It’s not a Compliment, it’s Harassment.

Image by Ursa Eyer from

Image by Ursa Eyer from

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people, some men and some women, complain when a woman says they do not like getting compliments from strangers, or that they feel fearful when being catcalled on the street. I’ve heard men say something like “it’s a sign of the times that women can’t take a compliment” or “maybe he was just trying to be nice” etc. It worries me just how many people think that it’s okay to treat women this way, but then I think “Can we blame them?” Street Harassment is everywhere; in cartoons, in television shows, movies, commercials, advertising; it must be alright, right? Women love it!


Women should be free to go out in public and be left in peace, we should have the ability to leave our homes without unwanted attention from strangers. It doesn’t feel good to be called beautiful by a strange man, it is terrifying. I don’t want someone to thrust their groin at me while I walk down the street because I don’t know that he will stop at just grinding the air, I don’t know that he won’t try to rape me. I don’t want a stranger to whistle at me or call me a degrading name, I don’t know where his actions will end.

For example; I work out in the country, and I mean IN the country, no street lights or even any light pollution, I carry a flashlight to my car after work to be able to see my way there. I serve drinks in a restaurant/bar and usually our clients are nice well mannered people who have a drink or two and head home, not too many people come to this particular establishment to drink until they pass out. A couple of weeks ago, there was a man sitting at the bar, I hadn’t been serving him, but he was beginning to show signs that he was becoming intoxicated. He asked me my name, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence, so I gave it to him, he started to ask me some other personal questions which I dodged around and avoided answering, so far it was ok. But, then he told me my name was beautiful, that I had gorgeous hair and nice eyes; then I started to get scared. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend, I answered yes, “that’s too bad” he retorted. Now I could feel my hands begin to shake and I was desperately seeking my exit strategy. I hurriedly went to serve my tables, but every time I walked behind the bar he would say something else, or ask me another question, “Where are you from?” “I’m local” I would answer, as to avoid telling him where I live. “You’re a really pretty girl…”  “thank you” I would reply, but I really wanted to say was, I am a woman, and please leave me alone. But, I can’t upset a paying customer. Eventually he left, but I was set off for the rest of the night, I was terrified. What’s to be scared of? You might be thinking, well, here’s the answer. I was afraid that when I walked to my car that night in the pitch black darkness, he might be waiting for me. I was afraid he would drag me off into the field and do goodness knows what to me, and there would be no way I could stop him, and there would be no one around to see, and no one for me to call out for help to. In the end, I was of course fine, and maybe he was just trying to be nice to me, I had to spend the rest of that day scared out of my mind that something could happen to me. I went home that night opened up my laptop to research whether or not I could carry pepper spray or even bear spray in my bag (turns out, I can’t). So, in the future when someone says they don’t like being catcalled or whistled at on the street, don’t think that they can’t take a compliment, realize that it instills a fear of so much more. Realize that men don’t have a right to make you feel uncomfortable or afraid to walk a certain route, or petrified to walk to your car in the dark. We own our bodies, and no one else.



For more perspective check out this great video, outlining the dangers of street harassment, including the experiences of a Miss America contestant. Please note there are descriptions of sexual assault and use of strong language in the video.

So, We had an Election on Thursday…

On Thursday a mere 52.1% of registered voters in Ontario set out to choose their favourite Candidate for the premier of Ontario, and after the results came in, it was revealed that the people of Ontario had picked Kathleen Wynne to lead our province for the next four years (or until another election is called).

This election seemed to be rather controversial, even more so than usual. Liberals were unhappy with their leader, Conservatives were unhappy with their leader, New Democrats were unhappy with their leader, everyone was just unhappy and it seemed to be a choice of the least evil candidate. There were attack ads left, right and centre, and people were slamming opposing candidates for their policies like they were felons, sometimes it seemed like more of a boxing match than an election. In the aftermath, some people are angry, some people are pleased, some people are relieved, some people seem as though their life is over, but I’m feeling something different than any of these things.

Now, of course I know better than to show any political bias on the internet, I’m not asking for a fight, and I am not revealing even a lean towards who I supported, but I think this election needs to be celebrated. We should celebrate because there were a record 145 women running for office. We should celebrate because in all the attack ads no one had a problem with the fact that both NDP leader Andrea Horwath or Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne are women. We should celebrate because Kathleen Wynne’s sexuality was an is a non-issue. We should celebrate because this election is in fact an historic one, making Kathleen Wynne the first elected premier of Ontario, the first openly gay premier of Ontario AND the first elected openly gay head of government in the Commonwealth or anywhere in the English speaking world. Political opinions aside, that is amazing. Ontario is moving beyond tolerance and into a world where it simply doesn’t matter, it matters so little that hardly anyone has even taken note of the significances of Ms. Wynne’s victory. All candidates were viewed the same regardless of gender and sexuality and that is something to be celebrated. So for a moment, let’s all of us put our political opinion aside (I know it’s hard, believe me) and celebrate the significance of last Thursday, and hope that it has set a path for people of all genders, races, religions and sexualities.




By now, we all know about Elliot Roger. We know about his youtube videos, his 137 page manifesto, and we know about his end, we know about his killing spree and his own death as a result. What happened at the University of California, Santa Barbara was a tragic display of misogyny, violence against women, and the actions of a man who was clearly unstable. I won’t go into detail because it’s easily found on the internet (this is a great article with a timeline outlining all the events leading up to Friday’s tragedy) but in case you are unaware, Elliot Roger was an active member of MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) groups, and seemed to be generally angry that women wouldn’t sleep with him, I don’t want to give him a lot of attention because he doesn’t deserve it, in fact I don’t even like using his name, but what I do want to talk about is what good has come out of this, #Yesallwomen.

Yes I know it’s just a hashtag, a spree of tweets that are trending on Twitter, why is it important? It’s important because it’s a group of people coming together in a public forum to say that there is something wrong with society’s treatment of women. Not just western society either because in fact, it’s a worldwide problem. While, of course, we have many advantages here in the west that women in other parts of the world have, women here will still be blamed for being raped, they will still be harassed on the streets, they will still be paid less than their male counterparts at work, they will still be groped and touched in ways they didn’t ask for, they will be the butt of jokes because they have a menstrual cycle, they will still be the victims of domestic violence. I’ve had many people tell me that they think the women’s rights movement is over, that there’s nothing left to accomplish. Women who tell me they aren’t feminists because they don’t believe in oppressing men, or that they like shaving their armpits. The unfortunate reality is every single woman will experience “harassment, discrimination or worse at some point in their lives.”  Yes you read that right, quoted right from CNN.

Every. Single. One. 

I don’t know about you, but that’s hard for me to read. I’m a self proclaimed, scream it from the rooftops feminist and I’ve never thought of it that way. I have two daughters and it terrifies me to think what they will face in their lives simply because they were born female. I want them to grow up in a world that treats women the same way it treats men, but it seems so out of reach, like it’s a pipe dream. How will we achieve this? Do we talk to our daughters? Do we raise them to be strong independent women who can take on the world all by themselves? Well of course we do, and we’ve been doing so for generations, but I think there’s something we aren’t doing, talking to our sons. Now hear me out here, because I know that most parents teach their sons to be kind to girls and women, not to hit them, or touch them when they don’t want to be touched. I think that most parents teach their teenage sons who may be approaching their first time that “no, means no”. But what I wonder? Do parents teach their sons not to say things like “you throw like a girl”, do we teach them not to call girls sluts or skanks just because of their outfit? Do we teach them that girls are just as smart, just as strong, just as capable? I don’t know, I don’t have a son. But I hope that our generation of parents can teach our sons more about our daughter than just not to touch them if they don’t want it, though of course that’s a valuable lesson too. If you have a son who is old enough to understand, park them in front of twitter for 15 minutes or so, have them read some of these tweets, show them how to understand, we can’t change if we don’t educate.

That said, it seems that some men are feeling marginalized by the #Yesallwomen movement, but the feminist movement is not about women rising up and squashing men, it’s about the search for equality, we just want and deserve the same treatment as a man gets. I think this was well summed up by a tweet I saw while I spent over an hour reading some #yesallwomen tweets.

I don’t think it can be said better than that. Here are a few more #Yesallwomen tweets that stood out for me, spend some time and read a few more on Twitter, do a little reading, tweet your own reason why we need #Yesallwomen, because we definitely need it, maybe more than you think.

What happened to real journalism?

Photo credit: Deepatheawesome / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Deepatheawesome / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This morning The Toronto Star featured a story about the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. If this is something you haven’t heard about yet, I wouldn’t be surprised. Three weeks ago more than 200 girls were kidnapped from a government school in a village in northeastern Nigeria. They were taken by an Islamic militant group called Boko Haram, which loosely translates to Western Education is a sin. The girls are being sold as wives to militants for a whopping $12. This is an extremely bare bones idea of what is happening, please click the link above for more information.

Today’s Star front page featured an image of a list of the girls’ names with the heading of #Bringbackourgirls, and a story with the latest information on negotiations with Boko Haram. While I was happy to see this story getting attention from a large newspaper, it’s left me wondering, what in the heck took them so long?! Why did it take a celebrity twitter campaign to get the media pay attention to this? I’m tired of perusing “news” websites to read about Kimye’s wedding and Justin Biebers never ending antics, I don’t care about those things, I want to know about things that are important. I want to find out what’s happening in politics, what’s happening in our local communities, what’s happening in Canada and what’s happening in the world? Who needs our help, what countries are at war with one another, who’s being oppressed? Today I saw more about the possibility of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon divorcing than I did about anything I actually care about., anything that actually matters. I’m quite sure we are only now hearing more about these kidnapped girls because celebrities are talking about it, this story , again from the Star shows the growing Twitter campaign demanding for help for these women, and do you know who’s tweeting about it? Chris Brown! If Chris Brown, the infamous abusive ex(?) boyfriend of Rihanna is giving more attention to this story than many media outlets, and there is something wrong with that. I think it’s time for our so-called news outlets to get on board with real news again.

What do you think? I would love to see some comments on this blog, let me know where you stand!

Let’s Talk Trans, Part One: A Look at Gender

“One is not born a woman, but becomes one.”
Simone de Beauvoir

Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When I started to write for this blog I knew I wanted to post something of substance on transphobia, and speak about the amazingly brave members of the transgendered community. We talk about homophobia, female oppression, racism, but we don’t talk about the lovely members of our trans community enough, at least in my opinion. When I started to research this post I realized, something that I already knew from taking gender studies in university, is that the topic of transgender people and indeed the idea of gender overall is complicated. So I thought it best to start of with a little bit of background before I dive into the nitty gritty. I don’t consider myself an expert in gender by any standard and I am constantly learning new gender theory and reading new research, like many other topics it is constantly growing and changing. As a disclaimer, what I am writing is not something I am proclaiming to be the one and only truth. There are many theories about gender and I realize that I am focusing mostly on the idea of preformative gender. Gender is a complex and often hot-button topic to discuss and I do not wish to offend anyone’s personal beliefs on the topic.

For a lot of people, myself included, when you delve into the topic of the “idea” of gender it requires you to let go of ideas you may have held into your mind to be true. For most people gender is being born with a penis or a vagina and that defines who you are, right down from whether you will play with dolls, or trucks to whether you will be a construction worker, or a nurse. The concept of gender, in many theories, is something that we, as a culture and society have created; a social construction. We have created roles for each gender to preform and we begin teaching these roles from the second a new life is born. I mean, really think about it, what is the first thing we say about a baby when they are born? “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” These beautiful new babies are wrapped in blue or pink blankets, adorned in gender appropriate sleepers and from that moment on they are taught to preform their gender for the rest of their lives. It begins with toys, and the colours of their nurseries, it’s in their names, and their clothes. It’s in the books they read, and the shows and movies they watch on television. It’s something that we act out our whole lives, it’s in the careers we aspire to, it’s in the people we choose as our life partners. Our gender is like a play we preform everyday, complete with costumes and makeup, movements and stage directions. When someone doesn’t fit comfortably into their respective roles we have names for them: tomboys, butch, a sissy or a nancy. These words are meant to hurt and ostracize people who just don’t fit in to one gender or another. These particular descriptive words are often used to describe children, and more often than not are used by adults, sometimes talking about other people’s children, and sometimes even talking about their own. They call out parents who haven’t done a good enough job teaching their children their appropriate roles, or berate their own kids for not acting out the parts that they have been taught to play. Of course the gendered roles differ per individual, and flow and change depending upon race, culture, class and sexuality, but for the most part there are distinct differences between they way males and females are treated.

While this is a very basic look at preformative gender, and gender as a social construction we can use it to build a base on which we can begin to talk about transphobia and the amazing journeys of transgendered peoples.

If you have an interest in learning more about the gender theory I have glanced at here I highly recommend the groundbreaking book Gender Trouble, by Judith Butler. It’s deep and complex often hard to wrap your head around, but it is well worth it.