If you find yourself washing the floor today, it’s Meghan Trainor’s fault.

1415239733116_Image_galleryImage_ADM_2014CMAAWARDSARRIVALS

Another day, another feminist flap …. As if calling tennis players “sweetheart” weren’t bad enough, now we’re faced with Meghan Trainor’s evil attempt to throw all women back into the forties when they were nothing but kitchen hands in cute dresses waiting for their hunky hubby to come home with flowers. How on earth is the human race going to be able to withstand this crippling blow to our enlightened civilization? For those who havn’t heard it yet, “Dear Future Husband” is Meghan Trainor’s newest single. It’s a frothy little doo-wop confection laying down the terms between the singer and any man she marries. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShlW5plD_40.

Seconds after the video joined the long parade of internet offerings, people started complaining. There was this whiny manifesto from one mother who declares that her children will not be allowed to watch the video, because Meghan Trainor and the men in the video are subscribing to classic male and female roles. Then there was this piece of self-righteous drivel about how songs like “Dear Future Husband” “force unhealthy relationships” because they romanticize outdated gender roles. There have been many angry tweets along the lines of “thanks for sending us back five generations” and “nothing she writes is a feminist anthem”. This Evening Times article features a tweeter accusing Trainor of being a robot created to “reinforce the patriarchy through sexist propaganda”.

Why are all these people so upset over a pop star’s song and video? Let’s look into the anti-feminist charges being laid against Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” …. Here are the complaints I’ve read so far: the video features Trainor scrubbing a floor and burning an apple pie, goofy men trying to please her in various ways, and lots of colourful fifties decor. Trainor sings about wanting her man to tell her she’s beautiful, take her on a date, buy her flowers and a ring, and treat her “like a lady”. In return, she will buy groceries (and “what you need”), and give him kisses and “special lovin'”. She admits she can’t cook, but mentions her musical talent. She playfully says she’s always right, so he shouldn’t even bother to disagree with her – and that they’re never going to see his family more than hers.

I have thirty-four years of experience being a woman, and knowing women. Guess what: lots of women scrub floors. If you have a floor, it needs to be washed on the regular. This is not a political statement, it’s a household chore. (A chore that, I admit, has not been performed recently in my house – hey, spills provide traction. I’m looking out for my family here!) Some women scrub floors for a living. I guess they’re really letting down the feminist front. Every woman I know loves to be told she’s beautiful, and welcomes tokens of affection like flowers and dinner out. And, yes, many women have chosen – or will choose – to accept a ring from a man, and embrace traditional gender roles. I guess we didn’t get the memo. We owe feminists everywhere an apology for blasting them back to the dark ages by living our lives the way we want to.

Wait a minute – isn’t that what feminism is supposed to be all about? Women living their lives the way they want to, with no justification other than that it’s what they choose? Maybe the perma-bunched-panties crowd I quoted above should leave other women alone and go write their own feminist anthem …. Meghan Trainor’s fluffy, sugary pop is what she wants to produce, and it should be her choice. Feminists should defend her right to it, but not many of them will – because, too often, people like the ones I quoted above make feminism more about conformity than choice.

In defence of the handcuffing of Daniel Ten Oever ….

daniel-ten-oever-boy-with-autism-who-was-handcuffed

I’m fairly certain most Ottawa readers, and possibly many readers from other parts of the country – and the world – know about Daniel Ten Oever. He’s the nine-year-old autistic boy who was handcuffed at St. Jerome Catholic School after smashing a toilet tank lid and then throwing chairs around the principal’s office. I first heard about him through this Ottawa Citizen article on February 20. His parents, Dan Ten Oever and Stephanie Huck, are understandably upset over the incident. The account of the school and the police officer differ slightly from Daniel’s version of the story, but it has been agreed by all parties that Daniel was engaging in destructive and dangerous behaviour before being handcuffed.

Mr. Ten Oever and Ms. Huck are demanding all records regarding the school’s interactions with Daniel, and have refused to allow him to return to school until they receive and review the records. They are considering legal action. They are supported by the parents of an eleven-year-old boy who was handcuffed after the same behaviour, throwing a chair, and the parents of a fourteen-year-old boy who was charged with assault after attacking his principal in the hall of his school. He ran at the principal, and hit her with enough force to knock her over. He was approaching her aggressively a second time, while she was still on the ground, but was re-directed by the vice principal. He fled the scene, and later was coaxed by his grandfather to get in his car and come home. They are joined by a pair of heavy-hitters, both emotionally and legally: Restoring Justice, a group focused on creating public awareness on institutional child abuse, and Autism Ontario. Restoring Justice has already begun calling on parents of children with disabilities to come forward with any questionable treatment of their children by schools.

This whole story, and many other similar stories – heartbreaking. I feel sorry for Daniel’s parents, and all the parents like them, who struggle to give their children with special needs the care and education they require. I feel sorry for their beautiful boy, who faces a lifetime of trying so hard to understand and be understood – and every other Daniel out there. But, no matter how many times I think about the events that have led the family to this point, a question remains: what else could the school and the police have done?

St. Jerome has considerable experience dealing with Daniel. School staff have been trained in non-violent crisis prevention. Daniel somehow slipped out of their control, and they did what anyone would do when there is potential for a person to injure themselves or others: they summoned the help of the police. Restoring Dignity claims that the staff was improperly trained in de-escalating crises like the one Daniel was experiencing. How can they make this statement if they were not there to witness the staff’s attempts to help Daniel? Autism Ontario claims that “bad behaviour” by autistic children should not be “punished”. The police had no knowledge of Daniel’s issues or history. They obviously could not sit down for a heart-to-heart with people who know Daniel while the child raged and broke things and posed a threat to himself and others. Their first priority, in any situation, is to secure the environment. The restraining tools at the disposal of police officers? Handcuffs. They were not punishing Daniel. They were trying to keep him, and others, safe.

Fiona is nine. She’s small for her age, and has arms like Olive Oyl. But, if she wanted to, she could cause alot of damage. She could grievously injure a very large adult, if she were bent on it. What if the staff of St. Jerome continued trying to contain the situation until Daniel, or some other person, was injured? What if the police had arrived, attempted to calm him through other means, and were unsuccessful – resulting in tragedy, whether of small or large scale? I have a feeling that Daniel’s parents, Restoring Dignity and Autism Ontario would be singing a different tune – though no less angry or litigious.

I am not ignorant. I know that police officers are only human, that there are good cops and bad cops, that there have been – and will be – many cases of inexcusable police brutality. I know that some officers swagger around with their badge like it lifts them above the law. Bringing those people to accountability is important. But that’s not what happened here. A frightened, confused, disabled nine-year-old – and the people around him – needed to be safe, and the police were there to do it. The groups raising money to bring legal measures against the school and the police should consider putting that money into autism awareness and research, and increasing specially trained school staff numbers. That’s what will really help Daniel.

Today, I’m using the internet to complain about how the internet affects me.

videos-internet

Last Friday, I composed and sent an email. An hour went by. No response. Two hours. Three. The rest of the day. It’s now Sunday. Crickets. Logic says that’s no big deal. Maybe his internet connection is down. Maybe he’s away, and doesn’t bother with the internet when he’s away. Maybe he’s given up the internet for Lent. A part of me that didn’t exist before I had access to the internet, though, is mystified and frustrated and feeling somewhat rejected. Why has he not written back? Why, why, why? It’s been a whole bloody weekend! This is a sensation that I would never experience if it weren’t for the fact that we’re all connected, all the time. I don’t have a name for it, so I’ll call it “crickets angst”. Definition: mounting anxiety caused by receiving no response to your message; crickets angst escalates quickly. It is particularly strong when the non-responder is a person known for responding quickly, or a good friend or family member.

Crickets angst is closely related to the feeling I get when I put up pictures on Facebook and no one comments or even “likes” them. I start to wonder if, for some reason, nobody saw them – so I check the security status of my pictures. No, it says friends can see them. My news feed shows activity by various friends who normally respond to my pictures. Then why has nobody commented? These pictures have been available for twenty minutes already! Are my pictures boring? Am I boring? Well, kind of! Why would people be interested in dozens of pictures of the same person in different clothes with different backgrounds, day after day after day? Who needs to see a picture of what I ate at a restaurant everyone’s been to? A decade of Christmas trees? They’re beautiful, but they all look the same (well, except for the one we had in 2012 that probably could have been seen from space – lovingly christened tree-hemoth).

After years of surfing the net, I’m more impatient than ever. If a page takes more than five seconds to load, I start jiggling the mouse. I hit the refresh button obsessively. I right-click on things – not sure why. Maybe to reassure myself that the mouse is still working? I draw mouse-pointer circles around various images on the screen. Sometimes I pound the enter key or the space bar. I can barely contain my annoyance that what I clicked on is not in front of me right now. If my internet connection is down, I immediately start thinking of all the things I can’t do. Can’t check my bank account or pay bills. Won’t know if someone’s sent me an email. Might miss an invitation. Can’t look things up. Can’t upload pictures. But it’s been ages since I last uploaded pictures! (“Ages” being, of course, a few days.)

Sometimes I have to steel myself while scrolling through my news feed, because – without warning – a disturbing image pops up. It could be connected to a news item about a bombing or a plane crash. It could be one of those ridiculous urban legends – “Girl uses a new skin cream – you won’t believe what happened to her face!” Then there are the highly suspect stories at the bottom of so many websites I visit, accompanied by photos of melting celebrity faces and double-iris eyeballs and that guy with a deep dent in his head (I think that one’s about sports injuries). I never read those stories, but they are continuously offered to me. Sometimes there’s just too much sadness. Missing or abused children. Prayers and virtual candles for the dead. That horrible poem about a teenager who gets in a car with a drunk driver. It’s not even well-written, but it makes the rounds again and again. Everything has to be taken with a whole packet of salt, never mind a grain, because so few people actually take the time to verify what they post.

Youtube offers solid proof that people are desperate for celebrity status in any arena. Guy chugs four litres of milk. Girl shaves head on a dare. Burping contests. Stripping teenagers. Dancing babies. Goofy pets. Rants about everything. How-to videos for everything from hairstyles to home improvement to opening a pomegranate (saw it, used it, it works – just ignore the comment about cutting the top off the pomegranate and “scalping it …. the way an Indian does a human being”). Everyone who ever thought they could sing well, singing their collective hearts out, hoping to be discovered. Most of this stuff is useless, some of it embarrassing, but sometimes I find myself watching it anyway. How many hours have I wasted on Youtube? I hope I never have an answer to that question, because it would almost certainly be depressing.

Without the internet, I would never have had to have a discussion with Fiona and Bridget about what constitutes “appropriate content”. I howled with laughter when Ryan, who regularly checks the search history on our computer, showed me that someone had searched using the term “wiggling privates”. However, I managed to keep a straight face during the conversation that followed.They broke a household rule and then tried to hide it, so they lost their internet privileges for a week. Having an internet connection is like having a window on the whole world, with thousands of different views. Many of these views simply should not be seen by children, and constant parental vigilance is required. My parents never had to deal with this! If I wanted to know about sex, I had to have an older brother with a stash of dirty magazines under his bed – or a cousin with a book with a plain brown paper cover. I had neither, although I did have a friend who didn’t mind asking her mother …. er …. sensitive questions. Now, it’s a simple matter of waiting for your parents to leave the room for a few minutes, and typing any term in a search box. Boom! Pages and pages of links appear, whichever one you choose loading in seconds at the single click of a mouse. If it’s even that tough. Many children have their own device that goes wherever they go, and minimal supervision. They have to be taught how to protect their personal information and how to avoid buying things by accident around the same time they are taught to read and write. If your child has an email account, you will, at some point, have to explain what Viagra is or why anybody would want a penis enlargement or that they really shouldn’t contact Kandy Bottom for a good time. Maybe even all three.

If it weren’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have that eerie sensation of somebody’s-watching-me whenever I log in to any account. The ads used to be generalized. Now they’re frighteningly well-tailored to my taste. Stores I love. Dresses that are just my style, sexy shoes, body jewellery, books by my favourite authors, music by my favourite artists, clever lunch box time-savers, kids’ outings and camps, all of it available in my area. I’m sure I’m not the only one who buys more junk because of the internet. You can turn off your radio or television when the commercials become too obnoxious, you can toss out the flyers stuffed into your mailbox without a glance, you don’t have to pick up the phone. But if you, like most people, use emails to keep in touch and do your banking online, you cannot avoid the temptation of just-what-you-always-wanted, dangling in front of your screen-scalded eyes.

On the other hand, because of the internet, there’s less of something I love: the printed word. Newspapers are becoming slimmer as more and more of their content is contained on their website. If I subscribe to a newspaper, it’s because I want a newspaper – not a stupid bar code to scan with my smartphone so I can spend more time online. Magazines are pulling the same trick. If you buy a magazine, you’re mainly paying for glossy ads – you have to visit the magazine’s website to access many of the articles and photo essays. And e-books …. Well, e-books are breaking my heart. There’s something about the weight of a book, the smell of ink, the dry rustle of turning pages. Reading is a tactile experience. Not a virtual one. Not for me, anyway.

I know it’s only a matter of minutes before someone pokes their nose in here to point out that, without the internet, I would not have this blog. The internet offers so much entertainment. It gives me a simple way of connecting with people who are dear to me, but far away. It makes banking, business and shopping easier. It’s an excellent educational tool. Tutorial videos have saved me money on cleaning and small repairs. It’s provided me with ideas for crafts and recipes and party games. And, yes, I can use it as a platform to say whatever I want. But I sometimes wonder if I might be a better human being with a better life without it ….