6 December 2009

Montreal Massacre 1989 - 2009

Revised and edited June, 2012

In the comments section following the article Montreal Massacre Death Cult by Margaret Wente (Globe & Mail, Dec 7, 2009), a commenter asked why it is that violence against women receives special status over violence against everyone else, when women experience less violence than men?" This is a reasonable question, unless you look at it in terms of power – who has it, who doesn’t. When women had little power in their lives, due to marriage and lack of career to give them financial independence, they were often at the mercy of men. Women have become more liberated, however, as the years have gone by, and that no longer holds true. Women in marriages - or out of them - are likely to have as much power - real power, of decision-making, access to resources, etc, as men. The whole social issue of 'violence against women' is a remnant from earlier times.

It’s strange but Marc Lépine, the man who killed 14 women at the Montreal Ecole in 1989 actually represented one of the men who was far less powerful than women. Yet because of the myth of 'violence against women', he got blamed for being the originator of the Montreal Massacre (just as many years ago housewives got blamed when things didn't go right at home).

The Montreal Massacre had nothing to do with domestic violence. The feminists and pseudofeminists involved were the ones who held the power. Marc Lépine didn't have any. Male violence and aggression is often about masculinity, as was Lépine's act of violence. Is it possible that women are more likely to use psychological tactics aggressively so as not to appear aggressive, or masculine. Things are not always as they seem.

Margaret Wente has claimed that the argument that Marc Lépine killed women for daring to pursue their dream implies that all “ordinary” men would also be enraged by seeing women get ahead. Yet, she says, that isn’t so. Here, in her words:

“In the narrative of the Montreal massacre, the students were killed for being feminists – for daring to pursue their dream. That's true, so far as it goes. But this narrative also implies that the rage of Marc Lépine reflected the rage of ordinary men embittered by seeing women get ahead (Montreal Massacre death, 2009).

Wente argues that is simply isn’t the case that all “ordinary” men feel the kind of rage that Lépine did, and the reason is that Lépine was abused by his father, she says, thus had pent-up anger inside against women, the reasoning goes (though not against men). The argument she uses doesn’t explain the circumstances which led Marc Lépine to the Polytechnique that day.

In response, I would suggest that men in general don’t show anger towards the group that is oppressing them, any more than housewives of the fifties did towards their husbands, at being held back. For one thing, it just isn’t permitted in society to express oneself that way. The tendency is for anyone who is being controlled to that extent to accept their situation rather than continually fight it – to push it down, bury it in the subconscious. People don’t use such extreme violence unless there are other things going on at the same time.

Most men today, whether “ordinary” men or the more privileged kind, know that if they want to get ahead they have to be nice to the powerful women in their lives. And maybe that’s something good that has come out of feminism (as long as women today don’t abuse their power as men used to), because I’m sure many men in earlier times never felt they had to be fair or even kind to their spouses. Sometimes people just don’t realize the negative effect of their power and the ways they use it. Sometimes people with that kind of power over material resources sincerely believe they deserve what they have because they are superior.

Wente further argues that “His [Lépine’s] father had a deep contempt for women, and severely abused both the boy and his mother before abandoning them. Mr. Lépine obviously contracted his father's rage. But he no more resembled ordinary men than Robert Pickton does.”

But Marc Lépine is no more like Robert Pickton than Pickton is like most other men. Each is different in their own way. Lépine’s multiple act of violence was not committed against prostitutes, or aboriginal women, or poor women. He killed women in the institution that he saw as doing harm to him and his life, the women who, for him, represented the middle class feminists who took his career goals away from him, and who were destroying society.

So, no, Marc Lépine doesn’t represent all men – or as Wente says, his rage isn’t representative of all men’s. Yet it was Marc Lépine that feminists made the object of all their rage, despite the reason for his justifiable anger being nothing to do with domestic violence and everything to do with feminism.

This act of violence he committed had nothing to do with the way his father treated him or his mother. It makes more sense to realize that he had been hurt very badly by someone, and not through a personal relationship, but connected to the Polytechnique and its staff and students that had treated him so badly, leaving him with nothing, with no way out, no other options. I have experienced some not-so-pleasant interactions myself, and when one sees students getting admitted to the college who don’t seem to have any special knowledge or credentials, or professors showing favouritism, the unfairness of it can be overwhelming. Without a strong supportive network of friends and community, one doesn’t stand a chance.

Also, Marc Lépine was aware of the impact of feminism on society, whereas many men and women were not. He knew it, but it was one of those things that people don’t like to talk about. People – young men and women – just tried to find a way around it so they could go to university too, and succeed. Yes, Marc Lépine knew it, but he lacked the skills to write about what he knew. No doubt his effort to try to inform others resulted in further frustration. No one knows exactly why circumstances come together they way they do resulting in the kind of behaviour that Marc Lépine exhibited. Margaret Wente would like to blame it on childhood abuse, a typical Freudian viewpoint, and one from pop psychology, but not a perspective that holds up under close examination.

One of students at the Polytechnique at the time was Heidi Rathjen, who later said, “The atmosphere at school was totally egalitarian. It was a wonderful place for women.” (Lessons of the Montreal Massacre, 2009). But the egalitarianism she speaks of was between men and women students of the middle class, not between the daughters of important people in Montreal and young men who had little family influence. I know that she sees people’s helpfulness as “egalitarian” and not that such people tend to be nicer towards those who already have resources of their own. I know she sees getting a job at the funeral home and the bursary that came with it as something she deserved, and thus fair, but it’s not all deserving young women and men who get treated like that.

It can be easy for those in power to distort facts and blame the one with none for not being smart enough, or being too emotional (a tactic often used against women in the past). By discrediting the Marc Lépines of this world, they can get unknowing people on their side – especially young women - willing to see them as lesser human beings, entirely responsible for misfortune endured by women in their relations with men, rather than recognize the damage feminism has caused to society.

Original post, Dec 6, 2009, updated

A selection of articles (see below) on the Montreal Massacre (20 years ago today, Dec 6, 1989) represent just a fraction of the many perspectives on this tragedy. ‘A Slap in the Face’ for Victims, by Ingrid Peritz, emphasizes the importance of the firearms registry, which some feminists see as the one tangible legacy of the Montreal Massacre.

Once again the comments on this article provide much to reflect on, from people interested in this subject of gun control and concerned about the rationale behind it. In Lessons of the Montreal Massacre, by Catherine Porter, the story is told of one of the survivors of the Montreal Massacre, Nathalie Provost, who speaks to us about choice, and taken-for-granted opportunities for fulfilment in life. She and her children are living in a different world than most of us.

The fact that Marc Lépine attempted to get the world to see how feminism has created a wider division in society between those who have and those who do not, seems to be lost on her. If her children, and all children, had to rely on one person’s views only – hers – about the lessons of the Montreal Massacre, the world would be in trouble indeed.

Western News, from the University of Western Ontario, now known as Western, announced its 2009 remembrance ceremonies, one in Engineering, the other at Brescia College to honour the loss of the 14 women killed on Dec 6, 1989 at Montreal, and "the lives of all women that have been lost to gender-based violence" (Montreal Remembrance Ceremony, 2009).  I believe they are actually referring to women killed by men they know, mostly, and not the kind of killing Marc Lépine committed that day – meant to be a political act to draw attention to the harm feminism has caused in society.

Marc Lépine lost his life that day also, as did others, though that is never acknowledged by heartless, narrow-minded, politically-oriented feminists. On Dec 6, 1917, the explosion of the SS Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbour left 2000 dead, injuring thousands of others. This is a sad day of remembrance.

The Montreal Massacre Death Cult, by Margaret Wente, is a request for feminists and Canadians to move on, but in so doing, Wente manages to perpetuate stereotypical myths about Marc Lépine that ensure moving on is not possible.

See also my website about the Montreal Massacre: http://www.montrealmassacre.net/

Lessons of the Montreal Massacre
By Catherine Porter
Toronto Star
Dec 5, 2009

Montreal Massacre Death Cult 
By Margaret Wente
Globe and Mail
Dec 07, Dec 11, 2009

Montreal Remembrance Ceremony
Western News, p. 13
Dec 3, 2009

‘A Slap in the Face’ for Victims
By Ingrid Peritz
Globe and Mail
Dec 05, 2009

Links updated June, 2012

22 October 2009

PhD university students: incomplete degrees

Updated May, 2012

In ‘Doctoring the System, 2009, Tara Brabazon makes a list of ten ideas that she believes will create an atmosphere conducive to doctoral students’ completing their degrees and provide valuable information for students, professors, and administration. In general, it appears to be a list that combines both individual traits and the kind that are more about society itself - the structure of the organization and the people in it.

In Item 4, Orientation, Brazabon makes a point of listing “characteristics” of students who didn’t finish their degrees. At the same time, she says that “simply because a student showed one or two of these behavioural markers did not mean they would be unsuccessful.” However, the list of signs itself is a combination of character traits and social circumstances, not solely characteristics of the student alone, so calling it that is not accurate. Perhaps different terms other than ‘characteristics’ and ‘behavioural markers’ could be used, as these imply that the items in the list arise from within the student, are internal to the student, and did not occur due to some event or circumstances nothing to do with the student, or are more about the student being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Having such a list makes it easier for the university to place the blame for an incomplete degree on the student rather than looking at other circumstances within the university or related to the thesis supervision itself. This is Brazabon’s list (from Item 4):

change of supervision, suspension, intellectual isolation, movement from full-time to part-time enrolment, irregular meetings with a supervisor, returning to study after a long break, an unsupportive partner or employer and a changing family situation, such as divorce or bereavement (Doctoring the System, 2009).

These may be signs of problems for the student in the future, but they are not characteristics of the student her or himself. A change of supervision may happen because the original supervisor turned out not to be the best for the student’s research, if their knowledge or theoretical approach differed too much from the student’s, for example. Changing from full-time to part-time could be a result of not being able to afford the tuition fees and needing to find work.

Seeing going from full-time to part-time as a character flaw is not helpful, though considering it a socioeconomic one would be. Furthermore, if meetings with their supervisor are irregular, that could be a problem with their working relationship, not simply the student not bothering anymore. Supervisors are human beings too. And while a changing family situation can be temporarily disruptive, for either student or supervisor, it doesn’t have to mean the end. In fact, older students, returning after a long break, are often more committed to getting their degree than younger one working on their first.

I am wondering if there are any statistics on these ideas, or if Brabazock is trying to use a commonsense approach.

The fact that research can be controversial, and in any case could well be political, has not been addressed in the article. Besides the research itself, the students themselves are political subjects immersed in a political environment, where race or nationality, and sex and sexuality are among the sources of conflict that can affect the completion of the research thesis. Worse yet, the decision to go forward with the research my be completely out of the control of the students themselves.

Women’s studies, and other groups vying for power in an environment known for its scarce resources can lead to university not being a pleasant place, without the necessary support, financial and otherwise. I agree with the distinction made by one of the commenters, Paul Davies, that being deemed withdrawn is not the same as a candidate being failed or pushed out. But the consequences can be the same when the ‘deemed withdrawn’ student cannot offer an adequate explanation for potential employers or other universities when applying for jobs or to grad school. An incomplete degree gives the impression that the student was incapable of doing the work or had personality problems, or if the reason given was lack of funding, then it appears as though the withdrawn student either lacked ability or their proposed research was not worthwhile. I'm not sure that the consequences of letting a student down are fully realized by those involved. The results can be devastating and life-changing, to be treated in this manner and left to struggle on with a damaged reputation.

Professors might take this decision thoughtlessly, to end a supervisory relationship for the wrong reasons, perhaps thinking it won’t make any difference. For example, if a student was accepted to enter a PhD program but had not quite finished the dissertation for the MA degree - a requirement in Canada but not in the UK, I understand) - the MA research supervisor may simply decide to quit, not bothering to finish up the research and the defense of it so the student has the MA in hand. Move ahead a few months, and the new university discovers that the PhD never got the MA and isn’t going to. This affects their perception of the student, possibly to the extent that they decide this is one student to let go – by withdrawing support and making it difficult to continue.

If, some time in the near future, the original supervisor realizes he made an error in judgement, and permits the student (now not doing a PhD or able to get work) to complete the MA degree and defend the dissertation research, does that absolve him of any responsibility in the effects to the student of not achieving the MA at the appropriate time in the timeline? If not getting it resulted in the student being pushed out of the PhD program in the next university, so several years later the student finally has the MA degree, but is now past the half-century mark in terms of life cycle, and has gaps in resume and an incomplete PhD, whose responsibility is that?

This story illustrates the concept of pop psychology known as the downward spiral. It explains how a person’s life can start to go downhill, and other people’s mistakes and decisions can contribute towards further spiraling down. In the same way, someone doing well in education and at work can experience the upward spiral, which they would no doubt attribute to their own ability and “characteristics,” whereas the reality is that the more they move upwards, the more likely it is that people will be nice to them, giving them things, access to more resources, and better jobs.

How do people find meaning in life after such adversity, not to mention fulfillment and the chance to contribute to society, especially when their experiences are of the kind many would rather not hear about, or their circumstances don’t appear to be worthwhile trying to improve? Fewer choices and options to reinvent one’s life, as well as limited resources and being on the wrong side of fifty can make it far more difficult than it would be for others.

The article by Tara Brabazon discusses far more than this, but my focus has been only on the one item. See the article, and many insightful comments on the THE page.

Doctoring the system
By Tara Brabazon
THE (Times Higher Education) UK
Oct 22, 2009

19 September 2009

Lust: one of the seven deadly sins of the academy

Revised, and links updated May, 2012

The seven deadly sins, which are the subject of this article (The seven deadly sins, 2009) about campuses in the UK, are sartorial inelegance, procrastination, snobbery, lust, arrogance, complacency, and pedantry. THE is the Higher Education supplement for the British newspaper, The Times. The article, especially the section on lust which was written by Terence Kealey, Vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, has attracted a great deal of attention in the UK, and even beyond its borders. See some articles listed below. Kealey also wrote a response to the criticism in the Times Higher (see Terence Kealey: a response, 2009).

Although the original article (The seven deadly sins, 2009) was meant to be humourous -satirical, actually – not everyone saw it as a laughing matter, myself included. The comments following the THE articles, are an indication of how sensitive and demanding the topic of lust is in universities.

It's debatable just how light-hearted the article really is - humourous satire, or serious matters for the academy to think about? From the attention it has received in the British Press, one has to wonder where this will lead.

Two other articles on closely related subject matter that have been published in the Times Higher are ‘Sex and the University’ (2008), and ‘Sex for grades in Africa's academy’ (2010) to which I responded in ‘Sex for grades in universities,’ 2010.

For Canadian input into this subject – of lust, not humour – see the Globe and Mail’s ‘On-campus sex ban: Hands off,’ 2010).

Some of the articles have numerous comments, and I don’t see that there’s anything I can add here without turning to personal experience, so I will just leave it at that.

Buckingham University vice-chancellor defends remarks over female students
By Adam Gabbatt
Sept 23, 2009

Curvey females safe for viewing, writes professor
By Husayn Marani
Western Gazette, formerly UWO Gazette
Sept 29, 2009

Curvy students 'perk of the job'
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter
Sept 23, 2009

On-campus sex ban: Hands off the student body, Prof
By Dakshana Bascaramurty
Globe and Mail
Apr 08, 2010

Senior academic calls female students 'a perk of the job'
By Alison Kershaw, Press Association
Sept 23, 2009

The seven deadly sins of the academy
By Matthew Reisz
THE (Times Higher Education)
Sept 17, 2009

Sex and the university
By Hannah Fearn
THE (Times Higher Education)
May 22, 2008

Sex for grades in Africa's academy
By John Morgan
THE (Times Higher Education)
Jan 21, 2010

Sex for grades in universities
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Jan 22, 2010

Terence Kealey: a response to criticism
By Terence Kealey
THE (Times Higher Education)
Sept 23, 2009

10 September 2009

Michael Bryant and Darcy Sheppard: divided by class

revised, and references updated, May 2012

The tragic death of Darcy Sheppard, involved in a violent incident with ex-
attorney general Michael Bryant, isn't a morality play, though I think I understand how Margaret Wente might want to see it portrayed as such. It is very class-based logic to see the event as a "cautionary tale for public figures," as though the tragedy could somehow have been avoided, and worse yet, what the consequences can be for important or wealthy people getting mixed up with those other kind of people in society.

To begin with, Michael Bryant didn't just change into a "clean suit," after the accident, before he went to the police station (see Morality play, 2009). He changed out of the t-shirt he had been wearing into the shirt and tie with suit, before being taken to the police station. This is a minor issue, but an example of the ways Wente distorts language and its significance for the public. Bryant may have wanted to change into clean clothes, but the suit was for impression management, not for spending a comfortable night in jail.

Even Jackie Kennedy didn’t change out of her bloodstained suit before getting into the airplane with her husband’s body – John F Kennedy, following his assassination on November 22, 1963, nor on board the plane (Jackie Kennedy’s Pink Suit, 2011.) It’s a matter of priorities, and one has to wonder what Bryant’s really were. Fight or flight. Keep it close; remember; or push it away. Naturally, Jackie wasn’t completely immune to the fight or flight syndrome. Her immediate reaction on having her husband shot while seated beside her in the car was to clamber over the back seat of the convertible, a momentary lapse in good judgement.

When Darcy Sheppard talked back to the driver of the car that had bumped into his bike, it wasn’t to someone wearing a suit, thus more likely to be viewed as someone middle class. Bryant was wearing a t-shirt like any other ordinary person on the street at the time of the accident. So who should take care to avoid the other. Should it be the affluent middle class couple who should be more wary of getting into difficulty and getting blamed for it, or would it be more realistic to advise the person lacking the resources to fight injustice to be more careful to avoid people who show signs of having wealth and prestige. And did Darcy Sheppard realize the danger he was in?

On Sept 1, 2009, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. Witnesses, including Raajiv Rajadurai and Ryan Brazeau provided details of the street interaction between Bryant and Sheppard (Bryant charged, Sept, 2009; Death on Bloor, Dec, 2009).

The charges were withdrawn with no preliminary hearing taking place, a decision that was explained by special prosecutor Richard Peck, who stated in court, “The evidence establishes that Mr. Sheppard was the aggressor in the altercation with Mr. Bryant. He was agitated and angry, without any provocation from Mr. Bryant and his wife,” (Former Ontario AG, May, 2010).

Bryant himself is quoted as saying, “It is not a morality play about bikes versus cars, couriers versus drivers, or one about class, privilege or politics. It’s just about how in 28 seconds, everything can change” (Former Ontario AG, May, 2010). But if we remove the words “a morality play” from this sentence – Bryant’s claim – it really is about bikes versus cars, and about class, privilege and politics.

Set aside the morality problem for now. Think about what happened, and the consequences. Bryant may have been surprised – no, astounded, to see how quickly a person’s life can change, can go from a normal day out to violence, death, accusations, and practically every aspect of their life being changed forever. He says that. He has now experienced adversity, that emotionless term that is applied to such situations.

From the outside, looking at someone who is angry might appear the same as looking at someone who is experiencing fear. Without Bryant’s explanation, the behaviour could be interpreted as anger against the cyclist who got in his way, and not terror at being accosted by him and not being able to get him off his car (see Former Ontario AG Michael Bryant, May, 2009).

In an article just a few months prior to the incident, Bryant talks about his love of boxing, and his skill in the ring (Contender, Jan, 2009, as noted by a commenter on ‘Cyclist may have grabbed,’ 2009). Is this the same man who was terrified of the cyclist, Darcy Sheppard? Was it Sheppard that Bryant feared or the situation, knowing that being involved in an altercation with a cyclist wouldn’t be good for his reputation – or his career? Are we permitted to use emotions such as fear – or love - as reasons for behaviour that we wouldn’t ordinarily engage in? When you see your life disappearing right in front of your eyes, it can be traumatic. Realizing in one split second that all he things you dreamed about and hoped for are at risk, and may never come about, can have a dramatic effect on a person’s ability to respond appropriately to the situation.

On the effects of the incident to Michael Bryant and his career, a friend is reported as saying,

“An acquittal will remove the possibility of jail, but not the stain of his stupidity. He’ll forever be known, fairly or not, as the guy whose political career ended one fateful August night on Bloor St.” (Is Michael Bryant’s life, 2009).

First, the assumption that Bryant might be acquitted is irrelevant, speaking in hindsight. Secondly, I question whether this can be put down to stupidity, which implies rationality - rational decision-making, though poorly thought out in the moment. This is more about the emotions – a gut response in the midst of the initial altercation. And finally, it’s not written in stone that he will not be allowed to make a political comeback. See this comparison with a similar incident involving another Toronto bike messenger, Thomas McBride, in 1999 (Michael Bryant: Toronto’s Carnell Fitzpatrick, 2009).

PR expert Jonathan Bernstein knows the importance of charisma in making a comeback – as demonstrated by Bill Clinton, along with other more intentional means of influencing opinion and repairing reputation damage (The long road to reputation, 2009). Social media is another aspect of that (see Michael Bryant's political strategy, 2009). For a day-by day-account of the first week, see Spinning the first week, 2009.

Bryant is currently listed as owner and operator of Humilitus Group, and as a visiting professor at Osgoode Law School (Michael Bryant leaves Norton, 2012.)  He now speaks on his experience and how it has transformed him (Michael Bryant: Former Attorney General, since 2010).

See more on BlogTO on the city’s reaction after the charges against Bryant were dropped, including photos and comments by readers (Michael Bryant walks, 2010).

Bryant charged with criminal negligence after crash
Sept 1, 2009

The contender
By Amanda Lang
Globe and Mail
Jan. 26, 2009, updated Apr 09, 2009

Cyclist may have grabbed Bryant, wheel: police
CBC News
Sept 2, 2009

Death on Bloor: Bryant enters a world beyond political spin
By Josh Wingrove, Timothy Appleby and Kate Hammer
Globe and Mail
Dec 16, 2009

Former Ontario AG Michael Bryant was ‘terrified’ during fatal encounter with cyclist
By Shannon Kari
National Post
May 25, 2010

Is Michael Bryant’s life over – or has it just begun?
By Lynda Hurst
Toronto Star, reprinted for The Record.com
Sept 5, 2009

Jackie Kennedy’s Pink Suit
By Lisa Waller Rogers
Lisa's History room
Feb 12, 2011

The long road to reputation repair
By Simon Houpt
Globe and Mail -Globe Investor
Sept 03, 2009

Michael Bryant: Former Attorney General and Author of 28 Seconds
Speakers' spotlight
since 2010

Michael Bryant leaves Norton Rose
Globe and Mail
Feb 14, 2012, updated Mar. 13, 2012

Michael Bryant's political strategy: PR 2.0
By Kate Hammer
Globe and Mail
Sept 8/14, 2009

Michael Bryant: Toronto’s Carnell Fitzpatrick
Mess Media, Bryant Watch
Nov 19, 2009

Michael Bryant walks, the cycling community rides, and a bad taste lingers
+ comments
By Derek Flack
May 26, 2010

Morality play and a stampede to judgment
By Margaret Wente
No comments permitted
Globe and Mail
Sept 9/ Oct 3, 2009

Spinning the first week of Michael Bryant's new life
By Linda Diebel
TO Star
Sept 5, 2009

5 August 2009

Sexuality, motherhood, and aging: Marilyn Monroe

Revised June, 2012

Marilyn Monroe, had she lived, would now be in her eighties. Marilyn, aka Norma Jeane Mortenson (Baker) was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, less than a year after Margaret Thatcher was born! I don’t think Thatcher is relevant to Marilyn’s story, but it’s quite a contrast! Marilyn died 50 years ago this year, 2012, (Aug 5, 1962) at her Brentwood, California home. She was 36 years old.

Marilyn didn’t have children of her own, although she did get pregnant, says Lisa Manterfield in ‘Life without baby,’ 2011). She had wanted children, and adopted children too, but her career was also important to her. This was at a time when reliable birth control in the form of ‘the pill’ wasn’t available.

Fast-track ahead, and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier, in her best-seller, ‘No Kids: 40 Good Reasons’ (2009), takes a humorous look at her own life with children, and at the choices people are making today, seeing them as reasonable alternatives (see Doug Saunder’s article, 'I really regret it. I really regret’, 2007, 2009). As Melanie Notkin writes, more women today are choosing to remain childless, as well as seeking alternatives to a situation not of their choosing (see Truth about childless women, 2011).

Hilary Mantel presents her views on powerful, ordinary older women, recalled from her childhood, in the article ‘Women over 50 – the invisible generation,’ 2009). A brief mention of Margaret Thatcher is included. One wonders, though, would Marilyn have aged well?

Ayn Rand wrote ‘Through your most grievous fault’ – a tribute to Marilyn - within two weeks of Marilyn’s death. In it, she says,

“Envy is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity--the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger's misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good--hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy” (Marilyn Monroe: Through Your Most Grievous Fault, 1962).

That was very kind of Rand to say all that, but it doesn’t seem very objective. I’m quite sure that Marilyn’s way of life, projecting herself as a sexual, sensual woman, could well have been the reason some people didn’t approve of her. Calling it ‘envy’ just doesn’t seem to catch the significance of any disapproval she experienced. Perhaps Rand was thinking of her own accomplishments, and criticism of them when she spoke. The idea of envy certainly takes away from the more complex reasons people have for being critical of someone’s views or lifestyle.

The song "Candle in the Wind," originally written in 1972 by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, in honour of Marilyn Monroe, is performed by Elton John here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uvux60fqNU8 (courtesy of 'libysin', You Tube). Also see tribute to Marilyn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IotIPev5NBY&feature=related (courtesy of Danielle625, You Tube).

Life Without Baby: Marilyn Monroe
By Lisa Manterfield
Mar 29, 2011

No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children (also published as ‘No Kid 40 Raisons De Ne Pas Avoir Enfant’, 2007)
By Corinne Maier
McClelland & Stewart

On This Day: 5th August 1962: Marilyn Monroe found dead
On this Day, 1950 - 2005

The Truth About Childless Women
By Melanie Notkin
Huffington Post
July 11, 2011

Women over 50 – the invisible generation
By Hilary Mantel
The Guardian
Aug 4, 2009

Marilyn Monroe: Through Your Most Grievous Fault
By Ayn Rand
Capitalism Magazine
July 22, 2003

'I really regret it. I really regret having children'
By Doug Saunders
Globe and Mail
originally published Sept 2007, last updated Jul 29, 2009

links updated June 2012

28 July 2009

Rideau Canal, Kingston: Four members of the Shafia family found dead

In the Globe and Mail recently, an article by Christie Blatchford appeared about Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammed Yahya, and their 18-year-old son, Hamed, who have been arrested for the murder of three of the couple's children as well as Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammed. The four women were discovered on June 30, 2009, in the family car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal at Kingston, Ontario. The title of Blatchford's column was 'It's no accident that victims were all female,' a reminder to me of the knee-jerk reactions by feminists to the killings committed by Marc Lepine back in 1989 - feminists who could never let anyone forget that it was women he killed, and only women. The public was never given a chance to get rid of these first impressions, which tended to gather more support as time went on, particularly as opposing voices never had much of a chance to get heard. It's always a rousing opportunity, when something can be explained simply, such as in terms of an 'honour killing,' to gain support for a social cause. But even if the death of the eldest teenage victim could be included under this label, 'honour killing,' it is more likely that the circumstances were far more complex than that, and attempting to explain it away by the claim that they were all female is a bit farfetched.

As ordinary members of the public we don't have access to all the details, but fragments that have emerged in the media indicate that this is a genuine piece of multiculturalism at work - two cultures, at least. If the first wife of Mohammad Shafia had wanted a divorce, as reported by Paul Schliesmann (July 24), that could create a dilemma, and not only because the marriage between them had not been acknowledged legally in this country. When she died last month, at midlife, Rona Amir Mohammed might have been looking forward to a new life apart from her family. Rona had served her purpose, for more than 20 years raising the 7 children that Shafia's second wife, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, had given birth to, and might have thought it was time for a change. But how does one accomplish that, when honour, a clash of cultures, and legal problems lead to further difficulties - seemingly impossible difficulties to reconcile in this new country?

Referring to this as an 'honour killing' surely misses out on the complexity of the circumstances, including the part each of the accused had in the planning and carrying out of the deed. I wonder, aside from that, about the role that Sharia's second wife played in the marriage, especially as it turned out the children she and her husband had together were being cared for by his first wife, who lived with them but who in public was known as their cousin. How shocked would we be if it came out that the girls' biological mother knew beforehand that they were to have their lives ended while on their family holiday? Should we be looking at this as a gender issue, as male against female, to the extent that, if any woman got caught up in the middle of it that there was necessarily a good reason, such as her husband sneaking off to have sex with wife number one, as Blatchford suggests might be a plausible reason for discontent? The family was Muslim, as was Marc Lepine, as it happens, although how much traditional Muslim norms influenced this set of circumstances is questionable. Blatchford writes, "what seems to underlie these murders, what appears to be the real bottom-line context, is the belief that men are superior to women," but I don't believe men see themselves as superior in general, any more than women do when they are trying to maintain control of the little worlds they create. Men may see themselves as having the right to take appropriate steps to resolve difficulties within the family, and their rights are often upheld by female members of the family. This tragedy is an indication of the compexity of gendered relations, of the never-to-be-equal aspects of marriage and parenthood, and the generations of family that follow. Besides that, the differences in cultures may unwittingly have contributed towards the family's having arrived at a point of non-resolution, requiring a solution not able to be accounted for in Canadian multicultural values, norms, or through our laws, leaving us no choice but to acknowledge that our world is not as rational as we like to think it is. Once a mistake has been made, or a straying from accepted norms, perhaps it can simply be too difficult to bring things back to normal.

At the close of Christie Blatchford's column, a note was added: "Comments have been disabled. Editor's Note: We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. We appreciate your understanding." Another piece in the G&M, by Jill Colvin, was open for comments, but why Christie Blatchford was allowed to write from her own narrow-minded perspective and not be open for comments from readers is unexplainable. She added this, about men's superiority: "Canadians don't believe that, do not accept the core belief of many ethnic groups that women aren't equal to men and are less valuable a creature." But Christie, don't you see that people in Canada often show no respect for women unless they're 'like' men - working alongside them, doing things men do, doing it their way, making money, and being as ruthless. They are not above treating with disrespect women who don't fit in with these feminist norms.

It's no accident that victims were all female
Christie Blatchford
Opinions, Globe and Mail
Friday, Jul. 24, 2009
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/columnists/christie-blatchford/its-no-accident-that-victims-were-all-female/article1229548/   or http://SAMcPherson.homestead.com/files/Miscellaneous/2009_Christie_Blatchford_Its_no_accident.doc

Family held in canal deaths
Andrew Chung Toronto Star
Thursday, Jul 23, 2009

Parents charged with murder
By Jill Colvin
Globe and MailFriday, Jul. 24, 2009
Direct link to article no longer available

Were deaths of 4 women a matter of 'honour'?
Andrew Chung In Kingston, Ont.
Daniel Dale In Toronto
Toronto Star
Jul 24, 2009 04:30 AM

Parents, son charged in canal deaths
By Paul Schliesmann, Sun Media
Canoe News
July 24, 2009
or http://habsrus.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=NonHockey&action=print&thread=14328

Links updated Apr 12, 2012

12 July 2009

Resentment towards the privileged: inability to take responsibility

In the New York times article, 'Dangerous Resentment,' Judith Warner takes up the battle of fellow elitist Bridget Kevane, a mother who perceived herself as being unjustly victimized by her local shopping mall, the police, the prosecutor, and women not so privileged as herself. In her own explanation of the events, in Guilty as Charged (Brain, Child 2009), Bridget Kevane closes with these words:

"For feeling constantly torn between so many daily demands, trying to make it all work, but knowing that I sometimes fall short, I am guilty. But of knowingly putting my children in harm’s way by letting them go to the mall alone? Not guilty."

Perhaps this is the crux of the matter, for she didn't simply allow her kids and friends to go to the mall. She drove them there - in her words, to "a safe place". In this magazine for 'thinking mothers', she emphasizes the closeness of her community, how the children "wander to each other’s homes," going "from one house to the other, to the park, or walking around the nearby university." She also mentions her own childhood, telling how she developed her independence in a family of eight siblings altogether. She says, "In many ways, I raised my youngest sister, walking her around the neighborhood, taking her to the local neighborhood store, and more."

Her mother, she says, "believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence by depending on themselves." But Bridget driving her children to the mall for the afternoon had nothing to do with the manner in which Bridget gained independence as a child, getting familiar with her neighbourhood, making decisions about where to go and when to leave for home.

The mall Bridget drove her children to was not within her local community, and it was not mentioned how far away it was if the children had decided to walk home. It might have been better, if she had wanted to lie down for an hour or two, to let the children go for a walk to the park, or to the corner store for an ice cream, than to drive them outside their local area to a mall so she could take a nap. That way, at least, if the children had had a disagreement, or one felt tired or unwell, they wouldn't have had to disturb her at home to come back to the mall to pick them up.

It's also not rational to assume that because an 11-year-old is capable of babysitting within the confines of their home that they can safely assume responsibility in a public area such as a mall, with a Macys and other stores, a movie theatre, and dining areas. The children were placed in a situation of not being able to make certain decisions, but were entirely dependent on the shopping mall being a 'safe place' for kids.

I know that educated women can sometimes be treated unfairly. But I think that women's upbringing can be what counts against some of them, if they fail to comprehend the lives of other women and the subject matter they have been given the privilege of researching and writing about. Unfortunately, too many women who do so don't know what they're talking about.

Judith Warner, the author of Dangerous Resentment, the NY Times article about mother and professor Bridget Kevane, argues that the incident in no way could be called 'child endangerment,' the charge brought against the mother. I wonder if Judith has a better suggestion, perhaps 'abandonment,' or should the wayward mother simply have been let off if there was no appropriate name for this error in judgement. What is clear, however, is that Judith Warner is out of her depth.

Some of the 259 comments on this article, Dangerous Resentment, have dealt with these issues, and are well worth the read, including how a poor mother in shabby clothes would have been dealt with by the police, and some of the mindless assumptions made by Bridget Kevane, privileged due to her elitist position as a professor to believe that it is her right to let children in her care spend the day alone at the mall. The resentment some of us feel, about women like Kevane, and about Judith Warner, is that they use their position to take advantage of others while avoiding responsibility. In other words, they don't have a clue what this world is all about.

Guilty as Charged
By Bridget Kevane
Brain, Child magazine
July 1, 2009

Dangerous Resentment
By Judith Warner
NY Times
July 9, 2009

links updated May, 2012

7 July 2009

Refusing to Multiply: motherhood or career

The comment below was my response to the article by Leonard Stern, editorial pages editor, Ottawa Citizen, July 3, 20, 2009. He was questioning how to get Canada's citizens to choose parenthood. He says, "The brutal truth is this: The only sure-fire way to ensure women have lots of children is to deny them sexual equality. (Needless to say, this is an approach I’d oppose.)"

My online comment, July 6, 2009:
You mean other than surrogate motherhood? If it's not for money - for profit - what would be the motivation for today's generation of women? I hope that doesn't sound too cynical. But why would women want to give up the respect, the financial gain, the independence, and legitimate additions to their resume rather than provide the service of childbearing within marriage? Bearing and raising children as part of marriage is not enough in today's world to enable women to have their caring, problem-solving, planning, analytical, social, and community involvement skills recognized. Take a look at my website: http://samcpherson.homestead.com/StoryofMyLife.html . So, either start paying what it's worth [for women to give birth], or give mothers the respect they deserve.

Added May 2, 2012

Lately there has been controversy about birth control, and who is responsible for paying for it – the women using it, or their employers and colleges, through their medical insurance plans. Some see the obstinance of some colleges and insurance companies a strategy to get women back into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.

But is it simply that working women are expected to be responsible for paying for their own oral contraceptive, seeing as they have the money to do so; and college girls, well, it isn’t a necessity for them, is it? Yes, of course, the girls and women can come up with all sorts of reasons why it shouldn’t be their responsibility, for instance, they argue that sometimes, the pill is used for non-reproductive purposes, which they then expand into a general reason why all girls having sex and not wanting to get pregnant should have it paid for too.

But is the difficult of having contraception covered a ploy to have more women pregnant, doing their duty, so to speak, to reproduce another generation. That’s what the article “Refusing to multiply’ is suggesting, that women are reluctant to give up their power and their freedom at work to have children. Yet no one is stopping women from obtaining the pill for purposes of contraception. It isn’t a 50s style argument. It’s just that the women are expected to pay for it themselves out of their pay.

This seems as much to do with sex itself as the issue of contraception. Sandra Fluke received an apology (see Rush Limbaugh apologizes, Mar 3, 2012) after being called a slut, but the fact that this idea was expressed at all is an indication of how the use of contraception can be viewed - not in terms of preventing pregnancy but in terms of having sex not for the purpose of procreation.

A rather odd article in Macleans, ‘You can’t mandate marriage,’ discusses the idea of promoting marriage, but concludes that ‘love’ cannot be mandated, a rather old-fashioned idea by today’s standards, whereby women still appear to want the best mate possible to ensure their own success, if not a good provider for their family.

In ‘Why was I shamed over contraception?’ not all the issues come through, though I suspect that young women, who today often have a great deal of belief in their rights, might feel they don’t need to hear the negative side of taking the morning-after pill, not even the first time they use it.

Finally, to end where I started, I would say that the problem of women not wanting to become mothers, or not even wanting to be married, can’t be resolved if these ways of life aren’t attractive to them, and aren’t rewarding, either financially or for their own self-fulfillment. The state – and society - can try to make it so that women need marriage, and need to have children, but haven’t we already tried that?

If the decision-makers of the families or the workplace – or of feminism or men’s rights groups - lean towards becoming dictators in order to get their own way, not recognizing that not all women are the same, then discord will continue. Until these groups recognize that getting one’s rights usually means that someone else’s are being trampled on, women will continue to demand theirs and make all other women submit to their decision-making, at the expense of society and the future of society.

Birth-Control Pill Helped Boost Women's Wages, New Study Shows
By Stephanie Pappas
Huffington Post
Mar 29, 2012

Refusing to multiply
By Leonard Stern
Ottawa Citizen
July 3, 2009
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Refusing+multiply/1757284/story.html link not available

Rush Limbaugh apologizes to law student over contraception
Philip Elliott Associated Press
Star online
Mar 3, 2012

You can’t mandate marriage, even if it’s good for society
By the editors
Macleans magazine
Oct 11, 2011

Why was I shamed over contraception?
By Lisa Priest
Globe and Mail
Mar 18, 2012

Links updated May 3, 2012

9 June 2009

Cancer victims outrage or ‘sexy’ nepotism in eHealth

What it is exactly that is upsetting members of the public about Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, besides the comments she has made about the issue of the shortage of medical isotopes being "sexy", and is this really the news item we should be focusing on? Is this story upstaging the very real issue of the eHealth system and lucrative contracts being handed out willy nilly?

In the first story, it appears that Lisa Raitt would like to use the shortage of nuclear medicine isotopes, and her ability to do something about it, as a means of advancing her career. There are some incidents of overspending, and what might be perceived as a ‘coldness’ towards the issue of cancer victims’ treatment, and towards their experience as cancer victims and the effect this has on their families. She also made a critical comment about one colleague, Leona Aglukkaq, to another during a private conversation, which was then made public. But does this warrant the loss of her position? Surely this is not the first time a politician has expressed him or herself in an unappealing, cold manner, appearing ambitious beyond belief.

Isn’t this the kind of personal experience a politician (or anyone in a professional position) might go through as they discover more about themselves and the world we live in. The quest for power is not an unusual one. The tendency to use power unwisely is also not that unusual. Many are protected while they make their errors in judgement during their career journey, but it’s also true that some are not. Several accusations, all of a different nature, have been made against Lisa Raitt. I wonder what it is, exactly, they are angry about, or whether this is a real issue at all.

This commotion has come about right on the heels of the eHealth controversy involving Sarah Kramer and her termination package, and Health Minister David Cramer. That story may not be as ‘sexy’ as the one about Lisa Raitt and her attitude towards cancer victims, but there is the matter of the $317,000 severance package, and the lucrative contracts apparently given to Liberal-
friendly firms without taking competitive bids. Sounds pretty sexy to me!

Premier defends Caplan, eHealth board
Toronto Star
June 9, 2009
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/647835 (retrieved June 9, 2009)

Ontario fires eHealth boss over spending scandal 'Important step
       to restore public confidence'
Canwest News Service
June 07, 2009
http://www.nationalpost.com:80/news/story.html?id=1672117 (retrieved June 9, 2009)

Cancer victims outraged over Raitt 'sexy' comment
By Murray Brewster
Toronto Star
June 9, 2009 
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/647933 (retrieved June 9, 2009)

Links updated Apr 2012

27 May 2009

Comments in general, and Letter to the Editor, Globe and Mail

On May 23 I submitted the following 'Letter to the Editor" (letters@globeandmail.ca) to the Globe and Mail. I will expand on the issue here, however, by adding links to compilations of some of the comments made by readers about the two articles.

In two articles this month, Sarah Boesveld addressed the subject of work, in ‘No shame in self-promotion’ (May 4) and ‘The quiet shame of job success’ (May 11). Ms Boesveld must have a knack for saying the things that get people thinking, as both articles received many worthwhile comments. I am perturbed, however, that in the end, what we are left with is only the article. The original links to the articles do not work, although I did manage to access the articles (minus comments) through checking the columnist’s name and accompanying list of articles. It concerns me that the articles got considerable attention from the public, but none of this is on record at the Globe and Mail online, not for future readers or for researchers. In this sense, I would describe the Comments service offered by G&M as a tension reliever, but not as anything significant for the purpose of knowing what ordinary people actually think. Some of us put in considerable time and effort into making comments that are insightful and informative, based on our life experience and our education. To have only the ‘authoritative’ view available two weeks later is both demeaning and disappointing.

Today, Wed May 27, I decided to submit the letter directly to the Editor, Angus Frame, at aframe@globeandmail.ca . The letter has been submitted and, as you can see, rather than wait any longer for a response from somebody, it is also on my blog.

Sarah Boesveld and readers. ‘No shame in self-promotion’ and comments. Globe and Mail, May 4, 2009

Sarah Boesveld and readers. ‘The quiet shame of job success’ and comments. Globe and Mail, May 11, 2009

26 April 2009

Sexuality and ‘The Purity Myth’ by Jessica Valenti

An short excerpt from the book The Purity Myth appeared yesterday on Parentcentral.com on the Toronto Star pages online. The subheading was ‘The author of a new book argues against purity cults’, and that is what Jessica Valenti does, in this promotion of her book. How does such tripe get included in the parents’ section of the Toronto Star? Do parents realize that this author is promoting promiscuity in this piece, and possibly within the entire book if this is any indication of what it’s about?

Approaching this subject in a black-and-white manner, only seeing two perspectives, she leaves readers with the suggestion that purity and virginity are old-fashioned and destructive towards young women’s sense of themselves, sexually. Attempting to turn readers (parents?) against the idea of purity and virginity is not a rational approach to the serious topic of young women’s sexuality. It’s part of it, but it isn’t the main problem. Making virginity the problem suggests to readers that the only alternative is so-called sexual ‘freedom,’ a stance I find damaging for girls/women and to society, maybe more so than the idea that women should remain pure. My response to the piece submitted online follows:

The double standard of gender differences in sexuality

Jessica Valenti has set up two polar opposites in this excerpt, creating a false sense of what the problems are. It's popular now to 'be sexual', as she says, although I wonder how much of the 'being sexual' is really that, for many young women out of touch with their own bodies. Valenti claims that "The sexual double standard is alive and well, and it's irrevocably damaging young women," but the problem actually is that feminists, in their attempt to do away with the double standard, have put women in the position of having to pretend there is no double 'standard', if standard is the right word.

Men's sexuality IS different than women's. Men have a different physical body, different biology, different hormones, while the standard men (and women) are led to believe in is that women are the same as men, sexually, and are, or should be, willing and able to have sex, without a relationship, for the sake of fun and sexual release only. Women are rewarded for perpetuating that tradition.

How 'virginity' is a dangerous idea
Jessica Valenti
Parentcentral.ca (Toronto Star)
Apr 25, 2009

24 April 2009

Discrimination against mentally disabled and developmentally challenged: Orillia

Recently, in March, 2009, while searching the internet for information on the Ontraio Hospital at Orillia, Ontario, I came across a website offering the postcard 'Ontario Hospital or the Orillia Asylum for Idiots'. The site was apparently set up by the Orillia Public Library. I submitted a comment (on March 16, 2009) to the site, http://images.ourontario.ca/orillia/details.asp?ID=20399&p=c, giving my thoughts on this, as follows:

I'm really surprised that a library would resort to using this kind of description - even if it's true that the Ontario Hospital at Orillia once was called the Asylum for Idiots. To have it set up so that people can actually send this card by email is beyond belief. If you had the opportunity, library staff, would you make such postcards available to email if they showed and mentioned 'n----rs'? [Posted by Sue McPherson, 16 Mar 2009 at 16:17].

When I checked the other day, a response had been posted from the editors of the site, but which neglected to address my concerns:

Thank you for your comments Sue. I appreciate your concern regarding derogatory terms in these listings but the fact of the matter is...the name of the hospital was at that time called the Orillia Asylum for Idiots. Bear in mind that this was a the term used back in the 1860.s & 1870s. Of course we don't use such terms today. However, when inputting historical information it is important that we keep the names, titles and terminology given at that period in time. This makes it easier for those doing research and will be looking for something using the official title. Here is some history on the building you might find it interesting. This is a direct passage from the Frost Scrapbook. Couchiching Beach Park was originally called ‘Asylum Point”. The building was originally erected for a hotel by Henry Fraser of Price’s Corners. It was purchased by the Government in 1859 and enlarged and occupied by a “Convalescent Lunatic Asylum” to use the objectionable description of those days. The hospital was under the charge of Dr. John Ardagh. The name was later changed to “Orillia Lunatic Asylum for Chronic Patients”. This was later converted to “Asylum for Idiots” under Dr. Beaton. The Beaton family were very well known in Orillia. The building was then torn down after which the property was purchased by the Town for Couchiching Beach Park. The Price was $10,000.00. The present great institution for defective children was then erected on its present on Lake Simcoe. On an aside. In later years the new building became known as the Huronia Regional Centre or H.R.C. That is what it is called today.

I decided to submit another comment, which I did today, April 24, 2009, to the same site, as follow:

I didn't realize you were 'inputting historical information on the internet' in this manner. I thought it was a joke - a bad one, making fun of people, once again, whose mental condition has so often been something of ridicule in society. The fact of the matter is, that while it may be true the institution was called that (an asylum for idots) it is not so true that it was them who were the idiots. It might just be that the people who put them there, who treated them, and punished them, were the idiots.

I could understand it, to some extent, if you felt threatened by the people you are telling this kind of distortion about, if they were rich, powerful women and men. But they weren't. The patients were often lied about, or punished for not conforming to society, perhaps placed in the mental hospital by their families in order to get rid of them, or sometimes they may have been victims of misunderstandings, of their own emotions, or the emotions of others. I agree, to a large extent, that understanding the circumstances of the historical topic requires an analysis sensitive to its history, but more than that I believe it requires an analysis sensitive to the topic itself, and not just to the historical period. Unfortunately, that was lacking in the original set-up of the postcard online, as you (who by the way still remains anonymous) must realize. I do realize that the Orillia institution was more recently known as the Huronia Regional Centre, from doing an internet search on the subject, and many years ago I worked summers at the Ontario Hospital in Woodstock (later called the Oxford Regional Centre), and knew of the hospital in Orillia.
[submitted April 24, 2009, by Sue McPherson].

Added Apr 25, 2012

Since then, several other comments have been made, some concerned about having the truth about the hospital told, some more about the criticism itself.

As it happens, through the comments now on this site, telling the story of the building, one of the main problems has been resolved. If a reputable organization decides to promote its city’s history or offer information for anyone with connections, then using a defamatory title on such a postcard would need to be accompanied by an explanation of how it came to be used and what the building later came to be known as – in other words – the history of the postcard.

Simply posting an image of the postcard, for internet viewers to access and pay a fee to email interested others, without explaining the history, would simply perpetuate the ignorance of viewers as well as, perhaps, receivers of the email postcard which had the title ‘Orillia Asylum of Idiots.’

Strangely, I didn’t receive any acknowledgment of the part I played in raising awareness of this issue, but I do hope it has sunk in. Without an explanation to go with the postcard, displaying it in such a manner suggests other motives than educating readers.

Postcard ‘Orillia Asylum for Idiots’
Orillia Library online images

Link updated Apr 2012

11 April 2009

Montreal massacre article by Timson

Following the April 7, 2009 article on the Montreal Massacre in the Globe and Mail are comments made by readers on many aspects of this event in Canada's history and the impact it and feminism have had on Canada. Particularly relevant in today's society, due to the failing economy, is the fact that there are more middle class double-career families, while other men and women get left out. The more one has, the more one gets.

So some men and women are struggling to meet deadlines for ever-increasing mountains of work, heaped upon their ever-heightening reputations, while other men and women who never got the chance to move ahead may be struggling to pay the bills. Note: the subject of the article is not the main issue of my blog today. Discussion through the comments made on the article is.

Added Apr 25, 2012

The comments made on the Timson article are available to read in the document listed below.

Note: Those who would prefer that their comment not be included in this document please let me know the username and date/time and I will remove it.

I have also included in the list of references two articles by Mark Steyn, the first of which is on the same topic as Timson’s article, and was mentioned by a commenter. The second was a response by Steyn to the comments he received.

Excusing the men who ran away
By Mark Steyn
Mar 5, 2009

Montreal massacre: Let's stop this talk of cowards
By Judith Timson
Globe and Mail
Apr 7, 2009

Montreal Massacre website
By Sue McPherson

The silence of the Canadian lambs
By Mark Steyn
Macleans magazine
Mar 26, 2009

Links updated June 2012

10 February 2009

Attitudes towards poverty

This article, the Poverty-Health Link, needs more of a response than simply saying the solution is to "reduce poverty." I have found that living without enough money is extremely stressful, besides not always having the money to pay for healthy-living foods. Stress itself might lead one to seek comfort foods, at least on more occasions than those better off. Giving up - feeling despondent about life - could lead to a poor person to have difficulty finding the effort to exercise, not to mention not having the money to take a taxi to the local swimming pool (a situation I found myself in Colchester, UK. Buses only got as close as several blocks away.) Then, when this despondency is seen by others, it may be mistaken for laziness. Trying to deal with the attitudes of ignorant others is half the battle. It's difficult to get to some medical appointments, when the cost of taxis and parking is sometimes beyond one's means.

Would poor people be best advised to spend their last $10 on healthy food, or keeping that appointment to take care of that health problem? For people not on welfare or not officially disabled, struggling to get by, assistance in transportation costs would be a great idea. Local governments, and any interested group:(1) Try and make health and recreation facilities available to everyone, not just those who have their own transportation, money, and health to access them. (2) Educate public employees, especially those in health services, what it feels like to not have one's needs listened to, especially if one's health is poor. (3) Provide low-cost foods in supermarkets, some labelled 'basic' if you like, and fruits and vegetables with flaws, for those who have no hangups about such things. (4) Recognize that there probably are a lot of people struggling with health and money issues who also have to deal with the general public attitude that being poor means one is stupid and lazy.

The poverty-health link

Toronto Star
Feb 10, 2009

Beyond Workaday Worlds
By Sue McPherson
S A McPherson website

Links updated Apr 2012

21 January 2009

Censorship: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This situation seem so contrived! Based on one complaint, by one person, the appropriateness of the book A Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is to be investigated by the school board. Surely it's not the first time someone has 'complained' about it, or laid a complaint. Most formal complaints to school boards wouldn't receive the attention this book has, nor would the man who laid the complaint usually receive so much attention. Are the complaints procedures that public, rather than internal to the organization? Secretaries in such organizations are usually very good at protecting their bosses. And others in the organization are usually very good at covering up what they want covered up. So I suggest that this complaint, formal or otherwise, was permitted to surface because it was the right time and the right place, and the right person doing the complaining.

In this case, the complainant is a man, and he has three sons for whose lives he obviously takes much responsibiity. There's nothing like an all-male family, one with an absent female presence, to reinforce the main claim of the Handmaid's Tale, published over 20 years ago, that an oppressive gender division was in the works for the future, and that it would be men doing the oppressing. At the same time, attention would be deflected from the idea that it's not really gender that is the problem in the world today, it is class. For the most part, women in the book, The Handmaid's Tale, were sorted according to their social class, and one could probably say that marital status was just as important, just as it is today. Men's lives, in the book, were also inhibited and controlled, although just how much they would have felt their sexual situation intolerable, perhaps dependent on class status, is debatable. Having to have sex with another women lying between his wife's legs just might have appealed to some of these fictional characters, even if they were forced to deny it to conform to society's norms.

Is it denial that leads the main speaker to speak of unecessary brutality and sexism, or do his views, and the fact that he is the speaker, serve a political purpose? Robert Edwards is not a popular person at the current time, not among censorship objectors, lovers of Atwood or, apparently, feminists. But someone has allowed this case to surface. Is it really against feminists' interests to have him speak out so openly against the book? He has managed to distract readers from thinking about class differences and alliances in the book itself, and also to distract them from thinking about social class in society today. Making a book such as this appear unworthy for his sons to read, he surely will endear himself to feminists everywhere, who stand to benefit from the false notion that, because of this book our citizens are more aware of the negative aspects of such patriarchal, controlling attitudes in society.

It's been a long time since I read the book, while a student at university, and at the time I was both impressed and appalled at the suggestions that came through the reading of it. I see that Atwood's fictional storyline displayed some truth, that the control of sexuality would be a large part of domination in society in the future, as it always has, in some way or other, although how much married women would really regret missing out on motherhood in real life is questionable. In our world today, careers for women are considered practically essential, for fulfillment in life and independence. So, while Robert Edwards seems to be taking a stand against feminism and the liberated female writings of Margaret Atwood, I wonder if he is actually doing feminism a favour, and if he will be rewarded for doing his bit.

Kristin Rushowy
TO Star
Atwood novel too brutal, sexist for school: parent
16 Jan 2009

Added May, 2012

School panel backs Atwood novel
Debra Black Staff Reporter
TO Star
Feb 12 2009