30 July 2010

Motherhood, aging, and resentful adult children: Shirley Anderson's story

Updated Jan 1, 2013
Feb 3, 2013 - Edited and 4 additional references added

Shirley Anderson is suing her adult children for support. An ancient law based on English poor laws throughout Canada, except for Alberta, regards this as the children's duty (Payback time, MacLeans, June 24, 2010). The media has picked on an example of bad parenting, committed by Ken Anderson's mother and father when he was just 15 years old to support the argument of the four adult children being sued, that they shouldn't have to pay support (A bad mother's right to support from her children, National Post, July 27, 2010).

Ken was left behind when his parents moved from Osoyoos to West Kootenay in BC - abandoned, as they describe it. Shirley Anderson took her second-youngest son, Darryl, with her, apparently against her husband Gary's wishes (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). Shirley Anderson raised five children, developed lupus along the way (Payback time for parents, MacLeans, June 24, 2010), and never worked. At age 71, she now has nothing. Gary, her ex, gave her alimony when they divorced, though his boss, Labbatts, needed encouragment to split his pension with her. He has since died.

Shirley went into debt with her credit card. Her attempts to get support have been going on for ten years now. Darryl has been in and out of jail and is not being sued. Ken is 46, married with children, not wealthy but hard-working, and resents the additional burden supporting his mother presents. Daughter Donna Anderson "breaks down in tears when she recalls her tumultuous childhood with the 'mother we never had' " (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). She went to university and is raising two children.

Son Brian bought her a fridge once, in an attempt to build a relationship. Donna and her mother attended counselling together. But nothing worked, the children say. Keith hasn't talked to her in years. "She doesn't even know we're alive," he is quoted as saying (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010), though it appears she does. He adds, "She never worked and she's never worked at her family either."

It's suprising that she managed to raise such enterprising children - none got put into foster homes, only one in trouble with the law. They have educated themselves and worked hard, formed relationships and raised families. They also seem to have little tolerance for women of that era, who often did stay home with the children while the husband worked - cooking, cleaning, driving the children to school functions, community events, and to the doctor and dentist - shopping, sewing, mending, filling out forms for school, getting them their shots at the doctor's, putting on birthday parties, and so on. And she had five children to worry about! At the time Shirley was raising her family, the one-salary family was the quite typical, the man being the breadwinner, his earnings enough for the entire family. That changed, in the 70's probably, until we reached this time where it takes two incomes for a family to feel they have enough.

There is uncertainty about this kind of law, though Surrey, BC, lawyer David Greig says that a child must have means to pay support before they are made to (Payback time for parents, MacLeans, June 24, 2010). Unfortunately, it's part of the human condition for people to always think they need more. And whether the reason the children are so critical of their mother is, in part, due to their not wanting to have to pay her, we don't know. Whether it should be the children's responsibility or the system's, is the larger question.

Shirley's lawyer, Donald McLeod, says "My interest quite frankly is to see that someone is treated right, and that's all I care about . . . I don't know very many people that would not be happy to support an aged parent. The duty to support and assist an elderly parent transcends everything else" (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). And finally he says, "What kind of mother she was, or is, shouldn't matter. To engage in any analysis of who is at fault, I think that is a useless exercise."

"Do vengeance and vindictiveness have a place in the lives of otherwise decent people?" is the question asked in another piece on this subject (Forgiveness for an errant elder, Vancouver Sun, July 29, 2010). If Shirley was as bad as the children's stories suggest and this was not simply about money, the eye-for-an-eye retribution seems to be a little extreme. It is a symptom of our times - this hatred towards the older generation, especially women or anyone who is isolated and cannot defend themselves. Read the comments with the articles, for an idea of how our society thinks about them. It makes one wonder just how civilized we are.

Added Jan 1, 2013
A recent international news piece in the National Post, about Palestinian women being denied their rightful inheritance, raises a related matter. It may apply to Shirley Anderson’s situation, or may not. It simply is not mentioned – and why would it be – if the children received an inheritance from one of their mother’s relations through plans made for it to skip a generation. Such plans would no doubt be legal, though if some coercion had occurred, of an elderly relative, to perhaps ensure that certain descendants be left off the list of beneficiaries, then could this be considered an ethical digression, if not outright illegal? (see Tradition, social pressure keeping Palestinian women from their inheritances, Dec 27, 2012).

It is easy for people on the outside to judge, especially if they don’t know all the circumstances. False accusations or distortions of events made against the mother may hold little if any truth. It is far easier for those who hold power to have their word taken as truth than a mother fighting for survival. Some of what has been said I find shocking, particularly as one who found it necessary to leave the marriage I was in, the effects of it following me for a long time afterwards. No one is a perfect parent or spouse, but the odd one may cause harm that lasts. So much is talked about of women being able to choose to be stay-at-home mothers, but that works if she has a husband who will treat her like a human being, during the marriage and if it should end for some reason, then afterwards too. As we see here, from children who surely must have taken a huge amount of their mother’s time to raise, Shirley Anderson deserves more than what she got, from her family and from the legal system.

A bad mother's right to support from her children
By Adrian MacNair
National Post, Full comment
July 27, 2010

Adult children won’t have to support mom, court rules
By Ian AustinThe Province
Jan 31, 2013http://www.theprovince.com/news/Adult+children+have+support+court+rules/7896113/story.html

Anderson v. Anderson, 2013 BCSC 129 (CanLII)
Court case result

Forgiveness for an errant elder
By Catherine A. Mori
Vancouver Sun
July 29, 2010

Payback time for parents
By Nancy Macdonald
June 24, 2010

Runaway mom who sued adult children for support after abandoning them as teenagers NOT entitled to money: judge
National Post Wire Services
Feb 1, 2013

Shirley Anderson, Mom Who Sued Kids For Support, Loses Case
The Huffington Post B.C.
Jan 31, 2013

Tradition, social pressure keeping Palestinian women from their inheritances
By Diana Atallah
National Post - The Media Line
Dec 27, 2012

What do we owe our parents?
By Denise Ryan
Vancouver Sun
July 24, 2010

Links updated Feb 3, 2013

19 July 2010

What's wrong with the Pamela Anderson PETA ad: plus the Rylstone and District Women's Institute calendar and the female Czech politicians calendar

revised Apr 23, 2010

The ad depicting bikini-clad Pamela Anderson as a piece of meat, the names of the cuts such as 'rump' and 'breast' displayed on her body, has been denied a public display by a Montreal agency. An animal rights group, PETA, had wanted to use the poster to gain interest in its cause, animal rights. On the basis of it being sexist, PETA was denied a permit, thus forbidding the group to use the poster, officially, in the launch of its campaign in Montreal at Place Jacques-Cartier in front of the City Hall. Instead, the launch is scheduled for a local restaurant.

Check out the double entendre in this McDonald's ad which illustrates its meat in a manner opposite to the way the PETA ad does (Piece of meat, Slang City, 2005). Ingrid Newkirk and the PETA group don't seem to have any regard for human females, only female (and male) animals. If they did, would they use sex in this manner to draw attention to animal rights. Continuing to perpetuate the idea that women are pieces of meat in men's eyes is harmful to women - not to women who have the financial means and the support to remain safe but to the ones who have to rely on men for their survival and who have little power on their side.

Will people buy the PETA poster just because the proceeds go to PETA, or because it is a poster of a beautiful Pamela Anderson, or do they enjoy the joke behind it more, that women are often talked of as being pieces of meat for the sexual use of men and here it is, in a poster endorsed by PETA? This is not the first time controversial images have been used by PETA (see PETA women-as-meat, June 14, 2008). No doubt the poster will enhance Pamela Anderson's reputation, as the PETA site claims, giving her the opportunity to show off "her outer-and inner-beauty to promote a vegetarian diet and point out the similarities between humans and animals" (Pamela Anderson shows that all animals, July 17, 2010). But the effect on the women within society, and on men, is still debatable.

Scantily-clad women are all over the internet. Female Czech politicians have made the news recently, promoting their risqué 2011 calendar (Czechmates, July 9, 2010) to highlight the presence of women in politics. One of the women who appears in the calendar is Marketa Reedova, a 42-year-old Prague city councilwoman now running for mayor. She says "Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy? . . . Czechs are open-minded."

Why not show it? Maybe because being sexy isn't simply about showing it. Surely it's closer to being porn than being sexual, if we see porn as something men seek for their own needs while women perform, while being sexy is more to do with the person and her partner. Nevertheless, Czechs are following the lead of the west, the article claims, resisting "the unglamorous trappings and enforced unisex treatment imposed by socialism" (Czechmates, July 9, 2010). Taking steps to 'prove' they are sexual, in such a public manner, would surely be a sign of insecurity, not like the kind of behaviour shown by Pamela Anderson, who surely has nothing more to prove in that respect. For more on the calendar, see Backlash Begins, July 19, 2010.

A decade ago another group of women, members of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute, published a nude calendar (see Calendar girls galore, April 24, 2010). It was a tremendous success! The article tells how the calendar, still being published, has changed over time, and explores the effects of the calendar on various groups also using nude calendars to raise money for a cause. I found the calendar to be a sensitive yet bold way of capturing older women's qualities and strengths (see Beer and Tea, July, 2001).

Pamela Anderson has said, "In a city that is known for its exotic dancing and for being progressive and edgy, how sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens" (Pamela Anderson's sexy, July 15, 2010). Women's embodied presence can be a source of power to them. But it can also be exploited, and the images as well as the thoughts behind them might do harm to others. As society continues to deteriorate, under the guise of progress and freedom, especially in the areas of economics and sex, it could be helpful to pause and reflect on some of these issues.

Added Apr 23, 2012

The PETA ad with Pamela Anderson is sexist, but if it isn’t being displayed in a way to intentionally cause offense, and isn’t overly large or imposing, or in the wrong neighbourhood, is there a problem. As others have stated, this display was set up in Montreal, not in a place where sexual images are not seen on a daily basis. The one part of it that is problematic, as I see it, is what is implied by showing a woman’s body as pieces of meat.

As images of sex become more overt, sometimes in unexpected places (see Public displays of private matters, July, 2007), and more women appear to accept that using their sexual attractiveness to achieve their goals is the norm in society today, while men respond to that the way men will, do we need strategies that prevent this from becoming the new form of ‘merit.’


Backlash Begins for Czech Calendar MPs
By Leos Rousek
New Europe (US edition)
July 19, 2010

Beer and Tea: Harmony and Contradiction Among Two Unlikely Counterparts
By Sue McPherson
July 2001

Calendar girls galore
The Guardian
April 24, 2010

Czechmates: These Political Figures Star in Their Own Racy Calendar
By Gordon Fairclough and Sean Carney
Wall Street Journal
July 9, 2010

Pamela Anderson Shows That All Animals Have the Same Parts
July 17, 2010

Pamela Anderson's new PETA ad branded 'sexist' and banned in Canada
By Mail Online Reporter
Daily Mail
16 July 2010

Pamela Anderson's sexy body-baring PETA ad gets banned in Canada
By Kristie Cavanagh
NY Daily News
July 15, 2010

PETA women-as-meat demonstration
By Gwen Sharp
Sociological Images by Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp
June 14, 2008

Piece of Meat
Slang City

Public displays of private matters - Irene Mathyssen and James Moore
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 7, 2007

Links updated Apr 23, 2012

3 July 2010

Men's rights versus children's safety: BA deals with the possibility of perverts

BA Airline has been in a spot of trouble for its handling of a delicate social issue. My response here is mainly to the National Post article on the subject - 'You’re male. You must be a pervert,' by Barbara Kay.

I almost didn't respond to this in the section following the article, but I did, in response to another commenter, then got drawn into the topic of discussion - men's rights versus children's. I found the title to be unsettling - an exaggeration of a social problem men don't like to discuss.

I thought this was worthy of telling about here as it is an example of men who cannot see beyond their own needs and their own egos.

It was also an example of how women (one woman - Barbara Kay) can dismiss anyone else's concerns in order that her favourite cause - men's rights - be upheld. I say, Good for the airline for doing what they can to protect children travelling alone!

Finally, it is an example of how rules should not always be followed blindly (though they are good as guidlelines, in certain circumstances, letting them go is best for everyone). There can be extentuating circumstances which following the rules leading. (I know; I came to Oshawa as a stranger and was treated like a criminal, a threat, as someone worthy only of second-class treatment, or less, often by people doing their jobs which means followng the rules without thought.) In this case, the man had been travelling with his pregnant wife and they had switched seats so that she could be more comfortable by the window. The flight attendant was either unable or unwilling to consider the situation in its entirety. He ordered the man back to his original seat.

According to the Daily Mail, the male passenger said "I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating. Neither myself or my wife dared to speak to the boy in case the cabin crew forced us from our seats. The poor child must have thought we were extremely rude and unfriendly."

The male traveller backed off, which was the only thing he could do without looking like a - well - pervert, demanding to be seated next to the unaccompanied child. He did the right thing, and was recompensed for it later, so I fail to see why the situation is still being treated as problematic. The rule itself was not the problem, but the way the situation was handled. He was lucky to be able to sue and recieve justice. There are many people in this world - in Canada - who get treated badly every single day, who dare not speak for fear they will be punished, or who get blamed for anything bad that happens.

The discussion itself raised another issue, of conflicting rights. Sometimes, one person's rights (or one group's) can be stepped on by another person (or group) demanding theirs. In the discussion following the article, one of the commenters argued that if he had been accosted by airline staff about sitting next to an unaccompanied child he would have loudly complained then and there that he was being discriminated against, for being a man, or as news articles have put it - a pervert. Quite a lesson for the boy travelling alone to have to contend with. The male passenger did the only thing he could - he backed off, and was able to sue later.

My final comment on the National Post article was one I had submitted earlier in the discussion but which had been ignored, the commenter accusing me of being a "feminist propagandist" and needing a psychiatrist. So I will leave readers with this.

"I don't know how much feminists have had to do with such rules being created, but there has been increased awareness in society of how boys and girls can be taken advantage of, sexually, when they are left in close quarters with men who are sexual predators. Do you have a better way that the airline can deal with this?" (Sue McP)

Added June, 2012

Another good article explaining the fiaso is one by Dhruti Shah (BA seat policy, 2010). And finally, BA announces a change in policy! (Mirko Fischer winds again, 2010). A third piece, posted onto a Men’s equality website, is included, even though I think their perspective needs to be a bit broader than simply seeking ‘equality’ (Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero, 2010).

I have often said and will continue to say, about feminists, and now about men’s rights activists, that there never can be complete equality. Women need to listen to men’s concerns, and men need to listen to women’s (looking at it from a gender perspective.) Rules are made, or decisions made, then something comes up that puts the rule into question, and further adjustments are made. That’s how it works. And I see this case as being an example of that process. I imagine the people who made that policy weren’t doing it to intentionally embarrass men or make flying more difficult, or to lose customers. They were just thinking of the children.

BA seat policy made man 'feel like a child molester'
By Dhruti Shah
BBC News
June 24, 2010

Businessman sues BA 'for treating men like perverts'
By Sophie Borland
Daily Mail UK
Jan 16, 2010

Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero as British Airways continues its sexism against men
Posted by Skimmington
The Rights of Man
June 25, 2010

Mirko Fischer wins again
By NB, Washington, DC
The Economist, Gulliver
Aug 22, 2010

You’re male. You must be a pervert
By Barbara Kay
National Post Full Comment
July 2, 2010

Links updated June 2012