Monthly Archives: January 2018

Girl Power: It’s not given. It’s taken.

Women who want to change the world by working in politics need to be able to say “No” to to intolerable conditions. We need to teach them this; everyone will be better off.

I had a good conversation with my brilliant daughter on Sunday. We talked at length about the sexual harassment allegations against Ontario PC Party leader Patrick Brown; party President Rick Dykstra’s horrific story had not even hit the media yet.

An experienced political staffer, she has dozens of her own stories about politicians making inappropriate comments; one Councillor, upon meeting her, announced “You look like my next girlfriend!” (Given that she is an exceedingly happily married lesbian, this is quite the long shot…)

She got me thinking about what was bothering me so much about these media reports. Maclean’s Magazine’s coverage of the Rick Dykstra story, in particular, hurt my heart. It made me worry a lot about the state of young women’s thinking and attitudes today.

The young woman interviewed by Maclean’s seems not to believe she had any power over her situation at all.

According to Maclean’s:

“At about 1:30 a.m., the woman… decided to go home. Dykstra jumped into her cab and gave the driver his address. When they got there, he was ‘very insistent’ that she go upstairs with him, she says, ignoring her repeated refusal.

She eventually relented. When they got to his apartment, she says he pushed her against the wall and starting kissing her. ‘I was saying no, but I didn’t feel there was much that I could do to stop what was happening,’ she says.

 ‘He brought me into his bedroom and he told me to sit down on his bed…he sat down next to me and was still trying to kiss me… I didn’t feel like I could move.’

‘He pulled down his underwear and forced me to perform oral sex on him.’”

This is an absolutely terrible state of affairs: that a woman in her 20s did not feel she could kick an unwanted man out of her cab? That she had to go to his house? That she had to go to his bedroom? That she could be forced to perform oral sex? Where ever did she get the idea that any job was worth that?

Recently I wrote a column on the concept that Muslims could choose whether or not to be offended by things said by others, because mature human beings get to choose their own thoughts, and Muslims have that power too.

Yet we have raised a generation of young women who believe that they must do what a man tells them to do, or who can be traumatized by the words that come out of a man’s mouth? For goodness sake, accused harasser Liberal MP Kent Hehr is a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair, but women are afraid to ride in an elevator with him. I kind of think, as my son Dave would say, “I could take him.”

I am not in any way condoning the awful behavior of these men, but that is not the point here. In first year psychology you read about having an “internal locus of control” or an “external locus of control.” It’s probably the most important thing anyone learns in life: it has the potential to change every minute of your life, forever after.

If we could give young women the best gift ever, it would not be a world in which she could expect men to behave less like scoundrels and more like gentlemen.

It would be a psyche which gives them the confidence in their own judgement and personal power to kick the scoundrels out of their cab, and the courage to accept the consequences.

And in a perfect world, both.

 

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Patrick Brown. Anonymous interviews. 2018 is ROUGH.

Alone and unstaffed, Patrick Brown runs out of the Ontario Legislature hounded by media.

I don’t like Patrick Brown; I never have.

We were in Ottawa at the same time, when he was a lacklustre backbencher, never rising above the level of an unassigned MP.

One of my friends worked on his Leadership campaign; she quit a few months in, thoroughly unimpressed.

As leader, his flip-flops on sex education and carbon taxes made me groan, and the apparent meddling in local nomination races were worrisome.

So, I don’t like him.

What occurred this week – the release of information detailing his unsuccessful attempts to “seduce” teen-agers – saw him literally running out of the Ontario Legislature, being chased by a crowd of reporters shouting questions. I expect his political career is now over.

Just to confirm what I believed to be true, I checked the Government of Canada website to read: the legal age for sex in Canada is 16. There are some extenuating circumstances, but generally speaking, 16.

(Full disclosure: I met my husband two weeks after my 17th birthday. I am now grappling with the fact that I should believe I was abused; it didn’t feel that way, though. We had our first baby when I was 21, and I have never looked back.)

While it’s illegal to give anyone under the age of 19 alcohol, one of the young women he met was in a bar, already drunk, at age of 18. Probably he did not ask to see her identification card.

Men have to up their game and re-examine their behaviour to be sure; no one is questioning that. It has become perhaps the biggest issue of 2018.

But young women also have to become more aware, A LOT more aware, of the effects of their behaviour on their physical safety.

An 18 year old who goes to a bar, gets drunk, goes home with a man and agrees to visit his bedroom has to know there is more going on than just a tour of his house. Otherwise, she should not be going to bars and getting drunk.

A 20 year old who visits a man’s bedroom after several drinks to view photos on his tablet – the single most transportable device ever invented – is naïve.

Men should not take advantage of women who are drunk, or who are naïve.

But, women should not be drunk and naïve.

At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, actresses all agreed to dress in black to protest the fact that men have been sexually harassing women.

Some of the black “protest dresses” amounted to little more than fishnet and lace, barely covering their vulvas or their nipples, as they hung off of their male escorts, producers, financiers. It is impossible to look at these photos without believing the women are pursuing, and receiving, something out of these relationships.

I made myself somewhat unpopular earlier this year when I proposed that rather than a #MeToo movement, we needed a #FuckYou movement.

“Any time a man proposes something inappropriate or outlandish just tell him, ‘Fuck you’!” I suggested to young women. I offered this advice in the spirit of believing that women possess enough personal power to control the situations in which they put themselves, like the young woman who told an amorous Patrick Brown, “Stop. I don’t want to do this Take me home.”

So he stopped, and he took her home. That was a good outcome. All women should keep that in mind, especially before they give anonymous media interviews that end mens’ careers.

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Communications: Builders vs Politicians

My big brothers Jimmy and Wally are twins and both have been in construction their entire lives. They are both smart, generous, hard-working and funny. If my mom could have heard the language they adopted in construction, she would have washed their mouths out with soap. Still, they are the ones you want to have building your house; they are builders, not talkers.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel at a conference of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy to discuss the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Pearson Centre is not generally the kind of group that would invite a Conservative like me to address their members. I give all kinds of credit and kudos to them for being open to hearing opposing ideas and opinions.

I’ve thought a lot about what I would like to say, and I keep coming back to the difference between politicians and builders.

In politics, we work in the realm of thoughts, ideas, words, messages, and rhetoric. “Words ARE action in politics,” Ronald Reagan once noted. Sometimes, when I hear people speaking harsh or horrible words, it actually causes me to cringe in physical pain: my ears hurt.

Builders work in a different world, the world of concrete reality. “Matter matters,” my brother Paul observes.

I have six brothers and many nephews, and most of them are builders. They communicate using language so completely different than political rhetoric, I am sure it hurts the ears of many listeners.

My brother Jim, a builder for 40 years, is the best example. He has a repertoire of phrases that still make me laugh after decades.

“C’mon, people, we’re burning daylight!” he barks when the crew is not in action at 6am.

“C’mon, people, we’ve got a dime holding up a dollar!” he exclaims when a petty detail is holding up a project.

One day, Jim fired a man. The man returned to the jobsite the next day; he had a sawed-off cane handle tucked into the waistband of his pants, so it looked like he was carrying a gun.

“What did you do?” I gasped when Jim told me.

“What do you think I did?” he exclaimed. “I shit little blue putty balls!”

Oh….that was not the first thing I would have thought of, but I understood what he meant.

Jim was hired for the television show “Extreme Makeover” as Project Manager on the build of a house to be donated to a family in need, which would be featured on a special episode. The show also hired a handsome and charismatic actor to stand in front of the cameras and PRETEND to be the Project Manager, explaining to the audience what was going on.

Ten hours into the build, the show’s producer approached my brother: “We have a problem. Your team is building so fast, we can’t get all the shots we need. We need you to  slow down.”

”We can’t slow down. The volunteers already have their modified schedules,” Jim snapped back. “You’ll have to shoot faster.” They did.

While Jim’s words might hurt your ears, I have no doubt that if he was building your house, it would be perfect. If Jim did a walkthrough and the floor was not level or there was a gap around a window frame, the air would be purple with profanities. No amount of words, rhetoric, language or messaging could fix the problem: competent subs and trades will fix the problem. You might not appreciate his language, but you don’t want a talker to build your house. You want a builder.

Donald Trump is a builder. I’m sure his words hurt the ears of many listeners, but at this point in its history, I think America needs a builder, not a talker.

Happy anniversary!

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Wishing you lots of Epiphanies

Somehow, I ended up with Six Kings, which hopefully means there will be even more Epiphanies around my house.

I must live in a rarefied world.

I was so surprised when a neighbour asked me after Christmas: “Aren’t you going to take down your Nativity decorations now that Christmas is over?”

“You mean, before the Epiphany?” I asked in a state of near-shock. “What would even be the point of putting up the Nativity, if you did not celebrate the Epiphany?”

I understand that much of the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th. As Will Ferrell states clearly in “Talladega Nights,” “Dear 8 pound, six ounce newborn infant Jesus,  with your tiny clenched fists…”

His character, Rikki Bobby, refused to accept the fact that Jesus Christ ever grew up or lived as an adult. He just loved the idea of Jesus as a new born baby, which we celebrate on Christmas morning.

As a child growing up in the Mid-west, however, my big sister Mary taught me the meaning of the Epiphany: Christ might have arrived on Christmas night. Unfortunately, human beings, dull as we are, did not grasp what His arrival meant until several days later. We are slow like that: God and Truth come to Earth one day. We figure out what it means weeks later. That’s just us. It doesn’t make us bad or stupid; it just makes us human. For some people, it takes days or weeks. For others, it takes years or decades; maybe a whole lifetime. The gap between the arrival and the realization is what makes humans, human.

Growing up in a family of 10 kids, doing dishes after dinner was a serious deal, and a real job. However, working with my big sister Mary, it never felt like work. I recall perfectly clearly the night she taught me the words to “We Three Kings” while she washed and I dried the dishes, pots and pans for dinner for 12 people.

“We Three Kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar…

Moor and Mountain

Field and Fountain

Following yonder star”

When we finished the dishes, I had to go find a dictionary to look up the word “moor,” which I had never heard before. Mary was mind-expanding that way; she also opened my mind to the fact that all people do not understand all ideas at the same time.

She introduced me to the ritual of moving the Three Kings around the house, moving them a little closer to the Nativity every day, although they never actually arrived until January 6th, the Epiphany.

Decades later, a co-worker complained to me: “Rita, your life is a series of endless daily Epiphanies!”

“And that is bad….how?” I spluttered. I always assumed an Epiphany is a GREAT thing.

Three years ago, we lost my big sister Mary to Alzheimer’s disease. How, I wondered, could a human being so full of sweetness and love could simply be…gone? It was an Epiphany I did not welcome.

This Christmas, my son David approached me and sighed, “Ma, I’m so sorry. Winner (his 100 pound Rottweiler) came to me with….a camel.” He held out a damaged camel, belonging to one of the Three Kings. The camel’s head had been mostly chewed off, puppy-Rottweiler style.

“Ah, well,” I laughed, “That will teach me to leave the Three Kings around the house, where dogs can reach them!”

Actually, I will still leave the Three Kings all around the house. Mary would have.

 

 

 

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Democracy for Iran! NOW IS THE TIME for a “Pussy March,” ladies.

It amazes me that I received these two Persian presents 15 years apart – yet the colour keys are virtually identical. The sight of them on my table makes me so happy.

“Even after all this time,

The Sun never says: ‘You owe me.’

Look what happens with a love like that:

It lights the world.”

–Hafiz

I have to say – and perhaps I have a selective memory, but I don’t think so – that every Persian person I have met or taught or worked with has been a smart, hard-working, impressive person.

Possibly it’s because many of the smart, hard-working, impressive people picked up and got out of Iran when the going was good, decades ago. Possibly it’s just baked into their culture….Homa Arjomand, who organized the globe to fight Sharia law in Ontario 2005 was born in Iran. Many of the students in my Carnegie classes (almost always engineers) were born in Iran.

One year, when I was hired to run the Taxis on Patrol program, we had 12 finalist “heroes” to honour, and 9 of them were from Iran. The winner, an incredibly humble man who really did not want to be awarded anything, had a knife pulled on him at the back of his cab. He popped the trunk, pushed the assailant in, and drove to 52 Division Police station.

“I need an officer to come out to my car,” he informed the desk clerk. “There is a man with a knife in my trunk.”

“What is it with Iranians, that they are so proactive they make 9 of 12 nominations in this program? What were you thinking when you locked that guy in the trunk?” I asked the cab driver.

“Well, maybe it’s because where we come from, if you wait for the police, all the damage will be done before anybody comes to help you; so you help yourself. Besides,” he sighed, “that guy with the knife was so old and weak and spindly, he really could not have hurt anyone. I felt sorry for him.”

Imagine my delight when a Persian couple moved in across the street last summer. To welcome them, I made up a tiny paper plate of cookies to leave at their front door with a little “Welcome to Milligan Street” note. The next day, an ENORMOUS pink geranium appeared on my front porch, which bloomed for the entire summer.

A few months later, after a trip to ARZ, I made up a platter of dips and stuffed grape leaves and zucchini so I could “share the wealth” of my favourite store with them.

The next day, my neighbour appeared at my door with an absolutely gorgeous glass bowl for my dining room table. It sits atop a beautiful fabric runner which came from Shiraz, in Persia. (Shiraz is famous for two things: the grapes from which the popular wine is made, and the poet Hafiz.) I have given up trying to out-gift my Persian neighbours: it’s impossible.

Now, thousands of men and women in cities across Iran are protesting in the streets, demanding a Democratic government and better economic policies. I always felt the West let Iranians down during their Green Movement in 2009; I can’t do much now, but here is what Homa Arjomand is asking us to do:

  • Support the movement of people in Iran for freedom, equality, prosperity and secularism.
    • Distribute the news as soon as possible through various social media
    • Join the demonstration in support of people of Iran organized in the West by activists and freedom seekers
    • Request the Canadian government and all other Western governments to put pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to adopt a resolution for closing down all Iranian Embassies around the world.