Check out Margaret Cho’s new music video, featuring Ani DiFranco. A tiny bit of NSFW language.
Check out Margaret Cho’s new music video, featuring Ani DiFranco. A tiny bit of NSFW language.
NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Private Member’s Bill C-389 to enshrine transgender rights in the Criminal Code is coming up for a final vote this week. The legislation would add “gender identity and gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate crimes laws.
The final hour of debate is taking place now in Ottawa, with the vote during third reading scheduled Wednesday evening, February 9. MP Olivia Chow swapped Siksay’s bill with one of hers on the order paper to bring about this earlier vote.
With opposition from some Catholic, “family”, and right-wing women’s groups, who make the ridiculous claim that this bill will increase assaults against women by letting MTF transsexuals use women’s washrooms, it’s important to keep up the pressure on MPs to pass this bill.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada has a petition you can sign to email a pre-worded message to your MP or, if you have time, write your own email or call your MP. Find your MP’s contact information by entering your postal code here.
I’m pleased to present this post by our newest guest contributor, Gerald Hodge. In addition to being my Dad, Gerald is a former director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University, where he is now a Professor Emeritus. His most recent book is The Geography of Aging: Preparing Communities for the Surge in Seniors. He lives on Hornby Island, BC.
At least that’s how I remember the May 2010 Report on Business headline about the enormous value of household commodities that women have the major say in purchasing. It triggered two memories; one of an oft-repeated radio comedy routine of the ‘40s where the MC asks a male guest:
MC: “Who makes the decisions in your house?
Guest: “We both do.”
MC: “Tell me how this works.”
Guest: “She decides on the food we eat, which fridge and car to buy, the kind of house we live in.”
MC: “And you?
Guest: “I get to decide who’ll win the war, who should be President, and the colour of the car.”
It also reminded me of Ivan Illich’s penetrating social history, Gender (Pantheon, 1982), about the devolution of traditional gender roles of women into women as simply “the second sex” in today’s commodity-driven economic age. His analysis, I believe, is still relevant today. He describes that transition starting nearly a millennium ago:
“… [from] the reign of gender (where the household obtains its subsistence from the apportioned tasks accomplished by sets of non-interchangeable hands) to the regime of industrial economics (where genderless hands produce commodities in exchange for pay).”
Illich’s aim is not to yearn for the past, rather to track the long-term changes in the economic roles of women and men and their material world. His starting point is the eleventh century in Western Europe when shared village commons began to be enclosed and transformed into scarce resources (for the lord’s sheep) along with the introduction of money as a scarce means of exchange. Over the ensuing 5-600 years, came the evolution of the economic role of the conjugal couple from one of producing for their own subsistence needs into producing commodities for a market. Into this new milieu entered the Catholic Church and the State: the first to declare matrimony a sacrament, define sin (enforcing the Sixth Commandment, adultery), and regulating conscience (through confession). The State saw the couple as a taxation unit further eroding traditional gendered household tasks and adding, in the late- eighteenth century, the policing of childbirth. Images of “man” and “woman” changed into sexist ones in industrializing countries ̶ equal as sinners and economic contributors.
Equality between the sexes did not result, as we know. But a myth of it did, especially after the mid-nineteenth century when technology revolutionized (mostly men’s) work out of the house to the factory or office. For women also came the opportunity to work outside the home, which they did increasingly, but the household still remained for them to tend. And since our society has become more and more commodity-driven women have had to add “shadow work” in the household to any outside work. This is Illich’s term to describe the labour by which a consumer transforms purchased commodities into useful goods for the home. Example:
“When a modern housewife goes to the market, picks up eggs, drives them home in her car, takes the elevator to the seventh floor, turns on the stove, takes butter from the refrigerator, and fries the eggs, she adds value to the commodity with each one of these steps.”
This common scene is brought to you by an industrial, economically-developed society, whether it is Japan, France, or Canada, pressing households to invest in highly capitalized production goods such as cars and electrical appliances. Often the pitch is presented in the guise of the household becoming self-sufficient when the aim is really to have it do shadow work. Most of which, it turns out, falls to women. Back to Illich: “they are tied to more of it [than men], they must spend more time on it, they have less opportunity to avoid it, [and] its volume does not diminish when they take outside employment.”
Thus, industrial society discarded relative gender equality, substituted two sexes in producing its commodities and thus became sexist. It constructed a world where women are only “the second sex” with, as he frequently notes, “the man always on top.” No amount of amelioration through access to education and professions, anti-discriminatory legislation, goodwill, or feminist struggle has reduced the exploitation of women anywhere. His ultimate point: economic development is inherently sexist and exploitive of women. So, maybe women could own the world, but at what cost to them?
I always thought the most annoying thing about BC Ferries Wi Fi was that I could never figure how to get on the network from my Blackberry, but thanks to a Freedom of Information request, I now know that even if I’d managed to get online, I wouldn’t have been able to access sites that give information about ”sex ed or abortion”.
I look at these types of websites a lot to research blog posts. For example, I turn to the websites for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and the Pro-Choice Action Network when I’m writing about attacks on Canadian abortion rights. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Options for Sexual Health website to get information on sex education access in BC. These sites and many others have a great wealth of information on a range of sexual health issues.
The FOI request revealed that, BC Ferries’ Wi Fi service also blocks sites involving hate speech, pornography, illegal activities, media piracy, and sites that suck up a lot of bandwidth like file transfer sites, in addition to the “sex ed and abortion” category.
But wait! Abortion services are legal here, and sex education isn’t just legal – it’s been part of our province’s school curriculum for decades! BC Ferries’ explanation is that these sites might have inappropriate pictures on them, with BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall telling CKNW: “Again, BC Ferries is a family show. We are offering free Wi-Fi and if customers want to view other sites that interest them they can do it on their own time and on their own property.” I’m not impressed with that rationale. If they want to block every legal site that might potentially have any picture that might offend any parent, they’re going to have a lot of blocking to do. How about news sites that have graphic pictures of violent events? Are they blocking sites that discuss animal testing because there might be images that provoke strong negative emotions?
In my history of working at public libraries, the policy was always to let people browse the internet freely, unless someone complains or you notice someone browsing pornography or something else illegal, in which case you were to ask the patron to kindly move to a computer with a privacy screen to not bother other patrons. This was under the assumption that we don’t know why they’re looking at the material; they could be doing legitimate research.
I’m not suggesting BC Ferries has the same obligation to fight censorship as libraries have, but it seems to me that rather than blocking a whole category of websites sharing legitimate, legal, and important information, it would be a lot better to just have a policy asking people to avoid looking at sites that may contain nudity while their screens might be viewable by other passengers. You could have a warning pop up when people log in to the Wi Fi and let passengers know that if they’re looking at an unblocked site that has graphic pictures, they’ll be asked to leave the site or stop using the Wi Fi for the remainder of the trip.
That way, we’re not stopping ferry passengers from accessing the same types of information being dispensed in doctor’s offices and Career and Personal Planning classes across the province. That is, if BC ferries doesn’t really care about blocking the text on the sites – just nudity. As David Eby, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association told Postmedia: “Certainly, there are questions about appropriate use -you don’t want someone surfing pornography in front of other passengers…But what does B.C. Ferries care if someone is learning about sexual education during their ferry ride?”
The answer might be in a telling statement Marshall made today to the CBC: “And we’ve actually been getting lots of feedback from our customers today, applauding us for respecting family values and for having these sites blocked.” The reference to “family values” makes it seem like this whole thing might have more to do with moralizing than stopping children from seeing “offensive” images. And frankly, I’m not sure that’s their role.