Revisiting old posts and reviewing search terms

I took some time today to read through some of my old blog posts, I find that as I hit mental blocks in writing my thesis it can be helpful to read through what has inspired me in the past. I wanted to take a few moments to draw attention to some of the most common search terms that people use to find my blog. A common thing that comes across is the question “What does it mean to be a woman?” or “What does it mean to be a girl?” and while my posts where I developed my own answer to these questions (Part One and Part Two) seem to be quite popular, they are not necessarily comprehensive. In fact, they aren’t even comprehensive to how I feel about the topic now – they were responses to very specific experiences that occurred over a set of days and weeks – hardly representative of my entire life or viewpoint on my gender. 

I find that I look up answers to those big questions too frequently, I’m constantly seeking approval or answers that someone else has experienced or wondered or asked the same things that I have. Why do I seek validation from other people? Why am I looking for some proof that my experience is not unique? Why am I looking for proof that I am the same as someone else, instead of embracing what makes me different? I’m curious about goal to be normal or to blend in, what does this even mean and why do we want it? 

Personally, I’m done with it. I’m tired of telling people what I do, or what I’m passionate about and feeling like I can’t share too much of myself for fear of sounding too different. I want to be different, I want to be myself, and I want to be able to celebrate the things that make me unique without feeling the need to shine a little less bright. 

So cheers to those who ask the big questions, who refuse to conform to the people we’re told we need to be, and to those who keep shining bright regardless of the response you’re met with. 

Remembering

I’ve realized that I have a new tendency of being cautious. I’m not sure why this is, but I noticed that over the past two months (the first two months of graduate school) I have been very cautious. I have been observing the ways that people interact, trying to determine what is or is not normal or common practice. It’s a strange thing to do I guess, but it comes from a history of being a ‘people-watcher’. I like to watch and observe my surroundings to best decide how I should interact with those surroundings. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, because I miss being a bit more reckless – throwing myself into any given situation putting 100% of my heart and soul into it.

I don’t do that anymore.

I will do it again though. I’m no longer half-committed to the graduate school experience, I don’t feel like I have to prove that I belong anymore. I do belong, or else I wouldn’t be here. Yes, I am young. Yes, this is new to me. But what better way to learn? Trying to fit in too much was making me extremely anxious to speak in seminars (or even to people outside of seminars) for fear of not saying the right thing, or having interpreted a reading or talk differently. I’m also not content with being a part of my surroundings or a part of the status quo (despite having done this for a bit) and I am going to stand out, I’m going to question things, and I’m not going to implicitly form myself to fit whatever frame or box is in place. I’m remembering who I am and what I like most about myself and getting back to that.

We will see what happens.

In the swing of things

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to get back in the swing of things.

Part of me views the past year almost as a break from the academic life because I was very much removed from it – living in Vietnam and working at SRD gave me the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate where I was and where I want to be and I found that I’m very happy with where I am and how things are going.  Vietnam has also taught me to learn how to go with the flow and take things as they come rather than try to control my surroundings which has proven quite useful.

Last week I made the big move to Toronto and started getting everything together for my Masters program and to work as a Teaching Assistant. So far I’ve found that the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo are quite different (at least in my experience), my undergraduate degree offered the benefit of really small classes and I found that I was part of an absolutely incredible group of classmates and friends. Arriving at UofT, I’ve found that a lot of the class sizes are larger, the interests of people within my program are quite varied as are everyone’s backgrounds, so its become interesting to get to know my classmates and to see where I fit in within the group.

I came into the MA program wanting to do a thesis project rather than a research paper, but following conversations with my advisor, it seems that the research paper option is more highly recommended as it provides more experience and exposure with different professors. So it looks like that is what I will be doing. I’m still in the middle of choosing courses as it’s really difficult to get into courses from other faculties so I still have some hoops to jump through.

I’ve also found that my knowledge in certain areas seems to be lacking, so I’m trying to put together a reading list of different books and articles related to my interests and to research methods in general that will help me better understand navigate through the assigned readings for class.

Anyway, in the next while you can expect me to continue to comment on current events and news that I find fascinating and relevant as well as for me to brainstorm on some of the information and readings that I come across as I continue my studies.

If you have any suggestions for readings please feel free to mention them in the comments section, I’d love to discuss them with you.

 

Finding routine

I’ve been back in Timmins, Ontario for exactly six weeks now. I’ve visited family, enjoyed the great outdoors (including an unexpected snowstorm), spent many more hours than I’d hope on buses, and got back in the swing of a new job. I’ve graduated, said hello and goodbye to a great number of friends, begun an apartment hunt, and started to reflect on what the next year (or more) will bring.

The one thing about travelling that I think I had forgotten is how much it makes you appreciate home, makes you appreciate the familiar. And my familiar is different from that of many people. My familiar is hours on a highway surrounded by nothing but trees and the occasional lake or moose. There’s something beautiful and calming about forests, something I had forgotten or pushed from memory while living in the bustling craziness of Hanoi. I love the North, it’s beautiful, its refreshing – its home.

Despite all this, I’m still excited for another change – to experience Toronto, to begin writing and researching and to get back into the swing of academic life. I’m excited to be physically closer to a lot of my friends (as not many live in or return to the North anymore), and I’m excited to be challenged again.

My work has definitely kept me busy and as it’s a new position, it has also enabled me to learn a lot more about finances, credit, and access to funds. This summer has been like a waiting period – a time in between. I’m done a degree but not yet done being a student, I’m home, but not really home. I feel like I’m on the precipice of change when most of the people around me are finding some degree of permanence and I’m still surrounded by uncertainty. I guess that it would be uncomfortable to many people to have so much uncertainty in their lives, but I almost find it soothing. It’s soothing to know that my life is still changing, its soothing to know that things will continue to change as long as I like, and its soothing to know that challenge and adventure are still (and will continue to be) a major part of my life.

Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to share some preliminary research and readings that I want to incorporate into my studies for next year as well as any preparatory work I do for the University of Toronto. I’m  looking to access as much information as possible about Belgium as a colonial power and Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC pre and during colonial time.  I’d also like to access any legitimate information regarding current laws and attitudes on domestic abuse.

I’m finding my routine and seeing where I fit in for the next few months – then the cycle will start all over again.

Back in Canada

I know this post may seem a bit late, but I wanted to take some time to reflect myself before I shared my thoughts and reflections with the worldwide web. From past experiences, coming back to Canada is always the hardest part about leaving because you struggle with who you are versus who you were, you struggle with your next steps, how to integrate what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed into your life, you struggle with falling back into how you used to be or how you want to be. It’s a major learning experience and it takes some time and reflection each time to decide how you want to decipher it.

This time, I felt as though there was more preparation and the university set up some debriefing sessions to help us determine how to answer those questions. In addition, we aren’t coming back into a former life, we’re coming back to the completion of our degrees and the beginning of something completely new – whether its work, more school, travel, or no plans – so there aren’t old patterns to fall back into.

Personally, there were some elements of placement that I really struggled with, however despite these struggles, I would never trade the experience for anything. I learned a lot about myself while in Hanoi, I developed a completely different sense of independence than I could have in Canada, I challenged myself, and I realized that there are no limitations to what I can do or accomplish.

My time in Hanoi gave me the self-confidence to stand out from the crowd, to be myself regardless of what is happening around me, to stick to my goals, and to shoot for the stars. Prior to living overseas, I never would have imagined that I would be good enough for grad school, that I could get a scholarship, or that I deserved to be noticed in that way. But it really pushed me to work outside of my comfort zone and to recognize my own strengths.

Placement also brought me a lot closer to some of my classmates; there are people that I spent time with in Hanoi that I will be close with for the rest of my life. I’ve made friends that understand me more than anyone I’ve known previously and who are unconditionally supportive. The heart and strength that I’ve seen in my classmates astounds me and I know that they will accomplish anything they set out to do. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience placement with such a wonderful and supportive group of people, and I feel even more fortunate to have such incredible people in my life.

Participating in an international experience is about more than school, it teaches you things that you can’t learn about in class or in books. There’s a value to travelling and living overseas that you can’t get from anything else. No other experience encourages you to test your boundaries, nothing else will ever ensure that you learn about yourself and the world in such a genuine manner, and there is nothing equal to it. Regardless of whether you are studying international development or anything else, go outside and learn about the world, go experience it. It will challenge you and it will expand your horizons more than anything else ever could.

The good stuff

I know I usually only share the bad stuff that happens in my daily adventures (because it’s usually funnier), but there are many incredible, wonderful, great things and people that I come across every day as well.

Firstly is the man who sits at the end of my alley. I would guess him to be in his late 50s and he is always hanging out at the end of the alley way, sitting at a table with his friends either eating or playing cards. When I walk by in the mornings he goes out of his way to say hello and share what English words he knows (usually ‘Thank you’ or ‘I love you’). When he thinks the weather will be either cold or rainy that day and doesn’t think I’m appropriately dressed he rushes me back down the alley to make sure I have a jacket or a sweater. In the evenings when it’s dark, he watches and waits for me to make sure I get into my house safely. When I have friends or family over, he always asks who they are if he doesn’t recognize them. He just truly goes out of his way each and every day and it ensures that I start each day with a smile thinking of how kind he is.

Second is the woman on bus #32. I met her last month and I think that she thinks that I just moved to Hanoi and don’t know my way around but every day she has waited to make sure I get on the bus and, as she gets off at the same stop, she also chit chats with me and is just really friendly. She’s been openly curious about me and has shared information about her life. It’s great to have a friend on a long, crowded bus ride and since I’ve met her I haven’t been groped by any strange men – coincidence? I think not.

Third are the xe om drivers (motorcycle taxi) near my street. As I cross the perilous, crowded, traffic disaster that is Kim Ma Street, they watch me, waiting to see if I need help. When I get across the street they usually smile and applaud – it makes something like crossing the street feel remarkably accomplished. The drivers on the other side of the street always wish me a good day and a good bus ride.

There are many more people and things that just make this placement absolutely incredible, but these three people/groups of people are the ones that I encounter every single day who bring a bit of happiness into the day (especially when its pouring rain like today).

I can’t believe I still have to say these things

There are days when gender issues infuriate me and when people/problems just seem absolutely ridiculous. There are things/opinions that I actually cannot believe I have to voice or express. There are so many things that you would think would be common sense by now.

I can’t believe that I have to say I believe in gender equality.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I believe men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and receive equal respect.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that girls and boys should be able to go to school.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that every person should have access to family planning education, counselling, and support (through contraception, abortion, help with fertility, STD/HIV testing, treatment, prenatal and postnatal care, etc.).

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think men and women have the right to live free from fear of being assaulted (physically, sexually, emotionally), free from fear of rape, free from fear of being drugged, etc.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that all genders and people within genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, identity, religion, age, political beliefs, size, physical/mental ability or disability etc. are equal and should be treated equally.

Worst of all, I can’t believe that people think I’m radical for believing these things. Is it so radical to believe that all people (without conditions, no ifs, ands, or buts) are equal.

Period. All people are equal.

What will 2013 bring?

In the past I’ve tried to go into each new year by learning to let go of things, stop trying to control everything, just take things as they come.

This year that will be different – I don’t want to take things as they come, I don’t want to accept things. I remember reading that change cannot happen unless you get uncomfortable. In 2013, I will get uncomfortable: I will try new things, I will speak out against what I believe is unjust, I will not let fear of the unknown get in my way.

That is what I promise for 2013. I will become a better person.

Where do we go from here?

A wonderful post for anyone who wants more perspective on Idle No More, why it’s important, and to pose ideas for the sustainability of the movement.

Idle No More: Where do we go from here? – âpihtawikosisân

 

Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

Wonderful history for anyone wanting to learn more about colonization and the need for #Idlenomore

Behind the Hedge

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British Colonies along the Atlantic Coast and the newly conquered lands of New France.  Remember the Plains of Abraham?  Also, the Royal Proclamation declared clearly the Crown’s understanding of the status of the aboriginal people of the New World. To be clear, the Royal Proclamation is a statement of Canadian Constitutional law which remains in force today, both on its own and through the Constitution Act (1982).

The Royal Proclamation, together with the Quebec Act of  of 1774,  is the legal reason that Quebec continues to have a distinct Constitutional position as a Nation within Canada and as a Nation with distinct, constitutionally guaranteed legal institutions.

The First Nations are very clearly described in the Royal Proclamation as…

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#idlenomore

“Our government has a clear objective to focus on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. We take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada.”

What Canada has proven is that Canadians cannot count on Canada with regards to freedom, democracy or human rights. While Canada may reject its failing grade with regards to Human Rights, Canadians are standing up and demanding better.

“We find it strange that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs are devoting their scarce resources to countries like Canada, instead of countries like Iran and Syria where citizens do not enjoy rights and are subject to serious human rights violations at the hands of those regimes,” Rick Roth said.

And we find it strange that Canada isn’t focusing on the serious human rights violations in Canada that have been happening for longer than Canada has been a nation.

On December 10th, the world woke up and something long overdue happened. The Idle No More movement is unprecedented in my generation, this is one of the first times that I have seen people in Canada organize together and not only advocate for change, but demand change. The demand for change does not only affect Aboriginal communities in Canada, but all Canadians. Idle No More is advocating for better human rights, better environmental treatment and a wake-up call to Canadians and the Canadian government in general.

Despite the fact that I am currently in Vietnam, this is a movement what I will be a part of, I am committed to doing everything I can for the rights of my own people and the rights of Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities around the world. I cannot advocate for international development or development unless I can see that it is done in my own country. I can’t stand up for the rights of people around the world unless I’m willing to stand up for my own rights. I urge you, Aboriginal or not, stand up for basic human rights, protect the environment and demand change from the Canadian government.

The message is simple: respect treaty rights, stop federal legislation that could affect the environment and improve living conditions in Aboriginal communities. 

This is about more than Canada’s reputation, this is about more than money. This is about making right for decades and decades of injustice, this is about making right on our commitment to protect our natural landscape. This is not radical, it is not uncalled for. This is common sense, basic human compassion and necessary.

“Once the last tree is cut down, once the last river is dried up, once the last fish is caught is when Harper’s going to realize you can’t eat money.” – Melvin Wilson, Cheam First Nation

Learn about Idle No More

Read more:

Wake-up call to Canada – findingdevelopment

Idle No More protesters remember Oka crisis – CBC

UN envoy blasts Canada for ‘self-righteous’ attitude over hunger, poverty – National Post

Idle No More protest continues in Vancouver – Vancouver Sun

A peoples’ movement that is Idle No More – CBC

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike – Rabble.ca

Idle No More: Women rising to lead when it’s needed most – Rabble.ca

Chief vows to ‘die’ if necessary to improve the lot of Aboriginal People – Leader Post

Wake-up call to Canada

I’m certain that a lot of my readers know this, but some probably don’t. I am Aboriginal, Metis to be specific and while I was not solely raised according to this heritage, it is a part of who I am, it is part of my identity, my culture, and my family. It pains me to see that discrimination based on heritage, culture, ethnicity still happens every day in Canada (and many parts of the world) and that it is happening by our governments, the groups of people who are elected to protect and guarantee basic rights.

People have been talking about the failures of the Canadian government with regards to the Aboriginal population for longer than I have been alive. We have the extensive crisis in Attawapiskat regarding education, housing, water, and so much more. There is also Kashechewan where there have been numerous evacuations, boil water advisories for years (this is one of 100 First Nations communities with extensive long-term water problems), a housing crisis, and in one month alone this community of 1700 people lost 21 to suicide. In Manitoba, rather than send the appropriate tools to deal with flu outbreaks (i.e. hand sanitizer) a community was sent body bags. Let me guess, you probably haven’t heard of most of this? It has been a fairly invisible crisis to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world, remarkably hidden and that received extremely limited news coverage. Why? Because these things happen so frequently within Aboriginal communities, human rights transgressions (at the fault of the government) are so commonplace that they have become normalized.

And that’s just the beginning.

So is it really any surprise that Canada received a failing grade for human rights by Amnesty International? As said in the report “By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.”

What are we going to do about it? What commitment do you make as a Canadian to improve the status of human rights in Canada? If you are not Canadian, what will you do to protect and improve human rights in your nation (or abroad)? As Canadians who do we think we are? Why do we erroneously believe that we can push for, represent, and speak on behalf of human rights around the world when we haven’t the common sense or decency to guarantee those same rights within our own borders?

Those of us who have had free, equal, unlimited and fully realized human rights for years cannot become complacent in the misplaced belief that this does not affect us. Because it does. When we become complacent or apathetic about the human rights of others, we are complacent about our own rights and freedoms. My rights, my education, my freedoms mean nothing to me if I am exercising them at the sacrifice of other’s rights.

And just because I’m a decent human being.

What I find most challenging

I’m a pretty vocal person, I’m used to speaking my mind, I’m used to discussing policy and somewhat challenging topics, and I’m used to having the freedom to do so. I’m one of those people who if you say ‘You can’t do that!’ I want to do whatever it might be even more.

Read more

Singapore: Outtakes

Following my trip to Singapore and the posts I put up last week, I was going through some additional photos and came across some that I loved and felt deserved to be shared. I will do this again with more images from the Botanical Gardens as well, but in the meantime here are some photos from the city, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and anywhere else I wandered in Singapore. I hope you enjoy them and come back soon to check out more photos from the Botanical Gardens.

Little India

Little India

Near Chinatown

Near Chinatown

Food Street in Chinatown

Food Street in Chinatown

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Panoramic view from the Singapore Flyer (click for full image)

Panoramic view from the Singapore Flyer (click for full image)

Panoramic view from the Helix Bridge, not perfect but one of my favourite shots (click for full image)

Panoramic view from the Helix Bridge, not perfect but one of my favourite shots (click for full image)

Singapore: Orchard Road

A trip to Singapore would not be complete without visiting Orchard Road. This road is like the high-end shopping zone of the city, but because it’s almost Christmas it was covered in lights and decorations.

Among the unexpected sightings was this owl…

Why?

Why?

Now enjoy some of the photos that made a little more sense.

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These were my favourite

These were my favourite

 

Singapore: Botanical Gardens

While in Singapore a few weeks ago, I took some time to wander through the Botanical Gardens which are massive. It would probably take days to do justice to the entire area; so bound by time I went to the Orchid Garden – the national flower of Singapore. Luckily there was a promotion happening so admission was free!

Here are some select photos of the Orchid Garden and of the Orchids, including some close-ups because the patterns were just so stunning. I hope to go back one day and see more and I hope you find the photos as beautiful as I found the gardens.

Canopied walkway

Canopied walkway

Waterfall! I can never get enough of these.

Waterfall! I can never get enough of these.

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Just for good measure - they seemed so happy.

Just for good measure – they seemed so happy.

Singapore: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

One of the highlights of Singapore for me was the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where I was able to spend time outside in a rainforest free from traffic, pollution, smog, people, and all the fun things I experience on a daily basis in Ha Noi. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established in 1883 and is a primary forest, an ASEAN Heritage Park, and the forests in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are original to Singapore and have remained untouched throughout the nation’s history and development (during British colonization and intense logging).

It is also home to Singapore’s highest natural point, Bukit Timah Hill, at 163.63 metres; which of course had to be climbed. As the summit wasn’t too high, we chose to add a few kilometres to the route; adding on the Jungle Path (slightly harder than the Summit Path) and part of the Seraya Loop (to be able to see the Singapore Quarry.

There were absolutely beautiful trees, plants, and remarkably massive ants throughout the entire hike. It was really peaceful and the Jungle Path was rewarding because there were freshwater springs and pools of calm water. Getting to the Seraya Hut was also beautiful as you could see over the Singapore Quarry and there were much less people so it was very calm.

In other news, it has made me want to climb Fansipan (Fan Xi Pan) here in Vietnam even more. Which will be sometime in late February so if you have any pointers please send them my way.

Here are some photos! Including one of a tree for my sister.

The route (badly drawn by me in teal).

The route (badly drawn by me in teal).

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See those stairs? They are around 1/4-1/3 of my height.

See those stairs? They are around 1/4-1/3 of my height.

Still alive!

Still alive!

Made it!

Made it!

 

Singapore: the city

Arriving in Singapore entailed a bit of culture shock – everything was so clean, efficient and organized.

The first thing I did was drink from a water fountain (which will probably be the first thing I do in Canada too – or a tap, whatever’s available) and then walked through the airport and customs in minutes. It was just that organized.

The city streets were calm, empty, traffic lights functioned, there was visible greenery, there were no motorbikes, and it was not chaotic in the least. Best of all, I think I only heard two horns the entire weekend.

We spent the first night up on the Singapore Flyer seeing a beautiful skyline of the city, then walked through the Helix Bridge to the Marina Bay Promenade along the Singapore River near some stunning gardens.

The next day was spent exploring the rest of the city, using the MRT system which was the cleanest, safest, most efficient transit system I have ever seen. I seriously would have eaten off the floor in there (had food and drink been allowed). . .

Some highlights included Little India, Arab Street, and Chinatown but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

View from the Singapore Flyer.

View from the Singapore Flyer

Helix Bridge and Marina Bay Sands.

Helix Bridge and Marina Bay Sands

View from the Helix Bridge.

View from the Helix Bridge

The Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Promenade.

The Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Promenade

 

Little India

Little India

Little India

Little India

Little India

Little India

Little India

Little India

Arab Street

Arab Street

Arab Street

Arab Street

Arab Street

Arab Street

China Town

Chinatown

China Town

Chinatown

China Town

Chinatown

China Town

Chinatown

 

Democracy, freedom, apologies and rights

‘Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.’

What kind of image does that bring up for you? One where citizens have the right to choose what happens in their country, with themselves? That’s what I picture. It’s not one where other nations determine the rule of law, rights, freedoms; it’s not one governed with weapons, fear, or oppression.

It is also not grant one nation the right or ability to impose views or beliefs onto another person or nation; it does not reign superior over any other thoughts, actions, or systems of beliefs. It simply one option.

I believe that it is inherently un-democratic to enforce ‘democratic’ beliefs on other nations by force, economic sanctions, tied aid, or any other means. I believe it is inherently un-democratic to invade other nations for the ‘sake of democracy.’

Now, I understand that ‘military interventions’ have the unique ability to stimulate the economy; particularly the economy of such nations that have large investments in weaponry; but it halts and harms the economies of the nations that are invaded, devastated, and destroyed.

Now, does having these beliefs make me un-democratic? No. Does believing this make me anti-USA? No. Even if I chose to protest or partake in a protest? No, still in the clear.

Then why must singers, performers, actors, etc. apologize for doing this very thing and/or risk being banned from the country?? Isn’t it democratic for them to be able to voice their opinions and act on those opinions? Particularly if those voices and actions are causing no harm. Why must all ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ dissent to popular opinion? Aren’t they simply doing what the definition of ‘democracy’ encourages them to do: have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives?

International Human Rights Day 2012

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a seminar in Hanoi for International Human Rights Day and I must say it was interesting. I will not be posting very much about it for now, but in the meantime here are some select quotes and upcoming events that I thought were interesting as they apply to citizens of Vietnam, Canada, and the world. This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate human rights achievements in Canada, Vietnam and the world from 1948 to the present.

Continue reading

Grad School

I have finally submitted (and paid for) my graduate school applications after spending weeks reviewing and re-reading my applications. I came close to submitting them several times before but kept getting intense feelings of nervousness before I could hit ‘send’.

I believe that I am making the right decisions, that I will enjoy my Masters experience, and that I will contribute something new to my field with my thesis. But now it means I have to wait months until I hear back to determine if I will be one of the select few allowed in.

Now, I have to finalize my thesis proposal, proving that my research will be something new; this also pretty much determines what kind of work I will be doing for the remainder of my academic career and what I will be an ‘expert’ in.

Any words of wisdom from the wordpress world?

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Alright, by this point you should all know my stance on gender equality, women’s rights, human rights, etc. I’d say I’ve been pretty vocal. I have also been fairly polite about it (according to others).

This is going to change. I’m livid.

Women’s rights are human rights. Women do not spontaneously become pregnant, it’s really not a solo act. A man’s presence is involved in some way or another.

Do you believe in human rights? Do you believe that women are capable? Do you respect your mother, sisters, female friends? Do you enjoy making decisions about your life (i.e. what will I have for breakfast, do I want to read a book, should I wear a red shirt today, etc.)? Do you doubt the intelligence of the women you know?

If you say you respect women and if you understand what respect actually means, how can you promote actions or people who subsequently disrespect their autonomy, independence, decision-making abilities, and equality?

How is it that women are responsible for making sure they don’t get raped (don’t go out at dark, oh that skirt is too short, are you sure you should show that much cleavage) because ‘men can’t help themselves if you look available’ and yet our ability to make decisions about our bodies is threatened? Why is that we are held with the responsibility to make sure ‘men don’t stray or misbehave’ yet we are not responsible to make any decisions about ourselves? Why is it that regardless of how smart I am, how much I prove myself, how well I distinguish myself in my field I will still make 70-80 cents on the dollar in comparison to my male counterparts?

Why is this still so hard to wrap your mind around? Its been a matter of discussion for decades, centuries even. Why is it so hard to understand? Women are human, in fact ALL people are human. All people deserve equal rights under the law. Women and men have slightly different body parts, that does not mean they deserve unequal rights. Birth control is a human right – you sell condoms (mainly male condoms as female condoms are not common practice) over the counter, allowing men to control what goes on their penis, yet birth control pills/IUDs/NuvaRing/injections/implants/patch/etc. (the more effective forms of birth control) are still prescription only and significantly more expensive (and in the USA 18 states allow pharmacists permission to refuse to dispense medication that they don’t morally agree with). This removes control, independence, autonomy, it makes it incredibly difficult for women to have the same freedom of control over their fertility that men have. *Note, I’m not saying condoms (male/female condoms) are not effective, they are still the only way to protect yourself and your partner against STDs, they are just less effective (when used alone) at preventing pregnancies than other hormonal forms of birth control. When in doubt ask your doctor or google the success rates of different forms, and always be sure to get tested. 

Also, why is abortion a heated discussion in politics, aren’t we supposed to have separation of state and religion? Isn’t it religion that dictates that life begins at conception? Why does this have a place in politics? Nations are not assimilated cultures, nations are made up of inherently different people with different beliefs and different religions, even if there is no separation of state and religion there should be equal place for ALL religions to share their views instead of only the view of the loudest religion. In saying this, religion probably isn’t even the best word – how about beliefs? This allows for those without a ‘formalized institutional view of religion’ to be included. I don’t go to church (at this present time), does that make my views on politics any more or less valid? Nope.

If you are going to represent me in politics, I do not want to know about your religious beliefs, I don’t care what (if any) god you believe in. I don’t care if you grew up going to church, or mosque, or temple, or something else, or nothing. It shouldn’t matter. What matters to me are your political beliefs and how well you will represent me and my political beliefs, if you cannot justify your stance without using religion, you have no place in politics. Saying things like ‘if a women gets pregnant from rape, god intended it to happen’ should never come out of your mouth. Maybe a better thing to say would be “if a women gets pregnant from rape, the state will do everything in their power to support her in whatever decision she makes and to give her access to the things she needs to heal emotionally and physically from such a horrible trauma. We will also do everything in our power to ensure that the rapist is brought to court and tried for these crimes.” You are in politics, you do not judge, you do not demean people, and you do not treat anyone as less than human. You support the population you represent, you support equal rights, and you do what is in the best interests for everyone even if it goes outside of your religious beliefs (which you do not try to enforce on others).

I have never been in a situation where I have had to make a decision regarding abortion and I sincerely hope I’m never in a place where I have to. I hope that if and when I get pregnant (if ever), it’s by choice. I hope that until (and if ever) that happens/during that time/after that time, I’m granted  the right and ability to maintain 100% of my own authority over my body. This means never being in a position where sexual activity occurs without my express prior consent and if it were to ever occur without my consent, having the freedom and ability to pursue legal action in court without being judged, demeaned, or having my actions put on trial. This means having 100% access to whatever means of family planning I choose to use and having it covered by my health insurance (just like viagra is covered) without having to justify my actions/choices or having them refused. This means being able to access abortions without being judged or forced to justify my decision and having access to supportive counselling throughout the process if I’m ever in a position where I choose to have an abortion. This means being treated like a human being.

I can respect your decision if you are not a feminist, and if you are pro-life, believe religion has a place in politics, etc. I can respect that. I cannot respect when those beliefs infringe on the rights of the rest of the population. In saying I’m pro-choice, believe in access to contraception, believe in equal pay; I am not infringing on your right to never have an abortion, never use contraception or get paid less if thats what you want. If you are against family planning – great don’t do it. But don’t tell me I can’t.

I am human, nothing more, nothing less. 

Something I promised I would never do

You heard it. I’m going to do something I promised would never happen (but at this current time do not understand why I was so against it).

I’m going to go for a research degree. When thinking of grad school while still in school, it makes sense to avoid writing papers when all you do in your spare time is write papers that you may or may not be interested in. But in the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to choose the topics of more of my research papers and this enabled me to understand my research interests. I’ve also found that during this internship I miss doing research, I miss writing, I miss essays and papers and research papers. Enough so that I’m applying to research degrees for grad school.

I’m looking at programs that allow me to overlay studies in differing geographical regions with issues pertaining to women’s experiences. This is proving to be quite difficult. But I believe I have found two Geography programs that either have specializations in gender or have supervisors with extensive experience in gender.

This also means that I have to develop my research interests. This summer I had the opportunity to write a paper on how sexual assault constitutes an act of genocide using the current conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’m still interested in this, and would like to explore it further, but may look at other case studies and situations that have had internationally recognized genocides or instances where genocide is not ‘officially occuring’ but sexual violence/assaults against members of the population is rampant (sexual assault against women and men). I’m also interested in the ways in which the forced transmission of HIV is used as a weapon of war.

Any ideas or suggested reading material would be great. Tell me what you think, is this a good program idea? What were your experiences with doing a research degree (or why did you choose not to do one)? Any suggestions for choosing a research area?

On why books should never be banned and why I’m happy I was always encouraged to read. . .

I grew up in a family of readers, where discussions about books and literature were commonplace at any age. I can’t remember a time where reading and devouring books was not a part of my life. Because of this, I fail to understand why people can allow any book to be banned. Sure there may be books out there that I probably won’t read or that I may disagree with, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think other people should read them.

When I was quite young, my mom would books before I read them to double check the content and make sure it was suitable – I think this lasted until I was about nine years old and I was reading books too quickly for her to be able to enjoy any of her own. I was always encouraged to read everything, even if I didn’t understand it all, I would keep a notebook of the words or phrases I didn’t understand and then my mom would go through them with me and explain them (this is part of the reason I still pronounce certain words incorrectly – I only ever knew them from reading). This method worked wonderfully and I remember anticipating reading a book or where the plot would take me and how wonderful it was to be able to use my imagination and learn all these new things. I still feel this way and am always searching for new books to explore.

Back to being in a family of readers; while there was some effort to ensure that the content was suitable for our ages, there was more effort in ensuring that we understood the content. That we questioned what we read, that we were exposed to different types of societies, different cultures, different families, different ways of thinking, and different sets of beliefs. We weren’t encouraged to only read things that mimicked our own lives and understanding, we were encouraged to broaden our understanding and to recognize that just because something is written down does not make it fact, and even if something is fact it does not mean that we need to copy or emulate it.

This is why I am always infuriated when books are banned. Instead of banning great works of literature and art, take the opportunity to discuss it. Yes you may find it offensive, sure it may have some sexual content or swear words, and yes there may be racial undertones: but banning these books is like saying these things do not exist or have never been a part of history. It makes these books all the more important, if your perspective and life cannot withstand some criticism or opposition then what is it worth and how secure are you in it?

Personally, I think that the books, stories, and parts of history that are removed from the public eye, erased, or banned are those that are the most important to understanding the story of humanity. I think it’s important to read and face the things that scare people and I thank my family for always encouraging me to read.

Why I will not be ‘put in a binder’ and other rants

I may not be American, but I recognize that American politics and issues have (and will continue to have) fairly significant impacts on Canadian politics (which still infuriates me to no end). I apologize as you read this, in fact maybe stop now. I seem to get progressively more and more angry as I think about this more..

I fail to understand why and how someone like Mitt Romney can be chosen to represent an entire political party and given the opportunity to speak in front of large crowds (for anything other than entertainment) when he so clearly fails to represent a significant portion of the population – women. When someone can make such horrendous comments as were made during the second debate, I can only hope that his representation ceases.

Women – 50.8% of the population of the United States  – should not be ignored. Women are not some obscure painting to be taken out of storage only for show, women are an equal, qualified, educated, MAJORITY of the population. Having equal female representation should not be a task or a chore, it should be a given that women have a fair share of positions in all levels of all employment sectors. You shouldn’t need a “binder full of women” to find qualified women, you should be working with women and working for women on a regular basis.

On top of that, you should learn how to cook, because if you think that women need flexible work schedules to take care of their family and get dinner on the table, you are part of the problem. You are part of the reason that women work a double day: the solution to women’s double work day is not to give them more job flexibility to do more housework; it’s to give ALL employees EQUAL job flexibility to have an EQUAL share of housework. You should be supporting men in taking parental leave and in taking time off work when their kids are sick.

In addition to that, single parents are NOT the reason that people walk around with weapons, the lax gun laws are the reason people walk around with weapons. We have plenty of single parents in Canada (I was even raised by divorced parents) and yet our gun violence is infinitely less of a problem here: why? Because we don’t walk around with handguns for ‘personal protection’. Maybe if you associated with single parents or really anyone other than white, upper-class Americans you would know that. Or, if you really want to have less households with single parents, increase sexual education, maintain access to abortions, and allow same-sex marriages! Why is that so hard to understand? I mean, I get it, and I was raised by divorced parents (which apparently means I should be violent and be carrying AK-47s around), I don’t have a university degree (yet), oh and I’m a woman..