress like that, by her husband/father.

Was she? How do you know? Have you asked her? What percentage of women outside those countries where the Taliban or whoever is in charge demands - against her will or whatever - that she wear a niqab or even a burqa are forced into it?

Obviously some are.

OK, let's consider that. Let's say it's absolutely true for example woman A. She had no input here. She's covering herself up because she was told to. We'll call her Amrah. She's genuinely oppressed.

Poor Amrah. Forced into marriage with a stranger. And he's a hardliner too. He insists she covers when she's out. At home, however, she has beautiful clothes, a lovely home, and he's a good man. He genuinely loves her and he treats her well. He's just uptight about decency and tradition. And then there's her father, a conservative, old fashioned but a good man. He believes everything he's done has been for her best interests, including who he found her to marry. She loves both of them very much.

Along comes a total stranger. Dude from the government. He's rude to her father and her husband, and he demands she takes her clothes off.

Tell me, if you were Amrah would you feel liberated by that? Or would you resent it? Who would you feel you should listen to, the men you loved or a civil servant?

AHA! You say, but what if her father and husband are cruel to her, and she would really benefit from outside intervention, and she wishes it were there for her.

It is. She's not living under the Taliban. There are already a slew of laws in place to prevent her family abusing her. If you want to help her, put your efforts into that. Enable all women to have freedom from controlling, abusive men. It was only a few years ago that "we" didn't interfere in domestic matters. Then we discovered just how huge a problem it was, and we created lots of laws and solutions for those women. We just don't fund it properly, and all the shelters are full.

You don't help oppressed women by oppressing them a different way. You help by making it easy for them to leave (or prosecute) bad men.

There are bad men everywhere. It's a personality type. They exist in every religion, culture, social status, and location. They seek power and control, and they try to manipulate. They'll use any method available, and they jump all over religious excuses. That's not a Muslim issue, not at all. It's a psychological issue, a social issue, and a criminal issue. It's a HUGE issue. And you won't fix domestic violence by making women take their clothes off, any more than you'll fix it by making them put more clothes on. That's just something dreamt up by those looking for a handy excuse to exert power and control.

Manipulation of other people is the area of the psychopath.

If we are ever going to move forward as a species, then when we talk about rights, we have to be sure that we are not really using it as a way of exercising our own manipulation of others. That doesn't happen overnight. There has to be a deep self-examination of all motives and reasons, and it can make people need to admit things they aren't ready to admit.

If you pretend that your objection to women covering themselves is because you care for their rights, rather than admit you want things done your way, then you my friend have a long way to go in that self-examination process, and I would strongly suggest that you work on that.

To reiterate. I support nakedness. I think the idea of "decency" is ridiculous. Let women wear what they want to wear. If they are being manipulated then let's deal with that. There's a lot of it about.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Covering Issue, Part 1

“When an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. It’s not about the burqa. It’s about the coercion. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. "

Arundhati Roy

For once I decided to begin with the short version. A quote that sums it all up and ought to be enough, but it isn't. The reason it isn't is that I've lost count how many times I've seen a similar idea voiced, and then watched as somebody completely dismissed it with the word BUT.

I intend to get into a few dark corners of the Muslim face covering issue, and the larger related issues, and cause an argument, because it has to be done. It won't be short. I'll break it up into parts for ease. If you don't like long-winded things...well, why are you HERE?

I want to state that this is not one single issue, but many. And then I want to contradict myself and tell you that it all comes down to one very basic issue, and you won't like it.

Before I do that, let's not forget that in Canada right now this issue is a diversion by Steven Harper in an election week. That in itself is a dirty trick. To pretend to care about women's rights when all it is is a way of getting people off topics like the economy, the environment, and......well, ACTUAL women's rights.

Still, this issue isn't going to go away, so let's have at it.

Here's a quicky for those of you who don't like head coverings at all. Don't wear one. End of problem. You can if you wish, and if you don't want to, then don't. Ta da. And while we're here let's make sure we all know the correct words.

Various Muslim headcoverings.

Hermes scarf


Various purposes. Some decorative, some protective, some cultural. I stress cultural, because although this is sometimes related to religion, it's not strictly speaking a religious matter. It's an interpretation of religion, which is why it varies so much. I would like to leave that aside for a monent and concentrate on the whole issue of whether or not others have the right to tell a person what they can or cannot wear over their heads or faces.

The first problem, obviously, is when they are used as a disguise, that is to say to deliberately hide the identity of the wearer.

Just how big a problem this is, is one of the great debates going on, and while we can't ignore it, for now the data seems to be that it's not, actually, much of a problem at all. It is an imagined problem, most of the time, not a real one. I have been unable to get any solid data (i.e. not on racist websites) on how many crimes have been committed by people wearing Muslim clothing as a disguise. They are in fact headline news when they do happen, because they are uncommon.

What we do know for sure is that most crimes in North America are committed by people wearing "regular" western clothes. Not so much as a bandana to throw the cops off the trail when checking the videos of the crime. If we assess the percentage of crimes committed by people wearing ANY disguise, then it's rather obvious that doing it bare-faced seems to be the overwhelmingly popular method.

I am not convinced by the disguise excuse for banning any form of clothing (including hoodies), because I don't think the usefulness is demonstrated. In the event that you are attacked on the street by a masked person, or by an unmasked person, the chances of you identifying them are not much different. I know this personally because as a witness to a crime I stood in court feeling a complete idiot unable to identify a man whose face I saw at the time as clear as day, and had already identified once. But everyone told me this happens all the time. Humans are so bad at it that computers are being developed to do it instead.

To conclude, I think this entire aspect of the issue has been blown out of all proportion, and is actually a red herring.

However, the law already requires faces to be uncovered for photo ID (or it's pointless, duh), and when this needs to be checked against what you look like today there is already protocol in place. This applies in Muslim countries too. Broadly speaking it's a non-issue.

So, those who want anything more than a haircovering to be banned must have a better reason to be taken seriously. Often they say it's for women's rights. Most of the time this isn't true.

This is easy to see, simply by who wants it banned.

It's quite bizarre really. The covering itself is, generally speaking, a conservative thing to do. And yet once it becomes a polticial issue, it's not at all uncommon to find conservative minds, those who spend most of their time fighting women's rights, suddenly very interested in them on this one occasion. That makes me suspicious.

It's not easy to define women's rights, but I think the best way is to say that women have the right to make their own informed choices and act accordingly, in all matters wherever a man has the equivalent free choice. That is to say that if it's illegal to make choice X it must be illegal for both parties. That doesn't necessarily make it ethically fair (lawful and ethical are not always the same thing), but if a man is free to vote, drive, own property, or whatever, then a woman must be too. If a man is paid $20 an hour, then a woman doing the same job must be paid the same amount, and have no obstacles to getting said job in the first place that a man does not face. For any example that can be offered, it must be that the freedom to choose is the same for both. No exceptions.

The reality is that women can not always do this. My own personal experiences on inequality have have been thankfully minimal, but sometimes I had to fight for equality just the same. Rather than being bitter for the inequalities I did experience, I'm glad it taught me to count my blessings, and to support others who weren't so lucky.

The key is choice. In any matter concerning rights and ethics, choice is a major part of it all.

It is the choice in what to wear that is the issue here, not the clothing itself. 
Choice is an individual thing. It is influenced to a greater or lesser degree by others who we come in contact with, starting with our families, and reaching as far afield as long-dead writers. It is also affected by our individual personalities. Sometimes upbringing and personality clash. Kids from very traditional homes can be rebellious and want to do things very differently, and horrify their families. Kids from very laid-back progressive homes can turn out surprisingly conservative. A different type of rebellion. Some kids just ape their parents, and never step outside that box at all. All of this is part of how we make our choices, and so is the information available. If you don't know there are other options, you are not going to opt for them.

And this was my experience. I had a broad-minded mother, and plenty of broad-minded schoolteachers. I talked to all sorts of people, I was absolutely not sheltered, and yet some opportunities that I missed (which seem so obvious now) were because I did not know a given thing, and, more importantly, I did not know that I did not know.

I have no regrets, as a matter of fact, but that was sheer luck. My ignorance could have been a disaster, and it often is for many. As it was, it took me a long time to learn things that really every child needs to know early on. Because nobody taught me. Why? Did they try to hide things from me? No, I don't believe that was it at all. I believe they simply didn't know themselves, or just assumed I already did.

And this is why, when the topic of choice crops up, I am quick to say "informed choice" because simple choice is not enough. If you think you have 3 choices, you may indeed choose the best of the 3, if you are careful. But if you are unaware of option 4, which may in fact turn out to be the better one, then your choice was not fully informed.

Happens all the time, believe me. Not just to the young and innocent either.

I have become aware of this through my business. If I offer a design in only one colour, and a potential customer finds it appealing, the chances of them asking for a different colour are very small. Nowhere does it say "available in red only", but nor does it say "you choose colour" either. When I am asked, as I was today, for something quite unique and specific to be done to the design, I'm actually rather pleased. It restores my faith in humanity a bit. People thinking.

However, if I offer, say, six colours, there is a much greater chance that I'll then get an enquiry about a colour option I didn't list. The customer has become aware of the idea of choice, and this encourages them to go even further.

BUT. If I say "available in any colour", I only get as many enquries as if I don't mention it at all.

I ask why a lot, and I still don't know know for sure why this is. Can we be overwhelmed with choices? Is there some need for limits?

If there is (and I think there may be) surely that will apply to some more than others, a matter of personality. There will be some who value endless choices, and some who prefer none at all.

I believe that's part of what fashion is all about. It reigns in the choices a bit.

I believe that's also why creative people are much less bothered by the dictates of fashion - unless they are leading it.

Choice is a complicated thing. It is rarely on a whim, and it can vary over a lifetime due to experience.

If you are actually interested in learning about this issue, rather than just waiting until I've stopped to contradict me, please read this article.

I'll be back with lots more.

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Flasher

Funny how we forget things.

Was just chatting to a friend, and we've both had one glass of wine too many, so the conversation was very silly.

She reminded me about seeing my very first Flasher. You know the guys. They wear raincoats with nothing underneath and if there's nobody else about and they see a woman, they pull the raincoat open quickly, and smile like madmen.

Do they still exist? In this day of cameras on phone? Maybe not.

But in 1975 they did.

So I was walking home, in the dark, after a concert. Nobody else on the street, and I became aware of a guy in the requisite raincoat, trousers....walking in the same direction as me on the other side of the narrow road. But slightly faster and catching up.

So, I came up with a solution to this "problem". You get 10 points if you can guess what I did.

I'm a quick thinker. It has served me well. It has probably saved my life more than once, and on this occasion it probably saved my retinas. I knew what I was in great danger of seeing, and I didn't want to see it.

I'll tell you. I shoved my hands in my pockets, and changed the way I walked.

I pretended I was a boy.

In what I was wearing it wasn't difficult. In those days my age group were VERY unisex. Bell bottom jeans and a mid-length haircut. I was only little but when you stand up straight and look sure of yourself you grow quite a bit.

I got a couple more glances, then he decided I was male and fucked off. I ran home, sweating.

Some of you have far worse experiences than that, or many more. I'm well aware I got off lightly, but did any of us get off completely?

It wasn't my only Flasher, but the next one chose the wrong "victim". He chose somebody who had alread decided that that shit isn't acceptable and I walked right up to him and threatened to tell his family. I hadn't got a clue who they were, but all it takes is boldness. Never saw him again, anyway.

In those days we didn't report these things. I really have no idea why. Maybe we were told it was a waste of time, maybe we knew that was the truth. Maybe we just dealt with it and moved on.

But there you go.