My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.

Cross your heart and hope you’ll remember?

pinky promise

If you want my respect, say you’ll do something then do it. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do.  Don’t say you’ll do something then forget, or blow it off. All we have to go on in this life are our instincts and our faith in good people.  We have to trust that people will do what they say they will; what else do we really have?

I think we have to remember that we are what we say, we are what we do. When we follow through on what we promise, we are saying that we’re worth trusting, worth believing in. When we think we can decide what is and isn’t important to others and fail to do what we’ve said, we let ourselves and those counting on us down. Saying you will do something you have no intention of doing is a lie. Saying you’ll do something you make no effort to do is disingenuous. The good feeling you get from pleasing the person you’ve promised evaporates pretty quickly once you know you’ve disappointed them.

You don’t have to pinky swear, cross your heart and hope to die  for your word to be considered a promise. The simple act of saying you WILL is a promise. When you say you will, and you can or could and don’t, you’ve broken your promise.   Not fulfilling is a choice… conscious or otherwise. Sometimes there is a really good reason, sometimes not. Circumstances may prevent you from accomplishing what you intended, but if the effort is genuine, honour is maintained.

Men used to be judged on their word; in my world, they still are. What’s your handshake worth?

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Take a walk and call me in the morning…

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Sometimes I believe I know things; I’m known and what I say has weight,  my words can be included – they have merit. Other times, like today, I believe the value of my words is almost entirely dependent on whether my audience deems them worthy. That’s not blog speak; that’s life speak. I’ve been reminded this weekend that it doesn’t take much to silence me. That surprises me…  that it is sometimes dead easy to make me simply shhhhhh. To stop talking. To lose confidence in my own voice.

That sucks.

I felt that today…badly. But then, I took a walk in nature… a hike. I walked with a good friend along a ridge overlooking an achingly beautiful river bend; swans below, ravens and eagles just overhead and magpies calling from the trees. Ha. No silence there… no silence outside or inside of me. I am thankful for the walk, for the insane beauty all around me, for the snowless ground and the startling gift of a few extra days of autumn sunshine in the Yukon.

I came back calmer, more peaceful… confidence in my voice restored. Perspective; it’s out there, thank goodness. Sometimes you just need to take a walk to find it.

Keep hatred out of school policy, please

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The community I love has been engaged in emotional debate for the last several weeks over the treatment of gay students in our Catholic schools. There have been protests, meetings, letters to the editors and calls to radio hosts. Discussions have centered on whether a publicly funded school administration can be permitted to openly and actively encourage discrimination against some of its students.

The Bishop in charge of the school’s religious education program and guiding principles has published a document which was, until recently, posted on the school’s website. This document acts as a guide for teachers and school administration on homosexuality and the treatment of homosexual students.  It calls homosexual urges a “disorder” and labels homosexual acts an “intrinsic moral evil.” The Bishop said that  teachers are discouraged from using words like “gay,” and “lesbian,” and that a Gay-Straight Alliance isn’t allowed at the school.  A side effect of this policy has been plummeting morale amongst the school’s staff and students. Another impact, of course, is a sense of impunity for those keen to demonize young people who have identified as gay, or even those who just “seem gay”.

This  is all happening at the same time as the flood of equality messages and images, the anticipated decision to strike down Prop 8, the chorus of voices growing louder and louder reminding us that we are not allowed to teach children to hate… and yet, it’s still happening.

This is Canada. I know that in the US there are different ways of doing things, churches have different and perhaps greater powers than in Canada, but here, we separate church and state. If taxes are being used to fund a school, it has to teach in accordance with the laws of the land.

If you want an entirely faith based curriculum, then open a charter school. Charge tuition. Do not depend on the public purse.

I say all this, and even so… my daughter is enrolled in this school. Two of my three children have attended this high school. Confused? Yes, me too. My upbringing was Catholic, my husband’s Anglican, but neither of us are practicing, and we are not religious people. I have had occasional bursts of interest in attending church, but will confess the interest was largely social and based in a desire to create structure and community for my family.

When it was time for my kids to start school, the options were the nearest public school (at the time a poorly performing, underachieving school), french immersion (not our choice) or the Catholic school. The Catholic school had a wonderful principal, great morale, high achieving students, an inclusive philosophy and felt loving, warm and wonderful, so we chose it for our children.  Until very recently, the high school had the same warm and welcoming energy.  That changed with leadership changes in the school and in the church community.

As a result, gay students are now being targeted.  In one case, a locker was spray painted with the word FAG. The principal refused to investigate or seek to remedy the situation in any way. The newly “out” student was told if she didn’t like it, she could always change schools. So she did.  And then, as these things do, it all went public. And things have started to change, in a hurry.

I believe churches can teach what they believe. People can attend the church that best suits their belief system. Do I believe it’s okay to preach hate? Do I believe it’s okay to sanction looking the other way when acts of violence are perpetrated based on hatred? No. I understand that it’s a Catholic church, and the Catholic church does not support homosexuality or agree with same sex marriage. Fair enough. They don’t support pre-marital sex either, or birth control, but if a teenage girl gets pregnant, she is treated with  compassion and respect  while a homosexual student is not offered the same respect, or any reasonable protection from discrimination.

I know  several gay teachers within the Catholic schools in our city. We have, in our family, long questioned the morality of practicing a way of life in secret while teaching your students that your own way of life is wrong…is an intrinsic moral evil.  That, to me, is a hypocrisy so damaging it defies understanding.

Now, the government has stepped in and advised the school their policy must change, MUST align with Human Rights legislation in our Territory. The offensive policy has been removed from the school’s website.

But the young woman whose locker was spray painted, her dignity was rejected, her very self was dismissed and that’s not going to go away because a website administrator took a policy offline. And the other kids who have suffered similar insult and assault in that school, with the pervasive disregard for the rights of every single one of its students will not feel less harmed because now, finally, the policy is changing. And what about the kids who have been allowed to think that gay bashing, even in its more subtle forms, is okay? Who’s going to go in and reprogram them?

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