Category Archives: Modern Feminism

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L’ecole Polytechnique: 25 Years After

25 years. Wow.

I’d just turned 16. I grew up as the last generation to be bombarded with cigarette advertising everywhere, when Virginia Slims still sold us the idea that women’s liberation was Mission: Accomplished. We’d come a long way, baby.

But then December 6th came. An angry man had a murdering rampage, killing 14 sharp, ambitious, promising young women, all engineers at L’ecole Polytechnique.

It blew my mind. I was young, death didn’t have the same impact as it does now because I was still innocent and hadn’t encountered much loss. And I didn’t really get why women trying to be engineers was such a radical concept to a backwards murderer like Lepine.

What I did understand was that these women were killed because they wanted to play at the big boy’s table. I understood this was a crime motivated out of resentment, pettiness, and jealousy.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve understood that petty misogyny that drives hateful men like Lepine.

I’ve gone from not wanting to be identified as a feminist when I was young to now being of the “goddamned right I’m a feminist, and why the hell aren’t you?” persuasion.

Something Must Have Caused This

Back then, I thought this terrible rampage was a backlash from women’s lib. The old cause/effect argument. “Women are changing things, men are reacting to change.” Simple.

It seemed then there were only two ways things would go. One, awareness would increase that violence against women wasn’t some Hollywood plot point, but rather a real social ill needing remedying. Or two, we were just getting started and an era of blowback was yet to come.

I didn’t take option two that seriously. We couldn’t be just starting an era of blowback… could we?

Maybe we could. 25 years later, we’re still seeing crimes against women happening because men feel entitled to attention from women, or they feel entitled to career advancement over women, or all kinds of other situations prefaced by the phrase “men feel entitled.”

Marc Lepine killed 14 women because he felt he was entitled to attend an engineering school, and that women had no right to occupy his space in the program. He didn’t make the cut, and instead of taking it to mean he had to work harder, he chose to believe women were accepted as a quota, that they hadn’t earned their space.

He felt entitled. Angry. Bitter. Vengeful.

And He Wasn’t Alone Then — Or Now

I look on the internet today and I see a lot of angry, bitter, vengeful entitlement making the rounds. Usually middle-aged white guys who are bitter they’re not more important at their jobs, or wealthier. They see women being smart or successful as further threatening their status quo, and they hurl insults about how ugly the women are (as if women are only trophies), cut them down professionally, and lob rape threats.

God help us if these anonymous, spiteful men ever screw up the resolve to grab a gun and let their bullets do the talking.

Misogynists are everywhere. You hear them defending those accused of serial rape — like Cosby and Ghomeshi. They spew ridiculous defenses, usually about how maligned men are, and the accusations by “spiteful” women are a conspiracy to destroy lives, et cetera.

There are GamerGaters verbally attacking female journalists because they don’t like their opinion, threatening them with rape, and worse.

There’s the infamous, ongoing brogrammer culture in Silicon Valley, celebrity serial misogynists who never get reined in. We even had a mass killer in California who blamed women for not sleeping with him.

A Flickering Light in the Tunnel

Despite all these recent reminders of just how big this struggle is, there are signs, I think, of women saying “enough is enough.” They’re exposing misogyny online in Italy and France. Just this week, a pair of Indian women went viral for beating up men harassing them on a bus. Women coming forward against beloved celebrities like Ghomeshi and Cosby are actually being believed.

There are signs.

But still I sit here today, aware that a quarter of a century has passed and we have so far to go.

In 2006, the first time I blogged about this day, I wrote:

“I think there’s good to be found in remembering what was lost that day, especially in proximity to Christmas, a time of joy and rebirth. I try to remember that in the smoke of that gunfire was borne a new kind of feminism. I like to think some part of me is a product of that day.

It’s the only way any of it can ever make sense.”

And five years ago, I wrote this remembrance of L’ecole Polytechnique, about how far we still had to go with the feminist struggle.

And here we are, 25 years on, still fighting an uphill battle as a new generation vacillates between accepting gender equality and railing against it.

Let’s Hear it For the Boys

But “feminism” is still a dirty word. There are those who still deludedly think it’s a female-supremacy movement. (No, but equal pay would be nice.)

These days, the only time feminism gets good press is when a man comes out and speaks up about why feminism is important, like Terry Crews did recently, which is going viral as I write.

And yet, I saw someone snarking “Oh, [Crews is] just saying what all these smart women said before him.”

But isn’t that what we fought for? Isn’t it in the benefit of all women that guys start identifying with why feminism is important? Isn’t it a bold new day when guys like Crews are standing up to say “If you’re silent, you’re a part of the problem”?

It’s helpful to the cause when guys like Crews explain to other men that it’s not about female supremacy, but rather just leveling the playing field. If they understand that, they might be able to accept that change is needed.

Mediocrity & Misogyny

Marc Lepine didn’t get that change was a long time coming. Instead of understanding that women should be in the engineering program, he felt they were stealing his opportunity. But he just wasn’t good enough to compete in a crowded arena.

Mediocrity, perhaps, is the greatest enemy of gender advancement. Men like Lepine don’t make the cut and then, instead of thinking “Well, hey, I’ll work harder and get in next time,” they blame the bitch who stole their spot.

It’s sadly ironic, but the only way feminism wins is when more men identify themselves as supporters of the feminist cause, when more men like Crews keep saying that silence means you endorse the status quo.

When I was a kid, I thought women would be truly equal by the time I was 30. Now I’m 41 and hope an era of change is upon us and maybe I’ll see a different world for women by the time I’m 60.

Maybe.

A Stitch in Time

I sold a sewing machine last night, for far less than I’d wanted to, and found myself ever so emotional after the fact.

I remember the day my mother bought that 1917 Singer (Model 027) oak-cabinet sewing machine, some 30 years ago. We’d had a yard sale, with my parents constantly on their “reduce the clutter and make some bucks for the mortgage” kick. An old lady came by to browse, admiring a couple of the antiques my mother was trying to unload so she could obsessively pick up more antiques, feeding her  new passion.

They got gabbing, as yard-salers are so likely to do. Naturally the old woman started talking about this old sewing machine. In the end, Mom took a walk, bought the thing, and Dad got stuck not only cleaning up the yard sale, but taking all their earnings over to pay off the old woman and tote the heavy damn machine home.

I’m sad. I’ll miss the machine and what it represented. Memories of Mom hunched over and pumping the treadle, stitching together my clothes and bedding. A rolling shadow across a winter night’s living room wall: Mom and her mission to clothe us all.

The last time she ever sewed on it was sometime in ’98, making a fleece jacket for my almost-a-toddler nephew then, hunter-green with teddy-bears all over it. I found the patterns in the bottom of the machine yesterday, then decided to recycle those, too.

The woman who bought it was a new grandmother, moving into a smaller apartment and excited about the life ahead of her as she’s about to turn 60.

My mother never hit 60.

It was a bitter-sweet night. I fought some tears as I imagined how much my mother would approve of that woman taking possession of the machine. I remembered sadly the excitement she had for being a grandmother herself, the oath she made me give her about how good an aunt I’d always be after she died.

Our lives don’t go how we want them to, they never do. Little things around us can remind us of that. As much as I loved that machine, I think it made me remember sadness more than happiness. Never a good thing.

***

I’m 37 in about 6 weeks now. Sometime before then, I have to arrange for a windsurfing lesson. My mother did windsurfing only once, and I still remember it.

She went with my brother — it wasn’t my kinda thing (read: meant actually using energy and burning calories) — but I remember how the next few years began to be of rapid change for her, as if doing the windsurfing was her way of saying I’m Changed, I’m Tough, I Want More.

She then learned to sail, got her real estate license, separated from my father, climbed mountains in China, raced boats in the Mediterranean, and had an affair with a sailor who lived on his yacht, all in the decade before her death.

I would very much like to become my mother’s daughter, and look to be on schedule to do so 10 years earlier than she did. It makes me laugh that I now see what role her windsurfing may have played in her life, since I didn’t think of that connection when I seized the “70%-off” Groupon deal for a $15, 2-hour lesson — mostly because my goal had been to learn to surf this year, but becoming unemployed meant that couldn’t happen for financial reasons, and I thought “Windsurfing’s a good consolation prize.”

It’s funny how life works. I can surmise it was the windsurfing that threw open her threshold of change. I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to believe so, as my lesson looms in the next two weeks.

I’m in this place of late where I’m thinking of where I’m going next — the long-term future I face in life, and what all might entail with that. My mother was in this place in the months before her death, before she even knew she was sick.

It’s a very weird place to be now. They say that the mid-30s are when a young woman misses her dead mother the most — because she’s now becoming the woman she saw her mother as being, a woman she never saw the “after” phase for, because her mother died too young. The loss, they say, can become more core-shattering and filled with a deeper longing than she’s ever experienced before, even years after thinking she’s done “mourning,” just because of that experiential transition between ages that we all go through. Without the corresponding parental figure there, it’s sort of a more bump-in-the-night experience, one of loss and wonderment.

I certainly understand that these days. Some of my recent accomplishments have rung painfully hollow, leaving me emptier than I could have imagined, mostly because I know it was so important for my mother to find herself as a stronger, more independent woman than she felt she’d been, and that she would really enjoy watching the process I’ve been going through. I can imagine the things she’d say, and that hurts at times.

It hurts today.

There’s nothing a child wants more than to show their parents just how far they’ve come. I never had that chance with my mother, someone I admired more than most people I’ve ever met. To get robbed of that is a lifetime of loss and “something’s missing”.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, it just is what my life is. I wouldn’t be who I am with my mother alive today, so I’m not really wishing she never died. I don’t know what I wish. I just know I feel this whirlwind around how full of “searching” she was at her death — like I am now — and how torn she was about her obligations.

And it was all tied up in that little sewing machine that’d been eating up a third of my storage space for the better part of the last decade.

And now it’s gone.

But here I am, still on this journey to take me someplace that I think my mother could tell me an awful lot about, from first-hard experience, if only she was still alive.

But she’s not.

So I get to experience it all, and find myself in quiet moments at the end of the night, when I get to think, “Gee, how would Mom have felt today? What would she have learned? What would she tell me?”

It’s been eleven years this week that she died.

I always worried I’d forget her face, her smell, the way her hands felt when she held mine to console me. And maybe there’s an aspect I forget, but somehow it’s more real to me than ever before, it hits me deeper than it ever has.

They say the first sign of true adulthood is when you really start understanding where your parents were coming from, what they had to endure to get where they were going.

Lately, I feel like I was a child until this year. Now I really get it. I get what kept my mother awake at night, what made her want for more.

When youngins in their 20s tell me how mature they are, I keep chuckling, because I remember how wise I thought I was (because everyone told me I was) at such a young age.

I didn’t know jack. Still likely don’t.

Funny, selling an old antique and getting a little cash for groceries proved to be one of the most emotional experiences of the last year for me, and one of the largest lessons in how I’m Not That Kid anymore.

I’m not that kid. Not a kid. I’m a woman pushing 40 who’s learning more and more of the simple truths that makes quiet everyday-days feel A Little Bit More Meaningful.

Goodbye, sewing machine. Hello, wisdom.

And please, don’t do the whole “Oh, I’m sure your mother is watching” blah-de-blah thing, okay? It just rings so hollow sometimes, regardless of how you intend it. I know. Trust me, I fuckin’ know. But thanks. Just don’t.

Aging: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

Next month is my birthday. I have about 6 weeks of being 36 left.

I’m told I look younger. This is good news, I like it.

Truth be told, I really don’t care about looking “36”. Not yet. I probably will. Likely when it starts to show. When I’m 42. Heh, heh.

But you know what?

A shot taken of me by my friend Rick Rake at an event on July 28th, 2010.

I’ve worked for that age. The sun damage my skin shows now is in stark contrast to the pasty-white well-hidden tubby non-outdoors girl I was for the majority of my life. When I was a kid, I was the fat kid who whined and lied about pretend injuries to get out of sports. Every hike I was supposed to do, I got out of.

I was so not a joiner. I was pudgy, pudgy, wheezy girl.

Not so much these days. I’m not where I need to be, but I’m better than I’ve been since I was 18, and there aren’t a lot of 36-year-olds who can attest to being healthier than they’ve ever been — than they’ve literally EVER been.

Despite that health, I’m caught with fatigue a lot of the time. I just deal with it. My friend who’s 42 tells me she was always tired for a few years in her 30s. I’m assuming that’s where I’m at. I eat fairly well, exercise 6 or more hours a week. What more can you ask, right?

Honestly? My newly-appearing wrinkles give me pause. I’m not sure I’m wild about them just yet. I do, however, like the “character” they give my grin these days and the way they highlight the twinkle in my eyes.

I think I wear the few wrinkles I have well. I know my mother wore her age fantastically, like a perfect-fitting pair of jeans.

People were devastated when my mother died. She was a sexy-as-hell redhead at 57 when cancer took her 11 years ago this week. She looked fantastic. Dead? How ironic.

I’m thinking a lot about her this week. Maybe it’s part of my reclusiveness of late. 11 years. Wow. Mind-boggling. Can’t help but reflect on anniversaries, and I’m not thinking so much about the loss of her this year as I am about the woman I’m becoming on my own life journey, and if it parallels my mother’s. Wish I could ask.

I think a woman’s 36th year is pretty pivotal in who she is. She’s now out of the “targeted demographic” most coveted by marketers, she’s starting to pay attention to wrinkle creams and thinking biological-clock type thoughts if she’s not already a mother. It’s the beginning of the transition from “breeder” to “matriarch”, a different kind of role that women seem to play when they hit early middle ages.

One day we’re the chick next door that the guy wants to hang out with and tries to sleep with, the next we’ve become Mrs. Robinson and anyone we chase under our age begets us a label of “cougar”. It’s a quicker transition than you might think.

I’m not sure if I’ve hit that stage yet, since friends still think I look 28, so I might be able to get away with more.

That youthful appearance may not linger a lot longer, as the greys and wrinkles begin to mount.

I both like and loathe the greys I have now, even if few in number. They multiply.

Today, I’m thinking about getting a punk-rock haircut again and embracing the salt-n-pepper look that’s coming on. There’s something tasty about edgy prematurely-greying people. Very, very tasty. I can pull that off. Not like I’ll be all grey tomorrow anyhow.

Age, I guess, really is a state of mind. I know some folks at 36 who look like they’re in their 40s. How you live really starts to show through in a hurry, and it’s your choice. This is the age that your lifestyle becomes visibly apparent to everyone.

Because of that, getting older doesn’t scare me. It’s probably to do with decent genetics (that come with a ticking time bomb but sure look pretty) and probably because I feel like I’ve been through enough in life already that whatever’s coming down the pipes is something I know I’ll just handle. Scared? Who’s scared?

No, I ultimately like my age. I’d rather be turning 37 than 22 again. You couldn’t give me enough money in the world to relive my 20s. My 30s ain’t been no walk in the park, either, but from 35 on? Yeah. I like it. Liking it more all the time, the further I get from my past and the more progress I make on this vision of who I always cheated myself out of being.

Some of us SURVIVED our 20s. Some of us kind of defied an awful lot of odds to get past where we were. Some of us really fucking love coming into our older, more comfortable selves.

I wish the media could understand that. I wish marketers got it. My age is almost like a battle-wound scar. Like that scene in the movie Jaws, where Quint, Brody, and Hooper are shooting the shit about old scars:

Brody[pointing at Quint’s tattoo scar] What’s that one?
Quint: Oh, that’s a tattoo. I got that removed.
Hooper: Let me guess. “Mother!” [laughs]
Quint: Hooper, that’s the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
[Hooper’s face drops]
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail.

As far as some of us are concerned, we probably shouldn’t even be alive. Enough’s gone on that, y’know, our survival’s really by the grace of God or whoever else was in the kitchen. Signs of age, to some of us, are like proof of getting to The Other Side.

At this point, I don’t see myself changing my hair to hide the greys. I’ll never be slowly salt-and-peppering again in my life, I want to enjoy the awkward and cute transition.

I also don’t see myself trying to hide wrinkles with Botox, ‘cos I never thought my face would be thin enough to have wrinkles — I thought it’d be unhealthily fat and smooth for decades yet. Wrinkles? SERIOUSLY? Okay, bring ’em.

There’s something satisfying about slowly becoming my mother’s daughter. I’m one size away from being the same size as her before her death, even if I’m 40-50 pounds heavier. Muscle tone!

Every now and then, I look in the mirror, and a woman who sort of reflects the mother I had as a wee little lass is the woman staring back at me. I still can’t believe that’s who I’m becoming. When I was 5 going on 6, Mom was the age I am now.

I never saw myself being here, now, looking more and more like her as she was then, every day.

But I’m starting to really, really like it.

The Dishonour of Honour Killings

Recently, here in the Great White North, a murder trial ended and the accused were sentenced to life.

A father and his son killed his daughter, all because she was too progressive to be a good little Islamic girl.

Muhammad Parvez and Waqas, his son, murdered Aqsa Parvez on December 10, 2007, in the guise of avenging their family pride in the face of her scandalous embracing of Western culture and lifestyle, even though they lived here.

These cultural-killing cases weigh heavily upon me.

I loathe what they do to the image of Islam, and what they do to my thinking, despite my best efforts.

Honour killing: image from The Baltimore Reporter.

I used to teach ESL a long time ago. Here, there. In people’s homes. It always gave me an interesting perspective on cultures I’d only ever seen from the flipside of a take-out menu or on the big screen.

For the most part here in Vancouver, that meant working with Taiwanese, Koreans, and the Mainland Chinese.

Once, though, I worked with two young Islamic women from Saudi Arabia. They were both married, under age 25, and would wear full burqas when out in the world, but, at home, wore tight jeans and cute trendy t-shirts that clung tightly to their breasts.

Their husbands were charming kind men who spoke to me often about our culture and tried to compare that with their traditional culture at home, so I could know more about them.

Their hospitality and the respect they showed me was warm and sincere. I always felt welcomed and appreciated, and never judged for being “Western” and very liberal. They even knew I wrote about sex, and the men found my blog entertaining.

I truly thought they were all wonderful people, and the kindness and graciousness shown me by them has lingered long in my memory as an example as what the true basic beliefs in Islam are — very similar to any a “good Christian” might follow.

But the burqas never sat well with me — the hypocrisy of bouncy, beautiful breasts being savoured in private but the pretense that this feminine beauty doesn’t exist in the world, or the suggestion that they’re doing what is right and good by Allah when hiding the feminine form from the world at large, despite the fact that Allah created all they hold in esteem.

But that’s a whole other issue that’s too large in scope to tackle, and which I’m not nearly informed enough to weigh in on without research.

It is, however, indicative of just how large a chasm exists between fundamentalist Islam and the standard Western world-view.

So, when a  family like the Parvez move here from Pakistan, there’s a galaxy of culture-clash to contend with.

Me, I’m so white I’m of the fish-belly variety of humans. With Irish/Scottish and French dotting my ancestry, I don’t even have a culture, let alone any experience with culture-clash — except for that which lands on our shores.

But that’s who we are. We’re Canadians.

We’ve got an open-door policy, and because we’re the most multicultural country on the planet, we’re constantly shaping who we are as a result of the immigrants who land here and build lives, for better and for worse.

You know what? I love that.

I love that, when Pierre Elliott Trudeau died, I had to take a cab that day and my driver was a man from South Africa. He was constantly wiping his eyes and sniffling as we moved slowly through rush-hour traffic.

In his thick, thick accent, he told me how hard he’d struggled to move to Canada two decades ago, that it had become his dream after this Canadian Prime Minister had been the only leader in the world to cry out against Apartheit in South Africa in the 1970s, that he saw Canada as being a place that held true to the belief that all men were equal — even beyond our borders.

This man made me cry that day — this immigrant, he and his love for my country, what we stood for, and what he wanted it to keep standing for now that he had given up his S.A. citizenship to become a Canadian. We cried together over a leader who divided the country but ultimately contributed more to what “being Canadian” meant than any leader in our history.*

It’s conversations with men like him who make me believe deep down inside that the majority of those who emigrate to Canada are those who ultimately admire our lifestyle and our tolerance of others.

So, yes, when I hear of honour killings, I’m left wondering how much it hurts the progressives who’ve immigrated long before these fundamentalist assholes, and how hard it makes life domestically for them.

Muhammad and Waqas Parvez are not your typical Pakistani-Canadians.

They are not your common Muslims.

And while honour killings aren’t common in Canada, they do happen.

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Let’s face it. Much of what women have gained in the West, in terms of freedom to be who they want to be, has come in the last 60 years. We’re a young culture, too.

Islam, however, and its main regions of practice (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq) forms the seat of all of civilization.

For thousands of years these principles have been in place. They’ll come undone, but it’ll be slowly.

The world needs to stand against honour killings, and while these sentences are a start here in Canada, they’ll do little to effect change in the high mountains of the Khyber Pass and throughout Mohammad’s land in Saudi Arabia.

Here, in Canada, some will experience anger and disdain toward Islam, as if these men represent all of what the Qu’ran teaches.

Like most religions, Islam teaches some pretty fucked-up things. Ask any cartoonist.

Any religion has proverbs that, taken word-for-word, could unleash hell with the devout. Islam is certainly not far from the path of nuttiness with ideas like Jihad and honour killings and the rants against cartoons and Salman Rushdie.

It doesn’t mean Islam’s unholy and hell-bent on destruction or death. That’s bullshit.

What men like the Parvezes do, though, is, they give validity to those who would tar Islam and rail against its practitioners with the belief that all who practice it are extremists who are literal about Allah’s messages in the Qu’ran.

And they make women like me scared of dating Islamic men.

I hate that.

The thing is, I’m not particularly afraid of dating a Muslim man — as long as he’s not a fundamentalist.

But I wouldn’t date ANY religious fundamentalist. I’d probably try to avoid most men who practiced religion of any kind, really, but I would think a Muslim would better understand why I’m not following his faith than a Christian would, since I was raised in Christianity and now reject the practice of it. Try to make sense of THAT, eh?

So, yeah, I’m not afraid of dating a Muslim man at all.

I’m afraid of dating his extended family.

Let’s face it. Families are nuts. You should meet mine.

There’s some serious fuckin’ wackadoos in the extended-family works here, and I would hate for anyone to judge me on the basis of being related to them. But they’re there.

And that’s the thing. A Muslim guy might be incredible, and god knows I find men of Persian descent incredibly hot, but I’m scared what Uncle Mojinder might be like or what distant Cousin Navez might get up to if I get a little rowdy one night, since I’m not exactly Miss I Don’t Drink.

It’s hard enough keeping philosophically on-page with a lover, but when there’s a cultural heritage that has the potential of honour killings in their extended family, it’s a little unnerving a concept for some of us who are given to misbehaviour.

I’m not sure how to end this piece, I don’t think there’s a comfortable “pat” conclusion I can offer.

It’s a terrible thing, honour killings — for what it does to women, for the rise of the fear and suspicions we nurse against an entire faith, all because of what some select group of them do.

It’s horrible that I feel justified in my fears, that I’m apprehensive of men based on their faith, not because I don’t trust them but because I fear their families.

And even that is hard on me, because I love what I know of the traditional Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern family lives.

Yet.

Yet this one thing exists, a small niggling fear — this negligible concept of  “honour” and what it is for and to others, and the price one can pay for damaging it.

In the end, there’s a reason I’m not religious anymore. I stopped believing in Catholicism in my teens, and by rights all other religions, because of the fear and judgment they sought to have me live life under.

Life has many chains that will bind me, but religion will not be amongst them.

I want to know, I guess, how honour killings affect you.

What do you think of them? How have they changed your thoughts on Muslims?

If you’re a woman, does it make you apprehensive of dating men who are Muslims but super-hip and very liberal, just because you fear their family?

Have you ever had a friend who has been under the thumb of this religion and wanted out?

Talk to me. I want to hear about this.

*On his death, the stories I heard from second-generation Canadians who immigrated to Canada with their parents when Trudeau was leader, just blew my mind. The reverence they held for P.E.T., and the esteem they held Canada in, made my heart explode with patriotic pride. Yeah. That’s who we are, Canada. We’re the port in the storm.

From Hair to There

I’ve been adrift in a thought-sea for days now.

Just lost in waves and waves of thought.

About me, my future, what next, why now, where to go, who to see, and a million other things.

I can’t write during those times. I get a little discombobulated and things don’t really happen linearly for me. Writing tends to start, then stop, languishing in the land of Unfinished.

There’s probably a dozen drafts I’ve conjured in the last week for this blog, for me. All starting and then hitting a mental dead-end. But they sit there in the hopes of one day getting cranked into reality.

I don’t really feel into writing today, either, but it’s one of those times that needs to be noted. I’ve spent a lot of time lately working out — turning a lot of lost-muscle-flab back into strength and tone. It’s been a hard, hard, full couple of weeks. I’ve made it past the initiation, though.

The returned-to-it pain that comes from going all Olivia Newton-John on my ass and getting physical is finally settling into a full-body strength and intensity that tells me things are changing, and how. Doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s just a new normal of feeling like I can kick all your asses with ease. I kinda like that. Throwdown Steff, yo.

Today’s a pay-off day, too.

Haircut time.

I’ve been slowly growing my hair out since Christmas. In less than two hours, I’ll be under the scissors as someone turns me into a hair model. I get an experienced stylist hacking my overgrown mushroom cloud of a haircut into something fierce and sexy — because my getting-longer thick mane’s made for fierce-sexy — for free. Why? Because I’m a genius and know where to look for such things.

Adversity isn’t something you need to bend over and take like some listless doll. It requires creative thinking, a smiling face, and a willingness to seize chance as it comes. Me, just because I’m unemployed doesn’t mean I can’t be resourceful about how to enjoy elements of life.

Soon, haircut.

There’s really nothing like a new hairstyle for defining who you feel like at any point in time. I don’t know who I’ll look like in 3 hours, but I’ll know that girl really earned that new look.

I need to feel differently when I look in the mirror. There’s something I’m wanting to see looking back at me, and it’s not there yet. I don’t mean a size 4. I don’t mean something hot. It’s not that. There’s just a sparkle in my eye I want to find every time I catch my own gaze.

I want my amusement back. I want my perennial grin.

I have this card on my bookshelf:

I find that smiling makes people wonder what you’re up to.

It’s that going-through-life equivalent of When Harry Met Sally, after Meg Ryan fakes her orgasm in the deli and the old woman (Rob Reiner’s mom) tells the waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

There’s something fun about BEING the person who LOOKS like they’re always having fun. Other people vibe off of that in really interesting ways, and life gets more entertaining and unpredictable as a result of their reactions.

It’s probably something to do with the law of attraction. Look fun, feel fun, and fun finds you.

For me, that starts with a haircut I can really own, something that, when I look in the mirror, I know for realz that that ain’t the girl who was stuck in neutral for a long, long time — just reacting to life rather than shaping it (for a short while, anyhow).

A makeover doesn’t take much, but it sure has a massive impact when your biggest goal is a different you.

My desire to change myself shouldn’t come across as some “Wow, I sure hate ME, so I’m gonna do something about it!” because it’s actually quite the opposite.

I think I’m awesome. I think I’m funny and entertaining as hell when I’m in the right mood. I can be electric. I know what I’m capable of, what I exude, what I can be.

But most of the time I get in my own way.

Because of stupid, stupid insecurities that have taken a lifetime to develop and need to be undone one at a time, in slow and lasting ways.

As time progresses, more and more of those insecurities fall away. Since my weight’s increased and not been lost in the last year, it ain’t recently about weight or my size.

It’s something internal that’s shifting. That’s how it should be.

A nebulous growth of a new self or worldview, a seedling — small and blooming. That’s real change. It sprouts where you don’t expect it, and it gets along just fine by itself for a while — some inadvertent sun, rain, and away it goes. Then, one day, it needs more and you have to be ready to train it, support it, and give it something to hold to, then it grows taller, and stronger.

That’s kinda where my change is. I’ve sort of got it started, and now I need to define it, make it taller, stronger.

Which is where my head’s been for so long of late.

And today my head gets a new look. My inner self gets a new perspective on its outer self. And change becomes obvious and defined for the first time in a year or two.

All because I get to have a haircut.

For free.

Long hair! Sexy hair. It’ll be awesome. I haven’t had bob-length hair in eight or ten years. Oh, yeah.

So what do you want to change?

Look around.

See what little opportunities for harnessing your life and taking it in a new direction might be waiting for you to discover. If you’re not looking, you won’t see. Pretty simple. Life Through Remedial Math 101.

So, today? This week? Open your eyes. See what you’re missing. Go where it takes you. Enjoy the ride.

I know I am.

Fuck You, Hollywood.

We’re witnessing the end of an empire at the box office.

Sex and the City 2 is lying there like a dead fish, with all the appeal of a used-up 45-year-old prostitute after a night of chasing 8-balls with gin after running the line for a sex-train at a frat party.

Naturally, Hollywood is CONVINCED it’s because the chicks in it are all old.

“Well, of COURSE Sam needs a vibrator — she’s 54!”

Let’s for a moment forget the ages of the women acting in the show. Let’s forget that they’re all around 50+ now.

Let’s do something wacky and think about the movie itself. And, hey, let’s think about the writing.

First: Have I seen it? No.

Here’s why not.

If I’m watching a show where some lead actor/actress from a flick is out whoring their movie, putting on the charm, and they play a clip — just ONE 30-second clip from a 90-minute movie — and the clip sucks shit? I mean, they’re supposed to be showing the one most appealing, funniest, engaging, COME-WATCH-US clip they have from the ENTIRE movie. And it’s shit? Well, I know the other 89:30 probably isn’t gonna be an improvement.

But if that 30-second clip is from a 2-hour-and-25-minutes-long movie and it still sucks shit?

I’m in favour of euthanizing everyone who views it in the theatres.

The shame!

Everything I’ve seen of Sex & the City 2 looks like has-been writers puked up every failed cliché they’ve ever heard, slapped some pretty weird dresses and shoes I’ll NEVER afford onto fancy-pretty chicks, and spliced that shit together.

Let’s see what some of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are saying about it:

  • There’s only one thing worse than faking an orgasm: faking laughter. Shame on you, Sex and the City 2, for being a 2.5-hour laughless fake-a-thon that never finds the right spot.
  • Shoes, money, outfits, shoes, vagina, money, shoes, jewelry, outfits, money, shoes.
  • It goes from being what we know and love to… what were they thinking?
  • A flagrant insult to the audience that made the first film a phenomenon. Shame on the writers of this soulless drivel for trying to pass this Canal Street bootleg sow’s ear off as a genuine Alexander McQueen silk purse.
  • Early in Sex and the City 2, I started a list of things that could easily be cut because they go nowhere. It’s a long list.
  • It has no plot to speak of, little in the way of wit or intelligence, and is about 50% longer than can reasonably be justified.
  • A degrading portrait of women through an unfunny story about four Ugly Americans abroad.
  • It’s supposed to be Sex and the City. This is Sects and the Souk.

And that’s what pisses me off.

This movie isn’t failing because of the actresses. It’s failing because a director with shitty judgment had his hands on a shitty script that some fucko chose in a Hollywood office, and Decider Dude’s probably been sleeping with vapid starlets and hasn’t had his finger on the real-life pulse of America for three decades.

YET he thinks he knows what’ll appeal to broad-spectrum women around the world. Yeah. Right.

This movie is failing because it’s nothing of what the original series contained — cynical-but-true jabs at being single, sexy, smart women trying to get by in a big-city life at a changing time in American city culture.

So, it’s got nothing that made it great, except for actresses that play characters who aren’t the characters they were when America fell in love with them. Brilliant. Sure, that’ll be a raging success.

And the problem with these failing movies that have “older” actresses is, they’re usually shit from the get-go. They were shit on paper, they’re shit being shot, and they’re shit when they’re edited together for the screening room.

What’s the deal? Actresses don’t get great money-making projects past 45, so they get all scared about their future, then jump when Hollywood says they’ll slap a couple million payroll for ’em onto this lame-ass “but it’s sure to be a hit, look at all the OLD actresses we’ve lined up to appease the suburban-mom contingent!” movie.

The even bigger problem is with fans who’ll take anything shovelled at them under the guise that it’s even REMOTELY connected to the original story enterprise. Yeah, you know who you are.

This has NOTHING to do with the original series. It’s a bunch of chicks doing stupid, contrived things that only a BAD Hollywood writer would come up with.

We need great indie filmmakers to make awesome movies about women in their 40s and 50s that are edgy, ironic, bitingly funny, and not apologetic about crashing a few stereotypes. (I remember one called The Graduate.)

The movies we’re making for women have NOT improved. This is the same stupid-ass writing that’s brought us horrible, horrible, horrible chick flicks like The First Wives’ Clubs and The Women and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and all those cliché my-time-of-the-month films.

Apparently all women have to do in their 40s and 50s is to be unhappy about love, confused about life, and needy about having friends.

The problem here isn’t the age of the actresses.

It’s that Hollywood doesn’t know what real life for women actually entails. It doesn’t know that life’s more complicated than soccer-practice “taxi” trips and bill-payments.

Hollywood doesn’t understand that not every woman gets manicures or pedicures.

It doesn’t get that not every woman is sitting around deviously hatching a plan to manipulate a man.

It doesn’t get that some of us actually love ourselves and our lives.

It doesn’t get that my quality of life isn’t determined by the ratio of man-delivered-orgasms versus personally-given ones.

Hollywood doesn’t understand women. At all. It didn’t 20 years ago, it doesn’t now.

I’ll confess: I’ve never been a real fan of Sex & The City.

That’s more because I’m not a girlie-girl and don’t really get into “girl” shows. I enjoyed some of it sometimes, but I’ve always been annoyed at how much validation its characters received from the male sex, or how much they all had to rally together and prop each other up against the un-validation given to them by male characters.

It always was a cliché — but a really well-written cliché with great laughs and realistic characters, and more true to some of the struggles of women in their 30s/40s than it is about them aging.

Now, though, it’s just another money-grubbing cliché-spewing pathetic example of why the mainstream movie machine is still broken.

And you smart, sexy, intelligent, successful women who are giving your money over to the box office to watch this piece-of-shit movie that stereotypes, demeans, and mocks the modern woman:

You’re part of the problem.

Shame on you.