Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Social Justice Warrior

So the other day, whilst engaged in that most cerebral of pursuits (playing a mobile game on my iPad) I was drawn into an online discussion in the game’s “chat” room.  One of the members had noted that “Its nice to sea so many femail characters in the game.” [sic] That comment was followed by several more, all impeccably worded and clearly well thought out, suggesting that there was no place in comics for women, that no women read comics or played video games, and that certain comic companies’ decisions to “feminize” characters was just part of the larger feminist agenda.

I carefully considered this viewpoint and pondered the possibility that “a girls only place in comics was cosplaying to show her ####!!!” [sic] as one poster noted.  I inferred from the context of post that the chat filter had replaced “mind” for some odd reason, and decided, in a fit of madness, to join the conversation in support of this point.

“While it is refreshing that the comic and gaming studios are including more female characters, there is still a long way to go until we see gender equality in video games and comics in general.”  I wrote.  Then followed it up with “It is especially odd that they (the entertainment companies) haven’t caught on to the fact that a rising percentage (maybe as high as 50%) of gamers and geeks in general are women, with money to spend.”

A commenter, with a charming moniker suggesting a practice uncomfortable at the best of times and unlawful in twenty eight countries, replied “Great.  Just what we needed - a ####### SJW.”

I tried to sort through the words the chat filter could have had an issue with.  I ruled out “awesome” and “amazing” based on the poster’s grammar.  “Wonderful” was too long and both “dashing” and “sensual” implied a level of familiarity I didn’t think they had with me.  I gave up trying to determine what the adjective could have been and decided to just focus on their overall message, that they were happy to have a Social Justice Warrior present.  So I answered in the only way that Thumper’s father would approve of.  I said “Thanks!”

All kidding aside, I will never understand why detractors seem to feel that labelling someone as a SJW is in any way negative.  No one has ever called me a warrior before, outside of a D&D game anyway.  The idea that I could be a warrior, a champion or a gladiator for anything, let alone something as commendable as equality and fairness for all, fills me with pride.  I see myself standing on a grassy hilltop, surrounded by adoring citizens of all races/colours/genders/sexualities/species/beliefs/etc., waving a rainbow flag in one hand and holding balanced scales of justice in the other, the sun setting behind me over a field of flowers.  I want to get that as a poster for my office wall.  Maybe with my face on Matthew McConaughey’s body.  Because, you know, reasons.

I know that as a cis-gendered, white male I will never truly understand my level of privilege.  I also understand that, based on my decade and a half working in the field of Human Rights, I will never know what it is truly like to be in the shoes of ‘the minority.’  Neither of those however preclude me, or anyone else, from supporting those who need my support.  Nor will they ever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Growing Up

As parents, we always know that our kids will grow up. Which is to say that our brains understand that these small creatures we created are animals and as such they will ingest food which will create additional body tissues causing them to grow taller and heavier, progressing from crawling to walking to running to… well, whatever comes after running.  We know they will grow stronger, smarter and more independent. 

Our hearts on the other hand, don’t have this same understanding. In our hearts, these tiny little creatures are still cute little babies who need us for everything. Our hearts will always ‘know’ that these creatures, regardless of age, need us for everything. They are so small we can carry them in our hands, they have that “new-baby” smell and they need us to comfort them when they are scared or lonely.  They fall asleep on our chests, their wispy hair tickling our chins and their soft pink toes not quite reaching our waists. They look up from our arms with bright eyes, and their little fingers grab our pinkies with a strength that we exclaim over.  Of course, from time to time, our hearts get a shocked awakening to what our brains knew all along.  And it aches when it happens. 

Our eldest celebrated his tenth birthday with a group of his friends yesterday.  A video-game playing, YouTube watching afternoon lead into a quick bite to eat at a burger joint prior to heading off to the movies.  As my son, my tiny little baby, sat with his friends at a table without me, all of them talking and telling stories, joking with each other and having a great time, it really hit home that my baby isn’t a baby any more.  He doesn’t need me like he used to.  I could have left the room and they likely would not even have noticed. 

We’ve seen these signs of independence coming. He’s been riding off with his friends for a couple years now on trips around the neighborhood, and this summer has marked his first forays into going with a friend down to the corner pizza shop for a slice with no adult supervision. I’m proud of his growing independence, and the signs of maturity I am seeing in him. When I look at him now, I see less of a little boy and more of a young man. 

And yet, there’s a small part of me that is sad to see it happening. I know that soon enough, he’ll be driving, then college (or whatever he chooses) and then I’ll be wondering why he doesn’t call more, and will he be coming home for Christmas this year. I know that he will grow up, move out, maybe have a family of his own.  I know that it’s a perfectly natural process – that everyone does it.  I know that, but my heart doesn’t.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Yesterday I learned that my grandmother had passed away on Sunday night.  She died quietly in her sleep, with no warning at all.  She was still young for that side of the family, a spry and healthy woman who lived independently, still did all her own cooking and baking, and cooked for the family as well.  She joked with me about her “robotic parts”, but she went dancing, out to bingo and had a circle of friends who no doubt miss her dearly.  She still camped, still travelled, still hugged.

It is kind of funny that when I think back to all my memories of her, that it is food that comes to mind the most, especially her Christmas dinner spreads.  The family would all gather at the hotel she and my grandpa owned in the tiny little town of Fairy Glen (yes, it’s a real place) and she would have set up the banquet tables in the bar, all covered with this red and white plastic table cloth she brought out at Christmas.  The tables would be covered with enough food to feed an army – at least one turkey, one ham and one roast.  Two or three kinds of potatoes, a wide slew of veggies and a jellied salad or two.  Add to that some cabbage rolls and perogies, all homemade of course, and four or five different dessert squares.  She’d been working on the meal for two days or more, and it was great.  Granted, we won’t speak of her spaghetti sauce or her chilli – grandma thought that black pepper was an exotic spice. 

She reminded me of the importance of family, and urged me to reconnect with my birth father and all the family on that side, whom I had not seen since I was a toddler and had no memory of.  She was so happy and so proud when I told her that I had contacted my dad and that we were forging a new relationship that she cried on the phone with me.

She was tough, but forgiving.  She spanked me as a child (I am quite certain I deserved it) but hugged me afterwards.  She yelled at my brothers and I when we drove her crazy on one of our many summer stays at her home, but she is the same lady who chased us through the hallways, cackling an evil laugh as she chased us with her false teeth in hand.

She took me berry picking for blueberries and raspberries, gardening in one of her three gardens (one of which would be considered a farm field by Nova Scotia standards), bottle picking and shopping.  She read to me as a child, and let me cry on her lap when I fell down or when I had one of my frequent ear infections… her heating pad (best thing when you have an ear infection) smelled like lemons.

Grandma was fond of telling me over and over again that once upon a time I held a record of some sort for the most grandmothers.  She has a picture from the newspaper, and if memory serves, there are nine or ten ladies in that picture with me, all grandmothers, great-grandmothers or even great-great grandmothers.

She was so happy when she became a great-grandmother, and I will always cherish the memories of her visiting us in Halifax when our oldest son was still in diapers, and again just a couple of years ago.  She doted on my boys when we travelled back to Saskatchewan last summer, though she didn’t chase them with her false teeth – that will always be mine.

She told me she loved me and was proud of me every time we spoke. 

The last words I spoke to her are the same ones I would say again if she could hear me. “I love you grandma, and I miss you.”