To Blog Or Not To Blog

So I haven’t updated in a while. One of the reasons for it is that I’ve been pretty busy and I haven’t been able to make time to blog. The other reason is that I’ve been watching the internet blow up about sexual harassment policies at conferences and I was concerned that the only thing I would be able to write about it would be an endless stream of expletives. I must admit I don’t understand why there has been such backlash against adopting such policies in order to make women feel safe at conferences. I’ve been reading about this in the past few weeks and I have to say that the whole situation doesn’t really make me feel welcome in the atheist/skeptical community. Aren’t we supposed to be the smart ones? The people who are rational? If so, harassment policies at conferences should be a no-brainer. Instead, there has been idiotic suggestions that this meant women wanted to ban flirting and/or hooking up at conferences. How does a rationally thinking person go from implementing a policy to banning flirting? I don’t get it. I’m a woman and given the vitriol I’ve seen directed at the Skepchicks and Freethought Blogs in the past few weeks for merely suggesting adopting policies, I’m not feeling inclined to go to a skeptical/atheist conference anytime soon. Why would I spend a ridiculous amount of money to go to a conference that seems unwilling to make women feel welcome and safe? It doesn’t make you want to get involved with the movement.

I should mention that I like flirting. I enjoy sex. That being said, I think it’s ridiculous to imply that those two statements mean that I should have to be open to sex and flirting at all times, whether or not I am interested or in the mood to engage in either. Believe it or not, some people do go to conferences for other reasons than getting laid. It’s possible they are there to learn something. And yes, they may want to connect and socialize with others that have the same interests, but that does not necessarily translate to an invitation for sex. Those people deserve to have just as fulfilling an experience at conferences than everyone else. Having harassment policies and procedures that are properly communicated and enforced ensures that everyone can have a great experience. If your argument is that my safety and comfort is ruining your experience at conferences, then you’re an asshole. I’m not interested in sleeping with you because that’s not why I would be going to a conference. Move on and find someone who is. If there isn’t, then maybe you should consider that this isn’t the place to try to get laid. Maybe it’s that you’re an asshole and that’s not a turn on. Whatever the reason, your right to get laid doesn’t override my right to not be harassed.

I know we are winning this fight because many conferences have adopted harassment policies and many of the men in the movement have expressed their support for this kind of policy. The problem I have is that it should have never been a fight. I don’t understand why this suggestion caused such a shitstorm. I don’t understand why Rebecca Watson can’t say anything that doesn’t cause a flood of rape threats to be sent her way. You want to know why more women are not attending your events? All this bullshit is why.

Overwhelmed

I haven’t had nearly enough time to myself lately. I am behind in my blog readings, podcasts, emails, and all social media. Work has been crazy and I feel like it took over my life for a little while. I am slowly beginning to catch up so I will hopefully have more time to write in the coming weeks. I think it will be good for me. I feel like I need to spend more time thinking about myself.

Adventures In Babysitting

I’ve never wanted kids and I don’t think I will ever change my mind. It doesn’t mean I dislike children, I just don’t want any of my own. My brother has two girls and I am babysitting tonight so that he and his wife could go out to dinner and a comedy show in celebration of her birthday. The kids are now asleep, or at least in bed, and I’m writing this as their hamsters run their little hearts out in their wheels. It turns out that hamsters are nocturnal. Yeah. Note to self: never get a hamster. They’re loud and, again, nocturnal.

I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but I like one of my nieces much more than the other. I find the youngest one to be a spoiled little brat and she is sometimes downright mean-spirited. Call me crazy, but I don’t really find those to be endearing personality traits. I think part of the reason she is this way is because of how her parents are raising her (they let her get away with a lot with relatively little consequences) but part of me has always wondered how much of her personality was just there from the beginning and how much of it was due to her parents not helping. Based on my experience tonight, I think it might be much more nurture than nature. I didn’t let her get away with things I thought were wrong, and while she gave me some trouble, after she realized I wouldn’t budge, she gave up on being a brat. That’s a shame. I might like her more and want to spend more time with her if she were more like she was towards the end of the night and I think she has the potential to be more pleasant if she’s just disciplined a bit more. I just don’t see her parents doing it anytime time soon. Again, a shame.

Her sister on the other hand is a sweetheart. She is pleasant and incredibly bright. She is much calmer and quieter than her sister and doesn’t demand to constantly be the center of attention, so unfortunately, she is often ignored and pushed aside to the benefit of her sister. I let her stay up way past her bedtime tonight because I was enjoying spending time with her so much. I find it to be a shame that she is getting the short end of the stick just because she is nicer and more respectful than her sister. She constantly has to make the sacrifices because her sister throws a fit is she doesn’t get what she wants.

I don’t say this to her parents. I made a comment once about how my brother was handling his kids and he had a cow. He does not take criticism well. He also felt the need to point out that because I did not have children, I had no idea what I was talking about. I have always hated to have that said to me. I don’t have a dog either, but I’m perfectly capable of picking up dog shit. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I can’t recognize when one of them is acting like a complete pain in the ass and that something should be done about it.

So does it make me a terrible person that I like one of my nieces so much more than the other?

Happy Birthday Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (you can get an HTML or PDF version here). It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the Harper government is downplaying this event to the point of practically ignoring it. As a Canadian, I will admit that I sometimes take the Charter for granted. I have grown up with it all my life (I was two years old when it was signed) so those rights were always a given for me. I think it’s important to mark these kinds of anniversaries and remind ourselves of the road that we had to travel.

It turns out that the Charter is also an inspiration to other nations as a roadmap to human rights. That makes me proud to be Canadian. I am not happy with the way my country is being portrayed and the way it is behaving under Harper’s government, but I hope that celebrating achievements like the Charter reminds Canadians of what our country is supposed to be about. I hope they are still able to remember it at the next federal election after Harper has spent five years misrepresenting my values as a Canadian. We should get back to being an example and an inspiration for the rest of the world.

You should all read the Charter, even if you are not Canadian. It’s a great read and it’s only seven pages.

It Might Not Get Better

This video is just so sad because once again, it shows how much religion can cause pain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekoVGgn5sT0

I keep wondering how people can still cling to religion after it’s brought them such pain. I just don’t get how you can still align yourself with your religion and belief system when it makes you feel like you are less than a person. Someone needs to explain that to me. Please.

How To Combat Racism

I’m going to start by saying I don’t have the answer. I’d love to have it but people being how they are, I don’t think there is one way to combat racism that will work for everyone. Like everyone who doesn’t live under a rock, I’ve been following the story of Treyvon Martin’s shooting in Florida. The Crommunist has a few great posts about the story with some really interesting insights. He also has a really interesting post about racism he put up as a warm-up to the two about Treyvon. In it he mentions that he thinks we all have racist biases, no matter how much we think we don’t. This kind of stuck with me and has made me think about it for the past couple of days. I don’t consider myself racist so I really wanted to spend some time considering that statement.

I’m a white woman living in Montreal so it goes without saying that I never experienced racism directly. I grew up in a relatively liberal family but in conversations with my parents as I was growing up, I detected some racist undertones (with my father much more than my mother). I want to clarify here, I don’t believe my parents to be racist in an open and extreme manner. They don’t think that a black person is somehow inferior to a white person. Having said that, I think it would bother them if I brought home a black boyfriend. I also think my father would be much more bothered by it than my mother. I actually had this conversation up front and out in the open with my mother when I was a teenager: what would she think if I brought home a black boyfriend? She gave me the answer that everyone should give: it wouldn’t matter as long as he treated me well. I remember feeling that her answer seemed to have come a little too quickly and automatically. I pressed her and asked again if it really wouldn’t bother her. She responded again that it wouldn’t but then hesitated and said something along the lines of “I would always worry that the cultural differences would affect how he might treat you.” That took me off guard. What cultural difference? All of my black friends at school had grown up in Montreal just like I did and it bothered me that my mother assumed that because their skin was a different colour that they somehow had different values. Thinking back on this, I realize that Crommunist is right: we all have racial biases.

Having grown up in a metropolitan city, I think I have less biases than some people. I know some people who do a double-take when they see an interracial couple and that kind of thing doesn’t even cause a blip on my radar. I am a woman so I get tense walking around at night and having a man follow me (much in the line of thinking of Schrödinger’s Rapist), but I’m not any more nervous if the man following me happens to be black (or hispanic, arab, etc). I think my bias comes more from the fact that I don’t notice injustices as much as I should. As I was looking around my office today, I noticed that out of about forty of us, I could only see one visible minority (hispanic). That’s pretty sad given the fact that my classrooms were much more racially varied but until I actually consciously made myself look at it, I had never noticed. That’s where I am biased (there may be more ways I’m biased but that’s the one I found that jumped out at me). I don’t notice these injustices. And you can’t fix what you don’t realize is broken. So I think that raising awareness is probably one of the most important things we can do. I also think that it’s important to realize what our own biases are. That way, we can actively try to work to correct them. For example, if I’m ever hiring, I will make an effort to correct the lack of visible minorities in my office.

I am saddened and quite frankly disgusted about what happened to Treyvon Martin. I’m not an idiot and I know there is still blatant racism still present in our society. It doesn’t make it anymore sad when things like this happen. That Treyvon got shot and killed merely for being black in what some asshole decided was a white neighbourhood is tragic. That the asshole in question didn’t get arrested is abhorrent. I am so angry because it’s looking like this guy is going to get away with this without even so much as a slap on the wrist when we all know that if the positions had been reversed and Treyvon had been the one with the gun, he would have gotten charged in twenty seconds flat. That’s not acceptable. We should not stop bringing these injustices to light until they don’t happen anymore.

That can’t be soon enough.

Writing Isn’t Easy

I’ve always enjoyed writing because there’s something about writing down (or typing down) your thoughts that’s therapeutic. At least, it is for me. My problem comes at the point where I read my words back to myself. I feel compelled to correct them and try to improve every turn of phrase. I wonder if something could be said or expressed in a better way or if it could be delivered more directly or eloquently. I’m kind of a perfectionist and in my job, that serves me well. I think to a certain degree, wanting to improve something is also a good thing but it can sometimes get to a point where it becomes more of a handicap than anything else. Sometimes, you just have to let go. That’s difficult for me. I do well with structure and rules. I’m a rational person and I don’t really consider myself to be that creative. I actually wish I had more artistic talent but what can you do? You work with what you have. This is part of the reason I started this blog. I don’t have any writing training except for college english classes. It’s not like I’m in this expecting to get “discovered” and strike it rich. I read a lot so I know there are people who are much better at this than I am. But again, I find writing to be therapeutic and I keep reading that the best way to get better at writing is to do it. A lot. So this blog is an experiment of sorts. I hope to see improvement in my writing skills but I also hope that putting my thoughts down in pixels will help organize and define them. Let’s see how this goes.

Much against my instincts, I am posting this without having spent any time reviewing, correcting, adjusting. I just want this one to end up the way it came out of my head.