Thursday, March 29, 2012

Money, money, money

Post shopping trip at Ikea, my mom bought the kiddos some ice cream, letting them 'pay for it' with their 'own' loonies.  Girlio was beyond excited to get to pay for her purchase, but more than this, she was transfixed by the loonie.  She kept holding it up proudly, announcing loudly for all who were in earshot, that she had her very own 'golden money.'  The people in line all around us were getting all gooey at this big-eyed cutie and her wonder at this beautiful loonie treasure, which of course, does a mama's heart good.  When it came time to pay, she handed her treasure over willingly for the coveted ice cream treat.  But as soon as her golden money slipped from her chubby little fingers into those of the poor high school kid working at the snack counter, she was crestfallen.  'He took my golden money!' she cried, indignant!  Over and over.  It was a pisser.  By this time, the people in line all around us are having difficulty containing their laughter at the little nugget having a crash-course in the meaning of payment.  Boy-o, myself and my mom tried to explain to her that she had to trade her golden money for the ice cream, but she was having none of it.  And now Ikea will forever be the place where the horribly mean ice cream man stole her beautiful golden money.  

(Though I'm sure this will not be any consolation to her at all, Ikea has stolen a good chunk of my golden money, too!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Diving Into the Wreck

Fierce feminist thinker and writer Adrienne Rich died today, at the age of 82.   I spent a good chunk of my undergrad reading Rich, her poetry and feminist theory.  I am posting one of my favourite poems of hers below, as a reminder to myself (and to you if you want one) of just how powerful her voice was.

Diving Into the Wreck
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
abroad the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it's a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or week

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
and I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
Obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear. 
Adrienne Rich

Monday, March 26, 2012

Collision of worlds

I have, of late, these two worlds. The first, the one I've inhabited solely for the last five years is singularly focussed. In this world I am mama. I am defined by this role, by my ability to fulfill their needs, by how they walk in the world and how I foster and respond to these ways of walking. This place feels limiting, because my ideas, needs, longings must always take the back seat. But it also seems less risky than the public sphere.

Lately, however, I've also embarked into new territory. A world in which I am not defined (solely, if at all) by my relationship to children. A world where the other aspects of myself come to the fore. This world is freer, of course and reconnecting with that social, intelligent, person-in-the-world is heady and exciting. And also riskier. Here I have to be something, think something, do something on my own behalf, which is surprisingly difficult.
In this world few people know me as I inhabit the role of mother, this more mundane, other-focussed way of being.

But eventually, of course, these worlds have to meet. Because, of course, whether my kids are physically beside me or not, I am always mother, and I always carry them (and my role as their mama) with me.

Yet as these worlds start to seep into each other, I am struck by this overwhelming sense of, well, vulnerability. Can I manage to straddle both of these spaces? What will people who one know me as just T make of me when they see me as Mama T? Is it even possible to reconcile these worlds, which at the moment seem so disparate?

I wonder...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It is a rare thing, I think, to really delve into the real gifts you are given in life. And one of my great gifts is most certainly where I come from...

(thanks Mom).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hairy Tale

Heard this morning, coming from the bathroom, Boy-o inside:

Snip, snip, snip.

Me: O, are you cutting your hair?

O: Um. Noooooooooo?

Me: Are you lying?

O: Um. Yesssssss?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

that was then and this is now, or the new world order according to me, or manifesta on the brink of 37

I medicated. Raged.  I swore and railed and threw stuff until it shattered. I cried for what seemed like hours on end.  I lost entire days and months.

And then I made a mess with no inkling of how to clean it up.  (A mockery of housewifery if ever there was one).

I opened the windows and yelled outside as loud as my throat and lungs allowed, without a thought to the neighbours.  (I was always profoundly awful at keeping up with the Jones anyways).  I used to think I was a failed June Cleaver, but can you really fail at something you were never meant to be?

I let myself be selfish and found it made me grow bigger and bolder.  I curb-stomped terror masked as immobility.  And I moved.  I found a new rhythm of me-ness and it made me somehow more beautiful.  And resilient. And different.

I realized.  I realized that just because I'm sweet inside doesn't mean I have to be a doormat.  Just because I'm soft outside doesn't mean I can't be also be hard and fierce and tough-as-nails.  Just because I want love in my life doesn't mean I can't also have one eye on the door.  Doesn't mean I won't use it should the need arise.  And if I lose sight of that emergency exit, I'll find that one open window and use it to jump towards the nearest road, thumbs out and ready to go.  Seems I'm all kinds of scrappy like that.  It doesn't mean I won't wonder, regret, ache.  It's just that I've discovered I prefer the ache of lonely to the ache of swallowing myself whole; to jumping all over myself to be sorry when I have no idea why; to choosing everyone else over me.

God, if you only knew how tired I used to be.  Not sleepless tired, although that too. But bone-weary, ghost-of-myself kinda depletion.  Tired of being so careful, so caring of everyone but me.  Tired of the tiptoe.  Tired of feeling so grateful for love, as though everyone was some kind of gift to my life but me.

Well fuck that.  (Yes - you read me right.)  Because if you have me, let me be the first to let you know: you're damn freaking lucky.  I am all kinds of good shit.  Tricky?  Hell yes.  But so worth the wrestle.

This is my new world dis/order.  Not so much me first as me too.  

Don't think I can?  Maybe not.

But just watch me try.

Repost: madwoman in the academy + extra thoughts

Around this time last year, I posted a book review of The Madwoman in the Academy, a compilation of academics contemplating their negotiation of being female in the academy.  I re-ead the book when I began seriously considering what my own presence in the academy might look like, and grappling with whether or not I could conceptualize this path as an actual possibility.  And this time this year, I I find myself definitely about to re-enter the world of higher education again.  And contemplating my own madness, still not feeling sure-footed about my ability to juggle two young children and the rigours of academic work, both of which I love.  In this last two weeks, I've already had to miss two talks I really wanted to go to for lack of childcare.  What happens when this is a class?  When I have a sick babe who can't go to daycare?  When they pull my arms away from my keyboard because they are needing my love and attention and focus?  What happens when it doesn't come naturally after more than 5 years away?  I guess I'm about to find out what I'm made of and how far these arms and this brain will stretch...

The Madwoman in the Academy: 43 Women Boldly Take on the Ivory Tower.  (Eds.) Deborah Schnitzer and Deborah Keahey.  Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003.

I likely shouldn't have read it.  I knew it as soon as I picked it up.  But it was like a train wreck - I couldn't look away.  It's actually a fantastic book.  And I'm not just saying that because it's co-editted by one of the best professors (and loveliest people) I've ever known.  An edited collection of women's experiences in the academy.  The downs and outs.  The dirty bits.  The scary bits.  The frustrating bits. Details I need to remember and think about before I choose whether to jump in feet first.  The still far too prevalent sexism in academia.  The in-fighting and me-firsting and I'm-smarter-than-you-ing and eating-the-young-ing.  Imposter-syndrome.  The particular challenges and lack of accomodation for moms in academia.  (Breathe, T. Breathe.)   As (the wonderful) Deborah Schnitzer asks in her essay "Tenure Tracks",
How can a system that has been organized for and by male experience and privilege respond effectivelyand respectfully to the realities of women's lives?  How can a system burdened by a dependence upon a ritualized transmission model, restricted and often mechanical standards of measure, esoteric official languages, and limited ways of defining what constitutes knowledge comprehend those who work within frames of reference that are dialogic, inclusive, multidimensional and organic? (199)
How indeed? (I know - she is brilliant, right?  And also brilliant and right).  And those realities of academia are ones I must consider - carefully- before I jump back in.  But then there are the good bits too, of course.  The mentoring.  Sage navigational assistance.  Breaking barriers.  Smashing one's own ideas of one's limitations (and possibly other people's too).   And the parts I really crave:  The thinking. The writing.  The Thinking!  The Writing!

My absolute favourite essay in the collection is by Monika B. Hilder, entitled: "This Three-Horned Bronco of a Life" in which she describes the challenges of life in her triad roles as mother, academic, writer.  So gorgeously and bravely.  (Note - I am sharing big chunks of Hilder's writing here.  It is not my intention to overshare.  You should buy the book.  Read the essay in its entirety.  It's good, good, good.  But this particular essay really spoke to me,  to my own current worries and processing, so much that I feel compelled to share it with you all).

She writes: "Mad?  Me?!  You bet I'm mad - dissapointed, frustrated, feeling guilty, and alternately fiercely angry that I am able to do so little with words while I engage in the whirligig of family details.  I am not always so disgruntled, but sufficiently so to answer your question in the affirmative" (35).

And I read this, slightly panicked, and think: Good lord.  But I feel this NOW.  Can I really dare to add more fuel to that fire?  Can I handle another role, another division of self?  Can I handle that triad Hilder writes about? 

And then more:

Mad?  Me?!  When I was young I had the hubris to reject the position that a woman must choose between books (teaching and writing them) and babies.  (Isn't it ironic that this either/or dilemma is still presented by many camps: the misogynists, the kindliest patriarchs and matriarchs, the feminists?)  I still reject this position.  I still want it all: books and babies.  But sometimes I feel crazy with the competing demands on my person.  I grow furious with the helpless feeling that I am going too slowly along the journey of teaching and writing literature. (36)
And just like Hilder - I also want it all.  Babies and books.  I want desperately to reject that either/or dichotomy that feels so much like losing.  I want to be able to be a mother and a thinker, a writer, a do-er.  I want to be able to inhabit multiple worlds.  So much so that I often feel these days like I am leaping out of my own skin.  But I worry - have I waited too long to go back to school?  Can I keep up?after six years away? Will my trying to keep up put my other roles in jeopardy?  Will we all adjust?  Is it really possible to keep it all together, to remain - more or less - intact?

And then back to Hilder, who essentially tells me that the answer to my question is, in fact, no.  Not so much.  Remaining intact is likely not an option.  She relates: "[m]y mothering life is a crucible. . . . Pain characterizes too much of this fleeting lifespan I have in which to raise my beautiful beasts.  I would die for them (birthing does prove that, for starters).  The immediate fact though, is that I am dying daily in just trying to live with them.  So my teaching/writing aspirations are daily crucified to the needs and nonsense of my dear ones three" (36-37).

Something will always give.  And that something will almost always be the external obligations, the public sphere self.  Because that is the bargain I struck, quite willingly, when I chose the path of motherhood.  It feels overwhelming just to consider adding that public sphere self back to my repertoire.  But it feels equally like striking the sort of bargain which meant choosing not to do this would be a bit, you know, disastrous.  Luckily (?) for me, Hilder seems to suggest that perhaps remaining intact is overrated, and perhaps, not the end result I should be aiming for:

I whine, but the truth is that I wouldn't trade this triad life for anything.  To ride this three-horned beast for even a few seconds is an extraordinary privilege.  In the words of Ursula Le Guin, 'Babies eat books.  But they spit out wads of them that can be taped back together; and they are only babies for a couple of years, while writers live for decades; and it is terrible, but not very terrible' (812)*. . . . Mad? Me?!  Yes, yes, a resounding yes!  I'm riding this three-horned bronco of a life with all my might, dust-caked, and with tears in my eyes. (38-39)

So then - to be or not to be a madwoman in the academy?   I strongly suspect not even this book will scare me away from trying it on for size.  But I also strongly suspect that I won't ever be sure...

*The Ursula Le Guin quote in Hilder's essay comes from: "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Writes the Book." The Art of Short Fiction.  (Ed.) Gary Geddes.  Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

bedtime shenanigans

So - it's late.  Like, late late.  Boy-o is fast asleep.  But his little sister, Ms. Girlio is being a total resister and man oh man, is she ever holding out.  There's nose picking (hers) and attempts to pick mine.  There's singing and crush-your-head hugs.  Requests for more songs, more water, more this and that.  Pissing around.  So I finally run out of patience and tell her she's gonna have to figure out how to get to sleep on her own and leave the room (cursing under my breathe).

And then the little oh-so-cutie-patootie bellows (the kid has an unusually deep voice for a two year old girl, so I DO mean bellows!) out at me:

"MAMA!  You have to get under the covers and take off your glasses and lie down with me.  That's your JOB!!!"

JAYZUZ - the kid's only 2.

Andrea Gibson - Blue Blanket (trigger alert here peeps)

Okay- so this topic has been on my mind of late - and coincidentally, (or not, since there are no coincidences) I discovered a whole schwack of Andrea Gibson's amazing spoken word online today.   This is by far one of my least favourite of her pieces - but I still think it's worth sharing, especially the last bit.  (With the caveat that I don't believe sexual assault renders women 'not whole', at least I don't think it has to.)   I'm gonna post another one of her pieces below, too.

Andrea Gibson, Pole Dancer

I don't know about you, but I've never wanted to be a pole dancer so badly...

A Monday Reminder - by SARK


Sunday, March 18, 2012

i look continuously behind me
checking and rechecking for their absence
small silent ghosts
if i turn my head just so
i can catch them sometimes
sweet sudden glimpses of their bodies
in empty carseats

i wiggle my tongue absently against new lip ring
still a foreign presence
its steel clicking against my teeth
a reminder of how this new voice
falls across my lips
(still swollen)
a terrain both familiar and strange

head half-filled with the enormity of the mundane
to-do lists and groceries and jobs undone
and half-filled with things said
and things swallowed
people lost and found
tiny Sunday nerves


Monday, March 12, 2012

School's Out: Giving Our Schools Some Homework | Bitch Media

School's Out: Giving Our Schools Some Homework | Bitch Media

So called "mommy-porn" turns out to be porn for the barely literate

Okay - so I hadn't heard about "the book" as it is apparently being called, until reading about it on Jezebel (see above.  No really.  See above).   50 Shades of Grey, which was initially created as Twilight fanfic (yes, that's right kids.  Fanfic for Twilight) is the story of a 22 year old virgin (Anastasia) who falls for a 28 year old gazillionaire (Christian) who's into a little bsdm (though from what I could see from the excerpts, in my world, he seems fairly tame - but then again - I haven't read the whole 1200 page first novel.  There are also sequels).   

So many things bother me about this book and the way it is being described, I don't even know when to start.  I should however, point out, that unlike many critics, I don't give a rat's ass about the gendered sexual power dynamics between the two characters.  Cause that's how it works.  Someone's a top and someone's a bottom.  Whatever.  

What I do hate, is that this is some seriously bad, bad writing.  Really bad.  It makes Stephanie Myers and the entire fleet of Harlequin writers look like they should've been awarded a Pulitzer.  For example: Anastasia describes giving her first blow job as "surprisingly tasty... [her] own Christian Grey flavoured popsicle."  And later, post receiving her first spanking, as Christian applies baby oil to her posterior, Anastastia reflects: "from makeup remover to soothing balm for a spanked ass, who would have thought it was such a versatile liquid?"  Hawt.  Because I know that I always enjoy a good product review in my porn.  Later on, in case that wasn't enough product reviewing, the phrase: "His words curl around me like a soft fluffy towel from the Heathman Hotel" appear.  Again.  I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  How bout you?  There are more examples of the utter ridiculousness of the book, but I think (hope!) these serve to make my point.

I can't even fathom a world in which this is sexy writing.  I can't even fathom a world in which this is acceptable writing to publish!  And why - why on god's green earth - is this shite referred to as "mommy porn?"  It's like we pop out a kid or two and suddenly lose our brains, autonomy, sexual selves AND our ability to recognize good writing (never mind good porn)?  But apparently us housewives are eating this shit up.  Can it be true?  Are we really to blame for making this god-awful writer a soon-to-be gazillionaire?  It's too sad to contemplate.   

Now - let it be known - I'm no prude.  (You're just going to have to take my word for this, well, because I can't really prove it.)    But I shudder to think of the idea that this kind of crappy writing (which made me laugh out loud several times) is responsible for the reheating of marriages across North America and the current favourite one-handed read of mommies everywhere.  (*yes, yes.  It's good that it's making women talk about sex.  And blah blah.  I get that, I suppose.  But I also find it very depressing that 1. we're still in a place where women need the guise of a 'novel' in order to read porn (and I DO mean guise here, folks), and 2. that we can't find ourselves some better porn-y vehicles with which to do this.)


To all bored housewives out there:  THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT!  There is better porn out there.  Toppy, bottomy, in the midde-ly.  It matters not.  Really.  For true.  I swear it on my soul.  With nary a mention of popsicle flavours or the versatility and usefulness of baby oil.  Please stop reading this crap.  Or at least stop talking about reading this crap in public.  It's giving me the heebie-jeebies.  

And giving us snobby-about-our-porn (and snobby about other things t00) housewives a really bad name.

anxious kid lit

Just in Case
I've been searching high and low for a great book to deal with the subject of kidlets and anxiousness for Boy-o.  I found the perfect book in the form of just in case, by Judith Viorst (Of Alexander and the No Good, Very Bad Day fame).  just in case (Simon and Schuster, 2006) follows the thoughts of Charlie, a tot who worries a lot about random bad things that might happen, "... Charlie tries to be ready.  And Charlie likes to be ready.  Just in case."  Charlie worries about food shortages, and lions breaking out of the zoo and strange birds that might come and carry him away, forcing him to eat gross worms and live in a nest full of scratchy, pokey twigs.  So, Charlie makes gazillions of sandwiches, digs holes to trap straying lions and carries a parachute, lest he need to jump out of high bird nests.  The kid has big big worries about being caught unprepared for whatever challenges might greet him.  In the end, Charlie finds himself in the middle of his own surprise party, wholly unprepared, and realizes that maybe, just maybe it might be okay to roll with it sometimes, even though he'd really much rather be prepared.  I loved how the book acknowledges worries and anxiety without having a magic cure-all moment.  Charlie manages to enjoy the element of surprise despite being unprepared for it, but the book still ends with his preference for preparedness.   It deals with kid anxieties while acknowledging that these anxieties don't magically disappear - we just have to work on finding ways to deal with them as best we can.   I love it.  My anxious Boy-o (who lately has taken to emergency preparedness for natural disasters) loves it. Win/ Win, I'd say.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Repost - Top 5 Reasons You Should Care About International Women's Day

Top 5 Reasons You Should Care About International Women’s Day

Today marks the 101st anniversary ofInternational Women’s Day. Although the status of women worldwide may look significantly different today than it did in the early 1900s when the holiday was first established, now is an opportune time to reflect not only on the great strides that have been made towards female empowerment in the last century, but also on all the work that remains to be done.
Here are a few poignant examples of the pervasiveness of women’s marginalization and lack of equality around the world to serve as reminders for why everyone, both men and women, should see female empowerment and gender equality as an utmost global priority:
(1) Violence Against Women is Rife Worldwide – The pervasiveness of violence against women is best illustrated by the simple fact that today, one in three women will be the victim of violence. That’s over 1 billion individuals. While innovative initiatives like the V-Day Campaignare committed to leading the charge against this, given the scale of the problem, it goes without saying that existing efforts and global awareness need to be increased exponentially in order to effectively begin chipping away at this pervasive injustice.
(2) Women Are Under-Represented in Politics – Comprising over half the world’s population, women occupy less than 20% of parliamentary seats worldwide. In the United States, women make up 17% of Congress (a decline in recent years). In Egypt, although women fully participate side-by-side with men during every phase of the revolution, there are only nine women in Egypt’s new parliament out of more than 500 seats. Without sufficient representation in government, societies will continue to undervalue and ignore the challenges uniquely or disproportionately faced by their female populations.
(3) Women Are Disproportionately Affected by Conflict – Nearly 80% of the world's 27 million refugees who are displaced by conflict are women and children. Furthermore, the systematic rape of women historically has and continues to be a tactic frequently deployed during war, resulting in the consistent degradation of women living through conflict.
(4) Women Are More Likely to Suffer from Poverty and Lack of Education – Estimates state that 70% of the world’s poor are women, and while some debate may exist surrounding how this statistic was developed, it is well known that women consistently are underpaid for performing the same work as men in several countries. The poverty gap between men and women in the U.S. is the highest of any Western country. What’s more, nearly two-thirdsof the world’s billion illiterate adults are female.
(5) Double Standards Exist on How Our Societies Perceive, Value, and Judge Men and Women – And finally, the recent political hullaballoo surrounding the issue of healthcare coverage for contraception – including the absence of a single woman on the panel of a Congressional hearing to contraception coverage, and Rush Limbaugh’s slander of Sandra Fluke, and the support he has received – reminds us that much progress remains to be made for changing the way our own society perceives women. Regardless of one’s opinion on the issue itself, the fact that his and many similarly derogatory remarks have been seen as acceptable to a significant degree should be cause enough for alarm and serious reflection on the way our society today perceives and values women.
The diverse social, political, and economic manifestations that discrimination against women takes in each and every country in the world are too numerous to comprehensively address in this list.
But one thing is clear: taking stock of the status of women worldwide today illustrates how much work is needed to attain their empowerment, not only abroad but also in our own backyard. So this year on International Women’s Day, isn’t it about time we all make an effort towards helping address these innumerable injustices?
Photo CreditDR EG

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

the good old feminist sharing circle, or, notes from a cranky feminist

Soooooo - I went to this talk the other day that was put on in conjunction with International Women's Day week.  It was, for the most part, against my better judgement.  But I had a friend that wanted to go, and I thought that I should give it the benefit of the doubt.  Anyhoo - the talk was on community based feminism, or as the organizers put it 'taking feminism out of the academy.'  Already, of course, the title puts my knickers in a bit of a knot.  What with me being, for all intents and purposes, a feminist of the more or less academic variety.  You know, a nerdy-girl-talk-theory-to-me-let's dissect-this-shit kinda academic feminist. And so, I was already feeling pushed up against the proverbial wall when I entered the room to find a series of chair organized very purposefully, in a circle.  And all my hackles raise here.  (Dear God.  Not a circle talk!!)

You see - in addition to being a feminist of the academic variety, I am also a feminist of the cranky variety.  And the feminist-sharing-circle-let's-hold-hands-and-sway-in-the-forest-and-who-has-the-talking-stick? kinda sentiment makes me feel, you know, mostly violent.  I am so not that girl.  I don't do earnest.  Not in feminists, not in anyone.  Earnest makes me cranky.  Bright-eyed and bushy tailed and all-my-clothes-have-been-upcycled-from-the-dumpster-not-because-I'm-hard-on-cash-but-cause-I'm-all-anti-oppressive-and-cool-like-that makes me cranky.  Like, seriously, hella cranky.

Moving along... so, I'm sitting there, all in my cranky-femme-yes-I'm-wearing-a-whole-lotta-make-up-AND-I-love-the-academy glory, you know, in a circle... trying to talk myself into not leaving.  Because I'm feeling twitchy like hives are coming on.  And because I already know, based on my very visceral response, that my presence here is likely a bad, bad idea.  Because I have no poker face.  None. Because I cannot control my eyebrows from raising, I've been told, condescendingly, when I'm supremely annoyed.  But, I stay.  The speakers look like they might be interesting; I might learn something, because it's important to challenge those visceral responses sometimes; yadda yadda yadda.

I wasn't wrong.  The speakers were, for the most part, rather interesting.  All three of the speakers, who were women of colour, had some well-thought out and interesting things to say about their experiences within feminism, the feeling of tokenism, the journeys they'd taken to come to the place of calling themselves feminists.  They spoke about their work in the community, in various organizations, and how they felt these contributed to feminist goals.  It's important to hear about these things, and I appreciated the perspectives.

Not that some things weren't said that pushed my buttons.  To the contrary.  My buttons were pushed.  There was some requisite Women's Studies bashing, and comments about make-up and the internalization of 'patriarch-ikal' values (a. this is a mispronunciation that freaking KILLS me, but I guess I'm all academic-snobby like that, and b.  this make-up wearing girly-girl isn't prettying herself for the boys.  Just sayin').  There was also a discussion about the intrinsic degradation of the word slut, which is a word I happen to greatly enjoy (though I know not everyone feels this way, so fair enough, I guess).

But other than those minor irritations, what was really problematic to me, was the way the group facilitators (organizers) framed their questions to the panelists.  Each question seemed to be posed in a way that forced panelists to place so-called community based feminism and academic feminism in opposition to each other.  To value one over the other.  To share their experiences of marginalization within the academy.   And so on and so forth.   Problematic.  Period.

I've written papers raging against this sentiment a bit.  This supposed chasm between academic and community feminism.  You see, in feminism, there's this thing called praxis.  Praxis is about the interrelationship between theory and practice.  Practice without ideas behind it turns out shitty.  Always.  Really shitty.  And theory that loses it's grasp on the fact that people actually live in this big old patriarchal world of ours can be a little hard for lots of folks to access.  But regardless - theory is important.  Because, you know, we need people to actually think about things.  Community organizing is, of course, also important.  What's more - (and this is just crazy-talk, I know) - academic feminists also belong to the feminist community, just as much as the feminist protest march organizers.  And the last thing I'd like to point out here, is that we wouldn't even have this lovely movement we call feminism without some amazing women thinkers.  Who wrote and thought and acted and stirred shit up.  Writing, thinking, acting, This stuff is all important.

AND - if this supposed chasm between academic feminists and community based feminists really does exist - and if people whose knickers were knotted about this fact actually wanted to do something to, you know, change that, how about holding a speaker series comprised of community based feminists AND academic feminists?  How about getting the dialogue going?  Or at the very least, how about asking those community based feminists some better questions.  Say, like:  "how do we bridge the gap that you see between academic and community based feminism?"

Sigh.  I didn't stay after the break for the 'discussion' session, though as you can tell, I would've had a lot to talk about.  Mostly because I wasn't sure I would come off gently.  Or rather that I was sure I would come off cranky.  You know, because I was.

Instead, I took my internalized-patriarchal-values-make-up-wearing-theory-and-slut-loving-self out to watch a friends hockey game.  More internalized patriarchal values to dissect there, too, no doubt.

Next time, I'm gonna trust my gut and stay home.  Or at least run far far away as soon as I see 'the circle.'