Archive for April, 2012

Let me see that….

April 28, 2012

The other night I found myself frantically searching my underwear drawer for my lone pair of thong underwear. Why the emergency you ask? Well, I had thankfully double-checked my appearance from all angles before leaving the house and realized the bikini briefs I was wearing were not only causing some unsightly PLs (that’s panty lines for those of you not down with the lingo) but they were also cutting into my tush giving the appearance of a double bum. Now, I may not have buns of steel here, but I have been doing my Brazilian Butt Lift workout religiously and feel my butt is well on it’s way from flat to FAB as promised. So assuming I did not in fact sprout a second rear end, I needed to fix this asap. The only possible solutions I could think of were 1)Ditch the panties. This was not an option. I’m over 30. Also more frightening than the idea of going out with twin tushies was going out with camel toe. 2)Wear a thong. No more underwear cutting into butt as underwear will have no backside, only a strip riding up between my butt cheeks giving the sensation of a perpetual wedgie. Number 2 won. So there I was ripping my drawer apart.

After this episode I started thinking about underwear and the role it plays in women’s lives. Clearly underwear serves a practical function for women. It holds things up and holds things in, it acts to smooth things under clothing, it serves as a barrier between intimate parts and clothing. It can change or accentuate a woman’s shape. In many cases it can also change the way a woman feels, whether it makes her feel more comfortable, sexier, more youthful or more mature. I have underwear for different moods. I have my nice ‘going out underwear’ and my laze around the house ‘boy shorts’ underwear. I have my comfortable slightly more relaxed fit ‘pms bikini brief underwear’ and my older almost ready to throw out ‘period underwear’. I have my seamless underwear for under tight pants and dresses and even a couple of pairs of gigantic high-waisted granny panties which I have learned are actually great for tight dresses as they don’t leave unsightly lines and seams across the front of the dress. And I have that one pair of emergency thong underwear. Why am I so averse? I once worked a job at a restaurant which will not be named where the orange shorts of the uniform were so short that the only possible underwear which could be worn underneath without peeking out of the bottom was a thong. For two years I donned this get-up while in university for my pharmacist degree. I grew to despise the thong. When I finally quit I threw out the shorts AND all my offending underwear and relished in wearing panties that covered my entire bottom. I haven’t gone back.


It is believed that women have been wearing some form of undergarment since 3000 BC. Throughout history there has been a lot of controversy surrounding women’s customs with respect to underwear. Often women of higher classes wore very elaborate and constricting undergarments in order to shape their bodies to a form considered appealing in their time. One of the more controversial pieces which is still in existence today is the corset. The first corset appeared in medieval times and has persevered throughout the rest of history. During the French Revolution, women revolted by adopting the un-corset instead. This was a prototype which lacked the rigid boning of the corset making it much more comfortable and less constricting. However by Victorian times the corset was back again. Many have said the corset oppressed women throughout history, and also was the cause of unnecessary health problems. It has even been said that the lacing of the corset is a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The second controversial piece of underwear is worn by most North American women every day. It is the bra. Originally called the brassiere, it originated in the early 1900s, banding the breasts down so women could more easily do athletic activities. In 1935 cup sizes were introduced. In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists pronounced bras repressive to women, and bra burning took place all over the US and Canada. Today, there is a bra for every woman, from lined to unlined, underwire, push-up, push WAY up, backless, strapless etc.

1880s corset

While at this point of my life I have to admit that my own underwear drawer is pretty G-rated, not all my undergarments are purchased for practical purposes. As I said before, sometimes women buy underwear that makes them feel sexy. Other times, they purchase undergarments to look attractive to someone of the opposite sex. Usually in these cases, we call the articles in question ‘lingerie’ and charge a lot more money for them. Lingerie is the fancy stuff, made out of lace or silk or satin. Or if you’re really kinky and in a seedy area of town it might be make of vinyl or pleather or PVC. The question is, why are we buying this stuff? Certainly society and class does not dictate the undergarments we must wear the way that it once did. That is not to say we have nothing to influence our decisions. Almost every day I see ads of beautiful models in sexy lingerie, often beside gorgeous men who are looking at them longingly. In movies and on TV, when an actress undresses, you never see her wearing ratty cotton panties and an old mismatched bra. No, you always catch her on a good day when she’s got on a matching set and she just happened to (thank goodness) throw on her best garter belt. And their relationships always end in happily ever after with perfect men who adore them. Then there’s those Victoria’s Secret Supermodels. Need I say more?? Women are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them what they need to wear under their clothes to be attractive. Not to mention how we should look in these get-ups. It’s just another impossible standard for women to live up to.

This past Valentines day, armed with romantic thoughts and courage, I visited a local lingerie shop. The first thing I noticed is that all lingerie seems to be made with men in mind. When I asked the salesgirl if she had something with a “whole bottom” she looked at me with a confused look. Apparently most women do not go there with modesty in mind. The second thing I found was that they did not appear to have bras in my size. 34A. The only A cup they had was 32A. But the girl assured me my “sister size” was a 34B and this would fit ‘perfectly’. In fact what it did was squeeze may back so hard skin poured out on either side of the band and I did not nearly fill the cup. Hmm. Thirdly, every bra seemed to be filled with either gel or water and weighed about 10 pounds. I think my significant other would know something was awry if my breasts were suddenly 2 cup sizes larger, pushed up to my chin, and sounded like the ocean. No, this was not the place for me. I eventually found what I was looking for somewhere else, something that I felt comfortable and sexy in. Did he like it? I didn’t ask.

I think as women we worry too much about what other people think about how we look. We worry about our appearance at work. Will we be taken seriously? Do we look professional? We worry about how we look when we go out. Do we look sexy? Pretty? Cute? Awake? What impression will I give? The answers we give ourselves are heavily influenced by what the media and society tells us. If we want this to change, maybe we can start with our most intimate attire. Wear what makes YOU feel good whether it’s white cotton or red satin. And sometimes practical can even be sexy to some people. I’m going to invest in another practical thong this week, you never know when you’ll need to pull it out.

If that was my kid I’d…(Will I be a good Mom?)

April 25, 2012


Today while running on the treadmill I observed a boy of about 6 or 7 years old from our apartment building riding his scooter around the park right outside the window in front of me. There was a pair of ducks at the edge of the park that caught his attention, and he proceeded to stop and stare at them for some time. They did not move, so he started to circle them repeatedly. When they still did not move, he kicked his foot towards them. They remained still. At this point he picked up a rock from the ground and threw it towards the birds. As there was no response, the boy continued to torment the birds by alternating between circling and rock throwing for about 15 minutes. My rage steadily built as I thought about how scared the ducks must feel and wondered why they did not fly away. Finally I had enough, jumped off the treadmill, opened the door of the workout room and walked onto a small patio and yelled to the boy “Throw one more rock at those ducks and I’ll come over there and throw a rock at you!” He quickly rode away. I am expecting to hear about this tomorrow from one of his parents.

Thinking about my response afterwards, I realize I could have probably handled the situation better. I realize it is likely not appropriate for an adult woman to threaten physical harm to a child. In my defense, I did refrain from sticking out my tongue. But it did make me wonder, if at 31 years old this was how I felt the need to teach a child a lesson (I’ll show you how it feels to have someone bigger pick on you!) what kind of mother will I be? I am quick to judge others when I feel they are making mistakes when it comes to parenting. I find this to be true of many people, whether they are parents or not. When I see a child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or running amok in the mall I am quick to throw a disapproving eye at the parents. If I see a child drinking a grande hot chocolate or eating a huge hunk of chocolate I tsk tsk at the mother who would allow their child to consume so much sugar. You didn’t breastfeed? Criminal. Is that baby food organic? Is that freshly squeezed orange juice? Do you have an RESP? I can tell you exactly what you should be doing in all of these situations. But what do I really know about raising a child? Nothing.

I am a pharmacist. I know very practical things about children. I know how many milligrams per kilogram of many medications a baby should receive.  I know what to do in case of dehydration. I know what to give for fever, constipation, upset stomach, colic etc. I have growth charts showing typical heights and weights for children at various ages. But I have no practical knowledge of babies whatsoever. I have never changed a diaper. I have held exactly two babies, and my foremost thought was “If I drop you, your head will break”. I do not have any clue how long a child should breastfeed for, or how often. I don’t understand what “pumping” means. I have seen a breast shield and I am still confused as to how it is functional. I don’t know when a child should be able to hold their head up, sit, crawl or walk, but I know I am terrified that my child will not do any of these things at the right time. I don’t know when a child should begin to talk, read or write, or what to do to encourage these things. I don’t know when they should be toilet trained. I don’t know how they should sleep in a crib so they don’t die of SIDS. I don’t know if SIDS exists anymore, my mom told me about it a long time ago and that is why I never babysat an infant. When asked how you know what to do when you have a baby, people always say “You just know”. I think this is crap. Animals “just know’ instinctively how to care for their young. This is because all they have to do is protect them from predators and the environment until they can survive on their own to be considered good parents. Humans have to do this as well as nurture them, mold them into good human beings who are well rounded, well-adjusted, happy, healthy and successful in order to be considered good parents. This is a big challenge. I am hyperventilating just thinking about it, and I am an educated adult woman. I don’t understand how women 10-15 years my junior can do it. Some argue that in the ‘old days’ women got married and bore children when they were children (13-15 years old). But they also died very young, so they didn’t have to live to see their failures. Child parents now have the advantage that their parents are often still alive to help with child-rearing, and if not, well, let’s not pretend their offspring are at any sort of advantage. Has anyone seen 16 and Pregnant?

Even if I can overcome all of my fears of becoming a mother, I wonder, when is the right time? What is the “maternal instinct? Is it something that every woman has? Do I have it? What about the biological clock? How loud does it tick? I have always seen my distant future with children. But there was one point that the sight of a baby would not even phase me. I would be at work and a woman would come in with her newborn baby, and everyone would Ooh and Aah. They would pass this creature around from colleague to colleague while it squirmed and squished it’s red wrinkled face together. When it reached me I would always politely decline the chance to hold the little imp, never understanding the draw. Similarly, I could never understand the appeal of the newborn pictures where every baby looks the exact same, red face, black hair, alien face. And why show off the sonogram? Nobody can see anything. But something has changed. Now when I see a pregnant woman I feel an overwhelming urge to rub her belly. And I suddenly want to hold babies. Every baby! And take them home. I see the appeal. I realize my baby making window is narrowing. But I still don’t feel urgency. I don’t know if years of working with women, hearing pregnancy stories of heartburn, hemorrhoids, gallstones, enemas, 60 hour labors, pain, and stitches in unimaginable places have tarnished my viewpoint.

So am I missing a mother gene? Is there something wrong with me that I am over 30 and not dying to bear a child yesterday? Or is there something wrong with a society that pushes the idea of maternal instincts and biological clocks on women and makes them feel like if they do not fulfill a mother role by a certain point then they are flawed? It seems like pressures continue to be mounted and it is difficult to prioritize in this day and age. Be educated, have a career, be independent are the modern goals. But also get married and have children. We want it all, but often it is hard to find time for it all meaning some things need to be placed on the backburner. Women are increasingly choosing to get their careers and lives in place before having children and so perhaps it is not that this goal has decreased in importance but only that it has slipped from the forefront of the priority list. I feel that as I check other goals off of my list, I get closer to feeling ready to make the big step. Hopefully by that point I will mature a little more as well and not be picking fights on the playground.

If I like to Bake can I still be a Feminist?

April 23, 2012

This weekend I baked. It isn’t the first time it has ever happened. It is the second. The first time occurred after I became so enraged at a frozen black banana falling from the freezer door onto my toe for the zillionth time that I decided to finally but my pristine loaf pan to use. I was told the banana bread was good, but I have noticed fewer frozen overripe bananas in the freezer, and those we do collect are quickly used for smoothies. But I digress. This weekend I came across a recipe for Snickerdoodles, the best cookie on earth. It seemed easy enough, even for me, so I decided to go for it. While I was at it, why not bake a carrot cake I thought, another favorite. Armed with my recipes and my ingredients (who knew cream of tartar was used in baking??) I set out to bake. There were a few hitches along the way. I learned that a blender was not a good choice for pureeing carrots. I also learned why most people who bake have electronic mixers. My arm is still sore. But in the end I had 30 delicious cookies and a wonderful carrot cake. I was giddy with pride. I could almost understand why people would want to do this regularly. I patiently waited for my fiancée to come home so I could force my creations down his throat. After he had tasted both, I heard myself turn into my Oma as I said “Don’t you like them? You only had one piece of carrot cake!” He had also had 3 cookies, but he’s a big boy. The joy of baking had dawned on me. It’s not necessarily the process that is enjoyable, but the end result, a product to share with others, to bring happiness to people you care about and to nurture them. When I think of fresh baking, I always think of my Oma whose cinnamon buns and shortbread cookies are unrivaled as far as I am concerned. Baking had always seemed like a maternal, female oriented and dated pastime to me. I think this is why I have avoided it for so long. I just don’t see myself as a woman who bakes. So then I asked myself: what kind of woman are you?

I have always thought of myself as a forward-thinking, modern woman. I am well-educated. I have a good career. I make a good salary and since I have started to work have always been able to support myself. I am currently engaged and live with my partner, also a successful professional. We split the rent and utilities. We both take turns paying for groceries. We both work full time so we split the household chores like cooking and cleaning and walking the dog. I lucked out. According to the most recent American Time Use Survey: “On an average day, 20% of men did housework-such as cleaning or doing laundry-compared with 49% of women. 41% of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 68% of women.” In our household, we try to split things 50/50. At one point we thought about hiring a housekeeper, but if we hate cleaning our apartment so much, why should someone else have to do it? It seems wrong.

My parents divorced when I was in elementary school, and both of my parents worked out of financial necessity. This is the case in many situations today where a family’s financial situation is such that the income from both parents is needed to make ends meet. I am fortunate in that if we have children my partner could support a family on his salary alone. When I have complained about work, he has told me I can quit my job. Since I know he respects my career and work ethic I believe he says this mainly to pacify me when I am worked up, but I also know it is a viable option. However I have always seen myself as a working woman. When the show Mad Men hit the air it triggered a pop culture phenomenon where people everywhere wanted to live like it was the 1960’s again. Websites and blogs devoted to glamorizing the housewife role a la Betty Draper were abundant. But besides the amazing clothes these women wore, and the idea of antiquing all day to turn your home into a retro museum, are these women’s lives all that covetable? Betty Draper seems to sit at home a lot doing housework and chain-smoking while her husband has a grand old time at the office where he doesn’t appear to do a whole lot of work. I think most would agree Don Draper is the real winner in the relationship, drinking and smoking at the office, having business meetings over gimlets, and sleeping around with any beautiful woman he sees fit. It’s no wonder more and more women started to enter the work force in the 60’s and 70’s. Today it is the norm for women to work. After WWII 31.8% of US women worked, while in 2010 69% did. In Canada in 2010 75% of women worked. In the US 80% of college educated women work, 67% with a high school diploma, and 47% without one. It is now much less likely to meet a woman who chooses to or has the opportunity to be a stay at home mother or a full-time housewife than a woman with a full-time job.

January Jones as Betty Draper

Speaking for myself, I enjoy the structure and mental stimulation that my job gives me on a daily basis. It makes me feel challenged and as a result I feel like I am a more satisfied individual. I know many would disagree with me, but I feel that you can be a good wife and mother and also have a career. When you have a life outside of the home, you have something to bring to the table every night.  This is also why I believe it is important for women to have a social life, friends and hobbies apart from their significant others. Believe me, you don’t want to be stuck at their “guys night” any more than they want to listen to you talk about your feelings or how hot Zac Efron looks in his new movie over wine with your friends. Even worse, don’t take him to the movie. You need those nights apart. If you are fulfilled as a woman, you are happier, leading to a happier marriage. I also believe a woman should be financially independent from her spouse. While no woman expects their marriage to fail, the truth is that many do. Do you want to be the woman who after 35 years of marriage, after you have raised 2 children, emotionally supported your husband while he climbed the corporate ladder, did all of the domestic chores, gets left for a younger woman. This woman has no experience in the job market, no marketable skills, no knowledge of new technology, and her alimony cheque will not pay her rent. I know this woman. You don’t want to be her. I want to feel like I have earned everything I have. The traditional role of woman as housekeeper and childbearer and man as provider would make me feel like a kept woman, and I for one am not going to feel as though I have to ask my husband for the credit card to buy myself a new pair of shoes. I already get “the look” when a UPS box arrives containing something I’ve ordered online with my own money. When it’s OUR money? We’ll see.

Based on the above, many would consider my views feminist. But I’m not a feminist. The more I think about gender roles, and my role in my own relationship especially, the more I realize that a lot of my beliefs contradict themselves. For example, I believe both spouses should financially contribute to the household. I enjoy financial independence. But when we go out for dinner, more often than not, my fiancée picks up the cheque. And I am OK with that. Even back in my dating days, when I was asked on a date and a man would reach for the bill, I wouldn’t protest. It might be old-fashioned of me, but I enjoyed being courted. I also find it to be a nice gesture when a man opens a door for me, pulls out my chair, or offers me a seat on the bus. Some would say these actions indicate he believes me to be weak in need of protection, but I just think it’s a nice action that has become customary for some men. I am always the passenger in the car when with my partner, I like it when he drives even though I have a license. If something needs to be hung or changed in the apartment, it’s his job. Similarly if there is something wrong with an appliance it is up to him to take care of it, even though he is just as inept in that department as I am (almost). If there is a bug to be killed, also his domain. I like flowers in the apartment, and am perfectly able to buy them myself, but I am happiest when my fiancée comes home with a bouquet for me ‘just because’, and I feel he should know when to do so. I believe there are such things as “chick flicks” and “dude flicks”. The fact that I am getting married at all is very unfeminist of me. Looking back at the history of marriage, in almost all cultures such as ancient Greece, Rome and Israel it was a transfer of property (the woman) from her father to her husband who then owned his wife. In medieval Europe, the engagement ring came to be. It was the symbol of a successful “bride sale” and it was really just a down payment of the dowry, given to the bride before the wedding after which the full bride price was paid. But even knowing this, I still love my big shiny diamond ring. And I still want to be married, even if symbolically I will become property. I even plan to take my husband’s name. And now, I like to bake.

So, am I a hypocrite? Maybe. But I’m not trying to fit into a box. I am striving for happiness, not holiness.

I’ll have the vegan burger, hold the gluten. Oh, and no carbs.

April 19, 2012

It is hockey playoff season which, depending on how my team fares, will likely mean more dining out while watching them squash the competition. While sports bars and chain restaurant lounges with big screen TVs aren’t exactly fine dining establishments, I am still often overwhelmed by the number of options on their menus. Just yesterday a group of 4 of us went to a neighborhood establishment to watch the game. No one had eaten, and we were all famished. Being the responsible adults that we are (and not college frat boys), we decided to forgo the usual pub fare of chicken wings and nachos in favor of ‘real meals’. That being said, after several minutes spent perusing the menu, all 4 of us ordered burgers and fries.

Dining out for many is a treat, a chance to indulge. But for many of us, it has become commonplace. We go to restaurants when we don’t want to cook, when we want to have foods we can’t make at home, to socialize with friends, for special occasions or sometimes ‘just because’. Eating out has increased dramatically. In 1970, people spent 25% of their food budget on foods prepared outside the home. Today that number is almost 50%. As people eat more and more foods from restaurants, fast food establishments and even grocery store delis, it has become increasingly important to them as consumers that the food they purchase be wholesome and healthy. There has been tremendous pressure placed on the fast food and restaurant industry to improve the standards of their ingredients and cooking techniques and to offer people choices more compliant with their healthier lifestyle choices. Similarly, in recent years certain diets and lifestyles have become commonplace, such as vegetarianism/veganism, low carbohydrate and gluten-free and there has been a big push for restaurants to comply. Books such as the Skinny Bitch series advocating a vegan diet and several other diet plans, websites and celebrities demonizing carbohydrates and gluten have driven the demand for new and specialized restaurants, putting pressure on existing ones to change their focus and broaden their scope.

But has it gone too far? It’s almost gotten to the point where one can barely decide on an entrée at a restaurant without feeling menu guilt. You feel like the artery clogging steak, steak, but the chicken has that little “healthy choice label” beside it. How can ignore your health?? And for every dish that is delicious just as it is, there is a healthy adaptation that can (i.e.should) be made that will impair the taste but somehow benefit you. Any sandwich on the menu can be made with a gluten free bun. (Because gluten is the devil) Or you can get no bun at all, and they will just bring the patty wrapped in lettuce! (Because carbs are the devil) Fries can be substituted for a salad with any sandwich. You can get vegan cheese on your nachos instead of regular cheese. The waitress can just walk your meal in front of you so you can smell it without actually eating any of it, thus saving you the unnecessary calories.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize people have intolerances/preferences/allergies. I think it’s great that restaurants can work around them. But when I order a burger, I don’t want the waitress to ask me if I want the gluten free bun, and if I want a salad with that. No, b@#*h! I want a regular bun, and bring me my damn fries. Extra ketchup.

My iPhone Raped a Congolese Woman

April 17, 2012

On July 30, 2010 hundreds of armed Rwandan and Congolese rebels entered the town of Ruvungi claiming to be looking for food and shelter. Instead, they gang raped anywhere between 150 and 300 girls, women and young boys, depending on which estimates prove accurate. The victims ranged from babies 10 months old to elderly women. Many women were raped by multiple men, some reporting up to 6. They were violated in front of their families, in front of their children. The nightmare lasted four days.


“Imagine your 15-year-old daughter walking to the corner store to get a carton of milk. She has walked along this street nearly every day growing up. But this afternoon on the way home, a group of men pull her into the bushes. Each man takes a turn raping her, the last one with the barrel of his AK-47. Left bleeding and unable to walk, she takes shelter in the nearby forest. Why doesn’t she go home, you ask? She can’t. The rape is considered her fault. She is now disowned by her family. After surviving weeks on berries and sugar cane she is discovered by a man who thought he smelled a rotting corpse. But the stench is the result of a rape so brutal that the passageway between her vagina and anus broke down, becoming one gaping wound.”

-Robin Wright, actress and advocate for the Enough Project


The UN estimates that the number of women who have been raped in the Congo in the last 10 years is between 200 000 to 300 000. Dr. Denis Mukwege, director and founder of Panzi General Referral Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu province in the DRC says the number is likely much higher. He says “Simple everyday tasks like gathering water, fetching water, expose these women and children to a great danger”. His facility can do 10 surgeries a day, and has treated 24 000 women so far. They also have psychologists on hand to help treat the women. But resources are limited.


A sad story, but what does it have to do with you? Not a thing, unless you are a fan of technology, as I know I am. I love my I-phone. I rely on it to tell me the time, give me my daily schedule, get me places when I don’t know where I’m going, keep me in touch with people, wake me up, play my favorite itunes, tell me the weather, tell me what song is playing and otherwise run my life. I also use a computer every day (alas, I’m typing on one now!), watch TV more than occasionally, dabble in photography, and play a video game here and there. As a consumer of these products, I have blood on my hands. The money I spend on these products filters down to Eastern Congo and helps finance the country’s war. In this war, rebel groups and the national army fight bitterly to control the very profitable mines in the region. These mines produce the ores of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, all of which are crucial in powering the above consumer electronic products none of us can live without. Conflict in the Congo exists for many reasons, political, ethnic, racial, land disputes. But over time it seems the fighting has focused on mineral reserves, and the hundreds of millions of dollars to be made over their control. Control is often gained by murder and rape in order to intimidate and demonstrate power. This has led to millions of Congolese losing their lives, including many young boys being forced to fight on front lines, many unarmed (another blog post altogether-see While there are legitimate mines, many are illegally and forcefully controlled, using young boys as slave labor.


So why are we just standing around and letting this happen? Well for one, people rely on their technology, so there will always be a demand for the products which use these minerals, which means a supply will be required. Secondly, minerals from the Congo are cheap, about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of those from other countries which produce them. And, according to electronics companies it is nearly impossible to trace the origin of the minerals their manufacturers use. But there is hope. In July 2010 The US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act was signed into law which requires American companies to ensure the raw materials they use to make their product not be tied into the conflict in the Congo by auditing the mineral supply chains. A great idea, but many feel there are too many loopholes for companies, and many popular companies that produce electronics are not American. Also, at this point there is no good system in place to properly distinguish between conflict and non-conflict minerals. One man, Delly Mawazo Sesete from DRC has petitioned Apple to make all of their iPhones conflict free by christmas 2013. He has launched his campaign on The problem? He wants Apple to purchase minerals from the Congo, just not from militia mines. However, at this time, it is very difficult to determine which mines are militia mines and which are not, and the only way a company can be sure they are not buying conflict minerals is to not purchase any minerals from the Congo at all. Good idea, you say. However, by doing this, tens of thousands of miners working legitimate mines will be without jobs and will have no way of feeding their families. Clearly this is something that needs to be worked on so that we can do the best thing for the Congolese people.


So should we all throw out our iPhones? Toss our iPads? Let’s not be rash here. But maybe we can use our technology to spread the word, sign a virtual petition, or share this information with our friends on Facebook. There is no better force for change than education and knowledge. We can speak to the rest of the world for the women in the Congo whose voices have been silenced by fear.

Have You Met Your Mark?

April 14, 2012


Today I am having a fat day. I am bloated and puffy. I have PMS. I have a pimple. I am overly reactive and emotional. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I was all stomach and thighs, and my arms jiggled like Jell-O in my sleeveless shirt. I tried to pull on my most form-fitting jeans, but it felt like the waistband was pushing against my belly causing flesh to form a roll over the top so I opted instead for shorts with an elastic waist. I went for a walk in the sun to clear my head. I have had these thoughts before. At one time I would have let them consume me, setting the tone for the entire day and resulting in self-destructive rituals. Today I have finally found the will to put them in perspective and push them out of my mind. I am no longer a prisoner to my eating disorder.

Many women I know have “fat days”. Days when body image is lower than usual, and you feel like you are a giant in a sea of pixies. Such feelings can be brought on by any number of things; Emotional issues, hormones, guilt from overindulging in food, etc. Whatever the case, these thoughts can significantly affect a woman’s mindset and negatively affect her day to day life. Some women avoid social interactions, romantic situations, or even work when they feel they are less than attractive. The sad part is, in most cases the problem is purely psychological. A woman may feel extremely different physically from one day to the next when in fact she has not changed at all. The only difference is in her perspective. If there are any physical changes, they are usually slight, and have to do with things like salt or water retention. A person can gain or lose a few pounds in 24 hours simply due to water gain or loss.

Many women I know have certain articles of clothing that they consider markers of fat gain and loss. A common example most people are familiar with is their “skinny jeans”. If a woman can fit into her skinny jeans then she is at her own  ideal weight. If she cannot, she has a goal: to lose enough weight to fit into the skinny jeans. Conversely, a lot of women have “fat pants”. When a woman feels she has gained weight, has eaten too much, or in general when self-confidence is low, the fat pants come out.

Right now, I don’t know my exact weight. At one point in my life, I could have told you my weight to the decimal place on any given day. When I was a teenager and I first recovered from my eating disorder, I stopped weighing myself entirely. I knew that if I started to focus on numbers on a scale again, it would be difficult for me to stop. At a vintage sale one day in university I bought several items of clothing. I tried nothing on because there were no change rooms. One of the pieces was a pair of shorts, which I learned when I got home was a child’s or youth size. For some unknown reason I did not get rid of these. When I had a relapse of my eating disorder a few years ago and lost a significant amount of weight, I had no scale and therefore did not start weighing myself right away. This was one reason I was able to remain in denial about my eating disorder. But at one point, I found and put on this pair of children’s shorts and discovered that they almost fit me. From that point on, these shorts became my marker for weight loss. Eventually they fit me perfectly, and at one point even became too loose. No one besides myself has ever seen these shorts on me. I have never worn them outside of my bedroom. It wasn’t until I went to counseling that I found out this was a common practice for women with eating disorders, to use clothing items as markers. I guess this is an extreme and more destructive form of the ‘skinny jeans’ idea. I have long since parted with the shorts and the desire to be the size of a child. But I still find myself averse to clothing that is of a rigid material or too tight in the waist as I know I will constantly be gauging whether it was tighter or looser the last time I wore it. I work on myself every day, but I know it will probably be a lifelong battle. My plan of assault is to try to be open and honest and ask for help if I need it. I have found it is a lot easier to stay healthy when you can admit you aren’t perfect. I am having a fat day. But I feel better already, and tomorrow will be better still.

I fit into children's shorts at this point in my life. I thought I was fat.

15th Century Masterpieces Revamped: Photoshopping Famous Nudes

April 12, 2012
The Sleeping Venus by Artemisia Gentilischi

We have all seen the paintings. In museums or art history books, magazines or as prints on people’s walls. The famous nude Venuses, painted by revered artists such as Botticelli, Ingres, and Velazquez. They are infamous beauties of their time and are still studied by people hundreds of years later. But looking at the original works we can see that these Renaissance women would not likely be cover models in today’s modern world. Cultural ideals have changed drastically throughout time, and at one time, it was considered ‘chic’ to have the sensual round curves of a woman. It represented prosperity as well as fertility. The goddess Venus in each painting depicts a woman with a rounded stomach and hips, and womanly thighs. These are real women.

Anna Utopia Giordano, an artist, model and actress decided to explore how cultural ideals have changed since these paintings were created using modern digital technology. She says on her website: “I was retouching some photographs from a shoot for a friend’s book and while I was playing with the skin tones and using corrective brush strokes, I was reflecting on society, social networks and the need to be accepted”. As a result, she decided to use the same tool that media outlets use to digitally alter advertisements and magazine stories for print in order to transform the buxom portrait goddesses into modern waifs. Photoshop. She drastically slimmed down their figures to the types of unrealistic proportions we would see in today’s media images. She also increased their breast sizes.

The result is a series of 10 revamped paintings which is now on display on her website:

Says Giordano “Art is always in search of the perfect physical form – it has evolved through history, from the classical proportions of ancient Greece, to the prosperous beauty of the Renaissance, to the spindly look of models like Twiggy and the athletic look of our own time.” From her web site: “Apart from highlighting once again the amazing possibilities of digital technologies applied to art, this job from Anna Giordano is indeed a good cue to reconsider both the subjectivity of cultural standards (in facts, ours are so different from the past ones) and the inclination of modern society and advertising companies to edit most images of  feminine body in order to reach a fake perfection, corresponding to an unreachable reality.”

What an interesting experiment. This offers us yet another perspective from which to view just how much our vision of female beauty has been skewed. When these these paintings came to be, there were no cameras to capture images. Images came only from the minds eye, and their accuracy was dependent on the viewpoint or artistic judgment of the artist. The women in these paintings represented the pinnacle of beauty at that time. Similarly today, every image can altered and edited until it is almost unrecognizable from the original. In that way, photographs in the media are not really realistic representations, but really a rendering of what the ‘artist’ wants the subject to look like. We classify everything today as art: fashion, hair, makeup, jewelry etc. But it is how the people who showcase these things wear them and carry them that make them stand out. Our bodies really are an art form, and we need to reevaluate why the new modern classic is a size 00.


April 10, 2012

Today, I jumped on the bandwagon and tried a Clif bar. For those of you who have never heard of these, where have you been?? These nutrition bars seem to have gathered some type of cult following. I felt I should know what I have been missing. Not much, as it turns out. I sampled the Banana Nut Bread flavor. It tasted like a glorified trail mix bar and made me wish I had spent my $3 (yup, that’s right, $3) on some real banana bread. Go into any grocery store, pharmacy or health food store and there is an entire section devoted to nutrition and energy products. There are protein bars, Atkins bars, Zone diet bars, Slim Fast bars, Recovery bars etc. Some are designed to replace entire meals, while some are designed to be snacks, or to provide a boost pre-workout or help replenish energy post-workout. The calorie content and distribution (carbohydrate/fat/protein) also ranges depending on the type of bar and its intended use.

These products are not new to the market, but the number of choices available and the sales of these products are increasing. According to Symphony IRI, there was a 16.3% increase in dollar sales for nutritional bars compared to the last year for the year ending January 22 2012. (Source: Candy Industry Retail Confectioner). It seems people everywhere are crunching away on these bars. There are several probable reasons for this. People today tend to be more concerned about their health. When looking for snacks, people are going to be more inclined to purchase something they feel is ‘healthy’ as opposed to ‘junk food’. Because of the marketing of these products and product placement in health food stores and health isles, these bars are assumed to be healthy by most people. Many of them are marketed for use as meal replacements, which can satisfy a dual purpose. For those people looking to lose weight, they may appear to offer a simple approach by offering a pre-packaged, low-calorie substitute for meals requiring little to no pre-planning.  I think we all remember the Slim Fast shake diets. “A shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and a sensible dinner”.  In addition, they are great for people on the go. They are portable, can be eaten anywhere, and are relatively mess-free.

So, what’s the problem? I recall a comedy act I once watched on TV where the comic joked that he had been trying to lose weight by eating meal replacement bars, but had given up and switched to Mars candy bars instead when he realized they were lower in calories and tasted much better. Of course the punchline was the absurdity that anyone would deem it appropriate to replace a meal with a chocolate bar. My question is, is a Caramel Nut Chocolate flavor Supreme Protein bar sweetened with maltitol, polydextrose and sucralose really that much better for you? Furthermore, are we really so busy nowadays that we can’t sit at a table, use a fork and a knife, and eat a proper lunch? It seems that we live in such a ‘go go go’ world that no one can take even a minute out of their day to enjoy something as simple as say, a bowl of soup. We can’t be bothered to call each other, we have to text. We can’t watch a show when it’s on, we PVR it and watch it later because god forbid we have to waste a spare moment watching a commercial. There are drive through coffee shops, banks and even pharmacies because we can’t even get out of our cars to run a simple errand. And no way can we interrupt our day for a meal. Even fast food isn’t fast enough anymore. We will eat a tasteless nutrition bar, or drink a smoothie for energy thank you very much. I decided to explore the nutrition content of a few of the most popular nutrition bars, plus this month’s Jugo Juice smoothie of the month, which I noticed today as I got off the subway is “Chocolate Peanut Butter”. This is posted directly beside their sign with the slogan “Healthy Fruit Smoothies” . Cliff Bar: Average 240 calories, 3.5g fat (0g saturated fat), 44g carbohydrate, 5g fibre, 9g protein. Jugo Juice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Smoothie (24oz): 273 calories, 8.5g fat (1.7g saturated fat) 44.5 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g fibre. Zone Perfect bar: 190 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 20g carbohydrate, 3g fibre, 10g protein. Nutribar High Fibre: 230 calories, 6g fat (3g saturated fat) 34g carbohydrates, 5g fibre, 12g protein. Most dietary guidelines recommend less than 30% of calories come from fat, and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, making the Zone Perfect bar (38% fat) and Nutribar (11.5% saturated fat) less than ideal choices. The Cliff bar is very high carbohydrate at 65%, so beware of this one if you are carb-phobic! Surprisingly, the Jugo Juice smoothie is relatively well-balanced and probably quite delicious. As for that mars bar: 260 calories, 9.9g fat (34%), 4.8g saturated fat (17%), 40g carbohydrate (62%) and 2.5g protein (3.8%). So really, it doesn’t look a lot worse than a lot of the ‘healthy’ energy bars. And boy is it delicious!

I’m not suggesting eating a candy bar instead lunch. But I don’t think that skipping meals in lieu of energy bars on a regular basis is a practice backed up by a lot of science either. Here’s a novel thought: instead of a meal replacement bar how about a real meal? Sit down, take a break, and eat. Remember the 4 food groups? I don’t even know where one would place brown rice syrup, soy rice crisps, barley malt extract, or invert evaporated cane juice on that meal. These are just some of the ingredients in common energy bars. I think it’s time to get back to basics. Healthy doesn’t have to mean it has to be bought from a health food store, have a health claim on the label, be tasteless or make you feel like you are repenting for all past dietary sins. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that depriving yourself can be diet sabotage as it often leads to overeating later. If you are watching your waistline, there are many healthy options that are well balanced, taste delicious, and will make you feel satisfied. And if you still insist you’re too busy to sit down and eat, guess what? The world caters to you. Great ideas for on-the-run meals: Sandwiches. They come in many forms. On rye, pumpernickel, sub buns, white and whole wheat, as wraps and pitas, as donairs, on bagels or biscuits, even on gluten-free bread. You can eat them with one hand and still have a free hand for texting.

Easter spells EAT!!

April 9, 2012


This year I thought a bit about what Easter means to me. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn’t quite say I’m an atheist, because I think I believe in ghosts and spirits and if there is an afterlife then maybe there is a big cheese there, some head honcho, a ‘divine ruler’ if you will. But I have had enough dalliances into the Christian faith in my lifetime to seriously doubt that the answer is there. The only grandparents I have ever met are of the Mennonite faith and went to church every Sunday. My Oma does not question the existence of god, only the likelihood of seeing her family members in his kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. So far I have no chance, as I have never been baptized. (In the Mennonite faith you are baptized as an adult). It looked promising for me when I was quite young. There were a few Sunday school lessons as a young girl until my parents finally had their fill of having to go to sermons themselves so I could attend. My sister and I owned a children’s book of bible stories which I enjoyed reading. One summer my parents even sent us to a camp with a religious component. We came back thoroughly brainwashed and convinced they were going to hell for all of their sins: getting divorced, drinking alcohol, using the lord’s name in vain, swearing. They were surely going to burn. It didn’t take long to reverse the damage, we quickly realized that being a devout Christian wasn’t a lot of fun. Anyway, I have a basic understanding of the Easter story, and what it means to those of the Christian faith.

What Easter means to most people I know: FOOD. For as long as I can remember, Easter has been another reason to gather, celebrate, and eat. Much like every other holiday, it is an excuse to overindulge. Food brings people together like nothing else, and many people have holiday food traditions that have existed since they were children. For our family, the Easter meal is ham. When I think of ham, I think of Easter. But family gatherings have not always been a positive experience for me. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, the idea of family dinners terrified me. I knew there would be expectations placed on me to eat all of the delicious food, the bread, the meat and potatoes and the fat-laden gravy. I could just visualize the fat depositing right onto my stomach and my ass. I would try all of the anorexic tricks. Eating slowly, filling up my plate with vegetables, cutting things up in small pieces. But when it comes to a Mennonite feast, you can’t get out of there without a full stomach. Which meant of course that I had to throw up afterwards, which always made me feel guilty and worn out. Even in recovery, family dinners can be difficult. I still feel at times that people are watching what I eat, making sure it’s enough, but not too much. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after a meal, I feel like I have to prove I’m not purging. Sometimes I just try to pee at record speed, even skipping washing my hands. I think “No one will think I could have thrown up that quickly!!” Other times I will try to have a conversation with someone outside of the bathroom, or sing or talk to myself loudly. No one can vomit and talk at the same time!! I have gotten over most of this now, and can just enjoy a holiday meal for the good food, and the good company. But what I’ve discovered is that for a lot of women holiday feasts can bring about feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. People tend to eat and drink too much, abandon their diets, regain lost weight. Not to mention the stress women can be under to prepare these elaborate meals. With family dynamics shifting away from the ‘nuclear family’ idea of 2 parents, 2 ½ kids and a dog, people may have multiple meals to attend in a day or over several days. I have a friend who went to 4 dinners this weekend. She claims to have gained 10 pounds. While I doubt this is true, this 4-day gorge-fest has certainly affected her self-esteem, if not her waistline.

It’s interesting to me that in the Christian faith, Easter is a celebration of God sacrificing his only Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life. This sacrifice is celebrated with gluttony. (I will note that for some Christian faiths this gluttony follows a period of fasting, I just don’t know anyone who actually does this). In the Jewish faith, the Passover feast which celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt, consists of a much less appealing spread. Each component is representative of some part of the story about the Jewish people fleeing Egypt. Matzah, or unleavened bread to represent the haste with which the Jewish people fled, maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, karpas, a vegetable like parsley or celery representing hope and redemption served in a bowl of salted water representing tears shed etc. For the entire 8 days of Passover, nothing with yeast is allowed, and there are several other food restrictions. It is a time of respectful sacrifice. Again, I’m not a religious person, but it sounds like by rearranging their philosophy a bit, Christians could seriously decrease their caloric intake.

For the rest of us agnostics, we just need to remember that it’s only a meal. Food is to be consumed, it shouldn’t consume us. If you eat more than you meant to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Here are some rules that might help you: If you ate an entire family-sized bag of Mini Eggs over the long weekend, don’t sweat it!! Nothing with the word mini in the name can affect your waistline significantly. Remember, red wine is good for your heart, and I read a study once that showed women who drink a glass of red wine daily are on average thinner than those that don’t. I’m sure the same is true for multiple glasses of red wine, white wine, tequila, gin, beer etc. One serving of vegetables cancels out one serving of carbohydrate. The same goes for a glass of diet soft drink. If you cook with olive oil you don’t count that as fat, because it’s “good fat”. Same goes for any fat in olives or avocados. Finally, anything you eat while cooking doesn’t count because you are doing manual labor and you are burning off all of those calories. If you feel better, it is probably a good time to mention that all Easter chocolate is now 50% off. Please, someone buy up all the Mini Eggs!!! They are my Achilles heel!


April 7, 2012


This morning saw me rushing to work, running late as usual. As I was leaving, my fiancee looked at me admiringly and said “I like your makeup today”. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. If there was any doubt in my mind as to whether this was the man for me, this would certainly have erased it. I humbly blushed, which I’m sure only served to increase my radiance. I am a goddess, I thought as I set forth proudly from the apartment to face the world. 

Fast forward a few minutes. I am in line at Starbucks. Finally it is my turn to give my order to the approximately 28-year old American Apparel skinny jean-clad, faux-hawked, over-caffeinated, hipster barista with the pedophile moustache my order. “What can I get you today ma’am?” MA’AM????? Heeeeelllllll no!!! You see, I have come to terms with being called ma’am in certain situations. When 15 year-old shop girls or teenage boys call me ma’am? Cute. I can see they are trying to be polite, and I have accepted that at twice their age, I may appear an old bag. When a cute little girl pointed at me and said to her mother “Look mom, that lady has red shoes” I dealt with it. I guess I’ve crossed into lady territory. I’m a woman, no longer a girl. Fine, I get it. But when some jackass dude at a coffee shop who is essentially my chronological age calls me ma’am. Not OK. To you, sir, I am a Miss. Pronounces with the ess sound, not Ms., pronounces with the zed sound, which makes me think of my old battleax of a grade one teacher. I’m 31, not 75. I still feel young and vital, and my hips don’t creak when I walk. So, dear readers, the next time you think of calling a woman ma’am, think again. It is never polite to insinuate she is a crusty old maid. But, the sun was shining, and I was determined not to let him ruin my good mood. I was still gorgeous, I was a natural knockout, I was Hebe, goddess of youth. But I did put on some lipgloss when I got to work. Hey, my lips were dry.