Tag Archives: Rachael Forgeron

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: Internet Dating and Jane Austen?

This week’s blog post has been inspired by the juxtaposition of two entirely unrelated events. One, the publication of a Maclean’s article on the rapidly expanding business of on-line dating, and two, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. 
The article examines the future of romantic unions as online dating becomes the preferred method of connection. It points out that many such sites market themselves not simply as a place to find a date, but “as a place to find a lifelong mate”. Of course the way to find us this “perfect match” requires an algorithm that predicts our compatibility based on similarities.
The problem they point out however, is that the “scientific jury” is still out on whether similarity is a good predictor of long-term commitment at all. 
None of that seemed particularly out of the ordinary until I started musing about that and the courtship plots of Jane Austin’s novels where: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It made me realize that in those 200 hundred years, not much has changed in our absolute desire to find a life partner. 
Is it better to be with someone of the same political, religious, or ethical beliefs? I certainly think so. But I don’t necessarily care for the idea of a mathematical algorithm spitting out potential matches for me either. I think that what really makes a relationship successful is the ability to consistently overcome obstacles and to cherish those qualities in each other that last well beyond initial physical attraction. This however, I put to you: what do you believe makes for a successful relationship?
Who knows? In the end, perhaps “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”

Human Beings or Ornamental Cars??

Today I read an article about comments Alex Bilmes, editor of Esquire UK, made at a recent conference on Feminism in the Media. The comments themselves are vile, nasty, and have dangerous consequences for women – although he fails to recognize that. But what I find most frightening is the public reaction to these sexist comments. Men – and women too – seem to be celebrating him for telling the “truth” about women in the media rather than exposing him as the chauvinist that he is.

But what exactly did he say? He begins by explaining that “what we do at Esquire is produce amen’s magazine, and it has a male gaze…This is the controversial bit that people don’t like but I always say the truth about it: The women we feature in the magazine are ornamental.” He goes on to respond to a woman’s objection by saying, “Well I could lie to you if you want and say that we’re interested in their brains as well, but on the whole we’re not, and they’re there to be beautiful objects. They’re objectified.” Apparently he believes that’s justifiable because “heterosexual men regard women in many, many ways: They’re our sisters, our daughters, our wives, our mothers, and we do see them as three-dimensional human beings. But there are certain times we just want to look at them because they’re sexy… One of the things men like is pictures of pretty girls, so we provide them with pictures of pretty girls.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, he believes women “are ornamental. This may sound even worse, but it’s the same way we also provide them with pictures of cool cars.” Pictures of pretty women are the same as cars? Come on! 

I find it deeply disturbing that we exist in an environment where this man feels he can not only say such demeaning things about women, but say them proudly! He avoids acknowledging the consequences of the objectification of women. How have we regressed so far?! Was there not a time when this kind of opinion would be met with outrage and ridicule? I scrolled down to the comments section of the article expecting hordes of people to call him out as the dinosaur that he is, but instead I found comments like these: 

The truth hurts – some people at least. i highly respect this guys (sic) honesty.”

“Bikini-clad models are indeed like cars. Men like to look at them and to dream about getting inside a nice one.”

“Why does this surprise anyone? This man speaks the truth. Women ARE objects in the eyes of the media and in the eyes of media consumers. Look around, women of any societal “value” are commodities. They’re waxed, spray-tanned, plucked, polished versions of the real thing. And we’ve accepted that…”

And from a woman:

Women perpetuate this stereotype themselves. Look at the way men are dressed for award shows as compared to the way women are dressed. they had to introduce a dress code to keep stars like J-Lo from revealing too much flesh. Any dress codes for men revealing too much flesh?”

So, not only has society “accepted” that women are sex objects, but apparently we have created this situation ourselves? Sometimes I just feel like screaming at such people: perpetuating the objectification of women has real life consequences! It is not the same as objectifying men. When was the last time you heard of a group of high school girls gang raping an unconscious male? Thinking of women as objects desensitizes us to this sort of brutality. If a woman is just like a car, she is a chattel to be owned and treated in whatever manner her owner desires.

There is nothing wrong with looking at fancy cars, pretty girls, or a piece of art. There is nothing wrong with looking. But we need to remember that people are not things – that way madness lies.


TPS Reports Anyone?

I have good days and I have bad days. Today happens to be a day when I can laugh at myself. Yesterday happened to be a day where I was curled up in the fetal position, bawling my eyes out. Why? Because I am one of thousands of well-educated, passionate, and self-motivated young people who find themselves stuck in a McJob or worse — unemployed entirely. And it’s frustrating. It’s awful. It just… Really, really sucks.
Now, I know for a fact that this situation is not unique to young people of my generation. I am sure that the hundreds of GM employees working in St. Catharines did not grow up dreaming of working in a factory. But the huge difference is: we were told again and again by the government, by our teachers, by our parents and peers that the only way to a successful career is through hard work and a university degree. So that’s what we did. We all went out there and worked our butts off through years of undergraduate and post-graduate programs to make us employable. Now, a la Eliza in My Fair Lady we find ourselves stuck; we are “overqualified” for the jobs available, but “under-experienced” for the jobs we’ve been educated for.
I think it’s worth pointing out that my degrees are in two extremely practical fields. I resisted the urge to take classical studies, history, anthropology or philosophy. Who am I kidding? I never would have taken philosophy. Rather, I thoughtfully chose English to learn how to communicate, and business management to give me a thorough understanding of finance and to make me sound more serious than I am.
Just how bad is it? A friend of mine from school needed to look for a summer job in between her undergrad at Western University and Medical School at Queen’s. She went into McDonald’s to ask if they were hiring; they replied they might be, but only if she had experience working in the fast food industry. Apparently, even future doctors need experience flipping burgers in order to qualify. Worse yet, my PhD- holding, Oxford-educated next door neighbour is currently working… at a call centre. 
For two years after I graduated I was only able to find sporadic part-time work. I coached a little squash, worked retail one day a week, lasted about two months serving at Pizza Hut, and finally settled on a full time sales job I only got through a friend. For someone who dreams of working for a woman’s charity and helping others, working there makes me sad. Will an employer ever give me a chance to show how great I could be? Will I ever even get to work for a charity at all? For the first time in my life, hard work is not a guarantee of success.
But, as I said, today I laugh. Tomorrow I relive the movie Office Space.

Glitter and Painting and Beads, oh my!

I sometimes find my eyes roll very far back into my head when I hear about the latest national “event month”. January is Bath Safety Month, July is National Share a Sunset with Your Lover Month and October is National Bake and Decorate Month? Really? Seriously? However, I fully admit to celebrating March as National Craft Month! Bring on the googly eyes. 
Don’t do this.
In all seriousness though, is there anything more satisfying and therapeutic than getting lost creating something with your hands? 
I remember the first time I made cocoa zucchini loaf. Sure, it turned out looking like something I shouldn’t mention in a ladies’ blog. And sure, it was drier than a mouthful of sand. But I turned a sticky, wet mess into something that well, should have been edible. For a brief time (before I tasted it) I felt like superwoman, I felt like – Martha. 
I’ve since learned to read recipes more carefully and when I really have a craving for something, to ask my mother. But I’ve also found my crafting niche; jewellery making. When I sit down to bead a bracelet or a necklace I almost literally hear whales and ocean noises in my head. When I’m having a bad day at work, I think about the next project I have to work on and instantly feel better knowing I have something to look forward to.
The project doesn’t have to be the ridiculous task of upholstering an ottoman (yes, I briefly considered it) or the mind-numbing, eye-crossing, nerve-wracking task of making Barbie Doll clothing. I find completing even the smallest of projects gives me a little boost of confidence and creates a much needed distraction from my weekly stresses. Give National Craft Month a try, maybe a new hobby and the more confident and stress-free you is just a weekend away!
Have 15 minutes? Prepared to be addicted (and maybe find a project or two!)

Slowly, Slowly You’ll Go Far

My boyfriend’s Nana used to tell him in Italian “Piano, piano csi va lontino.” Which means little by little you’ll go far.” When looking to make a change in the world, I look to her words for inspiration.
As a young woman hoping to make a change in today’s society, I often find it difficult to make a meaningful impact. Ideally, I someday see myself working for a women’s rights non-profit organization, battling stereotypes, supporting others in their causes, and inspiring the next generation of females to do the same. However, I’m finding the journey to get there harder than anticipated; sometimes I feel as though there are just too few avenues for young women to get involved!
When I get discouraged though, I think “little by little…” and remind myself that even small acts help to make a difference.

My hope and intention in writing this post is to help encourage young people who also get discouraged to find a cause worth fighting for — and despite the many obstacles we will have to face — stand up for what we believe in. I am incredibly inspired by these young girls who started off small but have succeeded in making powerful changes in their respective fields:

Malala Yousafzi of Pakistan fights for girls’ rights to an education though her BBC blog and public appearances. This past October she was shot on her way home from school simply for arguing that girls have a right to be educated. 
Fourteen-year-old Julia Bluhm of the United States famously started a petition on Change.org to combat the photoshopping of models in magazines. Just four days later, with an incredible 84,000 signatures, her petition inspired Seventeen magazine to promise not to change girls’ bodies or faces when retouching images.
I know it won’t be easy, but I am determined to keep looking for a way to continue advocating for women’s rights (my chosen brigade). Whether your passion is the environment, animal rights, the fight against racism, or teen bullying, don’t give up! We must constantly look for a way to further our own causes. Try joining the student council at school, start a blog, fund raise, write to your local MP/MPP, or start volunteering!
If you, your sister, daughter, or friend is looking to get involved check out these interesting sites:

Women’s Equality Day

 Sunday, August 26th, represented the 41st Women’s Equality Day in history. The day has been proclaimed every year since 1971 by the President of the United States to commemorate women winning the right to vote in 1920. I would love to write a blog that simply celebrates all that women have accomplished; from the success of the suffrage, to fighting for equal pay and opportunities, to rallying for the right to control what happens to our own bodies. Unfortunately, the more I think about Women’s Equality Day, the more I find fault with it.

Primarily, the title itself concerns me: Women’s Equality Day, doesn’t that assume that equality has already been achieved? The last time I checked, that certainly was not the case. I wish I could write that there is no pay discrimination in the workforce. I wish I could write that our teenage girls were immune to mass media marketing. I wish I could write that internationally, women in Afghanistan aren’t seen as objects to control, but as human beings. Instead, woman overall make only 77 cents to a man’s dollar, nearly 40% of grade nine and ten girls perceive themselves as too fat, and in 2010 there were 2,229 incidents of violence against women in Afghanistan.

Even here in Canada we continue to fight against a government that has attempted to furtively introduce (through the “back alley” if you like) legislation that would make abortion illegal again. No, unfortunately this year I did not celebrate Women’s Equality Day. But I look forward with optimism to a year that I can.