SARcasm











So I want to say up front that I have never been a particular Jian Ghomeshi fan. I enjoyed Moxy Fruvous, and would listen to “Q” (his well-known show on CBC Radio 1) if he had a particularly interesting guest or topic, but I was no loyalist. So when about a year ago I read this piece on XOJane by Carla Ciccone, detailing (and I understate things) an arrogant and far-too-persistent ‘bad date’ with boundary and personal space issues, and understood through comments thereafter that this was a thinly veiled story about Ghomeshi, it didn’t particularly fizz on me one way or the other. Creeper, I thought, glad I don’t know him, but doesn’t quite sound criminal, and he’s OK at what he does, and hey, aren’t we all fans of some problematic people or other? It didn’t really change my opinion of him one way or the other. Entitled minor celebrity, I thought, and pursued my previous stance of ‘I wasn’t a big fan of his anyway, but this isn’t worthy of a boycott, I’ll listen depending on the topic or guest at hand.’

That said, I never forgot that read, or that I got the sense through scuttlebutt that this wasn’t exactly out of line with Ghomeshi’s off-air reputation. So when I heard this past Sunday that he’d been fired by the CBC, I wondered dimly if it was related to an issue, or issues, like this. Ghomeshi’s Facebook statement followed within hours, suggesting (and I summarize very briefly, it was a long note) he was fired for enjoying rough sex but that it was always consensual, and to suggest otherwise was a smear campaign against him by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a few co-consipirators, and of course, the internet began taking sides. I very carefully made a point of not doing so. On the one hand it is a personal policy of mine, as a feminist, not to doubt claims of assault or sexual abuse. After all, the media, public, and – worst of all – courts and law enforcement do a good enough job of that, making it difficult for victims everywhere to come forward (indeed, according to the Toronto Star, who ultimately came forward with the story in light of the firing, the reason the women didn’t press charges, and wished to remain anonymous, was fear or reprisal or revenge). On the other, while the tone of Ghomeshi’s open letter bothered me on a number of levels, I was impressed with him getting out ahead of the story when it might seem simpler to just bite one’s tongue, and I have a natural instinct (applied to both sides, in my defense) to give the benefit of the doubt and want to information-gather before any witch hunt.

Especially in this case, where there is so much at stake in being wrong. What feminist in their right mind wants to unwittingly defend a rapist, or accuse an assault victim of lying? On the other hand, if there was even a bit of truth in Ghomeshi’s claims, who wants to see a man’s career ruined because he’s a bit of a creep around girls and has some ‘deviant’ tastes in the bedroom? What if it was a misunderstanding where neither side was lying, the women genuinely thought they were consenting to one thing while Ghomeshi took it as license for another? I want to be clear – I never for an instant believed the women involved were lying. There was too much smoke for there to be fire. But “how bad was it”? Was Ghomeshi a monster, pure and simple, or clueless, entitled, in need of education on how to deal with his fetishes in a safe and responsible manner? Or heck with it – at that point, is there even a difference?

Bottom line, in the immediate aftermath and firestorm, when it was a LOT of he-said she-said, while I had my guesses in my heart of hearts in terms of what was up, I had no interest in getting involved. I figured, it will all come out in the wash and all will have their day in court … and media … and whatever other arena these issues get batted around. Because trust me, there are some big issues to discuss here, from rape culture and the difficulty to come forward in cases of assault – especially when the perpetrator is famous, powerful, and probably a serious gatekeeper in an industry you have an interest in if you run in the same circles as him – to BDSM and the importance of being safe and clear if engaging in it, to how ‘innocent until proven guilty’ comes into play in hiring and firing situations and beyond.But all that said – four days have passed now. More women have come forward anonymously, and one – Canadian actress Lucy Decoutere – has done so publicly. Ghomeshi has done precious little to convince me – or anyone – that these stories are false. And apparently, that ‘anyone’ now includes his PR firm, who dropped him today.

So – for this writer anyway, in my small bubble – the time for ‘having an opinion but keeping it to myself’ is over. In trying to be fair-minded, I in fact took too long in putting out there what my gut was telling me from the first this story broke. And while I understand Ghomeshi is still ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in a legal sense, he has lost whatever benefit of the doubt I was prepared to give him. Not only is he an abuser of women, he apparently has been one for a very long time. And while I still have no desire to lead any witch-hunts, or deny him his day in court, I think it’s time we all recognize that ‘innocent until proven guilty’, as my friend Anne over at The Belle Jar has pointed out several times through this story, doesn’t just extend to suspects of crimes, but their victims too. And all too often, that benefit of the doubt is denied to rape victims, perpetuating a vicious circle where they are uncomfortable coming forward “the right way” (un-anonymously, to the police), and thereby doubted even further because, well, if it was true, why wouldn’t you report it?

And while I am a little late to this party (whether via a noble attempt to be fair to all sides, or perhaps on some selfish level wanting to be sure I was ‘right’ before speaking out), I would like to encourage everyone now to take this story beyond Jian Ghomeshi, beyond the CBC, and to the crux of this issue everywhere – the fact that a man was allowed to abuse women uninhibited and consequence-free for decades, despite everyone “Knowing About Jian”. Even his closest friends have expressed a hindsight awareness of his behaviour, yet he continued to hold a cushy job, millions of fans, and lots of women willing to go on dates with him having no idea what the consequences would be. This is rape culture at its worst, and we as a society need to explore carefully how this happens. Because until and unless we look at this topic head-on, there will always be another Jian Ghomeshi, and there will always be decades worth of anonymous victims afraid to come forward except in the most hush-hush, whispered innuendo of terms.

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{May 29, 2013}   RIP Dr. Henry Morgentaler

Dr. Henry Morgentaler passed away today at 90 years old. The man has an amazing life story, having come to Canada as a Holocaust survivor and being a true pioneer in modernizing our abortion laws. A case in regards to his practice struck down all laws outlawing abortion in Canada in  1988 under the wonderful document we refer to as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, defending women’s rights to “Life, liberty, and security of the person.”

This man risked violence, death threats and public opinion to defend women’s rights, and was rewarded with the Order of Canada in 2008. This is something I’m hugely proud of; in Canada, we don’t murder or bomb our abortion practitioners … we give them the highest civilian honour available, recognizing the brave and controversial nature of their work, and in Morgentaler’s case his pioneering ways. After a past more difficult than any of us could imagine, he went on to become a doctor fighting for the rights of his patients. This is wildly admirable, in my view.

While Dr. Morgentaler’s health forced him to give up personally performing abortions in 2006, he still oversaw a series of clinics in his name until very near his death today. One may or may not agree with his stance and what he fought for (I personally do – while full disclosure forces my pro-choice self to admit that some cases of abortion give me pause, it is far too important in the bigger picture of women’s rights and bodily autonomy to allow societal judgements and pearl clutching to factor into those decisions) – but what cannot be disputed was the courage of his convictions, and his willingness to stand up for them. And I believe that much (and, personally, his accomplishments) deserves to be lauded and remembered at this time. Godspeed, Dr. Morgentaler.



{March 25, 2013}   On Rape

So – I’ve been sitting on this blog entry for about a week now – I just haven’t had the time to do it justice (I can’t even describe how ill I’ve been, really for 3-4 weeks but the last week in particular). I’m still sure I won’t. But I have to say SOMETHING on the Steubenville rape case. I’ll leave it to you to check out the details of the case elsewhere, but the short version of the story is a 16-year-old girl, upon getting drunk to the point of passing out at a party, was raped by two members of her school’s football team while people watched, joked about it, took pictures and video, and it ended up posted online. Upon this case opening up, arrests being made, going to court etc., the sympathies towards the ‘good student’ footballers, the judgemental approach to the rape victim who drunkenly ‘must have asked for it’, etc. stirred up a firestorm of controversy. My thoughts:

  1. I’m not going to say underage drinking is smart. Nor is it smart for anyone to drink to the point of passing out with people they don’t know well or don’t trust. But stupid doesn’t equal criminal, and stupid doesn’t equal asking for it. I have known, and know, plenty of boys and men whose first response to this would be to make sure she got home safely, had some water and aspirin at her disposal for the undoubtedly painful wakeup the next morning, etc.
  2. I do think it’s important for everyone – men and women, girls and boys – to know how to make good choices and do what they reasonably can to be street smart and avoid crime as possible; however, at the end of the day, it is up to potential criminals to, you know, not commit crimes. If I’m walking alone down a deserted street with a wallet full of cash, is that a smart choice? No. But does that mean it’s OK for someone to rob me because, well, my judgement was too poor to deserve otherwise? Absolutely not. It’s time we focus less on teaching girls how to avoid rape, and more on teaching boys not to rape.
  3. Sympathy here ultimately needs to rest with the victim of this awful crime, and the display from CNN in particular and other news outlets in general of sympathies with these boys whose ‘bright futures’ have now been destroyed, is ill placed. Look – I believe we can make mistakes. Huge mistakes. And I believe we can all learn and grow. I agree 16, 17 years old is awfully young to have a lifelong label to carry around with you. HOWEVER, they chose these actions. They were old enough to know it was wrong, they did it anyway, no one else did it to them or for them. If their futures were ruined that is sad, but nowhere near as sad as the long road to recovery their victim is facing. There’s still a lot of time and room for growth and learning and I hope these boys avail themselves of that. There is still potential for ‘I was incredibly, monstrously, criminally stupid at 17, but this is what I learned and how I got my life back’ – but they need to earn that. It’s not incumbent on us to just hand them that.
  4. We need to teach the skills required to avoid these situations in school – this is why abstinence-only education doesn’t work. First and foremost, boys need to learn what consent does and does not look like, they need to learn to respect it, and they need to learn to respect their partners. Women do need to learn what kind of behaviours to accept and not accept from friends, partners, strangers, how to react to it and deal with it, what resources are available to them etc. Bystanders need to learn how, well, not to be bystanders – perhaps the most disgusting part in this case is the number of people who stood by and did nothing – nay, perhaps even enjoyed the show. And parents need to learn how to be comfortable discussing these things with their children – teaching people can be loved without sex and it’s OK to say no, that it’s absolutely imperative to accept no as an answer, and to ultimately enter any interhuman relationship with clear communication that goes both ways – clear messages and clear listening.
  5. RESPECT. This should not be that hard.

And I want to leave you guys with a very short but sweet video on the above that says everything I’m trying to say in one neat and tidy package, far more eloquently than I have here. Please watch, and share widely. Look after each other, and yourselves. Be well. XO



OK – so really, people judging each other’s parenting choices is probably a pastime older than the hills; from whether or not to have children, to how many, to how to raise them, to how to prevent having them, to how to go about having them if things don’t just happen ‘naturally’, to whether we should prevent having them … there are plenty of opinions to go around and always have been. Perhaps the advent of internet 2.0 – social media, blogging, etc. – has just made it more prevalent, quicker to be put out there in the world, harder to erase, and  all the more mean-spirited and less open to compromise and actual debate due to the anonymity of the internet and the braveness … brazenness … that provides. But in the meantime, the debates over whether to parent or not as more and more people make the choice not to, the arguments over access to contraception and abortion, and the ridiculously judgemental “Mommy Wars” that the potentially useful but often nasty “Mommy Blogging” culture has led to, is by no means healthy for anyone. And while these might at first blush seem like disparate issues, really at the end of the day they come down to the same core; an attack on women on the one hand, and/or women being too busy attacking one another to recognize the realities of the world around them, and the fact that honestly we have more common ground than not.

First of all, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. I find it telling that almost the entire focus of any of the above debates – from contraception/abortion to whether or not it is selfish/selfless to have children or not have children to how to raise them if and when you do, focus on women as opposed to, you know, that other parent in the room, which one is he? Right – “Daddy”. In an age where dads are getting more and more involved in parenting decisions, or should be, where women are more and more accountable for the ‘working outside the home’ issue, where the domestic and public spheres are blending more and more, neither parent should be solely accountable, or not accountable whatsoever, for these decisions. And this isn’t to disparage single moms or dads out there – where you ARE solely responsible for all that heavy lifting though, perhaps that’s more deserving of empathy than judgement, and a recognition that the fact that the balls you are keeping in the air make up an amazing feat, rather than the ones that get dropped being recognized as a glaring failure. But when talking about two-parent homes, be they homosexual or heterosexual in composition, let’s remember that both partners are co-parents, co-bread earners, etc. at this point. If they CHOOSE to divide those duties traditionally, or reverse traditional roles, then that’s OK, of course, but it’s a choice, and not to be judged any more than splitting both ‘types’ of work is. If we are going to judge and rate women as moms, if it is going to interfere with their careers and become perceived as their primary role, men, where involved and able, should be involved in some of those sacrifices and help lift that burden as well.

I experienced this disparity in perception first hand, by the way; with our first, I stayed home on parental leave while Ari went to work, and this was simply ‘the way things were’. When our second came along, we decided, as Ari worked for the government and would be topped up  pay-wise for leave while I worked on call and was only paid if I worked, would continue working. This choice, when it was made for me to stay home, was simply the natural order of things; when Ari decided to stay home, I got to hear what an AMAZING partner I had and a whole lot of dumbfounded, dare I say somewhat judgemental ‘Oh? Really?’s. Now – for the record – yes. I have a phenomenal parenting partner. I don’t want this to seem like complaining about the role he plays in our kids’ lives because he is fantastic. But he’s fantastic as all fantastic parents, Mom or Dads, should be.

Now, having said all that, given that the world seems to focus its attention on women in these issues, while I clearly disagree with that. I will do the same. And I want to point out and share, that “Pro Choice” doesn’t just mean being in favour of legal abortions – it means allowing people to make the best choices for them, trusting them to make the right one, and maybe supporting instead of judging and fighting with each other. If we as women learn to accept and understand each other’s choices, even when they differ from one another, we would be better equipped to deal with, for example, grey-haired male lawmakers telling us how to do things because we’re too busy pointing fingers at each other. This ca be demonstrated along almost any decision relating to parenting … or not.

Whether or not to have kids I have seen childless women and couples judge people for having kids, for letting them run wild, for having the nerve to be parents to imperfect little people. I have seen parents judge and condescend to non-parents that ‘they’ll change their mind’, they ‘don’t know what they’re missing’ … and to a certain extent all of the above can be fair, in individual cases. But not all parents are ‘smug marrieds’ who aren’t aware of their kids and their shortcomings, with a nose up at anyone with a different concept of familial bliss than theirs; and not all childless people are simply selfish hedonists who simply haven’t met the right person, or grown up yet. In fact – if you don’t want children, ‘selfish’ is having one simply to avoid arguments, judgements, etc. IF you do want children, ‘selfish’ is not having them when they could be raised by loving parents to be a positive force in the world. BETTER OPERATING ASSUMPTION: People should be able to choose whether or not to have children based on what’s right for them; they should not be guilted into one decision or another due to societal expectatins or pressured or any of that. And yes – this includes people getting off the backs of women who don’t have children, and it includes making it easier for women who do have children to do so without taking such big setbacks in their career. Men can have it all – a good career and a perception as a good dad. They can also choose to not have children without being seen as some kind of failure or somehow missing out. Why can’t we?

Whether to use contraception or abort when an unwanted pregnancy occurs No brainer. Some parents who didn’t expect to become pregnant can ‘come around’, pull it together, and become really amazing parents. I’ve seen this. But for those who can’t, or those who don’t think they can, or those who just think they would do really a much better job with a few years and maybe an education behind them, or with a partner, or really, no thanks I don’t want to do this at all … If you can’t empathize with the woman (who of course, if she ends up in this position, must have made a slew of horrible choices and must therefore be condemned to a life of unwanted, ill-timed parenthood), please do any potential babies  in this siuation a favour and allow them to not be born into a potentially horrible start to life. Contraception and abortions should be accessible, for everyone’s sake.

If you want kids, but can’t have them naturally, you had better … adopt/visit a fertility specialist …Our babies are adopted. I couldn’t love them more if I’d gestate them for nine months. I am a huge adoption advocate who really hopes the myths about it (that it MUST take a long time, MUST be expensive) be dispensed with (we took one year, without spending a dollar outside of what raising kids costs). I don’t personally understand the importance of genetics in loving someone more or less. HOWEVER – I DO grieve a bit over having never gotten pregnant and, unless I lose a fair bit of weight, probably being unable to do so responsibly even through fertility treatments. I understand people build families that work for them. And just because a biological connection isn’t important to me, it IS important to enough people I don’t think it’s strange or unusual that it is. That’s the thing – I don’t need to ‘get it’ to support your right to it as a choice. If genetics IS important to you – by all means do yourself and your future children a favour, tune out the “Why don’t you just adopt” rhetoric and check into a fertility clinic because you will be a happier and more comfortable parent in the long run. IF you could see adoption working but are concerned about money/time/open-ness … it might be worth taking the time to speak to your local social service agency, and don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a parent for the lack of a genetic connection to your children, or because you can’t breast feed them, or whatever. You’re Mommy and Daddy at the end of the day. Period.

Choices we make on how to raise kids attachment parenting, helicopter parenting, breeding more independence, letting kids make their own choices, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, one parent staying home vs. both parents working, daycare choices … God we moms can be a catty lot to each other (ignoring, again, of course that our partners, where applicable, often get out of this debate with minimal judgement). How about whether or not we need to work, whether we give our kids more or less supervision vs. independence, or any of those things, be left to us to choose? You don’t know my kids and what works in our home, anymore than we know you, yours and what works for you. Honestly, if kids aren’t being frozen to death, starved or beaten black and blue (or really put in indisputable danger, like throwing a non-swimmer into a deep pool, to yes, admittedly exaggerate wildly to prove a point) I’m going to tend to assume you’re making the best choices you can in your situation, and would appreciate the same credit.

BOTTOM LINE: Women, moms and non-moms alike, there is enough out there in the world, even today, to beat us down, stand in our way, and there are more than a few people (men, and other women) who are more than happy to step in and make our decisions for us. Why don’t we at the very least stop doing it to each other? Why don’t we at the very least say, hey – just as we mock the other side of the abortion debate for being ‘pro-life’ until birth, when we want to deny food stamps, education etc. and send them off to war at 18, let’s not stop being pro-choice simply over the abortion issue. As human beings, we are all (or OK, mostly) capable of making good decisions, and they aren’t necessarily the same for all of us. Until there is evidence to the contrary, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, huh? Because as human beings, much less women, there’s a whole world out there more than willing not to.



et cetera