By Emma Teitel - Friday, March 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.
The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.
This message was quite pleasing to the minority in the room—greying baby boomers of the pro-Fiamengo, Men’s rights camp–and exceedingly distressing to the majority—by the looks of it, gender studies majors and people who would, if given the opportunity, personally execute Rob Ford. It looked like a small contingent of CARP wandered, bemused, into a Bon Iver concert.
Appearances aside though, it was a meeting of truly lunatic minds.
Fiamengo opened the lecture with a recording of a song written by a male friend: a satirical folk number about the need for men to rise up and take back their masculinity from gender-bending feminists. “Stand our ground/defend our den/it’s time we learned to be men again.” And then there was this: “You don’t have to sit down to pee.”
From here things got progressively awkward. She referenced the male to female death ratio on the Titanic, and declared that “self sacrifice and heroism are not exclusive to men,” “but they are distinctive to men.” Students scowled behind their wayfarers. She railed against affirmative action, a family court system skewed unjustly to favour mothers over fathers, and the deep vein of anti-Western sentiment running through academic feminism that makes it okay to decry gender inequality in the West, and keep quiet about vaginal mutilation and honour killings in the East.
The women’s studies crowd looked constipated. Fiamengo’s arguments weren’t going down easy, this one—her best—in particular: women’s studies “can’t be about the pursuit of truth” because it has an “ideological base.” Its goal is to push the ideology that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Therefore, any evidence to the contrary, regardless of its veracity, is unwelcome. In other words, ideology censors truth. “If you believe you are righteous,” she said, “you don’t challenge other views.”
But you can try. And many did during the question period. When the professor finished her talk on an inspirational note about being relentlessly inquisitive, students and men’s rights activists filled the aisles to lambast and laud her. One man bemoaned the “feminist dictatorship,” another, the legal system that bankrupted him after a divorce. A stout black man in the corner demanded to know what men’s rights groups were doing to help him, as “a racialized person,” exploring different “gender identities.” When a woman complained that the man who spoke before her got more time at the microphone, another woman stood up and yelled in her defence, something to the effect of “That’s because he’s a man!” A young woman with thick black hair in a yellow coat, irked by Dr. Fiamengo’s “heteronormative” answer to her question about lesbian moms, screamed “That is bullshit!” and stormed out of the lecture hall.
Free speech was alive and well at the University of Toronto last night, but in that moment I’d have welcomed its death with open arms.
It was clear that both the professor’s detractors and supporters were, overwhelmingly, nuts. And Dr. Fiamengo herself, was, standing at that podium, a buoy of relative reason in a sea of everything but. “Any movement can attract hysterical detraction and unsavoury allies,” she would tell me over the phone the next morning. “That is the risk one runs.” She’s right. Take this little Facebook diatribe from an active member of A Voice for Men, one of the men’s rights groups who support her.
There has never been a great female composer. Throughout history there has been plenty of privileged woman, who have had access to pianos, and violins, yet somehow we are expected to believe that men have somehow stopped them for being composers? Woman have the big lovely eyes, big tits, but mean [I think he meant “men”] are far more beautiful, they are more beautiful where it counts. In their wonderful creative souls.
Unfortunately, though, the other side is no more intelligent. They just use bigger words.
Almost every pro-women’s studies person who approached the mic last night, spoke another language, a jargon you might misconstrue as scientific–only the words they used weren’t shortcuts meant to simplify or summarize complex concepts, they were used to make simple concepts sound complex: Hegemonic, racialized, problematic, intersectionality. It was pure obfuscation, 1984 with tattoos and septum piercings. Some of the students couldn’t even string together a single lucid sentence. All they had were these meaningless, monolithic words. I felt like I was on a game show, the exercise being how many times can you say patriarchal, phallocentric hegemony in 45 seconds or less. It was frankly, for a feminist, depressing.
Slogans don’t make scholarship and being self-righteous does not make you right.
Going into the talk last night I wasn’t convinced women’s studies needed overhauling. Now I’m positive that it does. Not because I believe fighting misandry is a legitimate humanitarian cause (LOL) or because Dr. Fiamengo’s speech was particularly insightful, but because her detractors—presumably, women’s studies’ finest—were so profoundly, not.
Happy women’s day, everyone.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 11:07 PM - 0 Comments
The National Farmers Union looks at an ad based on a classic pin-up, and its interpretation is that the new, competitive Canadian Wheat Board must be struggling in a liberalized agricultural market:
Glenn Tait, NFU board member, says: “We’ve heard that the CWB is having problems filling its pools. This ad seems to show the desperation that would suggest evidence of just that. Farmers have also reported that the agreements that the CWB made with other grain companies are being pushed to the back of the line. Elevators are favouring their own delivery contracts first, and only accept CWB deliveries if there is excess capacity.”
Tait says “Many long-time CWB supporters are deliberately marketing outside of the CWB as a statement of principle rather than a lack of loyalty. The choice signifies their rejection of the undemocratic process used to dismantle the CWB and the Harper government’s appropriation of our resources—farmers’ resources.”
I guess the “appropriation of resources” phrasing refers to the legal theory that the Liberals placed the old monopoly Wheat Board permanently beyond the reach of statute, making its powers a “resource” that was supposed to be the inviolable property of permit-book holders. At least I think that’s what Tait is getting at here. One of the NFU’s mandates is to fight stereotypes about farmers, so it’s not really too cool for him to be spreading goofy notions of precisely the sort one would expect to hear from an angry yokel in a cartoon.
My own interpretation of the ad, if I may dare advance one, is that the CWB, having been obliged by the government to compete for farmer business, is going out and competing for it. They had a “Still on the fence?” message to convey, and someone found an image to go with it—one that happens to work pretty well with an old-school brand. And while I wouldn’t expect an irony-phobic socialist to understand, any normal farmer is perfectly capable of grasping that objects originally considered merely functional or ephemeral can graduate with time into the category of fine art. (I assume, anyway, that farmers’ universal habit of collecting and restoring old farming equipment has something to do with this instinct.)
Heavens, what sort of literalist doofus cavils at the sauciness of a Gil Elvgren painting in the year 2013? Even in their original setting the point of these pin-ups was innocent flirtatiousness, as opposed to pornographic frankness; now, unexpectedly, the NFU finds an Elvgren classic to be a disgraceful departure from the ordinary standards of advertising. “They must be in dire straits to stoop so low,” huffs the Women’s Vice President of the union. Couldn’t the same be said of the NFU itself?
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 1:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Republican National Convention is an opportunity for the GOP to close the gender gap, and convince women it cares more about restoring the economy than controlling their vaginas. Too bad it has already failed. Miserably. Not only because of its recent platform pledge to ban abortions, but because the party’s new matriarch—Ann Romney—gave a speech so old fashioned my grandmother would have gagged. To sum it up, Mitt is master of the universe. Ann would be dead without him. And her fragile teenaged body is a metaphor for the fragile state of the nation:
“He [Mitt] will take us to a better place just as he took me home safely from that dance.” (four score and seven years ago?)
By the end of it I felt less like she wanted us to elect her husband president, and more like she wanted us to marry him.
By Barbara Amiel - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 1:30 PM - 0 Comments
‘For every woman who has been hit with The Divorce…Ephron is our standard-bearer’
Nora Ephron died last week, age 71, of acute myeloid leukemia. She was five months and one day younger than me. I mention that because it means we both lived through the sixties and seventies at exactly the same time. Anyone born later than 1960, which one hopes includes almost all Maclean’s readers or the magazine is in deep trouble and our ads will be for incontinence devices, cannot truly imagine the horror of early feminism with its consciousness-raising sessions. This was a field Ephron mined in her columns for Esquire.
Back in the seventies, every middle-class woman you knew worth her Bonnie Cashin outfit was in a group, usually to “improve” her marriage while finding herself. “Consciousness-raising was never devised for the explicit purpose of saving or wrecking marriages,” explained Ephron, who had joined up during her first marital grumblings, “though it happens to be quite good at the latter . . .” The stated purpose was “to develop personal sensitivity to the various levels and forms that oppression takes in our daily lives.” There were rules and guidelines. “It took ours just over two hours to break every one of the rules, and just over two months to abandon the guidelines altogether.” I knew one couple in Toronto who ﬂed the Holocaust together, arriving finally in Toronto, where they built a highly successful coffee and pastry shop. The wife—dressed with impeccable taste and jewellery to match even while her husband was behind the counter—discovered just how exploited she was in her consciousness-raising sessions. They divorced.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, June 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
Here’s a story the sums up everything awful and awesome about the Internet.
Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist video-blogger and media critic who did her grad work at York. She went on to video blog for Bitch magazine and her own Feminist Frequency site, where she produced a series of short videos called Tropes vs. Women, each of which examined a recurring sexist stereotype in TV or movies. Example:
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a cute, bubbly, young (usually white) woman who has recently entered the life of our brooding hero to teach him how to loosen up and enjoy life.
Sarkeesian’s videos are smart, lo-fi deconstructions of troubling things we see in pop culture all the time but may not look at too closely. They’re fairly popular as well, some having been viewed over 100,000 views. And they’ve been used as teaching aids in many classrooms, for free.
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
“We naturally started decoding the rules of the game.”
That’s what Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso–co-hosts of the highly polarizing, “female friendly”, hockey broadcast While the Men Watch–revealed on daytime television last year, long before their CBC endorsed broadcast went on the air.
If you tuned into that broadcast Saturday night, and again on Tuesday, like I did, you’d know that they’ve succeeded with flying colours. Not only have Sutherland and Mancuso decoded the rules of the game: they’ve mastered them. They just don’t want you to know about it.
How do I know about it?
Because every so often during the broadcast, Sutherland and Mancuso would accidentally slip out of character, ditch their–OMG-hockey-is-so-boring-but-Lundqvist-isn’t-banter, to reveal, if only for a moment, just how naïve and ignorant about hockey they aren’t. In other words, comments like this–“If you can’t score on a power play something’s not jiving”—and this–”Gagne is coming in after being out since September”–were cut short and heavily overshadowed by obviously feigned questions about the rules of the game: i.e. making an observation about a team’s power play performance and then asking, naively, for someone to explain what exactly a power play is.
During Tuesday night’s broadcast, their eyes were fixed not on the camera, but on the game, as they tried their best to discuss whose celebrity wife was in the stands, or how much they used to “crush” on Wayne Gretzky.
And that’s what makes While the Men Watch so offensive to women. It’s not—as half the female Twitterverse would have you believe—the propagation of a myth that Canadian women don’t like or know about hockey—but the reality that women who do know and like hockey have based their broadcast on the premise that they don’t. This is clearly the subterfuge they figure they need to foster in order to appeal to all those hockey-disaffected women out in the Great White Beyond. That, and a tone of discourse that’s shallow and dumb—when obviously the best way to appeal to women and everyone else is to be shallow and clever.
The interesting thing? While the Men Watch may have emerged out of Sutherland and Mancuso’s “frustration with their sports-addicted husbands” but listen in, and it’s obvious that in the process the show has turned them into sports-addicts themselves. If only they’d stop pretending otherwise.
Which wouldn’t necessarily mean they’d have to ditch their gossip-rag analysis of hockey. Sports culture could use a little bit more gossip. But why steep the idea in ignorance? Why can’t you be a woman who is superficial and informed; knowledgeable about hockey and interested in dissecting the players’ looks or the coaches’ fashion faux pas.
I remember watching Leafs games at my aunt’s house when I was a kid (when the Leafs actually made the playoffs) and watching my aunt—who was just as glued to the game as her husband and all the other men in the room—repeatedly and mercilessly rag on Pat Quinn for his schlubby wardrobe and incessant gum chewing (which she found especially repulsive.) She didn’t have to feign ignorance about the game itself in order to have fun or be funny.
It’s too bad Mancuso and Sutherland think they do. Because though they haven’t (as their detractors like to claim) set the clock back on women’s rights 50 years, they’ve done something equally insidious.
They’ve proven that dumbing yourself down is a great way for a girl to get ahead.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 8:39 PM - 0 Comments
On May 1st, my friend Josh Dehaas wrote an article on this website about a Simon Fraser University student named Keenan Midgley who wanted to start a “Men’s Centre” to complement his university’s “Women’s Centre”–the kind that exists on nearly every Canadian university campus today.
Like the women’s centre, the men’s centre would provide a safe space for its respective gender, one in which to discuss (to quote former SFSS president Jeff McCann) “men’s issues and mental wellness and all the different things that come along with that.” As Keenan Midgley pointed out to Dehaas, suicides, alcoholism, and drug use, are more prominent among young men than they are among women. Not that it’s a competition.
Or maybe it is…
That’s the impression I got from the video below, created, I suspect, by some of the most unsympathetic and over-educated people on the planet (I actually lost count of how many times one of the interviewees uses the phrase “hegemonic patriarchy.”) At no time did Midgley or McCann (who was on the CBC this morning promoting his cause) suggest that their proposed men’s centre would curb women’s rights or extract funds from the school’s existing women’s centre, but the people in this video—and those opposed to the very idea of a men’s centre in general—are under the impression that a safe space for men is a dangerous place for women. Or as some of the video’s contributors warn, “a highly masculinized space… a room with a PS3 and a bunch of douche bags playing video games”…
Which is awfully strange because you’d think that women wary of stereotypical fraternity culture (i.e. a room full of douche bags) would be the first to embrace the men’s centre. After all it’s fraternity culture—the kind that assumes men don’t need safe spaces in which to discuss their feelings and insecurities; the kind that lauds cat calling and “slut shaming”— that the men’s centre would likely do without.
Either way, however, calling McCann and Midgley patriarchal, hegemonic, douche bags is not a valid argument against their proposal. Neither, for that matter, is weighing your group’s struggles against another’s. Just because group A (insert women/Jews/blacks here) has more problems than group B (white men) doesn’t mean group B shouldn’t seek help.
Or deserve a safe space of its own.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 4:12 PM - 0 Comments
There was a time, not so long ago, when Donald Trump demanded that Barack Obama surrender his birth certificate to the world to unequivocally prove his American citizenship. Now Trump, the co-sponsor of the Miss Universe pageant along with NBC, is being prevailed upon to produce a credential of his own—call it his little apprentice—to prove his bona fides as a Mister. The woman asking to see the proof in question is Gloria Allred, the celebrity feminist lawyer representing the only transgendered contestant in this year’s Miss Universe Canada competition: 23-year-old Jenna (nee Walter) Talackova of Vancouver. Last month Talackova was removed from the competition when organizers were informed that she failed to meet the “natural born woman” criterion in the pageant rulebook. Gloria Allred’s response was swift and simple: if Talackova had to show “hers” to qualify for the pageant, the Donald, as competition sponsor, should have to show “his” in the spirit of fair play.
Lucky for us, nobody showed anything. And Canadian law—which recognizes Talackova as an official female—melted Trump’s icy heart (the same one that has coldly quashed entrepreneurial dreams on television for the past eight years) long enough for him to re-instate the 23-year-old into the competition. The law, that is, and possibly an online petition drafted by Change.org, the social activism website which recently brought you campaigns like “Let Ernie and Bert get married on Sesame Street,” “Starbucks: stop using bugs to colour your strawberry-flavoured drinks,” and the somewhat lesser-known Canadian campaign, “Canadian government: address the Aeronautics Act, which may ban trans people from flying.”
By Emma Teitel - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
A number of so-called “feminist” and “health” groups are speaking out against Lego for launching an allegedly sexist line of building blocks and action figures specifically designed for girls. Said groups believe that the new pink and pastel-y Lego line gives young girls the impression that “being pretty is more important than who you are or what you can do.” But Lego says it created the line after getting requests from female customers (“moms and girls”) to make toys with brighter colours and domestic themes: i.e. girls want to play house, not just build one.
And why shouldn’t they be able to? Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 4 Comments
Alison Redford sings from the Tory hymnal, but her Calgary business connections confirm her liberalism
Alison Redford, who has captured the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and will soon be sworn in as the province’s 14th premier, was the preferred candidate of those who wanted to blow up the “old boys’ network.” One of the ways she sought to establish her probity/transparency bona fides was to release a complete list of her major donors. This proved deft: the list won her brownie points, but few noticed that it is practically an index of highly connected, politically conscious Alberta money men.
Redford got five-figure donations from Maclab Enterprises, the property-rental giant co-founded by philanthropist Sandy Mactaggart; Ed McNally’s Big Rock Brewery, longtime provider of social lubricant for conservative events; Irv Kipnes, who spun Tory booze-retail privatization into gold as CEO of the Liquor Stores Income Fund. Name an elite Calgary clan and you’re almost certain to find its handle in Team Redford’s accounts: McCaig, Southern, Haskayne, Markin, Hotchkiss—builders whose names are physically all over the city, chiselled into the stones of schools and clinics.
These forces backed the “outsider” whose victory in the Oct. 1 PC leadership showdown sent ripples of surprise across the country. The original heir apparent had been Gary Mar, a Klein-era health and education minister who left the province to become its official agent in Washington in 2007. Mar, a Chinese-Canadian who could count on a strong ethnic ground game, started strong but watched inherent weaknesses transmute into fatal flaws.
By Flannery Dean - Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
What does Esther Greenwood have to say to us now?
Who needs another feel-good coming-of-age story when there’s a classic bleak coming-apart-at the-seams tale to savour?
Forty years after it was first published in North America, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s acid chronicle of teenage depression in Eisenhower-era America, stubbornly resists simple categorization. Like its head-sick teenage heroine Esther Greenwood, the novel doesn’t really fit in among its sunnier, more conventionally appealing peers.
And not unlike your above average teenage contrarian—you shall know said creature by her crossed-arm scowl—it doesn’t really want to fit in either.
The Bell Jar concerns itself solely with the recollection of a “queer, sultry summer” in 1953 and a singular season in the life of Esther Greenwood, 19. An inveterate overachiever with dreams of becoming a poet, Esther is in the middle of a highly coveted internship at a quasi-literary women’s magazine called Ladies Day in Manhattan.
It’s a dream come true and, as often happens when dreams take on reality, it’s the worst summer of her life. Continue…
By Claire Ward - Friday, August 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 76 Comments
Few Dutch women work full-time—does this mean they’re powerless, or simply smarter than the rest of us?
Like many Dutch women, Marie-Louise van Haeren views herself as liberated. “Every woman in Holland can do whatever she wants with her life,” says Van Haeren, 52, who lives just outside of Rotterdam and rides her bicycle or the train to work three days a week at a police academy, where she counsels students. She has worked part-time her entire career, as have almost all of her friends—married or unmarried, kids or no kids—save one or two who logged more hours out of financial necessity. Van Haeren, who wasn’t married until last year and has no children, says she’s worked part-time “to have time to do things that matter to me, live the way I want. To stay mentally and physically healthy and happy.”
Many women in the Netherlands seem to share similar views, valuing independence over success in the workplace. In 2001, nearly 60 per cent of working Dutch women were employed part-time, compared to just 20 per cent of Canadian women. Today, the number is even higher, hovering around 75 per cent. Some, like Van Haeren, view this as progress, evidence of personal freedom and a commitment to a balanced lifestyle.
Others, however, view it as an alarming signal that women are no longer seeking equality in the workplace. Writer and economist Heleen Mees, for example, argues that the stereotypical Dutch woman has become complacent. “Even at the University of Amsterdam—the most progressive university we have—I had a 22-year-old student say, ‘Why is it your business if my wife wants to bake cookies?’ and the female students agreed with him! I was like, what’s happening here?”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 331 Comments
Author Joan B. Wolf in conversation
Joan B. Wolf is an assistant professor of women’s studies at Texas A&M University and the author of the controversial new book Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood.
Q: The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. In your book, you argue that human breast milk is being falsely touted as a magical elixir.
A: The discourse surrounding breastfeeding is extraordinary. We’re told it can protect against everything from ear infections and diabetes to leukemia and heart disease, and can even improve social skills.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 3:55 PM - 36 Comments
Elizabeth May talks to Newsweek about the differences between men and women when it comes to the environment.
It’s always risky to speak about how women and men are different. But it would be wrong for me to ignore that a lot of the good that comes in the world is from motherly instincts. We cannot have any notion that our children are going to have a livable world if we don’t apply ourselves to political decisions—like making sure our governments ease our addiction to fossil fuels. A big part of urban concerns is to have healthy, locally grown food—a lot of that comes from moms going to the stores and seeing that the food is full of pesticides and doesn’t come from around here. Perhaps it is motherly.
A fierce desire to protect the vulnerable certainly comes from wanting to protect kids, but I wouldn’t want to portray women in green politics as more caring than men. Many men are great feminists, and many women are not. I see [Canadian politician] Stephen Lewis as a strong feminist, then I look at Sarah Palin and I think, oh dear, oh dear.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
How did those steeped in the women’s lib movement produce girls who think being a sex object is powerful?
A few weeks ago, when she was chatting with her teenage daughter, Olivia, Leanne Foster mentioned the word “feminist.” “She just wrinkled her nose,” Foster recalls. “It was ‘Eww, yuck.’ ” Olivia, an articulate 15-year-old who’s about to enter Grade 10 at a Toronto private girls’ school, thinks feminists are about as relevant to her life as a rotary-dial phone. “When I hear the word I think of the hippie-ish generation where they’re all ‘girl-power,’ ” she says. And not in a sexy Spice Girls “girl power” way, more in a humourless, style-less way: “They refuse to wear perfume because they don’t want to be seen as sex objects,” she says dismissively.
Like many other teenage girls, Olivia regards the fight for female equality as over. “In the Western world, we’re pretty equal,” she says.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 10:32 AM - 0 Comments
A detection kit for the most common date rape drugs is going on sale throughout Canada shortly, according to the Montreal Gazette. The Gazette did not have to look far to find someone to denounce the ethical premise of such apparatuses: a spokesman for a Vancouver women’s shelter said “This is a cynical attempt to make some money and shame on the company for feeding off the fear that women, reasonably, have of being raped.”
I suppose most of us would respond with something very like Adam Smith’s classic formulation: we are not to look to a “lack of cynicism” for the answers to our social problems, any more than we look to the fellow-feeling of the butcher and the baker to provide us with sustenance. If something like the Drink Detective—which consists of a pipette and three pieces of treated paper—enabled us to end drug-facilitated rape tomorrow, that would be a very good thing indeed.
Unfortunately, almost 100% of barroom beverages contain a highly effective substance that diminishes inhibitions and impairs memory. More to the point, it is odd that a test for “date rape drugs” other than ethanol should be criticized on the premise of its effectiveness without any attempt at an inquiry into that effectiveness. The Drink Detective website, by itself, doesn’t encourage confidence. It features a supposedly independent, but thinly sourced, “technical report” into the accuracy of the kit. One press release on the site, perhaps in a ham-handed attempt to double the market for the product, recycles the urban legend that “In some countries, it is even possible to be drugged and incapacitated so that organs, such as kidneys, can be surgically removed and sold.”
You are probably wondering whether there have been any peer-reviewed studies of the Drink Detective, and why, if there are, they aren’t mentioned on the “Science” page of the product’s website. The answer to your first question is “Yes”. And you probably already have a potential answer to the second if you’ve studied statistics.
An team of public health researchers in Liverpool published a study of the Drink Detective in the journal Addiction in 2006. They found that the Drink Detective was significantly superior to a rival product, and as a technical feat of fast, cheap detection of complex molecules, the kit deserves not just praise but wonder. But is it really of much use? The authors found that the overall sensitivity of the kit was about 69.0% and its specificity was 87.9%. In plainer English, this means that for every 100 samples of adulterated booze, the test will, on average, miss (100-69), or 31; and for 100 non-drugged drinks, the test will give (100-87.9), call it 12, false positives.
Women who are hyper-conscious of the possibility of drug-assisted rape will not be happy to hear that the Drink Detective gives a clean bill of health to almost one-third of drink-tampering sociopaths. But the false positives are a concern too: it would be easy to design a test that “caught” every single spiked drink if you didn’t care about specificity as well as sensitivity. (A heuristic of “Run straight home if a napkin becomes moistened when you dip it in your glass” would have 100% sensitivity.) In situations where the real odds of getting a spiked drink were as high as 1 in 100, a test with 88% specificity would still finger 12 innocents as toxic creeps for every 1 guilty man it identified. Even at a reasonable-sounding price per kit of $5.99, test fatigue seems likely under realistic circumstances.
The Drink Detective’s manufacturers had some specific gripes about the Liverpool test—complaining, for instance, that the testers’ use of pharmaceutical-grade GHB was inappropriate—but they had received the benefit of the doubt in at least one large, obvious way: the kit was put through its paces, not in a dimly-lit pub toilet by experimenters half-wrecked on Cosmos, but by sober scientists working in a laboratory. It is hard to disagree with the conclusion that “Use of drug detector kits by the public in the night-time environment…may create a false sense of security (false negatives) and undue concern (false positives) among kit users.” And the same could be said—to her credit, Daisy Kler of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter does say it—about the overall focus on drug-facilitated sexual assault by strangers. No one is certain how often this really happens, and the best guess is “not very”.
By Elio Iannacci - Monday, May 10, 2010 at 11:54 AM - 17 Comments
Sarah McLachlan takes on critics of her (recently resurrected) festival
It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair wended its way across North America in Birkenstocks and hemp-made scarves. What started as a small songwriters’ showcase geared toward celebrating female musicians of the folk and adult-contemporary variety has grown into an internationally renowned festival replete with top-billing pop artists and sold-out crowds. Ever since the event announced a 2010 return last year (the first city stop will be Calgary on June 27), posts on a variety of music websites are debating whether the new Lilith lineup will hold a patchouli-scented candle to the legendary concert series produced from 1997 to 1999.
Selling over 1.5 million tickets ($10 million was donated to national and local charities), the event was a labour-intensive effort. “People don’t know how exhausting it is to put on,” McLachlan says over the phone from Vancouver, explaining Lilith’s decade-long hiatus. “We were happy to put it up on the shelf once it ended on a high note [in 1999] because it was just so much work. Aside from juggling the [multi-artist] logistics of it, you have to realize that back then, I felt I had to defend it daily,” she says. “During many of our press conferences, I remember saying, ‘I started a musical festival here, not a political campaign.’ ”
What McLachlan was defending herself from was the copious amounts of criticism Lilith received (a few mainstream magazines, including Rolling Stone, used the words “estrogen-fest” and “feminazis” to describe the crowd). Although proceeds from ticket sales broke records and the bulk of reviews was stellar, McLachlan—who performed at each and every city stop—still took the flak for just about everything connected to Lilith: the charities involved, the lack of shoes worn on stage and the constant use of the other F-word: feminism.
By Andrew Coyne - Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 3:02 PM - 117 Comments
Jane Taber, in feminist mode:
It is striking to sit in the House of Commons during Question Period and watch how the big issues of the day are divvied up along gender lines.
Consider two of the significant stories of this fall – the H1N1 crisis and the allegations of torture of Afghan detainees. When it came to dealing with H1N1, women MPs asked the questions and the female Health Minister answered. This changed dramatically, however, when the story moved on to guns, war and torture. That’s when the guys took over. For the most part, the women sat quietly in their seats.
Quite. Silly old gender stereotypes. Imagine, in 2009, assigning portfolios according to outdated sex roles:
As a leading expert on women in politics, the University of Toronto’s Sylvia Bashevkin says this is not uncommon – women traditionally deal with the butter issues (social spending, health and the arts) and men with the gun issues.
“What cabinet positions women historically were offered were portfolios that were seen as a logical extensional of a traditional maternal role: health, education, welfare, culture,” Ms. Bashevkin said.
There is a gender bias, too, when the issue is the economy. The Finance Minister is male (and always has been in the federal government) and so are his opposition critics.
So we’re agreed: everyone thinks this is wrong. Everyone, that is, except … other feminists. Or sometimes even the same ones: when it suits them, they will invoke exactly the same stereotypes, only with a feminist twist — how women are more caring and compassionate, while men are confrontational and macho; how if women ran the world, there would be no more wars; how women lead in different ways, by consensus and relationship-building, while men win through brute force. You only have to Google the word “testosterone” to see how often this line of argument is invoked.
Indeed, you can see this same whip-sawing between equality-seeking and difference-invoking going on just in the course of Jane’s story:
Anita Neville, a Winnipeg MP and chair of the Liberal women’s caucus, doesn’t entirely buy in to the women-are-butter-men-are-guns theory…
“I think there tends to be some stereotyping of it, but I don’t think it’s universal,” Ms. Neville said.
She said that she has asked a question about torture in Afghanistan; she sits on the Commons Defence committee and has been to the special parliamentary committee examining the torture issue.
So gender is beside the point; men and women are on the same intellectual and moral plane, right? Uh, no:
Despite their numbers, Ms. Neville remains positive about the impact of women in the House. She said female MPs can play a big role behind the scenes. For example, she said that the Liberal women’s caucus pushed former prime minister Jean Chrétien to resist sending Canadian troops into Iraq.
Sigh. The boys wanted to play with their guns, until the nurturing, peaceloving Gaiawomen stayed their hands. Of course.
The only way to approach this subject is to accept that there is no logic or consistency to it whatever. Sex differences are irrelevant; sex differences are all-explanatory. Women are equals; women need special treatment. Don’t call me a waitress, I’m a waiter; I’m a Mistress of Arts, not a Master; my title is chairperson/chairwoman/chairman/chair. It’s utter chaos out there, and it’s not going to get any better.
By Monique Polak - Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 3:00 PM - 2 Comments
Some men take it worse than their wives when kids go
It’s not just moms whose feathers droop when their offspring fly the nest. It’s dads, too. In fact, with more and more dads playing an important role in their children’s upbringing, many modern fathers take it hard when their children leave home. Some suffer even more than their wives do.
Serge Bouharevich is still adjusting to the fact that his children, Ali, 25, and Yuri, 21, have left the family home in Montreal. “It’s been easier for Annie,” Bouharevich said of his wife Anne Soden, a lawyer. “Her work is much more structured than mine. I was a quasi-house husband,” said Bouharevich, 56, a video producer who works mostly out of a home office. Continue…
By selley - Monday, September 29, 2008 at 3:10 PM - 14 Comments
Must-reads: …Rex Murphy on debate reform; Rosie DiManno on Malalai Kaker; Don
Stephen Harper’s victory march may not go through Quebec after all. But it’s still a victory march.
The Tories’ youth crime crackdown and arts funding cuts are playing badly in Quebec, L. Ian MacDonald concedes in the Montreal Gazette, but the arts community’s outrage “doesn’t translate into many votes,” and hey, at least Harper can lay sole claim to the “constituency that believes if you want to go to Cuba, fine, pay your own way.” (For the last time, the government asked Gwynne Dyer to go to Cuba! Yeesh!) More problematic as campaign strategies go, MacDonald argues, was having Michael Fortier lead the attack painting the Bloc Québécois as a completely useless political entity. “However useless Bloc members might be,” MacDonald notes, at least “they’ve been elected.”
Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, believes the arts funding/juvenile delinquent combination may well have taken “a made-in-Quebec Conservative majority” off the table; the province, she argues, is “once again Gilles Duceppe’s to lose.” But luckily for the authors of those two campaign clunkers, she says a “made-outside-Quebec majority [is] actually within Conservative reach. And “if the debates reinforce these mid-campaign trends,” she expects the front lines of the campaign to move rapidly westward from Quebec into “the trenches of Ontario.”
If “lawn signs and coffee shop conversation” are any indication, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin says the Tory MPs in southwestern Ontario are “reasonably safe”—which is remarkable, really, given the rapid, highly visible decline of the region’s manufacturing industry under the Conservatives’ watch. Amidst the layoffs and abandoned factories, the CAW is preparing to endorse the Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent, Martin notes, and yet the incumbent, Dave Van Kesteren—who founded a Hyundai dealership, of all crazy things—won’t even agree to speak to Martin about the local economy. If the Tories can get away with this down Windsor way, he suggests, they might just be “off the hook everywhere.”