feminism

RE: Am I a bad feminist?

Margaret Atwood’s Criticisms

Margaret Atwood wrote an article for The Globe and Mail titled“Am I a bad feminist?”responding to the #MeToo movement and calling for greater transparency in investigating the claims of sexual misconduct, referring to the case of Steven Galloway, a former creative writing university professor from UBC. Accused of sexual misconduct, he was subsequently fired for the accusations. It was later revealed that there was no evidence for such accusations and Atwood believed the man was treated unfairly.

She asks, “If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers?” In her article, she affirms that #MeToo is the product of a broken legal system as victims and allies of sexual abuse use the internet to take down abusive stars.

Victims have been empowered to tell their owns stories and with successful results. But Atwood remarks that the #MeToo movement brought upon an attitude of “guilty because accused” where “the usual rules of evidence are bypassed”.

Her article sparked debate and criticism on Twitter.Alicia Elliottsaid the letter “wasn’t calling for systematic change; it was upholding the status quo”. The status quo being, in this case, focusing on the perceived innocence of the accused over the needs of the victim. And she makes a good point.

In Canada, between 2009 and 2014, one in five sexual assaults reported by police led to a completed court case, about 1 in 10 of those court cases led to a criminal conviction. #MeToo wants to change the results of accusation, and to create a space for women to come forth with their stories in a world that silences and blames the victim.

#MeToo

The #MeToo movement is historical and absolutely necessary. Tarana Burke founded the movement in 2006 to spread awareness about sexual assault in underprivileged communities of colour.

The hashtag was adopted by celebrities in 2017 and took off after the accusations towards Harvey Weinstein were made public through online discourse. A multitude of stories came to light of his repetitive occurrences of sexual assault and harassment towards women, and men, within the industry. In Hollywood, it was also a well-known fact that he was a predator; it was commonly joked about at award shows and received snickers from the crowd. The accounts written about him are terrifying, disgusting, and quite frankly it’s shame it took so long for him to be “caught” so to speak.

Ultimately, Weinstein’s downfall, like the movement itself, was absolutely necessary. His life was rightfully ruined without a conviction as industry professionals and people around the world were served a wakeup call.

The waves and influence of this movement are unavoidable. It wasn’t too long afterward that Kevin Spacey’s downfall came with Anthony Rapp’s allegations of attempted rape when he was only fourteen years old. His career, his fame, his reputation – all swiped from under his feet, almost like he never even existed.

Women and victims have an enormous  amount of power right now unlike we’ve ever seen before. No one knows how long it will last so it’s been used extensively and rapidly, taking down people left and right.

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Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo Movement 

My Initial Response

It got to this point where I was reading different articles with different names with different and equally disturbing stories.

I quickly discovered my responses to these articles remained the same each time:

  1. Disappointment and disbelief
  2. Reading the account and feeling deeply disturbed
  3. Empathizing with the victim

I’ve discussed this issue with a wide range of people. Most women identified with one or a few of the women who came forward, and they gained support by posting #MeToo on Twitter or Facebook during its prime.

Some men also identified and empathized with the victims. Others were perhaps a bit more apprehensive, but overall saw the necessity in the movement.

I’ve noticed that many people, including sometimes myself, have a hard time separating the man from his work. Casey Affleck, luckily enough for him, experienced similar waves of accusations a year before the “Weinstein effect”, and just last year won an Oscar for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Since this wasn’t a pressing issue in 2016, as it is now, his career was still intact and he was even celebrated for his work.

I saw the movie, it was good. His performance was great. It’s hard to separate Affleck from what he did to several women throughout his career, whose accounts of their experience with him, are just as terrifying as the accounts made towards Weinstein. Aggressive, entitled, powerful, and abusive.

When I asked the person, who didn’t see a problem with Affleck winning an Oscar, why he supported him, he said that he simply had the best performance that year.

My response: “If he was sent to a fair trial and declared guilty of his crimes he wouldn’t have been able to act in that movie.”

“Yeah, but he wasn’t,” this person said, and then added: “I separate the man from his work – you can be an asshole but still be great at what you do.”

I was troubled by these remarks because this is exactly the kind of behaviour that allowed Weinstein to prevail for so long. Opinions like this are, as Alicia Elliott said, “upholding the status quo”. And I’m quite certain that this person never took the time read the accounts written by Affleck’s victims, because I hope that if he had it wouldn’t have been so easy to say those those exact words. After taking the time to listen to the victims, I was then able to look at Casey Affleck differently because I placed what he did over his performances.

I know why it is so hard to look at these accusations and not want to believe the victims. Some of these people being accused are people that others have looked up to. When Johnny Depp was accused of domestic abuse, I shamefully admit that I didn’t believe Amber Hard, his wife and accuser during that time. I thought, what would motivate her to accuse of him of this? Money? Attention? A few months later, a video was released displaying his aggressive behaviour; screaming and throwing dishes around Hard, along with pictures of her bruises, and later, an article that stated she donated all of the money she received from her settlement with Depp, to an organization that helps women in domestic abuse. I couldn’t not believe her allegations and I was embarrassed that I didn’t before.

The most difficult part about peeking behind the curtain is that it forces us to examine our own behaviour, and some of us see are afraid of what we will see. 

The main reason I’m discussing this, and my experience with the #MeToo movement is to demonstrate that I am simultaneously in support of the victims, that I want to believe the victims, but that I am also conflicted.

The Allegations against Aziz Ansari

I have three stages when it comes to seeing an article with allegations towards someone. Three steps, and these steps were carried through when I read a anonymous piece about a date-gone-wrong between a woman and Aziz Ansari. 

(Before continuing, I implore you to read the article in full.)

Once I was finished this article, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The sexual encounter between Ansari and the women reminded me of the aggression and entitlement I’ve encountered throughout my University career. This was the first time I had read something where I could say “Me too”.

I believe the allegations and understand why this woman felt the way that she did. But this account lies under a mysterious grey area in which the notions of sexual assault, misconduct and a bad sexual experience become hazy.

Was this woman rightfully uncomfortable? Yes.

Can Aziz Ansari read minds? No.

I don’t have any license to say whether this was sexual assault, the only people who will know exactly what occurred were the people in the room, Ansari and the woman.

If Aziz Ansari’s allegations can speak to anything, it’s that it’s a symptoms of a much larger, systemic problem. Our parents’ generation call it “boys will be boys”, some girls in my classes call it “rape culture”.

I was floored to see men online commenting that if what Ansari did was sexual assault, then every girl they’ve been with was sexually assaulted. Because along with them were responses amongst female readers who noted their similar experiences. Both are indicative of the fact that we live in a world consumed with an incredibly unhealthy sexual culture. That some men must coerce, manipulate and press to get what they want, and that women must appease.

This unhealthy sexual culture obliges women to go along with uncomfortable sexual experiences when all they want to do is stop. It’s expected of men to decipher mixed signals and body language that belong to the grey areas of consent. To blame the women and say she could’ve gone home at any time isn’t fair, and to expect Aziz Ansari to read the mind of a woman who seemingly gave him consent, also isn’t fair. It’s so much more complicated than that.

rape culture

Am I a bad feminist?

I want to avoid declarative statements, especially today. Declarative sentences are dangerous phrases that can’t be taken back. But, if I were to answer the question Margaret Atwood posed in her Op-ed, who answered yes, then I think I would also have to say yes, I am a bad feminist.

Right now, with the #MeToo movement, to be a feminist is to read an account of sexual abuse and to denounce the abuser. Women, and men, have taken this issue into their own hands due to an ineffective legal system that lets powerful people like Casey Affleck fall through the cracks. To be a feminist means to dawn a robe and type on Twitter, to denounce and defame, and in a sense, become an online vigilante. If the system doesn’t work for us, we must do it ourselves.

Right now, feminists have a bomb in their hands and a crowd full of the accused where there’s a 99% chance they’re guilty. Let’s say there’s a 100 people there. All of them are exposed to the shrapnel.

Let’s say one one person was innocent.

This isn’t based on any data, this might be an impractical analogy for what I’m trying to say which is this: While I have grown to be empowered and in support of the #MeToo movement it has also given me an increasing sense of anxiety.

I’m apprehensive right now because the movement has been adopted by rich female celebrities at the “Times Up” Golden Globes, who have used activists of colour as their new fancy accessories on red carpets, and bullied women who didn’t dress in all black.

I’m apprehensive right now because the movement has led celebrities to publicize their support, more as a public relations move than an act of integrity.

I’m apprehensive right now because I live in a new culture where being accused makes you guilty, negating all previous notions that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

People view this issue in black and white. You’re on one side or you’re on the other. Because I am empowered and I support #MeToo movement, I have one foot alongside line and because I am anxious, ask questions and have my doubts, I’m also alongside another.

Fairness hasn’t existed for victims of sexual abuse throughout history, that is why the movement started. Yet, the notion that we must believe all women that come forth, without question, is based on the logic that all women are incapable of lies and deceit. Anyone can capitalize on an issue that is trending during a specific period of time for an ulterior motive. And to treat all cases with the same weight and pressure, for example Weinstein and Ansari, is not fair. If feminism is about fairness, then what has feminism become in the post-Weinstein era?

I want to support and believe but I also want to be fair, and right now that makes me a bad feminist.

I wholeheartedly think that more focus should be placed on the people that come forward on their stories than the perceived innocence of those who are accused; placing more importance on the victims doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the latter. But I also assume that most people read the headlines in the morning and don’t take the time read the entire story. It’s difficult to peer behind the curtain and see what nightmare is on the other side, it’s difficult to see all sides of the story. But, what’s harder? I think it’s telling the story.

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#MeToo movement 
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review

Why “Call Me By Your Name” is an Important Film

Set in 1983 “somewhere in Northern Italy”, Call Me By Your Name tells a tale of first love between two men and a subsequent coming of age. Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet, is a bookish music prodigy, and at the ripe age of seventeen, he meets the new live-in grad student who will reside in their home as his father’s academic assistant for six weeks during the summer. His name is Oliver, respectively portrayed by the handsome Armie Hammer, who becomes the figure of distant longing for Elio while he discovers different parts of himself and of life that cannot be read in a book.

Without boring the viewer, Call Me By Your Name starts off slow. As a director, Luca Guadagnino does this by gently motioning the viewer into Elio’s introspective world. For the first half of the film, there are drawn out sequences of him transcribing music, bike riding through the villa, and eating breakfast with his adoring parents, chatting seamlessly in English, Italian and French.

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Elio, Call Me By Your Name

These sequences are complemented with wide shots of the dream-like Italian landscape that become a definitive character in of themselves throughout the film. The calm that is drawn out from film’s slowness dramatically contrasts with the majority of modern cinema gives the viewers what they want right away. The slow start is also something incredibly reflective of the love story that plays out on screen.

armie hammer
Oliver, Call Me By Your Name

Elio is enamoured by the twenty-four year old Oliver, who can be seen as everything Elio isn’t. Oliver jumps off his bike with easy grace, he drinks juice in fervid gulps, he shimmies solo on dance floors – he’s confidence without pretension. It’s Oliver’s obvious self-acceptance that Elio both envies and desires. Elio is pictured quiet and withdrawn, shifting in his body as he slouches and shuffles restlessly. His admiration for Oliver is first seen only through wistful glances and boyish flirting that implies more by what is unsaid. Timothee Chalamet, an actor I’m sure we’ll all see more of in due time, captures the character of Elio perfectly by saying more with a look than he does with his words.

Although, the most refreshing aspect of Call Me By Your Name is its lack of an antagonist commonly seen in queer films. The only antagonism is Elio and Oliver’s hesitancy. It is at a fateful moment by a war memorial, breaking through his layers of apprehension, that Elio decides to indirectly tell Oliver how he feels. It’s the moment when an unrequited love becomes requited and his true self unfolds. 

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When viewing Call Me By Your Name at the Bytowne cinema downtown, I was enchanted at how real this film felt. The screen became the eyes of a resident of Elio’s home. And the story isn’t just told visually, but also audibly. The actors speak over cars that drive by and Church bells that ring – birds chirp, flies buzz and doors slam. While the two men fall in love, we are all effectively transported into their world and it makes us feel like we’re there.

I think this film is important because it asks powerful questions with subtlety. Is it better to speak or to die? Is better to feel nothing so as not to feel anything? It challenges people who may have originally been skeptical or embarrassed by intimacy between two men but proves that love is love is love. Elio’s father delivers an incredibly powerful speech that encourages his son to love and feel fully without fear of the pain that comes with it. Though I have never fallen in love, after seeing this film I hope welcome such intimacy with another human being, even if there is a chance it will end.

call me by your name 2The film ends with both young men still in love, and with heartbreak. Elio explored his own sexuality, with men and women, and a once bookish teenager becomes a young man who participates in his own life. With this, the characters leave the summer unpunished. Call Me By Your Name will stay with me for a very long time. My advice before watching: be patient with it and let the story sink in. There weren’t many dry eyes when I left the theatre, but in the end, to avoid something that makes you feel – “what a waste!”

 

review

My “Lady Bird” Film Review

I’ve been fancying myself with writers and narratives that capture the facets of female complexity. Fittingly, while sitting in the quant Ottawa Bytowne Theatre awaiting the start of “Lady Bird”, I read the first pages of “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion, a prominent thinker and writer of the late twentieth century, who also happened to be a woman. A few moments later, a 1979 epigraph by Didion would fade onto the screen in black and white:

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent Christmas in Sacramento.”

lady bird 5Director Greta Gerwig and Joan Didion, I would later find out are both from Sacramento. As with Christine McPherson, but as she so often corrects people, is Lady Bird – a name “given to me by me”, she explains. And that sets the premise for the story: a girl who demands a different flavour of life from the one the one that was given to her.

Before her directorial debut with Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig had a pretty successful acting career.  She spent her times on set as an opportunity to learn, observing and asking the directors question like a makeshift film school. A coming-of-age story is what Gerwig set out to create, deviating from the male-oriented algorithm that they usually follow. And in the simplest of conclusions, it was a masterful success.

“Lady Bird” tells the title character’s coming-of-age story in Sacramento in between the years of 2002 and 2003. In the final year of her Catholic high school, Lady Bird (played by Saoirse Ronan) desperately wants to leave the suburban wasteland of Sacramento and go to New York City for college, where the culture is. As protagonists go, she’s driven by a bravado and naivety that only young protagonists can encapsulate, fittingly juxtaposing the weary, disciplinary Mother who can, at times, be perceived as the antagonist.

Gerwig successfully examines the world that Lady Bird lives in, not with a critical lens, but with an observant one. So many little specificities of the film stick out to me, from the kilted Catholic uniforms, to the strategically placed early-2000s pop tracks, to the subtle backdrop of post-9/11 tensions and war overseas.

It is through Gerwig’s observant and specific lens that we get a zeroed-in narrative, lacking any political agenda, simply telling a story of a girl wanting more in a specific place, in a specific time. And she does this while simultaneously making it touch just about anyone who sees it.

lady bird 6Out of every shining detail, the most engaging part has to the be the central focus of the film; the relationship between Lady Bird and her Mother (played by Laurie Metcalfe). Because, while I had mentioned that she can, at times, be the antagonist, she is also the other half of Lady Bird’s tumultuous love story.

While this film could’ve fallen under the wide umbrella of female coming-of-age tales that are always aligned with the girl’s love for a boy, this film deviated from this in the best way possible way. It is in their mother-daughter relationship – the screaming-in-your-face, pushing-every-button, so-different-but-the-same relationship – that is so reflective of that contemporary dynamic that I was brought back to own life just a few years ago. It is so reflective of my own life, that I think that’s why my brother, a domestic observer of my relationship with our Mother, was the one who recommended I see “Lady Bird”. And why, just a week after seeing it the first time, saw it again but this time with her at my side.

lady bird 3

“Lady Bird” is a breath of fresh air, and probably my favourite film of the year. Much like the confidence and authenticity found in pen of Saramento’s Joan Didion, Greta Gerwig created a vivacious girl whose story captures the some of the facets of female complexity and authenticity. It taught me that love and attention are usually one in the same, and that one’s coming of age is another person’s letting go. It is a love story to hometowns, high schools, douchebags, best friends, and Mothers alike, and I cherished every moment of it.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Finding Resilience in a World That’s Breaking Down

I often envision myself in the middle of a history textbook, taught forty or fifty years from now to disbelieving high school students. I imagine that future youth reading the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes catastrophic histories with a better understanding of the events than I do now.

An infamous real-estate mogul and reality television star elected as President of United States of America; an ever-changing climate growing increasingly chaotic with each change of the seasons; racial disparities sprouting riots on the streets of cities; two imbeciles across oceans with hands over a red nuclear button. Wars leading millions of people to different parts of the world in the hope they can find a new home. The list goes on, and on, and on.


tumblr_owyt1nfNGC1qmp5efo1_500The future youth will have the luxury of looking back at a distance. Right now, it’s almost though I wake up each morning to an alarm on my phone, along a notification from the world’s most recent tragedy.

I am also studying it, analyzing the world and these intricacies in real time.

Professors who are there to prepare us for the real world, to make us productive citizens and fine attributes to the workplace, are simultaneously making us question every layer of society and the systems the expect us to work for.

All the while, our lives keep going. Classes still need to be attended, work still has us on the schedule. Friends are there, and then they are not. Family gets older.

Cynicism, despite my lack of trying, has seeped into my daily life. It’s hard to find motivation to keep going in a world that insistently tries to tell us not to.

And honestly, it’s difficult to envision a future. The one thing I know about the future is that it’s shrouded in uncertainty.

So, in the least preachy way possible, I’ve compiled a small list of things to do when that uncertainty seems to overpower everything else you’re doing in life. These things aren’t the typical “stay positive” or “eat healthy” advice on most “How-To-Be-Resilient” think pieces all over the internet. And, I say “least preachy” because my sermon would be like the sick healing the sick – I’m also doing this as a reminder to myself.

Look for someone wise words.

There might be someone in your life – an eccentric aunt, the old man next door, your old piano teacher, or a professor who moved you with her words – someone who seems to know a bit more about life than you do.

Reach out one of them.

At this age, we know so much about the things we are studying and using concepts that our parents haven’t ever heard of. But we might be coming home to dirty dishes in the sink, an unmade bed; you might have not called your parents in a while, or are in a fight with the person you’re dating; or you might’ve not been able to eat a home cooked meal since Thanksgiving.

Whatever it is, your twenties can give you a whole lot of life, but no credentials to know how to deal with it.

That person doesn’t have to have white hair and nearly a hundred years under their belt. it could even be your Mom – while she doesn’t understand some of the things you’re passionate about, I’m sure she could give you a hefty list of relationship advice, as well as an easy recipe to make from her Pinterest account.

Consider un-burning those bridges.

Perhaps it’s that little bit of Catholicism left in me from a lifetime ago, but I have found one of the keys to my inner peace has been forgiveness.

It could be a person, event or thing; some girls who bullied you in elementary school, a friend that turned sour and never figured out why, a neglectful parent…It’s amazing how good it feels to let go of the resentment. Hatred, regret, betrayal, all of these things that can sit in you like toxic lead.

There’s already enough happening in the world that can poison us, it’s unhealthy to harbour such feelings from our own lives. If you can let go, do just that.

And I know, somethings can’t be forgiven. You can forgive someone or something for the sake of shoving the weight off your shoulders, with no intention of letting them re-enter your life. Sometimes forgiveness isn’t a selfless act, it’s a selfish act.

Out of sight out of mind?

My parents may have read too many articles tying a connection to phones and the increase of anxiety and depression in college students.

They might be right, I’m often distracted by my cellphone, and find myself worrying too much about the content I chose to share and what people might think of it.

I’m consistently disappointed by the news I read and misinterpreting the things my friends text on a daily basis.

Realistically, turning off your phone just isn’t likely. It’s our main form of communication, professionally and personally. Getting a notification has the same psychological response as someone calling your name. You have to look.

Your phone is a window to the world, and even though it’s an amazing tool that to have access to, it doesn’t mean it needs to be used every waking moment. I’m not saying you should feign ignorance and look the other way at what’s happening in the world, because to me, ignorance isn’t bliss. I’m simply saying that, for a few moments of the day, it’s okay if you don’t look at your phone.

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Problems have solutions, look for one.

I know people who face troubles and their main solution is to not deal with it, to run away and never look back. I often wonder if that works out for t

hem in the end, because I question its long term effectiveness.

I mean, we could all pretend a problem doesn’t exist. But each problem can become a wound that festers.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve faced most conflicts with the desire to settle it. Not going to bed angry, as my Mother would say. Sometimes you have to 

re-break bones in order for them to heal properly.

But what if that problem is something that’s bigger than a falling out with a friend, or a class that you’re bound to fail? Something that seems so far out of your reach, that the only thing that can settle in 

the pit of your stomach is hopelessness?

Something like one of those things your professor mentioned that kept you up at night.

Every problem has some sort of solution, but not all solutions fix the problem. They heal it.

Finally, just take a deep breathe.

midlifecrisis
[Source]
Our generation hasn’t been dealt a fair hand, but we’re often blamed for some of society’s downfalls. Our mid-life-crisis have become quarter-life-crisis, and then we are accused of not being resilient.

I think we are quite the opposite. Considering the hand we have been dealt, we are the first generation to finally address things past generations have been sweeping under the carpet. That should be proof of our resilience in itself.

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from something that hurt. I think I am resilient despite the fact that stress sometimes overpowers my life. I have to let everything that happens sink in, I need to feel it, so that I can move on and deal with the rest of the world.

Putting one step in front of the other, you focus on one thing at a time until you’re ready to move on to the next one, and know that not all things can’t be solved at once.

Poetry, Uncategorized

A People Person

 

I have come to realize that I am no longer an introvert, and perhaps I never was.

I like being alone sometimes, but not too much.

I need time, to recuperate, mend and think; a pause from the noise and filling it with my own music.

But I love people.

I love their faces, mind and bodies, all varying and authentic.

I love the words that pour from the mouths, some vulgar and others gentle and pleasant.

And my friends whose minds are like an open book,

Whose jokes make me choke with laughter

Whose closeness sometimes too close, I become irritable when I see their faces too often.

Even the people I do not know, with fluorescent signs above their heads reading:

“Enter with caution”

and

“Interpret gently”

They are a cog in a machine that begs me to ask how it works.

All of these people, and these people places.

Like my apartment, marked by the habits of those whom habit it

and marked by those who came before.

A lecture hall, with students dozing off, eyes glazed to screens

while their professor goes on tangents about their daughter.

Or at the back of a party in a cloud of smoke, hands grasping red plastics cups

filled with liquid that greases our gears, making it easier to open up.’

How I wonder what I could learn with their lips on mine, like my questions did their minds.

I am an extrovert.

A sieve, straining through people’s goodness and people’s badness, sitting on the shore of their lives

letting each wave crash over me.

~

Image: yannic_vom_kanal

Uncategorized

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Sick with Age

My grandmother laid in her bed, curled up beneath a crocheted blanket, with plastic tubes connected a machine that loudly pumped oxygen. She had become so small I could wrap my hand around her thigh. I called to her a few times quietly, but her eyes were glazed to the TV like they had since I since I entered the room a few moments ago.

She was “the incredible shrinking woman”. Every time I had seen her in the last five years, it seemed as though she had shrunk a few centimetres. Since she had only peaked to 4’9 in her adulthood, her shrinking-ness seemed even more exaggerated. I outgrew her when I was just twelve years old, and towered over by the time I was fourteen.

My Grandma wasn’t sick, but she was sick with age. Her 92nd birthday had just passed not too long ago. She used to go to my house every Sunday evening as a sort of tradition; we’d turn on the TV to a golf game and pour her a glass of wine. She would eat a full plate of dinner, plus a little dollop of desert and end the night with a cup of tea. A few years back that tradition waned as her appetite decreased. Each time, her servings became smaller, her bites a little more conservative. And just over a year ago she had stopped coming altogether.

“Grandma,” I said again, coming closer to her bed.

Finally, she looked up and for a moment I thought she didn’t recognize me. And then a smile spread across her face. I saw a spark of something before she had gotten so small, like she had never started disappearing.

“Well,” she answered. “Look who we have here.”

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

IMG_2556Dorothy Link was born in 1925, just a bit younger than the Queen, just a bit younger than Betty White, and literally older than sliced bread. She orbited the sun 93 times, lived through the second world war, seen the moon landing on television, and to her demise, witnessed the creation of the cell phone.

I was born in 1996, and grew up on Sherry Lane, a few houses down from my Grandmother’s home. The same home my father and his siblings were raised in.

Sometimes I wondered if she would have ever expected to have had a granddaughter like myself. Throughout a good portion of my childhood, I switched between dressing Barbies, to looking at bugs through magnifying glasses in my basketball shorts. I put my elbows on the table, and talked back to my mother. And then, I hit my adolescence and got all of these opinions.

My Grandma didn’t grow up with much. She lived with her parents until she married my grandfather in her mid twenties. She was a mother and a wife, and then our family matriarch; sitting at the head of the table at each family gathering.

Topics of conversation never strayed too far from what was comfortable, but my Grandmother often asked my opinion about what was happening in the world and just the world itself.

We would often disagree but I think we both understood that it was because we had gained two different perspectives on the world – we were, after all, a product of our times.

While I was accepting of most things, she wasn’t accepting of all things; while she had seen so much, I had seen so little.

We were two women from two completely generations. But, almost every week before I moved away I’d go to her house with my Dad on Wednesday nights and share a pot of tea. As I got older she listened to me and my slightly radical opinions, toned down enough as to not give her a heart attack. And in exchange, I became less indifferent to her old, and sometimes repetitive, stories and started listening.

She told me…

She told me about her parents, who at times had barely enough money to feed their family as the result of the war, but did anything they could to give them the best life.

She told me about her father who used to drive down the county road to an apple orchard and load the back of his truck with baskets  of its red fruit, and sold it to the families in their neighbourhood.

She told me how the kids at her school would call her a skeleton because sometimes she didn’t have enough to eat.

She told me she would be scolded after playing with the only black boy that attended her school, and never understand why until she got older.

She told me she met my grandfather at a her best friends house, and they danced in the living room until her curfew.

She told me one morning she got frustrated at my teenaged father, and while trying give him a little kick, he caught her foot and fell right on her bottom.

Most things my grandmother told me were stories I heard before. Sometimes she say them out the exact same way she always had, word by word as if it were a script. Sometimes she’d add little details that I hadn’t heard yet, layers upon the layers I would get a little picture that was her life.

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“Bill always stayed up so late,” she said out of the blue, speaking of her late husband as she so often did – a grandfather who passed before I was born: “I’d always be asleep by the time he came to bed.”

Her speech faltered and paused, sometimes out of a daze and sometimes out of breath.

“Bill loved music,” my grandmother gushed. “I realized later, he stayed up listening to it… writing about it.”

I had spent the entire afternoon in her small room at the old age home, which had been more time I than in the last two years since I moved away to University.

Like with everything else – telling her to breath a little deeper, eat a little more, have one more sip of that drink – I pressed my grandmother for more; I hadn’t heard this story before.

The stories she told about herself, her husband and her kids now grown, felt like I was unlocking secrets about where I came from. Learning more about them felt like I was also learning more about myself.

I learned that something like the love of music could’ve been passed down from a man I never had the pleasure of meeting.

“Oh, he was such a good man,” my grandmother added. “A good husband.”

I smiled softly. I heard her say that many times.

Life and Death

In the time that I spent in her room, I thought about so many things. But I mostly thought about death.

And there she was still living. Clinging onto life in a body that was breaking down.

I cursed my pretentious adolescent self who thought she knew enough about life to have any idea about what happened after. Now, I felt like I know absolutely nothing.

I wondered if it was some sort of betrayal to have thought of her absence was she was still here. I tormented myself enough sadness for the weeks after I saw her that when she was actually gone I thought I wouldn’t have any left.

But that wasn’t the case. The news hit me a month later when I had reached some sort of plateau; enough time had occurred in between my last visit that my Grandmother was a worry I placed in the back of my mind.

I was at work and talking to a customer. I excused myself, let my heart unravel in bathroom.


Ironically, while experiencing her death, I thought about life. I thought of all the life she had lived in her 92 years and the small fraction of that I got spend with her.IMG_2557

She might’ve not done anything extraordinary, like win a Nobel Peace Prize or climb Mount Everest, but she impacted the lives of her loved ones in profound and subtle ways.

One thing about the “incredible shrinking woman” is that she was no small woman. Her personality, her snarky, hilarious comments and one liners filled the room. As did her laughter. But the biggest thing about her was her gratitude. Towards the life she was given, and the family that surrounded her.

Loss is an unfamiliar feeling to me, so while I figure that out, I’ll continue to save her seat at family dinners. And perhaps I’ll pour an extra inch of wine in my glass… in her name, of course.

Uncategorized

My Response to Charlottesville

(Feature Photo: News2Share via Reuters)

Have you read the news lately?

To be quite honest, I was at loss for words when everything went down in Charlottesville this week. But one thing I wasn’t, was surprised.

Racism is as American as apple pie. The country was built by the sweat of slaves and the genocide of indigenous peoples.

Somehow, the moment Obama was elected in 2008 we suddenly existed in a post racial world. Racism ended. No one saw colour.

But, of course, we know that was far from the truth.

In Trump’s America, racism can be uncloaked and confident. It can spill into the streets carrying torches, bearing flags with mythical histories, and recycled symbols whose messages have murdered millions.

I’ve allowed myself to mull over everything the last few days; I’ve straightened out the facts as well as my anger over the entire debacle. I’m still angry, but now I can actually form some coherent thoughts.

1.Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Charlottesville was a domestic terrorist attack, by definition. A car sped into a throng of counter protesters, killing one and injuring nineteen others during a scheduled gathering called “Unite the Rally” by a group of white nationalists, supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and KKK members.

2. President Trumps rhetoric during the election empowered white nationalists and his ambiguous morality after the attack has empowered them even more. Neutrality helps the oppressor, and instead of calling terrorists for what they are, he claimed there was fault “on both sides”.

3. White supremacy is not native to America, it does not exist in a vacuum. It has existed since European powers started colonizing the world, and has left its prints everywhere they went. Charlottesville was not a solo act. It would not be surprising if we witness a rally on Canadian soil as our history is not as nearly as untarnished as most people would like to think.

My initial reaction to the news was a sense of hopelessness much like I had felt when Trump was elected eight months ago. It feels like we’ve been peeling back layers of the world and finally seeing its true colours. But I realize that I’ve been able to silently neglect this reality because of who I am, how I look, and where I grew up that has allowed me to live in a comfortable little bubble.

People of colour have been living this reality each and everyday, they have lived with constant disappointment, that the colossal disappointment that occurred in January wasn’t a surprise.

So I refused to let this surprise me and let the disappointment hit me full force. I spent hours the past few days, watching footage, reading articles, and personal accounts of what happened on that day. I’ve been flooded motivation to do something though I’m not sure what.

While we could all focus on pointing fingers, calling out the racists and problematic behaviours, we should have been doing this before.

I think what all of us, but especially us white folks, need to do more self reflection. Ask ourselves, why does talking about race feel political? Why is it so hard to say white supremacy? Why can’t I call white terrorists for what they are? Why is your response to “black lives matter”, “all lives matter”? Why do I let my friends and family continue to say and do problematic things?

And mostly, ask ourselves what more we could be doing.

It’s so easy for those with privilege to not look at the headlines, go for a walk and live your life just as you had been living it before.

There’s not more time for inaction. It’s time for us to see the broad spectrum of colour and do something about it.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something you could do, here’s a very helpful resource that can help you catch up on some very necessary reading:

 

Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves.