Teach your children well: why I think Julien Blanc-esque behaviour doesn’t deserve an app, it deserves a societal facelift

This week in the world: most disgusting man on planet Earth, Julien Blanc, had his visa revoked in Australia and is banned from entering Australia, Brazil and South Korea.  Blanc is a self-professed dating guru who provides lewd YouTube tutorials and actual classes and seminars for unconfident men.  Blanc is currently the subject of a change.org petition bearing over 149,000 names at the time of writing calling to have him banned from entering the UK, especially after posting a “How To Make Her Stay Chart” which was originally designed to help women identify abusive behaviour in a relationship to his Twitter feed (and then taking it down).  I was going to post that chart here, but it’s not entirely germane to the topic of this blog and it’s so utterly offensive when viewed as per Blanc’s intentions that I couldn’t bring myself to saving it to my computer and republishing it.

Julien Blanc...a strange cross between utterly terrifying and utterly pathetic. Photo: the Guardian.

Julien Blanc…a strange cross between utterly terrifying and utterly pathetic.
Photo: the Guardian.

The legal discussion about whether Blanc should be the subject of a nation-wide ban is fascinating.  You can read good discussions on this topic about the UK here and with regards to Canada, here.  I am not about to delve into a discussion of Charter rights and free speech, but I highly recommend these articles to get your fill on nerdy, legal discourse on what the request to bar Blanc’s entry means from a legal perspective.

As I was spiralling into the Julien Blanc inspired chain of articles online, I stumbled across an article entitled “For pick-up artists, women are targets.  No wonder we don’t want to share a landmass with Julien Blanc“, published on November 11.  The author is Lindy West and she has a new fan in me.

In her article, West describes a new dating app which she describes as one part art project, one part online dating app.  The app, Siren, is intended to prioritize women’s safety.  The app is designed for a younger generation that doesn’t want to spend so much time sitting behind a computer but prefers the instant gratification of a mobile app.  According to the app’s creators, Susie Lee and Katrina Hess, “As online dating options have grown, Lee noticed that her friends’ frustration did, too: With every good introduction often came a slew of lewd ones”.

Inspired by these negative and seemingly unavoidable problems with creeps, Siren is controlled entirely by women.  When you download the app as a woman, you are invisible to ALL male users, but can see all of their profiles.  When you decide you like the looks of a profile, you can send the user a notification and the user can then decide whether they want to interact with you.  Lee has described this as being like a woman casting a smile towards a person in “real life”, giving the smiler-receiver the go-ahead to come over and strike up a conversation.  He doesn’t have to.  But, if he does, and if you don’t like what you hear, you can make yourself invisible again to this user, thus ending the conversation without any fear of retaliation or harassment.  This is also like in “real life” where you could simply end a conversation with a person and, unless you’ve already given that person your contact information, they’re unable to continue to harass you after the fact.  Seems brilliant, right?

West writes that this should be helpful considering the endless “haranguing” (Google tells me this word means “lecture (someone) at length in an aggressive and critical manner”) that women deal with when faced with an aggressive man in whom they have no interest.  Similarly, it should help out those blokes who are too shy or unconfident to know when they should talk to women (and who, in turn, end up going to Julien Blanc’s “bootcamps” on…like domestic violence crossed with dating advice?  So…I guess this is very good).

Theoretically, this app seems harmless.  With an objective that is purported to be protective of women in nature, and not anti-man in nature (as emphasized by the app’s goal of pairing man and woman up!), what’s the harm, right?

I’m not so sure. All the while reading about it, I couldn’t help but think: why are you still teaching me I must change my behaviour in order to get through this life?

This app, like women carrying pepper spray, not wearing too short of skirts, not walking alone at day or at night or at lunch time or any time ever, suggests that it is again, me, who must find a way to stop you from crossing a line of some kind.

When asked his opinion on this app, a friend said (and I paraphrase) he saw a lot of problems with it.  Throughout our discourse he said he would often see guys going downtown and their whole objective is to make progress (read: big progress) with someone they meet downtown.  If they haven’t found someone, the night is a loss.  When they talk to someone, they don’t see the girl they’re talking to as someone they’re just shooting the breeze with.  They don’t see that it could be a girl or a guy, and you’re just shooting the breeze, and you might have a really good time and you might have a friend.  You might get up the nerve to get their number and to want to see them again.  Maybe it’ll be a whole lot more.  But whatever it will become,  at that moment it’s just two people talking.  And somehow, people don’t see that.

DING DING DING!  We have a winner!

DING DING DING! We have a winner!

I swear, I almost kissed this person when they said all that (badly paraphrased quote).  It’s just two people talking.

Somewhere between my gut telling me that it just shouldn’t be ME who has to change all my behaviour to avoid your bad behaviour, and this brilliant notion of it being “just two people talking”, I had to ask, why are we building apps?  I mean, these women are building an app in one part to make money, but even behind the money there was also an idea.

My issue is why isn’t the idea more grassroots?  Why is the idea so many years above a person forming the notion that they really ought to “harangue” me if I “reject” them?  Why aren’t we teaching little boys at the tender age of five, six, seven, that these girls who around them are the same as them?  Not to harass girls (or anyone) at any time?  Why instead do you teach me at 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 27 “here, girl, carry this pepper spray, make sure not to wear “slutty” clothes, and always walk in pairs”.

Huge group of girls.

Huge group of girls.

When I was in elementary school, a girl in a rural town not far from my rural town was raped and killed.  How horrifically sad.  She had been wearing pyjama pants (as used to be the thing in lieu of leggings).  I was not allowed to wear my pyjama pants anymore.

It was unrelated, but it was how we deal and it’s how we have always dealt with the notion of violence against women.  It’s up to us to change our behaviour.

Well, I agree.  It is time for some changes in behaviour.  However, I think any time I have to change my behaviour to avoid you doing what you’re not supposed to do is victim blaming.  When I change to avoid what happened to someone else happening to me, I suggest that changed thing might very well have contributed to that person’s being a victim.  Isn’t that precisely what victim blaming is?

If you teach me math in primary school knowing I will eventually need math, why aren’t you teaching boys to view girls only as people knowing they will eventually need to view girls only as people?  This sounds insane, except that society has shown that gender inequality exists!  Misogyny!  So take some responsibility.  Obviously a lesson is missing somewhere.  Teach boys a conversation is a conversation and entitlement to certain outcome isn’t real.

The change is not in the apps on my phone or in the pepper spray in my person, but is in the lessons I, and my society and my community, teach my child.  We can’t remain silent on an issue we know could exist one day, knowing that at such a young age, little one’s have little malleable brains that suck up information and that turn that information into the components of one’s adult self.

While banning Blanc from countries and downloading protective dating apps is all fine and well, it’s clear a better world would be without Blancs and the necessity for protective dating apps.  Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).  Ancient wisdom, likely very on point.

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On Remembrance Day, My Gramps Continues to Change My Life

Today is Rememberance Day and a “holiday” at my work.  One thing about statutory “holidays” in this career of mine is that the notion of actually observing the holiday is sort of strange and bizarre and offside (either at this stage of the game or maybe just in general if you fancy yourself a hustla).  I am big into this mentality and with the exception of Easter and Thanksgiving, where I try and go visit my family, I usually work through these “holidays”

Today was no exception.  I set my alarm bright and early, had an outfit picked out, made a plan to meet that boy in my life to watch the Remembrance Day Ceremony, and then had intended to go back to work.  But then this morning when the alarm went off, I ACCIDENTALLY WENT BACK TO SLEEP.

I must have been very tired, but do you know when I finally woke up again?  At 8:45.  I started doing the math, and between needing a shower, straightening my hair, singing along to some Michael Buble (so it’s a bit early for Xmas – don’t be such a hater), and reconsidering my outfit, by the time I got to work it was going to be about 10am leaving only 40 minutes of working time before I was going to make way to the ceremony.

Here’s the thing about 40 minutes: in a profession governed by time, 40 minutes is just not very valuable.  I could stay in bed a few more minutes, or I could rush to get ready and maybe turn that 40 minutes into an hour.  But in either event, 40 minutes or one hour isn’t a meaningful amount of time.

As I laid there, playing all these thoughts out in my mind, I began thinking about my Gramps.  My Gramps was a very important friend and loved one of mine.  He taught me to play the violin when I was small, which I hated, but which I also loved because it was the thing that just me and my Gramps did.  In a family of four girls, you need to find something to differentiate yourself from the other three!  The violin was my in with my Gramps.  He would have these hour long lessons with me – way too long when you’re seven – and that part wasn’t great, but we would also go to the mall, me and my Gramps, and meet his friends at Tim Hortons and he would buy me maple doughnuts and show me off, I think.  My Gramps used to love braiding us granddaughters’ hair and he loved reading T’was the Night Before Christmas to us when our family would go to Nova Scotia to spend the holidays with him.  He would also talk to Santa on his ham radio.  “Santa” was always a pilot that my Gramps knew and who would pretend to be Santa for Earl’s grandchildren.  Why?  Well, probably because my Gramps used to be a pilot, because my Gramps had been a pilot in the second world war.

My Gramps served from the beginning of the war as a member of the Canadian Army, and later volunteered as one of only 673 Canloan officers, or as officers who had been loaned to the British Army.  My Gramps did not talk about the war.  The only reason I knew my Gramps had been in the war was because of this photo of him and my Nanny Cameron stepping out of this car together – he in his army clothes, she looking more beautiful than any movie star from the 1940s ever could.  And that was it.  My Gramps went on to be an entrepreneur, loving father and husband, amazing grandfather, member of the local orchestra, pilot instructor.  He was so many things – and I suppose it could be fairly said he fought to ensure he could be all of those.

And it was while I was lying there that it struck me: on this day that is supposed to be about not only remembrance but acts of thankfulness, I was so driven by a clock and numbers and units of time that I intended to squander the beautiful day away.  True, I value my career and I work hard every day at my career, but this day is not about putting some numbers on a scorecard.

My father was born in November, 1949, four short years after the end of World War II.  I recall him telling me that as a young person he lived in fear that he would get drafted when the next war started.  Of course, this would seem reasonable to a teenager because the second World War had begun only two decades after the first.  If history was any indication, there would be a letter with his name on it any day.  However, this never happened to my dad.  It hasn’t happened to my friends and it won’t happen to my nephew.  This peace and freedom is a lot to be thankful for, as is my loved ones not getting such a piece of mail one day saying “off you go, now, young man”.

So today I went to a ceremony, and I watched as hundreds of people around me experienced a day of thankfulness, liberty, peace and joy with their family and loved ones.  One little boy near me had the chattiest mouth and the biggest smile to match it.  And even though he was a bit noisy during such a sombre moments, and even though I had to hold back several “shushes”, I couldn’t help smile and view him as such a beautiful representation of what we really have to be thankful for. This small boy’s future is all his own.

And after that ceremony?  I didn’t go to the office.  Today I just savoured the world as I know it.  Thanks Gramps.

My Gramps, Earl Cameron's, obituary.  If you click, you can read about more of my Gramps' many achievements.

My Gramps, Earl Cameron’s, obituary. If you click, you can read about more of my Gramps’ many achievements.

me and my gramps

That Time I Tried To Impress Chief Justice McLachlin (Key Word: “Tried”)

I come today with a heart, mind, and soul that is heavy with embarrassment.  What I have to tell you today was…well frankly, it was never supposed to be this way.  Things were originally so much different in my mind when I approached this day in my life.  Here goes.

In June of 2014, right around the time I took to such regular self-mutilation it stopped appearing accidental and started resembling more and more a cry for help, I was asked to sing the national anthem at the opening plenary for the Canadian Bar Association’s Canadian Legal Conference.  I was filled with much trepidation.  Singing is a part of my life I take with no grains of salt.  I have such great respect for the discipline that I didn’t pursue it as a career as I believed I didn’t have what it took, a strange cross between fear of striking out and sacred holding of the value and importance of song.  It’s a little dramatic but hey, you knew what you were getting into when you started reading this blog today.

One of the main reasons I was worried about performing was because of the people I had this strong inclination might be in attendance – people from my firm, law friends who had never heard me perform before, members of the judiciary – aka the “celebrities” of the legal world.  There just might be judges from benches all across Canada, there might be Supreme Court of Canada judges, there might even be Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin.  The notion of singing in front of Bev was the most nervewracking notion since the last time I thought I was experiencing the most-nervewracking-thing-possible (probably having to appear befor my first Supreme Court Judge on an uncontested application and say nine whole words).

Bev, in a charming suit and very pleased to be surrounded by many leather bound books and in a fancy room probably smelling of rich mahogany.

Bev, in a charming suit and very pleased to be surrounded by many leather bound books and in a fancy room probably smelling of rich mahogany.

Anyway, hyperbole aside (sortof), it did indeed turn out Bev was going to be there.  My anxiety.  My LORD the anxiety.  I constructed a whole, tightly wound world of stress and preparation involving much cardio, much practicing to the chagrin of my downstairs neighbours, and I stopped eating sugar and drinking wine (sortof).  I had the perfect sweet-yet-adult dress.  I learned all four verses of the Ode to Newfoundland.  I planned out my humble yet confident response to when Bev would say to me, “Congratulations on a nice performance”: thank you, Chief Justice (while smiling). My moment was here where my two worlds would come together!

On the morning of the conference, I woke up bright and early with lots of time to eat my smoothie, wake up my neighbours with some vocalises, and practice my response to Bev a few more times.  (I, of course, also had a longer version of my gracious thanks for an alternative scenario in which she wasn’t too busy to ask me about my background in music and where I went to law school.)

Bright and early!  Sorry downstairs neighbours

Bright and early! Sorry downstairs neighbours

Perfect dress from the Gap, beige flats for max posture from Ann Taylor (again), awkward posing (all natural)

Perfect dress from the Gap, beige flats for max posture from Ann Taylor (again), awkward posing from yours truly.

So off I went.  In true soprano “it’s-vital-that-I-rehearse-in-this-space” behaviour, after my sound check I took it upon myself to wander about the Convention Centre and found a “secluded” spot to do an abundance more vocalises.  As I emerged from my secret soprano-proof hideaway, a myriad of conference organizers emerged from some room and applauded my efforts.  I practiced my humility.  Oh, that is so sweet!  Thank you so much!  Slash OH YEAH, I am totally ready for my moment in the sun.

After some introductory remarks (I have no idea what they were about…introductions and shit) and some further introductory remarks, they called my name.  Off I went, RIGHT IN FRONT OF C.J. BEV.

I stepped up to the microphone; took a nice, balanced, open breath to the depths of my stomach; reminded myself where my hard palate was and to make sure to add depth and core to my sound; and thought my favourite cue one last time – sing like you’re an opera singer (‘cuz you know how) – and we were off to the races.

For a bunch of really hungover lawyers, people were generally pleased.  Afterwards, people were quite keen to chat with me – what made me go to law school, am I actually crazy, generally a job well done.  One guy from Vancouver really gassed me up by telling me he “just really likes multidisciplinary people” and if I ever wanted to work out west, he would set me up (like what kind of big dog are you?  you just hand out careers at the CBA Conference?  #HarveySpectre).

I was milling about the main, open forum area looking at posters and chatting with people when my moment came: there she was, like a stoic celebrity!  She was with these two gentlemen and she was coming right towards me.  I didn’t even have time to fix my hair when the first one said, “a job really well done”, and the second said “yes, you do have quite a gift” (or they said something like that, I don’t really remember because I was a bit busy focussing on CJB to really hear them).  I muttered my well-practiced gracious thanks and then….

She walked right past me.

She didn’t even look at me.

I actually turned square on my heel, looked behind me, and there she was – gone.

I…I…I started to laugh so hard I had to clamp my hand over my mouth and try to hold my breath to stop myself laughing out loud (I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard me laugh, but it is a borderline manical witch laugh that is so loud it’s almost like my laugh organ thinks nothing will ever be funny again, so better get all my laughing done RIGHT NOW – so it was a bit of an issue).

After all that time and effort and lost sleep and worry and endless gushing about this event, the one member of my audience that I had been trying to impress either didn’t like what she heard or straight up DID NOT LISTEN.  It’s either hurtful or rude, goddammit!  All that time spent working on my graciousness: wasted.  All my effort preparing multiple and alternative gracious small-talk: in vain.  All my energy spent practicing/steadily dooming any future relationship with my downstairs roommates: …

Aw fuck it.  Maybe Bev just doesn’t know a good thing when she hears it – because music should just be celebrated.  Celebrated by singing along with the Ode and the Anthem, celebrated by giving a little nod and smile to the performer, celebrated by smiling in a general direction.

…And anyways, maybe Bev had a really bad experience as a kid and couldn’t sing and was asked to only mouth along to the words in choir and…

I mean.  An die musik.  That’s what it’s about.

Skinny Privilege and Why I Just Literally Can’t Even Right Now

As I drove home from the gym today the song “All About That Bass” came on.  I have unabashedly loved this song from the first moment I heard its walking bass line.  Meghan Trainor’s voice is super satisfying – it’s got so much colour, depth, and core.  I want to applaud her voice teacher, wherever he or she may be, for teaching Trainor some good techinque.  And obviously I like any song that’s about booty because booty is trending right now and I’m a pretty trendy girl (and just FYI: pistachios.  Pistachios are the nut right now).

meghan-trainor

Trendy like Trainor! Just look at her!

You know, the first time I heard this song was this remarkably happy moment in my life.  I mean, it’s just so catchy!  Who even cares what it’s about!  I just want it to circulate through my Facebook and on the radio and at every party because we just aren’t listening to enough jazzy soulful chicks.

But then, like the entrance of the Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute, a bunch of people had to write articles talking about how it’s actually not an empowering song and ruin this thing that was so plainly good.  This, THIS my friends is why we can’t have nothing nice.

In an article entitled “All About That Bass Might Actually Be Bad for Female Body Image”, we learn it’s actually about body-shaming and, based on one girl’s experience after having taken a course on eating disorders last semester and being skinny in high school, it’s highly offensive.  Not only are the lyrics “it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two, but I can shake it shake it, like I’m supposed to do” offensive, but so are the lyrics “I’m bringing booty back, go on and tell them skinny bitches that“.

The first quoted lyric is offensive to some because it can suggest that if you can’t shake it shake it then you’re not womanly and attractive.  The second quoted part is offensive because she calls some skinny girls “skinny bitches”.  Despite the fact that in current popular culture nobody is calling anybody a “bitch” anymore to relay an insult (we can thank the fall season and the advent of the popular, though potentially lost-on-most-users, hashtag #BasicBitch, for that one), the author says “that’s not nice”.

Oh.  It’s “not nice”?  That’s what you have to say about that.  Ok.  Well, I mean…I just…I hate to say, “I can’t even”, but…

meme

By that I mean to say: your argument is weak and irrespective of popculture right now and it’s not doing a very good job of convincing me that Meghan Trainor is a bad bitch.  Aw shit, that means she’s awesome!  I’m sorry, I just can’t insult her.

Girls are creatures of many emotions.  Me personally, I’m running on approximately 48 discrete emotions per day.  On Friday night past, after an evening out, I actually confined my post-drinking friends to a snuggle position, stopping a friend from answering nature’s call because I was all of “so happy” and “love this moment so much I’m scared it will end if you get up and then it will be gone and I will miss it”.  Four.  In a sentence.  Stopping a person getting up and being normal because I was having four emotions: three present and one future.

Thus, with that in mind, I don’t judge a person who may hear that song and have some emotion that it isn’t positive.  My condolences, sister, because this song is LEGIT THE ILLEST.

When I saw that article posted on my Facebook the first 50 times I couldn’t read it.  In fact, just looking at the title was infuriating.  It was clear what the article was going to be about – skinny privilege.

Skinny privilege is the sister of white privilege, upper-middle-class privilege, male privilege.  It makes life easier, it makes dressing, and looking nice and pulled together easier.  Society has always conditioned women to be small (and, in fact, as small as possible) and it comes fully equipped with lots of envy and lots of privilege.

Nobody is hating on you because you’re skinny.  We are all trying to be you.  As a slender person myself, I look at every slender-er person around me with such envy.  I can’t help it!  I like to think I’m a confident lady, but it’s a thing.  Skinny is what we want.  It’s enviable.  It’s a privileged state.  Meghan Trainor’s song isn’t about skinny girls.  It’s not for skinny girls.  It’s not hating on skinny girls.  After living a lifetime until suddenly now (with Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and others hustling for the big bootied), sit down.  The main thing?  This has nothing to do with you, skinny minnies!

Although the above-referenced article is old, this annoying parody by some gorgeous skinny bitch is not.  I have to admit, I only got as far as her annoyingly perfect smile and modified chorus about how any dude that wants to change her can move along when again I put my hand to my forehead and thought to myself…

download

As a final note, if you love this song the way I love this song, get a load of this.  This girl is clearly the only chick who was capable of getting more love from me than Trainor.  Look at her rock that upright bass.  What a babe!