A Star is Born, Authenticity, and Misogyny

asibI don’t generally do many reviews, because I feel like that isn’t my beat (whatever beat a perhaps-monthly niche blogger can have), but at heart, cultural critique is what I love, and I think we can find so much truth by analyzing the art that we make and consume.

Which is a fancy way of saying “I can’t stop thinking about A Star is Born so here we go.”

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but will talk about the general arc, so if that’s not your jam, here’s your warning.

Like many seemed to, I went through this emotional journey: BRADLEY COOPER(??!) and Lady Gaga are remaking  A Star is Born?? Pass…Hmm, that trailer looks pretty good…Oh damn it, Shallow is such a good song…Guess I’m excited to see it now? Continue reading “A Star is Born, Authenticity, and Misogyny”


What it Really Means for Millennials to Kill Something

mayo (1)Maybe you’ve seen the latest in my favourite internet genre, Industries the Millennials are Killing, a frankly bananas screed about mayonnaise, political correctness, the greatest generation, and the “Taylor Swift of condiments” all sprinkled with anachronistic young people speak from a Baby Boomer refusing to go gentle into that good night. Instead she is raging, raging against the dying of the light (of mayo-based salads).  Continue reading “What it Really Means for Millennials to Kill Something”

Hollywood is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture

[content: sexual assault, #metoo, Harvey Weinstein, etc]

For most of my adult life I worked in the anti-violence movement, doing support work and consent education. And much of my work, both one-on-one with clients and in workshops and lectures of 10-200 (mostly) young people, involved undoing toxic messages learnt from the media and terrible Hollywood movies that normalize and reinforce rape culture.

From rape being used as a plot point (how else will we know that this literal dictator is the bad guy?!) or for titillation to the ubiquitous romantic comedy and action movie trope of the woman saying no in a thousand different ways and the man pushing through physically only to have her melt into his arms because that was what she really wanted, she just needed to be told that her desires and boundaries mean nothing, we are inundated from an early age with self-serving myths about consent, sexual assault, and rape culture more broadly.

Why self-serving? Because, as we see every single brutal day, so much of Hollywood and the media is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture. Continue reading “Hollywood is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture”

How Do You Evaluate Health Claims?

pom_wonderful_ad_540It seems like every day there is a new health fad people are talking about on Facebook, mentioning in the office, or being made into a documentary of questionable truth value. Many, if not all, of these play on our deep wish to be in control of bodies that simply refuse to do as we say. And in a society that is deeply unjust, that is facing increasing anxiety about climate change, fears of nuclear war due to a certain orange monster, and unreasonable capitalistic expectations when it comes to labour and work/life boundaries (or lack there of) these fads gain traction quickly. We all want that magic bullet that will insulate us from disease, pain, and suffering. And most of us are not trained in evidence-based medicine. Very few of us, unfortunately, are given the tools to properly evaluate health claims. So I’m offering a crash course in evaluating health (or other scientific, but I’ll focus on health) claims. Continue reading “How Do You Evaluate Health Claims?”

“He’s crazy”–Mental Illness, Power, and Transgressions

[CN: Discussion of violence against women, racism]

There are a few courses I took in undergrad and grad school that have especially stuck with me through the years. One that I think about often was an upper-level Women’s Studies course called Monstrous Women which looked at the ways we frame women who transgress the bounds that society places before them. And how women who fail to perform “womanhood” adequately (whether through eschewing motherhood, being overtly aggressive, responding to male violence with violence) are transformed into “monsters”–both as a control mechanism and because we don’t know how to reconcile women who don’t perform mainstream womanhood in our brains.

Continue reading ““He’s crazy”–Mental Illness, Power, and Transgressions”

Holy Shit, Ghostbusters!

gbI saw Ghostbusters last week. I had read some of the hype, knew my lady friends who had seen it had loved it. Figured I’d enjoy it, but mostly was going because my response to men crying on the internet about female protagonists is to go with gusto to support it and flip them the bird.

The ads never looked great to me. I hadn’t seen the original. How much could I like this?

So much, my dudes. So. Fucking. Much. Continue reading “Holy Shit, Ghostbusters!”

Learning to Love Women

I grew up watching mainly “boy” movies–the Die Hards, the Terminators, the two-white-guys-warring-for-reasons-we-don’t-totally-get-and-oh-the-one-lady-doesn’t-pass-the-sexy-lamp-tests–because it was mainly at my dad’s house that we rented movies and it was two against one. Surely the girl can watch the boy movies but heaven forbid the two boys have to watch a girl movie. I can remember going to the video store (remember when that was a thing?) and just bypassing everything that I knew wouldn’t appeal to my dad and brother.

Continue reading “Learning to Love Women”

52in52: Centering Female Directors

In an oppressive world you have to actively work to avoid propping up the status quo. One way people have been doing this lately is by challenging themselves to consume media differently, whether that’s reading only women, POCs and LBGTQ+ authors for a year or pledging to watch 52 films made by women in the next year. I make a point to support the kinds of media I want to see–I make sure to go to feminist films in theatre, I support films starring and centering people of colour, I support independent radio. But this has been an ad hoc extension of my politics, rather than an organized strategy. Continue reading “52in52: Centering Female Directors”

Stop Worrying About “10 Foods Healthier Than Kale”

I know, I know, it’s that time of year. The time the diet industry goes into overdrive, salivating over the guilt-ridden masses vowing to finally, finally make that change. Hire that trainer, start that diet. And, by the grace of god, be bikini-ready by May. (Here’s a secret: got a body? Like bikinis? Congrats! You’re bikini ready!)

So it’s no wonder that everywhere you turn you’re hearing about super foods, fallen super foods, new food trends, old food trends, food trends to watch out for. And, my favourite: 10 Leafy Greens Healthier Than Kale.

Kale is pretty darn healthy. It’s got boatloads of fibre, it’s got tons of nutrients, it’s got a surprising amount of protein per calorie, it’s got a high volume:low calorie ratio which helps fill you up if you’re seeking weight loss or maintenance. Yeah, maybe chicory’s got a few more per polyphenols (which do what, exactly?) than kale, but so what? Are you finding chicory in your grocery store? Would you know what to do with it?

Much like with exercise (the best one is the one you do), the best leafy green is the one you eat. Anything more than that is veering into nutritionism. 8% more calcium or twice as many polyphenols doesn’t mean anything if you don’t like it, can’t find it, can’t afford it, or just won’t eat it.

These types of articles that focus on the micro-micro-micro level (the micro level being individual behaviours and choices, the micro-micro being eating behaviours, and the micro-micro-micro being this particular plant for that particular nutrient) do us all a real disservice.

The reality is that most of what impacts our health is essentially beyond our control: poverty, infrastructure, agricultural subsidies, structural racism, pollution. And those things that are within our control (for those of us privileged enough to have such control)? They’re really simple. Dead simple. Embarrassingly simple (which is certainly not to conflate simple with easy): eat lots of plants, eat a diverse diet, don’t eat too much, move as much as your body and lifestyle allow, ditto sleep, don’t drink pop, don’t smoke, floss your teeth.

That’s about it. But how many articles can you write about that? How many diet pills does “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” sell? How many clicks does “move your body every day, lift heavy stuff sometimes” get versus “the 19 fat-burning secrets THEY don’t want you to know!!”?

And, moving beyond that, what advertiser is going to pay for “Poverty Larger Risk for Diabetes Than Diet” with their right hand when their left hand is in Washington lobbying against raises to the minimum wage?

Rather than worrying about the precise micronutrient makeup of our diets and which “superfood” is trending highest (for the record, goji berries taste like literal dirt), or wading into online-fights about CrossFit, why don’t we all try to hit those basics: fresh food, lots of plants, adequate sleep and movement, lowered stress, good oral hygiene, and then spend some of that time and energy working on ensuring that those are available for all (write your representative, get involved in elections, volunteer at the community garden, organize for a living wage, donate your garden’s excess to shelters and food banks, stop supporting magazines and TV shows that peddle harmful crap).

And a friendly reminder that a lot of food banks and shelters are hitting hard times this winter. If you can contribute food or personal goods (socks, hats, mitts, scarves, toiletries and menstrual products are always needed) or even better, money, that is one small, concrete thing you can do to help the health of someone else.

On Freedom as a Buyable Commodity

The other day, as I was waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to start (fun, but a bit too pow pow! sci-fi action adventure! for me) an ad came on playing Cream’s “I Feel Free.” It took me a minute to figure out what it was selling. Freedom, certainly. And connection–it had dads videocalling in to tuck their kids in at night, a young couple recording the night sky, young surfers somehow involving their phones in what they were doing.

Turns out it was an ad for Bell Mobility, a Canadian cell phone company known for the same draconian multi-year deals as the rest, known for lobbying against regulation of the cell industry, and known, among friends, for its shit service.

If there’s one thing I think of when I think of my phone it’s sure as hell not “freedom”. It’s a multi-year contract that is disgustingly expensive, a fear of roaming and overage charges, and a count-down to when my contract ends (January 2015, for the record).

We see this appeal to freedom in the beauty industry as well:



I should note that Lupita is absolutely beautiful and the inclusion of a darker-skinned black woman in a mainstream beauty campaign is its own victory. However, the use of “freedom” by one of the largest beauty conglomerates in the world makes me feel queasy. Lancome (and its parent company, L’Oreal) only survive in the face of women’s lack of freedom to do and wear and look how they please. Without the social pressure to colour our hair, hide our greys, sculpt our brows, hide our “imperfections”, highlight our eyes, bring a “natural flush” to our cheeks, stain our lips, paint our nails, sheer off all body hair below the eyelashes, bodywash and coif ourselves into nigh unrecognizability, these companies don’t exist. This entire, multi-billion dollar industry doesn’t exist.

In the neoliberal condition rights are given up for choices. But these choices aren’t the big important choices (like what we get to do with our own bodies) they’re the choice between 75 different types of cereal, 30 different bars of soap which are essentially the same, 40 types of toothpaste. We assert our individuality through consumption. We get to make all the choices we could ever want, so long as they are about which to buy and not whether we buy.

So I am suspicious when advertisers use that which we have given up (freedom) to sell that which constrains us.