A Woman’s Place

When is discussing the rights of women going to be off the table?

Women shouldn’t be in universities. School, education and knowledge are rights reserved for males. Men should be in classrooms, they should have the right to exercise this superiority over women in any educational setting. Universities and colleges, up until the early 1900, were exclusively for men. Allowing women to enter school hasn’t had positive results for society. What contributions have women made in medicine, education, the arts and society? What women of note are making a substantial change in the world today? Clearly, women should know their place – in the home – where they can contribute most. Leave education to men who are obviously more capable and competent in the matter. Women should return to their rightful places, and situations like these are encouraging the return of women to their natural place.

Who are women to demand equal pay in a work setting?

Who are women to demand respect from their peers and colleagues?

Who are women to take it upon themselves to be educated?

Who are women to rise above the limiting circumstances they are placed in?

Who are women to dare to be more intelligent, successful and aware than men?

Who are women to choose not to bear children?

Who are women to think and make decisions themselves, not seeking approval from others?

Who are women to be “Strong”?

Who are women to be weak?

Who are women to demand society pay for the injustices done to their race?

Who are women to be comfortable in their skin, their uniquely large, skinny, curvy, boney, pale, dark, bumpy, smooth bodies?

Who are women to demand the right as humans to simply exist?

Who are women to be?

These are just some of the conventional, misogynistic values being reinforced by cases like this. A student taking an online course at York University claims that for religious reasons he cannot meet up with his group (which contains females) in public to do a group project. He asked to be exempt from the project, but the professor J. Paul Grayson, denied his request. When the case was brought to York’s administration, they overruled the Professor Grayson, granting the student exemption from the assignment.

Now, everyone has their own religious beliefs and is entitled to them. Religion is a personal, private matter and no one should have to reconcile or compromise their beliefs. In Canada, everyone has the freedom to express and practice the religion of their choice. However, in a public setting such as a university in which it is explicitly understood to be a public institution, you cannot expect personal, private beliefs that infringe upon the rights of others to be upheld.

I’m sorry for some men who are unaware of this inconvenient truth, but any job you are likely get, in almost any country, will involve you working with, over or under women. I’m sorry. I don’t know why, but women don’t seem to be satisfied with marginalization anymore. For some odd, unimaginable reason, they want to be treated as humans.

Making exceptions for this one student doesn’t promote religious respect; it perpetuates ignorance and allows women to be forever discriminated against in society, work and school. If the injustice were racist or homophobic in nature, I doubt the Dean would have been so quick to hand out sanctions. If anything, the university should have looked into the religious belief that inhibited the student’s participation in the assignment. The religion of the student wasn’t disclosed, but any religious belief that undermines the value of another human being should be scrutinized. As I said, religion is a private, personal matter. People will believe what they want to believe, whether it is in their best interest or not. However, nobody, regardless of their sex, religion, race, sexual orientation, education or birth has the right to demand others comply with these beliefs.

This unfortunate event has offended people internationally. The professor who stood his ground is being commended, and the university that has for decades proclaimed equality and female education has been condemned. Discussion is good; outrage an appropriate response to this injustice. But when is discussing the rights of women going to be off the table?

This is not an attack on religion or men in general. If this injustice is to be rectified, we need to overlook cosmetic differences between men and women and see that we are fundamentally the same. We are human.

Substitute “Jew” with women, homosexuals or any group of people that have experienced discrimination and the injustices felt by Shylock as a human are the same.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

(3.1. 56–61)

Should York have granted these sanctions? Is this discriminatory against the female students in the group? Are women still secondary citizens though make up half the world’s population? Lastly, have you experienced any discrimination or injustice yourself?

Attack of the Crack!

The Writer in the Politician

We can’t simply record facts and experiences objectively because everything is tainted by our subjective lens.

This is a continuation post to Tyranny of the Minority.

If Ford is smoking crack do we attack is actions or his person for engaging in such activities? If he is able to reduce the deficit, do we praise his actions or his determined, efficient self? We don’t know his character. In both instances it wouldn’t be fair to associate his personality with his actions. We have no problem divorcing the executioner from the act of execution in writing, so why not with public figures? The words on pages, and images created speak on their own. The identity of the writer doesn’t, or shouldn’t, affect the analysis of a work.  The words of the writer speak for themselves, and are separate from the person who created them.

Or maybe it isn’t that easy to separate the man from his actions. As writer’s we write our experiences, experiences that are essential to who we are. We can’t simply record facts and experiences objectively because everything is tainted by our subjective lens. Sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing – these things colour our narratives, no two people will describe an apple in the exact same way. We put ourselves in the text, so do we not open ourselves up to criticism?

So maybe it is fair to bring the writer into the work, maybe it is fair to criticize a politician for her/his actions. Maybe it isn’t. While writing this piece I went back and forth, considering both sides, and I still don’t have a conclusive answer.

What are your thoughts? Should the personal lives of politicians be publicly discussed? Or are the lives of politicians exempt from criticism? Is it fair to shoot the messenger? And what about the writer, do you bring writers into criticism?

Tyranny of the Minority: A look at Rob Ford and Government

How do we understand government and its relationship to its people?

What the hell does this have to do with Rob Ford?

As many of you know – thanks to the wonderful nature of late night television – the mayor of Toronto went through some… scrutiny for smoking crack. Now. Let’s get this out there; I am in no way justifying, validating or condemning the mayor’s actions. There are dozens of shows, news reports and comedians already doing this (with varying success), so if you want to know whether he is good or bad I can gladly point you to some articles and comedians. I’m interested in knowing whether we should even criticize politicians for their actions, so what better segue than a politician smoking crack?

Why do we expect politicians to be better than us?

It’s a poor reflection of us as people when we decide to assign “intelligence”, “responsibility” and “maturity” to certain groups of people, making it their “job” to deal with such things.

Saying that “it’s the government’s job to look out for the well-being of its people” is scary. What have we progressed to that we think self-preservation isn’t actually the duty of the self?

Why do we expect our governments to be smarter than us? Why are we disappointed when it’s not?

It is true that there needs to be a level of competence in any government system for it to run. But do you really want to be entirely subjected to the will of your government? I thought that people wanted their government to work for them, submit to their needs, and not prescribe correct methods of conduct. By giving the government such responsibilities we risk elevating them above citizenship, and thus above the law. If the government is above its people then who does it answer to? I can’t help but feel that by suggesting a government needs to be run in this or that manner by this person with these specific characteristics, we set up a government in which those running it can’t answer for their actions, or that they can only answer to themselves because of their “maturity”, “responsibility” and “intelligence”. When the government makes mistakes, as it often does, who then is responsible for criticizing it? It can’t be us, the people, since we obviously do not possess the required intelligence. Obviously.

A government’s relationship with its people is a little contradictory. We shouldn’t say the government has to exclusively uphold ideals because it may allow tyranny, so we should expect politicians to be for, by, and of the people. Yet the government has to be held accountable to the people when it doesn’t fulfill the needs of the people. The politician is the people, a representative made of, for and by them, so would it not be accurate for her to be held accountable to herself? But we don’t allow politicians to be held accountable to solely themselves, which necessarily means that they can’t be of, for or by the people. They are either above or below us. Whether or not the government is above or below us is irrelevant, for whether they serve us or govern over us we still assign certain functions to it. These functions are things we don’t take care of ourselves, such as healthcare, daycare services, criminal enforcement, and other such things under the jurisdiction of government. With these exclusive responsibilities come certain characteristics. You wouldn’t want a healthcare system that favoured the healthy, or a justice system that convicted without evidence. The government needs to be impartial, just and benevolent, among other things, and because of this we’re back at the beginning.

Final Thoughts: After reading this you may be wondering: what the hell does this have to do with Rob Ford? I am too. I decided to split this post into two, because who wants to sit through a thousand word post? Not me.

What are your thoughts on government and its relationship to people? Do you agree with my interpretation of government? Is government inevitably placed above or below its people?

I don’t need you to be my hero

Just some backword thoughts

The less the better. If we had less heroes, the world would be a better place. If we stopped looking up to people, following them, aspiring to be them, then would we actually look at ourselves?

I woke up at 5 this morning and my body refused to let me sleep in until my scheduled wake up time of 7:30. I need to get back into my normal sleeping patterns. If I’m up I might as well do something productive before school. I read a quote from Sherlock, posted by jessicaandtheworld and I loved it, so I jotted down  some of my thoughts. Mind you, at 5 in the morning this may not make much sense — feel free to stop reading if it doesn’t — but I think the construct of heroism is something we should pay attention to not only as people but as writers.

The less the better. If we had less heroes, the world would be a better place. If we stopped looking up to people, following them, aspiring to be them, then would we actually look at ourselves?

Sometimes I get lost in the great authors and their works, and I forget about myself. I’m a writer, and so are you. It’s true that without the bodies of works that we’ve read we wouldn’t be the awesome writers that we are today. We can’t help but be influenced and stimulated by the texts that we read and see. However, it is also true that we need space to grow as writers.

Your voice is unique, your story untold; think of what you risk losing by trying to be Hemingway, Woolf or Shakespeare. These people are our writing heroes because their writings and ideas are new. They were influenced by previous artists, poets and authors, but found a way to internalizing their influences. It’s a hard thing to do, to stand out in a day when everyone is a “writer,” but you owe it to your being, history and ideas.

So where is your writing voice; where have you left it? Maybe you lost it a while ago while reading Austen or Sanderson. Maybe you forgot it in the train, sleeping with Eliot in your hands. Regardless, we’re not here to judge (I’ve tossed my voice away in some unspectacular places). Find that voice and love it like it’s Prince George of Cambridge. Actually, don’t do that. Love it like it’s yours.

Maybe if we focussed on developing our own talents and skills, we needn’t measure ourselves against others; maybe that’s the fear, that we can actually look up to ourselves, that we can see ourselves in others.

What are some troubles you’ve experienced as a writer? What, or who, inspires you to write?