Rachel Dolezal vs. Caitlyn Jenner – Messing Up Our Ideas About The True Self

TrueSelfFalseSelf-ByPatriciaJanuszkiewiczTrue Self . False Self by Patricia Januszkiewicz (Credit)

This is where things get really complex.

I was super pumped when Caitlyn Jenner came out. It meant a lot for such a famous person to identify themselves as trans, and to me it was an encouraging sign of the times when one of the biggest reactions on Twitter the day she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair was “why did she spell her name with a C and not a K?” That was just wonderful and priceless and inspiring.

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The positive feedback and support she received was reassuring. I had really resented the way Diane Sawyer questioned Bruce before the big reveal, overtly contrasting his former athletic prowess with his new found femininity. She even threw in the phrase “raw masculine power” to describe the Olympic decathlon. As if being a star athlete and being a woman were opposites. Really??


At 3:04 watch Diane Sawyer almost give herself an aneurysm trying to comprehend that an American athletic hero could possibly also be a woman.

So just when we thought most of society had started to get really cool and comfortable with complex ideas about identity, the Rachel Dolezal scandal comes along.

DolezalCaucasianI admit I’ve found this whole fiasco fascinating but also very confusing. Like a lot of people, I’m scratching my head and kind of don’t know what to think. How did this even happen?

I completely understand why a white woman pretending to be black is wrong. I get that a white person appropriating a culture that they don’t belong to is very problematic, and that using this identity to leverage positions of power and authority, denying access to ACTUAL women of colour, is so SO wrong. Dolezal’s sense of entitlement is colossal.  She has a lot to answer for.

On the other hand, on a gut level I feel a bit disappointed. We were making such good progress on getting around rigid ideas about gender. Why can’t we also start questioning rigid constraints around the idea of race, which is itself another social construct used to put people in boxes?

The reality is, we’re not there yet. And even if we were, Dolezal wouldn’t exactly be celebrated as a pioneer in this area.

Kat Blaque’s video below is great and discusses all the reasons why it’s not right to dismiss Dolezal as “transracial” and compare changing your racial identity to changing your gender identity.

I respect her viewpoint as a black trans woman speaking from experience, and I acknowledge that her words should carry a lot more weight than my cis-white ones on this topic.

Having said that, I can’t let go of this strong hunch that we are on the verge of a dramatic shift in the way we form and express identity. I’ve written about the fluidity of identity before, and I still think that thanks to online communications and the advent of social media, this kind of identity-morphing is only going to become more common.

Whether it’s politically comfortable or not, Dolezal did something we all do now – she edited her identity to better reflect her opinion about herself. She just took it to its extreme and manipulated it to her advantage. When it comes down to it, who you are in the in the internet age is up to you – identity is mostly a matter of opinion.

Kat argues in her video that an African American can’t change her race the way Dolezal did, but it’s no secret that some Indian women are bleaching their skin and some Asian women are having surgery on their eyelids to appear more caucasian. Anyone can purchase colour contact lenses that hide your real eye colour.

Let me be really clear – I’m not trying to equate a person who gets plastic surgery to look more white because they’ve been shamed into hating their features due to racist, manufactured ideas about beauty, with a person who undergoes sex reassignment because they feel that they are innately a different gender. I agree with Kat that this is not an accurate comparison. But both situations rely on the same basic principle that people have the choice to change their bodies to suit their own ideas about their identity, rather than relying on genetics to dictate it.

As multi-ethnic, blended and non-traditional family models become more prevalent, I predict that people are going to get less and less hung up on what race your parents happen to be.

Did your parents adopt you from another country? Did they go to the sperm bank? Did they get a friend to surrogate? Is your race totally ambiguous? That’s nice. Why did they decide to spell your name with a C instead of a K?

Maybe that would be a nicer question to ask than constantly demanding, “Where are you really from?

So you see I can’t be totally 100% mad at Rachel Dolezal, because despite the fact that her choices were in extremely bad taste and judgement, harmful, deceitful and self-serving, and I don’t condone her behaviour, she also just successfully demonstrated the extreme plasticity of identity. For ten years.

In a weird way, it’s kind of exciting to think that these race boxes we’re stuffed in maybe aren’t as sturdy as we think. Our identities, like our physical selves, are becoming more changeable – for better or for worse.

metamorphosis_detail_by_optiknervemetamorphosis 002DETAIL by optiknerve-gr on deviantart

How I Fell In Love With Prince Vladimir

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Tea is definitely a kind of comfort food for me.

My British parents guzzle Tetley orange pekoe the way other people smoke cigarettes, and have for as long as I can remember. The kettle was never cold in our house while I was growing up. But even though it’s an every day thing, brewing myself a cup of tea still feels like treating myself to something luxurious.

Take one look in my kitchen pantry and you will figure out that I like all kinds of teas. Herbal teas, green teas, floral teas like jasmine and rose, but especially black teas.

I love the kind of teas that you curl up with, like warm spicy Chai teas and fragrant Earl Greys. I am also a total sugar fiend and am easily tempted by sweet stuff like vanilla or toffee flavoured teas.

Whittard’s Christmas Tea is the best. It’s like mulling spice tea, so is heavy on the clove and citrus.

WhittardChristmas

Source: Poppytails & Trails

Actually I have a feeling it’s really their Spice Imperial tea, just repackaged for the holidays. Whatever, I love it. My friend sent me a couple of boxes from England and I was hooked.

When I started to run out of the Whittard’s Christmas Tea I looked around to find something similar. I visited the •teastore• in the Byward Market during a visit to Ottawa back before I lived here.

The staff in the tea store are very helpful and knowledgeable, and the selection is huge. It’s not like some other popular tea stores where everything is behind the counter and you have to ask just to get a whiff of the stuff.

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Source: Ottawa Isn’t Dead

Here, the jars of tea are all out in the open for you to smell and sample. There’s also seating so you can enjoy tea by the cup with a friend if you need a break from the coffee shop scene.

With some help from the tea store staff, I found a blend that was very similar to the Christmas tea I loved. It’s called Prince Vladimir by Kusmi Teas and it’s basically a citrus-y twist on Earl Grey balanced with warm vanilla. I left with a small sample and, back home in Toronto, wished I had bought more.

So then one beautiful day, during my amazing trip the UK, I was wandering the streets of Paris with my Brit Bestie – the same friend who sent me the Whittard tea. We were actually on a mission to visit the only gluten-free bakery in town (that’s a whole other story), and it was quite a trek from our hotel, but we were loving every minute. Paris is just gorgeous.

Completely by accident, we walked right up to a Kusmi Tea store.


I’m not sure if this is the actual location we found, but wouldn’t you go in?
It’s so pretty!

Kusmi tea stores are all over Paris of course but it was still an exciting find and totally unexpected. We oohed and ahhed our way through the shop sticking our noses in all the samples like kids in a candy store. I bought myself a nice big tin of Prince Vladimir to bring back home with me, and I am still enjoying it two years later.

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Now I’m all nostalgic for Paris. Was that really two whole years ago?

 ParisSnapOne of my many photos of beautiful Paris, taken May 2013.

Movie Quotes That Make Great Ringtones

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Ever heard a line and immediately thought, “That would make a great ringtone!” Here are a few I’ve heard recently. In fact, a couple of these are already available on Zedge.

SPOILER ALERT. This post might give away some important plot points.

“Put that cookie down. NOW!” – Jingle All The Way

Everybody loves to see Arnold Schwarzenegger with his speedos in a bunch. This clip from Jingle All The Way is pretty classic.

“Eat it! Eat the cookie!” – Flowers in the Attic

Speaking of cookies, this clip from Flowers in the Attic (1987) is another great one. Play 0:11-0:15 and ignore the rest. Priceless!

“What are you doing with a cellular phone, son?” – Scream

Unfortunately I can’t find a clip for this one from the first Scream movie.

After Sidney (Neve Campbell) is harassed on the phone and then attacked by the killer, her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) is questioned as a suspect. The sheriff asks him, “What are you doing with a cellular phone, son?” with great suspicion.

Back in 1996 most people didn’t have cell phones, so this was a valid question. Now it just sounds very silly.

scream-drew“My cell phone bill is HOW MUCH?!”

“Somebody call somebody.” – Se7en

Okay so a serial killer cons two detectives into taking him out into the middle of nowhere, albeit under heavy security and police surveillance.

When things go bad and one of the main characters gets shot, an officer gets on his radio and says, “Holy Christ. Somebody call somebody!” (At 4:38 at the very end of this clip below.)

Really? Who should this somebody call…the police perhaps? Dude, #youhadonejob.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” – Family Guy

Okay this isn’t a movie quote but it’s such a good one. This is the one for mothers who need a perfectly annoying ringtone for when their ungrateful children call.

5 Songs For Your Pop-Free Running Playlist

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Hate Pop Music? Try adding these 5 songs to your running playlist

There are tons of mainstream playlists out there that are supposed to get you pumped up on your runs. But sometimes you need a bit or random in your life to keep things interesting.

Here are a few non-pop songs that will get you moving.

Love Lost – The Temper Trap

This is a great warmup song. Doesn’t this video just make you want to hit the track? I love that it takes all your bad memories of high school gym class and makes them FABULOUS.

The Power is On – The Go! Team

Speaking of high school, this song is like having your own personal cheerleading squad. GO!

Satan – Orbital feat. Kirk Hammett (Spawn version)

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This song is as ridiculous as it is badass. The version you want is on the soundtrack to Spawn (1997). It’s basically a slight remix of Satan by Orbital, a track featuring Kirk Hammet of Metallica yelling “SATAN” over and over.

This remix is arguably the best thing to come of what was a practically unwatchable super hero film, and if you can listen to it without cracking up it might just get you over that hill.

You can sample of clip of the song on AllMusic’s Spawn Soundtrack album review.

And It Rained All Night – Thom Yorke


You’ve got to love The Eraser. Even if the Radiohead front man’s music doesn’t move you, his sombre lyrics about the inevitability of climate change will have you preparing to run for your life from deadly storms, floods, and tidal waves:

“And it rained all night and then all day
The drops were the size of your hands and face
The worms come out to see what’s up
We pull the cars up from the river”

Findaway – Silverchair


So it’s official, Frogstomp came out 20 years ago. And this song still puts me in a good mood!

Have any song suggestions for my running playlist? Please leave a comment!

Spring is “In The Air” – Let’s Throw Knives!

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Clint offering me some advice at my first knife throwing meetup. (Source: Bruce Deachman / Ottawa Citizen)

A while ago, Clint (my partner in life and crime) and I decided it would be fun to take up knife throwing. We got ourselves some sweet Gil Hibben throwing knives from a local shop that specializes in that kind of thing and looked for opportunities to try out our new hobby.

Unfortunately, our 1-bedroom highrise apartment wasn’t a great place to practice. Despite our best efforts to muffle the noise of clanging knives hitting the floor, we didn’t feel right disturbing the neighbors, and we certainly didn’t want to accidentally cause damage.

We soon realized that there wasn’t much opportunity to throw in Ottawa, and no available spaces where we could (legally) get in some practice. Clint had created a gorgeous home-made end grain wood target and we had nowhere to set it up but our bedroom. We decided throwing knives a couple feet away from my wedding dress was an especially bad idea.

Here are the Gil Hibben knives we both bought. (Source)

Here are the Gil Hibben knives we both bought. (Source)

Clint decided to start a new group on Meetup.com and find out if there were any other people in town interested in knife throwing. We figured we couldn’t be the only ones. It turns out there are LOTS of knife throwers around, and a lot of people curious to try it.

Within four months of starting In The Air on Meetup.com, the group had about 80 members. A core group of regulars offered outdoor space for practices, brought their own targets and collections of knives, and those with more experience offered tips, tricks and advice.

Then the Ottawa Citizen got in touch to do a news story about the group. Who knew there would be so much interest in a random wacky idea we had?

Ottawa Citizen reporter Bruce Deachman braved freezing rain on an icy cold day to document an In The Air knife throw. Click here to watch the video.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Deachman braved freezing rain and icy cold to document our knife throw. Click here to watch the video.

The group is now up to almost 100 members. We’ve heard from a few people that they already throw knives at home, but they really enjoy meeting other people and practicing their hobby in a social atmosphere.

I’ve only made it out to a couple of throws so far, but have already learned a lot. We’ve met some great people from all walks of life. Everyone is very supportive and welcoming regardless of your experience or skill level. We’ve also been pleased to note that the group members are roughly 50% female, 50% male.

Here’s a video from yesterday’s throw. Not my best performance of the day but not bad!


Later in the day I improved my technique a bit by adding in a step forward as I threw, and I started to land 3 in a row more often. I’ll try to get that on video next time.

I’m super proud of Clint for all the work he’s put into the group. He’s put so much passion into it, and I think it shows with all of the interest the group has received.

If you’re in the Ottawa area and want to check out the group, join In the Air on Meetup.com and maybe we’ll see you at the next event.

Oprah’s Ongoing Legacy

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I just came across the final episode of the Oprah show on YouTube. It’s more of a lecture than anything, and Oprah’s attempt to sum up everything she stands for.

Of course it was a huge spectacle of a TV event when it aired in 2011. But looking at it now I see it simply as a powerful motivational speech from a woman who has achieved incredible success.

I very much admire Oprah for her independence, her business savvy, her work ethic, her wisdom, and her dedication to doing what she feels is right and good. I may not always agree 100% with her view of the world, or relate with her celebrity lifestyle, but to me she is a fascinating person.

Somehow, she’s a populist and an intellectual, a raving capitalist who unveils free cars and a spiritual guru who endorses simplicity. She’s a fiercely independent woman whose vulnerability, rather than her ruthlessness, has brought her great power. (Though on the business side a bit of ruthlessness has probably served her well too.)

A lot of what she speaks about resonates with me. I am especially humbled by her compassion – someone who can interview child molesters, rapists and murderers without hostility or judgement is a rare and wonderful person in my books.

In order to really hear what Oprah is saying, you have to get over the pomp and the ego that was (and is) The Oprah Winfrey Show. If you can get past the glare of her celebrity and the show’s production and hear her as an inspirational speaker, then the message is all the clearer.


It takes a strong will and a lot of bravery to live without compromise, and Oprah’s willingness to lead by example is one of the things that makes her a remarkable human being.

I’m glad that Oprah is continuing her life’s work and finding new ways to influence people’s lives for the better. She certainly inspires me to do better, and be better, and to have the awareness to seek out and honour my own authenticity.

Click here for a full transcript of The Oprah Winfrey Show finale.