The WAR ON CHRISTMAS has begun again. And frankly, I’m tired of it. The only time I’ve ever heard of anyone “attacking” Christmas is when right-wing pundits and social media shares wax paranoid about the possibility of some horrific Orwellian dystopian future in which everyone is banned from mentioning or even thinking about Christmas.
Public Service Announcement: the use of the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas” is not an attack on Christmas, or your right to celebrate it openly. I’m going to explore this from the angle of this Facebook post a friend shared:
Decorated trees are actually quite secular. They originate in pagan mythologies, have nothing to do with Christ or Christianity (pretty sure they never mentioned decorating a tree in the New Testament), are enjoyed by people of many faiths, and therefor technically aren’t really “Christmas” trees. We just often call them Christmas trees because we do the tree thing at the same time as the Christmas thing. But many other faiths do the tree thing in conjunction with their mid-winter holidays as well. Most faiths have some kind of holiday around this time, because you’re celebrating being “half-way out of the dark”, as they so rightly said on Doctor Who. And who doesn’t love bringing a bit more light and beauty into their lives during a time of year when the outside world is dark and barren? I’ve known people of all sorts of backgrounds, from Jewish to Hindu to Atheist, from naturally born citizen to immigrant, who put up trees at this time of year. It’s a way of feeling connected to the broader community you live in despite other differences, which is a wonderful thing.
If you’re a Christian celebrating a Christian-y Christmas that also includes a tree, calling it a Christmas tree for convenience makes a lot of sense, even if it is a secular tradition. You put up a tree when you celebrate Christmas. It’s a Christmas tree. Fair enough. But if you’re non-Christian and doing the tree thing (which is totally allowed because decorated trees are not a Christian tradition) then having another name for it can be useful. If you don’t feel connected to the idea of Christ or Christianity, but you DO feel connected to the tradition of decorating a tree and celebrating with your loved ones, being forced to invoke the idea of Christ in this non-Christian tradition can feel a bit… off.
Part of it is that it’s annoying to be told you’re celebrating a holiday you’re not actually celebrating. People are like “THIS IS A CHRISTMAS TREE!” and you’re like “but… it’s not? There’s nothing Christian about this tree or about my own traditions at this time of year. I don’t have Jesus or angels or anything on it, I don’t go to Church, I don’t spend any time at all thinking about the life, times, and death of Jesus. Why does MY tree have to be a Christmas tree just because YOU are celebrating Christmas right now?”
Another part is that I feel like it’s really disrespectful of me to be invoking the idea of Christ when I don’t actually believe in it*. The idea of Christ is of monumental importance to many people, and when I throw it around willy-nilly in spite of having no personal connection to it, what does that communicate to people who take the idea of Christ really seriously? Who have a major emotional, social, and spiritual connection to the idea?
Luckily, language is flexible and context is important. Unless you’re in some kind of scientific field conducting experiments, things don’t have single, set, precise names assigned to them. You can call yours a Christmas tree and others can call theirs a holiday tree without all communication breaking down and society falling to pieces. And it makes a lot of sense for secular people and groups, such as atheists, governments, corporations, whatever, to use more general and all-encompassing terms. It’s not actually offensive to say “holiday” instead of “Christmas”. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and just because you’re celebrating Christmas doesn’t mean everyone else has to as well.
*Having said all this, I still often refer to them as Christmas trees out of habit – it’s how I was raised. It makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but we’re all imperfect works in progress and I’m trying really hard to improve myself in this area.These things take time and practice, you know.
Stephen Harper had an extremely unstable cabinet, shuffling ministers around regularly and often making appointments that were questionable at best. Remember the environment minister who was a climate change denier in his spare time?
This isn’t unique to Mr. Harper. Patronage has been the method by which most of the top positions have been chosen in Canadian politics for most of our history. For some people, this has been a consistent concern, particularly when Prime Ministers make terrible choices like the example I gave above. But the vast majority of Canadians don’t really care. I’ve often seen them claim with an indifferent shrug of their shoulders that those ministers must have been chosen for a reason. There’s a general feeling of trust that a mostly male, arbitrarily appointed Federal Cabinet is probably somehow qualified to do the job. When they prove themselves to be unqualified by doing a bad job, they’re judged individually on the merit of their work, not collectively on the reasons they got the position the first place, and the country gets on with its day.
Introduce gender parity as Justin Trudeau just did, and suddenly people come out of the woodwork and decide they give a MASSIVE shit about merit-based minister selection.
Prime Ministers overlook qualified female candidates in favour of their friends all the time and few even notice, but introduce even the slightest chance that an even slightly better male candidate may have been overlooked in order to make the cabinet look more like the actual Canadian population, and suddenly it’s a problem. No one even stops to consider that maybe we have gender parity not because Trudeau is throwing out qualified male candidates, but because he’s actually bothering to consider female candidates in the first place, something that previous PMs rarely seemed to do.
Few people have bothered looking at how qualified the new ministers are: they see a news headline about gender parity and jump to the conclusion that most of them must be unqualified because they must have been chosen on the basis of their genitals alone. It’s assumed that men got their position because they’re qualified, and that women or minorities got it to fill a quota. The widespread assumption that men are automatically more qualified results in more qualified women being turned down in favour of less qualified men all the time. It’s a problem that Justin Trudeau set out to overcome, and he seems to have succeeded.
Everyone is suddenly clamouring for merit-based appointment over representativeness-based appointment, but hiring is more than a simple, objective checklist that can be equally applied to anyone and everyone to come to a 100% guaranteed best conclusion. I’ve done this kind of appointment work before, where you’re given way too many qualified candidates for a limited number of positions, and have to find a way to organize them into those positions. In these processes, things like representativeness and interpersonal ability/circumstances become really important. You’re putting together a team that has to work cooperatively to effectively represent and serve a diverse social landscape.
When you go into this kind of process, you create an image in your mind of how you want the group to look as a whole once it’s formed, and then balance that against how you want each individual position to look. Sometimes you get lucky with the perfect group and the perfect candidate for each position, sometimes you have to make small sacrifices to one in order to improve the other, and that’s okay. Attempting to apply complete objectivity to people’s so-called “merits” to pick the exactly most “qualified” person for each position would overlook an important fact of humanity: humans are not work experience robots, and you can’t slot them into positions in the same way you would choose which smart phone to buy or which accounting software to install for your business. They’re complicated, and their ideas, work ethic, interpersonability, and yes, even their representativeness, all matter. Those things are all part of their “merits”. If you’re looking at specific work experiences alone, you run the risk of creating a dysfunctional and incapable team.
People complain about representativeness being chosen over qualifications, but when it comes to a representative body like a federal cabinet, representativeness is a qualification. This should go without saying, but a cabinet that’s more representative of the population will do a better job of representing the population. Ministers do more than just lead their individual ministry, they also do a lot of team work to create policy, and an unrepresentative cabinet cannot hope to make representative policy.
It’s also worth mentioning that in a government where policy is determined by a team and ministers have access to massive support and staff structures, underqualification does not have to be the end of the world. Most of Harper’s cabinet ministers were woefully unqualified for their specific positions, but Canada kept chugging along.
Look, I’m no fan of Trudeau. I have many misgivings about him and the Liberal party, and I don’t trust them any more than all of you nay-sayers. However, forced gender parity in the cabinet is not the massive problem all these people seem to think it is. If anything, it’s a step up from the “appoint your old, white friends and a token minority or two” system used by previous PMs, because at least this one is relatively representative of the population. So stop your complaining. If you’re bothered about a specific minister’s lack of specific experiences, then be critical in that way, but don’t jump to the conclusion that the ministers must be unqualified just because Trudeau had the audacity to actually seriously consider some female candidates for once. Try to treat our gender-equal cabinet the same way you treated the mostly-male one: judge them individually on their level of experience and the quality of their work, rather than assuming they just got the job because they happen to have a certain set of genitalia. If you were fine with previous ministers getting their position because they were white men who were chummy with the PM (and all evidence suggests that this could be the only reason many of them got it) then you have no right to complain about the possibility that this time around, maybe some were more strongly considered for a ministry because they were women.
Today I am addressing an article titled: Woman Thanks Man For Slut Shaming Her And It Makes Total Sense.
First of all, the woman was not thanking the man for slut-shaming her. He noticed other men in the area behaving in a predatory way, noticed she was completely unaware, and chose to go out of his way to warn her about the potential danger she was in. Good move, bro. You a good guy. That’s what he was being thanked for. The other thing he did, however, was blame their behavior on her yoga pants.
She chose to ignore the slut-shaming aspect, thank him for the warning, and leave the area – a perfectly reasonable and sensible reaction by all accounts. What is not reasonable or sensible is the way this article tells the story. The man did two distinct deeds that day, one of them good and one of them sexist. The article twists the narrative to make it look like the two deeds were one and the same, encouraging readers to think that it’s sometimes a good thing to be sexist. It’s not.
This is why we need to strive for more nuance in journalism. You can be a good person (as this guy probably is) and still be sexist. The two are not mutually exclusive, and we need to stop treating them like they are if we ever want to deal with systemic sexism.
Of course, you won’t get nuance from Chicks on the Right because they don’t want to be part of the solution to systemic sexism. They want to deny it’s existence altogether, presumably because the people who run this publication directly benefit from sexism and would lose support and power if sexism were successfully dismantled. This article wasn’t singing praises to the man’s good deed, it was using the story to push a narrative that reinforces one of the most damaging aspects of patriarchy. Here’s what the article was really communicating:
Don’t be in public spaces. They don’t belong to you. If you have to be in a public space, make yourself as invisible as possible, or else. You know what? Maybe just stop existing. That’s probably the most sensible way to deal with this problem. And if something does happen to you, it’s definitely all your fault.
Strategic voting refers to voting for the candidate most likely to beat the one you don’t like in order to make your vote count for more. There are all sorts of websites set up to try to make this kind of voting as easy as possible for you. However, a really good voting strategy involves a little more complexity than just choosing the most popular lesser evil.
Don’t mind me.
So, I read this really difficult (really real) article about why cries of “not all men!” are so damaging, and some asshole in the comments basically acted out what the author was calling out like a friggin’ idiot. I wanted to reply but couldn’t since commenting was closed, and I wouldn’t have commented to the fullest extent of what I wanted anyway since it seems like most people in the comments were being much more respectful than I wanted to be, and I didn’t want to ruin the vibe. Anyway, here’s what I’d like to say to that guy. If you don’t like frustrated rants or profane language don’t read it.
The author’s not just talking about calling out harassment when you see it. She’s telling you to STOP with your “not all men” bullshit, which you somehow missed in spite of it being in the FUCKING title. Every time you divert the conversation with “I can’t do anything” or “but that’s not me” you’re diverting attention from an important issue and drowning out the people trying to talk about it. THAT’s what she means – that certain men are constantly ignoring what’s being said about those who harass or remain idle in favour of taking personal offence. Guess what? Every time you do that and try to make it about you instead of listening to someone else’s problems for once, you become part of the fucking problem. You complain that she’s presuming you’re a problem when you think you’re not, but in complaining you became the person this article was written about and for. Ironic, isn’t it. Think this article’s claims don’t apply to you? Then maybe they don’t and you should PIPE THE FUCK DOWN and let someone else talk for a bit. Not everything has to be about you all the goddamn time. The fact that you automatically took offence and got all defensive like this article was attacking you personally just shows how fucking privileged and self-centred you are. I know that for your whole life you’ve been led to believe that the world revolves around you and your thoughts, desires, and problems, but I have news for you. It fucking doesn’t.
I’m not just calling out your flagrant privilege in a cheap attempt to silence any disagreement. I know your defensiveness is a sign of your privilege and lack of perspective because I’ve been there. A Facebook acquaintance who I admire and respect posted “I hate white people” and my first response was, “hey! I’m not that bad! I try to be a good ally! Why are you complaining about me?” and I was about to comment but I stopped. You know why? Because I chilled the fuck out for one fucking second and realized that if she was saying something that bad, she probably had a good reason, and I know I’m not a bad person and that she wasn’t attacking me personally, so there’s no need to take it personally, and I’m capable of realizing that as much as I try to be a good ally and would like to think I’m not part of the problem, I still might be part of the problem in ways I can’t even comprehend without some serious listening and introspection. Want to know what I did instead of commenting? I PIPED THE FUCK DOWN AND LET HER FUCKING TALK FOR A WHILE.
No, I’m not going to try to come up with some stupid answer to your stupid-ass “what do the construction workers have to lose?” question. Want to know why? Because men in business suits TOTALLY cat-call and harass. That’s a HUGE part of the problem with the idea that women can avoid harassment by avoiding certain types of men or certain areas: besides the fact that it puts all the responsibility on the victim, which is stupid and shitty, it’s actually just terrible advice. Not all men do it, but any man could – there’s no way to tell by appearances who’ll be a danger and who won’t. Construction worker harassment is just a stereotype – some men who work in construction do it, but not always, and not just them. It could be any man. Personally, I couldn’t pinpoint a “type” of man who is more likely to randomly harass me, because they’ve all been so different from each other in any physically apparent variable you can think of. There’s no pattern, except that they’re basically always male. Stop trying to derail an important conversation by asking me to answer your shitty, classist, meaningless questions. We’re trying to have an important conversation over here, and you’re interrupting. You get to talk all the goddamn time so for once could you please just PIPE DOWN AND PUT YOUR FUCKING DICK BACK IN YOUR FUCKING PANTS.