Another year older…


And no deeper in debt!

debt

This month marks yet another birthday, my 48th so far. As this blog is dedicated to my Grandmother, I thought I would use the occasion to share with all of you the best advice she ever gave me. Many moons ago, when I was in my teen years, my Grandmother told me about the importance of staying out of debt. Her exact words were, “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” As my Grandmother was a successful woman in her own right, I took those words to heart and I am grateful to her for explaining to me what none of my teachers ever did… that debt can ruin your life. In this age of everything on credit, I am one of a very few who actually has no debt. No student loans, no car loan, no mortgage… I don’t even owe 20 bucks to a friend. The only debt I owe is to my Grandmother for her sage advice.

I never understood why, in high school where we are supposed to be preparing for life, there was no course about finances. That’s the kind of math all of us can actually use. There does seem to be a backlash to all of this credit/debt mess into which we have collectively gotten ourselves. People like Suze Orman and Gail Vaz Oxlade have made a very nice living teaching others what we should already know, how to get out and stay out of debt.

Gail

Perhaps parents should be teaching the next generation not to fall into the same traps as we did. Or even more importantly, get more involved with school curriculum and demand a class on money management. I have seen too many smart people lose everything because a bubble burst (housing, stock market, banks, internet companies etc.) You want your kids to be successful in life, so you make sure they get the best education that your credit score can afford, but send them out into the world entirely unprepared when it comes to handling all the money they will be making from that high paying job they will hopefully get with their fancy degree.

dirtyjobs

Last night on Real Time With Bill Maher, Mike Rowe (host of a show called Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel) was talking about how there are 3 million high paying jobs that companies are desperate to fill in the United States, but nobody wants to do them. This is systemic of another problem facing the next generation of kids today. The idea that everyone is special and that everyone can be rich and famous. Kids brought up on reality television have been bombarded with the message that the only way to succeed in life is to be on TV so they get student loans and pursue a liberal arts degree. Meanwhile, there is a severe shortage of plumbers, mechanics and other blue-collar workers who could be making real money (over $100,000/year) if they weren’t so concerned with being ordinary or getting a little dirty.

It’s important to remember that, everyone is not special… to be special by definition is to be distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual. There is no shame in being ordinary. There is only shame in drowning in debt while waiting for the world to notice that you are special.

** Note, the links were not provided by me, but were automatically generated and I do not endorse them.

 

 

Misplaced Pride


Misplaced pride has been a disturbing trend of late where people take the most objectionable part of their personality and claim it as a source of personal pride. Yes, some people are shouting their misplaced pride to the ends of the earth. This type of pride comes in a multitude of forms.

There’s the proud racist.

White_pride

The white pride idiots exist all over North America (yes, in Canada too). They are too stupid to realize that the reason they don’t have that high paying job they are always accusing foreigners of stealing from them, is that they never bothered to educate themselves beyond the absolute minimum. They are also too lazy to lift a finger to help themselves, because that would be like admitting that the finger they did bother to lift… the finger of blame was a colossal waste of time. The last thing these folks want is to have to go out and actually work. They consider it a full-time job to blame those darned foreigners for taking their jobs, their women, their hopes and their dreams. Not to mention all of the effort it takes to indoctrinate their many children that they cannot support with as much hate and scapegoating as possible.

Next up is fat pride.

Fat sexy woman

Now I am all for women eschewing the media’s ideal of the stick woman as sexy and beautiful, but there are those who take it way too far. Morbidly obese women talking about how sexy they are with all that ass. Oh yes, diabetes and heart disease are so sexy. What these women don’t realize is that when (not if, but when) they get sick and need medical care, it’s the rest of us that have to pay for it. Even in a country with Universal Healthcare, the taxpayers are the ones to foot the bill. The more people who get sick, the higher the taxes get. Personally, I would rather my tax dollars go to kids with leukemia over the morbidly obese any day of the week. Being morbidly obese and proud is like flipping the bird to the rest of society. This is an issue you can control. There is a billion dollar industry in place to help you out of this health hazard… including medical help. The first steps are the easiest, admit the problem (as opposed to living in the deluded idea that morbid obesity is sexy) take responsibility and get help.

I find this next one particularly offensive. Redneck pride.

booboo

Again, a group of people who have it within their power to change their circumstances through education and ambition, yet refuse to further themselves because of misplaced pride. Everyone has the power to change their circumstance. There is always a choice. These people actually choose ignorance, racism, misogyny and general xenophobia as a way of life of which to be proud. It doesn’t help that reality television rewards this behavior with fame and money. Of course reality television isn’t as much to blame as the people who gleefully watch these shows in order to feel better about their own lives. This lifestyle would not be glorified if there weren’t a demand in the first place. Just how low has the bar been set if the only way you can feel better about your life is by watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, My Crazy Obsession, The Real Housewives (sure they have money, but they still act like petulant teenagers), Hoarders, Toddlers in Tiaras or any other show that the ironically named Learning Channel broadcasts?

Pride should be reserved for your accomplishments, not used to describe your shortcomings. Where has ambition gone? People use to strive to better their lot in life, to give their kids a better childhood than they had. It seems as though we are collectively giving up. The things worth having are the things worth working for. The sad truth of the matter is that, in North America, we have the luxury of having a host of government programs in place for those that actually want to educate themselves that go unused every year because people like these choose to live in ignorance.

There seems to be a theme forming here… take personal responsibility and make the world a better place.

responsibility

The age old question


Since the dawn of time there have been good girls and bad girls. Since the dawn of time, men have been asking each other which they prefer, virgins or sluts… or to put in terms of the complex, Madonna or Whore. This question has had many faces over the years. Two of the most famous are Ginger or Mary Ann.

ginger-or-mary-ann

There have been magical choices like Samantha or her cousin Serena.

BewitchedSamSerena

There has even been a cartoon choice with Betty or Veronica.

bettyveronica

The faces may change but the question remains the same, would you rather be with a virgin or a slut? On its face, the question is highly insulting, as it only takes into account a woman’s sexuality (or lack thereof). As a feminist, the question is offensive… but it’s hard t be offended when… women are guilty of the very same behavior.

We choose between the nice guy and the Lothario. We have made this choice since the dawn of time. This question has had many faces over the years. One of the most famous examples is Danny or Tom.

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in 1978  movie " Grease"

tomgrease

A very young Lorenzo Lamas as Tom in the movie Grease.

Of course Sandy picked the bad boy, Lothario, Danny and she changed for him, even though he was willing to change for her. The better choice would have been Tom because neither of them would have had to change who they were… but it wouldn’t have been as entertaining. There is a correlation between a woman’s age and the choice she will make when faced with these two stereotypes. When a woman is under the age of 35 she will be much more likely to choose the bad boy. Some young women choose the bad boy because he represents danger and adventure, some will choose him because they have this delusion that they can change him or save him from himself. Once a woman is past the age of 35 she is far more likely to choose the nice guy because she has known nothing but heartache at the hands of the Lothario and she now sees what should have been obvious from the start, that a more quiet life with the nice guy who will treat you well is a better long-term bet. Excitement and danger is fun for a while, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

I wonder if the choice between virgin and slut also has an age correlation? Do younger men prefer the virgin because they too are inexperienced? Do older men prefer the slut because they are looking for someone with a more open mind, sexually? Or do men just like what they like from cradle to grave? I would be very interested to hear thoughts from some of my male readers on this topic. Please feel free to post a comment below.

Excuses, excuses


There are two figures of speech that really put the wind up my skirt. The first is “boys will be boys.”

Parents have been saying this since the invention of dirt to excuse away the behavior of little boys. You never hear anyone exclaim that girls will be girls. That is because little girls are punished for their bad behavior from a very early age. So why do we encourage little boys by ignoring their bad behavior when we know that providing a consequence for undesirable actions works? By excusing boys their bad behavior all we are doing is creating grown men who exhibit the same bad behavior, whether it’s fraternity hazing, racism or sexism. Unless bad behavior is nipped in the bud and not excused away we continue to perpetuate the idea that boys will be boys and that men will never change.

The second figure of speech that (as Peter Griffin would say) grinds my gears is “consider the source.”

Ann Coulter proving that women are guilty of ignorance and hate too.

This is something adults say when they are sick and tired of hearing ignorant and hateful things from ignorant and hateful people. Unfortunately, like ‘boys will be boys’, ‘consider the source’ only serves to excuse away the words and actions of racists, sexists, fear and hate mongers.

Unless we actually make people take responsibility for their words and actions, we are doomed to have to listen to hate speech. Ignoring the problem will not make it simply go away.

Recently the web site, http://jezebel.com/ took to task some teenagers that had posted horribly racist tweets (that I will not re-print here… they do not need to be rewarded with more publicity) in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. They alerted the schools, parents and employers of the teens who posted these offensive statements and actually got results. In some cases the schools suspended or even expelled the teens. In some cases their employers fired the teens. In almost all cases the offending twitter accounts were deleted. Now I do realize that this doesn’t stop these kids from thinking racist thoughts (racism is usually taught by parents or other authority figures), but it will certainly make them think twice before committing racist actions if they know that there are consequences for those actions.

Laziness, exasperation and excuses will not create the kind of world in which we want to live, or the kind of child we would be proud to send into that world.

Why do we make celebrities out of killers?


Norman Bates in the infamous shower scene.

What do Norman Bates (Psycho), Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Jame Gumb (Silence of the Lambs) all have in common? Besides being famous psychotic killers from the movies, they were all inspired by the same real life murderer, Ed Gein.

Ed Gein

While Ed Gein was not technically a serial killer, with only two kills under his belt, his case became a benchmark upon which many movie serial killers have been based. Growing up on a farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin, Gein’s childhood reads like the handbook for creating a killer. His parents’ marriage was far from ideal, the two only staying together because of religious beliefs. He was kept away from socializing with others by an overprotective, devoutly religious and abusive mother. Gein was a shy child with rather effeminate mannerisms which left him ostracized and bullied by the only social group he was in contact with, schoolmates. As if to add fuel to the fire, every afternoon, his mother read him verses from the Old Testament dealing with murder and divine retribution. Growing up isolated on the family farm with only his older brother for company, Gein tried desperately to win his mother’s affections, to no avail.

Ed’s father, George died of a heart attack in 1940 and his brother Henry died in a fire four years later (there was some speculation as to whether Ed had a hand in Henry’s death, but no charges were ever filed), leaving Ed alone with his mother, who died less than a year later following a series of strokes. Devastated by her death, Ed boarded up the rooms used by his mother, including the upstairs, downstairs parlor, and living room leaving them as a shrine to her memory. He, himself continued to live on the family farm in a small room off the kitchen. Ed supported himself by doing odd jobs around town.

Without getting into too much graphic detail, I will lay out some of more macabre aspects of Ed Gein’s crimes, committed in 1957. Gein admitted to digging up and robbing nine different graves in three local cemeteries. He exhumed the corpses of middle aged women who reminded him of his mother, took them home and tanned their skin so he could make a “woman suit” and pretend to be female. In addition he was a collector of body parts, with a penchant for fashioning said parts into furniture and clothing items.

Gein died in 1984 in the same mental institution in which he served his sentence. Since his death, souvenir seekers have chipped away at his headstone, stealing pieces as keepsakes, until finally in 2000, the remainder of the stone was stolen. A year later the grave marker was recovered and it now resides in a museum in Wisconsin.

There has long been a fascination with the inner working of the minds of killers and the Gein case was so heinous and unusual that it became the inspiration for many writers over the years. Gein’s relationship with is mother became part of Norman Bates’ persona. His making furniture out of human bones was a trait that Leatherface took on. Gein’s “woman suit” became Jame Gumb’s raison d’etre. Gein has also been the subject of (not just the inspiration for) films from 1974’s Deranged to Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield in 2007. He is even the star of his very own musical, Ed Gein, the Musical which premiered in 2010, making Gein one of the most celebrated killers in all of history.

Jame Gumb from the Silence of the Lambs

Society has long made killers into celebrities. We even give them nicknames like  Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, Son of Sam, the Zodiac Killer and most recently, the Canadian Cannibal (Luka Rocco Magnotta, who was arrested in an internet cafe, reading news stories about himself). I am far more fascinated with why we, as a society reward these people with fame and attention, than with why they kill in the first place.

The real Bonnie and Clyde

The Hollywood version of Bonnie and Clyde

What does it say about us, that we put these people on a pedestal and romanticize their crimes (Bonnie and Clyde). Do we secretly wish we could cross that line ourselves? Is the act of murder so alluring that we feel the need to live vicariously through the horrific acts of those who slaughter others? Or is it simply entertainment… a modern day replacement for throwing the Christians to the lions or public hangings? What does it say about us a society when we punish those who commit murder, then reward them by telling and retelling their stories for decades, sometimes centuries? Are these stories meant to deter people from the act or are they meant to titillate us… or both?

The Tipping Point


When did it become a bad thing to be educated in North America? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. It’s hard not to when you see scientists, economists and other great minds vilified by idiots on a daily basis. When the media is more interested in whether or not the Secretary of State is wearing make-up than in the job she is doing.

One of my favourite comedy films of recent years is called Idiocracy. It’s set in America 500 years in the future and is about how the country becomes  a uniformly stupid human society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights. It shows where the country is headed unless it changes it’s current course. Athough it’s a comedy, it brings up some very real points. Even as technology is moving at lightning speed, the average person in North America is not getting smarter. It only takes one look at the nightly TV lineup to prove this. The American government is slashing funding for education on a very consistent basis. Tech jobs are being outsourced to countries who ARE funding and pushing the education agenda. So my question is when… or, more importantly, why is it more important to be cool than to be smart in North America?

My theory of when the tipping point occurred is that it became too dangerous to trust the scientific intelligentsia in the 1940’s. This was during the time when the Manhattan Project was formed and carried out the task of creating the world’s first atomic bomb. This group of highly intelligent men of science embarked on a very dangerous path when they said yes to a government contract, effectively tossing aside their morality in favour of scientific curiosity. When the Manhattan Project was disbanded in early 1947, was when we saw the emergence of Rock and Roll music and culture. The two things may seem like two completely separate events, but to me, Rock and Roll was a rebellious backlash against the evil, dangerous and untrustworthy scientific community. It was during the emergence of the Rock and Roll era that it became more important to be cool than to be smart.

The smart are never cool and the cool are rarely smart (or if they are, they must hide it under a facade of jokes). This is also when bullying started to happen. The smart kids became nerds, geeks, Poindexters and squares. They were teased, hazed and beaten up on, while the jocks and cool kids/rebels were lauded and celebrated as aspirational. This kind of social change created generations of adults who passed down this mindset to their kids and so on until we have a world where Education is getting less funding than the President’s Helicopter cost over the last 6 years. It’s this kind of thinking that got George W. Bush elected… twice. This kind of thinking also make the kids from Teen Mom and the Jersey Shore into celebrities. Smart people don’t vote for a President because they think he’d be fun to have a beer with or emulate 15 year old girls who got pregnant, just because they are on TV.

Snooki from the Jersey Shore

There are small signs that the pendulum may have started to swing back the other way. The current US president is smarter than the last by by leaps and bounds. TV shows like the Big Bang Theory are showing us that you don’t have to make a drunken ass out of yourself in order to be looked up to. Scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson are becoming more and more well known as household names and personalities in their own right. Even rock and rap stars are involved in projects like the FIRST Robotics Competition that encourage students to explore science and technology. Let’s just hope that this next scientific boom will learn from the scientists of the Manhattan Project and won’t favour curiosity over morality like they did.

Slut Shaming


 

After she read my last post on useless emotions, my 70 year old mother and I got to talking about slut shaming and how ridiculous we both think it is. She comes from an era where good girls remained virgins until marriage (or until engagement at least), but men were supposed to be experienced upon entering the marriage bed. Who, may I ask, were men supposed to get that experience with? Women were not even supposed to admit that they enjoyed sex in that era.

The sexual revolution of the 1960’s in North America, started to change that attitude and the advent of the Pill helped women on a path of sexual self discovery. We were embracing our sexuality throughout the 1970’s and into the 80’s, but then AIDS came along and that changed things. Women who slept around were now being judged more frequently than in the decade prior, but the genie was already out of the bottle and women had gotten used to being sexually free. There was no going back to the good girls don’t model.

We talked about how men spend their entire single life trying to get a woman to be a slut for them.  One would think that sluts would be held in much higher regard by men. Alas this is where the male ego comes into play. It’s fine to be MY slut, but don’t you dare come to the table with anywhere close to the same number of sex partners as I have amassed. There are some men who aren’t afraid to admit that they like a woman with experience, but most don’t want to know that THEIR woman is more experienced than they are. Guess what guys, WOMEN LIKE SEX and we shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that.

Unfortunately, in the game of sex, women must play defense. We are the ones who run the risk of pregnancy, so we must be far more discriminate about who we sleep with than men. So while, we like sex, nature dictates that we must be more sexually responsible. We are the ones (for the most part) who are responsible for making sure the sex act will not end in pregnancy or disease. Then there’s that pesky serotonin and dopamine we produce during sex that gets our emotions all tangled up in the act of sex, whether the guy is boyfriend/husband material or not. Let us not forget the whole fairy tale culture that has been shoved down our throats since birth that teaches us that we are nothing without a man to complete  us. Oh, and magazines like Cosmopolitan that tell us we should be having hour long orgasms while we are sexually pleasing those men, morning, noon and night, all the while, pursuing a fulfilling career. The thinking woman has a lot on her plate to consider before saying yes to sex. Then once we do, we are forever branded sluts, unless we marry the first man we sleep with.

In my last blog I branded shame as a useless emotion. “Women are made to feel shame for everything from natural bodily functions like menstruation (the curse) and menopause (the change) to our sexuality (slut shaming). It’s a wonder we can leave the house at all.” Men are allowed the luxury of pride after a night of sex. Women must do the walk of shame.

 

 

I see no reason why we shouldn’t strut down the walk of shame like it’s a runway. If we start to change the way WE feel about our sexuality, then maybe we can own the word slut. It’s only by owning the word that it will stop having power over us.

Events like Slut Walk are a great way to sexually empower women. Not to mention to get the point across that no matter how we are dressed, we are never saying yes to being raped.

 

 

We must, as women, not be afraid to teach men what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, both in and out of the bedroom. That sex isn’t about power or revenge, it’s about pleasure. There are still far too many places in the world that don’t understand that women NEVER want to be raped, abused or beaten. It’s only by raising the bar that men will rise to meet it. It’s only by not allowing ourselves to feel shame over being human that we will finally be treated as equal.