Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oh, the elephant is ON the table...

“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.” ~ Mark Twain

Oh, I had one of those moments this week...

It was a pretty typical workplace scenario. I had a meeting room booked. When I arrived, there were others in my room and I politely told them that I had the room booked and that they were in the wrong room.

So, first they argue. I show them the clear evidence that they're wrong, that I have the confirmation for the right room. Their response? "Well, we're setup already."

I see.

I wasn't asked politely to find another room because they were already set up. They didn't apologize for their mistake. I was essentially dismissed from the room and the onus is left to ME to find a replacement room.

Why? Was it because the person in the room is a Sales Director and I'm a Business Analyst? Is it the typical sales arrogance versus operational support gig; they're revenue, we're expenses? Is it an underlying misogynistic, hierarchical prevalent business attitude?

I dare to say yes on all counts, but nonetheless, none of it goes over very well with me.

Clearly, their behaviour is unacceptable. And (shockingly, I know) I let them clearly know my displeasure...(mind you, being out too late the night before and imbibing perhaps a bit too much of the pinot noir may have contributed to my curt and direct response) however ultimately though, it's me who looks bad perhaps for showing these people up and pointing out their obvious lack of grace and good character. It may not be right, it may not be just, but it is the way it is.

So, I mull it over off and on for a few hours and throughout am asking myself, what was I responding to? What was it that pissed me off so very much at that moment? I called my husband for a dose of loving courage and had already decided to take a deep breath, suck it up buttercup and go and make my apologies for my part in the interaction that day.

And what do I get?...

Nothing.

Nada.

"No hard feelings." ...from one of them at least...

No reciprocating apology, no acknowledgement that they were wrong in the first place and that their behaviour was dismissive, rude and condescending or that they should have in the least aided me in finding another meeting room for my meeting.

Nothing.

*sigh*

So, I realize that what I was responding to was the fact that justice issues have always been a BIG trigger for me. "What do you MEAN you're not going to apologize? What do you MEAN you're not going to do the RIGHT THING?"...when it's not "out there" for all to see and acknowledge that someone did someone wrong etc., well, that's been something for me that I've never been really good at letting go of...but I am getting better...

I left these people knowing that I've done the right thing. I'm managing my own karma and that's all I can really do. That's all I have control over...my own.

I realized later on too that there's also the question of my irreverence. Apparently, from the response of one of these people, although not explicit, I could easily infer that I did not show enough reverence to the offender.

Well, I have never been a person impressed with titles et al, nor have I ever been one to disguise my true feelings or mince words. I've gotten better at perhaps relaying my messaging in a more genteel manner at times, but that too totally depends on who I'm speaking with.

When I was 19 years old, I worked for the Insurance Bureau of Canada in their PR/Media Relations department. This is before the days of the Internet and part of my job was to collect local and national media coverage in the newspapers regarding insurance issues, copy them and then distribute them to senior members of the IBC Management team. I did this on a daily basis and therefore, I was usually in the office before most other employees so that the media was on their desks first thing.

The President of the IBC at the time was also usually in the office first thing, and each morning as he did his walk about he would pass my desk and say, "Good morning Karen!" and I would respond with "Good morning Jack, how are things?" Jack was old school. A lovely and kind English gentleman with the bow tie to boot and whose secretary was very much his "secretary", even though the new titles of Executive Assistant were just starting to make inroads into Canadian corporate culture.

So, one morning I'm dropping off my media package at Jack's office and I say to his secretary, "Good morning, this is for Jack." She turns to me and says, "That's Mr. Lyndon!" My response was "Well, when Mr. Lyndon feels compelled to call me Ms S_______ then I'll do the same" and I walked away.

It's not that I'm trying to be rude. If Jack was bothered with me calling him by his first name, then he would have or should have told me. To me, he's just a "Joe", just like we all are. For me, reverence is meant for icons like Mother Theresa and her ilk (who I had met and was blessed by, but that's another entry), not the privileged, white, all-male establishment that rarely does much to earn their seats.

So, besides my irreverence, I'm also the kind of person that doesn't just point the elephant out in the room. My special talent comes from putting the elephant on the table. I recognize that that's not going to make me a popular person a lot of the time as most people are not very good with such direct honesty. I don't know how to live any other way. Actually, that sounded a little grandiose and passive. I choose not to live any other way and have long ago accepted that I'll never be the CEO of a company because I don't spend my energies pandering to others' egos.

So, when I apologized and left these people this week, what I did was irreverently show them their elephant on the table. I have a clear picture about the kind of people they are and I do recognize that in one sense, I am standing in smug judgment of them now. May not be the best characteristic of my good karmic move, but it's only one part and I'm still working on it all...

So, my suggestion is if they want to start working on their own karma, perhaps they need to start eating that elephant.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No, it's not okay

There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.
~Madeleine K. Albright

A week ago Sunday my daughter and I were discussing the first school dance of the year. She's always excited for school dances and totally unlike my 80s school dance experiences (which were more about Benetton, Polo, putting the nuns' or brothers' noses out of joint, screwdrivers in mini milk containers and who was zoomin' who), she and her friends will often get dressed up together in a theme...the first dance of this season, she started to share with me, she and her girlfriends were going as "Bro's and 'ho's"...you know, she was going to be the Bro and her friends, the 'ho's....

uh...


No.


As an unapologetic, ardent, active and vocal feminist, a former single mother AND a woman that went to Uni for a double major in Economics and Women's Studies (so I could be a feminist bitch with an attitude about money...TOO...) I was disappointed and a bit more than surprised that my daughter would think that this would fly with me. It's just wrong and on so many levels and so, I reacted to this proposed plan rather...pissily...and absolutely forbade it too...


A couple of years ago, CTV was planning on airing "Pimp My Ride" during the summer months...I was appalled at the title of the show when I first saw it via MuchMusic and MTV and was really disappointed that my station that I watched probably 50% of my TV time, would choose to air a show with such a tasteless title. So I wrote to them (yes, I'm the happy typist that equally writes the "I think you're wonderful" feedback emails, like I did with H&M when they publicly apologized for a Vancouver store's shuffling of a breastfeeding mother to a back room like a criminal as much as I write the "here, take back your membership card, I'll never fly/travel/eat/sleep/acknowledge your company again" feeback emails, which are too many to recount here, but we can start with Radisson Hotels)...


What I got back from CTV was distressing; a phone call where the man on the other end of the phone couldn't even pronounced "SUBJUGATION" let alone read my email properly. "It's not a show about SUB-Ga-Ju-subnation...it's about someone's old car getting an overhaul."...he left his phone number and I left him a message in return much along the lines of "perhaps you should read the email more clearly and look up words in the dictionary that you don't understand before you return calls to your public; I know what the show is about! I'm appalled that CTV would support a show whose title CLEARLY celebrates women's continued SUB-JU-GA-TION, which means keepin' 'em down...brutha."


Sigh...

Later that Sunday, thanks to my good friend Kayla and her husband Bill, Rae and I went to go see The Trojan Women at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford (beautifully led by Martha Henry). The story was written by Euripedes about 2500 years ago and is about the survivors of war, namely the women of Troy.

"From the ancient roots of drama comes this powerfully moving testament to the endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity. After 10 years’ siege, Troy has fallen to the Greeks. Now King Priam’s widow, Hecuba, and other women of the ruined city are to be the slaves [and concubines] of their conquerors. But even as they lament their present calamity, they hear predictions of tragedy still to come. "

You see, the story of women hasn't changed much in 2500 years. Although it's still mostly men that fight the wars, it's the women that must survive when they're gone. It is the women that must carry the sorrow and the grief of an entire community. It is they that must recall and pass down the stories and the histories of their dead. It is they that through their survival are further punished by subjugation, tyranny and torture; horrificly, contemporarily it's systemic rape (see Bosnia and Darfur). It is the women that are traded and defined by their physical value, as much as in the time of Troy as it is now. What a bunch of 'ho's and bitches, eh?...


In 2006, there was a documentary/debate show on CBC hosted by Avi Lewis titled The Big Picture and I was lucky enough to get tickets and take my father to its inaugural airing. I was more than impressed with the format and content of the show (and was extremely disappointed when it was cancelled prematurely). The theme of the show that we attended was based on a film The Human Behaviour Experiments and the panel that was in the room discussing the issues that day were beyond impressive. The debate and dialogue was focused mainly on the notion of how evil flourishes when good people do nothing, particularly how the atrocities in Abu Graib prison in Afghanistan were enabled, supported and permitted to happen and how that situation was possible in the first place.

There were many themes and tangential elements of debate that night and although they were all exceptional and notable speakers, the simplest and most impacting dialogue for me came from Barbara Coloroso, a renowned speaker and educator on parenting, teaching, school discipline and non-violent conflict resolution. She spoke of the bullying that's allowed to happen in the schools and how that may ultimately result in people growing up with a lack of a moral compass when adults and authority figures fail to admonish such bad behaviour. When it came time for questions or reactions from the audience, I know I'll shock many a gentle reader when I share that I put my hand up to say something...


What I shared that day was that it starts with US, the parents in the homes; the responsibility lies squarely on our shoulders. I shared that when I've heard my (then 14 year old) daughter blabbing with a couple of girlfriends in her room and they're negatively commenting on a girl at school who's a bit overweight, a bit gawky and different, that it's MY job to walk in the room and tell them that it's NOT okay to pick on someone because they're "not as cool as you all think you are". I did go on a bit from there, but you get the picture...[my ego doesn't permit me to not share that my commentary got the biggest round of applause from the studio audience and Avi Lewis told me as we were leaving the studio that my comment was "The" crystalizing comment of the show.]


...when my daughter is complaining about how a girl at school with big boobs acts all "slutty" it's MY job to remind her that that girl is just trying on a persona that she thinks is right, rather than what really is and that it's our job to be kinder, gentler and less judgmental...it's my job to call her and her girlfriends out when they use younger kids as fodder for their entertainment...it's my job to remind them that guys that boast about how many blowjobs they've had are probably NOT the guy to be wasting precious teenage romantic energy on...

It's also my job that when my daughter and her girlfriends are planning a "Bro's and 'ho's" themed dress up for the school dance to clearly remind them that right now, around the world and right in our own backyards, there are women sucking and fucking and carving away at their souls because they have to to survive, or they've been told that their only value is physical and that their own worth is their pussy.

I know that women all go through a phase in our lives, usually when we're about 18 years old where we define ourselves through our pussies...some grow out of this and some don't. Sadly, many aren't given the choice.

In 1996, I used to work with a man who at age 23 converted to Orthodox Judaism from Catholicism for his wife (including the snip!), and we used to have great conversations. One day I challenged him and said, "yeah, Mike...I have an issue that you wake up every day and say a prayer thanking God that you're not a woman." He stopped and said, "...let me get back to you on that one." The next day he said to me, "Okay, it's not that we just say a prayer thanking God we're not women, we also say a prayer thanking God we're not in bondage or slavery..." and I interrupted him and said, "...so rather than changing women's lot in life, you just thank God you're not one of them?" The purpose of me being so direct was the fact that Mike had two daughters. It did make him stop and think. So when our conversation continued and I shared with him that there was not ONE woman that I have ever known that has not been assaulted in some way, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, he took pause and asked me what we should do for our daughters...I told him..."Teach them to fight."

I continue to fight the good fight; with my daughter and her friends, at work, at family gatherings, whenever I see injustices and people choosing the lazy way, because "it's just a joke!"...because to me and to every other woman that has been made to feel small and insignificant or vulnerable and weak...it ain't no joke...


Let me end by saying this.. in 1993, there was a TV movie called A Woman's Guide To Adultery and while I don't remember much about the movie, one thing has stuck with me 15 years later which was when Theresa Russell's character (I think!) spoke about the first commandment of being a woman... which was simply...

Though Shalt Not Hurt Another Woman.

Using the phrases "pimping" and " 'hos" in any kind of familiar and joking context is certainly against that commandment and I won't abide it.


Amen, sistahs!

Post-script...

..and just as I was about to post this, I received this news alert in my inbox...


All charges dropped against soldier blamed in Somalia death

All charges against former Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee have been dropped, the Canadian military announced Monday. Matchee was charged under the National Defence Act with torture and murder as a result of the 1993 death of Somali teenager Shidane Abukar Arone, at a time when Canadian troops were deployed in Somalia. Matchee suffered brain damage in an apparent suicide attempt while being held in a military cell for the crime.

So, the abdication of responsibility is still rampant in our government...and in our homes it seems...