A sterilization double standard

An article in the August issue of Chatelaine caught my eye and spurred some heated discussion between my best friend and I recently (I’d link out to it but the Canadian women’s magazine doesn’t appear to put their feature stories online).

It was an article about the sterilization of women and how inaccessible that option is for the majority of Canadian women — not because it’s not covered by universal health care and is an expensive procedure, but because there is no blanket rule regarding who can and who cannot get sterilized. And since it is harder to reverse getting one’s tubes tied than reversing a man’s vasectomy, a number of doctors in Canada are unwilling to provide the service to women of childbearing age for fear they will change their minds and want children one day.

Since there are no guidelines for the procedure — the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada is currently drafting them, but they won’t be available until next year — most doctors screen candidates on a case-by-case basis to try to determine the likelihood of regret. Doctors take into account a patient’s age, any risk associated with a postpartum surgery, the odds of the current relationship failing, whether the woman has other young children and the possibility of loss of a child.

I remember hearing rumours when I was a teenager that a woman could not be sterilized — unless there was a threat to her life that made sterilization absolutely necessary. But after reading this article, quoting a number of women that went to their doctor (or many doctors) demanding the procedure, I’m a little dismayed and offended.

A man can walk into a doctor’s office and say he wants a vasectomy, and the procedure is performed — no questions asked. Why can a woman not do the same?

Yes, there’s the argument that a vasectomy is much-easier reversed than tubal ligation, however if I am choosing to get my tubes tied for whatever reason, then I should be understanding that there is a risk — if I change my mind in 10 years, a reversal might not be successful.

But as the patient, I take on those risks. And please tell me in what kind of medical procedure is there not risks? Should we stop doing living organ donation because there’s a chance of infection or even death to the living donor? It’s small, yes, but it’s still there. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

What this boils down to is being a woman. A woman is supposed to want to procreate — she’s supposed to be born with that mothering instinct in her. So women who know they do not want kids — that they will never want kids — are seen as women that just haven’t figured out they want kids yet (I swore I’d never have kids when I was younger and I was told to just “wait and see,” my mind would change. I’m 28 and still don’t have kids or plan to in the future).

How is it a woman can sign a mortgage for herself or choose to have an abortion, yet she cannot decide to get herself sterilized?

It’s because of this doctors are hesitant to sterilize a woman, and that’s a double standard. I’m 28 — almost at the end of my prime childbearing years. If I were to wait 10 more years to have a baby, it still would be difficult due to my age by then (nearly 40). So then why can I not decide to get myself sterilized?

But what really bothers me about doctors unwilling to sterilize women in Canada is the fact if I get pregnant and choose not to have the baby, I can get an abortion. Why is it that I can choose to get rid of a baby, but I cannot make the decision to prevent myself from ever getting pregnant in the first place? That’s some backwards logic to me.

Maybe a woman who doesn’t want children is not the norm, but it’s also a very selfless decision. As more women throw themselves into their careers, more women are making the choice to remain childless.

I don’t believe the need to have a child is more ingrained in a woman than a man. I also believe that women are intelligent beings and if they choose to sterilize themselves, then they also accept the risk that comes with that choice.

And if a woman does get sterilized and changes her mind about wanting children, there are thousands of kids waiting to be adopted in this country and around the world. Perhaps that’s a better alternative than discrimination at a doctor’s office based on sex.

(Photo courtesy of onkel_wart on Flickr. You can see more of his photography by visiting his Flickr page).


A step in the right direction

On Monday, the Ontario government made a fantastic step at trying to break the habit of drinking and driving.

Basically, no matter what your license status (whether it be G1, G2 or a full G), if you are under the age of 21, you are not allowed to have any alcohol in your system at all or you could face a license suspension. Previously, it was just the G license holders who could have the legal amount of alcohol in their system.

From the Toronto Star:

Under Ontario’s graduated licensing system, all drivers are currently allowed to have small amounts of alcohol in their blood once they have earned a full “G” license.

But starting Sunday, drivers aged 21 and under who have been drinking will automatically lose their licenses for 24 hours and could face a fine up to $500 and have their license suspended for 30 days.

Anyone caught breaking the rule three times will have their license cancelled.

I applaud these rules. And think with this legislation, the government could even push forward even more and attempt to increase the amount of people who cannot drive with alcohol in their system.

Considering kids could not drink and drive with the way the Ontario licensing system was, this should not hamper them at all. If anything, being unable to drive with alcohol in my system for the four years I had my G1 and G2 got me into the habit of not getting behind the wheel after I had a drink.

Even today, I will have just one drink if I know I have to drive. My life is more important than a glass of booze.

Some kids that just turned 19 and hold their full G license will no doubt the angry about this move, but to the kids just getting their licenses today or currently holding a G1 or G2, the new law makes no difference. And that’s where the strength in this law is: Introduce it to the young drivers who don’t know any better, and haven’t formed bad habits. Bad habits are what kill people on the road.

If the government continues their crackdown on drinking and driving, Monday’s ban could be the start of a further ban. Whether an outright ban of drinking and driving for all drivers will come to fruition or even be possible remains to be seen.

But at least for today, the Ontario government has done something right.

Photo courtesy of jburns00 on Flickr. You can see more of his photos here.


Why Lilith still matters in 2010

The grand finale of Lilith Fair featured all the artists singing "Because the Night."

The cover of Eye Weekly caught my eye Saturday.

I was on my way to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre for Lilith Fair 2010 when Eye called to me.

“Do we need a Lilith Fair in 2010?” The cover asked.

When I arrived at the Amphitheatre, the answer hit my like a tonne of bricks as I glanced at the women — the thousands of women — around me. Yes.

The article made all the points one would expect an article like it to make

  • Lilith Fair is, like, so 1999.
  • We have successful solo women’s artists now (see Gaga, Lady).
  • Um, no one cares about girls with guitars anymore.
  • Lacklustre ticket sales prove all the above.

Some highlights from the article:

In this epoch, where widely circulating upskirt photos of an underage Miley Cyrus are only a minor scandal, it’s difficult to communicate what Lilith meant back then. The 1990s featured a remarkable dissonance between the mainstreaming of underground, girl-made rock and big-money pop. It was when riot grrrl begat “girl power,” and representations of women were available in reclaimed foxcore slut codes (Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Hole), jeans-and-tees alt-rock (the Breeders, Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt, Liz Phair), WTF pop-rock (Gwen Stefani, notably) and schoolgirl-era Britney Spears. In the many years since, but especially in the past decade, the multitude of ways for women to exist as artists and project their artist-images have largely disappeared — nobody would get away with cords and no makeup on MTV anymore — creating a cottage industry of 1990s girl-culture nostalgia.

And then it’s ultimate conclusion on why Lilith Fair is a waste of time 10 years later:

So, no. We don’t need Lilith Fair, at least not as an awkward stand-in for a giant social problem that’s resolvable only by a shift in cultural attitudes and behaviours. And Lilith, the one that exists in reality rather than as an ideal, doesn’t need the critical hurricane it’s in the middle of because it fails to do the impossible, or because it’s just a standard, for-profit tour with a marketing strategy that uses sisterhood to sell singers in the same way Warped Tour uses punk’s legacy to sell shoes. As a platform for artists, and as a catalyst for discussion, sure, Lilith is a valid project. But, on its own, it’s just a show.

A few observations about whether we still “need” a Lilith in 2010 that came to me while at the concert Saturday night.

What is being forgotten in this Eye Magazine article is as Lilith was going on in the ’90s, the Spice Girls were dominating the charts — so there were successful women acts on the pop charts. Alanis was never part of any Lilith lineup, that I can tell.

Lilith seemed to be then, and is now, a collection of smart women who write their own music and play an instrument. The Eye article points out the Lights recently “released an acoustic EP that is more Lilith-appropriate than her usual electronics-heavy pop-rock” — yet she only played one tune from that EP. The rest of her set Saturday in Toronto was the music she has created and become a success with.

I’ve been to many concerts over the year, but I have never, ever seen so many women in one place (I’m going to put my odds at 20 women for every one man). It actually brought tears to my eyes at times. Yes, we have Lady Gaga and all these other women who are doing things their way with a lot of success, but Gaga is no girl with a guitar. When she sits at her piano and plays Speechless live — that’s when she’s a Lilith Girl.

McLachlan says Lilith is socially conscious like no other act out there, and that is true. But I don’t think it’s charitable contributions set it apart. Lilith is a place where you and your best friend can sit for the day and chill out to the tunes that you listened to as a teenager — that’s what Lilith means to me. Eye makes it seem like it’s only soccer moms that would go to Lilith — but they’re forgetting that when McLachlan made it huge back in 1997/98 a lot of us were teenagers experiencing that record for the first time. Making memories to that record.

The same goes for Chantal Kreviazuk. She is a socially conscious artist, always has been. She is a voice of War Child. It hit me as Kreviazuk played away Saturday that she was just on the cusp of making it huge during the last Lilith bout. Colour, Moving and Still came out in 1999 — and that blew her wide open.

Mary J. Blige brought down the house with her set.

Most of all, we still need Lilith because it’s still looked at as a “lesbian festival” — which is rude and disrespectful not just to women, but to lesbians, too. The stereotypes that Lilith Fair was trying to kill in 1999 still exist today. I was amazed at the amount of tweets I saw on Saturday talking about how all the lesbians were getting rained on at Lilith Fair. A male-orientated festival would never be consider homosexual at all — they’re actually looked at as the most masculine events a guy could go to.

But the biggest reason we need Lilith in 2010 is not to change what other think of us as women, but what we think of each other as women. More often than not, it’s not the men in our lives that cut us down — we cut one another down. Whether it be at work or between friends, women cut one another so short it makes me sad. I do it too, but that doesn’t make it right.

And for a brief moment at Lilith Fair on Saturday night as the crowd swayed on its feet singing along to Angel with Sarah McLachlan on stage, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I felt, for one brief moment, that other women were not my competitors, not out to get my job or my man — they were my allies.

And there is no where else I would have wanted to be at that moment.

That is why we need Lilith Fair in 2010.

Photos courtesy of jennyrotten on Flickr. You can see more of her work here.


Why Jarvis St. losing a lane is a good thing

Drivers will never see an X or a green arrow on Jarvis' centre lane again.

Big news out of Toronto.

OK, not really big news per say, but because it affects drivers, it’s become big news.

Jarvis St., which once had five lanes (the middle lane flipped back and forth to a north or south lane depending on the time of day), is now down to four. The middle lane has been closed and by the end of the month, bike lanes will be painted on each side of the road.

You’d think the city decided to remove the street with the reaction the missing lane got on Monday (the first workday without those precious arrows giving traffic a bit of relief). From the Toronto Star:

“Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb,” said a woman in a champagne-coloured Maxima.

“Give us back our middle lane!” called out a man with a moustache in a silver VW as he zoomed south.

Really people, what is the big deal?

Toronto drivers seem to have such a sense of entitlement to them, don’t they? (Full disclosure, I own a car and do drive — to get out of the city to work. I tend to take transit to get around the city).

Take away a roadway of theirs to those dreaded bicyclists and you never hear the end of it, do you?

Yes, driving in Toronto is a pain. Driving in any city with a population of over 2 million people is bound to be one. And yes, Jarvis serves (served?) a great purpose. I used it all the time when I lived at Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton and my boyfriend at Jarvis and Queen.

During the day, Yonge St., Avenue Rd. and other north-south arteries can be clogged with cars, pedestrians and bikes. If you hit Jarvis at the right time, you could get from midtown to downtown in no time.

And that’s what Toronto drivers are angry about.

They’re missing a few key points here though.

The first is that bikes have a right to be on the road. And in Toronto, they often are forgotten about — or ignored all together. Bike riders deserve better than they’ve been getting in this city.

Before the Jarvis St. change, riders there would often be squeezing between parked cars and traffic. I can only imagine how scared bike riders were — as I driver, I was terrified driving alongside a bicyclist on Jarvis.

Bikes have a right to be on the road. And if they want — they can take up a whole lane of traffic. So drivers, it could be a lot worse for you.

By putting in bike lanes, the city is actually doing you a favour. At least this way, everyone gets room.

It's no longer all white lines across Jarvis St. — the centre lane now has two solid yellow lines painted across it to remind drivers they can't use it anymore.

But what really seems to piss off Jarvis drivers more than the installation of the bike lanes is how heavy and congested Jarvis is going to become now that it’s only four lanes instead of five.

Talking to the Toronto Star last week, Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi said he would take bike lanes off Jarvis if he’s elected: “The math doesn’t work. There are almost 30,000 cars a day that use Jarvis, rain or shine, winter or summer,” he said.

Sure, that’s likely true (just like it’s also likely true Rossi has just lost the bike vote). And no doubt, now with the fifth lane option gone, many of those cars are going to find an alternate route because Jarvis will be too heavy.

And once that happens, we’ll be back to the flow that was Jarvis with the fifth lane.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m willing to wager that the city will also remove parking from Jarvis during rush hour so both north- and southbound traffic get two lanes to drive in. And that’s typically what driving in the third lane was — since cars were allowed to park on the direction that had the middle lane.

And really, if you’re that peeved about losing your precious fifth lane, there’s another solution: Stop driving in the city. Take transit. Or better yet, ride your bike.

After all, I hear they’re installing a new bike lane over on Jarvis.

(All pictures courtesy of Neal Jennings, AKA Sweet Ones, on Flickr. Check out some more of his great shots on his Flickr stream here).


Bloggers vs. Journos — is that debate not dead yet?

A post by Lauren O’Neil on the Toronto Star Interns blog got me thinking.

She writes about the seeing the destruction of the G20 occurring on telelvision and, thinking this was her big break, she went running to Queen St., camera in hand. Only to find throngs of “regular” people doing the same:

Hustling my way over to the Queen and Spadina, I couldn’t help but imagine myself scoring some outstanding protest footage. What a treat, my first summer as a working journalist in the big city and all hell breaks loose! I was psyched thinking that just maybe, if I got there early enough and played my cards right, I’d be able to blend right in with the crowd and get some wild exclusive videos.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this thought.

I could go on for hours about the throngs of digi-cam wielding soccer dads and iPhone photographer hipsters flooding the city’s core, but I’ll let my video footage speak for itself.

Notice, if you will, that the number of gawkers (myself being one of them) outnumber the actual protesters and rabble-rousing “anarchists” by at least 8 to 1, on average.

Then she gets to the heart of her post: Citizen journo vs. “real” journo. And why the citizen will never truly measure up:

Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that while, yes, anybody can go through the motions of reporting, not everybody can be a reporter.

Your chiropractor’s secretary can tweet photos from the scene of a crime with her Blackberry along with hundreds of other bystanders. She can even take some fabulous high-quality photos with her brand new Canon Digital Rebel T1i. But she doesn’t have the years of experience, training and raw talent that someone who does this for a living does.

Likewise, anybody can express their opinions in a letter to the editor, on a blog, a tweet or a good ol’ fashioned handmade zine. It may be well articulated, but it’s still rare to find a citizen-journo with as much impact behind their words as a an experienced veteran journalist.

No amount of fancy equipment or technical prowess can replace a well trained reporter who understands the importance of truth, fairness, accuracy, balance and all of those other things they teach us to value both in j-school and in the newsroom.

O’Neil has taken a lot of heat for her comments on Twitter (and in the first comment on the blog post), but she’s spot on as far as I am concerned (what’s funny about the negativity surrounding this piece is that O’Neil was a blogger long before she was a journalist at the Star — so then which came first, the chicken or the egg?).

One Twitter user even went as far to say she was just towing the line of Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke based on his recent comments about bloggers vs. journalists at the latest CJF awards gala (@matttbastard mistakenly ID’ed Star publisher John Cruickshank as the one who made the remarks).

And while I may not totally agree with Cooke, I am sick of this debate of bloggers vs. journalists or citizen journalists vs journalists.

I’d like to know in what other career people would consider themselves “citizen” versions of? Because I can’t think of any. The example I throw back to when it comes to this debate is: Should I call myself a doctor because I know first aid? No.

So why should someone consider themselves a journalist because they blog?

Journalism, like being a doctor or a teacher or a pilot, is a career path. It takes training and experience — it’s not some guy on his computer, or someone taking photos on Queen St. as stores are trashed.

Journalism is about much more than the breaking news that ordinary people can capture nowadays. And not everyone can do it.

As O’Neil says, what really separates journalism from the blogging pack is the analysis, the objectivity and the resources. It’s too soon to tell how powerful citizen journalists may become as everyone becomes an eyewitness to events.

And yes, the gathering and delivery of the news may have to change in order to adapt to this, but there is still a place for “real” journalism — and it is different from the citizen journalism that also exists.

(FYI I am not labelling all blogs/websites as non-journalism — look at Torontoist, blogTO and OpenFile as examples of blogs which are news outlets much as the Toronto Star, National Post or Globe and Mail are).

This whole discussion makes me wonder why everyone thinks they can be a journalist but no one hijacks another profession. Does the public really think that little of us that they think a monkey can do our job?

If only our job was as simple as the outside world thinks it is. There’s much more to putting words on a page than you imagine.