If I have an hour to myself these days, you will likely find me firmly attached to my iPod via my headphones, under a ton of blankets (because - scary bits yo!), and completely engrossed - a few times to the point of forgetting to eat, drink and pee - in my latest Netflix obsession.

I am of course talking about the BBC2 series The Fall. This psychological thriller, set in Belfast, follows the story of two people, both hunters in their worlds. One is a serial killer who hunts, stalks, terrorizes and kills his female prey and the other is the police officer who is hunting him. And while this sounds like every other television crime drama out there, I assure you, it is SO NOT!

The main character, Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, is portrayed brilliantly by Gillian Anderson. I hadn't realized how much I have missed watching her on television until I started binging on this show. Jamie Dornan (yes, he of the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey film) is so damn creepy as the serial killer/father/husband/counsellor, that even writing about him right now has my stomach in knots!

And while the subject matter of the show is gritty and violent and potentially triggering for some, Stella's continual take-downs of the casual and not-so-casual sexism and misogyny in her world (and in society in general) is so masterful, that I seriously want to go HUG the writer and creator of the series, Allan Cubitt.


I could seriously go on and on here, but I don't want to ruin the whole show for you. If you are looking for something new to watch on Netflix, and want to be simultaneously creeped the Eff out and feel empowered as a feminist and a woman, while totally girl-crushing all over Gillian Anderson, then this is the show for you.

Trust me, you won't be disappointed. 


Wake up and smell the... advertising company selling you stuff!

There is a moment in the movie Pleasantville, when the world of Pleasantville changes forever. It's right after Chip (the beautiful Paul Walker) makes out with Mary Sue (Reese Witherspoon) in his car. He looks over at the rose bush beside the driveway and sees colour for the first time ever. One beautiful deep RED rose. 

Theologians across the internet think of this movie as a bit of a metaphor for the Garden of Eden and the "perfect" world of Pleasantville being disrupted by the "sex-crazed" Mary Sue. (I don't recommend you go googling and looking for that, because, well, it's all BAD Mary Sue, bad!) Anyway... the reason this scene keeps coming to me, has little to do with religion and a lot to do with being AWAKENED to and aware of certain realities all around us. (Which, some might argue, is kind of what happened in the Garden of Eden also, so... po-TAY-toes - po-TAH-toes.)

For the past week, my social media pages have been blowing up with a new parenting video. Oh, you know the one. It's got everyone saying things like, "This is FANTASTIC!!", "I laughed and cried within 2 minutes!", and "The most awesome video I have ever seen." 

Yes, I am talking about the new Similac Ad and their we-are-all-in-this-together  "Sisterhood of Motherhood" and #sisterhoodunite campaign. (I don't have a sarcasm font, but if I did, I WOULD USE IT FOR THAT HASHTAG!) It's been a while since I have written anything about formula advertising, but I think I still get the gist of how they do things. Oh so fucking subtly. 

Tracy over at Evolutionary Parenting broke it down for everyone, first on her Facebook page and then in this post:

Go back and watch this ad and see which one group doesn’t actually insult anyone else. Which group is simply the brunt of attacks? Whereas which groups are the meanest?

If you couldn’t guess, the formula feeders don’t actually insult anyone (outside of one remark, not about breastfeeding, but in response to an attack on them). They are simply the punching bag for the breastfeeders who are totally antagonistic. Just as the babywearers are also some of the ruder ones. (Anyone see an anti-AP stance going here too?) Dads are stereotypically funny and into boobs (because we shouldn’t take them seriously should we, but they are likable presumably because they’re using formula – after all, what about the kind dads who are just having fun, what will they feed their babies?).

At the end of the day, this ad is about making sure that if you are someone who speaks up for breastfeeding, you are the “meanie”.

And before anyone starts in on why breastfeeding didn't work for them, or why formula feeding was their choice, or wasn't because they didn't get the support they needed, please know that this post is not about that. And don't go telling me that this kind of advertisement doesn't actually work and people are smart enough to see it for what it is and not be swayed by it. Just STOP.

Wake up and see the roses, Pleasantville-ers! If advertising doesn't WORK, then no one would pay the Superbowl folks a dime for a 30 second spot during the game. If advertising doesn't work, then how on earth would we know if we are Pepsi or Coke drinkers? If advertising doesn't work, then why are you CRYING after watching a video about a bunch of stereotypes? 

Advertising works BECAUSE it makes you FEEL something, whether you are consciously aware of it or not (preferably not) . And as we all know, nothing makes us feel more than our children and all the potential ways that we are completely messing up at this whole parenting gig! The folks at Similac know that too and they have capitalized on that and hashtagged the shit out of it. Because if you don't follow suit and line up all nicely with the "Sisterhood of Motherhood", you MUST be one of the meanies, right? And look, formula feeders are the nice ones and it doesn't matter because WE ARE ALL THE SAME and OH MY GOD, SOMEONE SAVE THE BABY!!!! 

Do I even have to mention the flippant way that dads are included in this ad? One more stereotype of the father/buffoon, confused about boobs, of course. Or how about the LGBTQ parents off to the side, like they are somehow outsiders and observers of all the cis-hetero-normative folk getting all up in each others faces? GAH! So much of this video is just so freaking WRONG and I am shocked at how everyone keeps calling it "brilliant" and "groundbreaking" and how it is sending us all a great message about parenting. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I am all over the "it takes a village" philosophy of parenting, and my children and I have benefited from the many people who have made up ours over the years. I guess I just don't want or need anyone, let alone a formula manufacturer, defining what that village looks like or is called, especially when we all know that they aren't doing it purely out of the goodness of their hearts. 

You can like that video. You can share it all over the internet. You can do whatever the hell you want. I am not YOUR mother. But, please, PLEASE, I am begging you, in this regard, and in many of the narratives that we are presented with in our daily consumption of media, listen to that little voice inside your head that may be saying, "Hmmmmm, why doesn't this sit quite right with me?". Let that little voice get a bit louder, don't believe all the hype, and understand the forces and motives behind big brands that make BILLIONS of dollars off of us, the silly, brain-dead consumer, living our pleasant little lives. 

Our world is not in black and white, and it is up to us to open our eyes and SEE ALL THE COLOURS! 

And I don't know about you, but like Chip, I am seeing a lot of RED right now!


Boys will be what?

Picture me in front of you with my hand about 12 inches above my head and I am saying in my best, angry, fed up, frustrated voice:


Granted, in today's world and in my life in general, that particular gesture and thought could apply to a large variety of things, but the one issue that is really bothering me lately is the "controversy" surrounding the Dalhousie Dentistry students. The group of future professionals who posted misogynistic, sexist comments in a private Facebook group, ironically called "The DDS Class of 2015 Gentlemen". 

In one post, members were polled and asked, “Who would you hate f—k?” They were given two names to vote on.

Another post shows a woman wearing a bikini. The caption says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”

The students, who are all grown men, have been suspended from clinical activities and so far only one of the 13, the one who showed the group's posts to a fellow female student, has come forward to reveal his name. These "gentlemen" may now not be able to graduate and the University is under extreme pressure from various provincial dentistry associations to release all of their names. Consequences I feel that are fitting to their appallingly sexist behaviour and lack of personal good judgment.

But here is the part where I get REALLY fed up.

If you ask at least three well-known female columnists from across Canada, we are all over-reacting to these "stupid", "dopey", and "crude" jokes made by young men in what was perceived as a private group. The narrative that we are being presented with from these journalists is one that insists that "boys will be boys" and that they shouldn't have their futures ruined over what is seen as a victimless offence and a mere thoughtcrime. One of these journalists, has even gone so far as to give young women some advice for how to "deal with" these kinds of situations.

Here’s some advice for young women: Practise manning up. Like it or not, the world beyond the cloistered halls of academia is teeming with guys who take up too much space and occasionally act like total jerks. Sooner or later, you will have to learn to deal with them. Fear not. You can.
— Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail

I am pretty sure I went into some kind of feminist coma after reading that last one from Wente and it has taken me this long to gather all my thoughts together enough to express myself coherently.

I don't want to teach my daughter how to "man-up" in this world. Heck, I don't want to teach that concept to my son. Especially if that means teaching him to think that he is above all others, that he can say and do whatever the hell he wants and not have to answer for his actions and/or words, whether they are online or IRL and that he is forever going to be held up to a standard of masculinity that degrades others in order to stand out.

Time after time we see this kind of cultural bias for our poor, stupid, boys, making poor, stupid mistakes and it HAS TO CHANGE. In 2013, as CNN reported on the Steubenville rape case verdict, the reporter lamented how the "two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart...". We've seen this in the narratives surrounding the sexual assault allegations against Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby when people talk about legacies being tarnished and careers ruined. And here is the part that REALLY bugs me and that scares me too. Stupid boys, making stupid, crude, "jokes" that people continually brush off as just that, have the potential to turn into predatory men who feel no remorse for the terrible, awful ways that they view and treat women. 

In her response to Wente's ridiculous articles last week about how women need to figure out how to deal with a world teeming with total jerks, Anne Kingston addresses these issues brilliantly.

Photo source: Macleans/Rogers Digital media

Photo source: Macleans/Rogers Digital media

And why should we? I'd like to challenge the people of this world who continue to use the "boys will be boys" excuse as a catch all for bad behaviour. I say to them that boys will be THOSE kinds of boys only so long as we keep letting them. Women and girls are constantly being told to lean-in, man-up, grow a pair and on and on to "make it" in this world, but what about our boys? What are we telling them? Can we please stop worrying about our girls "manning up" and start worrying more about what kind of men we want our boys to be? 

Movies, video games, magazines and all kinds of media are at their fingertips and it is chock full of images of violence towards women, their sports and media heroes doing awful things, and still we do nothing. Our kids' heroes are not convicted of their crimes, the women they victimize are belittled and blamed, the athletes get a few weeks suspension from playing the game that pays them millions of dollars and we quickly brush these "scandals" under the rug as soon as the media latches on to the next one (and there is always a next one). Our boys are growing up in a world that glorifies a specific version of masculinity, to the point of toxicity both to them and to the female population around them as well. But as Kingston points out, times, they are a-changing, and so are the consequences for these sexist and hateful attitudes and actions from boys and men. While some people would be happy to just let those patterns of behaviour continue and demand that girls and women just learn to deal with it, more and more, others are demanding that there be real change and accountability for it and are making efforts to change the culture of masculinity for our future generations.

In the new film from The Representation Project, "The Mask you Live In", the concept of toxic masculinity and it's consequences in our societies are explored in depth.  

This follow up film to the project's previous hit, Miss Representation, that looked at how women and girls are represented in the media, is premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and will be coming to a theatre and/or screening near you soon.  

It is high time we stop telling our girls and women to start acting more like men. It is time we stop letting boys and men off the hook when they treat other human beings with such disregard and disrespect. And it is definitely time we start teaching our boys a better way to BE a man


**Disclosure: I am a Kickstarter backer for The Mask You Live In production. I have not received compensation for this post and all opinions are mine alone.**