Monthly Archives: November 2005

And now for something superficial…

Okay, so I’m rarely at home to catch Oprah these days, but it seems as if the few times I’m actually able to — I get stuck watching a cheesy celebrity interview. Dang it. I enjoy her social-justice episodes FAR more, and I can actually use what I see. I could care less about Tom Cruise jumping on couches or the love life of the “latest” star.

Oy, and now there’s icing on the cake — she just got lifesize painted portrait of herself from Jamie Foxx. I don’t get the appeal of having a painted picture of yourself. Which brings me to another disturbing aspect of “the Oprah” — have you ever noticed that every issue of her magazine features a picture of HER on it? Her mag has been out for over 5 years now (that’s around 60 covers or so) — and while I appreciate her emphasis on social justice and female inner-empowerment, I’m a little creeped out by the scope of her empire.

Of course, this doesn’t stop me from watching her when I occasionally can. And as Michael Moore suggested in one of his books, I’d be damn tempted to vote her into office.

I suppose Oprah-watching is one of my lesser vices.

Pushing my way into an all boy’s club

Oh, those bastions of the patriarchy — politics and religion — two very stratified areas that typically do not look too kindly upon the “fairer” sex’s participation! Ironically, these are the two arenas that I get the most passionate about. (but I bet you couldn’t tell that from reading this blog, now could you?)

Just watching the nightly news confirms this hypothesis — how many times during the parliamentary season this Spring was the emphasis on MP Belinda Stronach’s appearance? How many inferences were made about her feminine qualities that supposedly influenced her decision to switch parties? How many gender-based insults were volleyed at her (including one accusing her of “whoring” herself)? Ugh, I even remember a rather horrifying National report that featured a mournful Peter McKay being interviewed about how this would effect their romantic relationship. (and yes, I just besmirched the National — write this date down)

And look at the Governor General! She’s a brilliant, accomplished woman — but she’s more known for being a “hot” Governor General than she is for anything she’s done in her lifetime.

Seriously, next time you get a Maclean’s or Globe and Mail, read the headlines and compare the way these women are portrayed to their masculine counterparts — it’s sobering (and quite possibly another thesis/paper topic to pursue!)

And yes, the boy’s club continues onward into the religious realm, as well. Granted, the actions aren’t nearly as overt as they are in politics — but there’s sexism there. In the few online theological discussions I’ve attempted to take part in, one of two things typically happens: either I’m the invisible woman that no one notices (except to take indirect cheap shots at) — or I’m the hysterical, unrealistic, unintelligent woman.

Note that both of these positions maintain a position of authority (usually implicit) on the part of the other half of the conversation — an authority that is usually masked by a sense of superiority in terms of being able to detach, bluster, and engage in another direction.

And frankly, I’m sick of it. I’ve posted before about being tired of the intellectualized, detached facades that are enacted by the patting of fellow mankind’s backs. If anything, the doors of conversation need to be acknowledged to all willing participants.

Personally, I’ve got more to add to the dialogue.

Overheard

Me: [mumbling about the weather, and the fact that my body will remain freezing cold until probably April of next year]

Him: Well, maybe we should invest in an electric blanket!

Me: Who needs an electric blanket when you’ve got a warm hubby to put your cold feet on, when you’re under the covers?

Him: [mumbling about the fact that I'll soon be "freezing" him, in efforts to warm up, for the indefinite seasonable future]

Exciting day for politics here:

History made with no-confidence vote today in Parliament. It’s the first time a straight motion of no-confidence has been passed in Canada. While I can’t vote here, it’s still exciting. Right now Mansbridge, etc is tellin’ me all about it.

Will Canada stay Liberal? Or will they go the way of the US, and turn Conservative? I suppose we’ll know by the end of January.

You know, I’m finding a new appreciation for the Parliamentary system of government — just think, if we could do votes of no-confidence back home, we wouldn’t have 2+ more years of the Bush administration to dread.

To clarify:


Link

I’m finally getting settled in my “new and improved” office space, and this comic is one of the few that I’ve printed up to decorate the space.

More from Buy Nothing Christmas

There was another quote mentioned in the info kit about BNC that I really liked — and I’m adding it to my ever-expanding list of things-to-read:

In terms of authenticity, I’m trying to find a way to be “real.” I’m on a journey to connect my life and faith. I am not alone, according to Wade Clark Roof, in his book, Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion (Princeton, 1999). He describes the contemporary scene as an “effusive quest culture” where there’s a disenchantment with traditional theism and a “turning inward in search of meaning and strength.” Like others mentioned by Roof, instead of leaving the church, I have taken another look at its teachings and found myself inspired by the possibilities of its prophetic edge. Mennonites have a long history of counter-culture protest, peace activism, and justice work. I think it’s time to drag this out further into the open.

It seems that economic issues haven’t been a big concern of establishment churches. Sallie McFague, in Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril (Fortress, 2001), says of establishment churches, “in all cases personal sexual issues surface as the church’s interpretation of sin and evil; public, economic issues seem to be of less concern.”

And all the people said … ?

Why is this the case in most “established churches”? Granted, since I’ve lived in Canada, I have noticed more and more churches taking up social justice causes — yet it still seems that the main emphases center around legislating intimate issues, rather than focusing on the bigger social causes we should be getting riled up (and doing something) about.

Jim Wallis has mentioned before the church’s need to move away from practicing exclusive “family values” to focus on a more inclusive “social values” — facing such issues as poverty and human rights head-on, rather than only the issues of homosexual marriage and abortion. I think he’s right.

Maybe this current, shifted focus of concern (in the church, religious right, society, etc) occurs because it’s easier to alienate, point fingers and label someone else‘s shortcomings — rather than dealing with what really matters: be it crime and poverty in “that” area of town, racism, correcting the corrupt trading guidelines that are fueled by our own consumerism, sexism in the workplace, etc. The difference is that these types of issues require us to reexamine our own policies, behavior, and perspective in the world.

It’s far easier to point and label from afar than it is to get your hands dirty doing something that may actually make a difference. And that’s your cynical word of the day.

‘Buy Nothing Christmas’ Carollers Bring Message to Mall


Cheerful demonstrators opposed to the commercialization of Christmas managed to sing six anti-consumer carols at a Winnipeg mall before security evicted them.

About a dozen members of a group promoting a “Buy Nothing Christmas” set up near Santa’s house in Polo Park Mall on Saturday and sang their versions of the old Christmas favourites.

“So, we enter the retail space, we put on our hats, we form a little semicircle two rows deep and start singing our song. And then we just launch into our songs, like ‘profits here, profits there, profits everywhere,’ you know those kind of things,” said Aiden Enns, one of the singers and a veteran anti-consumerism activist.

“It’s kind of an in-your-face way of saying stop and think about what your actions mean for you and for the world and the environment … get people to re-think how they celebrate the season, ” said group member Linda Trono.

This is one very cool observation of Buy Nothing Day (which, incidentally, was last Friday). According to the BNC information kit, this “holiday” started in 2001, here in Canada, by a Mennonite (who probably is related to me in some way, by marriage).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas — gift giving and receiving and all. Some of my favorite memories are ones of us sitting around the tree and watching family members open their presents, one-by-one. In our house, there was no free-for-all when it came to gift opening. I think we all wanted the day to last as long as possible, so we all took turns opening each gift — while everyone watched the person’s reaction. I like that I grew up this way. I can’t imagine waiting for Christmas to show up, and then having it all be over in a matter of minutes.

But there’s a difference in giving meaningful gifts, or just buying things for the sake of scratching someone else’s name off a list. Lately I’ve been trying to reexamine my approach to giving.

From the FAQ:

Can I be a part of Buy Nothing Christmas even if I buy a few things?

Definitely. We are all going to have to buy some things. When you do buy things, we encourage you to remember principles like buying locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things that last, and so on. The main aim of this campaign is not to save money (although that can be a side benefit), it’s not to slow down the pace of Christmas (although that can be a side benefit), it is to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth. So, even though you might buy a few things at Christmas, it’s important to think in these global economic terms.

Exactly — and if Jerry and I buy stuff this Christmas, we’ll be thinking along these lines as well. (though we try to think this way year ’round) For the most part, we’re making our gifts this year — mainly because I’m one “crafty” girl, and there’s something about getting a homemade gift that someone spent their time and energy making for you. Sure, we are a bit on the financially-broke side, but I think that’s the least-influencing factor in our decision to make our presents this year.

[incidentally, in lieu of buying each other gifts this year, we've decided to start a tradition in our home. Each year, the two of us will go to (the fair-trade handicraft store) Ten Thousand Villages and will pick out a different nativity set. My heart is set on the Nigerian collection, but it's a little out of our price range. I think this year we'll go for the Mexican adobe version of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.]

I think the gist of Buy Nothing Christmas is to encourage people to think outside of the commercial-obligations that are forced upon us this time of year — the idea behind BNC is not to say that gift-giving and spending money is altogether bad. The focus is instead on going OVERboard in spending and gift-giving. Essentially it all comes down to questioning your own motives behind buying (or making) each gift you give.

And that’s something we can all do.