Sunday, December 18, 2011

Plan B and Canadian Pharmacies

Recently, in the US, there were plans to remove the age limit for Plan B without a prescription. The FDA advised that it was safe to sell over the counter but then the plans were overturned.

In Canada, however, Plan B is legally available over the counter, except for in Saskatchewan and Quebec. This means that in Ontario you should be able to pick up Plan B from the shelf in the "Family Planning" or birth control section of a pharmacy. This means that you no longer are required to speak to a pharmacist and be asked questions relating to your sexual activities. This means that, ideally, you should be able to grab Plan B from the shelf and pay for it without judgement or question.

I was surprised and pissed when I saw this the other day at a Shoppers Drugmart in Toronto. (I apologize for the poor picture quality - my phone does not have the best camera).

It seems that Shoppers has found a way around this requirement to have Plan B sold over the counter. By placing an empty box on the counter it appears that the pill is available without consulting a pharmacist but the label still directs consumers towards the pharmacist. There is so much wrong with this. For having the pharmacist ask a few questions about sexual activity, the price of Plan B increase by $15 (may be more or less depending on pharmacy) for the cost of "consulting." It also completely goes against making Plan B easily available.

I don't know if this is the practice of the entire company or this specific pharmacist. Anyone else in the Toronto area, there are some places like the Bay Centre for Birth Control that provide Plan B at a much lower cost.

Plan B is not an abortion pill. According to the Plan B website this pill works if taken within 72 hours of having sex and prevents fertilization by temporarily stopping the release of an egg.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So It's That Time Of Year Again...

I received this today:


Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-Pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton !
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
not Happy Holiday !
Please, all Christians join together and
wish everyone you meet
Christ is The Reason' for the Christ-mas Season!
If you agree please forward, if not, simply delete.

While I will certainly delete this email, it is not like me to simply drop it and leave it at that. Maybe I should, and maybe blogging is not the most constructive response but it may be the more mature and healthy reaction rather than replying harshly to someone who "meant well."

Anyone who knows me knows that I find many reasons to oppose organized religion and do not personally believe in any sort of god, Christian or otherwise. That being said, over the years I have tried to become more open-minded - not in the sense that I will ever follow religious doctrine but in the sense that if someone wants to believe in something, as long as it does not harm the well-being of another or impact any of my rights, then fine. I can also recognize that *some* religious organizations genuinely attempt to help society without indoctrination and are also a great space for providing a sense of community to some. While I do not believe this springs from religion itself, there are kind individuals within these communities and I recognize this.

Taking this into consideration it is rather confusing that I also love Christmas and the holidays. I am not a fan of the commercialism around it but I also do enjoy walking by store window displays and looking at the decorations. I enjoy the music, the decorations, egg nog, parades, movies, and many of the aspects associated with this. This makes absolutely no sense, but I do. I also can make many arguments about the patriarchal religious background of Christmas such as having to worship a "Virgin" mother because of the belief that a woman who has had sex is somehow unclean or unworthy.

Again, all that being said, I still celebrate Christmas with my family because that is what they celebrate. I don't celebrate it as a religious holiday as they might but I still celebrate it as a time of year when my family gets together and has a day without work (except for last year when I was still marking exams and writing term papers) and to express gratitude for what I have - not to an invisible god but to those who love me and care for me.

With that rather long preface out of the way I can now get to my main point of contention with this email. I would never, never get angry at anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, whatever. I do get angry whenever religious organizations and individuals feel the need to complain about how their rights are being eradicated through an attempt to be more inclusive in public. I shouted quite a few WTFs reading through the above poem.

Why is this issue addressed as a war against Christians? No one is outlawing "Merry Christmas." Stores are saying "Happy Holidays" to include a larger public and consumers, not to take away Christmas but to include it amongst other winter holidays because the same right to believe in a Christian god extends to everyone else to believe in whatever other god or goddess they want.

The poems bemoans the celebration of "cash, checks, and credit" but then looks to the stores as evidence that the "PC Police" are outlawing Christmas. WTF?!! If Christmas is not meant to be about consumerism why does it matter what the stores say? As for the PC Police, complaints about "political correctness" are often poorly masked complaints against it no longer being acceptable to be racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or just hateful in general.

In the past, working in retail around the holidays, I have made an effort to be inclusive. If someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I wish them one back. If someone wishes a Happy Holiday, I do likewise. Christianity is not the only religion in Canada and the States. Please, please get over this. The Christians that recognize this do not forward emails like this. They recognize that they have a right to celebrate their religious holidays just as everyone else can celebrate their own religion. I will never tell someone to not wish me a Merry Christmas but emails like this make me very angry and frustrated.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SlutWalks and Discussion

One thing that can be said about the Toronto and London “Slutwalks,” whether you agree with the name or not, is that they have (for the most part) encouraged constructive and critical dialogue about victim-blaming and rape culture. The term “slut” in these important activist marches, however, has also divided the feminist organizations that seek to do essentially the same thing – end patriarchy and, with this, women abuse. While I intend to address this division and the importance of alliances in a future post, for the moment I wish to address this word.

I also wish to begin by stating I support the goals to end rape culture and victim-blaming/shaming. I support my friends who are participating in these walks but I also support my friends who have concerns with this.

Taken from the Toronto Slutwalk website:

"Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated."

The use of this term was also taken from the Toronto police officer telling women to not “dress like sluts” if they wish to avoid being raped. One of the many slogans being thrown around with these marches is the idea of changing the culture from one that teaches women “how not to get raped,” to one that tells men “not to rape.” By telling women not to act or dress like sluts, the police officer and even those people with the best intentions who care for their female friends are buying into this idea that the victim somehow asks to be raped. It places the responsibility in the woman’s hands rather than the person who actually rapes her – as if he could not control himself because of how she was dressed. Inquiring into a woman’s sexual history in a court case also perpetuates this idea. I have been part of and also witnessed some great discussions about this issue in response to these walks.

What about the word though? Can the word “slut” actually be re-appropriated? Does a word currently exist that is sex-positive for women who actually enjoy sex? Part of the issue is gendered assumptions about sex. It is assumed by many (and replayed throughout popular television series) that women do not enjoy sex, whereas men always want sex. This is why women are told not to dress like “sluts” because it is assumed that men already want sex, so that very little – such as a short skirt – is enough to encourage rape. To be a “man” carries the assumption that you enjoy sex and always want it. To be a “woman,” however, means to hate sex or not care much for it. This is why there are terms like “slut” or “whore” used to describe women who do have sex. Women have even been pathologized for enjoying sex, and were (and sometimes still are) labeled nymphomanias. These assumptions are harmful to both men and women. This is clearly harmful to women, and to men this is insulting. To assume that a man cannot stop himself from raping a woman dressed "like a slut" is more than slightly problematic.

I am not sure the word “slut” can actually be re-appropriated but I do understand why this is the word that has been currently taken up by activists. As I mentioned, there has been some important discussions that have sprung out of these walks and I hope that this is seen as participating in the discussion, rather than an attempt to find a final conclusion. I also recognize that words such as “manwhore” and even “slut” are applied to men at times, but I have a tough time seeing them as carrying the same negative connotations as when they are applied to women. Does anyone else have anything to add to this conversation? Is there a sex-positive word for women who enjoy sex? Would there be a way to re-appropriate the term “woman” in a sense that recognizes that women can also enjoy sex?