I Believe in Fur

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As a Northerner, I am rarely surprised by any of the things that might surprise southerners, but I was with my mother last weekend in Fairbanks Alaska… and she’s from “outside”.   We watched the GCI Open North American Championship Dog Sled Races… my mom was so excited, snapping picture after picture. I live in the Yukon, so dogsled races are an annual event. The Yukon Quest is our annual event…a 1,000 mile sled dog race run each February between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. Dog teams are really cool, but not once-in-a-lifetime cool.

What really captured my attention was the Alaska Trappers Association’s outdoor Fur Auction. Wow. Row after row of pelts, some tanned and some ready to be tanned. I found it fascinating; exciting. My mother found it repulsive, upsetting, anachronistic. There were wolf, Arctic fox, red fox, wolverine, ermine, weasel, coyote, lynx, beaver, squirrel, caribou, even a few bear. Although the sale of bear skins is illegal in Alaska, bears killed by conservation officers are skinned and their pelts are sold each year at this event.   The Trappers Association acts as a wholesaler working on behalf of Alaskans with traplines up and down the state, offering hundreds of furs to people like me as well as artists and those bidding on contract for retail, for designers, etc. I have never seen anything like it.

The furs were beautiful. Stunning. Heartbreaking, yes, but the sight of them reinforced a connection to the land that’s rapidly disappearing from our modern culture. It was amazing to watch the auctioneer and bidders carrying on much as I imagine they did 50 or 75 years ago, making good on a season of effort and keeping traditional trade relationships going. As a society, we don’t hold much stock in fur these days. In the North, that’s not really true. In the North we respect fur; we know it can keep us alive in winter, it can keep us warm and we know the fur trapping and trading industry can sustain families and communities.

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Before you get outraged I want you to consider a few things. I won’t go all “circle of life” on you, but I have spent a fair bit of time the last few days thinking this through in my own head. I know that fur is no longer necessary for us to stay warm or to survive winter. I know we can buy Goretex, we can wear down, we can use other, more modern technologies.

But think about this; down comes from animals. The down industry is a bit cowboy; some countries have good, ethical harvesting practices while others don’t. Some of the down sold in Canada  “is a by-product of the waterfowl meat industry.” But 80% of the world’s down comes from China, where rules are … well,  you know, not really rules at all.  Live plucking, an abhorrent practice does take place in many producing countries including China and some European suppliers of down. A Swedish news program called “Kalla Fakta” (“Cold Facts”) claimed in 2009 that between 50% and 80% of the world’s down came from live plucked birds; that’s a shameful and deeply upsetting statistic. While many countries have scrambled to refute those statistics, the numbers certainly remain higher than most of us could comfortably live with.

Artificial down (poly this or that) comes from a complex manufacturing process that sucks up resources and spits out chemicals and effluent; petroleum based down alternatives are really just another big fat question mark environmentally. How about shearling? Well, you know no sheep is going to survive very long without its skin and wool, so that’s just fur; the ubiquitous uggs are just fur too, for that matter.

The thing is this; you’ve got to stay warm. This is Canada, and it’s winter, and it’s damned cold. You have a myriad of options that cover the gamut from oil by-product down alternatives inside of a nylon shell to wild trapped fur. You can come down on the side of anti-cruelty and choose either polar opposite of the equation; is harvesting an animal after a life lived fully in nature less humane than wearing a nylon parka stuffed with petroleum based down alternative? What is the larger impact? Proper animal husbandry and humane harvesting practices allow the responsible use of a renewable resource. If we want to be honest with ourselves, we’ll consider that commercial meat production in Canada is unspeakably cruel to the animals harvested; pigs held in pens with no room to turn around, chickens are kept eternally in the dark and in tiny cages. You can’t argue that trapping is inhumane while you eat a burger with a clean conscience.  If you buy your meat neatly wrapped in plastic at Loblaw or Walmart or Superstore – or any other major food chain, you are part of the consumptive cycle – you are part of the industry raising animals for human slaughter and use. For the record, so am I. I am a meat eater and am equally a part of the problem.

I don’t agree with inhumane trapping methods, and by that I refer to leg hold traps. I don’t know enough about how traplines are run to suggest I have any real idea of the process and methods but I believe this with all my heart; it must be a better life for an animal to run, free and wild until death than to be held captive until an appropriately marketable weight is achieved before slaughter.  Responsible harvest of wild animals for use in the creation of garments designed to keep us safe and warm in extreme weather…that I can live with. Not without second thought, but I can accept it.

I don’t think I could make this argument if I lived in Los Angeles or Vancouver, but in the north… the REAL north, yes. Fur makes sense to me.  What do you think?

 

 

 

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Powerfully Powerless

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Personal power. What is that? It’s not the same thing as personal strength. Personal strength I have in spades. Power I have far less of. Far less than I’d like, far less than I’d need to change any of the important things I believe need changing. I have strength, I have determination, I have drive and I have fortitude. But I don’t have power. I can influence, I can suggest, I can advocate and I can agitate. I can irritate, I can instigate and I can pester. But I don’t have Power.

I can’t make you do what I think is right. I can’t make you do what I think you must. I can’t make Him do what is so clearly needed. I can’t make them change the way they think, they act, they enact, they legislate. I can’t. I don’t use that word often. I can’t. Power is not something you can simply have by believing you have it. Power isn’t something I can drum up like confidence or belief or faith or mule headed stubbornness. I don’t have the power to make change happen.

I will lend my voice. I will stand to be counted. I will wave a banner or hold up a sign or sign on the dotted line and do my level best to be a force for change. I will speak loudly in my biggest  small voice and demand to be heard. And I will often feel small. Smaller for trying. Smaller for caring. Smaller for giving such a huge important damn.

There is so much change I feel is needed; little micro changes in my own life, larger macro changes in my community and giant leap forward changes in my country and the world. I am tired of trying to be powerful. I am tired of being chicken little. I am surprised so few people seem to notice. The sky might be falling but you seem fine… you seem not to notice it, you seem okay. Maybe, since power is only really available to a few, and I don’t think those few really play for my team, I should work on cultivating contentment. Stop seeking the power to change things, and seek instead the comfort of apathy.

Happy July everybody. The sun is shining so it’s all good. Right?

It’s tiresome, but I know I won’t be able to cultivate apathy. I am hard wired to give a damn. To keep pushing. To keep trying to jump just high enough to make sure you hear what I want you to hear. That’s ego, I guess. But it’s also a desire to connect, to work for things that matter to me and to demand I don’t just give up. I am going to always push against the easy if the easy feels wrong, feels like the lazy way. So chances are if you and I know each other in real life I have annoyed you at least once, or will.  I’ll work on that, but I will also keep working for what matters to me.

Can’t help it.

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There’s something disgusting out there!

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There’s something disgusting out there. On the ground, on the sidewalk, just there – where I was about to step. It’s your spit! It’s the sputum you ejected violently from your mouth, right in my path. Where my FEET go! Where my SHOES go! Where (oh save me) my BARE FEET might go!!

I have never, in 46 years, needed to “hork a loogie” onto any sidewalk anywhere. Is that how you spell it? HORK a LOOGIE?  It’s fun to say, but how incredibly repulsive. How is it necessary? WHY is it necessary? Honestly, I am not particularly prim, not exceptionally la-di-dah.. I’ve let rip a nice loud anonymous fart once or twice (shhhh… no- let me take that back. I AM prim and proper, and now very embarrassed).

I do not see the need do not see the need do NOT see the need EVER to expectorate publicly. Mucous (cringe) and phlegm (gag) do not belong in the street. If you absolutely must divest of some nasty products please, use kleenex. Use a napkin. Use a paper towel or a good old fashioned linen handkerchief (but do not expect me to touch that thing, let alone wash it).  It is the oral equivalent of taking a dump, right there on the sidewalk. Sorry for the straight talk my friends, but that’s the truth.

Public spitting is  illegal in Singapore, Guangdong Province in China, London England, and the extremely civilized city of Saskatoon Canada. Saskatoon has it right; they have a bylaw, Bylaw No. 8994 in fact, called “The Public Spitting, Urination and Defecation Prohibition Bylaw”. You see?! They have it right… they have grouped spitting with the rest of those waste expulsion processes that rightly belong out of sight, and out of the flow of human traffic. Should you choose to “discharge phlegm, saliva, chewing tobacco juice or any other substance from the mouth”, you can expect to pay $100 for your first offense. It’s only fair.

Your spit, my spit, ANY spit is gross. It’s how illness is transmitted.  It’s a fetid, germy little stew.  As a citizen, I should not have to wade through your bodily waste as I amble down Main Street; ice cream cone in hand. Actually, the whole thought of mucous (bleargh) and phlegm (retch) makes me almost lose my lunch.

So, friends… shall we start a little revolution?  A little brigade of fed up citizens giving horkers the hairy eyeball and a mini lecture? Should I start carrying around little packets of tissue and insisting offenders take one or else? Should I employ my handy dandy little smart phone and upload photos of those people who insist on littering my city with the byproducts of their sinuses? Maybe I will. Maybe I will.

So, unless you are running a marathon (though seriously, I carry tissue when I run), climbing a mountain or performing some extreme sport, put it politely in a tissue or keep it in your head. There’s just no reason for that kind of nasty to ever see the light of day. And believe me… I’ll BE that crazy lady with the tissues. Just watch me. And smile…I just want to take a quick photo!

 

I’m a size 10. So I’m gross?

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I grew up as a dancer… ballet, tap, jazz, non stop competetive dance from the age of 5 until I finished high school, having won the top prize in my Provincial competition… best of the bunch. I battled my body all through my teens… fingers poked at my “midriff bulge”, fingernails dug into my derriere and told to LIFT IT! LOSE IT! PULL IT IN! SUCK IT IN! My years as a young woman were rife with negative body messages, blatant and more oblique…as a dancer, there’s no such thing as too skinny. Predictably, I succumbed to the pressure. I stopped eating. Everyone around me feigned shock and horror, but I shrunk and I won the BIG prize, so the dismay was muted. Once I’d won, I started eating again and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t a PROBLEM I had, it was a SOLUTION… I’d lost the few extra pounds I carried and clearly it had all been worth it…, no?

I stepped away from dance for about 10 years and, strange truth, I got slimmer. I stopped obsessing over my weight, found a man, got slim. Got REALLY slim.  When I got married, my nearly 5’6″ frame carried only 118 pounds, barely a size 2. I wasn’t dieting, wasn’t sick, wasn’t trying to be slim. I ate chocolate, candy, chips, pancakes, you name it. I also smoked… that did it for me. When the babies started coming, I got slimmer and slimmer. With each baby, my feet got bigger and my boobs got bigger… otherwise I shrank almost immediately to the size I’d been before birth. Then I’d get smaller. I had 3 babies in 4 years, nursed each one. I smoked (I will forever be ashamed of this) during my pregnancies…yes, I cut WAAAAAAY  back to a few a day, but still. I then carried, chased, ran after, held, rocked, fed and cajoled those three babies while blessed with a hyper drive metabolism.  I also taught dance… up to 14 classes a week of jazz and tap. That burns a lot of calories.

Then I turned 35. I took a desk job, and thankfully I quit smoking at last. My metabolism did an about face and I began to gain weight. I now struggle to maintain what I feel is a healthy weight.

I don’t have a thigh gap. In fact I didn’t even know what that was until a few months ago. I have a bit of a pooch.  I need an actual bra, with cups and a bit of underwire. I have birthed 3 children, and there is evidence of that in various body parts. I’m also 46… there’s no escaping that though I’m no stranger to Dr. Botox.  I ride my bicycle when it’s warm, run, work out (not religiously), and salsa dance. Even so, I cringe when I step on the scale, cry when I can’t fit something that I want to wear, and have learned to despise shopping for pants, skirts and dresses. I’m okay with tops… so long as they are all big, baggy, hide my flab and don’t strangle my (apparently) freakishly large upper arms.

And I hate my body. I hate that I am no longer a size 2, 4, 6 or even 8. I hate that I get the “full body check tsk tsk” from the hyper cool gay sales guy at Le Chateau. I hate knowing that I am teetering on the very brink of “plus size”. Me. Hot, beautiful, strong, fashionable, powerful ME. Plus size. Scared. Horrified by my own body. How can I overcome this? How do WE, as women, overcome this?  I can cover it well with nice clothes and good shoes, but don’t expect to see me in anything clingy. Ever.

Mike Jeffries, in a 2006 interview which was made enormously public this week has declared that his brand, Abercrombie and Fitch will not carry XL. In fact the largest size they carry is 10. My size. MY SIZE. Anything larger than me is plus size and has no place in the fashionable universe. No. Nononononono.

I resent the idea that a woman of my size (average) and weight (absolutely dead average) is a plus sized woman. Who decided that?  What does that tell my daughters? I have two gorgeous, stunning daughters who are each within 15 pounds of my weight. They both hate their bodies, both think they are fat. I accept my culpability in that… how could they grow up with me and my warped body image without absorbing some self hatred at least by osmosis?

I have a couple of links for you today. One is a remarkable video curated by Dylan Lambi-Raine, Kayla Hatzel and Sarah Zelinski; 3 classmates in the Gender Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. This video shows objectification of women… AND of men, in stereotypical roles and demeaning and degrading poses. Oddly the reflected version, images of men being objectified, is no less disturbing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/05/08/saskatoon-viral-video-university-of-saskatchewan.html

An interesting bit of history: the 2006 Salon article featuring Mike Jeffries in full dreadful flight:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/  It’s just a big old trash bag full of political incorrectness and awful misogyny.

So Mike Jeffries, go away. The cool kids don’t like you. Voice in my head? Get lost. Please? The truth is I’m actually pretty gorgeous, at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself. Every single day.

Philanthropic Blackmail: Marketing Fail

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Yesterday I posted a rant about marketing, more specifically about BAD marketing…marketing fails. Since I published it, I keep remembering or spotting more of these ridiculously bad ad ideas and marketing schemes.  I’m going to focus on one today, one that has really started to piss me off.

It’s the faux philanthropy bait and switch ploy you see almost daily on Facebook. I saw an awful one today.  Green Giant has graciously agreed to donate “up to 5000 cans of green beans” to Food Banks Canada. That’s great… they should be doing that anyway. That’s good corporate citizenship… hell, it’s also a tax write off. Instead, they have found a way to turn it into some pretty sleazy self promotion.

Here’s the problem: General Mills, Green Giant has a promotion tie in with Food Banks Canada on Facebook: “For every LIKE on Facebook we’ll donate 2 cans of green beans up to 5000 cans”. That’s right. 5000 cans. They needed 2500 likes to trigger this donation, too. So let’s see; 5000 cans which retail at what… $1 per can? So that’s a $5,000 donation. Well, thank you very much.

General Mills had a good year last year; profits were up, shareholders were happy.    What I see, beyond the much needed donation of 5000 cans of  green beans to Canadian Food Banks is a widely shared Facebook marketing campaign with huge reach, great feel good payback and lots of piggyback credibility by pairing with such a reputable charitable organization.  And all for $5000. Wow.  That’s a pretty powerful media buy for only 5K.  Think about it… what else can $5000 buy you if you’re an ad buyer? Nothing. Not 30 seconds on tv, not a 1/4 page ad in a national magazine. Nada.  And you can be sure that most people will forget to “unlike” the page, and will have their newsfeed cluttered with Green Giant marketing from now on. Well played, General Mills.

That’s a lot of reach for not a lot of green… and I see it again and again and again. And you know what? I hit “like”.  I hit like so those damned beans would get to the Food Banks Canada shelves, where they really are needed. But I hate it and I know I’m being manipulated and I think it’s pretty tacky marketing.

I love Food Banks Canada. I’ve served on the board of our local Food Bank and appreciate the powerful advocacy work FBC does, and the way they are able to secure generous food donations from major food producers in Canada year after year. I am thankful that Green Giant  donates food to Canadians in need.  This week is Hunger Awareness Week in Canada, May 6-10, and the message needs to get out and out and out that there are far too many hungry people in our country, and a staggering number of hungry children.

If you want more information on what you can do to help Canadians struggling with food insecurity or to learn more about the true demographics of hunger in this country, visit http://www.foodbankscanada.ca/

If you are in Whitehorse and want to know how to help, please visit http://www.whitehorsefoodbank.ca/

If you live in the US,  Feeding America is a great place to start: http://feedingamerica.org/

Faux Facebook Philanthropy is blackmail – just donate the damned food. Fail.

Marketing Fail

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I love a good ad. I don’t mind being sold so long as the seller is creative, clever, honest and interesting. Humor is big too; make me laugh and I’ll remember you. I might even look for your product next time I’m in the market.

For the sake of argument , I’m going to post a few of my least favorite marketing ploys… I call them marketing fails.

Marketing fail #1

Flyers on my windshield.  All those flyers that people throw to the ground in disgust or laziness… now there’s LITTER with your name and phone number on it blowing in the wind. Fail.

Marketing Fail #2

Dancing sandwich board guys. Seriously. This sorry sucker bouncing up and down at the intersection is less likely to inspire me to want the pizza he’s stumping for than cause me to rear end the car in front of me. Distracting drivers is a BAD plan. Plus I KNOW he is desperately trying to make a living, but being paid under the table or minimum wage. Fail.

Marketing Fail #3

Cinematic, flashing, massive, hyper-lit crazy ass highway billboards. These things are bigger than my HOUSE, they flash, they whiz and zing and practically throw confetti at a never ending stream of drivers flying past at highway speeds. Add text and you’ve got a pile up on your hands. Never mind my cell phone, government… regulate THIS.  Fail.

Marketing Fail #4

Tits. They don’t sell me anything. Sorry. Got my own, thanks. If mine don’t inspire me to drop change, hers sure won’t. Tuck them back in and make me think or make me laugh. Those girls just make me uncomfortable, and that doesn’t make me spendy.  Fail.

Marketing Fail #5

Bullshit. My hair will not be 10x thicker in 2 weeks. My waist will not be 6″ smaller in 4 weeks. Don’t guarantee my money back, just tell me the truth, for pete’s sake. I’m not that stupid. Fail.

Marketing Fail #6

Minimizing the risk. 140 Happy Calories my big fat North American ass. Junk is junk is junk no matter how you fluff it up for the cameras. Soda, GMO food, high fructose corn syrup, it’s all garbage and it’s all bad for me. Don’t insult my intelligence by pretending it’s only “part of the big picture”. The big picture is it’s all bad for me and you’re lying. Marketing fail.

That’s my first shot at this. There’s more… I could go on and on. What about you? What do advertisers do that really knocks you flat?

I have a family, I have disposable income, I buy;  sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because I’m a sheep, and sometimes because some clever advertisers have done a good job of convincing me that I really should try their product.  If the ads were clever, honest, and the product really is all they said, I’ll become a customer. If not, I’ll just be annoyed,  I’ll tell my friends and I’ll keep my money, thank you very much.

My groceries terrify me.

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I live in the far north of Canada… the real, snowy, wintry  northern lights north. We have a few hardy farmers here who fight for every carrot, potato and head of cabbage they pull from the earth. Permafrost, harsh winters and shallow soil are only softened by summer days when the sun shines almost around the clock.

These farmers know what works here. They have learned what magic can be wrought with seeds, soil, compost, sun and loving care, and they want to protect what they’ve worked for. As an Agricultural organization they are working to ensure the Yukon remains GMO free, and have begun lobbying our government to enact legislation.  Our territorial government however, refuses to consider a ban, saying it’s not their place and that it’s up to individual farmers to decide.

Why? Why on earth would the government of this small territory refuse such a committed, dedicated group of farmers? Why, when nobody has come out strongly (or at all) for the GMO side. There hasn’t been a group of people out marching to promote the use of GMO seeds, though there have been marches against their use.

I think they’ve said no because the government is afraid of Monsanto. I know they’re afraid of big oil… refusing to ban fracking, refusing to ban oil exploration in a tract of protected wilderness. They’re afraid of some potential backlash, some theoretical future legal challenge by these huge companies. Especially now, as Monsanto attempts to PATENT produce.

It’s true, a lawsuit by Monsanto would cripple our territory, but is that where we are now? Do we have to allow any huge corporation who wants what we have to just come in and take it? Why? Does Monsanto have that much power? Is it real, or is it just the threat that makes governments quiver and bend over?

I don’t want to eat GMO food. I am terrified of what we are putting in our bodies. The Canadian Diabetes Association says “one in every three Canadians is projected to have either diabetes or prediabetes by 2020”.  That is the kind of statistic that’s almost unbelievable, and yet it’s true. Obesity rates through the stratosphere, heart disease rates soaring… can we please just stop this?

We know that messing with every single thing we put into our bodies is messing up our bodies. We’ve super-sized and enriched and new and improved and fat free’d ourselves into a situation we can’t escape from. Genetically modified corn, modified soy, modified canola in everything we eat. And we can’t avoid it.

Our family eats very little processed food, but as a working mother there are some products I’ve relied on. Canned or jarred tomato sauce, pureed or chopped tomatoes, corn niblets in a can, frozen vegetables, cartons of low sodium chicken broth, that kind of thing. I’m not talking hamburger helper and squirtable cheese, but real foods that I can use in my workday, weekday cooking.

But it’s all a minefield. Canned tomatoes… BPA in the cans, likely bionic tomatoes. This is even putting aside any worry about pesticides, just thinking about the NEW food terrorism being perpetrated against us by Monsanto and our governments. Just try to buy any vegetable oil that’s not certified organic; you won’t be able to find any corn, canola or other oil that’s not from a GM crop.

It’s a tunnel we’re halfway down, a wormhole we’re already through. Our food has been commodified, modified, & adjusted, with a sticker on every single apple produced. Lab created “Grapples”; apples injected with grape koolaid, nicely presented in plastic clamshells…so many levels of insult to our bodies, to our earth. The garlic is all grown in china, & those sugar snap peas in little plastic bags have more miles on them than I will by the time I die.

I don’t understand it. We have the capacity to produce everything we need, at least all the cold weather crops we need. I don’t mind that we ship mangoes… no mangoes are going to grow here, but sugar snap peas? Potatoes? Garlic?  What is the rationale? Our governments should be investing in farmers, in the agriculture association’s vision for a more sustainable local food economy. Food security… safe food grown close to home, should be our collective goal.

I envy people living in areas with year round markets, access to a full range of organic foods. I buy what I can find, glad I can afford it. I couldn’t always afford it, and that frightens me too…what damage have I already done to my own body, to my children’s bodies?

So I say power to the farmers, the brave farmers out there marching with signs held high demanding our government protect the food we eat. It’s not as simple as allowing each farmer to choose for himself, not as long as we have wind and honeybees, pollen and birds.   We have to insist. We have to demand. We have to march, and be equal to the power of the corporations with the way we wield our dollars.

If you want to know more about the situation in Yukon, please follow these links.

In the US (and eventually Canada), food labeling is worth fighting for. Have a look:

http://www.rodale.com/what-are-gmo-foods

So go on, go shopping. I dare you.