3 Reasons Why I Will Be Watching Ronda Rousey Fight Bethe Correia

I enjoy fighting. I’ve even taken a couple classes in a few different martial arts (although never for long enough to learn anything more than the basics). Occasionally, I enjoy watching a match of MMA or boxing. Watching these matches always makes me feel conflicted. On the one hand, I enjoy the skill and level of physicality involved in fighting; on the other hand, as a Special Ed Aide, I feel terrible supporting sports that could cause long term brain damage. Despite this internal conflict, and despite the fact that I’m not an avid sports watcher, I know I will be watching Ronda Rousey fight Bethe Correia on August 1st. Below, I’ve explained a few reasons why.

1) Rousey is a bad-ass chick

This post went up late because I made myself go to kickboxing last night and then crashed when I got home. The main reason I convinced myself to go (trust me, I love finding an excuse when I can), is because of all the Rousey clips I’ve been watching. When I thought about skipping, I couldn’t help but remind myself, “what would Ronda Do?”

She would do a bad-ass ninja flip and then get herself to kickboxing practice, that’s what.

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Why We Don’t Need Fat Acceptance

I swear I am not trying to contradict Kat’s every post.

Yes, we’ve had have our differences.

We locked horns over femininity and warrior-princesses. Clashed over government regulation. Faced off on the subject of pride parades.

Again, I am not- not– trying to be combative.

That said, today’s post is all about why I think Kat is wrong on the subject of Body Positivism and the concept of “Fat Acceptance”

Now yours truly and our glorious editor have both weighed in on the subject of fitness and obesity more than once, and in her defense, I certainly don’t believe that Kat is offering her blessing to obesity or anything like that.

Still, things need to be said here.

First, I want to make it clear that I agree with Kat on pretty much each and every one of the issues that she brought up. Factors of mental health, poor self-image, unrealistic cultural demands- you won’t hear me dispute these for a second. And these are, absolutely, universal problems. While largely centering on women, there’s an undeniable presence of all this among men as well.

(Granted, that might have more impact if it wasn’t being said by Brad Pitt, but the point still stands.)

My problem isn’t with any of the things that Kat brought up, but rather with the conclusions she drew (or seemed to draw) from ’em. Allow me to kick the conversation off with the following statement:

Self-Esteem Without Quality Is Meaningless

Now granted, this isn’t so much a problem with what Kat said as it is with what much of the movement seems based on: just feeling good about yourself.

There is nothing- nothing– wrong with have good self-esteem, but only so long as that esteem is tethered to something of substance. Your efforts, your accomplishments, your principles- even your noble failures. These are all worth celebrating and taking pride in. However, if you’re telling yourself to like yourself simply to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside…

…then you’re going to run into some problems. Continue reading

Houghton Students and Early Marriage [An Observation, Not a Defence] – Redux and Reflection

evan20122Three years ago I graduated from Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college in the hamlet of Houghton, New York. A few months before I left, however, I wrote my first and only op-ed for the Houghton Star, the student newspaper, the title of which is pretty self-explanatory.

Due to recent events [three engagements within a few days of each other] marriage has very understandably been on my mind, and I thought it would be worth digging up the article and comparing where I was then to where I am now. Due to extensive revamping it’s no longer hosted on the paper’s website, so I’ve included it in its entirety below. There are also pictures from my high school and college graduations, respectively, for your enjoyment.


Houghton Students and Early Marriage
An Observation, Not a Defence


evan20082Four years ago I graduated from Grace International School, a Christian school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With the internet and, of course, Facebook I was never really far away from my former classmates in spite of us scattering to the far corners of the globe. Since that final year of wearing matching polo shirts and eating lunch by the pool 
seven members of the class of ’08 have gotten married, two of them to each other; three others are currently engaged. Out of a class of 45 or so students that’s almost a quarter of us tying the knot before the age of 23.

A few years later I was musing about the flood of marriages [four happened at least a year after graduation] out loud to my cousin one day, and he asked why all of my classmates were getting married at such a young age. He then quickly answered his own question with a question, asking “Oh, it’s because you can’t have sex until you’re married, right?” This wasn’t a factor for him, and I vaguely recall half-heartedly muttering something to the affirmative. I knew that couldn’t be all there was to it, but it made enough sense at the time.

Now here I am, a senior with less than two months left before I hit the real world. At least four of my college friends have gotten married since my freshman year and “Save the Date” cards continue to materialize in PO boxes left and right. Proposals have lost any kind of surprise they once had for me. Not too long ago two people in one of my classes were engaged over the weekend and I [not that I wasn’t happy for them] didn’t give it a second thought. My first semester here I had never heard of “ring by spring” or the more clever “getting my MRS.” I didn’t understand at the time how quickly dating relationships could metamorphose into marriage or how prevalent engagements would be in my college life. Continue reading

Body Positivity and “Healthy” Double Standards, or Why I Need Fat Acceptance Even Though I’m (Relatively) Thin

The moment you mention “fat” and anything positive in the same sentence you get a response that’s meant to put you in your place. It will usually go something like, “I don’t believe in encouraging unhealthy behaviour” or “I’m all for self-acceptance, but…”.

I certainly do understand this sentiment. I think social stigma can be a powerful way to discourage bad behaviour. Just look at MADD’s entire campaign against drunk driving, for example.

However, I do think there is an unnecessarily strong reaction against Fat Positivity. Below I’ve outlined 3 reasons why I think that reaction is unfair.

1) We overlook healthy individuals with large bodies because they don’t fit our cultural beauty standards 

The number one criticism of fat acceptance is that it encourages unhealthy behaviour. However, there are more and more examples that prove body size doesn’t always dictate health. Olympic hammer-thrower Amanda Bingson encountered this type of assumption when she was kicked off her high school volleyball team for not losing weight. Years later and she has been able to prove that a large body is just as capable of amazing things as a small body. It’s been encouraging to see her featured in this year’s ESPN Body Issue, the magazine’s “annual celebration of athletes’ amazing bodies”.

Another large and healthy individual who has come to my attention is yogi Jessamyn Stanley. I try (emphasis on try) to practice yoga every week, and yoga is, for me, one of the few physical activities I’m actually kind of okay at. That’s why I was stunned to see Stanley doing moves I am still far away from accomplishing. It’s clear to me that Stanley has the kind of core strength that most of the slender yogis in my classes still haven’t managed to build.

I cannot do this pose without assistance. I can maybe do a headstand on a good day, but just on my arms like this? No way.

Examples like Bingson and Stanley aren’t meant to prove that all large people are healthy. Instead, they offer a great reminder that size doesn’t necessarily dictate health. While large individuals are sometimes much more healthy than they look, some slim individuals can be much less healthy than they appear. Continue reading

When Life Gives You Don Lemon II: The Lemoning

Don Lemon.

Our more dedicated readers will remember we wrote about the CNN news anchor back in November, and by “wrote about him”, I of course mean “launched into a detailed tirade about what an spineless, amoral sleazebag the guy is“.

Yeah, we weren’t gentle with that one…

Now as we’ve said before, there’s plenty of folks out in the news who lack integrity. Those folks- your Piers Morgans, your Glenn Becks, your Keith Olbermanns- are plenty nasty, don’t get me wrong, but they’re at least motivated by some agenda. You can generally count on ’em to focus their bile in a precise direction or at specific targets.

No such luxury with Don Lemon.

Don Lemon- as he himself would tell you- isn’t tied down to any one perspective or set of politics. One day, he’s speculating to whether or not a black hole was the cause of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Or one day, he’s asking one of Cosby’s alleged rape victims why she didn’t just bite the guy’s penis. Or he’s endorsing the patently racist and unconstitutional practice of “stop-and-frisk”, and telling folks they have to choose between dignity and security. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. The dude’s got the earnestness of Walter Cronkite and the journalistic ethics of the Daily Mirror.

You stay classy, Great Britain…

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“Sorry” Means Nothing Unless It Comes With Real Change: On Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and Beyond

Last semester, I took a course called “the Dark Side of Sorry”, which examined the Sorry Movement in Australia and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Canada. Since it was a literature course we spent part of the semester reading books that dealt with the effects of colonization in those three countries.

The novels we read explored the effects of apartheid in South Africa, the Stolen Generation in Australia, and residential schools in Canada on the lives of specific characters. In contrast, our critical readings examined the way each of those countries dealt with those events after they were nationally, and internationally, condemned. I want to touch on a few of the criticisms that were raised through our critical readings and discuss why those arguments are particularly relevant today.

South Africa

“Suffice it to say that none of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross violation of human rights […] It can, however, be argued that they did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.”

– from the apology that F.W. de Klerk, the last South African leader of the apartheid era, gave to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While de Klerk apologized for apartheid before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he later “withdrew from the commission, saying he had no need to apply for amnesty as he hadn’t committed any crime.” In an interview in 2012, Klerk pointed out that he had not apologized for “the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states”. He also stated that, not all aspects of apartheid were “morally repugnant”.

After apartheid was finally overthrown South Africa attempted to bring healing to a divided nation through their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was meant to be an act of restorative justice, rather than retribution.

In many ways the TRC was a success. For example, it unearthed the truth about many missing persons, allowing families to finally discover what happened to their loved ones. However, there were also many criticisms against the South African TRC, some of which I’ve outlined below.

1) The TRC didn’t differentiate between violence committed by “an illegal state” and “the combatants of a just war”.

“… from the moment the Commission chose to define violation of human rights in terms of individual acts, it ceased – politically and historically – to be viable: ‘There is,’ write Kader and Louise Asmal and Ronald Suresh Roberts… ‘simply no proportionality between the two sides of the struggle, a fact that is lost on the commission’s decision to individualize it’s definition of a gross human rights abuse'” (171).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

2) Racial wealth equality was never really on the table.

“Let one’s fantasy roam a little – what really would be preposterous or ethically inadmissible in imposing a general levy on South Africa’s white population? … such an offer could originate from the beneficiaries of Apartheid themselves, in a voluntary gesture of atonement – it need not be a project of the state. Is such a genesis – from within the indicted group itself – really beyond conception?”

– from “Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation” by Wole Soyinka

3) The TRC remained so focused on the horrific crimes that were being confessed during the hearings that it overlooked the general state of apathy that allowed apartheid to exist for so long. The crimes presented at the TRC trials stood out as “outrageous” acts, and they drew “the nation’s attention away from the more commonplace violations” (162).

“Spread accountability too wide by flattening out the differences between the state and its opponents, then oddly, symmetrically, it will also start to shrink, as the crimes of apartheid becomes more and more the acts of individuals, [and] less and less the machinery of the unjust, and illegal apartheid state” (168).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

Australia

“We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.”

– from the official apology given by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in February 2008.

I knew the least about Australia’s history, out of the three countries we studied. From what I understand, race relations in Australia were fairly similar to here in Canada, where indigenous peoples were restricted from public areas, treated like scientific specimens, and removed from their families “for their own benefit”.

In May 1997, the Bringing Them Home investigation shocked the Australian settler community by publicizing these historical injustices. It also prompted the Sorry Movement and Sorry Day, which has been held on May 26th since 1998. Below are a few observations critics have made about settler Australians’ “Sorry” response.

1) The Sorry movement is entirely settler-centred.

“These revelations brought about a form of ‘bad conscience’ in the settler Australians… [and] present[ed] them with a vision of a nation improperly formed. They experience the unsettledness of losing their sense of innocent national selfhood. For settlers so afflicted, the postcolonial apology becomes a lifeline to the restitution of a legitimate sense of belonging” (243)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

2) The Sorry movement backfired politically for indigenous Australians.

“The era of reconciliation has coincided with a post-native title backlash in which many sectors of Australian society, not least the powerful mining lobby, have responded negatively and often hysterically to the overturning of the doctrine terra nullis (land belonging to no one) and the common law recognition of native title… Federal Government policy, attentive to the electoral and economic implications of such a backlash, has responded by cutting funds to key indigenous organizations and eroding the gains secured through the Native Title Act and subsequent native title adjudications.”  (234)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

Canada

“The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.”

– from the official apology given by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June 2008.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian who isn’t familiar with the trauma residential schools inflicted on Indigenous communities across the country, but for those of you who are not Canadian I’ve included a short video below that sums up some of that history.

In 2008, Canada instituted our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed survivors of the residential school experience to speak out publicly. Unfortunately, there were several elements of the TRC that many indigenous spokespersons found problematic.

1) The term “reconciliation” misrepresents our history.

“Re-conciliation refers to the repair of a previously harmonious relationship. The word choice imposes a fiction that equanimity is the states quo between Aboriginal people and Canada.” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

2) The majority of the damage had been done by Christian organizations, yet the reconciliation movement rests upon Christian theology and terminology.

“Whether the choice of this world [reconciliation] … is an accidental inheritance, it is ironic, if not sinister, that survivors of religious residential schools … are asked to participate in a ritual that so closely resembles that which abused them” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

3) The Western understanding of apology allows us to move on, without necessarily doing anything to rectify our mistakes.

“Cree artist, poet and oral historian and theorist, Neal McLeod explains that there is no equivalent in the Cree language for the Western notion of an apology. The closest equivalent to ‘I am sorry’ is nimihta tân, which means ‘I regret something’.  McLeod explains that the word used in reference to the residential school experience is ê-kiskakwêyehk, which means ‘we wear it.’ This is a profound difference. It is visual and visceral rather than abstract. It describes a recognition and acceptance that cannot be washed or wished away.” (36)

 – from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

4) The government continues to protect perpetrators.

“While many truth commissions are granted judicial powers to subpoena witnesses and the ability to ‘name names’ of perpetrators, the Canadian TRC has neither of these powers.”

– from “Truth, Reconciliation and “Success” in the International Context” by Dr. Rosemary Nagy

5) Activists are worried that nothing will actually be done about the commissions recommendations.

The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to a close in June of this year, making many of the critiques we explored in this class particularly relevant. The TRC commission concluded that residential schools were an act of “cultural genocide” and put forward 94 recommendations for the Canadian government. Several weeks have passed and Canadians are now asking, is our government going to act on any of them?

https://twitter.com/bonneau_l/status/613349362630942721

https://twitter.com/lindadoyleCA/status/611952936365658112

https://twitter.com/shahaviator/status/611742882366660608

https://twitter.com/angelaparke/status/613067197976457216

In Conclusion

It’s hardly surprising that the one thing in common with the national apologies offered by political leaders in each of these countries is their attempt to distance themselves from the atrocities that took place. The Canadian and Australian prime ministers attempted to do so metaphorically, by referring to the events as a chapter which could be left in the past. In contrast, de Klerk’s non-apology seems to reflect a more blatant refusal to fully accept responsibility.

However, these apologies are certainly better than nothing at all. In fact, many indigenous peoples in South Africa, Australia and Canada have celebrated their country’s national apology as a hard-won victory. But shouldn’t we strive for something more than “better than nothing”? Especially when a a public apology eases settlers’ consciouses and allows us to overlook the systemic problems that led to these injustices in the first place?

“How can we overlook the fact that those admitting to guilt and professing regret continue to occupy, and to speak from, a position of dominance, so that to read abjection or loss of power in their situation would be to misread not merely power relations but the nature of the political apology itself?”

– from “Righting Wrongs and Rewriting History” by Rajeswaru Sunder Rajan

Can A Feminist Wear High Heels?

And that’s a weird question to ask- especially coming from me.

Yours truly, for any new readers, is a dude. I’ve never worn high heels, and with my long and elegant (if somewhat hairy) legs, I’ve never had cause to.

Like this, only more so.

In spite of my obvious lack of experience, compounded with a whole gamut of cultural-historial-societal variables, I’d still wholeheartedly call myself a feminist. As such, I still feel compelled to ask-

Can a feminist wear high heels?

And I know this isn’t a new issue. For years, folks have generally agreed that high heels are uncomfortable and impractical. There’s not shortage of studies demonstrating the range of health issues they can cause: calf cramps, chronic (and permanent) pain, pelvic issues, callouses and corns, inflammation, pinched nerves, tendinitis, and a host of others which I could spend this entire post just listing.

I’m not going to do that.

According to science and common ****ing sense, no one’s are…

High heels are bad for you. That’s a cold, hard medical fact, and one that most everyone’s familiar with by now. Still, women continue to wear ’em, which again begs the question of “Why in heaven’s name would they put themselves through this?” Continue reading