Mid Week News

Google is now going to post responses on social media for you by collecting data on the kinds of interactions you have, because apparently today’s modern executive has no time to reply to all their Facebook messages or appropriately like those fun family pictures.

Rob Ford was on The O’Reilly Factor, and it was a pretty candid and hilarious interview. Oh, Fox News and their obsession with resurrecting right-wing politicians from their self-dug graves…

A Pizza Hut general manager was fired after refusing to force his employees to work on Thanksgiving. His letter of protest to the company came after it was decided that employees would in fact work the holiday after having it off previous years. Whole Foods employees are also protesting about working on Thanksgiving, calling into question whether or not people can really survive without public amenities for a day. Then again, people do get paid time & a half to work this day, and hours are shorter. Not sure how I feel about this situation.

The story about the waitress who wasn’t left a tip because of her sexuality may actually be false, according to the people whom the receipt belonged to. They say they never wrote hateful comments about her “lifestyle” or addressed her by a male name, and have their credit card statement to prove that they gave her a tip. The waitress–who also served in the Marines–has since collected thousands of dollars in donations from people online who felt bad for her homophobic experience. Hmm.


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Social Justice in District 9

The first alien race to hit Earth will look like a mix between a bug and a crawfish, according to District 9 producer Peter Jackson–who also directed Lord of the Rings. This movie contains more than your average alien invasion plot line, however, referencing a real life situation in South African racial politics.

A massive alien spaceship touches down in Johannesburg, and 20 years after the incident a documentary captures efforts to evict millions of aliens housed in a slum called District 9, blocked off from all other areas of human life. Unhappy with the off-putting aliens–one person who is interviewed in this mockumentary describes her disgust with the government’s investment in minimal provisions for the aliens–a bureaucrat named Wikus van der Merwe is elected to “move” them to a new development further away from the human population.

District 9 uncannily resembles South Africa’s “District Six” in the apartheid era, which was a residential area in Capetown designed for racial segregation as a “whites-only” neighbourhood. People of colour who lived in the area had their businesses and homes bulldozed and relocated 25 km away, with understandable resistance.

Image via qusouthafrica

The film speaks to this event in history while simultaneously acting as a broader critique for the ways in which immigrant populations are treated in wealthy countries. The alien creatures are portrayed as extremely grotesque and as a result, people do not have any empathetic concern for the ethical treatment of them as living beings–human or not.

District-9 small prawn
Image via darkside costumes

My own personal reaction to the “prawns”, as these aliens are called, was one of slight disgust. “Why are they acting so barbaric?” I asked my boyfriend with a crunched face as the aliens dug around in garbage pit inside their compound. “Shh, they’re looking for something!” he replied, annoyed at my inability to stay still and keep quiet during movies.

And indeed they were looking for something important, crucial to the movie’s plot line: jet fuel to get their broken down space ship up and running again. For 20 years the main alien character, Christopher Johnson, has been searching for fuel to get his population of alien friends back to their planet. His plans are almost complete, save for intervention on Wikus’ end.

Image via Measeydesign

And the irony here is that just as Wikus confiscates the vial of jet fuel during his eviction notice rounds in District 9, he accidentally sprays it on himself and later grows an alien claw-like arm.

Wikus’ father-in-law is in charge of security operations in the effort to evict the aliens and is the one who promotes Wikus as the one in charge of the task-force. As soon as he finds out Wikus is infected, he is the first one to lie about the circumstances of his metamorphosis. He tells the public that Wikus’ “obsession” with District 9 has led him to have sexual relations with the alien population which is forcing him now to mutate into an alien creature himself.

Despite his protests, Wikus is exploited as a human science experiment as researchers are attempting to harvest his organs. He uses his now super human strength to escape the hospital that is supposed to be healing him to flee to the only place that will conceal him: District 9.

It is here that Wikus encounters Christopher Johnson & his cute little alien son, whom he discovers are actually quite intelligent and have good intentions despite their rough exterior. Wikus only now sees the difficulties this population faces once he is separated from his wife, and realizes that they are not so unlike him.

The film uses the theme of disgust to link future nation building as a justification for evicting the aliens. According to feminist author Sara Ahmed, politics of emotion enable people to express disgust as a “self-protective recoil” that allow people to physically separate themselves from others, and we see this directly in District 9.

The aliens are depicted as bug-like and a squash-able nuisance. There’s so much to pick apart in this film and it definitely speaks to a wider phenomenon of discrimination and social expulsion that has been historically problematic and still continues on to this day.

District 9 ultimately gives us a glimpse into the subtle ways in which we continue marginalize immigrant populations with historically relevant metaphors.

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Mid Week News

Universities across Canada are considering switching their email servers to free servers like Gmail and Microsoft Office, which may save these institutions thousands if not millions. However, privacy and intellectual property concerns are rife because these U.S. servers can potentially be monitored by the National Security Association. Nobody who this actually effects seems to want that all up in their business…

Toronto mayor Rob Ford got his own soundboard earlier this week. He also somewhat tackled a woman at city hall after he was denounced of his mayoral powers and reduced merely to a figurehead after his struggles with with substance and alcohol abuse were exposed. Somehow, he still plans to run for the 2014 mayoral election, even with all of the above problems and the fact that the Sun News network cut his reality TV show after just one episode. If you care at all, you can watch it here.

Image via Sun News

A mother in Manitoba was charged $10 for Ritz crackers in her children’s day care lunch because she failed to pack them two grains. The mother doesn’t blame the facility per se, but is more concerned about misleading parts of Canada’s Food Guide and how people so readily trust it as the holy grail of healthy eating. I think it’s safe to say that Ritz crackers–with all their hydrogenated oil and sugar–do not count as a grain, and do not cost $5 per handful. I think the mother should in fact be a little more critical of her daycare’s lack of discretion in this case.

Image via National Post

I recently wrote an article of my own about selfies, and the day after guess what pops up on The Guardian? This article talks about the selfie as the most narcissistic of human interactions–even you can even say it’s social–and that it is a captured throwaway moment with no meaning. This comes after news that the Oxford dictionary will be adding the term this year. I don’t whole-heartedly agree: selfies can be a great way to control how you present yourself and to track your transformations over time. However, taking a billion of yourself in the same position with the duck face lips does perhaps invite a more superficial glimpse into one’s own self representation.

Image via Eve Hazleton

Ashton Kutcher got into an epic exchange with Walmart yesterday over the low wages it pays its workers after one Walmart location took up an employee to employee charity collection for “associates in need”‘; Kutcher responded on Twitter remarking that Walmart should be the one helping those workers in need, not enlisting other employees to give to their colleagues during the holiday season. I think I’ve been turned into a giant Kutcher fan after this one. The fact that he’s using his celebrity status to demand answers from a corporate giant is truly amazing.

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We Need to Stop Blaming Rob Ford

Hear me out. It seems as though Rob Ford‘s life has taken a crazy turn for the worst ever since he admitted to smoking crack last week, and while much of the coverage on him has been hilarious, it doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. And it’s obvious that Ford is not in a state to govern a city anyway.

Rob Ford Crack Cartoon 09Image via Fuck Rob Ford.blogspot

A couple of days ago court documents were leaked detailing an allegedly crazy St Patrick’s Day for the mayor in 2012, complete with hookers, 40oz bottles of liquor and marijuana in his office, along with a drunken trip to the Bier Market to do lines of coke in a private room.

There were also claims from a terrified former assistant who witnessed him drinking and driving–in this case Ford supposedly chugged a mickey after a football game and got behind the wheel.

And then there were sexual harassment claims from a city hall staff member. Yet somehow all of this manages to surface, all at once, within a week of the crack smoking admission. You can see how the guy might be a bit stressed.

Image via Blog TO

Don’t get me wrong, I think the mayor has messed up big time, and much of the drama he is facing is of his own doing. I do feel, however, that this media frenzy is perpetuating unnecessary negativity that is ruining his entire life.

It’s one thing to hold somebody accountable for their actions and enact punishment to a certain degree, but it is quite another to exaggerate what someone has done and continue to publicly tear them down.

Yesterday Ford made a statement addressing the sexual harassment claims, saying, “It says that I wanted to eat her pussy…I’ve never said that in my life.” Of course the media exploded at his indiscretion.

It was a wrong choice of words, but this is a prime example of the media’s focus on the wrong things. Cursing is not evidence of incompetency. Ford’s cultivation as a giant laughing stock consequently justifies the public’s relentless ridicule of him and the media’s invasion of his privacy.

The media does have a duty to do, and that is to expose unethical and controversial behavior of public figures who are obligated to represent the public’s general interest. The public has a right to know these things.

But one person does not deserve to be put through hell and have people wandering on his property at all hours. This is part and parcel of Ford’s refusal to resign and withdraw from the spotlight, but a larger concern is the unrelenting quest to find more unearthed fault with him.

And perhaps this should become an unfortunate lesson to the province and the country: give the people the power to dismiss a municipal representative who is failing to provide proper leadership.

We should be redirecting our blame to someone who is in a better state of mind to make judgments about who should be in charge.

Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne has stated her concern, but refuses to do anything about the situation because she feels it is not her place to do so, that it is the municipal government’s responsibility to make decisions for the people of Toronto.

Image via Toronto Star

But she also goes to on to say that she will not do anything without the permission of the Conservative & NDP leaders, proving that the government at the provincial level needs to give its approval in order to force Rob Ford out of office.

Unfortunately, all that will ever be remembered from this situation is the public mockery and entertaining downfall of a man that ultimately needs help and is in denial.

Sentiments of singular blame on an obviously incapable individual, and no responsibility held to those in power who actually do, in fact, have the power to change the governing structure are not getting us anywhere.

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Mid Week News

This week’s news is rife with questions and justice, so it seems only fitting that we start with politics. The latest in Rob Ford and the Senate to be exact…

Amidst hilariously compromising video footage, admission of drug use, an interview with Rob Ford‘s mother and sister, and a satirical auto-tune remix, city councilors met this morning to request that the mayor take a leave of absence to sort out his all-too-obvious personal issues. It didn’t go over without a fight, of course, and as of mid-afternoon City Hall still doesn’t have a verdict. But the Globe & Mail has amusing footage of Ford threateningly blocking another colleague…

With the crack scandal, a government spending scandal has been temporarily forgotten about as three members of the Senate were suspended without pay or benefits for improperly claiming work expenses. Word on the street is that Harper is feeling the pressure to give Canadians what they want because he supposedly knew of a $90, 000 cheque that was presented to Duffy as a “gift”.

Miley Cyrus (yes, I am skipping right to her) made headlines this weekend after she lit a joint at the European Music Awards. I’m all for freedom of expression and wasn’t too judgmental with her ridiculous outfit choices, but this is just trying to hard to be controversial. SMH.

Lily Allen on the other hand has also implicitly shown that she is not a fan of Miley or any other singer keen on “twerking” to stay relevant, as evidenced in her latest music video “Hard Out Here”. I’ve never been a big Lily Allen fan but think the video contains a good message that needs constant reiteration. Some folks believe it contains racist underpinnings however because nearly all the back up dancers are black and don’t get to voice their opinions on body image and women’s sexuality. I can dig the argument but I think these women were aware that they were satirizing sexuality in pop culture, hence why the booty shaking was so exaggerated.

Somewhat relevant to this, I read an interesting article about the existence of “quarter life crises” that affect 20-somethings trying to carve out their paths in life, whether it be career goals, living arrangements, or whatever other philosophical yearnings us Millenials are seeking.

And I’m ending this mid-week news post with a rather strange report: a woman in Ottawa got her ponytail cut off walking down the street, from her car to the building where she works to be exact. She describes her immediately immense anger with later emphatic concern for the stranger who ran off with her hair, who according to her–and me–must have some serious issues. I will say that she does rock that short hair, although as a fellow long hair chick I doubt that will bring much consolation.

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Fun Auto-tune Remixes for your Monday

The Youtube auto-tune remix is a phenomenon that allows people to take extraordinary moments, often viral home videos or news clips, and turn them into a spectacularly hilarious form of accessible media.

Initially called “Auto-tune the news”, The Gregory Brothers were the first official “band” to curate this new digital culture often targeting political and social issues within mainstream media and re-imagining them in an entertaining musical form starting in 2007. Auto-tune itself was actually first used in the music industry by Cher in her 1998 song “Believe”, using a machine called the vocoder, which was also used in WWII to disguise radio transmissions.

The Gregory Brothers only recently found themselves with a large cult following on Youtube when they covered a seemingly ordinary news story that was hilarious enough on its own without the auto-tune. They made “The Bed Intruder Song” about Antoine Dodson, a break-and-enter victim whose comical and dramatic interview on a local news channel went viral. Watch below:

Since then, they have continued to make comedy videos under the Youtube channel Schmoyoho and one of their main claims is to interestingly enough, make the news “tolerable”. One reason why I really love these remixes is because they are means of political satire and reclaiming the media, as well as developing an authoritative voice in news coverage.

Sometimes these remixes are accused of perpetuating stereotypes as in the following video, Dead Giveaway, covering Ohio woman Amanda Berry’s kidnapping and escape. I would like to suggest a different interpretation: these videos expose the problematic ways in which the mainstream media presents black people and visible minorities living in low SES neighbourhoods throughout North America in a reflexive manner.

And there are songs, like the following, that use controversial municipal scandals as a lighthearted form of protest to more easily and humorously engage a younger audience in politics, this video made by DJ Steve Porter:

Tom Ford Crack Mayor Remix

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That is another favourite of mine, again illuminating the struggles of poverty in public housing.

The Best Cry Ever takes a clip from the TV show Intervention to make a hip-hop remix of a funny cry…although I don’t think there’s really any social lesson to take from this other than the fact that you might go to hell for laughing at somebody who’s crying, no matter how hilarious.

And finally, my most recent favourite, Thumbs Up. This little kid is just too proud of his ability to ride a bike, and the fact that he is “so happy of himself” is entirely too much.

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Mid Week News

The week of Rob Ford…and a little bit of rape culture. All things controversial anyway.

Although it isn’t the newest of news, last week a controversial contributor Margaret Wente wrote about rape culture in the Globe & Mail, insisting that it’s not unreasonable to ask for girls to cover up and drink less. She stopped just short of blaming girls for sexual attacks, but still attracted plenty of vehement responses, my favourite of which is a comment piece from a U of T student insisting that it is our teachings to young men that has to change. Surprisingly I agree with both sides. We definitely need to get young men to change their views on women and sexual conquest, but I think that Wente brings up a valid point: you don’t wander into a dark alley not expecting to get mugged at some point.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford got on his radio show on Sunday to lament his regrets for getting drunk at public outings such as the Danforth and St Patrick’s Day, while calling for Police Chief Blair to release his crack smoking video so that the public can judge for themselves what he was really smoking.

Yesterday, he finally admitted that he smoked crack in a drunken stupor, after 6 months of denial. Fast forward 34 seconds into the video to see the height of the action.

I watched the live feed of him on CP24 News as he held a hasty press conference where reporters waited about an hour to hear him apologize in multiple different ways, take a little time to feel sorry for himself, and spout vague ideals about democracy after announcing that he STILL won’t resign, and then walked off without taking any questions from the media. Talk about fair politics.

Twitter was also a-blaze with some hilarious commentary on the matter of course.

photo (1)

And before this week’s news can get any cheerier, it should be noted that the actress who voiced Mrs Krabapple on the Simpsons died a few days ago and the long-running series ran a tribute for her on Sunday’s episode. Sometimes I felt like she was one of my own teachers *tear*.

This is a somewhat random news item but one that I found pretty interesting: U of T hotspot Gabby’s on Bloor was temporarily shut down due to an insect infestation. Safe to say you probably shouldn’t order anything unless it’s bottled. And even then…

Sorry for the Rob Ford overload, enjoy this week’s roundup!

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Venus Noire, Video Vixens & Blackface

I recently attended a screening of a film called Venus Noire, which portrayed the life of an infamous South African woman’s life as the star of a 19th century freakshow in Europe, attracting attention because of her unique and “exotic” sexual features. The story of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman is one of racial power dynamics and the implications of display which still hold very real consequences today. In fact, recent cases of people going out in blackface for Halloween are perfect examples of this process of marginalization and oppression through body politics, and draws reference to a period of history which attempted to cultivate specific stereotypes and problematic ideas about blackness.

Now the movie itself opens pretty powerfully: to put it bluntly, a vagina in a jar. A large part of Sarah Baartman’s infamy were her erotic features which mainly included her elongated labia minora and an extremely large buttocks, which were obviously uncommon in the part of Europe where she came to reside with a male companion who was also rumored to be her former slave master. The film mainly detailed her inner struggle in essentially selling her body for spectacle in a society that was still getting used to the abolishment of slavery.

Image from Film-Forward

The film begins with a group of doctors examining her genitals, which have been preserved after she has died, and they also use the science of phrenology to determine a lack of intelligence and suspected savagery. Put another way, these privileged white men attempt to use the study of her skull and sex organs to compare her to a primate that is undeserving of human recognition because alas, she does not have the same characteristics that other normal human beings do.

I think the most interesting facet of this case is the intersection of Baartman’s identities as female and black co-opting the misogyny she faces and how the abolishment of slavery also implicates her exploitation. White Europeans had contempt for black women’s sexuality because their perceptions of it was that it was beastly and worthy of crude display. The repeated examination of her body and genitals was essentially a lewd, misogynistic science project that dehumanized her.

Images from Wikipedia & NY Times

In relation to blackface, “Sarah Baartman” the performer was artificially and stereotypically conceived of for the purpose of profitable entertainment. Although various documents–and the movie–point out that she perhaps also profited from her own display, she sold herself into a different sort of slavery. Her image was hypersexualized and perpetuated incorrect assumptions about black women as sexual beings that has managed to live on through time. At the film screening, a conversation I had with one of the organizers actually led to a discussion of modern day video vixens and Miley Cyrus twerking, and indeed this is evident in the movie as Baartman bends over and shakes it for an audience who finds her body enchantingly disturbing.

Image from Global Buzz & Ebonics 

Part of the whole debate about video vixens and the actors who would dress up in blackface is whether or not this exaggerated performance is given willingly, and Venus Noire does illustrate this problem. One scene in the movie actually includes a group of abolitionists who grapple with Baartman’s “boss” over the ethics of featuring her in a cage, pretending she is a savage woman-animal from the depths of uncivilized and menacing Africa.

Although blackface is a bit different, the whole reason why it is so disrespectful and problematic is because it is dismissive of an oppressive history and nullifies the whole idea of exploitation associated with blackface. Sarah Baartman ultimately died having to cover up who she really was in order to perform up to par with expectations that white Europeans had of her race. Unlike those who get to choose to dress up in something demeaning, she did not have that luxury, nor even that of a proper burial as her body was plastered into a cast. Her genitals remained on display in a French museum right up until 1974.

For more info on Sarah Baartman’s story, this website has a complete chronology of what is known about her life. Too bad what little is known about her is told through the eyes of those who oppressed and exploited her.

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Mid-Week News

Going for something a ‘lil different here on Only20something, some MIDWEEK instead of weekend news to keep you updated when it matters. I mean who reads the news on the weekends anyhow?

So early this week Rob Ford said that the 2014 municipal election is going to be a “bloodbath” after news broke that counsellor Karen Stintz is going to be running for mayor. Stintz is also the chair of the TTC which could be interesting…Watch her stint (hee hee) on Undercover Boss Canada here.

Some Gender Studies 101 students have obviously learned NOTHING from university, as this comic strip recounts students’ definitions of lesbian identity. Lord.

Another dumb blonde decided it was a good idea to go out in black face for Halloween over the weekend.

Millennials (aka the “only20something” generation) are more likely to become entrepreneurs due to impossibly competitive job markets and financial/personal freedom. Hmm.

Two Saudi Arabian men made a funny video to support women driving in their country, which has been going viral since women drove in protest on Saturday; one of the best lines of the video makes fun of a cleric who asserted that women will damage their ovaries by driving.

Sears has decided to close its flagship stores in the Eaton Centre and Sherway Gardens, among 3 other locations, leasing them out because they are apparently not attracting enough urban shoppers. The stores will close as of February.

A mom in Port Colborne is protesting her school’s call for Orange and Black day tomorrow by organizing a costume parade for kids in the neighbourhood; this may not be news to you but apparently the Toronto District School Board has banned Halloween costumes for the past couple of years. In their eyes, celebrating Halloween in public schools is exclusive, dangerous, and politically incorrect. Somebody was also so enraged that they made a Youtube video about it:

U of T is harder than Harvard, according to one writer at the Globe & Mail. Differences in lengths of the school year and and claims about country club lifestyles has me questioning where the facts are to back this article up, although it does make interesting points.

I’m sure this isn’t very surprising but Facebook can now supposedly determine whether or not you are in a relationship and with whom according to your frequent interactions.

And that’s it for this week’s news!

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Commercial Review: Secret Outlast

Procter & Gamble really know how to reel women in and reinforce our ideas about the kinds of activities that women’s bodies need to live up to, and they’re at it again in their portrayals of the modern housewife with their latest Secret Outlast Clear Gel commercials.

Watch em? Good. Oh Secret, where do I even start? Both commercials manage to cover up the universal theme of woman as homemaker and further normalize this imagery in modernizing the whole concept of women as efficient multi-taskers who need a strong deodorant to accomplish all that they do everyday.

The first commercial portrays a woman who is ready for her close up, only to find out that she has a TON of cleaning to do. So within the 30 second duration of the commercial of course she is able to climb, wipe, re-adjust picture frames, screw in a chandelier and even take a little two second breath of fresh air before showing off her sparkling presentation of a living room to a couple house guests, who are of course amazed with her work. To top it all off, she has no white-marks on her clothing and she still smells wonderful! Talk about “conquering a day”!

And don’t get me started on the other one! A pregnant lady is fighting the clock at work and still has a laptop to update before she heads home for 6:00, and the walk home is full of thoughts of calling her mother and picking up the dry-cleaning. Once she gets home she flops down on the couch–to relax and freshen up–for about two seconds before getting up with a smile in her high heels to cook a fabulous dinner for her in-laws. And she still has no white-marks! Good thing she applied her daily dose of “fearlessness” thanks to Secret Outlast!

What I find so ridiculous about these commercials is the fact that they are STILL reinforcing the double shift that sadly so many women still have to face. And what’s even funnier is that the “challenges” that Secret thinks women face is mainly those menial household chores like cleaning, cooking, and running errands.

Each commercial starts out with what looks to be a powerhouse of a woman: one ready for what you think will be her glamourous close-up, perhaps a TV host of some sort, and the other a working mom-to-be running her own business. And then comes the slap in the face: these women may be initially depicted as highly ambitious and powerful career women, but then they are loaded down with all these “inherently feminine” obligations that imply taking care of and cleaning up after others. And the fruit of these women’s labours is the fact that they are able to perform all their domestic duties while remaining beautiful and smelling nice.

Image from Ispot TV
I mean where the hell is the husband of the pregnant lady whose in-laws she has to cook for?! She needs to leave her workplace to run home early to make a meal for everyone else while I’m going to assume that the man is doing, umm, manly stuff (like working)?

But cooking and cleaning is glamourous! And Secret is here to make sure you don’t smell like bad B.O. while you move about in a frenzy taking care of everyone else but yourself. In fact, the very message behind these commercials is actually that of self-care: the time each woman gets for herself is unnecessary because the deodorant keeps her refreshed all day.

*Sarcastic voice*

This deodorant is quite literally a woman’s “secret”: women’s labour never ends, and femininity in conjunction never breaks a sweat. Women are strong and fearless when they use this product because it allows them to excel in all of life’s challenges, and Secret ultimately enables women to realize their own inner domestic goddess with their “revolutionary” technology.

Strong enough for a man, but made for women’s work.

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