Archive for July, 2012

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

Image

ImageImage

Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

Scent of a Woman

July 20, 2012

 

Source:scottcentral.dds.bschools.ca

For as long as I can remember I have loved books. I used to make my parents read me the same stories over and over again until I had them memorized and then I would recite them verbatim, impressing their friends and my aunts and uncles by telling them I was reading. When I actually did learn to read you couldn’t get my nose out of whatever book I was reading. My dad, an English teacher, would take my sister and I to the library often to ensure we always had a stack of books to pick from, especially during breaks from school. Even the fact that I got motion sickness from reading in the car couldn’t tear me away from a good story. I once vomited on a whole stack of library books strewn across the back seat, angering my father who then had to purchase all of the books and upsetting me who couldn’t finish the one I was reading. From then on I was sedated with Gravol for road trips. My favorite books of all were the new ones I was able to order every few months through the Scholastic Book Club at school. The catalog would come and I would pore over it oh so carefully, feeling heavy with the weight of my decision. Would it be The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High? Oh dear. Finally the books would come, packaged together, banded with an elastic. I remember how those books felt, their smooth covers, the way they smelled when you first opened them, the freshness of the new, crisp pages. I still appreciate the joy of a new book.

Source:bookpatrol.net

Does this interest you? Perhaps not. But perhaps my memories have evoked some fond ones of your own. Maybe you, like me, will be interested/amused/disturbed/skeptical/elated to learn that the new book smell is now available as a fragrance. That’s right. There is a new perfume out called ‘Paper Passion’ which “conjures the smell of your newest bookstore purchase”. It is a collaboration between Wallpaper magazine, German book publisher Gerhard Steidl, fashion designer extraordinaire Karl Lagerfeld who designed the packaging, and perfume designer Geza Schoen who perfected the scent. For $115 you get the perfume cleverly packaged in a panel inside of a book with it’s same name. Why a perfume that smells like paper?? According to Steidl “To wear the smell of a book is something very chic. Books are players in the intellectual world, but also in the world of luxury,” Chic? Hmm. Some books or series have gained cult status. Examples: The Secret, the Twilight or Hunger Games trilogies, the Harry Potter series, and the recent racy 50 Shades series. Devouring these books along with hordes of others can make a woman feel like part of something, give her a sense of belonging in a community. By reading works by undiscovered authors, or touching on controversial or unsavory material some may be trying to showcase their individuality and their desire to go against the grain, and perhaps their dissent from and hostility towards popular culture. Depending on genre or subject matter, possessing a certain book can make a woman feel sophisticated or intelligent or worldly. And apparently it’s looks and not just smell that matters when it comes to books. Recently publishers have been revamping the covers of their classics in order to attract more readers. Splinter, a division of Sterling publishing, hired Manhattan fashion illustrator Sara Singh to do the watercolor-like illustrations for the covers of their Classic Lines series. With the worlds of fashion and literature colliding perhaps books are becoming chic after all.

Source:walkingpaper.org

Let’s explore further. Scent is very much tied to memory and emotion. While the smell of a new book may lead men to think of sexy librarians, I doubt it will conjure up such racy imagery in women. Most women I know wear perfume because they like the smell but also because they like the way it makes them feel (sexy, happy, confident) or it evokes a nice memory. The smell of a book makes me think of my childhood, and it makes me feel happy and content. I have described some of the memories it conjures up above. Perhaps such warm, fuzzy feelings would be incentive for some women to make this perfume their signature scent. Only time will tell how sucessful this product will be, but if the popularity of similar products are any indication, Mr. Lagerfeld may want to stick to selling clothes. For example, the perfume “In the Library” by renegade perfumer Christopher Brosius with scents of paper, leather, and even dust, has managed to slip under the radar of popular culture.

The problem is that while many people love the smell of paper, much like many love that “new car smell” or the smell of gasoline (some people do!), I don’t know that a desire to wear this scent follows the adoration for it. When I long for the smell of a book, I can go to my bookshelf, inhale deeply and drink it in. I can go to the local library or bookstore for an extra dose. Some predict a day when books are no longer available. When ebooks and tablets will be our sources of literature. My children may never experience that new book smell. In that case I may wish I had a bottle of ‘Paper Passion’ available to waft under their little noses as I tell them all about my childhood and the wonder of holding a new book in your hands and opening it for the first time, the cover still stiff, eagerly anticipating the unknown world inside. Perhaps this perfume should be “put on the shelf” for now. Pun intended.

Girl Crush

July 12, 2012

Those of you thinking this blog post is going to be a Katy Perry song-like torrid tale of a girl on girl kiss can stop reading now.

Source:peracollege.wordpress.com

I moved to Vancouver about 3 years ago from Winnipeg where I had lived all of my life (then 28 years). The total number of people I knew in Vancouver at that time: 3. My boyfriend (now fiancee) Bradford, his good friend, and a friendly acquaintance. I was leaving behind my family, my job, my house and all of my friends to be with a man. Before the move my feet were so cold they were numb. While in the future the cloyingly romantic tale we tell our children will be that of a couple who took the chance at love and lived happily ever after, when I first arrived in this strange new city I felt more trepidation than excitement. Nothing was familiar, I felt lost, anonymous and incredibly lonely. Moving had certainly improved my romantic relationship and I had never felt so sure about anyone as I did about the man I had dropped everything for. On the other hand I was distressed by how my relationships with everyone else I loved had changed. I didn’t want to talk to them on the phone, I hate Skype, I don’t remember my MSN messenger password and my Facebook page had changed so much I couldn’t seem to navigate it. Sadness turned to anger and resentment as I blamed poor Bradford for tearing me away from my life to move to this rotten city (voted world’s 5th most livable city) which quickly turned to guilt as he was continuously bending over backwards to make me feel at home. BS: “Look! I bought you a new bike!” Me: “Stupid new European bike. Only one speed. How am I going to ride that in the beautiful Rocky Mountains which are only 30 minutes from our home on the ocean?” BS: “We can go buy some fresh fish right off a fishing boat at Granville island!” Me: “I don’t feel comfortable consuming fish which hasn’t been frozen and vacuum sealed then stamped with a quality seal by Captain Highliner”. BS: “Let’s drive down the coast to California!” Me: “I get carsick on road trips without acres of flat prairie farmland to focus on.” It is said that misery loves company, but since I had no friends I quickly realized that unless I wanted to have a pity party of one I would have to snap out of it. So I decided to give life a real chance here.

Although Bradford had a very inviting, fun and broad group of friends who we socialized with together my feeling of solitude could only be filled by a close girlfriend. I missed girl talk. I also wanted a group of friends of my own. I had always been independent and I suddenly felt like more of an us than a me. I am of the opinion that a healthy couple shouldn’t be joined at the hip. This viewpoint is shared by many experts. Marriage expert/counselor Dr. Margaret Paul PhD says “Some couples spend a lot of time together because they really enjoy it, while others spend a lot of time together out of fear of being alone. It is important for a healthy relationship for each person to have friends and interests, so they are not dependent on each other. Dependency is not healthy in a relationship, particularly emotional dependency.” Psychotherapist Wendy Allen says “Each partner should strive to be a whole, healthy individual who can make positive contributions to the marriage and space encourages the solid, cohesive sense of self in each person.” “Having a variety of friends is a route toward developing—personally, socially, and spiritually. Participating in a variety of activities makes you well-rounded, and gives you more to talk about with your partner.” says Christopher Knippers, author of “Cultivating Confidence”. Understanding how I felt, Bradford would encourage me to call this person or that person from our mutual group of friends for some “girl time” but it felt strange to have to force a friendship. I was waiting to really click with someone. I took a photography course, a hula hooping class, a pole dancing class. I even went for a drink with one of the girls from class. I never called her again.

There was a time when I wasn’t so picky. When I liked to go out every night to lounges, bars or concerts. I wanted to see and be seen. I wanted to dance. My criteria for a girlfriend was essentially that she be fun, easygoing and able to do a lot of shooters. I couldn’t tell you what most of these ‘friends’ are doing these days. Now that I’m older, I want quality over quantity. I want someone to go to brunch with and talk (read:bitch) about my week. I want someone to go shopping with who will give me a real and honest opinion about the skirt I’m trying on (and not make me go into Lulu Lemon or Banana Republic EVER). I want someone I can call when I have PMS and I’m crying about something silly and no one else will understand. Someone who gets my sense of humor and who has one too. Someone intelligent with opinions and world views. Someone well read. Someone who still likes to have a good time but who won’t puke on my shoes if we go out for drinks. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. But as hard as I tried, I was having no luck. There is no friend finding equivalent of Match.com. I checked. It felt like I was losing my sense of self, not really opening up and being myself in social settings because I didn’t feel comfortable with the people I was with. My partner would ask “why don’t you ask so and so to go get a pedicure?” I would cry.

The first time I had a girl crush was in nursery school. Her name was Rachel. She was mesmerizing. She had long, blonde, curly hair and bright blue eyes and she looked like a princess. For our recital she was Snow White. I was a Rain Man. When I skipped from the first to the third grade I walked terrified into the classroom on the first day of school and didn’t know a single person in the class.The teacher introduced me and then told me to sit down. I stood at the front of the class awkwardly scanning the room, my face burning, looking for a place to sit. Suddenly, an adorable little girl named Tamara with long brown hair and olive skin put her hand up and announced loudly “You can sit here! You can be our friend!” referring to herself and another girl beside her. This girl, my second girl crush, will be a bridesmaid in my wedding. In junior high it was a freckled redhead named Kim who was a model and taught me how to smoke and introduced me to my first boyfriend. In high school it was Jen who wore vintage clothes and shiny lipstick and had the straight shiny hair down to her J-Lo butt. There are just some girls you just meet and immediately know you will bond with because you see a part of yourself in them, or a part of who you want to be. I don’t keep in touch with every girl who has caught my fancy, but I have shared secrets and memories with all of them. I had left many of my best friend behind in Winnipeg and while I knew I could never replace them, I needed to find that kind of magic with someone again.

Source:thesun.co.uk

One night a friend from high school who I learned had moved to the city years ago invited me out with him and his friends. One of his friends was a well-dressed woman my age, and we started to talk. We talked about our families, our friends, where we used to live (about 20 minutes from each other!) and our mutual love for perogies. She made me smile, she made me laugh! I talked to her all night, and then we exchanged phone numbers. I felt like a teenager debating whether to call her or whether our connection was all in my head. The first time we went out for dinner, she met me in tights and a t-shirt. I was in a dress. I slunk down in my chair a little. The minute she sat down she burst into tears. Any nervousness I felt immediately dissipated. This was my kinda girl, I thought, she’s so real. We ordered some strong drinks and chicken wings and talked about her bad day. She quickly became my Vancouver best friend. We were similar in ways that mattered and different in ways that were complementary. She liked yoga while I despised it. She would order pancakes at breakfast and I would order eggs and hashbrowns so we could share. We had different styles so we didn’t fight over clothes. She was retro and I’m fashion forward. We both like True Blood, meat buns, perogies, bikes, vintage, 90’s hip-hop and nerds. Between my boyfriend and her, I started to enjoy my new home.

Over the almost 3 years I’ve now been here I’ve made more girlfriends. We’ve had girl talk, laughed, danced, talked politics and religion, gossiped, and yes even gotten pedicures together. I still miss my oldest and best friends from Winnipeg and visit whenever I have a chance. But I’m also thankful I have had the chance to build these new friendships, to meet these engaging new people and get to know them. Every new relationship you forge helps to transform and enrich your life and friendships between women are among the strongest and most important in their lives. My Vancouver best friend just moved away and while I will miss having her so close by I will always consider her a close friend and the girl who reminded me how fun a girl crush can be.

A Cindarella Tale…

July 1, 2012

In my last blog post I self-righteously proclaimed that I would not fall victim to the superficial wedding pretense by giving in to the pressure to change my physical self striving to become the archetypical perfect bride. Well dear readers, as it turns out, I lied. I may have to lose a few inches for the wedding after all. Not from my waist or hips, not even from my butt or thighs. I don’t obsess about whether my arm jiggles when I wave or if I have cankles. I don’t have a double chin. No, my problem areas are much more stubborn than the worst of these. They are my feet.

For most of my life my lower most extremities have been a source of some embarassment. My feet are a hybrid of the worst characteristics of those of my mother and my father. My incredibly high arches, though handy in ballet class when I was 5, as well as the extreme girth of my feet come from my dad. It is thanks to my mother that I am genetically predisposed to bunions. Mine are not the feet fetishists fantasize about. Once, when taking my poor little Oma to a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon after she had broken her hip, he stopped speaking to her mid-sentence after catching sight of my feet in my high-heeled sandals. “You know you’ll get bunions if you keep wearing those!” He exclaimed! “They’re already starting!” He then proceded to take a piece of paper and trace my foot to illustrate to me exactly how my largest and smallest toes turned in, leaving hideous bony protrusions poking outwards. My grandmother was all but forgotten. His mission was to convince me to abandon high heels and strappy sandals for sensible shoes. Perhaps even orthotics. Obviously this man did not know me, as if he did he would realize I would sooner cut off my feet. If I found out I was going to die in a week would I crawl into bed and wallow? No, I would live! If I am going to bunion town, I am going to go there in style!

So far, I have staved off my fate while amassing a rather impressive and certainly not “practical” shoe collection. Sure there are a couple of pairs of runners in there for exercise and some flats for days when I might do more walking than usual, but many of my shoes would make Lady Gaga jealous. I have been called the “shoe lady” on more than one occassion. I am not a brand loyalist though I do have certain favorites. There are also some designer shoe houses I have coveted yet have never owned. I have long yearned for a pair of Christian Louboutins, Manolo Blahiks, Giuseppe Zanottis, Lanvins or my favorites, Balenciagas. Ever since seeing these brands in my first issues of Vogue I have promised myself I would one day don one such elegant and extravagant pair. When I was younger, they were galaxies out of my reach. As a gainfully employed adult I can afford more luxuries though I have always thought spending $1000 on a pair of shoes just seemed reckless and irresponsible. That was of course until I started planning my wedding. A wedding is a great excuse for spending money. Thousands of dollars for one dress? No big deal. Hundreds for a cake? But of course. A bouquet of flowers is HOW MUCH? Well, if they’re EXOTIC or out of season it only makes perfect sense. And of course you need extra special $1000 shoes. Armed with this in mind I set out to find these extraordinary shoes. The shoes I have been dreaming about half my life.

Balenciaga booties

My criteria was red. I felt drunk with giddiness as I picked out the pairs of Louboutins and Manolos and Valentinos to try on. I could barely sit still as I waited for the sales associate to bring them to me. The first pair arrived. I slipped my foot in….wait…it’s stuck! Damn it! I can’t get my gargantuan foot all the way into the shoe, it’s too narrow! Okay, next one. Same problem. Maybe I’ll try the size up. I manage to squeeze this one on (just barely) but quickly realize that there will be no way I could wear said shoe for more than about 10 minutes before agony would ensue. This conclusion is devastating as it is the most beautiful shoe I have ever tried on. Simple, elegant, just the right amount of stiletto and toe cleavage. It is the Spanx of shoes. My foot looks streamlined and thinned, tapering just right to a subtle point. I feel like crying taking the shoes off. I quickly learn that my feet are similarly too wide for the Manolos and Jimmy Choos. It seems that high fashion is made for the very small, both in body and in feet. Of all the shoes, only one pair fit, the Valentinos. Feeling like an outcast in a store full of immaculately pedicured, narrow footed women,  I leave the store dejected.

Living with the inevitable blisters, calluses and sore feet after being on my feet in tighter than ideal shoes for hours, I have managed to live with my disfigured feet without them impeding on my life too much. But now my quality of life was being affected. I couldn’t eat or sleep thinking about my defect and how I wasn’t good enough for the best of the best in shoes. Something clearly needed to be done. So, I looked into the options. My first thought was some type of seaweed wrap. They advertise them all over for slimming the body, maybe they can slim the feet too. No go. Apparently all these do is heat you up so you sweat out a bunch of water and lose water weight. I don’t need ugly AND sweaty feet. Moving on. I know in some countries they bind feet to make them smaller. China I think. I look into it and find that a)this must be done before feet reach maximum width and size and b)this is a dated and barbaric procedure. So that’s out. I’m not really getting anywhere. Then I hit paydirt. I should have known! You can actually have plastic surgery to make your feet smaller. Dr. Ali Sadrieh, founder of The Beverly Hills Aesthetic Foot Surgery in Studio City, California told the Wall Street Journal: ‘It’s unrealistic to tell women not to wear high heels. I came up with procedures that allow the women to function, pain-free, in the real world.’ At his clinic women can have several surgeries aimed entirely at enhancing the aesthetic of their feet. One procedure is the clinic’s signature ‘Cinderella procedure’ which is a preventative bunion correction which narrows feet. The clinic can also shorten toes and can take fat from a woman’s abdomen and inject it into the balls of her feet for extra cushioning in order to reduce pain when wearing high heels. Such procedures are becoming more and more popular in the US as well as the UK.

After doing some number crunching I have determined that I can’t fit both the surgery and the shoes into the wedding budget. Darn. Also, my fiancee would like me to be able to dance at our wedding without a wheelchair or crutches. (I’m getting no support from him on this!) So unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to live with my feet the way they are and just accept them. It’s one of the many flaws that I have and I just have to try not to fixate on them. Without my feet to dislike, I know there will be something else that irks me, begging to be remedied. Unfortunately, it seems this is the way it goes. Perhaps as an exercise in selfworth we should all try to focus on our positives which always outweigh the negatives. As for the shoes, I’ll just have to settle for the Valentinos. Boo Hoo.