Wacky Edith

(no subject)

So, here's how this works [and this post, FYI, is sticky and therefore ALWAYS AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE]: About half of my journal is personal, and therefore friendslocked. The other half is more anti-oppression focused, and can be read (and commented on) by anyone.

So! If you just want to hear my political thoughts, you do that! If, though, you want to BE MY FRIEND, comment on this entry, and we'll see what happens.
Gavin WTF


So, I know I never post on here anymore. But LJ has done something HUGE and FUCKED-UP, and you should be aware of it.

Here are the details. To make a long story short, they have subscribed to a service that finds certain keywords in links ("Buy" and "free" are two that have been noticed) and causes those links to redirect to certain commercial sites, like Amazon and eBay.

So far it seems there is a long--but finite list of links that trigger this redirection--more information at the post I linked to up above.

There's a way to opt out, but it's a little weird. Again, it's laid out for you at the above link.

Seriously not cool LJ. Fail.
Gavin WTF

So, I was erased in Sociology today!

FUN TIMES. What happened was this: she was talking about how suicide rates tend to increase in societies undergoing rapid/significant change. As an example, she mentioned the high rates in Aboriginal communities, and how First Nations culture in Canada (and the US) has been changing significantly pretty much ever since "we" came over and started interacting with "them". Do you see the problem here? I'll give you a minute.



I'm Métis. So in a very real sense, I am "them", at least partially. Which means that when she said that, she was totally ignoring (a) a big part of my heritage, (b) a big part of the heritage of other Métis or First Nations students in the class [I don't know if there are any or not], and (c), heck, the fact that there's a lot of people in the class who are descended from (or are) much more recent immigrants, from countries that do not have that same history with First Nations people. Not so much cool.

I didn't actually realize until today, actually, how much of an emotional investment I've made in my Métis identity. I only started thinking about it in any serious way relatively recently (<1 year ago), and I don't spend much time dwelling on it consciously. But when she ignored it...it hurt. It hurt a lot more than I would have expected it to, had you asked me before it happened. Huh.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, however. I called her out on it both right after it happened and in more detail after the lecture was over. And I think we had a good conversation. She was very respectful, and said that while she tries to be aware of the language she uses, it's sometimes easy to forget that people in your audience may be excluded by an "us". However, she said she'd try very hard to keep that in mind in future, and that she recognized how important it was.

I mean, if she does it again, I'm going to be extremely unimpressed. But she seemed sincere, and I feel good about our dialogue.

[This was originally posted on my Tumblr.]
Funny little thing

Just something I've noticed

So, I just started class again yesterday. Which means I've been spending a lot of time looking at course outlines. And (as the title to this post implies) I've noticed something. It's a seemingly insignificant thing, but I actually find it really interesting. It's just a little word string that crops up over and over again in the syllabuses for arts courses (in high school or university): "With special emphasis on Canadian content"*.

"With special emphasis on Canadian content". Now, I think that's valuable. I think it's good to look at what people in our own country are doing, because I feel like their efforts are often overlooked. Where it becomes interesting is when you compare us to, say, America. Now, I've never taken a class there, so I am to a certain extent, talking through my hat here. But I'm guessing most courses don't include "with special emphasis on American content" in their descriptions. And furthermore? I'm betting a lot of those courses still primarily focus on American content.

Why is this? If I had to hazard a guess, it would be something like the following: the USA is (to be frank) a bit of a domineering country. It's built a national identity around the idea of being the top of the heap, of being the best. And as such, it promotes its cultural products pretty aggressively, even in other markets. To use the nomenclature of identity politics, it sets itself up as an unmarked or neutral category.

And what that means for Canada is that we have to, to a certain extent, define ourselves oppositionally. Many Canadians consume mainly (or entirely, even!) American cultural products--American television, movies, theatre, literature...heck, even American foods and beverages! (Most major food chains here--the obvious exception being Tim Hortons--are rooted in the US). And that means that, without courses explicitly protecting Canadian content, it's going to be lost in the shuffle. Which would be a damn shame, because there are some wonderful, vibrant, talented voices coming out of Canada. Voices which all too often go ignored.

I don't have any neat conclusions to draw here--just an observation I thought was worth sharing. It's amazing, how unexpected the sources for inspiration can be.

*Or some variant thereof.

[Crossposted to Dreamwidth]

For once, an interesting writer's block question.

Are there any political issues, such as abortion or capital punishment, that are so fundamental to your core values that you could not respect and/or trust someone who held a contrary view?

I think this question is actually really interesting, because it gets to the heart of how I've changed over the past, I don't know. Call it a year or so.

In simplest terms: I don't put up with shit anymore. I am tired, tired to the bone of smiling politely and trying to get along with people whose views I find so fundamentally, terribly wrong. It's work--I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. Calling people out, or not letting them get away with things, is really hard, and I don't always succeed in doing it. But I try, I try damn hard, and that's because it matters.

To get back to the question: I suppose I still respect people who hold opposing views on key issues (and I promise, I'll get to what those issues are). But that respect is tenuous in the extreme, and prone to being revoked. I try and get along with people, to not make waves, and I do feel that someone can hold a wrongheaded view but still be a good person, because people are complicated. But if the person holds that view with conviction, and not just through ignorance, the respect is conditional in the extreme.

And I'll never trust them. Never. Respect is one thing. Civility is one thing. But don't ask me to trust someone who has shown themselves willing to compromise on or flat-out oppose [here we go with the list] queer rights. Or women's rights. Or disability rights, or rights for people of colour. Rights for people who aren't wealthy, or for those who don't fit into the dominant religion. For people who are the "wrong" shape or size, or don't fit into an appropriately gendered box. Or anything at all that's about treating people as equals, as human beings. If you oppose any of that, I may--may--respect you, depending on the circumstance. I may--may--even like you. But I will never, never trust you.

Because if you don't believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly, without any of the weasel-words that so often accompany these problematic viewpoints (at least, when they're expressed by "liberal" people), then how can I trust you?

How can I trust you when you've shown that you believe some people are inferior?

[Crossposted to Dreamwidth]

In the Next Room or the vibrator play

So, yesterday, I went to NYC for the day! I met up with givesmevoice and riot_cabaret, and we ended up seeing (after abortive attempts at Ragtime and Finian's Rainbow) In the Next Room.

And you know what? I'm glad we did. Because it was excellent. It takes place at the dawn of the electric age, and centers on a young mother and her husband, a doctor who treats hysteria patients through vibrator-induced "paroxysms". This sounds...questionably tasteful, but it's handled both politely and hilariously.

The play itself is excellent. But the true joy is in seeing what the actors do with the material. There are seven characters, but four of them are basically peripheral. The three at the centre of the story are Dr. Givings (Michael Cerveris), Mrs. Givings (Laura Benanti), and Mrs. Daldry (Maria Dizzia). And they are all excellent. Benanti is, of course, fabulous as Mrs. Givings. She's flighty, charming, and her line-readings are perfect. Cerveris is less flashy, but so is his part. He nails Dr. Givings' slightly distracted demeanour. And then there's Maria Dizzia.

Without question I am now a massive Maria Dizzia fan. Massive. Her Mrs. Daldry is basically perfect, alternating rapidly between girlish glee and dour tradition. She embodies the numerous contradictory emotions of the character, and manages to do it all believably and hilariously. We met her at the stagedoor afterward, and she was completely unrecognizable as the character. She became a different person onstage. (As a sidenote, we also met Benanti and Cerveris at stagedoor, who were both charming).

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Quincy Tyler Bernstine as Elizabeth, Mrs. Givings' wetnurse. Her role is not at all a flashy one--for most of the show she remains a peripheral figure--but in the second act she has a long monologue which I found very powerful indeed, and which Ms. Bernstine delivers extremely well.

Bottom line: It's a very good play, well worth seeing. Student rush tickets, which we got, are also only $21, and resulted in (at least for us) quite good seats.

(xposted at Dreamwidth
Funny little thing

A real post!

But not a new one, exactly. I'm putting together a portfolio of work I did for my theatre historical studies class, and I realized I really like the comparison I did of Ibsen's Nora Helmer and Hedda Gabler [from, respectively, A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler. Thus, I am reproducing it here, for your pleasure:


Nora Helmer, of A Doll House, and Hedda Gabler, of the play with the same name, are Ibsen's two most recognizable heroines. Both are considered tremendously difficult roles to play, roles which will really test the skill of the actress performing them. On the surface, they seem like very different characters. But are they really?

I would argue that Nora and Hedda, while behaving in very different ways, do so from similar motivations. Both are stifled by convention. Both are bored by their lives as archetypal housewives--the difference being that Hedda is aware of this from the beginning, where Nora takes time to come to the realization that she longs for independence. They come from similar motivations, but being different people, react in different ways.

Nora's impulses are essentially constructive/benign. She wants independence as a means of helping her family, and then, later, to protect them from what she sees as her "unfitness" as a wife and mother. She ultimately strikes out on her own, not as a way of spiting her family, but because her husband rejects her attempts at independence within the marriage (her taking out the loan and, to a lesser extent, her macaroons).

Hedda, on the other hand, has more destructive impulses. Her reaction to feeling trapped in an unsatisfactory life is to lash out. She does destructive things to relieve the monotony, as she herself states several times during the course of the play. Ultimately, of course, this approach catches up with her, and she takes her own life. She, unlike Nora, does not manage to extricate herself from her untenable situation in a satisfactory manner.

Comparing Nora and Hedda is interesting, because they show two very different ways of dealing with what is essentially the same problem--the myth of contented domesticity. Both ways have their pros and cons--Hedda's anger is justifiable, but Nora's more diplomatic approach isn't as alienating. Ultimately, the audience is able to find sympathy with both (assuming, always, they are portrayed by competent actresses).
Gavin WTF

I Don't Know

So, for those who aren't aware, I'm really indecisive. Sometimes it's not too bad, but more often than not, when someone asks me to make a choice, I freeze up. Even if it's something as simple as "Where would you like to go for lunch?" or "which colour of this do you like better?", I can't do it.

So, when I defer the choice to you, fucking choose, okay? Because when I ask you to, it's because I need you to. It's not me being lazy, or apathetic. It's me being unable to make a decision, and you not understanding that is really obnoxious, okay?

It's worst when someone either frames it as "just choose! It's not that hard!" or as (I HATE THIS SO MUCH) if my complete shutdown in the face of making a decision is somehow entertaining. I assure you, were you on my side of things, you would see it differently.

The bottom line is: If, upon your asking me something, I request that you choose? I have a reason for doing so. It is my right to defer that choice, and you trying to force it back onto me is both discourteous and, frankly, a source of psychological distress to me. It hurts when I try to force a choice, mmkay?

And that's something I'm sure of.
Gavin WTF

PhilFail '09 [trigger warning: mildly homophobic language quoted]

You know what's really flat-out unpleasant? When you find yourself so unsafe-feeling in a classroom environment that you have to leave. You know what's never happened to me before today? Exactly that.

Let me explain. I'm taking an introductory philosophy course, in social/political issues. We've discussed libertarianism, Marxism, feminism...a variety of things. Generally, I trust the professor and think of her as a progressively-minded individual generally*.

But then there was today. We looked at homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Right off the bat, there's an issue here. Same-sex marriage falls pretty firmly into the political arena, so that's fair for the course. But homosexuality? Not so much, or at least it shouldn't, particularly in a course fairly centred on looking at political theories. But it gets worse. Oh boy, does it get worse.

So, one thing she's done before is ask if anyone objects to a given political theory, whichever one we're looking at in that lecture (say, for example, libertarianism). Now, that's cool. But can you see what's coming? That's right, she asked if anyone in the class morally objected to homosexuality. That? HUGE PROBLEM. Asking if someone thinks a political theory is flawed from a moral standpoint is pretty much ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from asking if an integral part of many people's identity is. Seriously!

To her credit, she seemed to realize we were looking uncomfortable, because then she asked if anyone thought her asking of that question was problematic. My hand, of course, shot up. I had a moment of relief when she picked someone else first, because I was already pretty freaked out, and I was happy to have someone else tackle the issue. Unfortunately, the guy she called on then started talking. And what he said was along the lines of "I think it's a problematic question because homosexuality is so accepted in our culture that even if someone disagrees with it they aren't necessarily going to say so".

I'm sorry, what? WHAT? For him to say that...and for her to not call him out, but to comment that he may be right that our classroom trends liberal, without noting (a) the hugely problematic nature of what he just said or (b) the fact that society at large is NOT LIKE THAT? That is majorly uncool. Hugely. Colossally. So I was feeling even more uncomfortable.

And finally, the last straw. She put verbatim quotes from anti-gay organizations up on the overhead. Now, she did this in the context of "I want to talk about how these arguments are flawed", which, okay. But to have written material directly attacking me up on the overhead, when it has already been established that today's lecture is not a friendly environment? I couldn't cope. I was actually shaking. Normally I'm able to distance myself somewhat from these things, but today, in this class, I couldn't.

I trusted my professor. And she betrayed that trust by allowing her classroom to be made into an unsafe, potentially triggering space for queer students. And that? Is not how you teach.

*Though there was an incident with ableism a couple of weeks back. I called her out on it after class, and she seemed responsive, but her apology to the class next day sort of missed the point (it was one of those "I'm sorry a student was offended" type things). So this wasn't completely untelegraphed, but still surprised me. [ETA: I should point out I believe that she meant well. But her execution was full of MASSIVE FAIL, at least in the part of the class I was there for. And that needs to be addressed]

On teeth and tragedy.

This post is not going to be that interesting to most people, I think. I'm ranting about my teeth. And the University of Guelph health plan. And my brain, a bit later. SO BE WARNED.

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So, there you go. Several reasons my teeth are on my mind, and an associated meandering rant about the way my mind works (on that note, if anyone has any advice or commonality of experience re: the last=mentioned problem, feel free to leave it in comments! Or drop me an e-mail at dorian [dot] jensen [dot] harper [at] gmail [dot] com. It'd be appreciated.