Saturday, 28 January 2012

Attending KYA, Phase 1: Success!

My boss gave me the go-ahead to attend KYA! Yippee!!! The only issue is that I need to be careful about not over-extending my requests for training expenses so as to not leave myself high and dry should anything of importance come along towards the end of the year.

But, I think it'll be fine. Not many tech conventions come to Toronto (and I doubt they'll pay for me to attend one in Vegas), and the timing and subject matter of this conference is quite relevant to projects and changes that will be coming down the pipe.

In other IT work news, my employer is also going to be paying for me to get my CompTIA Server+ certification, and a SharePoint 2010 cert. I'm not sure of what our needs will be in regards to SharePoint, but I've ordered some training materials on administering it that will help bring me up to date before I book an exam.

Speaking of certifications, at present I've got my diploma from the Computer Systems Technician program at Algonquin college, and my CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certs. It took me about a year after graduating from my program before I was ready to start looking into getting certs, not least of all because I wasn't 100% sure if I wanted to work in IT or go back to marketing and fundraising for non-profits.

I'm obviously glad I did wind up going forth into this industry. I'm still able to assist various causes I believe in by offering up my time and energy as a volunteer, I have the benefit of getting paid better so as to be able to deal with this AD (after-divorce) debt, and I was frankly rather emotionally burnt out. Working and volunteering for rape crisis centres is already tough enough on people who have a stable homelife (whomever those people are - not sure I've ever met them). Add on extra stressors and it can be right unfuckingmanageable.

Back to certs, I quite like the format of the CompTIA exams and feel like I've gotten the swing of them. Although, in hindsight, I think it would have been more beneficial for me to have gotten my Server+ certification before I wrote my Network+, but I'm not sure I would have passed. There are a lot of self-study resources available for people looking to get their A+, Network+, Security+, and Project+ certs, but I've been having a heck of a time finding good ones for Server+. The one I did wind up ordering is more set up for use in the classroom. Without access to a server as I have now, I'm not sure I would've gotten enough from the reading material alone to pass the first time around.

Long story short, yay for continuing education and growing of teh brains!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Who are these "Hollywood-esque" rapists? *TW*

I've been mulling over a particular issue in regards to sexual violence, and I'm not 100% sure how to approach it, so any input would be appreciated.

This past year there have been a lot of conversations going on in the public sphere about taking the onus of rape prevention off of potential victims and holding rapists (or potential rapists) accountable. This is a great start, but one of the areas where there is still resistance is that a lot of people don't believe there's any point in telling rapists "don't rape" since they believe these rapists won't listen anyways.

So, let's talk about rapists. We know that most sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim. We know that rape is about power and control, and not someone overwhelmed by sexual desire. We know that a large percentage of rapes are never reported, and because of the low reports rates and culture that places blame on the victim, most reports of rape do not end in jailtime or a conviction.

Part of the problem is our views of who the victims are - sluts, party girls, irresponsible ninnies who go jogging through dark alleys at 3am, college women who get "pressured" into sex, teenagers who hang with the wrong crowd, etc. There is definitely a tendency in our culture to set up hierarchies of who we think get raped more often and who we will blame for their assaults or disbelieve when they report.

What makes it easy to put this back on the victims is who our culture expects rapists to be - drooling, physically deformed, socially-awkward, dishevelled persons with mental health issues that hang out in the "bad" areas of town and in alleys in the middle of the night. They're also ocassionally accompanied by dramatic theme music and fog machines.

But who are rapists actually? People. Regular people. Intelligent people. Popular people. Family members. Community leaders. Attractive people who can easily find partners to have consensual sex with them. Charismatic people who make their friends and family feel valued and loved. Funny people who are a joy to be around. People who are wonderful enough that, when accused of a crime, will have supporters coming out of the woodwork to stand up for them and attest to their glowing characters.

And this is the problem. The problem is that so many people who commit crimes of sexual violence are otherwise really great people. It is uncomfortable to imagine that someone who does wonderful things for the community is actually responsible for committing grievous sexual violence against many at-risk young men and boys who have looked to him for guidance. It is uncomfortable to imagine that someone who has inspired people to want to better themselves and brought them closer to God could be responsible for committing sexual violence against his parishioners. It is uncomfortable to imagine that a teacher who has given her students confidence in their own intelligence and helped them improve their grades could have committed sexual violence against her students.

Let me make something very clear. It is far more uncomfortable to be one of those at-risk youth, parishioners, or students who were betrayed. It is far more uncomfortable to have one's body turned against them by someone they trusted. It is far more uncomfortable to get up the courage to disclose and have even more people they trusted betray them, this time by disbelieving, or blaming, or shaming, or shunning them.

As a culture, we need to reconcile our discomfort. We need to check ourselves before we disbelieve a report of sexual violence. Not because no one ever falsely reports, but because of the consequence of not giving someone the benefit of the doubt and reserving judgement. Next time it could be you who is assaulted and disbelieved. Next time it could be your partner, child, parent, etc. We owe it to each other to reconcile our discomfort and our cognitive dissonance to give people who disclose abuse the benefit of the doubt so that we can help dismantle this rape culture.

We can't do that by telling women to avoid dark alleys.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

How to be an ally, and ffs stop telling women how to not get raped

This past week has been quite dramatic amongst my Facebook clique, fraught with countering victim-blaming under the guise of "safety advice" and disappointment with lack of response from an organization that is set up specifically to combat rape culture through involving men as allies.

It all started with a thread on the Men Can Stop Rape Facebook page that supported the article, "Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped." Long story short, the original thread was a clusterfuck of victim-blaming, it got deleted without a word from MCSR standing up for its original post, another comment thread was started briefly referencing the closed thread and hoping for commentators to engage respectfully, more victim-blaming, lots of posters expressing disappointment in MCSR's silence on the issue, and the follow-up thread being deleted without further comment.

It's not the first time I've been underwhelmed by an organization's response to a situation it is supposedly set up to fight against, but it's certainly one of the most disappointing.

Last month I posted an entry about "How to be an ally (and less of a jerk)". In some ways the situation I've come across this past week has perfectly highlighted my points from that post (gaslighting, WATM, not accepting responsibility for hurtful/ triggering comments, etc). I realize that there are a few other points I hadn't gotten around to addressing.

If you're an organization whose main purpose is to help men be allies in the fight against rape, you cannot allow victim-blaming to go unaddressed. Heck, if you're a person, the advice is the same. Silence speaks volumes, and when someone is being aggressive and verbally abusive and dismissive towards survivors and you say nothing, everyone involved hears that. They hear your silence as complicity with the detractor. If you are completely unwilling to support your position in favour of not victim-blaming, to the point of allowing said victim-blamer to completely overtake the conversation without censure or even mention, then that only emboldens them, it also tells survivors their voices, knowledge, and experiences aren't important.

In regards to the victim-blamers, some people are so invested in their own ego, that they really don't want to hear how they're causing more harm than good. And, they may be right about some things. As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But offering some valuable advice and being supportive of some friends in some situations neither makes you infallible, nor, on its own, an expert in the field of rape prevention. Just because you teach self-defense, you are not an expert in rape prevention if you perpetuate rape myths and victim-blaming. Just because you have supported survivors of sexual violence, it does not mean you're allowed to pit "good" survivors against "bad" survivors or to use the word "victim" as an insult. Just because you are relatively assured you could use physical violence to diffuse a situation where someone may try to sexually assault you, it doesn't mean anyone who is unable or unwilling to risk using physical violence is not as dedicated to avoiding sexual violence as you are.

Now, in the interest of rape prevention and personal safety, there is a lot of good advice out there. The difference between good advice and spreading rape myths, is that the good advice acknowledges there is no magic bullet to preventing rape. It does not make a list of what women must do, because it acknowledges that women's experiences with attempted and completed sexual violence are so varied that there is no singular right way to live or act or react or fight back. There just isn't.

Here's a great article on rape prevention measures one can try to undertake to reduce their exposure to risk.
Nine Real Self-defence Tips

Here's an awesome article on setting up and maintaining personal boundaries.
The art of "no". 

And here's a follow-up article to the previous one on boundary-setting:
The art of "no", continued: Saying no when you've already said yes.

One thing I would add that I feel is missing from conversations about rape prevention, is that it's pretty common for women who are inundated with "don't get raped" messages to envision ways to harm or discourage their potential attacker (like saying they'd defecate on themselves, for example). I know enough about rape myths, et al to figure it's largely unrealistic and unhelpful, but my mind goes there because of allllll these messages. I know I'm more likely to be assaulted by someone I know, but I still don't go out alone at night. I still hold my keys a certain way "just in case ". I still make sure someone knows where I'm going if I'm going alone, etc. I have no idea if anyone of this helps in proportion to the amount of anxiety I feel for feeling like I have to do these things. I still do them all because, although I recognize rape myths for what they are, I'm still a woman navigating my way through rape culture.

When people go on insulting and infantilizing diatribes against articles like "Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped", what they seemed completely ignorant of and blind to (amongst other things) is that women are still going to protect ourselves. One fucking article isn't enough to give us the confidence and sense of safety to change how we already live our lives. We're neither stupid enough to suddenly stop looking both ways before we cross the street, nor have enough confidence in the rest of society not to blame us for rape to drop all "safety measures" over one article, or a hundred, for that matter.

When you see articles that propose taking focus off of women preventing their own rapes, take a moment before you respond with a kneejerk, "Yeah, but". Are you really adding anything new to the conversation? Do you really have such a small opinion of women's intelligence that you think we can't take care of ourselves unless we're bombarded with these terrifying messages every second of every day? Are you really so blind to your own privilege that you think your Rambo-talk of killing rapists is at all helpful? Can you really not stop yammering on for 5 minutes to read responses to your misogyny and consider if maybe you don't have it all figured out?

EDIT TO ADD: If you've read all the way through this blog post and your only response is, "You offered safety advice! JENGA!!!", then I urge you to make an appointment with your family doctor at once. I don't mean to alarm you, but I've Googled your symptoms and all signs point to severe vision impairment that will only get worse without intervention. It appears that when the ego gets hyperinflated, it puts pressure on the optic nerve and causes myopia. Might wanna get that checked.


Dopplegangers!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

KYA - Know Your Alternatives: One-Day Telecommunications Conference

Just yesterday I found out about the upcoming KYA Conference coming to Toronto on Feb. 9th. I want to go. I need to go. I need to convince my boss' higher-ups that they need to pay for me to go.

They've got an interesting line-up of speakers, panels, and breakout sessions planned. I haven't been to any kind of convention in years, not since my non-profit days, and I imagine these will be a lot more fun and less emotionally taxing than learning about hate crimes and child sexual abuse images. Just slightly.



I've just got to figure out how to put into words why I, specifically, should be the one to go. Let me roll up my sleeves and wow them with my impressive verbiosity:
  • Reason 1: Because they include breakfast, lunch, and hors d'oeuvres. Come awn. You guys don't even get the tech crew sandwiches when we have our quasi-weekly meetings. Cut a girl some slack.
     
  • Reason 2: I promise I will be a fabulous representation of the company, but no so mind-blowing that another company steals me out from under your nose. If it seems like it's coming to that I'll pass gas or spill coffee on someone important. Promise.
     
  • Reason 3: Cause I really wanna. Like, really, really. Come awwwwn. Come aaaawwwwwwwnnnnn!!!!
     
  • Reason 4: I've already spent over an hour looking over the website, the bios for their keynote speakers, and plotting what I would wear. We don't want this time to have been wasted.
  • Reason 5: It's a 5-minute subway ride from my house as opposed to the hour commute to get to work here. Cut a girl some slack for one day.
     
  • Reason 6: Come aaaawwwwwwwnnnnn!!!!
Well, I think I've laid out my case pretty eloquently. Wish me luck!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Pariah

I don't go to the movies terrible often by any standards. Even less do I go to independent films, not out of any disrespect for them, but moreoever because I don't tend to have anyone to go with and my partner prefers the big-budget, superhero films.

On Monday night I watched Pariah at AMC, and I am glad I accepted the invite.


I love Kim Wayans. Imagine my delight to find her in a serious role, when I don't recall having seen her in anything outside of In Living Colour. She did a great job, and broke my darned heart.

So many things about this movie rang true from my own experiences, while others made me think of my relative privilege in being able to "blend" by virtue of being comfortable putting out a more "femme" face to the world on occasion and being able to decide how I present myself. Nevermind my experience of being in a heterosexual relationship throughout most of high school and college, and thereby bypassing most criticism and conjecture about my potential sexuality.

This was a great movie. Go see it. Nao.

Monday madness

So many thoughts have been jumbling around in my head that these past few days I just haven't known where to start with another blog post. On the one hand, I feel like I should break these issues up into separate posts so that I can address the issues adequately, and on the other hand I feel like they're all interconnected and relevant to one another.

For example - Slutwalk. I'm continually talking about this movement with friends and allies and internet strangers alike, because I really believe in this form of activism. Is it perfect? Nein. Are there issues with trying to make it more inclusive so that it doesn't marginalize communities that don't feel reclamation is an appropriate response to a term that continually revictimizes them? Certainly. And these are the conversations I want to keep having - what Slutwalk's original intentions were, what its core message is, and how to move forward with it in 2012.

Related to Slutwalk, is the issue of #ThingsASlutMightSay trending on Twitter. There were (and are) some truly misogynistic and hateful messages relayed through that tweet, thinly guised as "humour". In response to it, I took to the Twitter and tried to put more balanced messages out there that spoke to consent, and challenging the notion that perceived sexuality is a valid reason to dehumanize someone.

And related to misogyny and Slutwalk, are ongoing discussions about privilege. I understand that acknowledging and starting to understand privilege can be scary and threatening, because it requires us to look at our prejudices in an unfavourable light. It's all too easy to dismiss the concept of privilege as being overly antagonistic and simplistic, but much of that criticism tends to come from protecting one's own ego. And, like I've said before in discussions about privilege, if your ego is more important than being a good ally, then privilege isn't the issue - you are.

And related to misogyny and Slutwalk and privilege, is the issue that the Harper government is still working at dismantling women's and LGBTQ rights. Make no mistake, they've been at it since they first attained power in 2006, and they are savvy. Delegitimizing same-sex marriage of non-residents? Refusing to provide health care funding for countries in which abortion is legal, but stating that the abortion debate is "closed", while access to abortion in Canada is dependent in many areas upon disposable income? These are not bumbling moves of a government that "doesn't get it". These are strategic moves of a government that has no respect for its citizens. We're less than one year in to the majority. It'll only go downhill from here.

There's more, there's always more, but I'll go into each of these and more issues in their own post. I just wanted to put them out here in summation for the moment.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

"Girls From Planet 5" - aka, the MRA training manual

You may remember me posting about this little gem I stumbled upon at the Toronto Public Library's book sale:


Well, I finished reading it. One thing I enjoy about books like these is that they're usually pretty short and therefore easy to consume while in the bath or on the subway, etc. They're like brain candy, and I honestly think I'm addicted. Don't arrange an intervention, yet, however. My next book is The Little Country, by Charles de Lint. Because that's how I roll.

The book was published in 1967 and is quite the gem. Starting from the tagline on the front cover, "When the beautiful invaders took over, only Texas fought back!", the book really doesn't fail to deliver. It lives up to all the gender stereotypes and the geographic stereotypes of northern Americans being wimps and the "good ol' boys" in Texas being the last remaining manly men in the country. It even covers the trope of women being afraid of confrontation and being too bureaucratic to get things done (because wimmins created the bureaucracy, amirite fellas? Enh? Enh?).

The story follows Dave as he gets mad at his girlfriend for getting a promotion to being his managing editor and dumping her to move to Texas. While there he meets gorgeous aliens, starts falling for one because she's beautiful and doesn't talk back like his ex, becomes more Texan, his ex comes to town and likes him better because he's all manly now, and him and a few other Texans defeat the aliens since the women who took over (were democratically elected into) Washington are inept.

No big shockers to be had, although I was quite pleasantly surprised that this book wasn't grotesquely rapey. That's always a plus. Sexist and misogynistic, sure, but in a patronizing and insulting way, not violent and horrific. Win!

Another cute feature are the five short chapters entitled "Vox Pop", which follow the hijinks of a house husband who starts off henpecked with an over-bearing wife, and ends up standing up for himself and getting his wife pregnant so he can resume a more "manly" role. It's funnier than what I've described. Here's one of the chapters:

"VOX POP 
THREE
   JOAN TYPIKA shuddered at the image on the triveo screen and moved closer to her husband on the couch. She put out her hand. George took it in surprise, then patted it comfortingly.
   There's nothing for us to be scared of," he said. "They're terrible creatures, of course, but look how slowly they move. Remember, the closest ones are way up in Minnesota."
   "All the same," Joan said, "I don't like it. I don't see how anything could stop them. They've smashed everything that's stood in their way so far. Smashed and killed. They're man-eaters. Oh, it's horrible!"
   "I didn't know they'd eaten anybody," George said.
   "Oh, yes! The ones who couldn't get out of their way. Invalids and the lame and - and babies!"
   "Babies! I hadn't heard anything like that."
   "Well, I have, and I'm more likely to hear about it than you are. You do lead a rather sheltered life, you know."
   "I've got the triveo," George said. "And there's our weekly poker club, when Charlie and the rest of us get together and talk."
   "Poker!" said Joan. "You told me it was bridge!"
   "Well, it isn't," said George complacently. "We play poker, and smoke cigars and - and even drink a little whiskey now and then."
   "George!"
   "That's right," he said. "Any objections?" He looked at her half-aggressively, half-prepared to retreat to a less daring position.
   She seemed to be seeing a George she'd never known before. She didn't know quite what to do about it. She wasn't sure she liked him this way. On the other hand there was something about him . . . a kind of thrill she'd never experienced . . .
   "Why - no, George. You have a right to relax once in a while. I know what a strain home engineering can be, and . . . "
   "Housework!" George snapped. "It's housework! It's about time we stopped using euphemisms. A spade is a spade and housework is housework no matter how many gadgets and certifications there are. Let's stop looking the facts in the back of the neck. We both know my so-called 'salary' is just a baby subsidy and that my 'research' and 'reports' are just devices to salve my pride, what little I've got."
   "Why, George!"
   "'Who, George,' indeed!" he shouted. "I've begun to see myself lately and I don't like what I see. There are going to be some changes around here. I don't know what they'll be yet but they're going to happen. And if you and the rest of you in Biddyland don't like it, it'll be tough, that's all. Tough!"
   He talked on, loud and confident, and she watched him in fascination and just a bit of alarm.
   "There'll be some changes made - by George! By me, by George!" He laughed, a little wildly. "I don't care if that is redundant. By George, by George!"
   She laughed, too, now. "George, you're wonderful. You really are. Come here so I can kiss you!"
   "No!" he roared. "You come here and I'll kiss you!"
   He did. Thoroughly. 
Not sure what kind of rating system I should give to books like this, so I'll have to work on that.


Saturday, 7 January 2012

"10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make that Ruin Any Chance For a Relationship"

Apparently that's the title of an ad that came up on Dictionary.com. I missed the ad itself and couldn't track it down and now feel like I'm missing out on some vital and life-changing information.

To correct this injustice, I'm going to take a crack at that list:
  1. Menstruating - ick! Lock that shit up, ladies
  2. Farting - sttoooooppppp!!!! BLARGHUGHJKH!!!!!
  3. Belching - what is this, a frat house? COME AWN!!!
  4. Drinking beer - leads to the above (although not sure about menstruating, but I'm sure it doesn't help)
  5. Wearing grannie panties - amirite, ladies? No man will ever love you if you dont' spend your days being sliced in two by ass floss
  6. Cellulite - if you truly loved your body and the mens, you wouldn't let this happen. It's just downright disrespectful.
  7. Pooping - this can be easily resolved by not consuming solids. Come on, ladies. Priorities!
  8. Getting fat - icky! See above
  9. Being hairy - shave everything below the hairline, including eyebrows. They can be pencilled back on, so what's the biggie? And don't let anyone touch you when you have stubble anywhere. That's just mean.
  10. Getting old - this is the most dastardly trick of all. No more luring men in when you're 20 and having the audacity to turn 30, ladies. It doesn't just make your face and body ugly, it makes your soul ugly.
There. I hope I've improve your lives by dropping this knowledge on y'all.