Tag Archives: 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.

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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.

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6 Decembre 1989: Remembering a Formative Tragedy

I was 16 on December 6th, 1989, when gunman Marc Lepine stormed into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, an engineering school.

When the blood had spilled and screams for the 14 dead women faded into muffled tears, it was found that the gunman had left a note explaining his actions — he’d wanted to kill feminists for making his life so much harder, thanks to quotas and changes in hiring practices.

bigI don’t remember where I was when I’d heard about the killings, but I remember slowly growing aware of what happened and why. I remember the confusion I’d felt as as a 16-year-old and the anger and fear this massacre opened in me.

In 1989, things were pretty “advanced” for women already. We had the old soul sisters Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin belting out that “sisters are doin’ it for themselves,” and movies like Baby Boom were showing that women no longer felt they had to have a man in order to make a “family” work.

I knew I could do anything I wanted to — that being a female really didn’t mean much anymore. Or did it?

Then, all my naivete changed. Continue reading

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RANT: You Think You’re A Feminist?

I can’t stand elitism. I can’t stand the “we’re better than you” mentality. And I sure as fuck can’t stand when someone’s got to get their hate on just to get ahead.

A particular blog post from someone in the sex blogging community is ridiculously sexist and moronic in its simplicity, in my opinion. Because I don’t feel the need to sling mud and hurt anyone’s reputations, I’ll leave it anonymous.

The blogger in question had a shitty day. Some guy, after she admitted she was responsible for causing a car accident, mouthed off with “It’s always the woman’s fault.” Because of this, she turned around and decided to slag all “privileged white males” as being asses.

Now, if she’d gone and said instead that she WORKS with privileged white males who are all asses, that’d be different, but her post more or less painted all as the same, and THAT is something I have a problem with.

Here’s the deal. Continue reading

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My Own Private Dichotomy

Fear is not my friend. I don’t care what the bookstore’s self-help section says.

Fear is a bitch. A mean, driven bitch.

I am not a fan of fear.

I bought that book. Twice. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyways. Sometimes I do it anyways. But I always feel the fear. Ever-present, always-niggling fear.

Fortunately I know that I’m apparently invincible. Continue reading

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From There to Where? How Far We’ve Come.

The INT ran a fascinating story on the end of tradition in Albania last week. The article begins:

Pashe Keqi recalls the day nearly sixty years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father’s baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.

Women in Albania have long had the option to hold power traditionally reserved for the family patriarchs. The catch is, they’d have to abdicate their femininity, a la Keqi.

Once considered the only way a woman could be strong, by pretending to be a man, it’s now considered outdated and unnecessary, and women, for the first time ever, are making serious strides in a very old-world country. The longstanding opinion of women is stated succinctly here:

Under the Kanun [a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries], the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same — 12 oxen.

But things are changing, and quickly. There’s no longer the belief that a man or pseudo-man must be around the homefront to keep worlds righted and working. It’s now understood women can handle it all, too.

________________

There’s a lot of rah-rah “sisters are doin’ it” cheerleading going on on the stump in America today, with Obama trumpeting Hillary’s gender-bending run for the presidential nominee as the two engulf headlines with their show of unity in Unity and the their travelling love-in.

And I think it’s easy to get a little cynical and just dismiss it all as politics as usual when someone like Obama lauds Clinton by saying not only can women do it better, but “do it in heels…” But it’s important for us to really dust that cynicism off, especially for those of us under 35 who’ve never really seen how damaging sexism once was.

This is no time for that cynicism, though. For a little while we deserve to be proud, too. This is a great time to be alive. It really is. There’s a lot of hope for the future, with all these walls coming tumbling down these days. Black folks running for the highest office in the land, beating a woman for the job. It’s a wild time.

When you look at the sacrifices made by those who’ve gone before us, like the women in Albania who’ve opted for a life of virginity and pretending to be a man so they might adopt control of their families, or those who’ve been skewered in the public for saying a woman can do a better job than a man, like Hillary did, it’s been a long fucking road.

Girls today maybe don’t even realize that most of us females have had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. We had to fight for the right to have a say.

Women today maybe still don’t realize that most women never worked a job until this century, and pay still isn’t equal for equal roles, most of the time.

But, wow, have we come a long ways, baby. I get a little dejected sometimes when I see the Paris and Britney wanna-bes coming up in the ranks, but then I see the new generation of women who can’t stand their P/B contemporaries, who are smart, sexy, driven, resourceful, and promising.

It’s going to be all right. I suspect some tough times may still be ahead, but that light at the end of the tunnel just keeps getting stronger, doesn’t it?

It’s a great time to be a witness, don’t you think? An even better time to play a role.

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