What voice should a brand have?

Corporations, despite continuing to not be people, have a lot of opinions. Usually that opinion is “buy our stuff,” but sometimes they try to sell us something deeper, something better. Gilette’s Super Bowl ad is the latest example of this, with a #MeToo era-themed comment on toxic masculinity and the harmful nature of the “boys will be boys” mindset.

The ad begins with men catcalling women, laughing at sexist jokes, and being forced to “toughen up” in response to bullying, while the actions, both those that harm others and those that cause them harm, are brushed off as “typical” male behaviour, locker room talk. Then the focus shifts, to strong fathers guiding their sons (and daughters) to resolve conflict, promote self-esteem, and learn how to “be a man,” in the best sense.

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National Parks During the Shutdown: Three Ways to Help

Whenever someone I meet in my travels asks me the best thing about the United States, the National Parks system is always the first thing that immediately comes to mind. There are plenty of places in the world that have incredible national parks, but the National Parks of the USA are special in their breadth and scope. Rock formations and rainforests, caves and canyons, islands and geysers and volcanoes and mountains… there’s something for everyone, representing the most incredible of Mother Nature’s offerings and welcoming over 300 million visitors per year.

Like everyone who love the National Parks system, I am heartbroken to read about the damage being caused to the parks by unsupervised visitors during the government shutdown. Trash overflows the rubbish bins, and let’s not even mention the toilets. Worse, there have been reports of vandals cutting the endangered namesake trees of Joshua Tree National Park in order to create access for their 4WD vehicles. Even during normal operating, there are many instances of graffiti and carved rocks from people who are too inconsiderate to follow Leave No Trace principles, so I can only imagine how much worse it is at the moment.

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If you are also devastated by the destruction these thoughtless visitors are doing to some of the world’s most stunning sites, here are some ways you can help:

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My IUD story & why I love LARCs

There aren’t many groups that recent news in the United Sates hasn’t upset, and women are no exception.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” in California are not required to provide abortion information to patients. These often-unlicensed clinics usually pretend to be offering abortions or at least information on how to terminate a pregnancy, but when unsuspecting pregnant women visit, they are lied to, bullied and otherwise coerced into continuing their unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes they are given false information about the risks of abortion, the prevention of STDs, or the status of their pregnancy. Other times, they make it impossible to schedule the abortion that can allegedly be obtained from their clinic until it is too late for the women to terminate, or make the allegedly-available termination inaccessible to low-income women or those without reliable transport by requiring them to return again and again for assessments before signing off on the procedure. The law the Supreme Court struck down had required clinics to state if they were unlicensed, and had required clinics to make patients aware of options available from the state, including abortions.

Now comes the news that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy will be retiring at the end of the month. Despite being a Reagan-appointed conservative justice, Kennedy was known as a swing-voter who was often a moderate voice in the Supreme Court thanks to key votes in cases regarding issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights. With his departure, Trump has an opportunity to nominate a far more conservative replacement, and naturally we can expect it to be the most awful choice possible. Women across the country are concerned, with good reason, that soon Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that struck down most restrictions on abortion, will be overturned or at least functionally dead.

After Trump’s election, many women feared that a combination of misogyny and pro-life zeal in office would form an attack on reproductive rights and make it more difficult for us to get not only abortions but also contraceptives. One of the major elements of Obama’s healthcare reform was to mandate that most forms of female birth control be covered by health insurance. Many feared (fear) that Trump will attempt to put and end to this, in line with the thinking of so many conservatives that the only purpose of birth control is to allow women to be promiscuous, ignoring the many who use it for health reasons and also the fact that there’s just nothing wrong with having sex. “Get an IUD,” became a common refrain, encouraging women to look into long-term contraception that wouldn’t be disrupted by the administration’s actions.

‘Get an IUD’ is more relevant advice than ever, and as someone who did just that almost a year ago, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience for anyone else who might be considering it.

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Anthony Bourdain was the traveller that I dream of being

I mostly try to avoid calling a celebrity a hero of mine. Being someone whose work I enjoy does not a hero make, and especially in recent years I am wary of heaping too much praise on (particularly a male) celebrity when I don’t know what they could have been doing behind the scenes on set or in the recording studio. But I have no hesitation in saying that Anthony Bourdain, who was found dead today of apparent suicide, is one of my heroes.

My three favourite things are travel, food, and writing, and Bourdain was an inspiration to me in all three. I’ve read several of his books, seen all of his shows (most episodes of No Reservations more than once), and any time I am going somewhere new one of the first things I do is check if Bourdain had done a segment there and what he had to say about it. He travelled the way I want to travel, and he ate the way I want to eat—not because of the variety and amount that he got to experience, but because of the way he honoured each place he went and each meal he ate.

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November 9.

I’ve learned a lot about our country and our world in the past year, but I don’t think I learned enough. I learned about the bad, of course, inescapable as it was, but I, like so many of us, still believed it was a vocal minority. I’ve felt the effects of systemic and everyday sexism. I’ve seen the effects of systemic and everyday racism, homophobia, xenophobia, all the things that Trump espouses and champions, on friends and acquaintances, but I still, maybe naively, believed that when it came down to it, love would trump hate. Yesterday, it did not.

That makes me afraid, it makes me determined to fight back, but it also makes me aware of the bubble I live in. I grew up in a swing state that just went red for the first time since before I was born, I went to a progressive town for college, moved to a progressive state, and currently live in a progressive country. The Trump supporters I know are few and far between, and none of them would fit under the label of “deplorable.” And yet, outside of my bubble, a different story.

Those of us with the privilege not to fear speaking to those with views anathema to ours must do so. I’m sure there will be many who won’t be open to change, but (and here I reference what was, to me, one of the most shocking moments of the whole election cycle) if Glenn Beck can now publicly consider himself a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, I suspect there are many who might learn to reconsider what will make America great. Those of us with the privilege to step outside our groups of friends who believe in gay marriage and Roe v. Wade and multiculturalism and respect for all genders and religions without fear must do so for those without.

The map (see above) showing that if only millennials voted Clinton would have likely won by a landslide is a hopeful sign but also a sobering reminder that deplorable ideals have not, to be blunt, died out. It makes me all the more determined that we must not let our generation stray from a path of progression, and we must guide the younger generation onto that path. I still believe that love trumps hate, but I must now always remember that it needs our help, my help.

You must remember too. Not only you, us, Americans, but you, us, the world. Remember when we watched Brexit and thought there was no chance it could go through? Remember when you watched our election and thought there was no chance Trump could win? Imagine someone running for election in your country and says “We’ll send all the [Muslims / Eastern Europeans / refugees / Chinese immigrants / insert group here] home” and “We’ll make sure abortion stays illegal” (Irish friends) and “I’ll make your country great again.” You would hate this man, your friends would too. But do you know enough about your country to know that the rest would feel the same? I thought I knew enough about mine and I was wrong. Alt-right sentiment is rising across the Western world. Don’t be complacent.

I don’t feel hopeful today, so it’s hard for me to write about the good things that came from this election. The women born before suffrage who were able to vote for a female candidate for the first time. The women of color elected to congress. The folks who, in the immediate aftermath of the election, swore to do their all to protect their POC and LGBT and female and immigrant and scared friends and neighbors and strangers. The helpers, as Mr. Rogers would have said, who were and are ready to fight for our country and our world.

It may be hard, today, to feel like our country is worth fighting for, but that’s all the more reason to do it. I’m not ready to fight yet, I need to take a few days to come to terms with the fact that a man who thinks it’s okay to grab women like me by the pussy and take away our reproductive rights is the leader of our country, but I will be ready soon. And when I’m ready, if you’re not ready yet—if you’re still mourning the fact that the leader of our country wants to build a wall to keep your family out, to send your family away based on your religion, to belittle you because of your disability, to marginalize and mock you and incite hatred toward you—I will fight for you. And when you’re ready to fight, we will fight for us.

Here, from Jezebel, is A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support, as a jumping off point.

5 Women Who Did More Than You Learned About In School

The more I learn about history, the more I learn how much I thought I knew was wrong. I’m lucky in that I’ve had a number of history teachers throughout my education who taught us about more than the America-rah-rah, white-upper-class-Christian-European-male-centric stories, but even so I’ve come to learn that there are so many stories I was never told, and so many stories that were so much more interesting and in-depth than I ever knew. So many of these stories are about women, either women whose accomplishments have been undeservedly forgotten in history, or women who are remembered in a too-superficial way, not celebrating the complexity of their lives and achievements. Here, for International Women’s Day, are five women you probably learned about in history class, but not the way you should have.

Helen Keller

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I remember reading The Miracle Worker in middle school. The story of how Anne Sullivan helped Helen Keller learn to communicate is one of the most inspiring tales of perseverance and triumph I can think of. But that’s pretty much where things ended; we got a brief summary of Keller’s work as an adult, but as far as our education was concerned, she was forever a little girl learning to spell out words on her teacher’s palm .

But if Helen Keller’s childhood is an incredible story of determination, her adulthood is even moreso. Of course, she was a staunch advocate for people with disabilities (a cause that still often goes unrecognized in feminism today), but she was also a feminist, a pacifist, an anti-racist activist, and a socialist. Her writings on workers’ rights and equality are as powerful as her ability to overcome her physical obstacles, and tend to be overlooked in favour of telling her “miracle” story.

Continue reading “5 Women Who Did More Than You Learned About In School”