The simple truth about changing the world.

Yes, yes, I know. It's the new year. Time for those posts all about what I did on my birthday, my "word(s) of the year", and my goals for 2015 and blah, blah, blah... 

I promise, I will get to those in a bit.

But first, I have a little (okay, a LONG) bit of a soapbox-y rant busting to get out of me.


We all want to change the world for the better in some way, shape, or form, right? 

OK, well, most of us do (or at least I hope so). 

The problem is that we often think that in order to do this we have to think BIG, and do big things, and think OUTSIDE of ourselves. I am here to tell you that this may work for some people (who have very large bank accounts and/or celebrity UN ambassadorships and such), but for most of us regular type folks, those kind of large scale "change the world" activities are just not feasible. 

Yesterday, I read four different articles all about different issues and in all of them, I saw a common thread. When we refuse to question the way things are, or the way things have always been, and we continue to function within the status quo, CHANGE is never going to happen. And we will only have ourselves to blame.


In light of the upcoming awards season, ELLE magazine posted this article about interviewing actors on the red carpet. The authors wondered how male actors would respond to the inane, superficial, beauty-focused questions that 90% of the time, are directed primarily at female actors. 

Scott Speedman answered their flipped questions at a recent red carpet event and made an interesting point:

Is there a question that journalists ask you that you think they don’t ask women?

Nah. They’ve got it way harder.

Women have it harder than men?

Yeah! Who wants to know this stuff about men? Honestly, when you asked beauty stuff it feels invasive. ‘What’s in your pockets?’ That’s invasive. But I know [women] get asked that all the time.

You want to know the colour of Julianne Moore's lipstick? Sure, no problem. Who made the amazing dress Viola Davis is wearing? Again, no biggie. Sharing that kind of info is great and shines a light on great designers and a good lip colour for redheads.  But what someone brings with them in their purse to an awards show? Why is that red carpet "newsworthy"? How long it took to get ready? REALLY? Just once, I'd love an actress to say something like, "I have my Diva Cup in here, because I think my period is about to start and Vera would KILL me if I got blood on this gown!"

I love that ELLE wants to change the conversation on the red carpet. I just hope that this includes questions that go beyond appearances and beauty regimes and invasive "what's in your tiny bejewelled clutch/pockets" ones and also focuses on the artists - of all genders - and the work that they are doing. A small change like that, with an audience of 43 million viewers (last years Oscar stats), might cause a few people to actually THINK about the ridiculous and completely sexist way that women, even the highest paid, most talented ones, are still treated like superficial, dress-up dolls in Hollywood. 


The next article I read made my blood pressure skyrocket and brought out the angry feminist in me. I swore A LOT (alone, in my car) and I really should have known better. It was one written by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, she of the rape-culture nay-saying. I am using a donotlink.com link here, because I don't think she deserves more visits recorded on the article for her employees to keep justifying keeping her vile column in their paper. Her op-ed is about the Dalhousie dentistry students who have been suspended because of the "jokes" they posted to a Facebook page regarding violent sexual behaviour towards women. 

This is what Ms. Wente had to say about the students Facebook posts:

Stupid, juvenile and way out of line? Undoubtedly. Should there be serious consequences? Yes. But let’s get a grip. Such coarse talk is not atypical of young male group behaviour. It does not mean that they actually wanted to assault chloroformed women.

It’s too bad they didn’t get a sharp smack across the chops from a respected elder. Alas, that didn’t happen. So now they are the latest villains in the “rape culture” witch hunt that has gripped universities across North America. Their identities will probably not remain secret. Poor saps.

 

You want to change with world? Let's ALL start by changing our "Oh, they didn't MEAN anything by it. They are just boys being boys." attitude about this kind of behaviour. Do we not want a world where this kind of course talk IS atypical for our young men? Where violence towards women is not seen as a "joke"? A world where "hate" sex is not actually a thing or a goal to be achieved like some kind of level-up in a video game? 

There is no rape culture "witch hunt" going on in our universities (see what I did there?). What there is, is people starting to stand up to all kinds of previously accepted (or swept under the proverbial rug) campus behaviour and saying, enough is enough! If we continue to chalk this up as TYPICAL male behaviour and give these men a little slap on the wrists and get them to give a heart felt apology, what does anyone learn from this? NOTHING! Rape culture is not a men versus women issue, it is a societal one. We need to look at it from all angles, not just from the perspective of violence against women, but also the side that demands that men behave with some kind of super macho, hyper-masculinity complex in order to be seen as a "real" man.

This is very much something that we can all change in our lives. These kinds of behaviours are learned ones. Again, let's reconsider what we think of and accept as typical male group behaviour. And by the way, that shit starts at home and at school, when boys and girls are young and impressionable and watch and listen to everything YOU say and do!

So, as Gandhi kinda said, Be the Change, folks! Model that change for all the young people (and the old ones too) in your life.


Article number three takes a complete 180 from the one above and was about, of all things, tobogganing. Written by my friend Jennifer at Today's Parent magazine, it looks at the growing trend of municipalities in the snowy parts of North America BANNING tobogganing on city-owned parks and hills. 

On the one hand, I get it. A few years ago, I took my then 6-year old out to the big hill in our neighbourhood for a bit of sledding. At that time, he still wanted me to go down the hill with him and so being the cool mom that I am, I complied. Said hill had melted and then frozen overnight and on our first foray down, our combined weight, plus the super slick conditions, gave us enough momentum and speed to travel WAY farther than we had on previous rides. At the last minute, I had to perform a stunt-woman like manoeuvre to simultaneously turn the sled, protect my child with my own body and take the brunt of us slamming into a chain link fence with the side of my body. He of course thought the whole thing was EPIC! and immediately wanted to do it again. My bruised hip and palpitating heart said otherwise. We still go sledding, but we do so at the small hill or in very open areas with little to no obstacles. And ALWAYS with a helmet. 

Jennifer makes a strong argument for not banning this beloved winter activity;

that’s the main problem with the toboggan ban debate: By banning a winter activity like sledding, it takes away from a parent‘s ability to teach kids to assess and manage potential safety risks. The hill in our backyard is short and tree-free, but I’d absolutely put helmets on my kids on a steeper slope, and hills with obstacles are out of the question. In my opinion, bans like these are a slippery slope to an already risk-averse generation of kids—and that could also be catastrophic.

Instead of removing all things that could potentially be safety risks for our kids, we need to be teaching our kids to actually THINK for themselves. We are already seeing the results of the helicoptering, over-protective parents in our millennial generation. At the far end of the spectrum are parents calling in sick for their grown children, emailing college professors about late assignments or bad marks and even accompanying some to job interviews. And while I do question some of the fashion choices that today's younger generation make, I really don't want to see bubble wrapping our kids become an actual thing! 

As a parent, your number one thought is always, are my kids safe? The guilt that can consume you when something does happen, be it your baby rolling off your bed because you turned away for two seconds, or your kid getting a bloody lip or broken bone from jumping off a playground structure, is all encompassing. My point here is this, if you want to raise self-sufficient kids who can make decisions on their own and in turn become self-sufficient adults, then show them how to assess all kinds of situations and how to make smart decisions. Banning words, books, activities, and whatever else in the name of "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN" is not going to move us forward as a human race. Critical thinking is a valuable skill for everyone to have!

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
— Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

The fourth article that I read comes with a trigger warning about suicide.

It was written by my friend, Kathleen Smith, whose son killed himself just days after Christmas, and before his 19th birthday. It is at once a heart-wrenching tribute to her beautiful boy and also a searing op-ed on the stigma that surrounds suicide and the appalling state of services within our health care system for those with mental illnesses. 

My friend is speaking out and very openly about her son's death and the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide (especially in young men).

I have to admit that even within myself, my initial thoughts on Kathleen's sharing all of this information was: "Why talk about this? Why plaster his (very handsome) face all over the internet?"

And then it hit me. The VERY reason that she is being so vocal about his suicide is so more people who are thinking these very same thoughts will realize what I have. That THOSE are the feelings and thoughts that we must fight against. The nagging thoughts that this is a private matter, that we SHOULDN'T be talking about it, that if we privately send our condolences and an anonymous donation, then we have done what we can for the family and we can leave it at that.

This is one of those times when we must all step into the uncomfortable spaces in our own minds and examine why we feel these things? Do we really want change to happen within our health care systems? Within ourselves? How can we do this, if we are all avoiding eye contact, shushing our voices and tip-toeing around the topics and thus the people who need us the most?

Yes, our governments and health care systems needs to step up and STOP further cuts to mental health programs, but even more importantly, WE all need to step up too. Step up to the stigma that forces people suffering to feel like they have to do so alone. Step up to the "suck it up" attitudes and advice given far too often to people with depression and mental illness. We all need to do this, so that no mother or father or brother or sister or any loved one needs to wonder for the rest of their lives...Why? Why did this happen? What did I miss? How can this be? Questions that will never get answered. 

Depression lies people. We need to shine the light of truth and vulnerability and LOVE back at it and that starts by TALKING about it. Openly, in every medium possible, to reach as many people as possible.

Only then will we see change. Change that will not come soon enough for Kathleen's son, but as she so courageously said to me today;

if our speaking out in the darkest hour of our collective grief, if our refusing to be shamed by the silence that accompanies suicide saves one person, encourages one person to reach out to someone, anyone, then we’ve put good in to the world out of our grief.

These have been the thoughts that have filled my brain for the past 24 hours. 

Changing the world. Making it a better place. Starting with ourselves. Looking within.

If the status quo isn't working for you, then "mutatis quae opus est mutare". I used Google Translate to come up with that one. It means change whatever needs changing. And for most of us, what needs changing is more often than not found within ourselves. We have to switch our own mind sets so that we can start to see things differently. We have to go to those places in our own minds and ask ourselves the hard questions, be honest about our answers and then truly be the change we want.

Artwork Courtesy of Marissa Loewen

Artwork Courtesy of Marissa Loewen

 

One by one, we can do this. I know we can. 

Who is with me?

(Or should I say still with me, I know that this was a long read, and I thank you all so very much for sticking it out all the way to the very end!)

N~