Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Wednesday Date Night Series: October 13th

Part 1: The Arena

So Brian and I have started a new tradition, at least until he goes back to shift work. Every Wednesday we now go out on the town to explore, all in the name of our newish 'Date Night'. The routine's been dragging on us and we've heard that Date Nights are effective in shaking up routine, so we hoped on board. And it's been really great! We take turns planning something new and interesting for the two of us to do (within a tight budget), and try to keep what we've planned as much of a suprise as possible from the other until the dates actually start to unfold.

Last night was Brian's turn. He had our outting mostly planned but was obviously grappling with what to do about dinner. We don't always eat out on Date Night, but Brian wanted a beer before the 'show' and neither of us felt like cooking. So I said to him, "Okay, let's just park near the place you're taking me and we'll find something in the vicinity." Brian looked a little dubious but agreed and we both jumped into the car and off we went. We didn't go far. Rather he suprised me when he turned to go towards the university on Gordon St. instead of turning uptown, as I'd expected, seeing as uptown is where the action generally is. Another immediate right turn took us into the parking lot of the strip mall on the corner of Wellington and Gordon. In that strip mall there are only two resturants. A new Fish and Chip place that's already gained a negative reputation (Isn't that a shame? Gosh, you finally get a fish and chip place in the neighbourhood and it stinks! Bummer!) and The Arena. I gulp.

I'm no snob, don't get me wrong, but...The Arena? I turn to look at Brian. He looks back and shrugs, "You're the one who said we'd eat in the vicinity..." "I did," I say. And so we slide off our seatbelts, get out of the car, and head for the door. I suddenly feel shy. The Arena is a sports pub (pretty obvious by the name) and it's, well, kind of seedy looking. And definatley a 'guys' domain. I can see through the window that the bar is lined with a few middle aged men chatting each other up and nursing beers. There must be 8 televisions in there. The Leafs pregame programming, a baseball game and CNN light up the place like a roman candle. I don't belong here. I hesitate at the inside door and Brian, sensing my discomfort, asks me if I want to go back home and quickly pull something together instead?

I give my head a shake. What are these thoughts I'm thinking? So what if I'm a woman, that certainly doesn't mean I don't belong! This bar is a part of my community; we could've walked there had the drizzle let up. And I've made a committment to get to know the neighbourhood better. Sure, it pays homage to hockey, it's full of men in baseball caps and leather jackets, there's nothing fancy about the place or even remotely 'cozy', but we're here now and we're not turning around, damnit. Besides, it's not a franchise, Brian's a hockey-guy and it's just one beer...maybe they'll have pub fare...I swing open the door and step inside.

Along the front are multiple rickety tables and straight backed chairs (the kind you know will make your ass ache within the first five minutes) set in two's and fours. In the middle of the room, adjoined to the kitchen in the back is the big square bar, lined with about 30 barstools. To the left are dart boards and a pool table. To the right are three tall tables in a row with cushy black barstools seated at them, we decide to sit at the tall table furthest to the back. The walls are filled with hockey memorabilia and autographed pictures and Brian comments on every one. He is comfortable here. I relax.

The bartender brings us menus and rambles off what's on tap. Okanagan Spring...very nice. Two, please. The glasses are chilled, the beer is frosty cold. Yummy. We open our menus and are pleasantly suprised! It's the typical Canadian fare, but there's lots to choose from and the prices are right. We both decide that Halibut and chips with our beers would go down just fine. The bartender assures us we've made the right choice. And wouldn't you know it? At The Ward's own Arena Bar and Grill we have discovered the very best fish and chips (not to mention gravy) in town! Huh.

We stay for an hour and a half. We chat off and on about our day. More and more men pour into the bar. Two women also come with their partners. Brian gets to watch most of the first period. I witness Chilean miners number 28 and 29 of 33 emerge from a capsule that had travelled through a wormhole from thousands of feet below the surface of the Earth and embrace their loved ones and those who've worked relentlessly over 70 days to keep them alive. It is moving and horrifying. If someone put me in that thing and sent me through a few of kilometers of rock in the pitch black I'd burst out frothing at the mouth. I feel clausterphobic with every view the capsule-cam affords us. Then it is a quarter to eight and time for us to get to the next gig, folks. It's been a slice.

Part 2: The Boathouse

We walk out the door of the Arena and I say to Brian, "So now we're walking over to the Boathouse?" Brian grins. "I knew you knew," he says. "How could I not know? All summer long I've said time and again that we should go to storytelling at the Boathouse. This is going to be really cool." "I thought you'd like it."

Once a month, on a Wednesday, Guelph's Storytelling Guild get a few of their members together and they gather in the very cozy tea room at the Boathouse. The Boathouse is actually really well known for it's ice cream parlour and it's ideal setting at the forks of the Eramosa and Speed Rivers. The trail runs right up to it, they rent canoes all summer and the lawn bowling club is their closest neighbour. In the summer they are hopping! It's a very quaint setting, actually...perfect for storytelling.

There were 6 storytellers in all, one a Nigerian PhD student who came for the open mic portion. Four of the others are in the photo above. They shared tales based on the evenings theme of  'Spoiling the Broth', and every one was fascinating! We heard a Norwegian tale about why the sea is salty; two British-Canadian tales, one starring a Guelph native; two Scottish tales; and, of course, a Nigerian moral story...all amazing! It's a mesmerizing experience, really, because these tellers tell only from memory, there is no story reading. They are immersed in their expression and connection with the audience. Some wrote their stories themselves, others borrowed from folklore, all were expressive, animated and captivating! I had a wonderful time!  

Part 3: Conclusion

"Did you have a good time tonight, love?" Brian asks me when we're back in the car. "I feel like the entire night was a pleasant suprise. I'm glad we stuck it out and went into the Arena... the food was actually really, really good! However, I love that they do take out!" We laugh. "And the storytelling was such an excellent way to spend an evening, Brian. I didn't know there would be such a wonderful assortment of stories and storytellers. We were there for an hour and a half! For donation! That's amazing!" "I'm liking this Date Night arrangement," Brian says. "Yeah, me too," I agree.

We pull back into traffic. The lights glow on the wet pavement and the tires slip a little when Brian gives it the gas. I feel good that we've ventured out on this soggy fall evening...good that we've supported local talent, a local business, too...and especially good that we've done it for us, all in the name of Date Night.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Season's End

A tremendously important activity that I embark on often within my personal leisure time is tending my garden. Simultaneously I give my garden full credit for also tending me. It's a  reciprocal relationship and I love and honour it. Brian and I put an incredible amount of energy into the landscaping in our backyard and I feel that what we get out of it is above and beyond that. It's in it's 4th year now and there's actually not a lot of maintance needed anymore beyond deadheading, pruning and weeding. But oh, the weeding! Damn you, Creeping Charlie!


I work, I play and I rest in the garden. It is a space where I can sweat it out and release pent up stress or frustrations. I can yank (thank-you, Creeping Charlie!), pull, hack, dig, claw, and cut and the garden understands that it comes from a place of need, self-care and self-maintenance. It gladly recieves my abuse and turns into an act of love. The garden is a place that awaits my exploration.  Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries love to play hide and go seek and the rewards are always worth looking in those hard to reach spots.  I create pretty bouquets, chase the dog, play games with friends and family, and lie on the cool, green grass to seek cloud shapes in the sky. My garden is also a space of beauty, where I can feel relaxed and at ease. I kick back at the patio set and simply soak in the sights. The colours and textures of the garden ebb and change with mystifying ease. I watch the evolution of the fruits of our assorted trees, vines and bushes from flower to harvest; the bees collecting nectar; the birds eating at the feeder and splashing in the bird bath; the squirrels planning their feeder raids and running the fence lines to escape the watchful eyes of our dog. I love our garden.


My garden is also highly symbolic/metaphoric. When I go into the garden witht the intent to pull weeds, for example, often times I need to clear out 'stuff' in my own life. When I stand back afterwards, to look over the now immaculate space I've helped to create, I can't help but feel lighter, like I've opened space for something much more beautiful to grow and thrive. When I cut back and prune, you can bet that something else is going to recieve a little more sunshine, and so be given the opportunity to stand a little taller. It's the same with the soul; sometimes you've got to whack back that which has outgrown it's rightful space and is choking out other beautiful aspects of self. I contemplate the shadows and the light and seek to grow the plants that will best thrive in that space. You get the picture. My garden is therapeutic. Did I mention I love my garden?

Petunia ~ coil and pinch pot.
by  Kimberly
As Autumn creeps in there is still much activity in the garden, but soon it will be time for it to sleep. And I will be throwing myself into my studies for the duration of the winter, managing my stress as best I can using other coping methods. I will miss my garden during that time. It seems as though my most therapeutic pasttime must regress just when I need it most, but then there is planning for the spring to consider...designing that arbor I want at the front walk...seeding summer annuals for the back corner that needs more colour...creating another piece of garden art...

'Til next time. K

Friday, September 3, 2010

Moving On...

I've been negligent. Alas, I only get a 4 week summer between semesters (last assignment was due first week of August) and I've been trying to use that time to catch up on my personal culture and recreation...relaxing a lot, working some, visiting family and friends...this posting is a long time coming.

REC 304 was extraordinary. It took me out of my comfort zone and into a realm of creativity that I've never been encouraged to venture into throughout my entire 4 years in university. It's a tricky process, putting my opinions out there for the world to see and trying to write from a place of authenticity.

So I find myself asking, where do I go from here with this blog? Lucky for me the terms 'culture' and 'recreation' are so vast! Culture is everywhere and any and all of the things that I do outside of obligated tasks is considered my recreation and leisure, so there's plenty of fuel for my creative fires to consume...I guess it's just a matter of will now. I'm just going to have to be creative and committed.

I'm very thankful for the initiative to start this blog. It's helped me to wrap my head around what I truly feel about issues that clearly affect my life on an everyday basis. I think I've always been an out-of-the-box sort of thinker, but REC 304 encouraged critical thinking on a whole new level for me. All around us, every day, we make choices based on what? What influences you? Is it the media, advertising and television? Is it family, friends, the environment? For me, my choices are based on trust. I trust in the Universe and Great Spirit/Goddess so greatly that, when I'm intuitively directed to make a decision, I go with it. I'm a go-with-your-gut kind of woman. I have the tools to cope with whatever challenges will come my way at the moment they present themselves based on those choices. I have been given no greater gift than that trust.

I've been thinking a lot about how this blog has impacted my personal life. I've been fairly transparent, exploring my relationships with others and the environment, my sexuality, my beliefs and I've challenged norms that are out of date and holding me, personally, from nurturing my full potential. And this has been huge. It's affected my marriage, the way I interpret the world and how I regard myself as a woman, healer, and student. It's been an enlightening experience that's contributing to change in my life. I feel that all change is good as it forces us to grow and I strongly believe in approaching all change with excitement, even when I'm scared or hurting.

Writing about nature and praising it's healing, affirming qualities has made me realize that I want to go deeper, become more intimate with Mother Earth through ceremony and working with plants and animals. Over the remainder of my summer I moved out of the cognitive realm and into the physical and spiritual realm. I went to stay at the family farm and milked some cows, convened with nature and submersed myself into a completely different routine for a few weeks. The sweet smell of home beckoned, and I happily heeded the call. I don't get to see my family near enough and it was time to reconnect. I am thankful for the time to be able to do so.

As I embark on the next stage of my journey as a Master's student in Recreation and Leisure Studies I look forward to looking back at what has come before and monitoring my own evolution. This blog will continue, though I'm sure that the tone will change. Throughout this process, thus far, I have felt expansion within. My posts have steadily gotten more and more personal, and I'm eager to share the intuitive wisdom I hold...that we all possess. The power of one person is unlimited...each of us has immense power. I strive to wield mine with love and integrity.

Talk soon. K

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Popular Culture and Debunking 'Avatar'

I really debated over whether this article about debunking 'Avatar' was even worth writing, so long now after the movies release. But the other day a co-worker came to me and said that she'd just seen the video and it made her think of me. She thought that movie has a strong spiritual message, and I'm a strongly spiritual person, so that makes sense. However, I personally would rather NOT be identified with this movie in any way, shape or form, as I was greatly offended by it. Let's chat about why.


See, while lots of people took in the excellent effects (ie. the flying sequences and the pretty lights glowing whenever the people of Pandora take a step on the soft night earth), I looked far deeper and recognized a very disturbing message that practically screamed, "One cannot be a 'real man' if one's legs don't work. One cannot be a fulfilled human being as a paraplegic. Escape this awful fate...slip into a fantasy world where you can be strong, thin, and beautiful -everything is better there. You are nothing as you are...just a wasted body." I believe the name "Meals on Wheels" was actually used by the other jugheads in reference to Jake. How do think this made anybody with a physical disability feel?

Think about it. Why did the lead character make the choices he did...to sell out an entire peoples to the military? To betray them as he did and have the only home they'd always known destroyed? He'd been promised a new pair of legs, is why.  But this is not my only problem with this movie...there were so many  negative messages disguised within it.

Take for instance the two lead female characters. They were totally awesome, right? Strong, intelligent, fearless women who are making important contributions to their communities as leaders. Women to be revered and respected.  Yet Dr.Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) is completely chastised and found to be very unattractive and annoying to her comrades in arms; they're suspicious of her intelligence and she's only accepted when doing the military's true bidding...working towards raping the planet Pandora of it's natural resource 'Unobtanium' (how American....). And let's face it, she's portrayed as being simply too old to be sexy, as per Hollywood's standards. A totally disposable character. 

 Neytiri, on the other hand, is portrayed as being tremendously sexy, sleek and cat like. Fierce and agile, an independent women who doesn't take any shit...but the lead character, coerced into being a spy, stills manages to fuck her before he, well, fucks her and her entire community, pardon the pun. At one point in the movie she becomes utterly submissive and, while looking demurely towards the ground, tells Jake that, since he's been accepted into the tribe, he gets to choose a wife (who will it be, we all wonder? Duh). This is the woman who's taught him everything there is to know about fitting in, and suddenly he gets to claim her as his own? Bullshit...I smell total bullshit.  

But, Kim, the people of Pandora themselves, the Na'vi, were so connected to the land, to the animals, to their ancestors...surely you can't find fault with that? Well, actually, I can. Didn't it strike you as just a wee bit violent, the way that they capture and bond with the direhorse or the flying mountain banshee's? When Jake connected to the banshee by plugging into it with his braid the poor things expression made me feel like I was watching Deliverance, for goodness' sake! It's eyes nearly bulged out of it's head and it went ballistic! What's sacred about that?!?

As far as I'm concerned this movie doesn't do anything to promote a true sense of spirituality or an authentic connection with Nature, despite the fact that some scenes were very pretty. Look beyond the facade (millions of dollars worth of facade) and try to see what I saw...a man with poor self confidence due to societal stigma gains the trust of a "savage" peoples,  betrays them, dupes the woman he supposedly loves and causes their Hometree to be destroyed and their leader (his lovers' parent, no less) murdered. And yet he's the "chosen one"? (The Toruc deems it so, you know). In the end he gets to shed that broken body of his, move permanently into his Avatar and into the lives of the Na'vi and for what? True love? Yeah, right, try again.

This movie has "white male privilege" written all over it. Plus war, war and more war...I see you, James Cameron, and I see some serious ugliness under the veneer of your magical, fantastical world.

After reading this, what do you think? Will you be handing your hard earned money over to the theatres to see part two?  I'd love to hear your opinion about the movie, though I know it's past the hype. If you loved it, share it, it's all good. If you've got critical thoughts, share those, too. Thanks for stopping in.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Protest After the Protests: Guelph Family Friendly Rally and Testimonial Reading

I've been feeling really concerned for the state of Ontario's capital city since the G20 passed through. As was perhaps your experience, my Facebook home page has been riddled with YouTube videos and News clips about police and protester related violence posted by concerned friends for the past week. Sorting through all of the chaos can be overwhelming and exhausting. What's true? What's false? Who can you believe if you weren't there? How do I feel about what I'm seeing and hearing? What does my intuition say about the whole situation?

I'm not an extremely politically motivated individual and I mostly try to stay away from watching major news networks because, quite simply, I don't trust that I'm seeing/hearing the whole story every time. The same can hold true for personal recordings posted to YouTube by the public. One must be critical when forming an opinion around such a big issue. However, I did do some digging and came up with some pretty disturbing stuff. Whether any of it is true or not is not up to me to decide. That's the importance of holding a public inquiry into the actions of the police during the fiasco called the G20 Summit.

Take for instance this video of Amy Miller who claims that she was detained by police after witnessing the police searching a group of young people. She says she was put in a cell for 13 hours with 25 other young women and was threatened with rape and 'gang-banging' by the police. She spoke with women in her cell who had been strip-searched by male officers...one woman told Amy that the officer has inserted his finger into her vagina. Nasty. This video shows peaceful protesters being shot at by police with rubber bullets for singing the National Anthem, for crying out loud. And this link is almost unbelievable in it's surrealness...an amputee's prosthetic leg ripped off and tossed away, and him dragged on the ground by police in front of his daughters. And this happened in the so-called safe protest zone!


And that whole Black Block scenario...I've no idea what to think...The vandalism, the burning car...no police presence for an hour and a half while it all goes down?!? Watch the video above and ask youself if that wasn't the work of paid provocateurs. I feel that a few broken windows, in the big scheme of things, is really a small act. After all, a billion dollars went into security...they've got the spare change it'll cost to replace a few windows. Insurance can take care of the rest.

Having said that, I don't think all cops are bad. I get that they're people, too, and just trying to do their jobs. Shit rolls downhill, so to speak, and I don't doubt that the majority of police actions were sanctioned by governance higher up. However, I do think ALL INDIVIDUALS, whether they're a member of the Ministry, a cop, or a rioter, are accountable for their actions and should be brought forward to serve justice for any actions that caused severe physical or psychological damage to another. It's what we'd demand for anyone who was to sexually assault, beat, threaten, gas, or shoot rubber bullets at ourselves or someone we love.
 
After being sent this local link by a good friend, I knew I had to take the next step and attend the Guelph Family Friendly Rally and Testimonial Reading being held at City Hall on the evening of July 5th...it's what I'd been asking for: to walk my talk within my community. I wasn't in Toronto at the time of the Summit, and really had no desire to be, but I'm certainly concerned and the 'Testimonial Hearing' completely captured my attention. And so I created a rally poster for myself (might as well go all the way if I'm going, right?), grabbed my camera, threw it into my bike basket and off I went.




Testimonial reading is very effective. To bear witness to an other's story while they tell it in the flesh is very provocative. For the safety of the individuals who chose to share their G20 demonstration experiences, I have decided not to post their pictures. Instead I've decided to post pictures of the crowd as a whole. The Rally got a decent turn out of about 70 or so people.  I've picked out themes that came up between their stories and I'd like to share a few with you.

For instance, I understand that the police worked very hard to separate 'the group'. I heard about the police dividing the demonstrators during their march, sending up flares to spook people then inserting themselves into the crowd, forcing it apart. One half of the demonstrators were forced to continue on the route they were travelling, while the other half was forced off route onto a side street. I also heard about micro groups, small crowds of friends, being separated through physical force by the police. Plains clothes cops grabbing random people and dragging them behind the riot police lines...their friends left behind, often angered and worried about the treatment of said friend. I believe this is done to weaken the strength found in groups, to invoke fear...a psychological tactic used to break people and take the fight out of them. Of course, if one did choose to fight back they were arrested and detained and so, for some, the protest might have seemed like a lose-lose situation...which I'm sure was the plan all along.

I also heard in the stories that physical force and verbal abuse was the norm, racial profiling was highly prevalent and that the homeless were harassed constantly; though I doubt that these sort of actions are contained to a single weekend. Rather I think they're ongoing systemic issues that deserve to be brought into the light. I also heard that detainees were crammed into cells and denied their phone call; that water and food were terribly scarce. I don't like to think that any of this is the norm, and yet I fear it is.

McGuinty has said no to a public inquiry and insists that the government will figure out the lesson to be learned from the whole situation. I think he needs to hear it from the people on the ground. I'll leave you with this thought from one of my fellow protesters:




Amen to that.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Beef? Fucking Television!

I really detest television...I mean, sure, there are a (very rare) few sitcoms that are aired that I get a chuckle out of, but I find no real value in them.  I can appreciate that some series are smart and compelling (I love Dexter, for instance)...I'm just not willing to pay $75/month to watch them (that's how much my partner spends on Satellite every month). I choose, instead, to rent specific series so that I'm not confined to a specific day and time, there's no commercials involved and I see all the episodes in chronological order. Mostly I don't venture anywhere near our television, which I keep hidden in the depths of our basement. I don't even watch the news (shocker!), but have many other avenues for accessing it , of course, if I were compelled to.

I think T.V.overall is a highly passive activity with almost zero engagement or thought required. I think I'm fed a whole lot of bullshit via television through limited programming and corporate and commercial sponsorship. There are certainly better ways I can find to spend my leisure time. I'm hoping that perhaps I can persuade you to give up remote control and instead truly take charge of your leisure time, too.

On June 3rd we watched chapter 5 of a video called "The Story of Stuff" (though I invite you to watch the entire 20 minute video, found in the column to the right of this video on YouTube) and discussed it's underlying theme of consumer-driven culture being continuously driven and perpetuated by television. Work, Watch, Spend. The system's simplicity is mind-blowing, really. But today I'm here to debunk that system and help you kick your television watching habit in the ass!

I want you to really think about what you get out of television beyond the so-called entertainment factor. What do programs and commercials tell you about your life? When I watch television I see that I'm told what fashion is and that if I'm not in fashion then I'm nobody. I'm told what cleaning products to use without questioning their effects on my health and the health of my family and pets or the environment. I see that the dominant culture is white, that women who are young and thin are most desirable, and that most thin, white women are either unbelievably stupid, or that they're unbelievably powerful and their power stems from their physical looks, not from their intelligence. If women in television are valued for their intelligence, I'm told they had to fight tooth and nail to get there no matter what colour their skin is. I'm shown that men who are powerful are desirable no matter what they look like or what age they are and that, again, the white man dominates in this category. I'm told that without certain technology I am uncool, behind the times, and out of touch.

Out of touch with what? Myself? My partner? My family? My friends? My community? The environment? The planet? The things that really matter to me?  Just how are television programs and all the things that commercials tell me I should have going to bring me closer to the things that really matter to me? Rather, I think it's the other way around. Without television in my life, I'm very in touch! I'm tuned into my own program and I am it's writer, creator and producer. I decide what my values, beliefs and priorities are (and it's not a new toy or a new pair of shoes, friends).

My husband, on the other hand, values TV very much, if for one thing only. Hockey (sigh). You heard it hear, people: we pay $75 per month for Brian to watch hockey.

So we sat down one night and we talked about the pros and cons of cancelling our satellite service and here's what we came up with. To my delight, it was Brian that conjured up point #1 on the PROS list.

PROS of Getting Rid of the Satellite
  1. No more commercials! (Yeah, Brian!) Which also means not being bombarded by consumerism and a healthier sense of being because we're not constantly being bombarded by what we should look like, wear, do with our hair or skin, listen to, believe or value. A definite psychological PLUS!
  2. Less electricity usage.
  3. Spending leisure time engaged in more (mentally and /or physically) active  pursuits (reading, playing games, exercising)
  4. Save $75/monthly or $900 per year!
  5. Potentially sign up for those lessons that we've been humming and hawing over taking (ie. guitar, digital photography, tai chi)
  6. Less eye strain
  7. More quality time TOGETHER rather than me upstairs reading a book and him downstairs plopped in front of the tube.
  8. No more buying into the corporate agenda and their censored programming and schedules. At least with the Internet I have access to educational programs when I want to view them.
  9. One less sheet of paper in the form of an unwanted bill being sent to our house wrapped in another piece of paper (envelope) every month.
  10. A quieting of the mind that you can't know until you've given up television (and I lived without one for seven years before meeting Brian, so I know).
CONS of Getting Rid of the Satellite
  1. No more hockey.

There you have it. That's what we came up with. Soooo, needless to say, Brian has been wrestling with this for some time now. He told me that he'd cancel after the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then deal with the upcoming season when it comes, but he still hasn't made the call. He has, however, sort of been weening himself off the TV. He reads more in the evening. He initiates the game of Yahtzee or Battleship, or suggests we go for a walk. It's nice...it's a start. I won't push too much because I know for a lot of people it would be a VERY big deal to give up the tube. I can't tell you how often I heard "I couldn't live without my TV!"  My thoughts are, give up TV and, in return, begin to really live.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Am Positive Space

Introduction

I recently volunteered at a professional conference for a couple of days with high anticipation for this years closing keynote speaker, Deirdre Pike, Senior Social Planner for the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. Her presentation was called 'Creating Positive Spaces for the LGBTQ Community', and I was not disappointed. Rather, this womans strength moved me. She comes to the front of the room and the first thing I notice about her is this huge white button on the front of her shirt with the word COURAGE scrolled across it in big, black letters. Oh, I think to myself, I like this warrioress already.


And she is fearless, working to stomp out homophobia in her community every day. I'm on board with that..after all this is a very personal issue for me in a couple of ways.

First, I'm bisexual. It's kind of a no brainer, if you know me. I love PEOPLE. I'm attracted to humourous, authentic, honest, interesting PEOPLE. And if you are HUMAN, and there exists sexual vibes between us, well, once upon time I may have had a crush on you, had sex with you, had a relationship with you, or fell in love with you. Then Brian happened and we fell into a complex teacher/student relationship...reciprocal learning and growing that changed both of us and after seven years we came to realize that we deserved to honour what we had built together,...a community of family and friends who love us, a home with an outdoor space that we could turn into a private oasis, a depth of respect for each others journey I cannot explain...and, quite simply, a love for who the other is at their core. And so I am married to a man. But I know what it is to LOVE ANOTHER and EVERYONE DESERVES TO BE WITH THE PERSON THEY LOVE and to be able to celebrate that openly and honestly.

Second, I have family and friends who are LGBTQ identified and their well-being and happiness is important to me. I want them to be able to be fully who they are with me, even if they feel they can't be genuine in society. I want to advocate on their behalf and help to create change in society. I want to be positive space.


So, here we are...moving along the continuum from White Privilege, to Male Privilege, to Heterosexual Privilege. Let's go!

Heterosexual Privilege

Heterosexism is the institutionalized assumption that everyone is, or should be heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior and preferable to homosexuality or bisexuality. Heterosexism forces LGBTQ individuals to struggle constantly against their own invisibility and creates challenges for them in creating a positive identity.

 Members of the LGBTQ crowd are denied subtle privileges that heterosexual folks often take for granted. To be able to kiss, hug, or be affectionate with one's partner without fear of threat or punishment, for example. To be able to live with one's partner openly or to be able to express pain if that relationship ends and have others notice that pain and attend to you, to support you through that transition is another. To receive validation from your religious or political or medical community are further examples. And there are, of course, many more. Look around for it. Be very aware.

Homophobia influences everyone's behaviours and lives. It locks people into rigid gender-based roles and compromises human integrity by encouraging people to treat others badly. It creates situations where heterosexual individuals feel they can't form close, intimate relationships with members of their own sex for fear of being perceived as LGB. It makes it unsafe for everyone who exhibits unique traits not considered mainstream. Challenging homophobia is the process of striving for a society that accepts and celebrates the differences of all of us.

Being Positive Space

There are three places in which positive space can be created, according to Deirdre. Personally, organizationally, and politically/globally. For this post, because I'm able to reach others on a very personal level through this medium, I want to explore in depth how you and I can create positive space together at this level.

1. We can be allies with people who are LGBTQ.

In order to do that we must understand homophobia and know that it exists on both a personal and institutional level. We are asked to be alert for subtle forms of homophobia and negative expressions about being LGBTQ (ie. "That's so gay" is an expression used to describe or label something someone does not like or thinks is lame.) We are asked to discuss homophobia with others and respond to homophobia that we see in movies or one TV. Certainly we must report any and all incidents of violence witnessed.

Perhaps you and I could check out PRIDE this year in Toronto?

2. Language is a very basic tool for inclusion and knowledge is power; so let's be clear on some terminology:
  • L=lesbian (a homosexual woman)
  • G=gay (a homosexual male, though some lesbians call themselves gay)
  • B= bisexual (not just hetero- or homo-sexual privilege)
  • T=transgender (crossing over socially constructed gender ideals)
  • T=transsexual (crossing sex, using reassignment surgery/hormones)
  • T=two-spirited (used in the Aboriginal community)
  • I= intersex (ambiguous genitalia, being raised opposite)
  • Q=queer (a label once used against the LGBT community, now reclaimed to disempower the term as being derogatory)
  • Q=questioning (as 'Who can I tell? Will I be safe? Will I be ostracized? The BIG questions. People who identify as LGBT KNOW IT, y'all)
3. Visualize a non-homophobic society and help to bring it into being

Have the guts to interrupt homophobia. Make your home, workplace, community, world, a place where HUMAN RIGHTS are respected.

Thanks for making a difference by striving to be positive space.


References

The Well-Hamilton's LGBTQ Community Wellness Centre (www.thewellhamilton.ca)

Hamilton Positive Space Collaborative c/o Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (www.sprc.hamilton.on.ca)

The Antigonish Women's Association, LGBT Safely Initiative www.antigonishwomenscentre.com

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival: In the Park Series


Introduction

On Sunday, June 6th fellow student, K, and I decided to attend the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival 'In the Park' series. We managed to catch 3 of the 5 performances, and we were certainly glad that we did so! We had the option of seeing performances either on the Street at St. George's Square or at Exhibition Park. We choose to go to the park strictly for the setting. I think you'll agree that  dance in a natural setting is pretty spectacular. Please read on for a full account of all three dances. The photos that follow were taken by me.

Chrysalis

An amazing duo from Montreal called 'Floating Seed' was the first performance we saw. This dance also spoke the most to me. As I've recently written about eco-feminism, I feel that this dance performance was a terrific example of eco-feminism through non-verbal, creative expression and a natural extension of my last post. Chrysalis brought nature and powerful femininity together in an expression of newness, wonder, growth, grace and freedom.


First, check out the backdrop! Talk about the perfect setting for this piece! With the amazing sounds of a steady heartbeat and string instruments blending into the natural setting, one truly felt as though they were witnessing the birth of feminine tree nymphs within a magical woods.
 Second, these women are physically powerful! Unlike most aerial fabric dancers, none of their movements was sudden or derived from momentum. Rather each and every move they made was slow and deliberate. The sheer strength these women possess is incredible. Every muscle in their bodies was defined and flexed for maximum impact; they changed poses and moved with absolute intricacy. I truly felt that the trees and the women mirrored one another in strength, structure, innocence and mystery.







The entire audience was completely enthralled. I even thought of taking a picture of the bystanders for a brief moment, eyes not wavering from the spirits/women dangling in the tree before them, then realized that I would be doing them a great disservice by potentially breaking the spell of their rapture with the flash of my camera.




Courtyard for a Bird

Then followed Suddenly Dance Theatre, from Victoria B.C. According to the pamphlet this duet was to depict the alchemist nature of humans and birds in 'Courtyard of a Bird' but I didn't get it. The score, though, composed of the sounds of birds, bone flute whistle, stone percussion and electronics, was riveting. I sort of wished I'd just closed my eyes and let the music take me where it would have.



Ah! Mes Sychronettes!
Lady Janitor performed last and they were a hoot! Playful and fun 'Ah! Mes Synchronettes!' was a comic spectacle! Totally absurd, with infectious playful energy, this performance made me smile!


Embedded in all the fun and glamour of this dance was an understated resistance to the social stratification of gender and sexual orientation as primarily heterosexual. As you can see, this delightful troupe is made up of more than one gender and EVERYONE was equally enthusiastic in their role!


According to Shaw (2001) leisure is seen as" a fertile ground for the cultural contestation between dominant and subordinate groups" (p 188).In other words, leisure is an important site for either the reproduction of unequal access to power an resources in society, or as resistance to such.

Lady Janitor, to me, are initiating social change by working together to change power relations while gaining collective empowerment through this performance. And they do it through an expression of play and sheer joy that everyone can relate to. Bravo! Encore!
Ultimately their bio says it best, "Ah! Mes Synchronettes! leaves crowds awash in a wave of warm summer wonderfulness". Totally agreed!




Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Nature of Dehumanization

Introduction

We've been talking about the validity of our personal experience in academia in class this week and I'm so thankful for the advice our professors have given us about embracing our subjective opinion, the first person 'I' in our writing, and how to balance that with theory and literature in order to further our knowledge about a topic that is of importance/interest to us. The key is to be upfront with it, let others know where you're coming from, and to bring the reader into that experience. After all, my experience is a valuable as the scholar who's work I'm reading, right?

I'm the type of person than has to process big moral issues over a span of time. I need to digest all that I'm taking in, analyze it, mull it over, compare it to my personal experience, then put it all together into something that I'm confident about calling my own. Creating my posts with integrity is important to me. Media images are coming  fast and furious in this class, many good questions have been broached, and an ample supply of fodder for creative expression has been generated! The question is always: which topics ignite me most and  what do I have to say about them?

So, I want to talk with you about Eco-Feminism and Deep Ecology; to go beyond feminism/humanism (as was started last post) and to include our natural environment in a discussion about women's bodies.

Ecofeminism: emphasizes the similar ways nature and women have been conceptualized, devalued, and oppressed. It also asserts the close interrelationship between environmental and social issues.  (Barnhill, 2008).

Deep ecology:  focuses on the intrinsic value of nature and takes a holistic approach that emphasizes ecosystems, species, and the planet as a whole. It claims that the primary cause of the problem is anthropocentrism (the treatment of human beings as the most important entity in the universe), which it opposes by asserting that humans are fully a part of the natural world and of equal value with all other species. The personal ideal is Self-realization, in which one realizes one’s identification with all of nature. Wilderness untrammeled by humans has special value, as do hunter-gatherer societies living in harmony with nature(Barnhill, 2008).

The Nature of Dehumanization

This week, I invite you to watch a disturbing video that was presented in our class on Tuesday, May 25th called  Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising's Image of Women. That's sad stuff. And I would argue that our disconnect from Nature perpetuates and sustains it, as all forms of oppression are interdependent in some way, in my opinion.

I truly feel that my interconnectedness with Nature, animals, gardening, the elements, etc...keeps me from slipping into a place of self comparison with the media's portrayal of the feminine and brutal self judgement. I adore Clarissa Pinkola Estes' 'Women Who Run With the Wolves' (1995) and her reflection upon the female body in it:

"To take much pleasure in a world filled with many kinds of beauty is a joy in life to which all women are entitled. To support only one kind of beauty is to be somehow unobservant of nature. There cannot be only one kind of songbird, only one kind of pine tree, only one kind of wolf. There cannot be one kind of baby, one kind of man, or one kind of woman. There cannot be one kind of breast, one kind of waist, one kind of skin." (p 200).
 And I think that her point is imperative. We ARE unobservant of nature! There are many of us now who are completely disconnected from our Mother Earth and it's not only damaging/killing our environment but ourselves, as well. ('Cause we're all One...just in case you didn't know). I honour and love my body just the way it is...It's unique in the ocean of bodies all around me. I have a really beautiful smile and strong, strong limbs that were built for endurance, for instance. But where did this honouring of self stem from?

Well, first, I'm not bombarded daily by the dominant images of women found in most (not all, but most)television programs, magazines, video games, movies, etc...because I'm very critical of what the entertainment I consume and therefore avoid self abuse in the form of most popular entertainment.

Second, I seek out sanctuary in nature every single day. This is a real advantage of loving a dog. My canine companion lives for our walks in the woods down by the river. Her joy is my joy and I delight in her total abandon during off leash time. But while we're down there I am observing everything. I am completely aware of my surroundings and the messages and wisdom innate in the natural environment. The mergansers have arrived; the goslings have been born; the river is high; the river is low; the storm brought down the big willow; the porcupine is napping in the spruce; the beaver has travelled to a part of the river I've never seen it in before; the chipmunk lost it's tail, must've been a close call! The stories the forest and river and the animals who inhabit them tell are astounding.

Third, I seek out other beings who love me for me. I am part of a spiritual circle of women, men, ancestors, animals and sacred space...that which is sometimes referred to as The Council of All Beings. And coming from this mind frame is truly liberating. It puts me on equal ground with everyone and everything. It is humbling and nurturing and means that there is support for me absolutely everywhere. It also means that I do not depend on the opinions of others to validate my body, my choices, or who I am. I am loved by this planet unconditionally and in return I get to experience a profound sense of belonging, love and gratitude. Those who judge me can't hurt me from this place. Rather, I mourn their disconnect and am encouraged by their judgement to continue living the lifestyle I do, because my being authentic is a mirror for others and may give them permission to break from the pressures of conformity and begin living authentically by their own right.

 In order to discontinue the perpetuation of the destruction of women's psyche's and the health of the planet I was inspired by Jean Kilbourne's statement:
 "The first step is to become aware, to pay attention and to recognize that this affects all of us. These are public health problems that I'm talking about. The obsession with thinness, the tyranny of the ideal image of beauty, and violence against women are public health issues that affect us all and public health issues can only be solved by changing the environment."
Therefore it is important that we all ask ourselves, how am I helping to perpetuate obsession with thinness? What magazines do I choose to read? What television programs and movies do I choose to watch? Which video games do I choose to play? How are women portrayed in these images I surround myself with? How does it make me feel to look at these women? Why do I feel this way? How would I define my relationship with nature and the planet? What is my relationship with my pet like? What do I know about the animals who cross my path and what can they teach me? How do I demonstrate respect for the environment and the animals who depend on it? Am I living authentically? In what ways do I love myself?


References and/or related and recommended readings:
      Barnhill, D. L. (2008). Glossary of terms in nature writing and ecocriticism.  University of  Wisconsin Oshkosh.             
         Retrieved May 30, 2010 from http://www.uwosh.edu/faculty_staff/barnhill/ES_243/glossary_anw.html


     Gebara, Y. (2000). Eco-feminism: An ethics of life. In M. Mihivec (Ed.), Sacred earth, sacred Community: 
         Jubilee, ecology and aboriginal peoples (pp 29-46). Toronto: Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative. 


     Pinkola Estes, C. (1995). Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman 
              archetype. Toronto: Random House. 

   
    

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feminist and Grateful to Be So

Looking back over the past few classes I can see that the women in the class are sincerely seeking out material that addresses womens rights and explores the topic of feminism; primarily the objectification and hypersexualization of our gender.

In this post my goal is to draw some parallels between the videos we've watched and discussions we've had, while throwing in my own two cents about what it all means to me and my personal experience as a feminist.

Today in class we watched a video called 'This is What a Feminist Looks Like'. I really enjoyed it and so thought I'd add another photo to the collection:



This is What a Feminist Looks Like

The word feminist is very strong and highly stigmatized. I had this to say in my Gender and Leisure class with Diana Parry last semester:
The film ‘My Feminism’ rocked me (Personal communication, Gender and Leisure, January 18, 2010). Upon reflection, I’ve associated myself with the term feminist for close to 17 years. I’ve wrestled with it throughout, finding out the hard way how the rest of society reacts. Not nice. Just the word, never mind the woman (or man) associated with it is enough to shut people down. They purse their lips tight, you realize you’ve ventured into the same conversation realm as religion or abortion and it’s over. Through either silence or verbal‘disagreement’, it’s over. For me most times the word doesn’t even have to be spoken. All my audience needs to see is a flash of a hairy leg, or a glimpse at underarm hair; all I have to do is be me, to talk as I think, to say what I mean, and it’s clearly evident that I am a (Lesbian? That MUST be it…look at her…) HUMANIST. I’m not convinced that they’re not the same thing, the feminist and the humanist, and I’m not convinced that they’re both found to be nonthreatening to the patriarchic trained citizens of our society, either. Unless, of course, you’re a fellow humanist; then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And even if you’re not shut down quite as quickly as those of us who do not bow to the pressure of the razor, you may have found yourself in an embarrassingly awkward moment of silence when (creating awareness, advocating,taboo-busting, challenging stereotypes, praying, grieving, celebrating) on behalf of women around the world with someone who ‘didn’t know’ and ‘can’t believe’ that women were (paid, able, forced, told, capable, skilled, dreaming)of doing that! And we are as amazed at their ignorance as they are of our awareness and depth.

It feels very satisfying to be verified in my opinion that a feminist and a humanist are the same thing. I'd never heard anyone refer to feminism as such, until today. An act of the collective consciousness at work in the universe.

We also spoke about men as feminists and if they're willing to acknowledge themselves as one. There wasn't much of a consensus. However, on Tuesday we watched a video that inspired me immensely because it was written by a young man and it was certainly hard core feminism at work. I strongly encourage you to watch the link. Thank you Adriel Luis and the student who brought it to our attention, S.

So, my thinking is that if it's the label that's turning you off, you should either change it (ie. humanist) or drop it and instead really focus on the underlying context of the words:

Feminism: Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes; the movement organized around this belief.


Humanism: A system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth; concern with the interests, needs, and welfare of humans

This is essentially what it all boils down to and who's going to be ashamed at adopting that as an overall outlook? However, I do challenge you to wear the label of feminist fiercely...it's very liberating and empowering, the first video I mentioned had this to say:

"Acknowledging you're a feminist is an act of gratitude for the people who went before you and who fought for the rights you're now enjoying"
That really hit home for me. Feminism as an act of gratitude. Wow. And I am so very grateful.

And so I say THANK YOU from the very bottom of my heart for the feminist trailblazers that went before me and had the courage to fight for all that I am capable of achieving in the here and now. Thank you for debunking the patriarchal systems that are at work all around me. Thank you for believing in my worth as a unique human being. Thank you for making the personal political. Thank you for your amazing influence that has me absolutely convinced that every interaction I have with another human being needs to be honoured and intentional. Thank you for advocating for respect and equality on my behalf.

With so much Love & Gratitude I am overwhelmed by it all,

Kimberly





Saturday, May 15, 2010

White Privelage as My Experience: I See it Now

The course is really starting to take shape and I'm being asked to look beyond my current reality into what lies underneath. This week we were asked to read Peggy McIntosh's 'White Privelage: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack'.

It is a shadowy place, looking at the country from this perspective; Canada as founded on colonialism and white privelage. But I believe that by casting light onto it, I can turn this knowing into something positive. For instance, I am now aware of white privelage as my personal experience: in the here and now I am comfortably middle class, attend university, own a house in a decent, mature neighbourhood, am in a loving, heterosexual marriage, I have three square meals a day, am fully able-bodied and have the freedom to go wherever I like in my everyday surroundings with no fear of discrimination (except, perhaps, for being a feminist).

With this understanding, I can now strive to relinquish my 'unearned power' in all of my day to day interactions with other beings (children, youth, elders, people of different ethnicities, people of GBLT sexual orientation, people of various abilities, animals, the environment). This is big. This means being absolutely present in my interactions with others...and I suspect it will bring increased happiness via authentic encounters and relationships into my life. It will take practice, self-monitoring and reflection. And I will do it because I'm committed to communitarianism. I know I've got lots to learn along this path...I'm up for it.

McIntosh (1988) asks, when all is said and done and we come to see that oppression is an active and embedded entity hidden in an invisible system with silence and denial as key political tools for perpetuation, what will we do with that knowledge? (p. 6)

What, indeed? Feminist theory posits that we need to join in, stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, know their stories, and work beside them to shed this oppression. And I agree. But first I think we should be very clear about who's actually oppressed and who we as caucasion's view as oppressed. I think we would be suprised to find that many ethnic groups aren't actually oppressed or underprivelaged at all...they simply don't long for the lifestyle that we've come to label as desirable and normal. I think we need to stop trying to identify those that are thought of as underprivelaged, and instead recognize ourselves as overprivelaged....and unwilling to give anything up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tim Horton's and Canadian Identity

Introduction

Being as this is my first reflection piece, I want to start by saying that when I offer my perspective on an issue, I'm not trying to make anything out to be either good or bad, positive or negative. Rather, I strive to draw from my personal experiences and just say it like I see it without getting too caught up in what's right or wrong.

We all come from different places, externally and internally and I respect where others are at in their views and opinions. I welcome your comments and questions.

Personal Reflection

We read a fascinating article during the first week of class entitled 'True Stories' of Canada: Tim Horton's and the Branding of National Identity' by Patricia Cormack (2008), and I'd like to share my reflection of this article and the class discussion that followed.

In class we watched this
Tim Horton's commercial and we were asked to think about how new immigrants to Canada might reflect on the video and what it means to be Canadian. I also found this commercial and I found myself moved. From my perspective, these 'True Stories' are Tim Horton's way of trying to appeal to Caucasians, tug at their heartstrings a little bit and make them feel as though we embrace all cultures one and the same. And perhaps they've succeeded. But what do they say to new immigrants? Could it be that to be considered truly Canadian, to fit in and make friends, (as in the first video as seen in scenes of the son playing road hockey or the grandfather sneaking into his games and meeting the rink custodian) one must assimilate (and that means drinking Timmy's coffee and playing hockey, eh)? Drinking coffee and hockey may seem like harmless things, but they're not every Canadians past time or interest. I'm not sure Tim Horton's have got us all pegged, especially those of other cultures, but they're everywhere, all the time, and they're a powerful influence.

I question the face of Tim Horton's. I see Sydney Crosby playing hockey as a child, Asian's drinking coffee, retired couples hitting the road, and there's the Timbits leagues and children's camps to consider, too. The franchise racks in billions of dollars annually and so SHOULD give back to their communities via recreational activities for children. But I believe these programs are meant to be the face of Tim Horton's. Happy, smiling children is what Tim Horton's wants us to see. Through this face they can de emphasize consumerism and make the customer feel as though their mindless spending is going towards a greater good. Another pull at the heartstrings.

But what I see when I walk into a Tim Horton anywhere I go, is a much different face. I see women. Mostly middle aged women, but lots of young women, too, working for minimum wage. And did you know that not every store offers free uniforms, advancement opportunities, benefits or incentive programs. Nope. These are offered at participating locations only.

These women are given menial tasks, are on their feet all day long and are expected to do it with a smile. And talk about a glass ceiling. You could go as far as
store manager, you know. How about creating a commercial showcasing a regular workday for a 55 year old woman who's helping to raise her grandkids and fill the financial gap that her husbands pension can't? We see the "true stories" of the customers who patronize Tim's...why not the stories of the women who make it all happen for the franchise?

I also see an incredible amount of waste in the form of paper cups. On Earth Day this year I went down to the riverside trail I frequent with my dog and picked up garbage. Believe me when I say that Tim Horton's has a strong presence amongst nature, and it isn't pretty. Partially decomposed cups were to be found everywhere; hidden in the long grass, along the banks of the river and tramped into the earth. I guess real Canadians can't even go for a walk without a coffee in their hands, eh? Too bad they can't find the friggin' garbage cans spaced every hundred feet or so along the trail....

So what do you think? What is your experience of Tim Horton's and how do you think new immigrants in Canada relate to their commercials?

Thanks for tuning in...

Kimberly