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Putting the NO in Casino

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The city of Toronto and the province of Ontario are currently embroiled in a debate about casinos; indeed, as I write this I’m listening to CBC Radio’s Kathleen Petty host the mid-day call-in show Ontario Today. Today they’re featuring Rod Phillips, president of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The callers are raising some great issues and the OLG is responding with typical bureaucratic rhetoric. Typically my blood is boiling.*

I’ve visited casinos on two occasions and played lotteries a few times, and without exception I’ve felt ripped off, as if I’ve spent $5 on a piece of paper that simply goes in the bin. No fun. No novelty. No gain. In fact, the one time I did win money on the slots ($12), I shoved it back into the machine only to lose $7. Imagine if I bet more. Imagine if I used my credit card.

What else was strange about the casino experience was the creepy feeling of being watched and intimidated. I literally huddled with my friends so I didn’t stand out. Does this make me a chicken, a wuss, a lightweight? If it does, so be it.

What’s creepier, however, is the line we are being fed by the OLG’s TV ads; that lottery and gaming money helps community centres and hospitals, implying that without the money you gamble away small towns will suffer. Let’s examine this: You have, say, $1,000 cash in your pocket. You go to a casino, gamble, and ultimately lose it all. The casino gets most of it and the OLG gets the remainder to distribute among various charitable groups.

My question is this: if that $1,000 is supposed to benefit charities, then why not give it directly to them? If not through taxes then by donation so you’d get a tax receipt)? These organizations are supposed to be supported by our tax dollars anyway; why are desperate people targeted to fund this scheme? We are fed a dream of winning the lottery, but so few do. The odds of winning are ridiculously low; indeed, I’d wager they’re in favour of the house. Yet people still bite in a bid for financial freedom and security. Ironically, they are likely the same people who are swimming in debt and bereft of savings. Why not take that $5, $10, $1,000 that you were going gamble and stick it in a high-interest savings account? Even at 1 per cent interest, you’ll be more ahead than you’d be at the roulette wheel.
Fun? Only if you own the joint.

*I actually wrote this on Wednesay, January 23, 2012, but I was listening to the show. Honest. Deadlines, appointments and falling asleep . . . well, you get the idea.


No Means No

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Canada is committed to the Afghan mission till 2011. Meanwhile, President Karzai is considering laws that are repressive to women, which includes one that sactions rape within marriage. Canadians are rightfully outraged, but remember that in Canada:

  • women have only been considered persons since 1930;
  • women have only had the vote in Quebec since 1949;
  • in 1968 it became illegal for a husband to beat his wife;
  • in the 1970s, women had to have a male family member co-sign loan and credit-card applications; and
  • in 1983, rape within a marriage became illegal in Canada

We rolled up our sleeves and changed the law here. Now, women in Afghanistan are doing the same thing. Correction, it isn’t the same: They are literally taking their lives in their hands for human rights. After being shot, killed, pummelled, set on fire, burned, had acid thrown at them and otherwise, Afghani women are STILL standing up and crying out: No means no. Weaker sex? Not bloody likely.

When Canada leaves the region, it is imperative that we not forget these women and their supporters. Women’s rights are human rights.

The Globe and Mail ran a good piece on April 18 that’s worth a read:”Plight of Afghan women prompts fresh debate over war,” by Sandra Martin.

Rolling Up Our Sleeves…

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>A great example about how when women are pushed to the brink, we push straight back. In this case, in Maraba, Rwanda.

From the Toronto Star:

But the secret to success here has had far less to do with the idyllic climate and volcanic soil than with a group of people who have emerged as Maraba’s – and Rwanda’s – most potent economic force: women. In the 14 years since the genocide, when 800,000 people died during three months of violence, this country has become perhaps the world’s leading example of how empowering women can transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty


The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children’s education, officials here said.


Officials at Vision Finance, the microloan arm of World Vision International that launched a program in 2005 in this town of 40,000, said that while women make up the majority of borrowers, four out of five defaulters are men.


As important was an acceptance at the highest levels of government that women would need new legal status to help rebuild the nation. By 1999, reforms were passed enabling women to inherit property – something that would prove vitally important to female farmers. At the same time, women began rising to higher ranks of political power. Today, women hold about 48 per cent of the seats in Rwanda’s parliament, the highest percentage in the world. They also account for 36 per cent of President Paul Kagame’s cabinet, holding the top jobs in the ministries of commerce, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs and information.

Success in economics mirrored the rise of women in politics. Today, 41 per cent of Rwandan businesses are owned by women – compared, say, with 18 per cent in Congo. Rwanda has the second-highest ratio of female entrepreneurs in Africa, behind Ghana with 44 per cent, according to the World Bank.

Red Card

>I get rules. I understand the need for them. So here’s a rule: dumbasses are forbidden to officiate at kids’ soccer matches.

According to the Globe and Mail, eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour was about to play her third game of a tournament in Laval, Quebec, this past Sunday. The referee—who is Muslim (huh?)—pointed at her and then to the bench. The kid had been expelled for wearing a hijab, a Muslim head scarf.

After her expulsion, her coach, Louis Maneiro, was shown a memo from the Quebec Soccer Federation saying the hijab and other religious headgear were forbidden. His team forfeited the game in protest.

Good for the coach and kudos to the team.

Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec federation, said in an interview it wasn’t a religious matter and that her organization is just enforcing the laws of FIFA, the sport’s Zurich-based world governing body, which bans dangerous equipment.

Uh huh. I saw the World Cup. Heads outta be banned. Ah, but the plot thickens:

However, FIFA officials have been promoting the game in Muslim countries by saying that it is all right for female players to wear the hijab.

The FIFA website even has a 2006 article praising the Iranian women’s national team, with a photo of a hijab-wearing player taking a free kick.

And, reached in Zurich, a FIFA official said the game laws allow “non-basic equipment” as long as it isn’t dangerous.


“We are bound to FIFA [rules],” Ms. Frot said yesterday, explaining that Quebec officials have in the past ordered the removal of jewellery in piercings and medical bracelets.

The 2006 supplementary FIFA guidelines, aimed at clarifying the game laws for referees, say that “non-basic” gear made with soft, light and padded material is allowed, such as some knee braces or goggles.

While made of fabric, the hijab could still be dangerous because the player could strangle herself, Ms. Frot said.

Amazing. And if you click on the FIFA link above, you’ll see a whole team of hijab-wearing footballers! Mind you, they look friggin’ warm with the long pants and shirtsleeves…

Apparently, the people who let the girl play two games of the tournament were “at fault.” No, mesdames, I think the fault lies elsewhere

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby Part 3

Perhaps I should subtitle this: That Ain’t Cricket, Mate!

On one hand, the fact that Pakistani women get to go see their much-loved cricket match is a great thing. At least when they show up, they won’t be considered the equivalent of “puck bunnies.” They can yell and cheer as much as they want. Fabulous. The players are all women, too. Good stuff.

But no men are allowed except for player’s families and the officials. This is to be a segregated event.

Ok, but it’s a baby step, right?

“The decision proves that women’s cricket is progressing in our country and through this event we would promote a softer and moderate image of Pakistan,” said Shamsa Hashmi, secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board women’s wing.

What nonsense! That’s like the no-bodychecking rule in women’s hockey. For crying out loud, women aren’t fragile. If we can push the equivalent of a ten-pound turkey out a hole the size of a loonie, we can handle a little shoving in the rink or on the pitch. And if you think female sports fans are all warm and cuddly, you wait till their side is losing.

Don’t get me wrong: support for women’s sport is good. But women being allowed to openly attend and support any sport regardless of the gender of the players is better.

Ms. Hashmi, there are far better ways of promoting a “softer and moderate image” of Pakistan.

from Al Jazeera, photo by GALLO/GETTY

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby Part 2

>When I was a girl,Charlie’s Angels and Barbie were going to make us into pliant, barfing, disappointments to the women’s movement. But they didn’t. We played at being Charlie’s Angels at dusk, chasing around in the streets in our torn jeans and grass-stained runners. And Barbie did what ever she wanted to do, when she wanted to, and drove her own van. And we had terrible corrupting teen magazines before we were actually teens (I got a Tiger Beat as part a loot bag from my friend’s tenth birthday. Shaun Cassidy was on the cover. I still have it.) But I have yet the need to check in to a eating disorder clinic.

So what the hell happened?

The Washington Post reports that according to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, “Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner,” but admits that:

While little research to date has documented the effect of sexualized images specifically on young girls, the APA authors argue it is reasonable to infer harm similar to that shown for those 18 and older; for them, sexualization has been linked to “three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

Said report contributor and psychologist Sharon Lamb: “I don’t think because we don’t have the research yet on the younger girls that we can ignore that [sexualization is] of harm to them. Common sense would say that, and part of the reason we wrote the report is so we can get funding to prove that.”

So this is a hypothesis. Normally, I would think this was just more hysteria, but I look around me and I think otherwise. I see little girls–—pre-pre-pubescent, barely out of Pull-ups—–dressing like little hookers. And they ain’t buying this crap with their allowance. No, parents, usually mothers, are forking over for this gear. Even more stomach churning is that makeup and spa treatments (I wish I was joking) are marketing to little girls. Shit, I wasn’t allowed to tart myself up till I was fourteen, the same year I could bear ear piercing. Sure, my mum and I would battle it out over lipstick, but invariably she won. I was too young and she was right. She was being a parent, not a friend.

Apparently, parents are an endangered species. Or is it worse? Are some actually encouraging their girls to “look good”:

Eight-year-old Maya Williams owns four bracelets, eight necklaces, about 20 pairs of earrings and six rings, an assortment of which she sprinkles on every day. “Sometimes, she’ll stand in front of the mirror and ask, ‘Are these pretty, Mommy?’”

Her mom, Gaithersburg tutor Leah Haworth, is fine with Maya’s budding interest in beauty. In fact, when Maya “wasn’t sure” about getting her ears pierced, says Haworth,”I talked her into it by showing her all the pretty earrings she could wear.”
What about all these sexualization allegations? “I don’t equate looking good with attracting the opposite sex,” Haworth says. Besides, “Maya knows her worth is based on her personality. She knows we love her for who she is.”

“Looking good just shows that you care about yourself, care about how you present yourself to the world. People are judged by their appearance. People get better service and are treated better when they look better. That’s just the way it is,” she says. “I think discouraging children from paying attention to their appearance does them a disservice.”

Staggering. So at what age do girls think they have to look presentable? According to the Post,“’A few years ago, it was 6 or 7,’ says Deborah Roffman, a Baltimore-based sex educator. ‘I think it begins by 4 now.’”

To be fair, apparently stores make it difficult to find age-appropriate clothes and accessories for girls. But a quick look at Old Navy’s website rendered the usual modest T-shirts, shorts, and jeans for girls. Nothing particularly risqué there. But then consider that Canada’s La Senza, the women’s lingerie store, has a girls’ shop. And the chain just been bought by Victoria’s Secret. Also, what you see online doesn’t necessarily reflect what you find in stores, or the overwhelmingly pink-glitter swathed malls.

But still, what ever happened to saying no you can’t have that? Ok, I don’t have kids, but I heard that phrase plenty growing up. Are things that different today? And if so, why? And what ever happened to saying no I won’t buy what you’re selling? Are consumers/parents that spineless?

Apparently, Bratz dolls are also culprits in the sexualiztion of girls as they (ahem) provide poor role models. But as the Guardian’s Caroline Bennett points out, reality and its television equivalent aren’t much better:

Meanwhile, the tale of [footballer fiancé] Coleen McLoughlin has been unfolding. Highlights from her life story, appearing simultaneously in the Sun and the Mirror, have explored the transformation from schoolgirl nonentity to international celebrity that pretty Coleen has achieved by the simple expedient of going out with the footballer and former patron of prostitutes, Wayne Rooney. Everywhere, from broadsheet to tabloid, the media celebrates her accomplishments: getting dressed, losing a few pounds, forgetting about Wayne’s “auld slapper”. How long before her first South Bank Show? Or before the makers of BBC2’s The Verdict put in a request for her to play the judge in their next, cutting edge series? At the very least, acclaim for this modern-day Cinderella will, in the words of the task force, provide younger girls with a model “that they can use to fashion their own behaviours, self-concepts and identities”.

When you consider the respect accorded to Coleen and her many C-list colleagues for their achievements in shopping and grooming, the Bratz team start to look a bit up themselves. Coleen and Wayne keep busy watching Emmerdale, Coronation Street, EastEnders, then Corrie again. Look on the Bratz website and you will find the dolls have favourite classes (Jade picks chemistry), movies and even, “fave books”: “mysteries” for Cloe, and, for Sasha, “biographies of successful people”. And what kind of sleazy, disempowering message is that?

But what’s a beleaguered parent to do? Well, look no farther than The Experts! They have all the answers…because common sense isn’t.

Just when you thought we’d progressed two steps forward, we fall four steps back.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

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From the Independent:

Mecca Laa Laa,20,one of the newly graduated lifeguards,said it would give Australian Muslim women the freedom to enjoy the beach while fulfilling their religious obligations. “The point is to get women active in the water, to encourage them to participate in sporting activities … and wearing the burqini allows them to do that,” she said.

From the Salon‘s Catherine Price:

On the other hand, it still bothers me that women should have to hide their entire bodies in public.

You and me both, Ms. Price.



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