Some thoughts on NXNE’s Action Bronson show

This post is prompted by the Action Bronson concert situation in Toronto right now. (short summary: artist with violent misogynistic lyrics is set to play a public square, some people started a petition to stop this, organizer responded: NXNE Response to Action Jackson Petition)

This is an interesting case because it combines two things I care very deeply about – freedom of speech and women’s rights.  Here’s my (lengthy) thoughts:

Freedom speech/artistic expression is not the same as consequence free speech/artistic expression and only the first thing is actually protected. People have every right to be offended and people have every right to protest against what you’re saying. Those who like to defend artistic expression for people who write this type of song seem to forget that. Yeah, this guy can write a hateful song about women (and please make no mistake, the lyrics to this song are pretty hateful to women) and yeah, he can perform it. But there is nothing anywhere that guarantees his right to be able to do so without comment or protest from those who think he’s wrong.  What freedom of speech means is that the government cannot silence you with fines or jail, which brings me to…

By asking for this show to be cancelled, no one is actually removing his ability to perform. For real lack of free speech, see Russia for example, where you get jailed for saying things the government doesn’t like.  Try promoting gay rights in Uganda and see what happens.  That’s lack of free speech.  I would equate situation more to that jackass in the Beaches who tried to claim the Toronto Public Library was squashing his free speech by refusing to display his hate filled propaganda – no, they aren’t. They’re a public institution and their refusal to display your pamphlet isn’t denying you your free speech. You can stand on a street corner and hand it out with no threat of jail or fines.  The government isn’t coming for you because you hate women, gays and non-white people.  So, no one is taking away this man’s right to perform, just asking for it not to be at this event in this space.

That said, I respect NXNE’s stance on it. If you are a concert/festival booker want to stand behind an artist and what they represent, you have every right to do that. See, that’s the flip side – everyone angry at this rapper has to remember that all the things I said above go both ways (aside: That’s why even though MRAs are complete tools, they have a right to be complete tools.  However, what MRAs forget when they cry free speech upon criticism is that the criticism they’re receiving is the same free speech they’re using as a defence. end aside). Which means that really, asking to ban a show is something that, for me, is a pretty murky request. Protest the hell out of it or ignore the hell out of it, sure, those are the consequences of writing songs filled with hateful, violent lyrics. The complicating factor here is that it’s in a public venue where it’s impossible to avoid if you have to go to that area. So, personally, I can see the request to have it moved to an indoor, private venue being reasonable.  I may hate what he’s saying with every fibre of my soul, but I also believe he has the right to say it and to perform for any audience who wants to see him.  (but again, I – and everyone else – have the right to voice dislike of what he’s saying).

That said, based on this decision, I’m not supporting any NXNE shows.  They have every right to have whatever artist they want. And I have every right to decide that an organization that will support this type of hate speech is not one I wish to give my money to.  As they point out, they have artists with a feminist viewpoint as well – which is great, but for me, not enough to make me think that supporting this artist is okay.  And people who hate feminists have every right to boycott those shows or NXNE as a whole as well – but we’d all be pissed if they wanted a feminist’s show cancelled.  And while we can all argue what constitutes hate speech and what doesn’t, on principle, if you can’t cancel one, you can’t cancel the other.  (For the record, I understand that there’s a vast difference between a feminist song and a song glorifying rape and to me, only the latter is hate speech.  That isn’t the point I’m making here.  I’m saying that it’ll be much easier to win the fight against misogyny if we take away their ability to yell Hypocrisy!)

That’s how free speech should theoretically work.  See, how you get rid of hate speech isn’t by banning it.  Simply banning it doesn’t actually teach anyone anything – it just gives people an excuse to scream “liberal bias!” and “censorship!” and is actually detrimental to the cause.  Then, objections to content can be boiled down to “bleeding heart liberals and feminazis” and shit like that.  Speaking against it with logical, well though out, unemotional arguments and not supporting it with time or finances will get that point across – if no one will see you or book you to perform, then there goes your job as a rapper.  It’s just slower.  And means that we all have to put up with these assholes for a while.  (and I understand that super ardent MRAs and the like will not understand a logical argument, but the goal isn’t to change their minds… the fringe is the fringe.  You want to change the majority, the main stream, the decent people who just don’t quite get it).

Finally, anyone supporting this man, please consider: if his songs were about perpetuating this kind horrific violence against gay people or black people, would you be as quick to defend him?  I may believe in his right to free speech, but the point of this post is definitely not to defend him as an artist.  What if he wrote a song about how prisoners enjoyed waterboarding or other forms of torture?  If you’re thinking those aren’t apt comparisons, you’re a man who doesn’t understand the fear women feel about rape. I’m a firm believer that you can joke about anything in the right context, even rape, even if you’re a man (see: John Mulaney). But this guy isn’t joking, this guy is treating a woman as an object (Sample lyric: Your life is cheap like a hooker in the Philippines. There is no context in which that is acceptable).Men who haven’t grown up being objectified don’t understand what it’s like to be dehumanized that way – both my life and a hookers life have a lot of value, just as much value as this rapper.  Men who haven’t grown up with the constant fear of this type of violent, dehumanizing assault perhaps don’t have the ability to understand how truly terrifying it is for women.   As a female comedian once said about walking down a dark street: “All I could think was ‘oh, here’s my rape!'”  Add to that the fact that people blame you if you get assaulted this way (why were you wearing that, why were you walking there, why were you drunk, were you asking for it) and maybe it’ll make more sense why a song that talks about drugging a woman and gang raping her is causing a problem.

As Mad Max so recently and eloquently pointed out – women are not things.  And why this is an issue now is that women are starting to stand up and loudly say that.

Songs like this treat women like objects  and the protests, though not always the done in the best way, are a reaction to that.  And they’re right, in my opinion, to loudly speak out against this man. That’s how social change occurs. That’s not censorship, that’s a culture growing up and realizing that people who aren’t the same as you – like gays or non-white people or women – have worth.

(I realize that there’s probably issues and holes in my logic… but hey, my blog, my thoughts.  Also, I have to go to work and this post is long enough.  xoxo)


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The best cat picture I’ve ever taken


The cat on the right is Lily.  She lives with her two sisters and one brother and I’m looking after them for a week.  This photo may not be the cutest photo you’ve ever seen, but it represents one of the greatest moments of my career.

Lily’s owner contacted me about a year ago to do nail trims for her four kitties.  She said that three were very friendly, outgoing, elderly cats, but she was very worried about working with Lily and very stressed out about how I would handle with her.

Lily had been badly abused.  She was found covered in gas and clearly had been mistreated (and I think possibly burned as well, though I may be remembering that wrong).  Consequently, she is absolutely terrified of everyone.  Her new owner is an amazing cat mom and Lily now lives in a home that’s devoted to cat love and comfort.  Still, it took forever for her to be comfortable with her current owner and as soon as anyone new comes in the apartment, she is cowering under the couch.  When I went the first time, we did her last so she could get used to my voice and presence and I worked with her as slowly as possible.  I always have her owner hold her as well so that she’s got someone there that she trusts.  I’ve been back every month or so to do everyone’s nails and each time, she gets a little less terrified.  She’s even let me remove some matting that she occasionally gets.

I’ve also cat sat for them a few times.  I’ve been working very hard to gradually build up trust with Lily so she knows I won’t hurt her.  The first time I went, last summer, she was immediately under the couch every time I entered.  I’d always peek in at her because I like to know that cats I’m looking after are ok, but after that, I’d leave her alone and just talk to everyone else.  When I’m grooming, I have to interact with them, but when I’m sitting, I prefer to let the cats come to me or not as they see fit.  Since I knew Lily was incredibly fearful, I did my best to do nothing to startle her.

The next time I looked after them, she wasn’t always under the couch.  The couch isn’t against the wall – there’s a space to walk and then a shelf.  Between the shelf and the corner is her cat bed – her safe space – and she would spend her time there instead of hiding.  I would peek over at her, say hi, slow blink a few times and then let her be.

This time, I’ve been looking in on them for four days so far.  Instead of immediately running to her bed, I’ve come in to find her sitting on the back of the couch.  More excitingly, she’d stay there for a few minutes.  I continued to just go about getting food and such and after a few minutes, she would hop down and go to her bed.  I would go and sit behind the couch at the end furthest from her bed for a minute or two, talk to her and slow blink, then walk away.  She wouldn’t come out, but she wasn’t cowering either.

Today, however, while I was sitting on the couch with one of Lily’s sisters on my lap (the old ladies love their snuggles), she wandered out from her safe spot and drank water while I was there.  She stayed out for a few minutes then she went cautiously back to her safe zone.  But the point is, she finally decided that I was trustworthy enough to come out of that safe zone, walk through an open room, sit with her back to me (which is incredibly important as a frightened cat will always keep an eye on the thing she’s worried about) and drink water.  For several minutes.  She didn’t even glance over her shoulder nervously every few seconds, just drank away.

I honestly almost burst into tears.

I have a couple of cats like this that I work with and I’ve learned that there is no greater feeling than when an animal who has been badly traumatized starts to realize that you are not something to be afraid of.

I love all of the kitties that I work with.  But I have never been so happy on a sitting job as when I looked up from petting the kitty on my lap to realize that the kitty I heard drinking was Lily.

One day, I hope to be able to let her sniff my hand or even pet her.  It’s a really slow process and may never happen.  But if that does, I actually will burst into tears.

So, while this may not be the most adorable cat picture I’ve ever posted, for me, it’s one of the most important.

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True Story – karaoke edition

I was at my weekly karaoke bar last night.  I’m a regular, so I know a lot of the people there.  Last night, there were a lot of strangers as there were a couple of parties.
Just before I left for the night, I thought I’d best hit the bathroom.  Important architectural note: the bar we are in used to be a gay bar, so the men’s room is massive and the ladies room is basically a tiny closet with one sink crammed between two walls and two stalls.   Also, the doors to both bathrooms are beside each other at a right angle and they are never closed.  Ever.
Anyway, I walk into the ladies room and there is a dude there.  A very drunk dude.  A dude in jeans and a male cut leather jacket.  This man is leaning with his back to the sink and petting what I’m guessing was a wig.
Petting it.
I am weirded out and think about saying something, but like, fuck it – there’s a door on the stall and hopefully he’ll be gone by the time I’m done.  I exit and the dude is still there and now facing – and fully blocking – the sink doing… something in the mirror.
This conversation happens:

“Hey, can I use the sink please?  Also, um, this is the ladies room.”
“That’s rude.  I could be a tranny” (said with heavy drunk slur…)
“Are you?”
“Yes” (said as he stumbles into the hallway)
Now look.  I’m 100% behind the idea that you use the bathroom of the gender you are, not the gender you were assigned at birth.  I have no issue whatsoever sharing a bathroom with a transgendered person.  But if you look like a man, are dressed like a man, are doing absolutely nothing to indicate that you are, in fact, a woman, and are clearly drunk enough that it’s pretty plausible that you wandered through the wrong door, I feel pretty okay about calling you out on being in the wrong bathroom.
Also, I don’t care what fucking gender you are – if there’s one tiny sink in the bathroom, don’t hog it because you’re so drunk you’re fascinated by your own reflection.
I went back to my table and immediately collapsed laughing because that was just amazingly absurd.
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Consent: Not actually that complicated

This is brilliant and I feel like it this post should be everywhere, always.

rockstar dinosaur pirate princess

A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?


It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it…

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Amusing story about cat sitting

I’m cat sitting for a giant fluffy cat.  As I was leaving, my client’s neighbour was putting away my client’s recycling and green bins.  This conversation happened:
Guy: “Oh hi, I’m Rachael and John’s neighbour, just putting away the bins since they’re away.”
Me: “Oh hi, I’m the cat sitter, just feeding their kitty”
Guy: “Oh.  <pause>  Is someone else home?”
Me: “No, why?”
Guy: “I heard you talking to someone.”
Me: “Yeaaaah.  The cat.  I kind of talk to cats.” (what I had said was “bye, see you tomorrow!”)
Guy: “Oh, haha, guess you’re in the right profession then.”

Yes sir, yes I am.

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Musings on Transit in Toronto

My car died on Friday.  As I had already taken on a cat sitting job, had a friend’s party to go to and needed to do a bit of work, I have been taking the TTC for 5 days.  I have not taken TTC regularly since I got the car three years ago.

It is so much worse than I remember.

To get from my house to the cat sitting apartment in my car takes 10-15 minutes.  To get from my house to the cat sitting apartment on the TTC takes 25 minutes to 50 minutes.  What the actual fuck?  That’s a bit of an insane travel time difference (I mean the range of transit travel times).  And there were no transfers, just a straight trip along King St.  Yet, there is no accurate way to predict the travel time between point A and point B.  The variance in car travel time is pretty minimal – get behind a streetcar, miss a light or two, you’ve added 5 minutes.  I get that a streetcar may have the same variation, but to double the time?  What the hell.

Adding to my stress from the time issues is my kind of severe demophobia (or maybe it’s ochlophobia… or likely both).  The second streetcar I took today (there were four total) was actually so full that I nearly had a panic attack and basically had to shove my way off the car, at which point I burst into stress tears.  On the third trip, I actually just took a cue from horses and put my hood up so far around my face that all I could see was my lap and my cell phone.  Turns out, blinders is pretty effective and if I just focused on music and a cell game, I could pretend the people weren’t there.  That’s only because I was lucky enough to get on at the start of the line and get a seat.  A couple of stops later and I’d have been standing and ignoring the crush of people would have been infinitely harder.

I realize I’m lucky to have a car, but transiting the last few days has reinforced that 100 times over.  Granted, I can only have because I need it for work (I’m a mobile cat groomer) and today only illustrated why it would be impossible for me to do my job without it.  I spent three hours – three hours! – on a streetcar to get to appointments.  If I’d driven, it would have been less than half that amount of time, even factoring in Toronto’s awful traffic. It’s so ghastly inefficient that it would be impressive if it wasn’t so infuriating.

I know that this post bitching about it is not news to all the people who have no other way to get to work.  How people do this as their commute every day both impresses and depresses me.  I suppose not everyone has demophobia and so the mere crowded nature of the transit may not cause the same level of panic.  But it can’t be comfortable for anyone.  And I know most people have schedules to live by and the unreliable transit times must be so enraging.  I’m exhausted and stressed out and that’s just from using the transit for one day.  And yet, this city is so expensive that people who cannot afford a car are forced to use this thing.

And the worst part is, it’s a monopoly.  There is actually no other affordable way to get around this city.  The cabs are astronomically priced and owning a car is even worse.  And environmentally all these cars are terrible.  But I understand why anyone who can take a different transportation method does it.  And it’s not an “I hate all transit” thing – I’ve been on transit in New York, Los Angeles, Rome, and Naples and somehow all of those cities seemed to have their shit together.  Granted, using transit as a tourist and a resident are different, so my impressions may be wrong.

I have no real solution to this thing, I just felt the need to rant for a few minutes to dispel the awfulness that was today.  Thankfully, my car is fixed, so as of tomorrow, I’m back in my nerdmobile.  May the force be with all who must continue in those death cans.

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Musings on Social Empathy

Why do some people get their backs up so hard in regards to others speaking about their experiences with inequality?

For instance:

If women talk about their experience with harassment, why is the reaction of some (please, please note that I said some, not all) men to try to disprove their statements?

If a non-white person talks about harassment from the police, why is the reaction of some white people to try to discredit that?

If anyone who isn’t a white man talks about discrimination in hiring or pay, why do some (again SOME NOT ALL) white men start trying prove that isn’t the case?

If a LGBT person talks about how LGBT youth are more at risk for suicide, depression, bullying and ostracism, why do straight people point to the media and say everything has to be fine because Will and Grace existed?

Why is it so easy for guys to start “not all men” hashtags in response to women discussing misogyny, but impossible for them to apply “not all women”?  (for instance: if some guys treat women like objects and a woman points that out, the immediate outcry is “not all men!” – which is, of course, true.  But if one woman who identifies as a feminist hates men, then all feminists must hate men and must be feminazis.  What?  Why is “not all feminists” so less believable than “not all men”?  I’m a feminist and I don’t think women are better, just equal.  I totally believe that custody, for instance, should be not be harder for a father to get just because he’s a man.  That’s ludicrous – sometimes, the father really is the better parent.)

I don’t have any particular answer to these questions.  It’s just something that baffles me.  I can only speak from my experience, so all the women/men things are confusing.  But I am a white person who grew up in a small town.  The only thing I’d worry about from the police is getting pulled over for speeding and being out a lot of money.  I’ve only ever had decent encounters with them and in fact, when I’m walking home alone late at night, it makes me feel safer to see a cop car drive by.  But I gain nothing from assuming that my experience is universal and when non-white people started speaking about about unequal treatment, I opted to listen.  I opted to realize that on this particular issue, I’ve got a society born advantage that I was completely unaware of and I also opt to realize that this is unfair. And I chose not to assume that people pointing out this advantage was a personal attack against me, but rather just a group of people trying to gain some equality.

(No, no, I’m not perfect and I’m sure there’s lots of ways in which I have white girl privilege that I’m not aware of.  My only point is that I’d like to try to at least listen and weigh stats and evidence when confronted by aspects of this rather than getting defensive and dismissing them.  I’m unlikely to always do this well, but awareness of your own failings is half the battle.  I am only using the above paragraph to demonstrate why I don’t understand other people’s reactions, not to say that mine is correct.  Also to point out that I was totally ignorant of something other people experienced daily.  The important thing, to me, is that you cannot become so entrenched in an opinion that you disregard all evidence to the contrary.  This is why I like science and not religion – science will change if new, convincing evidence is presented.  But that is another post entirely.)

So, it baffles me why men seem so adverse to doing the same thing when women speak about their experiences.  It baffles me when white people are so adverse to listening to non-white people.  What are people so afraid of?  Why is empathy so difficult?  Why do people take things as personal attacks?  If I say that I dislike how women are objectified in the media, I’m not saying that you, an individual man who may be reading this, are doing that.  A systemic issue is not the same as an individual one.  If you truly want to be on the “not all _____” side, don’t take things as a personal assault and defend the status quo.  By getting your back up, all your doing is proving the original point.  Besides, here’s something shocking – it’s not about you.  Reacting with defensiveness and “well, I’m not like that” is incredibly self-centered.  It’s taking someone else’s story and making it about you.  News flash – it isn’t.

Ignorance helps no one, but we all have it.  It’s impossible not to.  It’s impossible for me to know what the experience of a non-white person is.  But I have two options when confronted with it – I can get angry and say that because that’s not how I experience life, that this person must be lying or I can hear them out and try to look at things objectively.   And looking at something objectively doesn’t mean that the other view is always 100% correct.  It also doesn’t help to try to boil down complex issues into one or two causes.  These things aren’t like a broken arm, where the cause is singular (you fell down the stairs or whatever).  Women’s current status is upheld as much by women as by men and the reasons are diverse and murky.

Also, using individual examples of a shitty person in a particular group – a woman who did lie about a rape or a black guy who did threaten a cop etc. etc. – is not enough to disprove a point as a whole.  Pick any way you can subdivide humanity – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, favourite tv show, cat or dog person, anything – and you will find good people and bad ones.  Judging a whole group based on a small portion of it is unfair.   I’d bet that most Christians don’t want to be judged by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church.  And there is that whole “not all men” thing from earlier.  That goes both ways.

We gain nothing from defensiveness and everything from empathy.  So again, I wonder (and I ask this honestly because I don’t know the answer) – why is it so hard for us to just listen to each other, treat each other with respect and have some empathy for those who are different from us?

(post script: yes, I’m sure something I’ve said in here is somehow hypocritical.  Thanks in advance for pointing it out.  But before you write that nasty comment, this post isn’t me trying to present facts, it’s just me having a bit of a stream of consciousness think aloud and trying to sort through something that puzzles me.  I moderate comments, so although I’m happy to listen to your counterpoints, I’m only going to post and respond to them if they’re coherent and respectfully written. It’s my blog, so you know, deal.  xoxo.)

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