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.
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.
Some time ago, I stumbled across a Facebook post claiming (either on the post or through a shared article, I can’t remember now) that Aboriginal cultures and languages were dying a natural death, that their inferiority/primitiveness/etc. meant that they could never survive and be useful in our modern world, and that all the efforts being undertaken to keep these cultures and languages alive and functioning were a waste of time and energy (I could say the same about social Darwinism). A young woman of Aboriginal heritage responded in a justifiably irate, hurt, and defensive way. She was basically just told that she was destined to die due to her inferiority anyway so there was no point in trying to protect or preserve her. It’s horribly dehumanizing to have such ideas hurled coldly at you by strangers over social media, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she were to tell me that she has to endure that kind of thing on a regular basis. The original poster, predictably enough, came back on the defensive, told her all the ways in which she was wrong to think she was worth keeping around, using every racial stereotype, sweeping generalization, and piece of misinformation about Aboriginal cultures available in society’s racial arsenal to belittle her pain and anger.
In my own frustration at this person’s inability to conduct a simple Google search, in my horror at his lack of empathy towards the woman he was talking to, and in my inability to refrain from compulsively correcting anyone and everyone when I think they’re wrong, I gave all his misconceptions a lengthy debunking, and after a bit of an exchange he began to relinquish some of his previous viewpoints. Although he still refused to acknowledge how terrible his original comments had been, and wouldn’t entirely let go of his careless and dehumanizing attitude towards Aboriginal peoples, at least he was listening more and being less defensive. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. A few days later, he private messaged me to thank me for explaining everything so thoroughly, to say that I had given him a lot to think about and that his opinion was beginning to change, and to ask how I had learned so much and where he could go to do the same.
This seemed like quite a victory. How often does one manage to change the mind of someone else over social media, over an argument in a comments section? And if I had to change anyone’s mind about anything, I was glad to encourage someone towards greater tolerance and a desire to learn more. It wasn’t until much later that I thought of something that really should have occurred to me right from the beginning of the exchange.
When I started my political science degree, I could see the terrible conditions faced by Aboriginal peoples in this country and wanted to help fix them. I had grand visions of coming up with some genius solution that would end their troubles for good. To that end, I tended towards classes and chose research projects directed at learning more about Aboriginal history, politics, and policies in Canada. If you know me personally, and you’re thinking, “I didn’t know she had goals like that”, it’s because I never talk about it, because in hindsight it feels pretty stupid and offensive and like most people, I hate having to admit that I’ve done or thought something stupid or offensive. As I learned more, and spent more time listening to Aboriginal voices on the problems they uniquely face, it became apparent that as a white person it really wasn’t my place to take centre stage and play the part of some kind of saviour, and the idea that I could do such a thing was silly and naive at best. I simply lack the cultural, societal, and political experience and context required to truly understand the full extent and causes of the problems, and therefore to determine and implement the most appropriate solutions to them. I do, however, possess the ability to learn, listen, and empathize. I discovered that in order to really make a difference, my efforts were best spent listening to and supporting Aboriginal people as they attempt to explain their problems and implement solutions. Though this may be a supporting role rather than a lead one, that doesn’t make it small or unimportant or not worth doing. However, white people are so accustomed to having a highly valued voice, the idea of taking a back seat on an issue often doesn’t even occur to them, and when they’re asked to, the request can seem strange, unappealing, or even threatening (even though it isn’t in reality). This is a serious barrier to real progress on issues of inequality. Good people who could be making a positive difference are actually contributing to the problem by digging in their heels, refusing to listen and understand their part in the whole thing, and thereby holding back any progress that could be made.
When that fellow from Facebook asked how he could learn more, my answer to him was that I did so by going out of my way to put myself in situations where I could read and hear the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and those who study their culture, their history, and their current circumstances. And that’s what bothers me so much today about my exchange with him then. Listening to Aboriginal perspectives is exactly what neither of us did during that conversation. An Aboriginal perspective was offered almost immediately, and he shot it down just as quickly. And instead of supporting her perspective and encouraging him to be a better listener, I offered my own and was readily accepted while her participation in the conversation gradually decreased and finally ceased altogether.
It shouldn’t take a white voice to educate white people on Aboriginal issues when so many more experienced voices are so widely available. Although I would dearly love to go on a debunking spree, complete with amusing gifs, to whitesplain the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to those fellow (mostly white) Canadians who’s negative and dismissive responses have been so frustrating and disappointing to me, I’m not going to. I would be making the same mistake now as I did back then, and while my lengthy debunking wasn’t necessarily wrong, I hope you can understand how that whole situation was extremely problematic. If you want to know which opinions need debunking, Google them yourself. Or you could, just, you know, actually read the Commission and take the time to think it over before jumping on the defensive. This is a time for listening, empathizing, and supporting. Your needs and desires can take a back seat for a little while without your world coming to an end, so get over yourself and try to spend some time listening and attending to someone else’s needs for once. It’s not actually as difficult or as scary as you think it’s going to be. Take the recommendations seriously and consider ways in which you can contribute. It’s really not going to hurt you, and it can make a world of difference to someone else.
I appreciate you reading to the end and listening to my story, but my story isn’t the one you should be listening to right now. Take the time to explore some perspectives less familiar to you, and do so with an open mind, a respectful attitude, and a restrained ego.
A friend of mine recently posted the latest Dove commercial, the one about the ‘beauty patch’, saying he wasn’t sure what to think about it and soliciting feedback from his FB friends. I won’t post the video here, as I don’t want to give Dove/Unilever any additional shares or views (few as they may be, coming from this largely invisible blog). You’ve probably seen it anyways, as they’ve bought a ridiculous amount of YouTube ad time.
The fact that this friend approached the ad with some uncertainty and trepidation, and needed support from his online community, shows two things: 1. This friend of mine is essentially a person of good character and substance (something I already knew); 2. Dove’s advertising team is so good at convincing you of their self-proclaimed positive image that even those of great character and substance can be made to doubt themselves upon exposure to their media.
This friend got the support he was looking for, in such intelligent and thoughtful comments as:
Women’s self-image issues are not a medical or cosmetic condition to be fixed by a placebo. This is a “just think happy thoughts” commercial, and that’s a sick way to deal with people who face real social pressure to conform to totally unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. Women who suffer from traumatic self-esteem issues are not the cause of their own misery.
From a sociological point of view, Dove is reinforcing problematic associations of women’s self-esteem with beauty, individualizing that relationship, and centering the responsibility for self-esteem on women... Despite saying women are beautiful no matter what, they are reinforcing the association between beauty and confidence, which may lead women to question their worth if they find that they do not meet cultural standards of beauty.
I really wanted to weigh in on this conversation, but found myself unable to for at least a day or two due to the fact that viewing that commercial actually made me temporarily a little bit stupider. I finished watching it and was like, “uhhhhhh… what?” Seriously, have you seen this piece of garbage?
The entire commercial is based on the premise that women in general are extremely freakin’ stupid and gullible. Or are they trying to make the point that women are so incredibly desperate to be more beautiful that they would believe anything? Seriously. Beauty patch? Who would ACTUALLY believe that’s a thing?
I mean, I’m sure there are some people out there gullible enough to fall for it (as evidenced by the number of commenters on YouTube saying they wish they could buy the product), but the apparent diversity of women in the commercial suggests to me that Dove thinks you could hand this BS to any woman and she’d fall for it.
Dove isn’t encouraging positive self-images for women, but rather selling a positive image for themselves. If people feel Dove is a good company with high morals, they are more likely to purchase their cosmetic products over those of some other company, like soaps, shampoos, and even more frivolous and unnecessary ones like firming creams or anti-blemish agents. Look, if they were really interested in promoting ‘natural’ beauty, would they even sell something like a firming cream to begin with? No. But they do, because they aren’t interested in promoting a healthier body image for women, but rather in making money. Because they’re a corporation. It’s what they do.
There’s a high demand for things like firming creams, because for most women, self-esteem is still linked to outward beauty, and where there’s a demand, corporations will step in to make money off of it. Dove isn’t some benevolent force trying to make the world a better place, they’re a corporation trying to make money, and they’re doing it by cleverly convincing you that they’re morally superior, and that you’re contributing to the world in a positive way by buying their products. But you’re not.
You’re rewarding Dove’s ‘natural beauty’ campaign with increased sales and broad social acceptance of their view on women’s self-worth, which reinforces the link between women’s perceived beauty and their self-esteem, which causes women to feel inferior when they don’t match up to cultural expectations of beauty, which causes them to buy Dove’s products to feel more beautiful, which encourages Dove to put out more ‘natural beauty’ ads, bringing us back to the beginning of this marketing circle that results in continued monetary success for the corporation.
You know, Dove, maybe I’d be more willing to purchase your product if you didn’t treat me like a complete idiot. Just sayin’.
So I just finished watching a Vlogbrothers video by Hank Green in which he suggested that everyone start a new internet thing called #reviewsdaytuesday, which is kind of a long hashtag but whatever.
I thought, that’s a pretty good idea. I hope I can remember to do that on the next Tuesday after I finish reading a book. And then I realized: today is Tuesday… and I just finished reading a book last night… and I feel like taking a break from work… perfect!
I finished reading Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (which is a great name… Brand Sand, Brandon Sandon, Brandon Sanderson). I’m not going to summarize the plot because Google, and because I hate reviews that just summarize the plot.
I gave it a solid 4/5 on Goodreads. Brief summary: it had tons of potential to be one of the most amazing things I’ve read in a while without ever fully delivering on it, but even with much of that potential left unexplored it was an incredibly fun read, and I WOULD recommend it.
To get the stuff I didn’t like about it out of the way first: there was almost no character development. The only character that developed in a significant way was the main character, and I found her pretty irritating for most of the middle of the book (I felt better about her by the end). There was also tons of mostly unexplored stuff about power, politics, slavery, racism, revolution, and religion. Overall, it wasn’t as thoughtfully written as it could have been. Some of the language used to describe metal-burning was a bit distracting as well.
HOWEVER, these things become less and less annoying as the book goes on. This is partly because it’s super action-packed, pretty much right until the end. The fight scenes are quite well-written; detailed but not so much so that it detracts from the action. Some of my book club friends might argue with me on that point (they wanted more detail) but I thought they were great.
There’s also quite a bit of witty dialogue, and some fun characters. They were a bit stereotypical and I didn’t find myself becoming too attached to any of them because of it, but they interacted with each other well and made the less exciting portions of the book pretty enjoyable.
On the topic of connecting with the characters, my favourite part of Mistborn was definitely the strange, italicized entries at the beginning of each chapter. They start out seeming like only slightly-related, philosophical musings, but become more and more interesting as the book goes on. They were probably one of the reasons I read it so quickly, because I would finish a chapter, and see the little italicized bit at the beginning of the next chapter and want to read it, but once I read the intro I’d keep going and before I knew it, I was at the beginning of the next chapter and facing the same dilemma all over again. Gradually, the bits at the beginning became a character themselves, and that was probably what I connected with the most, and found the most interesting.
Also, the end was, like, WHAAAAAAT! I can’t say anything else without potentially spoiling it, but the end was freakin’ awesome.
All in all, it was a really great read. Although it didn’t fully explore all of the topics it could have, and I would have loved it if it had, that was arguably not the point of the book for the author. I would argue that the author didn’t write the book to explore social issues, but was much more interested in world-building and the overall plot or story, which happened to contain a bunch of social issues. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and am definitely going to read the next two in the series.
As an endnote, I actually bought the last two in the series over the weekend. For anyone who hasn’t read these yet but would like to, do NOT read the back of the books for the second and third (Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages) OR their Wikipedia articles before finishing the first. Here is what the backs of the books say, and I’m not even exaggerating:
Well of Ascension description:
The spoiler has spoiler spoiler. The spoiler – the spoiler spoiler spoiler – has spoiler. But Kelsier, the spoiler spoiler, is spoiler, and now the awesome task spoiler spoiler his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who spoiler, and to the spoiler spoiler.
As Kelsier’s protégé and spoiler she is now spoiler spoiler, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since spoiler, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.
Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the spoiler, spoiler, spoiler spoiler, and spoiler. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and spoiler spoiler atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.
As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
The Hero of Ages description:
Who is the Hero of Ages?
To spoiler and spoiler, Vin spoiler. But as a result, spoiler—spoiler spoiler spoiler—is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.
Having spoiler at the spoiler only by spoiler, spoiler Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by spoiler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been spoiler spoiler from spoiler. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans!
The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave readers rubbing their eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.
SERIOUSLY, WHO WROTE THESE?!