Posts Tagged With: equality

The Blame Game

Disclaimer: I’m no political pundit by any stretch of the imagination.  But I’ve got eyes and a fairly decent brain.  So bear with me.

For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian or Albertan politics, the current government in Alberta is the New Democratic Party, or NDP for short.  They were elected in last year by a majority vote of unprecedented and some would say, epic proportions and their election meant that the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party had been ousted after 40-plus years of power over Alberta.

Like any establishment after such a long reign, it could easily be argued that the PC’s were far too comfortable in Alberta having been able to maintain their political position more than four decades.  Some might even venture to say that they became complacent.  Lackadaisical, even.  I have lived in Alberta for nearly three of those four decades and in that time I have seen the ups and downs of their government.  Some good, a lot of bad, and mostly a lot of in-between.  Like any political party, they relied heavily on contributions from Big Business supporters, in Alberta’s case this is largely oil companies with a lot of clout and financial ability to buy the party which fits their agenda the best.

The trouble is that with such a long-standing relationship between a political party and its Big Oil backers, you lose sight of the ones who are in reality backing both.  The middle class not only votes in the people they feel are best suited to lead their provincial or federal governments, but also consumes the goods produced by Big Business and Big Oil.

Yes, it’s true that the PC Party was great at bringing in business and creating jobs, much of those jobs with the oil companies backing the party.  But ask yourselves this: at what cost?  We were all blinded at the prospect of a booming economy that we lost sight of the fact that the middle class was being stretched far too thin by their support of ridiculously large corporate tax breaks.  Much like an aging elastic band stretched beyond its capacity, it will start to show cracks and eventually break altogether.  Relying on one segment of the voting and tax-paying public to support not only the over-privileged rich and corporations, but also to support the social programs necessary to assist and raise up the lower income classes proved to be too much for most of us.

I believe this collapse primarily among the middle class was the impetus for such a landslide vote for a different party to have their kick at the political can.  After more than four decades ruling this province, the breaks promised to the middle class were rarely, if ever, delivered.  And many of us were far too jaded by then to think much of the small pittances promised regardless.

Worse, when then-premier Jim Prentice realised he’d lost the vote to continue, his outgoing speech was nothing less than childish and immature.  He pouted and walked off stage without so much as the grace to wish the incoming premier, NDP Rachel Notley, luck in her new endeavour in leading our province.

To many, this was classic Progressive Conservatism – they didn’t get their way and like any bully, they were unaccustomed to being shot down.

Now, this is not to say that I am naïve enough to think that the NDP (or Liberal, or any other) Party would have behaved any differently had the same thing happened to them had they been privileged enough to have retained power for that length of time.  What I am saying is that the game has changed and if you want to stay in it, you have to adapt to new rules and parameters.  The Old Boys who voted you in four decades ago are now dying off, figuratively and literally.  Your voters are younger but not necessarily less informed.  What’s more, they want different things than their parents and grandparents.

Further, regardless of who won the election, there would still be the same messes to clean up after having the same party in for the last four decades.  If we are, as we all claim to be, open-minded and progressive, should we not then by definition have the grace to allow the current government some time to get their footing and to deliver on their promises which got them elected?  Isn’t that the democratic process?  And yet, as soon as the NDP gained the provincial seat, the naysayers were already at it – claiming that things were better when the PC’s were running the show.

Remember, the older we are, the faster we used to run.  Sometimes you have to embrace change, if you want actual change to occur.

Besides, if you wanted so badly for the PC’s to stay in power, why didn’t you vote them back in when you had the chance?

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Goddesses in our Midst

Beauty turned to stone.

I work in an office full of women.  As a woman, I can tell you there are days when I want to strangle most of them to save them from themselves, as counter-productive as that may seem.  I have lost count of the ones obsessively exercising, dieting, preening and primping in what I hope will not be a vain attempt to live up to an impossible ideal. 

On the other end of that spectrum, and likely driving the force of this irrationally compulsive behaviour are the ones who clearly don’t give one single iota about their appearance and utterly embrace their weirdness like it’s some kind of trophy.  The ones who have abandoned altogether most of the things that make them feminine.

It’s an odd dichotomy to say the least.

What I’m saying is I’m caught somewhere in the middle.  On the one hand, I end up wondering to myself hey, do the primpers see ME as one of those shlubby ones at that table as we all figure out our lunches on a given day, or do they see me in a different light altogether?  Admittedly, the more protective aspects of my ego would like to think I’m somewhat of an enigma to them, but it’s likely closer to the truth that they know me better than I’m willing to give them credit for, or even better than I sometimes know myself.  It’s certainly (and annoyingly) true of my husband, so why wouldn’t it be for these women?

There are times when I, too, am less convinced of my adequacy.  At least in this respect, I do think I am an enigma since I do enjoy, as they say, waving good bye to those inadequate feelings as they pass me by.  I do this primarily by focusing my attention on other things, usually trivial and usually so unrelated to work it would astound even my closest friends.

All I’m trying to say is that from my standpoint at least, their physical beauty seems less hard come by than my own.

But, as is my habit when presented with a question to which there is no ready answer, I have given this some thought. 

Why is it that I also feel the same way they do and they hopefully feel about me the way I feel about them?  Why can I see things in them I cannot see in myself, or vice versa?  I don’t have a regimen.  I eat, but I don’t diet aside from trying to balance what I eat from day to day to ensure too much of the same thing isn’t going into my system.  I am overweight, some would say by a lot, some by a little given the underlying framework.  Either way, I could afford to lose a few pounds and yet my last physical revealed a “fantastic” liver, such low cholesterol (the bad kind) where it was recommended I take in some fatty stuff to get it to where it should be, and despite being overweight and apparently having a lazy thyroid, I am in remarkably good shape. 

Explain that, Dr. Atkins – the cardiologist who died of heart failure…  Too soon?

But I digress.  I’ve simply concluded that we’re doing this to each other and allowing those negative thoughts to creep in because we’re so consumed with our outward appearances; that we forget that every action deserves an equal and opposite reaction.  So when one of us starts feeling inadequate and takes steps toward fixing that dilemma, the rest of us start asking ourselves if we, too, should be feeling inadequate for some reason, imagined or real.  Then we lose sight of the other truly important things in our lives.

This is not to say that I think everyone should throw fitness and nutrition out the window.  It is merely to say that I think people should leave room for other things in their lives in addition to maintaining a healthy physical lifestyle.

Is it inherent in the female of our species to constantly question, to try to continually improve and if so, WHY?  Perhaps it’s a design flaw by Mother Nature who, as a woman, likely also became obsessed with herself and forgot about fixing her own creation, Us.

When, if ever, will we ever decide we’re fine the way we are in whatever moment we find ourselves?  Men have been telling us this for years, but all the female-driven media out there continues to bash us over the heads with new diet and exercise regimes, hair and makeup and what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Arguably the world’s foremost beauty icon, Marilyn Monroe, was by all accounts a total knockout.  But by today’s unwieldy standards, she would be grossly overweight and even morbidly obese.  Emotionally, she was a wreck and a lot of it was sadly by her own doing.  By playing into her own creation of herself, she believed in the end that her physical beauty was the only thing that was worth anything, leaving her emotional and intellectual self struggling for recognition.

Maybe our conscious minds must forcefully and ruthlessly take over our subconscious.  Maybe we have to remind ourselves that as individuals, we each have unique traits which no one else on the planet will ever lay claim.  Maybe we need to remind ourselves that we are so much more than the sums of our parts, and that the number on the tag of clothing we would like to fit into is merely subjective and unworthy of our attempts to fit into it. 

Not once have I ever said to myself, “hey, there’s so and so, she’s a Size 14.“  It simply doesn’t register in my head, and likely no one else`s.  Instead, what I see every day are stunning eyes sparkling with robust laughter, gorgeous tousled hair, and traffic-stopping figures in no need of any further dieting lest they should lose some of those wonderfully feminine curves. But overshadowing even all those remarkable physical characteristics are heartbreakingly beautiful souls with such great humour and grace and colourful lives which extend far beyond themselves into their families and other friends.

More than anything, I am thankful each of them is part of my own weird life`s story.  No matter where our future steps and paths take us, at least we will always have the here and now. 

And I promise to try to resist the urge to force feed each of you a large, greasy burger with all the toppings and fixings I can muster. 

No guarantees, though.

Update July 9, 2013: Please check out this video of Dustin Hoffman beautifully articulating his feelings on portraying a woman in “Tootsie”:

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Lord of the Rings

Before you consider mortgaging your house or taking out a line of credit to finance the ring you want to symbolize your marriage (and let’s face it, this actually happens), I’d ask you to think about the following and then decide if more really is well, more:

My wedding band has graced the fourth finger of my left hand for nearly the last 14 years.  The finger which purportedly has a direct vein to the wearer’s heart.  It bears some scratches, some nicks, even a few dents and, to some, might look a little worse for wear.  It isn’t ostentatious by any definition and some might say it is unnoticeable.  But it has weight.  On those very rare occasions when it is not on my finger, I immediately notice its absence.  However, the fact remains that it is intact and shows no signs of weakening or disintegration anytime soon.  True, it has parts which aren’t ever going to have the luster as when it was new, but hear me out.  Those marks, to me, symbolize the growth, the change, sometimes the pain and mostly the triumph of coming out ahead at the end of any such struggle thanks to the combined effort my spouse and I put forth.  Fourteen years later, I can honestly say there is no other ring, no other marriage and no other man I would rather have in its place.  While I am not averse to showing off a little bling, at least with this rather plain in comparison band, I can comfortably wear it anywhere without fear of losing it or damaging it irreparably.  Unlike a showy diamond or other precious stone, I do not worry about harming or losing the stone.  Neither do I take pains to set it aside, taking it out only on special occasions.  It is with me constant, despite its beautiful and wholly uniquely imperfections.  It is my ring, Our Marriage.  Dents and all.

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Be the Change

Over the weekend, I was flipping channels and noticed something terribly, terribly wrong with how men are portrayed in the media.

[Insert overbearingly vocal and usually misinformed female dissent here.]

A diaper commercial I saw portrayed a group of men watching a football game together with friends and each of them had their respective infant in hand.  The suggestion of the commercial was that men would not be capable properly care for their children while the game was in play on television, and so the diapers with which the mothers had thought ahead to wrap their babies’ bottoms in prior to leaving them with their hapless fathers would last until the game was over, thus absolving the men of any responsibility for leaks from the diapers of their unsuspecting children.  Presuming, of course, that men are incapable of compassion or concern over the welfare of their children given the distraction of a televised game.

There are a number of things wrong with this advertisement.  Primarily, the suggestion is that without women, men would not think of anything on their own, let alone the well-being of the infant children left to their care.  Yet, in reality, we trust men to help provide for us and our children, to make decisions which women sometimes cannot or will not, and to provide shoulders on which to place our heaviest burdens, literally and otherwise.  So, it would seem that men are good for all that, yet in media we portray them as being more helpless than children, incapable of reasonable thought.

Much of media has followed this line of thinking and, as a woman with several decent and lovely men in her life, I take offence on their behalf.  While we are forced to suffer an endless barrage of women portrayed as VICTIMS of anything from breast cancer to heart disease and depression, there is very little coverage of men’s issues aside from baldness and erectile dysfunction.  And even these sensitive topics are commonly insensitively portrayed.  Moreover, men are often blamed for oppressing women, for perpetuating the unrealistic expectations women feel they have been subject to.  Yet I don’t commonly see men buying fashion magazines or attempting to fit into Size 00 clothing (what, exactly, is a Size 00?).

The hypocrisy of this tainted female mindset is mind-boggling.  Many of us complain that we are downtrodden, we have it so much harder than men, men don’t understand and do not even try to understand.  Yet, in the midst of all this vocalization about how we women deserve fairness and accurate portrayals of what life as a woman is or should be like, we take every opportunity we can to negatively portray as much as possible any man who dares come within range.  How can we expect equality from the viewpoints of men, when clearly, we do not regard men as equals?  I refer you to George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ in which the pigs in the story point out that while all barnyard animals are equal, some are “more equal than others.”

Further, while many women have young sons, they apparently see no correlation between the negativity they project to the grown-up men in their lives as having any impact on their sons’ perception of themselves.  How do you suppose a son feels knowing that his mother/sister/grandmother/aunt regards other men in this fashion?  As a parent, you will expect him, of course, to treat women with respect and kindness.  But how can he adequately learn this when he sees the women in his life showing little to no respect toward men, a member of which population he will ultimately become?

Bottom line, treat others how you would wish to be treated.  Be the change you wish to see in the world!  Even if they happen to be a man. 

To quote a great man named Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

NB: In order to foster the heretofore unheardof notion that men are, in fact, capable of great sacrifice for the betterment of others, I recommend the following movies:  The Next Three Days (Russell Crowe) and Dear Frankie (Gerard Butler).

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