Sunday, 24 February 2013

BDSM

Trigger warning: The images below may be disturbing to some.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_tyK9P-ppLk/UAWb8EajQ-I/AAAAAAAAAKw/tmzEfaiRBH8/s1600/BDSM.jpgSeveral months ago I engaged in an online debate with some Bondage Domination Sadism and Masochism enthusiasts about (duh!) their promotion and practice of Bondage Sadism and Masochism.

I  ended up leaving the debate because the arguments they made were so ridiculous, I couldn't take them seriously anymore.  

However, very recently, the issue of BDSM has come up in real life and in a place not too far from home. In early January of this year, the body of 27-year-old kindergarten teacher Noelle Paquette was found in a woodlot in Sarnia, Ontario. *Shockingly*, her accused killers, Tanya Bogdanovich and Michael MacGregor, were members of an online BDSM website called Fetlife. Their profiles revealed that they were into "rape and torture".

So much for BDSM being "just a fantasy", eh?

Actually, the argument that fantasies are just fantasies and nothing to worry about, has always confused me. Maybe I'm just an odd ball, but most of the things I fantasize about are things I would actually like to do in real life. From telling off my boss to winning the next Pulitzer prize, if I had the ability to do these things in reality, I would so do them in a heart beat! Same goes for my sexual fantasies. I fantasize about the kind of sex I want to have in real life.

But, again, that's just me... and apparently that's also just Michael MacGregor and Tanya Bogdanovich...   

Anyway...

Because of this story, I decided once again to revisit my thoughts on the topic of BDSM because, as we can see, it is not simply a private matter. It seeps into the public realm and affects other people, like Noelle Paquette. And anything that affects the public, especially the female public, warrants some further discussion and examination by feminists. 





Practitioners and advocates of  BDSM, much like the pro prostitution lobby, try to make BDSM appear more complex than it actually is. They argue something to the extent of: "Just because it looks and feels like violence against women, it doesn't mean it's not feminism"

tied up


Yeah. I know. Seriously, George Orwell couldn't have written a better line.

To me, the argument is already over with just the mentioning the name of this practice: Bondage. Domination. Sadism. Masochism. To any person who advocates for a world in which peace, love and equality prevail, there is no place for Bondage. There is no place for Domination. There is no place for Sadism. There is no place for Masochism.

Done.


I mean, the argument really should be done here, but unfortunately, it is not. It is not over because for some reason, when it comes to sex, the same rules do not apply. When it comes to sex, all talk about peace, love, equality, etc. goes out the door, literally. Apparently, a closed bedroom door  keeps out all past and future social progress. Why? You got me.

In fact, most of the arguments I hear from pro BDSMers just don't make a lot of sense.

And the best way I can think of to illustrate just how nonsensical these arguments are  is to reproduce them in the form of satire. (I'm sure BDSMers won't mind me poking a little fun at them as a lot of them get off on being humiliated anyway...)

So, dear readers, I would like to introduce you to Kinka. She is a practitioner and advocate of BDSM, and her words  are essentially a compilation  of all the arguments I have heard from the BDSMers I have met in real and online life used to justify and defend their practice of Bondage Domination Submission and Masochism.


Hi everyone, my name is Kinka, and I would like to respond to all the feminists who are criticizing BDSM.

I would like to start off by saying even though I am coming onto a public forum to discuss my private sexual practices, my private sexual practices are none of your business! Didn't some famous Canadian politician once say something like, the state has no business inside the bedrooms of the nation. Yeah, that's right! So get out of my bedroom, you crazy feminists! I am so sick and tired of you criticizing my love of BDSM! BDSM has nothing to do with the oppression of women! Even though patriarchy has seeped into every other social space that exists, we have managed to keep it out of the bedroom!

The truth is I'm into BDSM. And the reason is because it's in my genes. BDSMer brains are just wired differently and you can actually see the parts that are responsible for this: in men, the BDSM part of the brain is shaped like a whip in and in women it is shaped like a shackle. 


So THERE all of you who say we learn this behaviour from what we see around us! It's just a coincidence that in a male supremacist society it is mostly women who take on the role as the submissive or "bottom" in a BDSM relationship. I mean, I know that corporations spend billions of dollars on advertising because they know it influences people into buying their products.  But this doesn't mean those same corporations, who publish popular books, produce t.v. shows, movies that promote gender stereotypes of women being weak and passive, have any influence on my finding extreme submission erotic.

Okay, now let's get to the good part, and ultimately, the real purpose for my writing this post: MY BDSM fantasies and practices!

 As I already stated, I am a "sub" or "bottom" and a masochist, which means I get sexually excited by being dominated, humiliated, and having excruciating pain inflicted on me! Isn't it funny how if I said the above statement in a context that wasn't sexual, people would think there is something wrong with me? Even if I consented to having these things done to me, most likely, someone would intervene and try to get me some professional help. Luckily nobody (except some feminists) questions my feelings and desires because they involve sex ....

Although, I have to admit, one time I got a little bit confused about this rule that the bedroom is a vacuum... Once I had wanted to pretend  that my partner was a white slave owner and I was a black slave in 19th century America, but he said he felt uncomfortable with this scenario as it felt too racist. I didn't really understand at the time, but I think I do now. To him, "race play" is off limits because racism can affect MEN too. 


Anyway, I'm sick and tired of having to defend my love of BDSM to feminists who know nothing about it. You can't criticize me because you've never been involved in the scene. It's like, I don't go around criticizing  people who practice bestiality because I've never fucked an animal. Or have been an animal. Whatever. As long as both parties are CONSENTING, what right do I have to say anything about bestiality?!

So my message to the next crazy feminist who tries to come barging into my bedroom is: The door is shut tight and you can't get in! You can't get in because once I close my bedroom door, you don't exist. Once I close my bedroom door, you don't exist because feminism doesn't exist.


Ha!

http://randb8688.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/door-locked-with-chains.jpg

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Lines composed a few minutes after listening to a parent bash unions and act like it is the greatest tragedy in the world her kid cannot participate in extracurricular activities this year because of work-to-rule industrial action in Ontario...


If the worst  thing your kid ever gets taken away from him is the chance to play on his school's basketball team, then I would say he is pretty damn lucky. I'm sure the kid who made the shoes your son probably wears while playing sports like basketball would trade him places in a heartbeat. After all, she had had her right to education taken away from her so your son can wear the latest brand of Nikes.

Speaking of child labour, did you know it is because of unions that this  practice has been mostly eliminated here in North America? And make no mistake; it is only because unions still have some power and influence in this part of the world that your son is not the one working in a sweatshop. 

However, if the business elite in this country (through the puppet governments they have helped put into power) get their own way, it won't be long before we return to the working conditions of the early 20th century- a.k.a.- a time before the labour rights movement in North America. Seriously. If you think I am being over-dramatic, then you have absolutely no sense of History. Labour laws can be easily changed (as they are being changed right now!), especially if there are no powerful groups of people to protect them. Thus, it may well turn out in the not-so-distant future that your son's son will be the one making shoes for rich kids somewhere else in the world. Is that really what you want?

If it is, then continue criticizing the teachers' unions and complaining about the loss of extracurricular activities at your kid's school.

If, on the other hand, you do really want a better future for your kid, then I have a few suggestions for you.

During the time your kid would have been playing basketball, you can educate him and yourself about the issues. Learn about the history of the labour movement. Learn about how unionization is largely responsible for the improvement of the working conditions of both unionized AND non-unionized employees. Learn about how since union membership has been shrinking, so too  has the middle class. Learn about the real reason why the government of Ontario has a $15 billion dollar deficit. (Hint: it is not because they spend too much money on education and other public services.)

Let's create a "useful crisis" in education so we can bankrupt the system!

Stop reading and watching mainstream media trash that poses as journalism and read an independent source of news that will actually provide you with factual information about why teachers are upset and about the government's true agenda- which is to bust unions and  destroy public education. Trust me, Laurel Broten doesn't give a shit about you or your kids. The clever decision by the Ontario government and the Ministry of (Mis) Education to title Bill 115  "Putting Students First" is truly Orwellian.


Finally, start to realize there is more at stake than your kid's access to extracurricular activities in his school. Learn to see past your own selfish desires and think about the bigger picture. After all, the only way society has have ever progressed in the past (and will hopefully do so again in the future) is when people are willing to sacrifice some of their individual comforts in order to work together and fight for a better future for EVERYONE!
 

Remember Remember the 11th of November

The other night, my aunt convinced me to go to a poetry workshop where I was supposed to write a poem in the form of a letter to a fairy tale character. But there are two things about me one should know: 1) I suck at writing poetry and 2) I can't stay away from the topic of politics. So from the story of Little Red Riding Hood, my thoughts somehow strayed to Remembrance Day- a "holiday" that recently passed by and that always makes anti-war activists like me uncomfortable. Actually, now that I think about it, I guess what the two topics have in common is the image of the colour red, and that's probably exactly how my thoughts arrived here:

Poppy,
 When I look at you
I see blood,
I see violence,
I see a big red lie
pinned to the chests 
of murderers
who tell me
to support the troops 
and [insert more propaganda here].

Poppy, 
When I look at you
I see blood,
I see violence,
I see a big red lie
pinned to the chests
of murderers
who tell me
there is such a thing
as a just war
fought for freedom
and [insert another abstract value here].

Poppy,
When I look at you
I see blood,
I see violence,
I see a big red lie
pinned to the chests 
of murderers
who tell me
to remember
but also
 to forget
the truth.


A Play Within Politics and Politics Within a Play

Prologue


I still remember the moment I was sitting at a local OSSTF Political Action Committee meeting listening to the Chair outline the plan for protecting public education and the labour rights of teachers: elect the Liberals, she said. That’s it, I thought. That’s the plan? I looked around, then down, and took a slow uncertain sip of my free beer. Nobody said anything. Should I? I was still deciding whether or not I should speak up when a teacher raised his hand and volunteered to put up signs for the incumbent Liberal MP in the north-centre riding of the city.  Someone else raised her hand to say she was able to canvas in the west area riding. Too late, I thought. My chance to speak was gone.

Unfortunately, I knew even back then that the OSSTF’s “plan” to protect education and labour rights would fail. I was right, but I still wish I would have spoken up, not because it would have necessarily changed the reality of what is happening today, but because it may have inspired a few more people to think critically and reflect on the true state of Canadian democracy and politics today.

 

Setting the Stage


As a student, I always received good grades in English because I excelled at recognizing structures and patterns of language, making connections and relating them to the overall meaning and themes of a literary text. Since becoming a teacher in the same subject, I try to teach these skills to my students as I find they are not only applicable to the study of literature, but to many other disciplines, including History and Politics. Thus, being someone who is also interested in these subjects, I’ve been paying attention to what has been happening in Canada, in other places around the world, and have begun to notice some common themes emerging within the main events of the past two decades. Therefore, what I'd like to do in this post is view these events through the lens of literary criticism and analysis in order to explain why I knew electing the Liberals in Ontario would not help teachers, and why what is happening in Ontario is only a tiny part of a larger global narrative. I will begin this analysis by providing a short summary of the key events happening around the world and in Canada over the past few years.

Key Events

Setting: Present Day- The World

In February 2011, nearly 70, 000 people went out to protest Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill, a bill that would take away collective bargaining rights from public employee unions in Wisconsin. Several months later, teachers in the UK voted to go on strike in June to protest the government’s proposal to cut their pensions. They repeated this action alongside other public sector workers on November 30th, 2011 for what turned out to be the largest coordinated strike movement in the UK since 1926. Right now, in countries like  Greece, Hungary and Ireland, governments have been using the economic crisis as an excuse to introduce changes to their labour codes that diminish worker's collective bargaining rights. However, Greece, Hungary and Ireland are not the only nations being subjected to this form of bullying and coercion by governments. The attack on labour rights is happening in almost ever country in Europe.

Setting: Present Day- Canada

Similar events to those that have been taking place in the United States and Europe have also been happening in Canada. The olfactory imagery conjured up by the mentioning of the words garbage strike reminds us that something was rotten in the city of Toronto in 2009. And no, it wasn't just the piles of uncollected garbage left on the streets to decay that was the only source of that smell. Even when city workers called off the strike at the end of July, the stench of the plot to undermine organized labour and privatize public services remains in Toronto to this very day. Canadians should also remember the Canadian Postal Strike in 2011 that resulted in the federal government's shutting down of the collective bargaining process via  unconstitutional back-to-work legislation, a tactic they had previously employed in the dispute between Air Canada workers and their managers. Currently, we are in the midst of an attack on the collective bargaining rights of teachers in Ontario, and the similarities to what happened to education in British Columbia last year is no coincidence. But the assault on organized labour described above is just the tip of the ice burg. To read a full account of  the damage done in Canada click here.

I'd now like to zoom in closer to the setting of Ontario and take a look at some interesting characters who were introduced in earlier scenes. These characters were instrumental in advancing the plot, and are also important to the thematic development of the story.

Characters


Setting: 1990s- Ontario
PAY UP!

IMF 
If you read the description of the IMF on their own website, you may might be tricked into thinking they are the heroes of this story, but don't fall be fooled into trusting a honey-tongued sweet-talker as King Lear did in one of my favourite Shakespearean tragedies. Bestselling author and researcher Holly Dressel describes the IMF as a "muscle for international loan sharks". In fact, it is from Holly Dressel that I learned the true nature of the IMF and the actions of which they are capable. But before I get to the telling of the evil deeds committed by the IMF, I thought I’d briefly touch on a couple of  minor characters in this story.  

Mike Harris:
I was going to say that if you are an Ontarian and were not living in a cave in the mid to late nineties, you know the name Mike Harris and all of the cursing, uncontrollable shaking and hand gestures mimicking strangulation that accompanies the mentioning of his name. But when I thought about the above cliché statement again, I realized that, actually, cave dwellers are exactly the sort of people who would have voted for him in the first place. However, even though Mike Harris has long since resigned from his position of Premier of Ontario, his name still to this day conjures up a lot of hostility and anger. Yet, I would argue that this anger and hostility is largely misplaced. Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending Mr. Harris, but the reality is he only played a minor role in the Progressive Conservative’s performance of The Common Sense Revolution.


Bob Rae:
In order to complete my description of Mike Harris I first need to introduce another (somewhat) more benign character by the name of Bob Rae. So what can I say about Bob Rae? Well, when he was Premier of Ontario in 1993, I was between the ages of 9 and 12, and would say ‘he is gay’ because it rhymed and I thought I was cool. I now realize the homophobic nature of these words and would never say such a thing today; however, if I had intended to use another meaning of the word “gay” (which I obviously didn’t but let’s just pretend), “having or showing a merry, lively mood”, I would have been more accurate. Okay, I know Rae’s no Jim Carrey, but he is gay for a politician. I mean, he went skinny dipping with Rick Mercer and allowed the footage to be broadcasted on television. For a politician, you can't get much more “merry” and “lively” than that. 


Mike Harris and Bob Rae: In Depth Analysis 
But even though Bob Rae is more likeable than Mr. Harris, he carries with him, a deep dark secret: he, not Mike Harris, began the Common Sense Revolution. Alright, this may not be that deep and dark of a secret, but it seems there are many people who are unaware of this fact, and/or many who appear to have forgotten it. As Doug MacLellan explains his paper, Neoliberalism and Ontario Teachers’ Unions: A “Not-So” Common Sense Revolution, Rae’s NDP began most of the reforms in education that led to the Ontario teacher’s strike in 1997. MacLellan writes:

…the NDP government passed Bill 48 The Social Contract Act, which contained mechanisms to ensure the Ontario government attained its level of savings from its public sector groups. The outcome of Bill 48 was a breakdown of good will between the NDP and its traditional base of support, labour union, including teacher unions, and it also marked a shift by the NDP government toward a neoliberal approach to governing Ontario. [Emphasis mine]

Thus, it appears no matter what colour the government was, or whether their leader’s name was Bob Rae or Mike Harris, the cuts to education, health care, and other social programs were going to happen. And they are continuing to happen now under a Liberal government in Ontario. This time the name to despise is Dalton McGunity. But it could have been Tim Hudak. The point is: it doesn’t matter. All of these characters play a secondary part. They are the Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns of the show. Their role is to do the bidding of the real masterminds behind the curtain.


IMF: In depth analysis
I want go back to the role of the IMF in Canadian politics during the 1990s. Because it’s essential to be aware that what was happening in Ontario in the 1990s was happening all over Canada. As Holly Dressel explains in the following clip, the IMF created a “structural adjustment program” for Canada in order to repay its debt. However, this program was not designed to make our economy more efficient or competitive; rather, its intent was to force upon Canada a neoliberal agenda. This is why our federal government at that time drastically cut its transfer payments to the provinces for education, health care and other public services. The IMF said “jump” and Chretien Liberals did… into a never ending pit of social spending cuts and privatization.


It’s also important to recognize that the IMF’s ‘structural adjustment program’ for Canada in the 1990s is not a unique script. They have demanded that governments in other countries all around the world encore this performance. Forcing the privatization of water onto the poorest countries in Africa and South America is only one example. Right now the IMF is especially focused on European nations like Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. Interestingly enough, a couple of years before they began implementing austerity measures in these countries, the media reported that meetings were taking place between European leaders and Paul Martin, who was our Finance Minister in the 1990s. Apparently, Canada's model of austerity in the 1990s is heralded as a "great success" among world leaders.

Themes

The examination of the various settings, events and characters in this story should lead us to the identification of the following themes: attacking organized labour, reducing collective bargaining rights, cutting social spending and privatizing public services. But what do these themes have in common and how do they contribute to the main message of the story? To answer this question, we need to ask two more: who is harmed by these actions and who benefits from them? The answer to the first question is obvious: the working and middle classes. The answer to the second question is: the masterminds behind the curtain. The masterminds behind the curtain are the ones setting up the stage, they are the authors of the lines  spoken by characters like Mike Harris and Bob Rae. But who are they? To be honest, I don't know have a definitive answer to this question, but I do have some ideas. I know that characteristics of the masterminds are reflected in the IMF and so taking a closer look at their script may provide us with more clues. I also know that they are extremely wealthy and powerful and their main message seems to be: F*** democracy.




Epilogue

I had wanted to say all of this at the OSSTF PAC meeting but didn’t because I was afraid. I was afraid that people would think of me as one of those radical and crazy conspiracy theorists. I realize that what I’ve written here does sound a lot like a conspiracy theory, but is it really that crazy to believe there are powerful groups of people in this world who come together and make plans to further their goals and protect their interests? I mean, here I was sitting in one group of people doing just that. Isn’t it crazier, given the evidence, not to believe such meetings are likely to occur? And isn’t it even more crazy to keep using the same strategies (i.e. electing a government that will do the same thing regardless of its colour) over and over again? I don’t think we should sit back and do nothing, but I also don’t want us to continue to participate in this charade. Because honestly, if we do, we will surely end up as insane as Hamlet.

"Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged./His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy."(V, ii, 225-226)

  WELFARE BUNNIES

Definition 

Bunnies and welfare. What do they have in common? Bunnies are cute and soft. Welfare is soft but not cute. According to urbandictionary.com, a "welfare bunny" is

a person who uses the system not for a hand up but for a hand out, they live on the system and seem to be quite content with doing so. The term bunny comes from the fact that they usually multiply as such and have many baby daddys, thus securing their ability to receive assistance.

Sounds about right. And don't you just really hate people like this?! Grrrr! They're lazy, incompetent good-for-nothing  bums! I have to work a shitty job that I hate every moment of so that these fools can spend what I pay in taxes on lavish parties, designer clothing,expensive trips around the world...

Wait a minute...? Huh?! By now you are probably very confused. What the heck is she talking about? Welfare bunnies waste their money on drugs and alcohol- not on the items listed above. They get way too much money, but not that much money.  I'm guessing that when you read the definition of a "welfare bunny" you were probably picturing a poor single mother- a.k.a-. a "welfare queen". Well, this was not who I was picturing. I was picturing a  certain queen- not just the kind with quotation marks- but also the literal kind.  Her name is Elizabeth II. I'm sure you've heard of her. She is a queen and a "queen"... and the  queen of all welfare bunnies . 

Association
It baffles me that conservatives and other Scrooge McDicks have been so successful in convincing  people that they should begrudge the tiny amount of welfare money the state spends on poor single mothers and their children. And it is a very tiny amount.  As the DWP’s 2011 Report on Households Below Average Income reveals those on social assistance are hardly livin’ it up. In fact, I don't know how they manage to live at all. Yet, these same Scrooge McDicks have absolutely no problem with the British royal family who live obscenely luxurious lifestyles all at the expense of the public purse.

Conservatives and other Scrooge McDicks are also probably the reason the picture of a poor single mother and her children- not a queen and her rich royal family- first comes to mind when we hear the term, “welfare bunny”.  That isn’t fair and it needs to change. No one more than Elizabeth II and her prodigy of bunnies deserves this title.


Conditioning

Thus, my objective is to change your mind. My hope is that by the time you’ve read through this post, the next time you hear the term "welfare bunny" you will think of this:


So, dear reader, let the conditioning of your mind begin. The process will be broken down into two parts: the welfare part and the bunny part. 


The Welfare Part 1

I decided to begin with the welfare part because it's the easiest. We already know that the royal family receives their money from the state, but how much do they get exactly? The official number is £38.3 million per year. However, this number leaves out some important items, such as security, travel expenses, and lost revenue from the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall. When these expenditures are taken into account, the cost to maintain the royal family is estimated at £202.4 million per year! It's hard to believe, isn't it? Well, some people don't believe it. Some people think the cost may be even higher given the lack of transparency and shady dealings surrounding the finances of the royal family.  But even if the cost is (insert sarcastic tone) as low as £38.3 million the fact that one family, let me repeat, one family receives £38.3 million a year from the hard-working people of Britain for having done absofuckinglutely nothing at all is outrageous.


The Welfare Part 2

Yes, I know. Unfortunately I am going to have to defend my last statement  in the previous section because, believe it or not, some people actually argue that the royal family deserves the money they receive from taxpayers. Apparently, they have earned it and continue to do so. Hmmm...I suppose if you consider killing members of your own family, executing millions of your fellow citizens, stealing land and resources from the inhabitants of other nations and executing them too, to be legitimate ways to earn money and power, then I guess the royal family has earned the position they hold today. Ok. I know what's coming next. Some will argue that you cannot hold these individuals responsible for what their ancestors did. Maybe not, but the fact is, the wealth, power and title that they hold today is  the result of these crimes of the past.

And what about all the work the royal family does today? Can't you see the sweat on the queen's brow that is the result of a long, hard and laborious day of smiling and hand-waving? Travelling all around the world and hosting lavish ceremonies and parties for other rich and famous people can also be quite exhausting. Especially when you pay other people to do all the work and preparations for you. Mark Bolland, former press officer for Prince Charles, was quoted on Janet Street Porter's BBC programme in 2005 as saying "the Windsors are very good at working three days a week, five months of a year and making it look as though they work hard."

Another argument made by monarchists that I must address is the money the royal family supposedly bring in via tourism. There are some who will argue that the royal family attracts tourists and if Britain got rid of them the country would lose money. This argument is easy to refute. In reality, of the top twenty tourists attractions in the UK, only one of them is a royal residence. That's right . One in twenty. Not really good odds and very unconvincing. To hear other unconvincing arguments and their rebuttals, watch the following video. It includes a perfect summary of why we should not be amused with the system of monarchy.



The Bunny Part

This is the fun part! How are royals really like bunnies? Well, in many ways they are not. They are not cute, that's for sure. Actually some of them are probably the ugliest people I have ever seen! In fact, the only reason people believe William and Kate are good-looking is because they are good-looking  through a sort of reverse proxy. In reality, they are just average in the looks department, but because they are surrounded by some of the most hideous members of our species, the public is relieved that at least some of the pictures that we are forced to look at almost every day in most British  newspapers do not make us vomit. (Sorry, I don't normally resort to mocking people's looks, but when it comes to the royals, I feel I am entitled to bend the rules a bit.)

Okay, so cute is not a common characteristic shared by bunnies and royals. What about softness and cuddliness? No and no. What about lustiness?  Perhaps. Prince Harry's actions of late would most certainly make his ancestor, King Henry, very proud. For all her preaching about chastity, Queen Victoria was  closing her eyes and thinking of England so much that she had nine children. And although Queen Elizabeth II had less than half the amount, she still fulfilled the most important duty a woman in  the royal family has: to have children. From the day she married, Princess Kate has been under pressure to start a family. It's been a year now, and people are starting to talk! Princess Diana had her first child only eleven months after her wedding day- and take another look at what she had to do in order to accomplish this task! Kate needs to get busy. The royal family requires those bunnies to keep that £202 million welfare cheque a-coming!  

By the way, don't you just love how the royal family helps to preserve outdated roles for women. It's like the women's movement never happened! Their existence also helps to preserve outdated systems of governance- i.e. monarchy. It's like democracy never happened! Well, while it can be argued that true democracy does not really exist in Britain (or even in most places in the world), its seeds have been planted and there are some signs of growth. This is where I make my next comparison of bunnies to the royal family. So far, we've looked at the more benign characteristics of  bunnies, but let us not forget the tale of Peter Rabbit. Despite that the reader is supposed to sympathize with Peter, we cannot ignore that fact that the little bugger is a thief! There is a reason Beatrix Potter chose a rabbit to tell her story. Rabbits are notorious for stealing food from farmers' gardens- just ask my grandmother. Do you know who else engages in thievery as though it is part of their nature? Ding, ding, ding!You guessed it- the British royal family. And no, I don't just mean that they are thieves because of their past crimes I mentioned earlier or just because they take hard earned money from working-class people via taxes, but because their very existence steals from a truly democratic system of governance our society is trying so hard to grow and foster. The lay people are farmers of democracy, if you will, and the royal family is Peter Rabbit. Sorry, Beatrix, but even though I was never meant to, I've always sided with Farmer McGregor in your story. 

The Bunny Part 2

Another infamous thief and trickster in the form of rabbit is Bugs Bunny.Yes, I know, he is supposed to be another character whose side the audience are supposed to be on whilst watching his cartoons. However, I find him, looking back as an adult, to be a complete and utter a*hole. He is a pompous, lazy, selfish, gluttonous twit.  Therefore, even though I don't entirely sympathize with his nemesis, Elmer Fudd, I will take his side for the purposes of creating an analogy between the interaction of these two characters and the interaction between the British monarchy and its subjects. Basically, they are Bugs Bunny and we are Elmer Fudd. Our natural instinct should be to *hunt and *kill pesky, pompous, lazy, selfish, gluttonous wabbits  because their "meat" (a.k.a. their wealth) would provide us with the sustenance we need for creating a fairer, more equitable society.  But somehow they manage, as Bugs always does, to distract us from achieving our goal. Once we are utterly tricked and fooled into acquiescence, these wabbits run off with the entire bushel of  carrots. Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee is my case in point. During a time when we are facing one of the worst economic crises in history, the Queen and her prodigy of bunnies are parading around  in a spectacle of  obscene wealth (I cannot give actual numbers as they have been conveniently unreported.) while children in the country are going to school hungry. What's up with that, doc?

Leaving Wonderland


Okay. I could go on and on (and on) about how much I despise the monarchy, but I think my attempt to alter your mind has been accomplished. I am pretty sure that the next time you hear the word "bunny" you will think of a heck of a lot more than Easter and carrots. I must also end this post now as I am late... for a very important date. Ha ha. But in all seriousness, I hope that what you've read here today, dear reader, will help you to climb back up the rabbit hole, escape from the nonsense and absurdity that is perpetuated  by the monarchy and its supporters, and inspire you to speak out against those who oppose the creation of a world in which logical and rational arguments prevail.
WARNING: Don't follow the bunny!





*As a vegetarian I do not really advocate for the hunting and killing of any living creature. I am simply using these terms for the purpose of making an analogy.

God: Why Women Should Leave Him


"The worst enemy women have is the pulpit."
Susan B Anthony

 

Characteristics of a domestic abuser 

A man who abuses his partner is jealous and possessive. He demands absolute submission from his partner. If she rebels against his will in any way, he gets angry and his anger is readily expressed in the form of physical violence. To his partner, he is omnipresent in all her physical and mental space. He knows everything that she does and everyone that she sees. He is all-powerful...

The above passage describes common characteristics of domestic abusers and the situations they create for their victims. However, this piece is not about domestic violence- at least not the human kind. The above passage also describes common characteristics of the Abrahamic God and the situation he creates for his followers, especially the female ones.

God as a domestic abuser- it sounds crazy. But the more I think about the relationship women have with their God and religion, I cannot keep this image out of my mind.

 

Background

I started thinking more about religion when I was teaching at a primary school in the UK. As a public school teacher in Canada, religious education is not a compulsory part of the curriculum. However, in the UK, even in secular public schools, a teacher is required to teach religious education at both the primary and secondary levels. As both an atheist and a feminist, I was very uncomfortable with having such an obligation forced on me.

Thus, I went searching on the internet to find a feminist critique of religion that would help me to better articulate my aversion to having to teach it. Although I found some useful essays, articles and websites, on the whole, I found discussion of this topic to be sadly lacking. Even one of my favourite feminist blogs, The F Word Media Collective, only has a few articles and podcasts exploring this theme, and all of them were wanting in critical analysis of the patriarchy that is inherent in all Abrahamic religions. 

 

Why feminists are hesitant to critique religion

Fear of being labeled intolerant, prejudiced and/or racist is a major reason why many non-religious feminists steer clear of critiquing religion as Amy Clare explains in her article, “Why feminism must embrace reason and shun religion’’. Clare is surprised that even though feminists know that religious ideas harm women, they tolerate it or even apologize for it. “It is as though mainstream feminism has a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to religion”, she writes.

Recent discussions about Islamophobia in Canada illustrate Clare’s point argument all too well. To me, it is bizarre that we are at the point when Conservatives are saying that niqabs are oppressive while feminists are defending a Muslim woman’s "choice" to wear one. I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure this is really happening. Do feminists really believe that this "choice" is really free- that it is in no way influenced by the families and communities of these women who have indoctrinated them into this system of belief since they were children? Are they ignorant about the reason why Muslim women cover their faces? Do they not see any connections between this practice and victim blaming? Or are many feminists just too scared to tell it like it is because they fear the social and political consequences of criticizing religion?

 

Religious feminists 

And what about those women who claim to be feminists and followers of major world religions?! How are they able to reconcile their advocacy for equality between the sexes and their “faith’’? Personally, I agree with Guardian columnist, Cath Elliot, that being a feminist and a believer in one of the world ’s major faiths is “an oxymoron’’. All major religious texts are filled with sexist ideas that have been and are still used to justify acts of violence against women. But, most importantly, at the centre of these "sacred texts" is the image of the ultimate patriarch- God. And let us be clear that God, Yahweh, Allah, or whatever you want to call him is a male deity whose words are interpreted by male prophets and whose institutions are run predominately by male leaders. How do religious feminists ignore this reality?

In her article, Amy Clare also examines some of the reasons why religious feminists say they are able to reconcile their faith and feminism. She says (and I quote) there are three main ones:

1) There are other verses/texts in the religion which actually promote equality and women’s rights.

2) The holy texts have been misinterpreted by misogynists and if interpreted correctly they actually promote equality.

3) The texts are irrelevant to the practice of the religion itself.

I will not bother reiterating Clare's insightful analysis of why these reasons just don't make sense as you can read them here. What I would rather do is get back to what I wanted to focus on in the first place: the psychology behind why many women cannot seem to get away from religion.

 

Victims of Abuse 

My brothers they never went blind for what they did
But I may as well have

 - Alanis Morisette

And so I come back to the image of God as a domestic abuser. It is although women (as a group)  are in the ultimate abusive situation. God controls what they wear, what they eat, where they sit. He often puts them down and threatens to harms them physically. Sometimes he does harm them physically.

Yet, it seems that women are in denial, especially those that identify themselves as religious feminists. They make excuses for God's behaviour, excuses that sound an awful lot like those made by abused women."There are other verses/texts in the religion which actually promote equality and women’s rights." sounds a lot like, "He's not always this way... there's a good side to him too". The argument that "the holy texts have been misinterpreted by misogynists and if interpreted correctly they actually promote equality" resembles a victim's belief that she and the love she has for her abuser will be powerful enough to change him. The last reason, that "the texts are irrelevant to the practice of the religion itself" is ultimate denial. It is reminiscent of a victim pretending that the abusive part of her relationship doesn't exist. She creates her own fantasy version of the relationship in her mind, and this fantasy relationship is also the only one she shows to the outside world. Unfortunately, for her, and all female victims of the misogynistic religious ideas and practices, the reality is, the abuse is real.

 

Support 

Look, I know I am being quite harsh. It's just that... I'm really irritated. The reason why is because I see a lack of critical thinking and questioning when it comes to religion by people in general, but especially by feminists. As an abolitionist feminist, I don't advocate for "harm reduction" in prostitution because I think it is an oxymoron. Prostitution is harm. I also think Christianity is harm. So is Judaism and Islam. Any system of belief that legitimizes the inferiority of women, discourages critical thinking, and promotes absolute submission to male authority does harm and is anti-feminist.


Yet, I do not advocate for laws that ban religion because I know they will do no good in the same way that it would do no good for me to forcibly remove a woman from an abusive situation.(But I will also not apologize for or defend religious beliefs and practices, especially those that are sexist like the wearing of the burqa.) All I can do is help the victim recognize that she is in an abusive situation, provide her with support, and hopefully she will decide to leave on her own. A similar approach should be adopted when discussing the topic of religion with religious feminists and those who defend them.




Building a new life  

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

 - John Lennon

It is often difficult for a woman in an abusive relationship to imagine what her life would be like without her abuser as he works very hard to ensure that she is both financially and emotionally dependent on him. Very understandably, even if she decides she wants to leave him, she may be too afraid to face what is an uncertain future. Perhaps this too is one of the reasons why religious feminists find it difficult to leave their faith. They are told it is part of who they are. Their family and other social relationships are formed and maintained via religion. Therefore, holding and voicing a dissenting view about one's religion can lead to  conflict and an identity crisis.  Very understandably, religious feminists may be scared to leave their religion as they also face an uncertain future.

But fear and uncertainty are not a good enough reasons to stay in a bad situation. Once such feelings are conquered, the potential for a bright future lies ahead. When an abused woman finally leaves her abusive partner and begins a new life, she feels much better, more independent and confident. Similarly, when people start leaving religion, the lives of women and girls improve dramatically. And how do we know this? By looking at the least religious countries in the world and comparing them to the most religious countries in terms of gender equality.  Not surprisingly, countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway have highest number of organic atheists also have the highest levels of gender equality. Countries considered to be highly religious, like Pakistan, Nigeria and Iran have the lowest levels of gender equality.Coincidence? Methinks not.

Final Message

So all you feminists out there, it's time to put down those tired old ancient books and read the modern writing on the wall. Let's call a spade a spade and religion yet another manifestation of patriarchal domination of women.  Let's start helping our fellow womankind leave the oppressive and abusive relationship we have with this patriarchal character called "God". Let's begin working to build a better life for women and girls- not in the future in the clouds, but right now here on earth.