Women’s Voices

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Originally published on May 25, 2014 on https://wordpress.com/post/dstluke.wordpress.com/422

I read a blog today by Leigh Patrick called “What a Straight White Man Knows About Strong Women”. In the blog Patrick talks about the strong women of his family. It is this interaction with a few emotionally and psychologically strong women that Patrick assumes he understands feminism. In a Twitter battle where he first accuses me of saying that all men are potential rapists and later calls me an idiot and a psycho, I get the full brunt of his “understanding”. But someone somewhere is missing the point.

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over from other people. It goes like this; person A has met or lived with a woman who is strong and intelligent. This leads person A into the false sense that this experience leads them to have an understanding of what women are like/go through in their lives. The idea being that because the woman or women in their lives were strong that means that all women are strong or have a well of strength to draw upon. After all, this one or few women did it, why can’t we all be like that?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women and girls around the world were able to draw upon such a well of strength on command? Shouldn’t we all be able to share in this strength? It’s been proven that it can be done. Why not?

Let’s start with circumstances. I’m privileged to live in Canada, a country that embraces diversity and supports those who cannot support themselves. As a Metis woman, I draw upon a culture that has a rich heritage from my Metis side and embody that stubborn Scots blood that runs so thickly through my veins. Yet I realize my privilege and I still struggle with anxiety daily. I see the problems women around me have that are not of their own doing.

I can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl who gets shot for posting a video on YouTube explaining why she wants to go to school. Yet, Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl in Nigeria, ripped away from her home and family simply because she had the audacity to go to school. My heart bleeds for them. I have never been a five year old girl enduring a genital mutilation without anesthetic where my labia is ripped away all in the belief that it will ensure my virginity will remain intact. I have never miscarried five times as a result of beatings administered by a man who kidnapped me and held me as a slave in his basement. Nor have I been a woman who has survived giving birth to a child in that basement amid terror and pain. I am lucky.

The person who has known the strong woman doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a curvy woman and to feel the fear she feels just going outside. He doesn’t hear the whispers or see the stares as she walks down the street. They don’t know what it is to be a young woman dressed in a short skirt on a spring day to get leered at and have guys assume she’s a slut simply because of what she wears. Those strong women don’t look in a mirror and hate what they see because the media says they aren’t perfect. They don’t spent three to four hours on makeup trying to hide the flaws that only they see. Flaws that are beautiful like the brush strokes on a painting.

I’ve heard people rip apart female celebrities because of what they were wearing to an event. Call into question their very existence because of a few snips of fabric. I’m tempted to tell the celebrities to start going naked and see how that fixes the critics’ little red wagon. If a woman like Angelina Jolie is torn down because of a dress, how much better can I fare when wearing shorts from Walmart?

I see women endure abuse, abuse themselves, hurt themselves, hate themselves, injure and kill themselves all because of the pain they hold inside. A woman who is a saint, a mother, a nanny, a caregiver, a grandmother is held in esteem and may be forgiven those mistakes and flaws they have made of themselves. A slut, a whore, a cunt, a bitch, a vixen, a succubus can never be forgiven. She must be ridiculed and beaten down for the error of believing her sexuality, her being is her own. She must be transformed into the Virgin Mary so society can feel safe around her. She must have a husband, although a wife is allowable in some circumstances, to keep her from straying away from her path and becoming a danger to all around her. She must never alter her gender, her genetic code defines her. We do not talk about those who have an XY gene but live as females.

So many women have lost their voices and do not wish to or cannot speak out. They hide in terror at being less than perfect and mutilate their every flaw or imperfection. If I could say one thing to those women it would be this; please show those flaws. They are beautiful. Those scars, those pains, those small things that make you who you are. Please paint them so I can see them. Please be proud of them. They are your flowers. They are your voice. They are you and they are beautiful.

I understand, Mr. Patrick, that you’ve had a few strong women in your life and I applaud them. Most of us, though, aren’t that strong. We’re scared and afraid of the ridicule and scorn we face daily. So we’d appreciate it if, until you’ve experienced some of that, if you’d kindly keep your opinions to yourself. We’ve had enough opinions of who we should be in our lives. We really don’t need another.

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Media and Politics

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When I was a 20-something with big dreams, no clue and a broken inner compass, I decided on journalism. As someone with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (although I didn’t know it at the time), journalism was perfect for me. Tell the story, don’t get involved, know all the facts. The rules were clear. I could do this.

Journalism is a weird hybrid, inbred creature. A journalist does not involve themselves in the story. A journalist is merely a tool to help tell the story. I loved being able to chase a story down and then getting that last minute twist that threw everything you thought you knew out the window.

See, here’s the rules; the journalist is unbiased. No matter your own personal beliefs, you tell the story as it comes to you. That’s it. You don’t get an opinion. The story is the telling of facts. You don’t omit or twist facts to get the story you want. A journalist works for their readers. Not the paper or station, not the editor or owner. The audience. A slant is allowed but if the slant breaks the rules, it’s out. You have the option of not telling a story.

That’s how it used to work. Now, the audience new they weren’t getting the whole story sometimes or there were some stories that were buried but the media was trusted to tell the truth. However, in the last couple of decades or so something bizarre has happened in the world of media.

It used to be that the media was owned by various people. In my own city of Edmonton, Alberta, the people that owned The Edmonton Journal were different from those who owned The Edmonton Sun. Now both are owned by Postmedia. These are the same people that own The Calgary Herald, The Calgary Sun and The Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. One media company owns all the major daily newspapers (or dailies) in Alberta.

Why is this frightening?

Traditionally the media has been a watchdog of politicians. Watergate never would have been uncovered if it hadn’t been for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. However, lately things have changed and it all has to do with who owns what.

When the media was in the hands of smaller companies, they competed with each other to get the story out. That was journalism. They also competed to ensure they were more trustworthy than the other. Now that the media is owned by a few large corporations there is no drive to keep them trustworthy. A large corporation with a large wallet doesn’t really care about a few small lawsuits. The media is no longer driven by the public’s need to know. Now it’s being driven by a corporation’s need to get information out. More specifically, get the right information out.

Back in May of 2015, The Edmonton Journal acknowledged that Postmedia told them to write a story endorsing Jim Prentice’s bid for Premier of Alberta. Not only did they tell the Journal to do this but they also told The Edmonton Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Calgary Sun to do the same thing.

Are you scared yet?

Now Alberta elected Premier Rachel Notley and we’re now seeing her being vilified in major media. There’s some seepage happening, too. She’s also being demonized in major social media as well. Social media that media outlets are quick to use. Truth be told, Notley could save orphans from a burning building and they’d nail her to a tree saying she didn’t prevent the fire.

And this is happening throughout the western world.

We learned that fake news was happening online and that major media was picking up on those stories. It’s part of how Donald Trump got elected. The same thing is happening here in Canada. Look at the mess that is Doug Ford and if you think he’s content with Ontario, think again.

This isn’t ending. It’s just beginning. I’m not one to cry wolf but I see a furry dog-like creature heading our way and its hungry.

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